27 March 2009

Reiki: Not Science, Not Christian

Glance around many of the Catholic retreat centers in the U.S. and you won't find a cross, a crucifix, a rosary, or even a tabernacle. What you will find is a labyrinth, dream-catchers, Mother-Goddess statues, and a Reiki room. What is Reiki? Well, for the most part, among disaffected (i.e., "bored Baby-boomers") U.S. religious, it's the latest Let's Use Anything But the Prayer of the Roman Church liturgical craze.

The following document (excerpted) was issued today by the USCCB's committee on doctrine. It directly condemns the practice of Reiki in Catholic facilities.

Let the temper tantrums begin!

Committee on DoctrineUnited States Conference of Catholic Bishops

A) The Origins and Basic Characteristics of Reiki

4. Reiki is a technique of healing that was invented in Japan in the late 1800s by Mikao Usui, who was studying Buddhist texts. According to Reiki teaching, illness is caused by some kind of disruption or imbalance in one's "life energy." A Reiki practitioner effects healing by placing his or her hands in certain positions on the patient's body in order to facilitate the flow of Reiki, the "universal life energy," from the Reiki practitioner to the patient. There are numerous designated hand positions for addressing different problems. Reiki proponents assert that the practitioner is not the source of the healing energy, but merely a channel for it. To become a Reiki practitioner, one must receive an "initiation" or "attunement" from a Reiki Master. This ceremony makes one "attuned" to the "universal life energy" and enables one to serve as a conduit for it. There are said to be three different levels of attunement (some teach that there are four). At the higher levels, one can allegedly channel Reiki energy and effect healings at a distance, without physical contact.

B) Reiki as a Natural Means of Healing

5. Although Reiki proponents seem to agree that Reiki does not represent a religion of its own, but a technique that may be utilized by people from many religious traditions, it does have several aspects of a religion. Reiki is frequently described as a "spiritual" kind of healing as opposed to the common medical procedures of healing using physical means. Much of the literature on Reiki is filled with references to God, the Goddess, the "divine healing power," and the "divine mind." The life force energy is described as being directed by God, the "Higher Intelligence," or the "divine consciousness." Likewise, the various "attunements" which the Reiki practitioner receives from a Reiki Master are accomplished through "sacred ceremonies" that involve the manifestation and contemplation of certain "sacred symbols" (which have traditionally been kept secret by Reiki Masters). Furthermore, Reiki is frequently described as a "way of living," with a list of five "Reiki Precepts" stipulating proper ethical conduct.

C) Reiki and the Healing Power of Christ

8. Some people have attempted to identify Reiki with the divine healing known to Christians. They are mistaken. The radical difference can be immediately seen in the fact that for the Reiki practitioner the healing power is at human disposal. Some teachers want to avoid this implication and argue that it is not the Reiki practitioner personally who effects the healing, but the Reiki energy directed by the divine consciousness. Nevertheless, the fact remains that 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, a technique that once mastered will reliably produce the anticipated results. Some practitioners attempt to Christianize Reiki by adding a prayer to Christ, but this does not affect the essential nature of Reiki. For these reasons, Reiki and other similar therapeutic techniques cannot be identified with what Christians call healing by divine grace.

9. The difference between what Christians recognize as healing by divine grace and Reiki therapy is also evident in the basic terms used by Reiki proponents to describe what happens in Reiki therapy, particularly that of "universal life energy." Neither the Scriptures nor the Christian tradition as a whole speak of the natural world as based on "universal life energy" that is subject to manipulation by the natural human power of thought and will. In fact, this worldview has its origins in eastern religions and has a certain monist and pantheistic character, in that distinctions among self, world, and God tend to fall away. We have already seen that Reiki practitioners are unable to differentiate clearly between divine healing power and power that is at human disposal.


10. Reiki therapy finds no support either in the findings of natural science or in Christian belief. For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems. In terms of caring for one's physical health or the physical health of others, to employ a technique that has no scientific support (or even plausibility) is generally not prudent.

11. In terms of caring for one's spiritual health, there are important dangers. To use Reiki one would have to accept at least in an implicit way central elements of the worldview that undergirds Reiki theory, elements that belong neither to Christian faith nor to natural science. Without justification either from Christian faith or natural science, however, 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. Superstition corrupts one's worship of God by turning one's religious feeling and practice in a false direction. 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.

12. 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.

Most Rev. William E. Lori (Chairman)
Most Rev. John C. Nienstedt
Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair
Most Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli
Most Rev. José H. Gomez
Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron
Most Rev. Robert J. McManus
Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl

Unsigned comments will be deleted. Permission is given to re-post or reprint with attribution for non-commercial use only.


  1. Anonymous1:12 PM

    Excellent! It is sad, though, that this had to be covered at all. This ought to be a no brainer.

  2. The need for some baby boomer nuns and priests (my generation) to continue to find practices and/or non-Christian, let alone non-Catholic so called new gods to invite to their pray groups ..retreat centers et al manifests a kind of spiritual ennui that is personally dangerous and as a pedagogical method for others false.
    I assert that it emanates from an ever increasing lack of personal prayer and time spent alone with Christ.

    The religious life is not a club...or a group of wanna be holy social workers...

    Without a communal prayer life and abiding personal prayer, the soul will drift and distract to all that is not of the essence of vocation.

    Reiki is one more example of the results of this tendency.

    I am glad the Bishops have spoken.
    They need to speak more on issues of faith and morals. I find them often lacking in this area and if they are not moral leaders of the faithful then ...what are they?

    Better to speak and be rejected or accepted than not to speak and to be irrelevant in a world desperately in need of moral and spiritual leadership.

  3. I love the way Faith and Reason are the clear reasons why such nonsense is rejected. Such statements give great hope to the emerging movements within Holy Mother Church that hold fast to a faith that is dependant on the Savior for life, and accesible and compatible to reasonable thought and study.

    Goodbye Reiki! I hope...

  4. Patty,

    Extraordinarily well-said! This New-Age silliness will be an embarrassing footnote in Church history. Future historians will describe the whole post-VC2 experimental-fiasco as one long, bad Bong-Induced Trip. Reiki, labyrinths, etc. will become the bizarre devotions of crazy old Earth-Sisters, and we'll giggle about it while wondering where our bishops were...

  5. Anonymous7:09 PM

    A good litmus test to assess the reliability (and authenticity)of your local convent or motherhouse. For healing do they suggest the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Reiki? For a stay-close-to-home pilgrimage do they recommend the Stations of the Cross or a labyrinth? For worship, do they present horizontal language that makes it seem as if humanity must find the source of holiness and the object of its worship within itself or do they promote the official liturgical approved language of the Church, vertical and all? For attire, do they proudly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and do they promote His Church, or do they show their disaffection for the Church by refusing to represent her and her Lord through their attire? Do they model dissent or obedience? A massage or fifteen decades on your knees to foster meditation? The list goes on; you get the point. The Church has made clear her expectations. We've heard the words "non serviam" before in history. No wonder there is an apostolic visitation of American convents in progress.