Date: Wed Sep 22 2021 00:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)
It's important to understand how Reiki or Energy Healing can make changes in a human body or attitudes. Because the subtle energies aren't well understood, there isn't a robust understanding of any mechanism for producing positive health changes. Yet, practitioners and their clients regularly report positive benefits, and some scientists are starting to have objective evidence.
By David Herron
When making a claim it is best if there is a strong basis for that claim. Reiki practitioners, Reiki teachers, and even their clients, claim that Reiki is beneficial. But, healing practices like Reiki go against common wisdom, since obviously most believe spiritual healing to be a fantasy at best. Since we are here talking seriously about Reiki, let's look at some evidence that Reiki can indeed be beneficial.
Because of the state of research into energy healing or Reiki, any attempt to explain it tends to reduce to hand waving. The issue isn't Reiki itself, but the lack of research into the topic, and a resulting lack of strong theoretical understanding. The public at large then finds it difficult to accept these techniques when we are unable to explain how, or whether, they work. At the same time, western medicine is able to explain a lot of things and define a dazzling array of words with precise meaning.
Yet, Reiki practitioners, other energy healing practitioners, and our clients, continue to see its value.
One idea we hang on to is this: What if the thing we call "subtle energy" or "Chi" is simply a Force in the Universe that is not yet recognized by Physics?
More effort could be made to understand how Reiki and other forms of energy healing work. But, Reiki is not alone saying that since many fields, like Homeopathy or Herbalism, say the same thing. There is a small amount of research, with results demonstrating that something happens with energy healing practices like Reiki, so let's talk about that.
Small amounts of research into Energy Healing
Many spiritual practitioners are reluctant to see any scientific research into how, or if, spiritual practices produce results. There is a broader resistance to scientific study of any spiritual practice. It's said that when the Catholic Church made a deal with Science several hundred years ago to stop prosecuting Scientists for Heresy, that an agreement was made for Science to not study Religion.
But it's several hundred years later. In the current paradigm Science is (deservedly) very important, but it studiously ignores anything smacking of psychic perception or anything spiritual.
Another angle is whether it makes sense to apply scientific research to spiritual practices. In a spiritual context, we're expected to allow the divine to work its miracles without question. We're asked to not question our faith. In part this is so we don't go on an ego trip, puffing ourselves up over our prowess as healers. Instead we are to be an instrument of divine will, and to see any healing result as the act of the divine rather than our act. It seems that to then start analyzing how it all works would be a contradiction.
It is important when making a prayer, or any other spiritual practice, to have no agenda, no expectation of a specific result, and to not take the credit for the result.
At the same time, consider that for any spiritual practice to produce a physical result, the practice must utilize some mechanism or force of the universe. What is that mechanism? Why can't we study it?
There have been documented miraculous healings occur in history. For example, someone with cancer, with all the X-Ray's, biopsies, and other tests showing its existence. Then, they see a priest or a healer or they pray really well, and suddenly the cancer is gone. The question is, how does the Divine Will reach into the physical Universe, flip a few things around, and cause this miraculous result?
That's what is being missed when Science does not study spiritual healing, energy healing, Reiki, and the like. It should be possible to quantify how the Divine does this. In other words, it should be possible to quantify the subtle energies using some form of scientific research.
With that in mind, there is some research being performed about energy healing.
For example, in 2005 I was a research subject in a large study of energy healers. This meant taking a week off work, and spending that week in a laboratory at the University of Arizona undergoing a long list of tests while performing energy healing practices. For example, hold a specific state of being, while wearing an EEG helmet to measure brainwaves, and the experimenter is measuring electromagnetic field strength at various chakra points. Then switch to another state of being, and repeat all those measurements.
The most interesting experiment was to study our ability to influence Biophotonics emissions from plant leaves. These are extremely dim emissions of light from leaves. The experiment used a cryogenically cooled camera that's normally used in deep space astronomical satellites, but the experimenter had it installed in a photo-lab quality darkroom. The biophotonics emissions are dim enough to require such an extremely sensitive camera, and to use exposures as long as 10 minutes. The plant leaves were cut from the plant, and then the healers, were instructed to communicate to the leaves an instruction to either glow more brightly or less brightly than they would otherwise. Great care was taken to ensure we did not touch the leaves, and had no other physical influence over the leaves. Over 50 or so healers participated in the study, and there was a strong correlation that we could influence the leaves one way or another.
To repeat... leaves were cut from a plant and taken into a photo-lab quality darkroom. In that room was a cryogenically cooled camera was used to take long exposures to image the extremely dim biophonics emissions from the leaves. The exposure length - up to ten minutes with an extremely sensitive camera in an extremely darkroom - demonstrates just how weak these light emissions are. Healers were instructed to instruct the leaves to either glow more brightly, or to glow less brightly. The research goal was whether the leaves obeyed our instructions.
The purpose of this was to demonstrate that, purely by intention or something (sending of telepathic thought forms?), healers can influence a biological result. In this case the result was for leaves to change their behavior.
Since we can influence the light emissions from these plant leaves, what else are we able to influence?
Here's a small selection of scientific research into psychic and subtle energy phenomena:
- In York Dobyns on Remembering Robert Jahn there is a discussion of real honest engineering research into "Psychic Research". It is a eulogy for Dr. Bob Jahn, who led the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory. Their focus was on the ability of humans to influence machines, among other things. In over 30 years of research Dr. Jahn and his team did ground-breaking work establishing a number of psychic effects, that these abilities are possessed by everyone, and so forth.
- In Bill Bengstom - is there any Energy in Energy Healing, we see a discussion of a large amount of scientific study into energy healing. He believes that the word Energy is not accurate, but instead it is an "information system" phenomena.
- In Beverly Rubik | New Technology to Assess the Human Biofield, there is a discussion of biofield research (a.k.a. subtle energy) by a scientist who has worked in this field for 40 years.
These are a small selection of a larger body of research which is available. It's understood that some researchers are conducting research, but with zero intent to publish anything, because it would be career suicide to do so.
Many Reiki practitioners have subjective experiences of small scale miracles
Anybody who has spent much time with Reiki will have had very interesting near-miraculous occurrences happening, and experienced changes in their life. Perhaps it will have challenged their belief systems, as it has for me.
Another example I've experienced dozens of times, is the result of using energy healing with simple little wounds like burning my hand on the stove. The normal result is for the burn scar to remain painful for several days, right? But, after immediately applying healing energy, there is at first some intense pain, after which the pain dissipates almost immediately. Over the next few days, the burn heals more quickly, with no lingering pain as the burn heals. The intense pain seems due to accessing the entire response to having been burned, and the faster healing seems due to the wound pattern having been released.
It's like a little miracle that I get to experience either for myself, or for my partner, every so often.
This sort of healing practice is a gift of the spirit. Should we accept the gift without question? Would it ruin the magic of the miracle to question how it can work? Many people, like myself, like to peek under the hood and try to understand what's happening.
As interesting as these experiences are, they are subjective individual events which do not constitute anything which a scientist can work with. Science relies on having sample sets large enough to show statistically significant results.
Physics isn't finished, and Physics regularly discovers new things
For example, in the news as I write this (September 2021) is this:
Physicists studying fundamental particles, specifically what happens to Muons in certain electromagnetic fields, believe they're close to a major breakthrough of understanding, and that the understanding may point to identifying a new Force of Nature. According to Space-dot-com the four known Forces of Nature are: Gravity, The weak force, Electromagnetism, and The strong force. The new Force would be a fifth, and who knows what that means other than broadening our understanding of the universe.
Don't take this as trying to make a claim that this Fifth Force would be anything which proves or disproves the existence of the subtle energies in Reiki or Energy Healing. Instead, the point of referring to this is demonstrating that Physics is Not Finished, and that Physicists are discovering new things regularly.
What do Reiki teachers say about how Reiki produces healing?
What we're taught in Reiki classes is the method for accessing Reiki energy through the Reiki symbols. From there we're taught to place our hands on certain hand positions, and that Dr. Hayashi selected those hand positions to provide good coverage of all organs in the body. When receiving Reiki there is a sensate feeling of being filled with a kind of warmth.
What we're taught is that warmth is the Reiki energy, and that it is entering into a system comprised of both our physical body and our subtle energy body. As a result, Reiki will automatically do something beneficial.
Universally, it is claimed the Reiki energy is more than the "simple Chi" that is used in other energy healing practices. That Reiki is a smart energy, which is inherently safe. See Is Reiki automatically a safe healing energy, as is claimed?
In other words, we're taught that the Reiki energy is smart, it knows how to heal our clients, and it will go wherever it is needed.
A possible theoretical model for understanding the subtle energies (Chi, etc) behind Reiki and Energy Healing
Just because scientists have not studied the phenomena enough doesn't mean we can't do some theorizing. Healing practitioners have experiential observations that, if collected and analyzed, could point in a direction of study.
Before we start, what is discussed is outside the scope of what's taught as Reiki. In Reiki, the practitioner is taught the symbols to access the Reiki energy source, but the makeup of the human energy field is not really taught. Reiki Masters are likely to teach about Chakra's and the like, but not in great depth. There is a wealth of information available from energy healing teachers outside the field of Reiki. The following is based on my experience and training through the Barbara Brennan School of Healing.
There is a more complete discussion at: Chakras, the human energy field, and psychic perception
The model seen by advanced energy healing practitioners includes:
- The Human Energy Field (HEF) or the Aura which is a bubble of energy surrounding the human body.
- The HEF is constructed of several layers, each with different purposes
- Energy channels within the HEF carry subtle energies around, with one purpose being to carry subtle energy nourishment to the physical body
- Chakra's receive (and send) subtle energy and information, transmuting it into forms required by the human body
There are details behind this system that can be a lifetime of study to understand. For our purpose here it's useful to know that issues in the physical body affect the HEF, and issues held in the HEF can affect the physical body.
For example, receiving a physical wound can affect the HEF. The imprint on the HEF is based on the strength of the trauma, and what you do afterward to release that trauma. An old trauma that is held, and never released, can feel like a heavy weight affecting your physical body in the area of the trauma.
For example, we mentioned earlier a simple wound like a burn. Such a wound affects not just the etheric body, but at least the emotional body. At the site of the trauma, the physical body may have believed it would die, stirring up a wave of fear. By accessing the energy patterns of the wound, you can resolve that held trauma, releasing the heavy burden, and positively influencing the healing process.
How does Energy Healing work, then?
We can't really say with certainty how energy healing or Reiki function. There is some demonstrations that it can produce results, but nothing yet about the mechanism through which that happens.
The observations by practicing energy healers might help us understand what's happening. But that is literally subjective data, and scientists have a hard time building proper theories from subjective information. Instead they prefer objective information gathered by instruments which aren't subject to the foibles of human perception.
The "simple wound" example we just discussed was meant to be a starting point for understanding the possible mechanism. In other words, energy healing or Reiki techniques can manipulate the structures in the human energy field. Healing those structures can in turn speed up physical healing. But there are many details behind those two sentences which are left for the reader.
A very important thing to understand is the role of the divine, of God in other words.
Our puny human minds are incapable of understanding the fullness of the multidimensional nature of the subtle energy system. Some healers can expand their perception to grasp some of this, and therefore be labeled as psychic. But it's extremely unlikely for any human to come close to understanding God.
This means that healers must learn to keep their puny human mind out of the way of the healing process. We might fool ourselves into believing we understand how this works. We do not, and the more we remember that there is a greater intelligence at work, the better we are at allowing that intelligence to produce healing.
For some discussion of that, see: Is Reiki automatically a safe healing energy, as is claimed?