View Full Version : Kojiki, Misogi, and the spirituality of O Sensei

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12-22-2010, 03:50 PM
Hi Prof. Goldsbury,
Thank you once again! I thought I should start a new thread. This is such a deep and difficult topic for me, but one which I am enjoying so much I thought I should continue it elsewhere. I appreciate your continued efforts to help me learn a bit more about this bit of history.
A few more questions:

"I have been to a most unpleasant land, a horrible, unclean land. Therefore I shall purify my body."
Philippi also quotes Motoori Norinaga, who rejects a spiritualizing interpretation, insisting that pollution of the body, not of the soul, was meant:

"Exorcism and purification are for the purpose of cleansing the pollutions of the body. To say that they are for exorcising and cleansing the spirit is a concept completely alien to Japanese antiquity." (Philippi, Kojiki, p. 68.)
I'm confused by the use of the term "exorcism," which I have only seen as having a spiritual connotation. I can appreciate the idea that "spirit" may not have been in the thinking of ancient Japanese people, particularly given my (admittedly weak) understanding of Natural Religion (my understanding of which being that physical reality is what we have to go by in our understanding of how to live well, regardless of whether or not it can be said there is something more). This seems to raise at least one issue to my mind though: what does a non-spiritual being have to do with an underworld?
It makes sense that people would clean themselves after dealing with death, and perhaps the Kojiki borrows from older, Chinese or Indian tales, but would O Sensei have access to this kind of thinking to shape whatever his views were?

Of course, it is not alien to much more modern Japanese notions, especially Jinja Shinto, which is the postwar successor to State Shinto (国家神道). However, (1) this implies over 1,000 years on interpretation of the Kojiki text and (2) I am not sure that Jinja Shinto can be equated with Omoto-kyo.
Was O Sensei purely Omoto-kyo though...particularly later on? His having spent at least some time at Tsubaki Okami Yashiro seems to imply a more open view on spirituality...or at least seems to imply some relevency with regards to at least some aspects of Jinja Shinto.
Thank you for your time thus far. I hope you won't mind helpoing me out a bit further.
Take care,

Peter Goldsbury
12-22-2010, 05:37 PM
Hello Matthew,

I quoted the same Motoori Norinaga on kami in Column 8. Here is the quote again.

"Speaking in general, however, it may be said that the word kami signifies first the deities of heaven and earth who appear in the ancient records and the spirits of the shrines where they are worshipped. It is unnecessary to add that it includes birds and beasts, trees and plants, seas and mountains, and so forth. In ancient usage, anything whatsoever which was outside the ordinary, which possessed superior power or was awe-inspiring was called kami. Eminence here does not refer merely to the superiority of nobility, goodness, or meritorious deeds. Evil and mysterious things, if they are extraordinary and dreadful, are also called kami. Among human beings who are called kami, the successive generations of divine emperors are all included. The fact that emperors are also called totsu kami ("distant gods") is because, from the standpoint of common people, they are far-separated, majestic, and worthy of reverence. In lesser degree, we find in the present as well as in ancient times human beings who are kami. Although they may not be accepted as such throughout the country, yet in each province, village and family there are human beings who are kami, each one according to his own proper position. The kami of the divine age were for the most part human beings of that time, and, because the people of the time were all divine, it is called the divine age." (Motoori Norinaga, Kojiki-den, quoted in Nosco, Remembering Paradise, pp. 217-218; de Barry et al., Sources of Japanese Tradition, p. 18.)

I think that if Norinaga had such an idea about kami, his view of exorcising them would have been equally robust. The wife of my (Japanese) doctor (of Chinese medicine) told me that chinkon kishin was so dangerous because you could be possessed by the spirit of the wrong kami if you did not do it properly. She is in her 70s and her beliefs are a mixture of Shingon Buddhism and folk Shinto.

Best wishes,


12-22-2010, 11:23 PM
Hello Professor,
Philippi also quotes Motoori Norinaga, who rejects a spiritualizing interpretation, insisting that pollution of the body, not of the soul, was meant:
What do you suppose was the view of O Sensei here? I should probably just start reading the columns rather than asking questions somewhat haphazardly...:o For a while I've been trying for a dialectical approach on Aikiweb, but more and more I'm not feeling up to the task.
..and the spirits of the shrines where they are worshipped.
Is this to say Motoori Norinaga accepted the notion of spirit(s) existing, but didn't view misogi as pertaining to it/them? If he refers to spirits of the shrines and yet rejects misogi as pertaining to the soul (which I take to include "spirit"), it sounds like he looks at misogi as merely a bath or shower. Is this the case or am I missing something?
As it pertains to O Sensei, regardless of whether or not spirit can be said to be affected, I suppose misogi can at the least be described as a transformative process for making the body stronger. Norinaga apparently viewed misogi as not cleansing the soul (or is it "not necessarily" doing so?), but could it be said that what we do shapes the spirit (my presumption being that O Sensei viewed this to be true) and that in doing misogi in some manner, we likewise affect the "shaping" of spirit/soul?
Reviewing this I see that's just a reiteration of the first question in this post. Time for bed then.
Thank you again for your time, and happy holidays to you and yours!
Take care,
P.S. Your account of chinkon kishin is exactly in keeping with my limited understanding of it, based on Tsubaki Jinja teachings