copyright © 2011 Don Beckett

A LOT of people have been asking this question privately for at least a few years. The answer is not one that most of us are eager to acknowledge. We tend to brush it aside and go on with our own work. But suddenly I feel we need to acknowledge it, for the sake of people who are just beginning to learn about Reiki. We need to let them know what Reiki is and what it isn't — because many of them are being fooled, and led in harmful directions.

In many places and with many people, Reiki is getting a bad reputation. I know some Reiki teachers who have stopped teaching Reiki, precisely because they don't want to be associated with the pseudo-Reiki that is becoming more and more prevalent. One of my friends — who for years taught Reiki to Buddhist lamas in Nepal — stopped having anything to do with Reiki because she had heard stories of several "Reiki Masters" becoming demonically possessed and going crazy!

I assured her that, if those stories were true, it was not because the people were doing Reiki, it was because they were doing something that was definitely not Reiki. I offered her a Reiki session ... and, afterward, she said: "I had forgotten how good and clean this energy is!" The energy itself had shown her immediately that there could be nothing demonic or crazy-making about it!

And yet, there are indeed crazy and "demonic" (for lack of a better word) things going on in the world of pseudo-Reiki. Many people who believe they are doing Reiki are really doing much more of some kind of ritual magic. Somehow the simplicity and purity of Mikao Usui's "method for achieving personal perfection" — his method for "connecting with the ancestral Self" (and surrendering the personal will to the will of Self or Source) — have been cluttered with all sorts of unnecessary junk, at best, and warped into something completely unrecognizable, at worst.

One thing I've always loved about Reiki is the freedom to understand and teach it in my own way. And I've been willing to allow everyone else the same freedom, of course. I realize that Life is a perfectly self-balancing, self-regulating phenomenon; that we all get what we need, when we need it. (As the Beatles put it, so eloquently, 40+ years ago: There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be / It's easy!) For instance, teachers who charge a lot of money — they attract precisely the people who need to be charged a lot of money in order to believe something is valuable. Teachers who teach 49 different systems of Reiki (and each system having perhaps 49 different symbols) — they attract precisely the people who yearn for such complexity and such boatloads of information. And the rest of us, who like to keep things as simple as we can — we attract the students who like simplicity!

I feel tremendously fortunate to have started learning Reiki 20 years ago, when there were only a couple flavors of it available. If I were just now encountering Reiki for the first time, I would be completely overwhelmed by the number of Reiki systems and the oceans of Reiki information (and misinformation) swirling around. Therefore, with all due respect for the countless entities that are presented as Reiki nowadays, this article is intended to give aspiring Reiki students the simple basics of what Reiki is and what Reiki is not.

Reiki is:
a method of Self-realization (spiritual awakening), founded by Mikao Usui in the early 1900s. The secondary effect of it is healing, on all levels: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. The key ingredient, which gives this method its unique identity, is the awareness and use of a discernible, definable energy called Reiki — which is the subtlest, highest-vibrational energy in the physical dimension. In other words, the first physical manifestation of pure Source (and Reiki connects us to pure Source-energy, called Shinki).

Reiki is:
a method of not-doing. We "do" Reiki by giving our attention to the energy, making no personal effort, and surrendering our personal will to the Source of All That Is. We do not try to manipulate or control the outcome; we trust that the Source of All That Is (which created us and everything else) is better informed and wiser than our personal self.

Reiki is NOT:
a method for imposing our personal will on anything or anyone. It's not a magic potion for acquiring a new job, a new house, a new spouse, or an "A" in school. We can apply Reiki to any of those things — but only by surrendering our personal will and accepting the natural outcome. This goes for using Reiki as a "healing treatment" also; we don't diagnose conditions, and we don't try to "fix" anything. Removing a symptom is not always the best thing, and we must admit that we don't always know what's best. Therefore, we don't try to control the result of the Reiki application.

THIS IS EXACTLY where the distinction between Reiki and pseudo-Reiki comes in. Mikao Usui created a very simple system, which relied on alignment with the divine order of Life — not on developing or imposing one's personal will. But, since then, many people have taken "Reiki" farther and farther into the territory of personal will and manipulation. Truly hundreds of "Reiki" systems have now been invented. About all that's missing is Baba-Ghanouj Reiki ... or French-Fries-And-A-Coke Reiki. And, what differentiates any of these from the others?

If they are truly using Reiki (the energy), then they are all using the same Reiki energy that Usui used. There is only one "Reiki" energy. But, what differentiates these other systems from Usui's is all the stuff they have added. Mantras, yantras, mudras, all sorts of "magic" rituals and "Spirit Guides" ... and lots and lots of symbols. The more symbols, the better — because, until about 10 years ago, everyone except a small number of people in Japan had the mistaken belief that the Reiki Symbols were the very sine qua non of the Usui method (which could not have been farther from the truth). So, lots of people got into the business of "channeling" additional Reiki Symbols and creating new flavors of Reiki. As if we needed a different Reiki system (with a different set of symbols) for every different thing we wanted to accomplish....

THE WHOLE notion of us accomplishing something is exactly where the Reiki train began to come off the track. Remember, Reiki is not about us manipulating or imposing or accomplishing anything — it's about aligning and surrendering our personal self to the will of the divine Self, the creative Source of All That Is.

I'm so grateful to have known and spent some time with a Reiki teacher named Barb Emerson — especially for one particular thing that she said. I heard her say this many times, and it comes to mind frequently ... because it was so well said, and because it is an eternal truth. What she said was: "Once you're connected to the Source of everything, how much MORE connected can you get?"

Please, listen again: "Once you're connected to the Source of everything, how much MORE connected can you get?" How many mantras, yantras, symbols, and magic spells do you need, if you're connected to the Source of All That Is...? Just connect to the Source and let the Source come through you! The Beatles were right — "It's EASY!!" : ^ )

What has happened, however — in Reiki, as in many other things — is that we have taken something simple and easy and natural and divine, and encrusted it in countless layers of complexity and ego and personal will. This would be dangerous enough if the ego and personal will were aimed solely at accomplishing healing effects — but, no, it goes wayyyy beyond that! Some of us found it a little creepy when "psychic surgery" was added to Reiki. Well, guess what — there are now "Reiki" people making "psychic attacks"...!! (In fact, they've been doing it for years — and the rest of us have been too polite to mention it in public.)

You think I'm kidding? It goes even farther. The people making these attacks didn't dream up the idea on their own; they were taught to do it by their "Reiki Masters" (some of whom are quite well-known, in fact). These "Reiki Masters" are teaching, in their books and classes, exactly how to cause mayhem and damage in other people's energy fields!

This is Reiki??? NO — this is WITCHCRAFT — and calling it something else doesn't change the reality of it.

    'Cause it's witchcraft,
    Crazy wicked witchcraft,
    And although I know it's strictly taboo....

They know it's taboo, but they can't resist the temptation to impose their will on others — secretly, remotely, energetically. It gives them the false notion of being in control, having POWER. How can they not see that this "power" is nothing but insanity? If continued long enough, this path leads exactly to the "demonic" possession and craziness mentioned earlier.

Attempting to justify their actions, some of these people claim that they are making "psychic attacks" only on people who have first attacked them; they are only trying to defend themselves! And how do they know that someone has attacked them? Oh, they suddenly feel dizzy, or they get a headache! Hmmm — Really?? And how do they know WHO has attacked them? They close their eyes and try to "see" the person responsible. Hmmmmm.... (Of course, these people believe they are infallibly clairvoyant in the first place — they couldn't possibly make a mistake! It couldn't be that the person they "see" just happens to be someone they dislike.) Then, having "identified" the culprit, they unleash their very best witchcraft on him/her....

This would all be just comical, except that people are actually getting hurt by it. Some friends of mine have been threatened with attacks, and some of them seem indeed to have been attacked. And the attacks on them were definitely not defensive, because my friends had not attacked anyone.

Does this kind of stuff have any place whatsoever in Reiki? (It's a rhetorical question; the answer is very obviously NO!)

But, people are getting hurt — either from the fear of being attacked, or from actually being attacked. And the people who are being damaged even more are, of course, the ones making the attacks. How can they claim to have learned Reiki — which teaches the absolute ONENESS of us all (therefore, whatever we do to anyone, we do to ourselves) — and then engage in such destructive behavior...? (It's another rhetorical question: The only answer is insanity.)

SO ... what can the rest of us do about this? Do we need special techniques for "psychic protection"? Let's go back to the words of Barb Emerson, one more time: "Once you're connected to the Source of everything...." Once we have aligned and surrendered our personal self to the infinite, omnipotent Source (using Mikao Usui's Reiki method, for instance), and as long as we keep that alignment, what more protection could we possibly need or even imagine? We only have to stay aware of our true identity as extensions of infinite, omnipotent Source, and let the Source come through us.

How can anyone be so deluded as to believe that he/she (along with any number of conspirators) could ever possibly hurl enough ego and personal will (no matter how many "magic spells" adorn it) even to threaten (forget about harming!) the one and only Source, the one true Self...? Again, the only answer is: insanity. Just think of it: It's like a mosquito attacking the Sun!

People do get hurt by these things, though — because they forget their true identity. They forget that no one has the right to mess with their energy unless they allow it. And they allow it, unconsciously, by falling into the trap of FEAR. Anyone on Earth who is imposing his/her will on anyone else is doing so through fear. Fear is, first of all, the motivation for wanting to impose one's will on someone else ... and fear is the tool for accomplishing it.

As someone very perceptively noted, FEAR = False Expectations Appearing Real. If we fall into fear, our false expectations can become reality. If we believe that someone can psychically attack us, then we allow it and make it real. If we stay centered in our true identity, in oneness with the Source, then we stay safe and healthy.

It would be nice if we could help the people who are making these attacks — help them see the insanity of it. But they seem to believe themselves Masters Of The Universe. And apparently they haven't noticed that their personal universe is collapsing around them already. It will continue to do so — just as everything built on fear and delusion and personal will is collapsing nowadays — and the speed of collapse will accelerate. So, maybe this will all resolve itself before too much longer.

Until it does, in case you're wondering whether you've found real Reiki or not: If it's about controlling and manipulating, and personal "power" — it's not Reiki.

UPDATE ~ 8 November 2011:

Since writing this article, I've received a few comments from practitioners of witchcraft, saying that my characterization of witchcraft was inaccurate. One person (not a witch) directed me to a book, Magick of Reiki by Christopher Penczak, which indeed seems a perfect source of information, since it deals with both Reiki and Magick/Witchcraft. "In a formal magickal tradition," says Penczak, "practitioners focus their intention and will to create a change through the acts of ritual. Each ritual is used to create a 'spell' or a specific act of magick." ... "These magickal rituals can be found in the traditions of witchcraft throughout the centuries as well as the modern revival of witchcraft and paganism."

Christopher Penczak practices both Magick and Reiki — though, from what I read in his book, his Reiki is what I call pseudo-Reiki. It exemplifies exactly what my article refers to: the practice of Reiki as a system of ritual magic. Like so many others, Penczak has been taught to use the Reiki symbols as "magick" symbols! This way of using them goes back as far as Hawayo Takata, if not also to her teacher Dr. Hayashi (even though, to my knowledge, they did not use the word "magic" or "magick"). Having initially learned Takata-style Reiki myself, I too was taught to use the Reiki symbols in this way — but Reiki's founder, Mikao Usui, taught something very different!

Considering Penczak's descriptions of Reiki, Magick, and Witchcraft, it could be said that pseudo-Reiki itself is a form of witchcraft (because it uses "magick" symbols). My mistake in "What is Happening to Reiki?" was that I gave the impression that all witchcraft is harmful (as in "psychic attacks"). That was wrong, and I hereby apologize for it. In fact, Penczak implies that most witchcraft respects Divine Will and carries the intent of doing no harm. "According to the ethics of magick in its various forms, you send out only what you would want to receive, so you do no harm to others, because you would want no harm done to you."

So — those who are doing "psychic attacks" are not only not doing Reiki, they are not doing legitimate witchcraft either. Maybe we should call it pseudo-witchcraft . . . .

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Author's Bio: 

Don Beckett is internationally respected as a teacher of Reiki and Jourei – two subtle energies (and methods of using them) that bring about healing (physical, emotional, mental) and spiritual awakening. His book Reiki, The True Story is a much-needed look at the history and practice of Reiki as revealed by students of Mikao Usui (the founder) himself – plus Don's insights after 17 years in Reiki. Comprehensive and thoroughly documented, Reiki, The True Story is used by many as a Reiki teaching manual.

Don has been practicing Reiki since 1991, teaching and initiating others since 1999. In 2000 he became a member of Johrei Fellowship. In 2006 he was authorized to teach Quan Yin Joray. In 2010 he began teaching his own system of Jourei. Many of Don's students are in faraway places. They find him through his website Reiki, Shinki, Macrobiotics, and correspond by email. He also has taught many students in person – in the U.S., Bali, Romania, Turkey, Italy, and Serbia.

Don's latest project is working with the spiritual energy of Shinki ("God-energy" or "Source-energy"), via The Shinki Method, co-founded with Dragan Pavlovic of Serbia.