History of Reiki

History of Reiki
History of Reiki

Mrs. Hawayo Takata brought Reiki from Japan to the West in 1937 and continued to practice and teach until her passing in 1980. Because of her devotion, Reiki has been passed on to millions of people all over the world, and the numbers continue to grow! And as you will see, if it wasn’t for her, Reiki most likely would never have been discovered by the West and even in Japan would have been practiced secretly by only a small number of people.
Until the 1990s, the only information we had about Reiki came from Mrs. Takata. Her story of Reiki was recorded on tape, and this recording is still available along with a transcript of the contents. In the past most people including many authors simply accepted Takata Sensei’s interpretation of the history of Reiki as accurate without attempting to do any additional research. Because of this, Mrs. Takata’s version of the story was repeated in all the earlier books written on Reiki. (Fortunately many current authors are using more recent historical information.)
I continued to seek additional information about the history of Reiki, but attempts to secure it went slowly at first. The main reason for this is that after World War II, the U.S. government had complete control over Japan and required that all healing methods be licensed. The members of the organization Usui Sensei started, the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, decided they wanted to find a way to continue to practice Reiki without the need of licensing and the government interference with the practice of Reiki that this would involve. Some of the other healing groups such as the Acupuncturists were able to get a license to practice, but the Gakkai chose not to go through this process. In order to continue to practice Reiki, they decided to become a secret society and practice only among themselves and not talk about Reiki to anyone outside their organization. This made it difficult for anyone to learn about Reiki including the Japanese. In fact, if someone in Japan wanted to learn Reiki after the war, he or she had to travel to the U.S. to learn or had to learn from a Western trained Reiki teacher who traveled to Japan. Because of this, even now most Reiki practiced in Japan is a combination of Western and Japanese Reiki.
In the course of researching the origins of Reiki, I learned that Mrs. Takata took liberties with the history of its development. In 1990, for example, I wrote to Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan where Mrs. Takata reported that the founder of Reiki, Usui Sensei, had held the office of president. I had hoped to gain additional information that would help us understand who Usui Sensei really was. I also contacted the University of Chicago, from which Usui Sensei had obtained a degree according to Mrs. Takata. Neither university had ever heard of him. (Copies of the letters from both universities are available from the International Center for Reiki Training.) This disappointing discovery led me to wonder if other parts of the Takata Sensei version of Reiki were also inaccurate. In talking with several early Reiki Masters about this discovery, I was told that Mrs. Takata had westernized the story of Reiki by changing certain details and adding others to make it more appealing to Americans.