Reiki, Thomas Merton and Richard Foster
A mystical pragmatism is growing particularly fast through various New Age healing techniques. One such procedure is called Reiki (pronounced ray-key), a Japanese word that translates to Universal Life Energy or God energy. It has also been referred to as the radiance technique. Reiki is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist healing system, rediscovered by a Japanese man in the 1800s, that only recently has come to the West.
The Reiki technique consists of placing the hands on the recipient and then activating the energy to flow through the practitioner and into the recipient. One practitioner describes the experience in the following way:
When doing it, I become a channel through which this force, this juice of the universe, comes pouring from my palms into the body of the person I am touching, sometimes lightly, almost imperceptibly, sometimes in famished sucking drafts. I get it even as I'm giving it. It surrounds the two of us, patient and practitioner.1
What is this "juice of the universe?" The answer is an important one, given by a renowned Reiki master who explains:
A Reiki attunement is an initiation into a sacred metaphysical order that has been present on earth for thousands of years ... By becoming part of this group, you will also be receiving help from the Reiki guides and other spiritual beings who are also working toward these goals.2
While this is not widely advertised, Reiki practitioners depend on this "spirit guide" connection as an integral aspect of Reiki. In fact, it is the very foundation and energy behind Reiki. One Reiki master who has enrolled hundreds of other masters spoke of her interaction with the spirit guides:
For me, the Reiki guides make themselves the most felt while attunements are being passed. They stand behind me and direct the whole process, and I assume they also do this for every Reiki Master. When I pass attunements, I feel their presence strongly and constantly. Sometimes I can see them.3
A Christian's initial response to this information might be, "So what? I don't travel in those circles, so it does not concern me." This nonchalant viewpoint would be valid except for the fact that Reiki is currently growing to enormous proportions and in some very influential circles. (It may even be in your local hospitals, schools, and youth organizations.) It is essential to know that many nurses, counselors, and especially massage therapists use Reiki as a supplement to their work. It is often promoted as a complementary service.
Even more significant are the numbers involved in this practice. Examine the following figures to catch just a glimpse of the growing popularity of Reiki. In 1998, there were approximately 33,000 Reiki listings on the Internet. Today that number, on some search engines, constitutes nearly 5,000,000 listings. [In less than a decade] that number has increased 150 fold!... [T]here are now over one million Reiki practitioners in the U.S. One Reiki master delightfully noted this surge of interest when he stated:
Over the years, there has been a shift in the belief system of the general public, allowing for greater acceptance of alternative medicine. As a result, we are seeing a growing interest in Reiki from the public at large. People from all backgrounds are coming for treatments and taking classes.4
One very revealing statistic involves Louisville, Kentucky, where 102 people were initiated into Reiki in just a single weekend.5 This denotes a large number of people are drawn to Reiki in the Bible belt, traditionally a conservative part of America.
It is important to understand the way in which Reiki is presented to the public at large. Despite its underlying metaphysical foundation, when one reads the literature put out by Reiki practitioners it is not at all apparent. One Reiki master who runs a day spa repeatedly uses words like comfort and nurture in her brochure. Reiki is something that will give you pleasure. Another woman who is a professional counselor tells her potential clients that Reiki will give them deep relaxation and reduce pain. Again and again these same themes emerge from promotional literature on Reiki--relaxation, well-being, reduce illness, reduce stress, balance your mind, etc. How can one say that Reiki is bad when it claims to help people?
The reason for this level of acceptance is easy to understand. Most people, many Christians included, believe if something is spiritually positive then it is of God. A pastor friend of mine recounted a situation in which a Christian, who had some physical problems, turned to Reiki for comfort. When this pastor advised the man that Reiki fundamentally opposed the Christian faith he became furious and responded with the following defense, "How can you say this is bad when it helped me?" That is why I titled [a chapter in my book] "Discernment." To discern is to "test the spirits" (1 John 4:1). If something is of God it will conform to the very cornerstone of God's plan to show His grace through Christ Jesus and Him alone (Ephesians 2:7). Reiki, as I defined earlier, is based on the occult view of God.
This assessment of Reiki is beyond question. Every Reiki book I have ever seen is chock full of pronouncements that back up the point I am trying to make. In The Everything Reiki Book, the following clears up any doubt about Reiki's incompatibility with Christianity:
During the Reiki attunement process, the avenue that is opened within the body to allow Reiki to flow through also opens up the psychic communication centers. This is why many Reiki practitioners report having verbalized channeled communications with the spirit world. (emphasis mine)6
What is even more disturbing is that the Reiki channeler may not even have control over this "energy" as the following comment shows:
Nurses and massage therapists who have been attuned to Reiki may never disclose when Reiki starts flowing from their palms as they handle their patients. Reiki will naturally "kick in" when it is needed and will continue to flow for as long as the recipient is subconsciously open to receiving it.7
Another such method is Therapeutic Touch. Like Reiki, it is based on the occultic chakra system, portrayed as the seven energy centers in the body aligned with spiritual forces. The seventh chakra identifies with the God-in-all view. Therapeutic Touch is widely practiced by nurses in clinics and hospitals. It is seen as a helpful and healing adjunct to nursing care.
If the connection between Reiki healing and other metaphysical practices can be seen, then we more fully understand why the following quote is one of the most powerful statements as to the true nature of contemplative prayer. A Reiki master in the course of promoting the acceptance of this method relayed:
Reiki comes from Buddhism, and as one Merton scholar wrote, "The God he [Merton] knew in prayer was the same experience that Buddhists describe in their enlightenment."9
Anyone familiar with the work of ... or the thought of ... [she then listed a string of notable New Age writers with Thomas Merton right in the center of them] will find compatibility and resonance with the theory and practices of Reiki.8
This is why it is so important to understand the connection between the writings of Richard Foster and Brennan Manning with Merton. Promotion indicates attachment, and attachment indicates common ground. Something is terribly wrong when a Reiki master and two of the most influential figures in the evangelical church today both point to the same man as an example of their spiritual path. (from chapter 5, A Time of Departing) To understand more about the connection between Foster, Manning, and Merton, read A Time of Departing in its entirety.
1."Healing Hands" (New Woman Magazine, March, 1986), p. 78.
2. William Rand, Reiki: The Healing Touch (Southfield, MI: Vision Pub.,1991), p. 48.
3. Diane Stein, Essential Reiki (Berkley, CA: Crossing Press, 1995), p. 107.
4. William Lee Rand, "Reiki, A New Direction" (Reiki News, Spring 1998, http://www.reiki.org/reikinews/reikinewdir.html, accessed 12/2005), p. 4.
5. Reiki News, Winter, 1998, p. 5.
6. Phylameana lila Desy, The Everything Reiki Book (Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2004), p.144.
7. Ibid., p. 270.
8. Janeanne Narrin, One Degree Beyond: A Reiki Journey into Energy Medicine (Seattle, WA: Little White Buffalo, 1998), p.xviii.
9. Brian C. Taylor, Setting the Gospel Free (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing , 1996), p. 76.