The fact that these practices borrow from other religions is not the problem, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said in the 1989 document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Some Aspects of Christian Meditation." Speaking about various forms of Eastern meditation, he assures us that we can adopt what is good from other religions, "as long as the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and requirements are never obscured." The problem with Reiki and healing touch is that it is based on beliefs peculiar to various forms of Hinduism and Buddhism which "posit the existence of a life energy (ki or kundalini) and interpret that energy as spiritual," which is not a Christian belief.
Christians believe that man is a union of body and soul, and that the soul is an essential form of the body — not an energy force. "From a spiritual perspective, we believe the soul is the life-principle of the body, not something else," wrote the editors at Catholic Answers. "Consequently, there is no spiritual ‘life energy’ animating the body. Any energy used as part of the body’s operations — such as the electricity in our nervous system — is material in nature, not spiritual. . . . Since this (belief) is contrary to Christian theology, it is inappropriate for Christians to participate in activities based on this belief."
Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa, an internationally known biblical scholar and popular television and radio host, raises another question about practitioners of those and other healing fads that are being practiced, in some cases, on a church’s property. "Are these people practicing medicine without a license?" he asks. "And if so, who is going to be liable if there’s a malpractice suit?" Although many practitioners sincerely believe they are helping people, there is no scientific study associated with any of these methods, Father Pacwa says. Even more troubling is the fact that their practitioners disguise them as a form of the Christian laying-on of hands, according to Father Pacwa.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the laying on of hands as a "sign" (CCC, No. 699) not a means of channeling "energy."
"Reiki is an attempt to make a ‘technique’ out of praying for the sick," Father Pacwa said. "Praying for the sick has to be understood as an aspect of God’s grace operative in our lives. It’s not a ‘technique.’ That’s where it becomes ‘magical,’ and Christianity is not about using magic." NEXT TOPIC: We look at enneagrams.
14B. ENERGY MEDICINE: PART ONE – THE SCIENCE
CHRISTIAN OR NEW AGE? PART VIII by Susan Brinkmann, Special to the Herald, October 18, 2007 http://www.coloradocatholicherald.com/display.php?xrc=742
This is the eighth of a series that examines how Catholics are being challenged by followers of New Age philosophies.
It’s called "ki" in Japan, "chi" in China and "prana" in India — but it all means the same thing — a form of universal "energy" which is believed to flow through human beings that can become unbalanced. Practitioners of Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, yoga, tai chi, Qi Gong, polarity therapy, and as many as 60 other forms of "energy healing" seek to channel this energy to restore health.
Although originating in the East, energy medicine has become popular in the West, and is practiced in many U.S. medical facilities.
Because these practices are not regulated by the FDA and are not required to meet their rigorous standards of efficacy, consumers need to beware. This is especially true because alternative and complementary medicine has become a multimillion dollar business in the United States.
In order to protect consumers against potential fraud, Congress established a National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 1998.
In an overview of the field of energy medicine, the NCCAM has concluded that most techniques are not scientifically valid.
As their report indicates, consumers need to be made aware of the scientific distinction between the two forms of energy — veritable and putative — and which is involved in energy medicine.
Veritable energy consists of mechanical vibrations (such as sound) and electromagnetic forces, including visible light, magnetism, monochromatic radiation and rays from other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. "They involve the use of specific, measurable wavelengths and frequencies to treat patients," the report states.
Putative energy is what practitioners of Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, reflexology and yoga purport to be manipulating.
It consists of alleged "energy fields" that human beings are supposedly infused with. This subtle form of energy, or "life force," is known as "ki" in Japanese medicine and "chi" in Chinese medicine, and elsewhere as "prana," etheric energy and homeopathic resonance.
"These approaches are among the most controversial of complementary and alternative medical practices," the NIH reports, "because neither the external energy fields nor their therapeutic effects have been demonstrated convincingly by any biophysical means."
According to Victor Stenger, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii, the most powerful and accurate detectors known to science have never discovered even a hint of this energy form.
"Much of alternative medicine is based on claims that violate well established scientific principles," writes Stenger in his article, "Energy Medicine," which appeared in The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine.
"Those that require the existence of a bio-energetic field, whether therapeutic touch or [traditional Chinese] acupuncture, should be asked to meet the same criteria as anyone else who claims a phenomenon whose existence goes beyond established science. They have an enormous burden of proof. . . ."
The fact that major nursing organizations and publications refer to these unsubstantiated energy forms is causing major problems in the medical community. "Medical journals should follow the lead of most scientific journals and not publish extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence," Stenger writes.
Unfortunately, there is confusion among the public and even among some healers as to what kind of energy is being manipulated. This is why the best source for this information is the practitioners’ own literature.
For instance, Reiki literature clearly refers to the energy it manipulates as a "spiritually guided life-force energy." Polarity therapists claim they are working the "human energy field" but go on to say that this energy field "exists everywhere in nature." Cranial Sacral Biodynamics claims it works on the "formation of a relationship between the practitioner and the inherent ordering principle, the Breath of Life" of a client.
Energy medicine also causes confusion in the professional realm — particularly in the field of legitimate medical massage, which is defined as the manual manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for therapeutic purposes. Confusing legitimate medical massage with energy healers who purport to do much more, casts a pall of charlatanism over the whole medical profession.
The problem has become so serious that the American Medical Massage Association (AMMA) issued a position statement in December 2005 denouncing six categories of what are considered metaphysical, paranormal or pseudoscientific practices that include Reiki, therapeutic touch, touch for health, crystal healing, aroma energy and many others.
The AMMA believes the widespread use of these methods "has advanced to the point of becoming a serious problem that is adversely affecting the overall professional image and reputation of massage therapy in the United States."
According to the AMMA’s legislative and external affairs coordinator, Amanda Cihak, "While it is scientific fact that the human body is comprised of energy, i.e., protons, neutrons, electrons, there is a vast difference between those massage therapists wanting to assist the body’s natural healing processes and those who claim they can manipulate one’s ‘energy,’ chi, life-force, etc. "Many times a practitioner will perform Reiki, Energy Healing, Cranial Sacral or Polarity Therapy without the consent or desire of a client, while they believe they are receiving an actual clinical or medical massage treatment," Cihak says.
Insurance companies are yet another industry experiencing problems from this confusion of legitimate medical massage and energy healing. According to Cihak, more and more companies throughout the country are making a distinction between ‘massage therapy’ which includes Reiki practitioners, and ‘clinical massage therapy’ which requires additional training, documentation and education specifically in clinical/medical massage. The confusion is enhanced when energy healers are permitted to work in legitimate medical facilities. This is particularly problematic in Christian hospitals.
Aside from showing a long list of "professional organization" endorsements, energy healers often get in the door at Christian hospitals by claiming techniques such as Therapeutic Touch and Reiki have nothing to do with religion.
According to the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), these claims are untrue.
In their February 2004 position statement, titled, "Therapeutic Touch is not a Catholic Hospital Pastoral Practice," the CMA explains why these practices come with considerable "religious baggage" in spite of the application of a secular veneer, and are therefore not compatible with Catholicism. "Therapeutic touch is essentially a ‘New Age’ manifestation in a medical setting," writes Doctor Patrick Guinan in the CMA document. "New Age philosophy is well defined in the recent Vatican document, ‘Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Waters of Life.’ New Age is the belief that conscious reality consists of cosmic energy and pantheistic forces that can be known and controlled by an elite knowledgeable in this mystical system. New Age is in direct contrast to traditional Western Judeo-Christian culture that posits a personal God and humans endowed with a free will.’" 72.
14C. ENERGY MEDICINE: PART TWO – THE THEOLOGY
CHRISTIAN OR NEW AGE? PART IX by Susan Brinkmann, Special to the Herald, November 2, 2007 http://www.coloradocatholicherald.com/display.php?xrc
This is the ninth part of a series that examines how Catholics are being challenged by followers of New Age philosophies.
A nurse who practices energy medicine claims in a journal for Christian nurses that she was told "God had blessed her with the gift of healing through the manipulation of a person’s energy field."
One Web site claims that energy medicine is "in alignment with the Bible."
Yet another advises: "Reiki provides a very wonderful way for Christians to make use of God’s power. . . . When giving or receiving Reiki attunements or treatments, just call on God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to work directly through you and do the healing for you."
Those are examples of the way practitioners of energy medicine are drawing Christians into a wide variety of healing methods, such as Reiki, therapeutic touch, Qi Gong, polarity therapy and crystal healing, all of which are based on the alleged existence of a universal life force that can be manipulated for healing.
Can we simply substitute the name of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, for this energy, or choose to believe that the source of the energy is God?
Unfortunately, no. The basic concept of energy medicine — the energy, itself — is not a Christian belief. It belongs to New Age and non-Christian religions.
"The New Age god is an impersonal energy, a particular extension or component of the cosmos; god in this sense is the life-force or soul of the world," states the Vatican’s document on New Age practices and philosophies, "Christ, Bearer of the Water of Life."
"This is very different from the Christian understanding of God as the maker of heaven and earth and the source of all personal life," it continued. "God is in Himself personal, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who created the universe in order to share the communion of His life with creaturely persons."
That aspect of a loving God is missing from the "force" in energy medicine, according to Father Anthony J. Costa, the director of Spiritual Formation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary College Division in Philadelphia.
"There’s an intimacy with God that is integral to our faith. he loves us unconditionally. We look to the different texts in the Old and New Testaments and see the intimate love that he has for us," Father Costa said. "We see all the examples of his love for us and his desire to be with us. We see this in the petitions in the Our Father, the intimacy with Abba, our Father — this desire Jesus has for us to be in union with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You don’t have that with an energy force."
He added that healing through energy medicine also lacks one of the most important components of Jesus’ ministry — spiritual healing. "There are many examples from the Gospel where the healing leads to conversion, with conversion being a central aspect of our faith, which is not noted in any of these methods," Father Costa said.
Meanwhile, plenty of people involved in the propagation of energy medicine try to convince their followers otherwise, and they are not afraid to use distortions of Scripture to try to make their point. Perhaps the most common error is to confuse the Christian laying on of hands with New Age methods of energy manipulation.
For instance, William Lee Rand, founder of the International Center for Reiki Training, in his article, "Was Jesus a Reiki Master?" goes so far as to suggest that because Jesus sometimes laid hands on people while healing them, he may have been using Reiki.
"There are many similarities between the laying on of hands healing Jesus did and the practice of Reiki," Rand writes. He goes on to list only those episodes in the Gospels where Jesus used his hands to heal — excluding every other method, such as the casting out of demons and healing by command.
Rand’s article "seems to cite different examples from Scripture about healings, and give an interpretation that misses the real spirit of the [Gospel] text," Father Costa said.
"Sure Jesus touched people when he healed. But there are other cases — such as when he healed the centurion’s servant — when he "said but the word," and they were healed. The foundation is that it comes through Christ," Father Costa added. "It’s not simply powers that are being passed from one person to the other. The source is Jesus."
Kathleen McCarthy, president of In His Sign Network, who has been involved in a charismatic healing ministry for 33 years, notes significant differences between the Christian laying on of hands and what is done by energy healers.
"In the charismatic gift of healing and the laying on of hands, the hands are a just a symbol of service," McCarthy said. "We’re not acting as a channel. We’re not a conduit for any energy. We are an instrument of God’s healing. There is only one healer — Jesus Christ — and we’re calling upon him to touch the person. Our hands are just an outward sign showing this person that we’re joining with them in prayer."
That is an important difference from practitioners of energy medicine techniques such as Reiki, McCarthy said: "The Reiki master and students think this is their power — a power that stays with them, that they can’t lose. When I lay my hands on a person, I know this is a passing manifestation of God’s power.
"It’s the power of the living God. It’s not a power that I have. All I do is come in the name of the one who has atoned for the world. I come in his name."
Thinking that we can participate in these practices simply by believing that the energy comes from God can be a dangerous delusion, particularly in the case of techniques such as Reiki, which employ "attunement" rituals involving secret symbols and the use of spirit guides. 73.
On his Web site, Rand says that the attunement process "opens the crown, heart and palm chakras and creates a special link between the student and the Reiki source."
He goes on: "The Reiki attunement is a powerful spiritual experience. The attunement energies are channeled into the student through the Reiki Master. . . . The attunement is also attended by Reiki guides and other spiritual beings who help implement the process."
The process Rand describes is riddled with dangers, from the unnamed Reiki "source" to the channeling of energy and the use of spirits to implement the process.
"Nowhere does Scripture teach us to ‘channel energy’ in the way characteristic of Reiki," writes Father Gareth Leyshon, a Cardiff, Wales-trained astrophysicist who was ordained a priest in May, 2007, on his Web site’s "Catholic Critique of the Healing Art of Reiki."
"In fact, presuming that God will assist in a way which He has not revealed to be His will constitutes the sin of ‘tempting God,’" Father Leyshon stated.
Particularly problematic in the case of Reiki is its process of initiation, which uses secret symbols. Even though first-level practitioners are initiated by having the symbols replicated over them, rather than being taught them — they may not even be aware of the symbols at the time — the ritual incorporates into it what Father Leyshon describes as "divination."
"If these symbols originate in a non-Christian mystical experience (which they do, according to Reiki sources) then any attempt to use them (including the attunement to become a first-level initiate) constitutes a use of knowledge obtained by divination," he writes.
"The mere fact of needing to be initiated rather than simply being taught to manipulate ki gives Reiki the character of a ritual rather than a therapy," Father Leyshon adds.
Indeed, the fact that there is any initiation at all should be the first warning that Christians are entering a dangerous area, he said: "One who submits to a Reiki initiation allows spiritual authority to be exercised over oneself. Since the authority is not clearly sourced in the Triune God, this act of submission must constitute idolatry; and the indispensability of initiation is the clearest sign of why Reiki cannot be compatible with Christianity."
Father Leyshon advises pastors and superiors who must confront Reiki in their ministries not to worry so much about whether there is such a thing as Reiki or whether it is effective. They should simply stress that "Christians are committed to turn to no spiritual source other than the Triune God, who has not revealed Reiki as a means of harnessing his power."
According to Father Costa, we can confront the advance of "energy" medicine in our own time and place by reaffirming what we believe — and who we believe Jesus is.
"Any time we have anything that is not pointing to Jesus — that is not rooted in the healing that comes from him — is always an indicator that we are not being authentic, that we are not following the way of the cross," he said.
(These articles originally appeared in The Catholic Standard and Times, the Philadelphia archdiocesan newspaper.)
15A. Yoga and horoscopes can lead to possession by Devil