The Reiki Lineage Reconsidered

Lineage1 is a thorny issue for Reiki practitioners and teachers. They spend a lot of effort trying to work out which is the best lineage, often investing significant amounts of money in order to receive initiations in several lineages. I believe that searching for the perfect lineage is not the best use of time and money.

Underlying this search is the belief that the characteristics of a teacher are of secondary importance. Instead of focussing on whether the teacher is actually good at teaching Reiki, the student instead wants to know if the teacher is initiated into a prestigious lineage. And for many people, the prestige of a lineage just depends on how Japanese it seems. 2 However within this belief lies a contradiction. If the lineage, rather than the skills of the teacher, is paramount, and if all lineages can be traced back to the founder, Mikao Usui, then surely all lineages must be equal. Yet people’s ongoing search for the perfect lineage shows us that they do not believe this to be the case.

So what is the motivation for this search? Is it the idea that each successive generation of teachers since the founder has diluted the original essence of Reiki with impure, non-traditional teachings? This proposition is worth some thought, because it is clearly the case that course content varies significantly across lineages, and even across teachers within the same lineage. But this fact simply suggests that if you’re looking for specific Japanese-style techniques, find a teacher that teaches them. They don’t need to be from a special lineage to do this. The same applies if you’re looking for the use of crystals or pendulums as part of your Reiki. However, when it comes to the actual spiritual gift that is bestowed during initiation—the actual quality of Reiki that you will be practicing—you can stop your search for the perfect lineage now.

Initiation and Baptism

I grew up as a part of charismatic Christianity. This is a branch of the church that practices the gifts of the spirit. These Christians believe that the power of healing and prophecy is available to any Christian who is baptised by the Holy Spirit. The very first baptism of the Holy Spirit, known as ‘Pentecost’, is recorded in the book of Acts in the Bible: A group of Christians prayed and waited on God until they spontaneously started manifesting the gifts of the spirit. These Christians didn’t make it happen, they only made themselves open to God, and God responded by filling them with the Holy Spirit. After this baptism they were able to heal people by laying-on their hands.

There are clear parallels between Pentecost and the spiritual awakening of Mikao Usui, who had long sought the gift of healing, but had no way to make it happen through his own power. At the culmination of his quest for this gift, he fasted and meditated for twenty-one days on Mount Kuriyama in Japan, and on the last day of his vigil he was touched by spirit in a dramatic event. In this event he was given the ability to heal himself and others simply by laying-on his hands.

After the earliest Christians received the gifts of the spirit, a question arose. How were they to pass the gift on to others? They found that the answer was the laying-on of hands. Subsequent Christians were able to receive the gifts of the spirit through the blessing of someone already initiated into the gift. The blessing ceremony involved praying, waiting on God in an attitude of openness, and the laying-on of hands by a Christian who already had received the gift.

While Christians don’t use the word ‘initiation’ or ‘attunement’, the parallels again are clear. I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a teenager, and I have received several Reiki initiations as an adult. I won’t kid you into believing that they are ‘just the same’, because they aren’t. The Reiki initiation is quieter and calmer, mostly conducted in silence, while the baptism of the Holy Spirit is more lively and vocal, with people moving about the room and praying out-loud continuously. But in my experience these differences are superficial. During my first Reiki initiation I had a clear sense of knowing that what I was meeting here was actually my old friend the Holy Spirit.

The Christian Lineage

Now imagine the look on everyone’s face when a Christian comes forward saying “I can trace my blessing of the Holy Spirit through this lineage all the way back to St Paul.” To Christians, this would bring laughter, because lineage is simply not an issue for them. The first reason for this is that it’s impossible to trace their lineage back over two thousand years. But on a more profound level, Christians are not looking to the person that does the laying-on of hands for the spiritual gift. They are looking to God. All they need from the person laying hands on them is a sense that they can be trusted deeply. The gift itself is directly from God; the Christian just wants to know that she is being guided by someone with experience and by someone who has her best interests at heart.

Practitioners of Reiki have something to learn from charismatic Christians.

Notes:

  1. A Reiki lineage describes the line of teachers between you and the founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui.
  2. Proponents of these ‘authentic Japanese’ traditions will disparage other lineages by describing them as ‘Western’.
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