What Is Radiesthesia?

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  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2019
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Radiesthesia is the mental or physical ability of some individuals to detect energy fields around life forms or the energies emitted in particular places. Mental radiesthesia practitioners claim the ability to feel, sense, or see colored auras around people. Physical practitioners often use diving rods or pendulums as compasses for detecting mineral or water sources located underground. Both kinds of practitioner may use these detection talents in the practice of alternative medicine.

Mental radiesthesia advocates believe that aura-detection ability originated thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt. They claim that artwork depicting halos around the heads of gods and royalty is evidence of this. Greeks and Romans followed suit, incorporating these symbols into their artwork. Figures emitting a radiant glow are also seen in many paintings depicting Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the angels. The art of some Middle Eastern cultures also displays auras or halos around figures with the status of deities.

Oriental cultures call this energy chi and Indian cultures refer to centers of this energy as chakras. In the late 1800s, individuals claimed to visualize colored auras on either end of magnets. People who practice this form of radiesthesia suggest that all living things contain and emit energy and that the energy produces vibrational fields. Though some hold that the parapsychological ability to see auras is an inborn trait, others believe that the talent can be learned.


Practitioners claim that people exhibit at least three layers of auras. The first layer supposedly protects the body while the other two represent mood and personality traits. Auras appear as single or multiple colors simultaneously. Radiesthesia specialists suggest that the shape and color of this energy changes throughout the day, depending on mood and physical well-being. Masters in the art of Oriental qigong claim the ability to diagnose and treat physical ailments by manipulating auras.

The earliest indicated use of physical radiesthesia supposedly occurred thousands of years ago as recorded on ancient Chinese and Egyptian images of individuals holding dowsing rods or suspended pendulums. The practice was continued by many cultures during the medieval period. In the early 1900s, a French Catholic priest named Abbe Alexis Bouly showed an uncanny ability to detect the location of water buried underground. After World War I, communities reportedly commissioned Bouly to locate and identify unexploded shells. Bouly and others also turned to pendulums as a form of diagnosing illness.

By holding a suspended pendulum over a patient's body, disruptions in energy fields, produced by illness, supposedly cause the object to rotate. Besides locating natural resources hidden below the ground, modern uses of radiesthesia include analyzing business ventures and detecting harmful radiation. Using a process known as teleradiesthesia, practitioners hold a pendulum over a map to locate missing persons. Some researchers suggest that electromagnetic energy fields allow animals to locate buried water, find migratory locations, and reconnect with owners hundreds of miles away.


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