Reiki: Does it Work as Advertised?

Or is it just psuedoscience?

Image by Jürgen Rübig from Pixabay

After a recent rant on dopamine fasting, I heard from a couple of people that they’d be curious to hear my take on reiki. I’m always up for a good rant, so it’s off to the races.

What is reiki?

First, what exactly is reiki? The International Center for Reiki Training (ICRT) says that reiki “is based on the idea that an unseen ‘life force energy’ flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.” The website adds: “It has been effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect.”

Anytime the proponents of something are claiming that it works for absolutely everything, red flags should start going up. 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩

Reiki training

The ICRT tells us: “An amazingly simple technique to learn, the ability to use Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class. This ability is passed on during an “attunement” given by a Reiki master and allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of “life force energy” to improve one’s health and enhance the quality of life.” Huh?

According to the reiki Center of Excellence, “Receiving a reiki attunement is a powerful spiritual experience, as your energetic pathways are opened by a reiki master. This energetic opening allows the reiki energy to flow freely through your body to impact your health and the health of others.”

It’s recommended that one do a 3-day cleanse before an attunement (a dopamine fast, perhaps?).

Once you’ve been attuned, you’re like a life force energy riverbed for the rest of your life.

Oh, and the ICRT site says that a God-consciousness and various spiritual beings will be joining in the attunement party.

Reiki sessions

The International Association of Reiki Professionals tells us that reiki sessions typically last 60–90 minutes. They’re done either lying on a massage table or seated. The session can be done hands-on, with a light touch, or with the practitioner’s hands a short distance away from the body. The touch is done over your clothing. The session progresses through specific hand positions, moving from one end of the body to the other.

The IARP has a few videos on their site, none of which show an actual treatment, but there is a reiki rap. And yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

If you’re curious about what a reiki treatment looks like, including “sweeping” the aura, you can check out this video:

Do you not live near a reiki practitioner? Don’t worry. Treatments can be done at a distance. Center for True Health assures us that “Distance Reiki is a technique within the system of Reiki that enables you to give a Reiki session beyond the limitations of time and space. It expands the practitioner’s ability to transmit spiritual energy beyond physical touch.” You’re supposed to send the practitioner a picture of you ahead of time (please guys, I know you like to send dick pics, but it’s probably not appropriate in this case).

According to an article in Mind Body Green, distance reiki is based on the Hermetic Law of Similarity.

A very quick and easy way to distinguish BS from non-BS is to plug a term into Google Scholar. “Hermetic Law of Similarity” yields a whopping zero hits. Ding ding ding, it wins the BS prize!

Science or pseudoscience?

In science, there is a logical progression of steps. You come up with an idea to explain a phenomenon, and from there formulate a hypothesis. You come up with an experiment to test your hypothesis. If the results of your experiment support your hypothesis, you can do further work to explore this further. If the data from your experiment don’t support your hypothesis, it’s back to the drawing board.

In pseudoscience, you come up with an explanation for a phenomenon. You like your explanation, mostly because it fits with your worldview. You decide that it’s the way things are until someone can prove otherwise. The thing is, it’s much harder to prove something is not than to prove that something is.

As an example, let’s say I decide that purple people eaters are responsible for phenomenon X.

I can’t actually prove that there are purple people eaters, but you can’t prove that there isn’t at least one purple people eater hanging out somewhere on the planet. Therefore, I feel justified in insisting that there are purple people eaters, and you just can’t see them or don’t know where to look.

There is no proof that the energy fields described by reiki practitioners are real. However, just like the purple people eater, there isn’t absolute proof that they do not.

The logical conclusion would be that this supposed energy doesn’t exist until there is proof that it does, just like the logical conclusion would be that purple people eaters don’t exist until such time as we actually see one doing its thing.

I can see a few areas where reiki really could have some legitimate benefit, like relaxation, supporting mindfulness, and human touch (if that is used). However, none of that is the foundation that reiki has built its house on. If your house is constructed on a foundation of rotting logs, having some nice ornaments in the window doesn’t make the house a hot commodity.

So, if you want to go to a reiki practitioner and potentially experience some of those side benefits, more power to you.

As for the energy fields? Unless there’s a purple people eater that you pull up next to in the parking lot, you’re probably shit outta luck.

Originally published at on November 4, 2019.

Mental health blogger | Former MH nurse | Living with depression | Author of 3 books, latest is Managing the Depression Puzzle |

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