You’ve heard of the Law of Attraction, right? Did you know a lot of it started with a Japanese doctor who believed he could change the molecular structure of water in amazingly simple ways?
So, there’s this guy—Dr. Masaru Emoto. Well, there was this guy; Emoto died in 2014. And he may not actually have been a doctor. See, his doctorate in Alternative Medicine came from a correspondence school, so some people have questioned whether he was really a doctor at all.
But slow down. Hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people claim their lives have been changed by his work, that his experiments have unlocked a universal truth so outside the box that it has led to an entire industry being built up around it. So, what did he do?
Essentially, he talked to water.
It’s a Lot Like the Law of Attraction
Sounds crazy, right? Well, a lot of people believe in the Law of Attraction, the idea that what you focus on shows up in your life. Focus on love, wealth, and prosperity? You’re gonna have a good time. Focus on that one ex that broke your heart (and your windshield)? Not such a good time. Tons of people swear by this stuff.
You might recognize a few of these names: Jim Carrey. Lady Gaga. Steve Harvey. MMA fighter and epic trash-talker Conor McGregor. Gwyneth Paltrow. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Denzel Washington. Oprah Winfrey. Jay-Z, yo. Seriously, this list could go on all day.
What do these people have in common, besides being rich and famous (and rich, son, rich). They believe in the Law of Attraction, the deceptively simple idea that what you seek also seeks you. Not to sound like Gandalf or anything.
You might be tempted to think it’s BS—you can get rich by thinking about a solid gold Bugatti? Shyeah right—but slow down, hectic skeptic. This is apparently working for a lot of celebrities. Like Jay-Z? He’s got ninety-nine problems but being rich ain’t one. So maybe there’s something to this Law of Attraction thing.
It’s All About Vibrations
And maybe there’s something to Dr. Emoto’s experiments on water. Let’s get down to that. Emoto had a simple premise: the vibration of your emotions can change the physical structure of water. Say what?
Ok, look at it like this. Pour all your love and good intentions into a cup full of water. Straight up beam on that thing, dude. Om shanti shanti shanti, all that. Now, the water in that cup is going to pick up on those literal vibes and rearrange itself accordingly. When you freeze it, you’ll get ice crystals that look beautiful, symmetrical, and like little round cathedrals of grace.
Now think about that heartbreaking ex. Think about taxes. Think about the sad, bad, and the not so glad. Send those hateful, negative vibrations at a cup of water and when you freeze it, you’re going to get ice crystals that look like … well, that windshield your ex broke. Shattered, chaotic, not at all pretty, not something you’d want to put in your body. Something that you hope is covered by insurance.
Water is essential to life. It’s an old saying, but it’s true: water is life. Dr. Emoto went so far as to call water a “blueprint for our reality.” He started experimenting with water in the mid-1990s, and his findings are … well, incredible.
The Truth Is in the Crystals—or Is It?
He exposed water to different feelings by way of words, sound and music, and images—and then froze it. He’d later take that frozen water, put it under a microscope, and examine the kind of crystals that formed in it.
When water was exposed to positive words, expressions of love, peace or tranquility, the ice crystals formed themselves into what he called “pleasing” shapes. They looked regular, elegant, ordered, and beautiful. What about when the water was exposed to the opposite set of emotions?
If water was exposed to hateful, ugly language or images of violence or destruction, the resulting ice crystals were ugly—disordered, confused, showing no real pattern other than disruption and chaos. Emoto was so interested in these findings that he founded an institute to study them: The International Water for Life Foundation.
The Good Doctor
Let’s take a look at the doctor’s background. Born in Yokohama, Japan in 1943, he graduated from Yokohama Municipal University, but with a degree in International Relations. He didn’t get his doctorate until 1992, from the Open International University for Alternative Medicine, based in India. The coursework was all done through the mail—Emoto didn’t actually attend the university in the physical sense.
But let’s keep an open mind and consider the following: Emoto believed that water from different sources would exhibit different crystalline structures when frozen. He stated that water from a pristine mountain stream would freeze differently than water taken from a source containing pollutants—which makes sense, right?
The mountain stream water showed crystalline structures that were regular, geometric, and beautiful (think of that lovely symmetrical type of pattern that snowflakes exhibit). Polluted water, when frozen, showed exactly the opposite: randomly distorted crystals that showed no symmetry, geometry, or pattern.
He also believed that these differences in crystalline structure could be changed by passing ultraviolet light or electromagnetic energy through the water, and his research attracted followers. A lot of them, all of whom bought into the idea that different energies—in essence, different vibrations—could cause physical changes in water.
Clean Water: Good—Dirty Water: Bad
All of that sounds perfectly reasonable, right? Polluted water should be different from water that came from some crisp, clear mountain spring. That just makes sense. And sure, different wavelengths of different kinds of energy might have an effect on the shape of ice crystals, that also sounds totally plausible. But emotions?
See, Emoto felt that emotions were different kinds of energy vibrations—and there’s science to back it up. We all have a hazy cloud of energy around us all of the time, putting out about forty watts of power. Believe it or not, it’s the background energy of brainwaves, and it’s surrounding your head and interacting with other electrical fields as you read this. That’s just proven fact.
Scientists can detect this energy. They use it in electroencephalograms, or EEGs. It’s the way they record the brain’s electrical activity at work—and different states of consciousness produce different patterns in that energy.
Alpha waves, associated with intense concentration, produce one kind of energy. Theta and Delta waves, associated with restfulness and creativity, produce another. Is any of this reminding you of the Law of Attraction stuff? Maybe it should be.
Emoto reasoned that, since emotions produced different patterns of brainwave activity, they could be said to have different frequencies … which, really, is just solid science. But could those frequencies, like ultraviolet light or other sources of electromagnetism, affect the crystalline structure of water when it freezes?
He set out to study this, and with the help of close to 2,000 volunteers, did exactly that. He had these volunteers concentrate feelings of love and gratitude toward bottled water, then froze the water and examined it microscopically.
His findings were published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, which is a totally legitimate and above-board publication. He found that the water that had been targeted with warm fuzzies showed a crystalline pattern that was rated “more beautiful” than crystalline patterns in just plain old water that wasn’t bombarded with love and affection.
Pretty wild. Well, despite being published in a straight-up scientific journal, some people thought his work “showed signs of bias,” which is Scientist for “was a bunch of nonsense.” When these skeptics looked at the photographs of microscopic crystals, they didn’t see much difference. But who’s to say that’s not a different kind of bias, right?
The section of the scientific community that had the most negative comments to make pointed out that Emoto’s institute was selling “altered” bottles of water for what you’d have to assume was a pretty hefty markup. And books. And Emoto was paid to go on the lecture circuit.
They felt that his entrepreneurial efforts clouded his scientific judgment, and maybe they had a point. But hey, that’s one way to make the Law of Attraction work, right?
Emoto continued his research, totally unphased. Maybe it was all the positivity in his water. He continued his research into the effect that positive emotion had on water in a variety of ways. In one famous experiment, he had a team of followers in Tokyo transmit their thoughts to bottled water clear across the Pacific in California and subjected to scientific scrutiny.
Love: Beamed Fresh from Tokyo
There was a double-blind study conducted on the treated water. It was frozen, and its crystalline structure was compared to the crystalline structure of untreated water by people who had no idea which was which. Guess what?
The treated water scored more highly when judged on “aesthetic quality.” In other words, people thinking positive thoughts in Tokyo apparently managed to make water in California more beautiful when frozen. This is wild stuff.
Emoto kept looking for more ways to influence water with positive emotion. He had people chant words like “love” and “peace” in different languages, had followers meditate silently in the presence of the water, and even played music for it.
Bad news for metal fans, by the way—while the water showed “beautiful” crystalline structure when subjected to John Lennon’s “Imagine” and certain symphonies by Mozart, it had a disordered, chaotic structure when blasted with heavy metal. Actually, you metal fans out there will probably dig that.
Rice: Fermented with Love
You may also have heard of the Rice Experiment Emoto carried out. This experiment followed the same principle as the water experiments. He took three jars of cooked rice, covered them with water, and would address the jars in different ways once every day.
For thirty days, he said “thank you!” to the first jar, “you’re an idiot!” to the second, and completely ignored the third jar. So what effect did the doctor’s domoarigato have on the rice?
The thanked rice had begun to ferment, but in a pleasant way—the water had turned a golden, honey color, the rice emitted a sweet sort of smell, and there was no mold or decay. The stupid rice? Well, that rice had begun to turn green with mold, and (one can imagine) probably smelled a lot worse than the thanked rice. But what about that poor ignored rice?
Plot twist: it turns out that the ignored rice turned black and began to completely rot. Dr. Emoto took that to mean that neglect was worse even than being called an idiot. In his view, ignoring something or someone inflicts the most damage. Whoa.
The Rice Experiment has been recreated hundreds—maybe even thousands—of times on social media sites like YouTube and Facebook, and the results generally mimic what Dr. Emoto found. There are some more questions there about scientific merit and validity … but we’ll get to that.
Emoto’s foundation continued to sell pre-vibed water, and Emoto authored a series of books on the subject—one of which, The Hidden Messages in Water, was a New York Times bestseller. There were even a couple of children’s books—The Message From Water, and The Secret of Water, which are both still for sale years after the good doctor’s passing away.
Follow the Money
So, who’s buying this stuff? And more importantly, who’s buying into it? That gets a little tricky. Since first publishing his findings in 2008, Emoto’s “emotional vibration” school of thought has attracted quite a few followers. He even did a speaking tour of the US, lecturing at college campuses across the country on the benefits of chanting positive stuff into your water bottle after filling it.
But other than students on college campuses, plenty of celebrities and other influencers felt that Emoto had a valuable contribution to make to the budding “science” of vibration and emotional frequency. Basically, the same people who embrace the ideas behind the Law of Attraction embrace Emoto’s ideas, which makes perfect sense—they’re based on the same principles.
Plenty of people are making money on these ideas. From individuals who are selling water, they’ve changed over to companies who are mass marketing “vibed up” water, there’s a lot of ice to be made out there.
And Emoto’s books are still selling like crazy (which some people say they are, literally). There are around a dozen of Emoto’s books that have four- and five-star reviews on Amazon, and are available in several different versions. They’ve been translated to a dozen different languages and are sold all over the world.
And those mass marketing efforts we just mentioned? One California company, called Beyond O2, is making big bucks from Emoto’s work. And they’re not just selling water.
Way, Way Beyond
You can buy water, by the case or in single liters and half-liters, from them. You can get water bottles, water filters, even filters for your shower. Though a lot of their products are alkaline water or intended to make the water you drink or bathe in alkaline, they do still have that familiar Emoto magic going on.
They sell something they call Structured Water, which is a product of “Quantum Divinity Encoding.” The company also calls Quantum Divinity Encoding “the Blessings” and say this divine energy is somehow encoded into the “memory” of the water that Beyond O2 sells.
It gets a little hard to follow, but the basic idea is that their water is altered in a special way so that it “contains that which is in the mind of the Divine Creator, focused, or transferred into the memory of Beyond O2 Premium Alkaline Water.” That’s straight from their website. If you’re confused, you’re not alone—we’re not exactly sure what they mean, either.
The idea here is simple—and whether you believe in it or not, it reads a lot like poetry. Beyond O2 says that “the principle of creation” is something “that operates beyond time and space.” Which also kind of sounds like some Twilight Zone stuff, right?
They go on to reference quantum physics (no kidding), calling it an “intelligent force,” which they also say is a “God Force, as you may call it.” They go on to say that the same proof of that intelligent force that you can find in quantum physics exists in the work of … you guessed it, Dr. Masaru Emoto.
They have links to YouTube videos about Emoto on their website, and say that when their water is consumed “in alignment” and “with the intention” to receive healing and the Blessings of Love, the person who drinks the water will somehow experience it as a healing process. Sounds cool—if it works.
How do they accomplish all this? They don’t quite go into that, but whether it’s chanting over the water or special filtering, they do continue to push the Emoto love agenda, and claim to “activate the water’s chemistry from the very foundation of its molecular structure.” Right on? There are definitely worse things to be offering for sale. But they are offering it—for sale.
One in a Million
And this is just one company. There are others out there. You can even buy specially energized water from YouTube celebrities, as we’ve mentioned, with more than a handful of them offering all kinds of wild stuff.
For the right price, you can get everything from water bottles with stickers reading “love” on the outside to water bottles full of different crystals that are also thought to change the structure of the water and somehow make it resonate at a higher, or better (we guess?) frequency.
Not to pass judgment on this stuff, but it’s starting to sound less scientific all the time. Not that it matters to the legions of people who buy into Emoto’s work and believe in the principles behind changing the structure of water with the right words or intent. Or, for that matter, the principles behind the Law of Attraction.
But there are just as many people calling Emoto’s work pseudoscience and “crass commercialism,” meaning that as long as someone’s making money off of this stuff, its scientific validity is basically zero. Do they have a point?
Everyone’s a Critic
Just as the Law of Attraction has its critics, so does Dr. Emoto’s work. Other scientists have pointed out that his results are difficult to duplicate, which is sort of a big deal in scientific method. They say that so little effort had been made to perform the various chanting, praying, and music playing sessions in an exact and reproducible way that it would be impossible to recreate the experiments.
Some scientists also point out that freezing water is apparently really easy to manipulate. You can alter the rate at which water freezes, how cold it gets, or introduce outside elements into the water. All of these things would have an effect on the crystalline structure of the ice after the water freezes.
Some of the haters are super salty (which means they’re probably full of chaotic crystals, right?). A reviewer of one of his books, a skeptic named Harriet Hall, called Emoto’s work “about as scientific as Alice in Wonderland.” Ouch.
But every new discovery faces scads of people saying it’s fake, can’t be real, bad science, and so on. People used to believe the Earth was the center of the universe. Hey, some people still believe the Earth is flat—but that’s another story entirely.
Sticking with Emoto’s work and attempts to prove or disprove it, even the most hardcore skeptical scientists will admit that “fringe research” sometimes discovers amazing things. One of the great scientific truths of all time is that we don’t know everything.
That doesn’t stop the skeptics from pointing out some pretty damning evidence. Emoto did a lot of stuff wrong as far as classic scientific method is concerned. He used too few samples—meaning the results he saw could have just been freak accidents.
And the results he did find were pretty subjective—one man’s beautiful geometric pattern is another man’s “yawn, boring, seen it.” And some of the disordered, chaotic patterns in his findings might appeal to some people (people who hate positive emotions, maybe?).
Emoto believed in a concept he called hado, which rhymes with shadow, and simply means “vibration” in Japanese. Emoto wrote that hado was “the intrinsic vibrational pattern at the atomic level in all matter. The smallest unit of energy. Its basis is the energy of human consciousness.” How scientific is that?
It’s hard to say. If he meant it in the sense that scientists might use when they talk about recording brainwaves, there’s still the matter of “the smallest unit of energy.” The thing is we don’t really know what that is. Big brains have been working on that problem for a long time, and they’re really only a little bit closer than they were when the whole field of quantum physics began.
And can you prove somehow that “its basis is the energy of human consciousness”? No, really, there is no way to prove that. There’s no science that we currently know of that can take a look at these concepts and say either yes—or no.
It’s like the Law of Attraction. You can’t prove it works. There has never been a scientifically verified study that says, yes, think about a Lamborghini hard enough and you will get to own one. Think about bad things, and bad things will happen to you. You just can’t say for sure whether this stuff is fact or fiction.
To an extent, some of it is common sense. If you really, really want that Lambo, maybe you’re going to focus on it and think about it a lot. Maybe then you’ll start to develop habits that will get you closer to owning it.
Maybe you’ll start working harder, saving more money, looking for ways to get promotions at work, or become an entrepreneur and start your own business. Before you know it … you’ve got enough money to buy a Lamborghini. So, does that prove the Law of Attraction works?
Not really. It’s not scientific. Turns out, neither is a lot of Emoto’s work. He didn’t follow the kind of special practices that scientists tend to follow. He wasn’t distant from his work, he passionately believed in it, and that—so his detractors say—is the biggest problem with his findings.
His most passionate critics say that he started with a conclusion—the whole idea of hado or vibration. He believed in it before he started to do experiments to prove it, and one sure way to find something is to look for it. Science doesn’t work that way.
Science starts at the other end of things—not knowing something. Emoto set out to prove his theory right, and to a lot of people, that’s exactly what he did. But science is funny that way—the best way to establish proof for something is to try to debunk it. And plenty of people have tried to debunk Emoto’s work.
Not an Exact Science
Emoto never revealed much about his exact procedures. How did he take the photographs, and were they taken under the exact same conditions each time? More than a few people have pointed out that some of the “ugly” crystalline structures could be the result of half-melted ice crystals.
The fact is, nothing is definitely known about the temperature or other conditions that Emoto or his assistants used to create many of the photographs that he used as proof of his ideas. The images themselves could have been hand-picked by Emoto or a well-meaning assistant.
More on that in a second. An attempt was made to get hard, cold (no pun intended) facts to back up Emoto’s findings by an American researcher named Dean Radin, also a doctor, also known for research into “fringe science.”
Radin’s idea was to determine the science behind his methods. In 2006, a scientific paper was printed in a publication called Explore, which is an “energy healing journal.” It was the first time anything like the scientific method had been applied to Emoto’s work.
At Last, Hard Proof?
Dr. Dean Radin set out to precisely document the procedure Emoto used when producing his photographs, hoping to show that Emoto’s methods were legit.
Researchers took a number of sealed, store-bought bottles of water to a testing facility in Northern California. Some bottles were set aside as scientific “controls,” meaning they’d be compared to the treated bottles later to see if there were any difference in the results.
The researchers had a group of Emoto’s followers in Japan concentrate on a photograph of the “target” bottles, which were later sent to Emoto’s lab in Japan along with the controls.
Radin himself went to Emoto’s lab, where he observed and wrote down each step of the procedure, the temperature of the freezer that the samples were placed into, the length of time they were frozen for, stuff like that. Photographs of the resulting ice crystals were then taken.
Some of these photographs were later emailed to Radin, who then later published them on a website where people could vote on which images were more attractive than others. This gets interesting.
There were some surprising findings—crystals from the “treated” water were picked as more appealing than the other crystals a statistically significant number of times.
Finally—some hard, scientific evidence! People had focused positive, loving thoughts on certain bottles of water, and those bottles produced crystals that were later chosen by a different group of people to be prettier than crystals that came from ordinary water. This, at last, was proof. Right?
Except for a Couple of Problems
These findings weren’t all that surprising. While the people who voted on the photographs of the ice crystals were “blind” to which crystals came from which set of water bottles, the research assistant wasn’t. He knew which frozen samples came from which set of bottles.
And the research assistant who took the photographs didn’t email all of the photographs to Radin—just ones he (the assistant) found to be significant examples of crystal formation. Not all of the samples formed “significant” crystals either—just some of them.
And who decided which crystals were significant? The assistant. How did he determine that? We don’t know.
There’s the problem. The research assistant didn’t have a method for accepting or rejecting ice crystals, he just sort of picked ones that seemed, to him, to be somehow good examples of ice crystals. So, when the visitors to the website were voting on images, it was from a selection that had already been hand-picked by someone else.
It’s impossible to rule out some kind of bias there, which is a shame, because … they went to a lot of trouble to try to document this stuff. Dr. Radin went to great lengths to try to prove—or disprove—Emoto’s work.
But the research assistant not only picked the photographs to email, he picked which samples to photograph in the first place. If he didn’t like one? He didn’t have to photograph it. There’s no way of knowing if this was a factor because it wasn’t documented.
While Emoto and the American researcher Dean Radin may not have had any way to mess up the findings, the research assistant did. There’s no proof that this is what happened—but that’s the thing with science. There needs to be proof that he *didn’t*.
And what about the famous rice experiment and all of the people who reproduced it? Turns out there’s a lot about it that isn’t exactly scientific.
Emoto didn’t use lab-sterilized bottles. Neither, we’re guessing, has anyone on YouTube. Emoto didn’t use practices to ensure the rice was exactly the same in each bottle—he didn’t weight it, check it for contaminants, or measure precisely the same amount in each.
He didn’t even measure the amount of water he poured in over the rice. Believers will say that this stuff doesn’t matter, that it’s the intention—the vibration of the emotion—that matters. Maybe they’re right.
But there are all kinds of ways the rice could have been contaminated. In Emoto’s original experiment, he didn’t put lids on the jars of rice—they just sat there, open, while he said “thank you,” “you’re an idiot,” or nothing at all.
The fact that there could have been less or more rice in any one jar, or less water, or that the jars of rice could have picked up mold spores or bacteria or anything else that happened to be floating by makes the experiment, scientifically speaking, completely invalid. Which is kind of a bummer, because in theory? It’s a beautiful thought.
That’s the problem with so much of Emoto’s work—it’s beautiful thought. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could change our lives just by silently thanking a bottle of water before drinking it? Wouldn’t it be great if the Law of Attraction worked just through the power of imagination?
The power of the human mind has never been completely measured. We don’t know exactly what we’re capable of, and there are plenty of scientific—legitimate, well documented—findings that have discovered some amazing things, like the fact that Buddhist monks can raise their body temperature a considerable amount just by meditating.
So why can’t we say that projecting love at water can’t influence the shape of the crystals it forms when it freezes? Well, there’s the thing—we can’t. Not for sure. Emoto’s work has never been conclusively disproven. It’s just been shown to be, scientifically, unproven.
The thing about science is that it requires proof. Emoto’s work and the work of everyone who has come after and tried the same “experiments” has never been adequately documented to conclusively prove, beyond all doubt, that his claims about hado, vibrational energy, are at all accurate or true.
It Just Doesn’t Add Up. Does It?
Does projecting love and gratitude at water make the crystals freeze in more beautiful, meaningful shapes? It has not been proven despite attempts by other scientists to do exactly that, so science would say no. And plenty of people have tried to debunk Emoto’s work and have shown results that conflict with Emoto’s findings.
Which isn’t to say it’s not possible, just that it hasn’t been proven—yet. It probably never will be, because let’s face it: it probably doesn’t work. If it worked, it would be easy to recreate the results over and over in a laboratory setting, and that hasn’t happened. In fact, the opposite has.
Believe what you want to. There are worse things to do than to take a few seconds before taking a drink of water than to think about love and gratitude. Science *has* shown that people who think more grateful thoughts tend to be happier.
There’s neurological proof of it—being grateful activates different regions in the brain than thinking about how sucky your life is, which has a measurable effect on lasting happiness. So, in that sense, there’s no harm in believing in things like Emoto’s work.
Just maybe don’t pay anyone for special water. Maybe take the time yourself to “practice gratitude,” and maybe that will be enough to actually make your life better. It does change the way your brain works—and maybe that won’t get you closer to owning a Lamborghini or having Jay-Z’s millions … but maybe it will make you happier with the life you do have.