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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Reiki is a system of spiritual healing that emerged in the west in the 1970s. It has since grown to become one of the most successful movements associated with what was known as the New Age.Reiki is a healing system utilizing what is variously called chi, qi, or prana, that same universal magnetic energy described in the eighteenth century by Franz Anton Mesmer.

Reiki practitioners are taught to attune to the flow of energy by meditating upon various symbols; they then attempt to facilitate the flow of that energy to their patients in the most efficacious manner. Instruction in Reiki is carried out in levels from beginning to master. At each level students learn to attune more effectively with an additional set of symbols. (Knowledge of the actual symbols is part of the confidential aspect of the Reiki system, though most have been revealed in various Reiki publications.) Reiki is largely based on Chinese medicine, which postulates the existence of a set of energy meridians running through the body. Illness occurs when the free flow of energy through these meridians is inhibited. In Reiki, the student is taught to interact with the client’s energy system; the hand placements are also related to stimulating the downward flow of energy in the body, especially along what is termed the gall bladder meridian, which runs vertically from the head to the toe.

Reiki was created by Japanese teacher Mikao Usui (1865–1926). He was affiliated with a Japanese Spiritualist group, Rei Jyutsu Kai, whose headquarters was near the holy mountain of Kurama Kai. He seems to have developed his new healing system by 1914. In 1921 he moved to Tokyo, and over the next five years taught his system to some 2,000 people. He also published a small book with a brief description of Reiki, the answers to some frequently asked questions, and some poems composed by the Japanese emperor designed to advise people on a worthy life. Following Usui’s death in 1926, his successor built Reiki into a national movement.

Among Usui’s students was Chujiro Hayashi (1878–1941), the last person Usui trained as a master. A former naval officer, after becoming a Reiki master he opened a clinic. Among those who found their way to Hayashi was Hawayo Takata (1900-), a Japanese woman born in Hawaii. When her health failed in the 1930s she went to Japanand eventually found her way to Hayashi’s clinic. She was healed under his care and with some persistence she convinced him to train her as a healer. She was named a master in 1937.

Takata operated quietly as a Reiki healer in Hawaii for several decades. The combination of being without a successor and the emergence of the New Age movement led her to teaching in 1973. She designated her first student as a master in 1975. Over the next five years she would train 22 people as masters. In 1979, she took an additional step and named two of the masters as grand masters: her daughter Phyliss Furumoto, who resided in Hawaii, and Barbara Ray of Atlanta, Georgia. Through the 1980s, most new masters were students of either Furumoto or Ray. Shortly after Takata’s death, Ray formed the American Reiki Association (later renamed the American International Reiki Association) and authored the first book on Takata’s system, The Reiki Factor (1983). In 1983, Furumoto founded the Reiki Alliance. Today, most Reiki healers receive credentials through one of these two major Reiki lineages.

A significant change in the Reiki community occurred in 1989, when Reiki master William Rand challenged the practice of charging $10,000 for Reiki master training. From the Center for Reiki Training in suburban Detroit, Michigan, he began master training programs for a mere $600. He also authored a textbook that revealed many of the heretofore confidential Reiki teachings.

Meanwhile, the growing number of practitioners began to mix Reiki with the wide variety of spiritual options now available in the west. By integrating Reiki with another spiritual tradition/practice, they have created new variant forms of Reiki that are usually identified with modifying names. Among these are Tera-Mai Reiki, Karuna Reiki, and Shambhala Reiki, to name just a few examples.

In the 1990s, Reiki spread globally, and it is now available in most urban centers around the world. There are thousands of professional Reiki healers who work full time at their profession, and many more who practice Reiki along with other esoteric disciplines.


Haberly, Helen L. Reiki: Hawayo Takata’s Story. Olney,MD: Archedigm Publications, 1997.
Petter, Frank Arjava. Reiki: The Legacy of Dr. Usui.Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Light Publications, 1998. ___ Reiki Fire. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Light Publications, 1997.
Rand, William. Reiki for a New Millennium. Southfield, MI: Vision Publications, 1998.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.