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View Full Version : The Red Book: Time to Revisit O Sensei's Myth?


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Erick Mead
10-08-2009, 05:14 PM
For those who are not aware, Carl Jung's most famous unpublished work has now been published. The Red Book (https://philemonfoundation.org/projects/red_book/), is Jung's manuscript log (and art work) of journeying through subconscious and mythic imagery -- the products of studied effort underlying his archetypal psychology. Not only the text but the art is fascinating.

The thing that strikes me in the excerpt (http://www.iaap.org/books/red_book_promotional_piece.pdf) and from the overall discussion of the work (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/magazine/20jung-t.html?_r=1) is the sense of similarity of feel in Jung's working with mythic imagery and that of O-Sensei in his mythic framework.

I wonder if this is not an opportunity and a possible vehicle through which to reappraise O -Sensei's "wild-haired mythology" from something of a less parochial cultural context.

Anyway, it is very interesting.

SeiserL
10-09-2009, 10:29 AM
Mystics are mystics.

mickeygelum
10-09-2009, 10:48 AM
" I see dead people...turn off the voices"..:D

C. David Henderson
10-12-2009, 11:32 AM
Which is the "parochial cultural context:" Ueshiba's, our own, both?

Jungian theory is avowedly universal in search of archetypes that have engrained meaning for human beings; the problem with Jung's own writing now is that it appears unintendedly "parochial" in the choice of data as to what different symbols mean -- the understanding of a Nineteenth Century man frozen in amber.

On the other hand, accepting that Jung's conscious exploration of this level of his own inner life had creative and therapeutic implications for his own life does itself suggest a different way of looking at Osensei's beliefs.

Regards,

cdh

Erick Mead
10-21-2009, 09:08 PM
Which is the "parochial cultural context:" Ueshiba's, our own, both? Both, I think? But both were striving beyond the roots in their own soil, plainly, as well.

On the other hand, accepting that Jung's conscious exploration of this level of his own inner life had creative and therapeutic implications for his own life does itself suggest a different way of looking at Osensei's beliefs. My thought precisely. The functions in which they used the mythic materials strike me as a related process -- shamanic, without question, but also also standing aside or outside, in a more modern sense, while actively engaging at the same time.

C. David Henderson
10-23-2009, 11:55 AM
Erick,

How do you see Ueshiba as "standing aside or outside, in a more modern sense, while actively engaging as well?"

regards,

cdh

Erick Mead
10-23-2009, 12:38 PM
How do you see Ueshiba as "standing aside or outside, in a more modern sense, while actively engaging as well?"
He was plainly most comfortable speaking terms of traditional empirical categories (e.g. -- water/fire/ki) which fit the mythological terms in which his sensibility of things was most easily described -- for him. But at the same time in both the 1933 Budo Renshu and 1938 Budo he states that a more objective technical perspective is highly useful together with that:

"Moreover, if the human mind once takes charge of water and fire, in accord the principles of 'Water-Fire, Yin-Yang", when your enemy attacks with water, you strike with water, with fire then hit with fire. Today, it is important to train thinking all this in terms of modern scientific warfare."

"If he attacks with ki, strike back with ki; if he comes with water, strike with water; if he comes with fire, strike with fire. Think about such things and their relationship to modern scientific warfare when you train."

So while deeply invested in his own idiom and doing his best to lay it out -- he was also acknowledging the worth of standing outside that idiom to avoid being captured or limited by it. This criticism can be levied at several "tendencies to excess" in regards to the interpretation and practice of the art, and to which other perspectives are always a good antidote -- ime.

"Above all, a person who trains in Bujutsu should come to understand the principle of 'Ikidoshi' (the flow of life). In Japanese Bujutsu all the teachings of the Universe are spelled out. For example, even when being surrounded by countless spears you should see them as one person as they thrust. It is a mistake to use pillars or trees and shrubs as a shield like the warriors of old. Stand right in front of the advancing enemy with his intention [kokoro] to attack as your shield; ...I am fascinated how he captures the concept of a "field" operation in dealing with numbers of attackers -- rather than sequential interactions he is taking their totality of interaction as one thing.

Assuming we allow his perspective as being valid and useful, (and I do) this observation points toward certain ways of understanding the physical "scientific" concepts, and away from others. It points us towards offensive motion or potential motion as a distributed concept within one or several bodies rather than a purely linear sequence or path within or between them. It would seem "spooky" to think that way except we do have mathematic and physical models of mechanics that treat simple motion and potential motion in just such field terms.

Given that, as O Sensei framed a mythological basis in which his structural and dynamic intuition could function, the scientific mode he also advocates can be used for the same thing -- and in much the same terms. In fact, his mythology and "poetic" imagery is necessary as a "check" on the right intuitive feel of the concrete mechanics -- if they are to be applicable to practice and/or teaching -- at least as I see it. Jung himself emphasized in his explorations, the importance of the mythological exploration in its own terms -- but without becoming subjectively identified with the images of the mythological realm.

"Though the virtue of training, understanding of aiki is acquired naturally. ... Through the virtue acquired from devoted practice [of Budo], one can perceive the principles of Heaven and Earth. Such techniques originate from the subtle interaction of Water (matter) and Fire (spirit),... (water & fire combined form "iki", life, breath & kami [deity, spirit])."

C. David Henderson
10-23-2009, 12:58 PM
I am fascinated how he captures the concept of a "field" operation in dealing with numbers of attackers -- rather than sequential interactions he is taking their totality of interaction as one thing.

Assuming we allow his perspective as being valid and useful, (and I do) this observation points toward certain ways of understanding the physical "scientific" concepts, and away from others. It points us towards offensive motion or potential motion as a distributed concept within one or several bodies rather than a purely linear sequence or path within or between them. It would seem "spooky" to think that way except we do have mathematic and physical models of mechanics that treat simple motion and potential motion in just such field terms.

So, if I understand you, this would suggest a particular sort of awareness to be cultivated in multiple attacker situations, and would provide a different perspective to view O-Sensei's demonstrations against multiple attackers and his descriptions of what he experienced in those situations?

[His] mythology and "poetic" imagery is necessary as a "check" on the right intuitive feel of the concrete mechanics -- if they are to be applicable to practice and/or teaching -- at least as I see it. Jung himself emphasized in his explorations, the importance of the mythological exploration in its own terms -- but without becoming subjectively identified with the images of the mythological realm.

Then, his imagery had content as knowledge about the world that guided his development of his art, rather than as romantic but ultimately arbitrary and hence meaningless stories?

There's a story I recall about the guy who discovered the shape of the benzene ring having a dream in which a snake swallowed its own tale; is that similar to what you're suggesting?

regards,

cdh

Erick Mead
10-23-2009, 04:18 PM
So, if I understand you, this would suggest a particular sort of awareness to be cultivated in multiple attacker situations, and would provide a different perspective to view O-Sensei's demonstrations against multiple attackers and his descriptions of what he experienced in those situations? Yes. An awareness of what it means to deal with the change of center, as the center of perceived action is made progressively more remote from the center of perceived contact. I have illustrated this shift in a very simple tabletop comparison model.- manipulating one chopstick (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpost.php?p=243524&postcount=133) in two different ways (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpost.php?p=243524&postcount=133) from the same point of contact.
Then, his imagery had content as knowledge about the world that guided his development of his art, rather than as romantic but ultimately arbitrary and hence meaningless stories? At one point I would have been more in the latter camp -- and essentially divorced his physical accomplishments from his idiomatic (or idiosyncratic, as you prefer) way of expressing what he felt was occurring. On this point, I would say it is not mere opinion but closely correlated set of facts -- that his imagery closely tracks correct concrete sensibilities of real physical phenomena -- but combines them with more elusive descriptions of "feel," that the mere mechanics does not easily capture. They are not very prescriptive in terms of method or approach, but very descriptive of entering the margins of performance. I don't think he thought very highly of "method" -- I think he though more highly of "pattern".
"Though the virtue of training, understanding of aiki is acquired naturally."

There's a story I recall about the guy who discovered the shape of the benzene ring having a dream in which a snake swallowed its own tale; is that similar to what you're suggesting?Well, Leo Szilard was inspired by H.G. Wells to envision the atomic bomb, work out its technical basis and then drafted the letter that brought the project about ...

So, yeah... that, too.

L. Camejo
10-24-2009, 03:43 AM
Good stuff Erick. Jung and Ueshiba M. always intrigued me deeply as separate characters. This thread has gotten me thinking about some of the similarities in their paradigms.

Always good to see things from a new perspective. :)

Best.

LC