Reiki Glossary

The Glossary introduces widespread Terms belonging to the jargon used in the Reiki milieu as well as concepts that extend the scope of Reiki, scholarly constructed on solid grounds, nevertheless recognizable and applicable for Reiki practitioners.

Benificial effect

Reiki is practiced with the hope or expectation for some sort of beneficial effect for the recipient. Often, such effects fall within the scope of the overarching term ‘healing’. Yet, it is difficult to formulate in more detail a summarized and all encompassing way what such effects might be and is therefore not attempted in this Glossary of Terms. Many books on Reiki, websites and PR material of Reiki practitioners and Reiki organizations though, formulate in one way or the other what is suggested to consider as beneficial effects. The way that it is formulated depends on the legislation per country, on the space that the law offers to permit or interdict claims of beneficial effect of any therapy or treatment, in this case Reiki.

Therefore, we refer readers back to that material as well as to sources of information where one can find academic literature on Reiki, like PubMed, to make up one’s own view on possible beneficial effects of Reiki.

Code of Ethics

The Reiki principles can be regarded as a basis for ethics for personal use in daily life. In the interaction between professional Reiki practitioner and recipient, there is always ethics involved which demand to be more precise what is meant by that. Therefore, most if not all Reiki organizations have incorporated a certain Code of Ethics for this type of interaction. Often, it is experienced as a challenge not only to formulate a Code of Ethics properly but also to agree what the scope should be, in other words whether such Code should also lecture one’s personal life.

One example of such extended scope can be found here: (site visited on January 1, 2019) where members implicit state – when becoming a member – that they should not be an alcoholic or drug abuser.

Defining the scope for such Code is a delicate issue where the outcome may differ per organization because it touches many other dimensions of the country it resides in, like culture, religious background, legal system, healthcare system.

Coping strategy

Reiki practice can be approached and experienced among others as method, model or spirituality. In a more medical setting, Reiki practice can also be labeled as coping strategy and comes in sight when patients face loss of health. When patients receive ‘bad news’ about their health, they often feel confronted with the shatters of life. Each patient then must find a way to cope with that where coping (Yampolsky 2008) can be seen as the process by which one makes use of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and environmental resources to manage a situation that has been deemed to be stressful. In this description, religious and spiritual practices are possible resources which is supported by much academic literature. Coping behaviors have been described as adaptive and maladaptive . where adaptive coping consists of behaviors that lead the individual to maintain positive outcomes, such as life satisfaction, high self-esteem, and functioning in daily life, despite the stressful situation. In the context of ERG, it is relevant to notice that till today, there seems to be no academic literature on Reiki practice mentioning negative side-effects.

In conclusion, this information may support ERG participants active in a medical setting in any given European country to offer Reiki practice as a possible resource for a coping strategy, posit Reiki practice solely as adaptive, and additionally recognize it as holistic. The holistic characteristic gives room for experiences where Reiki’s beneficial effects even transcend the already recognized positive outcomes and, therefore, Reiki practice may support the patient’s construction of existential well-being touching the patient’s dimensions of body, mind and spirit.

References:  Yampolsky et al. 2008:


In contemporary Western Reiki, commonly the Reiki training is divided in a Reiki 1 class, a Reiki 2 class and a Reiki Master training which can be one training or two or more, called i.e. 3A and 3B or 3 and 4.

Several interpretations or analyses on the development of Reiki practitioners determine the time intervals or delay between different trainings. There are Masters that offer all trainings in one day or one weekend, but this can be regarded as rarity. Most, if not all Reiki Masters as well as Reiki styles in general apply delay that can vary from weeks or months up to years. The longest delay known is applied by the specific style of Usui Shiki Ryoho that Phyllis Furumoto represents. Early this century, she advised to consider a delay of one year between Reiki 1 and 2, a delay of 6 years between Reiki 1 and the moment one becomes a Reiki Master, and 10 years before a Reiki Master initiates another Reiki Master. The argumentation for these ‘time and timing’ guidelines as she calls it, is that it would unfold and support the value of preparation for each step of studentship.

In general, delay may have a strained relationship with Western consumerism. Spirituality has become a commodity that by many is experienced as something that can be bought or purchased, as in the case of Reiki. Delay challenges self-control and patience where it might well be that a Reiki student is influenced in choosing a Reiki Master by the applied delay.

In conclusion, Reiki organizations all decide by themselves which delay is appropriate, advised or obligatory and for what reason.


Reiki practice include ethics. Each Reiki practitioner is tutored in the Reiki principles during his or her Reiki 1 class, and when someone wants to become a member of any type of Reiki organization, he or she has to endorse it’s Code of Ethics.

More in general, ethics act in the interaction between Reiki practitioner and society where the signs of time indicate that this will become more and more a pressing issue in the (near) future. It suffices to give one example, an issue present in all European countries.

On the one hand, costs of healthcare increase dramatically and discussions take place in the public domain, in politics and in healthcare how to control this rise. Also, discussions take place about whether to give support in any form of euthanasia at the end one’s life; aid in dying. Think of the Dignitas clinic in Zürich. At this moment, these two topics touch each other; supporting end of life is regarded by some as a possible mean for bringing rising costs under control. For most people, this is an ethical slippery slope.

When a Reiki practitioner encounters a situation with a client who is at the end of life, what is the most ethical conduct for this practitioner? It relates to numerous (sub) topics like: Is reiki energy a ‘life energy’ not to be used in the process of dying? Does one belief in any form of after-life and can reiki energy be supportive in the transition to that other dimension? What to do when a practitioner encounters a situation with allopathic over-treatment where a physical body is kept ‘alive’ against all kinds of nature’s laws? And how is the nature of reiki energy interpreted and applied in such a situation?

In conclusion, shortly Reiki organizations will be confronted with principal ethical issues like the ones exemplified above. In this envisioned near future, Code of Conducts sooner or later also must reflect a standpoint as i.e. for life and living, death and dying, and the very nature of reiki energy.


What is Healing? It is a term often used but seldom defined, neither in academic literature nor in the public press as in the case of literature on Reiki.

In 2019, a generic article on healing is published by Oxford Bibliographies, written by us; Dori Beeler and Jojan Jonker. Therefore, we take the liberty to limit ourselves here by giving the link to this which will suit ERG sufficiently.


In every country, there is a tripartite relationship noticeable between three forces: cultural & religious background, politics, and science (Jonker 2016, p482, p512). The way healthcare is organized in a certain country, is one of the outcomes of this relationship. (Other outcomes are the educational system, the legal system, the economical system.) I.e. the topic of abortion and euthanasia are differently experienced in a Catholic country like Ireland versus a more liberal, Protestant country like the Netherlands.

CAM modalities have to find their place in this relationship and that place may differ per country. In some countries, there might be resistance from the force religion while in others the force science might be more dominant. This influences also the (type of) relationship between Reiki practitioner and the recipient. I.e. in the Netherlands, within allopathic healthcare there is a more than average resistance against CAM modalities. This may have to do that the population in the Netherlands becomes less and less religious which gives room for the force science to intensify, reflected i.e. in the fact that CAM modalities like Reiki have to prove themselves in s scientific way, rather than in a religious way.

In conclusion, ERG participants may experience the relation healthcare-Reiki in their own specific way, based on the country they live in and the Reiki style they practice.


For an timeline on the history on Reiki regarding the Japanese era, please visit:

This contribution is composed by Justin Stein and is based on his study as well as the work of Hirano Naoko, Dori Beeler and Jojan Jonker.

For an timeline on the history and certain developments in the West, please visit:

This text is composed by Dori Beeler and Jojan Jonker and is also based on the work of Justin Stein, Hirano Naoko and Robert Fueston.


See the entry on Principles.

In the 1930s, Takata initially used the term Ideals as interpretation of the Japanese term Gokai, but in time, switched to the term Principles which became the most common in the Reiki scene.


Catherine Albanese explained that metaphysical traditions define the term ‘meta­physics’ as “beyond the physical into or towards the life of the mind”[1]. She continued that for many forms of spirituality, healing is expressed as, or is to be achieved by, empowerment: the experience of mind being the cre­ator and controller of one’s destiny. The concept is that what happens in the human world and mind, replicates the concept of a holistic universe of body, mind and spirit (which many would call ‘holism’). This idea also proclaims that there are organic relations between the material world and the spiritual world, and that practice and rituals of a tradition can influence these relations.

Within Reiki, it is i.e. through the use of Reiki symbols that such a relation between the material world and the spiritual world becomes visible and is experienced. It is here where many practitioners experience holism.

[1] Albanese, 1999, p307.

Albanese, Catherine L. (1986), ‘Physic nad Metaphysic in Nineteenth-Century America: Medical Sectarians and Religious Healing’ in: Church History, Vol. 55, No. 4, pp489-502.

—— (1991), Nature Religion in America. From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

—— (1999), ‘The Subtle Energies of Spirit: Explorations in Metaphysical and New Age Spirituality’ in: Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 67, No. 2, pp305-325.

—— (2000), ‘The Aura of Wellness: Subtle-Energy Healing and New Age Religion’ in: Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp29-55.

—— (2007), A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion, New Haven: Yale University Press.


For the majority of self-practitioners, Reiki is a spiritual practice that is a reflection of one’s own constellation of spirituality. For professional-practitioners who offer Reiki to (paying) clients like in a hospital, Reiki can also be approached as Method and as such being explained to medical professionals. That is the reason for the presentation of this entry. For most self-practitioners, it seems irrelevant whether it is a Method or not. (In general, they do may experience a negative connotation with the word religion.) They are interested in the beneficial effect and less in the label of their personal practice formulated by others.

Following Paquette, a method is made of
a set of concepts : conceptual knowledge (knowing what);
a set of procedures : procedural knowledge (knowing how).
a set of principles : relational principles (knowing why), decision principles (knowing when), strategic knowledge.
If one of these sets is not present or weak with respect to the others, then it is something other than a method (for example a conceptual system, a process, a theory…).

In the case of a Reiki treatment, one can recognize it as a method. Concepts are used like reiki energy, Reiki symbols and initiation. Procedures are followed in i.e. hand positions during a hands-on treatment or the use of symbols in a specific way in a distant-treatment. Principles are used like the idea of holism suggesting a relation between body, mind, and spirit.

Source: Gilbert Paquette, Visual Knowledge Modeling for Semantic Web Technologies: Models and Ontologies, (page 2)


In those cases where a Reiki practitioner (either professionally or as volunteer) and a recipient are involved, a certain relationship between those two occurs. One can try to catch this relationship in a more theoretical framework, like model, as cognitive tool to apprehend the diversity in Reiki styles-country combinations. One example of modelling this relationship is suggested by Merrijoy Kelner (2000) who indicates three models.

1. The Paternalistic Model
2. The Shared Decision-Making Model
3. The Consumerist Model

With the information in mind presented in the entry Healthcare, it depends on a given situation in a country which model can be recognized as the common one. For example, in the Netherlands, a decision is made in the 1980s that healthcare should be exposed to the free market economy with the hope/wish that efficiency would increase and the total costs would decrease. One unexpected side effect of this policy is that services provided by medical professionals became economical products and patients became consumers, comparing prices and demanding deliverance. In other words, health became a commodity and the idea arose that it is something that can be purchased. All this changed the Dutch healthcare landscape dramatically, and in this example, the consumerist model is the dominant one both in regular healthcare and in CAM. But i.e. in Switzerland, the most prevalent model seems to be the partnership model, while the consumerist model can be found in SPA centers (which are almost absent in the Netherlands).

Also, it makes a difference whether the practitioner offers a treatment as part of a spiritual practice or as ‘technical treatment’ (as addressed in this entry). Personal interpretations of the practitioner of what precisely Reiki is will influence the type of relationship and the category of model recognized/applied. The same goes for the recipient. Is s/he seeking some sort of spiritual guidance or just relief of pain? All such factors play a role and make almost every encounter between practitioner and recipient a custom-made relationship.

In conclusion, ERG participants may want to reflect on this topic what the specific situation is for the country they live in and the relation to the Reiki style they practice as well as on their own interpretation of Reiki, and thus process their insights into their policy how to act accordingly.



Western society is based on the ideology of neo-liberalism and consumerism. The last decennia show that CAM modalities, like Reiki, are also submissive to those ideologies. Spirituality is for sale and customers create their own personalized spiritual patchwork that is believed to be the optimum for one’s path towards healing. Currently, CAM modality’s trainings, treatments, etc. are fee-for-service based products and follow the dynamics of a free market economy. At the same time, it is noticed that in several contemporary CAM modalities money and energy are connected in the way that money has become a new cognitive currency charged with the concept of subtle energy. This leads to new expressions suggesting i.e. that an exchange of energy should take place or that the energy exchange should be in balance.

In conclusion, Reiki organizations most often offer to their members guidelines or a price range for fees for treatment, Reiki 1 and 2 training and for subsequent steps in the path towards Reiki Master. The same goes for Reiki styles where the one style may put more emphasis on money than the other, depending on how money is experienced and on how money is believed to intermediate between the natural and the super-natural world.

Placebo Response

Placebo is a latin word meaning “I will please”. Historically, it was used for medications without any pharmacologically effective ingredients. In the history of medicine, the concept of placebo was very important to distinguish between effective medications and all other. This lead to the gold-standard of evidence-based medicine, the double-blinded randomized clinical trial, which every medication has to pass in order to be accepted. In such a trial, there are several arms of investigation and every participant is put in one arm by chance. Neither the patient nor the physician conducting the trial knows if he or she receives or gives the verum or the placebo. Every improvement in the placebo arm is summarized as the placebo effect and efficacy is defined as everything beyond the placebo effect.

Nowadays, the view is more differentiated. Not every improvement in the placebo arm is called placebo effect. In the placebo arm of a trial, there exists statistical effects like regression to the mean or spontaneous remission or the natural improvement in most diseases. In addition to that, there is the true placebo response. This is a real healing effect in addition to the effects above. They are systematically and can be measured in objective terms. Examples cover analgesia of pain, where in brain images it is seen that the brain produces the opoid itself or in the parkinson disease where the same is happening.

Hence, the view of such placebo responses changed from nuisances in clinical trials to additional healing effects in therapies. The placebo response is explained via expectation and conditioning effects, i.e. it is a real psycho-biological effect very common in wide areas of medicine. It is by no means a sham or fraud, it is an effect of self-healing that doesn’t stem from a pharmacological intervention.

With this re-conceptualization of placebo responses as a distinguished real and systematic healing effect without physical or pharmacological basis, all healing effects of Reiki occur in a new light. Since Reiki is a spiritual healing method with no hitherto known distinguished physical mechanism (although measurable effects not directly connected to healing effects occur like warm hands), it can be seen as an intervention that causes placebo responses.

Since placebos have the subtext, frame and interpretation of being something like a sham or fraud, the above conceptualization may be rejected on first sight. However, since this is a subtext or interpretation only, there is no real problem. Placebo Responses is just the term of physicians for real healing effects without pharmacological basis.


In Reiki, the word practitioner is a homonym. It can refer to a self-practitioner who practices Reiki for his or her own well-being and personal healing, as well as to a professional-practitioner who offers Reiki to (whether paying or not) clients either within a setting of his or her own Reiki enterprise or within a medical setting like a hospital. When needed in others entries in this Glossary, both terms professional-practitioner and self-practitioner will be applied when this specification is needed, and practitioner when something more generic is discussed.


See the entry on Principles.


Reiki practice holds five principles (or Precepts or Ideals) being one of the elements present in virtually all contemporary Reiki styles. One of the most common versions to date in English language is: Just for today don’t worry. Just for today don’t anger. Honor your parents, teachers and elders. Live honestly. Respect every living thing. The translation or interpretation from English into one of the European languages is often influenced by a country’s culture and may change in time as the result of ongoing developing insights. These five precepts are handed out during a Reiki 1 class and tutored not as commands, like the Christians’ Ten Commands, but as guidelines and suggestions for reflection for personal use. Thus, i.e. the precept ‘(…) don’t worry’ is not to be interpreted as command ‘Thou shall not worry’ but as the suggestion to look inwards and ask oneself what the things are that one is worried about and accordingly try to solve those issues or process them to the level that they are manageable.


Reiki is the energy of immaterial nature and spiritual origin that emanates from the hands.

This Japanese word should in principle be written in lower case and in italic type in other languages (reiki).


Reiki with an upper case is a synonym for “reiki method”.

It is usually written with non-italic type letters since it is a proper noun. Its verbal use is ambiguous and subject to misunderstandings due to its potential confusion with its lower case version.


A question often asked is: “Is Reiki a religion?”

The best way to handle this question is … to let it go and let scholars provide an answer because it entirely depends on what one considers as ‘religion’.

Yet, Rudolf Otto published in 1917 a book to become famous, titled “Das Heilige”. He mentioned something that is regarded as an element of each and every religion: practicing a religion is “mysterium tremendum et fascinosum” . In plain English, practicing religion offers a notion of the great Mystery and is both fascinating and awe-inspiring at the same time. This goes well for Reiki.

Nevertheless, Reiki should not be considered as a religion because there is one major element missing: a Service for a Divine Being or a Supreme Being, like reiki energy, the spirit of Usui, universal life energy, or whatsoever.


Often the question passes by whether Reiki is a spirituality. This depends on which definition of spirituality you use to answer this question. In general, scholars may regard spirituality as a personal, subjective composition of beliefs, practices, and experiences, also often labeled as religious or transcendent experiences. Taking a closer look at definitions indicates that there are perhaps hundreds of descriptions, so where to start? One stands out because it is on a regular basis cited in academic literature.

The preface of the series World Spirituality – An Encyclopedic History of the Religious Quest holding over 20 volumes and aiming to cover all spiritualties in the world, mentions that the term ´spirituality’ is often not found within a tradition, therefore, the editor Ewert Cousins formulated his own des­cription of spirituality which should also cover Reiki:

The series focuses on that inner dimension of the person called by certain traditions ‘the spirit’. This spiritual core is the deepest center of the person. It is here that the person is open to the transcendent dimension; it is here that the person experiences ultimate reality. The series explores the disco­very of this core, the dynamics of its development, and its journey to the ul­timate goal. It deals with prayer, spiritual direction, the various maps of the spiritual journey, and the methods of advancement in the spiritual ascent.

Following this description, it is not hard to recognize the practice of Reiki as a spirituality. Then the question comes: What is the spirituality of Reiki? Elements like “spiritual core” and “ulti­mate goal” have to be colored in for a given Reiki style. The number of such elements to be discussed and placed in the context of Reiki’s spirituality can be dozens. For example, Jojan Jonker (2016) presented around 60 characteristic elements reflecting Reiki’s spirituality.

Often, the question Reiki being a spirituality is biased with opinions on the topic religion, because many people associate spirituality with religion. The fact is that every religion has its spirituality but not every spirituality belongs to a religion, like the spirituality of extreme sports activities such as triathlons. In other words, there are more spiritualties than religions. Here, one may find a space to reflect on the spirituality of Reiki without being entangled in the discussion whether Reiki is a religion.

Looking at results of questionnaires presented to practitioners, descriptions of Reiki in the popular press and in the academic press, it stands out that the vast majority of practitioners and authors label Reiki as a spirituality / spiritual practice. It can also be noticed that there are situations where practitioners for a variety of reasons prefer to present Reiki not specifically as spirituality but rather as method or technique.

[1] Cousins, 1985, pXIII.



Reiki practice makes use of certain symbols that are regarded as ‘sacred and secret’ albeit it is more appropriate to regard them as ‘sacred and private’. Virtually all Reiki styles use at least three symbols, often called something as power-symbol, distance-symbol and mental-symbol. Over time, the number of used symbols has grown where often the first added 4th symbol is called the master-symbol.

On your PC screen you have ‘icons’. When you click on them, some software starts in the background, invisible for you and the system responds. Reiki symbols are assumed to work in a similar way; when used, something in an invisible realm happens and the system, your body and its environment, responds accordingly.

From a scholarly perspective, the concept of Reiki symbols is one of the more religious elements in Reiki practice. The belief that a symbol would work might be enough to put the mindset in such a state that the expected beneficial effect indeed takes place, if something takes place.


Reiki emerged in Japan in 1922 . Reiki in Japanese kanji is displayed as 霊気. Often, it is explained as two parts ‘Rei’ 霊 and ‘Ki’ 気, where Rei often is summarized as spirit and Ki as energy.

Early 1900 though, a few years before Usui chose this kanji for his practice, 霊気 was already used to translate the English word Aura as well as the phrase Prana into Japanese.

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