The Cosmology of Water
Anthropologist and Producer of sensorium
We live in extraordinary times. Everyday matters and events suddenly
take on special meaning, look different. Everything we normally
take for granted is changing fundamentally.
One source of this mind-shift is water.
The "Anomalous" Substance
We learn early and take it for granted that ice floats on water.
No one ever got excited finding that out. Yet even this seemingly
simple phenomenon is in its own way extraordinary and irregular,
if you think of the common sense of science and the regular behavior
of matter on the earth.
The regular pattern is that any material increases in density
and specific gravity when it changes from a liquid to a solid.
So, one would think that if you put the solid form (ice) on to
the liquid form (water), it would sink. But the opposite is the
case. When water becomes ice, its volume increases (that's why
pipes leak in cold weather), and so its density and specific gravity
decrease, and it floats on water.
Water's behavior is extremely irregular. This everyday substance
is, in fact, like a familiar friend with a secret. Imagine what
would it be like if it did not have its secrets. Lakes and oceans
freeze only on their surfaces, thanks to the fact that ice floats
on water. The underlying water retains a relatively constant temperature
level, thus maintaining an environment favorable for the survival
of aquatic creatures. Without this phenomenon, entire bodies of
water would freeze through and through, leaving no room for organisms
to evolve. (The life scientist Lyall Watson has long emphasized
the meaning of this secret). Paradoxically, water's irregular
nature is what provides the basic condition for the genesis of
life on earth.
Nomadic Particles of Water
Water Isn't Just H2O
The irregular properties of water are strongly related to its
molecular structure, in which the oxygen and the hydrogen atoms
are combined at the unstable angle of 104.5 degrees. This instability
makes water constantly changeable at the molecular level. Water
exists amid a delicate tension between two forces: the tendency
of the two hydrogen atoms to connect and form a large "H2O chain," a polymer or cluster: and the tendency of these chains
to break up and dissipate.
More precisely, water is constantly changing substance, alternating
from one moment to another. There is no permanent and constantly
identical substance called "water" or "H2O." These are loose nicknames of a fluid mass of nomadic particles/waves
that turn kaleidoscopically into one substance and another.
Even more surprisingly, water's properties change constantly,
depending on the molecular structure at a given moment.
Sensitive Water and Our Aquatic Sensibility
Some researchers indicate that water's bioactivity intensifies
at times, and its ability to decompose polluting substances increases
when a water cluster decreases in size. This feature might become
a great contribution to such fields as medicine, agriculture and
environmental preservation. 2O is certainly too weak and general a term for such a versatile
being! This commonplace component of everyday life has suddenly
revealed to us its mysterious and infinitely intriguing character.
Water, with its flowing and ephemeral sensibility, urges us to
discover our own aquatic sensibility, this marvelous versatility.
Pharmacologists are beginning to take seriously the idea that
ordinary water may possess pharmacological efficacy. Some have
arrived at the radical hypothesis that in traditional herbal medicine
water is mixed with herbs "not as a means to facilitate the taking
of the herbs, but in order for the herbs to alter the property
of the water."
Given the flexible molecular structure of water, which allows
it to retain the imprint of certain electromagnetic waves, it
is no longer a naive poetic expression to say that water senses
places, memorizes information and then transmits that information
to another place or medium. Research has also indicated this point.
Water is not a clumsy material: instead, it is a living organism,
an information medium.
Water as the Sensory Interface of the Planet
T. Schwenck, a German hydraulics expert, described water as an
information medium possessing a particular sensibility. He called
it "sensitive chaos."
A scientist in the Romantic tradition of Goethe and R. Steiner,
Schwenck finds a bio-information essence in the deep layers of
the natural world. As a fragile interface that encircles the globe,
water functions as a kind of sensory device for the living earth.
It listens to the moon and other celestial bodies, reacts to various
forces (gravitational/ electromagnetic), and imprints a variety
of information on itself as it changes in shape.
Schwenck may not be the first to have seen this. Evidence shows
that humanity has been aware of the essence of water as a sensory
interface (or sensor), and has expressed this idea in various
Folk cults, for example, have long assumed that the property of
water changes with the waxing and the waning of the moon. They
believe that water exhibits irregular behavior on days of the
full moon, and on those days it is inadvisable to collect water.
Conversely, in certain Hindu and Buddhist traditions, a ritual
is performed in which offerings are made to deities on nights
of the full moon: the water they offer is irradiated and blessed
The courses of rivers and patterns on the surface of water also
change in relation to the moon and other celestial bodies. At
the full moon, for instance, the surface of a pond of water swells
in the center, while during a new moon it tends to "crawl" to
shore. Lumberjacks, who are aware of this phenomenon, transport
their logs at the full moon because at these times the logs do
not get stuck on the shallow edges of rivers but float smoothly
in the center of the stream.
Water constantly feels and reacts to the changing environment,
altering its own shape. Humans react to water and its transformations:
we possess an inherent sensibility to live in resonance with water.
Aquatic Communications Network
We live on a planet of water, and each one of us is a microcosm
of water. We spend the very earliest parts of our lives in an
aquatic environment, the perfectly packaged miniature ocean that
is a mother's womb, and 70% of our bodies is water. Even when
we are still and unmoving, various substances and kinds of information
live within us as constantly flowing and whirling beings.
Within ourselves is the implicit order of the effects of the waxing
and waning of the moon: our lives are a part of the macroscopic
circulation of the water on this aquatic planet, which includes
the ocean currents, river streams, clouds and rain.
We are walking water bags, just as trees are standing water columns.
The rapport we have with the trees in a forest may be mediated
and activated by a silent communication between the water elements
within us and inside those trees. Water is indispensable to our
makeup, and, moreover, we are connected to almost everything in
this world via the medium of water. You are connected to a distant
forest via tap: sewage from your kitchen and bathroom travel numerous
kilometers through solid pipes like an extension of your intestines,
to finally flow into the seas and make its contribution to the
"Naga" and the Aquatic Cultural Network of Asia-Pacific
At the core of many Asian cultures, including Japan's, we find
a traditional sense of being connected to water and variations
of a water-based view of life. Throughout India, Southeast Asia,
China and Japan, water has traditionally been worshipped in the
popular and symbolic form of the dragon or snake Naga, the God
of Water. These peoples share a deeply hydrophilic sense of life.
The book "Naga, God of Water," by Thai architect Sumet Jumsai
and Buckminster Fuller, author of the classic "Spaceship Earth,"
is an exquisite treatise on their vision of aquatic culture.
The spirit of sensitivity toward water underlies the Japanese
New Year ritual of rejuvenization called "waka-mizu-tori" (tapping
vital water). In East Asia as a whole, it has influenced the engineering
philosophy of water control and site selection through the reading
of wind and water behavior. (fung-shui --see linked senses, the third verse "air" by Cai Guo Qiang)
In feudal Japan, the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo) was an aquatic
city consisting of a vast network of canals. People then lived
in constant contact and affinity with water. Look at the design
of bridges during this period.
Designs on the bridges were more elaborate on the undersides than
on the parapets and other aboveground elements so as to please
the many people passing underneath. The bridges were for aquatic
residents to look up at as they were for their land-based neighbors
to walk over.
There is an expression in Japanese meaning "one fabric with a
narrow belt of water between." This expression signifies our living
close together, or being in a very intimate relationship with
someone or something. It was used to point to the special role
water played in linking people.
This sort of articulate cultural sensibility towards water was
a contributing factor in the development of those particular spaces
of intimate social interaction that were based around water and
its various uses: the bath-house, neighborhood wells, tea ceremony
houses, taverns, and so on. These spaces were indispensable to
community life, entertainment, and even clandestine or intimate
A Perspective for "Homo Aquatics"
On the surface, people today seem to be far away from such an
aquatic sensibility. But in fact there is a slowly emerging hope
of a new human-water relationship. The first signs can be seen
in some rather specialized fields: diving, "water birth" and experiments
in interspecies communication, particularly with dolphins and
some other aquatic mammals. I see great potential in this aquatic
movement, and expect that it will exert a strong influence on
our future civilization as a whole.
The renowned skin-diver Jacques Mayor swims side-by-side with
dolphins, and from this collaborative experience he has acquired
certain aquatic skills in body and respiratory movement, floating,
and alternative states of consciousness. These things he has learned
from dolphins are in fact inherent human traits that lay dormant
after our departure from the womb. Having tapped back into his
aquatic memory and instinct, Mayor has established a record for
staying underwater at one hundred meters without breathing. He
is showing us the aquatic potential that we all possess.
Actually, there are already a number of children who were delivered
in water and who have maintained close contact with water. These
dolphin-like kids enjoy playing underwater, where they can stay
for long periods of time. Based on his own experience and such
facts as these children's aquatic experiences, Mayor hypothesizes
that humans may be amphibians capable of living both on the ground
and in the water. He calls for yet another name for us: "homo
delphinus." This is not the story of a "new breed" in the human
community: I am not speaking of exceptional people.
Living as we do in a post-modern civilization, we are at the dawn
of an era of new processes, a period when a more supple and mutually
interactive sensibility might govern our culture.
Tentatively, let us call this a "Back-to-the-Water Revolution."
Indeed, the restoration of our inherent aquatic sensibility is
a major challenge as we face a new millennium.
[sensing Japan, Shibuya's interview part 1]
[sensing Japan, Shibuya's interview part 2]
[linked senses, "air" (Cai's essay)]