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What is Reiki? How has this Japanese healing tradition evolved over the years? How are modern magick practitioners using Reiki energy in their spells and rituals?
Christopher Penczak answers these questions and more in his groundbreaking examination of Reiki from a magickal perspective. The history, mythos, variations, and three degrees of Reiki are discussed in depth. Penczak also suggests way to integrate Reiki and magickal practice, such as using Reiki energy for psychic ...
What is Reiki? How has this Japanese healing tradition evolved over the years? How are modern magick practitioners using Reiki energy in their spells and rituals?
Christopher Penczak answers these questions and more in his groundbreaking examination of Reiki from a magickal perspective. The history, mythos, variations, and three degrees of Reiki are discussed in depth. Penczak also suggests way to integrate Reiki and magickal practice, such as using Reiki energy for psychic development and with candle magick, crystals, herbs, charms, and talismans.
2005 Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR) Winner for Best Alternative Health Book!
What Is Reiki?
When I first learned Reiki, it was described to me as “universal life force” or “universal energy.” That seemed pretty vague at the time, but the concept behind those lofty words is the fundamental energy that creates and sustains the universe. The ki in “Rei-ki” refers to the energy component. Different cultures recognize life energy and call it by different names. Ki is used in Japan. Chi is another name for basic life energy, also used in the East. The discipline of tai chi is learning how to work with this force. Hindu traditions call it prana. Hawaiian shamans call it mana. Rauch is the Hebrew term for this force. Numen, odic force, and orgone are all variant names. The different cultures have different definitions, interpretations, and cultural associations for it, but basically they are all talking about the same life energy.
This life force is found everywhere and in all things, including people, animals, and plants. It sustains us. The energy is universal, denoted by the rei in “Rei-ki,” not personal. The universal part of the Reiki definition signifies not only that this basic energy is found in everything, universally, but also that as a system of healing, we are drawing upon this energy from the universe, which is limitless and ever abundant, rather than drawing upon our own personal “ki” or that of another person, animal, plant, or object.
Reiki the System versus Reiki the Energy
“But I already do Reiki. I didn't take any classes. I don't need to learn it from anyone.” I hear this statement or something similar from many people, and it causes great debate among many in the Reiki community. The essence of the controversy comes down to a misunderstanding of terms and words. In my magickal training, I learned how important it is to say what you mean, because of the inherent power of words. Unfortunately, for most of us, English can be an imprecise language and is particularly limited when explaining mystical and Eastern concepts. Because our language often lacks the subtlety needed, we must explain things clearly.
When people say the word Reiki, some are referring to the energy of the universal life force, which is ever abundant and available to everyone. We already have some of it flowing through us every day. If we didn't, we wouldn't be alive. We take it in with the air we breathe and the food we eat, and subtly exchange it with the environment around us, including the Earth, Sun, Moon, stars, plants, and animals. There are many mystical ways to access this energy, which some people do intuitively, with little training. Many healing and magickal arts call upon this energy of the universe. Prayer, meditation, ritual, visualization, affirmations, and intent are all methods to connect to it, and they all come with their own techniques, strengths, and drawbacks. I'm sure that many people are already using this universal life force in their own way, even if they have never even heard the word Reiki.
Other people use the word Reiki to refer to a formal system of healing, originally called the Usui System of Natural Healing by its modern founder, Dr. Mikao Usui. This system has a fairly modern history, and practitioners of it have a lineage where they can trace their teachers back to Usui. The system uses specific symbols, hand positions, philosophies, and techniques, and is said to have a great many personal benefits and “safeguards” built into it. Although there are many variations and additions to it, Reiki as a system is a tradition. Without learning the tradition from a qualified teacher, you do not receive the same benefits and safeguards.
People will talk about Reiki as ancient, and the energy itself is ancient. Many people throughout history, known and unknown, have tapped into it. It is a part of life. But as a specific tradition as we know it now, Reiki is fairly modern. Perhaps its modern form is a revival of an ancient system of knowledge, as suggested by many teachers, but we have no definitive proof of this.
When people “already do Reiki” but have not studied the system nor been initiated into the tradition, they are using the energy, but are doing it in a different way than a Reiki practitioner. Sometimes that can be wonderful, and other times less so. Often there is a greater need for intense concentration, and without the safeguards, there is more of a chance that they will use too much or too little energy, or even start taking on the symptoms and illnesses of their clients, particularly if they are strictly intuitive and haven't learned a tradition of healing. Many lack the training and awareness to regulate the energy, while others do it quite beautifully on their own. It is different with each healer. But when one is a part of the tradition of Reiki, one has the ability to regulate the energy and be protected from the client's illnesses and issues.
Medical Reiki and Mystical Reiki
Medical Reiki and mystical Reiki are emerging as the two strongest schools of thought in the healing community today. Some practitioners and teachers are focusing on the medical legitimacy of Reiki in the scientific community. They participate in research projects and lobby for Reiki to be brought into the hospital and doctor's office. They teach it to healthcare practitioners, nurses, and doctors. They lobby insurance companies to cover the costs of Reiki sessions. They see it as a complementary practice to traditional and alternative medicine and seek legitimacy in the way acupuncture, Chinese medicine, Aryuveda, yoga, and some aspects of herbalism have been accepted by modern medicine. I agree that Reiki is a wonderful complement to modern medicine. It works. If it didn't, I wouldn't be using it. But some people feel the need to take out all this “mumbo jumbo” in the Reiki community and divorce it from talk about spirituality, enlightenment, spirit guides, angels, and magick. I disagree with this approach.
I can completely understand the desire to remove less mainstream ideas from Reiki when presenting it to the medical community, but Reiki as a system of healing from Japan was born out of concepts of Buddhism, a spiritual path. Although a lot of non-Buddhist philosophies have been grafted to it, the concepts behind it are essentially spiritual healing, not medical healing. For many, Reiki is not a religion, it is their spiritual path. It is the path of exploration. Reiki is a path of the mystic. And I hope in the search for legitimacy in the “straight” world that it never loses its mystical roots. Magick of Reiki is an effort, in light of the scientific studies now available on Reiki, to show that the foundation of many mystical traditions can be found in Reiki.
What Is Magick?
Magick is a word that evokes many reactions. For some, it evokes a sense of childhood mystery, from timeless stories and fairy tales. It conjures a belief in the endless possibilities of an innocent wish. Most think of it as make-believe or fantasy, or associate it with sleight-of-hand stage illusions. Practitioners of the spiritual art of magick use a k at the end to differentiate it from stage magic. I've even seen some spell it as magik or majik. But to many, the very thought of magick as a reality is a fearful prospect, drawing images of evil witches and wizards casting curses and creating harm with the wave of a hand. The remnants of magick have become our jumbled superstitions. The very concept of magick has been misunderstood for centuries by the modern culture, but it is making a resurgence in the world as we look to the ancient wisdom of the past. All ancient cultures had some form of magick as a part of their society and spiritual path.
Ultimately, magick is the power of intention. Through the use of intention, we create a change in our reality. Some magick affects our inner reality, and goes unseen by most. Other acts of magick affect the outer reality, and make things happen, although these events are most often chalked up to coincidence. You do magick to get a new job, and suddenly you get a call back for an interview and the job turns out to be perfect for you. Magick or coincidence? I was inclined to believe it was a coincidence when I started, but after repeated personal experiences involving many bizarre coincidences, I have found that there is something very real about magick. You send your intent throughout the universe, and those who can help respond to it.
Magick often takes a more ordinary approach to reach us, because that is easiest. Nature seeks to conserve energy. Water flows down mountains, not up. Magick flows down to us via the easiest path possible. We must still follow up with some real-world action. We won't get that job if we don't send our résumé and go on interviews. We must open the doors to magick. We must create that change internally, and be open to the energy, as we open to change externally. To the magickal practitioner, there is little difference between the inner reality and the outer reality. They are simply different viewpoints. To make a change in one, you must make a change in the other.
In a formal magickal tradition, practitioners focus their intention and will to create a change through the acts of ritual. Each ritual is used to create a “spell” or a specific act of magick. Rituals vary from tradition to tradition, but this type of magick is found in many different cultures.
These magickal rituals can be found in the traditions of witchcraft throughout the centuries as well as the modern revival of witchcraft and paganism. But they are also found in early forms of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim mysticism. A tradition of magick called ceremonial magick blends aspects of Judeo-Christian mysticism with philosophies from the ancient pagan civilizations, particularly Greece and Egypt. Practitioners of ceremonial magick are called magicians or mages. Rituals are also found in the shamanic cultures, among the medicine men and women of existing tribal cultures. Although they might use the word medicine instead of spell or magick, in essence they are practicing magick. A rain dance, healing song, or blessing for protection are all forms of magick.
Some spells in the form of specific acts, words, or formulas are passed on from one practitioner to another. Certain spells use very simple words and gestures, and household items. Many spells use herbs, talismans, and symbols to focus and evoke the power. They can be complicated or simple, depending on the practitioner. But the heart of magick is creating a connection to the universe, to the divine, however you envision it, and then through that connection, focusing your intention to create a change.
We all do magick all the time. We don't call it magick, but if we live with intention, any intention at all, we are doing magick. Certain forms of magick have been popularized in our modern culture and are considered somewhat respectable. Creative visualization is a form of magick. Most magickal traditions teach visualization in detail not only to help you master your mind and thoughts, but also to help you create magick.
We also call magick “the power of positive thinking.” Affirmations are a form of magick. The power of our thoughts and words is a basic component of spells. Most people think that their words are powerless, but good magickal practitioners always watch what they say and think because words have power. Even if you aren't doing a formal ritual, if there is enough emotion, intent, and energy behind your thoughts or words, the universe will respond by creating a change within you. So be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it, even if you didn't really mean it.
Prayer is another form of magick. Certain people pray in a give-and-take fashion: “God, if you give me this, I will give up that.” That isn't really magick, and doesn't often work. Others will ask for things, but focus so hard on their lack of what they want, or feel so unworthy to receive anything, that they don't have any energy behind their intent. Then there are those people who pray in a confident manner, feel connected to their source through unconditional love, knowing that the divine is abundant, and believe that if it is for the highest good, their prayer will be answered. And it is. They are doing magick.
Ultimately, magick is partnering with the universe to create change. Some people call it co-creating, and that's a good name. It's a blend of your will and intent, and the universe's will, or divine will. According to magickal philosophies, what you do comes back to you stronger. That is the heart of magick. It's not a moral or religious judgment, but simply a mechanism of energy. When you put out an intention, it returns to you.
Magickal power is neither good nor evil. It is simply energy. Performing magick is manipulating this energy through the power of your intention. According to the ethics of magick in its various forms, you send out only what you would want to receive, so you do no harm to others, because you would want no harm done to you. This is a variation of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In witchcraft, it is called the Wiccan Rede: “An it harm none, do what ye Will.” People talk about “white” magick and “black” magick, but most practitioners do not use those words. If they do, they are “dumbing it down” and explaining it in simplistic terms to those who don't want to see the complexity of intention and thought. Magick is like electricity, without moral value. It can be used to light a room or to electrocute, depending on the intent. Magick is a part of everyone and everything, like the universal life force. To me, magick is the universal life force. It is divinity in motion.
In the end, whether we are engaged in ritual, prayer, or even day-to-day action, every thought, every word, and every deed is an act of magick. Our whole life is a prayer. Our whole life is magick. Those who understand this take responsibility for their thoughts, words, and deeds because they know the power and responsibility we all have in creating reality. Everything we do affects everything else. We are all connected in the magickal web of life.
The Intersection of Reiki and Magick
Most people would assume that there is little common ground between magick and Reiki. Magick is most strongly associated with the occult and with the Western mystery traditions. The word occult simply means “hidden” and comes from the word ocular, referring to the eye. Occult subjects are those not seen, or studied, by everyone. They are obscure, and usually hidden by mystery and symbolism. Reiki comes to the world from Japan, rooted in the Eastern traditions and philosophies. On the surface, there seems to be a great division between Eastern and Western knowledge, and truly, there are many differences. But essentially they can be looked at as two different paths up the same mountain.
Magick is strongly associated with the use of magickal symbols and alphabets. Even the word spell denotes the power of the written word, when intentions are spelled out in letters and words. Magickal alphabets, symbols of power and creation, are found in many traditions. From Egyptian hieroglyphics and ancient Hebrew and Greek, to the Norse runes, Celtic ogham, and the script of the alchemists, symbols carry not only meaning, but also power inherent in their name and shape.
In Reiki, as one continues on to the second level of traditional training, the student is taught three practitioner symbols used to enhance and facilitate the practice of healing. Even though Reiki is said to be guided by the higher intelligence, and we have no control or attachment to the outcome, we do have intent when using a symbol, since we pick the symbol we are using, intuitively or logically, based on the intention behind the symbol. The first symbol is used to increase power, the second symbol is used for healing on the mental and emotional levels, and the third symbol is used for distance healing. The use of Reiki symbols in healing, by either visually drawing them or chanting their name, is like using magickal symbols and words of power.
The tradition of Reiki is passed on not only through oral or written material to be learned by the student, but most importantly through something called an attunement. Initiation is another word for attunement. The Reiki Master, or Reiki teacher, creates an energetic connection to the student, through intention and symbol, to pass on the ability to effortlessly and safely tap into the universal life force. Side effects of the attunement can be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual cleansing and purging, awakening of intuitive or psychic abilities, and a greater awareness of spirituality and the call to higher service. This creates a spiritual family or lineage of teachers and students who are all connected and can ultimately be traced back to the modern founder of Reiki, Dr. Usui. If the teacher is not attuned already, then the connection cannot be passed on to the student. In very traditional Reiki, the sacredness of the symbols is maintained by keeping them secret from the unattuned, and the ritual of attunement is kept secret, even from lower initiates. I remember asking my Reiki Masters, after my first attunement, what exactly had happened. How did they “attune” me? They would not tell me. They didn't mention symbols or anything else. It was only thanks to my more open and modern Reiki Two teacher that I understood the mechanism of attunement.
In many magickal traditions, a key component to the experience is an awakening through initiation. Through this initiation, the teacher awakens the students to the energy the teacher holds from his or her own attunement in the tradition. Initiates report an awakening of their third eye to psychic vision and increased spiritual awareness, or a strengthening of their magickal abilities to both manifest and receive information. Many feel a stronger connection to the divine, often through a particular patron goddess or god.
Through the initiation, the student is connected to the spiritual “family” of the tradition, a magickal lineage that can be traced back to the modern founders. In the tradition of Wicca called Gardnerian Wicca, initiates can trace their lineage back to Gerald Gardner. Not only do practitioners of magickal traditions often keep their lineage a secret to the uninitiated, but the rites, symbols, and rituals of the order are also shrouded in mystery.
Initiation, awakening, spiritual lineage, symbols, energy, and secrecy are all common points in the history of magick and Reiki. Both are seen as esoteric or mystical arts that are not easily understood by the general public. Most people in the general public have no interest in these topics. Those who are seekers find the arts of magick and Reiki. Neither art is a religion in the strictest definition of the word, but both have religious aspects to them, having roots in religions. Both are mystical paths that anyone from almost any religion can practice, if they are open to the mystical path of personal experience.
Reiki and magick differ in their approach to creating change. In most traditions of magick, you form an intention and reflect upon it. You reflect to make sure that you truly desire the potential outcome. You reflect to make sure that this outcome is for the highest good, harming none. Ideally, you reflect on the effects and repercussions of magick. Then you send the energy of that specific intention out to the universe through magickal ritual. You release the intention and assume that if it is for the highest good, then the magick will work. You can follow up the magick with real-world action to open the doors to the results of your magick, but you must fully release your intention. By releasing your attachment to the result of your intention, you send the energy out to manifest the intention. If you don't release it, you will constantly pull back the energy you sent out, and it will never manifest. When the energy does return to you, as all things return to their source energetically stronger than when they left, it will return as a manifestation rather than an intention.
Reiki, on the other hand, focuses much less on outcome. The practitioner is unattached to the outcome, and simply offers Reiki energy to the recipient for his or her highest good. The recipient uses the energy to heal according to his or her own divine wisdom. Reiki is said to be regulated by the divine intelligence, the universal intelligence of this life force energy, which knows infinitely more than our conscious ego selves how to work. We simply offer ourselves as vessels through which the energy flows, and it works as needed.
Reiki energy flows where it is needed. If a practitioner's hands are on you and you need Reiki for the highest good, the energy will flow. If the practitioner is touching your chest, but you really need the energy in your toes, it will flow to your toes. If you come in for a backache, but the energy serves the highest good by going to your emotional body to help heal an unresolved childhood trauma, it will go there. There is no controlling or predicting the results of Reiki. Practitioners release attachment to the outcome. The recipient and practitioner may have a specific intention in mind before the session, and that may set the tone for the session, but there is no guarantee of the results. Reiki energy goes where commanded by one's higher intelligence in concert with the universal life force.
Magick originally evolved out of the desire to heal and meet the needs of the tribe. Traditions of hands-on healing can be found in many ancient and modern magickal and shamanic cultures. The practice was so widespread that it found its way into the teachings of Jesus and early Christianity. In Celtic traditions, people gifted with the ability to heal through touch are said to have the “faery touch” or “faery hands.” Reiki's primary way of directing energy is through touch, and practitioners are known for the heat and energy that radiates from their hands.
Reiki and magick have much in common, particularly in regard to letting go. Western esoteric traditions aren't all that different from Eastern mysticism. In magick, one seeks to consciously partner with the divine. The contemplation, reflection, and intention of the “highest good” are to align with what magicians call divine will. When Wiccans and magicians say “Do what ye Will,” they mean do your higher will, what the divine self wants and not necessarily what the ego wants. When the conscious mind is aligned with the divine will, magick can do anything. But there must be that alignment. If our intention is not aligned with the divine, we ask that it not come true.
In Reiki, there is not as great a need to have a specific intention. Ideally, there is no focus on the outcome. There is usually an intention, conscious or unconscious, but it's not the primary focus. In magick, the tradition involves becoming consciously aware of your desires, needs, and intentions. Both Reiki and magick are paths to awareness and openness to the divine. Both are paths of healing and wholeness. They don't need to be mutually exclusive in our lives, just as we don't have to focus strictly on left-brain or right-brain talents, or on male or female traits. We are an amalgam of both approaches to life, as found in Reiki and Western magick, and those on the balanced path will see the wisdom in both approaches.
Posted December 21, 2009
Posted July 30, 2011
I purchased this book in 2006. Began reading it this May,2011. You are given information from all perspectives of Reiki in this book. Allowing you to find your comfort zone to work with. I am now Reiki One and will take Reiki Two soon. The information in this book has really enhanced my experiences in doing Reiki beyond the training I received. The information is well presented, easily read and absorbed for use. I will continue to use this book for reference for years to come.
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Posted November 29, 2005
This book really answered and confirmed a lot for me. I felt as though it was written for me. It has become my favorite Reiki book and one I will use over and over. I have shared it with my friends and family that are Reiki, they too feel the same way. I really look forward to reading more of his work.
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Posted December 19, 2009
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Posted December 31, 2010
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Posted January 12, 2011
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