Complementary and alternative medicine Friday Woo Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Your Friday Dose of Woo: The pit and the pendulum, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love Kreskin


Believe it or not, it’s been almost nine months since, almost on a whim, I first started this little indulgence of mine known as Your Friday Dose of Woo, with some truly fine woo known as quantum homeopathy. Before you know it, we’ll be celebrating a full year of woo. (Yes, I know that woo is eternal, and my little project represents a mere grain of sand on all the beaches of, for instance, California. If I’m going to be overwhelmed with woo and unreason, though, I might as well have a few laughs along the way.)

One thing I’ve noticed over these months is that there are definitely recurring patterns in woo. Certainly “energy” or “life force” is a common theme that runs through many, many forms of woo. So is “vibration” or “frequency.” And let’s not forget a lot of Secret-like “wishing will make it so” magical thinking. Indeed, I must confess that, after all these months, the repetition gets to me, and sometimes I despair of ever finding any unique woo that doesn’t highly resemble other woo. After all, I can only recycle the same jokes so many times. Indeed, such was the case for this week. My original target, which still remains within my Folder of Woo for later treatment, is a very tasty morsel of woo, but there was a bit of sameness about it.

Which is why I really, really like Pendulum Healing.

OK, OK, I know that a perusal of the website reveals a lot of typical energy woo, but that’s alright because it’s the angle (or–dare I say?–the “framing“) of the woo that is unique and something I’d never heard of before. Here, let the author of this woo, Sheila Hollingshead, set the stage:

This book is the result of 20 years research with the pendulum into locating and identifying the energies involved with the body. I discovered that EACH negative thought lowers the vibration of a specific part of the body, and each part of the body is affected by a different set of negative thoughts.

It is your negative thoughts about what is happening in your life that are the ENERGY BLOCKS causing you to experience problems and crisis in your life, and pain or illness in your body. The location of pain and illness can certainly direct you to the general negative thoughts involved. However, with the pendulum you can identify the exact thought that is the block for any problem, pain, illness, or injury. There is only ONE universal energy and it is experienced from either a positive vibration or a negative vibration. Energy blocks are a negative vibration. For healing to begin in your life and your body it is necessary to change your energy to a positive vibration.

Yes, yes, so far it’s standard issue woo, unblocking energy, negative thoughts lowering vibrations, and needing to change energy to a positive vibration, whatever the heck that means. We’ve heard this spiel a thousand times before. That’s not the genius of this woo. This is:

If you can’t change your negative thoughts, with the pendulum you will be able to identify and release each negative thought involved. Releasing automatically raises your energy to a positive vibration. The more you release, the higher in vibration you go, and the easier it is to be positive. The more positive you are, the happier and healthier you become. Problems can resolve, pain can disappear, and recovery from injury or illness can be quicker and easier from a positive vibration.

The pendulum is a wonderful tool for transformation and healing because it makes your energy visible. It is a simple tool that can only read one vibration at a time but for that reason it is very precise, showing the exact vibration of your energy at any time. The goal is to become stable on a positive vibration.

Yes, indeed. You use a pendulum (I assume one that’s somewhat smaller than the one pictured above) to locate these “energy blockages.” Basically, it’s dowsing for energy blockages, using the motion of a pendulum over your “energy field” to find them. Here are the instructions:

Hold the pendulum in the hand you normally use. The pendulum should start to move immediately, even if only slightly. If it won’t move or is ‘shaky’, it means it is not compatible with your energy. Try a variety of things until you find what works best.

If you can’t get any movement, pay attention to your thoughts. Negative thoughts close down your energy and the pendulum can’t move. Thinking you are unable to move it, or trying to hold your hand still will block your energy. To get movement it is necessary to think positive thoughts about being able to move it. THINK MOVEMENT!

Remember that it is your energy that moves the pendulum. The more emphatic you are in telling the pendulum to move, the more movement you should be able to get. However, it does not matter how much movement you get. Any movement will allow you to be able to use the pendulum successfully.



Or, the more emphatic you are in trying to move the pendulum, the more you’ll unintentionally cause your hand to move, making the pendulum move. It’s the same general principle of a Kreskin’s ESP game, just like the one I had when I was a kid. Or, as Dennis Matheson puts it, “With the pendulum it’s fairly easy to influence the swing and produce the “answers” you want and “real” answers may be the result of subconcious influence.”

Ya think? I knew that even when I was a kid, but Ms. Hollingshead seems unable to appreciate this simple fact. Heck, this whole pendulum-energy healing thing seems like nothing more than little woo of Kreskin’s ESP game writ large into enormous energy woo, complete with blockages, re-aligning chakras, and all manner of the woo-iest woo layered on to what was, when I was a kid, a silly little game. In fact, there’s even a name for this woo, where a “diagnosis” is made by pendulum). It’s called “radiesthesia.” But what the heck, let’s see what she says that the various motions of the pendulum mean:

As you pick up the pendulum, the most common response is a circling movement, either clockwise or counter-clockwise as shown above on the right. It is important to remember that the kind of movement you receive depends on the vibration you are on. A clockwise movement shows a positive energy and a counter-clockwise movement shows a negative energy.

The height and speed of the movement can show you how positive or negative the energy is. The higher the movement the more positive it is for either a clockwise or counter-clockwise movement. A full-out swing is the highest movement. The lower the movement the more negative it is. No movement shows the lowest negative energy and is called an ENERGY BLOCK.

This information can show you how you feel about anyone or anything. Say the name of who or what you want to know about and watch the response of the pendulum. Anything less than a full out clockwise swing shows negativity involved. DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF when you find negativity about someone or something. That will only lower your energy and decrease the movement of the pendulum, or even stop movement.

To raise your vibration for anyone or anything, it is necessary to change your thoughts to be more positive. Repeat each possibility and watch the response of the pendulum. The higher the swing the better it is for you.

i-790061c91924b85203541c8f5749db6f-pit1.jpgBut what if you swing both ways, I can’t help but wonder.

So what do you do when your pendulum finds a “blockage” or a problem? After all, what good is all this (other than lining Ms. Hollingshead’s pockets as you buy her books to plumb all the mysteries and fine points of the pendulum and re-aligning your energy. First, you start by identifying your needs and wants with the pendulum:

INSIGHT into a problem can bring about better understanding and allow you to change your thoughts. TRANSFORMATION occurs as you no longer consider it to be a problem but can now even think of is as a blessing as you see the positive that has come from it. The pendulum can be used to help you to determine which thought or action is the best one for you. Repeat each possibility and watch the response of the pendulum. The one eliciting the highest movement shows what you really want AT THIS MOMENT.

If you can’t think of anything positive about a problem, it is necessary to release. Releasing automatically moves you to a positive vibration, then it is your desire to stay positive that keeps you there.

Simple enough. But what do you do to “release”? Glad you asked:

When you encounter what you consider to be a problem, to change your energy you can identify who or what the problem is and do a Specific Release. You would add who or what you want to release to the following.


FOR EXAMPLE: If you are having problems with money, the best place to start releasing is with the general category of FINANCES. To clear a general energy it is necessary to also release the various parts involved. For finances it could be MONEY, BILLS, TAXES, IRS, EARNING, SPENDING, SAVING, LENDING, LOSING, etc. The pendulum can direct you to what to release by repeating each possibility for a YES/NO until you receive a YES. You know what you are having problems with so always ask about that first. It is also necessary to release the opposite energy involved. For example, release MONEY first and then NO MONEY to clear the vibration.

That’s all there is to it! Truly, life is easy in woo-world. Indeed, Ms. Hollingshead even provides an example of her pendulum in action:

One day a friend called, wanting me to tell her where to find some important papers that she couldn’t find. I told her I wasn’t good at that and she should get her pendulum and find it herself. She was very desperate to find these important papers so she decided to try. She went thru her house but her pendulum indicated it was not in the house. When she asked where it was, she received a YES to the garage. She felt she had already looked thru the garage very thoroughly but she checked each box again with the pendulum. It responded with a YES to a specific box and sure enough, at the bottom of the box she found the papers! She was amazed and delighted, and immediately called to tell me about it. I was very impressed especially since she seldom if ever used her pendulum. It gave me enough confidence to do the same the next time I couldn’t find something and it worked. I found it!

I was right! This is just like dowsing! Only with energy instead of water. (Water, I guess, would be useless to look for, given that the human body is 70% water or so.) I wonder what the Amazing Randi would have to say about this.

Actually, I think I know.


By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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