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Reiki is said by its practitioners to be a form of complementary or alternative medicine, developed Reiki(or rediscovered) during the Meiji period (the late 19th century) by Mikao Usui (usui mikao ????) in Japan. It has gained popularity throughout the Western World. Nevertheless, because of the lack of objective evidence for its theories or its results, the scientific establishment considers Reiki to be quackery.

The name Reiki comes from two Japanese characters that describe energy itself. '? rei' (meaning 'spirit') and ? ki (meaning 'life force energy' in this context). Common translations of the term ?? reiki are "aura" and also "universal life force energy."

Last Updated - 8th December 2005

The Japanese noun "Reiki" has been adopted into English and adapted for use as a verb or adjective. In Japan, however, the term is commonly understood as describing a generic term for "ghostly power" and is not interchangeable with the "Usui Method of Reiki Healing" (in Japanese - "usui reiki shiki ryoho").

Practitioners claim that they are able to act as channels for "Reiki" energy, which they allege flows from the universe through their bodies and primarily from the palms of their hands, to specific parts of their own or others' bodies in order to facilitate healing. Some claim that Reiki energy can also be channelled through other parts of a practitioner's body (for example their feet, fingers, or through their eyes) if they wish to. They say the primary method to focus the desired flow of the energy is the practitioner's intention.

Many scientists, health care workers and others dispute the effectiveness of Reiki, claiming that there are no objective studies confirming the existence of this specific Reiki energy or practitioners' claims that this Reiki energy has the capacity to facilitate healing beyond that expected from the placebo effect. At the same time, a growing number of healthcare workers (medical doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, hospice and nursing home workers, and other healthcare providers) believe that Reiki does appear to have some beneficial effect on the recipient and is a worthwhile inclusion in both professional training and patient care.

Theories and practices

In some traditions, Reiki energy is believed to enter the initiate through the 7th (crown) chakra, fill the initiate's aura and flow through her or his hands into the body of the recipient. In other traditions, it is said to enter through the 1st (root) chakra, fill the aura, become centered in the 4th (heart) chakra, and flow out through the initiate's hands. The Reiki energy is said to be "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 traditions teach that Reiki "spirit guides" keep watch over Reiki energy and assist the practitioner. Many teach that any intention to do harm will not facilitate the flow of Reiki energy. The doctrine is that Reiki energy is incapable of doing harm.

"Treatment" is traditionally done similarly to the laying on of hands. The clothed recipient is asked to lie down and relax. The practitioner then acts as a channel for Reiki energy, theoretically allowing the energy to be channelled through the practitioner to where the patient requires it. Usually the practitioner applies 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 sensations: heat, cold, pressure, etc. Practitioners often attribute these sensations to Reiki energy filling the body and aura of the recipient and acting: filling up energy deficiencies, repairing and opening the energy channels (meridians), pulling out "negativity" and dissolving the blockages of stale energy. Others report feeling little or no change.

Reiki is purported to be a form of Oriental medicine and it defines full health as total harmony of body, mind and spirit. Some traditions label these as Body, Emotion, and Soul and are taught the technique said to be for each in that order: Reiki I, Reiki II, and Reiki III.


Reiki is claimed to have been "rediscovered" by a Japanese man named Mikao Usui, a Tendai Buddhist. After long meditation, fasting and prayer, Usui claimed to have gained the knowledge and spiritual power to apply and attune others to "Reiki" healing energy through a mystical revelation. While some believers in Reiki claim that access to this energy is fairly limited for the majority of people, they claim that Reiki is available to everyone. Some go so far as to hold that the energy system Reiki flows through and works with is integrated into our basic energy body (or aura) and that every person has the ability to channel this energy. Mikao Usui claimed that he could enable his students to enlarge their access to the energy through certain initiations. Attunement to the energy is said to enhance and refine the ability to connect with this already-occurring natural process. Through such initiations, students become clearer channels for Reiki energy, and this, in turn, enhances the quality of treatments that student (or practitioner) provides to the patient.

It is said that while Mikao Usui was actively pursuing the art of healing before he developed his Reiki method he studied Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Qigong and Yoga. He claimed that the awakening of Reiki and the development of the set of accompanying techniques was something entirely different, however. Nonethless, Reiki seems to be based loosely around Taoist ideas of qi. The "ki" in "Reiki" is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character.

Celtic Reiki

This is a version of Japanese Reiki with a New Age Celtic twist. 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 channeled "ancient wisdom of the Celts."

Many scientists, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, health professionals and others dispute the effectiveness of Reiki stating that there is no proof or evidence that Reiki energy exists, nor proof that healing beyond that expected from the placebo effect can be achieved by it.

Non-traditional Reiki

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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 more flexible form of Reiki was initially developed in opposition to the stricter Reiki practices that Mrs. Hawayo Takata claimed were the authentic method, which demanded strict obedience to her prescribed forms. These innovative forms of practice surprisingly share much more in common with the newly rediscovered traditional Japanese style of Reiki. Additionally, many of the independent schools of Reiki differ from mainstream Reiki by the inclusion of "skhm" or "seichim energy" and symbols into their teaching, which is often said by its adherents to make the experience and practice of channelling Reiki energy significantly different. "Karuna Reiki" and "Terra Mai Reiki" are examples of Reiki forms that have incorporated this skhm energy.


The method developed by Mikao Usui spread over the world. Though controversial, correspondence courses over the internet even offer distant training. To achieve a complete education in the "Usui method of Reiki Healing", 3 courses are necessary: the 1st degree course, the 2nd degree course and the master course. The specific contents of each of these courses vary widely from one teacher to another, depending on personal philosophies. A typical set of courses is something like the following.

The first and second stages can also be broken up into smaller levels of attunements and received symbols, however this is very rarely done and teachers often do not know how to do this. It is generally found to be impractical so is not widely practiced, taught or known.

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 (time in 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 as a cult

Reiki has been called 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 teacher's 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.

It is claimed by critics 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 often substantial fees charged by Reiki practitioners for their teachings as deeply troubling, as well as the obedience to a given 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 - comparable to the New Testament story of Jesus restoring Lazarus to life.

Because of the health claims made by its adherents, Reiki is sometimes embraced by people desperate for hope that their terminal or chronic health and mental problems may be miraculously cured. The desperation of these people and their willingness to embrace magical thinking is sometimes encouraged by less than sincere teachers and practitioners - contributing to perceptions of Reiki's association with cult-like practices.

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