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What is Reiki Energy?

By Leo Zimmermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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Reiki energy is regarded by some as a universal force. It is similar to the Chinese idea of qi. The concept is integral to the practice of reiki, a healing technique invented in 1922 and embraced by the New Age movement. The use of reiki energy for healing is controversial. Scientific research has suggested that it works, but only as well as any other practice that uses the power of belief. That is, it is as effective as a well-administered placebo.

Much of the conceptual backing for reiki, a relatively recent development, comes from traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine. Ideas concerning the unity of body and mind are common to both. Both systems use the concept of energy as a way to describe a being or situation in a way that cuts across the lines of mind-body dualism.

Practitioners describe reiki energy as having a mind of its own and being intelligent. Although they are taught techniques and ideas about reiki while they are being trained, people who perform reiki say that reiki energy itself guides the specifics of the process. In Usui Reiki, this energy is invoked most directly in a component called Reiji-ho. The person performing reiki addresses the reiki energy directly and asks it to enter the subject. It is said that the energy will flow three times.

According to people who believe in reiki energy, it takes several different forms: physical, mental, and emotional. Physical energy is manifested in the direct contact from the person delivering the reiki treatment. Mental energy comes from the symbolic configuration of reiki. The use of symbols, like "power," and "mind," is explicitly a crucial element of reiki practice. Emotional energy comes from the relationship between the two people involved.

There is anecdotal but not scientific evidence that reiki treatment works better than a placebo. However, the placebo effect can be very strong, especially if a treatment is being conducted for someone who believes strongly in it. It might even be possible to understand reiki energy as corresponding to the power of belief mutually created by the patient and the practitioner. The categories of symbol and emotion, acknowledged as important for reiki, would be classified by scientists as placebo.

Reiki energy is conceptually similar to qi, the idea of life force used commonly in Chinese medicine. Reiki energy fits in well with various New Age schema, since it is abstract and general. It can be combined with other practices and systems of belief without much conflict. For example, the practice of reiki has incorporated the idea of chakras, which come from Hinduism.

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