Entry into the Millennium

Andrew Collins takes a great leap forward into the New Millennium and discovers Reiki and Korean Buddhism.


Some of you have been intrigued to find out where I was for the 2000 party and what, if anything, might have happened since that time. As you might well know, I was scheduled to go to Egypt with the Equinox 2000 team to deliver a speech in front of the Great Sphinx on millennium eve. When this looked as if it would fall through I booked my own flight, and decided to spend the night on the cold plateau listening to a 12-hour concert by John Michel Jarre (God help us. No seriously, big respect for the musician who brought us 'Waiting for Costeau', my all-time favourite meditational piece). Anyway, due to financial difficulties I realised that I would not be able to afford the tickets and cost of living in Giza over the millennium period, and so opted instead to spend millennial midnight somewhere on Cornwall's Lizard Point.
Due to personal problems in November this plan also had to be abandoned and I was confused as to what I should do until a matter of two weeks before the big day. In the end I made the decision to go to Glastonbury where I planned to meet up with friends who lived in the town and would certainly not be 'havin' it large' that night. To be honest, I was not up for anything too energetic, and just wanted to zero myself as I stepped forward into a brand new phase of my life.

In the end I spent the hour leading up to midnight at a service in Glastonbury Abbey - the legendary place of foundation of Christianity in Britain nearly 2000 years ago. At one point I recall thinking: `What the hell am I doing here among a Christian congregation?'. Eventually I came to accept that I was in the eye of a storm, with the drunkenness and chaos going on everywhere else but in the tranquil surroundings of the abbey grounds. Moreover, according to 1920s Canadian artist Katherine Maltwood Glastonbury, and in particular its famous hill known as the Tor, signified the Aquarius figure in an enormous terrestrial zodiac many kilometres across. The image of a great bird, interpreted as the phoenix, is said to be sculpted out of the local landscape through both nature's hand and artificial modification. In Hermetica the flight of the Phoenix symbolised the end of one epoch and the commencement of another, and so Glastonbury appeared to fulfil every expectation as one of Britain's spiritual points of nexus as we anticipated entry into the long awaited Age of Aquarius.

After the countdown to midnight and the expected fireworks, I retired with my friends to a local pub where I had a couple of pints of bitter - the only alcohol of the night. Since then I have given up both alcohol and caffeine. This is not some new year's resolution, just something I do every year in order to detox the body. This cleansing process will continue until the end of January when I shall throw a Burns' Night to celebrate my birthday (I have Scottish ancestry on both sides of my family).

At midday on New Year's Day I attended another service in the abbey just as the bells of the local churches peeled out in harmony with 35,000 others around Britain. The predominantly female Avalonian Choir sang William Blake's hymn Jerusalem, which contains the immortal words 'And did those feet in ancient times walk upon England's pastures green', an allusion to Jesus' legendary journey to Glastonbury in the company of his merchant uncle Joseph of Arimathea when just a boy. There then followed a 45-minute prayer from by Glastonbury's resident Greek Orthodox priest Father John. In this self-prepared address, he name-checked the entire pantheon of Glastonbury saints including Joseph of Arimathea, St Patrick, St David, St Dunstan and St Bridget, thus helping to preserve their legends for a modern Christian audience. I was saddened to hear that his local services attract only a handful of regular worshippers.

That afternoon I accompanied a party to Burrow Mump, a kind of mini-Glastonbury Tor, on the road out from Glastonbury to Taunton. We had been warned that the roads in the area were flooded and that we might not be able to reach our destination. Yet having passed the `road closed' signs, we finally managed to get to where we intended. On climbing the hill we found that the landscape to the south-west was flooded entirely in a manner that must have predominated the Somerset levels when Joseph of Arimathea is said to have visited the sacred isle of Glastonbury. At the time, during the first century AD, the area was dominated by a series of lake villages with wooden structures that rose out of the water like some kind of Iron Age Venice.

Here, at Burrow Mump, away from the hustle and bustle of the town, I conducted a meditation to link the Glastonbury mysteries with the emerging new aeon as viewed from the Giza plateau. It culminated with the image of the child of the aeon rising out of the pre-dawn eastern horizon in a blue cosmic egg - a major symbol of Christian gnosticism.

It was in the evening of New Year's Day that I did something which I feel will affect my future life in a number of different ways. I was inducted into the Japanese healing practice known as Reiki. This is a process which involves a series of attunements whereby a Reiki Master, in this case my close friend Paul Weston, takes you through a series of meditations during which he places his hands on your head, blows Chi, or Ki, `energy' on to your head and enlivens your hands in a ritual manner.


The origins of Reiki are sketchy. Its founder, one Mikao Usui, is thought to have been a Japanese monk who lived in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century (he died in 1920). It is said that unable to explain the nature of Jesus' acts of healing to a class of Christian students, he retired to Mount Kurama, located near the city of Kyoto. Here Usui entered into a 21-day fasting vision quest, having made it clear that he was prepared to die searching for the answers to the mystery. At dawn on the 21st day he noticed in the pre-dawn light a white light that appeared to expand towards him and enter his consciousness (some might suggest he merely witnessed the planet Venus, but then he wasn't filing a UFO report!). The whole experience overwhelmed him, and at that moment he saw a series of coloured spheres (their called tigles in Tibetan lamaism) in each of which was a sacred symbol. He also received what was taken to be the doctrine and teachings of Reiki (Rei - universal, Ki - life energy). Accepting the reality of his experience, Usui went out into the world to spread these new teachings. This usually included a form of hands on healing that has become synonymous with Reiki. More importantly, he believed that this same healing process could be awakened in anyone who was sympathetic to the initiations he devised. These involved the passing on of a total of four sacred symbols by means of ritual attunements. Today these take the form of a series of three degrees of Reiki, culminating in Reiki Master.

Reiki was introduced to the western world from Japan via Hawaii shortly after the Second World War. At the time Japanese culture and religion was extremely unpopular on the island due the attack on Pearl Harbour there in 1941. For this reason the clear Buddhist roots of the system were christianized for the sake of its acceptance in an anti-Japanese climate. The main impetus behind this expansion was a Hawaiian woman named Hawaya Takata, who was long considered to be the only Reiki Master living during this uneasy period. She had been conferred this status by one Chujiro Hayashi, a retired Japanese naval commander and follower of Usui, who first met Takata in 1935. Before his death under curious circumstances shortly before the start of the war, Hayashi had hinted to Takata that the time was right for Reiki to be introduced to the West, a spiritual role she was happy to accept. Takata died in 1980, but towards the end of her life she began creating a series of Reiki masters, 22 in all. From these individuals the whole subsequent explosion in Reiki can be traced.

Takata's granddaughter, Phyllis Lei Furomoto, later founded a group called the Reiki Alliance, their aim being to standardise Reiki teachings and charge extremely high fees for initiation. Yet their strict orthodoxy was rejected by Reiki Masters worldwide, leading to them going it alone. The affect of this schism has been the vast expansion of Reiki over the last decade or so. In recent years research done in Japan on Usui's life has thrown new light on the unquestionable Buddhist roots of Reiki, historically anchoring his life and establishing his teachings as a true strain of Japanese Buddhism.

Today Reiki has tens of thousands of followers worldwide, even though its original teachings have been much expanded by new age groups, healers and channelers in particular. There are even Reiki 'universities', while the classified pages of new age magazines carry countless adverts offering weekend courses in which Reiki attunements are given, usually at an exorbitant price. One estimate suggests that in Britain alone 100 people are initiated into Reiki every week. In Holland, there is even a village in which every man, woman and child is said to have received at least first degree initiation into Reiki.

Yet despite its new age tag, Reiki is an effective means of enabling the mind and body to activate and channel Chi, or Ki, energy. Its inexhaustible source remains a sacred mystery which has been the subject of religious teachings for thousands of years. Despite the new age connotations of Reiki, I am aware of various individuals who have undergone the attunements and have benefited greatly from these initiatory experiences. It has quite simply changed their lives. Somehow Reiki appears to activate deep levels of the unconscious mind, catalysing spiritual and psychic processes which might include contact with external guides and claimed past lives. Moreover, those to whom hands on healing and distant healing are given confirm the often remarkable changes which take place. In this knowledge, I therefore made the decision to undergo the attunements myself in the hope that it would benefit not only my own spiritual well-being but also those whom I might apply the Reiki technique.

I experienced considerable mental imagery during the attunements. I felt as if unwanted aspects of myself were being systematically stripped away, making me feel like an empty vessel waiting to be filled. I also got the impression that the origins of Reiki stretched back beyond the age of Usui and had roots in Southeast or Eastern Asia. At one point in the attunements I unexpectedly found myself viewing the exterior walls of a hospital by the River Seine in Paris at the time of the French revolution. I gained the distinct impression that there was some Buddhist-inspired healing going on here that might tell us something about the origins of Reiki. Afterwards both Paul and I realised it could well have something to so with the Austrian scientist Franz Anton Mesmer's hands on healing which went under the name `animal magnetism'. Certainly, we found that he was practising his healing techniques in Paris at this time.

Overnight on 1st January 2000 I experienced an unusually vivid dream in which a seated Buddhist leader appeared to me. He seemed to be a warrior as he wore a gold helmet, held a sword in one hand and a double-edged axe in the other. He gave his name as `Tomil'. I gained the distinct impression that he was of Korean origin and that modern monks traced their lineage back to him; he was like a Korean equivalent to the Tibetan Dalai Lama. He seemed to be present in order to confer on me some kind of `inner strength'.

Later that morning, I mentioned this dream to Paul as I prepared myself for the second series of attunements. He pointed out that Korea was on the East Asian east, a fact I was unaware of, and faced out towards Japan. This knowledge convinced me that my dream was real and so I confidently predicted that Korean Buddhism, of which I knew nothing, was instrumental somehow in the creation of Mikao Usui's Reiki system.

The attunements continued. Everything went well and by the end of the afternoon I had reached Reiki grade 2. That evening I travelled home from Glastonbury to Leigh-on-Sea listening to the rather contrasting sounds of Dave Pierce's Dance Anthems on Radio One (It made a change from the sound of Japanese monks chanting!).


The following day, Monday, 3rd January I got curious about Korean Buddhism and so checked the www for further information on this obscure subject. Very easily, I found that Korean Buddhism was as unique as Tibetan lamaism. More than this, it is thought to have been instrumental in the foundation of Japanese Buddhism. In Korea it prospered from the sixth century through 'til medieval times. Yet finally it was replaced, following power struggles, by the Chinese religion known as Confucianism. Then came along a warrior monk named Sôsan Hyujông (1520-1604) who united the country and during an eight-year war against Japan, employed an army of several thousand warrior monks comparable to the samurai of Japanese tradition. The part played in these decisive battles by the Korean monks was deemed to have been crucial in the repelling of the Japanese army.

Thereafter Sôsan was seen as the new leader of Korean Buddhism. It is recorded that he was a master of a discipline known as Sôn, on which he authored a number of religious texts including a comprehensive guide used to this day by Korean monks. After the war with Japan, Sôsan spent the remainder of his life wandering from one mountain monastery to the next, dying eventually at the ripe old age of 85. He left behind around 1000 disciples, 70 of whom were monks and nuns. Most modern strains of Korean Buddhism can trace their lineage back to Sôsan through four main disciples, all of whom were assistants in the hostilities against Japan. Sôn was introduced to Korea by an earlier figure named Chinul and involved the coupling of meditational practices with the reading of religious texts. Instead of remaining in one monastery, initiates would move between monasteries studying and teaching for as long as they deemed it necessary.

Buddhism remained stable in Korea from this time onwards to the next invasion by Japan at the end of the nineteenth century. Although it was stifled during the time of occupation, which lasted between 1910 and 1945, it was not until after the country's liberation that the Sôn school was allowed to regain its influence among Korean society.

In this knowledge, I concluded that the Buddhist leader I had encountered in my dream was Sôsan even though the name `Tomil' had been given. Yet later, my friend Amber McCauley discovered that in the thirteenth century AD a Tibetan monk named `Tomal' had founded a new strain of Buddhism in Korea. So close is this name to `Tomil' that we have to be dealing with the same person, even though I know little more about this religious figure at this time. All this is beautiful confirmation of just how strong the Reiki attunements appear to be.

I also discovered that Mesmer's work with animal magnetism is directly compared with the hands on processes involved with Reiki. I contacted a guy in the USA named Michael Bennett who runs the Stellar/Bennett University of Reiki
(see http://www.imagineit.org). He promotes the connection between Reiki and Mesmer's animal magnetism and runs courses in Reiki initiation.

Since early January I have been conducting Reiki meditations more-or-less every day. My life has been one very much of solitude and preparation as we head towards the publication of GATEWAY TO ATLANTIS in mid February. Giving up alcohol and caffeine has allowed me a calm and focused state of mind conducive to these meditational practices. This is not to say that I now follow Buddhism alone. My interests in comparative religion and faiths stretch much further than this. For instance, I hold a strong interest in the native religions of the West Indies, which I was exposed to directly during the preparation of GATEWAY.

So as we head into the latter half of January I feel I can honestly say that I have begun the millennium in a manner which will in some way resonate with the way I intend it to continue at least for the foreseeable future.

References: Muller, A. Charles, The History and Development of Korean Buddhism: A Brief Overview, available at:
Dr Muller is one of the foremost authorities on Korean Buddhism.