Reiki is a Japanese technique of laying on hands based on the principle that an unseen “life force energy”, or qi, flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. It is believed that if one’s qi is low, we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
Reiki is made of two Japanese words:
霊 – Rei, God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power
気 – Ki Spirit or Energy
The concept of spirit energy isn’t unique to Japan, however.
In China this life force energy is known as Chi:
In English, qi (also known as chi) is usually translated as “vital life force,” but qi goes beyond that simple translation. According to Classical Chinese Philosophy, qi is the force that makes up and binds together all things in the universe. It is paradoxically, both everything and nothing.
In Hinduism it is known as Prana:
Prana is a Sanskrit word that has a number of interpretations in English, including “life force,” “energy” and “vital principle.” The term is used in Hindu and yogic philosophy to refer to all the manifest energy in the universe, present in both living beings and inanimate objects.
Polynesians call this energy Mana:
Mana is the spiritual life force energy or healing power that permeates the universe, in the culture of the Melanesians and Polynesians. Anyone or thing can have Mana. It is cultivation or possession of energy and power, rather than being a source of power. It is an intentional force.
Native American Iroquois call it the Orenda:
Orenda is the Iroquois name for a certain spiritual energy inherent in people and their environment. It is an “extraordinary invisible power believed by the Iroquois Native Americans to pervade in varying degrees in all animate and inanimate natural objects as a transmissible spiritual energy capable of being exerted according to the will of its possessor.” Orenda is a collective power of nature’s energies through the living energy of all natural objects: animate and inanimate.
What is this Life Force? Is the energy of the self aware ethereal substance particular to a unique living being. Energy is made up of particulate matter bumping up against particulate matter. Therefore the life force is found not only in animate beings (people, animals, plants) it can also be found in inanimate objects.
Some Reiki teachers have turned the word SOUL into an acronym to capture the meaning. For example SOUL = Spark of Universal Light.
The soul is thought to incorporate (put into a bodily form; embody) this self aware ethereal substance. This idea is consistent with the definition of “soul” given through the 1830’s American prophet Joseph Smith, who taught, “And the spirit and the body is the soul of man” (T&C 86:2).
The Japanese culture is an intentional one; meaning and symbolism are packed into words, art, etiquette, and even movement. As such, we will be looking more carefully at the character for the word Reiki in order to better understand the intentionality of its characters and meaning.
The upper part of the top character means Rain.
The upper line in this character is the symbol for heaven.
Below that is a box with the bottom opened up. Think of four drops in a rain cloud. The rainwater is held by the cloud ready to fall onto the earth.
The three squares under the character for rain describe the sign for mouth and therefore signify prayer or singing. But also connote the three archetypal partial personalities: the inner child, the middle self and the higher self.
In Chinese these are known as the three Hun souls.
According to Daoism the three Hun form a person’s spiritual soul. It is their spirit, consciousness, and intelligence. They are often depicted in the form of three gentlemen. The Three Ethereal Souls refer to the Heavenly Ethereal Soul [tian hun 天魂], the Earthly Ethereal Soul [di hun 地魂] and the Life-Destiny Ethereal Soul [ming hun 命魂].
In ancient times they were known as the trinity, Governing Ethereal Soul [zhu ling 主魂], Awakening Ethereal Soul [jue hun 觉魂] and Alive Ethereal Soul [sheng hun 生魂].
Beneath the three squares, or mouths, there is a horizonal H. In Japanese this signifies work, or working.
The lower longer stroke line of the H is the earth. The vertical stroke is an axis. The upper horizontal line is a leverage beam to indicate it being moved by people working. The upside down y strokes on either side of the axis are two people. To work is considered an honorable action for ones life.
This combination of people and work results in the 巫 character recognized in Japanese, Chinese and Korean as the word for Shaman, or spiritual healer.
The lower character in the combination for Reiki, Ki consists of the concept of energy. It means potential. There are two distinct parts to this concept of energy. The first part is steam. For example the steam that rises when we boil water. This is energy. It can be used as is, but it is not complete unless it is directed or focused towards a subject.
The second part is rice, and it the focus or object or subject for the first character. Potential energy can be within a grain of rice where energy is stored. But it is incomplete just as a grain. Within the steam and a grain of rice lies a potential energy. We must uncover and discover how to use these together to create a sustenance for our bodies which in turn will create energy. Combining these elements, steam and rice, allows a deepening of the meaning of Ki, or potential.
An individual grain of rice is the seed, but not the plant. The grain of rice becomes a plant when the energy of Mother Earth, nutrients from dirt, and Father Sky, water from rain are united. The grain of rice can only grow into a plant by this natural act of creation bringing the life energy Ki within it.
Reading from top to bottom, there is first a vision of the potentiality captured in the rain cloud symbol. Speaking words crosses the veil from ethereal thought and potential into physical vibrations in the world that can be heard by others. The work, or creation, is a direct manifestation of the vision, or faith.
Now compare these concepts, concisely packed into the characters for Reiki, to a verse in Genesis: