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Is Reiki religion or science?

The claim has been made that Reiki is not a religion, but is evidence based medicine. So I decided to compare it to both religion and medicine to see where it fit best.

I think I’m a pretty good choice to do the comparison since I am both religious and scientifically minded. I hope this doesn’t knock me out of the fight against quackary, but I admit I believe in faith based healing. I’m not just talking about placebos where people feel better because they believed they were getting an active medicine. I’m LDS (Mormon) and it’s our practice to administer priesthood blessings to those who are ill or otherwise afflicted.

This type of blessing is administered privately, usually by friends or family and happens in addition to medical treatment. It involves the laying on of hands. People get healed. I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced it, though the events I’ve been around couldn’t be called Miraculous in the large sense of the word.  I have heard of such events, though, and from reputable sources.

But I’ll never claim it is evidenced based medicine.

It is the practice of a religion that started its existence in 1820 when Joseph Smith received a revelation from God. Later, God restored the priesthood as it was had in the times of Abraham and Moses and Jesus. It has its foundations in Judaism and Christianity.

Reiki is a laying on of hands activity as well. It started in Japan when Mikao Usei had a mystical experience in 1914 during fasting and meditation. While meditating under a waterfall, he received a huge influx of healing energy and discovered he had been given the ability to heal without depleting his own energy. Hawayo Takata later brought it to America.

Modern medicine has been developed through thousands of years of observation and trial and error. As we’ve come into the last 200 years or so, the rigorous application of the scientific method has refined it, such that we have now have a very good understanding of how the body works and the process of disease.

In order to give a priesthood blessing, the person must have the priesthood. This requires that he be keeping the commandments. At the time the blessing is given, the person must be in such a spiritual state that they can listen to the Holy Ghost. They must have no anger, they should be keeping the commandments, etc. The priesthood can be revoked for immoral or unethical behavior. Every worthy male of a certain age in the congregation has been given the priesthood.

The practice of Reiki is not nearly so stringent. All that is required is to become initiated or attuned by a Reiki Master. The process takes no longer than two days. Adherence to ideals is encouraged, but not necessary. Once a person has acquired this ability, they never lose it.

A medical worker usually has a minimum of one year of training (CNA) and can have over 10 years of medical training (after 4 years of previous college). Continuing education courses are often a requirement for continued practice (for doctors). 

When one administers a priesthood blessing, he calls upon God to bless the person, using the Holy Ghost as a guide for how God wants the person blessed. Assuming the answer is that God wants the person healed (not always the case), the person is healed through the priesthood by the power of God. It is unknown exactly how God accomplishes the healing.

In Reiki, life force energy is transmitted from the one healer to the patient. It automatically knows how to heal the person, because it is guided by a Higher “Divine” Intelligence. One of Reiki’s great brags is that it lacks intellectual concepts or dogma. Nothing is required of the person other than to place their hands over the body and wish.

In medicine the treatment depends on what is being treated. A broken bone is set and stabilized. Gallstones are removed. A dying liver is replaced, and the body is given chemicals to convince it not to reject the foreign liver. Irregular menstrual cycles and PMDD are treated with hormones. Very often a wait and the body will heal itself approach is considered the best course of action, as many diseases are self limiting. Treatments are constantly being discovered and refined.

Two priesthood holders are usually needed for a priesthood blessing. It is often the father or husband, and a friend who goes to the person in need. It is an act of service and would be considered evil to ask a fee for it. It is usually a one time occurrence, though several blessings may be given at critical points over the course of a long illness.

Some Reiki practitioners make a living doing this, and sometimes have rented space to practice in. In America, unless one has a friend who practices Reiki, the patient must pay for the treatment. Fees can be sliding scale, but are about $80 for in studio sessions, over $100 if the practitioner goes to the patient. Sometimes many treatments are given, often in addition to modern medicine.

Medical workers also make a living healing people, and often have large debts accrued through their medical education. There is also equipment and pharmaceuticals and sometimes hospital space that must be paid for. It can be very expensive.

The belief about priesthood blessings is that God decides what happens.

The belief about Reiki is that the practitioner and patient decide what happens.

The belief about medicine is that its success depends on the laws of nature. 

So, is Reiki a religious practice or medicine? I say it is neither, and I will further state that Reiki is not only a form of medical quackery, it is also a form of spiritual quackery. It offers warm fuzzies without any real effort other than imaging good things. True religion requires of the adherent a striving to behave well towards their fellow man. To serve those around them without the intent to gain advantage through this service.

Faith, by itself, flung into the morass of the human animal who desires only comfort and pleasure, is nothing. When you have to start to pay money for that, it crosses from being nothing to being harmful. 

For more information about Reiki visit www.reiki.org and http://danesparza.com/reiki.asp

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  1. You are of course totally correct in your eloquent observations on the quackery of Reiki – in fact Reiki seems to be a pyramid scheme of the worst kind.

    There are several “levels” of Reiki, and “Reiki diploma’s” are being peddled for outrageous prices, so that the new graduates must charge extortionate prices to desperate patients to recoup some of that cost.

    When you’ve paid a small fortune, you can start teaching others.

    The worst aspect of Reiki is that its practitioners one the one side claim they do it “to help people”, yet their most important principle is that they should never administer Reiki for free.

    I wrote a small article on the “side effects” of Reiki:


  2. Hi,

    I hope that the approval of my previous comment is only delayed by a busy schedule. Otherwise it would be sad.

    Best regards,


  3. What an excellent blog, I’ve added your feed to my RSS reader. 🙂

  4. Have you ever had a Reiki treatment? I was a skeptic until I had one and then went on to become a 2nd degree practitioner. Is it costly? Yes. Is a massage costly? Yes. Does Reiki reduce stress? Yes. Does it heal a person? In some instances. If you can believe a priest can heal a person, why is it such a stretch to believe that Reiki can also? Try a treatment with an open mind.

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