Reiki Myths

Reiki healing in Helena MT

Currently, there is an incredible amount of information one can find on the internet and in published books about the spiritual/healing art of Reiki. When I first became attuned to Reiki in 1980 there were no books available on the subject and, believe it or not, no internet. Reiki was taught orally as was the Western tradition back then.


Some Masters, in their classes did not allow notetaking, tape recording or removal of any documentation from their classes. In the class I attended, there were little or no handouts and those of us trying to learn, scribbled down our notes as fast as we could. I still retain my original notes with crude figure drawings of hand positions and how to treat certain ailments from Ethel Lombardi's Reiki Level One workshop.

I was thrilled when the first Reiki book came out in 1982. A paperback by Larry Arnold and Sandy Nevius entiltled "The Reiki Handbook". The teachings of Hawayo Takata, who brought Reiki to the Western World, was finally in print and I could refresh my memories of what I was told.


It wasn't until two decades later, when I was asked to start teaching, that I delved into whatever Reiki sources were available.  I visited numerous websites, read many books and Googled news articles on Reiki during my intense research.  My goal was to put together the most accurate manual I could to teach from.  What I found surprised me.  The teachings I received regarding the history of Reiki has subsequently been revealed, through evidence based research, to contain exaggerations and false ideas.  I found out that several authors, including William Lee Rand, Frank Arjava Petter and his wife, Chetna Kobayashi, actually traveled back to Japan in the 1990's to discover as much as they could about Mikao Usui and how he founded Reiki.  For more on this see:  History of Reiki.  It was they that discovered that Hawayo Takata's teaching stories about the history of Reiki were not quite accurate.  Given that, I would like to share some of their findings and dispel some of the myths about Reiki that still abound, propagated as truths and are repeated endlessly, passed down from teacher to student.  Other myths noted here are what I consider urban legends, simply someone's opinion repeated enough times until they were regarded as fact. 

-- Jay Pocius

Myths and misconceptions about Reiki:

Reiki came from Tibet and was a buddhist healing method

  • Reiki has nothing to do with Tibet and Mikao Usui did not ‘discover’ Reiki by reading ancient Tibetan Buddhist sutras.

  • Here is such a well researched and comprehensive article on this topic, I thought I would just link to it:  Reiki - Tibetan Origins?



 Mikao Usui was a doctor and a Christian Minister

  • Mikao Usui was never a doctor.  He never studied to become a doctor and there is no documentation of him ever being called by this title.  It is likely to be an inaccurate translation by Hawayo Takata when she translated the respectful term of sensei into English. [1]

  • Mikao Usui  was born a Tendai Buddhist, not a Christian and became a lay Tendai priest called a zaike.  Christianity was actually outlawed in Japan at the time Mikao Usui was born.  Hawayo Takata probably added this information as a reaction to the anti-Japanese sentiment in America during and after World War II. [1]


There is a 'grand master' of Reiki

  • The term "Grandmaster" in relation with Reiki came into being with the advent of the Reiki Alliance.  Phyllis Lei Furumoto, Hawayo Takata's Granddaughter, received the title 'Office of the Grandmaster' from this association in 1983-4.  This term was never used by Mikao Usui or Chujiro Hayashi.  It should be noted that there are many more non-Alliance practitioners than Alliance practitioners.  Most Reiki practitioners, Reiki Level One through Master Level do not generally consider Phyllis Lei Furumoto to be their lineage bearer or Grandmaster. [1]



Mikao Usui was a past president of Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan and attended the University of Chicago

  • According to a letter written to William Rand in 1991 from Itsuro Nishida, head of Public Services Center for Academic Information, Doshisha University....."Mikao Usui...was never the president of Doshisha" [2]

  • According to a letter written to William Rand in 1990 from Maxine H. Sullivan, University Registrar, University of Chicago....."Our records do not indicate that Mikao Usui ever attended the University of Chicago" [2]



  Reiki should not be offered to those who have been diagnosed with cancer

  • The idea here, of which their is no evidence, is that Reiki will ‘feed the cancer’.  Reiki is safe and simply has no documented harmful side effects.

  • Most studies demonstrated some inhibitory effects of bioenergy therapies on the growth of cancer cells in comparison with control. The in vivo studies reported that the bio-energy treated group had significantly slower tumor growth or longer survival lives than those in the control. [3]

  • Now regarded as a quality treatment program by such previous skeptics as the American Cancer Society, Reiki is getting the attention it deserves concerning its application as a panacea to a variety of bodily ills. Partially in thanks to the work and authority of Dr. Mehmet Oz, sufferers of cancer can now benefit from Reiki’s many effects on bodily dysfunction and stress reduction, to provide themselves a low key way of relieving their symptoms and suppressing cancer growth.  Perhaps this is the most appealing aspect to cancer patients.  Weeks, months, or even years of harsh treatments make the need for a non-invasive, relaxing and effective treatment regimen all the greater.  Many patients find that Reiki eases their nausea, most especially after chemotherapy, and prefer it to introducing to their livers another pill or medicine designed to reduce chemotherapy related sickness.  The benefits of Reiki on a cancer sufferer, do not hinge solely on comfort, however, and the real life efficacy of a qualified Reiki practitioner has been shown to consistently reduce inflammation in the body.  From mesothelioma to even blood cancers such as lymphoma, the main culprit in contributing to the growth and spread of cancer is rampant inflammation. [4]



Reiki should not be offered to pregnant women or those with a pacemaker

  • Here are yet more contraindications that has no basis in fact.  I have personally treated several pregnant women and even attuned one to Master Level with absolutely no ill effects.  I was also honored to attend a woman in labor, offering Reiki the whole time right up to birth of a very healthy baby.  Oh, of course, mama did fine as well.  If Reiki were a problem for pregnant women then we would not be able to treat any women of childbearing age since it is possible to be pregnant without knowing it yet. Rest assured, Reiki treatments can be given to pregnant women and pregnant women can be attuned to Reiki.  See article: Reiki for Pregnancy.

  • There is not a shred of evidence, either anecdotal or otherwise, to suggest that pacemakers are adversely affected by a Reiki treatment.  Again, I have personally treated those with pacemakers who actually felt better and had no adverse effects.  Reiki can safely be used to treat people with pacemakers.  Reiki can be taught safely as well to people with pacemakers.



You need to believe in Reiki for it to work

  • In truth, you don’t need to believe in Reiki for it to work for you.  After treating innumerable people, I have noted that all you need is to be open to healing, and be willing to accept the energy offered. 

  • People can refuse the energy and put up energetic barriers to a healing effort.  These folks would not likely find themselves on a Reiki table.  A practitioner will certainly know if this happens as the energy is not flowing.  This would probably not happen during a treatment as all recipients will have agreed to accept the energy.  However, I have students practice this as an exercise in class to see what it feels like. 

  • Animals cannot tell us whether they believe or not, nor are they subject to any type of placebo effect.  Yet they are certainly able to benefit from Reiki treatments offered to them and have.



To practice Reiki you need to work with crystals, angels or have a spirit guide

  • Many independent Reiki Master Teachers have incorporated these teachings in their coursework as being part of Reiki. 

  • These are new age concepts and have nothing to do with Mikao Usui's original work or teachings. 

  • The fundamental concept of Reiki is to just let the energy flow to the recipient without attachment to outcome and without ego.  Remember, the energy is doing the work.  Neither crystals, angels nor spirit guides are necessary. 

  • Given that, I see no reason why spirit guides or angels can't be called in to assist with the healing.  In essence they are doing the same thing as the practitioner, facilitating the flow of energy from Source.  Crystals as well, may aid in the healing, giving of their own energetic essence.  But again, none of these are needed or necessary for a successful Reiki treatment and are not taught in any of my Reiki workshops.



Practitioners offering Reiki treatments never get sick

  • Just as medical doctors come down with all sorts of ailments, so do Reiki practitioners. 

  • We are human and subject to the environmental stresses, bacterial and viral infections, accidents, etc that affect all of us. 

  • We do however, use the tools at hand (no pun intended) to help alleviate the negative health issues in which we sometimes find ourselves. 

  • Self treatment is one of the fundamental topics taught in a Reiki Level One class. 

  • We also have access to a healing circle in which we work on each other to maintain our heath in the best way possible.



Reiki is a religion

  • Reiki is a spiritual as well as a healing art, not a religion.

  • There is no religious dogma taught ever. 

  • Reiki is taught and practiced around the world in many different cultures and does not conflict with the religion of the practitioner or recipient.



The Reiki practitioner 'heals' the Reiki treatment recipient

  • A Reiki practitioner is only the conduit for the healing energy to flow from the Source of all there is (Life Force) to the recipient. 

  • The practitioner does not guide or push the energy in. 

  • Recipients draw what they need through the practioner via the various hand positions. 

  • The energy is doing all the work.  If anything, the practitioner is the facilitator for the healing to take place. 

  • The recipient's body, taking in and utilizing the healing energy, is the real healer here. 



Reiki is a massage therapy

  • Simply not true.  Reiki and Massage Therapy are two distinctly different disciplines.

  • Reiki is an energy-based therapy that does not involve manipulating bones or tissues.

  • During a Reiki treatment, practitioners hands are either lightly touching or just above the body.  When practitioners hands are moved to a different position, they are lifted up, rather than slid across the recipient.

  • Massage Therapy requires a recipient to disrobe while Reiki clients are fully dressed, except for shoes.

  • Now, there are times when a Massage Therapist is also a Reiki Practitioner and with the consent of the client can perform both techniques during the same session.



Giving Reiki to others depletes the Reiki practitioner's own energy

  • Since the Reiki Practitioner never uses their own energy, there is nothing to deplete.

  • Healing energy from the source flows through the practitioner to the recipient as needed.  Source energy (Universal Life Force) is infinite and never runs out.

  • The practitioner actually receives this energy along with the recipient so they become energized rather than depleted.



One Reiki treatment will permanently heal you

  • While it is true that a one time Reiki treatment may result in a remarkable permanent healing, issues that are chronic may require several sessions.  Several treatments may be needed also if the recipient reverts back to unhealthy habits or thoughts which exacerbates their health issue(s) in a negative way. 

  • Reiki is not to be considered a quick fix.  It is not a drug, which may make you feel better faster and address the symptoms, but could have devastating side effects. 

  • Reiki is holistic and works with natural body rhythms, systems and balance to affect a healing of the cause in its own time, it is a process.



Reiki is the same as any other energy therapy

Here's why this might be confusing.  The term 'Reiki' is used to describe not only the energy involved but the biofield energy discipline as well. 


  • The energy connected to during a Reiki treatment session has been described by many other names such as prana in India, pneuma in Greece, elan vital by Henri Bergson in France, chi in China, orgone by Wilhelm Reich and ki in Japan.  The Reiki kanji has been interpreted to mean:  Rei - spiritual aspect and ki - vital energy.  This life energy, recognized the world over is the living energy that sustains the existence of organs, cells, tissue, and blood in all living creatures.  It pervades everything, human, animal, plants, minerals; sentient as well as insentient.  This life force is considered our connective flow to the creator. [5]


The biofield energy disciplines which access or connect to this energy may look the same, however they are different in their approach, perspective and origins.  I offer a brief description of each:


  • Reiki, the spiritual healing art was founded by Mikao Usui in Japan in 1922.  It differs from other modalities in that it is made up of five elements - precepts (guidelines), techniques, hands-on healing, symbols and mantras, and a blessing called reiju or attunement.  The attunement enables a reconnection to one's true self and a clearing of the meridians allowing the student to conduct more energy through the body.  Reiki is considered not only a healing modality but a spiritual practice that supports personal development.  Working with the five elements of the system of Reiki stimulates Reiki energy to flow in the body.  Of course the recipient already has energy but often it is not flowing easily; blockages caused by injury, disease, negative thinking, etc., may be clogging it up, obstructing its flow.  One of the most wonderful things about the system of Reiki is that practitioners do not direct the energy or manipulate it in anyway.  It is about being open and letting go, allowing one to draw on the energy that is offered and take what is needed.  You may not know what is best for you, but your body does. [6]


  • Healing Touch was developed by founder Janet Mentgen, RN, BSN, HTCP/I, HNC in 1989.  She was an energetically sensitive nurse.  Healing Touch is an energy therapy in which practitioners consciously use their hands in a heart-centered and intentional way to support and facilitate physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.  Healing Touch is a biofield therapy that is an energy-based approach to health and healing. [7]


  • Therapeutic Touch was developed by Dora Kunz, a theosophy promoter and one-time president (1975–1987) of the Theosophical Society in America and Dolores Krieger, a nursing educator at New York University and is considered to be a contemporary healing modality drawn from ancient practices.  The practice is based on the assumptions that human beings are complex fields of energy, and that the ability to enhance healing in another is a natural potential. Therapeutic Touch (TT) is used to balance and promote the flow of human energy. [8]


  • Jin Shin Jytsu® physio-philosophy is an ancient art of harmonizing the life energy in the body. Born of innate wisdom and passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth, the Art had fallen into relative obscurity when it was dramatically revived in the early 1900's by Master Jiro Murai in Japan. The resulting knowledge of Jin Shin Jyutsu was then given to Mary Burmeister, who brought it to the United States in the 1950's. Mary Burmeister began teaching the Art to others in the early 1960's. [9]


  • Quantum-Touch® was developed by Richard Gordon after learning the technique from Bob Rasmusson in 1978.  It teaches simple breathing and body awareness exercises that can be easily learned by everyone.  A practitioner learns to focus and amplify life-force energy, which is most often referred to as “Chi” or “Prana”. This is accomplished by combining various breathing and body awareness exercises. When the practitioner holds a high vibrational field of life-force energy around an affected area, through a process of resonance and entrainment, the client naturally matches the vibration of the practitioner, allowing one’s own biological intelligence to do whatever healing it deems necessary. [10]


  • QiGong's documented history goes back approximately 2,500 years. However Chinese archaeologists and historians have found references to qigong-like techniques at least five thousand years old.  Qigong (also spelled Ch'i Kung) is a powerful system of healing and energy medicine from China. It is the art and science of using breathing techniques, gentle movement, and meditation to cleanse, strengthen, and circulate the life energy (qi). Qigong practice leads to better health and vitality and a tranquil state of mind. In the past, qigong was also called nei gong (inner work) and dao yin (guiding energy). [11]




(1)  The Reiki Sourcebook by Bronwen and Frans Stiene
(2)  The Spirit of Reiki by Walter Lubeck, Frank Arjava Petter, William Lee Rand
Inhibitory Effect of Bio-Energy Therapies on cancer growth

(4)  The Benefits of Reiki as a Complementary Cancer Therapy

(5)  Reiki Fire by Frank Arjava Petter

(6)  International House of Reiki

(7)  What is Healing Touch?

(8)  Therapeutic Touch

(9)  Jin Shin Jyutsu

(10)  Quantum-Touch

(11)  Qigong Research and Practice Center



The content is intended to be used for informational and educational purposes only.  It is not intended to be a substitute for professional  medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment.   Please always consult your primary care giver for any concerns about your health. 

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