The Real Reiki History

Lynda Millar (Johnson) – Reiki & Karuna Reiki Teacher, Porirua, Wellington

The reiki history was a little flaky when I was originally taught by my 1st Reiki Master. Following my Reiki level 1 attunment I was curious to find out more about Reiki and spent a number of years learning more about the history of Reiki.

I couldn’t understand if the founder Dr Usui lived in the early 1800’s, why didn’t my Reiki Master know what year he was born and died?  When looking at the History of Reiki, I couldn’t understand if Dr Usui wanted to learn how to heal like Jesus, why he would go to an American University! Why would he do that? It really didn’t help me to put my heart and soul into Reiki and at that time (1997) I also found on the internet various sites claiming different dates of when Dr Usui was born/died.

My mind was put at rest when I finally came across a book “The Spirit of Reiki” written by William Lee Rand. In the book it gave details of Dr Usui birth & death and where his grave was is in Japan. More details about his life and the book is also a complete handbook of the Reiki System.

However a few more bomb shells were dropped in that book. It gave documented evidence that there was no evidence that Dr Usui was a president at Doshisha University and also no records within the University of Chicago indicated that Dr Usui was ever there. I also didn’t understand why did Hawayo Takata, charge so much for such an amazing gift!  Why did Hawayo Takata claim that she was the only Reiki Master in the world? Why did she get students to rip up the symbols, when in-fact they are not as so sacred as we are led to believe as they many of them are based on Sanskrit. Why did she make all these little white lies up?

There is still no-evidence today that I have been able to gather as to why Hawayo Takata had said all these things. However, I do feel I would like to share with everyone my experience of Hawayo Takata homeland and how life must have been for her.  I teach Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage which perfectly integrates with the healing powers of reiki and it was on my Hawaiian trip learning this technique that I discovered many interesting things about Hawaii and it’s people.

I went to study with a lady called “Auntie Margaret” she was considered a gifted healer and was the first to train people in the west about Hawaiin massage techniques. Something that was very much frowned upon my the other natives. I mentioned to my teacher that I was so excited to be learning more about Hawaiian spirituality and the Huna breath and healing powers. My teacher responded that she wouldn’t be sharing this and that these techniques were evil! According to the Christians they had been forbidden to practice their spirituality. In fact the missionaries set about converting all the Hawaiians to Christianity and gradually Christianity took over. The Kahuna’s priests & Healers were persecuted and forbidden from practicing and they were driven underground. Many were told that their own faith and practices were evil and that the only way to go to heaven was to believe in “Jesus and god” and to go to church and pray.  If they were caught practicing they faced prison, a heavy fine or even death. The Christians also didn’t like the freedom that the Hawaiians expressed and didn’t like how they revealed their bodies in the hot sun. So they banned the hula dance which they thought was provocative and planted thorns all over the Islands to ensure that all the Hawaiians wore proper clothing and worshiped the Christian gods.

The introduction of the missionaries and immigrants rang a death toll for the population of 300,000 island born Hawaiians. After the healers were outlawed in the 1800’s fewer than 60,000 survived. The newcomers brought diseases unsuited to the immune systems of the native people, but they also ignorantly outlawed the very persons who could have treated those diseases. The introduction of americans, and westerners to the society were devastating.

The kahuna’s driven underground were still known by the Hawaiians and the Kahuna name affectionately became camouflaged as uncle or auntie, or papa or daddy.

Therefore, I can imagine Hawayo Takata would have had to have thought very carefully how she would need to approach teaching reiki to ensure that if she was discovered that there was no evidence, therefore claiming that she was the only teacher in the West would have put westerners off questioning her story. The Japanese language barrier would have prevented many from finding out the truth or questioning her methods and equally Japanese didn’t like sharing their healing techniques with Westerners. The burning of the symbols would also have ensured there was no evidence and the cost of the courses were high enough to cover her bale costs should she be fined for practicing.

It also didn’t help that the Japanese were not well respected in America, particularly in Hawaii where they had the devastation of Pearl Harbour. Christians would also frown upon Eastern Religions as they did the Hawaiian beliefs. So again, I can imagine that Hawayo Takata certainly did want to honour the roots of reiki but equally she would have wanted to make Dr Usui sound less eastern (i.e a Christian minister) along with if he studied in America he would have sounded more American than Japanese.! (Maybe)

It is a relief but a surprise to discover that it was only in 1978 that finally the Religious freedom act was passed (public law 95-341) that finally freed the kahuna (Shaman/keeper of secrets/healers) from their rainforest shadows. It seems strange that this event, along with Hawayo Takata dying made it easier for the west to reduce the price of Reiki courses allowing more people access to it’s teaching.

I’m still saddened though that even with the new law put into place, it’s a shame that today with only 7-8000 full blood Hawaiians left, there appears little evidence of the ancient culture, on the surface. Many of the kahunas still operate in secret afraid.

Learning all of this about Hawaii history, certainly made me feel a lot of compassion to Hawayo Takata and I am so grateful to her strength and fearlessness in what must have been challenging times. She stuck to her belief that we needed to have access to these techniques regardless of how dangerous it could have been for her.

Thank you Hawayo.

Lynda Johnson

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