This article was written and Copyright (c) 2002-3 by James Deacon, who's Master-level Reiki Healing Facilitator & Practitioner of Qi-Magnetic Therapeutics. See James' site: www.aetw.org. James Deacon does not necessarily endorse the methodology, techniques or philosophy of individual modalities detailed in his articles.
"Unless, of course, you know differently..."
The History of Reiki is unfolding even as we breathe.
New sources, adding to what we are currently being told is the 'true' history, are regularly being 'rediscovered' by researchers - though this is not to say that we should necessarily believe that absolutely everything we are told are indeed 'facts'.
A word of caution is, I think, not inappropriate.
History in a broad sense, is at best a subjective discipline, and however unintentionally, always contains some degree of bias.
The most reliable history is usually arrived at by studying various sources - with an emphasis on those sources who, to coin the phrase "do not have an axe to grind", or have no real vested interest in the outcome of the research.
Can this be said of the quest for the 'truth' concerning Reiki - being carried out solely by 'Reiki people'?
I would like to think so.
However human nature being what it is, we would perhaps be a little naive to dismiss the possible influence of ulterior motive and 'Reiki ego-politics' on the evolving 'revisionist' view of 'true' Reiki History.
[Sometimes, for example, In my more suspicious (and admittedly 'un-Reiki-like') moments, I marvel at the growing number of Usui-Sensei's original students who keep cropping up to validate the theories of this or that 'faction' within the Reiki Research Community.]
Open-mindedness and trust is one thing - gullibility another....
We should also, I feel, be mindful of the phenomenon which is (in a very 'non-PC' way) commonly referred to as: 'Chinese Whispers' [or, in the case of Reiki, perhaps that should be 'Japanese...']
And then there is the central issue of objective research itself: the fact that most Reiki Researchers - due to a lack of background knowledge re: the broader context of Japanese Mystical, Religious, Therapeutic and Cultural influences, etc - can make glaring mistakes & mis-understandings, and albeit unintentionally find themselves responsible for the evolution and propagation of Reiki 'Urban Legends'
Add to this, the general problem of reliability of sources: (A seasoned researcher in various disciplines, I for one, long ago learned that if, for example, a member of, say, the Jodo Shin sect, or the Shingon sect tells you that Usui-Sensei was a Tendai Buddhist all his life, you can probably believe this to be true - but if however, a member the Tendai sect tells you Usui-Sensei was Tendai all his life, you may need to find a secondary impartial source...)
With the ongoing research into Reiki history, numerous contradictions continually arise - there is much rumour, hearsay, and 'mis-information' - and many 'hidden agenda'....
It has of course been pointed out that Reiki allows for many styles and methods of practice (and teaching) and that we should not question Usui-Sensei's methodology or his reasons for incorporating specific practices into his Reiki system.
I am in full agreement with this, and I feel the important point here is that it is not a matter of seeking to question the reasons behind Usui-Sensei's methodology, but rather to question the validity of the ever-growing number of new, diverse and dissonant claims as to what exactly Usui-Sensei's methodology was in the first place.
For example, many are now claiming that Usui-Sensei taught the Shinto practice of Kotodama as part of the Reiki system - and a significant number of people have reported favourable results from incorporating Kotodama into their current Reiki practice.
And while I agree that use of Kotodama may have noticeable effects - and like many other spiritual meditative techniques, can be a valid practice in terms of self-development - again, it is not a question of whether or not Kotodama 'works' per se, but rather a question as to its status as an original Reiki technique.
On its journey to popularity in the 'west', Reiki - as envisioned and taught by Usui-Sensei - went through many changes and developments (whether you see these as positive, negative or neutral) - and since Takata-Sensei's day, has continued to change - and will no doubt keep on changing in the future, as creative people continue to make modifications to the System to suit personal tastes, beliefs, perceived efficacy, social trends and levels of acceptability.
And, just as Reiki in the 'west' has changed and evolved, so, we are also beginning to discover, in the three-quarters of a century since Usui-Sensei's death, Reiki in Japan has also undergone some profound changes and developments...