Underwood Understood

Guy Underwood’s Features

in the South West

A Zoom presentation by Alison Denham

to the Tamar, Devon and Trencrom dowsing groups

Most new dowsers encountering the vast field of available, academic and anecdotal information about earth energies would probably end up reading Michell or Miller, Gawn or Gardner.   However, Ali Denham chose, or was chosen, to start her dowsing career with the enigmatic Guy Underwood.  

Understanding Guy’s work can be hard going for those of us with decades of experience.  For a relative novice, it has been a steep learning curve but, on the evidence of this zoom talk, clearly a very productive one.  

Alison is a retired history teacher, with an engaging manner, an enquiring mind and a good eye for picking out the wheat from the chaff.  Underwood’s lumber-room of strange, yet fascinating, ideas could not have attracted a better-suited proponent.   

Guy himself was an earth energy dowser before the species was even invented.  He worked quietly and alone between the 1940s and the 1960s, but he was so far ahead of his time that his findings were deemed to be more than controversial – and he was ridiculed in his day.  

Despite being a Trustee of the British Society of Dowers during the 1950s and having had a couple of articles published in the BSD’s The Journal, most of his work went unread until it was published, posthumously, in 1969.  Even then, it seems The Pattern of The Past was ‘the wrong manuscript’ which did scant justice to his ground-breaking ideas and novel interpretations.  

With hindsight, parts of The Pattern of The Past are well wide of the mark by today’s understanding of the subject, but Guy had no platform on which to stand, and no peer group to act as a sounding board.  In fact, it is remarkable that he discovered so much, effectively on his own, and was able to make as decent a picture as he did out of the eclectic jumble of incoming, and quite novel, information. 

In a nutshell, Ali described how Underwood had chanced across and developed a system of dowsable currents – water lines, track lines and ‘aquastats’.  

Water lines broadly equated with those found by water diviners, but Guy was explicitly finding these at ancient and sacred sites in a way that had rarely been considered previously. 

Track lines were probably the repeated remanances of people and/or animals, many of whose tentative traces had morphed into much-travelled green lanes, and later still into ancient roads.  The idea of dowsing the ethereal pathways of long dead beings would be right off the radar for any respectable dowser for decades yet to come!  

Aquastats (and bear in mind this was a time when the only generally acceptable uses of dowsing were for water or minerals) were probably what we would call earth energy lines today.  His hand-drawn diagrams in The Pattern of The Past certainly look more like an earth energy matrix as we would now picture it, rather than lines joining places of equivalent hydrology.  But again, Guy was literally in a world of his own, and even what he discovered with his own rods had to be categorised and labelled up from scratch.

These three linear elements he called geodetic lines.  

As Ali pointed out, the curator of his archive, the late Dennis Wheatley, felt Underwood deserved a place in ‘dowsing’s hall of fame’ for this alone.  Yet, again with the benefit of hindsight, he was one of the first to recognise earth energies as a distinctive element of landscape dowsing; he was certainly the first to put the idea of linear structure (‘hair lines’ and ‘strands’, that we might now describe as banding) into the public domain, and he was seminal in associating all of these elements with ancient and sacred sites.

The significance of Alison’s own work is that she has taken GU at face value, and has set off to find his geodetic system for herself – something that many of us with more experience and a longer time-frame have categorically failed to do! 

Part of her talk expanded on the work she has undertaken at the quiet country churchyard of Down St Mary in mid-Devon.  Here she has picked out and detailed the various features that Guy himself might have found.  But, as with all dowsing research, she has uncovered as many questions as answers, and her work has already taken her into areas of enquiry that Guy may never have come across. 

Indeed, Ali has been developing concepts, based on the geodetic system, that are an extension of the original template – the benefit of having a platform to stand on, even if some of the legs are still a bit wobbly.  It is always exciting, and uplifting to see a new green shoot emerging from a long dormant stump – and I am sure GU himself would have greatly approved of her endeavours (and maybe he does!).

Alison also brought the story up to date by mentioning some of the ideas that Guy’s research has inspired in the work of Maria Wheatley, daughter of Dennis, the current bearer and inheritor of the geodetic torch.  

I am sure this talk will encourage many of us to have another look at our local sites for these currents.  It is not unreasonable to ask to be shown some of ‘Guy’s lines’, which should be enough get you going, but do be aware that we all experience esoteric flows differently – and you have to be prepared to ‘find what you find’.  Alison has certainly gone beyond that stage, and we hope to be able to go out on site with her, once the current crisis has calmed down a bit. 

Many thanks to Ali for zooming with us.  I am sure her presentation will have demystified the Underwood legacy a little, and hopefully will spark off a new tranche of geodetic enquiry.

Nigel Twinn

October 2020