Message in a Bottle

Selling water in Wayzata would be like selling beer in Baraboo. How then to explain the one thousand people who streamed into Wayzata Community Church the other day to hear a lecture called “The Hidden Messages of Water”? The pews were brimming and the ushers tersely redirected latecomers to folding chairs spilling out into the lobby. The lecturer himself was surprised at the overflow crowd: After his introduction, he paused to take pictures of the audience, who cheered and waved.

Who was this conservatively dressed, tousled, middle-aged Japanese man, and why did all these people—mostly women—dress up and fill the parking lots and streets with their Lexuses and Volvos? How was it that he came to sell water to people who paid twenty-five dollars each, and probably all lived within a mile of a lake?

It was Dr. Masura Emoto. He is a half-scientist, half-evangelist whose books have sold more than a half-million copies. Trained in Japan in alternative medicine, Emoto fills bottles with water, exposes them to words, music, or prayer, and then freezes them. He then photographs the resulting crystals. The images are either “beautiful” or “ugly.” Many of them, as he indicated with his laser pointer on the huge screen suspended above him, actually reveal apocryphal images. In one experiment, he “showed” a picture of Niagara Falls to the water and the water responded by producing a crystal that resembled, according to Emoto, the eye on a dollar bill. The word “war” produced a fuzzy, irregular crystal that suggested a jet flying into the World Trade Center, while the Japanese word for “mother’s cooking” generated a brilliant, symmetrical crystal.

The audience oohed and aahed at each picture, as if they’d never seen a snowflake before. (They also oohed and aahed at the spinning graphics of his PowerPoint presentation.)

Emoto played music to the water. Beethoven and Tschaikovsky were among water’s favorites. For some reason, he then led the crowd in a karaoke sing-along of “Red River Valley,” though the PowerPoint text was so tiny the lyrics were unreadable. “Someday,” he said, “our pharmacies will be filled with CDs, not drugs!” The audience loudly applauded. (It was not clear whether Emoto had been inside an American drugstore recently; CDs are gaining fast.)

Emoto then pronounced the three steps to personal and global health: First, drink good water. Though he didn’t elaborate on what constituted good water, there were small bottles of grocery-store water for sale in the lobby that presumably fit the bill, along with a vendor selling a water purification pump. Second, said Emoto, listen to good music. Fortunately, there were also CDs for sale in the lobby from the opening act, a piano-and-recorder duo. (Emoto didn’t give any examples of bad music, perhaps because of his alliance with Yoko Ono.) Third, and probably hardest to copyright, “keep consciousness to be positive.”

Dr. Emoto roamed the stage with a wireless microphone. He talked about atoms and solar systems and elementary particles. He said that our bodies are like miniature solar systems. He said that the vibrational energy produced by MRIs was the technology with which breast cancer could be cured. He said that water could pick up messages from outer space, that groups of people who held their hands in prayer formed better crystals than groups who merely held hands. He said that the world’s major viruses like AIDS, SARS, and the “chicken flu” were each released soon after a major war.

The most precious moment may have come when the sun started to set in the airy and cavernous space and Emoto, reduced to a dim silhouette, read a verse for the audience.

With the words projected on a screen above him, Emoto recited in halting, robotic English: “Imagine. There’s. No. Heaven. It’s. Easy. If. You. Try. No. Hell. Below. Us. Above. Us. Only. Sky. Imagine. All. The. People. Living. For. Today.” Domo arigato, Dr. Emoto.
—Sari Gordon