Dear Rabbi Wolf,
I practice both Jewish meditation along the lines of Aryeh Kaplan’s writings, as well as other eastern forms of meditation. I am also a qualified Reiki practitioner and am presently completing my Reiki Master process.
I am constantly faced with this type of critique particularly by orthodox Jews. I feel however that the balancing of the mental and emotional aspects of peoples lives produces physical results and as a reiki practitioner, my task as a healer is to show the "patient' how to access and release mental and emotional blockages to reach a level of integration of all aspects of the person.
I have combed Jewish literature for some time now and have found tantalising titbits dealing with "energy healing", however most of the writings either skirt the issues completely or give limited and obtuse support.
I would be most grateful if you could assist me in referring me to works that deal specifically with the Jewish approach to non standard or alternative healing, both historically and in our contemporary world, or if possible perhaps you could let me have your views on the matter
A. (South Africa)
Thank you for your letter. I understand the challenge you face is finding understanding, especially from those who are, at least in name, your spiritual community. At the same time let me add a word or two that might assist in this respect. Ever since east began to encounter west in the sixties and onwards, our western minds and hearts have been challenged and enlarged by the cultural and spiritual exchange. The challenge has been to our perceptions of reality, healing, life's purpose, etc. Of course I speak generally here. This has led to both confusion and insight.
In the translation of the eastern teachings, both experientially and academically, there has been simplification and distortion, as well as commercial exploitation. But the whole phenomenon has also produced a search into basics, roots, and origins. The Jewish world has also not been unaffected, both for good as well as otherwise. Especially in the field of healing and wellness the quest has continued to grow. There has been a realization, as Torah teaches, both in the exoteric as well as in the esoteric, that our wholeness is not merely the product of chemical and electrostatic forces, but the result of the spiritual processes that underlie Person and Creation. The eastern modalities proffer a model that is a halfway house - the energy body, the ethereal self, etc. and makes use of this understanding through models of chakras and meridians that have become popularised in the west. Empirically some of the healing modalities have been shown to work. And practitioners sense that they have discovered a new approach to healing.
Your question is whether a ben Torah (orthodox Jew) should or should not access these modalities for healing purposes. The Torah, through the historical process of distillation and development, the Halachah, has the most extensive set of cross-checks and balances to assess change and its benefits or otherwise. But there has always been a clear inclination towards use of healing practices that are pragmatically effective. One of the criteria of its availability to Jewish people is whether there is any element of 'avodah zarah’ - foreign spiritual intrusion that can hurt the Jewish soul system. So a healing practice/therapy may be pragmatically effective and still not be useful, and perhaps even dangerous, to the Jewish soul and spiritual integrity of both client and practitioner.
Our Jewish spiritual teachings through Hassidism and Kabbalah, note that mind and emotion balance, 'right thinking' and 'right feeling', are the basis of health. The Torah prescribes what these 'right' attitudes and postures are, through Mitzvot of thought, speech and behaviour as well as general disciplines and training. It is very important for a Jewish therapist - 'healer', be very familiar with these teachings, and also to assess other modalities available to him/her today in the marketplace of ideas and information. Then there is the important placebo effect - which to my mind is not something to be dismissed as proving non-effectiveness of a modality, but rather testifies to the much greater effectiveness of positive attitude and belief. Also one has to be cognisant of the effects of non-local phenomena, healing at a distance, the effectiveness of intercessory prayer, etc. through double blind tests.
My concern with Reiki is not the effectiveness of healing through energies that we exude through hands and otherwise. We know this to be so as we produce Mal'achim (angelic energies) through our thoughts, words, behaviour, kavvanot (intentions) - another model for the same phenomena. My concern in your case, being a Jew practicing Reiki that has early Christian beginnings and in some instances teachings, as per books that I have read on the subject and discussion with Reiki masters. I would caution you as to its use, without definitively concluding against its practices, in the mode as commonly taught. This does not disqualify the notion of 'healing energies' but there is a 'kosher' and 'non kosher' way of using these. But I reiterate that the more advised Jewish modality is that of 'tracht gut un vert zein gut' (think positive and the outcomes will be positive).
But I guess you will have to study Tanya and other explanatory works of Kabbalah to draw out the spiritual implications. Where are you located and I might be able to refer you to a local teacher. And perhaps you might also consider using meditations therapeutically rather than esoterically. You can refer to my web site www.laiblwolf.com for some example audio meditation tapes and how I use these for imprinting self-change for people.
Feel free to remain in touch.