Are Catholic Bishops Afraid of Reiki Healers?

An article appeared in The Bulletin today about U.S. bishops denouncing Reiki based on the grounds that Reiki is “unscientific, superstitious” and of course, “inappropriate for Catholics.”

I take issue with the following points in the article:

1. “The bishops recently developed ‘Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy.’”

How can the evaluate it if they truly believe it’s nothing more than unscientific, superstitious, mumbo-jumbo? Their evaluation would no doubt be biased.

2. “rei,” meaning universal spirit, higher power or God,

That’s just simply incorrect to say that “rei” means higher power or God.

Setting the record straight:
If you were to describe the old form Reiki kanji in story form, you would say: On the earth stands a shaman (medicine man, healer) with his arms raised against the sky. From the heaven the rain comes down with lifesaving energy consisting of three parts: Light, Love and Wisdom. The shaman acts as a channel for this energy. Likewise, the Reiki Master acts as the channel when s/he attunes the student and the Reiki Practitioner becomes the shaman when s/he channels the energy during a healing session.

However, in the Japanese language, Reiki is not broken down into two totally separate words as described by the Bishop in this article. It is, as it needs to be, taken together and in the context of its use, which in this case, it’s an adjective that describes the set of precepts. The word “Reiki” is used in Japan to describe many types of healing and spiritual work. In Chinese, the same 2 kanji used to represent Reiki are pronounced differently but have a similar meaning. In Chinese, Reiki is called Ling chi.

As for the “life force energy” — What is the life force energy and what makes this energy different from other types of energy? In the words of Einstein, “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it simply changes form.” All living things are made up of energy. Therefore, nothing can truly die. It can change from one form to another, but it cannot be destroyed.
“Vital life force energy,” is known by many names in the various cultures. In Sanskrit, it’s known as Prana. The Polynesian Hunas call this healing energy Mana. It is known as Ch’i in China, and Ki in Japan. The Chinese place a great deal of significance of the life force energy and have studied it for thousands of years. Ch’I, or Ki, is the life force that affects all living things. It is believed that when this energy departs, life itself departs. In reality, all energy is the same, and all matter is energy.

The NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, charged with researching the effectiveness of alternative therapies, categorizes the various modes of energy healing as “biofield therapies.” From a healing perspective, methods through which healing of the body-mind-spirit is initiated at the spirit level are termed energy healing techniques. Regardless of what the method is called, the portal into the human being is through the spirit. Heal on the spirit level and it manifests on the physical level.

NCCAM-supported studies that have been investigated:

  • Whether Reiki is effective and safe for treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia
  • Reiki’s possible impact on the well-being and quality of life in people with advanced AIDS
  • The possible effects of Reiki on disease progression and/or anxiety in people with prostate cancer
  • Whether Reiki can help reduce nerve pain and cardiovascular risk in people with type 2 diabetes.

To continue;

3. “…testimonials of nuns and ministers who say their practice of Reiki does not interfere with their religion.”

Well, they would know far better than the bishops would. Personally speaking, I agree with the nuns and ministers who are so secure in their religious beliefs that they feel no conflict of interest.

4. “However, the bishops explicitly state that Reiki is in contradiction to Christianity and lacks scientific credibility.

And prayer has scientific credibility?

5. “a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no man’s land that is neither faith nor science.”

How is it that prayer, which also lacks scientific proof and is based solely on trust and faith, falls outside the realm of superstition?

6. “The bishops noted a drastic difference between Christian healing through divine power and Reiki therapy. Their guidelines also discussed the lack of scientific credibility in Reiki.”

And what is that difference?  How was that difference measured?  How was it proven that there is such a stark difference?  Again, prayer has as much “scientific credibility” as Reiki. Furthermore, there is no difference between “Christian healing” and Reiki healing… other than the fact that Reiki is not a religion, and Reiki Practitioners are not Bishops.  Healing is healing is healing.

7. “For Christians, the access to divine healing is by prayer to Christ as lord and savior, while the essence of Reiki is not a prayer, but a technique that is passed down from the ‘Reiki master’ to the pupil…”

Reiki is passed down from Reiki Master to student, much the same way Clergy passes down their teachings to their students. (See my above comment regarding this point.)

8. “Reputable scientific studies attesting to the efficacy of Reiki are lacking, as is a plausible scientific explanation as to how it could possibly be efficacious.”

Reputable scientific studies attesting to the eficacy of prayer is also lacking, as is a plausible scientific explanation as to how prayer could possibly be efficacious. Nonetheless, there are those who believe in the healing power of prayer.

9. “healing … cannot be guaranteed” through Reiki, though it states people have reported recovery from minor ailments and major illnesses.”

Healing cannot be guaranteed through Reiki, or prayer, or even conventional medicine. There are no guarantees that you will live out your life totally free from any illnesses.

10. “The bishops called faithful to refrain from using Reiki and encouraged Church leaders to speak out against it. “While sometimes people fall into superstition through ignorance, it is the responsibility of all who teach in the name of the Church to eliminate such ignorance as much as possible,” the bishops said. “Since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health-care facilities and retreat centers, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy.”

Wow. I’m not even sure where to begin with this one. I would argue that the vast majority of Reiki Practitioners are far from ignorant, and to assume that they “fell into superstition through ignorance” is rather insulting, to say the least. Are the nuns and ministers who do practice Reiki also ignorant, or is it only those outside of the Catholic church who are ignorant? Being a Reiki practitioner involves sacrifice, discipline, appropriate expression, and a great deal of responsibility.

To speak out against Reiki is to speak out against all those who seek to bring health and harmony — body, mind and soul — into this world. Are Catholic Bishops not content with just speaking out against same-sex marriage that they now have to include speaking out against those who bring comfort, and yes, even (at times)  healing, to others? We are ALL born with the ability to be “Christ-like.” This is not something that is exclusive to the clergy, nor should it be.   You would think that the Bishops would be happy knowing that there are people in the world who are providing comfort and healing to others… by whatever means possible, in any way possible.  If the Bishops feel some inherent need to “speak out against” something, perhaps they should speak out against sexual abuse within the Church; A topic they should be well-versed in.

I believe that if one is secure in their own religious beliefs, and core values, then they don’t feel threatened by others… nor do they feel the need to dictate what others should believe, or how they should live their lives… or how they should pray.

News article posted on The Bulletin.