The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dear Believer - Reiki

Dear Believer,

I understand you believe that Reiki is a wonderful, useful and in some ways perhaps, scientific modality for diagnosing and treating illness. We need to talk about this because it seems that there are some problems and logical fallacies in your thinking.

Reiki is defined as:
...a non-physical healing energy made up of life force energy that is guided by the Higher Intelligence, or spiritually guided life force energy. (from reiki.org)
Can anyone explain that to me in layperson terms? I'm only asking because it reads like Dharma talking to Greg when she's high; pretty, but pointless and brain dead. Most people that I've talked to relate Reiki to a couple of things that I'd like to quickly address, then I'm going to move on and go through a couple of articles from reiki.org and see what they've got to say on the subject.

Firstly, we have to talk about the "meridians" idea. The concept of invisible, unmeasurable energy pathways makes no sense whatsoever. Right off the bat, I need to ask, what kind of energy are we talking about? There's a bunch of different types and I never hear specifics from "alternative health providers" about what, exactly, they are tapping into (I think because they're deluded about what it is they are doing/feeling). Also, if people can feel this energy with their bare hands, why can't it be measured? Why won't electrical machines pick it up? You know your "healing techniques" are in trouble when a nine year old girl kicks your ass in a study (yeah yeah, that was Therapeutic Touch, but it's the same thing with respect to the "energy" used).

Moving along to the articles, the first is What Is Reiki? If ever I have tested my capacity for withstanding woo woo in high doses, it was when I visited reiki.org. Wow. In case you think Reiki is just for colds and stomach-aches, there is this bit of hyperbole:
It has been effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect. It also works in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery.
Am I correct when I read that Reiki helps every known illness and is never harmful? I have to say, there's this saying in medicine - anything that can help can also hurt; it's the old "the dose makes the poison" line. If Reiki doesn't hurt, ever, then it's not doing anything in the first place.

Next is the a great line:
Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class.
Right. Sort of like a cold. This is like the high-school student who didn't study and decides, in a moment of desperation, to put the textbook under her pillow so she can learn through osmosis. Information or "energy" can't just flow from person to person. I was fully expecting to run into the word "quantum" at some point, but gladly I did not.

Here's an interesting set of quotes that highlight how odd this belief actually is:
Reiki is not dependent on belief at all and will work whether you believe in it or not...Reiki comes from God...(BUT!)...In order for the Reiki healing energies to have lasting results, the client must accept responsibility for her or his healing and take an active part in it.
So which is it? Does it work if I don't believe, or do I have to "accept responsibility" and believe? These two sentences are mutually exclusive. Oh, and what if you don't think any "Gods" are real?

Moving along to the next link, How Does Reiki Work?, we see this bold assertion:
Life force flows within the physical body though pathways called chakras, meridians and nadis. It also flows around us in a field of energy called the aura.
Ah yes, auras. How do you folks still believe in these things? Supposedly the aura is "2-3 feet thick" (see fifth from last paragraph here), so why can't someone do a test where a practitioner gets people whose auras she can clearly see, then get 10 or so opaque screens and stand the people behind them so the practitioner can make sure that the auras extend above the screens, then randomly place people behind to see if she can "see" them?

Oh, right, because James Randi already did that on TV in 1989.
James Randi conducted another test for a television special, offering $100,000 for successful results. The psychic challenger selected ten people she maintained had clearly visible auras, and agreed that the auras would extend above the screens behind which-unseen by her-the people were to stand. Unfortunately, in choosing which screens supposedly had people behind them, the psychic got only four out of ten correct guesses-less than the five that chance allowed (Steiner 1989, from here
Believers, your case is not looking strong for Reiki here.

Supposedly negative thoughts "attach themselves" to your aura. I assume by some sort of supernatural Velcro. Reiki, the article says, "raises the vibratory level of the energy field...where the negative thoughts and feelings are attached". What, exactly does this mean? What's vibrating? The energy? I thought that "flowed"? There's a loop here of which I'm out.

Another great line from the How Does Reiki Work article is this gem:
Reiki is a special kind of life force that can only be channeled by someone that has been attuned to it.
Editor's note: please change "been attuned to it" to "paid for training in full". Oddly enough, the article says that people who "heal" but don't use Reiki are using "another kind of life force". What would that be? Phreiki? Sort of a stolen, fake Reiki? Do the clients of those "healers" have to go get their "phreiki" on?

The article then gets into levels of woo that I can't spend time on here because it would turn this blog post into a book-length tome. Just know it drops into past lives, spirit guides and more about vibrations. Near the end of this piece though is a very telling line which says, "One never need worry about whether to give Reiki or not. It is always helpful." Sure it is...to your account balance. How nice it is to have something that can treat anything. Finally for this bit, the author advises, "it is also much easier for the ego to stay out of the way and allow the presence of God to clearly shine through." I find it odd that "God's" presence is never, ever, ever enough to heal even one amputee. It's not like starfish and salamanders can't do it.

This last article, and the one previous, actually, were written by a Reiki Master named William Lee Rand. He traveled to the North Pole ('97), the South Pole ('99) as well as to Jerusalem ('04) to place a "World Peace Crystal Grid" at each location. We can all see just how well those are working out. My thrust at Dear Believers here takes this form:
All negative or dis-harmonious thoughts or feelings will cause a disruption in the flow of Ki. Even Western medicine recognizes the role played by the mind in creating illness and some Western doctors state that as much as 98% of illness is caused directly or indirectly by the mind.
I would love to be in the room when Mr. Rand tells cancer, MS , Parkinson's, and ALS patients that 98% of illness is "in your head". That'd be a hoot, I'm sure. I particularly like the "Even Western medicine recognizes..." line. It has been "Western medicine" that has made all the advances in the last hundred years, so Mr. Rand has no real weight to thrown around here.

It's about this time that one of you Believers will toss out the, "Well, Reiki has been around for thousands of years so something has to be right about it", argument. That's a logical fallacy called Appeal to Antiquity, which is a variant of the Appeal to Authority. You might as well say that the Earth is the centre of the Universe because that's an old argument held high by such luminaries as Ptolomy and the Catholic Popes from ages ago. Old doesn't equal correct.

My penultimate issue is this:
The great value of Reiki is that because it is guided by the Higher Intelligence, it knows exactly where to go and how to respond to restrictions in the flow of Ki.
Well la-di-friggin'-da. Why does anyone need a Reiki practitioner when the "Higher Intelligence" knows right where to go and what to do? Why not cut out the middle-woo and save some cash by dealing directly with said Higher Power?

Lastly:
Reiki flows through a sick or unhealthy area, it breaks up and washes away any negative thoughts or feelings lodged in the unconscious mind/body thus allowing a normal healthy flow of Ki to resume. As this happens, the unhealthy physical organs and tissues become properly nourished with Ki and begin functioning in a balanced healthy way thus replacing illness with health.
Basically this is just the Law of Attraction but with payment to someone who can scrape your aura of negativity. I really like the "become properly nourished with Ki" part, as if it's some sort of tangible thing. Can't I just take a Multi-Ki tablet once a day and be done with it?

So, Mr/Ms Believer, it would be fabtastic if you could address the points I've brought up, or just sit back and think about the complete lack of efficacy and reality that is Reiki. Thanks for your time.

10 Barbaric Yawps:

At 17/11/07 3:55 am, Blogger Atheist in a mini van. said...

So, let me see if I can sum this up and state the obvious:
1. Reiki is there whether someone believes or not.
2. It works whether someone believes or not.
3. There's absolutely no way to scientifically test or measure it.
4. There's no dangers or side effects.
So...if all of the above is true, then what is the reason why modern medicine hasn't decided to toss aside physicals, scans, and pharmaceuticals, in favor of this practice? Are Reiki practitioners of the conspiracy thought that big medical lobbies just don't want something so readily available and cheap to be used because of a profit loss? That wouldn't even make sense - since they charge for the classes, one would imagine that the medical community could charge everyone a fee to learn to channel the Reiki. Of course, that doesn't make sense because it's already there and working even if we don't believe or notice it. Which begs the conclusion that it can't be working all that fucking good because, despite the Reiki, we still need things like surgery, medication, and corrective measures for things like vision problems, broken limbs, and physcial deformities.

 
At 17/11/07 8:10 am, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

Pre-friggin'-cisely.

 
At 19/11/07 4:57 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Severals years ago when I was embracing wooism I took a Reiki class. Following the class, I realized how very stupid the claims were, did some research (yes, I should have done it before), stumbled upon Randi's site and that was the birth of my critical thinking. Too bad I hadn't done that first and saved myself $150.00.

I wish I would have written down my experience as soon as I was home, because over the years my memory has fogged, but, let's just say that the Reiki class was totally magically thinking. Since I was already an atheist, it was when the "instructor" started talking about Christ that my red flags started to go up. I could barely contain myself and couldn't believe how the other two students (yeah - there was only 3 of us) were lapping up all this nonsense.

We were told to close our eyes while she waved the secret symbols around us and gave us our attunement. Then we practised on one another - and she asked us if we could feel the energy (which was simply frigging body heat that radiates off a person). We were told to lay on a table and the other students would wave their hands about us - pushing away all those bad vibes. Then we would get off the table and the instructor told us to wave our hands over the table - "can you feel the energy she would ask". Well, duh...of course the table will radiate the latent body heat. But this was the "energy".

The instructor went on to recount her own personal testimonial - she was with a group of other Reiki people and a dog had run out on the road and was hit by a car. The Reiki people surrounded the dog and started doing their hand waving over it (it was still alive - at least they didn't claim it was dead)...and lo and behold, the dog got up and ran away....such were the powers of Reiki. Yeah right...perhaps the dog was merely stunned...just like I was listening to that crapola.

The instructor went on to say that Reiki could heal anything (and here is the kicker) as long as one got rid of all their negative thoughts/emotions. Yep - if you died from cancer and were having a Reiki treatment, it wasn't because the Reiki couldn't heal you, it's because you had those frigging negative thoughts!

I asked her...but what about animals dying after Reiki? And her response...well, they have emotions too (the mind boggles).

She also claimed that you don't even have to be near the person/animal you want to "heal" - it can be done long distance - isn't that convenient!

Anyway - there were several levels of "lessons" to take before one could become a master. Of course, we were asked to sign up for the next level when we were leaving...I told her..."I'd think about it".

Anyway - what was amazing was the other 2 students were totally into this crap. No doubt they went onto higher levels.

 
At 19/11/07 5:39 pm, Anonymous Chayanov said...

My neopagan ex-gf is a "third degree reiki master," which means she can teach others how to pretend to heal by waving their hands around. Her circle of friends believes this nonsense wholeheartedly, claiming to be able to treat MS through reiki, using "gang reiki" to treat really difficult cases (I guess it adds up if you use more people?), and "long distance reiki." I heard one of her "teachers" say that Western medicine was completely worthless and couldn't cure anything, which nevertheless didn't stop her from going to see a doctor when she was sick.

You're right in how inconsistent they are in the application of reiki. If it's so perfect and healing, and they believe in it so much, then why don't they all reiki each other to cure all of their aches, pains, and illnesses forever?

 
At 28/11/07 7:31 pm, Blogger Hurricane25 said...

Ok, ok. I can see how you might come to your conclusions based on the writings you have cited. In fact, even as a professional writer I have a challenge understanding some of the things you have quoted!

However, I think that what your examples really prove is that bad writing is everywhere, including the "woo woo" circuit.

As a beginning Reiki student (I am taking Reiki II this weekend), I can definitely see the impact that this ancient healing art form has made in my life. And despite all the things you mentioned, there is just one thing to keep in mind when talking about Reiki--it clears your body and chakras of energy that may be impeding regular function.

The body can rid itself of toxins naturally, however energy blocks (stemming from diet, emotional trauma, stress, etc.) don't allow the body to do the job on its own.
Once those blocks are cleared, your body and organs are supported and able to do what they do best.

And just like any other practice, its not a quick fix. You don't go the chiropractor once and expect to be cured, any more than you go to yoga once and become a master. Reiki is a "practice." And if you are interested healing and want a tool you can use ON yourself, it is a great way to reduce stress and support your body.

Western medicine has its place for sure, I am not aruguing that. However it can also introduce new toxins to the system that upset the delicate balance...and who wants to take medicine if they really don't have to?

As a formerly sickly person, changing my diet, and adding meditation, Reiki and yoga to my lifestyle have enabled me to feel energetic, balanced and healthy in ways I never did...and I don't catch the latest "bugs" going around. Adding the Reiki in combination with these other healthy modalities really helps me feel balanced, and I can use it whenever I need it.

So although you may be skeptical, there is no denying that we are all made up of energy. The possibilities for how those energy particles interract or react in certain applications is still being explored on hundreds of levels. Remember, the microwave wasn't always a common household appliance!

So the only way to really know the truth is for you to get a Reiki session done. Read all the materials you want, but the proof is in how you feel once your session is over. Peace!

 
At 31/12/07 3:43 am, Anonymous Chris @ Martial Development said...

"The dose makes the poison."

This is the first time I've heard that statement, but it is quite sensible and interesting that you should apply it to reiki.

If reiki is real, then presumably it can be used to harm. Of course, that does not mean that every self-identified reiki master could accomplish the feat.

 
At 26/1/08 4:42 pm, Anonymous Jackie said...

I have come to terms with the fact that I am (for lack of a better adjective) a GIFTED person. I felt connected to many individuals by some kind of ELECTRICITY that would literally give me mild shocks once in awhile. I never knew how or why I felt connected to some people and not others.
Long story short,If I glide my hands over an individuals body, I can feel the heat from a problem area. I close my eyes and just know where the pain is on the person. I can see the shape of the area, I know how far into the body the pain is, and also can feel the intensity of the pain or ache.
I also can tell if the person is not having pain at that time but does have reoccuring pain or discomfort in certain areas of the body. I know this ability is weird. Hey, I am in awe when moving my little hands over a person and I hit the spot. It very freaky to me especially, since I have been 100% correct. far out huh?
I've been told that I have an inate healing energy. First time I even heard the word "energy" used in that context.
I've taken away pain on a few people. I don't have a clue other than praying silently while putting my hands on the painful area, how I do it. Perhaps it's the praying.
I've been told many times that I should study reiki. I never heard of reiki but was told that I would learn how to save lives. It was explained to me that I would become like dr. that heals with energy.
well, my quest for knowledge has now ended. I have natural abilites so why should I fill my head with foreign terms like "chakra,meridians and nordis"?

 
At 7/7/08 11:32 pm, Anonymous skeptic said...

I think the point where my reiki training really started derailing was when someone said you could fix your car with it.

I'm not proud of the time and money I wasted in those days, but it's good experience to put yourself in the thick of it sometimes. It helps you understand the psychology of wooism in a more visceral way.

Personally I never once saw a healing that couldn't be chalked up to suggestion/placebo. Healing someone who doesn't know you're working on him would be a much better test -- one with disappointing results for the practitioner, I would bet.

 
At 8/11/09 5:04 pm, Anonymous dimo said...

I am trying to test this scientifically, i was looking for sources and am disappointed of your non-scientific aproach at disproving reiki. I believe more people will turn to it after reading your post, than away from it.
You are saying you just dont buy it, no experiments, no data, no proof or disproof - you are relying on your belief to counter their belief.
If you wish i will post back here after researching this through the scientific method, will test some of the stuff and will try to do it as controlled as possible. The thing is you can never say it is never working. Here is an extreme example - the real scientist will never say "There are no extraterestrials" "Gods and faeries do not exist" or other such qualifying notions, because that puts the responsibility of proving non-existence to him. The real scientist will say "there is no proof to substanitate that..."
and if you think this is just semantics - it is not, it is the difference between fighting belief with belief (like a crusade or jihad if you will) and fighting belief with fact and science.

If you feel offended do not approve my post - that's ok as long as you read it i dont mind if you delete it.

 
At 9/11/09 6:56 am, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

dimo - I'm "countering belief with belief"? I cited both the Rosa study on therapeutic touch (essentially reiki) and the test James Randi did with respect to auras.

If you're not going to read what you are commenting on, then there's no point in arguing with you. Good luck with your "testing" - I'm sure it'll be totally unbiased.

 

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