Monday, July 20, 2009

Roman Catholic Church Bans Reiki

This actually happened back in March, but I only heard about it this weekend. The Roman Catholic Church has published an evaluation of Reiki, a form of Japanese energy work used for healing, and declared it to be incompatible with Christian belief.

According to a USCCB press release, the guidelines describe Reiki as a healing technique “invented in Japan in the late 1800s by Mikao Usui, who was studying Buddhist texts.”

It characterizes Reiki therapy as teaching that illness is caused by “some kind of disruption or imbalance in one’s ‘life energy.’”

A Reiki practitioner is believed to be able to effect healing by placing his or her hands in certain positions on a patient’s body to “facilitate the flow of Reiki, the ‘universal life energy,’ from the Reiki practitioner to the patient.”

“Reiki lacks scientific credibility,” the U.S. bishops’ guidelines state, adding that scientific and medical communities have not accepted it as “an effective therapy.”

“Reputable scientific studies attesting to the efficacy of Reiki are lacking, as is a plausible scientific explanation as to how it could possibly be efficacious,” the bishops’ guidelines add.

Reiki has many of the same problems as ceremonial magick in terms of being subject to scientific evaluation. The practitioner is such an important variable that repeatable experiments are difficult to set up and most of the healing effect is based on probability shifts. So in order to really do a good scientific study you need an enormous sample set to determine whether or not the practice is working.

Studies like this have been done with acupuncture, but they have taken many years to do. I remember some of those going on it the late 1980's when I was in college. One of my classes was on psychoneuroimmunology, and some of what it covered included attempts by neuroscientists to figure out what acupuncture was and how it worked. The most recent studies have shown a significant difference between subjects treated with needles and those who received no treatment, but there is little difference between groups in terms of whether or not the needles are placed in the "appropriate" locations for specific illnesses. Even after all these years, accupuncture looks like it's doing something, but scientists still aren't quite sure what.

Even though such a study of Reiki would be similarly difficult, it's kind of interesting seeing this scientific criticism coming from the Catholic Church. To be fair, the Catholics come out in favor of mainstream science at least as much as other churches do if not moreso, as in the debate over creationism in which the Roman Catholic Church sided with the scientific community even though it was originally a Catholic who came up with the 6000-year-old Earth model that modern creationists support. But doesn't the Catholic Church also teach that you can be healed by prayer? What makes Reiki different?

Examining descriptions of Reiki as a “spiritual” kind of healing, the guidelines say there is a radical difference between Reiki therapy and healing by divine power.

“For Christians the access to divine healing is by prayer to Christ as Lord and Savior, while the essence of Reiki is not a prayer but a technique that is passed down from the 'Reiki Master' to the pupil, a technique that once mastered will reliably produce the anticipated results.”

Shorter Catholic Church:

(1) Magick is okay as long as it's our magick, but otherwise it's bad.
(2) If magick works you shouldn't use it.

As a magician neither of those arguments makes very much sense to me. As far as (1) goes, many religious systems try to monopolize the magick use of their followers according to what they believe is the only "correct" or "authorized" system and the Roman Catholic Church has a particularly long history of doing just that going back over a thousand years. However, the universality of magical practices across different spiritual traditions would seem to imply that regardless of what any particular groups says, there are a lot of ways to make magick work.

I find (2) even more incomprehensible - it sounds as if the Roman Catholic Church is implying that you shouldn't make use of any magical practice that works well. I suppose this may just be an extension of (1) in that functional magick that doesn't fit the Catholic paradigm could undermine their monopoly on the "proper" use of magical powers.

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Suecae Sounds said...

Not surprising, but still kind of dissapointing. Reiki seems to have garnered some popularity, as do eastern asian healing practises in general. Acupuncture seems to have been accepted for a number of years by the medical authorities where I live. I am even happy to tell that my mother got prescription for a chi gong class in combination with modern western medicine to treat a serious back-injury roughly seven or so years ago.

Rufus Opus said...

Excellent post, as usual. I love the way you find occult-related items in the news.

The Catholic Church isn't exactly a bastion of occult truth and wisdom. I mean, there are interesting mystical truths that can be found under the Church's auspices, but the doctrines and dogmas are opposed to occult tenets. They believe pretty firmly that "the gods of the pagans are demons." They see any form of spirituality that isn't sanctioned by the Church as being false. They believe their members would be corrupted by pursuing God using false techniques.

What doesn't get mentioned in the article is that the Church believes that Reiki is demonic and that following that superstitious practice will surely land you in HELL!!!

They very carefully expressed their concerns without saying it all blatant.

My theory is that some catholic priests were letting Reiki practitioners use the church facilities. A priest or two are probably Reiki Masters themselves and were probably having healing services. Some fundy saw it and reported them to the bishops. The Bishops probably looked into it and found that it was a pretty popular thing, and they couldn't burn Reiki practitioners at the stake anymore. So they issued an edict.

That's just a guess.

Anonymous said...

Not a reiki 2nd degree myself I see reiki is mostly laughed at and not taken seriously....
In regards of this I do not care
The Vatican itself is another name for
House of the Serpent"
and its all a front for the new world order

Reiki just so happens to conflict with the idea and not specifically reiki but perhaps the general principles and ideas that come out of it...
I will continue to practice Reiki regardless and continue to help those who need it...
TPTB know about healing techniques like this...theres a reason its downplayed and frowned upon....think about it

Rob said...

The official Catholic belief is that any metaphysical force is either from God (either through God or Christ, or one of the angels empowered by God to do his work), or from Satan and his agents. If you look at miracles, from a Catholic perspective, they aren't so much done by the Saint, but done by God through which the Saint acts as a sort of messenger.

Reiki is definitely not done by God, since it is done by practitioners who learn it as a trade, and the practitioners don't acknowledge it as God's work but as their own. Therefor it either must have a mundane explanation or it is Satanic. Although it may have a mundane explanation, they've yet to find one, so they'll err on the side of Satanic.

I wouldn't worry too much about it though. Catholics generally don't care too much about what the church is telling them is right or wrong and just do whatever they want to.

As for Rufus, more than likely this was brought about because Reiki is becoming more popular in the west and the church decided to put forth an official position so they could be unified. Most priests are educated, even if they aren't biblical scholars, and if a member of their congregation asked about Reiki and if it was okay to participate, most could look towards the bible and church cannon and come to a conclusion. The church probably just wanted to have an official stance so everyone's saying the same thing, and at the same time it was probably brought about by a large number of priests asking their superiors what their position should be because they might have been unsure.

In any case the Catholics aren't too big on the damnation and hell thing. They're the ones who say so long as you confess it to a priest and ask for forgiveness your sins don't count against you. Technically you don't even have to do it in your lifetime, you actually have a chance after you die (on judgment day when Christ is resurrected before you).

It's also insane to believe that any Catholic priest would allow the church facilities to be used for alternative spiritual practices.

I find it rather mean to make negative assumptions about a group because they happen to be of a religion you disagree with and to spread hate and ignorance about a valid spiritual path.

Rufus Opus said...

R-J: My local Catholic church lets the facilities be used for Yoga. I don't know why you think it's a negative assumption that the priests would be into reiki and need a bishop to clarify doctrine. Happens all the time.

But you know what? Whatever.

Lavanah said...

This news has been circulating in the Reiki world for some time. In response, Japanese Buddhist monks released a statement saying that they could find no Buddhist basis for Reiki. I suppose the Vatican feels that it knows better. But considering that most of the clinical positions listed in the Reiki help wanteds are from Catholic Institutions (here in the US, at least), it does make me wonder just how large the split is, between Rome and the rest of the world.

Unknown said...

It's probably some of the top priests (and presumably the pope, too, for them to state what the official policy is, but I'm not up on just who has the say in these things) and the rest of the catholics.

ChandraNova said...

I can kind of see their POV... I wouldn't necessarily like a Catholic service with some of the basic statements made about Christ being the ONLY path to God etc being held in my home/shrine/healing space.

That's because, regardless of the truth on Divine/meta levels, it would feel on a human level like I was allowing something marginally disrespectful to the Spirits who've honoured me by popping by.

And while Reiki doesn't deny their beliefs in a spiritually/magickally potent manner, it does go against the self-imposed restrictions on some acts that go along with being Catholic.

They want what they want in their own special buildings, that's cool by me: we want the same rights back, and thankfully we have them!