Action Alert!

Energy Medicine: Part Two — The Theology

by Susan Brinkmann

Description

This article by Susan Brinkmann is the ninth in a multi-part series dealing with various New Age philosophies. In this installment the author takes a closer look at the theology (or lack thereof) behind the practice of "energy medicine."

Larger Work

Colorado Catholic Herald

Publisher & Date

Diocese of Colorado Springs, November 2, 2007

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.

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.

(This article originally appeared in The Catholic Standard and Times, the Philadalphia archdiocesan newspaper.)


Other articles in this series:

PART I: Popular Movement Is One of the Most Pressing Challenges to Christian Faith

PART II: Divinization: Consulting Psychics and Mediums

PART III: Reiki and Healing Touch

PART IV: The Enneagram: What's Your Number?

PART V: Is Acupuncture Acceptable for Catholics?

PART VI: Bewitched by Wicca

PART VII: Ouija Boards and Tarot Cards

PART VIII: Energy Medicine: Part One — The Science

PART IX: Energy Medicine: Part Two — The Theology

PART X: The Exercise of Religion: Yoga

Ten questions to help you determine 'Christian or New Age?'

© The Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs

This item 8762 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org