Reiki - Cult, Religion, or Simply an Energy Transfer System

Recently, I have been asked several times if Reiki is a cult, or religion, or philosophy, or simply a method of delivering Ki. I have always been certain myself that practitioners of Reiki are the farthest thing from a cult or religion possible. However, in response to sincere questions from concerned non-Reiki people and potential students, I have included this page to further define Reiki in terms of widely accepted definitions of cults and/or religions.


What is a cult? - How does Reiki and its practitioners fit the above definitions?


  • A cult exerts absolute authority over its members.
  • Reiki practitioners actively resist any authority of other Reiki folks. Reiki students do not answer to their Reiki Masters in any way. Although lineage is a matter of pride and respect, it does not represent any authority whatsoever. Reiki practitioners are individuals, and proud of it. There is no "head office of Reiki". Certification of a student is by the teaching Reiki Master. Reiki practitioners usually work alone. There are certain Reiki professional associations, but most Reiki practitioners do not belong to them. Informal Reiki get-togethers happen from time to time in certain areas, called "Reiki Shares", but these are not organizational in any sense, merely times to share Reiki with other practitioners and members of the general public.


  • A cult prescribes one absolute system of belief for its members, and does not permit questioning of its beliefs and practices.
  • Reiki practitioners represent many Reiki traditions. Some of these traditions contradict some parts of other traditions. Many Reiki practitioners learn more than one tradition, and active questioning and discussion are a feature of any Reiki-based conversations. Although a Reiki Master agrees to be available to a student for questions as long as the student wishes, many students go on in Reiki to change or improve on various aspects of the Reiki they learned, while preserving the essentials.


  • A cult does not permit its members to be members of another church or belief system.
  • I personally know Reiki practitioners and Masters who are Muslims, Unitarians, Hindus, Buddhists, Catholic nuns and priests, Episcopalians, Sufis, Jews, Wiccans, Congregationalists, Methodists, and Baptists. In each case, they indicate that they have the agreement, or permission, or approval of their particular religion, although some newer fundamentalist Protestant denominations seem more uncomfortable with Reiki.. Many clergy people from each of the above religions are also Reiki practitioners. There are no required beliefs or philosophies in Reiki, but a Taoistic philosophical influence is felt. This is not a contradiction of religion, but for some, an addition to it. There are historical figures, such as Usui, whose teaching and influence are respected, but not made central to the actual practice of Reiki.


  • A cult tries to isolate its members from regular participation in everyday society and tries to limit communication with friends and family.
  • Reiki traditions all include Usui's concepts of respecting and honoring the family and working honestly in society. Many Reiki practitioners work in the community as professionals, providing care beyond their own families in clinics, businesses, hospitals and churches. Reiki practitioners differ in their politics and social views; I do notice a general agreement on ecology and the openness of medical information and access to care, and a tendency to respect a more natural approach to health maintenance, without a rejection of continuing traditional medical care.


  • A cult many times requires substantial and continuing monetary commitments from its members.
  • Reiki practitioners are under no monetary obligations to anyone, beyond the expenses agreed on for training between Master and student. These financial obligations end with the end of training [a weekend, at most for Reiki I and II; they can be much longer for Master training in some cases].


  • A cult often predicts dire consequences for society and the world.
  • There are absolutely no predictions or beliefs about the condition or future of the world in the practice of Reiki. There are no beliefs which even suggest that those who practice Reiki enjoy any greater position or security in life than non-Reiki folk. Reiki is life-affirming and holistically creative in its practice. A Reiki practitioner is simply a skilled, trained person willing to help others.

    A cult leader demands absolute obedience by the student/member and will not tolerate an open discussion of all questions which arise about the practice involved. Reiki never makes such demands, and encourages a complete discussion and examination of all facts and phenomena involved, as well as the right to seek training from any Reiki Master the student may chose.

Although some religions and philosophical systems might be seen to fit several of the definitions of a cult, the system and practice of Reiki does not in any way resemble a cult. If it did, in any way whatsoever, I could not continue as a Reiki practitioner. I also find no contradiction between the practice of Reiki and the findings of both Western and Eastern science; both physics and medicine are finding increasing validity with the concepts about energy which Reiki teaches and utilizes. Some religions, however, do have a problem with certain aspects of Western science and/or medicine. For me, all knowledge, to be valid, must "interlock" with the best knowledge in any valid field of human endeavor, without contradictions.