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There are many uses of Chevreul’s pendulum that include a test of hypnotizability and as a method of ‘communicating’ with the unconscious mind. In this latter respect it is an alternative to the finger ideomotor response, which we discuss below, or the method of automatic writing. The principle on which it is based is very straightforward. Individuals respond to suggestion, and included in the suggestion can be given specific instructions about how to respond at the unconscious level. These unconscious responses manifest themselves in very small muscle movements – small enough to direct a pendulum to move in a certain manner. There is, then, two parts to this technique. Constructing a pendulum and accompanying circle; and, second, giving suggestions appropriate to a response with the pendulum.

Pendulum and circle

The pendulum comprises a thread about eight to ten inches long at the end of which is any small light object. The object should be heavy enough to keep the thread taught when hanging freely; while the thread should be long enough (including the light object) to hang freely from the fingers while the elbow is resting on the table. The object can be a small ball, a ring, or a crystal. It does not matter what it is, what matters is that you can direct your attention quite easily to it. In this respect a bright object may be better, but it is purely a matter of taste. It is even possible to purchase pendulums of this type from stores specializing in alternative therapies and goods for the Aquarian Age. Such purchases have the advantage that the thread is very thin and is attached to a crystal such that the crystal hangs suitably.

The next step is to construct a circle. Although this is not essential, it facilitates the technique. Draw a circle in the centre of a piece of paper or on a card that you can reuse. A typical A4 sheet is quite suitable. The circle should be clear. Inside the circle are drawn two lines at right angles and which cross at the centre of the circle. It may even be useful to identify the lines crossing with a heavy dot, since it is over this spot that the pendulum will rest.

There are at least four directions that the pendulum can move:

  1. vertically
  2. horizontally
  3. clockwise
  4. anti-clockwise

More directions can be used but a simple approach, with just these four directions, is likely to give better results and lead to less confusion.

Using the pendulum

Rest gently on your elbow with the pendulum held between the thumb and forefinger. The pendulum when resting should be positioned over the centre of the circle. The whole arrangement must be comfortable and free from stress. The seating and the height of the table may be significant here. For instance, too high a table will place you in a strained position, and also may make it difficult for you to focus on the object at the end of the thread.

The purpose is to use the four directions indicated above to specify four responses. The four responses are:

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. I don’t know
  4. I don’t want to answer that question

There is no intension here of assuming the responses are to be assigned in the same order as in the first list. On the contrary, the technique should be used to establish the correspondence, as we shall explain shortly. The responses should not be anything other than those indicated. You must narrow down the questions if you wish to obtain any clarification. The last two responses are quite important. You may simply not know the answer to a particular question and no matter how the question is worded this will still be true. The last response is most important in therapy in establishing some form of unconscious resistance.

The instructions for using the pendulum go something like this.

Exercise: Using the pendulum

Hold the pendulum over the centre of the circle. Now move it gently up and down … Now move it from right to left … Now swing the pendulum gently clockwise … Now do the same anti-clockwise. (This is only required on the first occasion and its aim is to give you a sense of what the different swings feel like. (It also sends a signal to the unconscious mind!)

Now return the pendulum to the centre of the circle and rest gently. From now on don't move the pendulum by any voluntary movements. Any movement that is to take place must be involuntary. You are first going to establish which direction your unconscious mind wants to use to indicate the four responses. The four responses are: yes, no, I don't know, and I don't want to answer that question. You will take each one in turn, and you will find the pendulum swinging in the direction indicating that response. You should also repeat to yourself the indicated response, while looking at the object at the end of the thread. Begin with the response, ‘yes’. Just think of ‘yes’ and say the word ‘yes’ to yourself while you concentrate on the pendulum. The pendulum will soon begin to swing in one of the four directions. From now on this direction of the swing will always indicate the answer ‘yes’ to any question you ask yourself.

You then do the same for each of the other three responses. Once the direction for each response has been established, a question and answer session can begin. How useful this will be depends on a number of factors.

  1. How clear you are at giving questions that can be answered by means of the four responses.
  2. What the problem is that you are investigating.
  3. The degree of your suggestibility.
  4. Whether you have any unconscious resistances.
  5. How you take to this particular method of inquiry.

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Chevreul’s Pendulum