Reiki. The transmigration of a Japanese spiritual healing practice

Abstract

Reiki practice is a healing method that is best known by its technique of the laying on of hands. In 1922, Reiki emerged in Japan, transmigrated to North America in the 1930s, and reached the Netherlands in 1984. Today it has taken root in many countries around the world and is a well known commodity in Western Complementary and Alternative Medicine for holistic healing. Reiki is a phenomenon and the word ‘Reiki’ has become a catch-all term; at this moment hundreds of different Reiki styles are on the market. 

This dissertation is the result of five years of doctoral study (2011-2015) of research in the field of study of religions, intended to explain how and why the spirituality of Reiki changed during its spread. First, I briefly introduce Reiki. Second, I introduce an analytical model that makes it possible to express spirituality in numerous characteristic elements, which makes it possible to compare occurrences of Reiki’s spirituality with each other belonging to different times and places. Third, I treat three eras of Reiki: the Japanese era of inception, the Hawaiian and North American era of coming to the West, and the era of globalization. Each discussed era holds three threads: the spirituality of Reiki expressed in the aforementioned analytical model, a theoretical exposé that helps explain the flexibility of Reiki to adapt and assimilate in other times, places and cultures, and the relation with Western esoteric traditions like Theosophy. The theoretical framework for the topic of flexibility helps explain two things in particular: firstly, how and why characteristic elements of Reiki’s spirituality changed when it gets introduced in other places and secondly, why certain concepts of Western esoteric traditions can be traced back in Reiki’s spirituality. 

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