A brochure advertising Reiki, an energy healing technique, translates the word "Reiki" as "guided Universal Life Force Energy," (Ana Jones, certified Reiki Master-Teacher, Professional Intuitive, and Interfaith Minister, in her flyer, Reiki, Natural Healing). Jones further asserts that "Reiki Masters are spreading Reiki throughout the world...bringing Reiki into private practice, centers, hospices, clinics, and even some hospitals." This indeed is the case.
Just what is Reiki and where did it come from? Reiki (ray`-kee) is a system of energy healing based on the theory that a universal healing energy or life force permeates and infuses the universe, and that this energy can be channeled into someone so that their own life force is enhanced (Barbara Loecher, Sara Altshul O'Donnell, and the Editors of Prevention Health Books, Women's Choices in Natural Healing [Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc., 1998], 268).
Reiki's recent origins are in the 19th century when Mikao Usui, a Buddhist monk and teacher in Kyoto, Japan, searched for an understanding of healing. Some accounts claim Usui was a Christian minister searching for how Jesus healed, but apparently this account was to make Reiki more palatable to Christians in the U.S. Accounts vary on the origins of Reiki. Usui read the Buddhist sutras (religious writings) in their original languages, and found material on healing and what seemed to him a way to activate its power. After a 21-day fast and retreat, "he welcomed the energy into himself," the energy being what Usui thought was the healing power (J. Gordon Melton, New Age Encyclopedia [Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1990], 382). Usui also came up with five principles of ethical practice: being grateful for blessings, not being angry, not worrying, working honestly, and being kind to one's neighbor and all living things (Ibid).
Usui drew disciples of his teachings, and later Usui's succession was passed on to Chijuro Hayashi (Ibid). In the 1930's, a dying Japanese-American, Hawayo Takato, returned to Japan and encountered Reiki practitioners whom, it is claimed, were able to heal her. She became the first woman Reiki master and first American Reiki master, and it is she who initiated Reiki training in the United States by touring the country in the 1970's (Ibid, 383). Barbara Weber Ray, in Atlanta, Georgia, became a teacher of the methods of initiating other Reiki masters in 1978; and Ray founded the American Reiki Association, later called The Radiance Technique Association International (Ibid). Reiki is also known as the Usui Shiko Ryoho System of Healing (Ibid, 382).
Reiki theory holds that practitioners can channel the universal life force as a healing energy into the client's body in order to "balance and enhance the flow of vital energy," (Loecher, 268). The client/patient lies on a table as the Reiki practitioner gently touches him/her. The practitioner places their palms on major organs and glands, and on the areas where the chakras are located. [The chakras are part of Hindu belief that there are seven chakras, centers of psychic and spiritual energy, going from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Certain Hindu teachings claim that the kundalini, an energy force coiled snakelike in the base chakra, needs to rise to the topmost chakra as part of the spiritual enlightenment process.]
As the Reiki practitioner holds his/her hands over various areas for several minutes, it is believed that the client/patient is drawing in whatever energy is needed from the universe, using the Reiki healer as the channel (Ibid). The Reiki energy "enters the top of the practitioner's head and exits through the hands," after passing through the patient (William Collinge, M.P.H., PH.D., The American Holistic Health Association Complete Guide to Alternative Medicine [NY, NY: Warner Books, 1996], 285). The client's body has an innate intelligence or inner wisdom which knows where to apply the healing force (per conversation with a Reiki healer, Festival of Lights Expo, Falls Church, VA, April, 2000).
To practice Reiki, one must be "attuned" through a particular ritual in which the teacher activates the universal energy within the student (Loecher, 268; Melton, 383). There are three degrees of Reiki; the first degree requires four attunements, after which the student "can transmit healing energy by touching anything alive," (Loecher, 269). Being initiated into the second degree requires the use of "sacred symbols" and teaches the student how to transmit energy over distance, as well as teaching the art of mental/emotional healing (Ibid). According to Mary Ruth Van Landingham, Reiki Master Teacher, when using the symbols taught in the second degree, one is "actually changing the holographic memory within the matrix or soul of a person," ("Terra Christa" Newsletter, Winter 2001 Workshop Schedule, Vienna, VA). To become a Reiki master/teacher, initiation into the 3rd degree is essential (Ibid; Melton, 383).