Sacred Cow #1 – Asking Permission

Written by Nigel Percy

Asking Permission and Dowsing

Now, before anyone's feathers get ruffled, what follows is my own personal take on something which seems, somehow, to cause a great deal of concern every now and then amongst dowsers. I don't think it ought to, so I'm writing this to make my thinking clear and, hopefully, help others get theirs clear as well.

There are, it seems, two large and fairly active sacred cows wandering loose amongst the dowsing community and nobody appears to be able to rope them and bring them back and stop them from blundering around into dowers' consciousnesses. So, here I am, getting up on my horse and riding after them, rounding them up and bringing them back for you to have a look at and see how you react when you're face to face with them. (The second Sacred Cow is in a separate post.)

Ready? Then off we go!

Asking Permission

The largest of the two cows is the one called ‘Asking'. Asking is the stumbling block for many dowsers, especially when they are starting out.

The usual question is something along the lines of, ‘Do/Should/Must I always be asking permission before dowsing?' Or it's, ‘I was taught to ask ‘Can I, May I, Should I', whenever I want to dowse about anything. What happens if I always get a ‘No' to one or the other of them?'

Those three phrases, Can I, May and Should I seem to be taught as a mantra to repeat by the majority of new dowsers nowadays. But, I suspect that not many people know why they are taught or have even bothered to give this any thought at all.

I'll be quite blunt here. I don't ask permission. I don't use the phrase or any part of the phrase. I don't start off every dowsing activity with even a glance or a nod towards asking permission. What I do instead is: I dowse!

Crazy, aren't I? That must mean I'm mad or even that I have absolutely no sense whatsoever of simple politeness. I shouldn't be trusted with a pendulum, because I just bulldoze my way to whatever I want!

Well, you can think that if you like, but I'd like to explain why I think this sacred cow, Asking, should be gently led away into a quiet barn and never bothered again.

First, it occurred to me that asking those three things, the mantra above, was, to put it delicately, a bit silly. After all, you are actually dowsing about whether you can dowse. Each of those three things require you to dowse about your dowsing.

Now, that alone doesn't make it worth ignoring. But it should be asked why it ever started up in the first place.

The origin of the permission problem

Did you know that it all began with someone called Sig Lonegren? And it started back in 1986 when he published a small book called Spiritual Dowsing? On page 9 he speaks of the difficulty beginning dowsers have of ‘tuning in' to the target. Then he says (and I quote);

One way to start this focusing process is to try the following process whenever you begin a quest with your pendulum:

  1. State what you want to do
  2. Ask, ‘Can I do it?'
  3. ‘May I do it?'
  4. ‘Am I ready to do it?'

Now here's where it gets interesting. (And note, by the way, there's no mention of the word ‘Should' in the above. As Sig writes:

First of all you state what you want to dowse. Your pendulum will give you an affirmative to indicate that it understands. ‘Can' means do I have the dowsing skills? Am I capable of doing this? ‘May' talks about permission. Am I allowed to do this? While most kinds of dowsing hold no kind of danger to the dowser, a few of the areas could get you into trouble if you get in over your head? And finally ‘Is there anything I may have forgotten? Am I sufficiently tuned in? Am I ready to go?'

Let me state right now, that I think Sig Lonegren is a fine dowser and has helped many, many people with his books and website and ideas. But I don't think this set of suggestions is one of his finest contributions.

For example, how does the pendulum, by itself, understand what you are dowsing about? It's a pendulum. It does not have consciousness. The use of this phrase implies that whatever is going on in dowsing is outside of you. Who knows if you have the dowsing skills? Who is being asked and why?

The ‘May I' part, the asking permission part, that also, according to Sig, lies outside of you, is not helpful. Dowsing is a human ability and to suggest that it relies entirely on some unseen ‘gatekeeper' is not helpful to anyone.

The last part seems a little redundant as well, but I have fewer issues with that.

Overall, the intention behind the mantra is good. And, as Sig suggests, it might only be helpful for beginners, not for every dowser, as its intention is merely to help you focus your intention, nothing more. It was a phase, he thought, you should pass through, grow out of.

Yet, because it has been taught so often, it almost has the status of a law of dowsing, when it clearly was intended as anything but.

Asking permission is not the best approach

So what do I do that's different and how do I wriggle through the asking permission hoop? Simple! I have a set of ethics. I apply those ethical considerations when I dowse. I don't believe in dowsing about other people unless and until I get their specific permission. I dowse about things that relate to me. Nothing more.

My biggest grouse with this ‘Asking permission' thing is that it distances the asker from their own power. And, it will not help anyone get a sense of their own ethics. I have seen, many times, people ask this in order to justify their own intrusive questions. ‘Oh, but I got permission for this!' Well, of course, they would, because that's what their ethical stance would have granted them anyway! Asking a set of questions to justify your own predisposition is not a good mode of living or of dowsing.

My suggestion would be to be aware of what you feel comfortable with doing and do just that.

What about the few areas which could get you into trouble if you get in over your head, as Sig mentions? What about your own safety? I'm not sure what experiences Sig has had or witnessed which caused him to say that, but I am unaware of any dowser I have spoken to or heard about who has had nasty things happen to them as a result of their dowsing. And I firmly believe that any dowsers who have experienced such things probably were doing things which a strong sense of their own ethical boundaries would have helped them avoid.

If you go into a place which makes your hair stand on end, do you continue anyway, or just do a quick sanity check? If you're going somewhere new to you, do you just travel blindly or do you look around as you go? The same thing applies to dowsing new areas. Common sense is what is needed, not some set of mantras.

An example

To end with, let me take you through how I go about dowsing with an example. A friend phoned recently, asking Maggie and myself to dowse something about her health. There's the asking permission part right there. There were all sorts of questions that could be asked as it was a fairly complex subject. So, asking myself, I said, ‘Do you see X's problem?' By that, I'm assuming that, as everything is connected, anything happening anywhere at any time is available to me now. So, by asking that, I'm simply refining my focus on one specific thing. How it works I don't know. I just know it does. It's not my physical eyesight at work, but some part of me has to be able to tune in and ‘see' what's happening. Then I asked various questions and reported back. End of story!

Mad, aren't I?

Do you agree with the ideas here? Or do you disagree? Either way, let us know where you stand on this issue by posting in the comments below.

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  1. Adam

    Hello! I’m fairly new to dowsing (this is my first week), and am absolutely fascinated. Of course, I learned about asking permission. Yesterday I wasn’t able to get an answer when asking “Do I have permission to dowse today?” So I asked, “Should I ask permission to dowse on the days I wish to dowse?” and I got a Yes.

    Today I asked for permission, and got a No.

    I like your take on the issue and probably would not have started asking permission if I read this first :) But here I am. Have I worked myself into some “permission hole” where now I must ask permission or my answers will be funky? I’d rather dowse every day to fine tune the connection, but not sure what to do now that I have been “denied permission”.

    Thanks for your insight!

    • Maggie Percy

      Welcome and thanks for a thoughtful question. You may have already read all of our posts on permission, but in case you have not, you can find them by Searching using the term ‘permission’.

      So it appears you understand that we don’t see any point in dowsing to ‘ask permission’. However, preparing to dowse does involve checking in with yourself on a number of things: are you feeling calm, curious and open to any answer? Are there too many distractions around? Are you feeling any fear or worry about dowsing the subject you have chosen? Are you aware that you are dowsing above your level of competence? Are you attached to a particular answer? This level of self-awareness is needed in order to dowse accurately. Learning when not to dowse is as important as learning how to dowse.

      Another issue is dowsing ethics. We’ve written several posts on the topic. You don’t need to ‘ask permission’ to be ethical. Simply have a clear set of ethical guidelines. We urge you only to dowse about yourself or things/people whom you have been given verbal permission to dowse about. Never dowse about someone else without their express permission.

      If you follow the above guidelines, you will find you become a confident, accurate and ethical dowser. ‘Asking permission’ is not a valid shortcut to those things. You have learned a valuable lesson about asking permission. Now you can choose to take another path. I would suggest you simply stop dowsing about permission and read our posts on ethics, permission and confidence, and you will learn when to dowse and when not to dowse and even be able to explain why. This is empowering, which asking for permission is not; asking permission keeps you in child mode, not even sure why you got the answer you did. Let us know if you have further questions.

  2. Ian Delaney

    I am glad that someone has seen fit to question this orthodoxy, having lost count of the number of teachers who repeat the line ad nauseum – even those who I consider to be quite expert and authoritative on the subject. A few years ago I purchased a dowsing course on CD which had been taken from a series of live lectures, and the author really made a point of impressing the permission protocol onto her audience by saying that you just couldn’t pick up a dowsing instrument without seeking this spiritual authorisation otherwise there would be all kinds of “karmic consequences”.

    Quite where she was coming from with this I really don’t know, suffice to say that I found her quite irritating and eventually gave the CD’s away! But it does make you wonder if this is an example of invented or received wisdom at work. As an astrologer, I see this nonsense all the time. I wonder if the farmers of old using their divining twigs to search for water as a means of survival ever thought of this one?

    • Maggie Percy

      There’s a lot of nonsense around most New Age type pursuits, and it is wise to think carefully and ask questions like you did to separate the wheat from the chaff.


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