After folks watched the above video, they reached the conclusion that I hate reiki (and one commenter even arrived at the far-fetched conclusion that I hate America and/or American values).
Guys, I think reiki is awesome. I told you: I love it, but love it the way I love a day at the spa or how pampering it feels to get my hair done by a professional. If you think that means I’m devaluing reiki, then you have no idea how much I value a day at the spa or getting my hair done.
Reiki as it is peddled and sold in the United States is fine in its own right, but I would assert that it’s a misrepresentation to call it “traditional” and then attach it to Eastern mysticism. It’s a modernized, Westernized version of Eastern mysticism. As it is now presented, it is certainly not “traditional” Eastern mysticism. At best, and that’s presuming the entire mythology and alleged history of reiki’s origins is true, it’s modern Japanese mysticism that, even while in Japan, got blended with Christian mysticism.
Before posting that video opinion piece, I did my homework. I took reiki certification courses in person and also online. I read a stack of books on reiki by renowned reiki masters. I visited Kyoto and talked to native practitioners of esoteric Buddhism there to see what they thought of this whole reiki racket. I’ve gotten dozens of reiki sessions from a wide and diverse swath of reiki masters.
Between reiki attunement with the sigil crafting of the words “Big Bright Light” as the super-secret code (no, really, for real–that’s the big secret reiki sigil sign in Kanji: it says “Big Bright Light” and yes, it sounds as goofy in my native language as it does to you in English) and every reiki practitioner I went to trying to get me to either book 100 more $100 reiki sessions with them to 100% cure all my medical problems to getting me to become their student and train in reiki, and get certified after a series of classes that would cost me upward of $500, if you’re telling me to trust my intuition, then I’m telling you that all sorts of fire bells and red alarms were sounding off in my intuition.
As someone who practices modalities of esoteric Buddhism and Taoism, my view of reiki is that it is a superficial understanding of Eastern mysticism, culling from its surface to produce a collage of oversimplified meditation techniques, hand mudras, and sigil-crafting churned through a sausage grinder, then stuffed into the casing that is the laying on of hands, a Christian doctrine, served with a side of watered down occult explanations of the craft.
Then there are the books on reiki that read like variations on that other book, The Secret. There are all the desperate claims of scientific basis, proven through an incoherent incantation of science-sounding mumbo jumbo that I decided to take a concerted effort to dissect and understand, even at times consulting my physicist father who has an academic background in quantum physics, and nope, nothing added up to any of us.
Here’s one thing I do agree with what reiki masters say about the art: studying reiki doesn’t endow you with newfound powers or abilities; it reveals powers and abilities you’ve always had within you.
Okay. There we go. Finally. Common ground.
I absolutely unequivocally agree with that, though just in a less New Agey way.
True masters of reiki working and practicing the art in the western world at the moment, who are legit effective at this craft, have always been good at it. Maybe they didn’t have the sense of personal validation to be confident enough to fully exercise that innate talent. Maybe they just needed that Dumbo’s feather that is reiki certification to get them started. Their gift at energy healing has nothing whatsoever to do with reiki. Reiki was just some convenient vehicle that revealed their talents.
Yes, you can cultivate stronger attunement over the progress of time and dedication, and of course you can improve yourself in the art. But that’s something you’re doing on your own, through the work you’re doing on your own, with or without that reiki certification course.
So to these true masters of energy healing, I say to you save your money and instead, summon from within you the confidence to master your craft. If that founder Usui guy didn’t need to pay anyone a small fortune to master the art, then why do you? S’all I’m asking you to ponder.
Am I saying that everything out of the contemporary reiki world is fraudulent? No. In fact, the reiki community is filled with deeply compassionate, well-meaning, loving, and thoughtful healers, true healers. (Though to that I’d also say that they’re healers with or without learning reiki and definitely with or without reiki certification.) But there’s still no denying that some of what’s going on in reiki is designed specifically for profiteering and is more marketing ploy than it is any form of mysticism, eastern or western based.
The problem is reiki has become a million dollar keyword. If I call myself a practitioner of energy healing, no one knows what that means. If I use more obscure and specific terminology of energy healing modalities that are actually rooted in East Asian mystical or martial traditions, still no one really knows what I’m talking about. But the word “reiki” sells, and it sells well to a core target market that’s out there.
All the glossy goo and practice, the reiki symbols, the air-doodling, breathing, hands on head thing in reiki has never been what brought about healing. All that is part of the gimmick that triggers the placebo. That’s what I was referring to in the video about modern American reiki being a placebo. The whole performance of reiki (even the exotification of it as a form of traditional Asian healing art–how the purported Asian-ness is giving it legitimacy, which is a whole cobweb of stereotypes to unpack) is a placebo trigger, but I acknowledge it to be a very powerful and effective one.
Yet I also acknowledge that the principle of energy healing and energy transfer for healing is not mere placebo. It’s just not something you can achieve from obtaining a $500 certificate of reiki mastery and not something you gain immediate access to over one weekend retreat because of some mysterious and automatic download. It’s not something you suddenly become attuned to because some California hippy or Midwest housewife said so. The principles behind reiki is basically a form of witchcraft 101. Get a little snobbier and the argument might be made that it’s fluffy bunny witchcraft.
The business model that reiki has adopted does need to be scrutinized. I did not cherry-pick reiki practitioners so that I can prove my preconceived point. I did not ask them gotcha questions. I’m not even going to name names. I don’t like the recurring spewing of statistics that I don’t even know come from where that claim 95% success rate in healing. Oh, and then the 5% who don’t get healed–well, it was their fault that reiki didn’t heal them. That’s what they tell others and tell themselves. Those clients weren’t open-minded, or ready to receive the healing, or they have negative karma they must work through first and the reason they can’t heal is because, basically (this is for sure what gets implied), they’re bad people. A lot of passive-aggressive victim-blaming runs rampant among reiki masters as a way to absolve themselves of any need to self-examine why maybe sometimes, reiki doesn’t work.
Also, why do you have to try so hard to prove it’s scientific? And why the emphasis on it being ancient Japanese mysticism? How much of the purported history of reiki can even be proven? Already there are a lot of serious holes in the story and pieces of fact that don’t add up. And don’t even get me started on some of the American marketing materials I’ve seen using the Simplified Chinese characters for reiki instead of Kanji.
Again, I don’t think the esoteric principles behind reiki is bullshit. In fact, I actively practice them and have drunk that Kool-Aid to the bottom of the barrel a long time ago. I absolutely believe in faith healing, the laying on of hands, and the concepts of Qi energy or life force transfer governing reiki. I just think this monstrosity of a thing called certified reiki we see in the modern world and the claims that it’s a fast-track to omnipotent healing power wrapped up in a questionable business model– is bullshit.