A graduate of Dartmouth College and a former researcher for Stanford Research Institute, John Harvey Gray’s devotion to Reiki healing had its seeds when he served in the Pacific theater during WWII, experienced the horrors of war firsthand, and had a remarkable spiritual awakening when he nearly missed death at the Battle of Leyte: “I became convinced that there were energies forces and types of communication that existed that had not yet been explored by Western science and I vowed to devote my life to peaceful means.”
A remarkably healthy and strong 93 year old, John Harvey Gray continued to teach Reiki until his passing into spirit on January 12, 2011. He was the longest-practicing Reiki Master Teacher in the US, and one of the original twenty-two Reiki Masters trained by Hawayo Takata, the woman who brought Reiki to the West. John Harvey Gray had been a Reiki Master Teacher since 1976, actively teaching and practicing Reiki longer than any other living Reiki teacher in the West. Over time, John Harvey Gray conducted over 900 hundred Reiki classes and trained over 15,000 Reiki students including nurses, massage therapists, and medical doctors. John had taught Reiki in all but two of the 50 states and is credited with introducing Reiki to the New England region.
John Harvey Gray founded and served as a minister of the Church of the Loving Servant, Inc. a non-denominational church devoted to spiritual healing. In 1994 John was named Presenter of the Year by Interface of Newtonville, Massachusetts.
John Harvey Gray was born in Manila. His father was an international banker and his mother was a linguist. He spent most of his childhood in China and Indonesia before returning home with his family to the San Francisco Bay Area after the great stock market crash of 1929. Quickly adjusting to life in the states, he completed high-school, and then traveled to New Hampshire to attend Dartmouth College.
Like his father, John Harvey Gray majored in business administration and took his senior year at the Tuck Business School where he learned to enjoy Northeast winters.
At that time, World War II was brewing in the United States. By March of 1941 John was inducted into the Army. While on a weekend pass in San Francisco, he met Beth Hoffman who later became his first wife.
John soon experienced the horror of war first-hand serving as an army officer in the Pacific theater. His devotion to healing and serving others had its origin in a remarkable spiritual awakening when he came very close to death at the Battle of Leyte, “I became convinced that there were energies forces and types of communication that existed that had not yet been explored by Western science and I vowed to devote my life to peaceful means.”
Finally the Germans surrendered, ending the war in Europe. With this ease in the strain of the war, John obtained a 21-day pass to the mainland United States. He went straight back to Beth and married her, just a few days after setting foot at home. Most of the soldiers who were on leave at that time were permitted to remain in the United States rather than return to the Philippines. The need for their service had diminished. Shortly after John resumed active duty stateside in Arizona, the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The war was over. John chose to return to civilian life and was discharged with the rank of Captain.
John promptly found employment with Bank of America in Menlo Park, California. He was married and, as with so many thousands of other soldiers being discharged at that time, was starting a family and needed to earn a living.
John and Beth settled in the San Francisco Bay Area and raised two children, Kathelin and John III. For over two decades John enjoyed a successful career with Bank of America, and later, with Stanford Research Institute and Bechtel but never forgot the vow he made during the war. His enduring yearning to heal suffering was also shared by Beth.
As John explained: “My former wife, Beth Gray, had spent many years studying metaphysics. She studied to become a minister with the Universal Church of the Master. In November 1973 she took over a chapter of the church as Pastor from an elderly couple in Redwood City, California and renamed it Trinity Metaphysical Center.
Just before the center opened, following another intuitive prompting, he took a course in Transcendental Meditation on July 3, 1973. He was 56 years old and had been in business for many years, in banking for almost 25 years and with Stanford Research Institute (SRI) for eight years.
His life changed on July 7th of that year when he was initiated into Transcendental Meditation, popularly known as TM, a meditation technique involving the silent repetition of a mantra. It was a powerful experience for him because it led him to realize the existence of other levels of consciousness beyond waking and sleeping.
In 1973, TM was booming. Many people were being initiated and many groups in the San Francisco Bay area practiced TM together. A group at SRI met in the basement on Wednesdays at lunchtime. He regularly attended that meeting, another at a church on Thursday evenings and any other time he found out there was a meeting. Meditating twice a day, He became proficient in meditation and the practice of well-being. The result of this effort was meditative peacefulness extending into more and more of his activities.
At the time Beth opened her center, he was so involved in work projects at SRI that he was unable to participate in the formation of her church. However, he regularly attended Sunday evening meetings. Beth’s typical program included a prayer, a spoken and musical healing meditation, a speaker on a metaphysical topic followed by demonstrations of extra-sensory awareness and a closing prayer.
The healing meditation was intriguing to him. He had no experience with any form of spiritual healing but he enjoyed watching people who called themselves healers. During the first few months of the church services, three people from the audience would sit on three stools placed in the front of the room. Those who had designated themselves as healers would then deliver the healing as they believed it should be done. Some healers believed one had to touch the body in order to heal it, so their hands would be placed on the body of the person on the stool. Other healers believed one had to heal the aura before the body could be healed, so they held their hands several inches away from the body. Two healers believed that energy came in one hand and out the other hand, so they tucked one hand in back of them and placed the other hand on the person to be healed. One man believed that he had to wave a symbol with one hand while he touched the body with the other hand. Another spoke in tongues while he was healing. The healing meditation was in chaos while he was at the church, which fortunately was only for two weeks.
John observed that about one-third of the healers felt worse at the end of the healing meditation, while there seemed to be little improvement in the health of those who sat for healings.
Beth was planning to discontinue the healing part of the service when a United Airlines Captain named Wally Richardson phoned. He talked about a class in a healing modality called Reiki that he had taken during a stopover in Honolulu. The teacher, Mrs. Hawayo Takata, was coming to visit him in California and would be willing to teach Reiki classes while she was in town. He asked if anyone from the church would like to take a Reiki class from her at his home.
Beth and several others from the church enrolled in this first workshop. Several weeks later he enrolled in the second workshop, along with several more people from the church. His first Reiki attunement in a 1st Degree Reiki class took place in Wally Richardson’s home on June 12, 1974. John recalled, “I don’t remember much of it, except that Takata wore a beautiful gold gown. She was an impressive five-foot, 96-pound Japanese-American woman, whose Hawaiian accent I could hardly understand. But her presence commanded respect.”
While he didn’t recall a great many details, he did know this was highly significant time for him, not only from what he felt as a result of the Reiki class, but also from what he heard Mrs. Takata say about the features of Reiki:
- The Reiki system is simple, so simple a child can use it. The Reiki practitioner uses a technique of laying on of hands in specific patterns on the body, moving from one position to the next as the hands cool off.
- Reiki practitioners do not use their own energy for Reiki healing, but rather become conduits for universal life energy (Reiki).
- The Reiki practitioner and the client both feel better after a Reiki treatment.
- The Reiki practitioner may work on and heal him or herself.
- Reiki practitioners are protected from picking up clients’ physical or emotional problems.
- Reiki is an effective modality in emergencies.
All of these points made a deep impression on John. After receiving the basic training in Reiki, he began to participate in the church healing meditation. Later, Beth decided to require all healers to take Reiki before they could participate in the healing meditation. With this change, they observed that the problems in the church’s healing program stopped. Healers felt better at the end of the twenty-minute meditation and significant healings began to happen. One man’s blood pressure dropped from high to normal. The lumps on one woman’s breast disappeared. John and Beth continued to require healers to take Reiki classes from Takata before they could participate in the healing meditation.
About two weeks after he took his first Reiki class, John and Beth were returning from visiting a friend in a Redwood City hospital. They went to their car in the parking lot where he held the car door open for Beth. When she got in, he closed the door on her hand. When he opened the door, releasing her hand, Beth fainted. He held her inside the car until she recovered consciousness. Then he went around to the driver’s side, got in and held her injured hand for about 40 minutes. When the almost unbearable pain subsided, he continued to hold her hand for several minutes more. The pain eased and then went away. When he took his hands away, her hand was completely well, no black and blue. She had flex in her knuckles with only a little black mark on a fingernail. It was as though nothing had happened. This was complete evidence for the two of them that the Reiki system really worked. He knew that Reiki flowed through him even though he was a beginner. This was a point of awakening for him, and the force of that awakening has carried on through many years.
Beth and John asked Takata, as she liked to be called, if she would give classes at their house in Woodside, California. Takata agreed, and on June 12, 1974, they began an association of several years in which Takata would stay at their house, giving a class or two while she was enroute from Honolulu to visit her daughter in Iowa. She also instructed them informally in Reiki concepts and practices. Takata was a trim, elegant lady who wore normal western-style clothing, but when teaching Reiki she wore beautiful gowns. She stayed in the blue room and ran up horrendous phone bills. She was a vegetarian, enjoying however, from time to time, such non-vegetarian dishes as lamb kidney sautéed in gin (vegetarian lambs of course).
During one of her first Reiki classes at their home, a man with severe multiple sclerosis arrived in his wheel chair. He needed John to write his check for the class fee, signing it with his hand making a fist to grasp the pen. Following the class, he contracted with a student to live at his house, doing the housework and supervising swimming sessions in his pool. He also asked John for Reiki sessions, which he agreed to give him weekly before the meeting at Trinity Center on Sunday. The treatments worked so well that in three months he was able to walk into Trinity Center with a cane and play the piano for those in attendance.
This experience led John and Beth to give regular treatments before the meeting. Anyone who had taken Reiki classes would join them. Takata suggested that they give each recipient an envelope for a donation with “THANKS TO REIKI” printed on it. This was the beginning of the first and largest American Reiki Center, and it lasted for many years. John supervised the Sunday sessions from 1974 to 1979, when he eventually became a minister in the Universal Church of the Master. The number of sessions grew so that when he left in 1979, they had ten bodywork tables for ten people to receive treatments at the same time. They usually held two sessions before the Church service began, so 20 people could receive Reiki treatments, with between 10 and 35 Reiki practitioners giving the Reiki sessions. Mrs. Takata helped them to set up and supervise the sessions. During this time from 1974 to January 1979, John’s day work was with the Bechtel Power Company, in its planning and scheduling system.
In 1975, at the age of 74, Takata suffered a severe heart attack in Honolulu. At first, they did not know about it and accepted her explanation that she had fallen from a ladder. Following her recovery she considered retirement but she was kept from doing so by realizing that she was the only person in the world who could teach Reiki. In 1976, on her next visit to Woodside from Honolulu, she invited John with a few others to become Reiki instructors. John, of course, said “yes,” because he wanted to continue supplying Reiki practitioners for the Sunday church service at Trinity Center.
John Harvey Gray became a Reiki Master Teacher, on October 6, 1976. He was the third Reiki master that Takata trained. One of the three Reiki Masters, Virginia Samdahl has since died, and the other, Ethel Lombardi, is no longer actively teaching Reiki. Thus, John was, until his passing into spirit, the longest continuously practicing Reiki Master in the West.
Takata wrote a Christmas holiday letter to friends and colleagues in 1977, acknowledging that she was passing on the Reiki tradition.
In 1979 John and Beth parted ways but have always remained very close friends. He left the business world altogether and began to practice and teach Reiki full time. The first year was a dreadful time. He did not earn enough money and worried that he would have to go back to business. He offered treatments and presented workshops primarily around the San Francisco area but also traveled to teach in Washington State, New York City, Virginia, and New Hampshire.
In 1984, John Harvey Gray moved to Ruckersville, Virginia, about 10 miles north of Charlottesville, having heard the call, “Move east, young man.” He rented a little house in the country and settled in, but he never really established a practice there. The next year, he moved to the Boston area and has been in the Northeast ever since. He lived in Concord, Watertown, Marblehead, and Gloucester Massachusetts, and until his passing into spirit, lived comfortably with Lourdes, his second wife, in a lovely, cozy lakeside house in New Hampshire, with room for healing and teaching.
In 1994, Interface, the popular holistic health-learning center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, voted John Harvey Gray Teacher of the Year. His students continue to open Reiki wellness centers and he and Lourdes started one at their home in Rindge during the spring of 1998. It is gratifying to see academic institutions give credit for Reiki training, and more and more hospitals encouraging the practice of Reiki as a complement to allopathic medicine for the greater benefit of their patients.
The course of John Harvey Gray’s life covered the globe in a variety of different and intensely rich circumstances.
Until his passing into spirit, John Harvey Gray had taught Reiki workshops for more than 31 years, each class lasting from two to five days. John Harvey Gray’s style of Reiki, includes meditation, scanning the aura and the chakras, looking for the breaks in the aura, which he called “zings” and much more. John Harvey Gray’s style of Reiki continues to be the core of the Reiki teachings at the John Harvey Gray Center for Reiki Healing. For John Harvey Gray’s complete history and more information about John Harvey Gray and Reiki read the book Hand To Hand, co-authored, by John Harvey Gray and his wife Lourdes Gray.
John’s Road to Healing (a chapter from the book Hand to Hand )