Back to the future with the healing energy of reiki


Over the last two days, both Mark Crislip and Jann Bellamy wrote great pieces over at Science-Based Medicine about reiki. In particular, Jann Bellamy discussed reiki starting with an example that I’ve been citing in my talks about the infiltration of quackademic medicine into medical academia for at least four or five years now: The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and its website, which describes reiki thusly:

Reiki is a form of hands-on, natural healing that uses universal life force energy. The term comes from the Japanese words “rei,” which translates into universal, and “ki,” which means vital life force energy that flows through all living things. This gentle energy is limitless in abundance and is believed to be a spiritual form of energy. It is not tied to any specific religion or nationality.

The Reiki practitioner is the conduit between you and the source of the universal life force energy. The energy flows through the practitioner’s energy field and through his or her hands to you. The energy does not come from the practitioner; it comes through the practitioner from the universal source. There is no energy drain on the person giving the treatment. You may experience the energy as sensations such as heat, tingling, or pulsing where the practitioner places her hands on your body, or you may feel these sensations move through your body to other locations. This is the energy flowing into you. Some people may not perceive any change at all. Most people feel very relaxed and peaceful. Many clients even fall asleep while receiving Reiki treatment.

The way I like to handle this during a talk is to place an excerpt from the above two paragraphs onto a slide and just let the audience soak in the stupidity. Generally, they react with utter shock that a respected academic medical center would have something so unbelievably ridiculous on their website. I then continue my talk by explaining how reiki is faith healing that substitutes Eastern mysticism for Christian beliefs. Think about it. In reiki, reiki masters claim to be able to tap into “life force energy” from the “universal source,” as described above, and channel it into a patient for healing effect. Now, substitute the word “God” or “Jesus” for “universal source” in the description above. Yes, that’s faith healing. Stripped to its essence, there’s no difference between reiki and channeling the healing power of Jesus or God into a patient to try to heal him.

That’s why the Catholic Church doesn’t like reiki being practiced in its hospitals, and that’s why fundamentalist Christians view reiki as a “sin.”

Next, I list some of the high profile medical schools and academic medical centers that offer reiki to patients, the most recent of which I discussed was the University of Arizona Cancer Center. It’s a depressing litany that includes luminaries such as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Yale University (sorry, Steve Novella!), and Harvard, among many others.

Going back and reading about reiki again after having seen Jann’s discussion of whether advertising reiki as medicine could be viewed as fraud and whether there a class action lawsuit charging that could actually succeed, I came upon a hilarious article on reiki that helps to illustrate just how utterly nonsensical the ideas behind reiki are. Now, I’ve discussed how reiki isn’t really any “ancient” Japanese art of healing, having been invented out of whole cloth by a man named Mikao Usui back in the 1920s. I’m referring to an article on’s Holistic Healing page by Phylameana lila Desy entitled Projecting Reiki Energies into Past and Future.

Whoa. Maybe Bill S. Preston and Ted “Theodore” Logan were reiki masters, and that’s how Wyld Stallyns saved the world and brought about universal peace and harmony—or, actually, how they will bring about universal peace and harmony in the future. One wonders if a telephone booth is involved.

Yes, I can (and have) made all sorts of jokes about this sort of thing based on movies and TV shows involving time travel, such as Back to the Future, Doctor Who, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and the like, but none of my lame jokes can compare to the reality of this article, because, not only can reiki masters project reiki energy over any distance, but into the future and the past:

Reiki energies can be transmitted into the future as well as into the past.

A few examples for projecting Reiki into the future include job interviews, before scheduled surgical procedures, and prior to upcoming court sessions. Walking into an interview, a meeting hall, a courtroom, a new school, a social gathering, or anywhere else is less intimidating when Reiki energies your sent previously greet you at the door.

I bet. It’d probably be kind of embarrassing if you’re standing in front of a judge and suddenly a bolt of reiki energy hit you out of the blue, leaving whatever wormhole through space-time through which it traveled to zap you to attention. That’d be a bummer. Maybe I could learn how to project a bit of that old reiki energy to the future for when I’m doing surgery, so that my hands are even swifter and surer than usual. Oh, wait. I’d have to become a reiki master first to do that. Never mind.

Of course, if that’s not enough, there’s this:

Sending Reiki backwards in time is also beneficial. Simply use your intent to send to a specific past event that was troublesome. Or, focus the energies on healing your inner child at the exact moment she was injured years previously. An easy way to do this is to hold an old photo between your palms while conducting absentia Reiki. Choose a photo that was taken of you as a child around the period of time you are wanting to heal. (Tip: Place the photo inside an envelope to protect your photo from sweaty palms).

I do so like the added tip. Very practical. You wouldn’t want to grub up an old photo that might not be replaceable, now would you?

Imagine the possibilities, though. It would be so awesome to be able to send magic fairy dust energy back into my past at key points in my life, either where I suffered a trauma or where I screwed up royally, in order to fix what’s wrong. But wouldn’t there be a paradox? Aren’t those traumas and screwups part of what make me what I am? Would I even be able to be Orac anymore if my inner child were made all shiny and happy decades ago through the wonder of time-traveling reiki magic? Apparently not:

Targeting Reiki energies to be sent to the original hurt is also helpful in healing any reactive influences that resulted from that time. For example, whenever offering healing to a hurtful event in the past you are also clearing away carried-over traumas felt present day.

Of course. How obvious. Why didn’t I think of that? Actually, I know why. I have critical thinking skills and know science. On the other hand, maybe I don’t have to worry. Reiki masters are apparently aware of the dangers of sending reiki back in time. One even worried that sending reiki back in time, in this case, to stop an epidemic in Japan in 1830 that was wiping out an entire species of dung fly, to save it. Doing this thought experiment, he discovered:

Having heard much about using the Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen symbol to send Reiki to the past, I decided to try an experiment, and did as she requested – but still, only one single dung-fly survived the epidemic.

However, that single dung-fly – reinvigourated by the Reiki it had received – flew off and landed on a piece of uncooked meat which was lying uncovered in the kitchen of Mikao Usui’s Grandfather’s house.

The next day, the meat which was now infected with various strains of unnamed bacteria, was hurriedly (and improperly) cooked and eaten by Mikao Usui’s Grandfather. A few hours later he began to feel a little queazy, and decided to cancel his visit to the ‘Noh’ theatre that evening, and went to bed with a bottle of saki as he thought this might help settle his stomach – and even if it didn’t, it was a good excuse to get drunk.

Now, HAD he gone to the theatre that night he would have met the woman he was going to marry – the woman who would become Mikao Usui’s Grandmother.

But as it turned out, he never met her – never married at all – never had any children – devoted his entire life to campaging for food hygiene and wandering from town to town the length and breath of Japan educating people to the dangers of leaving uncooked meat where the flies could get it.

Thus, Mikao Usui’s father was never born, and of course this meant that Mikao was never born either – and never went on to ‘discover’ Reiki.

Then, of course, James Deacon, the guy who wrote the piece, would never have been able to learn reiki to send it back into the past in the first place. Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe sending reiki into the past wouldn’t be so bad after all. (Wait a minute. What is this, a Terminator movie or a Ray Bradbury story?)

Be that as it may, it’s not entirely clear whether that article was meant to be facetious. Clearly on some level it was, but on another level, the rest of the website appears to be quite serious and credulous about reiki, as do Deacon’s Reiki Pages on Facebook. Still, serious or not, this is the sort of stuff reiki masters claim, and this is the sort of stuff academic medical centers like the Cleveland Clinic, Harvard University, and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center are selling the public.

Seeing that depresses the hell out of me.