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Reiki - A Degree of Concern
by Chris Williams - Master in the Usui System of Natural Healing

What is Reiki?

Reiki (pronounced 'Ray-Key') is an ancient art of healing by touch. 'Rei' meaning Universal and 'Ki', meaning the life-force energy within us, thus Reiki is the integration of this universal energy within the physical body. It re-establishes our natural ability to use this healing energy through a series of four attunements, which are given by a Reiki Master in a First Degree class. Some people go on to do Second Degree, in which some of the sacred symbols of Reiki are given; it is working at a deeper level and enabling a wider range of applications; then finally there is the 'Master's' level which traditionally has involved a very deep commitment to a spiritual journey enabling a person to initiate other s into Reiki.

A Short History

Reiki was rediscovered in its present form by Dr Usui, a teacher in a Christian boy's school in the latter part of the last century. He was the founder of the present lineage. After extensive travel, meditation and research into ancient Sanskrit teachings he received a revelation on top of a sacred mountain from which he evolved 'The Usui System of Natural Healing'. He then dedicated the rest of his life to the teaching and practice of Reiki. At the end of his life he entrusted the safe-keeping of Reiki to Dr Hayashi who in turn passed it onto Mrs Takata. She took it to Hawaii and then to the rest of the USA in the 1970's. Mrs Takata gave treatments almost every days for thirty-five years and in the last eight years of her life she initiated twenty-two Reiki Masters. At the time of her death in 1980, nineteen of these twenty-two Reiki Masters independently recognised her grand-daughter Phylis Furumoto as the current lineage carrier or 'Grand Master'. The 'Reiki Alliance' was then formed in 1983, which is an international organisation of independent Reiki Masters set up to support each other in their teaching and their spiritual journey, and to ensure that the tradition evolved by Dr Usui is kept intact.

'Instant' Reiki Masters'

Reiki has only been around in this country for less than ten years and up until 1994 there were perhaps 50 or so Reiki Masters. In the last eighteen months there has been an explosion in the number of people have taken Reiki. During this period there have also been (my guess) upwards of 400 new Reiki Masters trained in the UK on 'cheap' week-end courses mainly by Masters who have flown in from the USA. Most of them are not members of the Reiki Alliance, nor are they even aware of its standards. Some of these new Masters have in turn initiated other Masters. Many are offering extra symbols channelled by 'ascended masters' or giving 'the lost symbols of Reiki' or even symbols channelled directly from Dr Usui himself!

There is some considerable concern in the Reiki Alliance community about the cascading effects of 'Instant Reiki Masters', cheap workshops, First and Second Degree, even Master's being taught at the same time. It is apparent that this has lead to the dilution of the quality of the teaching and of the relationship between the initiating master and the student.

The sad fact is that the title 'Reiki Master' does not necessarily mean very much to-day, it has been devalued because people can now be 'trained' in a week-end workshop. There is no guarantee that this person has done the difficult 'inner work', or has any more spiritual understanding than anyone else. There is a deep need growing for a solidness of experience, training and commitment. I see this demand arising everywhere as I travel around the country.

Spiritual Consumerism

As an example of the sort of thing that is happening now, I had a very difficult time at a recent conference on the Healing Arts in Bradford. The first two speakers were a couple of 'Reiki Masters' who in their talk misleadingly didn't convey what Reiki is; they then performed 'spiritual attunements' on the stage. I spent much of the rest of the day process ing why I was feeling so much discomfort and distress. Finally I realised what it was about - people were being 'conned' - they were being offered a short-cut to self-realisation without having to do the 'inner work'- and it just doesn't work like that. For me 'healing' happens when I can accept myself and all my feelings; especially those that come from the broken and shadow parts of myself. Being a Reiki Master is for me about holding people in their spiritual journey. How can a Reiki Master 'hold' anyone who has flown in to initiate a group of people with whom they have no connection, and then fly off, never to be seen again; it looks like one-night stand to me! It upsets me that this is becoming the norm. It's indicative of our consumer culture. We greedily consume anything and everything we can get our hands on, without discrimination. We've become desperate to fill the emptiness that gnaws at our innards. Anything to take the terrible pain away. It's time to stop, be still, and reflect.

Spiritual Prostitution or Spiritual Marriage?

What I feel is crucial to be aware of at this time is that whilst Reiki is a profound tool for personal empowerment and transformation, it is now being used as a 'commodity', by people wishing to buy and sell instant spirituality. Another example of this phenomenon is that I have received phone calls from complete strangers asking me how much I charge for 'Master's' level? I have felt shocked, upset and angry at their implied assumption that I will initiate anyone who has the money, no questions asked: nothing less than a form of spiritual prostitution! For me, initiating another Reiki Master is analogous to entering into a 'spiritual marriage' for life.

Choosing a Reiki Master

If you feel drawn to explore what Reiki is, where do you go? If you want to benefit from all that Reiki has to offer then I invite you to choose carefully. In taking a First Degree Reiki class you are going to trust someone to carry out a spiritual opening or initiation. That's quite a big step and not one to take lightly. In much the same way you wouldn't just go to bed with anyone, would you? What are the criteria that you use in choosing a friend or lover? For me there is something about their 'presence' that I am attracted to, some inner beauty or spark. In choosing my own Reiki Master with whom I took First, Second and Master's level with, it was something about her honesty, integrity and her depth of understanding. Here was someone I could trust and would hold me in my spiritual journey with Reiki. For me Reiki is about 'healing': that process of becoming a whole human being, so I can realise and manifest my potential and create the world that I want. I knew people who had been trained by Marta, and knew that they trusted her. I had received treatment from some of her students prior to taking a class myself. It was a gradual process of gaining trust and confidence.

At its simplest level Reiki is about hands-on healing which even a child can do - my nine year old daughter has had First Degree for two years, she has discovered ways of using Reiki that work for her - it's a very natural and integrated part of her life. The depths we go to with Reiki will depend on our willingness and readiness to practise it. Thus, at a deeper level Reiki becomes a profound spiritual discipline. It is in that practice, as your life unfolds, often in unexpected ways that you may need the support and guidance of your teacher, especially if the going gets rough.

Again, I invite you to choose carefully.


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