If you’re Level II Reiki or above, you’ve been introduced to the infamous Reiki ‘symbols.’ I use quotes because they’re not really symbols, but more on that later. The “To or not to” in the title question refers to whether these symbols ought to be published for the general public to see. My position has always been to not make them available to untrained eyes, and my reasons may surprise you.

The often repeated reasoning is that since the symbols don’t work unless one is Reiki-trained, then there’s no harm in publishing. With that reasoning, then why publish them? How does it help the public?

Those who’ve been trained already have the needed information. Another perspective may or may not be helpful if one isn’t grounded in the explanations given by your teacher. And such a perspective can always be indulged sans images. Plus much of the information about the symbols and what they really are, as well as the symbols themselves is inaccurate.

When I think about any Reiki-related subtlety my bottomline is always: Does it contribute to Reiki’s and humanity’s knowledgebase? When it comes to Reiki’s innermost teachings my answer is “no” and here’s why:

  1. The symbols suggest Reiki is mechanical.
  2. The symbols are misleading because they are merely representative.
  3. The practitioner is entrusted with specific teachings, thus it isn’t dinner conversation.
  4. The symbols are not a commodity.
  5. The symbols are secondary to the use of primordial vowel sounds.

Geometric shapes hold a certain power within a specific pattern. Various geometric symbols have been part of human psyche for eons. Our imagination and unconscious have much invested in symbols. Today this also shows itself in corporate logos, or global signs such as these warning of industrial hazard:

The Reiki ‘symbols’ and what they really mean is on an altogether different order. Let’s explore how…

1) The symbols suggest Reiki is mechanical: We’re surrounded by machines and gadgets. We drive a machine to work or take our kids to school in one. We wash our clothes in a machine and stay in touch with a gadget. It’s natural for us to easily relate to the workings of the mechanical and physical world.

But this isn’t the only world we occupy. And Reiki is our means of access to that other one, the one we yearn for and crave. The one that expands possibilities, deepens meaning and propels consciousness.

Reiki has been reduced to a modality by many as it is! Overexposure of the Reiki ‘symbols’ perpetuates the fallacy of this toolbox mentality. If Reiki were that, then we could just as easily pop an Aleve or Claritin.

Fortunately, Reiki is a process of inner growth. It’s non-mechanical, non-linear and doesn’t depend on power tools.

2) The symbols are misleading because they are merely representative: While all symbols hold some potency, transformative ones like the Reiki ‘symbols’ derive their force from the living energies they represent.

Even if we were to understand them only as symbols, it’s a mistake to limit them to two-dimensional, flat line drawings on a page or a website. These shapes are at least three-dimensional, generate certain qualities and initiate a lot of dynamism.

And most importantly, Reiki ‘symbols’ stand-in for various living energies and spiritual truths; they are means to an end. In and of themselves, they are nothing but a curiosity.

3) The practitioner is entrusted with specific teachings; these aren’t dinner conversation: Let’s settle the most popular interpretation that the Reiki ‘symbols’ are sacred but not secret.

“Secret” is a derivation from Latin secretus, from past participle of secernere to separate, distinguish, from se- apart + cernere to sift. Another derivation is “to set apart.”

How well this fits where we need to be in relation to how we respect the teachings of Reiki! There’s no hint of how we use the word “secret” today to mean “hidden.”

Spiritual teachings help us sift through our patterns and habits, our neuroses and weaknesses. We distinguish the wheat from the chaff. And spiritual teachings are set apart from other types of learning, having a special place in our heart.

Reiki is sacred. This necessarily means that we don’t make everyday fodder from any of its inner workings.

4) The symbols are not a commodity. Thus they have no place on jewelry, T-shirts, bags, CD covers, Reiki manual covers, Reiki webpages as decoration, watermarks, candles, crystals, fountains, art, rocks or any other medium.

5) The symbols are secondary to the use of primordial vowel sounds.

Reiki is a living teaching that contains primordial forces, which when utilized with understanding transforms you. I’ve written a lot about Reiki as consciousness. Before there can be energy, there has to be consciousness. Energy is a densification of consciousness, and matter is a densification of energy.

There are sub-frequencies in the overall spectrum of Reiki that relate to creation in its cosmic and natural formations. Two of these (there’s more) are identified as Earth Ki and Celestial Ki. This is the stuff of life and the universe we get to interact and play with in Reiki, that grows us and gives us an opportunity to enhance life through spiritual practice.

We’re actually composed of these polar forces, which actually point to a unity. The founder of these teachings Usui Sensei, emphasized a vibrational approach to better embodying and integrating Earth and Celestial Ki. For a long time he gave his students only primordial vowel sounds that have the ability to open up these energies within us like the morning glory in the warming sun.

Intoning seed syllables is a vibrational practice that brings in a set of qualities associated with each syllable or a certain sequence. It really makes sense to use a vibrational method to become consciously one with energetic forces in and around us; it’s direct and thus much more effective.

The Reiki ‘symbols’ were later included to give a visual representation, which was an easier connection for some students. The symbols were and are an additional method, and don’t replace the practice of primordial syllables. These sounds are not the names commonly associated with the symbols.

I don’t send MP3s of Reiki’s sacred sounds to the uninitiated. By the same principle, keep Reiki’s symbols in your heart. Practice sincerely and consistently. There’s no good reason to risk dilution, or making the sacred profane through overexposure. The banal and the mundane are already abundant. Let’s leave some things apart and distinguished. Please.


Each post for the Reiki Help Blog can take anywhere from 1-5 days to write/research, proofread/edit, and post with an appropriate image and formatting. If you leave this space with any value, knowledge, joy or understanding, please consider making a donation of your choice.

Donate to this blog. Thank you!

Reiki ‘symbols’: To or not to?