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.