Human beings communicate through vast constructs of symbols. Consider the alphabet. Each glyph is representative of a particular sound, which when woven together with other sounds creates words. These words are then representative of something concrete that exists within the material world (cat) or as a concept (compassion). So a sound is given symbolic reality through an alphabet glyph, which is representative of something that exists within the consensual reality of the group mind.
Sacred writing, hieroglyphs, weaves sounds into a tapestry of shapes designed from the geometry of form. Blending the breath of voice with the light of shape, symbols are simultaneously real and representative of the real. Symbols draw their meaning from the multi-dimensionality of the group heart itself and the metaphoric depth of geometry, music, shape, and the emotional vibrations they evoke in each person who encounters them. So symbols, much like the archetypal First Formed themselves, are born from the greater Heart-mind, spun through the washing of the human group Heart-mind, and ultimately interpreted through the lens of the encountered individual human heart.
Symbols should not be mistaken for signs. Signs have one specific unarguable meaning. A stop sign, for example, means stop. Symbols, however, have inherent meaning within their unique blend of light (form) and breath (sound). They have extrinsic meaning drawn from the collective understanding of the larger group. And finally symbols have deeply personal meaning from direct interaction with the individual.
A wedding ring is such a symbol. A ring is a line that connects itself into a circle. In sacred geometry lines are inherently masculine and curves are feminine and so the wedding ring is the seamless blending of the masculine and feminine into one piece. Within larger culture a wedding ring indicates that someone is in a committed relationship with another person. A specific wedding ring is symbolic of the particular marriage with all its good, bad, history, and devotion. And so when one chooses to symbolically remove a wedding ring she is also removing the trappings of the marriage proper. And so the ring, which is in of itself a simple chunk of metal, operates as a symbol with more depth and layers than one may initially consider.
So sacred symbols take meaning from themselves (the ring that says I am married) and the reality beyond the meaning (the marriage). The Reiki symbols also embody these multiple layers of meaning. They are glyphs of sacred writing with the breath of sound behind them. They are given shape by the intelligence of Rei (Light) and the sound of Ki (Breath) and their meaning is specific to the Reiki group heart-mind. And further they derive personal meaning from the experiences of the Reiki practitioners who engage with them as not just tools but as symbolic realities with their own form and substance.
According to the Reiki myth the symbols were given to Dr. Usui following his quest and surrender. The second degree has three symbols, which are introduced with the second attunement process. The symbols interact with each practitioner differently based upon their own level of refinement and healing process. In my experience the symbols, like archetypal beings, have their own quirks, gifts, and personalities. Essentially they assist us to focus our rapidly shifting attention and then reward that discipline by opening a gateway into a particular realm of light. They connect us with the Rei intelligence, the Reiki lineage, and the collective group mind of the communion of Reiki masters.
When working with the symbols address them as both gateway and guardian. They serve as the entity at the threshold and the doorway into the realm of light. Treat the symbols as entities who are here to teach, linking us to the realms beyond the tangible. Be respectful, humble, and kind. The symbols can open paths for those who have been attuned to their song. They will also discern ill intent and neutralize malicious energy before the doorway is opened.
There has been much to-do about whether the symbols should be kept secret and guarded. There are many reasons so called occult symbols are kept secret. In times past sacred knowledge may have been cruelly suppressed and a practitioner’s life may have been in danger and so secrecy was practical. Like the Christian fish, some symbols were an insider’s language and way of communicating solidarity and safety. In this age very few Reiki practitioners in the United States are in danger of their life due to their Reiki practice.
Another reason often given that the symbols should be kept secret is they become dilute when passed around too readily. This has more legs in our day and age yet I find the premise questionable as the Christian crucifix has not become more dilute for being readily available to uninitiated eyes. Symbols are living, changing entities. And as such their metaphoric meaning will shift and change with their accessibility. When the yin-yang symbol came to the west it was known more as a trendy and somewhat exotic glyph on bumper stickers than as a sacred Taoist symbol. Yet now it is more known and enriches multi-cultural understanding and helps inform deep truths about nature and balance. So while the yin-yang may seem to have been desecrated by uninitiated eyes it ultimately did its magic and initiated many western acupuncturists, Chinese medicine adherents, and even Reiki masters to its inherently elegant truth.
When working with any symbol it is important to take it off the flat page and experience it as a three dimensional entity that exist both within space and slightly outside it. Allow the symbol to take on depth and shape. See it spin and move in front of you. Experience the rhythm of its unique dance. Then taste it. Feel the charge in the atmosphere around it. Each symbol will interact with space in a different way. Remember the symbol is essentially a doorway, a portal, even a vortex. See it whole in front of you. Let it touch you with its individual power. When you link with it suddenly it comes alive.
Traditionally it is said the Reiki symbols will not come alive for someone who is not attuned by a Reiki master. While I generally accept this premise there are a couple of instances I suspect may side-step the rule. The first is when the person has already been somehow attuned to Reiki in a parallel lifetime. It is not out of the question that certain Reiki practitioners attuned by Master Usui and his students have incarnated again and are already attuned to Reiki. In this case they will already be keyed to the symbols. Another exception is if the symbols themselves do the attunement. Since the symbols are dynamic manifestations of the Rei intelligence if they decide to attune someone, who are we to say its not possible? Imagine someone stumbling through a Reiki book for the first time and really connecting to the symbols. Feeling, tasting, imaging them. Bringing them into their heart. In such a case I have no doubt the symbols can bridge themselves into the new student and the Rei intelligence can send Ki into the hands of the newly attuned.
Symbols are traditionally engaged in a number of ways. The foundational way is in the context of a healing session. The practitioner may open the session by tracing a particular symbol into his hands or over the body of his guest. This gesture essentially says: “Okay, lineage, we are stepping into a Reiki session now.” If, during the session, the healer encounters a blockage a particular symbol may be appropriate. The healer can think the symbol in whole form, trace it in the air, draw it over the blockage, or intone the sounds of the symbol name.
Sometimes spaces need healing. The symbols can be drawn onto the walls or windows of a room to purify and bless. I paint the symbols beneath the paint on my walls so they are holding space around my personal spaces.
One of the most beautiful ways I’ve heard of engaging with the symbols is from Troy, a student of mine who is now a gifted Reiki master. When the BP oil spill occurred he would go to our north Florida beach and draw the symbols into the sand and send them out into the waters.
At Sphere we bless our oils, tinctures, and herbal remedies with light and breath and, depending on the blend’s use, one or more of the Reiki symbols before sending them out into the world. The more familiar you become with the symbols the more you will find them engaging and directive.