Superstition And Occultism: The Siderean Pendulum

By Philipp Schmidt, S.J., The Newman Press, Westminister, Maryland, USA, 1963


"Superstition is the poetry of life... both find imaginary beings, and among what is real and tangible they sense the strangest affinities, swaying to and fro between sympathy and antipathy.

"Poetry always shakes herself free from such bonds as she voluntarily imposes on herself; superstition on the contrary may be likened to magic cords, which only draw closer together the more one struggles against them. The most enlightened period is not secure against it; but if it strikes in a dark century, then the clouded mind of unfortunate humanity strives forthwith towards impossibilities, after influence in the world of spirits, in the distance, in the future. A wonderful, rich world grows up, enshrouded in a cloud of heavy mist. Such mists lie heavily on whole centuries and become ever thicker; the power of imagination broods over a confused sensuality; reason seems to have returned like Astrea to her divine origin, unable as she is to assert her rights."
— Goethe
Under the Roman Emperor Valens (364 to 379 A.D.) several of the foremost men in Rome were accused of high treason against the Emperor. They bad tried, by the use of magic arts, to ascertain the name of his successor and had used to this end a metal ring, suspended from a thread. One of the conspirators held this thread in his band, the ring hung free, straight over a metal vessel) on the edge of which the letters of the alphabet were engraved at equal distances from one another. The ring was allowed to swing above the edge of the vessel; at certain letters however it stopped swinging and in this way gave the desired reply.

Exercise of the Art

Here we probably have the first printed mention of the so-called siderean pendulum (siderean from the Latin sidus, meaning constellation). It consists of a ring, hanging from a thread or from a hair, a metal ball, a piece of coal, sulphur pyrites or other object. Frequently half of a metal ball is used, the flat surface of which contains a compass. According as the pendulum swings in circles, straight lines, or triangles, the future is interpreted for business matters, lotteries, good fortune, family affairs. The pendulum also provides a means of determining the most favourable times for journeys, for changing house, for operations, even "future times for hair-cutting, so that it will grow again strong and even." It is consulted too concerning the most favourable time for engagements. For example, if a pair want to know whether they are suited to one another, the pendulum is held over the right hands of both, which have been placed side by side. According as it moves in rotation or sideways over the hands of the two, it is decided whether they are compatible or not. Furthermore the pendulum is used to test the genuineness of jewels or paintings or to determine the whereabouts of missing persons. In agricultural newspapers and periodicals the amazing pendulum is frequently recommended as an aid to determining whether male or female chicks can be expected from the eggs of pigeons, hens or canaries. When the pendulum moves over the egg in a circular rotation a cock will be hatched from it, but if it swings from side to side, then a hen may be expected. Now if this were true, it would be a very important agricultural fact. Therefore the German Agricultural Society, some years ago, instituted a thorough investigation into the truth of this belief. In this the pendulum failed completely. Of the eggs that were indicated by the pendulum as unfertilised, 75 per cent, were found to be actually fertilised.

Finally the pendulum is also taken into consideration for the diagnosis of illnesses. In the case of illness the vibrations of the pendulum are supposed to show characteristic deviations. In cases of calcinations it is said to describe little quavering triangles, in the case of wounds to turn aside and jump sideways. With nervous patients it travels in strokes to East and West, with hysterical subjects it moves in strong, excited, nervous lines. Where there is ulceration, the pendulum is attracted by the affected organ, in case of death it is supposed to stand perfectly still over the heart. Indeed, it is not even considered necessary to be in the patient's presence, in order to diagnose his illness. The pendulum, so we are told, is effective across the greatest distances. A photograph or even a specimen of the patient's handwriting is said to be sufficient. An invisible stream is held to connect one to the other. (From this it should be sufficiently obvious that here the way is thrown wide open to the deceptions of quacks and general prophets.)

Astrological Influences

As in all other types of prophecy, in the use of the pendulum also, astrology plays a considerable role. When the pendulum has reached the end of its ability, the fortune-teller, intent on his trade, must then have recourse to the stars. According to an astrologer, Frank Glahn, with astrology and pendulum every hidden ailment can "be traced and its remedy prescribed". He does indeed add with prudence and modesty : "This is not, as yet, the teaching of medical science; thus these are occult methods, which are also much used by doctors."

The use of the pendulum can indeed be learnt, but, say the pendulum operators, influenced as they are by astrology, the ability to use the pendulum successfully is possessed only by those who have been born under the planets Uranus and Neptune, which can bestow occult powers. Furthermore, all those who are influenced by the zodiac signs Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Aries, Leo, are likely to possess the ability to practise this art. This at least is a prevailing opinion.

What is the Scientific View?

The many experiments irreproachably conducted on strictly scientific lines with various pendulum and pendulum-swingers (which have been undertaken again and again with the help of the finest precision instruments and cinematograph pictures) demonstrate that the movement of the pendulum is influenced consciously or un-consciously therefore voluntarily or involuntarily, by the pendulum-worker himself, whereby the type of result is expressed according to the idea which the fortune-teller projects into the object questioned. Such results are by no means calculated to arouse confidence in the use of the pendulum. Concerning the occult diagnosis and therapy by its use, a medical protagonist of the art, Dr. Seeling (Berlin) has admitted, on the basis of a series of experiments: "The vibrations of the pendulum are not capable of successfully localising the seat of an illness. Thus diagnosis by pendulum, even in the hands of an efficient doctor, will never be able to supplant or replace the customary methods of examination. Diagnosis by pendulum, for auto-suggestible persons, especially for those of a hypochondriac or hysterical disposition, can bring with it the danger that the illness may grow worse, because the negative result is that contemplated by the patient."

At the same time the use of the pendulum, like that of the divining-rod, cannot be dismissed straightway as magic and swindle. The scientific explanation is indeed still very much disputed, since the findings of trustworthy observation are not uniform. The question, especially, by which powers the pendulum (or the divining-rod) is moved, has so far by no means been satisfactorily explained. It is possible that these forces lie not in the pendulum but in the organism of the person working it, and here the dim processes of the subconscious play a large role. Science has the last word to say concerning the merits and demerits of this use of the pendulum.

A ruling of the Holy Office the highest arbiter in matters of faith of the Catholic Church, has in order to protect the dignity of religion and true piety, strictly forbidden the clergy all use of radioaesthesia as an attempt to discover facts and future events (personarum circumstantias et eventus divinando) and exhorted the religious orders and their superiors to keep a strict supervision and in case of necessity to enforce punishment. However, this decision is not intended as a judgment of the scientific value of the pendulum.

Earth Rays

In this connection belongs also the problem of the so- called earth rays. This is a theoretical and practical sphere of research, which nowadays enjoys a higher degree of interest, particularly because "trade" has endowed earth rays with a terror, and ascribes illnesses, the causes of which are unknown, to these rays. The fact is that the earth radiates a scarcely noticeable radio-active emanation, which is a product of the radioactive minerals in the earth. Physics too designates these rays as earth rays. These, however, have no connection with the pendulum workers and radioaesthetes, as we call them nowadays.

Whilst "magical" medicine concerns itself generally with sympathetic and suggestive methods of healing, yet again and again the attempt is made to legitimise these methods scientifically as well, and to base them on the law of cause and effect. Thus the radioaesthetes have made these earth rays, which arc cited as an explanation of every possible illness, responsible especially for cancer. Anti-ray appliances and protection gadgets with scientifically sounding names, such as polarisator, rectameter, ether-regulator, or magnetic ray-sounder, which cost ten times their value and which are sold, by means of a considerable propaganda, to thousands, are supposed to act as a protection against harmful rays. All these gadgets are rejected by science. Professor Abraham of the Technical High School in Aachen, a recognised authority in this sphere, in May, I954, gave to the Society of German Electrotechnicians a lecture in which he stated that up to date it is impossible to prove the existence of earth rays by natural science. This, he said, was utilising popular superstition for commercial ends. According to Professor Elbel, the leader of the Institute for the Study of Legal Medicine at the University of Bonn, "anti-ray gadgets are a subject for punitive justice". The decision of the Holy Office of March 26, 1940, which, without detriment to scientific research, forbids the use of the diving rods to clerics, is also of interest.

The anti-ray merchants make the reproach to science that it rejects the belief in earth rays only from a reactionary disposition. Science replies with reason that physics, through the discovery of radium and Rontgen- rays, has brought help to millions of sick people, whereas the earth-ray theorists have indeed propounded dozens of senseless and conflicting theories, but from a practical standpoint have netted millions of pounds by trading in completely worthless gadgets.

Cock or Hen?

The attitude of a physicist of note to the much contested problem of the siderean pendulum is expressed in the following apparently simple, but completely scientific statements, under the title "Cock or hen?":
Perhaps you may already have heard how it is possible to determine with the help of a pendulum whether a hen or a cock may be expected to hatch out of an egg? The matter is quite amusing. The egg, washed clean (this, I am told, is how it must be), is laid on the table. And over it one must hold in one's hand a pendulum of about 5 c.m. in length. I have been told that it should be a silken cord from which hangs a little horse-shoe magnet. However, none of this is essential, any ball of lead on any cord will do as well. Then, if one holds one's hand quite still, the little pendulum begins to swing of its own accord "and if then the movement is to and fro in straight lines, a cock will hatch from the egg. If, however, the pendulum rotates in little circles, then it will be a hen.
  1. Make the experiment with various eggs and a little patience, until you find that the pendulum moves sometimes in straight lines, sometimes in circles. Do you find that this works? (If the attempts are to succeed, then the person carrying them out must not be aware of the fact that this phenomenon depends on self-deception; otherwise he will influence the required motionless position of the hand in such a way that there will be no movement at all; he will then suppress the little movements by the same self-deception through which another will carry them out.)

  2. Does it move also if the egg is covered with a paper or a cloth? It will. Then try placing before the person who is holding the pendulum instead of the egg a rubber ball or a stone or an apple. Then again it will move. Here we have proof that it is in no way able to foretell what the sex will be.

  3. The following experiments are very illuminating on this obscure proceeding. Blindfold the person who is holding the pendulum. The attempt will be unsuccessful, the pendulum will begin to swing only very feebly and irregularly. This proves that the eye plays a role in the whole proceeding.

  4. Leave the eyes open, but hold a shade between the eye and the pendulum, so that the person cannot see the pendulum. Again the experiment will be unsuccessful. Consequently, one must conclude that the eye takes cognisance of the proceedings and governs it accordingly.

  5. Leave the eye quite free, but support the hand which is holding the pendulum on any fixed object, for example a large stand on the table. The person making the experiment need only be told that he will otherwise become too easily tired: Again the attempt will fail and will only prove that the hand also must be able to move freely.
The eye, therefore, which already sees each little movement and leads the hand by what it sees, participates in this proceeding. The hand carries out the motions in the tempo observed. The remarkable fact is that the observer knows nothing of all these actions and can still believe that the movement is caused, not by himself, but by mysterious influences which proceed from the living egg, according to the sex of the embryo.

It was a short step to the idea of proving that the hand moves backwards and forwards in time with the movements of the pendulum. The person making the experiment took, together with the pendulum, an incandescent lamp in his hand, which threw a picture enlarged by a lens onto a wall some distance away. Then all motions of the hand could be seen enlarged on the wall. But the result showed that this was not such a simple matter. The movements of the hand were so disordered that it was impossible to recognise from them a movement in time with the pendulum. Thus the whole proceeding must occur in the same fashion as the strengthening of a tone by means of a resonator, which out of a medley of sounds, picks out and strengthens its own tone. The pendulum is indeed a resonator of this kind for its recurring movements. Both one and the other are set in motion by exactly the same laws.

Decree Of The Holy Office

The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office has given serious consideration to the troubles which to the detriment of religious and true piety arise from the investigation by clerics of Radiaesthesia for divining facts and events. In view of the directives of Canons 138 and 139 §1 of the Code of Canon Law protecting clerics and religious from those matters which are such as to dishonor their office or dignity or to do possible harm to their authority, (the Congregation) makes the following findings. However the Congregation has no wish by this decree to touch upon scientific investigation of Radiaesthesia:

The Most Excellent Ordinaries of places and Religious Superiors are ordered to prohibit their clerics or religious by stern directive from ever proceeding with those exercises in Radiaesthesia, which are involved in the above mentioned investigation.

It will be for these Ordinaries or Religious Superiors, if they consider it necessary or appropriate, to attach a threat of penal sanction to forbidden action of this kind.

But if any cleric or religious should repeatedly transgress this ban or if he (she) should provide an opportunity for serious harm or scandal, the Ordinaries or Superiors should report this fact to this Sacred Supreme Tribunal.

Given in Rome, at the chambers of the Holy Office, on 26 March 1942.
Giovanni Pepe, Notary of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. #9629 (stamp of Holy Office.)

The Rev. Lucian Pulvermacher, O.F .M. Cap.

123 Watson Street, Antigo, WI 54409. Phone & Fax (715) 623-3939. Email [email protected]  Website:

May 27, 1998

Dear (name removed for personal security),

A very, very strange thing has occurred in that Dominic Gruetzmacher wrote a letter of concern to the men in charge of the papal election with a concern about me and my relation to the pendulum. It implied that I am wrong "concern" in the teaching and use of the pendulum. I asked who among our Catholics has that concern, and it seems you are the only one, so far. I am writing to put you and all those who find fault in the pendulum and anyone who uses it properly, in their place, once and for all.

You have been sent my literature on the pendulum, so I do not have to send that again. In Moral Theology it is very clear that the pendulum has a proper place in our lives. The first thing that comes to mind is that it is used to find water and metals under the ground. It is an absolute necessity where water is deep under the ground, and not to use it when one knows its proper use would be just insane. Who wants to drill four or five two thousand feet wells in order to find water when he can find the water before he ever starts the first drilling, and this is as nature works, true.

There are other uses also. If you have a food that is bad for you, giving you an allergy, and you do not know the food, then the pendulum can help you. To me that is just wonderful.

Now I will put you in a very strange position. If you deny the known truth, no matter what the known truth is, you sin against the Holy Ghost, and for that sin, as the sin stands, cannot be forgiven. I said ''as the sin stands" because internal to the sin the person will never go to God for forgiveness. If one in spite of that gets a special grace he still could get forgiveness, but the chances are slim.

By denying the validity of the pendulum and its proper use you are involved in the denial of a known truth, and just for that you certainly go into ill favour with God. I shall quote the poem that introduces the sixth day of the Novena to the Holy Ghost. It reads:
"If Thou take Thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay,
All his good is turn'd to ill."
Evelyn, I gravely fear for your eternal salvation. Furthermore, if you spread your fear for me when I am correct, you place yourself in the company of those terrible men who condemned Our Lord Jesus Christ with the pointing finger: "He cures on the Sabbath." Our Lord was not evil. Those who said that were evil. Just think what you are doing. You are defaming a priest, and a just priest (not an evil one) is sacred to God as the apple of His eye, so to speak. He will not let you get away with this nonsense.

Recently, Ken Mock shouted (by e-mail) at me thus; "Have you gone mad'?" When Bateman and I learned that all of Europe had abandoned the papal election we told him that it was time to get at the election, and to that he said, "Have you gone mad'?" At that moment the mantle of leadership fell from his shoulders just as the mantle of leadership fell from the shoulders of Moses when he doubted God at the time God told him to draw water from the rock with his cane.

If you do not agree with what is in the Moral Theology books on the pendulum then I have to deny you the sacraments. I do not say you ever have to use it, but I tell you that you may never tell other that it wrong to use it. Those under your authority you can command, deny them the use of it as a domestic rule, but you can never make it an evil in itself. Period!

I never expected that I would have to eyeball you on any issue as I do in this letter, but I want to see you in heaven. Please, respond to right reason and the Catholic faith that presumably is still in you.

Wishing you the full flow of God's graces, I am,

Sincerely yours in Jesus and Mary,

This document recreated from texts sent by the Mildenhalls and Gordon Bateman.
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