Reiki as a Shamanic Practice
What is Shamanism?
Shamanism is an ancient way of accessing spiritual guidance and energy for the healing of self,
community and world.
There is archeological evidence that this way of experiencing the world dates
back 40,000 years. It is a way of service to others through divinely guided practices that evolved
in indigenous communities around the globe, and are the precursor to most of the spiritual and
religious traditions worldwide.
Although the practices vary from one culture to another, shamans the world over access the spirit
realms to receive guidance for healing members of their community and to receive knowledge of plants
and animals, even rocks and the elements.
How is Reiki as a Shamanic Practice?
Reiki is at its core a shamanic practice*. Reiki is universal in origin and application; it
is spiritual, not religious or even medical. It is a path of direct revelation.
Reiki has roots that go back several thousand years, and at least to several hundred years
before Christ. It is well known that the Essenes used techniques similar to Reiki.
Some trace the origins of Reiki back to ancient Egypt. Much of modern Reiki has Taoist and
Buddhist origins and parallels Native American Culture.
Dr. Mikao Usui, the founder of modern Reiki, called Reiki "an original therapy built upon the
powers of the Universe." He described it as not a "shinko ryoho" (a religious therapy) but a
"shinrei ryoho" (a spiritual method of healing).
It is a path of spirit, kokoro, or mind and heart
blended as one. In Reiki the hands are used to guide energy, transmit energy, break energetic
blockages and remove spiritual intrusions which parallel shamanic practices of indigenous medicine m
en and women throughout the North and South American continents who perform similar intuitive healing,
similar to those outlined by Dr. Usui in his Notebooks.* (The Original Handbook of Dr. Usui, Usui,
Dr. Usui received Reiki during a 21-day fast on Mt. Kurama, when he felt an energy come down
through his crown and received the symbols as an archaic form of Japanese Kanji writing. This method of
fasting in a sacred or remote place to receive "enlightenment" is traditional in most cultures.
It parallels the Native American Vision Quest. Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness.
It is not unusual to receive symbols through inspiration.
Dr. Usui describes his experience as "I was inspired."
The shamanic character of Reiki is further defined by the name that Dr. Usui chose for the "do,"
or path, of the healing method he developed.
Incorporating the energy and symbols into Reiki-do
parallels the Native American practice of finding oneís gift and bringing it into the world.
In addition, Dr. Usui was a follower of Shinto which was a blend of ancient Tibetan Bon and
Buddhism and later merged with Confucianism. This religious system had strong connections with
shamanic roots and a resurrected Shinto belief structure which included the idea of "musubi," or
the mystical power of becoming or of creation.
A central Shinto belief at the time of Dr. Usui is also at its core shamanic: creating and
harmonizing power, not through doctrine (written belief) but through great truths that are give
through nature, through the forces of nature, the clouds, trees, winds and even land itself.
The Japanese character Rei can be defined as mystery, gift, holy, and nature spirit or invisible
spirit, and Ki the life force energy. Therefore, Reiki means essentially Guided Life Force energy.
According to William Lee Rand Reiki is Ki or Life force energy guided by the Higher Power, call it
what you will: God, Supreme being, Universe, All that is, Universal Mind, Jehovah, Buddha, Great
The original Kanji emblem for Reiki carved on Dr. Usuiís memorial stone essentially means: Shaman
who makes rain.
(*The ideas and comments presented in this paper are based on the writing and research of Jim Pathfinder Ewing in his book Reiki Shamanism.)