Last spring, a thousand people streamed into a church in a leafy lakeside suburb west of Minneapolis to hear a lecture called 'The Hidden Messages of Water.' The pews were brimming and the lecturer himself was surprised at the overflow crowd: After he was introduced, 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 -- fill the parking lots with their luxury cars and pay $25 each to see him?
It was Dr. Masaru Emoto, a half-scientist, half-evangelist whose books have sold more than half a million copies. Trained in alternative medicine (his title refers to a degree he received in 1992 from the Open International University in India, which opened in 1991 and confers such degrees for under $500), 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 noted with his laser pointer on a huge screen, appear to reveal images created as the crystals formed. 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 Tchaikovsky 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.'
Emoto then pronounced the three steps to personal and global health: First, drink good water. Though he didn't say what constitutes 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. Third, and probably hardest to copyright, 'keep consciousness to be positive.'
Emoto 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 is 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 space and Emoto, reduced to a dim silhouette, recited a verse, projected on the screen, in his 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.
Reprinted from The Rake (June 2004), a monthly magazine devoted to life and pop culture in the Twin Cities area. Free locally. Subscriptions: $14.95/yr. (12 issues) from 800 N. Washington Ave., Suite 504, Minneapolis, MN 55401; www.rakemag.com