(Investigator 193, 2020 July)


Reiki (pronounced Ray-Key) is a Japanese word meaning "Universal life-force energy". Its history however, is somewhat obscure.

Legend has it that the origins of Reiki are to be found in Tibet and that after spreading through India, Asia, Rome and Greece, it passed into obscurity until the mid-nineteenth century. At that time, following a mystical experience while fasting and meditating on Mount Koriyama, a Japanese Christian educator, Dr Mikao Usui, discovered the formula for Reiki in Buddhist Sanskrit manuscripts. He took his findings to Japan and the technique has been taught there ever since. A retired naval officer and an advanced student, Dr Chujiro Hayashi took over the responsibility for carrying on the movement when Usui died in 1893, operating a Reiki clinic in Tokyo.

Hawayo Takata, a Japanese/Hawaiian woman, acceded Hayashi when he died in 1941, and introduced the technique to America in the 1930s where it became both popular and financially lucrative.

Following Takata's death in 1980, the tradition passed on to her granddaughter, Phyllis Lei Furumoto, who became Grand Master. As head of the Reiki Alliance located in Cataldo, Idaho, she promotes "The Usui System of Natural Healing". It is now offered in many countries throughout the Western world with similar therapies such as Touch for Health and Rebirthing.

Another former student of Takata's, Dr. Barbara Ray, promotes a form of Reiki called "The Radiance Technique" in St. Petersburg, Florida.


Reiki is claimed to balance and strengthen the body's energy promoting its ability to heal itself. There is no limit to the claims made on its behalf — Reiki is used to treat all sorts of ailments from AIDS to baldness.


Prior to beginning the treatment, jewellery is removed and the hands washed. Following an invocation in prayer form, the therapist then "smooths" out the aura with one hand while placing the other on his or her abdomen.

The next step involves the placing of the practitioner's hands on or just above the patient's body or holding the client's hands in twelve basic positions.

Through a series of "attunements", a Reiki master employs the ancient sounds and symbols that supposedly attune an individual's nervous system to a higher level of energy. This is claimed to established contact between the two people's energy fields and prepares the patient for healing. Energy is then supposedly channelled through the healer's hands to the recipient's body in order to release energy into it thus promoting healing. The main difference between Reiki and spiritual healing is that, rather than sending out energy, the recipient draws it in. The individual in effect takes responsibility for his or her own healing.


There is a lot of politicking among the various Reiki organisations, but each claims to be the only one teaching genuine Reiki. All have the trappings of a New Age religion. It offers a "holistic" package of alternative therapies, and New Age terms such as "expanded consciousness", "spiritual awareness", "higher consciousness", "transcendental awareness" and the "cosmic plane" permeate its teachings. There is however, no scientific or medical evidence to support claims that auras exist or that Reiki is an efficacious healing system.

It also appears to be a money making business. In the May/June issue of Natural Health, it was reported that various levels of learning can cost anywhere between several hundred and several thousand dollars.


Daulby, M. and Mathison, C. 1996. A Guide to Spiritual Healing, Brockhampton Press, London.  

Ray, Barbara. 1987. The Radiance Technique. The Radiance Technique Journal, January /March 1987.
------------------ 1985. The Reiki Factor, 2nd edition. The Radiance Technique Association International.
---------- & Carrington, Yesnie. 1984. The Official Reiki Handbook, T.R.T.A.I.

Reiki Alliance The Usui System of Natural Healing, Cotaldo, Idaho. (No date).

Reiki Healing Institute. Reiki: Healing Yourself and Others. Encinitas, California. (No date).

From: Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc.