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Glastonbury | Life | New Age

Reiki (The Woo Chronicles)

March 2, 2018

I trained in Reiki and I still think it’s woo.

Reiki – It won’t heal you. But it might make you feel better.

Like so many things that claim to have an ancient and noble past, Reiki is actually fairly modern, having been invented by Mikau Usui in 1922.  I trained as a practitioner of Reiki circa 2001 and was told a pretty way-out story about how he discovered Reiki through a strange mystical experience.  I did ask at the time if this involved mushrooms. It didn’t go down well. Whether this story was indeed the case, or merely the teacher’s own interpretation of the events, remains unclear.

The central beliefs of Reiki are as follows:

  • There is a universal, never-ending energy that can be channelled for healing.
  • Anyone can access this energy providing they are ‘attuned’ by a Reiki Master.
  • Energy flows through the hands when the practitioner places them on or near the patient.
  • Energy is intelligent, diagnosis is not required, energy automatically diagnoses, treats and heals the patient.

There are 3 levels of Reiki.  Each requires a different level of attunement.  You can expect to pay hundreds of pounds in order to become a Level 3 (Master) Practitioner.

  • Level 1 – learn 12 hand positions on the body through which you can channel the Reiki energy.  You are just a conduit for the energy.  If your hands feel hot – it’s working.
  • Level 2 – you learn the special ‘secret’ Reiki symbols, distance healing and healing by “listening to your inner voice”.
  • Level 3 – Reiki Master.  Usually over a year to learn.  You learn to embody Reiki Energy and attune and teach others.

I have particular issues with the claims of distance healing:

Some Reiki practitioners also claim that their practice can be carried out from a distance, thus obviating any contact save you sending the nice man or lady your credit card number while he or she heals you from across an ocean.


Reiki is not based on any form of rational science – it is the epitome of woo – all clinical research has shown that it probably won’t do you any harm, which is probably its only saving grace.  It is not an effective treatment for any medical condition at all.  All of the evidence for Reiki is anecdotal, there is no objective scientific evidence that Reiki actually works, or is any better than just getting a good old-fashioned massage. It is extremely relaxing and in that way, at least, Reiki can and does make people feel better.

Overpriced & Unregulated

Reiki hand positionsI achieved Reiki II in 2 weekends. If I’d been willing to give up a year of weekends and pay out a lot of money, I could have become a Reiki Master myself, set up courses, a therapy centre and start charging for treatments.

I later discovered that the symbols and hand positions were ‘secret’ so people could charge a lot of money for sharing them.  Of course, had I been a tad savvier I would have saved all of that hard earned cash and just learnt the hand positions and symbols online, printed off a load of certificates, made up a lineage and called myself a Reiki Master.

Unethical? Yes. Illegal? Nope.

Currently in the UK we have voluntary self regulation for complementary therapies i.e. it is not compulsory. It is the person doing the Reiki who is regulated, not the Reiki itself, i.e. it is how they work and their interaction with the public.

The UK Reiki Federation

I’m not sure what credentials they have to actually regulate anyone but you can, of course, join (for a fee):

We are an independent federation of individuals who have been attuned to Reiki, with the objective of providing support and guidance to Reiki Professionals and to the public, with particular reference to education and training, and the public practice of Reiki.  (UK Reiki Federation)

This is obviously a group of people who care deeply about what they do and want to make this safe for everyone, especially the public.  They work closely with another organisation – The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

We were set up by the government to protect the public. We do this by providing a UK register of complementary health practitioners. Protection of the public is our sole purpose.

We set the standards that practitioners need to meet to get onto and then stay on the register. All CNHC registrants have agreed to be bound by the highest standards of conduct and have registered voluntarily. All of them are professionally trained and fully insured to practice.


The key wording here is, ‘registered voluntarily‘. That said, the  CNHC at least tries to provide a standard and a way of checking up on various practitioners, but this is a voluntary process. If someone chooses not to register, they can still practice Reiki if they want to.  Also, it is not clear what powers the CNHC have if you don’t meet their standards- they can throw you out I guess, but they have no legal right to stop you plying your trade.

Both groups essentially seem to be made up of good people who believe in this stuff and want to stop people from preying on the vulnerable.

I’ve known several Reiki practitioners who pride themselves on giving good quality, low-cost sessions to people without making outlandish claims so I know these people do exist.  Often these are people who have a deep-seated sense of service to the community. Sadly there are always the bad apples and some people are being charged – sometimes a lot of money – based on claims that something will ‘heal’ them when it won’t and this is, by definition,  preying on the vulnerable.  Far better to just say that it won’t heal you but an hour of blissful relaxation and having the complete focus of another person might do you the world of good.

It is worthwhile noting that the Advertising Standards Authority (in the UK) will give you a damn good slapped bottom if you make any kind of medical claims for Reiki, and rightly so.  However you might choose to market it, scientific it ain’t and at present, it remains yet another example of pseudoscience; basing an entire industry on the healing powers of a Universal Life Force which cannot be shown by any empirical means to actually exist.

It’s just my opinion!  Read my disclaimer!

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