Dowsing is the ancient practice of seeking what is hidden (most often associated with dowsing or “divining” water underground with a divining rod). My grandmother was a dowser. She used the forked limb from a peach tree to find underground water for friends and relatives drilling water wells in Indiana. I wrote a post about it.

Subsequent to that post, a brilliant enterprise architect from the U.K. name Tom Graves (@tetradian) contacted me, and sent me a book he wrote with Liz Poraj-Wilczynska called The Disciplines of Dowsing. The authors look at dowsing the way Jung looked at alchemy–as a philosophy, a way of seeing and experiencing the world. Dowsing, after all, is no more about finding underground water than alchemy is about turning lead into gold. While that may be the tagline, the practice has much bigger implications.

After reading Graves’ book, I came to see dowsing as a useful framework for the practice of creativity, and how we can tap into our imaginations in useful ways. In the act of creating we are, after all, revealing what is currently unseen. Discovering what is currently hidden.

A key takeaway for me is that there are what Graves and Poraj-Wilczynska call four role modes in the discipline of dowsing: Artist, Mystic, Scientist and Magician.  Note that these are “modes”—the assignments and their sequencing are not meant to be taken literally.

This is how the authors characterize each of the role modes:

When we are in the Artist role mode, we invoke our senses and respond to our feelings. We do this without having to justify or rationalize our feelings. We are open, and allow the environment to affect us. We let ourselves be moved without worrying about where we’re going.

When we are in Mystic role mode, we assign meaning to our feelings. We visualize and articulate what we’re feeling, define a belief system, and state why our beliefs matter. We describe our newly discovered cosmos. We give it a mythology.

When we are in Scientist role mode, we begin to connect our discoveries, and give structure to our process so that it can be shared, scaled, and widely understood. This mode enables others to continue the work where we leave off, and produce the same results under the same conditions.

In Magician mode, we conceal complexity. Our audience does not need or want to know how we produce our results. They want the results. They don’t want a story about where the rabbit has been, they want to be surprised and delighted by a rabbit popping out of a hat.

No matter what kind of results we are looking for from our process, the one thing we can all recall from the ancient practice of dowsing is this: To be effective, to find what we are looking for, we have to play different roles at different times.

For our creativity to matter, we cannot see ourselves only as artists, and for our science to connect with a broad audience, we cannot perform only in scientist mode. It is knowing the modes and when to shift between them that defines the practice. This is the discipline that makes the difference.

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