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William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.

The word, Reiki, is of Japanese origin. Rei means "universal spirit, unlimited," and ki refers to the "life force" or "energy." Proponents credit a Dr. Mikao Usui with "re-discovering" Reiki some time around 1846 as part of his search of "sacred texts."

It is clear from proponents' descriptions that Reiki is but a variation of other healing superstitions such as "pranic healing" (ritual of ancient fertility religion, Wicca [ie, witchcraft]), qigong (based upon traditional Chinese medicine), Therapeutic Touch (a pseudomedical practice done by 20th Century American nurses), and unnamed shamanic healing practices that involve hand-waving, or laying-on-of-hands, healing rituals. Such rituals are magical practices that purport to manipulate unseen "spiritual" forces.

First degree Reiki practitioners learn to treat through a series of 12 specific hand positions placed gently on the body. This allegedly facilitates the flow of Reiki energy through the practitioner, said to be manifested by a heightened feeling of warmth in the hands. The practitioner is said to merely serve as a conduit for the Reiki energy. A second degree Reiki practitioner allegedly "learns to send Reiki over distance through the use of special symbols which involve the opening up to the experience of the energy and listening to one's inner voice." The third level is Reiki Master, a process lasting a year or more while working as an apprentice with another Reiki Master. During this time the apprentice learns to embody the energy and is then able to teach Reiki to others." [1]

There is no evidence that clinical Reiki's effects are due to anything other than suggestion, or that they are superior to massage or any other healing ritual. Reiki's metaphysical beliefs may be in conflict with an individual patient's religious beliefs. Full disclosure of the belief system should precede its use in any setting. An investigation of proponent literature casts serious doubt as to whether Reiki practitioners can be trusted with such full disclosure. Reiki literature presents misinformation as fact, and instructs practitioners on how to skirt the law in order to protect themselves from regulation and accountability.


Bullock M. Reiki: a comprehensive therapy for life. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care 14:31-3, 1997.

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© 1999 National Council Against Health Fraud. With proper citation, this article may be reproduced for noncommercial purposes

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This article was posted on December 1, 2000.