With the recent popularity of books like Power vs Force by Dr. David Hawkins, it is timely to examine dowsing and the objectivism being claimed for it.
There is a lot of good info at the end of this article, so if you don't read it, it might be worth scrolling down to check it out.
For an in-depth investigation into Hawkins and his philosophy visit www.realitymaps.com/articles/2007/09-davidhawkins.html
WHETHER WE ARE SEEKING water, ley-lines, health or the answers to specific questions, dowsing has proved invaluable through the ages for connecting ourselves to a huge source of information — our own subconscious. Dowsing allows our conscious minds to draw on the greater perspective and wisdom of the unconscious; it presents a communication channel by which our subconscious can express itself to our conscious minds in as clear and unambiguous a way as possible.
We learn to dowse by teaching our subconscious a simple language — for example, move the little pendulum suspended from the right hand up and down for yes, sideways for no, and in circles for maybe. There is nothing objective about this language; we could equally well teach our subconscious to move the pendulum sideways for yes and up and down for no. The important aspect is to practice so that the subconscious learns the language that we want to use. With enough practice, this process becomes easier and easier, and in some people, they become so sensitive to the whispers of the subconscious, that they can "feel" its answers without the use of paraphernalia such as pendulums.
Another form of dowsing is muscle testing, which forms the diagnostic foundation of applied or therapeutic kinesiology. In this case, the subconscious expresses itself, not via a pendulum, but by the strength of a particular muscle group, usually the shoulder of an outstretched arm. (Kinesiology is more complicated than this and involves many energetic circuits in the body which can be directly manipulated to restore optimum function, but muscle testing remains its diagnostic foundation.)
In a standard muscle test, the person or "patient" being tested or dowsed holds out an arm parallel to the ground and resists a gentle push downwards by a second person (the tester or kinesiologist) with two fingers on the wrist area. This gives the latter a good idea of the base strength of the patient's shoulder muscles and allows any changes in muscle strength to be noted. The tester will then change the state of the patient mentally and/or physically — by asking a question out loud or having the patient hold a particular product or food — and then test the muscle again. The basic theory goes that if the muscle weakens during the second test, then that particular change of state is not vital to the person being tested. If, on the other hand, the arm remains strong or becomes even stronger than usual, then that change of state is a beneficial one.
I remember years ago as a teenager going to the English kinesiologist, Brian Butler. He told me that I had a particular food allergy, something that no doctor had been able to tell me, and with this information I quickly returned to full health. Muscle testing not only works, it can be adequately performed by anybody with almost no training, although a fuller understanding of all the principles of kinesiology can take many years to learn. There is no doubt that kinesiology is of huge therapeutic benefit.
What muscle testing, pendulum work and other forms of dowsing do is to allow us to "interview" our own or another's subconscious mind. The more we trust, practice and let go to these methods, the clearer and more consistent the communication. We become adepts at the language of the subconscious, and the information we learn greater and greater trust in the information that we receive. (I know of water dowsers in Ireland that are spot on every time when looking for where to sink a well, which is just as well as a mistake in location would be very costly in time and money.)
Some people, however, claim that these whisperings of the subconscious can potentially give us a method to determine absolute or objective truth to questions relating to matter beyond the health and vitality of the body. Recently, a book called Power vs Force has appeared on the New Age book shelves, and its author, ex-psychiatrist Dr. David Hawkins, has begun a whole program to calibrate "truth" on a scale of 1 to 1000. So for example, he and his team of muscle testers claims that Jesus calibrates at 1000, Mahayana Buddhism at 960, the Koran at 720, love at 500, reason at 400, fear at 100 and shame at 20. 85% of the world's population, according to Hawkins, calibrates at under 200 — the threshold of integrity.
In a post modern world of relativism and uncertainty, the ordered and simple objectivism that this book promotes is refreshing and reassuring. We all love to feel that there is an absolute scale on which to measure things because it takes out much of life's constant guess work and gives us a strong element of safety. The meaning we assign to things is pre-packaged and we can live our lives within a framework of quantification. (The left brain loves calibration!)
Whilst Hawkins' work is interesting and raises some challenging questions, what is concerning is that few in the "New Age" and progressive communities seem to question it. For example, a recent article published on Dr. Hawkins and his work in Kindred Spirit magazine does not challenge any of Hawkins' assertions. The author appears to have swallowed Hawkins's work hook, line and sinker. And yet, the paradigm that Hawkins is promoting is not as healthy as it seems, and could even be a huge step-back in our spiritual development. (Part of the reason nobody criticises his work may well be fear of judgment — criticism may get them calibrated below 200.)
The first clue to the shortcomings of Hawkins' calibration theory is his intellectualism: Force vs Power is a very dry read. Whenever something relatively simple is presented in an intellectual and scientific manner way beyond what is necessary or justifiable, you know that you may well be staring at a nude emperor. Gregg Braden did it with his new work the God Code, and Hawkins does it with his simple muscle testing implications. What happens is that the overly intellectual and scientific context in which a theory is presented ends up giving it a high standing in the eyes of ordinary people, because it is so easy for the authority of the scientific context to bleed into the unsubstantiated nature of the content. So you get a situation whereby the only criticism for works like these comes from those conversant in science — which is mostly the scientific establishment. And "they" would criticise such cutting-edge alternative research, wouldn't they!
The irony here is that Richard Beaumont, in his Kindred Spirit article, uses Hawkins' smokescreen of intellectualism as an indication that his work must have value because, "all truth, it seems to me, is protected from the uninitiated. Barriers are erected that can only be overcome by years of dedicated spiritual practice." So by implication, Richard can get past Hawkins' intellectual barriers and recognize the value of his work because of his years of dedicated spiritual practice. Well, I am sorry Richard, but you could just as well be someone scolding the little boy because he is so deluded as to think the emperor might have no clothes on. (Throughout history spiritual truths were often hidden because you could get killed for your beliefs, but more often than not these days they are lying on a deckchair getting a tan, whilst a distracted world passes them by.)
If you strip down Hawkins' work to its bare essentials, you have a man that is basically dowsing for God. He is taking the whisperings of the subconscious as absolute measure of all things, even something as abstract as "truth". But surely, to understand whether this is justified, we need to understand what the subconscious is and what truth is. Without examining these terms, we end up making meaningless assertions, such as Hawkins' "a cat's purr calibrates at 500".
The subconscious mind (sometimes called collectively the unconscious), by definition, is that part of ourselves that we are not consciously aware of. It keeps all our bodily functions working smoothly, heals us when we are sick, makes us ill when we are unhappy, etc. It is the part that paints our dreams, speaks to us in myths and symbols, and gives meaning to our thoughts. To become whole, wise and mature human beings, we have to acknowledge all of ourselves, and as most of who we are is below the conscious threshold, that means we have to embrace our subconscious. There is no other way. This is why love and acceptance for ourselves is so important, without it we end up rejecting or denying parts of ourselves that we do not like, which subsequently become unconscious. (They are unconscious precisely because we disown them!)
The subconscious holds a lot of information about us that the conscious mind is unaware of. From a purely physical perspective, the bandwidth of our senses far exceeds that which our conscious minds can cope with, so there is a massive filtering and approximating process going on. Actual studies of perception show that our conscious minds can only be aware of 2000 bits of the 400,000 bits of information that impinge on our senses per second. This means that we are filtering out about 99.5% or more of our experience, and if we can get in touch with our subconscious, then we have access to a lot more information. There is nothing necessarily magical or psychic here — the subconscious mind picks up so much information that it is often aware of subtle clues that our conscious minds are not. So, for example, a water dowser may unconsciously be picking up certain environmental features that indicate sub-surface water, features that he is not conscious of. (That said, the subconscious is also the channel through which we receive psychic impressions so we can never be certain of the source of its information.)
The subconscious is also where you find all the disowned parts of ourselves. The "good" person will therefore find many qualities that he or she would label as "bad" in the subconscious. That is why many people don't like looking below the surface of their conscious minds — they are afraid as to what they might find.
Because many diverse cultures and civilisations have and continue to share similar symbols and myths, some believe that at some level all our subconscious minds are connected in some way — that there is a universal human mind. The great psychologist, Carl Jung, was a proponent of this "collective unconscious", and he used its wisdom to great effect in dream work and other analysis that he did with his patients. He knew that working with the subconscious is instrumental to our mental and spiritual growth, and once wrote, "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." However, working with the subconscious and acknowledging the universality of many of its symbols and myths is very different from stating that it has an rigid or objective landscape. Jung himself would have baulked at such a suggestion.
When we work with the subconscious, we do so in full understanding that we are dealing with the subjective landscape, one in which the meaning we give things changes with different perspective, and in which we learn the humility of realizing that our "truth" may not be the truth of others. The primary rule in dealing with subconscious material is not to take it literally but creatively. This is why dreams, for example, take a little interpreting — we know that it is speaking to us in symbols and that any attempt of understanding dreams requires that we creatively explore what the symbols mean to us. The value of our interactions with the subconscious is precisely because it is a subjective experience: we are learning to interact with ourselves and our own energies.
Hawkins, however, uses the simple dowsing technique of muscle testing to cajole the subconscious into manufacturing an objective reality (an anathema to its nature), complete with a calibrated frame of reference. His work is based on the following five assumptions:
- Muscle testing of certain individuals (those with calibrations over 200) is infallible, or at least infallible enough to absolutely calibrate "subjective" comparisons such as the level of truth in various statements. In other words, the whisperings of our subconscious, provided we have integrity, can be taken as gospel. (Any method of absolute calibration must, by definition, itself be absolute.)
- Any disagreement in calibration by different individuals is either due to one or more of those individuals not have integrity (ie. calibrate below 200) or to the fact that we can only calibrate in the "now" and things have changed. (Or, the right questions are not being asked.)
- Any consensus in calibration by different individuals is due to the objective and absolute nature of the calibrations themselves. It is not due to cultural similarities, physical, mental or spiritual entrainment, telepathy and/or shared delusion.
- Dr. David Hawkins and his books calibrate extremely highly… and so they are as close to truth as you are going to get. (Power vs Force, according to Hawkins, calibrates at 850, which is higher than the Bible or the Koran, or indeed almost anything else ever written by a human being.)
- We intuitively know what is meant by a particular calibration, even though it is sometimes used as a measure of truth, sometimes as a measure of energy, sometimes as a measure of safety and sometimes as a measure of spirituality.
These five assumptions are never directly stated. That would be too punishing to the theory because they are actually very difficult to justify. Rather, they are quietly assumed whilst focus is concentrated almost entirely on their implications.
Most leading medical kinesiologists would actually disagree with Hawkins' first assumption. Muscle testing is not infallible in anybody. At best, it accurately shows what the particular patient being testing believes, although kinesiologists are well aware of the presence of false positives and reversed patients. When you deal with the subconscious, nothing is straightforward. Hawkins' framework allows him to basically select only those people for his calibration program that are likely to agree with him. After all, any disagreements in calibration can be explained away by the second assumption.
The third assumption is an interesting one. Just because there is agreement amongst a group of people does not mean that what they are agreeing must necessarily be objective. For example, many of the symbols in our dreams are shared because of our shared cultural heritage, or perhaps even because of our collective unconscious. We all intuitively know that love must be a higher vibration than hate, or that the Bible is a higher vibration than Peanuts (although some might disagree with that!). But that is very different from assigning to symbols and meanings fixed calibrated values. It is similar to the difference from using absolute dream interpretations written in a dream dictionary, and doing the deeper work to interpret what the symbols and images mean for us. The first may show us some of the way, but to actually walk the path to greater consciousness we have to do the subjective work of individualising these symbols and integrating them into our unique mosaic of being. There is nothing objective about this. In fact, those people stuck in left-brain thinking are notoriously unproductive with dream work because their rigidity precludes the process of subjective flow and free association that is needed.
Also, whenever a group of people work closely together (we are not necessarily talking about distance here but mindset), there is a natural tendency to corroborate each other's work, especially in this case whereby corroboration is itself integral to the work. That is why, when scientific researchers get stuck on a problem, they will often call in someone from outside their group to give a whole new perspective. Otherwise, there is a strong possibility of collective delusion, where each person's emotional stake in belonging to the group can cloud objectivity. This is not necessarily dishonesty, just the strong and usually unconscious desire to maintain the group and its raison d'etre above any evidence that damages it. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Hawkins's group can appear consistent and "objective" in their calibrations.
The forth assumption is an absolute necessity. Hawkins' own work must itself calibrate extremely highly, otherwise the theory collapses. But not too highly so that it becomes unbelievable. 850 out of 1000, which is what Power vs Force calibrates at, seems about right from a credibility point of view, allowing him the authority to comment on the veracity of almost all other works. (As happens with most fundamentalists, his self-delusion and hubris is increasing as he collects followers, and this has given him the confidence to calibrate his subsequent books higher and higher. In fact, he calibrates his third book I: Reality and Subjectivity at 999.8! Where do you go from there?)
The fifth assumption results from the process of calibration itself. Calibration is a one dimensional measurement of a system — reality — that is at least three dimensional (most would say multi-dimensional). Whenever you calibrate a system with a model which has less dimensions than the system itself, then you automatically get huge distortions and losses of information. Physicists today need at least 13 dimensions to calibrate physical reality, and yet, Hawkins believes he can calibrate the more complicated abstract concept of truth with just one. The result is that he ends up interchanging terms and meanings because this single calibration scale is so hard to fit with the complexity of real experience.
Truth is central to Hawkins' motivation for developing his system. In his world view, he sees humankind's inability to distinguish between truth and falsehood as its basic defect — a defect that he believes muscle testing will compensate for. He believes that by returning to a "Newtonian" framework of absolute objectivity, which is in essence what he has done, he can get rid of the modern relativism and postmodernism that many of us in modern societies have to reluctantly face.
But the level of truth of a statement depends entirely on whether we can verify it for ourselves, or how much we accept the authority of the person making the statement. If for example, our government tells us that a particular country has weapons of mass destruction, and we are unable to verify this for ourselves, we have to decide whether the government is believable — and considering its track record for poor intelligence, spin and outright lies, we would probably rate the truth level of its claim very low. But what does it mean to say that, for example, a cat's purr has a higher level of truth than the average person? It is only true for us if we fully accept all five of Hawkins' assumptions and the integrity of his work. I have little doubt that Hawkins believes he has integrity, and that his motivation is for the greater good, but that of course does not mean that I accept what he proposes.
Another point that has to be made is that the level of truth of something is different for us at different times. If we suppress a lot of anger, then anger for us is not necessarily a low vibration, but a doorway that, when expressed harmlessly, will lead us to greater integration and wholeness. As Jung once stated, "I would rather be a whole person than a good person." Hawkins, on the other hand, would probably rather be a good person (good = a high vibratory rate) than a whole person (containing all vibrations). He has forgotten the power of perspective and context, and in his drive to set up an objective calibration of truth he closes the door to true soul work.
Hawkins wants to unite humankind in an absolute framework of truth. He wants to convince the world that HIS truth is THE objective truth, and he does this by presenting simple muscle-testing as the arbiter of all things. This makes him, by definition, a fundamentalist, and one that is driven by that same fundamentalist drive to convince all people of his reality — a one dimensional calibration of truth from 1 to 1000. (The calibration of God and the Angels goes much higher than this in his cosmology, but 1000 is the highest vibrational rate for this world.)
Fundamentalists often do have more energy or zeal than relativists because they are so driven to justify their reality above all others'. Hawkins confuses this fundamentalist zeal with "high spiritual energy", and uses it to further justify the "positive" impact of his work on the world. It is standard mid-West "bible thumping" — the call of the proselytizer. He mixes his calibration theory with standard motivational psychology (using the vernacular borrowed from chaos theory — the attractor) to flesh out a whole psychological system — after all, pure calibration and the diagnosis of all things would never quite be enough to hold its weight in a society obsessed by self-help books and workshops.
Hawkins makes a revealing statement in the Kindred Spirit article when he describes individuals of low consciousness saying, "People at this level love to be right and make everyone else wrong." But that is exactly what he is doing with his calibration. For someone to be right and another wrong, truth has to be absolute, not relative. Once again, that is the position of the religious fundamentalist — truth is always on his or her side. And from this perspective, because we know THE truth, we are no longer interested in finding the truths of others so we can build a bridge with them. We are sure of our position and the position of others because we hold the absolute rule by which all things are measured.
There are so many inconsistencies in Hawkins' work, words and conclusions that I am very surprised so few have brought them up (a couple are mentioned in the addendum to this article). Hawkins is no mystic, master or seer, but a spiritual fundamentalist, in every sense of the word, who has hijacked the therapeutic process of muscle testing as a means to justify his rigid beliefs. And his disguised fundamentalism seems to be evoking little resistance from the spiritual and New Age communities that now seem largely to champion him.
What happened to the wisdom of relativism? It should be fairly obvious for those who have looked below the surface of things that the future peace, integrity and spiritual evolution of humanity does not lie in fundamentalist positions but in relativism, for when we realize that there are no absolute scales and measures of things (such as Hawkins' contrived calibration system), we have no alternative but to listen to and respect each others' truth. And we no longer need to defend our own truth by trying to convince another because we understand that truth is relative. In this way we learn to open our hearts to others because we are not being blinded by certainty or ideology. (Nobody can be as short-sighted or as cruel as the fundamentalist, because he or she always puts ideology before people.)
Hawkins' view of reality is not only dependent upon several unjustified assumptions, even from a pragmatic point of view, it actually offers us very little, deluding us into thinking that an individual's level of truth and integrity is objectively measured, and has little to do with our interaction with that person. We all know that how we treat a person often determines their behaviour, so that even from a pragmatic point of view it is better not to calibrate — for calibration unequivocally leads to judgment. (An absolute calibration of truth, after all, is a judgment of truth by definition.)
A better understanding of the subconscious and the limits to its "truth" can be gleaned from the Huna spiritual philosophy of the Hawaiians. From their perspective, each of us is comprised of three parts: the lower, subconscious self or unihipili; the middle, conscious self or uhane; and the higher, superconscious self or Aumakua. Although the lower self is like a child, paradoxically it is generally better connected with the higher self than the conscious mind, which is why we can potentially find such wisdom and opportunity by examining the subconscious. But we can also find delusion and darkness in the subconscious too, which is also an integral part of ourselves. In the Huna philosophy, the idea is to ultimately make a direct connection between the conscious self and the higher self, rather than having to pick up scraps of truth through the subconscious. When that happens, we give up all conceptual frameworks like calibration and live entirely in the present.
So dowsing certainly has its place and is invaluable as a diagnostic tool. But anyone who tries to use it as an infallible method to determine absolute truth will quickly find himself mired in a world of delusion. And this is exactly where Dr. David Hawkins has put himself and his followers, as have other dowsers through the ages. The temptation to interpret the whisperings of the subconscious as the whisperings of God can be all too irresistible for many, especially those with a tendency for fundamentalism.
Of course, Hawkins is not alone in his dowsing delusions: there are many people out there claiming objective truth on the back of a dowsing technique. For example, recently I spoke to a healer called Dez who uses the pendulum to diagnose his patients. Dez classifies his patients as to how many lifetimes they have so far lived — he believes that each of us need 21 lives before we gain enough wisdom and understanding to leave this plane of existence. If you ask him how he knows this he will tell you that he discovered it through his pendulum. Dez himself is, of course, on his final lifetime, just as Hawkins' work calibrates above that of almost every other human being: both have to have inflated opinions of their own spiritual development because they are setting themselves up as arbiters of truth. Dez will cure you of "a serious illness" without you even knowing that you had it in the first place, just as Hawkins will determine your level of truth without even needing to consult you. Is this fact or delusion? There is no way for us to tell… we either believe it and accept their opinions, or we don't.
What is most disconcerting about men like Hawkins and Dez is that to interact with them you are forced to acquiesce in their delusional reality. If you are a fundamentalist too, then you either share their belief systems or reject them and walk away. If, however, you are a relativist or peacemaker, then you reluctantly share their belief system for the purposes of trying to connect with them, all the while feeling more and more uncomfortable as they push you further into their closed world view. Dez, for example, interprets any event and any illness according to his world view corroborated by his pendulum, completely taking away his patients' power to define their own illness and what it means to them. Dez knows because Dez dowses for God. (Ultimately of course, we are responsible to not give our power to these sorts of people in the first place, although it is difficult if you are a "people person" and accept their delusion as a means of connection.)
Interestingly, Dez has not always been consistent with his world view because he does not write things down. So I have a friend who rang him on two different occasions during which he told her that she was on different life numbers, and to me he has given conflicting information on several occasions. However, as relativists, neither of us pointed out these inconsistencies for the purpose of maintaining a good relationship. (Relativists are instinctively aware of the conditional nature of a fundamentalist's acceptance of another.)
And that is the irony of Hawkins' Power vs Force: if you subscribe to his calibrated world then you give away your power to define your own reality and to determine your own meanings in life — a prerequisite on our journey to wholeness and integration. You end up polarizing experience into high and low calibrations, forgetting that both the light and the dark are needed for true integration and individuation. Nobody else can do this for us; nobody else can supply us with the symbols and meaning that we need, whether it is with their intuition, a pendulum or a muscle test. We have to have the courage to walk our own path.
Fundamentalists like Hawkins and Dez actually scupper our spiritual growth and our journey to wholeness because we allow them to take away our opportunity to learn that we create our own realities and that we assign all meaning to that reality. Instead, the gold of subjectivity is swapped for the base-metal of pseudo-objectivity, and in the process we unwittingly become accomplices in perpetrating fundamentalist delusions.
So we have a choice. We either take full responsibility for the reality we create, our relationship to that reality, and our interpretation of that reality… or we pussyfoot around in someone else's objective delusion — a delusion propped up merely by a dowsing technique. Only the first leads to true wisdom and wholeness. And only the first gives us the opportunity to reach spiritual maturity.
For an in-depth investigation into Hawkins and his philosophy visit www.realitymaps.com/articles/2007/09-davidhawkins.html.