Distant initiation is a controversial subject, especially among traditionalists. Yet, it is not without precedent, as shown below in evidence from Doris Duke’s archives. To have a meaningful discussion, let’s separate the use of remote initiation from the question of what is the best learning environment in which to start practicing Reiki.
Robert Fueston is a Reiki master and licensed acupuncturist with a Master degree in Library and Information Science. A well respected Reiki scholar, he has been researching the history of Reiki practice since 1996. He shares an important piece of his recent research.
My assistant and I were waiting impatiently for the archive to open when a fire alarm sent everyone scrambling to exit the library.
It was April 17, 2014, and I was at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University researching Hawayo Takata’s relationship with heiress Doris Duke.
I had learned about the archives from Justin Stein, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto who is writing his dissertation on the history of Reiki practice. After reading the online description of the archive’s content, I quickly made plans to drive seven-and-a-half hours to Duke University, hoping to unearth some unknown Mrs. Takata treasure to include in my upcoming book.
It was nearly an hour before the false alarm declaration cleared the way for us to enter the archive.
As a research librarian, I was familiar with university archives procedure. First we needed to show our government issued identification cards, i.e. a driver’s license, and then we placed our bags, pens, and personal belongings in a locker. Archives prohibit pens because you might accidentally put a mark on an item; pencils are provided. No bags are allowed to prevent anything being smuggled out.
An archives study area is typically a large open room containing lots of flat tables so the staff can see everyone and the archive materials you are working with.
Unlike a public library where you are free to wander the stacks and pull material off the shelf, archives are a closed stack system. That means you must register ahead of time as a researcher, and formally request the boxes containing the folders and files you want to examine. The archivist on duty doles out one box at a time for the researcher to examine.
While it is common knowledge that Mrs.Takata had known Doris Duke, the archives at Duke contain a wealth of information regarding their relationship.¹ I knew Ms. Duke had received Reiki treatment from Mrs. Takata, but was unsure if she had ever taken a class. Mrs. Takata’s letters to Ms. Duke document her to have been Mrs. Takata’s First and Second Degree student.
What really flabbergasted me was discovering Doris Duke had learned the Second Degree on the telephone. Excitement so thoroughly scrambled my thoughts, I had to re-read the documents again and again to be sure I understood correctly, and that Mrs. Takata did indeed occasionally teach students remotely. I had been under the impression that teaching Reiki remotely started after Mrs. Takata’s death.
In one letter to Ms. Duke, Mrs. Takata explained she sometimes taught on the telephone and gave remote initiations, or as Takata wrote in her letter, by “short wave” or “remote control.”²
In a letter postmarked December 19, 1978, Mrs. Takata reiterates that in a prior phone call, she had explained to Ms. Duke how to draw one of the second degree symbols. Mrs. Takata wrote that the symbol wouldn’t work without the initiation, which she could give remotely. Later, in a separate letter, Takata sent a copy of all three symbols to Ms. Duke through the mail, detailing the sequence of strokes for each symbol.
Mrs. Takata’s remote initiations in perspective
I have felt conflicted about releasing this information, lest it be taken as a precedent to justify remote teaching, or even online classes.
It is important to consider the context in which Mrs. Takata’s remote initiation and teaching occurred. Mrs. Takata explained that she only used remote initiations when it seemed absolutely necessary. In one letter to Ms. Duke, Mrs. Takata specified she had given remote initiations when the recipient was in the hospital or was far away and in obvious need. Clearly this way of teaching was the exception rather than the norm.
In Mrs. Takata’s time, there wasn’t a Reiki practitioner in every corner of the world as there is today; remote initiations may have seemed the best way, or the only way, to help in some circumstances.
Unfortunately, I found no information in the Doris Duke archives concerning the origin of remote initiations. Is that something Mrs. Takata learned from her teacher? Distant initiation is one of the details of Reiki history we might never know.
What we do know is that occasionally Mrs. Takata gave remote initiations in the context of teaching a student through telephone conversations.
1. I have legal permission via a signed contract from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Archives to publish these documents in my upcoming book due out this year.
2. Mrs. Takata’s Master student Barbara Weber was teaching remote initiation methods to her Master students in 1983 and possibly earlier. I have found no documentation regarding whether Barbara Weber learned remote initiation from Mrs. Takata.