A couple of people commented on a recent post about my take on reiki. Essentially, their question was: is reiki bullshit? Ask and ye shall receive.
What is it?
First, what exactly is reiki? The International Center for Reiki Training (ICRT) says that reiki “is based on the idea that an unseen ‘life force energy’ flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.” The website adds: “It has been effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect.”
Anytime the proponents of something are claiming that it works for absolutely everything, red flags should start going up. 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩
The ICRT tells us: “An amazingly simple technique to learn, the ability to use Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class. This ability is passed on during an “attunement” given by a Reiki master and allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of “life force energy” to improve one’s health and enhance the quality of life.” Huh?
According to the reiki Center of Excellence, “Receiving a reiki attunement is a powerful spiritual experience, as your energetic pathways are opened by a reiki master. This energetic opening allows the reiki energy to flow freely through your body to impact your health and the health of others.” It’s recommended to do a 3-day cleanse before an attunement (a dopamine fast?). Once you’ve been attuned, you’re like a life force energy riverbed for the rest of your life. Oh, and the ICRT site says that a God-consciousness and various spiritual beings will be joining in the attunement party.
The International Association of Reiki Professionals tells us that reiki sessions typically last 60-90 minutes. They’re performed either lying on a massage table or seated. The session can be done hands-on, with a light touch, or with the practitioner’s hands a short distance away from the body. The touch is done over your clothing. The session progresses through specific hand positions, moving from one end of the body to the other.
The IARP has a few videos on their site. None of them show an actual treatment, but there is a reiki rap. And yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. If you’re curious about what a reiki treatment looks like, including “sweeping” the aura, you can check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaCCjE1xuOA
Do you not live near a reiki practitioner? Don’t worry—one can perform a treatment for you from a distance. The Center for True Health assures us that “Distance Reiki is a technique within the system of Reiki that enables you to give a Reiki session beyond the limitations of time and space. It expands the practitioner’s ability to transmit spiritual energy beyond physical touch.” You’re supposed to send the practitioner a picture of you ahead of time; dick pics probably aren’t appropriate in this case.
According to an article in Mind Body Green, distance reiki is based on the Hermetic Law of Similarity. A very quick and easy way to distinguish bullshit from non-bullshit is to plug a term into Google Scholar. “Hermetic Law of Similarity” yields a whopping zero hits. Ding ding ding, it wins the BS prize!
Science or pseudoscience?
In science, there is a logical progression of steps. You come up with an idea to explain a phenomenon, and then use this to formulate a hypothesis.& You come up with an experiment to test your hypothesis. If the results of your experiment support your hypothesis, you can do further work to explore this further. If the data from your experiment don’t support your hypothesis, it’s back to the drawing board.
In pseudoscience, you come up with an explanation for a phenomenon. You like your explanation, mostly because it fits with your worldview. You decide that it’s the way things are until someone can prove otherwise. The thing is, it’s much harder to prove something is not than to prove that something is.
As an example, let’s say I decide that purple people eaters are responsible for phenomenon X. I can’t actually prove that there are purple people eaters, but you can’t prove that there isn’t at least one hanging out somewhere on the planet. Therefore, I feel justified in insisting that there are purple people eaters, and you just can’t see them or don’t know where to look.
There is no proof that the energy fields described by reiki practitioners are real. However, just like the purple people eater, there isn’t absolute proof that they do not. The logical conclusion would be that this supposed energy doesn’t exist until there is proof that it does, just like the logical conclusion would be that purple people eaters don’t exist until such time as we actually see one doing its thing.
Should you get reiki?
I can see a few areas where reiki really could have some legitimate benefit, like relaxation, supporting mindfulness, and promoting the mind and body’s natural healing processes. However, none of that is the foundation that reiki has built its house on. If your house is constructed on a foundation of rotting logs and BS, having some nice ornaments in the window doesn’t make the house a hot commodity.
So, if you want to go to a reiki practitioner and potentially experience some of those side benefits, more power to you. As for the energy fields? Unless you spot a purple people eater in the parking lot, you’re probably shit outta luck.
Writing about science and debunking pseudoscience makes my heart sing! Visit the How to Spot Pseudoscience to explore other Science Corner posts on Mental Health @ Home.