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History of 'Sai Baba' Reiki

Kathleen Milner's Initial Reiki Training
'Sai Baba' Symbols & Attunements
Seichim & Further Development
Raku Kei Reiki
Additional Channeled Symbols
Tera-Mai™ Reiki & Karuna Reiki®
No Connection with Sathya Sai Baba
About Sathya Sai Baba

Last Updated: 28 May 2024 


This essay aims to provide an overview of the development of Kathleen Milner's Reiki style, which was developed with the assistance of other practitioners, and which split into Tera Mai and Karuna Reiki. Karuna Reiki itself inspired a number of Reiki styles by ex-Karuna Reiki practitioners, including Karuna and Karuna Ki. It also aims to provide background information regarding Sathya Sai Baba, who was the initial inspiration behind the Reiki style. 

Kathleen Milner's Initial Reiki Training

Kathleen learnt Usui Reiki Levels 1 and 2 from Helen Borth, and a few years later was initiated into Master Level by Margarette Shelton, and began teaching Reiki in 19893(pp.11). She does not refer to ‘Usui’ specifically when discussing her initial Reiki training, although it is assumed as given. Kathleen felt the Usui Reiki taught by Hawayo Takata to her Master students (the Western lineage of Usui Reiki) was incomplete. 

'Sai Baba' Symbols & Attunements

Marcy Miller, a Reiki Mastery student of Kathleen’s and friend, travelled to India in 1991 to see Sathya Sai Baba, an Indian Guru3(pp.12),4. When Marcy returned from India, she met Kathleen at the Whole Life Expo in February 1991. She announced that when in India, in meditation, Sai Baba had communicated to her that Takata had left out a symbol and more than half the initiation procedure for the 3 Reiki levels. Marcy and Kathleen both saw a vision of Sathya Sai Baba in bi-located form in the house they were staying at in LA. He appeared to pass on the first symbol to them and also an initiation procedure. The following morning on the beach, Kathleen states that Sathya Sai Baba appeared to them again to review the attunement procedure and give the name for the symbol, ‘Zonar’, instructing them on how to reinitiate each other. When Kathleen returned home to Milwaukee, she decided to reinitiate some of her interested students to this ‘increased’ energy.

Kathleen travelled to LA again to see Marcy in May 1991 and they received another symbol in a vision with Sai Baba, ‘Harth’. They reinitiated each other again and when Kathleen returned home she reinitiated some of her interested students.

Kathleen also claims to have channeled the third symbol ‘Halu’ although she does not provide a date for this. William Rand stated that it was channeled by Marcy1(pp.6), so one can probably assume that it was channeled in the same way as the previous two symbols by both Kathleen and Marcy.

Kathleen states that in 1991, her guides told her to start communicating about working with Sai Baba in her lecturing material. After each lecture, she would perform a demonstration of healing energy on a volunteer from the audience and stated that her guides were always there, including Sai Baba3(pp.15). She stated that she had a number of spirit guides, including Sai Baba, other masters (ascended masters) and celestial angels3(pp.18). 

Seichim & Further Development

In June 1991, whilst in CA to teach a Reiki class, she met a Seichim Master, August Star, a student of the late Phoenix Summerfield3(pp.17),5, and was initiated into Seichim in exchange for an initiation in Kathleen’s Reiki. It was from this time onwards that she began to develop her Reiki practice using Seichim. She states that during 1991 her angels and ascended masters helped to introduce her to energies she termed ‘Sakara’ (fire energy) and ‘Angeliclight’ (air energy & the angelic realm), both masculine energies. Sophi-El was a water-like energy and Reiki or Tera-Mai an earth-like energy, both being feminine energies. Each energy had its own initiation process. Cahokia was a fifth ray that combined all 4 elements. Kathleen also integrated a claimed initiation from The Order of Melchizedek and an Enochian magic initiation into Tera-Mai, the latter regarding the use of angels3(pp.148-150),6(pp.167). Kathleen Milner’s later Tera-Mai system was divided into Tera-Mai Reiki and Tera-Mai Seichem, as described in her 1997 book Tera, My Journey Home6, and subsequently on her web site4, acknowledging the role Seichim had as an impetus to its development.

Whilst there is no available information to suggest that either Marcy Miller or Kathleen Milner learned Seichim prior to channeling Zonar, it is possible that Seichim’s infinity symbol (drawn 3 times) influenced the Zonar, Halu and (the later channeled) Gnosa symbols. Additionally, Halu and Gnosa’s triangular shape may have been influenced by Patrick Zeigler’s description of how he rediscovered/created Seichim via a claimed spontaneous self-attunement during a night spent illegally inside the Great Pyramid at Giza, whilst visiting Egypt as a tourist in 19797.

It is of course possible that either Marcy Miller or Kathleen Milner were aware of Seichim at the time of channeling Zonar, either from word of mouth in the holistic healing community, through seeing the Symbols at an exhibition such as the Whole Life Expo in February 1991, or potentially having borrowed Seichim manuals. The author speculated that Kathleen Milner learned Seichim from August Star at the Whole Life Expo in February 1991, because of the similarity between the Sai Baba and Seichim symbols, and that one very common experience of learning Seichim is seeing sacred geometry or symbols, as testified by the founder Patrick Zeigler, as well as Tom Seaman, Dave Lowry, and the late Phoenix Summerfield who developed Seichim further1(pp.4-5). However, there is no evidence to support this and it contradicts Kathleen Milner’s own account of when she learned Seichim. Also, seeing geometric patterns or ‘sacred geometry’ is not an uncommon experience during meditation in general, not something that pertains exclusively to Seichim, and likely depends on the individual to a large degree also. 

Raku Kei Reiki

The “Sai Baba” Attunement process from Sai Baba Reiki8 appears to have been influenced by the Water Ceremony2(pp.15) from Raku Kei Reiki, one form of Tibetan Reiki. Various modifications and enhancements appear to have been implemented, including the Violet Breath technique, which is loosely based on Raku Kei Kidney Breathing, and a difference in intent, creating a unique connection to the source energy.

Additionally, three symbols from Raku Kei Reiki were incorporated into Sai Baba Reiki, including Fire Serpent, Dumo and Raku. Kathleen Milner does not actually state in her first two books or on her web site that she practiced Raku Kei or became a Raku Kei Master, although it is likely she was exposed to it in some form. 

Additional Channeled Symbols

Additional symbols were channeled by friends and students of Kathleen Milner1(pp.10-12) and incorporated into her Reiki style.

Other symbols from existing Reiki systems and Hinduism were also worked into Sai Baba Reiki:

Tera-Mai™ Reiki & Karuna Reiki®

Before coining the term Tera-Mai, Kathleen referred to her practice as 'Reiki', and not 'Sai Baba Reiki', perhaps because she believed Sathya Sai Baba had helped to reintroduce the full initiation procedures back into Reiki3 (pp.18) (omitted in Takata’s teachings).

William Rand was one particular Reiki instructor who would impact the future path of “Sai Baba” Reiki. William Rand states that he started experimenting with and incorporating other symbols into his Reiki practice from around 1989 onwards. William Rand claims to have first been exposed to the first 3 Sai Baba symbols and attunement processes in 19931(pp.6). Glenn Derrick, a Sai Baba teacher and Qigong Master, started to work with William Rand, and introduced further symbols to him. Rand, and a number of other Reiki masters initiated in Kathleen’s system, wanted to differentiate their practice from Usui Reiki (the style most commonly associated with the term ‘Reiki’) and decided to teach this revised system under the name “Sai Baba Reiki”9. A variety of sources point to Rand using the term “Sai Baba Reiki” to describe his practice in 1994.

In 1999, William Rand is quoted as stating on his reiki.org web site1(pp.6):

The Karuna system of Reiki has come from a number of sources. The first three symbols were channeled by Marcy Miller in 1991…These symbols and attunement processes were passed onto me by Glenn Derrick in the fall of 1993. The system was very powerful and effective…the attunements were a combination of other attunement processes…I was guided to make several small changes in the attunement processes. I was also guided to give the system a new name that would more accurately reflect the purpose of the system.

The reiki.org web site retrieved in 2017 has no mention of Marcy Miller and Sai Baba Reiki10.

I did not originally intend to create a new system of Reiki, but starting about 1989, I began being given non-Usui Reiki symbols and attunement techniques which were claimed to have benefit. I filed these symbols away along with the attunement processes that were included with some of them and also begin experimenting with some of them. After a number of years, I had quite a collection and many of my students began asking me about these "additional symbols" and wanting to know if they should use them. In the winter of 1993, I gathered together a number of my best students many of whom were spiritually sensitive, to experiment with the additional symbols, try them out and decide which were the most useful. We asked for guidance and through this process came up with a set of symbols that seemed to have the best energy. We also experimented with an attunement process to go with them. Later I was guided in the further development of the attunement process and this eventually evolved into a new system of Reiki...I did not channel any of these symbols myself. They came from other Reiki masters...While some of the symbols in Karuna Reiki® are the same as those used by other schools and systems, because the attunements are different and the intention is different, the energies that are connected to Karuna Reiki® are unique to the system.

The Book on Karuna Reiki by Laurelle Shanti Gaia (2001)11 is the only published book on Karuna Reiki, which contains a Foreword by William Lee Rand. In the chapter ‘Historical Origins of Karuna Reiki’, she lists Marcy Miller, Kellie-Ray Marine, Catherine Mills-Bellamont, Maria Abraham and Pat Courtney as those Reiki Masters who ‘had received symbols as part of their healing work’11(p.48). She states that ‘The Karuna Reiki symbols were channeled with names and specific instructions for drawing them. Very basic uses for the symbols were also received at the time they were transmitted...’ She does not mention Kathleen Milner or her teacher Margarette Shelton. Gaia suggests that because of its services offered including dissemination of information, the International Center for Reiki Training (ICRT) is sent symbols from people around the world and ‘among them were symbols that have since become part of the Karuna Reiki system’11(p.49).

It had become increasingly apparent that the Sai Baba Reiki symbols were used differently by William Rand and Glenn Derrick. Kathleen Milner filed a trademark for the Reiki she practiced as “TERA-MAI” on 11 June 1995, which was registered in 199712,13,14. She continued to develop her Tera-Mai system by adding symbols and expanding the system.

William Rand called his re-worked version “Karuna Reiki”, and filed a trademark for “KARUNA REIKI” on 31 August 1995, which was registered in 199715. This trademark was cancelled in 2003 and reapplied for on 4 November 2005, subsequently reregistered in 200816.

Only the names of the Reiki systems were trademarked. Reiki as a process or service is unpatentable and not trademarkable. Most but not all the symbols were unique. The symbols themselves were never trademarked and thus free for anyone to incorporate into their own Reiki system or otherwise.

Both Milner and Rand seem to either claim or imply that trademarking the names of their respective systems is to ensure consistency and quality of the energy and attunements, which might otherwise vary, rather than for any legal or commercial reasons.6(pp.178),13,17.

Trademarking meant that those teachers who did not wish to register with the respective organisations could either desist in teaching; continue to practice but under a different Reiki name, e.g. “Karuna (Pre-Trademark Style)”; or to go on to modify the system to create their own style, e.g. “Karuna” (c/f Rosy Naor), “Karuna Ki” and “Threshold Reiki” (created by ex-Tera-Mai practitioner Rick Rivard). 


William Rand took Kathleen Milner to court in Michigan in 1995, but the case was dismissed with prejudice19. The 1995 Settlement agreement stated:

The lawsuit involved a controversy of Mr Rand's Reiki instruction involving what has been referred to as Sai Baba Symbols, and Ms Milner's account of Mr Rand's instruction through her letters and articles.

The court had ruled that the Joint Statement of Settlement was to be the only text used for public communication regarding the case. Kathleen Milner made the following statement in her 1997 book Tera, My Journey Home6:

Like most people, I do have a problem with people who use my name [in reference to lineage or Sai Baba Reiki], claim to be doing what I am doing, but change the initiations without telling their students. I was once sued on a business tort because after I exposed someone’s fraud, their income went down.

In an attempt to addressing erroneous circulating rumours in the Reiki community about the 1995 case, Kathleen Milner, in her Spring 2007 newsletter, included a summary of the Joint Statement of the 1995 court case, and some commentary about the case. This resulted in William Rand taking her to court again later in 2007, Rand winning the case this time. Milner was instructed to reprint the 1995 Joint Statement on Settlement on her web site, which is found in her Winter 2008 newsletter18.

William Rand appears to have consistently omitted any mention of Kathleen Milner from official history of the development of Karuna Reiki sometime after 1995. 

No Connection with Sathya Sai Baba

Kathleen Milner and Marcy Miller thought they had connected with Sathya Sai Baba psychically in 1991, presumably as did their students in subsequent years. It is likely these experience were inspired by Marcy Miller’s experience in the Ashram and who they believed Sathya Sai Baba was. Neither Milner, Miller or Rand contacted Sathya Sai Baba in person over the next four years to verify their claimed psychic experiences with Sai Baba or for permission to use his name for a style of Reiki to my knowledge.

Kathleen Milner claimed in her 1997 book Tera, My Journey Home6 that whilst she was in The Netherlands in the summer of 1995:

A Dutch devotee of Sai Baba had just returned from India with the news that Sai Baba had spoken before a large gathering of people and said, “I have meditated upon this matter. It was not me who worked with Kathleen and Marcy, but another higher being.”…Immediately after hearing this news, the being in orange appeared in Jane Rijgersberg’s living room…So this time I asked, “In Divine Truth, In Divine Truth, In Divine Truth, you are Shri Satya Sai Baba?!?” The figure remained but immediately changed to a thin man with considerably less hair and wearing golden robes.

Kathleen Milner wrote in an article on her web site regarding her own realisation12:

After Tera Mai was legally trademarked as a healing system in 1995, the higher being presented himself to me as Buddha. When I asked why he appeared originally as Sai Baba, he told me that at the time I could accept Sai Baba coming to me because I was aware of the work Sai Baba had done for others. But Buddha said that if he himself had appeared to me, I would have questioned, “who am I to have Buddha come to me?” My doubts would have taken me out of the moment and out of the experience that Holy Spirit had worked so hard to manifest.

In 1999, William Rand implied on his reiki.org web site that he checked with the ‘Sai Baba organization’ (the Sathya Sai International Organisation)1(pp.6), presumably in 1995. This is around the time that Rand started using the name Karuna Reiki.

It was originally thought that these first three symbols were channeled from the Eastern Indian Guru, Sai Baba. However, after checking with the Sai Baba organization, I was told that this was not the case. After working with several top clairvoyants, it has been determined that these first three symbols came directly from God…However, at that time, there was some confusion about the origin of the system. Some thought it had come from Sai Baba, while others were stating that it contained the original Usui symbols. Research has proven both of these ideas to be inaccurate.

According to an article of Kathleen Milner12:

A few years later [after channeling the first 3 symbols], Marcy Miller announced to the world that while the experience was remarkable…she never saw any higher being.

Kathleen Milner incorporated the following claimed requested disclaimer from Marcy Miller in her 1997 book Tera, My Journey Home6.

...in January 1997, Marcy called me to tell me that she would like her name removed from all Reiki teaching materials. She went on to say that she was appalled by the Reiki wars and the high costs of Reiki initiations. She said that while the experience we had in the Siddha ashram was magical, she neither smelled the Vabute nor did she see Sai Baba, and she now feels that she should not accept responsibility for the Reiki symbols, empowerment or missing initiation procedure. 

About Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba (1926-2011, born Sathya Narayana Raju) was a Philanthropist and probably the most well known Indian Guru of the last century4. At the age of 14 he claimed to be the reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi, a Saint and Fakir revered in Hinduism, Islam and Zoroastrianism, who died in 1918.

Sathya Sai Baba founded the Sathya Sai International Organisation4,19 in the 1960s. Sathya Sai Baba founded the Sathya Sai International Organisation in the 1960s, which went on to set up 3 ashrams in India and a number of schools, education programmes and hospitals in India and other countries.

Sathya Sai Baba was purported by his followers to be able to perform various miracles including bilocation, a form of astral projection, i.e. the art of projecting one’s consciousness to another place on the physical plane which is presumably what Marci Miller and Kathleen Milner believed they were initially experiencing.

He is alleged to have performed two resurrections although there is no physical evidence to support these claims and no doctor or hospital confirmed that the persons were deceased, so it is fairly safe to assume that no one had actually died. He refused requests to submit to testing of his ‘materialisation miracles’ in a controlled environment from two researchers, Hosur Narasimhaiah in 1976, and Erlendur Haraldsson in 19974.

The video evidence of his physical materialisation ‘miracles’, compilations of which are available to view on Youtube with or without annotation and commentary, do not prove their authenticity, but neither do they conclusively prove that they were staged; although in my opinion they strongly suggest that they were performed using rudimentary stage magic methods. Sathya Sai Baba appeared to be deliberately or coincidentally obstructive in what could be concealing items in his hands and props at certain points. Had he been seeking to prove his miracles he would presumably have gone out of his way to have avoided any possible obstructions to vision. Additionally, in my opinion he seems to lack the humility of what one would expect from a Guru when performing these ‘miracles’ although that is a subjective judgement.

In May 1968, Sathya Sai Baba stated20(p.210-213):

In truth, you cannot understand the nature of my Reality either today or even after a thousand years of steady austerity or ardent inquiry even if all mankind joins in that effort…Since I move about with you, eat like you, and talk with you, you are deluded into the belief that this is but an instance of common humanity. Be warned against this mistake...Obeying my instructions is enough; it will benefit you more than the most rigorous asceticism.

UNESCO was to co-organise a conference with Institute of Sathya Sai Education (ISSE Thailand) and the Institute of International Education of Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, in 2000, however it withdrew because of concerns over allegations of abuse involving youths and children, and that some of the sessions were scheduled to be held at Puttaparthi ashram21. Two television documentaries examined the issue, ‘Seduced by Sai Baba’, produced by Denmark’s national Danmarks Radio (DR), and ‘The Secret Swami’ produced by the BBC in 2004. Testimonies were provided by claimed victims Alaya Rahm and Mark Roche, and indirect evidence from Basava Premanand who claimed to have interviewed a number of victims. No claim of sexual abuse ever resulted in court conviction within India’s legal system. The 2002 documentary resulted in UK Parliament discussing the potential danger Sathya Sai Baba posed to the children of British families attending his ashram4.

Other controversy also surrounds financial irregularity around his £5.5 billion empire and also murders and suspicious deaths on Organisation controlled property. In 1993 at Sathya Sai Baba’s home4, 2 attendants were murdered by 4 intruders who were subsequently shot dead by police. The Sathya Sai Central Trust believed it to be an internal matter and did not wish to have any law enforcement agency investigate it. The police report was considered to be so inconsistent that the Central Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation into the incident4,22.

More recently in 2017 on the Thai island of Koh Tao, a 30 year old Belgian tourist, Elise Dallemange, who had been attending the local Sathya Sai Baba branch was found dead in what is at the time of writing believed by Thai authorities to be a cult-related suicide4. The police found no evidence of murder, however, she announced to the Guru that she was leaving the island on 17/4/17. She had booked a ticket to Chumphon province on the mainland for two days later but left her luggage on board and did not board the ferry. 8 days later she was found hanged from a tree and half eaten by lizards. 7 other foreigners had died on the Island from 2010 to 2017, including two British backpackers Hannah Witheridge and David Miller who were murdered in 2014. No connection to the Sathya Sai Baba resort to any other these deaths has been proven and it may just be that it violent crime has increased on the island in recent years.

The Sathya Sai Baba Organisation is now fairly widely acknowledged to be a cult, as supported by the testimonies of ex-members, although this is denied by the Organisation itself as well as its members and followers.

According to an annotated video posted by Tv1 India Live on youtube on 26 May 202423, an unnamed boy, born in the same year as Satha Sai Baba died, 2011, is now at the age of 13 claiming to be the reincarnation of Sathya Sai Baba. Sathya Sai Baba himself claimed to be the reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi at the age of 14, in 1940. 


  1. Amador, V. (1999) Karuna Ki Manual: Compassionate Heart Energy and Healing. AngelReiki.nu. Retrieved 4 March 2017 from https://www.academia.edu/8125367/KARUNA_KI_MANUAL
  2. Blackwell, Holli (n.d.) Raku Kei: The Way of the Fire Dragon – Master Manual. Holli Blackwell. Retrieved 12 June 2020 from https://www.scribd.com/document/346174763/Raku-Fire-Dragon-Way-pdf
  3. Milner, K.A. (1995) Reiki & Other Rays of Touch Healing. 3rd Edition. Kathleen Milner.
  4. Various. (n.d.). Sathya Sai Baba. Retrieved 4 March 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sathya_Sai_Baba
  5. Milner, K.A. (n.d.) What is SEICHEM? Retrieved 12 June 2020 from http://kathleenmilner.com/seichem-what-is-it/
  6. Milner, K.A. (1997) Tera, My Journey Home: Alternative Healing for the Body & Spirit. 1st Edition. Kathleen Milner.
  7. Shewmaker, D.R. & Zeigler, P.S. (1999) ALL LOVE: A Guidebook for Healing With Sekhem-Seichim-Reiki and SKHM. Celestial Wellspring Publications, Washington.
  8. The Karuna and Tera Mai Site. (n.d.) Sai Baba Reiki Attunement. Retrieved 4 March 2017 from http://www.angelfire.com/nv/saibaba/saibaba.html
  9. Ramos, S. & Ramos, J. Karuna and Karuna Ki. Retrieved 25 March 2017 from http://www.portais.org/_karuna/files/historia.htm
  10. Rand, W.L. (n.d.) How Did You Develop Karuna Reiki? Retrieved 12 June 2020 from https://www.reiki.org/faqs/how-did-you-develop-karuna-reiki
  11. Gaia, L. S. & Rand, W. L. (2001) The Book on Karuna Reiki: Advanced Healing Energy for Our Evolving World. Infinite Light Healing Studies Ctr., Inc., AZ
  12. Milner, K.A. (n.d.) Additional Background & History. 3rd Edition. Retrieved 4 March 2017 from http://www.kathleenmilner.com/history.htm
  13. Milner, K.A. (n.d.) What is Tera MaiTM? Retrieved 12 June 2020 from http://kathleenmilner.com/tera-mai-what-is-it/
  14. Justia Trademarks. (2017) TERA-MAI- Trademark Details. Retrieved 4 March 2017 from https://trademarks.justia.com/750/02/tera-mai-75002956.html
  15. Justia Trademarks. (2003) KARUNA REIKI- Trademark Details. Retrieved 4 March 2017 from https://trademarks.justia.com/747/23/karuna-reiki-74723182.html
  16. Justia Trademarks. (2013) KARUNA REIKI- Trademark Details. Retrieved 4 March 2017 from https://trademarks.justia.com/787/47/karuna-78747232.html
  17. Rand, W.L. (n.d.) The Trademarking of “Karuna Reiki®”. Retrieved 12 June 2020 from https://www.reiki.org/trademarking-karuna-reiki
  18. Milner, K.A. (2008) Winter 2008 Newsletter. Retrieved 12 June 2020 from http://kathleenmilner.com/newsletter/newsletter-old/winter-2008-newsletter/
  19. The Sathya Sai International Organisation. Retrieved 4 March 2017 from https://www.sathyasai.org/
  20. Sathya Sai Baba. (1968) Sathya Sai Speaks VI: The Revelation. https://sathyasai.org/discour/1968/d680517.htm
  21. The Hindu. (2000) UNESCO withdraws from the conference. TheHindu.com http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/2000/09/29/stories/0229000q.htm
  22. Various (n.d.) 1993 murders in Prashanthi Nilayam. Retrieved 4 July 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1993_murders_in_Prashanthi_Nilayam
  23. Tv1 India Live. (2024) 13-year-old boy is believed to be the reincarnation of Sathya Sai Baba !!. Retrieved 28 May 2024 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FK6vYwx7Zg4

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