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Buck
01-31-2009, 11:12 AM
Many of the people I talk to about Aikido and who are not involved with Aikido really throw this question at me often. After telling them superficially about the spiritual thoughts of O'Sensei they say, stuff like, who says O'Sensei knew what he was talking about. They are implying that I don't question him or his wisdom. They think I am make an assumption that his stuff is true and full of wisdom. I am a fool for not thinking he could be B.S.ing and I am fool for it.

That usually gets me thinking stuff like this. When we really get into Aikido do we just accept O'Sensei as being supremely wise, and he speaks the truth without question? I was watching this show about this cult that was started in the 60's by a Baptist or some type of minister. he attracted a lot of followers, it got really big. And lasted for decades. It was all about love and stuff that was similar to what O'Sensei said. And plus Aikido got big in the US in the 60's. The people in the cult really where into what this minister turn cult leader who was telling them stuff to believe that was a mix of Christianity, the stuff of the 60's movement- free love etc, and western philosophy. His huge group of followers ate it up, and his cult grew to thousands all over the place.

My point how am I not different from a cult follower who doesn't question what I am being told. I automatically assume what O'Sensei says (what I can understand - even that is in question) makes him automatically accept him as being of perfect wisdom. Wisdom and direction that will properly guide my life and lead me to what I desire- happiness, bliss, etc. Should I stop and think about hero worshiping O'Sensei (as they see it) and consider maybe his words are not all that wise, powerful, enlightening and having all the answers. Is his words and ideas able to bring me to that spiritual advancement that so many are looking for, and we are so devoted to without question. A spiritual place that we can't come to by ourselves?

As human I think we search for answers from others, for some gawd awful reason. Maybe it is because we are a social creature, and have some need to follow one person. We see it so strongly in society, religion and politics. Why we need leaders in so many parts of our lives is a huge question for me. I am not saying Aikido is like that cult there are differences, really important differences, that I didn't talk about. But what I am saying is that for some reason we have to look to other human's -who are human like us- for things that are really beyond what humans can do, or be, especially with spirituality.

I am wondering if there are others who see this differently or the same.

Buck
01-31-2009, 11:17 AM
I don't want people to think I am slamming Aikido, I want see if others think as I do.

Aristeia
01-31-2009, 03:26 PM
http://www.howcultswork.com/

That link leads to cultwatch list of things a cult tends to do. I often find it interesting how many of the requirements are fulfilled by some martial arts organisations.

Deception used in recruiting? People talk about martial arts alllowing you to beat bigger stronger attackers -and then on the inside it is sometimes the case if this is true it's only after a loooong time...

Exclusivism. I know from experience how martial arts organisations can react negatively to students who cross train, be it in other arts or other styles of the same art.

Fear and intimidation - members fearful of disagreeing with leadership. You certainly see that in some strict traditional arts.

Love bombing and relationship control. New students sometimes will be 'love bombed' (although not necessarily consciously and it's probably just a sign of a good culture). Relationships start to be focused more and more on people inside the group? certainly you sometimes see an element of that.

Information control - impossible in the connected world. But I've certainly heard people discouraged from looking into other arts, ways of thinking

Time Control. Classes, gradings, seminars, solo practice dojo events. Oh yeah check that box we all know how quickly martial arts can start to take up your time.

That's not to say actually think martial arts are cults - for the *most* part these things happen without the intent of mind control. It just amuses me that if someone wanted to make a case for a martial art being a cult there's plenty of ammo there....

mathewjgano
01-31-2009, 04:03 PM
Many of the people I talk to about Aikido and who are not involved with Aikido really throw this question at me often. After telling them superficially about the spiritual thoughts of O'Sensei they say, stuff like, who says O'Sensei knew what he was talking about. They are implying that I don't question him or his wisdom. They think I am make an assumption that his stuff is true and full of wisdom. I am a fool for not thinking he could be B.S.ing and I am fool for it.

That usually gets me thinking stuff like this. When we really get into Aikido do we just accept O'Sensei as being supremely wise, and he speaks the truth without question? I was watching this show about this cult that was started in the 60's by a Baptist or some type of minister. he attracted a lot of followers, it got really big. And lasted for decades. It was all about love and stuff that was similar to what O'Sensei said. And plus Aikido got big in the US in the 60's. The people in the cult really where into what this minister turn cult leader who was telling them stuff to believe that was a mix of Christianity, the stuff of the 60's movement- free love etc, and western philosophy. His huge group of followers ate it up, and his cult grew to thousands all over the place.

My point how am I not different from a cult follower who doesn't question what I am being told. I automatically assume what O'Sensei says (what I can understand - even that is in question) makes him automatically accept him as being of perfect wisdom. Wisdom and direction that will properly guide my life and lead me to what I desire- happiness, bliss, etc. Should I stop and think about hero worshiping O'Sensei (as they see it) and consider maybe his words are not all that wise, powerful, enlightening and having all the answers. Is his words and ideas able to bring me to that spiritual advancement that so many are looking for, and we are so devoted to without question. A spiritual place that we can't come to by ourselves?

As human I think we search for answers from others, for some gawd awful reason. Maybe it is because we are a social creature, and have some need to follow one person. We see it so strongly in society, religion and politics. Why we need leaders in so many parts of our lives is a huge question for me. I am not saying Aikido is like that cult there are differences, really important differences, that I didn't talk about. But what I am saying is that for some reason we have to look to other human's -who are human like us- for things that are really beyond what humans can do, or be, especially with spirituality.

I am wondering if there are others who see this differently or the same.
For me it comes down to one big thing: the human condition. Even the wisest person can make glaring mistakes and the biggest fool can make some deeply insightful observations. To me this means taking everything with a grain of salt. Some people feel questioning them is an insult and some feel it's honorific. I hold with the latter and try to question everything as respectfully as I know how. I think it's harder to be led astray when you're evaluating every step you take and remember no one is automatically any better than you yourself.

mathewjgano
01-31-2009, 05:22 PM
As human I think we search for answers from others, for some gawd awful reason. Maybe it is because we are a social creature, and have some need to follow one person. We see it so strongly in society, religion and politics. Why we need leaders in so many parts of our lives is a huge question for me. I am not saying Aikido is like that cult there are differences, really important differences, that I didn't talk about. But what I am saying is that for some reason we have to look to other human's -who are human like us- for things that are really beyond what humans can do, or be, especially with spirituality.

I think this is because it's easier. Perhaps some of us are more naturally docile and others are more naturally assertive (thus more prone toward the Follower or Leader role), but I think looking for answers from people ties into the fact that it's easier to copy than to innovate. I also agree it has to do with being highly social animals. My experiences growing up were that most people spend a very large amount of time trying to fit in and I think this has a lot do with why some folks accept things blindly from the leaders of whatever group they join.

Jonathan
01-31-2009, 07:37 PM
I've never thought Osensei was an especially wise person. Actually, I have at times thought him rather odd and even, spiritually speaking, incoherent. As a martial artist, however, Osensei was on to something, I believe, but this never translated into my thinking he had unique insight into some deeper, spiritual truths.

I came to Aikido with a fully-formed worldview and spiritual beliefs. Consequently, I was not expecting Aikido to impart to me anything other than skill as a martial artist.

Personally, I find far greater wisdom in the teachings of Christ than I have ever found in Osensei's words.

What made you "automatically assume what O'Sensei says...as being of perfect wisdom. Wisdom and direction that will properly guide my life and lead me to what I desire- happiness, bliss, etc."?

caelifera
01-31-2009, 08:01 PM
My point how am I not different from a cult follower who doesn't question what I am being told. I automatically assume what O'Sensei says (what I can understand - even that is in question) makes him automatically accept him as being of perfect wisdom. Wisdom and direction that will properly guide my life and lead me to what I desire- happiness, bliss, etc. Should I stop and think about hero worshiping O'Sensei (as they see it) and consider maybe his words are not all that wise, powerful, enlightening and having all the answers. Is his words and ideas able to bring me to that spiritual advancement that so many are looking for, and we are so devoted to without question. A spiritual place that we can't come to by ourselves?

As human I think we search for answers from others, for some gawd awful reason. Maybe it is because we are a social creature, and have some need to follow one person. We see it so strongly in society, religion and politics. Why we need leaders in so many parts of our lives is a huge question for me. I am not saying Aikido is like that cult there are differences, really important differences, that I didn't talk about. But what I am saying is that for some reason we have to look to other human's -who are human like us- for things that are really beyond what humans can do, or be, especially with spirituality.

I am wondering if there are others who see this differently or the same.

I am so going to get slammed for this.

I think you should question everything O'Sensei said. The only person who can lead you to a life worth living is Jesus Christ.

Human beings have always had a certain emptiness inside; a want to follow someone or something. That's why you see people get caught up in cults, hobbies, arts, etc. That emptiness was created by God. He created it so we would want to have a relationship with Him. Unfortunately, we (by ourselves) can't have that relationship, because He is a perfect God and we are definitely not perfect. He still wanted that relationship, but something had to be sacrificed, because in the Bible it says that "without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins."

Now I'm sure you've heard the whole "Jesus" thing over and over, about Him dying on the cross, being buried, and rising again, blah blah blah. But if a guy goes through an unfair trial, gets beaten with a whip that has nine long strips of leather with glass and bone embedded in it 39 times, has to carry a 170lb hunk of wood up a hill, then get nailed to it on one of the most sensitive nerves of the body, hang there for 6 hours and finally die of suffocation, blood loss, and shock, I think that's something worthy of attention. That tells me that He put a lot of thought into what He was doing, and the Bible says that He did it for all of humankind. (Romans 5:8)

O'Sensei never did anything like that for me, and neither did the gods he worshipped.

The Bible says that He didn't stay dead, but after three days he was (brace yourselves for the ever-common church-y term) resurrected and still lives today. He promises all of those who have believed in Him and accepted Him and Him alone as their Savior eternal life. He doesn't promise a perfect and easy life, but He does send the Holy Spirit to help us. (John 14:16-17) Not ki, the Holy Spirit.

Since there has been a sacrifice, we are now free to have a relationship with God. It's easy to get it, too. All He asks is that you admit you have (another church-y term) sinned and need a Savior, believe that Jesus died for you and is the only one who can save you, and ask Him to be your Savior.

But what I am saying is that for some reason we have to look to other human's -who are human like us- for things that are really beyond what humans can do, or be, especially with spirituality.

BTW, the Bible says that Jesus 100% God and 100% Man. (John 1:14) He became flesh not only so He could die for us, but to suffer the same things we suffer through, such as hunger, pain, loneliness, betrayal, etc. In that way, we can relate to Him. He also did things waaay beyond what humans can do. The Bible holds many accounts of miracles done by Jesus.

Aikibu
01-31-2009, 08:21 PM
My experiances is more along the line of what Joseph Campbell called the thin thread of connection that ties all spritual paths together..;.

It's not important to me what you believe... But how you act on those beliefs. Are you making the world a better place? Do you live a life of dignity and grace...Do you act with love and compassion?

O'Sensei was just a man who was givin a special gift (or insight if you prefer) A way to be in this world with those qualities I've just mentioned.

Thats it...It works for me and makes me a better human being...

I am way too busy most of the time trying to walk the way I talk to question the dude who decided to share this gift. LOL I know one thing....

He puts his pants and dogi on exactly the same way every else does including me... and that alone gives me hope that my humanity and the gifts the practice of Aikido has givin will also be enough to make a positive differance in the lives of others. :)

William Hazen

nagoyajoe
01-31-2009, 10:36 PM
I am so going to get slammed for this.

I think you should question everything O'Sensei said. The only person who can lead you to a life worth living is Jesus Christ.

Human beings have always had a certain emptiness inside; a want to follow someone or something. That's why you see people get caught up in cults, hobbies, arts, etc. That emptiness was created by God. He created it so we would want to have a relationship with Him. Unfortunately, we (by ourselves) can't have that relationship, because He is a perfect God and we are definitely not perfect. He still wanted that relationship, but something had to be sacrificed, because in the Bible it says that "without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins."

Now I'm sure you've heard the whole "Jesus" thing over and over, about Him dying on the cross, being buried, and rising again, blah blah blah. But if a guy goes through an unfair trial, gets beaten with a whip that has nine long strips of leather with glass and bone embedded in it 39 times, has to carry a 170lb hunk of wood up a hill, then get nailed to it on one of the most sensitive nerves of the body, hang there for 6 hours and finally die of suffocation, blood loss, and shock, I think that's something worthy of attention. That tells me that He put a lot of thought into what He was doing, and the Bible says that He did it for all of humankind. (Romans 5:8)

O'Sensei never did anything like that for me, and neither did the gods he worshipped.

The Bible says that He didn't stay dead, but after three days he was (brace yourselves for the ever-common church-y term) resurrected and still lives today. He promises all of those who have believed in Him and accepted Him and Him alone as their Savior eternal life. He doesn't promise a perfect and easy life, but He does send the Holy Spirit to help us. (John 14:16-17) Not ki, the Holy Spirit.

Since there has been a sacrifice, we are now free to have a relationship with God. It's easy to get it, too. All He asks is that you admit you have (another church-y term) sinned and need a Savior, believe that Jesus died for you and is the only one who can save you, and ask Him to be your Savior.

But what I am saying is that for some reason we have to look to other human's -who are human like us- for things that are really beyond what humans can do, or be, especially with spirituality.

BTW, the Bible says that Jesus 100% God and 100% Man. (John 1:14) He became flesh not only so He could die for us, but to suffer the same things we suffer through, such as hunger, pain, loneliness, betrayal, etc. In that way, we can relate to Him. He also did things waaay beyond what humans can do. The Bible holds many accounts of miracles done by Jesus.

Wow! That's about all I can say. :confused:

Michael Douglas
02-01-2009, 05:01 AM
Scary.

RoyK
02-01-2009, 10:13 AM
Who would've thought that years of avoiding "The passion" would end on Aikiweb with a completely irrelevant missionary thread-hijacking post.

When i joined Aikido I spent some time reading online and in books about O'Sensei's life and spiritual beliefs, and while I couldn't find a simple, coherent message, I did understand that a common belief is that Aikido's purpose is something along the lines of purging the soul through training the body and mind, which I don't think is unique to O'Sensei or Aikido. I

mathewjgano
02-01-2009, 11:38 AM
When it comes to wisdom I think Socrates described it best. This is the only human wisdom I believe in to date. We can understand the nature of things, but always only in part.
As for religious beliefs and spiritual wisdom, I've yet to find a religion that was concise and easy to understand. I've been told by many people in many religions that the message was simple, but when I thought about it myself, I always found more than one way to interpret the message. I think the best we can do is try to evaluate the world around us as honestly and intently as possible and then follow our hearts.
I think anyone who lives an active life of intense personal study will find some degree of wisdom. I think O Sensei held some wisdom of his own which was profound and while his language might be obscure and difficult to understand, it's not entirely beyond comprehension.

Kevin Leavitt
02-01-2009, 11:55 AM
My experiances is more along the line of what Joseph Campbell called the thin thread of connection that ties all spritual paths together..;.

It's not important to me what you believe... But how you act on those beliefs. Are you making the world a better place? Do you live a life of dignity and grace...Do you act with love and compassion?

O'Sensei was just a man who was givin a special gift (or insight if you prefer) A way to be in this world with those qualities I've just mentioned.

Thats it...It works for me and makes me a better human being...

I am way too busy most of the time trying to walk the way I talk to question the dude who decided to share this gift. LOL I know one thing....

He puts his pants and dogi on exactly the same way every else does including me... and that alone gives me hope that my humanity and the gifts the practice of Aikido has givin will also be enough to make a positive differance in the lives of others. :)

William Hazen

Joseph Campbell is the man. A lone voice of sanity in a sea of philosophical and emotional confusion1

George S. Ledyard
02-01-2009, 02:20 PM
There are two types of folks whom, in my opinion, you don't want to be. First is the True Believer as Eric Hoffer called him. This is the guy that "drinks the cool aid" so to speak. The suspension of common sense, the subjugating of ones own judgment to another person or to an ideology. You can see this within Aikido all the time. Our way is the right way. My teacher was the one who really understood the Founder. This is the real way the Founder did technique and the other folks out there are ruining Aikido.

The True Believer shuts down his own process in order to model himself on some outside set of beliefs or principles. Almost always this seriously restricts his growth as a person and retards any ability to go beyond the external limits placed on him. In Aikido this type of thinking results in practitioners who are good copies of an original. But a copy is never as good as the original because it lacks genuineness, originality, and creativity. But seeking out your own way is far riskier and entails living at the edge of ones comfort level. Most folks prefer to have someone else tell them what to do.

The other extreme is the perennial doubter. In his effort to not "drink the cool aid" he ignores anything that he doesn't feel is proven already to his satisfaction. I guess I don't really understand this deeply rooted fear of "being fooled". But there are many folks who seem so controlled by this fear that they dismiss, out of hand, anything which they don't understand.

I have many friends who a like this. I have watched as they summarily dismissed a teacher or a style based simply on a YouTube video. I have seen people simply turn their backs on some training because it challenged their preconceived notions of what is what. It's much easier to call something fake and walk away than to make the changes needed to understand and maybe do what had previously been thought impossible.

Morihei Ueshiba was clearly a giant in 20th century Japanese martial arts. I am sure he had that rare combination of natural talent and total focus on succeeding required to be great. I once heard someone say that Ueshiba Sensei's true distinguishing character was that he trained harder than anyone this person knew. And that is what yields wisdom.

Yes, it is important that each of us find and develop his own wisdom; find what makes each of genuine. But an attachment to that individuality causes us to ignore what has been done by others before us. The resistance to being drawn into someone else's sphere can cut us off from the synergy of collective effort. It causes us to reinvent the wheel rather than piggy back on the work others have done before us. In fact, if we are talking about the highest levels of teaching, you won't even reinvent the wheel unless you slipstream behind the work done by others.

Myth is very important in a culture. It is at the heart of the drive to better ourselves. In our Aikido culture, the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba, is our central mythical figure. His myth provides the model for our practice and our striving to be better.

The modern trend towards historical deconstruction is valuable. It allows us to see how our reality has failed to match our myths. But I have to say that the facts of reality seldom inspire anyone. It is the power of myth to move people.

It's important to understand the Founder and to this end, historical research, understanding of the cultural and religious influences that shaped his thinking all contribute. But it is not the historical O-Sensei as a man like the rest of us but rather the mythical figure of O-Sensei as a man who has become something greater that inspires us to go the distance and attempt great things.

But myth supplies the inspiration, it is not your reality. The True Believer ceases to exist as himself by subjugating his own reality to the myth. The Doubting Thomas disavows the myth and settles for less than he might otherwise have accomplished because he stays within his own comfort zone and his own understanding.

Training is about developing the strength of character to be centered, to be oneself. If one has this strong sense of himself he will never disappear into some cult or ideology. Nor will he feel threatened by new ideas or things that he can't explain. He is free if he is centered. The myth for such a person provides the target, it is the source of aspiration. It doesn't actually matter if the myth was historically true in every detail; that 's not its power.

We need the myths. A culture that has its myths destroyed is lost, its heart is missing. Every time we destroy one of our myths, we are driven to find another to put in its place. Its how the human mind works. When used correctly it can be a tremendous impetus towards growth. When used incorrectly it can be deadly.

Why would we impute some degree of wisdom to Morihei Ueshiba? Well, he trained longer and harder than any of us doing things most of us will never do. So that's a pretty good start right there. Coupled with the fact that, clearly his intentions were towards the light rather than towards the dark I think that gives us enough of a reason to give his ideas a good hearing. But the "myth" of the Founder is merely a tool we can use in our lives and our training. We can be inspired by it but do not lose ourselves in it. But for me, I am always looking to verify the myth through my own efforts in training rather than spending all my time debunking the myth as many people feel they need to do. That, to me, is the function of the myth.

mathewjgano
02-01-2009, 04:08 PM
Thank you, George! As usual, you've framed the topic in a way that makes me feel i better understand something I thought i already had an ok understanding of...very substantive.
Take care,
Matt

Buck
02-01-2009, 05:31 PM
George, after reading what you wrote, which was good, you see a positive things come out of believing in myths if done correctly.

Still taking about the power of myth, does it or doesn't place more dependence on someone else, like O'Sensei, to guide my life? Will it help me turn that focus I have off of someone else I think provides me wisdom and guidance to my own inner voice? Is there myths that do that? Or is it the nature myth power to direct us to the dependence on others?

This isn't a science vs. myth thing. I want to show why I am saying what I am. The thing so powerful that came from the revolution of science was that we could independently find wisdom on our own and not dependent on the myths that lead us to looking at others for guidance.

George you point out, "Why would we impute some degree of wisdom to Morihei Ueshiba? Well, he trained longer and harder than any of us doing things most of us will never do. So that's a pretty good start right there. Coupled with the fact that, clearly his intentions were towards the light rather than towards the dark I think that gives us enough of a reason to give his ideas a good hearing."

Yes, he was not dark. But, I am not sure his light was the correct light. How do I know it was, and why do I automatically assume it was the correct light. His light may not be accurate, on target, all that bright or exact. -I wouldn't use science to tell me that, btw.

I follow him because I think his skill was great and I want to be like him. Here again, I don't question. It doesn't occur to me that there might be someone better then him. Maybe that is, because of myth. Which didn't occur to me until you wrote about myth, that helps.

It is that process of not questioning that I relate to as impulse buying of what and why we are not independent but rather dependent. Does myth lead us to impulse buy or away from that?

Buck
02-01-2009, 05:50 PM
O'Sensei's light, was a pretty odd light, a mix of martial art staples, and unique thought. When translated into English is pretty hard to understand and causes confusion. What parallels with many is a small amount of what he said, like the idea of love, not hurting others and some other universal things. Yet, we see him as a great wise man- some don't, many do- that we want to follow without question. As George said, he wasn't dark. That might also play a part. But we don't we see that light or search for that wisdom within ourselves, yet we depend on others for it. Those we view as better or greater than ourselves.

Maybe it is too difficult to be independent. I would say so, I struggle with it. Maybe that is the point?

mathewjgano
02-01-2009, 06:38 PM
It is that process of not questioning that I relate to as impulse buying of what and why we are not independent but rather dependent. Does myth lead us to impulse buy or away from that?

I know you're not asking me, but I hope you don't mind my trying to find an answer. For me myth has always been an invitation to question. I don't think myths create dependancy on others or an unwillingness to question (i.e. impulse buying?). Impulse buying, I think, is the product of reinforced subservience, which is a valid componant to any society, but which, like all thing, can lead to bad things when not balanced by independance.
Does that make sense or fit with your post?
Take care,
Matt

Kristina Morris
02-01-2009, 09:48 PM
HI All,
Interesting thread. May I suggest a different way of approaching O'Sensei's teachings and 'wisdom'? When I first started training in Aikido I didn't understand anything - not Ki, kotodama, O'Sensei's teachings - nada, zip.
So I decided to approach the 'words of wisdom' of O'Sensei from a cultural anthropology point-of-view. I figured if I understood more about O'Sensei's spiritual beliefs, it would help me grasp Aikido and how O'Sensei arrived at his form of martial art. It would help me understand O'Sensei, the man. I was under the impression that O'Sensei's Aikido developed from his spirtitual beliefs.

So I studied Shinto for neigh on 10 years, made trips to Japan, performed misogi every week for three years and practiced kotodama.
It helped me appreciate my training more because I had another viewpoint to draw from.

So if someone is questioning the wisdom of O'Sensei, I'd tell them that O'Sensei's wisdom is what he believed and arrived at after a lifetime of experiences, and that he was just passing on what he thought important in his life. And maybe, some of what he passed on could help others in their training. If you take your training off the mat and practice conflict resolution or a non-violent approach in your personal life, then you are pretty much practicing O'Sensei's beliefs.

He is the Founder of Aikido. If you just want to study the physical martial arts, that works for most students. If you want to study more about the man, then study his spiritual beliefs. Mind you, I said 'study'. I didn't say 'convert'.

Kristina

Buck
02-01-2009, 10:48 PM
I know you're not asking me, Matt

No worries, I know I responded to George, but that doesn't mean someone else like yourself can't answer. The whole idea here is to explore and learn. :)

Buck
02-01-2009, 10:52 PM
HI All,
Interesting thread. May I suggest a different way of approaching O'Sensei's teachings and 'wisdom'?
Kristina

Well said. Maybe that is where the rub is when you said his beliefs.Your investigation/ experiences brings you to an understanding of things that I don't because I didn't do what you did. It is something else worth exploring, just as the myth is.

Thank you.

Charles Hill
02-01-2009, 10:54 PM
Kristina,

That was an absolutely wonderful post. Thank you for that!

Charles

George S. Ledyard
02-02-2009, 08:08 PM
Still taking about the power of myth, does it or doesn't place more dependence on someone else, like O'Sensei, to guide my life? Will it help me turn that focus I have off of someone else I think provides me wisdom and guidance to my own inner voice? Is there myths that do that? Or is it the nature myth power to direct us to the dependence on others?

This is a fine question but one I think that is quintessentially American. In the West we have very few arts that require "transmission". Many of those that did don't exist any more because no one wanted to do that kind of work under a teacher.

Still, one can see examples that bear... Look at the relationship between the coach and the elite level athlete. I can't think of an Olympic level figure skater or track star who doesn't have a coach. In fact the relationship with the coach can effect performance to a degree that it is the difference between winning and losing.

A writer may have an editor without whom his talents wouldn't be sharpened. A recording musician has a sound engineer and producer. On and on... in very few activities do you see greatness achieved by an individual relying simply on his own resources and talents.

The fundamental foundation for the transmission of knowledge in the East is the Teacher / Student relationship. "Transmission" go ways beyond mere instruction. It is a heart to heart process. It requires a letting go of ones individual concerns. The end of such a process in the spiritual arts, when it is handled properly, is the discovery of a truer self, that "face before you were born", the "true man of no rank".

Historically very few people accomplish this transformation on their own. It is very rare but not impossible. The Buddhists have a name for those who attain enlightenment without actually training formally. They are called Pratyeka Buddhas. They are very rare and this fact attests to the difficulty in getting past the myriad barriers the unenlightened self places in front of ones progress.

If we are talking about real high level skills there is virtually no way you will get there on your own. In fact a great degree of faith is required in the process. That is why the finding of ones teacher is so important. In the East there were formal methods of transmission and the process turned out teachers who were certified to know what they were supposed to know. Leaving aside that the process was often subverted or that unscrupulous people simply resorted to outright fraud, the system worked and transmitted a certain kind of spiritual and technical knowledge over thousands of years. Procedures were built into the system so that innovation and unique talent could be absorbed without interrupting the transmission of the old knowledge. We have lost this in the West almost entirely.

This isn't a science vs. myth thing. I want to show why I am saying what I am. The thing so powerful that came from the revolution of science was that we could independently find wisdom on our own and not dependent on the myths that lead us to looking at others for guidance.

The revolution of science, while great in many ways, caused us to throw out the baby with the bath water from the standpoint of traditional knowledge. I do not think that science has caused us to become independent individuals from a wisdom standpoint. Quite the opposite. From the Western scientific standpoint, if we can't find a way to measure something with a machine, it doesn't exist.

Science has no way to explain how Vladimir Vasiliev can mess with your nervous system to the point at which you can't stand up after he takes you down. Or how Mikhail Ryabko can merely touch you and you collapse into a heap. No explanation exists for how Okamoto Sensei can get you to shift balance from across the mat when you aren't even looking at him.

Science has no useful explanation for "enlightenment" or mystic union with God. It would like to think it can explain Love as a biochemical process but I suspect that most individuals find that to be unsatisfactory.

The modern age of reason has given us Marxism and Modern Capitalism. Both systems have been a disaster for our environment. Traditional man lived in a world that was alive. The world O-Sensei lived in was full of kami, contained inherent wisdom that a person's mission was to discover. That is the spiritual path in a nutshell... the discovery of ones relationship to the absolute and how one can live with that. Science has no methodology for this. Zen quite explicitly states that the thinking mind cannot even perceive the truth of this.

Yes, he was not dark. But, I am not sure his light was the correct light. How do I know it was, and why do I automatically assume it was the correct light. His light may not be accurate, on target, all that bright or exact. -I wouldn't use science to tell me that, btw.

The search for the Teacher is one that entails a leap of faith. The teacher is, by definition, someone who knows what you do not, perceives what you can't, can do what seems impossible for you. The fact that there are so few real Teachers of true mastership has caused a major disruption in the spiritual world. Look at Aikido... it has been the blind leading the blind. I started teaching when I was a San Dan. I had no sort of mastery whatever. But there were very few people senior in those days so we started dojos and kept at it.

People's perception of what a "master" really is has been shaped by the breakdown of the transmission process. The vast majority of American martial artists have Zero experience with any teachers who truly function at what in the East would be considered mastery.

So we decide "Hell, we all put our pants on the same way" and decide, in true democratic fashion that no one is higher than ourselves. When it comes to a clash between what we want and what our teacher demands we quit and find a teacher who lets us be "ourselves". And that's fine for someone but I have never seen anyone who got to a really high level of mastery that way. It is not the function of the teacher to let you be yourself.

I follow him because I think his skill was great and I want to be like him.

Actually, I don't want to be like O-Sensei. He was a fairly eccentric Japanese mystic from an age which doesn't really exist any more. My life has little to do with how the Founder lived. But I want to know, at least to some extent what the Founder knew. I think much of that knowledge is Universal and transferable across culture. If I didn't believe that, there would be no point to training.

My job as a teacher of Aikido in the West is to take my understanding as far as it can go but also to pass it down to another generation. This requires that I not only learn as much from my Japanese Teacher, Saotome Sensei (who trained with the Founder for many years), that I attempt to understand the Founder's wisdom as he understood it, but also I have to find a way to create a genuine American context for this knowledge that preserves its depth but is also understandable and of value to American practitioners. The number of people who will study kototama, chant, practice Shinto etc is minute. What is inherent in the Aikido of the Founder that can help us be better people, make or world better, help us lead better lives? It is the job of the non-Japanese teacher of the art to find this out. I can't get that from O-Sensei or Saotome Sensei or Ikeda Sensei. I can get help from friends who are also engaged in this process themselves. But without the myth to inspire, without teachers to stand as examples of what mastery REALLY is, the individual simply relies on his own judgment, his own perception, his own experience. That generally results in someone who is very good at being the same person they've always been but perhaps more attached to it.

Here again, I don't question. It doesn't occur to me that there might be someone better then him. Maybe that is, because of myth. Which didn't occur to me until you wrote about myth, that helps.

We should question, all the time... But we also have to take on faith that there are simply things we don't have a clue about right now. For many years I had no idea whatever what my own teacher was doing. I think I jad gotten to the point at which I had conceded that I would never be as good as he is.But then I met some other teachers who functioned at that same very high level. They had ways of teaching things that were totally different from my own teacher and suddenly I started to understand what my own teacher was doing. Then, they showed me that there were things far beyond what I had even been shooting for. I am far better than I ever thought I'd be now and yet I feel like a complete beginner. There is stuff out there that I had no clue even existed. There are folks out there who make the myths real. I don't give anything up in this process. I don't lose my sense of myself... but what that sense is is constantly shifting.

It is that process of not questioning that I relate to as impulse buying of what and why we are not independent but rather dependent. Does myth lead us to impulse buy or away from that?

We are not independent. We are totally dependent... on our teachers, on each other, on our environment... In fact it is not so much that we are dependent but that we are totally connected. Everything is connected. Virtually all of our problems as individuals and as members of the collective come from our ignorance of this fact and continued attempts to act as if it weren't true. The Founder saw Aikido as a practice that would lead us to a better understanding of this fundamental connection. Since we do not inherently understand this connection, the myth inspires us to go beyond our own limitations. The "myth" is how the reality of the great teacher lives on after his death to continue to teach and inspire.

jennifer paige smith
02-02-2009, 08:37 PM
Beautiful, George !

Rob Watson
02-02-2009, 09:29 PM
George Ledyard says

"Science has no way to explain how Vladimir Vasiliev can mess with your nervous system to the point at which you can't stand up after he takes you down. Or how Mikhail Ryabko can merely touch you and you collapse into a heap. No explanation exists for how Okamoto Sensei can get you to shift balance from across the mat when you aren't even looking at him."

Herein lies part of the problem. For those who have not experienced the phenomena that cannot be explained (whether by science or other belief system) there is simply disbelief unless we choose not to disbelieve - one option leaves us open to work on something while the other closes the door. Many prefer the comfort of a well closed door.

I firmly believe that science can explain the effects above. It just takes time and effort- much like anything of value.

Buck
02-02-2009, 11:18 PM
We are not independent. We are totally dependent... on our teachers, on each other, on our environment... In fact it is not so much that we are dependent but that we are totally connected. Everything is connected. Virtually all of our problems as individuals and as members of the collective come from our ignorance of this fact and continued attempts to act as if it weren't true. The Founder saw Aikido as a practice that would lead us to a better understanding of this fundamental connection. Since we do not inherently understand this connection, the myth inspires us to go beyond our own limitations. The "myth" is how the reality of the great teacher lives on after his death to continue to teach and inspire.

George your a fountain, no a gusher of information and thought. There is allot you said worth discussing. But I would like to take a small part of what you said and expand on it.

Yes, we do depend on others and our environment but does it lead us to depend on a single human? A human that we default as having the right information and stuff. Faith, trust and myths, can be a tricky things, so are people who inspire us. That mixed cocktail can either be good or horribly bad.

For the bad, we see that make that cocktail in the likes of Jim Jones, common street con men etc. It is through out history that men like the Jim Jones lead people to their deaths. Those that followed Jim Jones and did drink the kool-aid willing did so because they believed he had the answers and they didn't question him. This has been happening through out history and yet people continue to follow people like Jim Jones, such as the Heaven's Gate. A suicide group who also thought their leader had the truth. In both cases the people where dependent upon someone else for guidance etc. If people where independent would they have ended their lives willingly?

Sure many people are searching for answers or something. I am included. But the question do we depend on another human like ourselves for answers or truth. Or, do we depend on our selves and own experiences.

Why can't we like O'Sensei find that connection why do we need him? How do we know he had the truth, the proper understanding or wisdom. George you came up with some ideas for that. Though stating it about O'Sensei's experiences, the purposeful myth, or faith answers why don't we question and just accept someone else telling us what things are. Things that they themselves discovered independently. When questioned I start to think how close am I to cult thinking about Aikido and O'Sensei.

That only happened, when I looked in the mirror, when I was questioned. If I hadn't been questioned, and then in turn questioned myself, would I know where I was heading or even if there is a line?

Once last thing. It is not a question of my faith being shaken, rather than the fact I impulse bought without question what O'Sensei said works and it was all that. Heck his skill was so impressive I figured he knew what he was talking about- like the connection thingy was correct, his writings being hard to understand and mystically poetic (metaphyics feel) meant it must be true, accurate, correct etc.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
02-03-2009, 01:57 AM
George Sensei, thank you very much! It's great that you are writing a bit more again!

Alexandre Bull
02-03-2009, 07:44 AM
As an Aikido practicioner, and this site is about basically Aikido, I would like to manifest that I felt a certain lack of respect when I saw this title in this thread , and I am participating to help avoid certain similar approaches in the future.

Of course, O Sensei was wise!!!! He was the Founder of AIkido.

If Aikido is the truth or not , this is another story cause it depends of perception and few have it. They misunderstand memory with real knowledge.

In essence Aikido teaches that we must grasp the laws of Nature and live our lifes following those laws, as part of it, accordingly. This is what O Sensei said all the time and this is his wisdon.
In a certain way this is what all religions says. There is one "O Omoto" a big origin...if one wants to call it God, Daishizen, Buda Nature, Yeowah, or Ala...neve minds these are just different names for the same thing expressed in diferente cultural ways.

It is a waste of time to keep arguiing using the mind and arguments to know if Aikido is wise or not!!!
Those that are using this process still did not grasped what Aikido is and are training wrong.

The thing is simple:

Or you feel that AIkido is true or not !!!

It is not with arguments, and phiolosophy that someone will really grasp what Aikido is.

Aikido is not a mental training , but the "Kokoro training" that envolves, mind, body, feelings and spiritual centers.

Forget logics and Classical Philosophy, in Aikido......it exists...but only after one grasps what Aikido is, not before. If one divide the truth using the mental process, the wisdon is lost cause it is unique.
Aikido can be understood by the mind only in the final of the process, when the truth becomes evident.
Kodotama let clear the the world of the truth is "I" dimension not "O" dimension (memory) in the way how this discussion is dealing of.
And "I" dimension only can be attained under training never discussing or arguing.
It is hard for people educated with the Aristotelican and Cartesian culture adopted in Western Universities, to undestand this, but Aikido practicioners must know that things is like that otherwise will never be really training AIkido.
Many people do not know why AIkido top masters says...just train , do not think.
I hope I helped those that are not well informed.
This is what I was taught by my sensei and I was lucky cause heard this since the first time I steped on the mat.
So I am in doubt if it is really a good idea that people without real mastery becomes a teacher. It can create many confusion.

Alexandre

Rick Berry
02-03-2009, 09:11 AM
Martial arts training is just that group or individual training. We are always bombarded with thoughts from others, whether they be verbalized or not. In the book "Conversations With God," a quote states: FATE, From All Thoughts Everywhere. I believe this. Have you ever had a crazy thought come to you that was so repulsive that you did not know how you could think such a thought?

The goal of martial arts training as I see it is to train your mind, control your ego and train your body in that order. In training your mind the goal should be to decide what is truth and usable and what is nonsense. Discarding nonsense. End of story!

jennifer paige smith
02-03-2009, 09:50 AM
As an Aikido practicioner, and this site is about basically Aikido, I would like to manifest that I felt a certain lack of respect when I saw this title in this thread , and I am participating to help avoid certain similar approaches in the future.

Of course, O Sensei was wise!!!! He was the Founder of AIkido.

If Aikido is the truth or not , this is another story cause it depends of perception and few have it. They misunderstand memory with real knowledge.

In essence Aikido teaches that we must grasp the laws of Nature and live our lifes following those laws, as part of it, accordingly. This is what O Sensei said all the time and this is his wisdon.
In a certain way this is what all religions says. There is one "O Omoto" a big origin...if one wants to call it God, Daishizen, Buda Nature, Yeowah, or Ala...neve minds these are just different names for the same thing expressed in diferente cultural ways.

It is a waste of time to keep arguiing using the mind and arguments to know if Aikido is wise or not!!!
Those that are using this process still did not grasped what Aikido is and are training wrong.

The thing is simple:

Or you feel that AIkido is true or not !!!

It is not with arguments, and phiolosophy that someone will really grasp what Aikido is.

Aikido is not a mental training , but the "Kokoro training" that envolves, mind, body, feelings and spiritual centers.

Forget logics and Classical Philosophy, in Aikido......it exists...but only after one grasps what Aikido is, not before. If one divide the truth using the mental process, the wisdon is lost cause it is unique.
Aikido can be understood by the mind only in the final of the process, when the truth becomes evident.
Kodotama let clear the the world of the truth is "I" dimension not "O" dimension (memory) in the way how this discussion is dealing of.
And "I" dimension only can be attained under training never discussing or arguing.
It is hard for people educated with the Aristotelican and Cartesian culture adopted in Western Universities, to undestand this, but Aikido practicioners must know that things is like that otherwise will never be really training AIkido.
Many people do not know why AIkido top masters says...just train , do not think.
I hope I helped those that are not well informed.
This is what I was taught by my sensei and I was lucky cause heard this since the first time I steped on the mat.
So I am in doubt if it is really a good idea that people without real mastery becomes a teacher. It can create many confusion.

Alexandre

Perfect. Beautiful. Thank You.:)

Takuan
02-03-2009, 10:23 AM
Yes I agree. I would recommend everyone here train VERY hard for MANY years before questioning any of O-Senseis philosophies or myths. The beauty of aikido is that you learn by observing and "feeling" with your body, it's astonishing and wonderful that the art requires so little from our confused intellectual perception of life.

JimCooper
02-03-2009, 11:40 AM
Comments like this just make me sigh. It is quite frustrating to read comments about "what science knows" from people who clearly misunderstand what science is.


The revolution of science, while great in many ways, caused us to throw out the baby with the bath water from the standpoint of traditional knowledge.


If you don't mind me saying so, that sounds very much like fuzzy "New Age" thinking. It results from a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is, and how the modern body of scientific thought got to be what it is today.

Science is a (rigourous) method of testing the truth of an hypothesis. That's all. All science started with "traditional knowledge". As people started to actually check whether all this supposed knowledge was true, they found that some of it wasn't. What was left was the basis of today's scientific knowledge.

Many people think that if science is to be believed, it must have an explanation for everything, but that is not true either. If it was, scientists would be out of a job. But what it does give, is a way of checking whether somebody's explanation of some observation is correct, to the limits of our current knowledge. It also therefore gives us a way of abandoning a poor explanation later if more evidence proves that it actually doesn't cover all the facts (which is significantly different from all of the world's religions - none of which admit to error in their dogma).


I do not think that science has caused us to become independent individuals from a wisdom standpoint. Quite the opposite. From the Western scientific standpoint, if we can't find a way to measure something with a machine, it doesn't exist.


If you don't think that science has not helped us to become "independent individuals", you don't know your history very well. Perhaps you should consider the rubbish that people believed before the Enlightenment, much of which was foisted on them by the establishment (particularly the religious establishment).

And the idea that if something can't be measured by a machine then "science" thinks it doesn't exist is clearly wrong, as any psychologist would tell you. However, some things clearly should be capable of measurement, which is how we know ki is not a form of energy - it would be very easy to measure its effects.

And if anyone thinks I'm wrong about that, the Nobel Prize for physics is worth a few hundred thousand US dollars these days, and physicists would be ecstatic to find a new form of energy.


Science has no way to explain how Vladimir Vasiliev can mess with your nervous system to the point at which you can't stand up after he takes you down. Or how Mikhail Ryabko can merely touch you and you collapse into a heap. No explanation exists for how Okamoto Sensei can get you to shift balance from across the mat when you aren't even looking at him.

Science has no useful explanation for "enlightenment" or mystic union with God.

Actually, those are bad examples, as I suspect there are scientific explanations for each of those, although you may not like them (and of course, they may not be correct - feel free to disprove them). The Okamoto sensei one for example, I would think involves categorising the moved person as somewhat susceptible to suggestion (and yes, I've seen similar demos done by someone who explained that he did it that way).

But you are missing the point. There not being an explanation does not invalidate science in any way, it just means there is more to learn. However, "traditional knowledge" doesn't explain it either - if it did it would be part of modern scientific thought. Having an explanation is not the same as having a good explanation, let alone the correct one.

The process of advancement in science is pretty much the process of improving your explanation of particular phenomena. You get more evidence that throws the old explanation into doubt, you have to think of a new, improved one, and then prove that it's better.

To relate this back to the OP, the question of whether Ueshiba sensei was wise or not is easily settled. In some regards he was, and in some others, he was completely doolally (the Great Mongolian Adventure, for example).

And just because he was very good at performing a technique, does not mean his explanation of why it works is correct. There are some who think that anything a senior Japanese sensei says about his martial art must be correct. But that is also sadly not true (you should see the physics explanations in some of my karate textbooks - truly awe-inspiring in how wrong they are!)

You should always be sceptical, I think. This doesn't mean you don't believe anything, but it means you don't have to accept every theory or bit of "ancient wisdom" you get fed.

jennifer paige smith
02-03-2009, 03:13 PM
it means you don't have to accept every theory or bit of "ancient wisdom" you get fed.

Em, ancient wisdom, yum!:p

Mark Peckett
02-03-2009, 03:36 PM
To quote Terry Dobson, who lived and practised with O'Sensei until his (O'Sensei's) death in 1969:

"What he (O'Sensei) did during [those] days was pray. That's what he did. He didn't go to the movies, or out on a date, or entertain a bunch of people. He just talked to God. His truth was that he believed what he was doing was the way to reconcile the world, to bring about peace."

That seems pretty damn wise to me, Philip; and following his path, Christine, has lead me to a life worth living.

George S. Ledyard
02-03-2009, 08:35 PM
Actually, those are bad examples, as I suspect there are scientific explanations for each of those, although you may not like them (and of course, they may not be correct - feel free to disprove them). The Okamoto sensei one for example, I would think involves categorising the moved person as somewhat susceptible to suggestion (and yes, I've seen similar demos done by someone who explained that he did it that way).

Actually, I think those examples are just fine. Your supposition that there are scientific explanations for each of the examples I mentioned is entirely unproven. If you want to provide the scientific explanation for what they are doing, I'd be pleased to hear it. But trying to disprove what I said by "supposing" that there is another answer doesn't cut it. And I don't need to disprove any theories about how things work, I am interested only in how to do them myself. If an explanation helps with that I am fine with it, even if it isn't scientific. And a scientific explanation that doesn't contribute to my being able to do it myself isn't useful for me.

When Okamoto Sensei did that to my friend, his back was turned and he was watching other students training. Saying that he was "susceptible to suggestion" isn't anything like a scientific explanation. And even if that was some sort of actual explanation as to what is occurring, it doesn't tell you one damned thing about how to go about doing it.

In many cases scientific knowledge simply lacks any explanation for how something works. Acupuncture has existed for a couple thousand years and modern medical science still has no adequate explanations for how the system works. It can be demonstrated to work, the Chinese had a systematic explanation of what they were doing that was effective but had nothing to do with modern scientific theories of how things work. For a long time Western doctors considered these things to be off limits for serious medical practitioners because they couldn't fit the system into their modern scientific paradigm. Now we accept that there is a realm of "alternative medicine" that medical doctors concede has validity even though we haven't a scientific, research based explanation for how it works.

It is the same with Homeopathy. The system has been around since the 1700's. There is an absolutely massive body of empirical validation for the system. But our current understanding of how biochemistry and physics works simply cannot explain how it works and, in fact, would predict that it shouldn't. But the system exists and persists because it works.

I am not anti scientific or anti rational. To the extent I can do so, I like to understand what the scientific basis is for things. But I deal all the time with things that have no scientific explanation. Not because science can't explain these things but because no one has bothered to study them using modern scientific methods and equipment. At some point I fully expect that someone will discover why these things work. What I am saying is that in the absence of that future explanation, there are other ways of talking about these things which, while perhaps being decidedly unscientific, can actually result in your being able to do something you couldn't do before; perhaps even didn't really believe anyone could do.

Scientists are no less dogmatic than anyone else. If you want pure science you'd better find a way to subtract out the human factor. Science is great for explaining how stuff works. It is not very good for explaining most of the stuff that matters most to us as human beings. In my opinion, trying to deal with Aikido from a rational and scientific standpoint would suck the life out of the art. It wouldn't be very interesting to me at all if that were all there is.

Buck
02-03-2009, 09:37 PM
Perhaps a moment is needed to adjust things. With any good subject or topic it isn't without emotion. Hopefully it will not go down as a science vs. _______ thread.

I asked George, "do we depend on another human[in the case, O'Sensei] like ourselves for answers or truth. Or, do we depend on ourselves and own experiences [for that truth]." I said this because I wasn't sure if I was getting my concern across. I don't think O'Sensei "pushed' his beliefs on others or was fanatical like Jones, etc. But we tend to look to him for those answer rather than finding those answers out on our own. I don't think he was a spiritual leader as say the leaders of the omote religion, but people followed him as if he was. He was in fact, a spiritual man.

But with some posts I do find some people fighting to maintain the idea that he was a spiritual leader they insist to follow. I am not here to judge. Rather, it is about me not questioning my own actions of how I seen O'Sensei that are close to that of a cult follower seeing the leader. I depend on him for answers, answers that are just not there in that way. Am I turning O'Sensei into something he wasn't because of my impulse buying and not questioning myself? That is what I am asking. Nothing more or less. :)

I do have to agree with Cooper.

Erick Mead
02-04-2009, 12:38 AM
Perhaps a moment is needed to adjust things. With any good subject or topic it isn't without emotion. Hopefully it will not go down as a science vs. _______ thread. I don't think it needs to. I straddle both camps. Science is many things but it cannot tell one how to be a good father, mother, son, brother, neighbor, or how to engage in conflict without surrendering one's humanity. Science tells us nothing of beauty -- and yet the hardest of hard mathematicians will tell you that beauty is an integral part of understanding the highest forms of math. There is no substitute for the elegant solution -- but one cannot describe elegance in quantitative terms. Aikido lives in both realms, quite happily.

I asked George, "do we depend on another human[in the case, O'Sensei] like ourselves for answers or truth. Or, do we depend on ourselves and own experiences [for that truth]." I said this because I wasn't sure if I was getting my concern across. ... But with some posts I do find some people fighting to maintain the idea that he was a spiritual leader they insist to follow. ... Am I turning O'Sensei into something he wasn't because of my impulse buying and not questioning myself? That is what I am asking. Nothing more or less. :) O Sensei was very clear on these points, actually. He provided the chess board, the pieces and some rules, but the game is yours to play and make your own. He told Terry Dobson to "Find out for your self, " when Terry asked O Sensei his one and only question he ever asked about the metaphysical understanding. He told Andre Noquet, who was struggling with his own spiritual direction what he should do "You were born a Christian and raised a Christian. Remain a Christian. But if you practice my aikido a great deal, you will be a better Christian." He likened his art to Christ's teaching in their mutual basis in love, but plainly said that Jesus made a religion, while he had made an art.

"Train, train, train." was O Sensei's refrain. In fact, his visions tell us a few things themselves in this same vein. One, they occurred as a direct result of particularly intensive training. Second, they progressed from an image of identifying himself with another individual in spiritual form, to an identification with all mankind and all creation. This tracks the similar spiritual progression found in the Two Great Commandments "Love your neighbor as yourself" and the related but vastly enlarged sense of "Love God with all your heart, your mind and your soul." Consider them as stages of development and less as merely moral precepts.

Is that wise, then to emulate O Sensei, in what he sought and in what he says he found ? Each of us must respond in our own way. Each of us must fundamentally choose to be alone or to be connected. There is no other choice. There may be two (or more) stages, but there is no obvious permanent half-measure, either. The Way is no dwelling place. Ultimately, is there really any choice at all, or do we all just resist accepting it for a time? Maybe a longer time than necessary?

JimCooper
02-04-2009, 06:45 AM
Actually, I think those examples are just fine.


Clearly, otherwise you wouldn't have chosen them :-)

However, there are explanations for why pressure points work (there are several, which one applies depends on the point).


Saying that he was "susceptible to suggestion" isn't anything like a scientific explanation.


Actually, it is. If you want to know how suggestion works, then I can't tell you, because I don't know to any level of detail. But the information's out there if you want/need to look it up.


And even if that was some sort of actual explanation as to what is occurring, it doesn't tell you one damned thing about how to go about doing it.


Well, it would if you learned how suggestion works :-)


In many cases scientific knowledge simply lacks any explanation for how something works.


I believe I already said that :-) There would be no further point to scientific research of everything was known.

But the "works" part is also a problem. Scientific proof is more rigourous than some people are prepared to accept. It is also quite strict about the difference between observation and explanation, which many people are not. So you get the "but I had accupuncture and I got better, therefore meridians and ki exist" thinking, which is quite clearly logically flawed.


Acupuncture has existed for a couple thousand years and modern medical science still has no adequate explanations for how the system works. It can be demonstrated to work


That's not strictly true. Some of it works, and some of it doesn't. Because one part of a system demonstrably works, does not mean you have to accept that all of it works.


the Chinese had a systematic explanation of what they were doing that was effective but had nothing to do with modern scientific theories of how things work.


The Chinese explanation is nothing to do with modern scientific thought because the Chinese explanation is provably wrong. Like I said last time, any "traditional" explanations that are provably correct are now part of the scientific corpus (like the Archimedean Principle, for example).

Science didn't suddenly pop out of nowhere. It was (and is) a long process, and it developed in part out of what people now consider "traditional" or "ancient" knowledge (some of it isn't either, actually, but that's another topic).


Now we accept that there is a realm of "alternative medicine" that medical doctors concede has validity even though we haven't a scientific, research based explanation for how it works.


You might accept "alternative" medicine, but that is certainly not the majority view of medical professionals. Certain aspects of certain treatments are effective, but most of any "alternative" medicine is not proven to be effective (often the reverse is true, they have been proven to be ineffective).


It is the same with Homeopathy. The system has been around since the 1700's. There is an absolutely massive body of empirical validation for the system.


There most certainly is not! Homeopathy is regarded as one of the worst of these "alternatives".


But the system exists and persists because it works.


There is a considerable body of scientific proof that it does not have any effect beyond the placebo effect (if people believe that it works, for some of them it will).

I'm sorry, but I still think you do not understand what science is about.

I have no issues with the rest of your post, just the section where you talk about science. I hear that sort of stuff so often (especially from Aikidoka - the art seems to attract woolly thinkers), and it just aggravates me when people get it so wrong.

It is especially troubling when it is presented by people who are respected for their knowledge in other areas (as you clearly are in this forum). Your influence is greater, therefore you need to be more careful than most with what you say.

Buck
02-04-2009, 07:58 AM
He told Terry Dobson to "Find out for your self, " ...


Thanks Erick, it was spot on. I have read so much from so many sources this one included, there is so much out there to read with all kinds of different views and opinions. I think it is easy to get lost. I think the worst thing to do is to turn O'Sensei into some kind of cult figure.

George, I understand your views on the importance on myth. I just see the misuse of myth as a way at not getting to the truth. I was schooled like many to see the world through science and not myth. FWIW

jwredel
02-04-2009, 10:35 AM
Curious, Is wisdom in questioning or answering?

Buck
02-04-2009, 10:44 AM
I was also thinking, is there is too much weight placed on O'Sensei's mission. He was not a spiritual leader like Jesus, or a self styled spiritual leader like cult leaders. He did want change in society and in man kind. I don't think he organized followers like religion or cults do like that Japanese cult in Japan who used a deadly gas on a subway train. I think that came from those who followed him.

O'Sensei in the context of him being Japanese told of a spiritual experience he had. That experience changed his out look on life. It was metaphysical in nature and mystical. Maybe O'Sensei was more of a Japanese style mystic- his skill of Aikido mixed with that personal spiritual experience allowed him to believe he was a god.

I don't think that is too far out there considering many highly skilled rock musicans consider themselves guitar gods. And so do their fans, as we seen with Elvis, The Beatles, and as really pointed out by Jack Black, the actor, in his movies about rock and roll. Point is it is not uncommon universally to think of one's self as a god (have mystical powers, abilities beyond others), and than have that magnified by those who admire your skills and want to achieve that level of skill. Just as Jack Black worships who he calls the gods of rock and roll- his favorite bands. That in itself creates and perpetuates allot of misinformation, and damaging myths surrounding skilled people. I also think the term god is also used to say that someone has outstanding skill. The word god and super are interchangable in many occasion.

For me I when I think of O'Sensei being a god or referred to as that in anyway, it means super. I feel there is too much weight or seriousness put on O'Sensei's spiritual path and desires to where it creates a mindset where we don't question. He was a man, he was human, he changed is perspective on life. He was looking for something, and he looked to someone else, being dependent. Yet, he had an experience which was independent. None of that what O'Sensei said spiritually was unique or revolutionary thought. What it was, is that he had just come to that type of thought in his life.

Do we look to him for wisdom? I was watching a show with a "diet expert " talking head. While listening to her advice on losing weight, I looked at her thinking she had an eating disorder because she was sooooo skinny- skin on bones. Now I know allot of people took her advice because she was called a expert. And I thought dang, I almost impulse bought into what she was saying. If I want to diet I know what I need to do, don't I. Unless I don't have the ability in my mind and body that tells me to stop constantly eating so much because it is making me fat. I think in a round about way that is what happens with O'Sensei. I think really we all have the means to be independent, and O'Sensei should be an example of independence. Again, I don't think he said anything new, but rather showed that being martial isn't unchangable in the context of Japanese martial culture, it isn't a singluar dimensional thing as defined by past Japanese warrior culture. Instead of path to the after-life or a seat next to the divine.

Don't know for sure, it is my opinion, and own personal experience. Which I am not saying is wise. :)

Mark Peckett
02-04-2009, 11:02 AM
Again to quote, this time O'Sensei:

"I want considerate people to listen to the voice of Aikido. It is not for correcting others, it is for correcting your own mind. This is the mission of Aikido and it should be your mission."

I don't consider O'Sensei to be a god, but a spiritual man, on a spiritual path and much of what he reported back from that path has been useful to me. Therefore I regard him as wise.

C. David Henderson
02-04-2009, 11:15 AM
I'd say one attribute I associate with wisdom is a certain pliabilty of thought and outlook, as opposed to a subsuming or polemic one often found in say, point-by-point refutations on the internet.

I'd say aikido generally has promoted a certain pliabilty in my outlook, for reasons I am not wise enough to fully articulate.

Guess O'Sensei was pretty smart that way.

mathewjgano
02-04-2009, 11:41 AM
I just see the misuse of myth as a way at not getting to the truth. I was schooled like many to see the world through science and not myth. FWIW

Do you think science can address the question of what wise behavior is?

JimCooper
02-04-2009, 05:29 PM
Curious, Is wisdom in questioning or answering?

It might have something to do with knowing nonsense when you see it. Both questions and answers :-)

JimCooper
02-04-2009, 05:32 PM
I'd say one attribute I associate with wisdom is a certain pliabilty of thought and outlook, as opposed to a subsuming or polemic one often found in say, point-by-point refutations on the internet.

I'm afraid I can't resist refuting this point :-)

Erick Mead
02-04-2009, 06:51 PM
But the "works" part is also a problem. Scientific proof is more rigourous than some people are prepared to accept. It is also quite strict about the difference between observation and explanation, which many people are not. So you get the "but I had accupuncture and I got better, therefore meridians and ki exist" thinking, which is quite clearly logically flawed. What we have here is a category problem. Chinese traditional knowledge is not science, but it knows things that science cannot yet prove and which nevertheless have efficacy and real effects. Chinese knowledge in its traditional form is a catalog of correlations. It understands the world in non-linear terms in which the effects are not proportional to causes, and processes are neither commutative, nor systemically isolable nor necessarily repeatable. As Twain said of the equally contingent processes of history -- things do not repeat -- but they rhyme. This is close to the Chinese sensibility of influences as a principle of understanding, vice logical "If A and B then C" causation. Japanese myth has a different function but a related mode of operation.

This is not to criticize the value of reduction, but to emphasize the value of whole systemic categories as a form of knowledge that science does not speak to. Scientific minds therefore occasionally tend, as you have done, to actively denigrate what they have failed to comprehend. It is not "non-sense" -- it is simply not "your sense." It is a prejudice, nothing more -- and we all have our own to deal with, of one sort or another. The result is to not take advantage of that rich body of knowledge and then use it to expand science.

You cannot say in terms of science that KI cannot be real unless you have first understood its traditional concept, and eliminated every category of Western understanding that might apply as being inadmissible. This has not been attempted, much less definitively shown. And, in fact, I KNOW what KI is is -- in traditional and in purely scientific formal terms -- and it is not what you think. I could tell you, but I am not an authority -- though science does not depend on authority anyway. Any good scientist requires his own satisfaction of the proof, not someone else's word for it. When you sort it out, let me know. :)

The Chinese explanation is nothing to do with modern scientific thought because the Chinese explanation is provably wrong. Like I said last time, any "traditional" explanations that are provably correct are now part of the scientific corpus (like the Archimedean Principle, for example).

Science didn't suddenly pop out of nowhere. It was (and is) a long process, and it developed in part out of what people now consider "traditional" or "ancient" knowledge (some of it isn't either, actually, but that's another topic).Science asserts evidentiary proof of linear causation to an acceptable degree of uncertainty. Chinese traditional knowledge does not do this -- therefore it is not capable of being "proved" "wrong" by science (and "probably wrong" is not a qualifier -- all scientific knowledge is, to various degrees only "probably right.") The only question about knowledge is whether it either true or useful. It can be either -- or both.

Like I said, it is a category problem -- your assertion that science proves this form of knowledge wrong only by first wrongly trying to assume it to be scientific. It isn't. That's OK. Please get over it. It has value in its own right. It can be placed in meaningful scientific terms if you so desire, but to deal with it scientifically you must first do this. To do this you have to carefully examine your categories and schemes of analysis, because they, too -- like the placebo effect -- can control the outcome.

There is a considerable body of scientific proof that it does not have any effect beyond the placebo effect (if people believe that it works, for some of them it will). See -- now placebo is one of those things that science labels only to dismiss, and yet cannot yet explain or understand, but it is an effect that can void the results of double blind tests because its effects CONTROL THE OUTCOME. You denigrate the power of suggestion as though it had no martial value. MArtial art is not about theoretic nicety but concrete action. To the contrary, suggestion is perhaps of supreme martial value because it provides access to defeat the mind of conflict -- without violence. That is supreme art in war -- or so the ancient Chinese guy once said, so what does HE know. :D

I'm sorry, but I still think you do not understand what science is about."Science" means knowledge, and while it is very keen form of knowing -- knowing is ultimately greater than proving linear causation -- which is all science attempts or purports to try to do.

George S. Ledyard
02-04-2009, 07:09 PM
George, I understand your views on the importance on myth. I just see the misuse of myth as a way at not getting to the truth. I was schooled like many to see the world through science and not myth. FWIW

A tool is only as good as it's user. "Science" has been used to justify all sorts of terrible behavior. The idea that by being scientific, one solves problems of ethics and morals or adequately addresses the need for spiritual meaning in human life just isn't true.

If you want to talk about Aikido from a science point of view, which is clearly the only one some folks are interested in, then you are talking about technique, and just basic physical technique at that.

That's why you have people subtracting the Founder out of his own art. They couldn't go there with him. But the Founder felt he had a mission, he created Aikido as a way to fulfill that mission. If someone doesn't wish to pursue that mission, that's fine. No one's going to make you. If you are happy doing the Aikido you are doing, just great.

But this issue of rational, scientific process vs spiritual, mythic, intuitive, values oriented process can't be resolved by simply coming down on the side of the "science" side of things. Science cannot provide meaning to my life, it has nothing to say about values, loyalty, honor, bravery, etc It simply does not address whether I feel connected or unconnected with others or even myself.

How does science address personal transformation? Certainly modern psychology has attempted to make scientific what previously was not approached in that manner but the success has been mixed. "Hard" scientists barely concede that psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy etc are even really science at heart.

Aikido isn't about becoming "objective" in the "rational" sense. It is about living in a non-resistant manner. It is about having an intuitive connection with the world around one, especially ones fellow human beings. It is about developing a set of values which through constant training become your default setting for the way you live your life. That's Budo.

"Connection" isn't a rational concept or a scientific principle. It can't be measured and quantified. It is a state of being, a feeling, something that exists both in the conscious mind and deeper on the intuitive level. Aikido is specifically about developing that intuitive level of understanding of things. The folks who think that this type of stuff is just a bunch of woo woo, New Age thinking are faced with the fact that the Founder fits the bill here. So you can subtract him out, as some have done. Some of his own students simply couldn't deal with the spiritual side of his teaching and they went off and created styles of the art which don't talk about it much. His son, on the other hand, tried to take the art in a direction that fulfilled the mission but didn't require folks to deal with the more obscure aspects of how his father looked at things.

I am not at all saying that you have to look at the whole art exactly as the Founder did. Shinto doesn't "travel" well in my opinion (not like Zen which made the jump to the West and was far more widely disseminated). But a bit of understanding of what the Founder believed can provide the basis for Western teachers to find ways to address the same principles through their Aikido that have meaning and benefit for their students.

Buck
02-04-2009, 09:16 PM
Do you think science can address the question of what wise behavior is?

I don't know? I think there is a danger when people take a man then turn him into a myth that turns him into a deity. All of which is done in order to reflect their own beliefs and behaviors/themselves.

Wayne's world is another rock and roll movie that deals with rock gods. A movie where the fans make rock musicians into gods, and their music into religion.

Peter Goldsbury
02-05-2009, 03:44 AM
Mr Burgess,

I have the thread and have a few questions & comments.

Many of the people I talk to about Aikido and who are not involved with Aikido really throw this question at me often. After telling them superficially about the spiritual thoughts of O'Sensei they say, stuff like, who says O'Sensei knew what he was talking about. They are implying that I don't question him or his wisdom. They think I am make an assumption that his stuff is true and full of wisdom. I am a fool for not thinking he could be B.S.ing and I am fool for it.

Don't you think you were perhaps rather rash to tell them 'superficially' about the spiritual thoughts of O Sensei?

That usually gets me thinking stuff like this. When we really get into Aikido do we just accept O'Sensei as being supremely wise, and he speaks the truth without question?

Well I have never done this and I have trained for 40 years now. I came to aikido after becoming fed up with competitive group sports like soccer and rugby and combined aikido training with long-distance running. I have always regarded aikido as an activity worth doing for itself and not for any further ends . So I have never regarded aikido as a 'way to the truth'. I have never accepted O Sensei as being supremely wise and that he speaks the truth without question.

Of course it is a 'way', not because it ends at a destination, which is 'the truth', but because it is completely open-ended, in the sense that you can become better or worse, but never reach the point when you can say, 'I have finished the journey: there is nothing more to learn'.

Actually, I used to argue about this with some of my teachers. You see, I have had a succession of teachers, all except one being direct deshi of O Sensei, and all different, and so I have never been taught to see the art through the eyes of only one teacher. This is sometimes regarded as anathema by those who think that aikido training consists in finding the right teacher and then entering a relationship of SHU-HA-RI. Are you familiar with these terms? They indicate possible stages in a training relationship with a teacher (not necessarily in aikido).

So, really, I can say that I have never been taught to see O Sensei as a fount of wisdom or truth. He was clearly a formidable martial arts expert, but also a man of his own time, and the way he expressed his vision for the world is quite alien to me. Of course, since living here I have the opportunity to talk to many people who knew him, but many of these, also, found the way he expressed his vision for the world quite alien, and they were Japanese--and much closer to him than me. I have only his discourses to read and ponder on, and supplement with as deep a study of the Japanese language and culture as I am capable of.

You can pose the questions that you have done of a whole load of Japanese founders of religions and martial arts, especially in Japan from the late Tokugawa period onwards? Was Onisaburo Deguchi supremely wise and did he always speak the truth? Morihei Ueshiba probably thought he was and did. Or Jigoro Kano? Or Sokaku Takeda?

Best wishes,

PAG

Walter Martindale
02-05-2009, 04:39 AM
Hmm... Do I press send... Ah what the heck..
I'm going to put my foot in it, and probably get burned badly myself... There's no accounting for the actions of the true believer. allahuakbar (and I know that's just a phonetic spelling of the thoughts that go through the mind of most sewerside bombers just before the explosive charges go through their brains).

There are no gods - humans made them up to explain stuff they couldn't understand. Whether it's Bhudda, Thor, Zeus, Osiris, or Odin, the raven-based creation story of some British Columbia first nations peoples or the god(s?) that the jews, muslims, christians seem to believe exists, they don't exist - every system of gods claims to be the true system of gods. What if none of them are right, and there are no gods? Will the sky fall? Eventually, but not because we believe in or dismiss the existence of gods.

Was O-Sensei wise? Hmm. He trained. He trained hard, and he trained a lot. he also was influenced by ummm religion. He focused his entire life on connecting whatever it was he connected, and through that focus and attention to things that most of us probably don't notice, he developed skills and abilities that we still don't get. He also became very very good at what he did, and as a result created quite a following.

Has science figured out what some expert martial artists do? Not yet, but THERE IS an explanation - we just haven't found it yet. If it would cure cancer or enhance the Space Station project, humans would probably spend tons and tons of money researching and then finally explain the physical, muscular, and neurophysiological things that these expert martial artists can do that seem beyond explanation. It's just not important enough to the world to do the research, considering the number of variables/degrees of freedom.
Part of me envies people who can believe in gods as they can dismiss personal responsibility for moral behaviour and lay it all on their "god" or his "son" or the "ghost" or Muhammad, or, or, or, you name it; part of me pities them, for similar reasons. Gee, gosh, I'm going to treat you nicely because Jesus would poop all over me if I didn't - versus Gee, gosh, I'm going to treat you nicely because that's the right thing to do. One's a guilt trip, one's a moral decision. Gee gosh, you don't believe in god the same way I do so I'm going to kill you and all your relatives, versus Gee gosh, you seem not to agree with me but we can still live and let live...

FWIW, I was raised in what was essentially a Protestant family, and my brother in law is a church minister - but that still doesn't mean gods exist anywhere other than as figments of human imagination.

Or.. was this too off topic?
W

Buck
02-05-2009, 07:36 AM
Mr Burgess,

I have the thread and have a few questions & comments.

Don't you think you were perhaps rather rash to tell them 'superficially' about the spiritual thoughts of O Sensei?



Good question. No, I don't. This is because I am not an expert on the spirituality of O'Sensei. You also have to consider who you are talking too. Most people who are not martial artists that are curious about Aikido are not interest in an in-depth lecture which I can't give. It is too much info for them at first and you loose their interest. Then it also depends on how your deliver system and approach of the information. The results can be negative, like it's too weird, it's a cult, it's a religion you want them to join, or its archaic hippy stuff. It is that type of thing. That is what I mean my superficially; not in great depth or detail of what I know and understand about the spiritual side of Aikido.

The thing that I am concerned about is the feedback I get sometimes or hearing myself talk about it. It leads me to question me, to look at myself and see what I am doing. Am I turning a man into deity, being an educated person am I abandoning my own reasoning? Have I made my own kool-aid? Is in't important for me to take a moment and analyze the situation, to think. Isn't being independent more powerful than being dependent? Should I believe without question that it is the truth? Aikido isn't a religion, is it? Is O'Sensei a deity- or did I make him into one?

It is my understanding and I could be wrong that the Japanese idea of a Sensei in the martial arts points you in the right direction the rest is up to you.

mathewjgano
02-05-2009, 07:36 AM
I don't know? I think there is a danger when people take a man then turn him into a myth that turns him into a deity. All of which is done in order to reflect their own beliefs and behaviors/themselves.

Wayne's world is another rock and roll movie that deals with rock gods. A movie where the fans make rock musicians into gods, and their music into religion.

I'm not sure either, but I suspect science cannot address every facet of reality and I value creative intuition as a means of filling in the blanks. I think you and I agree about the dangers of placing people and ideas on pedestals, but I'm not sure "deify" is the right word here. Waynes World didn't deal with deification of pop-stars (although Jim Morrison is a god:D ), though it did involve idolization which is pretty close to the same thing in many respects.
I guess my point is simply that being dangerous doesn't make it bad, in and of itself. It's human nature to fall in love with awe-inspiring people or ideas and to give yourself over to that which you love. The problem comes when it becomes destructive; when it devalues life.
I would argue no one has much in the way of true knowledge and that we all create our own myths. Today's myths aren't nearly as fantastical as the ancient ones, but they exist and I respectfully submit we all have them to some degree or another. What matters isn't that we misrepresent a truth we're all ignorant of to some degree anyway, but rather what we manifest as a result of those misunderstandings/misrepresentations...in other words, "does it make the world a better place."
Party on!:D
Matt
p.s. I hope you realize you've just created a day full of Wayne's World impersonations! See what you've done!!! Muahahahahhah!

Keith Larman
02-05-2009, 08:02 AM
I remember a saying that the only way to know if someone else is a spiritual person or a fanatic depends on whether you agree with them.

I have deep respect for Aikido. I think the art is full of all sorts of wonderful puzzles for us to work out. I also think some of O-Sensei's words give some insights into life, living, training and direction. But I also try not to forget that those words are and were delivered to us English speakers via not always reliable translations not to mention the assertion that those who knew him personally, fluent Japanese, often didn't understand him either. Or had greatly different interpretations of "his aikido" and meaning. So like with many philosophers and sages *our* interpretations of their words are often more revealing of our own beliefs and needs. Sometimes I'm reminded of Socrates asking questions but taking forever to get to what he really thought himself. Is it so much what he said or is it our process of struggling to understand that make the real difference?

So I don't idolize him. He was a human being. By most accounts a tremendous martial artist. But by some accounts mean, by others wise, by others still all-too-human. But I certainly respect what he did. And I read and struggle to understand. But I'm also very careful not to casually accept or flippantly toss away what I take from that study.

It reminds me of a class I taught to my advanced kids just last week. The hardest part for that teaching kids becoming teenagers is helping them transition from doing being kids that sit quietly in class, listen, then practice to being active students striving to "figure it out" for themselves. In the beginning we need them to sit quietly and learn self-control. But once they have that self control you don't necessarily want them completely subjugating themselves to what they're being taught. Shu-ha-ri. And unlike many who misinterpret that sort of thing it doesn't mean eventually doing their own thing" or "tossing out what doesn't work". What it means is challenging themselves -- struggling with the art, struggling to see deeper, struggling to find higher levels of understanding. You don't progress if you're comfortable with where you are -- you need to find the limitations and be willing to break "things that work" sometimes in order to rise up to a higher level. To me it is kind of like solving just one face of a rubik's cube -- great, but to do the entire cube means being willing to tear that progress apart. It just never ends with Aikido. And aint' that just the coolest thing?

Was he wise? Well, he had some cool things to say that make you think. And his art has influenced a lot of people. Some of those people have really taken the lessons to heart and continuously use the framework to constantly grow and expand and do so well beyond the constraints of the original framework. But keep in mind that many, many more use the very same framework as a place to hide at a comfort level of conformity and externally delivered purpose. They find the parts of the words that fits with what they want/need to believe and proceed to ignore everything else. And it becomes much like a crutch.

I'd rather use it to help me discover the path that is right under my own feet for myself.

So given the art he gave birth to, yes, I think very highly of him. But the issue of the worth of the man can only be answered in context. And there are so many contexts to look at that I think it foolhardy to idolize anyone blindly.

So I think it is a gross oversimplification to assert he was wise, not wise, or anything else really. The hard part is being willing to struggle with what you think you know and understand. And he wasn't exactly the easiest guy to figure out in the first place, was he...

Sorry, not sure of the point but that's my rambling response.
Too early in the morning for deep thoughts. :D

mathewjgano
02-05-2009, 08:31 AM
Sorry, not sure of the point but that's my rambling response.
Too early in the morning for deep thoughts. :D

Seemed like a wise post to me. :)

Erick Mead
02-05-2009, 09:30 AM
I have always regarded aikido as an activity worth doing for itself and not for any further ends . So I have never regarded aikido as a 'way to the truth'.

I have never accepted O Sensei as being supremely wise and that he speaks the truth without question.

Of course it is a 'way', not because it ends at a destination, which is 'the truth', but because it is completely open-ended, ... OK. I will get fairly specific about traditions as they relate to truth, since, as I understand it, you and I share a common foundation in that department. I won't presume to inquire unduly into the present situation in that regard -- the Inquisition was a bad idea to begin with. But having said that, I wonder if you would agree or disagree with the following points ...

1) A Way (being a metaphor let us stick to the concreteness of road image that it is) is open-ended but has only two ends. A road that goes nowhere is not worth much. Two very differently oriented directions coexist on one road. One way leads to the Truth and the other -- well, it doesn't. Sideroads there are but ultimately lead one way or the other, or nowhere, at least with respect to the Way in question. Vine, branches, etc.

2) I find that at the root of what O Sensei is teaching is a practice pointing directly at the Truth in the sense I refer to it -- in his own terms, and the images he uses and some history in his own traditions suggests is it a historical not an analogical connection. Apart from those reasons why it was placed there, a copy of this stone and its inscription have stood at the foot of Koya-san, hard by Tanabe, his hometown, since 1911.

http://books.google.com/books?id=GhKWmQufxvkC&printsec=frontcover&dq=nestorian+monument+in+china&lr=#PPA15,M1

The original dates to 735 documenting about a century of Christian teaching in Tang China, whre KoboDaishi was schooled, after which it was buried until the seventeenth century. Ueshiba could not have failed to note that monument and its erection -- given his interest in syncretic religious thought drawn from Oomoto. Prof. Saeki was a contemporary of Morihei Ueshiba, and documented in his work, among other things in investigating the nature of Keikyo 景教, a Chinese embassy of the seventh century to Japan that seems to have included a Persian monk, prior the writing of Kojiki.

http://ia311515.us.archive.org/1/items/nestorianmove00saekuoft/nestorianmove00saekuoft.pdf

http://eastasian.lib.umn.edu/Nestorian%20Stele%20Article%202008-09-09.pdf

3) O Sensei's references relating his purpose to that of Jesus, and of his spiritual imagery to St. Michael and the fall of the angels and John 1:1 to the basis for kotodama (you yourself have translated) show that these connections are not adventitious. They also show that he did not view himself as aggrandized to the Divine in our terms. As you are aware, to identify oneself with kami, or to be deemed kami by others after death is not the same thing in his terms, as what Jews or Christians view as the Divine. In our terms, that aspect of kami is more like sainthood or angelic (or demonic) status, as he himself specifically draws those parallels above.

4) There are reasons for this art's popularity in the West, and this (largely unremarked) essential affinity between their foundational understandings is significant among those reasons.

Morihei Ueshiba may or may not be wise -- but he partakes of Wisdom and has pointed the Way to it.

Erick Mead
02-05-2009, 09:47 AM
Part of me envies people who can believe in gods as they can dismiss personal responsibility for moral behaviour and lay it all on their "god" or his "son" or the "ghost" or Muhammad, or, or, or, you name it; part of me pities them, for similar reasons.

FWIW, I was raised in what was essentially a Protestant family, and my brother in law is a church minister - but that still doesn't mean gods exist anywhere other than as figments of human imagination.

Or.. was this too off topic?No it isn't. If matter explains everything then morality has no basis. I am but the last domino in a long chain to fall, and it matters not, nor should I care who or how many I hit on my inevitable progress down according to the inexorable force of gravity.

No one lives this way. No one can live this way. Those that profess to, do not do so very seriously, and largely simply continue the practices that were justified by others on a sound moral basis, while denying the justification. When they begin to regularly depart from them, the systemic consequences are notable. People that have tried it very seriously ended up killing other people, not by the hundreds or thousands, but by the millions and tens of millions. They are all just dominos, you see. :freaky:

That is "non-sense." It makes no sense to anyone who has not lost touch with their humanity. And if you are in touch with your humanity you also are in touch with some aspect of the Divine. You can enliven and enlarge that sense by connecting to the same that is in those around you.

That is Aikido -- and it all really is that simple. That does not make it easy, as I know all too well..

As to figments of imagination, what was an airplane before it was realized, what was a submarine? What was an atomic bomb? (not all figments of the imagination that may be realized are good, mind you). Imagination is NOT unreal. We all do really imagine things. They simply remain unrealized. They don't have to stay that way.

The complaint is not that it is not real but that you have not (yet) realized this figment of your imagination. You probably can't build an functioning airplane either, but it doesn't mean you can't learn how, and if you believe you can't if you really set your mind to it -- well, that is just a failure of imagination.

Mark Peckett
02-05-2009, 09:57 AM
Mohammed and Gautama Buddha never professed to be gods (I do think if you're going to de-bunk someone's religion the least you can do is be polite enough to spell the names of its founding members correctly) - they both allowed us to connect to the Divine - that is wise.
Did O'Sensei try to help us connect to the Divine. Yes. He is also wise.

Rob Watson
02-05-2009, 11:40 AM
As a self-proclaimed scientist I find myself puzzled and confused by this thread. I think that is a good state to be in because it requires me to rethink my understanding of things and this is exactly the point of this thread. O'Sensei was a voracious reader (based on what little I've read about his life) and was certainly looking for something - must be because the answers commonly accepted were found not to be acceptable. Perhaps I'm assuming too much about his intent ...

George Ledyard always has something thought provoking to say and since I really like his approach to aikido so I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt. This is certainly a completely unscientific approach or attitude on the face but really it is not. If science has no reasonable solution for a subject then one must draw inspiration from other sources to stimulate further research. Even a cursory study of the history of science will reveal a great many fellows (great scientists) doing quite odd things for inspiration.

What you will find as a common theme is all scientists must believe there is a rational explanation and try to find it - otherwise there is no point to the scientific method. The other thing you will find is science is replete with partial solutions that were proved, not wrong, but incomplete (Newtons law of gravity versus Einstien). It is an ongoing process of discovery - kind of like martial arts practice. If the practitioner constantly asks how does this work, how can it be better and how best can this be transmitted to future generations there will be great progress. If the practitioner simply takes what is given and does it over and over again then there is no progress.

I consider my grasp of gravity to be pretty good. I can even explain it in such a way that others can very quickly reach my level of understanding. This level of understanding does not really give me much control over gravity! I find this to be a very interesting lesson - even a total and complete knowledge of phenomena does not beget control of it. It does however give me a great tool for working with the phenomena. At sometimes the application of such knowledge seems magical - unless the observer is similarly informed in which case a knowing nod and possibly a smile are the result.

Another thing one will find in the study of science is the use of memory tricks to aid in learning. Only a silly person would make the leap that the memory trick is the secret - the trick helps remember the way to the secret. Much the same is found in Mr. Ledyard’s posts - maybe not the scientific explanation but the ability to work around the phenomena. Much like knowing the theory does not really help in the application. Here is a perfect example: E=mc squared is the theory but that does not help much in building a fusion reactor. The guy operating the main switch at the reactor plant what lets the electricity flow from the reactor out onto the power grid may not know anything about the theory but he can work that switch like nobody’s business - probably can even teach others how to do it too. Consider O'Sensei as the guy at the switch not knowing the theory trying to explain the ins and outs of the power unleashed. His students ask "how?" and he says 'look, I flip this switch' and nobody gets it. Or, even worse he says 'E=mc squared' and still nobody gets it.

It is a two way street: knowing the theory put not the application is not too helpful. Knowing the application but not the theory is no better. The two need to meet and the result will be a more effective way of transmission as well as a better ability to wield the tools in novel ways.

I like to put it this way. There are martial sciences and there are martial arts. I would certainly like the emphasis on moving the arts into the sciences. As our understanding grows so does our ability to remove the unknown aspects (the arts) into the known (the science). I very much lean towards solving the mystery but then again life without mystery is pretty danged dull.

Thanks

Keith Larman
02-05-2009, 04:25 PM
Well, as a guy who worked for too many years in research who came from a family of (literally) rocket scientists... I find the thread quite curious myself. One thing I distinctly remember is talking with a physicist friend about the scientific method and some of the stuff we can pull off in Aikido. When speaking of physical phenomena if the event is not explicable then it is not a "failure" of science. It just means the "reality" is currently "out of focus" given our conceptual framework. Sometimes we're just not up to the task yet. Think of all the advances made after Einstein's two papers. Or think of what happened once quantum theory hit the scene -- a veritable explosion of ideas, explanations and then technology that was "impossible" before followed quickly thereafter. Up until those moments the science just wasn't up to particular task yet. It doesn't make it magic. It doesn't mean science is a failure. It just means the right person hasn't come along yet who figures it out.

And Aikido is a marvelous intersection of physical action (physics) and intentionality (psychology) mixed with autonomic reactions (more biology). What a mess... ;)

Of course that doesn't mean there aren't perfectly good ways to learn these things that miss the mark in terms of absolute accuracy. Heck, we all use visualization, metaphor, analogies to help students understand all sorts of things. And saying "imagine your arm is a firehose" sounds awfully odd if you step back a bit. But it can be a good way to understand the feeling of extension and "ki flowing". So it works fine. But it doesn't preclude a more complete scientific explanation. Of course the scientific explanation may turn out to be of little help in teaching the feeling. But that doesn't invalidate the explanation either.

I'm very happy to accept that there are things I see my sensei do that I can't explain or duplicate. That's one reason I like this stuff so much. But that doesn't make it outside the realm of scientific understanding any more than it makes it "magic". It just makes it something I need to understand better to understand. Maybe I'll never understand what my sensei can do. But that is no different from pre-Newtonian's not understanding why the apple falls down from the tree. They may not have an accurate understanding, but it still falls down. And it ain't magic earth ghostly spirits bringing the apple to a more contented place closer to the supposed center of the universe anymore than the sun is a god racing across the sky...

It is what it is. But figuring what that 'is' 'is' is the tough part... :D

Baby with the bathwater. ;)

Walter Martindale
02-05-2009, 04:33 PM
No it isn't. If matter explains everything then morality has no basis. I am but the last domino in a long chain to fall, and it matters not, nor should I care who or how many I hit on my inevitable progress down according to the inexorable force of gravity.
(snip)


Ouch. Well. That's one interpretation.
And Mark - I apologise for my spelling errors. I don't like it when others mis-spell or mis-state my name, so.. sorry.

Erick: It took me a few readings to get what you're saying because I try not to be too negative in the way I live. Essentially I think you're telling me that because I don't believe in a divine being, I'm automatically condemned to be a sociopath. I'm going to post this and then not get into a great long argument because I'm not that eloquent and I know I won't convince true religious believers that there's nothing out there because they believe some dusty 2000 year old book that's been translated and interpreted from it's original concepts of a bunch of people trying to explain natural phenomena that they didn't understand or have the tools to explore. (whew - long sentence.)

I don't need the crutch of religion or a "divine" being to behave morally, and to treat others as I would have others treat me. I want you to be polite to me, so I'm polite to you. And so on. Essentially, your right to swing your fist ends just before it makes contact with the ends of the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin.

I coach for a living - I don't treat the athletes as ignorant little twerps, because I know that they're there to learn, to improve their abilities, and I'm there to help them develop. My aim is to help them have a good experience in this sport and develop into kind, caring, hard working, successful people through sport. They choose to let me coach them. Do I need a god to do this? No. I think one of the most ridiculous things you can see in a sports arena is a bunch of stud-muffins circling up and begging on some dead charismatic guy, whose body got snatched about 2000 years ago, to guide their hands (funny - the other team does it too). Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition (a song from WW1). I don't understand what happened - must be a god...

Each society has different standards of morality. What's considered moral behaviour in one society is blasphemous in other societies. For example, if you or I, as decent people in our own societies, went to some parts of the Asian subcontinent, we'd be imprisoned or perhaps killed because we aren't members of a particular religion, or clan, or family. Similar things happen in the Balkans (according to some Balkan friends of mine).

Back to O-Sensei. He is reputed to have had amazing abilities of perception - or - he could observe and act upon things we miss - pick up signals about people's intentions as the intentions were forming. He could sense disturbances in the air around him, probably feel movements of the floor/ground when people near him walked, and it was difficult or impossible to sneak up on him. The thread elsewhere about the hunter and O-Sensei bowing out of the test indicated that the hunter was a technically proficient shooter who was skilled at hitting a target without emotional connection or without giving away signals that would indicate his intent. Good thing O-Sensei recognized the shooter's skill, or we'd have had a lot less Aikido in the world. Was there a god involved? I doubt it very much - just a couple of extremely skilled people who recognized the other's skills. The other day at Aikido I observed that we're all still beginners compared to Ueshiba O-Sensei, and if we ever got past his abilities, we'd be able to replace his portrait with ours - ain't gonna happen. Was he wise? Hmm. Deep thinker with a one-track mind - I guess that's one interpretation of wisdom.

Oh well... We may never agree. Live long and prosper - allow me the same.
Cheers,
Walter

C. David Henderson
02-05-2009, 04:59 PM
I recall a seminar in grad school about shamanism (a long time ago). We looked at a number studies about the techniques used around the world to induce trances. There were explanations and theories about how certain rituals caused the nervous system to react, and reports about the trance states themselves from both the perspective of the participant and the observer.

But it seemed to me the explanations fell short.

They really didn't, for example, explain why the people in the trance state experienced the things they reported.

Nor would they have been of much help if you wanted a practical guide to "trancing."

And they didn't even begin to touch upon the epistemological and ontological claims inherent in the raison d'etre of the underlying rituals and cultural beliefs -- they simply juxtaposed an observer's language for what was happening physiologically for a participant's account of what it meant.

I like scientific discussions of aikido; and I don't think there is something about the physics of an aikido interaction that can't -- in theory -- be "explained" scientifically.

But neither do I think those explanations, forthcoming or not, exhaust the phenomenon of practice, any more than a behaviorist's refusal to consider what goes on inside the organism "responding" to a "stimulus" negates the existence of consciousness.

As for the "spiritual" explanations themselves, like some other posters, I think the work of Joseph Campbell provides a useful perspective for an empirically minded, Western-educated, secular person to approach an understanding of myth and religion that provides room for them to have meaning -- to be more than grunts and sounds referring to some raw emotional response.

When science is thrust forward to displace myth and religion, I believe it tends to misuse science as religion.

FWIW.

Buck
02-05-2009, 07:03 PM
p.s. I hope you realize you've just created a day full of Wayne's World impersonations! See what you've done!!! Muahahahahhah!

DOH!

Buck
02-05-2009, 07:58 PM
I think many people, which I don't judge, who support myth's role in the human experience by default have to believe gods exist. I think that has to do with O'Sensei as well. The Japanese during and before his life-time where very superstitious, tied into the idea of the existence of Kama's. I am sure when science was introduced it had a big impact on the explanation of things. What if science came into being at the same time in Japan as in the west how would that have changed O'Sensei's outlook on life. That would be a good new topic.

But, um...I think even religion, and other myths and not just science discredits other myths and gods as nothing more than imagination. Here again just not science, but religion and myth leads one to question. A very important thing that is over-looked in many arguments of those who are pro-myth - I think it is unintentional. I don't know if O'Sensei really offered anything new or unique rather than making a shift in his beliefs from feudal warrior to modern civilian. I think that transition required a religious base. Much like alt of solider's who go through a similar transformation because of war. Many soldiers who are not necessarily religious become very religious at due to the experience of war. That could have happened to O'Sensei.

O'Sensei combined martial arts (which he didn't originate) with religion, and martial arts philosophy (which was an established standard)and that doesn't mean I should turn him in to an all wise sage , then a myth and then a god and not question. If you question you are genuine in learning and understanding of Aikido.

I am not out to get O'Sensei. I am sure he had personal life wisdom that came from the experience of living and training. :)

Peter Goldsbury
02-05-2009, 08:12 PM
OK. I wonder if you would agree or disagree with the following points ...

1) No. You have narrowed down the scope of the metaphor too much.

2) I am not sure of the point you are making here. It seems to be the same as 3), but in different words.

3) You have not pointed to any significant differences between Omoto treatment of the Bible and O Sensei's.

4) Whose 'foundational understandings'? I do not believe that the art's popularity or not in the West is of any relevance to the points I made in my post. So I neither agree or disagree.

Best wishes,

PAG

Peter Goldsbury
02-05-2009, 08:22 PM
Good question. No, I don't. This is because I am not an expert on the spirituality of O'Sensei. You also have to consider who you are talking too. Most people who are not martial artists that are curious about Aikido are not interest in an in-depth lecture which I can't give. It is too much info for them at first and you loose their interest. Then it also depends on how your deliver system and approach of the information. The results can be negative, like it's too weird, it's a cult, it's a religion you want them to join, or its archaic hippy stuff. It is that type of thing. That is what I mean my superficially; not in great depth or detail of what I know and understand about the spiritual side of Aikido.

Well, I have read all your posts on AikiWeb and this provides the basis for my idea of who I am talking to. Many Japanese people ask similar questions, but they are not so generally hung about about cults, religion or 'archaic hippy stuff'. Thy are not martial artists either and their curiosity rests on a vague idea that aikido is 'like karate, but more spiritual', for example. Though I probably could do so, the one thing I avoid doing is attempt to explain O Sensei's spirituality. This is why I thought it might be rather rash to do so.

Best wishes,

PAG

Erick Mead
02-05-2009, 10:17 PM
1) No. You have narrowed down the scope of the metaphor too much. Ah.

2) I am not sure of the point you are making here. It seems to be the same as 3), but in different words.

3) You have not pointed to any significant differences between Omoto treatment of the Bible and O Sensei's. Taken as a whole, O Sensei's teaching is a better fit to St. Jerome's commentary on 1 Cor. 4-11:"All that is true, by whomsoever it has been said, is from the Holy Spirit." I can reconcile this with the Oomoto concept, which he certainly held, bankyo dokon. However, in the more humble (but expectant) terms that O Sensei speaks of it in the Takemusu Aiki talks, for instance, it is a good fit, whereas the, shall I say, more arch tone of presumption and over-specificity of spiritual events in Oomoto's direct writings does not give me that same comfort. His emphasis on love as final and primary and the concrete nature of his approach is distinctive from Deguchi.

4) Whose 'foundational understandings'? I do not believe that the art's popularity or not in the West is of any relevance to the points I made in my post. So I neither agree or disagree.Those of Oomoto's take on the basis for Shinto spirituality and those of Western, and specifically, Christian spirituality. You raised the point when you noted the "alien" nature of O Sensei's spiritual leanings to many of his more mundane contemporaries. That is plainly contrasted to the strong spiritual elements often identified by many Western practioners, who apparently find it rather "less alien." It is a contrast that bears explaining.

Whether we resolve Saeki's thesis of a hidden ur-Christian template in Japanese culture as a provable matter of history or not -- it is a rubric with points of commonality that is more than mere simile and strains coincidence -- as Oomoto, and more importantly, Ueshiba, took it to be. And the experience of Aikido in the West suggests that their assumption as to this commonality was not mislaid.

Ultimately, it seems fairly straightforward to see Ueshiba as being more influential in the world in the future than Deguchi, if for no other reason than his spirituality is embodied in a strong praxis with this seemingly inherent spiritual appeal to the West. I think many of the assumptions of Oomoto, such as bankyo dokon, were essentially correct, I simply do not necessarily agree that their conclusions always are. On this point Ueshiba has the better end of the discussion, because his focus is on practice.

Erick Mead
02-05-2009, 10:31 PM
Ouch. Well. That's one interpretation.
And Mark - I apologise for my spelling errors. I don't like it when others mis-spell or mis-state my name, so.. sorry.

Erick: It took me a few readings to get what you're saying because I try not to be too negative in the way I live. Essentially I think you're telling me that because I don't believe in a divine being, I'm automatically condemned to be a sociopath. No, you are fine. You have a deep patrimony to mine for a while. You do not question or even acknowledge the source of that moral patrimony you depend upon. My children will not be hunting you or your children down to take your stuff and enslave you, but my children's children's childern -- that I cannot promise, if things keep on. That patrimony will be exhausted unless it is refreshed. As it slowly loses its potency, sociopathy is rising and will continue to rise. It has happened before; it is happening now. It will happen unless we see it for what it is.

I'm going to post this and then not get into a great long argument because I'm not that eloquent and I know I won't convince true religious believers that there's nothing out there because they believe some dusty 2000 year old book that's been translated and interpreted from it's original concepts of a bunch of people trying to explain natural phenomena that they didn't understand or have the tools to explore. (whew - long sentence.) That's not why I believe. I believe to understand. There is no other way, and I cannot explain it unless you do. You have to change your mind to understand. But the blind man cannot easily tell the green fruit from the ripe one, without first tasting bitterness.

Buck
02-05-2009, 11:12 PM
Well, I have read all your posts on AikiWeb and this provides the basis for my idea of who I am talking to. Many Japanese people ask similar questions, but they are not so generally hung about about cults, religion or 'archaic hippy stuff'. Thy are not martial artists either and their curiosity rests on a vague idea that aikido is 'like karate, but more spiritual', for example. Though I probably could do so, the one thing I avoid doing is attempt to explain O Sensei's spirituality. This is why I thought it might be rather rash to do so.

Best wishes,

PAG

I see. what I see is as an American I got hung up on what Americans get hung up on. We take religion seriously it is part of our nation, and our morality. We want a president who is religious, or at least fakes it, vs. a certified Atheist. We have freedom of religion as part of our nation. Which isn't something stressed I bet in Japan. So when something like Aikido comes along and we are looking for something that spiritually or religiously fit us that reflects us we are very committed to it, and will fight furiously to defend it. Often without really understanding it, like we should.

Now we are often zealous and we will communicate and try and persuade what we believe intensely. I have done that in many threads saying that people read into what O'Sensei said to fit them, to reflect them, etc. since it is easy to do. Why? Because O'Sensei's words are alien (Japanese) vague and abstract which are like playdough and we change mold or shape to our liking. We filter the world to enforce, shape and mold what we believe, and in ways we want to believe it. This gives us a way for us to have our preconceived notions confirmed. All in all it is a way to tailor O'Sensei's spiritual thoughts to our liking, to make him like us. Well, as if we where a god. I repeating the human into a myth into a deity thing. That is the hang up.

I want to start thinking about what I am thinking. I want to get it right and communicate it properly to myself and others. Maybe the Japanese don't think that way. I don't know I am not Japanese. In any case, I am an American struggling with an unusual Japanese philosophy that is very vague and abstract to understand, yet has parts that are seemingly very similar to me that I relate to that reflect me. Therefore I don't question, or see things from a different view or in the original context. I might take it too seriously then intended etc. That can then be a problem, solved my questioning, being someone who thinks about what they are thinking. From a Japanese prespective I am probably very rash when I speak about Aikido. Something I never thought of. I guess it is good to break the bubble.

Keith Larman
02-06-2009, 12:08 AM
I see. what I see is as an American I got hung up on what Americans get hung up on. We take religion seriously it is part of our nation, and our morality. We want a president who is religious, or at least fakes it, vs. a certified Atheist.

Speak for yourself. Quite a large part of the population think all that religious stuff should be totally irrelevant to political life, morality, etc. And quite a few of them are moral, upstanding pillars of society I might add. I must admit I find your broadly brushed strokes to be part of the reason why these discussions degrade so very quickly.

Peter Goldsbury
02-06-2009, 12:48 AM
I see. what I see is as an American I got hung up on what Americans get hung up on. We take religion seriously it is part of our nation, and our morality. We want a president who is religious, or at least fakes it, vs. a certified Atheist. We have freedom of religion as part of our nation. Which isn't something stressed I bet in Japan. So when something like Aikido comes along and we are looking for something that spiritually or religiously fit us that reflects us we are very committed to it, and will fight furiously to defend it. Often without really understanding it, like we should.

The Japanese had to institute freedom of religion back in the Meiji period, as part of the opening of Japan to foreign trade. So they actually had to coin new words for the concept. I think that the reason why freedom of religion is not stressed so much here, as you state, is that religion is not understood in the same way. It is a source of great interest to foreigners here that many Japanese people are born and die as Buddhists, marry as Christians and live their daily lives as Shintoists--and see no contradiction whatever.

The way I see aikido now is partly due to the way I was taught before coming to live in Japan. My Japanese teachers hardly ever mentioned O Sensei and so I must have trained for many years without ever thinking about the question whether he was wise or had access to the Truth. These questions would not have meant much anyway, for, as I stated, this was not why I was practising the art. Now I know much more about O Sensei than I ever did before, but this knowledge has not changed my basic view of the art.

Best wishes,

PAG

Peter Goldsbury
02-06-2009, 01:06 AM
Those of Oomoto's take on the basis for Shinto spirituality and those of Western, and specifically, Christian spirituality. You raised the point when you noted the "alien" nature of O Sensei's spiritual leanings to many of his more mundane contemporaries. That is plainly contrasted to the strong spiritual elements often identified by many Western practioners, who apparently find it rather "less alien." It is a contrast that bears explaining.

With great respect, I think your comment is rather American-centered and breathtakingly general. I think that explaining "this art's popularity in the West" is quite different from explaining why "many Western practitioners" find "the strong spiritual elements they often" identify "less alien". The two might occasionally coincide, but are not the same. As the elected head of a large international aikido federation, I suspect I am on fairly strong ground here.

Best wishes,

PAG

dps
02-06-2009, 07:10 AM
I would think that one of the benchmarks of a wise person would be his followers or disciples. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, had people who lived when they did, learned and understood what they taught and continued their teachings well after they died.

Who are O'Sensei's disciples that learned his religious beliefs from him, understood what he was saying and continued his beliefs after his death. His son didn't, and as far as I know none of his students did or are doing.

David

Buck
02-06-2009, 07:11 AM
My Japanese teachers hardly ever mentioned O Sensei and so I must have trained for many years without ever thinking about the question whether he was wise or had access to the Truth.
Best wishes,

PAG

Yea, westerners like myself and like other non-Japanese with strong religious influence focus so much on the leader to guide us to the truth, or give us answers, or guide us in someway, or to fulfill us etc. We transfer that structure to O'Sensei. Maybe it isn't fair to O'Sensei to think of him as wise. Rather putting emphasis (in a really abstract way) on what he thought could better society and the world, the change from violence to non-violence. Rather than what I was shifting to see him like the guy who will take me from sin to salvation, confusion to enlightenment, or being a delivery system of wisdom. Just a comment.

mathewjgano
02-06-2009, 07:12 AM
I think many people, which I don't judge, who support myth's role in the human experience by default have to believe gods exist

Why do you think this is the case? I think I support the role of myth in human experience and I do not believe god(s) exist. I do not believe they don't exist either. I try to suspend belief where ever I can.
For me at least, myth is usually like a parable. Like a koan, meaning is discovered through individual consideration.

Buck
02-06-2009, 07:20 AM
Why do you think this is the case? I think I support the role of myth in human experience and I do not believe god(s) exist. I do not believe they don't exist either. I try to suspend belief where ever I can.
For me at least, myth is usually like a parable. Like a koan, meaning is discovered through individual consideration.

My thought was pretty basic. And it is because mythology works hand in hand (inseparable) with the idea of gods.

RonRagusa
02-06-2009, 08:30 AM
Many of the people I talk to about Aikido and who are not involved with Aikido really throw this question at me often. After telling them superficially about the spiritual thoughts of O'Sensei they say, stuff like, who says O'Sensei knew what he was talking about. They are implying that I don't question him or his wisdom. They think I am make an assumption that his stuff is true and full of wisdom. I am a fool for not thinking he could be B.S.ing and I am fool for it.

That usually gets me thinking stuff like this. When we really get into Aikido do we just accept O'Sensei as being supremely wise, and he speaks the truth without question? I was watching this show about this cult that was started in the 60's by a Baptist or some type of minister. he attracted a lot of followers, it got really big. And lasted for decades. It was all about love and stuff that was similar to what O'Sensei said. And plus Aikido got big in the US in the 60's. The people in the cult really where into what this minister turn cult leader who was telling them stuff to believe that was a mix of Christianity, the stuff of the 60's movement- free love etc, and western philosophy. His huge group of followers ate it up, and his cult grew to thousands all over the place.

My point how am I not different from a cult follower who doesn't question what I am being told. I automatically assume what O'Sensei says (what I can understand - even that is in question) makes him automatically accept him as being of perfect wisdom. Wisdom and direction that will properly guide my life and lead me to what I desire- happiness, bliss, etc. Should I stop and think about hero worshiping O'Sensei (as they see it) and consider maybe his words are not all that wise, powerful, enlightening and having all the answers. Is his words and ideas able to bring me to that spiritual advancement that so many are looking for, and we are so devoted to without question. A spiritual place that we can't come to by ourselves?

As human I think we search for answers from others, for some gawd awful reason. Maybe it is because we are a social creature, and have some need to follow one person. We see it so strongly in society, religion and politics. Why we need leaders in so many parts of our lives is a huge question for me. I am not saying Aikido is like that cult there are differences, really important differences, that I didn't talk about. But what I am saying is that for some reason we have to look to other human's -who are human like us- for things that are really beyond what humans can do, or be, especially with spirituality.

I am wondering if there are others who see this differently or the same.

I think it's easy to confuse O Sensei's message with the imagery he used to explain it. His message, at least to me, is pretty clear; Aikido as a martial art transcends conflict in ways that bring people together rather than driving them apart. Getting caught up in the form of his delivery only serves to cloud the message unnecessarily. All the fuss over gods, spirits, purple hazes, golden rain and all the other trappings of mysticism is just smoke. A good stiff breeze blows it all away.

My spirituality lies within me and Aikido, as I practice it, gives me an opportunity to unify mind, body and spirit.

Ron

Mark Peckett
02-06-2009, 08:54 AM
Once again to return to the central question: who sez O'Sensei was was wise.

In Christian theology (Mark 11:12-14) Jesus cursed a fig tree which did not bear fruit when he was hungry.

The Buddha is on record as say "a nun who has been ordained even for a century ... must do homage to a monk ordained but that day."

Mohammed, confronted by resistance from local merchants in Mecca to Islam is reported to have accepted 3 local deities. He soon withdrew the acceptance saying that Sat6an placed the words on his tongue.

So, a man so angry he cursed a tree which had no control over whether it was bearing fruit at a time when the Son of God was hungry.

A man who was a sexist.

And a man apparently fooled by the Devil.

Now do we disregard the wisdom of these world religions because these men made mistakes. Jesus may have been the Son of God but he was also a man, prone to the emotions of man. The Buddha, who taught the world how to perceive reality directly, as a man influenced by the culture in which he grew up, had attitudes to women that we in the 21st century would disagree with. And Mohammed, the last prophet of God, because of a situation which might have seen the end of his nascent religion, succumbed to the blandishments of Gibreel.

Of course we don't. We see the wisdom in much (or all if you are a follower of that particular faith) of what they said - and we forgive them their failings.

Why should O'Sensei be treated differently? I've never in nearly 30 years of practice been in a dojo which treated him as a god (and I would question the advisability of practising in a dojo that did); I acknowledge that on occasion he was tricky and that some of his teachings are contradictory. But the core of Aikido, its marital arts practice and its spiritual teachings - are they wise? Without doubt.

And surely it is that spirit of appreciation of the best in (wo)mankind and forgiveness of the worst that we should bring onto the mat in our own practice.

Erick Mead
02-06-2009, 09:28 AM
With great respect, I think your comment is rather American-centered and breathtakingly general. I think that explaining "this art's popularity in the West" is quite different from explaining why "many Western practitioners" find "the strong spiritual elements they often" identify "less alien". The two might occasionally coincide, but are not the same. As the elected head of a large international aikido federation, I suspect I am on fairly strong ground here.I respect your authority and the trust others have reposed in you, for reasons that are obvious in these forums. That does not alter the observation or the place from which that observation is made -- which I will fully admit comes from a definitively Western (American) perspective.

I am hardly the cultural imperialist. I have been touched almost as much at the DaiButsu and Hachimangu in Kamakura, as I have by the call of the muezzin across the Temple Mount to the Lions Gate, and I follow neither tradition. I nevertheless find rich value in specifically Japanese spiritual practices and thinking. That does not mean I agree with all of it either.

The fact that any person or culture may perceive a thing to be true in the contingent development of their own history, in one aspect, does not mean they fully comprehend their own position (my own included) or how they arrived at it (or that they care all that much, frankly) -- any more than an assailant's assumption that he will remain standing after taking a swing is an accurate assessment of the contingent development of the situation at hand.

But when those cultural religious factors intersect with others it IS important to see how those things developed apart to better see how they may (or might better) develop in conjunction. This is especially so if there is some actual historical connection underlying them, because they might no be so "alien" after all. Atsutane was always suspected of being influenced by Kakure Kurishitan thinking or "Dutch" knowledge, and Saeki suggests this influence is deeper and even affecting the primary sources, such as Kojiki, which is most suggestive in the Sanshin Zouka.

For this reason I referenced Saeki's work which has languished because of the War and the Communist revolution in China that cut off research until relatively recently, and that line of reserach is being rvived from more intensive consideration of the Dunhuang documents and the Chinese sources about the Tang period as it influenced Asuka/Nara era Japan. His is hardly an "American-centered" perspective -- and his points are far from mere generality, even if they do represent a more nineteenth century style of scholarship.

The fact that such ideas have been taken to ill effect (IMO) by such as Deguchi, does not mean that others having ideas flowing from that source (Ueshiba) cannot redeem the value that is in them, nor that the ideas themselves are of less value or not worth considering, even so. There is commonality in these two cultures beyond the idea that Aikido is "like karate, but more spiritual," but hinted at even in that basic thought of the ordinary uninformed person in both places.

mathewjgano
02-06-2009, 09:52 AM
My thought was pretty basic. And it is because mythology works hand in hand (inseparable) with the idea of gods.

I may be wrong, but I don't think myth is inseperable from the idea of gods. The famous myths most people think about are the classics which just happened to originated in polytheistic cultures...Some would assert the Bible is a montheistic myth. And I would say there are modern day myths that have nothing to do with any concept of the divine.
My sense of myth comes from my classics courses (what I was able to retain, at any rate:o ) in which they are treated as forms of history. It's not so much what they literally express that is important, but rather the information we can glean from between the lines. For example, I think if Homer, and not Plato, had written the Allegory of the Cave, we might call it myth instead of an allegory...that is, assuming Homer even existed.

Keith Larman
02-06-2009, 11:52 AM
Mythology no more requires gods than does religion. Nor does moral theory require religion. Lots of good, solid philosophy out there that doesn't require divine beings. And lots of mythology is just "tales of old". Religions generally would fall into the category of mythology (except the religion of each person reading this post -- yours is the exception of course -- please don't send me hate mail) but not all mythology is religion based. Kinda like the old logic chestnut that all cats are animals, but not all animals are cats...

Legendary stories become mythology. Many have the religious overtones of their times involved, but that does not mean mythology requires divine beings. Although I have no idea what the heck that has to do with o-sensei being wise or magically dodging bullets.

I figure if some want to consider o-sensei to somehow be a divine being, more power to them. Seems rather odd to me given some of the things he said and did over his lifetime. But whatever floats your boat, I've never been too impressed with most of the divine beings in most religions. But it did remind me of the expression on the face of the chair of the religious studies department back when I notified him I was going make sure I had the credits to get my degree in philosophy *and* religious studies. That was a divine moment of cognitive dissonance for him... ;)

All that said, was he wise? Sure, if you agree with what he said, obviously he must be, right?

In all seriousness I do not understand the great necessity some feel to elevate a man to god-like status. We're all "all-too-human". Some do better in their lives, others do worse. Some have effects that ripple out in great waves, others not so much. O-sensei obviously was a big-wave guy and he has left us with a scintillating bunch of things to consider. But lets allow him the luxury of being "merely" human with some good ideas about some stuff and some really fantastic martial abilities.

I'm checking outta this one now...

Ah, yes, topics I promise myself never to discuss on-line. Religion, politics or the basis of morality. I seem to have violated two of my own commandments... :cool:

Erick Mead
02-06-2009, 12:47 PM
Mythology no more requires gods than does religion. Nor does moral theory require religion. Lots of good, solid philosophy out there that doesn't require divine beings. Philosophy requires a good deal of reasoning to reliably use as a moral template for decision. Ordinary morality has not time (nor can afford the expense) of careful reasoning in every situation. Morality is not irrational -- but it is pre-rational.

And let's face it, as a societal matter most of the reasoning out there simply is not that good. Most people's factual assumptions upon whatever reasoning they do engage is not as well-informed as a really sound argument would require. Voltaire was no slouch in the reasoning department, but he held you not only should not but could not, dispense with the Divine sanction, purely as a matter of necessity in stabilizing a durable human society. It seems we may be out to test that hypothesis. Early results do not look promising.

Ah, yes, topics I promise myself never to discuss on-line. Religion, politics or the basis of morality. I seem to have violated two of my own commandments... :cool:So how 'bout them Cardinals, huh?

mathewjgano
02-06-2009, 01:08 PM
Although I have no idea what the heck that has to do with o-sensei being wise or magically dodging bullets.


It was a bit of a tangent, sorry. We were discussing how myths can be bad (as it relates to the myths surrounding O Sensei, of course). I asked why people who supported myths necessarily were believers of god(s), an assertion of Bucks. I meant for it to support my notion that myths don't necessarily lead to religious implications (e.g. "cult-like" behavior).

Keith Larman
02-06-2009, 02:53 PM
Philosophy requires a good deal of reasoning to reliably use as a moral template for decision. Ordinary morality has not time (nor can afford the expense) of careful reasoning in every situation.

No one said morality is easy. Religion offers a convenient framework. But since when is convenience relevant? Just because the alternative is uncomfortable does not make the alternative incorrect.

I get my moral imperatives from the voices in my head... Excellent, louder and louder each and every day. Huh? What? Oh, yes, time to go sharpen the swords... ;)

Keith Larman
02-06-2009, 02:55 PM
It was a bit of a tangent, sorry. We were discussing how myths can be bad (as it relates to the myths surrounding O Sensei, of course). I asked why people who supported myths necessarily were believers of god(s), an assertion of Bucks. I meant for it to support my notion that myths don't necessarily lead to religious implications (e.g. "cult-like" behavior).

No worries, I'm usually rather confused by Buck's posts anyway. I just don't seem to live in the same reality. He must have different voices in his head...

Ah, reminders of the old Julian Jaynes theories... Must listen to voices and get the heck off of the computer... :)

Peter Goldsbury
02-06-2009, 05:11 PM
I am hardly the cultural imperialist. I have been touched almost as much at the DaiButsu and Hachimangu in Kamakura, as I have by the call of the muezzin across the Temple Mount to the Lions Gate, and I follow neither tradition. I nevertheless find rich value in specifically Japanese spiritual practices and thinking. That does not mean I agree with all of it either.

Apologies if my last post to you was couched in stronger terms than you would have liked.

I think that Onisaburo Deguchi's theology, for want of a better term, and the ways that Morihei Ueshiba adapted, improved, or simply used this theology, are matters of some importance in their own right. Thus Prof. Saeki's researches have a place. (Of course, like any research, it has to be examined and evaluated.) So, I do not believe that the 'medium' and the 'message'--including the provenance of both--can be separated to the extent that Ron Ragusa appears to believe.

What I take issue with is the thesis that the theology of Deguchi and/or Ueshiba--have made any significant contribution to the popularity of aikido in "the West", even the "many Western practitioners" who find "the strong spiritual elements" that they often" identify "less alien" than the Japanese who could not understand Ueshiba's discourses (because, like K Chiba, they had not been educated to be receptive to such discourses).

I have just read Riki Morris's novel based on Terry Dobson's life and this led me to reread Aikido in America. Even here, the 'aikido life' depicted is quite different from years I spent in the New England Aikikai in the 1970s with Mitsunari Kanai (and we never discussed such issues as whether O Sensei was wise). Henry Ellis has a splendid website all about the early growth of aikido in the UK, in which people like K Chiba played a major role. Nobuyoshi Tamura wrote a book called Methode Nationale, in which he tried to sketch out a syllabus for aikido training in France. These Japanese shihans, who found O Sensei's discourses 'alien', made the major contribution to the popularity of aikdo in 'the west' and Omoto theology, even Morihei Ueshiba's cosmological theology, figured not at all.

So I think this is a matter on which we will have to agree to differ.

Best wishes,

PAG

Erick Mead
02-06-2009, 09:48 PM
Apologies if my last post to you was couched in stronger terms than you would have liked. :p You'll have to hit me harder than that. As an attorney, as well as a budoka, hand my proverbial head to me -- if I deserve it. I'm fine. :)

I think that Onisaburo Deguchi's theology, for want of a better term, .. and an exceedingly charitable term ... ... and the ways that Morihei Ueshiba adapted, improved, or simply used this theology, are matters of some importance in their own right. Thus Prof. Saeki's researches have a place. (Of course, like any research, it has to be examined and evaluated.) So, I do not believe that the 'medium' and the 'message'--including the provenance of both--can be separated to the extent that Ron Ragusa appears to believe. I find that medium and the message are usually distinct, if inextricably interwoven. Warp and woof.

The whole context of two hundred years of an increasing and increasingly sophisticated Christian presence in the high circles of the Tang capital, working closely with Buddhist institutions when the Sinophile Japanese Court was soaking it all up, contemporaneous with the adoption of Chinese script to write the Kojiki, I find a fruitful and interesting topic to continue digging into.

I have Saeki's 1911 book on the Xian monument, but if you find his 1937 book on the Dunhuang texts ("Jesus sutras"), I would love to have even a facsimile copy, as it is near impossible to find, and this was the last printing I have reference to : P. Yoshiro Saeki: The Nestorian Relics and Documents in China, (1937). Tokyo: Maruzen, 1951. Gillman et al have a book from 1999 but it is not an original translation and follows Saeki in its more limited selections. Palmer's book is a new translation (even if he and John Stevens might well have been school chums, spiritually speaking, in terms of the enthusiasm and "personal" views of the material). The translation certainly is well-vetted in the credentials department and seems OK to my halting eye (Classical Chinese is tough, religious text much tougher -- and foreign religious text in Chinese -- well ... .) Having Saeki's original full translation would be nice, as would be his works on Uzumasa 大秦 and the links he finds to the DaQin 大秦 and the Hata 大秦, for which I have only secondary references.

What I take issue with is the thesis that the theology of Deguchi and/or Ueshiba--have made any significant contribution to the popularity of aikido in "the West", ... Ah.. then you take me amiss. I doubt that "theology" such as it is, is remotely concerned, in that it is a more visceral sensibility I mean -- what one comes away with as an untutored observer, "beginner's mind" as the saying goes -- aspects perceived at the naive level, I find, have affinities in Ueshiba's more developed tone and focus -- and then his choices of emphasis -- even when deep in his own tradition -- speak far more to that "gut" focus and away from that of Deguchi. Since I see Ueshiba as a very "gut" thinker, shall we say, I will claim some justification from his pattern.

...These Japanese shihans, who found O Sensei's discourses 'alien', made the major contribution to the popularity of aikdo in 'the west' and Omoto theology, even Morihei Ueshiba's cosmological theology, figured not at all. I trained under Chiba for most of year during a schedule conflict in law school back, oh, 94'-95. He's got what I'm talking about and not a drop of theology about him. He seems to have gotten pure joy out of anyone who was very serious about what they were doing, and the more serious, the happier he seemed. While he has his critics (and probably some valid criticisms, who doesn't have those?), his gut sensibility -- and his is hardly "tender" -- capture some of this. (People who thought they were more serious than they really were, are a likely source of his critics, I should think). I dislocated a toe (wholly my stupidity) that he reset for me on the mat -- and like a light switch saw a quite different part of it in him, very different, but yet the same. It may similarly be the nature of Ueshiba in his practice is what drew those of such a nature to him, who knows?

That's why I consistently point to the practice as the seminal value, even while I dig out conceptual elements that I earlier perceived in a manner far less intellectually. They are also present in the deeper portions of what Ueshiba seems to have been trying to say, through Kojiki and his idiosyncratic imagery, insofar as I can (in translation and halting primary source access) determine.

The very differing nature of the intuitive an analytic forms of understanding makes it hard to draw strict parallels between them -- but it is no more disconnected than my center and uke's back foot, though I cannot say exactly where the line runs quite yet, of this much I am fairly certain and can in limited ways even argue to useful conclusions. More remains to be done, and for which I am grateful for your continued effort, even though you may intend other conclusions or uses, and endure my tedious questioning.

So I think this is a matter on which we will have to agree to differ. I have no patience for useless agreement. Useful disagreement is so much better, and I suppose I will look forward to more?

Erick Mead
02-06-2009, 10:09 PM
Uzumasa 大秦 and the links he finds to the DaQin 大秦 and the Hata 大秦, Hata 秦

Stupid paste button.

Buck
02-06-2009, 10:30 PM
Matt and Keith,

I appreciate you concern, but I am no expert on myths. I don't even try to be. I used it in the broadest senses of the word which related to what I had said,that has to do with what I said before, and that was, "people can turn a human into a myth, then into deity. " I was approaching that point to where I was going from O'Sensei being human to myth to deity. There is your hand to hand connection. I wasn't talking about all myths or the subject of myths.

Many other people in Aikido have done that and written about O'Sensei being a supernatural/ deity. They have created stories, a.k.a. myths, about O'Sensei. Some people speak and treat him as if he is divine. Thus, his words are perfect wisdom. It isn't the truth of course. He was human without any superhuman powers. How do we get caught up into believing that? I know how I did. It is better to see O'Sensei as he truly was, a true human, a humanitarian, and not put so much emphasis on him in that way where we turn him into the divine. That is the realization I am coming to.

jennifer paige smith
02-06-2009, 11:51 PM
I would think that one of the benchmarks of a wise person would be his followers or disciples. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, had people who lived when they did, learned and understood what they taught and continued their teachings well after they died.

Who are O'Sensei's disciples that learned his religious beliefs from him, understood what he was saying and continued his beliefs after his death. His son didn't, and as far as I know none of his students did or are doing.

David

Perhaps, like male pattern baldness, the trait skips a generation.

Which might make the beautiful statement quoted of Peter Boylan in your signature a great, and congruos, example of getting the message and and getting the method.

Best,
Jen

Buck
02-07-2009, 10:49 AM
Does O'Sensei have to be wise? I think we make the assumption that if he is that skilled (with techniques), a skill so impressive that he has to be wise-and cause of the strong spiritual stuff too.

Really if we took his skill away and just looked at his words, treating them as a spiritual and religious stuff would he have the same following? There are were the myths come from about O'Sensei, his physical skill in doing martial art. It seems myths are created and then naturally move on into the spiritual side of things.

For me, I take myths to be stories that are not all truth/fact, I like to call fiction, not to be confuse with non-fiction. Myths seem to be many things and different to different people. The thing I find interesting is that we as humans love to tell stories, fulfilling a great need to communicate to one and other. The thing I find interesting is that as people we even create myths where myths are not to be, like science. Humans because we want to communicate with one another and stories are major way to do that probably since our existence, or when we developed that part of the brain developed.

I am saying that it is natural to develop myths about O'Sensei, but the issue is what story is being told. Because it does effect us on how we see O'Sensei, and in turn how we see ourselves. Do we take the myth literally, or figuratively. As a story or as a fact. I think it is a matter not that myths exists, but instead of how they are treated.

Does O'Sensei have superhuman divine wisdom? Or is it just the things in his life that he as experienced and learned from and believes is the best way he sees to live. But is that universal to all of us, his experiences, his life, his achievements, his eyes, his understanding? And should people think so. Is that the message he was trying to get across, a message he was trying to communicate, his story, his myth?

Maybe, I got to work more on my ukemi and protect my head better and stop questioning. :)

mathewjgano
02-07-2009, 10:58 AM
Many other people in Aikido have done that and written about O'Sensei being a supernatural/ deity. They have created stories, a.k.a. myths, about O'Sensei. Some people speak and treat him as if he is divine. Thus, his words are perfect wisdom. It isn't the truth of course. He was human without any superhuman powers. How do we get caught up into believing that? I know how I did. It is better to see O'Sensei as he truly was, a true human, a humanitarian, and not put so much emphasis on him in that way where we turn him into the divine. That is the realization I am coming to.

I think I see where you're coming from now. I think I probably tend to latch on to a few words or segments of a post, but then miss other parts. Sorry where I did that.
I agree it's important to recognize that O Sensei was a person like the rest of us and to not make assumptions which cause us to stop questioning things and finding things out for ourselves. Wisdom to me generally means knowing something about our own ignorance in conjunction with whatever we "know" and then making as few assumptions as possible in our thinking beyond that. Question everything.
Take care and thanks for the conversation!
Matt

mathewjgano
02-07-2009, 12:40 PM
Question everything.


...And then question that.

Erick Mead
02-07-2009, 01:23 PM
No one said morality is easy. Religion offers a convenient framework. But since when is convenience relevant? That's the first time I have heard someone dismiss religion as a "convenience." Usually, they say it is a pointless difficulty. But I'll go with it. :) Examples--- When you have no time to reason... like when the sword is six inches from your neck -- or the car is twenty feet from the kid in the road. You have either trained to be connected (religere = to bind together), or you haven't. When one hears sophisticated and plausible arguments for things that are merely deep rationalization for naked desire -- one tends to see them more readily if one is not approaching it from the reasoning side initially, but first examining the pre-rational assumptions upon which the reasoning is performed.

The mind is much larger than logic.

Keith Larman
02-07-2009, 03:53 PM
That's the first time I have heard someone dismiss religion as a "convenience." Usually, they say it is a pointless difficulty. But I'll go with it. :) Examples--- When you have no time to reason... like when the sword is six inches from your neck -- or the car is twenty feet from the kid in the road. You have either trained to be connected (religere = to bind together), or you haven't. When one hears sophisticated and plausible arguments for things that are merely deep rationalization for naked desire -- one tends to see them more readily if one is not approaching it from the reasoning side initially, but first examining the pre-rational assumptions upon which the reasoning is performed.

The mind is much larger than logic.

Oh, give me a break. That is a profound twisting of my words and quite unfair. I did not *dismiss* religion as convenient. Reread what I said.

Erick Mead
02-08-2009, 12:06 PM
Oh, give me a break. That is a profound twisting of my words and quite unfair. I did not *dismiss* religion as convenient. Reread what I said.I did. It was not an attack but an aside to take one part of your statement to agree with and the other to question. I said "convenience;" you read that as "convenient." and your post used both, but summed up by questioning when convenience is relevant. No one said morality is easy. Religion offers a convenient framework. But since when is convenience relevant? It read like you saw religion as convenient, and at the same time an irrelevant convenience. There is an important difference -- although neither of us really meant to draw out that difference as such, we were talking at cross-purposes.

Something that is convenient is easy to reach; accessible; close at hand; near. Religion is convenient; it is available no matter what, where or what circumstance. Philosophy is not convenient -- it requires much deliberation and anticipation of unexpected scenarios to use effectively as a moral guage in application.

Something that is a convenience is suitable to one's comfort, purposes, or needs; personal comfort or advantage; something that increases comfort or saves work. Neither religion nor philosophy are a convenience. They are both work -- like any other human endeavor, you get out of it what you put into it. Religion does not ease discomfort or lessen pain -- it makes them endurable. Merely comforting religious sentimentality is as much an escape as any other escape into sentimentality.

If we narrow our focus down on the strict commonalities between say, Christianity, and Ueshiba's thought we can view them both as practical exercises in engendering love -- which is not so much a philosophical approach as a concrete one -- it is something you act upon in order to understand it. Love is facile and illusory without the mind of true budo (whether practiced as such, or not) -- It is a sword, so says O Sensei -- and so says Jesus of Nazareth. On that ground, at least, I can say Ueshiba was quite wise.

I would take Leonard Cohen's phrase as particularly apt on both scores: "But, love is not a victory march. It's a cold and it's a broken 'Hallelujah!' "

Shannon Frye
02-08-2009, 09:03 PM
Very nice comparison. I've encountered various Christians who say that martial arts, or even aikido makes then feel uncomfortable, claiming that it goes against their Christian beliefs. In your comparison, you don't have to be a follower of either to see that they both promoted the same concepts of love.

ps. Good song reference too.



If we narrow our focus down on the strict commonalities between say, Christianity, and Ueshiba's thought we can view them both as practical exercises in engendering love -- which is not so much a philosophical approach as a concrete one -- it is something you act upon in order to understand it. Love is facile and illusory without the mind of true budo (whether practiced as such, or not) -- It is a sword, so says O Sensei -- and so says Jesus of Nazareth. On that ground, at least, I can say Ueshiba was quite wise.

I would take Leonard Cohen's phrase as particularly apt on both scores: "But, love is not a victory march. It's a cold and it's a broken 'Hallelujah!' "

Lyle Bogin
02-08-2009, 10:39 PM
O Sensei created (or inspired if you prefer) what I think is the best contemporary model for non-competitive martial training.

He was a genious just for that.

Of course he was a jackass from time to time. But he left us something really great to work with.

I'll stick him on my shelf of heroes next to bruce lee...

Buck
02-09-2009, 12:32 AM
... you don't have to be a follower of either to see that they both promoted the same concepts of love.


I am curious, why are we comparing Jesus/Christian idea of love with O'Sensei?

FWIW. I know what O'Sensei said to Terry Dobson but that was to Terry Dobson. I see it as a communication tool, and not something that is identical. I hope it isn't because of that then it is just following what the "Magic Conch Shell." -Spongebob Square Pants. I Aikido should be deep than that. I am realizing that as I sit down more maturely and from a secure place, seriously questioning. :)

JimCooper
02-09-2009, 04:36 AM
What we have here is a category problem.


No, what we have here is a lack of understanding.


Chinese traditional knowledge is not science


We agree on something, anyway. I fear our paths will diverge from this point on.


It understands the world in non-linear terms in which the effects are not proportional to causes, and processes are neither commutative, nor systemically isolable nor necessarily repeatable.


Are you writing for comic effect?


This is not to criticize the value of reduction, but to emphasize the value of whole systemic categories as a form of knowledge that science does not speak to.


You're making a pretty common mistake about how science works, if you think it's all about "reduction".


Scientific minds therefore occasionally tend, as you have done, to actively denigrate what they have failed to comprehend. It is not "non-sense" -- it is simply not "your sense."


I comprehend the shortcomings of "traditional" Chinese knowledge perfectly well, thank you. The same cannot be said of your understanding of scientific processes. I will continue to denigrate things that are provably wrong, thanks all the same.


It is a prejudice, nothing more


If not wanting to spread falsehoods is prejudice, then yep, I'm prejudiced.

All ideas are not of equal value. To think that they are is pure craziness. What should happen is that ideas get tested to see if they're true. If they fail the test, they get ditched. There must be a name for doing that...


You cannot say in terms of science that KI cannot be real


I don't see why not. There is no evidence for it, and if you think it is a form of energy, you are provably wrong using very basic physics you can try at home. None of the other explanations for it make any more sense (and the fact that there are multiple explanations is a telling point).


When you sort it out, let me know. :)


I sorted it out some years ago.


Chinese traditional knowledge does not do this -- therefore it is not capable of being "proved" "wrong" by science


So, to paraphrase, you're saying I should believe these highly unlikely explanations, some of which are provably wrong, because you don't think they can be proven wrong?

I'll pass on that, thanks.


"Science" means knowledge


Indeed it does. Sadly it does not seem to be widely taught. Certainly you have quoted most of the common misconceptions :(

There's a pretty widespread meme that "traditional" knowledge must somehow be better than scientific knowledge, because it's been around so long.

You might want to consider that ideas that have been around for a long time and are not part of the scientific canon, are normally not part because they aren't true.

Keith Larman
02-09-2009, 09:29 AM
What you wrote.

That's the first time I have heard someone dismiss religion as a "convenience."

I in no way dismissed religion as "convenience". My point was that since religion provides a very strong basis for morality due to its very nature it is an easy position to defend assuming you accept the religion as true to being with. Non-religious ethical systems tend to be much more difficult to discuss due to the lack of an appeal to a higher authority. The convenience is not one of the religion per se but of the difficulties presented to the moral theorist. And I don't think the distinction is all that subtle nor difficult to understand.

I was asserting that one position is much less difficult to defend and many tend to wave away the more complex explanations citing more complex and difficult to understand. As if our ability to understand something is somehow a condition of it being correct. Much like the ad hoc attempts to explain the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment via ether wind rather than relativity theory. The ether wind was the more "comfortable" explanation for many physicists rather than the more difficult to accept (at the time) relativistic explanation Einstein had offered up. The point here is the psychology of acceptance of an idea rather than the actual truth value of it.

mathewjgano
02-09-2009, 11:07 AM
What should happen is that ideas get tested to see if they're true. If they fail the test, they get ditched. There must be a name for doing that...

I think the point had to do with what happens when a scientific test isn't readily available though didn't it?

There is no evidence for it, and if you think it is a form of energy, you are provably wrong using very basic physics you can try at home. None of the other explanations for it make any more sense (and the fact that there are multiple explanations is a telling point).
Would you be willing to describe the experiment for me?

Erick Mead
02-09-2009, 11:48 AM
No, what we have here is a lack of understanding. ... I comprehend the shortcomings of "traditional" Chinese knowledge perfectly well, thank you. The same cannot be said of your understanding of scientific processes. I will continue to denigrate things that are provably wrong, thanks all the same. A lack of understanding. Shortcomings. The subject of "convenient" and "convenience" brings ot mind on this topic another related word --- "convention" -- which is applicable here.

If one dismissed the value of the H convention of the magnetic field because of the shortcoming that it could not admissibly explain properties under observation according to the B convention, then one would neither have a solid grasp either of the nature of magnetism, nor the limitations of our constructs to adequately define it. You will never understand what you refuse to test simply because you dismiss the source of the observation a priori -- which is, among other things, unscientific.

You simply say that the information does not fit your received categories and therefore is of no value. That is a category problem, like I said, because you are insisting on a sole convention when other, equally admissible might well work better to fit the form of the data in question. You can irrationally hand-wave it all away as as being "unscientific" -- which is true -- but irrelevant at the moment. You cannot rationally determine a conclusion until both sets of observational data are organized according to the same scheme of categories -- a convention -- because until you do, you do not actually know what it says or might predict. It is irrational to dismiss the information until you have done this. It takes good deal of work to frame a hypothesis -- and even more to falsify one.

It isn't false just because ya label it "unscientific" even if that is a true label -- which it is.

If not wanting to spread falsehoods is prejudice, then yep, I'm prejudiced. ... Ah, yes. The immemorial response -- "Heretic! Renounce the lies of the unbelievers! Repent of your False Belief!" ;)

More to the point, you do not even recognize the epistemological source of the scientific method. "Believe that you may understand." This is the foundation of taking a hypothesis as true in order to reason out its likely consequences, and then to test reality to see if it reveal to the pattern of the construct of the truth in the hypothesis. We only ever test the predictions of our constructs. Reality is never tested -- it only reveals the truth -- assuming that we ask the right question.

Whatever the abuses of religious sentimentality in the West with regard to the proof of nature's ways -- Western spirituality resulted in the scientific method -- which now too often demands to subsume the whole truth from which it sprang. Bacon said that "Nature, to be commanded, must first be obeyed." A humble submission of our construct of the truth to the testing of what reality reveals is all science is. Science is, and always has been, a process of revelation. I simply suggest that if you have not understood what it is the traditional forms of observations actually teach -- you are in no position to frame predictive conclusions to test on a scientific basis.


You cannot say in terms of science that KI cannot be realI don't see why not. There is no evidence for it, and if you think it is a form of energy, you are provably wrong using very basic physics you can try at home. None of the other explanations for it make any more sense (and the fact that there are multiple explanations is a telling point). I don't think it is A form of energy -- it is THE form of energy -- and of matter -- for that, er.. . matter. (words words, so many words, mean different thing in different places, wrong things in wrong places, :freaky: ) Categories again. The evidence has to be in places that you have decided to look, which you determine by setting of the parameters of the problem initially. If your convention is wrong, your problem is wrong and the results meaningless.

Ki constitutes both matter AND energy -- which if you studied the traditional understanding, you should know. Ergo, Ki is not energy, as such, although Ki forms energy. Similarly, Ki is not matter, as such, although Ki forms matter. And furthermore, Ki as traditionally understood, forms the interchange of matter and/or energy by the same mechanism that it forms energy or matter of whatever category. The mechanism is very simple, it is right there in the traditional sources and it is categorical -- just not according to your preferred categories. But there are plenty of scientific conventions to choose from, depending on the problem and your purpose, as with H or B magnetic conventions, cited above.

But first, you have to change your mind.

I sorted it out some years ago. You show me yours, I'll show you mine. Or, you could read what I've written here, ... well, elsewhere, "here," actually. [Categories, darn it!]

Chinese traditional knowledge does not do this -- therefore it is not capable of being "proved" "wrong" by science So, to paraphrase, you're saying I should believe these highly unlikely explanations, some of which are provably wrong, because you don't think they can be proven wrong?No. First you have to convert the existing body of knowledge into categories that provide you with testable conclusions. Saying that the data has no testable conclusions is a non-sequitur if it claims none apart from systematic correlation of observations. That is all it claims.

The system by which correlations are organized for recall is not intended to be, nor does it present a testable hypothesis of causation -- it simply doesn't pretend to be one. It is a tool to remember the correlations -- and nothing more -- until you draw a hypothesis from it and then test it. If you think that a systematic body of correlations has no value as a starting point for scientific analysis, then... cashier the last five hundred years of study -- 'cause that's what they all start with.

"Believe that you may understand." If you do not initially fully accept the premises, how can you rationally extend their necessary conclusion so as to test them, and then modify them based on predicted evidence? No one says you have no right to amend your beliefs based on evidence, or that one's beliefs are worth much untested -- for that matter, [that WORD again!]

You might want to consider that ideas that have been around for a long time and are not part of the scientific canon, are normally not part because they aren't true.Or, because there is prejudice to give them value as worthy of wrestling with in their own terms for purposes of testing. The words "Yellow Peril" are only out of date by less than hundred years, and black chattel slavery is only a hundred and fifty. No one plausibly claims that latter prejudice is done away with altogether, either. That is not to make a personal conclusion, in any way.

It is simply to say that things "in the air" at a point in time determine the sources of information that are historically given presumptive value. Being given value initially -- more value is reposed in them over time. The gap of valuation widens as things develop naturally in historical process from that point. "Those that have shall get; and those that do not have, shall lose what little they do have." That is a statement of a natural process. It doesn't mean that things ignored necessarily have value, but being ignored does not mean that they have no value, either. The humble and scientific approach avoids this; it assumes some value and then tests it, it does not assume no value so as to dismiss it.

Erick Mead
02-09-2009, 12:50 PM
The interchange is very good, and I hope on a better foot than before. Thanks. I in no way dismissed religion as "convenience". My point was that since religion provides a very strong basis for morality due to its very nature it is an easy position to defend assuming you accept the religion as true to being with. That was actually Voltaire's point in rebuttal: If He did not exist we would have to invent him. He contended that some understanding of God was proved by history to be necessary to human societies, and even systems that seemed to espouse being explicitly non-theistic ended up creating "gods" by other names (viz. in no particular order, Maitreya, Amida, Marx, Lenin.) Now the live question in that inquiry is: "Does God exist or did we invent Him?" O Sensei seems to affirm existence vice invention.

The answer actually seems resolved against any active invention on our part. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126941.700-born-believers-how-your-brain-creates-god.html?full=true

We seem evolutionarily hard-wired to perceive the nature of universe as being on personal terms. To say that evolution would construct a perceptive illusion requires a bit of explaining -- which some one will, no doubt, now busily be doing... but surely (complete solipsim aside) the default hypothesis is that if humans are evolved to perceive something there is a reality to be perceived. Even if it is a "illusion," maya -- many of such brain tricks are representational illusions that actually get at deeper revealing of truth -- for instance, stereoscopic vision takes a two dimensional retinal field as a three dimensional construct -- because our brain has evolved to believe that reality is three dimensional -- no matter what our lying eyes say ....

Non-religious ethical systems tend to be much more difficult to discuss due to the lack of an appeal to a higher authority.... The point here is the psychology of acceptance of an idea rather than the actual truth value of it. Whitehead and Russel tried very hard to reach a point where mathematical conclusions could be made without resort to higher authrotiity. They ended up by determining the formal impossiblity of making even mathematical conclusions without ultimate resort to higher authority outside the axioms of the system. Whitehead and Russell showed empirically, in exhaustive logical effort, what Godel later showed formally -- that the "meta-position" outside the problem can never be logicked away.

Science is process of revelation, meaning something is there to be revealed -- but it has come to believe that it is the ONLY valid process of revelation, which is close to identifying itself with the reality it is attempting to reveal -- leaving no conceptual or emotional space for the "meta-position" outside the problem. Religion would call this blasphemy, but science has no ready label for it, which may be why (in addition to human nature, which aspires to god-hood) it falls into this error from time to time.

Whitehead ended by essentially concluding that the positing of God was necessary to the positing of reality, and could not be avoided, rationally. Or in short, he took Voltaire's inquiry that next step and determined that "We could not even invent Him." In fairness, Russell's work was later taken by the logical positivists to conclude the opposite -- that neither reality nor God could be posited, a position he himself never held. One wonders who was doing the positing.

Much like the ad hoc attempts to explain the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment via ether wind rather than relativity theory. The ether wind was the more "comfortable" explanation for many physicists rather than the more difficult to accept (at the time) relativistic explanation Einstein had offered up. The ether boat has actually come back into port under a new flag -- in the form of the vacuum flux and "dark energy/matter" --- so hold the phones on that one.... What M&M measured did not seek to address what the vacuum flux turned out be (or whatever the dark energy or dark matter may be -- since those are at the level of accounting problems at the moment.)

C. David Henderson
02-09-2009, 01:58 PM
Do you think we can have "knowledge" of anything except in the sense of "scientific knowledge," i.e., hypotheses that have been subjected to and not disproven by scientific testing?

If the answer is "no, only sceintific knowledge is really knowledge," would you also agree that we really "know" very little compared to what we think we "know" in conducting our everyday affairs?

What skill based knowledge (martial arts, or surgery)-- isn't that an oxymoron to someone holding to a rigorously scientific ontology?

What about art, literature, business, government -- how is it all the products in these fields are produced and reproduced, modified or discarded "unknowingly," that is, without "knowledge" in the sense that we use the word?

If the answer to my first question is "yes, I recognize other categories of knowledge, besides scientific knowledge" then wouldn't acupuncture fall into that category?

If the answer to this question is "yes," then doesn't that get back, basically, to some of the things Erick was saying?

Just wondering.

David H

George S. Ledyard
02-09-2009, 02:18 PM
I am really staggered by how many people are resistant to the idea that someone might know something they don't. I suggest that O-Sensei might have a certain traditional knowledge or wisdom that would be worthwhile for us to understand. The next thing I know adjectives are being thrown in that I have NEVER used. I talked about wisdom, not supreme wisdom, not ultimate wisdom, not some level of insight that causes us to give ourselves over to some external power.

I suggest that we need to have O-Sensei's insights and vision influence our Aikido, which I see as pretty much a no-brainer as he was the Founder of the art. The next thing I know we are talking about Jim Jones. How did we get there? What are people so afraid of?

If you don't think that Aikido was created as a means to accomplish personal transformation of some type, what do you think it was created for? Does anyone seriously think that O-Sensei believed that he was creating a fighting style? Is the art about throwing opponents on the ground and pinning them, is it about cranking a nikkyo on someone to control them, is that the purpose? I can't imagine that anyone but some new beginner might think that.

The underlying current at work here is that people don't really want to change. Change is terrifying. Who would you be if you started to let go of what you hold on to so hard? So its way easier and far less threatening to take an art that was clearly created as a practice that would accomplish some sort personal transformation and turn it into a system of physical skills. We just practice and gradually acquire the skills. Nothing deeper or more profound is required.

But beware... it might just be that to get to the real goodies, you might have to start changing yourself. On some level I think this is why many people feel the need to devolve Aikido into some sort of fighting system. What they want is an art that doesn't call for them to change. In fact what they really are looking for is an art that will let them be so powerful that no one can make them do anything they don't wish to. If I can just be sufficiently powerful, I won't be afraid any more. Then when Aikido shows itself to be less of a "fighting" system than some other martial art, the flavor of the month being MMA now, then we jump ship entirely or start to reshape Aikido to make it more like the other art so we can continue to feel safe and powerful.

O-Sensei asked us to stop approaching everything from a resistant point of view. To find the path that brought things together rather than keeping them apart. This is far more difficult to do than fighting. Quite clearly our entire human history would show us that fighting is our default setting. O-Sensei created an art that does not seek to suppress that essential nature but rather to transform it. The people who strive to make Aikido about fighting are simply wrong; it is about not fighting. The folks who take all the conflict out of the art and dance around being "peaceful" are wrong. That's no more transformative than its opposite.

This whole idea that we can't accord the Founder, or anyone else for that matter, any special knowledge and that we rely only on ourselves and our rationality to guide us is pernicious. I went to group counseling for a while with a bunch of other men. Working in a group like that taught me one thing more than anything else... our capacity to tell ourselves what we want to hear is almost infinite. We'd sit there listening to one of the members justifying some particular action or behavior and it was clear as day that he was telling himself his own story. We could see how dysfunctional he was. But to him, the story made perfect sense, at least until the group starting calling him on it and demanding that he take a closer look. And what was really shocking to realize that no matter how incisive a person's perception could be about the others in the group, when it was their own stuff, they could be as murky as anyone else.

When it comes to the issues of personal transformation, I am often the last one I'd trust. The whole "I'm ok, you're ok" thing was a huge copout. In the reaction against New Age fuzzy thinking, it later became "I'm ok, you're not." So Aikido divides in to these two camps. In one we create wonderful "feel good" dojos in which like minded folks tell each other that they are all ok. Everyone is happy and they love Aikido. In the other we focus on stronger and stronger technique. We introduce other martial arts as we realize that just Aikido alone won't make us powerful enough. We train for conflict and we imprint a conflict mentality through our training.

In my opinion, one of the most important things we learn from Aikido is how to lose. Half our training is taking ukemi. The folks who talk about training with full resistance completely miss the point. In Aikido we commit fully and completely in order to connect. Then we take the ukemi. It's ok to take the fall. To equate the uke role with the "losing role" is a complete misunderstanding of the whole process. In the classical Japanese martial arts, the teacher or senior takes the so-called "losing" role.

The moment you were born, you became engaged in a battle for your own life which you cannot win. You are going to die, period. Resistance to this fundamental fact causes huge suffering. Becoming a warrior doesn't mean getting so powerful that one can defeat all comers. It means losing ones fear of death.

We hold on so tightly to this life of ours that we end up looking at anything that might cause us to change or to not have what we think we want as a threat to our own lives. Look at what we do to each other in the world because we think someone else is threatening us or even just getting something we don't have. Someone else's acquisition is somehow a loss for me.

It's this thinking that causes so much resistance to O-Sensei as a teacher figure, to practicing Aikido as a transformative practice rather than a fighting style. I take the fall and I am losing, he is winning. I treat O-Sensei as a person possessing something I don't have and I am less in doing that. I don't want anyone telling me what to do or what to think. Well, the problem with not listening to anyone else is that you only hear you. If you think that you have reached your full potential as a human being and that you are totally content with who you are and how your life is going, how your relationships are, then you don't need a practice and you don't need a teacher(s). Write a book and go on Opra because most folks definitely don't feel that way.

No one is saying that O-Sensei should be the focus of a cult. No one is saying that he or anyone else had "supreme knowledge" or that you should set aside your judgment or rationality. But there are all sorts of folks out there who know things you don't, have experienced things you haven't and they might have some thing to tell you, which you should hear.

O-Sensei was a teacher. He was an extraordinary man. For folks who have accomplished a fraction of what he did to think that they know enough to simply pick and choose what they think is worthwhile from his art, technical and spiritual is a bit arrogant. I'm not saying that we can become just like him, we can't, nor should we try. But to understand what Aikido was created for, to make it everything for ourselves that it should be, O-Sensei is the starting point. You can't even understand why techniques are done the way they are if you don't understand his spiritual take on things.

The attachment to rationality over everything else is just another form of fear. Folks who have logical, rational, linear minds often find the intuitive baffling and even frightening. But the Japanese arts, martial and otherwise are about training the intuition. The body is brought into accord with this intuition not the other way around. This insistence on taking O-Sensei's non-rational, non-liner, intuitive framework out of the art of Aikido guts it of its power to transform I think. Virtually all Eastern spiritual practice is about teaching the individual that letting go of the thinking mind isn't a loss for the individual but rather it opens up a vast area into which the person can grow. You don't lose anything here, you gain.

Erick Mead
02-09-2009, 03:09 PM
Do you think we can have "knowledge" of anything except in the sense of "scientific knowledge," i.e., hypotheses that have been subjected to and not disproven by scientific testing?

If the answer is "no, only sceintific knowledge is really knowledge," would you also agree that we really "know" very little compared to what we think we "know" in conducting our everyday affairs?
...
If the answer to this question is "yes," then doesn't that get back, basically, to some of the things Erick was saying?

For what it is worth, the lowly hunch is gaining in empirical respectability:

http://www.physorg.com/news153323737.html

Erick Mead
02-09-2009, 03:59 PM
The next thing I know we are talking about Jim Jones. How did we get there? What are people so afraid of? ....O-Sensei asked us to stop approaching everything from a resistant point of view. To find the path that brought things together rather than keeping them apart. This is far more difficult to do than fighting.

In my opinion, one of the most important things we learn from Aikido is how to lose. Good point. The myths of Budo across culture and history all center -- not on the glories of surpassing victory -- but the magnificent, almost grandiloquent losses. The victories are tallied, like a ledger, and are remembered half in shame, it seems (as perhaps prevailing in dealing death always ought to be, in a way). But the losses! Oh the losses, are sung when the ledgers and battle standards have long rotted. Why is that, I wonder?

Alamo. Pearl Harbor. Dien Bien Phu. Valley Forge. Need I say Thermopylae. Little Big Horn. Shiroyama. William Wallace was quartered and piked after his entrails and manhood were cut away and burned before his eyes -- and he is a national hero. The Iranians sing of the demise of the Persians at the hands of Iskender -- Alexander. More than 23 centuries later, they still sing of it.

Only undeserved, seemingly divine rescues through stubborn endurance can compete on the victory side -- The Winter Campaign/Moscow 1812. The two "divine winds" that beat the Mongols' invasions of Japan. Stalingrad. Crossing the Delaware. The Battle of Britain. Gettysburg is not celebrated because the Union won that battle, but because Lincoln hallowed the losses on the field, there and by extension, the whole war, into something greater and worth, not the win, but dying -- of, by and for a divinely given principle of self-rule. There is budo.

The Achaeans won and destroyed Troy. The Iliad is a dry and dusty mouthful of vainglory & victory by the end. Achilles is a warrior all but invincible ( to whom many aspire so as to conquer all objects of fear). But even his anger cannot be quieted. The Iliad begins with the line "The rage of Achilles, sing thee, oh goddess, of that destroying rage that brought countless ills on the Achaeans." The tale of the most famous military victory in Western history or myth begins in a lamentation. It was remembered when the very place it happened had passed out of all memory. The lesson -- you will lose -- and if you wish to be remembered -- Lose well.

The moment you were born, you became engaged in a battle for your own life which you cannot win. You are going to die, period. Resistance to this fundamental fact causes huge suffering. Becoming a warrior doesn't mean getting so powerful that one can defeat all comers. It means losing ones fear of death.

The attachment to rationality over everything else is just another form of fear. Folks who have logical, rational, linear minds often find the intuitive baffling and even frightening. But the Japanese arts, martial and otherwise are about training the intuition. The body is brought into accord with this intuition not the other way around. O Sensei spoke of his mission in terms of St. Michael the Archangel driving the demons out of heaven in the Book of Daniel. The nature of the demons being driven out is the thing to see. Conquest it is, but of the subject, not the object, of fear. If you review the Bible to see where a divine messenger appears, the message, more often than not, begins, "Be not afraid!" That also happens to be the end of the message, as well, but people complicate it.

Buck
02-09-2009, 11:27 PM
I suggest that O-Sensei might have a certain traditional knowledge or wisdom that would be worthwhile for us to understand.

I suggest that we need to have O-Sensei's insights and vision influence our Aikido, which I see as pretty much a no-brainer as he was the Founder of the art. The next thing I know we are talking about Jim Jones. How did we get there? What are people so afraid of?



George I must apologize now before I go any further. I didn't read your complete posting. I just got as far as what I quoted. Now that means if I am off-base am sorry, but what you said, as far as I read, urged me to respond. I think it was the name dropping. :D

Agreed he did have a certain traditional knowledge. I started questioning that too, but only touch on it here. Perhaps, I should have talked about it more. I will here but not too much. O'Sensei didn't say anything unique or new, putting it in a very abstract form. We can call that new or unique, the form that is. What of that wisdom did he use to direct Aikido? As I see it as a result of questioning, it seems to be non-violence in opposition to the violent feudal past of Japan. And not in the same context of non-violence of say Jesus, or Gandi etc. It also seems he incorporates elements of the samurai culture that directs how a person should train in Aikido. The closest thing I can related that to or parallel it to is thinking that Japanese martial arts for Japanese is what sports culture is for us in the west.

Now if I didn't question it and accepted the myths surrounding O'Sensei then I am believing stories told by others as fact. O'Sensei for example, could dodge the bullets of a firing squad. No bullet could ever touch O'Sensei no matter who or where it was fired he could sense bullets flying through the air. Here is a good example of how myths can evolve due to that telephone game we played as kids. A game where information gets distorted, added to etc. and isn't accurately passed on from one person to another.

I am not saying myths are bad, I am just showing what can happen to a myth, which it often does. People can get information that is not accurate and distorted thinking it is fact or truth. These kind of things need to be kept in check.

O'Sensei's insight is something I don't disagree with. But do we follow his insight or do we follow our own.

I am not sure if you mean by vision in the spiritual or as a leader having a vision for the organization and people that follow. Or as in a business venture sense, having vision as part of your organization. If it is spiritual then I think we should have our own and not someone else's.

Those who survived Jim Jones kool-aid, questioned. Those who died (those not forced to drink the kool-aid) believed, had faith. It goes the same for many mass suicide cults. Heaven's Gate is a good example. That is how that started, as an example of the concern I had where I stopped questioning. Which was upsetting because I was educated to question. Questioning is learning. If it wasn't for questioning we still would be into sacrificing animals or humans to the satisfaction of some displeased god. Thinking the world is flat, and rulers are descendant of gods or actual gods. There is allot of mythology that people still believe in remote areas of the world. I got so caught up, I wasn't questioning anymore.

Buck
02-10-2009, 07:16 AM
I think questioning for me is very important, other wise I would be not be learning, mistaking myth for fact. I would be at the mercy of someone telling me what to believe, instead of myself. I don't think myth isn't important if looked at properly. It is more interesting, more colorful, than fact. But, it is fact that is real. Fact is the truth. In that case, the myth (stories) about O'Sensei should be questioned so we have an accurate picture of him, and not want we want to see him as. Here in lies the rub, that is what I was doing. I was not seeing him in an accurate picture. If that was happen I wasn't seeing Aikido or myself as an Aikidoka accurately.

I've come to realize that I own it to myself if I am really serious about Aikido, I need to have an accurate picture. I need to be able to not get carried way with myth. I do it with questioning, and why is that wrong?

Erick Mead
02-10-2009, 08:52 AM
I think questioning for me is very important, other wise I would be not be learning, mistaking myth for fact. ... I've come to realize that I own it to myself if I am really serious about Aikido, I need to have an accurate picture. I need to be able to not get carried way with myth. I do it with questioning, and why is that wrong?Myth and fact. Is it a myth or a fact that man can fly? At one time myth and at a later time fact. Most people would agree that lies do not lead to truth. But the fact came from imagining the myth to be true -- so which is true and which is false? Or have you set the wrong categories for your question?

You cannot learn what questions to ask by assuming it to be false in the first place -- falsification as a questioning method only comes after unbiased observation. The problem is not that it lacks sense,-- it is perfectly sensible in its own terms, -- it just does not yet make sense to you. You will not know what questions to ask of the myth unless you first take it at face value as possibly true in the largest sense. When you understand how the myth makes sense of itself, then you will know what questions to ask of it that will help it make sense to you. Until then it will not make sense. Asking unfounded questions is just nonsense.

Myth is like language in that it imparts meaning with words and image. Imagine trying to ask questions about the play of meaning in the grammar of French -- when all you have learned is the names on the menu. To know if an extended essay in French makes sense to you as an English speaker -- there is no substitute for learning the complete sense -- in the French. No one says you have to give up your mother tongue to do that, and this is no different.

"Believe that you may understand." Ask the question, "What if it were all true in some sense?" Play with the possibilities and permutations. Then ask "How it is true in its own sense?" After all, if you change your mind once, there is nothing to stop you from changing it back again. I swear, there is no evil demon meme ready to take your brain hostage, like some computer worm .... but then, again, maybe I have been taken over, and IT IS EATING MY BRAIN !!! AAAAAGGHHHHH!!!

Or not.

jennifer paige smith
02-10-2009, 10:05 AM
Any married person could tell you there is a big difference between being 'right' and being 'wise'.
Wisdom involves the heart.

Buck
02-10-2009, 12:04 PM
Erick,

I understand what your saying. I guess I am saying that you can't mistake myth for fact. There is a danger to that i.e. the Jim Jones folks. I am not saying myth isn't something it was in my view what lead people to science for answers, i.e. is the moon really made of cheese? Or do we accept the moon as being cheese? When science advanced enough to send a man to the moon it was then we knew what the moon was made of. If no one questioned if the moon was made of cheese would we have ever ventured into space?

I re-realized the importance of questioning to find the truth instead of accepting myth for the truth. I do understand and have experience that some myths are true, after questioning it.

Is O'Sensei wise, who sez's he is? Let me discover and find out for myself, rather then being dependent on the views, myths, etc. of others telling me so.

Buck
02-10-2009, 12:08 PM
Any married person could tell you there is a big difference between being 'right' and being 'wise'.
Wisdom involves the heart.

Wisdom involves common sense of a man knowing that a woman is always right. :D

Erick Mead
02-10-2009, 02:47 PM
Erick,

I understand what your saying. I guess I am saying that you can't mistake myth for fact. There is a danger to that i.e. the Jim Jones folks. I am not saying myth isn't something it was in my view what lead people to science for answers, i.e. is the moon really made of cheese? Or do we accept the moon as being cheese? When science advanced enough to send a man to the moon it was then we knew what the moon was made of. If no one questioned if the moon was made of cheese would we have ever ventured into space?There is truth and there is lies. One cannot avoid the fact that liars spin yarns, too. Sometimes they are very pretty -- and very poisonous.

But a myth is not a lie -- it is the truth in fancy dress. Myth allows us the conceptual space to enlarge and accommodate the immensity of a truth beyond our immediate (or conceivable) circumstances. The moon and green cheese is a child's fancy, not a myth. Beowulf is a pagan myth that is used to express Christian truth without doing any injury at all to the integrity of the original. The Iliad is a myth and also happens to draw from some historical events, to speak of things far beyond the matter of the events themselves. Tolkien invented an entire mythology to speak truths that are at once Christian and yet universal, without every touching on a single Christian image.

Myth is a very powerful vehicle of truth -- much more so than mere chronicle of fact. O Sensei therefore chose his vehicle wisely. For you cannot dismiss him -- unless you first wrestle with him.

C. David Henderson
02-10-2009, 06:35 PM
Myth is a very powerful vehicle of truth -- much more so than mere chronicle of fact.

That's an important point, in terms of understanding "mythological truth." Myth is more than "fancy dress," in this sense -- it is a transformation of (possibly) factual datum into a form that is meant to throw light on a more fundamental (if encoded) programmatic truth.

Therein lies, to quote a figure of "myth," the rub: to apprehend the "truth" of myth within the mythic tradition involves accepting and appreciating the myth as though it were factual.

I highly doubt those of us raised to believe the "myth" of rationality really can access "myth." Instead, at best, we can only appreciate the metaphoric structure and the virtual lesson embedded therein.

At worst, we will simply accumulate a ledger of nonconformity between the story and the evidence.

In between (perhaps) we will construct a new version of the "truth," whose mythic implications remain implicit (since we're too smart to fall for that kind of thing)....

As for marriage, I sure hope my heart is smarter than to think wisdom is no more than a pretense that my wife's heart is smarter.;)

By contrast, to

jennifer paige smith
02-10-2009, 07:02 PM
As for marriage, I sure hope my heart is smarter than to think wisdom is no more than a pretense that my wife's heart is smarter.;)

Wisdom has it's place in the space in between.

In fact, to quote a wise man on the subject:


In between (perhaps) we will construct a new version of the "truth," whose mythic implications remain implicit (since we're too smart to fall for that kind of thing)....:D

Erick Mead
02-10-2009, 09:22 PM
That's an important point, in terms of understanding "mythological truth." Myth is more than "fancy dress," in this sense -- it is a transformation of (possibly) factual datum into a form that is meant to throw light on a more fundamental (if encoded) programmatic truth.

Therein lies, to quote a figure of "myth," the rub: to apprehend the "truth" of myth within the mythic tradition involves accepting and appreciating the myth as though it were factual.

I highly doubt those of us raised to believe the "myth" of rationality really can access "myth." Instead, at best, we can only appreciate the metaphoric structure and the virtual lesson embedded therein. "Not all those who wander are lost..." There is a reason Tolkien is considered by many to be the author of the century. The quintessential genre of that and this century was and continues to be science fiction and fantasy of various stripes. We are no longer mere recipients of myth -- we are invited to become active participants, and many are becoming creators. Jules Verne imagined the modern world into existence. We are called to be prophets now, for better or worse.

There is a stuff -- a working medium -- that we all share, and then are invited to shape and build from the foundations of sound traditions. Taken in that mode it is not "art for art's sake" but "art for truth's sake." Willing suspension of disbelief is the operative mode that the creator must elicit in the reader and the reader must accept in order to enter the story and find the truth in it.

C. David Henderson
02-10-2009, 09:23 PM
I is smarter than i figured, it seems.

RonRagusa
02-10-2009, 10:34 PM
I think it's easy to confuse O Sensei's message with the imagery he used to explain it.
I think that Onisaburo Deguchi's theology, for want of a better term, and the ways that Morihei Ueshiba adapted, improved, or simply used this theology, are matters of some importance in their own right. Thus Prof. Saeki's researches have a place. (Of course, like any research, it has to be examined and evaluated.) So, I do not believe that the 'medium' and the 'message'--including the provenance of both--can be separated to the extent that Ron Ragusa appears to believe.

It isn't a question of separating the medium from the message. I specifically chose the word imagery hoping to avoid confusing what I was trying to say with the medium/message relationship written about by Marshal McLuhan in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964.

O Sensei's spiritual views aren't the medium; they're the content of the message. The images he used to expound his views aren't the medium either, they're the descriptors used to flesh out his message. My point is that, as it relates to the study of Aikido, not only is it possible to separate the message from the imagery, but that it is desirable to do so. If, and I believe it is, the study of Aikido is, as George Ledyard has pointed out more than once, a transformative process then focusing on O Sensei's imagery as a source of personal understanding of the process will prevent one from turning inward in order to find the true source of personal understanding. Aikido transforms the body, the mind and the spirit. Getting caught up in the process of trying to puzzle out O Sensei's cosmological imagery in order to understand one's own Aikido is a way of remaining outwardly focused. Doing so, one risks missing out on the inward journey that begins with the first touch of foot to mat.

Ron

Peter Goldsbury
02-10-2009, 10:36 PM
Hello David,

I think it is somewhat oversimplifying to talk without further qualification of the 'mythological truth' of Morihei Ueshiba's discourses. It might help the discussion if the focus was narrowed down to some myth or other. How about the myth of Oedipus?

That's an important point, in terms of understanding "mythological truth." Myth is more than "fancy dress," in this sense -- it is a transformation of (possibly) factual datum into a form that is meant to throw light on a more fundamental (if encoded) programmatic truth.

Therein lies, to quote a figure of "myth," the rub: to apprehend the "truth" of myth within the mythic tradition involves accepting and appreciating the myth as though it were factual.

I highly doubt those of us raised to believe the "myth" of rationality really can access "myth." Instead, at best, we can only appreciate the metaphoric structure and the virtual lesson embedded therein.

At worst, we will simply accumulate a ledger of nonconformity between the story and the evidence.

In between (perhaps) we will construct a new version of the "truth," whose mythic implications remain implicit (since we're too smart to fall for that kind of thing)....

As for marriage, I sure hope my heart is smarter than to think wisdom is no more than a pretense that my wife's heart is smarter.;)

By contrast, to

Best wishes,

Peter G

Peter Goldsbury
02-10-2009, 10:45 PM
O Sensei's spiritual views aren't the medium; they're the content of the message. The images he used to expound his views aren't the medium either, they're the descriptors used to flesh out his message.

With respect, I disagree. With 'content' and 'descriptors' you have added a few more concepts here which obscure, rather than clarify. I used medium and message because (I think) Erick Mead used them and they seem to be understandable. What you appear to be stating seems fine--if you understand the 'content' to begin with. I believe this approach is simply begging the question.

Best wishes,

PAG

Buck
02-11-2009, 12:16 AM
Here is something to help, I think, with the discussion.

I went with George on myth because it was interesting. But it wasn't something I thought to make it a major focus. It's fine that it did.

How I use the word wise: mainly as an adj. at times used as a verb.

Who sez O'Sensei was wise. The word "wise" is referring to knowing. Knowing means O'Sensei internally questioned, that is based on a Bushido dictum (or as I like to say, "thingy") of, "Bushido consists in dying." That dying thingy is a mental attitude to act without hesitation, doubt, thought of consequences, without heed. It is a pure and simple act, no complications of thought etc. Beside the actually physically dying. Supported by a vow of a samurai to be ready to die at any moment, thus fulfilling the duties of being a samurai to die a samurai's death and not a dog's death. That vow as a practice was to be repeated constantly to the very last instant of life. I mean wow, there was no room for any questioning. Talk about drinking the kool-aid. Point is O'Sensei question the dictum, because he edited it keeping it a part of his Aikido.

O'Sensei questioned, he questioned the ways of old Japan. It is clear with his words, his creation of Aikido in sync with the other arts created at that time, his beliefs (Omoto) and his life. He didn't support the blind sense of service of a samurai to the master, literally. And the dictum that samurai was the property of the Emperor. Or all the other old samurai code was as dictated by things like the Hagakure. O'Sensei was about change. Change that came about during his life, as a result of his experiences as a soldier, and a prisoner of war that lead to that important walk and talk with God. That allowed him to personalize Aikido as his. And was the point where Aikido and himself would take a new direction. A direction away from the feudal past of Japan, and into a new world.

What do I mean by personalize? Aikido takes heavily from both Japanese and Chinese cosmology stuff. Cosmology, and Japanese mythology and esoteric Omoto religion with such practices, is a huge part of the complete Aikido. For O'Sensei to personalize Aikido making it distincely his art form it would be done by adding an abstract cosmological /spiritual side, apart from the samurai way. Leading me to think he questioned. He question because he sought out Omoto. And he created an abstract cosmological /spiritual side of Aikido that mixed from traditional bushido, Japanese mythology and Omoto, all that is what made Aikido unique, a design thought out by O'Sensei, showing he questioned. Should any of that be removed as the result of questioning? In the purest sense no, we see it for what it is. But, not manifest it into something it isn't or can't be. It isn't the divine way to the after-life, or the cosmic profound. It can't make you imprevious to bullets, or can it lead to shooting lighting from your finger tips. It isn't religion or what ever we want it to be to reflect for ourselves. Stuff like that. But what it is, is Japanese.

P.S. I see PAG has helped the discussion allot. I really think it is George's fault for making this discussion more interesting with the addition of myth to the discussion. To bad I didn't think of it and start it. :)

George S. Ledyard
02-11-2009, 12:40 AM
Getting caught up in the process of trying to puzzle out O Sensei's cosmological imagery in order to understand one's own Aikido is a way of remaining outwardly focused. Doing so, one risks missing out on the inward journey that begins with the first touch of foot to mat.

Ron

Hi Ron,
I understand what you are saying but there is another factor at work I think. There is a fine line between an "inward journey" and narcissism in which its all about me, me, me. O-Sensei's take on practice was bringing our nature into accord with the Will of the Kami. In fact that is one of the really brilliant things about Aikido as a practice... it's mostly paired. So you can't just focus on you; it's all in relation. The partner changes and you must change.

Understanding the Founder's imagery so to speak isn't going to cause you to miss anything, as long as you are training seriously. Quite the opposite. It can serve to direct your attention to what is important in your practice, a counter to the tendency to miss the forest for the trees.

People often insist that just training is the answer. That if we just train hard it all becomes clear. I do not think that is true and it only takes a good look around to see that history would put the lie to that idea. No, your practice will yield answers only to questions you are asking. It needs to be directed. If you make it about street fighting, then that will be all you see. If you make it a feel good dance, there will be no depth to the practice. The Founder was the one who points the way. He showed what was possible technically, spiritually, etc. People can choose to take it or leave it. They can take as much as they can digest and no more. That's fine. But I still maintain that Aikido with little or no understanding of the Founder is a shadow of what it should be.

Peter Goldsbury
02-11-2009, 06:52 AM
I really think it is George's fault for making this discussion more interesting with the addition of myth to the discussion. To bad I didn't think of it and start it. :)

Hello Mr Burgess,

Don't feel bad about yourself :). It might be George's fault for adding myth to the discussion, but I myself think that adding myth was something of a mixed blessing. With myth there is a lot more to explain and so I think that myth should not become a convenient receptacle for making otherwise intractable statements or activities suddenly 'true' or 'wise'. My life in aikido has taught me the great value of Occam's Razor. (Entities--such as deities, demons, myths, inaccessible concepts such as KI--should not be multiplied beyond what is necessary.) An important consequence of Occam's razor, as it applies to aikido training, however, is that it is up to each one of us to apply it as he/she thinks fit.

I agree that Joseph Campbell made a very good attempt to explain myth, as James Frazer did before him, but to what extent will you apply the Hero with a Thousand Faces paradigm to Morihei Ueshiba? Of the 17 'features' of the Hero's Journey, some fit, some do not. Where does that leave us?

A few years ago I taught a class on Oedipus Rex (to a dozen Japanese students, completely unconnected with aikido). I am sure that you know the story as Sophocles tells it. Oedipus had a cleft foot and was abandoned at birth. He was rescued, grew up, and did brave deeds, like destroying the sphinx--and also killing his father and marrying his mother. But he was fated to do all this and my Japanese class felt that this was hugely unfair to Oedipus, for he could not help himself by escaping from the bounds of the prophecy. He was fated to be a scapegoat.

So, in what sense is the Oedipus myth 'true'? (Note that I have used Sophocles' version of the myth, which he used for his own purposes. Aristotle did the same, for he used Sophocles' version to explain the importance his own theory of tragic drama as a means of catharsis.) Incest is bad, certainly. Anything else?

(It's somewhat like Harry Potter. The prophecy requires that he or Voldemort dies, but J K Rowling does not explain why there should be such a prophecy, or why it should prophesy such an outcome. And, obviously, the mythological element in Harry Pottter or Tolkien would never work with aikido, because, as O Sensei allegedly tells us, aikido transcends victory or defeat, which rather nullifies the point of Harry's final battle with Voldemort and Frodo's battle with Sauron.)

In respect of the 'myths' of the Kojiki, O Sensei is, frankly, all over the place. One can ask similar questions about the Kojiki myths as about Oedipus. The Kojiki / Nihon Shoki attach the myths of the creation of the world & (especially) Japan to a political tract, the aim of which is to demonstrate the claims of the Yamato clan to be the rulers of Japan, just as the creation myths in Genesis are part of the larger account of the origins of Israel, as recorded in the Pentateuch. So, in what respects are the Kojiki myths themselves 'true' and, consequently, in what sense are O Sensei's statements based on the Kojiki myths 'true'?

Note that I have put 'true' in quotes, because I doubt that it is the appropriate word to use here, for I do not really think that myths are 'true' or 'false'.

Best wishes,

PAG

Peter Goldsbury
02-11-2009, 07:43 AM
Hello Ron,

I think I should expand on my earlier post, with more specific reference to what you have stated below. Comments marked PAG.

My point is that, as it relates to the study of Aikido, not only is it possible to separate the message from the imagery, but that it is desirable to do so.
PAG. I would agree, provided that nothing further hangs on doing so. In other words, I would agree that it is desirable to separate the message from the imagery, but only in order to separate the message from the imagery: in other words, only to become clearer about what O Sensei actually stated--and meant.

If, and I believe it is, the study of Aikido is, as George Ledyard has pointed out more than once, a transformative process then focusing on O Sensei's imagery as a source of personal understanding of the process will prevent one from turning inward in order to find the true source of personal understanding.
PAG. The issue here is the nature of the transformative process. I will agree with George that O Sensei intended aikido to be a transformative process, but whether, and in what aspects, and how it transforms need to be worked out by each individual. I do not believe that finding the true source of personal understanding will necessarily be achieved by turning inwards. One might need to do this, but doing so will not automatically lead to the 'true source'.

Aikido transforms the body, the mind and the spirit. Getting caught up in the process of trying to puzzle out O Sensei's cosmological imagery in order to understand one's own Aikido is a way of remaining outwardly focused.
PAG. I myself believe that if I do not puzzle out O Sensei's cosmological imagery, then I will not understand what he stated, or meant. I have kept this in the first person, in order to show the great dangers of generalizing here. Others will not feel the need or the relevance to their aikido training and this is fine.

Doing so, one risks missing out on the inward journey that begins with the first touch of foot to mat.
PAG. I do not agree with the way you put this. Your own inward journey might have begun in the way you described, but I do not believe that you can generalize here. I myself am certain that I have had / am having an 'inward' journey in my aikido training, but I do not believe that this has been adversely affected by my own studies of O Sensei's cosmology.

Best wishes,

PAG

RonRagusa
02-11-2009, 08:11 AM
PAG. I do not agree with the way you put this. Your own inward journey might have begun in the way you described, but I do not believe that you can generalize here. I myself am certain that I have had / am having an 'inward' journey in my aikido training, but I do not believe that this has been adversely affected by my own studies of O Sensei's cosmology.

Hi Peter -

You're right and I should have made it clearer that all of what I posted applies only to me. I have written my blog almost exculsively in the first person and I should be careful to carry the habit over into my posting on the boards as well.

George -

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. After reading your posts of late I see that we share many views regarding the nature of Aikido, its practice and goals.

Best to you both.

Ron

Erick Mead
02-11-2009, 08:18 AM
How I use the word wise: mainly as an adj. at times used as a verb.

Who sez O'Sensei was wise. The word "wise" is referring to knowing. Knowing means O'Sensei internally questioned, that is based on a Bushido dictum (or as I like to say, "thingy") of, "Bushido consists in dying." That dying thingy is a mental attitude to act without hesitation, doubt, thought of consequences, without heed. It is a pure and simple act, no complications of thought etc. The knowing -acting axis is the province of Oyomei-gaku, It was a Neo-Confucian school of no small influence at the period of time that O Sensei was coming up and just before the War, especially among the right wing set who abused its teachings to excuse thoughtless knee-jerk action based on their immediate (and manipulated) passions (Mukden, the March incident -- these are among many violent right-wing internal political actions). In contrast, Oyomei himself (he was Chinese -- Ming dynasty) taught quiet contemplation then action coincident with the internal realization of innate knowledge. "Knowledge and action are one" is one of its chief tenets. O Sensei's emphasis on practice as the simultaneous means and result of knowledge is as consistent with the true Oyomei teaching as the Sakurakai were an abuse of it.

O'Sensei questioned, he questioned the ways of old Japan. It is clear with his words, his creation of Aikido in sync with the other arts created at that time, his beliefs (Omoto) and his life. No he didn't. He wanted change, but not in the way you seem to mean. He wanted to return the REALLY Old Ways -- before the Tokugawa, before Sengoku Jidai -- the Old Ways .. . This is what the "New Religions" like Oomoto represent, by and large -- sort of a Shinto "Puritan" restoration or "primitive Baptist" type of religious movement or sentiment -- back to a presumably stripped down basic with means of direct personal, unmediated spiritual insight or inspiration (kotodama), and the typical ecstatic aspects that are seen also.

C. David Henderson
02-11-2009, 08:58 AM
Hello David,

I think it is somewhat oversimplifying to talk without further qualification of the 'mythological truth' of Morihei Ueshiba's discourses. It might help the discussion if the focus was narrowed down to some myth or other. How about the myth of Oedipus?

Best wishes,

Peter G

Hi Peter,

You're absolutely right that my comment was very general.

Oedipus? That story gives me urges. Uncomfortable urges. Then dissuades me from following through on them, somehow. :)

I'm willing to think more about this, when I get a spare moment.

Best regards,

David

George S. Ledyard
02-11-2009, 09:29 AM
PAG. The issue here is the nature of the transformative process. I will agree with George that O Sensei intended aikido to be a transformative process, but whether, and in what aspects, and how it transforms need to be worked out by each individual. I do not believe that finding the true source of personal understanding will necessarily be achieved by turning inwards. One might need to do this, but doing so will not automatically lead to the 'true source'.



Hi Peter,
This is an important point... we each need to work this out. The Founder as "mythic figure" can help us give some direction to our inquiry, just as research into the Founder as "historical figure" contributes as well.

Unless one is a person like Rev Koichi Barrish, we're not going to duplicate precisely the manner in which O-Sensei trained nor will we end up with exactly the same insights.

As teachers it is our responsibility to define the art and pass it along to another generation. In the case of Aikido it means not just passing on what has been received but re-discovering what has been lost in many cases. Teachers must keep training continuously to achieve this. I think that the Founder modeled that for us as well, he kept changing and growing right up until he died. It was his students that attached themselves to an Aikido defined by a period in the Founder's development and froze into a style.

Erick Mead
02-11-2009, 09:34 AM
Don't feel bad about yourself :). It might be George's fault for adding myth to the discussion, but I myself think that adding myth was something of a mixed blessing. With myth there is a lot more to explain and so I think that myth should not become a convenient receptacle for making otherwise intractable statements or activities suddenly 'true' or 'wise'.

My life in aikido has taught me the great value of Occam's Razor. (Entities--such as deities, demons, myths, inaccessible concepts such as KI--should not be multiplied beyond what is necessary.) Ah.. a sharp instrument that... best used cautiously. My favorite proof of the existence of Santa Claus is the method of Occam's razor -- either there is a world-wide uncoordinated conspiracy involving the families of children around the world and reaching into the highest levels of multi-national corporations and governments to consciously maintain the pretense of a fictitious being who delivers presents to children on Christmas Eve --- OR --- Santa Claus IS real. By Occam's razor, the latter is the simpler conclusion and therefore more likely correct. QED. :D

An important consequence of Occam's razor, as it applies to aikido training, however, is that it is up to each one of us to apply it as he/she thinks fit.

I agree that Joseph Campbell made a very good attempt to explain myth, as James Frazer did before him, but to what extent will you apply the Hero with a Thousand Faces paradigm to Morihei Ueshiba? Of the 17 'features' of the Hero's Journey, some fit, some do not. Where does that leave us?

Oedipus Rex ... he was fated to do all this and my Japanese class felt that this was hugely unfair to Oedipus, for he could not help himself by escaping from the bounds of the prophecy. He was fated to be a scapegoat. Since when is "fair" a part of myth -- or life for that matter. This is the essence of Tolkien's "Northern theory of courage" -- the will to fight in honor to the bitter end of a known and inevitable destruction. He saw that as a proto-evangelical sentiment -- which inspired all his work.

(It's somewhat like Harry Potter. The prophecy requires that he or Voldemort dies, but J K Rowling does not explain why there should be such a prophecy, or why it should prophesy such an outcome. And, obviously, the mythological element in Harry Pottter or Tolkien would never work with aikido, because, as O Sensei allegedly tells us, aikido transcends victory or defeat, which rather nullifies the point of Harry's final battle with Voldemort and Frodo's battle with Sauron.) Because quite simply one of them is willing to kill in order to live. Therefore, one of them has to die for the other to live. How we get there is the point. Harry Potter did not win -- Harry willingly submits to death, and Voldemort kills him. That death is the final act -- it is simply not the end of the story. And she does explain it -- through an epitaph in the Peverell graveyard "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." (1 Cor. 15:26) Harry conquers it by submitting to it; Voldemort dies horribly because he is unwilling to suffer it. "He that would lose his life shall save it; he that would save his life shall lose it." "Let him who has ears listen"

Frodo did not win -- he succumbed to the Ring -- Only Smeagol the completely undeserving, murderous object of Frod's continued pity, and seeking only satisfy his most base and unredeemed desires, THAT saved his mission -- and the whole of mankind, in spite of everything, and Frodo's own complete failure. Grace, in a word, at the end of all things. Gold spun from straw, another tale tells.

Not victory. Not defeat. Something else.

No. No myth there. Nothing relating to aikido at all.... ;)

So, in what respects are the Kojiki myths themselves 'true' and, consequently, in what sense are O Sensei's statements based on the Kojiki myths 'true'?

Note that I have put 'true' in quotes, because I doubt that it is the appropriate word to use here, for I do not really think that myths are 'true' or 'false'. They are true if his meaning can be put into practice, and if it can't, then they are not true. On balance -- mostly true, by my estimation.

Buck
02-11-2009, 05:06 PM
Thanks Peter,

George talking about myth really is part needed in the discussion, since I blame him for it, am too glad he did.

You take a more intimate view of myth than I did. I thought about it, and played around with it, i.e. I talked about the moon being made of cheese as a long held belief /myth and O'Sensei thinking himself as a god translating to us as a sports god (more commonly used in Rock and Roll, where people are aspiring to or deemed as being guitar gods). In all of that I was alluding to Takamagahara (Plain of High Heaven), whole package. But I thought naw, I am too chicken, I will just keep it light. Because, then like you said there are no dualities, no black and white. Which really doesn't work well in science. Science at is core is intellectualism. Being lazy and not wanting to that deep into it, and I simply said science figuring everyone understood what I meant was intellectualism and stuff. I really sometimes regret not learning the German and French languages so I could think more profoundly in terms of intellectualism, rather than reading a translation. May be in my next after life. :)

Anyway, I felt I had to start with myths being true or false in the relation to this, that myths don't allow for, or by their their, or are unable to lead to the act of questioning. We see that in how the Shinto cult shaped and influenced Japan and Japanese everything, especially martial ways, and O'Sensei. Questioning then leads to intellectualism. Without questioning intellectualism doesn't develop and we see that again in Japan up to the introduction of Budhism. There was no schools of philosophy etc. and all the other things Buddhism create and bring into being. I think that is what separates people living in tribal cultures who are heavily into myth vs. advanced cultures who did question their myths, developed intellectualism. Intellectualism is evolution of a society. Opps there is Darwin's finger print of evolution- got to rethink by position on Darwin and Aikido evolving, hate when that happens. Japan again is a good example. Again I alluded to this when I was talking about O'Sensei wanting change that was in relation and stuff of going against the previous feudal culture of Japan. Like O'Sensei stressing love, harmony, etc. All of which was absent feudal Japan, like intellectualism. I think O'Sensei was in that change, umm...like he had a foot in each world. That is why I said he mixes both the old and the new way in his Aikido. Might explain why his writings and thoughts seemed so abstract and all over the place, maybe. Which relates to your thought's on the "Kojiki myths [being]'true'."

Yes, I did think about that, I agree. I agree with George but in a different time and splace (space and place = splace not a spelling error), like in pre-Buddhist Japan. Myths on a deeper level may neither be true or false. I agree because myths for me don't allow for intellectualism, and that is really the big picture in a sense.

Again with the advancement of intellecualism cultures and societies flourished, they evolved, the develop possibilities and technologies and feats that societies clinging to myth haven't even started or capable of realizing.

I am being lazy here- it all relates to O'Sensei and questioning O'Sensei, seeing him not as a myth, a myth that gets redesigned with each generation, but seeing him throw the facts that keeps his image and life's work constant. That he was of a man in a true light. And not in a colored light that we want to see him in, reflecting ourselves. There is our so to speak evolutionary jump, to develop an intellectual factual understanding of Aikido and not one that is subject to exaggeration, and personal coloring, i.e. he was perfect in everyway, he could dodge bullets, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Rather a man in a time of transition and renaissance in time, splace and culture.

Odd thought, I wonder if O'Sensei didn't go to the new emerging Omoto religion for the spiritual pillar of Aikido, and say he choose another new religion instead without all the criticism of one of it's founders and the other founder being found of trances etc., than how different would Aikido be?

phitruong
02-11-2009, 06:42 PM
question: to lead men doing difficulty tasks, like charging into the line of enemy fires or change an uncompromising mind, do we use myth or fact?

Erick Mead
02-11-2009, 06:43 PM
Because, then like you said there are no dualities, no black and white. Which really doesn't work well in science. Science at is core is intellectualism. ... myths don't allow for, or by their their, or are unable to lead to the act of questioning. ... Questioning then leads to intellectualism. Without questioning intellectualism doesn't develop and we see that again in Japan up to the introduction of Budhism. There was no schools of philosophy etc. and all the other things Buddhism create and bring into being.

Intellectualism is evolution of a society. Opps there is Darwin's finger print of evolution- got to rethink by position on Darwin and Aikido evolving, hate when that happens.
Buddhism is really kind of anti-intellectual --or more nearly, turns the intellect back on itself . Eliminating the mind of discrimination and contention (questioning) is the point of Buddhism.

Neo-Confucianism, though (Shushigaku and Oyomeigaku, mainly) captured elements of both Buddhist and Taoist thought (esp. Oyomei) and deeply affected Japanese thinking from the beginning of the Tokugawa era -- and answers to the kind of intellectualism you are speaking to (Shushigaku more so than Oyomeigaku).

Buddhism as it most profoundly interacted with Shinto in Japan was chiefly the tantric, esoteric kind -- the Womb Realm, Diamond Realm, Dharma Kings, etc., A-UN guardian deities of consequence to martial mythology, etc. That is why it was able to nearly subsume Shinto intact into its own highly mythic system during the period of Ryobu Shinto.

As for adherents of nembutsu -- it is many things, but intellectual is not chief among them.

Don't get me wrong I have a foot firmly placed in both camps rational and non-rational. But an intellectual approach reasons out a response to a problem. There is nothing -- NOTHING -- intellectual about stepping unarmed into the path of a live blade -- but ultimately that is what we train to do. It is an utterly visceral act. To be comfortable in acting that way without thinking without anxiety takes practice and imagery that makes it a conceivable intentional act.

Myth does not really speak to the intellect -- it speaks to the will.

Shannon Frye
02-11-2009, 07:24 PM
Umm..what DID O'Sensei say to Terry Dobson? (as related to this topic).



FWIW. I know what O'Sensei said to Terry Dobson but that was to Terry Dobson. . :)

Buck
02-11-2009, 07:52 PM
question: to lead men doing difficulty tasks, like charging into the line of enemy fires or change an uncompromising mind, do we use myth or fact?

Well death is a fact, the myth is what comes after death or about death i.e. it's glorious to horrifying. The samurai vow to die a samurai's death which I talked about shows that the samurai understood what they faced, death, wasn't a myth, but a fact.

Buck
02-11-2009, 11:12 PM
Buddhism is really kind of anti-intellectual --or more nearly, turns the intellect back on itself . Eliminating the mind of discrimination and contention (questioning) is the point of Buddhism.

Neo-Confucianism, though (Shushigaku and Oyomeigaku, mainly) captured elements of both Buddhist and Taoist thought (esp. Oyomei) and deeply affected Japanese thinking from the beginning of the Tokugawa era -- and answers to the kind of intellectualism you are speaking to (Shushigaku more so than Oyomeigaku).

Buddhism as it most profoundly interacted with Shinto in Japan was chiefly the tantric, esoteric kind -- the Womb Realm, Diamond Realm, Dharma Kings, etc., A-UN guardian deities of consequence to martial mythology, etc. That is why it was able to nearly subsume Shinto intact into its own highly mythic system during the period of Ryobu Shinto.

As for adherents of nembutsu -- it is many things, but intellectual is not chief among them.

Don't get me wrong I have a foot firmly placed in both camps rational and non-rational. But an intellectual approach reasons out a response to a problem. There is nothing -- NOTHING -- intellectual about stepping unarmed into the path of a live blade -- but ultimately that is what we train to do. It is an utterly visceral act. To be comfortable in acting that way without thinking without anxiety takes practice and imagery that makes it a conceivable intentional act.

Myth does not really speak to the intellect -- it speaks to the will.

I think you mis-read me, and I think then other people have too. I do get lazy and just touch on something without detailed explanation. Now I am not an expert, and I don't want to get into a long detailed thingy. Because of that I am just going to skim over it and keep it general so you can see where I am coming from.

In Japan prior to Buddhism, Shinto was it. This means there was no intellectualism in Japan. The intellectual stuff that those thinkers of the western world enjoyed, and fancied didn't exist, like bodies of literature, schools of philosophy etc. Shinto Japan had almost nada on the metaphysical speculation side of things, or simulate to go into. The Japanese where hurting in that department because of Shintoism sticking with the physical surroundings. A cult that didn't have such a concern, if it wasn’t aware of it, to question the invisible things of the universe. Things the west questioned and contemplated upon with great curious inquisitiveness and excitement. Like that little popular song of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star that Mozart composed 12 version of at 4 years old or something- both myth and fact. You know, “twinkle, twinkle little star how I wonder what you are?” or things like the “thinking reed.” With the introduction of Buddhism that all changed. Before, Buddhism, questioning was not the thing. After Buddhism questioning was the thing that lead to seeing the universe and the physical environment differently then how Shinto viewed those things. You can see that in the historical development of Japan.

We are are not talking religion or cult specifics rather the impact of each upon the Japanese and specifically O'Sensei.

Buck
02-12-2009, 08:06 AM
Here is an opportunity to tweak. The following continues to address Erick saying, "Buddhism is really kind of anti-intellectual --or more nearly, turns the intellect back on itself. Eliminating the mind of discrimination and contention (questioning) is the point of Buddhism." And I have the opportunity to tweak my whole thing about Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise! and myth.

Shinto of being Nature mysticism was not concerned with rational interpretation of Nature mysticism. Shinto doesn't have scriptures for that like Buddhism does with its Sutras. And there was no rationalization for the existence of the kama, and like stuff (points out the issue I have with myths). Buddhism does deal with the rational. Like in the for the cause of suffering, because of the mind. You have to be introspective physiologically to explain such things as humans being miserable. You question and figure out why rather than accepting it as is- simply put.

Wow, now I feel way too much over intellectually stimulated.:hypno: :crazy: :eek:

Buck
02-12-2009, 08:34 AM
Being overly intellectually simulated and needing a smoke, we have to also look to the Omoto religion and its purpose and function when looking at O'Sensei as being wise. And all the influences upon O'Sensei thought.

O'Sensei's wisdom had feudal martial, Shinto, Chinese thought, and Indian religious and Omoto influences, on top of, like all Japanese, the dualism of religion and ethics, purposely or not. He knowingly or not drew from all of that. So to really say Omoto was the only influence or spiritual pillar for O'Sensei, is not looking at O'Sensei completely. Or understanding his "wisdom" amoung other things. More later, after the smoke. :)

Erick Mead
02-12-2009, 08:37 AM
Shinto Japan had almost nada on the metaphysical speculation side of things, or simulate to go into.
The Japanese where hurting in that department because of Shintoism sticking with the physical surroundings.
A cult that didn't have such a concern, if it wasn't aware of it, to question the invisible things of the universe. I would not disagree with this so far as it goes, in that the Japanese did not "question" invisible things -- they freely accepted them and indeed were highly sensitive to them. But it is true they did not natively do much in the way of deconstructing them, but that is an artifact of an official policy of the Tokugawa, to cut Japan off from exposure to or development of anything similar to "Dutch learning" -- not necessarily anything innate in the Japanese people or their culture, or Shinto per se.
Things the west questioned and contemplated upon with great curious inquisitiveness and excitement. This is because the celebration of God's immanence in the universe underlay the zeal of physical inquiry. "The heavens declare the glory of the Lord." Only later did the effort become self-justifying on utilitarian or other grounds.

It is a mistake to read the vagaries of a political policy as defining the nature of a people or their religion. Shinto is at least as keen on understanding and relating to the immanent spirit of the Universe, however that may be understood. There is nothing at all inconsistent in that and their subsequent development of an, obviously, highly technically capable and sophisticated culture of scientific inquiry of their own.

With the introduction of Buddhism that all changed. Before, Buddhism, questioning was not the thing. After Buddhism questioning was the thing that lead to seeing the universe and the physical environment differently then how Shinto viewed those things. You can see that in the historical development of Japan. Not so much. Japan swallowed Buddhism -- not the other way around. Shinbutsu shugo was Tokugawa era policy and was the heyday of Buddhist influence over Shinto. The steady revival of a more nativist Shinto among academic and religious circles proceeded throughout the Edo period in reaction to that policy and culminated in the Meiji formal separation of the two in the shinbutsu bunri.

That coincided with the rapid technical development leading to the defeat of Imperial Russia at Tsushima in 1904. The technical development of Japan proceeded apace, with the ever-centralizing State Shinto growing happily along with it until the end of WWII. Unit 731 was certainly an horrific moral failing at the end of this process -- but it was not the result of any lack of material inquisitiveness, nor was that in any way hampered by Shinto teaching.

C. David Henderson
02-12-2009, 11:50 AM
1. Buddhism in Japan did generate philosophical as well as religious thought.

The Shobogenzo, by Dogen, and in particular his essay on "being-time," while ultimately in pursuit of Zen's "anti-intellectualism" nonetheless can be and often has been read -- for better and/or worse --as a philosophical tract about the nature of being, time, and consciousness.

2. Back to myth -- I think for someone who actively embraces a myth "as-true," it creates an emotional and conceptual space in which the "moral of the story" affects the person's understanding of their place in the world. That's one of the main jobs of stories.

3. Whatever underlying symbolism, archetypes, reversals, oppositions, or juxtapositions we might tease out of the "text" in rational discourse, the process of analysis doesn't do the same thing; we may understand a lot of details, but the story hasn't flowed into our veins.

4. In that last paragraph are a lot of problematic terms for any analysis of text for its "encoded" meaning -- Oedipus Rex, Frodo, or Gilligan's Island (in which, I am told each of the characters represents one of the Seven Deadly Sins).

5. For example, Jung tried to find universal archetypes that described the grammar of the unconscious; but culturally specific meanings necessarily crept in the back door to fill in content. The result -- an interesting but ethnocentric body of analysis.

Claude Levi-Strauss developed structuralism as an Anthropologist to study myth in other cultures. For him, the meaning of the story arises from the internal oppositions and parallels contained in the text (maybe with some ethnographic cue cards to provide the necessary cast of characters); which leaves the appearance sometimes that the content is arbitrary, a code for the sake of coding, not an encoding of some essential meaning about life in that society that people (in theory) tell stories in order to convey in a direct, emotionally relevant sense to the audience.

6. To the analyst, the "truth" of the story is not the same as to the audience. This duality makes it problematic to throw about the Veblenesque construct like "mythological truth:" It is a term that only makes sense if one doesn't believe the story. If you do, it's true, but its hardly a myth.

7. As for Oedipus, I would venture that breadth of his good works, the fated-ness of his sin, and thus the unfairness of the consequences -- all are absolutely essential to the story as a Greek myth (er, story); probably as much as the incest angle. But the cleft foot, the mistaken identit(ies), the role reversals, the blinding; there's the grist for the exegesis of something "more" (which I still haven't done, I'm afraid).

Regards,

David

JimCooper
02-13-2009, 06:05 AM
A lack of understanding.

There certainly is. And that was the crux of my objection to that section (and it was only one section) of George's post. People should not really pontificate on subjects they clearly do not understand. You and George obviously do not understand how science works. I know you think you do, but unfortunately you're wrong.

You may be absolutely brilliant at other things, and as such, you should feel free, or even be encouraged, to express your opinions on those topics freely.

But I believe people in positions of respect and/or authority have a responsibility to not spread misinformation. Politicians are called on it by journalists. And I'm doing it here.

Standing up for truth is something we should all be aiming for as aikidoka (or even just good people), isn't it?

Buck
02-13-2009, 07:04 AM
For me O'Sensei was wise and not in the mystical or divine sense. But instead, in the sense that he was shifting to the new, in both the spiritual and cultural sense. There is no doubt that O'Sensei was still influenced by Shinto and the myths due to being Japanese. But he realized the importance of moving forward, and not sticking to the views dictated by Shinto and it's myths, so much so, it restricted his intellectual grow and progressive thinking.

George S. Ledyard
02-13-2009, 09:12 AM
There certainly is. And that was the crux of my objection to that section (and it was only one section) of George's post. People should not really pontificate on subjects they clearly do not understand. You and George obviously do not understand how science works. I know you think you do, but unfortunately you're wrong.

You may be absolutely brilliant at other things, and as such, you should feel free, or even be encouraged, to express your opinions on those topics freely.

But I believe people in positions of respect and/or authority have a responsibility to not spread misinformation. Politicians are called on it by journalists. And I'm doing it here.

Standing up for truth is something we should all be aiming for as aikidoka (or even just good people), isn't it?

Hi Jim,
You obviously don't understand how things not scientific work. I know you think you do but you are wrong. Which leaves us at an impasse that will not be resolved at any point in this lifetime.
- George

Erick Mead
02-13-2009, 11:23 AM
There certainly is. And that was the crux of my objection to that section (and it was only one section) of George's post. People should not really pontificate on subjects they clearly do not understand. You and George obviously do not understand how science works. I know you think you do, but unfortunately you're wrong.

But I believe people in positions of respect and/or authority have a responsibility to not spread misinformation. Politicians are called on it by journalists. And I'm doing it here. In praise of logic, let me point out that the argument you have ventured is, as a rhetorical matter, founded on pathos (emotion) -- vice logos ( reason), although it has a touch of ethos (morals) toward the end. This is the fallacy of ad verecundiam -- appeal to authority, with an ad hominem attached (asserting lack of needed authority in the proponent, as well as an attack on the moral credibility of the proponent in the making of the statement.)

Fortunately, science is not authoritative. Science is reasoned argument from hypothesis and evidence testing the falsification of that hypothesis. The "politician" is, I must admit, a very nice touch of subconscious associational attack on credibility. Molto bene. Argument is also budo -- and creative attacks should be praised for their technical merit.

To make the logical argument you must identify the allegedly erroneous statement and then show it to be wrong from admissible evidence. Merely asserting it to be so from presumptive authority is not an argument to reason -- it is an appeal to emotion -- namely a form of social approval - mixed with an ethical presumption of a socially defined standard of morality on those "in authority." For the record, I claim none but what fact, reason and good sense might confer. George has a fair amount, but then I have no authority to establish that -- so what do I know? ;)

Authority does not make a statement right -- that is the "good German" defense to an objective moral accusation. Lack of authority does not make a statement wrong -- that was Galileo's muttered "E il muove," as he formally recanted at the end of his trial for heresy. Science is, above all, reasonable -- not authoritative. :)

Given that you seem to claim the imprimatur to do so, please explain how science works -- and moreover, how it developed. Since ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, I seem to recall, we must understand the developmental origin of the thing to understand the thing completely.

Please, be specific, in what thing have I misinformed? Don't be shy or ambiguous. I volunteer for people to swing heavy wood at my head. So, please, tell me, how am I wrong?

Standing up for truth is something we should all be aiming for as aikidoka (or even just good people), isn't it?Ah.. "What is truth?" -- someone once asked in passing sentence ... You might answer that one too, in this scientific context, while we are at it. :) And while we are on the scenic tour of the bestiary of logical fallacy, this is a lovely combination of "assuming the conclusion" or tautology with an argument by rhetorical question (in my profession we call this a "leading" question.)

I'll go first. Scientific truth is those hypothetical statements of concrete fact that can be objectively falsified, and as to which the falsification cannot be proven by physical evidence. In other words, science does not speak to the truth or falsity of ANY statement that cannot be:

1) hypothesized concretely
2) falsified objectively, AND
3) tested by physical evidence

In fact, science does not define ANY truth -- it only eliminates concrete and testable non-truth from reasoned discussion. It literally says nothing about truth that is either:

1) not concrete
2) not objective
3) not conceptually falsifiable
4) not physically testable, OR
5) for which evidence is lacking

Here East and West should properly meet. "To know that you do not know is the best." Lao-tzu

I'll leave the remainder of that quote for those who choose to Google it.

C. David Henderson
02-13-2009, 12:45 PM
But was Sensei Wise?

Erick Mead
02-13-2009, 02:48 PM
But was Sensei Wise?He enjoined practice above all. The practice of O Sensei's art taught me to distinguish carefully between things I could perceive and resolve rationally, and things I could only perceive and resolve resolve non-rationally, and the importance of and the relationship between both of them.

So, wise, yes. And quirky. I like quirky. No particular reason. :D

C. David Henderson
02-13-2009, 03:39 PM
Don't need one; it's just a quirk anyway, my friend.

Buck
02-13-2009, 07:35 PM
Erick,

To see the true things,
Harmonize the voice with shouts.
"Yah!"
Never be drawn into the rhythm of the enemy.
- Morihei Ueshiba

Buck
02-13-2009, 11:14 PM
There is a very important and well known term in Japanese Buddhism, and among Japanese Buddhist, I believe it is Dori ( or yukti). I don't know why I get excited, but I do and this stuff gives me the goose bumps!

Yukti means unity or way of union. I always wondered if...well if that is where the core of O'Sensei's use of harmony comes from. It is more exciting to think about that being the origin. Not saying O'Sensei was Buddhist, but rather the influence it had on all Japanese. There is a likely possibility the origin of harmony was Chinese influence, ying and yang. Since the idea of polar opposites that ying and yang represent also say balance. And the Chinese on the whole, in general, and broadly speaking at a time supported the idea of non-conflict that had influenced the Chinese, and also in some of their martial arts.

I am saying that I think there is an element seen in O'Sensei and his writing that show rational thinking over mystical elements. I am not saying he was absent of the esoteric practices. If I did I would be flat wrong. But what it points to is a direct link between this rational thinking and his esoteric practices of Japan, namely in Shinto, and Omoto.

He was not a figure that we in the west can mold to our own dependencies, because we like the background to see him properly. And therefore, treat him as we like to support or fit our own stuff. In example, when we reject one divinity, for what ever reason, we put O'Sensei in place. We don't change the way we see and treat our mythology when do that. We pop O'Sensei into that box. The play is the same, it is simply that we changed the lead character.

His wisdom then is in his ability to take from the past Japan that he felt was important to keep and help move Japan forward into the new Japan with Aikido. And not providing us with religious wisdom, divine enlightenment for our live, salvation from our mental calamities, and that kind of stuff.

O'Sensei was not the stuff of Airport Hare Krishna's- the people that my older brother feared as a kid. For some kids it was clowns, but for my brother it was those guys. O'Sensei to me seems now to me to want reform and progression for Japan by using what he felt was useful of the old and supporting the new. If we see O'Sensei as a shaman, etc. whose mystical abstract words guide our spiritual (as in soul, divinity) beliefs to enlightenment. Someone that will lead mystically us to a uptopia, then we got O'Sensei pegged for the wrong kind of wise. Hey anyone for that matter.

Buck
02-13-2009, 11:43 PM
I think you can't look to O'Sensei as that wise old shaman sage who has all the answer. Who will clear -with his word (wise words) -all the personal strife and torment a person experiences as they seek out solace and refuge. That was Christ's problem, and he didn't practice Aikido. We look for stability most of the time from those we think have the answers, except from within ourselves. In this sense O'Sensei was not wise. I don't think he had those answers. I felt after reading him that is what Aikido practice was for (love ending sentences that way, I am the rebellious type). You work it out all on your own. He just provided the medium with all the discipline and things he brought in from the military ways, and delivered it with a touch of Japanese spirtuality from many sourses. He really was more like a coach who prayed in the locker room, then the likes of Jesus or Oprah ( the way people follow her, she is close to being a female Jeeeesus). Putting O'Sensei on a pedastool is the myth that impeds the truth. IMHO

Josh Reyer
02-14-2009, 06:56 AM
O'Sensei was not the stuff of Airport Hare Krishna's- the people that my older brother feared as a kid. For some kids it was clowns, but for my brother it was those guys.

Sounds like your brother needed Robert Stack (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qse_wf57tZM).

CitoMaramba
02-14-2009, 08:11 AM
Sounds like your brother needed Robert Stack (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qse_wf57tZM).

Nice Kotegaeshi by Robert Stack at 0:17..

Buck
02-14-2009, 10:27 AM
Sounds like your brother needed Robert Stack (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qse_wf57tZM).

That was so funny it brought me to tears. :)

mathewjgano
02-14-2009, 11:02 PM
You work it out all on your own.
As I see it, the secret to all "true" success in life.:)

He really was more like a coach who prayed in the locker room, then the likes of Jesus or Oprah ( the way people follow her, she is close to being a female Jeeeesus).
How do you mean? Are you saying O Sensei was more of a "regular guy" than a guru?

Putting O'Sensei on a pedastool is the myth that impeds the truth. IMHO
So you don't think there's ever a time when looking at someone in idealized terms (i.e. put'em up on a pedestal) can lead to any truth? From a historical standpoint of factual events, I agree that myth obfuscates part of the truth, but when it comes to "wisdom" and other highly subjective concepts, I don't think it necessarily does the same thing.

Buck
02-14-2009, 11:37 PM
How do you mean? Are you saying O Sensei was more of a "regular guy" than a guru?

.

No, that he was more like a coach than say a divinity like Jesus, or Ophra or Ron L. Hubbard.

I figure people have been reading me since the start, and know what I am saying when I say pedastool (pedestal). A pedastool is my way of say a foot rest. Where people can throw up their feet on it, relax and enjoy the ride. They depend on his words of wisdom for their easing of the crazy mental stuff that goes on inside their head, or their lives, or to identify with, to reflect themselves on him. Or be someone they can believe in.

mathewjgano
02-15-2009, 12:57 PM
No, that he was more like a coach than say a divinity like Jesus, or Ophra or Ron L. Hubbard.
I think I understand you better now. It was the Oprah remark that threw me with respect to the divinity point.

I figure people have been reading me since the start, and know what I am saying when I say pedastool (pedestal). A pedastool is my way of say a foot rest. Where people can throw up their feet on it, relax and enjoy the ride. They depend on his words of wisdom for their easing of the crazy mental stuff that goes on inside their head, or their lives, or to identify with, to reflect themselves on him. Or be someone they can believe in.
If that answered my question I couldn't make the connection. I get the pedestal analogy, what I'm saying is you seem to think this is always bad. I'm saying it's somewhat natural to put people on pedestals from time to time and that it can even be healthy.

Buck
02-15-2009, 05:55 PM
I think I understand you better now. It was the Oprah remark that threw me with respect to the divinity point.

If that answered my question I couldn't make the connection. I get the pedestal analogy, what I'm saying is you seem to think this is always bad. I'm saying it's somewhat natural to put people on pedestals from time to time and that it can even be healthy.

It is not a good thing for all the well-known text book reasons. I would think respect would be a better choice. You respect O'Sensei instead of putting him up above you for those that do. Tis, is an age old problem, we as human generally do the pedastool thing as a natural (or conditioned) reflect. And it gets us into trouble every time.

mathewjgano
02-15-2009, 11:01 PM
It is not a good thing for all the well-known text book reasons.
Agreed.

I would think respect would be a better choice. You respect O'Sensei instead of putting him up above you for those that do.

I think we're discussing semantics at this point because I would say "pedestal-placing" is an extreme form of respect...bordering on excessive, but not always quite there. I get what you're saying though.

Tis, is an age old problem, we as human generally do the pedastool thing as a natural (or conditioned) reflect. And it gets us into trouble every time.
It begins with our parents, generally speaking. We place them on pedestals because they seem to have an answer for everything. Over time we see they only have answers for some things, and gradually we begin to find out answers for ourselves. This is a case in which I don't think we can make the absolute statement that it's trouble every time, but I'm probably splitting hairs here so i digress.
Take care,
Matt

Buck
02-15-2009, 11:36 PM
Agreed.

I think we're discussing semantics at this point because I would say "pedestal-placing" is an extreme form of respect...bordering on excessive, but not always quite there. I get what you're saying though.

It is the excessive and what comes from that is the concern. It can turn ugly the guy who shot John Lennon, to those of Heaven's Gate, to all sorts of things. Sure no every case turns out this way, some experience depression and other like emotional stuff when they are let down. Like those got fanatical and who idolized and worshiped a person turning that person into what the they made that person into.
Matt

I can see what your getting at. I just want to say going to the extreme is the issue for me. People do look at O'Sensei and his words in an extreme they idolize and worship him and what he says. Maybe, it is too much respect? You got to allow the man to be human. He had a temper, could be seen as alittle odd and didn't always practice what he preached- though in the Japanese way of things that might be accepted as O'Sensei being martial artist. He wasn't perfect, and wasn't a god outside the Shinto sense, but certainly not the messiah, or Zeus, or other such related divinity. He could have been a living Kami- he was skilled in Aikido. That works for Shinto.

JimCooper
02-16-2009, 02:49 AM
let me point out that the argument you have ventured

I seem not to have been clear. I made a statement of fact, and a statement of my moral position. No argument was presented.

I found your explanation of ki, BTW. It did remind me that there are indeed theories that cannot be tested. I haven't seen such a classic example of the genre for some years.

JimCooper
02-16-2009, 03:00 AM
You obviously don't understand how things not scientific work. I know you think you do but you are wrong.


On the contrary, I know there are a vast number of things I do not understand. But I don't use a position of respect to spread misconceptions about them.

You have such a position in the aikido world, and therefore people in that world will tend to believe what you say. I believe that confers a responsibility on you.

Once this sort of misinformation gets out there, it can be very difficult to correct. A senior Japanese karate instructor once wrote a book in which he tried to explain the physics of various techniques. The physics was laughably poor, but now virtually every article or book on the subject quotes him on it.

JimCooper
02-16-2009, 04:41 AM
I think the point had to do with what happens when a scientific test isn't readily available though didn't it?


I'm not quite sure what his point was, to be honest. If you're asking if there are things that are not easily testable, then yes, of course there are. Sometimes because the tests are just really difficult, or perhaps because it is a philosophical idea that doesn't really lend itself to testing, and sometimes because the "theory" is just gibberish and makes no kind of sense.

Traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and ki are not amongst them though. Those sorts of things are put to the test all the time.

There are also loads of things for which there are no good explanations - many diseases have no known cause, for example. In some cases it is possible to rule out an explanation without having an alternative.

In mathematics things are even worse (Godel's Theorem).

But science is more ruling out what is wrong than proving something is true. The best you can hope for is that your theory is currently the best guess (or one of the best guesses), but you should expect it to be modified or replaced as further observations cast doubt on it.


Would you be willing to describe the experiment for me?

There are loads, actually. Googling will give you lots of links, eg
http://www.practicalphysics.org/

If ki is a form of energy that can affect people, then it should be easily detectable. Oddly, none of these experiments seem to display any sign of it (the principle of conservation of energy suggests that it should). Really, really accurate experiments done by professional physicists show no sign of it either. It is therefore unlikely to exist.

However, the beauty of the scientific approach is that it is self-correcting. People are encouraged to add to the body of knowledge we have about the universe. The discovery of a new form of energy would be revolutionary. But there has to be evidence, not just assertions or wild theories.

George S. Ledyard
02-16-2009, 10:55 AM
If ki is a form of energy that can affect people, then it should be easily detectable. Oddly, none of these experiments seem to display any sign of it (the principle of conservation of energy suggests that it should). Really, really accurate experiments done by professional physicists show no sign of it either. It is therefore unlikely to exist.


And Jim, this is precisely my point... While you sit there and scientifically explain that ki is unlikely to exist, some of the best martial artists I know use it all the time. Since they didn't require a machine to verify its existence, they can go about using it in their art. I "know" ki exists. I use it in my technique. I can feel it, my partners can feel it. I have trained with people who can do absolutely amazing things, free of the need to have a physicist tell the that what they are doing is real. My ability to do what I do is quite independent of the need for "scientific" verification. My partners would be happy to verify that something has totally changed compared to ten years ago when I had no idea about this stuff.

I have used homeopathy with my family for twenty years quite successfully. I REALLY don't care whether scientists tell me it doesn't work. I have a body of empirical experience that it does. So do two hundred fifty years of doctors and patients. Perhaps, at some pint, science will explain it but until that time I am quite happily doing it.

mathewjgano
02-16-2009, 11:35 AM
You got to allow the man to be human. He had a temper, could be seen as alittle odd and didn't always practice what he preached- though in the Japanese way of things that might be accepted as O'Sensei being martial artist.
I don't know enough about O Sensei to say whether or not he practiced what he preached, but he was definately human and subject to the same basic condition we're all afflicted with.:D

He could have been a living Kami- he was skilled in Aikido. That works for Shinto.
Somewhere I once heard a loose definition of kami described as that which inspires awe. The intense personal effort O Sensei seemed to fill his life with is itself pretty awe-inspiring to me, so in that sense he certainly was living kami.
Coincidentally...I rank him up there with my other heroes: Einstein; Ghandi; Sam Clemens; Jim Morrison; and Bender, from Futurama (to name a few). Each personality is quite different and I certainly treat each one with different levels of seriousness, but each is held as some standard of greatness for me to reach toward.

C. David Henderson
02-16-2009, 11:51 AM
I seem not to have been clear. I made a statement of fact, and a statement of my moral position. No argument was presented.

Is that your argument as to what you did? Or is it simply a "statement of fact?" On what basis can you assert that the one description (statement-of-fact) excludes the other (argument), particularly since you were involved in a verbal dispute?

JimCooper
02-16-2009, 06:45 PM
While you sit there and scientifically explain that ki is unlikely to exist, some of the best martial artists I know use it all the time.


No, they aren't. They may be using it as a model (I mean that in the scientific sense of the word), and so do I sometimes, but it doesn't actually exist.


Since they didn't require a machine to verify its existence


See, this is one of the misconceptions you have about science. There are plenty of things that do not " require a machine to verify its existence". Polar bears, for example, clearly exist, yet no machine is required to verify that.

But if ki is a form of energy that can affect people, then building a machine to detect it should be pretty straightforward, don't you think? We (not you and me personally) can detect individual subatomic particles. Anything that can move a person should be a doddle.


My ability to do what I do is quite independent of the need for "scientific" verification


Well of course it is, why wouldn't it be? If you needed to be able to explain everything before you could do it, you'd need to know a hell of a lot of stuff.

You seem to be confusing observation with explanation. You obviously don't need to be able to explain a phenomena to show that it happens.

But conversely, just because you can do an aikido technique better than someone else, and you say you're using ki, does not automatically prove that ki exists. (For starters, someone else might do it better than you and claim they don't use ki.)

It's this sort of comment that leads me to believe you do not really understand what science is or how it works. This is not intended to be insulting, regardless of what the list admins might think. No-one knows everything. There are bound to be a lot of things I don't know about that you do, and that you would correct me on if I wrote things you knew to be wrong. I'm comfortable with that. I'm not sure why you aren't.


I have used homeopathy with my family for twenty years quite successfully. I REALLY don't care whether scientists tell me it doesn't work.


Sorry, but you're missing the point again. I've already said that homeopathy has been shown by scientists to work sometimes (and it is only sometimes, regardless of your personal experience).

Why it works is a different thing altogether. Studies have shown that its effectiveness is no better than the placebo and related effects. This means that homeopaths' explanation for why it works is extremely doubtful.


Perhaps, at some pint, science will explain it


It already has, to the satisfaction of those people who are in a position to collect and evaluate the evidence rigourously.It works as well as sugar pills, and most likely for the same reasons.

The placebo effect, whilst demonstrably real, has not been adequately explained, to my knowledge. But that's allowed.

JimCooper
02-16-2009, 06:49 PM
I On what basis can you assert that the one description (statement-of-fact) excludes the other (argument)


I wasn't presenting any form of reasoning, which precludes it from being an argument (in the sense of a logical argument), although it may be a disagreement (which wasn't what I meant).

Erick Mead
02-16-2009, 07:58 PM
I seem not to have been clear. I made a statement of fact, and a statement of my moral position. No argument was presented. Gee, it -- sounded -- like an argument....People should not really pontificate on subjects they clearly do not understand. You and George obviously do not understand how science works. I know you think you do, but unfortunately you're wrong. ... But I believe people in positions of respect and/or authority have a responsibility to not spread misinformation. Politicians are called on it by journalists. And I'm doing it here.
I found your explanation of ki, BTW. It did remind me that there are indeed theories that cannot be tested. I haven't seen such a classic example of the genre for some years.I, like you, treasure empirical fact. The explanation is not a theory. It is an observation. Observation is by definition not testable -- observation tests theory. Ki is oscillation/rotation of (_____) Neither East nor West have yet categorically filled in that blank -- although anything that oscillates or changes with respect to a fixed point of observation that you choose to insert will work -- East or West.

That observation fits every traditional discussion of the principle I have yet come across. I did my undergraduate thesis on Neo-Confucianism of the Ming. Then I flew helicopters and worked with marine acoustics and earned a deep respect for applied physics. I've been at this awhile. :) And you are right, to a point -- it is not cutting edge science, it is too common and ordinary for that -- more like an engineering problem ...

What science means by oscillation/rotation -- Eastern thought deems Ki. We measure it physically by angular momentum -- which photons have, though they have no mass. That simple. O Sensei pulled up a tree with it -- it is not some woo-woo psycho-babble. Dismissing the way the culture that invented gunpowder decides to describe its empirical categories of the world -- smacks of a blinkered prejudice, and a foolish one. I am sure that cannot be the case, and so this must be a dyspeptic mood that will pass, no doubt, and you will eventually come around. ;)

Erick Mead
02-16-2009, 08:19 PM
No, they aren't. They may be using it as a model (I mean that in the scientific sense of the word), and so do I sometimes, but it [Ki] doesn't actually exist. To falsify it you have to define it. You have not done so -- you reject my observation as invalid (without stating the criteria of admissibility for evidence of the point, which, to be material, must relate to the definition of the hypothetical, first stated). You cannot falsify until you define.

But if ki is a form of energy that can affect people, then building a machine to detect it should be pretty straightforward, don't you think? We (not you and me personally) can detect individual subatomic particles. Anything that can move a person should be a doddle. And of course, that is quite trivial with the correct definition .. . Ki is not A form of energy. It is THE form of energy (and of matter, for that matter.) Ki is oscillation -- that's what FORMS the inertia in mass, and FORMSenergy in light -- angular momentum. Mass inertia is simply the sum of a thousand billion atomic gyros in a given object resisting displacement in space -- and the fact that supercooled helium near absolute zero (approaching zero vibrations) loses viscosity (fluidic inertia) demonstrates that the observation can be and is quite routinely tested.

Ki is those waveforms of both energy and matter. It is form over substance -- quite literally. To ask WHAT exactly is formed in oscillating -- well, there is the real inquiry. You perceive nothing except through oscillations -- of one sort or another -- it is a philosophical challenge as much as a scientific one.

If you dismiss this with out taking the effort to demonstrate an error rather than continue to vainly declare a supposition of error, it is because you will not, or cannot, think yourself out of your own categories. Ptolemy ruled supreme for a long, long time for this very reason. Wasn't right though.

O Sensei ties himself to this concept of Ki -- which even casual read of the Doka shows. It is a very traditional wisdom and a straightforwardly applied knowledge. Not easy, or unsubtle, though.

Buck
02-16-2009, 08:23 PM
I don't know enough about O Sensei to say whether or not he practiced what he preached, but he was definately human and subject to the same basic condition we're all afflicted with.:D


Yea, I guess, I sounded that way. It wasn't my intention. I was giving a probability of behavior to illustrate he had flaws and stuff. :)

JimCooper
02-17-2009, 04:37 AM
Gee, it -- sounded -- like an argument....


I'm not quite sure why. The post was made up entirely of statements.


I, like you, treasure empirical fact.


I haven't noticed all that many similarities so far :-)


The explanation is not a theory. It is an observation. Observation is by definition not testable -- observation tests theory.


<sigh> Quod erat demonstrandum


Dismissing the way the culture that invented gunpowder decides to describe its empirical categories of the world -- smacks of a blinkered prejudice, and a foolish one.


It's blinkered predjudice to not believe something that's not true?

That's also a nonsense statement logically. You're suggesting that because gunpowder was invented in China, everything else in Chinese thought through the ages must be true?


you will eventually come around. ;)


Offer up some proof and I will.

JimCooper
02-17-2009, 04:43 AM
And of course, that is quite trivial with the correct definition


I think you need to accept that I'm not going to subscribe to your "theory" (or whatever you want to call it) until it is part of mainstream physics.

C. David Henderson
02-17-2009, 09:55 AM
Dear Jim,

Respectfully, your distinction that your post didn't contain reasoning is both quixotic and contrary to all appearances,

The following contains an identifiable major premise; minor premise; and conclusion.

***People should not really pontificate on subjects they clearly do not understand. You and George obviously do not understand how science works.

***
[P]eople in positions of respect and/or authority have a responsibility to not spread misinformation. Politicians are called on it by journalists. And I'm doing it here.

FWIW

sorokod
02-17-2009, 10:44 AM
Why Physics and not Biology?

Why must Ki be a energy in the sense that Physics treats this concept and not a manipulation of the sensory/cognitive system?

JimCooper
02-17-2009, 11:04 AM
Respectfully, your distinction that your post didn't contain reasoning is both quixotic and contrary to all appearances,


Like I said, that is a statement of my moral position. I don't consider it an argument, in the logical sense, as it is purely my opinion.

JimCooper
02-17-2009, 11:21 AM
Just so I'm clear:

"People should not really pontificate on subjects they clearly do not understand."

My moral position - purely my own opinion. I can give reasons why I think that, but it's not being presented as any sort of logical argument. It's a premise, if you like.

"You and George obviously do not understand how science works."

Observable fact.

There's no logical chain in there.

You can draw various conclusions starting from here, but that just gets us back where I started, and there seemed no point going around that loop again.

C. David Henderson
02-17-2009, 11:34 AM
OK, I understand then you stated a "moral opinion (nee argument) " based on a "minor premise" you consider to be a "fact;" but that's where Erick's critque comes into play, IMO.

George S. Ledyard
02-17-2009, 12:56 PM
Why Physics and not Biology?

Why must Ki be a energy in the sense that Physics treats this concept and not a manipulation of the sensory/cognitive system?

Absolutely, it is just a single word that describes something more complex. For our purposes it can be said to exist because you can feel it, use it, project it, etc. I have never maintained that things like this can be scientifically verified. What I did say was that a) it's irrelevant to my own Aikido training if it's not scientifically verified and b) folks who are tied to scientific explanation of things often limit themselves in what they seek out in their training to what they think fits with known explanations. I have trained with some of the finest martial artists in the world who routinely do things which are fairly incomprehensible. Many of the folks I know simply look at what they do, decide it doesn't fit with their "scientific" or logical understanding and write it off as fake. Virtually always this is without any direct empirical experience of what the teacher is doing. When an explanation using the principles of physics helps me or my students understand something better I use it. When physics doesn't explain what I am doing or experiencing I use other explanations, such as "ki". Jim's lack of belief in it is irrelevant to my own ability to use it.

JimCooper
02-17-2009, 12:56 PM
OK, I understand then you stated a "moral opinion (nee argument) " based on a "minor premise" you consider to be a "fact;" but that's where Erick's critque comes into play, IMO.

Sorry, no, that's not it.

Let me try to explain a different way.

Nobody has time to learn everything, or test every idea that's out there. So on subjects where we have no expertise, we rely on authorities in that field to figure stuff out for us, and relay it to us if we should need it.

On this list, what I say, or what Erick says, doesn't carry much weight, because neither of us is an authority figure in aikido, AFAIK (my apologies to Erick if he actually is). George is altogether different - he's earned his respect the hard way over years and years. So people in the aikido world, and particularly on this list, value and trust his opinion.

He made some comments that were factual errors. And the reason I'm concerned about that is because of what you can already see happening. People think I must be wrong, solely because I disagreed with Ledyard sensei.

As I said in an earlier post, I've seen this before. A well known Japanese karate instructor wrote some bollocks physics in his book. When I checked that it was rubbish with an engineer, it actually made him laugh, it was that bad. But whenever I said something about it, a lot of people got really upset, because I wasn't a famous Japanese karate instructor. These people didn't bother to check any facts themselves, like I did. They just assumed he was right because he was the authority figure. They still do, as the same errors have since been quoted in other articles and books.

If you want to disagree with me, fine. But there are only two possible disagreements. One is that George can say whatever he likes, and it doesn't matter if he's right or not. I'm not going to argue with you if that's what you think, because it's only my moral position, and you're entitled to your own.

The second is that his statements were correct. But if you believe that, you'd better go and check (like I did) first.

JimCooper
02-17-2009, 01:07 PM
For our purposes it can be said to exist because you can feel it, use it, project it, etc


I nearly agree with you. If you said "it can be said to be useful", I would agree entirely.This sort of thing is very common in the scientific world. For example, you probably got taught that electrons orbit around an atomic nucleus. This is a useful model (I use the word in its scientific sense) at a certain level, to explain various chemical reactions. It's not actually true, though, and it's important to know that, even whilst using it.

JimCooper
02-17-2009, 01:11 PM
Why must Ki be a energy in the sense that Physics treats this concept and not a manipulation of the sensory/cognitive system?

Doesn't have to be if you don't use the word energy. It doesn't remove the burden of proof either, though :-)

Erick Mead
02-17-2009, 01:12 PM
It's blinkered predjudice to not believe something that's not true?

That's also a nonsense statement logically. You're suggesting that because gunpowder was invented in China, everything else in Chinese thought through the ages must be true?Only if you read into it something that it did not say. No, what I said, merely, suggested that you, as an empiricist, ought not dismiss a statement derived from the cumulative practical experience of a such a cultural source that has compiled thousands of years of practical experience until you have understood what it is saying. You reject the need to understand it, and so you do not.

O Sensei did not similarly reject the wisdom of the the West. You rightfully defend it, but you do not realize the commonality that underlies both of them. The things they use and perceive in those terms we may but dimly perceive or use in ours -- simply because our categories were chosen too restrictively to begin with (as Einstein eventually showed). We have differently organized and accessed categories of understanding. Unjustified (I mean this technically speaking -- a position that has not been shown conclusively) exclusionary arguments such as yours keep one from getting to the useful work on the common reality behind those categorical ideas.

As an initial point, you very clearly do not understand Ki in its traditional terms, because you continue to define Ki exclusively as an "energy." That is a categorical error. Ki as traditionally understood comprises the categories of BOTH energy and matter. Which is to say that the concept of Ki comprehended a species of mass-energy equivalence, long before Einstein did.

If you will allow me, I will outline the physical definition of Ki so as to provide you the opportunity to falsify it, prove me wrong, and perhaps to determine if O Sensei was or was not wise to use the traditional concept of Ki as a physical category of knowledge. To spare the otherwise competent minds whose taste in entertainment does not run to analytic categories, I will make the more detailed points in a <<spoiler>>:

"Ethereal" or "light" Ki is closer to the category of energy and comprises heat and light -- and condensed Ki is closer to the category of and comprises matter. Understanding, as I do, both of these in terms of angular momentum/moment, the qualities of matter (such as inertia) and the qualities of energy (such as radiation) all come from their fundamentally oscillatory nature. Th idea of Ki simply recognizes that nature as being in common between energy and matter. That is hardly a revolutionary statement, even in the West.

A rotating bicycle wheel resists displacement or rotation in space because it is oscillating -- it possess angular momentum. A rock resists displacement in space because it possesses "inertia" or an "inertial moment" which are just labels for a billion billion gyrostatic atoms (and their constituent wave/[particles) also oscillating (in several different ways -- some of them quite special and quite difficult to conceive) and so also resisting displacement or rotation in space/time.

Light, which is to say a photon, has zero mass, but has measurable angular momentum -- notwithstanding that lack of any mass. The momentum comes from its oscillation. Commonly, one sets momentum p = mv. In those terms, zero mass is zero momentum (thus, disregarding the potential energy or moment). But that is simply an approximation of the true relativistic equation:

p^2= mv^2+ (v/c)^2

or
,,,,, ________________
p=√(mv)^2) + ((v/c)^2)

Angular Momentum (KI) is the single quantity that describes both of the "light ethereal Ki" -- (v/c)^2 -- and the heavy condensed KI -- (mv)^2 -- which are inverses of the same essentially polar quantity and which are almost always found in mixtures, and not alone. All matter glows (radiates energy) in some part of the spectrum. It is a analytic act, in fact, not an observational dictate, to distinguish them.

In point of fact, the photon occupies one pole, and is nothing BUT its oscillation (angular velocity) defined in this manner (v/c)^2 since its mass is zero. Which begs the question of matter as well, that its mass may also be nothing BUT its oscillations -- which is to say, of both -- their respective KI. A mass at absolute zero occupies the other pole, where its conserved oscillations lose their integral field qualities, and it "smudges" into other, no longer discrete "mass" (the BEC state, in which the inertial and exclusivity qualities of fermion particles (mass) are to some dgreee lost or compromised, including friction).

The universe thus conceived is a complex set of interpenetrating or mutually reflective transiting or standing wave/particles. Some, because of their relative phases, can interpenetrate, bleeding inconspicuously through one another in the same space (bosons), while others are mutually exclusive (fermions) and dominators of their local space/time.

This is what quantum mechanics has taught us about fundamental reality. The difference is that the concept of Ki allows that these fundamental relationships may be scaled up and composed into more and more complex wave superpositions -- according to the SAME PRINCIPLES -- at perceptibly gross scales that nevertheless have a cognizable and coherent fractal structure that reaches all the way down to the basement of reality and upwards past the limits of conceivable potentiality. In these terms, Aikido is composite wave system that is conceptually bosonic -- in the proper orientation the active opponent is never an obstacle to movement through his space -- and there can be no conflict.

The observer (a point of observation) cannot be taken out of any equation involving angular momentum. This is a point Galileo first proposed and that Bishop Berkeley critically urged against classical Newtonian absolutes of space and motion almost three centuries ago. Quantum mechanics has discovered this to be an apparently irreducible problem. The center thus defined -- defines the nature of the motion being observed.

If one does not do this, then one would either destructively interfere with the other, negating both in whole or in part, or constructively interfere subsuming both into a larger whole in which the unique identity of both is lost. Only 90 degree relationships (Juuji 十字) preserve both connection (superposition) and independence of different waveforms, while creating novel and nonlinear resulting motions.

Why do we need to consider this Ki as a single but polar category, as opposed to sticking to your preferred binary categories of mass and energy? One, because it is a false dichotomy in physical concept -- as Einstein showed. If momentum can exist without mass, then mass and movement are not two things -- but two faces of the same thing, which is more fundamental than either of them.

And two, because in Aikido we use these at gross scales in practical, tested terms, which is to say that it is an empirical knowledge (Gr. (en-peira = "in or through trial.") Or in other words -- "Go train."

A good example of this in Aikido is the use of a moment (a quality of mass representing a potential rotation) as equivalent to applied angular momentum (an actual rotation). This is particularly evident if we strictly observe orthogonal orientations (Juuji 十字 ) of our interactions with the attacker -- in both space and temporal terms when we mesh our actual and potential rotations with those of others.

This is kokyu tanden ho. We do not induce rotations in our partner, we alter our own static inertial moment at 90 degrees from his connection, and so that his applied rotations by his own induced moments in trying to rotate us, result in adverse structural rotations of his own, simply from our alteration of the static equation. Simple physics -- but a complex non-linear control algorithm to achieve -- i.e.-- requiring a mind to effect it.

Aikido teaches, in practical terms, that the activity of a living mind is necessary to allow such nonlinear superpositions to maintain their coherence together for any length of time at our scales of observation. This is Ten-Chi-Jin -- heaven (the infinite) and earth (the infinitesimal) connected through the human mind (defining).
The action of a living mind is necessary, but not sufficient -- the other ingredient is an affinity and care not to disturb the nature of the things being superposed with one another. Another word for the mental state of such an active, attentive, protective, and non-interfering affinity is "love."

As we progress, we learn that in that movement is stillness and in that stillness, there is movement. That expression has a very fruitful concrete physical meaning tied to the nature of angular momentum/moment, the choice of relative center and orthogonal orientation and resonant rhythm. It is all of a piece -- Ki .


Offer up some proof and I will." I'll show you mine, if you show me yours." It is not a contest of proof, as such. It is a debate of categories. Ki -- as it is traditionally understood -- may physically be described as angular momentum/moment -- and rigorously so, as I hope I have suggested in some detail. The question is: what convention best applies to the problem? Several may apply but not all are optimum.

Disproof in that sense can be posed to test it. The dis-proof of that statement is to see if any traditional understanding of the physical concept of Ki does not fit that Western category of relationships. I hypothesize from my experience and study of these relationships that it does. If so we can talk in equivalent terms using either vocabulary, interchangeably -- and wouldn't that be nice. :D

The falsification and gedanken experiment is thus laid on the table. Produce but one instance in which physical Ki does not fit the category as described in the <<spoiler>> argument above and I will defer to your side of the argument, and admit that the concept is flawed.

Produce but one instance that shows that non-physical Ki interactions, as traditionally understood, does not reasonably analogize to this physical understanding of cyclic interactions, and I will acknowledge that we have a useful argument between us on the conceptual limits of its extension.

Et toi ...

Erick Mead
02-17-2009, 01:18 PM
I think you need to accept that I'm not going to subscribe to your "theory" (or whatever you want to call it) until it is part of mainstream physics.Argumentum ad verecundiam, replicatio secundum. And it is. "Which convention of mainstream physics?" is the question you should be asking. :) See the spoiler post above.

Erick Mead
02-17-2009, 01:22 PM
Just so I'm clear:

"People should not really pontificate on subjects they clearly do not understand."

My moral position - purely my own opinion. I can give reasons why I think that, but it's not being presented as any sort of logical argument. It's a premise, if you like. But, you see, Aikido always works by reshaping the supporting premises -- and not by destroying the concluding expressions -- even when it could.

It is the beauty of the art, really.

Erick Mead
02-17-2009, 02:04 PM
Nobody has time to learn everything, or test every idea that's out there. So on subjects where we have no expertise, we rely on authorities in that field to figure stuff out for us, and relay it to us if we should need it. ...George is altogether different - he's earned his respect the hard way over years and years. So people in the aikido world, and particularly on this list, value and trust his opinion. In which case you should defer to George's informed opinions, and I am here to tell you that there are provable, concrete reasons to defer to George's opinions... :D

On this list, what I say, or what Erick says, doesn't carry much weight, because neither of us is an authority figure in aikido, AFAIK (my apologies to Erick if he actually is). I only claim Socratic authority -- I know, very precisely, what I do not know. And I have persuasive authority, or so several appellate Courts have told me over the years, when it comes to the art of both reasoned and rhetorical arguments. But in this case I am reporting mere facts.

... there are only two possible disagreements. One is that George can say whatever he likes, and it doesn't matter if he's right or not.... The second is that his statements were correct. But if you believe that, you'd better go and check (like I did) first.ONLY TWO ??? My, what an impoverished sense of disagreement you have. We must remedy that. :) There's got to be Oh... five or six in there, easy.;)

Like, for instance the fact that he wasn't speaking physics, and you used the wrong template attempting to understand him, and used the template you had wrongly, because you have a the incorrect choice of physical convention, when there are others that may apply. Do not use B-fields where H-fields apply, because B-fields cannot be defined there. Though God does not allow dividing by zero, in that case (or taking the square roots of negative numbers, as another good example) there are real and practical things back of such formal protests -- and clever ways around such nominal roadblocks by different conventions.

sorokod
02-17-2009, 02:34 PM
Doesn't have to be if you don't use the word energy. It doesn't remove the burden of proof either, though :-)

No it does not, however the starting point is much closer to the subject matter. There is an objective biological effect, the investigation can naturally start at that point and work it's way backward to the cause. Pinning everything on Physics seems a bit premature. It is as if, when asked to debug a computer program, one would start by looking for irregularities in the power supply.

Shannon Frye
02-17-2009, 06:38 PM
Why not both? I've seem people who, after being grabbed, make the person grabbing think/feel "Oh boy - I really stepped in it now". And that was just a "feeling" the person gave off.

Personally, I think that Ki can be both the energy (measurable) that you gather/call upon/muster in times of need. It is also a presence of mind that you yourself obtain, and /or can affect others with. It's hard to measure someone's feelings, as these are relevant to the person/situation/etc.

Too much argument over what Ki is - perhaps we can all agree that it is different to different people, as is taste or beauty.

Why Physics and not Biology?

Why must Ki be a energy in the sense that Physics treats this concept and not a manipulation of the sensory/cognitive system?

jennifer paige smith
02-18-2009, 10:36 AM
Too much argument over what Ki is - perhaps we can all agree that it is different to different people, as is taste or beauty.

Ki is a hero of a thousand faces.

I'm very interested in who are heroes now. Many of the students I teach are up for consideration.:)

Thanks, Shannon.

Mark Peckett
02-18-2009, 04:11 PM
It seems to me that if you are not prepared to consider the teachings of O'Sensei wise (not the myths that have sprung up around him) then you're what you're studying isn't aikido.

If you're not prepared to be open to the possibility of ki(regardless of how you define ki - Gozo Shioda once remarked that a day when everything in the dojo was right and practice was good was a day when you experienced ki) in your practice then you're not practising aikido.

George S. Ledyard
02-18-2009, 06:48 PM
It seems to me that if you are not prepared to consider the teachings of O'Sensei wise (not the myths that have sprung up around him) then you're what you're studying isn't aikido.

If you're not prepared to be open to the possibility of ki(regardless of how you define ki - Gozo Shioda once remarked that a day when everything in the dojo was right and practice was good was a day when you experienced ki) in your practice then you're not practising aikido.


I have actually joked with my students after doing a throw that I had just used that force that doesn't exist. Since it is completely tangible when the technique uses some form of aiki and when it doesn't, they find it amusing.

Our art should be called "The Way of Harmonizing the Force That Doesn't Exist"

Erick Mead
02-18-2009, 07:41 PM
I have actually joked with my students after doing a throw that I had just used that force that doesn't exist. Since it is completely tangible when the technique uses some form of aiki and when it doesn't, they find it amusing.

Our art should be called "The Way of Harmonizing the Force That Doesn't Exist"The action that dare not speak its name.... ?

Buck
02-18-2009, 10:27 PM
Doesn't the debate on ki have its own threads... :)

Ki simplist idea being intent.

Ki any thing more it becomes complicate and interwound with myth and blue lightening coming out the fingers to healing the dead.

Ki is it really all that powerful of a thing? Many frauds have been exposed who say they can send a man flying across the room without or barely touching the man with one finger or something like that. O'Sensei didn't do that, Shioda didn't do that, really ya have to think about it. Can ki stop a bullet? It's all about perspective.

Why is there so many definitions of ki and why is it so different from person to person who says they have it. Why isn't there a singular and consistent model for it?

Does it exist yes, how ever you want it to and what ever name or explanation or action you want to give it, makes it so. Because remember ki is an old word of something coined that wasn't understood, i.e. the science of physics etc. If science existed when the word ki was coined we would have a totally solid definition, consistent model etc. And therefore, we wouldn't have a million different arguments about on what it is, how it works, or what it is.

Why so many unique varieties and derivates of ki demonstrated that are owned uniquely and individually that no two people have the same ability? Heck, golfers have more consistency in their swings. No one agrees, there is no general consensus. It is a free for all as far as that is concerned.

Ki is what ever you can or can't explain. It is what ever anyone wants it to be. Or doesn't want it to be. It is Jesus.

This is one problem with myth, it is all left to personal interpretation of a subject or object. There are no confines to set, no measurable dimensions etc. It is invisible, it is tasteless, it can or can't be felt. It is air, it is blood, it is mental powers, concentration, it is visualization, it is......................................................am tired. But most of all it is a dead horse that keeps getting beat!

For the life of me, I can't think of any way this thread drift connects with the starter topic. :confused:

wideawakedreamer
02-18-2009, 10:56 PM
Yeah, what has this to do with whether or not O Sensei was wise?

Oh and I think yes, he really was wise. I don't think he was divine -he was no Jesus - but I think that he was wise. As wise as any human being that ever lived up to his age could be, anyway. Why debate about his wisdom, anyway? You don't have to be infallible or perfect to be considered wise.

JimCooper
02-19-2009, 06:25 AM
ki[/I]


Being open to a possibility is not the same as believing everything you're told.

Using ki as a useful model is not the same as ki being real.

If it was proved that ki was real as say, kinetic energy, then any sane person would believe it was. But until that day, I'm going to take the only reasonable position - that of healthy scepticism. YMMV.

JimCooper
02-19-2009, 06:29 AM
...

You can stop digging now Erick :-)

JimCooper
02-19-2009, 06:40 AM
Though God does not allow dividing by zero, in that case (or taking the square roots of negative numbers, as another good example)

I learned about the square roots of negative numbers in high school:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_number

Don't be mislead by the term "imaginary", BTW - to mathematicians, physicists and engineers they are every bit as real as "real" (in the mathematical sense) numbers. I used them a lot at university. It's difficult to imagine studying much physics without having learned that bit of maths.

They've been known about since the 16th century, IIRC.

Erick Mead
02-19-2009, 08:28 AM
I learned about the square roots of negative numbers in high school: ... They've been known about since the 16th century, IIRC. Good. Join the club. I assumed as much on your part. And thanks for making my point for me. The Chinese have thought in relativistic terms since before the 10th century -- and the Japanese described fractal structure and chaotic dynamics (jouri) in terms of Ki development since the 17th -- while we waited around until the 1970's -- that doesn't mean they got everything else right -- any more than we did - nor that each does not have something else to teach the other.

Uncritical assumptions are the first fruit of ignorance, not a lack of intelligence. The criticism is attacking the information from which you draw your conclusions, not your ability to draw them intelligently. You assume certain things about what Ki means that are flat wrong, because, from your own statements about it you reveal that you have not studied how it was classically described or used. You are not in a position to compare it to any Western conventions for similarity or to rebut the same, until you do. "I know Physics" is not a warrant for saying -- "I know that the Taijitu is wrong." It is a non sequitur -- a logical fallacy driven by incorrect assumptions. Correct the assumptions -- then apply the logic.

The same is true of O Sensei's wisdom that is given in strictly Japanese mythic imagery. If you do not understand it from the inside on its own terms uncritically first -- you cannot understand what it says, critically speaking -- and it says many useful things. And once its imagery is translated across the language barrier, there are available methods of construing that wisdom in terms of concrete practice, common in the West, that help make it accessible. For a start, I suggest James Hillman's A Terrible Love of War in considering the wisdom of O Sensei's summation of his Art -- "True budo is love."

Mark Peckett
02-19-2009, 09:02 AM
Well now we've accepted that ki in some form, however we choose to define it, probably exists and that, when you divorce the myths built up around O'Sensei from his actual teachings, he was probably wise, although a man with all the failings of a man, maybe we can put this thread to bed.

C. David Henderson
02-19-2009, 02:32 PM
Using ki as a useful model is not the same as ki being real.

If it was proved that ki was real as say, kinetic energy, then any sane person would believe it was. But until that day, I'm going to take the only reasonable position - that of healthy scepticism. YMMV.

Hi Jim,

Being skeptical of stuff that you think doesn't add up is something I understand and respect. Respectfully, I don't think your distinction between "useful" and "real" accords with mainstream modern philosophy of science (by scientists), although I suspect it aptly describes the implicit ontology of a great many (very smart) practicing scientists.

But when comparing "scientific knowledge" to "useful (non-sicence) models," I think this implicit reification of scientific knowledge is problematic.

sorokod
02-19-2009, 04:56 PM
I have actually joked with my students after doing a throw that I had just used that force that doesn't exist.

Would this trow "work" on people who never studied martial arts?

George S. Ledyard
02-19-2009, 07:57 PM
Would this throw "work" on people who never studied martial arts?

I used to teach both Police Defensive Tactics and also did training for Club Security folks (Bouncers avg weight 250+). I have no problem putting people down who have never studied. Actually, they are easier because they typically resist and the tension makes everything work better.

Executing technique on someone who REALLY knows what he is doing is another thing. Then its more about who is better at the skills (coupled with a certain amount of deception in a real confrontation).

Buck
02-19-2009, 11:01 PM
The same is true of O Sensei's wisdom that is given in strictly Japanese mythic imagery. If you do not understand it from the inside on its own terms uncritically first -- you cannot understand what it says, critically speaking -- and it says many useful things. And once its imagery is translated across the language barrier, there are available methods of construing that wisdom in terms of concrete practice, common in the West, that help make it accessible. For a start, I suggest James Hillman's A Terrible Love of War in considering the wisdom of O Sensei's summation of his Art -- "True budo is love."

Erick ,you have to clarify something for this hillbilly. It is my understanding that O'Sensei was the chairman of that organization that Onisaburo Deguchi was president at its core it shared ideas that came from the Hagakure a.k.a the bushido oat that in part basically translates as, show mercy to others and be good and do good to them. But, it translates differently in the Omoto organization O'Sensei chaired says instead of mercy they use the word love. I don't think O'Sensei means to hug and kiss type of love, or free love.

The time O'Sensei was at was about change in Japan and with in that is of course ethics. The Japanese didn't make up new ethics to replace the old, but rather edited the old ethics. Ethics/moral standards which came from the Hagakure/bushido. Thus, clearly the model for O'Sensei and all Japanese.

Confusing yes, in a nut shell, Budo being love is really Budo being what the Hagakure states it to be, show mercy to others and be good and do good to them. How does Hillman's use of western mythology to support his anti-violence and stuff?

O'Sensei wasn't anti-violence. He was a martial artist, which means and it is clearly evident he supported Bushido on many levels and ways as described by the Hagakure. He wasn't into the feudal Japan. Rather into the restoration of Japan. Basically, we wasn't on Haite and Ashbury streets. It was more about re-education of morals and ethics in Japan, a new Edict for the Japanese.

FWIW, I think that is that is the problem, that myth you mentioned. And it isn't a good one. Because it deigns the facts and all the information about O'Sensei. And we get a limited view of the complexity of O'Sensei and his life. From that myth we also can manipulate that myth to our own liking, to reflect ourselves. Myth is hard to pin down, and it isn't a constant. It is always susceptible to change and modification at will at anytime. That is not to say that myth doesn't do a good job at containing a constant level of information that is subject to anyone's interpretation- misinformation.

Whew...am I on a crazy train thing or what. But, myth can be damaging because of it's misinformation we see it when it comes to healing or caring for the human body both present and past. Or psychologically, how many kids are devastated by the truth or deign the truth because a myth is destroyed. For example, the beloved myth of Santa Claus. Or for Aikidokas the myths of O'Sensei.

Buck
02-19-2009, 11:13 PM
The thing with myth is that they are rarely created by the subject or object of the myth. In this case, O'Sensei. Myths are created by all those other people who are into the subject or object.

Myths appeal to our sense of wanting be informed in an entertaining way. Facts are dry and boring and really don't make for good stories or story telling.

sorokod
02-20-2009, 03:28 AM
I have no problem putting people down who have never studied. Actually, they are easier because they typically resist and the tension makes everything work better.

I was not questioning your ability to "put people down", sorry if I made this impression. I was asking if that particular throw, the one that "used that force that doesn't exist" would have been effective on a person not trained in martial arts.

JimCooper
02-20-2009, 06:01 AM
Respectfully, I don't think your distinction between "useful" and "real" accords with mainstream modern philosophy of science (by scientists)


Well, I think it does. "Real" means slightly different things, in different contexts. Some things are unquestionably real - there is sufficient evidence to convince anyone that polar bears are real, for example.

However, when applied to a model or theory, "real" really means "current best".

There are older, superseded models which are still useful. For example, Newtonian mechanics has, strictly speaking, been shown to be an approximation that only holds in certain conditions. But mechanical engineers still use it every day, because relativistic and quantum effects can largely be ignored in their work.


although I suspect it aptly describes the implicit ontology of a great many (very smart) practicing scientists.


Some scientists are not very careful about explaining that absolute proof is not always possible, and some work in reasonably stable fields, where modifications to models are fairly esoteric, and the bit understandable to laymen has remained fairly constant for a while.

Astronomers are, IME, a lot more upfront about this sort of thing, and I think that anyone who wanted to find out how science works could do worse than read a history of astronomy.


But when comparing "scientific knowledge" to "useful (non-sicence) models," I think this implicit reification of scientific knowledge is problematic.


I'm not sure I get your meaning. Do you mean it is better to believe things that have not been tested?

Erick Mead
02-20-2009, 06:15 AM
I don't think O'Sensei means to hug and kiss type of love, or free love.
Nor I.
Confusing yes, in a nut shell, Budo being love is really Budo being what the Hagakure states it to be, show mercy to others and be good and do good to them. How does Hillman's use of western mythology to support his anti-violence and stuff? HIllman explains himself better than I can. Suffice it to say that love and war are not enemies, nor strangers, they are spouses.

FWIW, I think that is that is the problem, that myth you mentioned. And it isn't a good one. Because it deigns the facts and all the information about O'Sensei. I don't mythologize the man -- he chose mythology as one of this modes of communication -- in digesting what we train to do -- it is really the only way to have a conversation with him.

Buck
02-20-2009, 06:56 AM
I don't mythologize the man -- he chose mythology as one of this modes of communication -- in digesting what we train to do -- it is really the only way to have a conversation with him.

hmm....I don't known, but I see what you mean. I want to comment.

Though considering that mythology is deeply a part of all Japanese and Japan. I think O'Sensei was using Japanese mythology as a convention just as he was using ideas from Bushido. He wrote in a poetic standard to communicate, and used the common mythology that the Japanese understood and where use to. Granted, he did it in his own way which made it at points it was even hard for Japanese to understand what he was trying to communicate. I think that was because of his own deep need for spirituality, and the sense to help change Japan through Aikido; just as other martial artists used their new arts to help change Japan.

I think it isn't so much of accepting the Japanese mythology of Aikido as it is accurately understanding it and its purpose. That is why I asked you the question and thanks for the reply.

C. David Henderson
02-20-2009, 01:02 PM
No,

I mean that earlier you were pretty rigorous in talking about the essentially negative quality of scientific explanation -- which you repeat here in terms of "best models."

kenetic energy, for example, is a classic Newtonian concept: Is it "real," or a "best model" for macro level, low energy physical interactions? I think you'd agree the latter is more accurate.

To say it's "real" as a concept, as opposed to say, "ki," is different than saying "kenetic energy, as a concept of Newtonian Physics, explains our observations and measurements of physical reality more closely than, say, Aristotle's physics." That's a byproduct of the practical logic that emerges, a la Eddington's exposition, when we look for explanation by measuring things.

The problem isn't that the concept of "ki" hasn't been "tested," it has been extensively tested. The problem with matching that concept with our scientific understanding of the world is that the practical context in which it has been "confirmed" by testing isn't in the laboratory.

Suppose, however, we were able to track the physics of a martial interaction well enough to create a physical description/explanation that a mainstream physicist would accept as a valid description, and that this description omitted entirely any reliance on the concept of "ki" (or kokyu, or jin, or gounding paths, or....) -- I suspect that explanation would be largely worthless as a guide to practice.

The "most useful model" formulation, i.e., a pragmatic definition of "truth" in terms of "usefulness," has the advantage of placing the contextual nature of the "truth" in the forefront.

To make a bare-minimum attempt to hook up this side bar with the OP (sorry Buck), when looking at O'Sensei's writings and expositions, obtuse as they are to our eye, I think its important to keep in mind that he was providing conceptual guideposts that not only articulated with his spiritual beliefs, but which he believed made sense of his own life and practice as a martial artist.

I think he "understood" Aikido better than a physicist, in the primary sense of being able to replicate and transmit the skill set of Aikido.

The "best model" for most of us as martial artists probably isn't going to be framed in terms of O'Sensei's concepts because of the cultural and historical gulf separating our practice and his.

The "best model" for many of us likely includes reference to concepts of western science -- like Erick's interesting past post about the physics of a chain or a whip and its suggestions about Aikido waza, or the discussion taking place elsewhere on this forum about fascia and internal strength. I'd put myself in that camp.

But that's not to say this model is "real," and the other is "unreal."

FWIW

Erick Mead
02-20-2009, 07:31 PM
I think it isn't so much of accepting the Japanese mythology of Aikido as it is accurately understanding it and its purpose. That is why I asked you the question and thanks for the reply.You are correct, accurately understanding its purpose is key. Poetry and myth are both ways of describing essentially subjective impressions of reality in concrete or narrative terms. In combination with the practical training, the impressions drawn from the narrative of myth and the concrete imagery of poetry do yield comprehensible patterns that are plainly related in very fruitful ways to improving skill in the physical art.

George S. Ledyard
02-21-2009, 01:50 AM
I was not questioning your ability to "put people down", sorry if I made this impression. I was asking if that particular throw, the one that "used that force that doesn't exist" would have been effective on a person not trained in martial arts.
I wasn't referring to any particular throw distinct from others but rather the way I try to do all my technique. And yes, it works fine, and better on those who haven't trained.

jennifer paige smith
02-21-2009, 10:23 AM
I wasn't referring to any particular throw distinct from others but rather the way I try to do all my technique. And yes, it works fine, and better on those who haven't trained.

That would echo my experience, as well.
But I'm one of those Shingu folks. And you know how we are.:)

sorokod
02-22-2009, 09:51 AM
I wasn't referring to any particular throw distinct from others but rather the way I try to do all my technique. And yes, it works fine, and better on those who haven't trained.

You remarked on a technique to your students and then quoted this event in this forum. One can see why I thought that you were describing something out of the ordinary.

Buck
03-07-2009, 07:35 PM
George brought up that myth is something we need to include in this discussion. George feels very strongly about mythology and its role. I don't disagree with it. I think science is the thing. To be fair I have played the devil's advocate because I have been reading the Devil's Dictionary. Therefore, the defination below combines both of our views.

MYTHOLOGY, n. The body of a primitive people's beliefs concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later.

:)

George S. Ledyard
03-08-2009, 08:49 PM
George brought up that myth is something we need to include in this discussion. George feels very strongly about mythology and its role. I don't disagree with it. I think science is the thing. To be fair I have played the devil's advocate because I have been reading the Devil's Dictionary. Therefore, the defination below combines both of our views.

MYTHOLOGY, n. The body of a primitive people's beliefs concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later.

:)

This is an almost totally nineteenth century understanding of myth. Joseph Campbell, Karl Jung, Mercea Eliade, etc would offer a far better picture of myth and its function. One can spot the bias immediately in the term "primitive" which has seriously fallen out of use since people actually discovered that traditional societies were anything but primitive in their psychological and spiritual life.

What makes something "mythical" isn't whether it is true or false. What makes it "mythical" is that place the story holds for the people hearing it. So if we are talking about history, then myth simply means belief passed on which really weren't true.

But myth clearly has a function... and people clearly have a "need" to create and believe in myth. Otherwise we wouldn't keep creating new ones. O-Sensei as "mythical" figure and O-Sensei as historical figure figure are not clearly defined.The Founder could do things technically that are quite well documented but many people feel to be part of the myth rather than actual historical fact. Since there are plenty of people still alive who experienced these things directly, I think it is not terribly hard to believe in some of these extraordinary abilities. When there is no one left alive who experienced the Founder in person, I think more and more of his life will be consigned to the status of "myth" in the sense of "historically false" and therefore irrelevant to our practice.

I absolutely believe that this would be unfortunate and would make Aikido something less. I think that we need to investigate both aspects of what the Founder represents. What was he as "historical figure? What did he believe, what did he practice, how do we understand him in his historical context? I also think we need to understand what O-Sensei represents as iconic Founder of our art. How do each of us understand the Founder in our own training? How do we manifest what he intended for the art in our own technique on the mats of our own dojos?

I think it is far easier to approach the Founder from the standpoint of dismissing the "myth". But that ignores the fact that "myths" get created for a reason. Not everyone attains "mythical" status, in fact, most people will come and go in almost total obscurity. I don't think most folks will even get their "ten minutes of fame" before they pass on. So the "myth" is created out of very real achievement, at least in this case. So the importance of the "myth" lies in what we want or need the Founder to be. It has some function for many of us in how we motivate our own practice, how we define what we are doing and why. That's its power. Some of this may even be shown, as Peter G and others keep working at making the historical picture more accurate, to have been based on some misunderstanding. That's fine. We might find the historical information supports rather than denies the "myth". We might find the new information simply not at odds with the "myth".

And, in those cases where we find that historical research is simply at odds with the "mythical" Founder we've had passed on to us, we might find that we have to do some examination of ourselves to decide whether what we imposed of the Founder's "myth" was something important enough to us that we need to keep it for ourselves... making the jump from "the Founder believed this" to "the Founder didn't believe this but I do". Perhaps the "myth" helps us define what we want our art to be and if it isn't historically verifiable, then perhaps we have to decide to make it that ourselves because we know it could, and should be true even though it might never have been so in the past.

I absolutely believe that without some sense of the "mythical" imbuing our training with some greater meaning... Aikido will simply fade away. If it is just about the physical training, just about the technique, the art will not survive. If it is just about self defense or fighting, it will disappear.

Buck
03-08-2009, 10:09 PM
George I was making a joke. A little 1911 satirical ha...ha...at myth and science from Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary. :)

The issue I have with myth is the whole western myth sew on to Japanese fabric. O'Sensei's mythology is Japanese. The Japanese are really into their myths which are unique and play different roles, different design, different effects, etc. then what the west did with our myths. We can't start from the westerner's understanding and treatment of myths and apply to Japanese myths and to O'Sensei.

Japanese myths have different purposes and fabrics and all that. The big Japanese myth is it's birth. Who can debate the right to the existence of a nation and it's people if it comes from the gods?

Point being is we have to be in the context of Japanese myth and not western myth when talking about O'Sensei's myth. All because, O'Sensei didn't use western myths. He used Japanese myths.

As far as history, the Japanese treat history far different then how we treat history. I am not sure with the Japanese a verifiable history it isn't what ever fits their goals at that time.

Myth has a different effect on the Japanese then us westerners, as westerners maybe we should understand Japanese mythology as Japanese mythology and not in western terms. A step toward that goal is questioning, and not just accepting what we think we understand. :)

Buck
03-08-2009, 11:41 PM
I hate going into detail and I assume everyone who reads what I write knows the details I don't go into. Though my crazy little voice in my head says, "Bra ya gottas lay it down as it is." Ok so I am going to lay it down.

When speaking of Japanese myth it doesn't work inside the model Campbell and other's in the west create. Even their models are not identical but are more like opposing teams that can play baseball in the same ballpark. The Japanese haven more of a unified look with less models and argumentation at their purpose etc. for myths. We don't plop a sumo fighter smack down into a baseball field and told to play ball. That is the same thing with Japanese myth.

For example, Japanese democratic ruling process was model after a myth. Decision making is not done by one person, but by a group. Where does idea this come from? It comes from Japanese myth. A myth that says, Japanese deities got-together to discuss things in a river bed. That myth was so powerful as a model it prevented the idea of Japanese dictatorship, it modeled "right" decision or getting to the "right" conclusion. A process followed by Japanese monarchs.

The myth of deities having a get-together in a river bed, shaped the Japanese leadership model of group consultation instead of individual decision making (for the big important issues, where as the small matters being of less importance where made by the individual). Hence why organization exist and as they do in Aikido, and other things. It is the Japanese way because of that myth. Which is a different myth structure from the west.

The Japanese myth structure really doesn't fit in Campbell's model or any other such people. In the case of the Japanese they felt group decision was better then a single person making decisions, packaged in a myth about the gods that people couldn't argue. What greater power is there then how the gods do things. How can you argue against the gods. By doing so, the Japanese use myth as a means of simple and powerful persuasion, and to end any and all arguments and squelch the dissenters on how things will be done. Myth was the nicely wrapped pundit.

What we see here is simply a different purpose and structure for the Japanese. For them this myth is a way of persuading the people to get on board with the program with little resistance. The Japanese myth's structure was not that of the western myth's structure. The Japanese myth structure was not of historical truths or falsies of the existence of this or that to be. Rather a more concrete and undisputable support for the existence and compliance of civil and social laws.

We have to take Aikido mythology at its Japanese origins, function and purposes, and not at the west's. For example, Onisaburo Deguchi (correct me if I am wrong on the name) created an Omoto organization that had a Japanese mythology based structure with O'Sensei as chair. You know the one, the myth of deities getting together at a river bed. And not how Campbell sees the origins, function and purposes of myth.

Peter Goldsbury
03-09-2009, 01:02 AM
I think we need to be very careful here. Equating O Sensei with myth--and leaving it at that--is insufficient. We are dealing here with two conflicting definitions of myth.

1. A traditional story, either wholly or partially fictitious, providing an explanation for or embodying a popular idea concerning some natural or social phenomenon or some religious belief or ritual: specifically one involving supernatural persons, actions or events.

2. A widely held, (especially untrue or discredited popular) story or belief: a misconception; a misrepresentation of the truth; an exaggerated or idealized conception of a person, institution etc; a person, institution etc widely idealized or misrepresented.

3. Myths collectively or as a genre; the technique or habit of creating myths.

These definitions can be found on p.1876 of the Shorter Oxford Dictionary.

I have in my library three books dealing with myth in Senses 2 and 3:
The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness; Japan's Modern Myth (which is a critique of theories about the Japanese language); Japan's Modern Myths (which is a well-regarded scholarly account of how the Meiji Restoration made use of conceptions about the culture that were important, necessary, but not wholly true.

The problem here is that the 'mythical' aspects of O Sensei's life and activities are covered by Senses 1 and 2, but these aspects work in completely different ways. I think it is very important not to lump these aspects together under one idea of 'myth'. I should add that the clearest picture of myth in Sense 1 as applied to O Sensei are the biographies written by Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Kanemoto Sunadomari.

Best wishes,

PAG

Buck
03-09-2009, 12:27 PM
Peter,

I don't know if your post is a result of my posts. I am reading what you saying as a way of keeping relationship of O'Sensei and myth from going feral. Maybe, I don't know. Anyway, you got me thinking that possibly have to nut shell my opinion. :D

Peter's sense 1. Agreed. The danger in that is the myths are seen as fact, can explode into the supernatural, and stuff like that. That is the danger of myth and that is where science can steps in.

Now, I understand George's use of the importance of myth. Myth is part of the fabric of Aikido. It exists, and plays a useful part. Without it, Aikido is less. Basically, in a nutshell is my understanding for the heck of it.

What am saying is yes, Aikido has myth. It is a part of Aikido. But not in the way we might think, and we have come to expect, in our western way.

I think to understand how myth functions in Aikido we have to look at the way the Japanese create myth, its purpose, and function which is different then from the west. I used the Japanese deities at the river bed myth because how it is used in Japanese thinking. And because of that myth being a relatable and well known example in O'Sensei's life and Aikido.

Sure with any popular figure you are going to have myths/stories created about such people that sense 1, 2, and 3 applies. But, here is sense 4, not in a dictionary, but how myth in senses 1, 2, 3, is used as a tool to persuade in absence of fact/proof to get a collective agreement or behavior resulting in law. In this case, the structure for Japanese laws and other things like decision making. Come to think of it, we see the same thing of how to shape society with Moses and his relationship and role. One example that fits with what I am saying is the whole Ten Commandments things. Moses uses the myth of God as a persuasive tool as a leader of a nomadic people to enforce new that are intended to structure a society, nation, etc. That is the same pervasive purpose we see in the Japanese and their myth that I keep referring to. We see myth being used then not to bolster the status of an individual like as with a hero etc, (which was not the case with Moses being a hero) but rather to establish a greater purpose and function beyond what we commonly understand or treat myth as being.

The Japanese had seen early on the power myth in their own way as a means to shape society. The power of myth is in its effectiveness to establish laws and leadership structures, and decision making upon society. It is that greater use of myth I feel plays a more factual role in Aikido. Rather than the smaller role of exaggerated stories of O'Sensei's live and feats, etc. that grow into mythic proportions. Myth serving the smaller role of myth where little facts exists stresses the credibility of Aikido. Where as if we focus on the greater role of myth, where its role is as historical fact, the result is greater credibility.

We all draw on different sourses of inspiration and strenght, and we find different motivation for doing what we do. That is understandable.

Buck
03-09-2009, 12:48 PM
Japanese have a strong connection to nature, because of their gods and other myths. And by extension all that plays a large part in Aikido's spirituality. I understand that FWIW. But, I don't think that it is all of it, or thought to be so. The action of questioning then becomes important.

Erick Mead
03-09-2009, 01:08 PM
I think we need to be very careful here. Equating O Sensei with myth--and leaving it at that--is insufficient. We are dealing here with two conflicting definitions of myth. Lewis said that Myths are "lies and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver."

Tolkien replied that "There are truths, that are beyond us, transcendent truths, about beauty, truth, honor, etc. There are truths that man knows exist, but they cannot be seen - they are immaterial, but no less real, to us. It is only through the language of myth that we can speak of these truths."

I hold to the latter -- with due respect for the very real risks of the former.

I gather that Morihei Ueshiba did, too -- with, perhaps in his case, a bit more laxity on the former point than was entirely healthy, at times.

Buck
03-09-2009, 02:19 PM
Who knew that a slow day at work and a few brain farts I had would create stuff like this. :)

I think we also have to understand the greatest power of myth is to misinform and cause harm because myths are so easily accepted.

No mechanism exists to test unbaisy the validity of the myth. It is all up to the person upon hearing the myth to accept or denying the truth of the myth. In the west it was a long held myth the earth was flat. An effective tool of persuasion often over-looked is myth.

The threat of the extinguishing a myth, proving it is not true is very threatening to those who uphold the myth. But yet, the threat itself makes the myth more resistant, provides validity, and its shelf life, and makes it stronger because we want to believe the myth. We want to perpetuate the myth without giving thought to its validity. In fact we want to continue the myth and make it stronger by adding to it, and that is its power.

All because we see ourselves in that myth do we will earnestly fight not to extinguish it. We reflect ourselves in that myth. We want to immortalize what that myth is about. Because it is myth that and be shaped and manipulated in a way that will explain what we need to ear and share. Because it gives us comfort, hope, inspiration, explanation, entertainment, etc. Power it has over others. A way to hide the truth. To keep things alive, for fear of being lost. Because there is nothing that proves myth to be other wise, i.e. the earth is flat, or it is the center of the universe. Etc. All such things so powerful to themselves that provides the validation and existence for and of myth.

Myth isn't all good, it is the great propaganda. I know Campbell and others show myth in a different light. But that isn't the only light. And when it comes down to looking for truth there are better ways then myth. It is best to understand the power of myth, and not just accept the myth. In that way, truth is easier to find. Without the truth, then want is it that we are believing in?

George S. Ledyard
03-09-2009, 02:34 PM
I think we need to be very careful here. Equating O Sensei with myth--and leaving it at that--is insufficient. We are dealing here with two conflicting definitions of myth.

1. A traditional story, either wholly or partially fictitious, providing an explanation for or embodying a popular idea concerning some natural or social phenomenon or some religious belief or ritual: specifically one involving supernatural persons, actions or events.

2. A widely held, (especially untrue or discredited popular) story or belief: a misconception; a misrepresentation of the truth; an exaggerated or idealized conception of a person, institution etc; a person, institution etc widely idealized or misrepresented.

3. Myths collectively or as a genre; the technique or habit of creating myths.

These definitions can be found on p.1876 of the Shorter Oxford Dictionary.

I have in my library three books dealing with myth in Senses 2 and 3:
The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness; Japan's Modern Myth (which is a critique of theories about the Japanese language); Japan's Modern Myths (which is a well-regarded scholarly account of how the Meiji Restoration made use of conceptions about the culture that were important, necessary, but not wholly true.

The problem here is that the 'mythical' aspects of O Sensei's life and activities are covered by Senses 1 and 2, but these aspects work in completely different ways. I think it is very important not to lump these aspects together under one idea of 'myth'. I should add that the clearest picture of myth in Sense 1 as applied to O Sensei are the biographies written by Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Kanemoto Sunadomari.

Best wishes,

PAG

Hi Peter,
Yes, thanks... I really skated between different definitions depending on the point I was trying to make at the time.

In terms of the original discussion which had to do with whether or not O-Sensei had some sort of insight or knowledge (Technical and / or Spiritual) that set him apart or in some sense above us, I was most interested in what people have chosen to belive and how that might be important.

It has been pointed out that mythological structures are culturally specific and O-Sensei, being Japanese, should be understood in that context. But these myths, perhaps created in your Sense 1 by people like Sunadomari Sensei and the Nidai Doshu traveled outside the culture. People all over the world have their own interpretations of these same myths. It has been my feeling that the Aikikai leadership has never quite understood how many foreigners felt about the figure of the Founder. The "Sense 1 Mythology" has ended up being interpreted quite differently than it was understood at home.

Anyway, it is my feeling that, as we get better and better information about the historical Founder, we may find (already are finding) that the myth doesn't totally square with known fact. Then what happens?

I think that when one stops to consider the power of an idea, in this case various ideas about the Founder, and those ideas may be shown to be be a mixed bag of fictions, misinterpretations, edited truths, and fact, then one gets to the point at which he or she might decide "Well, it might not have been true in the way I had understood it, but that way was really valuable and quite powerful. So, now that we can't put all that onto the Founder, maybe we need to take it on ourselves."

Aikido spread rapidly around the world after the war. I am firmly of the belief that a good part of the art's popularity was due to the figure of the Founder and his (perhaps or perhaps not) ideas about what the art represented (as understood by the people hearing of the Founder from hugely divergent sources).

If we decide that the ideals contained in the myth of the Founder were so powerful that large numbers of people were so strongly inspired that it caused them to devote huge effort to pursuing an art like ours, then perhaps we need to make that "myth" reality on our own training regardless of whether it was historically true. In other words, if we so wanted the myth to be true, it was because it should have been true, and maybe it is our job to make it true in our own practice. This is something we can choose to do, I think. At that point it becomes true for the individual, not due to some imputed authority given to some figure from the past but because of a reality we have created for ourselves. If that happens I would say the myth served its purpose well.

Peter Goldsbury
03-09-2009, 06:28 PM
George,

I think that one of the issues concerning 'myth' that relates to O Sensei is that he is the center of myth in both senses 1 and 2. I should add that my thinking on these issues has radically changed since I came to live here; I have became far more skeptical of the myths that have grown up--or have been propagated--concerning O Sensei (in Sense 1). Hence the columns. Remember that it was the desire to find out more about this mythical figure--the great Sensei of the senseis who taught me--that led to my decision to come and live here.

For example, the book entitled Japan's Modern Myth, referred to in my earlier post, attempts to demolish two 'myths': the 'myth' of the kokutai (Japan's national essence) and the 'myth' of kotodama. I have a copy of the 1937 Kokutai no Hongi (Fundamental Principles of the National Essence), of which millions of copies were made and which was ordered to be studied in all schools colleges. The book uses the Kojiki myths (Sense 1) to create two other myths (Sense 2): kokutai and kotodama, to build the ideology that underpinned World War II. I think that the reason why kotodama was dropped from aikido after the war is that too many wartime memories are still fresh.

A similar 'myth' (Sense 2) is the myth of the Emperor System, which derives from that of the Kokutai. Irokawa's book, cited in earlier columns, is a critical analysis of this myth from a certain viewpoint. Nevertheless, it is true that these 'myths' contribute to the 'dark shadow' hypothesis in Japanese history, which attempts to absolve ordinary Japanese people from any war responsibility ("It was not us; it was the military. We were brainwashed").

Now, questions inevitably arise about the impact of the war (and the myths--Sense 2--that led to it) on O Sensei and on aikido, since the 'golden age' of the Kobukan was almost contemporaneous with this war (1931 to 1945).

The myths of the Kojiki (and Homer and Tolkien and J K Rowling) are myths (Sense 1) because they serve a function. However, myths (Sense 2) also serve a function, which in the case of Japan has has also involved myths (Sense 1). It is undeniable that O Sensei was a part of this and this accounts for my skepticism and reluctance to use myth in aikido at all, unless it is seen to play a necessary role. There is still too much baggage connected with the term here.

Best wishes,

PAG

Buck
03-09-2009, 10:16 PM
Another thing I would like to introduce to this discussion that I feel important is Tenrikyo, and its parallels to Aikido. Why do I want to do this, well because it is my firm belief what we think unique about one of O'Sensei's life experiences isn't. An experience of O'Sensei's that was similar to a previous experience of Nakayama Miki (1798-1887) the founder of Tenrikyo.

O'Sensei's religious experience shifted Aikido towards shaping, forming, its spirituality. An experience of O'Sensei's deeply rooted in Shinto, as means of validation. A similar spiritual experience of Nakayama Miki which was also rooted in Shinto. She experienced a divine revelation in form of a permanent possession by a kami. via a trance gave validity to a religion/spirituality. Miki event was also rooted in Shinto.

My point is, is that often we see O'Sensei as an island unconnected to what all Japanese are connected too. It is as if the building bricks for Aikido and what created Aikido are unique unto themselves and not connected to anything. That those bricks are not taken from anything else to build Aikido. We see O'Sensei too much like ourselves and not like who he was and what he was connected to beyond some Budo and Japanese words, hakamas, gis, and dojo design. Because of this, it causes allot of misunderstanding and misinformation concerning O'Sensei and Aikido. We have to equally put in the same effort to do the research, find the facts, etc. as we do in practice and enjoying Aikido, and not depend on that single one sourse for that information.

Buck
03-09-2009, 10:29 PM
Am I questioning O'Sensei's validity of his religious experience which he could have possibly modeled it from Miki. I am questioning also how we interpret it without questioning, how we don't research it, because we believe the myth. How we just except it when it is told to us by whom ever. And how that leads to a heck of allot of misinformation. How it leads to students, schools and organization opposing each other and arguing about Aikido- just like what we do here. :)

Peter Goldsbury
03-10-2009, 12:13 AM
Morihei Ueshiba did not need Tenri-kyo. He already had Onisaburo Deguchi and, earlier, Nao Deguchi of Omoto-kyo. Omoto-kyo, Tenri-kyo, Kurozumi-kyo, and many other 'new religions' all followed a similar pattern in their creation and organization. Many people had revelations, became 'enlightened', did all kinds of unusual things, and attracted disciples. The last such 'new' religion was formed in 1966: Aum Shinri-kyo, whose founder is now under sentence of death.

I can hear the cries of shock and horror, if aikido is compared to Aum Shinri-kyo. Aum Shinri-kyo was a cult; Aikido is not a cult etc etc. Probably not, but its origins and early organization followed a very common pattern in Japan.

Another thing I would like to introduce to this discussion that I feel important is Tenrikyo, and its parallels to Aikido. Why do I want to do this, well because it is my firm belief what we think unique about one of O'Sensei's life experiences isn't. An experience of O'Sensei's that was similar to a previous experience of Nakayama Miki (1798-1887) the founder of Tenrikyo.

O'Sensei's religious experience shifted Aikido towards shaping, forming, its spirituality. An experience of O'Sensei's deeply rooted in Shinto, as means of validation. A similar spiritual experience of Nakayama Miki which was also rooted in Shinto. She experienced a divine revelation in form of a permanent possession by a kami. via a trance gave validity to a religion/spirituality. Miki event was also rooted in Shinto.

My point is, is that often we see O'Sensei as an island unconnected to what all Japanese are connected too. It is as if the building bricks for Aikido and what created Aikido are unique unto themselves and not connected to anything. That those bricks are not taken from anything else to build Aikido. We see O'Sensei too much like ourselves and not like who he was and what he was connected to beyond some Budo and Japanese words, hakamas, gis, and dojo design. Because of this, it causes allot of misunderstanding and misinformation concerning O'Sensei and Aikido. We have to equally put in the same effort to do the research, find the facts, etc. as we do in practice and enjoying Aikido, and not depend on that single one sourse for that information.

Mark Freeman
03-10-2009, 11:18 AM
I had a slack day at work, and have ended up reading all 10 pages of this thread. Some very interesting stuff. I have nothing of any value to add myself, apart from to say thanks to Philip for sparking off such a stimulating discussion, and to the usual contributors for making it so edifying.

Cheers,

Mark
p.s. ah, the guilty pleasure of being paid whilst filling my head with aiki-talk:o
p.p.s O Sensei - a remarkable man - no more, no less.

Peter Goldsbury
03-10-2009, 09:17 PM
Hello Philip,

I think you are oversimplifying somewhat, hence these comments.

Peter,

Now, I understand George's use of the importance of myth. Myth is part of the fabric of Aikido. It exists, and plays a useful part. Without it, Aikido is less. Basically, in a nutshell is my understanding for the heck of it.
PAG. The senses I gave are not 'my' senses. They are directly quoted from the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. I would think that any other dictionary would give similar definitions. The definitions yield, I believe, two fundamental concepts of myth.

(1) The first are the myths that are the foundation of the researches by scholars like James Frazer, C J Jung, Joseph Campbell, and anthropologists like Margaret Mead, B Malinowski, Ruth Benedict, Clifford Geertz, and Colin Turnbull. Like metaphor, these are 'cross-cultural', in the sense that there are such myths in every culture and they help to define the culture in a real way. These myths feature in children's bedtime stories probably all over the planet.

(2) The second conception relies more on the manipulation of myths for ulterior motives, which motives are not necessarily known for what they are to those who manipulate them. I think one can see that there are situations where the two senses become congruent. The 'myth' of the Emperor is one example here in Japan.

What am saying is yes, Aikido has myth. It is a part of Aikido. But not in the way we might think, and we have come to expect, in our western way.
PAG. You need to distinguish the 'western way' and the 'non-western = oriental way' in more detail and deities meeting on a riverbed are not much help here. For example, the myth of Oedipus was used by Aristotle to create a theory of drama that has lasted for many centuries and was used by such dramatists as Shakespeare. The story of Oedipus was a tragedy and the myth enabled Aristotle to present a tragic drama as a cathartic experience for the audience, who 'participated' in their own way. Shakespeare's King Lear is a good example of an Aristotelian tragedy. So in one sense, the 'mythification' of O Sensei is quite 'western' and in some respects can fit Joseph Campbell's idea of the 'hero'.

I think to understand how myth functions in Aikido we have to look at the way the Japanese create myth, its purpose, and function which is different then from the west. I used the Japanese deities at the river bed myth because how it is used in Japanese thinking. And because of that myth being a relatable and well known example in O'Sensei's life and Aikido.
PAG. It might well be that the Yamato kings believed that using the episode of the deities meeting in the riverbed reflected their own ideas of good government, but I do not see that this affects the relationship between the myth and the culture in which the myth flourishes. Actually, Joseph Campbell is quite popular here in Japan and the pattern:

"Once upon a time there was a handsome prince and a beautiful princess etc etc ... and they all lived happily ever after,"

is repeated in many Japanese myths.

So, I am not sure that the mechanism, if you like, in which myths become an essential part of a culture and are used to maintain and preserve that culture, actually differs between 'western' and 'oriental' cultures.

Best wishes,

PAG

Buck
03-10-2009, 09:26 PM
Morihei Ueshiba did not need Tenri-kyo. He already had Onisaburo Deguchi and, earlier, Nao Deguchi of Omoto-kyo. Omoto-kyo, Tenri-kyo, Kurozumi-kyo, and many other 'new religions' all followed a similar pattern in their creation and organization. Many people had revelations, became 'enlightened', did all kinds of unusual things, and attracted disciples. The last such 'new' religion was formed in 1966: Aum Shinri-kyo, whose founder is now under sentence of death.

I can hear the cries of shock and horror, if aikido is compared to Aum Shinri-kyo. Aum Shinri-kyo was a cult; Aikido is not a cult etc etc. Probably not, but its origins and early organization followed a very common pattern in Japan.

Yes, that is true and was what I was getting at. But, I don't want to mis- lead people to think that I said that O'Sensei was involved, a part of, or connected to Tenrikyo etc. Tenrikyo was an example of the Japanese religious model that could have influenced O'Sensei for Aikido. I think the Japanese structure of religion like that of Tenrikyo is really evident and easily seen in Aikido's structure and in O'Sensei. So, it is easy to look at Aikido and much of what O'Sensei said as old wine in a new bottle. When you see that- from what Aikido and O'Sensei's thoughts are taken- you have a more accurate and true understanding of both Aikido and O'Sensei for yourself. There is no blanks to fill in from what ever is in familiar reach. You get a first hand look, a front row sit, at all of it. Then there is no relying on other's accounts so much.

Mark Freeman,

Thanks. :)

C. David Henderson
03-10-2009, 09:55 PM
Peter,

Thank you for your post.

Erick Mead
03-10-2009, 10:13 PM
PAG. The senses I gave are not 'my' senses. They are directly quoted from the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. I would think that any other dictionary would give similar definitions. The definitions yield, I believe, two fundamental concepts of myth. I would qualify the first sense in two sub genres.
a) There is myth that is "operative"( vice manipulative -- it is done quite openly) : the elements of stories that we tease apart and/or combine to illustrate difficult but important points that do not easily fit one or another concrete or analytic categories, and

b) There is myth that is preservative: that we tell because they serve as storehouses of those recurrent and important symbols in our culture so they remain available to become operative in a given circumstance

A good example of the "operative" nature of myth is found in Jung, and in a more pedestrian way in "legal fictions" that serve to symbolize abstracted concepts of legal categories or operations in pleasingly concrete, but essentially false, ways, that everyone nonetheless agrees are the terms of reference or terms of art for handling such disputes.

Morihei Ueshiba was a man and a storyteller, but mistaking the storyteller (who always has a point of view, if not an agenda) for the story is a category error. He was engaged in an exercise of operative myth, as I see it.

Buck
03-10-2009, 10:19 PM
Hello Philip,

I think you are oversimplifying somewhat, hence these comments.

Yea, it is true, and it's a fault of mine, I get lazy.

PAG. The senses I gave are not 'my' senses. They are directly quoted from the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. I would think that any other dictionary would give similar definitions. The definitions yield, I believe, two fundamental concepts of myth.

Yea, that is me being lazy again.
PAG. You need to distinguish the 'western way' and the 'non-western = oriental way' in more detail and deities meeting on a riverbed are not much help here. For example, the myth of Oedipus was used by Aristotle to create a theory of drama that has lasted for many centuries and was used by such dramatists as Shakespeare. The story of Oedipus was a tragedy and the myth enabled Aristotle to present a tragic drama as a cathartic experience for the audience, who 'participated' in their own way. Shakespeare's King Lear is a good example of an Aristotelian tragedy. So in one sense, the 'mythification' of O Sensei is quite 'western' and in some respects can fit Joseph Campbell's idea of the 'hero'.

Dang, point well taken, I got to stop being lazy. I have forgotten how hard Profs crack whips on lazy students..ouch :). I do think there is of that hero stuff going on that can over lap from a westerner's view. People of the west will use what they know, and are cultured in to see O'Sensei. And, I think O'Sensei and other Japanese Aikidoka knew the myth of the hero and used it to reach and communicate to the western student body. As all good intentions that maybe, I don't think they calculated the danger of doing so that would create inaccuracies and the extensions of that.

PAG. It might well be that the Yamato kings believed that using the episode of the deities meeting in the riverbed reflected their own ideas of good government, but I do not see that this affects the relationship between the myth and the culture in which the myth flourishes. Actually, Joseph Campbell is quite popular here in Japan and the pattern:

"Once upon a time there was a handsome prince and a beautiful princess etc etc ... and they all lived happily ever after,"

is repeated in many Japanese myths.

So, I am not sure that the mechanism, if you like, in which myths become an essential part of a culture and are used to maintain and preserve that culture, actually differs between 'western' and 'oriental' cultures.

I think it does, in these terms. Why the myth was created and what was done or resulted from the myth. For Japanese it resulted in democratic view and its procedures, laws, organizational behavior and structure etc., which naturally Aikido's and Omoto organizational structure modeled. Also, it isn't something we interchange the function, treatment western of myth into. Point being we must look at Aikido in it's Japanese home, and not in someone else's. :)

FWIW The deities I was refering to and should have been more specific come from:

The Kojiki: The Door Of The Heavenly Rock-Dwelling. I studied this in my Japanese classes in college. I think it should be a prerequisite for anyone studying Aikido- best if Cliff notes are done on it. Perhaps Japanese religion and other stuff too.

Peter Goldsbury
03-11-2009, 12:52 AM
Hello Phil,



I think it does, in these terms. Why the myth was created and what was done or resulted from the myth. For Japanese it resulted in democratic view and its procedures, laws, organizational behavior and structure etc., which naturally Aikido's and Omoto organizational structure modeled. Also, it isn't something we interchange the function, treatment western of myth into. Point being we must look at Aikido in it's Japanese home, and not in someone else's. :)
PAG. Again, I think you are oversimplifying somewhat. It will be very difficult to explain why a particular myth was created and I suspect this is why C J Jung talked about 'archetypes' of the 'collective unconscious'.

The result might have been different for the Japanese (though I doubt this very much: Japan has never been democratic in a western sense, and some Japanese believe that Japan has a 'unique' kind of democracy--in the same way that Japanese stomachs, blood, brains, rice, and also snow are all thought to be unique), but the way of arriving at the result--the interplay between the myth and the culture that nurtures and uses the myth--is common. There is nothing uniquely Japanese about this.

FWIW The deities I was refering to and should have been more specific come from:

The Kojiki: The Door Of The Heavenly Rock-Dwelling. I studied this in my Japanese classes in college. I think it should be a prerequisite for anyone studying Aikido- best if Cliff notes are done on it. Perhaps Japanese religion and other stuff too.

Well, I am sure you know from your Japanese classes that there is much, much more in the Kojiki than Amaterasu's cave and the door and I also strongly hope that your professor told you to avoid Cliff notes and go to the real thing--in Donald Philippi's translation, if the Japanese text was too difficult.

In fact, one of the interesting things about O Sensei's connection with Omoto is that he shared Onisaburo Deguchi's very high regard for Amaterasu's unruly brother. The whole point about Omoto is why Deguchi thought that the three worlds were out of joint. The reason is that Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami had been deposed from his proper place in the pantheon and that it was the brother, Hayasusa no o, who was going to restore the balance, not, definitely not, Amaterasu and her antics in the cave.

However, the restoration of the rule of Kuni-no-toko-tachi-no-kami and Susa-no-o (by their chosen instruments: Deguchi and Omoto) implied that the rule by the descendants of Ama-terasu, namely the Meiji Emperor and his successors, was adding to the chaos.

After the first suppression in 1921, Deguchi changed Omoto theology and displaced Susa-no-o somewhat. The Imperial Grandchild (of Amaterasu) now had the job of coming down to earth restoring the balance of the three worlds, in conjunction, of course, with Omoto and, of course, under the benevolent guidance of the Japanese emperor. Cynics suggest that the reason he did this was to head off another suppression.

So, really, the entire first section of the Kojiki is a prerequisite for understanding Morihei Ueshiba and I wonder how use useful Cliff notes will be in this case. :)

Best wishes,

Buck
03-11-2009, 09:07 AM
Hello Phil,

So, really, the entire first section of the Kojiki is a prerequisite for understanding Morihei Ueshiba and I wonder how use useful Cliff notes will be in this case. :)

Best wishes,

Hi Peter,

I am glad you wrote that, that is my point. By understanding the origins and what O'Sensei used to create Aikido. That is what myths and how they were used are different then the west. Sure you can make parallelism, like the hero myth, but you have to treat Japanese myths as Japanese myths. It is because Japanese myth plays a huge important role etc. in their way of life, their national and cultural identity and who they. Here is where I understand George's passion for myth.

But, trouble comes into play (lots of misunderstanding and the reshaping of Aikido etc.) when you take Japanese myths and treat them as western myths. I mean, expecting Japanese myths to be some kind of universal device, a plug n’ play thingy. Like, for instance, take the American folklore hero Paul Bunyan and say he would fit nicely or just fit at all into Japanese mythology explaining or giving us insight into the Japanese. It is really inaccurate to say the Paul Bunyan myth says anything or something about Japanese. We shouldn’t take the perspective that Japanese is almost interchangeable in any way as it is with Greek and Roman mythology.

The Japanese my adopt the myth of Paul Bunyan (like they have with Santa Clause (treating him differently then we do in the US we do differently then from where we adopted him), but it doesn't say anything about the Japanese, or their way of like etc. as their myths do- for the obvious reasons.

Understanding Japanese myth as western myth gives us an accurate picture of Aikido. I think that is what happens to Aikido and the thoughts of O'Sensei. For example, O'Sensei was into Japanese myth (the norm), and he followed it (the norm) to provide a pattern guidelines for organizational structure (very common to do). For example, the myth of the divine assembly I keep using as an example dictated big decisions should not be made by one person. Voila the reasons for the use of governing boards in Japanese organizations like Aikido and Omoto.

I agree with what you pointed out that knowing Japanese myth is a prerequisite. I go further in saying they have to be understood and how they work in the Japanese mind and culture to understand Aikido as it is, and not the myth we turn it into being.

Buck
03-11-2009, 09:48 AM
The problem I have with myth (specifically in terms of Aikido) is when the myth is taken as fact.

Who in this day and age believe's Poseidon exists, and controls the seas, and shakes the earth? Sure myth has a function, as Campbell and others point out, but not in the truth of things.

The function of myth was and is the mainstay for primitive peoples who didn't't understand a whole lot of things about themselves and the world around them. And, I think it is because of our human need for the truth, to have an explanation of why things are etc. Which is why myth is so ingrained into humans because we have used it for so long. It seems myth then is a the default among the uneducated to explain things, to get answers, to make sense of life and things. Because of that myth becomes a great marketing tool for snake oil sales men though out the ages.

Myth is part of the fabric of Aikido and O'Sensei, which we see in his thoughts and writings. He used the power of myth and believed in it, all within his cultural context. He used Japanese myth to build, structure, and give credibility to Aikido in the same way other Japanese used myth. Whether Campbell or Jung or others like them of the west write about the subject of myth doesn't serve to help understand Aikido. What they do is provide their examination and opinions of myth. And not a means to see Aikido as it is. We should look at our own interpretation or opinions of myth in the same way that it doesn't't provide us with an accurate understanding or picture of Aikido etc.

I think the perpetuation and belief into the power of myth, and the misunderstanding of Japanese and Aikido mythology by many Aikidoka is what gave critics something to bite on in regard to Aikido and stuff. I think that is one of O'Sensei's and others Aikidokas' goofs, when they were planting the seed of Aikido some places outside Japan. They didn't understand the impact of their myths and how they would be perceived by other peoples.

I think truth is far more important than myth. Myth is the entertainment. It is what catches our attention. It is gift warp paper on an otherwise unattractive box. Myth is the artificial sweetener in an otherwise bitter beverage for many of us in the west. Myth said the moon was made of cheese, and that a cow could jump over the moon. That the sun was a god, and that witches fly on broomsticks. That giant man with a giant blue ox as a pet roamed the woods. Things we seem never to question, but just except as truth.

How different would our world be if we didn't ever question the myths told to us so earnestly, upholding those myths as truths? What then. What does it hurt to question, to find the truth, to see things as they are with all their pimples and warts? What are people afraid of.

I think at this point in time of our world, understanding myth in Aikido gives us a front row seat to O'Sensei's thoughts and how he see his world etc. and how he seen and communicated Aikido and Budo. Myth isn't a critical element in Aikido in terms of function and as mechanism. It serves to help with the understanding of how myth played a role in O'Sensei's life, and how he relied on it- for example, his great spiritual experience of God. But myth it is not required to be believe in it, or is there a need to create new myths, or interpretations of the myths that already exist. It isn't hard to see how Japanese myths function in the Japanese mind and culture, and that I feel is the key and the only tool in understanding the mythology of Aikido.

:)

Buck
03-11-2009, 10:53 AM
The Japanese my adopt the myth of Paul Bunyan (like they have with Santa Clause (treating him differently then we do in the US- we do [treat him] differently then from where we adopted him), but it doesn't say anything about the Japanese, or their way of [life] etc. as their myths do- for the obvious reasons.


I needed to correct the stuff in the quote I wrote.

Basically, I want to add that the Japanese traditions of myth are not that of the west. Aikido and O'Sensei's stuff must be not be removed out of the Japanese tradition and put in another tradition. And that goes for all things in Aikido and with O'Sensei that they should stay within their Japanese context and Japanese traditions, and not placed in any where else. No matter how bad we want Aikido and O'Sensei to reflect our stuff, our likeness etc. We must realize Aikido reflects O'Sensei and the Japanese.

:)

C. David Henderson
03-11-2009, 03:27 PM
*** I think ... because of our human need for the truth, [we must] have an explanation of why things are etc. Which is why myth is so ingrained into humans because we have used it for so long. It seems myth then is a the default among the uneducated to explain things, to get answers, to make sense of life and things.

Hi Buck.

I appreciate and have a good deal of sympathy for your point of view in general.

But I would venture that positing a "human need for truth" as an explanation for "myth" is itself a (rationalist) myth.

Similarly, for a scientifically educated modern person to treat "myth" as a flawed attempt at empirical explanation by the uneducated is to "misrecognize" [in the sense of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu] the role of myth as explicated by Campbell, Jung, and others.

It also tends, in my view, to obscure why myth, symbols, and stories can be used to manipulate us all so very effectively. That capacity does not end with the dawning of the age of reason; if it did, the history of politics as well as religion would read far differently, I think.

Regards,

David

JO
03-11-2009, 04:13 PM
I needed to correct the stuff in the quote I wrote.

Basically, I want to add that the Japanese traditions of myth are not that of the west. Aikido and O'Sensei's stuff must be not be removed out of the Japanese tradition and put in another tradition. And that goes for all things in Aikido and with O'Sensei that they should stay within their Japanese context and Japanese traditions, and not placed in any where else. No matter how bad we want Aikido and O'Sensei to reflect our stuff, our likeness etc. We must realize Aikido reflects O'Sensei and the Japanese.

:)

I realy disaggree with this. I don't train in aikido as some type of exploration of Japanese culture. I have also never been the direct student of a Japanese sensei. Though I have trained with several at seminars. I have no problem with Japanese cultural elements being maintained in aikido as this reflects it's origins and it's "center" still today, but I truly view it as a path that can be walked by people of any culture, that I can think of anyway. Of course, I do understand that understanding O-sensei is impossible without understanding his beliefs and culture. But it wasn't O-sensei that got me hooked to aikido.

But then I'm not a purist, and I see no problem with making aikido what I want it to be as opposed to what O-sensei may have wanted it to be. To me the relationship between the "way" and the practitioner is an organic one with each influencing the other.

Buck
03-11-2009, 04:39 PM
Hi Buck.

But I would venture that positing a "human need for truth" as an explanation for "myth" is itself a (rationalist) myth.



Yea, maybe so LOL...:)

Similarly, for a scientifically educated modern person to treat "myth" as a flawed attempt at empirical explanation by the uneducated is to "misrecognize" [in the sense of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu] the role of myth as explicated by Campbell, Jung, and others.

It also tends, in my view, to obscure why myth, symbols, and stories can be used to manipulate us all so very effectively. That capacity does not end with the dawning of the age of reason; if it did, the history of politics as well as religion would read far differently, I think.

Yea, that is definitely on my mind though out this discussion and anyone would be foolish to over-look that. And, I guess, I erred by mentioning it too lightly before. opps...:blush:

I am trying to avoid a focused discussion on Campbell etc.because I think it is a peripheral that by default can serve in seeing myths as Campbell etc. do, and not how, specifically, the Japanese do or O'Sensei did.

Thanks Dave for the heads up and good points. :)

FWIW. By viewing Japanese myth and how it effected the Japanese and how it worked to shape Japan, influenced O'Sensei to use and draw upon for Aikido should lead us to a better and pure understanding of Aikido. Why should it be viewed it any other way? Well, we know what has happened when it did. :crazy:

I guess it is a matter of turning and looking in the right direction and at the right thing.

Buck
03-11-2009, 04:49 PM
Jonathan,

No problems. I agree that Aikido was to be a path that everyone was invited to walk. We both agree that O'Sensei is difficult to understand. I think it makes sense if you want to understand that path and its origins sincerely and earnestly you have to understand O'Sensei, his work, and intentions as a Japanese within the culture and traditions of Japan. We shouldn't guess etc. and make that into something it isn't.

JO
03-11-2009, 09:15 PM
When it comes to understanding aikido's origins, I agree. But I'm not sure that studying the history and culture is all that important in understanding the art or walking the path.

Put it this way, I've been lurking around this board for 9 years, for several years I was a paying member of Aikido Journal and read a big chunk of S. Pranin's research and I have a few of the basic aikido books. But in ten years of training, I just don't know that all this reading has had much influence on my actual training. While I am interested in the history, in my training I tend to look forward up the path at my instructors and sempai more than I look back to the founder and the origins. I would also say that the most important insights I have had have come from looking inwards at how aikido affects me and how it fits into my own worldview.

George S. Ledyard
03-12-2009, 01:12 AM
When it comes to understanding aikido's origins, I agree. But I'm not sure that studying the history and culture is all that important in understanding the art or walking the path.

Put it this way, I've been lurking around this board for 9 years, for several years I was a paying member of Aikido Journal and read a big chunk of S. Pranin's research and I have a few of the basic aikido books. But in ten years of training, I just don't know that all this reading has had much influence on my actual training. While I am interested in the history, in my training I tend to look forward up the path at my instructors and sempai more than I look back to the founder and the origins. I would also say that the most important insights I have had have come from looking inwards at how aikido affects me and how it fits into my own worldview.

Hi Jonathan,
I was pretty much in the same place you are for most of Aikido career. The fact is, the really great teachers, like the Founder, functioned at such a high level that what they were doing and how they thought about it had little to do with what I was doing. So when I read O-Sensei's writings it was interesting but not all that helpful.

Since the first Expo in 2001 my own Aikido has been changing exponentially. I read the Founder's writings with new eyes. I am not saying that I understand exactly what he meant... as we can all see from these discussions, that attempt is best left to those with the academic credentials and language skills to attempt the work. But in terms of my own practice, many things which seemed incomprehensible now have meaning for me. I expect that this will continue. My paradigm has shifted and I think I will continue to develop along these new lines indefinitely rather than being stuck which I think was my state before the first Expo.

So now, when I read the same books I was reading before, they might as well be new books because I see them differently now.

George S. Ledyard
03-12-2009, 01:24 AM
Jonathan,

No problems. I agree that Aikido was to be a path that everyone was invited to walk. We both agree that O'Sensei is difficult to understand. I think it makes sense if you want to understand that path and its origins sincerely and earnestly you have to understand O'Sensei, his work, and intentions as a Japanese within the culture and traditions of Japan. We shouldn't guess etc. and make that into something it isn't.

This pretty much fits in with the view that many Japanese teachers have, namely, that foreigners can't really understand Aikido. I don't agree with that. As Peter points out, there are all sorts of issues which prevent native Japanese from an unclouded view of the Founder and his art.

There were Americans who trained with the Founder like Terry Dobson and Bob Nadeau. I don't think they came away misunderstanding the Founder's intentions for the art any more than the Japanese deshi of the time. I actually think that the fact that they were pretty much unaware of many of the nuances of the culture, socially and historically, left them in a position to hear the Founder's message unhampered by a lot of the baggage carried by the Japanese students. Anyway, that would be my take on it...

Buck
03-12-2009, 07:17 AM
This pretty much fits in with the view that many Japanese teachers have, namely, that foreigners can't really understand Aikido. I don't agree with that. As Peter points out, there are all sorts of issues which prevent native Japanese from an unclouded view of the Founder and his art.

There were Americans who trained with the Founder like Terry Dobson and Bob Nadeau. I don't think they came away misunderstanding the Founder's intentions for the art any more than the Japanese deshi of the time. I actually think that the fact that they were pretty much unaware of many of the nuances of the culture, socially and historically, left them in a position to hear the Founder's message unhampered by a lot of the baggage carried by the Japanese students. Anyway, that would be my take on it...

It isn't not what am saying at all. Why should we not educate ourselves well in Japanese culture and the way they think? Why shouldn't we question what we are told and test it for truth. Should we live in ignorance about something we are passionate about. Why is it important to believe in the myths and our own assumptions for the truth, for the facts. Doesn't that lead us down the wrong path? If you are going to walk the path of Aikido you might as well do it right.

I will never believe that O'Sensei was super human no matter how many students it brings in, and who propagates that, be they Japanese or not.

What do you fear by looking at Aikido and O'Sensei in the right direction, in the proper light, or O'Sensei as he truly was- warts and all?

I weight the truth over anything else, no matter how beneficial mis-information it is to whom ever.

:)

Peter Goldsbury
03-12-2009, 07:38 AM
Hello Jonathan,

A few points.

When it comes to understanding aikido's origins, I agree. But I'm not sure that studying the history and culture is all that important in understanding the art or walking the path.
PAG. In your earlier post you mentioned that you have never had a Japanese teacher as your main teacher. George and I have had a different experience. Saotome Shihan was George's teacher and I have had a whole succession of teachers--all Japanese. So for me, studying the culture was a major necessity, if only to understand what they were after. In terms of aikido history and culture, I have talked the most with Shihans Chiba, Arikawa and the late Kisshomaru Doshu. However, all this did not really affect my training. This was done in the dojo, not in the library. Studying the language and culture was interesting for its own sake, but training was quite different, and the only overlap was being able to understand explanations given in Japanese during training, by shihans like Tada and Arikawa (I mean in seminars here in Japan). Understanding the explanations was crucial for training correctly.

Put it this way, I've been lurking around this board for 9 years, for several years I was a paying member of Aikido Journal and read a big chunk of S. Pranin's research and I have a few of the basic aikido books. But in ten years of training, I just don't know that all this reading has had much influence on my actual training. While I am interested in the history, in my training I tend to look forward up the path at my instructors and sempai more than I look back to the founder and the origins. I would also say that the most important insights I have had have come from looking inwards at how aikido affects me and how it fits into my own worldview.
PAG. Yes, I agree. I have managed to keep my studies of aikido history separate from my training in the dojo. O Sensei was a very unusual person and is regarded as a major icon. But I am finding out more and more that the kind of life he led and the kind of life I am leading right now are so different, that finding differences is much easier than finding similarities. I am much closer in thinking to the second Doshu and his generation of deshi. But there are loads of aikidoka in Japan who knew O Sensei and were taught by him / received their dan directly from him--and treasure these memories: as I would, had I been born ten years earlier.

However, I appear to have a talent for writing and it is only now, after 30 years of living here, that I have come to understand what kind of man O Sensei was and what he stood for. And I believe this is rather different from what people have been led to believe from the 'official' biographies. So, I am writing, a bit like Stan Pranin felt he had to do when he lived here.

Deep down, I feel that there is an ethical problem here, for I have been taught by Chiba Shihan that aikido is all about honesty and commitment--and you can see this very clearly when you face Chiba S in full cry with a bokken. The self-honesty on the mat should lead to self-honesty off the mat, but this can be interpreted in various ways, mainly according to the ethical standards of the culture. It has taken me a long time to realize that the ethical standards of Japanese shihans in Japan are not mine: they are not better or worse--they are different: a product of a culture that I have come to know very well, but which I have entered only partially. I think Terry Dobson had this problem, also.

Best wishes,

PAG

George S. Ledyard
03-12-2009, 10:46 AM
Hello Jonathan,

A few points.

PAG. In your earlier post you mentioned that you have never had a Japanese teacher as your main teacher. George and I have had a different experience. Saotome Shihan was George's teacher and I have had a whole succession of teachers--all Japanese. So for me, studying the culture was a major necessity, if only to understand what they were after. In terms of aikido history and culture, I have talked the most with Shihans Chiba, Arikawa and the late Kisshomaru Doshu. However, all this did not really affect my training. This was done in the dojo, not in the library. Studying the language and culture was interesting for its own sake, but training was quite different, and the only overlap was being able to understand explanations given in Japanese during training, by shihans like Tada and Arikawa (I mean in seminars here in Japan). Understanding the explanations was crucial for training correctly.

PAG. Yes, I agree. I have managed to keep my studies of aikido history separate from my training in the dojo. O Sensei was a very unusual person and is regarded as a major icon. But I am finding out more and more that the kind of life he led and the kind of life I am leading right now are so different, that finding differences is much easier than finding similarities. I am much closer in thinking to the second Doshu and his generation of deshi. But there are loads of aikidoka in Japan who knew O Sensei and were taught by him / received their dan directly from him--and treasure these memories: as I would, had I been born ten years earlier.

However, I appear to have a talent for writing and it is only now, after 30 years of living here, that I have come to understand what kind of man O Sensei was and what he stood for. And I believe this is rather different from what people have been led to believe from the 'official' biographies. So, I am writing, a bit like Stan Pranin felt he had to do when he lived here.

Deep down, I feel that there is an ethical problem here, for I have been taught by Chiba Shihan that aikido is all about honesty and commitment--and you can see this very clearly when you face Chiba S in full cry with a bokken. The self-honesty on the mat should lead to self-honesty off the mat, but this can be interpreted in various ways, mainly according to the ethical standards of the culture. It has taken me a long time to realize that the ethical standards of Japanese shihans in Japan are not mine: they are not better or worse--they are different: a product of a culture that I have come to know very well, but which I have entered only partially. I think Terry Dobson had this problem, also.

Best wishes,

PAG

Hi Peter,
Well, we went quite a ways down the road with the discussion of O-Sensei as "myth", further than I had expected. I only really brought up the concept as part of my musings about what happens to a culture when it loses its heroes. It seems to be our tendency to idealize figures and then lose faith when they turn out to be human after all. Certainly, O-Sensei has been idealized. It is fascinating to read your column and realize that there was far more going on politically and socially with that idealization, more intentionality even, than I had ever dreamed. There were almost no books available when I started Aikido. What I knew of the Founder came directly from Saotome Sensei in the form of stories he told, typically sitting around the dojo after class over a couple beers. So it was all very personal and alive feeling, like having someone telling you about a grandfather who had passed away just before you came along.

I read everything I can get my hands on concerning the Founder. But you are certainly right that his context cannot be my context. After trying to be as informed as possible about the man and his ideas, it's still a matter of picking and choosing what things are meaningful to me and what aren't.

So for me, as regards my own practice, O-Sensei remains an inspirational figure rather than one I see as a role model. Kisshomaru Ueshiba fit the bill in that regard a lot better. I only had a chance to train with him a couple of times and I was fortunate to have him spend a bit of time with him at his home when I visited. I found him to be the consummate gentleman. I think the Founder understood that his son was better equipped to make Aikido into something that could be practiced by many people around the world than he was himself.

So as regards the Founder, I try to work towards being able to do what he did technically and understand how his spiritual ideas influenced his ability to take things to such a high level. But it is the Nidai Doshu who represents a figure that one might wish to emulate. He was a class act all around, in my experience.

jennifer paige smith
03-12-2009, 10:58 AM
It has taken me a long time to realize that the ethical standards of Japanese shihans in Japan are not mine: they are not better or worse--they are different: a product of a culture that I have come to know very well, but which I have entered only partially. I think Terry Dobson had this problem, also.

Best wishes,

PAG

Hello Peter,
Thanks for the fine post. I agree with your viewpoint (which is not quoted in this post, but is available up there a post or two :rolleyes: ; follow the eyes.) that it is educational and functional to know the references and ,perhaps, the context of what one's teacher is teaching. I hope I got that right.
I would like to comment on the quoted part of your post, ...I believe some American students who have trained in Japan and are now Sensei, have also come away with a way of being 'Japanese' that is aside from my own take on morals. They look like they're on the same page as you, publicly they may say they're on the same page as you, but behind closed doors, 'it's none of your business conversations' regarding policy and power are not on the same page. I believe this is an area of mis-use of cultural training and abuse of power when it comes to Americans who don't know they're having the cultural/moral wool pulled over their eye's. I don't know that it is always intentional, but I suspect it is terribly convenient.
I realize I'm drifting off thread, but the thread was already a bit adrift. And I realize this may not be exactly what you were saying, but I would appreciate your comment.
Would you be so kind?

Thank You,
Jen Smith

JO
03-12-2009, 11:23 AM
Peter, George,
Thank you for the eloquent responses. Give me a few more things to reflect on.

Mark Peckett
03-12-2009, 12:42 PM
I've tried to answer the question originally posed by Mr. Burgess, i.e. "Who sez O'Sensei was wise?" several times and I feel that the question has broadened now. Mr. Burgess talks a lot about questioning the myths of aikido, and I think it would be useful now if he talked about the myths he feel need questioning, the ones he has questioned and rejected so that we can move this discussion forward or finally put a lid on it.