The Japanese word Reiki can be translated to “life-force energy.” The term refers to a form of spiritual healing that involves holding the hands above the body. There are many people who have taken training in Reiki, and the service is provided in a variety of settings. As of yet, however, there is no scientific foundation in support of Reiki’s effectiveness for any purpose.

There are two principle stories regarding the origin of Reiki. In both versions, the method was invented in Japan by Mikao Usui. Many American Reiki practitioners believe that Mikao Usui was a Christian monk who invented the technique in the mid-1800s. However, according to the more traditional Japanese schools of Reiki, Usui was a member of a Japanese spiritual organization called Rei Jyutsu Ka, and he developed the technique around 1915. (The story that he was a Christian may have been invented to facilitate the acceptance of Reiki in the West.) Both versions of Reiki’s history agree that Usui based his technique on methods and philosophies drawn from numerous traditional Asian healing methods.

After Usui’s death, various forms of Reiki continued to be taught by his students. One of these students, Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, systematized Reiki into three levels and added a great many hand movements to the technique. In turn, one of Hayashi’s students, Hawayo Takata, brought Reiki to the United States.

In the early 1980s, Takata’s granddaughter, Phyllis Furumoto, took on the mantle of Hayashi and Takata’s line of Reiki and popularized it widely in the West. However, many other forms of Reiki continue to exist as well, descending through different lineages of teachers. There are considerable differences between the various approaches, and certain groups strongly challenge the validity of others.