The late proceedings on the gold-fields of a certain divining-rod manipulator have attracted much attention to the supposed mystery, and the following suggested explanation of the same, given in a late number, of All the Year round, may amuse if it does not greatly instruct - "More than 50 years ago, Chevreul, the eminent French chemist and natural philosopher, devised a small pendulum, consisting of an iron ring suspended by a hempen thread, to test an alleged power possessed by a Parisian lady of detecting hidden metals and springs of water by the spontaneous oscillation of the pendulum; What he saw induced him to extend his researches further.
He addressed a letter to Biot, a still more eminent French savant, expressive of an opinion that there is a mental process concerned in these phenomena which needs to be taken into account.
About 40 years after circumstances led him to take up the enquiry at greater length and in a more scientific manner. The Academie des Sciences, in 1852, requested MM. Chevreul, Bousingault and Babinet to report on a volume by M. Riondet on the subject of the divining-rod; and the attention of Chevreul was about the same time attracted by the public displays of table-turning and spirit-rapping with which Paris was just then almost intoxicated. He thought of his pendulum ; he thought of the diving-rod of the dowsers; and he worked out the details of a theory which might possibly furnish a clue to a large number of marvelous recitals, spiritual and non-spiritual. His theory is this : He believes that there is a condition of mind which may be called expectant attention, and that this has a very peculiar effect upon the nerves and muscles. When we attend to any outward object and expect a particular movement to take place in it, there is likely to be a movement going on in ourselves of which we are not conscious and if our fingers touch the object contemplated, we are apt to produce the very phenomenon itself without being aware of it... This feeling or state of mind, expectation has an involuntary effect on some of the nerves, and the nerves on the muscles. The fingers holding the article or substance with which the experiment is to be made relax or modify their hold to such a degree as to produce the very movement wished for. The hazel-rod, for instance, descends from its horizontal position, and points towards the ground, because the experimenter desires and expects that it will do so, although he is not conscious of any purposed determination to produce the result...
There is a growing belief among physiologists, and those who study the wonderful influence of mind upon body and body upon mind, that this kind of expectant attention, or by what ever other name we call it, is very much concerned in the production of semi-miraculous and semi-mystical phenomena. The Bible and key experiment, the ring-pendulum, the divining-rod may possibly all be more or less dependent on it, as well as some of those 'facts which belong to so-called spiritualism'.
Bunyip, 13 July 1867