Friday, January 26, 2018

A Christian Assessment of Reiki

by Michael R. Burgos Jr., PhD

Reiki is a spiritual practice that has become popularized within the United States in the last three decades. The term “Reiki” is defined variously as “universal life energy,”[1] and despite being characterized as “one of the most ancient methods of healing,”[2] Reiki was invented by Japanese Buddhist monk Mikao Usui in 1922,[3] and it was popularized in the west by Reiki practitioner Hawayo Takata.[4] Usui claimed to have ascended a mountain and after having engaged in a rigorous regimen of fasting, chanting, prayer, and meditation, he was alleged to have reached a state of enlightenment whereby “a great and powerful spiritual light entered the top of his head.”[5] From this experience, Usui claimed that he had obtained a kind of power that he could use to heal people. Armed with his healing power, he instituted “five principles that embody an awakened spiritual point of view.”[6] 

Within the west, Reiki is healing technique that attempts to manipulate a metaphysical “life force,” also called “Ki,” in order to instill a state of physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being a patient.[7] Reiki practitioners claim to be a channel of the life force, and the typical Reiki treatment consists of the practitioner touching their patient in strategic areas so as to manipulate the life force for the betterment of their patient.[8] Practitioners receive this ability when “a Reiki master opens healing channels (or chakras) within the students that fill them with life energy.”[9]

Proponents of Reiki claim that the practice is “Stands above any belief system,”[10] and that Reiki is not a religion. For instance, consider the following: 
While Reiki is spiritual in nature, it is not a religion. It has no dogma, and there is nothing you must believe in order to learn and use Reiki. In fact, Reiki is not dependent on belief at all and will work whether you believe in it or not. Because Reiki comes from God, many people find that using Reiki puts them more in touch with the experience of their religion rather than having only an intellectual concept of it. Reiki is not a religion.[11]
Similarly:
Although Reiki can be used as a spiritual practice, it is important to understand that Reiki, in itself, is not a religion. It does not promote any prescribed cultural activity, does not have the specific goal of becoming enlightened or connected to God, and does not require the practitioner to form a certain kind of faith. Reiki is, at its core, simply a means of promoting wellbeing and health through the laying on of hands [12]
While it is claimed by these authors that Reiki is not a religion, their own descriptions of Reiki betray such a claim. To practice Reiki, one must believe in its underlying worldview, namely pantheism[13] or panentheism.[14] That is, one must believe that there is an overriding universal life force that exists in the universe, and one must believe that a Reiki practitioner has the power to manipulate that life force. The notion that Reiki “has no dogma” is in direct contradiction with the notion that Reiki (i.e., the universal life energy) exists. The very statement, “Reiki comes from God,” is a theological claim born of religious belief. Moreover, why Reiki may not “prescribe cultural activity,” it does require its participant to believe that both pantheistic universal life energy is real and capable of healing people. Therefore, Reiki is intrinsically religious in nature, as it presupposes its own theology. 

Is Reiki compatible with biblical Christianity? Contra either pantheism or panentheism, the Bible insists upon an ontological distinction between the Creator and the creation,[15] and never affirms the existence of a kind of universal life energy. While there are some Reiki practitioners who attempt to identify the person of the Holy Spirit with the universal life force of Reiki,[16] this results in crude religious syncretism; the blending of pagan mythology with biblical truth. Stewart notes, 

Reiki is antithetical to biblical Christianity. Channeling is a way of communicating with spirits to obtain information not otherwise accessible. It is denounced in the Bible as sorcery, mediumship, and spiritism (Lev. 19:26, 31; 20:6; Deut. 18:9–14; Acts 19:19; Gal. 5:20; Rev. 21:8). Contacting spirit guides is dangerous spiritually, physically, and emotionally (1 Peter 5:8). Reiki practitioners seek what is called the Kundalini experience… This pinnacle of psychic experiences is known to cause severe emotional and psychological disturbances.[17]

To put it plainly, one cannot complement the Christian faith with a competing religious system that presupposes a completely different worldview. One cannot serve two masters (Matt 6:24), and therefore one cannot consistently affirm the biblical faith and Reiki. While Reiki has achieved a level of acceptance in the post-Christian west, it remains contrary to a biblically informed worldview.


[1] McClenton, Rhonda J., Spirits of Lesser Gods: A Critical Examination of Reiki and Christ-Centered Healing, (Boca Raton: Dissertation.com, 2005), 29. Hoskin, Liz, Reiki: An Introduction to Reiki, (Charlotte: CreateSpace, 2015), 10.
[2] Honervogt, Tanmaya, The Power of Reiki: An Ancient Hands-On Healing Technique, (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1998), 22. This author, as do many others, attempt to identify the practice of Reiki in ancient Sanskrit texts. However, such an attempt is anachronistic and clearly false as Usui’s inability to find anything in the sutras was the impetus to his alleged ascension up Mt. Kurama. 
[3] Lübeck, Walter, Petter, Frank A., Rand, William L., The Spirit of Reiki: The Complete Handbook of the Reiki System, (Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 2001), 13.
[4] Ibid., 24-28.
[5] Ibid. There is a considerable amount of mythology that has been propagated regarding Usui. The common claims that Usui was a Christian minister who taught at a Christian school, as well as the claim that he had achieve a doctorate in theology from the Univ. of Chicago are all untrue. See also McClenton, Spirits of Lesser Gods, 36-38.
[6] Bevell, Brett, Reiki for Spiritual Healing, (New York: Random House, 2009), 3.
[7] Boräng, Kajsa Krishni, Principles of Reiki: What It Is & How It Works, Rev. Ed., (Philadelphia: Slinging Dragon, 2013), 21.
[8] Ibid., 22. Usui, Makao, Petter, Frank A., The Original Reiki Handbook of Dr. Mikao Usui, 4th Ed., (Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 2003), 17-23.
[9] Stewart, G., Basic Questions on Alternative Medicine: What is Good and What is Not?, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Pub., 1998), 62.
[10] Boräng, Principles of Reiki, 23.
[11] 2018. “What is Reiki?,” The International Center for Reiki, Traininghttp://www.reiki.org/faq/whatisreiki.html. 
[12] Koda, Katalin, Sacred Path of Reiki: Healing as a Spiritual Discipline, (Woodbury: Llewellyn Pub., 2008), 205.
[13] “Pantheism is the belief that God and the universe are identical.” Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A., Eds., The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd Ed., (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1223.
[14] Panentheism is “The belief that the Being of God includes and penetrates the whole universe, so that every part of it exists in Him, but…that His Being is more than, and is not exhausted by, the universe.” Ibid., 1221.
[15] E.g., Gen 1:1; 1 Cor 8:6. 
[16] Brown, Candy G., Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America, (New York: Oxford Univ. Press), 2013. 78.O’ Mathuna, Donal, Larimore, Walt, Alternative Medicine, Updated & Expanded Ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 254.
[17] Stewart, Basic Questions, 63.