Reiki Treatment Criticized by U.S. Bishops

by Francis MacNutt
Nov/Dec 2009

We have often been asked what we at CHM think of Reiki massage: as Christians, can we use it?

We haven't studied enough ourselves to make an adequate judgment, but a six-page statement of the U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine states that Reiki is based on "superstition and is incompatible with faith." The background for the statement is that a number of Catholic sisters in hospitals and retreat centers are practitioners of Reiki. Reiki—pronounced "RAY-kee" is a spiritual healing practice invented in Japan in the 1920s that claims that by laying hands on (or above) a sick or injured person, a Reiki master can draw universal healing energy into the person. The bishops state that a Christian who trusts in this technique has "no scientific support—or even plausibility." On the other hand, some of those sisters who use Reiki believe that its use can be combined with the teachings of Jesus Christ and that Reiki is offered in the context of prayer.

Again, I have not enough personal knowledge of the practice of Reiki to pretend to be an expert, but we are wise to listen to the bishops' warning. In addition to what the bishops say, we add a few further observations. For one thing, I think we should be disappointed that those nuns running retreat centers do not teach the people how to pray for Christian healing. One nun we knew who was an expert massage therapist left her order because her superior was so heavily into Reiki.

Then, too, some Reiki practitioners are expected to seek a "spirit guide," as a spiritual master. This path, of course, is incompatible with Christianity and can lead into a demonic dimension.

One Catholic center is offering courses in Reiki I, Reiki II, and Reiki III, after which those who graduate are certified as Karuna Reiki Masters. We are struck by the parallel in that we offer Levels I, II and III in Christian healing. The bishops statement wisely states, "For Christians, the access to divine healing is by prayer to Christ as Lord and Savior, while the essence of Reiki is not a prayer but a technique that is passed down from the "Reiki master" to the pupil, a technique that once mastered will reliably produce the anticipated result." I think the reason why there is so much Reiki in Catholic retreat centers is simply that there is a deep spiritual hunger among the Catholic people for prayer for the sick. If healing prayer is not taught in a Christian way, the hunger will be satisfied in whatever is available. One of the more difficult cases of deliverance that I've experienced was once when a woman asked me to pray for her to be freed of a kundalini demonic force that was wrapped around her spine. She had gotten into this situation by learning from a Hindu master a technique of healing the sick. This and other experiences have led me to be careful not to mingle the healing that we have in Jesus with any other healing powers.

*Based on an article, Reiki Use, Criticized by Bishops, is Common at Nun's Retreat Centers by Jerry Filteau, National Catholic Reporter, April 17, 2009, pgs. 1 and 10.

Francis MacNutt Nov/Dec 2009 Issue
Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM.