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Since Reiki is a form of Energy Healing, what does that mean?

Date: Wed Sep 15 2021 00:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)

Describing Reiki as a form of Energy Healing doesn't help most people, since most do not understand what that means. The phrase covers a broad range of modalities (as they're called) all of which focus on channeling healing energy into the recipient. Phrases like "energy medicine", "energy therapy", "energy healing", "spiritual healing", "chi healing", "pranic healing", or any of several other names, are in use to describe what are essentially the same thing. That there are differences between energy healing modalities may be due to differing perceptions by practitioners of how best to utilize the the subtle energies.

The intent of energy healing is to promote health through manipulation of the subtle energies. The subtle energies are called Chi, Prana, etc, and refer to what might be systems of consciousness with which energy healers interact. Since that probably lost some people, let's say that energy healers use their hands and intention to interact with something that feels like a magnetic force. There are many theories about what this force is, with many people describing it with the word energy.

This word, and the phrase energy healing, are not the best choice, but these are the best words to describe the perceptions healers have of the phenomena. There has not been sufficient scientific research to develop solid theories to guide understanding, nor instruments that definitively demonstrate what's happening. Instead, most of the claims about energy healing are derived from subjective perceptions of the participants.

The word Energy in this context is used because perception of the subtle energies is similar to that soft force feeling you get when playing with magnets. Another word used by researchers is the Biofield. These energies have been recognized for millennia in cultures all around the world. Each culture has had its own name as discussed in: What are the Subtle Energies? Are they real?

A scientific paper [Clinical Studies], gives a pair of definitions for the word Biofield. One, from an earlier paper by Dr. Beverly Rubik, describes it as “a massless field, not necessarily electromagnetic, that surrounds and permeates living bodies and affects the body.” Another definition given is "endogenously generated fields, which may play a significant role in information transfer processes that contribute to an individual's state of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing."

The phrase Energy Medicine came into use when the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine (ISSSEEM) was established in the 1980s. ISSSEEM is a group of scientists attempting to scientifically study this branch of healing. Several practitioners, primarily Donna Eden and James Oschman, use this phrase in their writing.

One common observation is that there is what's called an energy field surrounding the human body, which some call the aura. This is the "massless field" from the definition above. This field is made of several layers, with each layer having a different density. Again, these words are based on subjective observations by practicing healers, who are doing their best to describe what is perceived.

A related observation is the thought that all disease arises from disturbances in the subtle energy field. Even in cases where a medical diagnosis has designated a chemical or biological cause for a disease, a disturbance of the subtle energy fields is seen by practitioners. The layers just discussed seem to serve as a kind of template for the physical body. Therefore, restoring the shape and structure of the subtle energy field, is observed to correct the disturbance, and to improve health.

Verifiable Energy Healing, versus Putative Energy Healing

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), distinguishes between two kinds of energy healing:

  • "Veritable energy medicine" are fields of study using energy which is readily recognized by physicists. These sorts of energy medicine include magnet therapy, colorpuncture, and light therapy. Techniques using electromagnetic radiation (e.g. radiation therapy or magnetic resonance imaging) are not considered an alternative medicine field.
  • "Putative energy medicine" are fields of study using energy which is not readily recognized by physicists. The word putative means "appearing to be true on the basis of evidence that may or may not be confirmed", and in relation to energy medicine this simply means that the field is not well enough studied as yet.

There is a lot of research to do in the process of establishing the truth (or not) of energy healing practices. Perhaps one day scientists will drop that "putative" word, and instead use these distinctions:

  • "Physical world energy medicine" are fields of study using energy that is readily measurable in the material world we directly perceive with human senses.
  • "Subtle energy medicine" are fields of study using energy that ... at this point the words fail, because we do not yet know how to describe which aspect of the universe contains the subtle energies.

The distinction between the physical world and the subtle energy world is a key observation in energy medicine. Energy healers do not perceive they are interacting with the sorts of energy recognized by physicists like magnetism, electricity, heat, or light. Instead, the perception is of interacting with a non-physical effect which is intertwined with the physical material of our bodies.

Types of Energy Healing

There are many schools of energy healing, and Reiki is one of them. Each energy healing school approaches energy healing in its own way. Each such school uses its own name for the practice, and in many cases different terminologies are used. This results from a natural tendency for people, in this case teachers of energy healing, to perceive things in their own way, and to think they have a better way of explaining something than others.

Usually energy healing is performed with the healer placing their hands on the client. That is called "hands on energy healing". There are schools which teach a "hands-off" approach where the hands are a few inches or feet away from the clients body, and other schools which teach distant healing. In distant energy healing, the client can be any distance from the healer, and the healer first must establish a distant connection such as by having a picture of the client.

Is Acupuncture an energy medicine? Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, that is most identified with poking needles into people. Since it uses physical objects like needles, Acupuncture might not be thought of as an energy medicine. However, Acupuncture directly interacts with what's called the meridian system where the meridians are energy channels which flow throughout the body. Certain points on each meridian are recognized for specific purposes, and acupuncturists use the needles or other tools to interact with subtle energy flows.

In other words, Acupuncture is an energy medicine that relies on physical tools like needles. Acupuncture is closely related to Acupressure, Qi Gong, Tong Ren, Sujok, and other modalities based on the meridian system.

Energy Psychology, or Body Psychology, refers to several fields that attempt to integrate psychology with observations in the subtle energy fields. This includes fields like BioEnergetics, Core Energetics, Pathwork, and Hakomi. Many of the Energy Psychology practices are derived from the work of Dr. Wilhelm Reich who developed a body of research into what he called Orgone.

The work focuses on how ones psychological development from childhood on forward is expressed as structures and blockages in the human energy field. Energy Psychology practitioners tend not to have the healer channeling "energy" for the client, but instead to use a variety of tools and techniques to help their clients release old held energy patterns.

Spiritual Healing refers to several fields which interpret the subtle energies through spiritual practices. A spiritual healing practitioner might be in prayer throughout a healing session, and have interactions with angelic presences. Many religious figures such as evangelical priests describe healing practices that are similar to what energy healers describe, but claim that the healing comes from God or Jesus.

It is widely recognized that the human mind is probably incapable of understanding the full ramifications of the subtle energies. Instead, it's best if energy healers keep their human mind from trying to control what happens, because there is higher wisdom involved. This seems to be because the subtle energies may exist in a kind of multi-dimensional "something or other" which doesn't fit into the perceptions we have as human beings. Therefore, a spiritual practice can help the energy healer to stay in a state of positive intentionality, and to stay out of the way of any higher dimensional whatevers which are involved in the healing session.

Words in human languages fail to describe the space where energy healers operate. That left us using words like something or other and whatevers instead of the descriptions we could not grasp how to write.

Some use phrases like Quantum Healing due to believing that Quantum Physics contains a way to describe the subtle energies. For example, some physicists theorize that the collapse of the probability wave into the material world is due to some kind of field of consciousness having the intention for the world to exist. From that, those who teach quantum healing are able to base their teaching on those sorts of ideas.


This brief overview of energy healing was meant to give a taste of what it's about. There are over a hundred forms of energy healing being taught. Despite what we described as a lack of scientific research into this phenomena, there are scientists conducting research, theories are being made, and so forth.

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a Reiki Master, graduate of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, writer, and software engineer focusing on the truth. He is especially interested in spiritual exploration, divine wisdom, clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.
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