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Book Review: Essential Reiki by Diane Stein

This controversial and worldwide bestseller by Diane Stein has its fair share of admirers and detractors. Yadira grabs a copy of Essential Reiki and digests its contents from cover to cover. Here is what she found...

Book Review by Yadira / Lake Forest, California / April 09 2008

Front cover of Essential Reiki by Diane Stein Enlarge Image

Front cover of Essential Reiki by Diane Stein

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Review of Essential Reiki: A Complete Guide to an Ancient Healing Art by Diane Stein

I must admit that Essential Reiki by Diane Stein is one of those books that I own and have regularly thumbed through over the years. There is much to like, but equally there are certain aspects that can be a little hard to swallow.

Before I go on, I'd like to make one thing clear: Stein is a person with strong feminist views and this does come through in her writing style. While I don't think any of it can be construed as being offensive in any way (it largely consists of all masculine references being turned into the feminine, “he” into “she”, and so on), some may find it a little jarring. I simply smile and read on. I also think it would be a real shame to allow this to detract from the overall work. So with that out of the way, let's push on!

The focus of the book is to provide you with a complete guide to Reiki, from healing yourself and others, to progressing through the First, Second, and Third Degrees of Reiki. All of this is couched within Stein's theories on the history of Reiki and her direct personal experiences in following the path all the way to becoming a Master and subsequently teaching thousands of people. Some of the stories hark back to the late 80's so expect some of the influences to be a little dated.

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As a manual on Reiki, the explanations and descriptions are all extremely thorough and clear. There are plenty of easy–to–follow diagrams and examples which fit nicely alongside real–life anecdotes and stories told by Stein. All of the Reiki symbols are included too. When the book was first published many years ago, this caused something of an uproar within the Reiki community as most practitioners maintained — as many still do today — that the Reiki symbols are things that should never be published.

Diane Stein, author of Essential Reiki Enlarge Image

Diane Stein is the author of Essential Reiki: A Complete Guide to an Ancient Healing Art

Copyright of the author of the work

Several things add further color to the proceedings. As we learn from early on, Stein learnt Reiki by following a non–traditionalist route, the high costs of traditional Reiki training proving to have been prohibitive. Her alternative methods of using Reiki are carefully explained along with the reasons why she has found them to be of benefit. While traditionalists may balk at this, I see nothing wrong in offering new possibilities which may be tried and adopted as needed. Particularly worth mentioning here, is that the Third Degree as taught by Stein follows an entirely non–traditionalist method. Stein does however make this clear and goes to some length to explain what the differences are, particularly with regard to how she passes attunements during the Third Degree.

As touched upon previously, Stein also infuses the work with her theories on how Reiki all began (taking us back to way before the time of Mikao Usui), and in particular how she believes that inextricable connections between Reiki and Buddhism exist, and perhaps between the ancient root religions of the world as well. These forays into Buddhism and Steins observations do pose intriguing questions, and taken at a general level they add much interest to the book. Whether her assertions hold water at a deeper level, I think is still open to question. This does not mean that what is presented should not be explored and objectively evaluated — quite the contrary, I think it should — but my criticism is that Stein's general pattern when broaching these issues is to loosely introduce her ideas and thereafter proceed to talk about them throughout the remainder of the book as established facts. One such example is the idea that Jesus' ability to heal came from him having travelled to India where he learnt Reiki (or whatever name the system of healing would have had at that time). Now, while there is certainly a body of evidence to suggest that Jesus did travel to India*, I think most would agree that this is yet something that is far from conclusive. I would have preferred such topics to have been discussed a little more openly rather than as the firm conclusions that are presented here.

Illustration of Reiki hand positions from Essential Reiki by Diane Stein Enlarge Image

Sample illustrations of the Reiki hand positions from Essential Reiki by Diane Stein.

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So while this is a solid, and definitely alternative, introduction to Reiki, the main strength of the work in my view comes from Stein's extensive experience of dealing with people. She does a truly admirable and vivid job of conveying the real (and sometimes awkward and very difficult) situations faced by those who choose to become healers. Stories abound about what it is like to receive Reiki, what it is like to give Reiki to someone, and what it is like to teach it. This aspect alone can be very illuminating to those who are as yet undecided on the question of whether becoming a healer will be the right choice for them.

Overall then, the negatives do not outweigh the trove of genuinely useful hands–on information to be found between the covers of this book. At worst, the outspoken theories add color and curiosity to a thoroughly comprehensive introduction to Reiki, both in terms of how to practice it and how to teach it — just be aware that many aspects are based on non–traditional Reiki.

To conclude, this is a highly recommended and indispensible book, but I would suggest you make it the second or third book to add to your Reiki library — in my view it makes for a truly excellent companion text.

*Jesus in India

I'm still on the fence about this one, but for those with an interest in exploring Stein's claims that Jesus travelled to India, and which were first introduced more than a century ago (in 1894) by the Russian doctor Nicholas Notovitch in his book “The Unknown Life of Christ”, here are a few further links which might be of interest:

  • Knowledge of Reality Magazine article on Holger Kersten's book “Jesus Lived in India” — Kersten's book is one of the major influences quoted by Stein in Essential Reiki. I've not read Kersten's book, but this web page seems to have a reasonably complete summary of what you'll find in it.
  • Article appearing in The Guardian newspaper in November last year about a planned Hollywood movie in 2009, called The Aquarian Gospel (The Guardian is one of the UK's leading national newspapers) — it will be interesting to see if this movie does get made.
  • Wikipedia article on Jesus — if you search for the word “India” in the article you'll find a mention of the theory that Jesus travelled to India, along with a few more references to follow up on.

About Essential Reiki by Diane Stein

Full Title:
Essential Reiki: A Complete Guide to an Ancient Healing Art
Diane Stein
Crossing Press; 1 edition (May 1995)

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