Reiki (靈氣, 霊気, or レイキ) is a technique of alternative medicine, developed (or rediscovered) during the latter half of the 19th century by Mikao Usui in Japan. It first gained widespread popularity outside Japan, particularly in Europe and the U.S.
The name Reiki comes from the Japanese rei (霊, presently meaning spirit/soul, it had an older meaning of posessed shamaness) and ki (気, energy/life energy, see chi or qi). From this, a verb may also be derived. Other common definitions are "universal life force energy" or "healing energy of the universe".
Practitioners believe that they are able to direct Reiki energy, which flows from the universe through their bodies and from the palms of their hands, to specific parts of their own or others' bodies, in order to facilitate healing. Many scientists dispute the effectiveness of Reiki, claiming that Reiki energy cannot be measured by any known observational technique. There is no conclusive scientific evidence of positive results from this form of therapy.
How does it work?
In some traditions, Reiki energy is believed to enter the initiate through his 7th (crown) chakra, fill his aura and flow through his hands into the body of the recipient. In other traditions, it enters through his 1st (root) chakra, fills his aura, is centered at the 4th (heart) chakra, and flows out through his hands. The Reiki energy is believed to have a form of intelligence, and "knows what to do". Thus, if the recipient´s body needs it and is ready to heal, it may use the Reiki energy for healing. If the body does not feel that the energy is needed, it will not absorb the energy. Some traditions teach that Reiki spirits keep watch over Reiki energy to prevent corruption of it and keep it from doing any harm.
The treatment is traditionally done similarly to the laying on of hands. The patient is asked to lie down and relax. Then the practitioner opens his Reiki channel and applies his hands to various parts of the patient's body. Some practitioners touch the body while some simply hover their hands above it. Patients report feeling various sensations: heat, cold, pressure and the like. This is attributed to Reiki energy filling the body and aura of the recipient and acting: filling up energy deficiences, repairing and opening the energy channels (meridians), pulling out negativity, and dissolving the blocks of stale energy.
Reiki is an Eastern form of medicine that defines full health as total harmony of body, mind and spirit, so it is said that Reiki heals all mentioned parts of a human being. Some traditions label these as Body, Emotion, and Soul and are taught the technique for each in that order: Reiki I, Reiki II, and Reiki III. A Reiki master knows all three and is qualified to teach and attune others to the practice. Proponents of Reiki claim that it can help to alleviate or cure many afflictions. In practice, however, often it seems afflictions that are difficult for conventional medicine to treat are difficult for Reiki to treat. Conventional medicine is more suitable in emergencies, as Reiki often works rather subtly. However, the merit of Reiki is that it uses only energy no medications with side effects are used. Moreover, it is believed that Reiki is especially good at restoring vitality and reducing stress.
Reiki was claimed to be rediscovered by a Japanese man named Mikao Usui. After long meditations and prayers, he claimed that he gained consecration of how to awaken and apply Reiki energy for healing. Believers in Reiki claim that access to this energy is limited for the majority of people. Mikao Usui claimed that he could enable his students to enlarge their access to the energy through certain initiations. The 'flow' of the energy after the enlarging of the access becomes a healing quality. It improves the function of the chakras by supplying them with energy.
It is said that Mikao Usui was actively pursuing the art of healing, and that before he developed Reiki method he studied Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, some internal martial arts like Qigong and even the Yoga of Healing. However, he reported that the awakening of Reiki and development of the set of accompanying techniques is something entirely different.
After developing the Reiki method, Usui went to the slums of Tokio to heal the beggars. However, after several years he learned that it is their mindset that keeps them ill even when they are healed time after time. So he engaged in philosophical studies that uncovered some texts of the Yellow Emperor. He then summarized it in five ethical principles:
Mikao Usui had a rather mystical disposition towards Reiki and trained several disciples in this spirit. However, one of his disciples, the military doctor Mr. Chujiro Hayashi, represented a more rational approach. He simply stressed physical health and some codified behavior, such as a system of laying on hands in fixed positions. Usui preferred a more mystical means of diagnosing the patient's problem.
This wouldn't have borne any severe consequences if he hadn't initiated and trained to mastery Mrs. Havayo Takata, who brought Reiki to the USA. The States proved to be very fertile ground, as Mrs. Takata applied the American spirit of enterprise to Japanese tradition. Now, Reiki is nearly extinct in Japan, but flourishing in the USA. New paths were developed out of the Reiki core that fused it with Christianity, shamanism, channeling and so forth. Also, new symbols were added. However, some people argue that these changes were for the good, because Reiki was already a complete system, and in particular, some symbols are completely alien to the Reiki tradition and possibly even harmful.
The method developed by Mikao Usui spread over the world, and now it is possible to attend a Reiki course almost anywhere. To achieve a complete education in Reiki Usui Shiki Ryoho (Takata's line), 3 courses are necessary: the 1st degree course, the 2nd degree course and the master course.
In the 1st degree Reiki course, it is taught how to work with Reiki energy. The 'channel' through which Reiki energy passes to the 7th chakra has to be widened through an initiation by the teacher, to let the Reiki energy be strong enough to heal. Students learn the manner in which to place their hands on the body of the recipient to be most successful in the healing process.
In the 2nd degree Reiki course, techniques of mental healing are taught, enabling healers to treat even deeply ingrained problems like fears, depression, addictions and the like. It is also taught how to direct the energy to a certain point in time, to a specific person or place or a specific issue. The 'issue' can be something like a particular health problem of an individual, or it can be a more abstract or general issue such as world peace. This is made possible through three symbols taught at the second initiation. The 'channel' is thereby opened even more.
In the master course, students learn how to teach Reiki courses, and they become masters of Reiki through the 3rd initiation, which broadens the channel with the master symbol.
It is up to students how many courses they want to attend. The courses are sequential, so it is not possible to attend e.g. the master course after finishing only the 1st course.
While there is no chain of command and no vow of obedience, and practitioners practice as they desire, some practitioners have the notion of forming Reiki communities that may extend to other healers. This notion probably started as masters began to organize Reiki circles for joint healing and honing their skills. However, a real upsurge of Reiki communities began with the advent of the Internet and discussion forums. Global initiatives have been introduced (like healing the planet or global peace fostering) and a great deal of online services (like training and healing) have been commenced.
Some scientists hold that, because researchers have been unable to demonstrate the existence of Reiki energy with any certainty, it cannot be described as an effective or worthwhile medical practice. Proponents of Reiki claim that they can detect and manipulate this energy, but some scientists claim that if a physical or medical phenomenon has any reliable real-world effects, it should be measurable and observable in rigorously structured studies. Since few scientists feel that Reiki's effects have been demonstrated to any significant degree, most argue that the sensations practitioners of Reiki claim to feel are psychological or the results of practitioners deceiving themselves with magical thinking.
There are also some circles that actively oppose Reiki - generally for the same reasons that any form of alternative medicine might be opposed. For example, many mainstream doctors, academics, and consumer advocates find it disturbing and potentially dangerous that patients with serious diseases like cancer are choosing reiki 'shamans' over trained doctors. 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 while offering no real help. Reiki practitioners argue that Reiki is a reliable and effective treatment which is being unfairly dismissed by conservative Western scientific researchers, presenting a few cases of actual disease remission as evidence.
There are various religious groups opposing Reiki. They condemn Reiki as promoting satanic or pagan practices. Once such group is the Unification Church, which cautions its adherents to avoid Reiki on the grounds that Reiki involves channeling the energy of evil spirits. The Roman Catholic Church generally refrains from accusations of Satanism in recent times, but it is common for Catholic thinkers to find Reiki suspicious at best, and some individuals and groups (like Dominicans) actively advise believers against it. Some even go as far as to call Reiki a sect, which is unfair as there is no real structure, guru or chain of command in the Reiki community. The many Christian practioners of Reiki commonly hold that the source of power that is chanelled through them is divine, possibly from the Holy Spirit.