This is not an uncommon statement to come across. I've heard it many times in person and seen it online many times. Here is my response to that notion:
"What makes you so sure? Your view may be based on something that you've read from a reputable source. However, just because something has been published, it does not mean it has been adequately studied. As a medical doctor and clinical researcher, I’ve been observing and studying Reiki for years, and I can tell you that when Reiki is done properly, the results can be quite dramatic (and it is not just a placebo effect).
I swear by science, and the only reason I even learned Reiki originally was for educational and research purposes. If at any point I would have found evidence that Reiki does not work, or if there was even a shred of suspicion in my mind that it only works as a result of a placebo effect, I would not have been able to do it in good conscience. So trust me, Reiki is not nonsense.
To clarify, there are numerous forms of Reiki in existence, and I can’t speak for all of them. I can only speak for the traditional Reiki style (Jikiden Reiki) which has been preserved in Japan, its country of origin. Many spin-off forms of Reiki have been created since the last century and not all of them utilize the most essential and the most important Reiki techniques that were used by the founder of Reiki Mikao Usui.
So I cannot guarantee that the newer Reiki styles work (some of them may only be "Reiki" in the name, but could be something else entirely). All I can say, that in my observational research as a medical scientist, the original Reiki method 心身改善臼井靈氣療法 (Shin Shin Kaizen Usui Reiki Ryoho) as passed on directly through the Jikiden Reiki lineage is most definitely a remarkable healing art.
Current clinical research in Reiki is very limited and of low quality for the most part - there are numerous design flaws and biases in most of the studies that I’ve read. So the scientific perspective (which is based on CURRENTLY AVAILABLE data) is that Reiki is neither harmful nor helpful. The issue here is that we have very little that is currently available on Reiki that’s not flawed in one way or another.
Just because current clinical research in Reiki is very limited (and of low quality for the most part) and just because at this point science does not have a clear understanding or a clear definition of what Reiki even is, it does not mean that Reiki is “nonsense”.
When you think of Reiki, don’t think ‘snake oil’, think of Reiki (the traditional form) as ‘acupuncture minus the needles’. That’s the best parallel I can draw for you. Not that long ago, scientists did not think much of acupuncture either, but now with better and more extensive research, acupuncture has been demonstrated to be effective for a number of indications.
I have no doubt in my mind, that properly designed and conducted clinical trials would be able to easily demonstrate the effectiveness of Reiki vs. placebo. I have not published any of my own observations yet, but repeatedly seeing and hearing "Reiki is nonsense" makes me want to get into high gear and just get it all out on paper, as well as get funding and staff for proper large scale clinical trials in Reiki. It is so long overdue. I think it’s time to put the scientific doubts about Reiki that are based on inadequate research to rest!"
Who is with me? Time to assemble a research team!
Do you have clinical research experience? Are you open- and scientifically-minded? Grant writer?
Post your comments below. Let's make this happen!
There are a lot of free resources out there, and some are better and more accurate than others.
I would recommend reading the following two books about Reiki (you might be able to find them at a library) and in the following order:
Feel free to explore this site San Diego Reiki - Jikiden Reiki with Dr. Maria Danilychev, MD and read this Blog - as you might be able to find some helpful insights there as well.
To save you some time in your Reiki research here is some information about Reiki to get you started:
Mikao Usui sensei was the founder of Reiki, and he developed his Reiki method in the 1920s in Japan and called it 心身改善臼井靈氣療法 - “Shin Shin Kaizen Usui Reiki Ryoho” (“Usui Reiki method for improvement of body and mind”).
Usui sensei taught almost two dozen teachers who were allowed to teach other teachers, and among them was Chujiro Hayashi.
Hayashi sensei’s lineage is the start of all known Reiki lineages. No other known lineages that you can follow exist today. There is an original association of Reiki in Japan called Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, but it is a closed organization and you can’t learn Reiki from them (it’s a long story).
Chujiro Hayashi taught many Reiki practitioners and a number of Reiki teachers, and among them were:
Reiki became popularized in the 1980s by the students of Hawayo Takata many of whom later systematized her teachings, and also created their own forms of Reiki.
Numerous Reiki styles have been developed in the West since then.
Many of them have at least partially lost their connection to the Japanese nature of this healing art, with some of the teachings being literally lost in translation. Also, a large number of new styles of Reiki have incorporated other holistic healing modalities and concepts into Reiki teaching and practice. With that said, it is important to note that no Reiki style ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than another - all of them are just different from each other.
Here are a few links to some of the Reiki style options:
There are many other Reiki branches and teachings that you will come across.
A few words about Reiki Principles.
They were developed by Mikao Usui and were meant to be used by the Reiki clients, as well as by the Reiki practitioners to maximize all-around wellness on a mind-body level and to bring happiness into their lives.
Usui sensei believed that if your physical health improves with Reiki, but your mind/heart is not in the right place, then your physical condition can easily get worse again. That’s how he came up with the five precepts of Reiki - the Gokai (五戒):
Just for today,
Do not be angry
Do not worry
Do your duties fully
Be kind to others.
Usui sensei suggested saying the Gokai twice a day out loud and from the heart to help one live according to the principles. I’d like to point out that there isn’t anything neither religious nor contrary to any belief system in the Gokai. They simply use the mind-body connection to help improve one’s happiness and wellness.
The Japanese believe that words have power, and that saying something out loud creates a certain energy. That’s why it is often suggested to say the Gokai in Japanese, as it creates the best vibration, so to speak - as it was meant to be said. If you try it, you may notice a positive shift inside you.
Here is a link to Rika Tanaka’s website (she is a Japanese Reiki practitioner and teacher) as she pronounces the Gokai, in case you are curious about the Japanese version.
Note, other translations exist, but this appears to be the best/most accurate one, as has been verified to me by many native Japanese speakers who also know Reiki.
In terms of Reiki levels and Reiki techniques, they vary greatly from style to style. For the most part, most schools include a few basic practitioner level courses and one or more Master or teacher level courses as part of their training.
Any books or free resources that you may find that explain the techniques can be helpful, but it is not the same as learning from someone who’s been practicing and teaching Reiki.
I would also recommend against learning Reiki online (no offense to anyone who is teaching it that way). Other the historical background, you can’t really learn Reiki that way. If you want to learn how to do Reiki properly, you have to take an in-person class which includes hands-on practice and Reiju (attunement).
After you are done with your research and when you are ready to learn Reiki, choose the style that resonates with you the most. Explore some of the options above and connect with Reiki practitioners and teachers. You will know when it feels right.
As far as being able to pay for a course, trust that when the time is right you’ll be able to do it.
Not sure if you will find someone who can to teach you for free, but as you learn more about Reiki, you may start seeing each training for its value and not just pick something because it’s free or cheap (it shouldn’t be terribly expensive either).
For additional free Reiki resources, you can also consider looking at James Deacon’s site. There is lots of information there. Although not all of it is entirely accurate, it is understandable considering the quantity of information provided.
Feel free to reach out to me directly if you’d like any additional help or guidance.
Dr. Maria Danilychev, MD is a hospice doctor, clinical research physician, and a Jikiden Reiki Shihan (master/teacher).