This term implies simply that the experimenter is sensitive to radiation effects of various kinds, in a subconscious way, and that this Knowledge is brought through into consciousness by use of the pendule (pendulum), divining rod (dowsing, water-finding etc.). Comparatively few people are aware of the extraordinary development of this subject, which is fast invading medical practise and many other fields of research. Our concern with it here is limited to a single inquiry; is radiesthesia a form of psychic-occult-spiritistic practises, or is it a "purely physical" investigation?
On the one hand, this subject, writes J. Cecil Maby "is definitely linked with normal physiology and physics, especially with electro-magnetism, geo-physics, meteorology, radio, atomic physics, and perhaps cosmic rays," and these data are wholly empirical. The SPR however, on the whole, has treated it as belonging to psychism or parapsychology, and the usual wrangle is developing among the pigeon-holers - that is, the numerous people who insist on having all the universe tucked into compartments, neat labels on each - and who are unable to think about anything until the subject has been tagged. Anything else, they assure us, is mere fuzzy-mindness. But alas, how labels do come unstuck, and pigeonholes overflow!
About this present argument, we say "A pest on both your HOUSES!" If we have to choose, we refuse to choose. We repeat our familiar theme, that a wise and careful eclecticism is the only rational attitude on any and all subjects of human thought. The writer is acquainted with "psychic" and mediumistic "pendologists" (!) and "radiologists" who habitually use the pendule, not only for finding lost collar-buttons, underground springs, the sex of eggs, plants, and unborn babies - and so-forth, fifth, out never finally - but also for communicating with guides and friends in the spirit world. This may be fuzzy-mindedness, but there's sound reason at the bottom of it.
Whenever we can contrive dowsing rods that will work without the dowser, or pendulums that will give correct information without being operated by any person - so that the mind-and-body of the experimenter has nothing to do with the operation - then perhaps we can rule psychism out of it. Any time we can isolate a human being from magnetism, electricity, heat, gravity, radiation, vibration, the whole marvellous network of forces of which he is part and product - then perhaps we can rule out the "purely physical" from our radiesthetic studies.
Such ideas are elementary enough, and yet there are millions of simple souls who think that with the naming of a thing all mystery vanishes from it. These are the nothing-butters! This or that strange happening is "nothing but" (say) telepathy, "nothing but" the ectoplasm, "nothing but" the subconscious - or the ether, or cosmic rays, or gravity, or hypnosis, or autosuggestion, or ideas, or religion, or superstition - so on and on with all the counters of speech. Nos patientiam da: Life is too short to spend much of it arguing with children - tho teachers they and all of us must have.
Let the physicists, psychologists and physiologists continue their physical investigations in radiesthesia; there is plenty to occupy them for a century or two at least. Let students of ESP in all its forms develop their own lines of research. Let both sides be assured that the science-philosophy of the future will reject neither, but will combine and synthesize their findings. Yet how much this far-off divine event might be hastened, if we could import a little of this future wisdom into our present-day contentiousness!