With an estimated one million practitioners worldwide, Reiki is becoming a leading holistic therapy. Originally founded by Mikao Usui in the early 20th century in Japan, it has grown into numerous traditions under the Reiki umbrella. And from its roots as a system for spiritual development, it has blossomed into a method for healing a variety of ailments with energy. But could Reiki be used for more than healing?
Reiki can best be described as an energy medicine, and to understand what energy that is we look to the word reiki. The first part of the word, rei, is loosely translated to spiritually/universally guided; with the latter part, ki, meaning life force energy. As such reiki can be said to mean spiritually guided life force energy– it is energy from, and guided by, ‘the Source’. It is an intelligent, undiluted spiritual energy that flows where it is needed, and in just the right amount.
It is believed that illness, or dis-ease as it is often taught in Reiki therapy, is a result of an imbalance or blockage on the mental, emotional or spiritual level, that when left unattended, will manifest on the physical level. The energy channelled during a Reiki therapy session works almost in the same way as a tuning fork struck to the individual resonances of the various organs; be they on the physical or metaphysical level. The Reiki will flow to the places where it is most needed; releasing energy blockages and balancing the natural energy of an organ.
What is important to remember is that it’s widely accepted that not anyone can channel Reiki – you have to be attuned to channel Reiki. This is done through an initiatory ritual called ‘attunement’ whereby the Reiki therapy teacher clears student’s meridians (the energy highways of the body), creating a clear pathway for the Reiki to travel; as a Reiki practitioner is always only a vessel or conduit for the energy. The ritual of attunement differs from tradition to tradition, but each ritual adheres to the basic definition of any ritual: it is a symbolic act that is performed to bring about change. And on that level, the ritual of attunement is not very different to one performed by a magickal practitioner*.
There are many ideas of exactly what magick is, but at its most simplistic level it is one’s personal power that is raised for a specific purpose, and directed by one’s will/intent to bring about change. We all have this magick living within us and those that choose to harness it usually do so by ritual or spellcraft. During a ritual we raise our own spiritual energy in accordance with our will, and when we can contain it no more, it is released out into the world to create the desired change. And anyone who has danced around a circle, and fallen to the ground in merry exhaustion can tell you; raising energy for spellwork can be tiring. But what if there was an unlimited source of energy to draw from?
According to Pagan author and Reiki Master Christopher Penczak, there is an unlimited power source for our magickal work- Reiki. In his book Magick of Reiki (Llewellyn, 2009) Penczak says, “…they are facets of the same force, simply using a different mechanism, and the mechanisms themselves are not that different when closely examined.” He also claims that more magickal practitioners are seeking out Reiki training not for its healing benefits, but for the unlimited energy they can draw on for ritual. And in theory it does make sense- it is like choosing to power your ritual with a nuclear reactor as opposed to the little 9 volt battery you would normally use. But again, that is in theory; and only if you just look at the possibility at a glance.
Now if you remember, Reiki is described as being an intelligent energy; it goes where it is needed. That means you can’t direct it, and you can only act as a conduit for it. It is also taught within Reiki Therapy that the energy itself has inherent ‘safeguards’ built into it that prevents the energy from being used for anything that is not for the highest good.
What that means is if you were holding a ritual to protect your home from a pesky neighbour (as an example), and you decided to use Reiki to power your ritual, who’s to say that your ritual would work? If the Reiki decided that it was not needed in such an instance and you were not working for the highest good, then your ritual would not work; but again, this is only in theory.
So what happens when it comes to actual practice? As someone who is an Usui Reiki Master and a magickal practitioner, I have been testing out marrying the two. And just like any marriage, there was the honeymoon phase where everything seemed to just ‘work’, but that was for the small things: clearing a space, dressing a candle, cleansing ritual tools etc. But when it came to actually fuelling the spell with Reiki, it soon became a marriage where the spark is gone. It lacked the same intensity as if I had built up power for the spell myself; the emotion was missing and needless to say it didn’t have that feeling like you had really released anything out into the world.
But that was just my experience. I do still use Reiki to do the simple things like preparing for the ritual, dressing a candle, cleansing the necessary herbs and stones etc. However I still prefer to power my rituals with my little personal 9 volt battery of personal power. Who knows- someone else’s experience could be different, and I guess at the end of the day it depends on whether the Reiki is going to work with and your intentions.
* I will not get into the debate of low magick versus high magic, and which is considered to be superior of the two. Nor is this article concerned with ceremonial magicians and debates about definition- it is based on the simple hedgewitch brand that I personally practice.