Alternative Health Information


Reiki is a controversial form of alternative medicine which was popularized during the early 20th century by Mikao Usui (usui mikao 臼井甕男) in Japan. Practitioners use a technique similar to the laying on of hands in which they claim that they act as channels for Reiki energy — which they say flows through their palms to specific parts of the body in order to facilitate healing. Scientific studies have not confirmed the existence of this specific Reiki energy, yet some patients report feeling various subjective and objective sensations: heat, cold, pressure, etc.
Despite these highly subjective descriptions of Reiki energy, there is actually no scientifically valid evidence proving its existence or effectiveness. Most of the excuses used to explain the technical aspects of Reiki rely upon the existence of "energies" and "auras." Modern physics makes absolutely no allowances for these "energies." Thus, if these Reiki "auras" and "energies" prove to be valid scientific phenomena, it means that for hundreds of years modern physics has been painting an incorrect picture of our universe. Despite these facts, many followers are led to believe in the validity of the practice.
The name Reiki comes from the Japanese pronunciation of two Chinese characters that are said to describe the energy itself: '霊 rei' (meaning 'spirit') and 気 ki (meaning 'life force energy' in this context). Common translations of the term 霊気 reiki are "aura" and also "universal life force energy." English speakers have adopted the Japanese noun Reiki for use as a verb or adjective. Japanese speakers commonly understand the term as describing a generic "ghostly power" and not referring specifically to the Usui Method of Reiki Healing (in Japanese - usui reiki shiki ryoho).
While Reiki is comparatively rare in Japan today, it flourishes in the West and has gained a small following worldwide. Many scientists, health care workers and others dispute the effectiveness of Reiki, claiming that it does not facilitate healing beyond that expected from the placebo effect.

1 Theories and practices
2 History
3 Non-traditional Reiki
3.1 Celtic Reiki
4 Courses
5 Reiki community
6 Controversies
6.1 Opposition from religious groups
6.2 Reiki as a cult
6.3 Internal controversies
6.4 Secret teachings
6.5 The "Reiki Grandmaster"
7 Reiki's origin
8 See also
9 Partial Bibliography
10 External links

Theories and practices
The word 'reiki' is a generic term which can be and is used for many techniques. The information below may or may not apply to anything called 'reiki.'
Some schools teach that Reiki energy enters the practitioner through the 7th (crown) chakra, fills the practitioner's aura and flows through her or his hands into the body of the recipient. Other schools teach that Reiki energy enters through the 1st (root) chakra, fills the aura, becomes centered in the 4th (heart) chakra, and flows out through the practitioner's hands. Most schools teach that the Reiki energy is a "intelligent" energy, which "knows what to do," or "where it is needed." Thus, Reiki adherents say, if the recipient needs it and is ready to heal, the Reiki energy will go where it needs to for healing. They also maintain that if, on the other hand, the intended recipient does not accept the energy on some level, the energy will not be absorbed. Some schools teach that Reiki "spirit guides" keep watch over Reiki energy and assist the practitioner. They claim that any intention to do harm will block the flow of Reiki energy.
In a Reiki session, the practitioner asks the clothed recipient to lie down and relax. The practitioner then purports to act as a channel for Reiki energy, theoretically allowing "energy" to be channelled through the practitioner to where the patient requires it. Usually the practitioner applies her or his hands to various parts of the patient's body. Some practitioners touch the body or hover their hands above it. Some patients report feeling various subjective sensations: heat, cold, pressure, etc. Practitioners of Reiki attribute these sensations to Reiki energy filling energetic deficiencies in the body and aura of the recipient, repairing and opening their energy channels (meridians), pulling out "negativity," and dissolving the blockages of stale energy. Other recipients report feeling little or no change.
Some claim that practitioners can also channel Reiki energy through other parts of their bodies (for example, their feet, fingers, or through their eyes) if they wish. According to pracitioners, their intention is the primary method for directing the flow of the energy. Reiki healers claim that this energy can be used for healing either in physical proximity (i.e. by the positioning of hands in a non-invasive manner on a fully clothed body) or from a distance. Furthermore, many Reiki healers claim that the ability to share Reiki comes only after a "Reiki Master" performs an initiation or "attunement". Reiki practitioners, like those who work with forms of Oriental medicine, define full health as total harmony of body, mind, and spirit. Some Reiki traditions teach techniques to address each of the three respectively: Reiki I, Reiki II, and Reiki III (see below).

A Japanese Tendai Buddhist named Mikao Usui claimed to have "rediscovered" Reiki. After long meditation, fasting, and prayer, Usui claimed that, through a mystical revelation, he had gained the knowledge and spiritual power to apply and attune others to "Reiki's" healing energy. Mikao Usui claimed that he could enable his students to enlarge their access to the energy through certain initiations. Usui taught that attunement to the energy enhances and refines a person's ability to connect with this already occurring natural healing energy. Through such initiations, students are said to become clearer channels for Reiki, and this theoretically enhances the quality of treatments that student (or practitioner) provides.
Some schools of Reiki believe that Mikao Usui was pursuing knowledge of healing before he developed his Reiki method and that he also studied Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Qigong, and Yoga. Usui, however, claimed that the awakening of Reiki and the development of his techniques was something entirely different. Nonetheless, Reiki appears to be based loosely around Taoist ideas of qi. The "ki" in "Reiki" is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character.
Usui was also an admirer of the literary works of Emperor Meiji, and, in the process of developing his Reiki system, summarised some of the Meiji Emperor's works into a set of ethical principles, one translation of which is:
"Inviting blessings of the secret method
Many illnesses of the spiritual (heavenly) medicine
Today only anger not worry not
With appreciation do work To people be kind
In morning at night hands held in prayer
think in your mind chant with mouth
Mind body change it for better
Usui Reiki method
Usui Mikao"
A less literal translation is:
"The secret method of inviting blessings
The spiritual medicine of many illnesses
Just for today, do not anger.
Just for today, do not worry.
Do your work with appreciation.
Be kind to all.
In the morning and at night hold your hands in prayer, meditate on and say these words.
The Usui Reiki method to change your mind and body for the better.
Mikao Usui"
Mikao Usui trained several disciples. One of his disciples, the naval doctor Chujiro Hayashi, stressed physical healing and taught a more codified and simpler set of Reiki techniques. Among Hayashi's contributions was a set of fixed hand positions to be used in the course of a treatment; Usui often preferred a more mystical means of diagnosing the patient's problem.
Hayashi initiated and trained Mrs. Hawayo Takata, who brought Reiki to the USA. Mrs. Takata claimed that she had been appointed Grandmaster of Reiki through the lineage of Mr. Chujiro Hayashi, and that there were no surviving teachers of Reiki to be found in Japan after World War II. Researchers have falsified her claim of Grandmastership and her allegation that no Reiki teachers remained in Japan, after they discovered lineages through practitioners other than Hayashi. They also stated that the title of "Grandmaster" does not exist, and is not recognized in Japan.
Hawayo Takata claimed that, after developing the Reiki methodology, as well as receiving the spiritual ability to practice it, Usui went to the slums of Tokyo to attempt the healing of beggars. However, after several years of very little success, he claimed that it was their mindset that kept them ill, even after he had "treated" them again and again. Usui then decided that there should be an "energy exchange" in return for a Reiki treatment. This "energy exchange" may take the form of cash payment, or a trade of some sort. The idea is that the patient is expected to regard the treatment as having a value up front and is prepared to invest himself/herself in the healing process.
There are essentially two broad groups, or schools: the traditional school and the independent school. The traditionalists claim to teach and practice Reiki strictly as it was taught from Usui's time until Takata's time, although modern research suggests that training under Usui differed greatly from the way Takata taught. Another, separate branch of traditionalists advocate adherence to the (now rediscovered) Japanese school's methods. The independent schools vary greatly in their practices and methods, ranging from those descended through Iris Ishikuro, which fundamentally adhere to traditional Reiki practice but eschew Takata's practice of charging $10,000 for attunement to Reiki "Master level," to so-called "newer" schools, which either add elements to traditional Reiki or claim to have been independently developed.

Non-traditional Reiki
The independent movement developed partly in response to the belief that Reiki training should be more widely available and practiced in a flexible and complementary way with other practices, and as a political reaction to the mainstream of Hawayo Takata's style. Furthermore, some practitioners believe that Reiki is humanity's birthright. New paths were developed out of the Reiki core that fused it with New Age thinking regarding Christianity, shamanism, channeling and so forth. Also, new symbols and practices are often added. Many of these symbols emerged through practitioners who said they felt guided to expand the system in various ways. A great deal of generic New Age content is now often taught either as an adjunct to Reiki or even as an integral part of the system, and numerous schools of thought now exist, some being freely offered and some proprietary. This new form of Reiki was initially developed in opposition to the stricter Reiki practices that Hawayo Takata claimed were the authentic method. Some of the independent schools of Reiki differ from mainstream Reiki by the inclusion of what they call "skhm" or "seichim energy" and symbols into their teaching, which is said by its adherents to make the experience and practice of channelling Reiki different.

Celtic Reiki
This is a version of Reiki with a more pronounced New Age theme. It was created by Martyn Pentecost and further developed by Julie Norman, and employs symbols derived from ogham (an ancient runic script used by some Gaelic tribes). Advocates claim that Reiki energy mimics the frequency of various trees and plants so as to combine the alleged healing energy of Reiki with allegedly channeled "ancient wisdom of the Celts."

Mikao Usui's Reiki method spread all over the world. Correspondence courses over the internet even offer distance training. To achieve a complete education in the "Usui method of Reiki Healing," three courses are necessary: the 1st degree course, the 2nd degree course, and the master course. The specific content of each of these courses varies widely from one teacher to another, depending on personal philosophies. A typical set of courses is something like the following:
First Degree Reiki courses teach the basic theories of how to work with Reiki energy. The channel through which Reiki energy passes to the practioner is said to be widened through an initiation by the teacher, permitting the Reiki energy be strong enough to effect healing. Students learn hand placement positions on the recipient's body that are thought to be most conducive to the healing process.
In the Second Degree Reiki course, a symbol for mental healing is taught, enabling students to purportedly treat even deeply ingrained problems like fears, depression, addictions, and the like. Students are instructed on how to direct Reiki energy to a certain point in time, to a specific person or place, or a specific issue. The issue can be something like an individual's particular health problem, or it can be a more abstract or general issue such as world peace. Practitioners say that this is possible using three symbols taught at the second initiation. The claim is that this skill allows the Reiki channel to be opened even wider.
As part of the master course, usually the third degree, students become a Reiki "master" through the third initiation; they learn how to initiate students and have the option of teaching Reiki courses themselves. The student learns a further "master" level symbol in this course as well as the method of attuning others. In some cases the third level is broken into smaller stages of attunements from the teacher; the attunements for the first, second, and third level may also be administered in stages. A teacher has completed practical training when told that he or she has the ability to attune others to all degrees and has been given the final fourth Reiki Master symbol that is used in attunements.
It is up to students how many levels they want to complete. The courses are sequential, and can be expensive, especially the third (master) level. Often a teacher will require time in between one course and another (during which the student is expected to apply new learning before taking the next degree). Before offering Reiki treatments to the public, a student is often advised to take a second-degree course.

Reiki community
While there is no single standards organization and practitioners practice as they will, some choose to form Reiki communities to bring together often diverse knowledge and experience. Some of these communities have grown out of informal groupings of practitioners who organized Reiki circles for working together, while others have formed around a particular school or teacher.
Many Reiki communities also emerged due, in part, to the expanding popularity of the internet. Global initiatives have been introduced to Reiki communities thereby ("healing the planet" or "global peace fostering" for example) and online Reiki training services are available.

Because of the lack of objective evidence for its theories or its results, and the mystical language and metaphor employed by its adherents, the scientific establishment considers Reiki to be nothing more than a placebo. Many scientists, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, health professionals and others dispute the effectiveness of Reiki, stating that there is no proof or evidence that a mechanism for Reiki energy exists, nor proof that healing beyond that expected from the placebo effect can be achieved by it.
The existence of Reiki energy has not been scientifically proven, and thus the scientific community ascribes anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of Reiki therapy to the placebo effect and a combination of post hoc reasoning and the regressive fallacy. Some critics go so far as to suggest that the treatment is little more than a con scheme to fleece gullible desperate sick people. They cite stories and give examples of stories of people who have paid huge "energy payments" to so called Reiki "doctors" - there have allegedly been cases where even unsuccessful attempts at treatment cost tens of thousands of dollars. Proponents of Reiki claim that they can detect and manipulate this energy, but a means to measure it or even objectively demonstrate its existence to the satisfaction of the scientific community has yet to be found. The predominant opinion among the scientific community is that the sensations felt by practitioners and patients of Reiki are psychologically subjective or the result of self-deceit.
Doctors, academics, and consumer advocates have expressed concern when patients with serious diseases such as cancer choose Reiki solely as a means of treatment over trained doctors. In some cases people reject conventional medicine completely and solely practice Reiki, and this is deemed as a highly untrustworthy and potentially dangerous practice even within the Reiki and wider alternative health community. While it is understandable for patients to seek non-mainstream remedies when conventional options seem ineffective or untrustworthy, many doctors say that Reiki, like many other forms of alternative medicine, is simply exploiting the fear and hope of people with serious illnesses for money while offering only a placebo effect. The response from Reiki practitioners is that Reiki is a reliable and effective treatment that is being unfairly dismissed by conservative Western scientific research. Some Reiki teachers and practitioners advocate a complementary approach to conventional medicine - holding it as the most prudent and responsible means of treating any illness - much like many other alternative medicine advocates suggest.
Some healthcare workers (medical doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, hospice and nursing home workers, and other healthcare providers) believe that Reiki has some beneficial effect on the recipient and is a worthwhile inclusion in both professional training and patient care (to wit, registered nurses may earn continuing education units, or CEUs, through the American Holistic Nurses Association, accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, for Reiki training.)

Opposition from religious groups
There are various religious groups opposing Reiki. Christian fundamentalists condemn Reiki as promoting pagan practices. For example, the Unification Church cautions its adherents to avoid Reiki on the grounds that Reiki involves channelling the energy of evil spirits. Some individuals and groups (like Dominicans from the Roman Catholic Church) actively advise believers against it.

Reiki as a cult
Some people have called Reiki a cult or an attempt at sorcery. Some Reiki adherents would reply that there is no strict structure, guru or chain of command in the Reiki community, so it doesn't fit the modern sense of a cult. While the practice itself does not necessarily fit into cult-like behaviours, some teachers of Reiki have engaged in practices reflective of a cult-like approach, proffering various religious and spiritual beliefs along with the Reiki techniques. The experience of hot or cold sensations in the hands whilst giving and receiving Reiki is put forward as a validation of some groups' particular religious ideology - however far fetched or different to other Reiki groups.
Critics claim that some Reiki groups also put forward that they can never grow ill if they practice Reiki regularly and have a positive outlook - with disappointment and shock being the outcome when their teacher (or they themselves) become mortally ill or die.
Critics point to the substantial fees some Reiki practitioners charge for their teachings as deeply troubling, as well as the obedience that some teachers demand of their students. Chujiro Hayashi's students are, for example, called "disciples" - strongly implying a religious overtone.
Some Christian practitioners of Reiki claim that the source of power that is directed through them is the Holy Spirit, or go so far as to say that Jesus was a Reiki master - claims that are in contradiction with most Christian doctrines. Hawayo Takata has claimed that she once used Reiki to raise a person from the dead. Such a claim falls outside the scope of most alternative health practices. Also, the New Testament describes Jesus as giving his healings freely, and Usui initiated the expectation of a payment in exchange for Reiki treatment.
Desperate people sometimes embrace Reiki because of adherents health claims. Some people desperate for hope that their terminal or chronic health and mental problems may seek out Reiki in hopes of a miraculous cure. The desperation of these people and their willingness to embrace magical thinking is sometimes encouraged by Reiki teachers and practitioners - contributing to perceptions of Reiki's association with cult-like practices.

Internal controversies
With the many varied ways that have been used to teach Reiki, there have emerged many points of controversy between different groups, teachers and practitioners. Controversies often exist on topics such as the nature of the Reiki energy itself, fees charged for courses and treatments, training methods, secrecy of symbols and attunement methods, to name but a few.
Various claims are made as to the 'legitimacy' or 'authenticity' of various schools of practice - with the schools making those claims also engaging in criticisms of the other schools who they see as illegitimate or otherwise inauthentic or immoral in their spiritual conduct. Political fighting is quite strong between many schools; so for example a practitioner of one teacher may often not be welcome to practice Reiki with another teacher's Reiki group. Teachers from other schools are often not welcomed in other teacher's classes. A Reiki school will often discourage the participation of outside students and teachers, particularly when there are claims of an individual school's practices being the only correct practice. This occurs amongst both traditional and non-traditional schools. Often and as a more mild form of enforcing adherence, the unorthodox person is required to be retrained in their levels before being accepted into the fold.

Secret teachings
Teachers sometimes appear claiming to possess hidden additional teachings from the original system and symbols unknown to other schools et cetera, but none of these claims are substantiated with evidence that supports the additional material that they use. A current example of such schools is Dr Ranga Premaratna's "Reiki Shin Kei Dō/Ennersense/Buddhō" (who claims to possess the original Buddhist Reiki system as well as additional symbols, initiations and meditations). Although (among many others) the organization also claims that it possesses additional authentic supplementary teachings, the school does not provide evidence to substantiate these claims. Dr Premaratna demands strict obedience from his students and deregisters them if they disobey him. Dr Premaratna nowadays claims that his teacher, Seiji Takamori, was not really taught and initiated into Reiki by Hawayo Takata, although Takata herself stated that Takamori was one of her students. He additionally claims that although Seiji Takemori was a teacher, he only initiated Dr Premaratna alone. At one time however his training materials claimed no special lineage regarding Seiji Takemori, and instead agreed with Hawayo Takata's statement that she alone was his teacher.
There are many questions remaining around Reiki practice, and newly rediscovered Japanese lineages may put many of the controversies to rest. These lineages can in fact produce historical evidence to support their claims of provenance, and although perhaps the actual nature of "Reiki" energy is a mystery, the system of the "usui shiki ryoho" seems to be becoming clearer.

The "Reiki Grandmaster"
Many conservative schools are based around claims of Hawayo Takata's many student teachers competing as the true "Grandmaster" of Reiki or teaching exactly as Takata herself taught. In recent years however many teachers connected in some way with Hawayo Takata do not strenuously claim to be appointed as the "Grandmaster of Reiki" as they once did in the past. Phyllis Furumoto (the granddaughter of Takata), for example of the "Reiki Alliance" seemed to cease claiming this title around the same time that it was found that historically no such title ever existed once the Japanese schools were discovered by Western Reiki schools. Often these "Grandmasters" attempt to patent the term "Reiki" in their particular country or countries of interest. Such actions are very unpopular in the wider Reiki community and no patents have ever been granted in any country.

Reiki's origin
The provenance of Usui's system is obscure, little independent documentation exists as to his influences. There are superficial resemblances to Chinese Taoist and Buddhist philosophies in the Reiki symbol terminology. Reiki however fails the standard test of whether a teaching is Buddhist or not; that of the three "Dharma Seals" or the "Three marks of existence". This doctrine states that any teaching or practice that does not extol these three core ideas cannot be said to be a Buddhist teaching, and Reiki does not. Reiki may however be said to be a somewhat Buddhist influenced art in the way that karate-dō or shiatsu are practiced by Buddhists without being specifically Buddhist practices.
Frank Arjava Petter has researched Usui's life and practises and claims to have found evidence that Usui found the "formula" he followed in a Buddhist Temple. Usui's memorial stone still stands and its inscription has been translated into English in one of Petter's books.

See also
· Johrei Johrei is not a form of Reiki but has some similarities.
· Faith healing

Partial Bibliography
· The 'Reiki' Factor in The Radiance Technique(R), Dr. Barbara Ray, Radiance Associates (first book written on the intact system, 1983; current Expanded Edition (c) 1992) ISBN 0-933267-06-1
· The Expanded Reference Manual of The Radiance Technique(R), Authentic Reiki(R), Dr. Barbara Ray, Radiance Associates, 1987 ISBN 0-933267-02-9
· Original Reiki Handbook of Dr. Mikao Usui, Usui and Petter, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-914955-57-8
· Hayashi Reiki Manual: Traditional Japanese Healing Techniques from the Founder of the Western Reiki System, Petter, Yamaguchi and Hayashi, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-914955-75-6
· Reiki Healer: A Complete Guide to the Path and Practice of Reiki, Ellyard, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ISBN 0-940985-64-0
· Human Hemoglobin Levels and Reiki (Journal of Holistic Nursing, 7(1)pp.47-54 1989)


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