Catholicism and Reiki
More Evasive Than Informative
Your "Quick Questions" answers are usually delightfully informative, but some answers in the July-August 2001 issue were simply "non-answers"—more evasive than informative.
Examples: 1) Reiki "involves non-Christian religious principles" such as manipulating life energy and is "not consonant with Christian spirituality." That is a non-answer. (The real answer is far more complex).
2) The answer to the yoga question (for exercise, yes; for Hindu spirituality, no) states, again in reference to bodily energy manipulation, that it is "not appropriate for Catholics." This too is a non-answer, leaving a dangling "Why not?"
Fr. John H. Hampsch, C.M.F.
Los Angeles, California
Editor’s reply: We thought the incompatibility of Catholic thought and the idea of manipulating "life energy" was obvious, but the details can be spelled out.
Christian anthropology holds that man is a union of body and soul such that the soul is the essential form of the body (a point infallibly defined by the Council of
Consequently, there is no spiritual "life energy" animating the body. Any energy used as part of the body’s operations—such as the electricity in our nervous systems—is material in nature, not spiritual. The various forms of Hinduism and Buddhism that posit the existence of a life energy (ki or kundalini) interpret that energy as spiritual. Since this is contrary to Christian theology, it is inappropriate for Christians to participate in activities based on this belief.
Reiki - A Catholic Perspective
From time to time, we receive emails asking about this and that "method" of healing, with the most recent concerning Reiki. Until now, we have answered them one by one, without thinking to put anything on the Internet.
However, I was recently at a function where I met someone who said that he practices some aspects of Reiki along with regular massage and I began to realise just how many people - even Catholics - accept this as perfectly normal. Not one Catholic I spoke to that day could understand why I perceive such practices as potentially dangerous or why I was concerned about what they saw as a natural form of healing that has nothing to do with spiritual practices. And little wonder, when many practitioners either say they haven't a clue where the energy they profess to "channel" comes from, or completely deny that there is any spiritual element involved. Yet the entire concept is based on New Age thinking, which, according to the
Recently, the Catholic Church published a preliminary study on New Age spirituality, called "Jesus Christ, The Bearer Of The Water Of Life" which is available on the
The Meaning Of Reiki.... Rei = Sprit, K = Life Force Energy
Adherents will often claim that there is no spiritual element to Reiki, that it is purely natural and that it can be practiced by anyone, irrespective of their religious beliefs. However, far from lacking in any spiritual element, Reiki is essentially spiritual and is deeply-rooted in New Age thought and philosophy.
Its origins seem to be as confused as its core beliefs, with some adherents claiming it to be a "rediscovery" of some older practices while others claim that the founder received the first "attunement" directly from some "higher power" after several (some say 40) days fasting. But before going further into its origins, read what the International Center For Reiki Training, has to say about some of the spiritual aspects:
It is the God-consciousness called Rei that guides the life force called Ki in the practice we call Reiki. Therefore, Reiki can be defined as spiritually guided life force energy. This is a meaningful interpretation of the word Reiki. It more closely describes the experience most people have of it; Reiki guiding itself with its own wisdom, and being unresponsive to the direction of the practitioner. Reiki claims to channel a universal energy, or life force, through the practitioner into the one seeking healing, in order to balance and enhance their own "life force."
Although Reiki energy is described as spiritual in nature, Reiki does not claim to be a religion and says that practitioners are not asked to change any religious or spiritual beliefs they may already have. In fact, they are free to continue believing anything they choose, or to believe nothing at all. They are encouraged to make their own decisions concerning the nature of their religious practices, yet in order to become a Reiki healer, the "student" has to be "attuned" by a Reiki Master, as if this is some ability that has to be passed from person to person.
Some Christians appear to believe that you can tap into Reiki energies without adhering to its underlying spirituality, but although there are different forms of Reiki, there are not different attunements for people of different religious backgrounds. There is but one attunement, based on esoteric beliefs drawn from Buddhism and Hinduism, that supposedly opens the chakras, to allow various energies connected to them to flow and which allegedly makes any necessary "adjustments" to the student, as deemed necessary by whatever "higher power" Reiki claims to tap into. During attunement and during a healing session, Reiki symbols are drawn in the air, on the body or on paper. Of Reiki energy, the International Center For Reiki Training says:
Reiki energy is a subtle energy. It is different than electricity or chemical energy or other kinds of physical energy. Reiki energy comes from the Higher Power, which exists on a higher dimension than the physical world we are familiar with. When viewed clairvoyantly, Reiki energy appears to come down from above and to enter the top of the practitioners head after which if flows through the body and out the hands. It appears to flow this way because of our perspective. However, the true source of Reiki energy is within ourselves. This does not mean that we use our personal energy when we do Reiki, but that the energy is coming from a transindental part of ourselves that is connected to an infinite supply of healing energy.
The Reiki attunement is described as a powerful spiritual experience. The attunement energies are channeled into the student through the Reiki Master. The process is guided by the Rei or God-consciousness and adjustments are made in the process, depending on the needs of each student, as perceived by the "higher power." The attunement is also attended by Reiki guides and other spiritual beings who help implement the process. Many report having mystical experiences involving personal messages, healings, visions, and past life experiences. Some claim insight, a new "wisdom" and the ability to know things normally hidden.
Looking again at the origins of Reiki, we discover that the founder either spent time with Buddhists practicing Tantric Yoga or came across and meditated on writings pertaining to it and supposedly received this method of healing following exposure to this form of spirituality. Tantra yoga is an advanced method which, in the ancient East, would not be available to students until after many years of discipline, yet its energy is supposedly available to Reiki students after a couple of "attunements ". It contains within it spells, black magic and necromancy. It is connected to worship of the "supreme" Hindu goddess Shakti and Shakti is the force behind the power that, in this belief, lies "coiled" at the base of the spine, known as Kundalini and which is visualised as a serpent. During Reiki attunement, it is Kundalini energy which is guided to open the seven chakras. In Eastern practices, it is acknowledged that Kundalini releases immense and potentially dangerous psychic energy which can induce all manner of neurosis and psychosis, if uncontrolled. Yet as I mentioned, this energy is supposedly available to anyone who goes along for their Reiki "attunments."
I hope that by now you will have realised that Reiki masters do see this method of healing as being spiritual in nature and that, whatever else may be its claims, it uses the language of New Age. Let's take a look and see whether this spirituality is compatible with Christianity.
God By Another Name?
Someone once said, "Surely this is the same God you worship, but by another name." Far from it! If someone mentions the name of someone you love, not only is an image of that person conjured in your mind, but everything you know about them is wrapped up in their name. For example, if someone says my husband's name, all my experiences of him are contained in that simple sound, to create a sense of warmth and love and memories of shared experiences. Yet I know that not everyone who has the same name is also my husband. They simply do not have his nature. Likewise with God. As a Christian, I have a distinct experience of God, as far as I am able and a distinct view of Him, as revealed in Jesus Christ. Others may call themselves, or be called, "god" but they do not have His nature and are clearly not Him.
In the Monotheistic understanding of God, we are created for His glory and not the other way round. We may grapple with human imagery to describe Him, we may have to look to Creation to see some of His incredible beauty, we may barely be able to perceive Him, so far above us is His Nature, but we are also aware that we are created by Him and for Him and that we are created in His image and likeness through the power of the Holy Spirit. All of Creation directs us to Him. Everything that is good reveals something of Him. There is nothing in Creation that is not intended to give glory to God. In trying to describe God, the Catholic Catechism tells us:
40 Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking.
41 All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures - their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by taking his creatures" perfections as our starting point, "for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator".15
42 God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God--"the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable"--with our human representations.16 Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God.
43 Admittedly, in speaking about God like this, our language is using human modes of expression; nevertheless it really does attain to God himself, though unable to express him in his infinite simplicity. Likewise, we must recall that "between Creator and creature no similitude can be expressed without implying an even greater dissimilitude";17 and that "concerning God, we cannot grasp what he is, but only what he is not, and how other beings stand in relation to him."18
Yet we also learn that God has not chosen to remain aloof or impersonal, but has gradually revealed Himself to us as Our Father, a deeply personal God, concerned with every little detail of our lives from the very moment of our conception. As Mankind grapples with this revelation in history, God reveals His Name and His loving concern for His people. He is not an energy- force, a power to be tapped into but is a distinct Person who invites us to draw closer to Him, to come to know Him as personally and deeply as we are able and to worship and to serve Him as we are designed and created to do. We are created in God's image, but we are not God and can neither "tap into" nor direct God.
Our life comes through the power of the Holy Spirit, part of the Godhead ... a seperate and distinct Person and yet One with the Father. Again, not an impersonal life-force to be called, commanded, channelled, used or manipulated for our personal benefit but the very Spirit of God who blows where He will. He animates us. It is from Him that we draw our very life.
We have rejected this life through our disobedience and the world suffers the consequences. Every part of Creation is affected by our sin. Mankind walked away from God and His precepts to follow his own way and has suffered the results of that first sin, that first turning away from God in pursuit of knowledge and life outside of Him. Sin has multiplied through each generation, but although we have been unfaithful, God has sought always to restore us to Himself and has renewed His Covenant with us time and again, keeping His word even while we broke ours. But full restoration could come not through anything we could do or deserve. Instead, it had to come, as has everything, through God's initiative, in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of a Virgin, is the Son of the Most High in the most perfect sense. In Him, heaven and earth are reconciled. He is the Word of God who has existed for all eternity, was sinless yet offered Himself to die for our sins. He was crucified, died, was buried, rose from the dead and ascended to His Father, taking perfect humanity to the Throne Of Grace. Then, as if that were not enough, He sent the Holy Spirit in a "new" way, animating us with the very life of Christ, transforming us to be more and more like Jesus even as we remain fully ourselves.
In short, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons and yet are so fully One God. The Holy Spirit testifies to Jesus, always directs us to Jesus. Jesus Christ lifts us up to the Father, always gives glory to the Father. It is not possible for any Person of the Holy Trinity to deny another Person of the Holy Trinity
QUESTIONS TO CONTRAST NEW AGE AND CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY (Take from "Jesus Christ, The Bearer Of The Water Of Life" )
Is God a being with whom we have a relationship or something to be used or a force to be harnessed?
(NEW AGE) The New Age concept of God is rather diffuse, whereas the Christian concept is a very clear one. The New Age god is an impersonal energy, really a particular extension or component of the cosmos; god in this sense is the life-force or soul of the world. Divinity is to be found in every being, in a gradation “from the lowest crystal of the mineral world up to and beyond the Galactic God himself, about Whom we can say nothing at all. This is not a man but a Great Consciousness”. In some “classic” New Age writings, it is clear that human beings are meant to think of themselves as gods: this is more fully developed in some people than in others. God is no longer to be sought beyond the world, but deep within myself. Even when “God” is something outside myself, it is there to be manipulated.
(CHRISTIAN) This is very different from the Christian understanding of God as the maker of heaven and earth and the source of all personal life. God is in himself personal, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who created the universe in order to share the communion of his life with creaturely persons. “God, who 'dwells in unapprochable light', wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son. By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him, and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity”. God is not identified with the Life-principle understood as the “Spirit” or “basic energy” of the cosmos, but is that love which is absolutely different from the world, and yet creatively present in everything, and leading human beings to salvation.
Is there just one Jesus Christ, or are there thousands of Christs?
(NEW AGE) Jesus Christ is often presented in New Age literature as one among many wise men, or initiates, or avatars, whereas in Christian tradition He is the Son of God. Here are some common points in New Age approaches:
– the personal and individual historical Jesus is distinct from the eternal, impersonal universal Christ;
– Jesus is not considered to be the only Christ;
– the death of Jesus on the cross is either denied or re-interpreted to exclude the idea that He, as Christ, could have suffered;
– extra-biblical documents (like the neo-gnostic gospels) are considered authentic sources for the knowledge of aspects of the life of Jesus which are not to be found in the canon of Scripture. Other revelations about Jesus, made available by entities, spirit guides and ascended masters, or even through the Akasha Chronicles, are basic for New Age christology;
– a kind of esoteric exegesis is applied to biblical texts to purify Christianity of the formal religion which inhibits access to its esoteric essence.
(CHRISTIAN) In the Christian Tradition Jesus Christ is the Jesus of Nazareth about which the gospels speak, the son of Mary and the only Son of God, true man and true God, the full revelation of divine truth, unique Saviour of the world: “for our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father”.
The human being: is there one universal being or are there many individuals?
(NEW AGE) “The point of New Age techniques is to reproduce mystical states at will, as if it were a matter of laboratory material. Rebirth, biofeedback, sensory isolation, holotropic breathing, hypnosis, mantras, fasting, sleep deprivation and transcendental meditation are attempts to control these states and to experience them continuously”. These practices all create an atmosphere of psychic weakness (and vulnerability). When the object of the exercise is that we should re-invent our selves, there is a real question of who “I” am. “God within us” and holistic union with the whole cosmos underline this question. Isolated individual personalities would be pathological in terms of New Age (in particular transpersonal psychology). But “the real danger is the holistic paradigm. New Age is thinking based on totalitarian unity and that is why it is a danger...”. More moderately: “We are authentic when we 'take charge of' ourselves, when our choice and reactions flow spontaneously from our deepest needs, when our behaviour and expressed feelings reflect our personal wholeness”. The Human Potential Movement is the clearest example of the conviction that humans are divine, or contain a divine spark within themselves.
(CHRISTIAN) The Christian approach grows out of the Scriptural teachings about human nature; men and women are created in God's image and likeness (Gen 1.27) and God takes great consideration of them, much to the relieved surprise of the Psalmist (cf. Ps 8). The human person is a mystery fully revealed only in Jesus Christ (cf. GS 22),and in fact becomes authentically human properly in his relationship with Christ through the gift of the Spirit. This is far from the caricature of anthropocentrism ascribed to Christianity and rejected by many New Age authors and practitioners.
Do we save ourselves or is salvation a free gift from God?
(NEW AGE) The key is to discover by what or by whom we believe we are saved. Do we save ourselves by our own actions, as is often the case in New Age explanations, or are we saved by God's love? Key words are self-fulfilment and self-realisation, self-redemption. New Age is essentially Pelagian in its understanding of about human nature.
(CHRISTIAN) For Christians, salvation depends on a participation in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, and on a direct personal relationship with God rather than on any technique. The human situation, affected as it is by original sin and by personal sin, can only be rectified by God's action: sin is an offense against God, and only God can reconcile us to himself. In the divine plan of salvation, human beings have been saved by Jesus Christ who, as God and man, is the one mediator of redemption. In Christianity salvation is not an experience of self, a meditative and intuitive dwelling within oneself, but much more the forgiveness of sin, being lifted out of profound ambivalences in oneself and the calming of nature by the gift of communion with a loving God. The way to salvation is not found simply in a self-induced transformation of consciousness, but in a liberation from sin and its consequences which then leads us to struggle against sin in ourselves and in the society around us. It necessarily moves us toward loving solidarity with our neighbour in need.
Do we invent truth or do we embrace it?
(NEW AGE) New Age truth is about good vibrations, cosmic correspondences, harmony and ecstasy, in general pleasant experiences. It is a matter of finding one's own truth in accordance with the feel- good factor. Evaluating religion and ethical questions is obviously relative to one's own feelings and experiences.
(CHRISTIAN) Jesus Christ is presented in Christian teaching as “The Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14.6). His followers are asked to open their whole lives to him and to his values, in other words to an objective set of requirements which are part of an objective reality ultimately knowable by all.
Prayer and meditation: are we talking to ourselves or to God?
The tendency to confuse psychology and spirituality makes it hard not to insist that many of the meditation techniques now used are not prayer. They are often a good preparation for prayer, but no more, even if they lead to a more pleasant state of mind or bodily comfort. The experiences involved are genuinely intense, but to remain at this level is to remain alone, not yet in the presence of the other. The achievement of silence can confront us with emptiness, rather than the silence of contemplating the beloved. It is also true that techniques for going deeper into one's own soul are ultimately an appeal to one's own ability to reach the divine, or even to become divine: if they forget God's search for the human heart they are still not Christian prayer. Even when it is seen as a link with the Universal Energy, “such an easy 'relationship' with God, where God's function is seen as supplying all our needs, shows the selfishness at the heart of this New Age”.
New Age practices are not really prayer, in that they are generally a question of introspection or fusion with cosmic energy, as opposed to the double orientation of Christian prayer, which involves introspection but is essentially also a meeting with God. Far from being a merely human effort, Christian mysticism is essentially a dialogue which “implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from 'self' to the 'you' of God”.“The Christian, even when he is alone and prays in secret, he is conscious that he always prays for the good of the Church in union with Christ, in the Holy Spirit and together with all the saints”.
Are we tempted to deny sin or do we accept that there is such a thing?
(NEW AGE) In New Age there is no real concept of sin, but rather one of imperfect knowledge; what is needed is enlightenment, which can be reached through particular psycho-physical techniques. Those who take part in New Age activities will not be told what to believe, what to do or what not to do, but: “There are a thousand ways of exploring inner reality. Go where your intelligence and intuition lead you. Trust yourself”. Authority has shifted from a theistic location to within the self. The most serious problem perceived in New Age thinking is alienation from the whole cosmos, rather than personal failure or sin. The remedy is to become more and more immersed in the whole of being. In some New Age writings and practices, it is clear that one life is not enough, so there have to be reincarnations to allow people to realise their full potential.
(CHRISTIAN) In the Christian perspective “only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind's origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a development flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God's plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another”. Sin is an offense against reason, truth and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity...Sin is an offense against God... sin sets itself against God's love for us and turns our hearts away from it... Sin is thus 'love of oneself even to contempt of God'”.
Are we encouraged to reject or accept suffering and death?
(CHRISTIAN) Some New Age writers view suffering as self-imposed, or as bad karma, or at least as a failure to harness one's own resources. Others concentrate on methods of achieving success and wealth (e.g. Deepak Chopra, José Silva et al.). In New Age, reincarnation is often seen as a necessary element in spiritual growth, a stage in progressive spiritual evolution which began before we were born and will continue after we die. In our present lives the experience of the death of other people provokes a healthy crisis.
Both cosmic unity and reincarnation are irreconcilable with the Christian belief that a human person is a distinct being, who lives one life, for which he or she is fully responsible: this understanding of the person puts into question both responsibility and freedom. Christians know that “in the cross of Christ not only is the redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed. Christ – without any fault of his own – took on himself 'the total evil of sin'. The experience of this evil determined the incomparable extent of Christ's suffering, which became the price of the redemption... The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the redemption, Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the redemption. Thus each man in his suffering can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ”.
Is social commitment something shirked or positively sought after?
(NEW AGE) Much in New Age is unashamedly self-promotion, but some leading figures in the movement claim that it is unfair to judge the whole movement by a minority of selfish, irrational and narcissistic people, or to allow oneself to be dazzled by some of their more bizarre practices, which are a block to seeing in New Age a genuine spiritual search and spirituality. The fusion of individuals into the cosmic self, the relativisation or abolition of difference and opposition in a cosmic harmony, is unacceptable to Christianity.
(CHRISTIAN) Where there is true love, there has to be a different other (person). A genuine Christian searches for unity in the capacity and freedom of the other to say “yes” or “no” to the gift of love. Union is seen in Christianity as communion, unity as community.
Is our future in the stars or do we help to construct it?
(NEW AGE) The New Age which is dawning will be peopled by perfect, androgynous beings who are totally in command of the cosmic laws of nature. In this scenario, Christianity has to be eliminated and give way to a global religion and a new world order.
(CHRISTIAN) Christians are in a constant state of vigilance, ready for the last days when Christ will come again; their New Age began 2000 years ago, with Christ, who is none other than “Jesus of Nazareth; he is the Word of God made man for the salvation of all”. His Holy Spirit is present and active in the hearts of individuals, in “society and history, peoples, cultures and religions”. In fact, “the Spirit of the Father, bestowed abundantly by the Son, is the animator of all”. We live in the last times.
Based as Reiki is on New Age spirituality, which denies the basic tenets of Christianity then it is not possible to embrace both.
“No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn” (Lk 16.13)
As much as New Age adherents may state that they don't mind what you believe, they draw heavily on Eastern spirituality, which they take piecemeal as it suits them, create a pseudo-mystical experience, promote occultic and psychic practices forbidden in the Bible and contradict teachings the Church has handed down to us from the beginning concerning God and the nature of Jesus Christ as His only Son. They promote pantheism, gnosticism and embrace almost every heresy dreamed of since Christ walked the earth. You can deny Christ's divinity, even deny the existence of God Himself and they do not mind. For all their words of love and tolerance, there is one faith they wish to see rendered ineffective, and that is Christianity. Bearing all this in mind, I fail to see how any Christian can, in good conscience, embrace or practice any form of healing or embrace any form of spirituality connected with New Age. They will find themselves as a house divided against itself and might even find themselves unwittingly fighting against Christianity and thus against Jesus Christ.
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.
It is written: "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve."
As Christians, we know that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are One and since we know with absolute certainty that none of the Three Persons of the Godhead can deny either of the others, we know that the spirit to which Reiki refers cannot be the Holy Spirit. We then have to ask ourselves whether it might just be another "snake oil" or whether it does indeed call on some form of psychic or supernatural power, as it claims. And if it does utilies supernatural forces, we have to ask ourselves what sort of spirit it is that would deny God as Creator, deny Jesus as His Only Son and deny the Holy Spirit or, at best, relegate Him to the place of some sort of impersonal cosmic life-force.
What Spirits Could Be Behind Reiki?
We are community creatures who thrive in groups and can become very distressed when isolated. Little wonder, when you consider that, until relatively recently, our very physical survival depended on us belonging to a community. Various therapies that use touch are simply reinforcing a sense of belonging, of being nurtured and safe. In fact, all creatures that are nurtured from infancy respond well to touch, as any mother or pet-owner knows. Massage, in particular, works on both an emotional and physical level. It can stretch out and relax injured muscles, improve the circulation, boost the immune system and release chemicals that give us a sense of well-being. This is all well-documented.
Our other senses are also part of our historical survival-kit. They constantly tell us about our environment and how to respond to it. They tell us the season of the year, when it is time to sow and when it is time to reap, when we need to get up and going and when it is time to relax and unwind. They warn us of danger and they tell us when all is well with the world. We can use our understanding of the way we are affected by different sounds, colours and smells, to produce a desirable effect. Designers use this understanding of colour when they suggest ways to decorate the various rooms of our homes to induce the very state for which they are intended. Musicians use this understanding of sound to stimulate and excite or to relax and soothe. Perfumeries use this understanding of scent to produce smells which evoke certain responses. This too is well-documented.
We are affected by energies we cannot see (electricity and radiation, for example) and the Church does not imagine that we have discovered everything within physics that there is to discover. But it does call these things what they are - natural and physical, just waiting to be discovered, understood and explained by the sciences.
None of these natural things are forbidden us. We are permitted massage therapy, to go and buy aroma-therapy products, to take herbal medicines that have been proven to be of benefit etc. provided there is no spiritual component or belief attached to them.
Additionally, and not easily measured, quantified or understood is the way some people report unsought psychic revelations. We've all heard of a mother who suddenly knew that her child was in danger and was later proven right, or a person who felt suddenly prompted to call a friend, only to discover that the friend had been taken ill. I've experienced this myself. The Church doesn't deny that these experiences are real and neither does it condemn them. It possibly falls into the realm of us being part of "the communion of saints." The key to this is that these moments are UNSOUGHT. For us, as Christians, they can be seen as a call to pray for the person or the situation. It is when we seek these experiences that we can, and often do, run into trouble, because there is no shortage of spirits that are quite willing and able to take advantage of anyone seeking occult (hidden) knowledge.
So could it be that Reiki is completely natural? Of course it could - and any resultant beneficial result is almost certainly natural, working within the laws laid down by God. But that this is not what Reiki claims for itself. It claims to be spiritual and it claims to channel spiritual energies.
- If Reiki is purely physical, you don't need Reiki. You will do just as well in an hour with a physical therapist or even better if you treat yourself to a day of pampering at a spa, and with the added benefit of being certain that those who are laying hands on you are not calling on any spiritual powers.
- If Reiki is purely physical, why do we sometimes see healing retreats featuring this technique, in Catholic parishes. When did you last see advertised a "healthy diet retreat?" Or perhaps a "physical therapy and exercise retreat?" Reiki is promoted in spiritual environments precisely because those doing the promoting believe there is a spiritual element.
- If Reiki is purely physical, why do its practitioners need an "attunement" that may be assisted by unknown spirits?
- If Reiki is purely physical, why are most of its promoters firmly in the New Age camp, with its smorgasbord of selective Eastern beliefs (while refusing the disciplines of these religions) yet always denying the fundamental tenets of Christianity?
Regardless of the personal beliefs of individual practitioners, Reiki does claim to harness and manipulate hidden psychic and spiritual powers, in contradiction to Christian teaching, so we really do need to ask the source of these spirits.
Human beings are created to be spiritual, as much as physical, creatures. We are basically "wired for God," created in a way that makes us seek Him. Sometimes, in this quest, we become sidetracked, get off-course, even deny the very existence of God, but we are no less spiritual on account of it. Therefore it is entirely possible that Reiki and everything connected to it is from nothing more than a misguided human hunger for spirituality. In other words, it could be from the human spirit. The problem with that is that the human spirit is fully capable of being led astray and frequently is. There are plenty of evil spirits quite happy to take advantage of spiritual confusion and lack of religious discipline, so we really have to exercise a lot of discernment and bow to the knowledge and teaching of the Church in these matters, for the Church cannot mislead us in matters of faith and morals.
Part of discernment requires that we look at the source and the fruits of any sort of practice, whether it is connected to healing or just dealing with our daily lives. The fruit of Reiki, as with any New Age practice, is to slowly disengage individuals from their Christian faith and so water it down that it becomes ineffective in their lives.
I don't believe that most Reiki practitioners set out to deliberately use evil spirits. Many don't believe in the existence of evil spirits, while those who are practicing Christians believe they have protection from these spirits, simply by invoking the name of Jesus. But not believing in something doesn't make it cease to exist and being a disciple of Jesus Christ also means being obedient to our Heavenly Father. New Age practices and beliefs ... including Reiki ... take us into realms forbidden by God.
- It suggests that we can safely open ourselves to occult powers.
- It holds out the promise of occult knowledge.
- It seeks to manipulate occult forces.
- It claims spirit guides.
- It suggests that we have the power within ourselves to become godlike.
- It contradicts the Christian (and indeed the Jewish and Islamic) concept of God the Father.
- It is happy to deny Jesus Christ and some suggest He was nothing more than a Reiki Master.
- It relegates the Holy Spirit to nothing more than an animating force.
- It denies the need for Redemption and offers a panacea to all the problems caused by sin.
- It uses signs and symbols, as if these have power in themselves.
Let's look at what the Catholic Catechism says;
III. "YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME"
2110 The first commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people. It proscribes superstition and . Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion; irreligious is the vice contrary by defect to the virtue of religion.
2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.41
2112 The first commandment condemns polytheism. It requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God. Scripture constantly recalls this rejection of "idols, [of] silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see." These empty idols make their worshippers empty: "Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them."42 God, however, is the "living God"43 who gives life and intervenes in history.
2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divining what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon."44 Many martyrs died for not adoring "the Beast"45 refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.46
2114 Human life finds its unity in the adoration of the one God. The commandment to worship the Lord alone integrates man and saves him from an endless disintegration. Idolatry is a perversion of man's innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who "transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God."47
Divination and magic
2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.
2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future.48 Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.
The Catechism is just reiterating what has been revealed in the Bible, concerning the use of occult methods and powers. Put simply, we owe all our allegiance and worship to the one, true God. We are not permitted to call upon occult powers under any circumstance, not even in order to do good. Yet we see that Reiki does precisely this. When, acting in our human spirit, we disobey God, we are sinning, and God will not bless our sins. If we seek other spirits that are not of God (nothing that God sends will prompt disobedience to Him) then we are seeking the help of evil spirits. Period!
But are there really powers and spirits that are not of God?
Are There Really Powers And Spirits That Are Ungodly?
One of the problems of our times is that we have lost any sense of the presence and operation of evil spirits and powers that run contrary to God's plan, yet this is not what the Bible tells us. There are countless references throughout the Old Testament, to the existence of "unclean" spirits as well as commands to avoid all those who seek to contact them or use their powers.
Do not go to mediums or consult fortune-tellers, for you will be defiled by them. I, the LORD, am your God . (Lev 19:31)
The New Testament, likewise warns us that there are other spirits at work that are dangerous to us.
Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
And St. Paul tells us clearly: ....our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (Eph 6:12)
Today, even many good Catholics see these things as figments of overly-active imaginations, something belonging to medieval times, yet the Church has recently reiterated and underlined the truth of the existence of demons and their resultant spirits. It has, once again, brought their activity out into the light and seeks to address what is perceived as a growing need for deliverance and, in more serious cases, formal exorcism.
In 1998, Pope John Paul II addressed the role of Jesus as exorcist. According to a Zenit report:
The Pope's message cast light on a very important, but often neglected ministry: that of the exorcist. This is not the macabre role seen in the movies, but, as the Pope explained, an putting into action of the power of the Holy Spirit to defeat the power of the Devil.
Fr. Gabriele Amorth, exorcist for the diocese of Rome, announced several months ago that the role of the exorcist was in crisis. "The reduction of numbers of exorcists is leading many people to seek out 'wizards,' Satanic sects, and unscrupulous phonies who simply use others experiencing truly traumatic experiences for their own gain."
Fr. Amorth pointed out how this phenomenon may indicate that Christians have stopped believing in the "Prince of this world." The exorcist affirmed that "in the academic preparation of priests, demons have already gone out of existence," since "for decades this part of dogmatic theology hasn't been studied in the seminaries and ecclesial universities." Modern theologians have tried to make the exorcisms in the Bible into mere "cultural language" to symbolize the struggle against evil, using the language of the day.
The Pope's speech comes almost as a response to these statements. He confirmed the Church's tradition on the matter of exorcism, saying, "The three synoptic Gospels stress how, just after His baptism, Jesus was 'taken by the Holy Spirit to the desert 'to be tempted by Satan.' " The Pontiff recalled how Jesus' work as exorcist lasted throughout His whole life. "With Jesus," he added, "the Devil lost his power in the presence of the Holy Spirit."
PetersNet has an an interview with Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez on the topic of exorcism and in 1999, the Church published an document, called "De Exorcismus Et Supplicationibus Quibusdam," to address current needs and to apply strict guidelines.
All this should tell the reader that the Church takes very seriously the activity of evil spirits - and so should we, because their hatred of God, hatred of Jesus and jealousy of our relationship with God drives these rebellious and fallen entities to seek nothing other than our total destruction.
Of course, for most of us, this does not mean a direct and obvious onslaught. Most of us would recognise and run a mile from anything that smacked of Satan's work or looked obviously evil, and so, more often than not, these spirits appear as angels of light, as bearers of good ... and for a while they can maintain this illusion. But their aim is not good. Their aim towards us is purely malevolent and, sooner or later, the good they appeared to bring backfires on us. Today, we are seeing an unprecedented drop in faith in the basic tenets of Christianity among those participating in New Age practices. Additionally, as the euphoria wears off and the harsh reality of life hits home once more, there is a consequential increase in depression, loss of self-worth, psychological and even psychiatric disturbances among those who have participated in these New Age spiritual practices. The fact is that you cannot seek to unleash psychic and spiritual energies and hope for a good outcome. The devil is a liar, as he has been from the start. His hope is to lure people gently away from the protection afforded by the Precious Blood of Jesus, making all manner of promises but sooner or later, the promise turns out to have been empty and all that remains is hopeless despair.
If you have been involved in any of these practices and want to find your way out, please do know that there is help. That help lies in Jesus Christ, who has the absolute victory over evil and all its snares. Jesus doesn't promise a bed of roses in this life but He offers a peace that transcends all our difficulties, has the power to forgive all our sins and restore our relationship with God (which often results in physical healing) and lead us into an eternal life of unimaginable bliss in the presence of the Most High God. If you are feeling lost, hopeless, depressed or any of the other ultimate consequences of participating in pagan and occultic practices, or if you have just become involved in them and want out, CLICK HERE NOW. You can return to these pages to continue reading, by simply closing the new window that opens, but we want you to know that there is hope, peace and forgiveness just waiting for you.
How Does This Differ From Healing In The Church?
Jesus came to restore our relationship with God to that which was intended from the outset. While Jesus was among us, His primary mission was to teach about the Father and to call us back into full relationship with our Creator. As Jesus taught, he demonstrated His authority and divinity by healing ... but these outward healings were a sign of an inner, spiritual reality, which was the forgiveness of sins. They were never done for their own sake, but always to call attention to His mission on earth and to demonstrate that with His coming, the Kingdom of God was now present to all who would but enter by believing in Him and doing the will of His Father and ours. Through His death, we have been healed. Through His resurrection, we have been freed, even from the bondage of death itself and those who die in Him will also rise, when the Kingdom of God, perceived only in part, is fully revealed in the Second Coming.
I don't want to go to spend too much time on our Christian beliefs in this article, not because they are undeserving(!) but because there are so many wonderful sources, including the Catholic Catechism which can more fully explain, but following Jesus' Ascension to Heaven, He fulfilled His promise to send the Holy Spirit upon believers so that they too would be able to heal and to cast out demons - not simply for the sake of making people feel better but as a sign of His Lordship over all Creation. He promised to be with us until the end of time. He had already designed ways for us to avail ourselves of His healing, restorative love and forgiveness through the Sacraments.
In each of the Sacraments of Initiation, of Reconciliation, of Eucharist and of Anointing Of The Sick, we are given the opportunity to be healed of the most serious harm done to us ... our broken relationship with God. We may also experience physical healing as our sins are washed away and we receive total forgiveness. For most of us, it is a gradual process, a combination of Sacramental graces and discipline in an ongoing process that lasts our entire time on earth, as we do battle with ourselves and our pride.
Additionally, the Holy Spirit grants charisms, or special gifts, to those who are baptised into new life, in Jesus Christ. Among these is the charism of healing. It is for the Holy Spirit to decide how He will distribute these gifts and although we can certainly pray for them, so that we may better testify to the Lord Jesus and use the gifts for the upbuilding of the Church, it is still the Holy Spirit's decision on who will receive what. The Holy Spirit gives freely as He wills. We cannot pass our gifts to others for it is always God's initiative and never our own.
In contrast, Reiki suggests that these powers can be passed from one to another, which is in clear opposition to what the Church has taught from the outset.
When we pray for one another, as Christians, we are not channellers of God's power but are mere intercessors for one another. We lay hands on the sick and we pray specifically for them, but our primary prayer is always that God's will be done and that any subsequent healing will serve to glorify God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Physical or emotional healing is always, for us, a sign of a greater reality. The reality that Jesus is Lord, that He alone has the power to heal and to forgive, and that healing is to serve as a testimony to the absolute power of Jesus over Satan's attempts at our ruination.
Truly Christian healers not only admit that they have no power, but they testify to the only one who has, JESUS CHRIST. Again, in contrast, Reiki and other methods of spiritual healing, proclaim nothing, testify to nothing and even has no objection to the complete denial of every tenet of Christian faith. Therefore, it is not Christian, cannot be Christian and cannot even be called Godly, because God does not deny Himself and neither does He grant genuine charisms or the power to command the spirit-world to those who would deny Jesus.
Then some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those with evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." When the seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish high priest, tried to do this, the evil spirit said to them in reply, "Jesus I recognize, Paul I know, but who are you?" The person with the evil spirit then sprang at them and subdued them all. He so overpowered them that they fled naked and wounded from that house.
If you are in need of healing, your first recourse must be to Jesus and to His mercy available through the Church. Avail yourself of the Sacraments, if you are a member of a Sacramental Church. You might also want to find if your diocese had an active charismatic community who will pray with you for your healing. If you are unsure how to go about this, feel free to email us and we will see if we can help you locate one near you. You might want to read this page, if you have been involved in any New Age occultic practices or even if you suspect you might have been.
Finally, remember that God loves you and even if you had been the only person in the world to ever have sinned, Jesus would have come and would have gladly suffered and died to save you. That is how uniquely precious each one of is to God, who loves us beyond our wildest dreams. Jesus wants to heal you ... although it might not be in ways of your choosing but in other, better ways. Turn to Him now. He is waiting for you.
Leaving Reiki Behind - Jesus Has The Victory
If you have been involved in New Age practices or any occultic activity and you want to find your way out of this cycle that takes you deeper into this false mysticism, then Jesus is just waiting to receive you, forgive you and restore you
.First of all, KNOW that Jesus has already overcome the very worst that evil could throw at Him. Jesus came to earth to restore our relationship with God. He taught, healed the sick and cast out demons. For all this, He was willingly crucified - a most horrific torture - died and was buried. Three days later, He had risen from the dead and for several weeks showed Himself to many witnesses who have testified to what they saw and experienced. He ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to empower His Church to heal, to cast out demons, to forgive sinners and restore people to their full relationship with God.
JESUS HAS WON THE VICTORY
No matter what you have done, it can never be so bad that it is beyond God's healing love, and He wants to heal you. To avail yourself of His free gift of eternal life, you need to repent of your past wrongs and sins, including and especially any involvement with the occult and pagan practices. To repent means to turn away, to renounce these former things. If you have made up your mind that you want the Living Water that quenches the thirst of the human spirit but you don't know how to pray, you might turn to God and say something like:
Heavenly Father, I am very sorry that I have sought life outside of you. I am sorry that I have sought to know things that you, in your wisdom, have kept hidden for my own good. I am sorry for .... (just add what you have done or been involved in) and I renounce all those things now in Jesus' Name. I turn away from all of Satan's lies and deceptions and accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour (for the first time, or anew, as it applies to you) and desire the fulness of life He has promised to all who follow Him to your heart. Jesus, come into my life and cleanse me of all my sins. Holy Spirit, refresh me and fill all those spaces of my mind, heart and soul where I have allowed darkness to enter. Teach me the ways of God and lead me increasingly to a personal relationship with Jesus so that I may worship the Father, my Creator in fullness and in truth. I pray this in Jesus' Name. Amen.
This prayer is not a magical solution, an instant spell, but it is a beginning of a new or renewed way of life. If you are a Catholic, go to Confession. If you haven't been for a long time, it doesn't matter. The priest will understand. If you have been practicing your faith but have not confessed your involvement in the occult, you need to do it now. If you are not a Catholic, go and speak to a Pastor of your denomination. If you are not a Christian, go along to any Catholic (or other Christian) church and speak to a Pastor. Try and make an appointment so he will have plenty of time for you, then be assured of a loving welcome and follow his advice.
Issue: What is Reiki? Is there medical evidence that Reiki is effective? Is Reiki compatible with the Catholic faith?
Response: Reiki ("ray-key") means "universal life energy" or "universal life force." Advocates describe Reiki as "a hands-on spiritual healing tradition"1 in which "spiritual energy" is communicated from one individual to another. Regarding its effectiveness, even Reiki practitioners acknowledge that "evidence for the efficacy of Reiki is mostly anecdotal, and clinical research is minimal."2
Reiki has foundational beliefs and practices that are irreconcilable with Catholicism, including not recognizing Jesus as a divine Person and the Savior of all mankind. Reiki involves a belief similar to pantheism, in which a universal life energy—not Jesus—provides life to all living beings and is also said to govern the Reiki healing process. Because Reiki practitioners believe they can harness and use this universal life energy, Reiki is not simply a form of superstition but rather opens oneself up to dangerous involvement in the occult practices of divination and magic (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2111, 2116-17).
Discussion: Mikao Usui, a Buddhist monk, is said to have "rediscovered" Reiki in 1914 while praying and fasting on a retreat. He also understood that he was to share this healing power with others. The term "Reiki" comes from "Rei" (whose simplest meaning is "universal") and "ki" ("life force" or "life energy"). Reiki became pervasive in Japan, was introduced in Hawaii by Hawayo Takata in 1930, and reached the U.S. mainland in the early 1970s.
Reiki students ascend through levels of proficiency. Masters pass on Reiki to students through "attunements," a process that involves the laying on of hands and which is said to open "recipients’ channels to facilitate the flow of Reiki."3
While it has the appearance of physical therapy, Reiki does not rely on a therapist’s skilled hands. Rather, to aid the healing process, Reiki practitioners rely on spiritual agents which, upon close examination, are non-Christian.
What Animates the Body?
The Church teaches that all things and persons were created through Jesus (cf. Col. 1:16). The Church also teaches that every man has a unique soul that animates the body, i.e., makes his material body "a living, human body" (Catechism, no. 365). Reiki agrees that the life principle of man is spiritual, but does not assert that this life principle is the unique soul. Rather, the life principle of all men is "Ki," which is
the nonphysical energy that animates all living things. As long as something is alive, it has life force circulating through it and surrounding it; when it dies, the life force departs. If your life force is low, or if there is a restriction in its flow, you will be more vulnerable to illness. When it is high, and flowing freely, you are less likely to get sick. Life force plays an important role in everything we do. It animates the body and also is the primary energy of our emotions, thoughts and spiritual life.4
"Any energy used as part of the body’s operations—such as the electricity in our nervous systems—is material in nature, not spiritual," counters This Rock Magazine, affirming the Church’s teaching in an editorial response in the October-December 2001 issue. "The various forms of Hinduism and Buddhism that posit the existence of a life energy (ki or kundalini) interpret that energy as spiritual," the magazine adds. "Since this is contrary to Christian theology, it is inappropriate for Christians to participate in activities based on this belief."
Who or What Is Invoked?
As noted above, in Reiki, spiritual energy is said to be transferred from master to student during the attunement process. The Catechism makes clear that all "attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others—even if this were for the sake of restoring their health—are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion" (no. 2117). The Church also warns against the occult practice of "divination," which include using mediums to communicate with spirits (no. 2116). The attunement process, as described by Reiki advocates, involves attempting to use what the Church would describe as occult powers:
This process opens the crown, heart, and palm chakras and creates a special link between the student and the Reiki source.
The Reiki attunement is a powerful spiritual experience. The attunement energies are channeled into the student through the Reiki Master. The process is guided by the Rei or God-consciousness and makes adjustments in the process depending on the needs of each student. The attunement is also attended by Reiki guides and other spiritual beings who help implement the process. Many report having mystical experiences involving personal messages, healings, visions, and past life experiences.5
Note that while Reiki Masters tap into and direct Reiki, it is the "Rei," i.e., "God consciousness," who is said to oversee the whole process. In its 2003 interdicastery report on the New Age, the Vatican distinguishes between "pantheism," "the belief that everything is God," and "panentheism," i.e., "that everything is in God and God is in everything."6 Given its personal description of the divine "Rei," Reiki is more accurately categorized as panentheism, employing a belief in God that is clearly not Christian:
The word Rei as it is used in Reiki is more accurately interpreted to mean supernatural knowledge or spiritual consciousness. This is the wisdom that comes from God or the Higher Self. This is the God-Consciousness which is all knowing. It understands each person completely. It knows the cause of all problems and difficulties and knows what to do to heal them.7
Jesus is not "a universal life energy," "supernatural knowledge" or "spiritual consciousness" as described by the Reiki belief system. Jesus is a divine Person who is all-knowing and all-powerful. In addition, a Catholic may not and should not invoke God other than in the name of the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit, i.e., the Holy Trinity. Invoking God or a "God consciousness" otherwise makes oneself vulnerable to an evil spirit or spirits that might become present. Furthermore, while the Bible and Christian Tradition affirm praying with the laying on of hands, the attunement process is something quite different. It is not Christian in origin and therefore, not surprisingly, does not invoke the Persons of the Trinity. It presumes to invoke an impersonal "God Consciousness," which is assisted in attunement process by unnamed "spiritual beings."
By What Authority?
Further, in their attempts to recruit Catholic practitioners, Reiki advocates openly oppose orthodox Catholicism in favor of heretical forms of Christianity that existed in the early Church. Jesus is said to have healed in a manner similar to Reiki and to have also passed this "secret knowledge" on to certain followers:
The early followers of Jesus’ teachings were made up of several groups. One such group was the Gnostics.8 They practiced laying on of hands and professed to have a secret knowledge that had been passed on to them by Jesus and his disciples. The Gnostics were made up of many smaller groups some of which were known as the Docetists, the Marcionites, and the Carpocratians. . . .
When Christianity became organized after the second century, its teachings were centered around faith and the official teachings of the church, rather than healing or "good works" and inner guidance as practiced by the Gnostics. At this time, those promoting the organization of the church began subduing and banishing those Gnostics who would not conform to the authority of the newly developing Church. In addition they tried to destroy the Gnostic gospels. With the elimination of the Gnostics and the establishment of the Official Christian Church, the practice of laying on hands by lay Christians was strongly discouraged.9
Affirmation of the gnostics is common among New Age enthusiasts. It is also telling. For example, the Docetists believed that Jesus merely appeared to have a human body, thereby denying the Incarnation and God’s salvific plan for mankind through the Sacrifice of Calvary. In its document on the New Age, the Vatican adds the following on gnosticism:
An adequate Christian discernment of New Age thought and practice cannot fail to recognize that, like second and third century gnosticism, it represents something of a compendium of positions that the Church has identified as heterodox. John Paul II warns with regard to the "return of ancient gnostic ideas under the guise of the so-called New Age: We cannot delude ourselves that this will lead toward a renewal of religion. It is only a new way of practicing gnosticism – that attitude of the spirit that, in the name of a profound knowledge of God, results in distorting His Word and replacing it with purely human words. Gnosticism never completely abandoned the realm of Christianity. Instead, it has always existed side by side with Christianity, sometimes taking the shape of a philosophical movement, but more often assuming the characteristics of a religion or a para-religion in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian."10
As a result of its incompatibility with Catholicism, prominent Church leaders have condemned the practice of Reiki, including Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City in his 1996 pastoral letter on the New Age, "A Call to Vigilance."11 In his Pentecost 2003 pastoral letter, "Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Light," Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, also warned against New Age practices. While Cardinal Pell didn’t mention Reiki by name, his spokesman Msgr. Peter Elliott cited Reiki healing as dangerous because of its emphasis on spirit guides in a follow-up interview in a major Australian newspaper.12 In addition, there is the 2003 provisional report on the New Age, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the "New Age," a cooperative effort of a Vatican congregation and two Pontifical councils. The document does not mention Reiki by name, but condemns processes integral to Reiki, namely, "psychic healing" and "communication with spirits via mediums or channeling."13
Calling Upon Spirits
Reiki advocates acknowledge that Reiki involves channeling and psychic practices.14 Attunement, it may be recalled, relies on "Reiki guides" and "other spiritual beings" for the implementation of the process.
What "guides" or "other spiritual beings" would be present? Reiki advocates conclude that, "because Reiki is guided by the God-consciousness, it can never do harm. It always knows what a person needs and will adjust itself to create the effect that is appropriate for them. One never need worry about whether to give Reiki or not. It is always helpful."15
Yet, as the Church conveys in the Catechism and elsewhere, such spiritual activity is perilous to one’s spiritual well-being (cf. Catechism, nos. 2116-17). Claretian Father John Hampsch, a veteran spiritual director, confirmed that there are spiritual risks with Reiki. In an interview with Catholics United for the Faith, he gave an example of a woman who heard a Reiki master invoke spiritual beings by name while providing her a Reiki treatment. These beings were apparently invoked to "help implement the process."
"This is dangerous stuff," said Fr. Hampsch, who said that he was cautious in learning about Reiki before condemning it. While he describes Reiki as a "very subtle" New Age practice, Father Hampsch said that there is undoubted danger, as with other occult practices, because one opens oneself up to the influence of evil spirits. He said that there is always the "devil’s compensation" in occult practices, including improving one’s health, but that the "payment" is always worse, including addictions, problems with relationships, and even suicide. Father Hampsch added that he has spoken to various people who have experienced problems after involvement in Reiki.
What Does Vatican II Say?
Some may argue that Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions) allows for Catholics to "promote" the genuine truth in non-Christian religions. Article no. 2 of Nostra Aetatedoes say that we are exhorted to "acknowledge, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture." However, there is a crucial paragraph that immediately precedes those remarks:
The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of truth which enlightens all men. Yet she proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth and life (Jn. 1:6). In him, in whom God reconciled all things to Himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19), men find the fullness of their religious life.
The Church, therefore, urges her sons to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. (no. 2, emphasis added)
Clearly, then, the Church’s teaching affirms the genuine truths found in Buddhism, Hinduism and other non-Christian faiths; it does not affirm the distinctive doctrines of each faith that are incompatible with Catholicism. Only the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of truth, and God desires all people to be incorporated into the Church.16
There is also the citation from Vatican II’s Ad Gentes, the Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, in which Catholics are told to reflect "attentively on how Christian religious life may be able to assimilate the ascetic and contemplative traditions whose seeds were sometimes already planted by God in ancient cultures prior to the preaching of the Gospel" (no. 18).
Note well that the document says "assimilate" and not "accommodate." The purpose of any catechetical program or retreat center is to form people in the one, true Catholic Faith,17 not to engage in activities that deliberately or may indirectly foster religious indifferentism. That is the important point to make to any catechist or retreat center that professes to be Catholic and is attempting to integrate Reiki. As Ad Gentes itself notes, "As the salt of the earth and light of the world (cf. Mt. 5:13-14), the Church is summoned with special urgency to save and renew every creature. In this way, all things can be restored in Christ, and in Him mankind can compose one family and one people" (no. 1).
A great desire to relieve human suffering is understandable and commendable. Mainstream disciplines seem to provide little recourse. To quote extensively from the introduction to Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life:
Some say that the Christian religion is patriarchal and authoritarian, that political institutions are unable to improve the world, and that formal (allopathic) medicine simply fails to heal people effectively . . . New Age is attractive mainly because so much of what it offers meets hungers often left unsatisfied by the established institutions.
The Renaissance and the Reformation have shaped the modern western individual . . . with this cult of humanity, religion is internalized in a way which prepares the ground for a celebration of the sacredness of the self. This is why New Age shares many of the values espoused by enterprise culture and the "prosperity Gospel" and also by the consumer culture, whose influence is clear from the rapidly-growing numbers of people who claim that it is possible to blend Christianity and New Age . . . .
. . . But here is a central question: just what is meant by spirituality in a New Age context? . . . Some versions of New Age harness the powers of nature . . . and to help individuals tune in to the right frequency to make the most of themselves and their circumstances. In most cases, it is completely fatalistic. Christianity, on the other hand, is an invitation to look outwards and beyond, to the "new Advent" of the God who calls us to live the dialogue of love.
Reiki and similar New Age spiritual practices are neither medically credible practices, nor are they compatible with Christianity; indeed, these practices pose serious spiritual risks for those who participate in them. Given the nature of Reiki and similar practices, they cannot be adapted to conform with Christianity. Jesus Christ the divine Healer is the true of source all spiritual healing and freedom (cf. Jn. 8:32), whether that pertains to life on earth or preparing us for life eternal with Him in heaven. Indeed, it is Jesus Christ—"the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn. 14:6), the One came to provide us "life abundantly" (Jn. 10:10)—who should be sought for our spiritual well-being, now and forever.
1 Pamela Potter, MA, MSN, APRN, "What are the Distinctions Between Reiki and Therapeutic Touch?" Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, January/February 2003, (vol. 7, no. 1), p. 1.
2 Ibid. Because Reiki purports to involve a spiritual energy, its effectiveness, strictly speaking, cannot be determined by scientific methods, which can only make determinations about the physical world. Similarly, science cannot prove a Church-approved miracle. It can only report a wondrous change in the physical world for which there is no scientific explanation, but which, for example, coincided with prayer on behalf of a seriously afflicted individual.
4 "What is Reiki" The International Center for Reiki Training, as given athttp://www.reiki.org/FAQ/WhatIsReiki.html. Much of the information contained in this presentation is taken from a major pro-Reiki website (http://www.reiki.org/), which largely relies on William Rand’s Reiki, The Healing Touch (Southfield, Mich.: Vision Publications, 1991).
5 "Learning Reiki" The International Center for Reiki Traininghttp://www.reiki.org/FAQ/LearningReiki.html
6 The Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the "New Age," no. 7.2, original emphasis.
7 "What is Reiki?" The International Center for Reiki. as given athttp://www.reiki.org/FAQ/WhatIsReiki.html.
8 The term "Gnostics" derives from the Greek term for "knowledge": gnosis. Among other beliefs, the gnostics believed that salvation came from knowledge and that the physical world is evil (cf. Catechism, no. 285).
9 William Lee Rand, "Similarities between the Healing of Jesus and Reiki," as given athttp://www.reiki.org/reikinews/reikin16.html.
10 The Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the "New Age," no. 1.4, citing Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), 90.
11 See no. 21. Online version available at http://www.ewtn.com/library/bishops/acall.htm.
12 The Age, June 12, 2003; The Age is based in Melbourne
13 see section 2.2.3. "Health: Golden living" and discussion of "parapsychology" in "Select Glossary," no. 7.2.
14 see "Learning Reiki" and "How Does Reiki Work?"
15 "How does Reiki work?"
16 cf. Vatican II, Unitatts Redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism), no. 3.
17 cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 848; cf. Jn. 14:6.
Holy Bible (Catholic edition)
Catechism of the Catholic Church (Paperback and Hardback available)
Vatican II Documents
Hontz, Jenny, "The energy to heal: With ancient concepts of a life force going against mainstream, research is catching up." Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2004, health section, pg. 1.
Noonan, Moira, Ransomed from Darkness: The New Age, Christian Faith, and the Battle for Souls. El Sobrante, Calif.: North Bay Books, 2004.
Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the "New Age." 2003.
Pacwa, Father Mitch, S.J., Catholics and the New Age: How Good People Are Being Drawn into Jungian Psychology, the Enneagram, and the Age of Aquarius. Cincinnati, Ohio: Servant Publications, 1992).
Rand, William, Reiki, The Healing Touch. Southfield, Mich.: Vision Publications, 1991.
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Hahn and Suprenant, eds., Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God
Leon Suprenant, ed., Servants of the Gospel
Frederick Marks, A Catholic Handbook for Engaged and Newly Married Couples
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, Without a Doubt
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