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senshincenter
09-02-2005, 01:16 PM
"Osensei, Omoto-kyo Theology, and Ichirei-Shikon-Sangen-Hachiriki"

by David M. Valadez



“There was an extremely unworldly quality about his lectures on the Aiki path, from his main points or way of developing their content to his manner of talking. Sometimes he would reveal the workings of the universe through the interrelationship between the "Ichirei shikon sangen hachiriki" (one spirit, four souls, three sources, eight powers) of Ancient Shinto. On other occasions, he would jump to the subject of the hardships of settling Hokkaido. Then, in the next instant, he would make a complete turnabout and remark that "Aikido is the wondrous result of 'kototama'," mentioning for example the connection between the workings of the "su" sound or the "u" sound of kototama (=word-soul) and breath power." Then, suddenly, he would shift to describing incidents of martial prowess from the time he was in his prime. That is to say, he would freely describe the spontaneous knowledge, insights and images which came and went in his mind like lightning jumping from this topic to that. Moreover, subjects like more profound principles of theology would often suddenly pop up without the least regard to the circumstances and even his stories of martial valor contained references to his theory of the spirit, mind and body supplemented by practical examples.” –Kisshomaru Ueshiba, speaking on Osensei’s lectures, from the article, “Founder of Aikido (02): Day in and Day Out Training.” (found at AikidoJournal.com)



In commenting within another blog entry I suggested that anyone interested in truly deciphering the meaning of Osensei’s writings, and/or in determining or demarcating any practices that might be associated with such writings, would have to look at the context of the text in question. Toward that end, I repeated Derrida’s warning that a text does not reveal its meaning at first glance – that we must be cautious when seeing a phrase and claiming to know what it means just by seeing it and/or claiming to understand it by knowing it from another context. I said that this is especially true when it comes to Japanese religious culture.

So, what would be the context of Osensei’s writings? Undoubtedly, there would be many. Undoubtedly, Osensei’s writing is influenced by Chinese cosmology, Buddhist epistemology, Buddhist-Shinto discourse, Confucian thought, martial arts praxis, etc. Historical research into any of these areas is going to yield valuable information. For Osensei was a man of his times, like every man, and so as a man of early 20th century Japan, his thought, his writings, and thus his practices were influenced by all of these things. However, it is my opinion that one context stands out above the rest. This is especially true when we want to address the writings for which he has come to be considered a most profound figure; for which he has become known the world over. This context is the context of Omoto-kyo theology.

In the article, “Accord with the Totality of the Universe,” Osensei uses the phrase, “the one soul, the four spirits, the 3 origins, and the 8 powers.” The whole paragraph in which the phrase is contained reads as follows:

“The Great Universe embodies all the forces and powers (lit., "the one soul, the four spirits, the 3 origins and the 8 powers") and from them have come the origins of the human life force. The universe and mankind are as a single body. However, while mankind has the ability to unify with the universe, the fact that he is unable to accomplish this union is his unhappy condition. When a person stands before a shrine and prays his silent prayers it is for no other purpose than to unify himself with the godhead.”

(Note: All quotes by Osensei in this essay are from the above-mentioned article – found at AikidoJournal.com. When citing from the article, I have opted to use the translation “as is” in order to provide the reader with an ease of reference. Other terms are translated according to the translations used by Omoto-kyo. Again, this is done for an ease of reference. When my own translations differ from each of these translations, the reader will be clearly informed. If the first two translations differ, I have opted to use Omoto-kyo’s translation, as their tradition’s theology is what is being discussed here. Regardless, meaning is not lost, since in every case I have found the Omoto-kyo translation to function better than the translation provided in the article. I have tried to limit the use of Japanese terms, and I have opted not to mention the full chain of associations that Omoto-kyo corresponds to any one given thing, idea, or practice. This, as well, I have done in an attempt to keep things more clear and somewhat easier to follow.)

Without seeing the kanji, I feel pretty safe in assuming that this phrase reads in Japanese as ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki, which I will translate, following Omoto-kyo’s translation, as, "The One-Spirit, the Four Soul-aspects, The Three Irreducible Elements, and The Eight Powers (or The Eight Forces)." From what I have learned of Japanese culture through my studies, one would probably be wrong in assuming that this phrase is particular to Osensei, to Aikido, or to the martial arts. In all likelihood, this phrase goes back quite a distance in time (and probably in space as well – with maybe traces of it in China or even India). It will also have many interpretations. In fact, so multitudinous are these interpretations that some will most likely be in outright contradiction to others. We can also assume that this phrase, with its many meanings and its many contexts, also has many ways of being represented. This means that we will most likely be able to see it as a part of architecture, landscapes, paintings, mandalas, political organizations, and/or geometric shapes, etc. Without too much risk at all, we can also assume that it can be represented on the human body itself.

However, what does such a phrase mean according to Omoto-kyo theology? For me, that is the real question to ask and answer if one wants to understand what Osensei meant by such a phrase. Unfortunately, this is not my area of study concerning Japanese religious history. Therefore, I cannot off the top of my head go into any real kind of depth or detail – certainly not at a level that would satisfy any real kind of academic review. However, I can offer enough information to perhaps spark further interest along these intended lines. After all, there does seem to be a decent amount of information that is quite accessible to anyone with such an interest. It is not as if Omoto-kyo is a tradition with few records and/or that hides itself from the public eye. In fact, Omoto-kyo is the exact opposite of this! Omoto-kyo wants its theology to be known, and it wants it to be known by the entire world. So why do we know so little then? In my opinion, the lack of historical research done on Omoto-kyo seems to come from its lack of attraction to up and coming scholars. If Omoto-kyo is treated at all by scholars, it seems to only be treated as one of the many New Religions that sprung up during the modern period. In such studies, these traditions are treated as a single mass, one that is then open to sociological analysis of one type or another. This great reduction is further compounded by the fact that such studies are most often only concerned with the legal troubles Omoto-kyo’s had with the Japanese state.

Adding to this dilemma, in my opinion, is the fact that most of Aikido’s history is carried forth in the mouths and pens of practitioners whom are either not historians and/or do not hold themselves to the tenets of scientific historiography. This is not to say there is not good history out there, such as what you find on this journal (which one day will prove to be beyond any kind of measurable value – I am sure). However, most interest in Aikido history is centered on either individual Aikido practice and/or the political agendas of various groups. For this reason, more folks are talking about how Osensei dodged bullets and/or how unique he was as a martial artist than they are working to uncover the details of Omoto-kyo theology – which is the context of Osensei’s writing and, I will add, the context of his understanding of Aikido.

Nevertheless, Omoto-kyo theology is out there, and it is out there for the taking. It is out there for the taking because Omoto-kyo is a tradition that seeks to understand itself as a world religion. As such, its theology is translated into many languages, and it is available on many mediums. Omoto-kyo is probably as far as one could get from an esoteric tradition. If Omoto-kyo theology is difficult to get a handle on, it is only because of its complexity, not its availability. This cannot be denied: Omoto-kyo theology is immensely complex (i.e. multi-relational). Although I have closely studied my graduate mentor’s work on the Buddhist-Shinto multiplex at Kasuga, and though my own work deals with perhaps an even more complex tradition that centered on the deification of Tokugawa Ieyasu, I must say that I have never seen a theology as complex as that of Omoto-kyo. The adjective “convoluted” does not seem to come even close when describing the teachings of Onisaburo.

If you will excuse my colloquialism, Omoto-kyo has taken China’s epistemology of correspondences and spoon-fed it crack. To the casual reader, Omoto-kyo theology will most likely look like the ranting of an insane mind. This immense complexity, I suggest, is most likely what was behind folks not “getting” what Osensei was talking about – not that they were not familiar with Shinto discourse, Budo esoterica, Buddhist epistemology, etc. So complex is Omoto-kyo’s theology that I have my suspicion that the theology does not make sense in total. The way it seems to continually fold back in upon itself makes it seem that eventually it will undoubtedly end in contradiction. If this is true, this however is not a problem at any kind of practical level, since probably no one – not even Onisaburo or Osensei – could ever think of the discourse in total. It is simply that immense, in my opinion.

When we do come to Omoto-kyo theology through the writings of Osensei, we discover something very enlightening: In most cases, Osensei is simply quoting (without citing) Onisaburo. This is something I have always had my suspicions aimed toward. It was something I mentioned a while back to Dr. Goldsbury in an email discussion we once had. Back then, I felt this might be true because of Osensei’s social and educational background – it being “somewhat” out of line with such a complex and culturally universal system of thought. This is not to say that Osensei did not understand what he was talking about – in fact, he definitely appears to be quite fluent in Omoto-kyo theology. He definitely has a deep understanding of its teachings and of what they mean for the world, for himself, and for his art. In addition, he definitely seems to have achieved a complete melding of his spirit, his mind, and his body, to the thoughts and practices of this tradition. However, there is no doubt that to get what Osensei is saying, we need to understand what Onisaburo said. For me to really get a sense of this however, I had to get around the Aikikai’s efforts, and the efforts of certain authors, etc., to present Osensei as an eruption of genius on the timeline of human history. As far as Osensei’s writing goes, if we want to think in terms of “genius,” the real genius is Onisaburo. This means then, if we want to understand the more complex, more profound writings of Osensei, we just have to look at what Onisaburo said in his Omoto-kyo theology.

Let us ask: What is ichirei-shikon-sangen- hachiriki according to Omoto-kyo theology?

Ichirei, or One-Spirit, is a reference to the spiritual aspect of the ultimate deity, the creator God, GOD, the “one and only” God, etc. This God is the essence of all religions, and all traditions. That is to say, for example, there is no difference between this God and the God of the Christian Bible. They are the same. This is not a Japanese kami in the traditional sense. Understanding this deity as THE universal being of all creation, of the universe, etc., is central to Omoto-kyo’s mission of attempting to establish peace on Earth by propagating what is common to all Mankind – that which is beyond race and creed, etc. This “being” has many manifestations but “he” is mainly known as Kamususanowo-no-okami.

It is in Kamususanowo-no-okami that Omoto-kyo posits the possibility for achieving mystical union (i.e. a reconciliation of the subject/object dichotomy) – which Omoto-kyo considers a part of God’s plan (i.e. establishing an age of peace, love, wisdom, etc., on Earth). That is to say, according to Omoto-kyo theology, there is a relationship between our capacity to practice and receive love (for example) and our capacity to seek and gain a union with God. What makes such a union possible is that the spirit of God, ichirei, is in all things, in all people, in the entire Universe, in all creation, etc. Therefore, what is most natural for humans, what is most harmonious with all of creation, is to seek this union out, to realize this union for oneself, to become aware of this union through the very fibers of our being – which themselves are thoroughly saturated with the spirit of God. Osensei writes:

“Mankind's role is to fulfill his heaven-sent purpose through a sincere heart that is in harmony with all creation and loves all things.”

(Note: Before going on to explain how we realize ichirei and/or do not realize it, and without getting too trapped in the circular logic of Omoto-kyo theology, it might be interesting to point out that Kamususanowo/God is represented with the kotodama SU, is understood as the source of both Yin and Yang, and is also considered the hypostasis of the Buddha, Jesus, Bodhidharma, and Confucius. If we look at Osensei’s lectures from this point of view, the point of view of God being all things, beings, actions, and ideas, perhaps, differently from Kisshomaru, we will not come to think of his discussions as “jumping all over the place.”)

As ichirei is the spiritual essence of all that is, Omoto-kyo has no problem expressing the mystical union it advocates as a oneness with Nature, or with ourselves, or with the Universe, or with Heaven and Earth, etc. These phrases all mean the same thing at a theological level in Omoto-kyo. However, though all of creation shares a singular spiritual essence, and though it is most natural for us as humans to seek out this essence, a mystical union with God is not the inevitable conclusion to our existence. For various reasons, relevant to the age we are living in (see below), we are both incapable of this Oneness and of practicing Love, which is God’s inherent and most overriding nature (i.e. what Osensei calls a “United Body of Love”). As a result, True Love, or Real Love, is not available to us in our lives if the spirit is not cultivated toward that end. We see this idea when Osensei writes:

“…while mankind has the ability to unify with the universe, the fact that he is unable to accomplish this union is his unhappy condition.”

The spiritual essence of God (i.e. ichirei) that is in us as humans is called the nao-hi. It is this nao-hi that allows us as moral beings to determine right from wrong, evil from good, beauty from ugliness, etc. In other words, our conscience is not only the voice of God, it is of the spiritual essence of God. It is this aspect of Kamususanowo/God that interacts with the four soul-aspects, or the shikon, that are also inside of us.

Shikon, or the four soul-aspects, are ara-mitama, nigi-mitama, sachi-mitama and kushi-mitama. Each one of these aspects corresponds to a human virtue in terms of an essence and in terms of a set of functions. The four soul-aspects are broken down thusly:

• Ara-mitama -- its essence is audacity, and its functions are willingness, resolve, perseverance, diligence, and fortitude.
• Nigi-mitama -- its essence is affinity, and its functions are peace, discipline, order, governance and association.
• Sachi-mitama -- its essence is love, and its functions are benefit, creation, production, evolution, and nurture.
• Kushi-mitama -- its essence is wisdom, and its functions are skill, sensibility, observation, awareness, and enlightenment.

(Note: Here, “audacity” is meant to denote that spiritual fortitude necessary to think/feel that one can rise above their material existence.)

The aspect of the One Spirit (i.e. ichirei), and the four soul-aspects (i.e. shikon or ara-mitama, nigi-mitama, sachi-mitama, and kushi-mitama) interact within/through us as certain moral essences (i.e. audacity, affinity, love, and wisdom) are measured up against our conscience (i.e. nao-hi). This allows us to cultivate those virtues (i.e. willingness, resolve, discipline, association, nurture, sensibility, awareness, etc.) that mark the spiritual life (i.e. a life free from the bane of materialism, immorality, selfishness, etc.). In turn, these things come to produce five kinds of self-applied drives or capacities. These drives/capacities are the drives/capacities necessary for pursuing a union with God. They are: a drive to examine oneself, a capacity to experience a sense of shame, a drive to repent, a capacity to revere, and a drive/capacity to awaken to truth. Ichirei-shikon then is formulaic breakdown of how and why we as human beings can and should pursue a mystical union with God.

(Note: For an interesting discussion on Shame, please see: http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8611&highlight=shame)

According to Omoto-kyo, one’s spiritual journey should be marked by the drives/capacities that come to us as part of our inner nature and as part of our efforts to follow the impulses of the nao-hi and the cultivated virtues of the shikon. However, should we deny ourselves the natural inclination of allowing the nao-hi to guide our four soul-aspects, and thus prevent ourselves from cultivating both a sense of morality and a capacity for living a spiritual life, not only do we not cultivate within ourselves the drives or capacities necessary for a union with God, we also risk the overall corruption of our soul. When this occurs, each soul-aspect degenerates respectively as hostility, depravity, rebellion, and insanity. Thus, these things come to dominate our body/mind in terms of both thought and action, and we are thus reduced to the superficial, the material, and the delusional, etc. in our daily lives. This is perhaps the way we should understand Osensei’s recounting of the gold body incident. We might be wise in focusing in on the possible symbolic significance of gold - of becoming a being made of gold. For gold, the world over is a symbol of material culture, selfish desire, superficial attachment, etc. Osensei writes:

“30 years ago I was extremely weak of body. At that time I secretly harbored a dream. In this dream I wanted to be the strongest man in all of Japan – no, more than that, in the entire world! I decided I would become the possessor of a martial power unequaled by anyone. With this dream before me I trained severely. One day a navy man confronted me, a person said to be a 7th dan holder in Kendo. Strangely, as I faced him I felt as if my body was surrounded by a shining brightness and I easily secured victory.

After that, however, a conceited feeling was born inside of me, and while walking through a garden I thought that innumerable golden threads came down to me from the universe. Then, a golden light whelmed up from the earth and engulfed me. Eventually I attained a feeling that my body was turned into a body of gold that expanded to universal proportions. Here I felt that the God(s) were chastising me for my ever-growing conceit and I cried tears of gratitude.”

Is it too far of a stretch to suggest that Osensei penetrated through the delusion of material reality by having (or receiving) a vision of himself at its extreme? In his quest for the fame of being the world’s most powerful martial artist, did he finally come to see the idiocy of his desire after he achieved a victory that at one time would have been deemed important by him but that could no longer be experienced as such? Now, a as a human being made of gold, as a human being made of gold that was the size of the universe itself (it would seem, competing with God), was it from there that he realized that even if the whole world would come to desire him, he would still be lost to the truth of his existence? It would seem so.

It would seem that his tears of gratitude came to him because of the grace he received. This was a grace that exposed him to the lie he was living by failing to harmonize more properly the various aspects of his soul with the spiritual aspect of God that was within him (i.e. ichirei-shikon). For did he not in seeking supremacy over another man through martial prowess come to corrupt the workings of his soul - by allowing himself to practice various forms of hostility, depravity, rebellion, and insanity? Is it not a hostile and depraved act to combat another human being when reasons of fame and glory underlie one’s motivations? Is it not a kind of rebellion against one’s own nature and against God (as Omoto-kyo understands the concept) to seek material power and/or any power outside of mystical union? Are not such quests for this kind of power a distraction or a departure from the work that allows us to finally discover what is real and important? Is it not insane to choose such a lesser power over such an obviously greater power – to look to be great before other corrupted men than to seek to be great before God? Whatever we may think, it seems very apparent that Osensei answered all of these questions in the way that Onisaburo had led him to. For in Osensei’s vision, we see the degenerative soul-aspect drives of hostility, depravity, rebellion, and insanity, replaced by the harmonious soul-aspect drives of self-examination, repentance, shame, and an awakening to the Truth. Through his tears, of salt and water, Osensei seemed able to purify his soul of the corrupted aspects, by examining his inner self, by repenting for what he saw through his self-examinations, by feeling a sense of shame that would repulse him from ever acting that way again, and by seeing the Truth of God’s way within himself. This is a great contrast from what we see in the moral causes and/or the ontological accomplishments of other Budo. Osensei writes:

“In the past, there have been a number of superlative masters of martial arts but we should never forget the great number of them who disappeared on the battlefield of this material world simply for lack of enough training in the true spirit of Budo, in sincere love, and in the battle against the self.”

No matter what form the ontology of ichirei-shinkon may be represented through, any corresponding practices refer back to this above-mentioned theology in Omoto-kyo. This is true whether these aspects of the soul are represented with sounds, kami, elements, colors, shapes, directions, etc. We can see this point being made by Osensei when he writes:

“When a person stands before a shrine and prays his silent prayers it is for no other purpose than to unify himself with the godhead.”

As, for example, ritual, or rule-governed behavior, in such a theological system would seek to cultivate those essences and aspects of our inner being by having us practice self-examination, a sense of shame, repentance, and truth, it would seem that Osensei would have us also understand his art in this manner as well. This means, for Osensei, if he did think of Aikido as an act of purification, or as a ritual act, Aikido is a practice that must function through ichirei-shikon, and thus it is a practice that aims at a union with God. He writes:

“Aikido is the Budo (martial art) which opens the road to harmony; it is that which is at the root of the great spirit of reunification of all manifest creation.”

As we can now note, we are to understand ichirei and shikon to be related terms or concepts. In the same way, we are to understand sangen and hachiriki to be interrelated. In addition, the two couplings (i.e. ichirei-shikon and sangen-hachiriki) relate to each other by understanding the whole of ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki to denote The Three Attributes of the Godhead (i.e. God). The three attributes of God are: “his” Spirit, “his” Body, and “his” Power (or force or energy). The Three Attributes are related as: God’s spirit correlates to ichirei-shikon, “his” Body to sangen, and “his” Power to hachi-riki.

When Onisaburo looked out upon the world, in noting that everyone and everything is of God, he conceived of God as a kind of ultimate Parusha figure (from Indian mythology). In ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki, God’s spirit is at the core of everything created (e.g. the nao-hi inside of us or the whole system of ichirei-shikon); and because the world has taken form, God’s body is at the core of every form (i.e. sangen); and because the world is marked by action, God’s “power” (or “force” or “action”) is at the core of every movement (i.e. hachiriki). Ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki then is a formula for living the spiritual life by realizing every aspect of the created universe to be an aspect of God and a call for our mystical reunion with “him.” Because of God’s nature, ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki is also a call for the cultivation and practice of Love. Osensei, it seems, thought of Aikido as a way of reconciling our lives with this formula, with the fundamental aspects of God and thus with ourselves. We see this idea when he suggests that Aikido is a good remedy for the “weak.” (Note: The article translates this as being “weak bodied” but in all likelihood Osensei is referring to those individuals that cannot live in harmony with the Universe/God or with the formula of ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki. In my opinion, Osensei is not referring to a weakness of limb, and thus he is not positing Aikido as a fine physical fitness regiment. We can note this in the remedy Osensei offers at the end of the article. He does not tell people to practice more suwari-waza and/or to do more suburi training. Instead, he opts to help them by sharing with him his daily routine of religious practices. Thus, we can see, Osensei is referring to the weakness that comes to us through a spiritual corruption of the total self. Such a weakness then is a kind of incapacity to fulfill our human destiny to become one with God and/or to live in harmony with the nature of the Universe, etc.) In such a suggestion, when he notes that the “problem with the weak-bodied people of today is that they are unable to survive in a world of absolute accord and absolute non-desire,” he tells us exactly what Aikido is and what it is supposed to do. Aikido is a path for union with God; it is a path for regaining our spiritual self as we distance ourselves from material culture. In the phrase ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki we come to know how and why this is possible.

(Note: Before continuing on to discuss sangen and hachiriki in more detail, I thought it interesting that Osensei marked the weak with both an incapacity to live in accord with the Universe/God/Nature/Etc., and with a an incapacity to practice non-desire – which we should note as a non-desire toward material things. This too is quite in line with Omoto-kyo’s theological stance on material culture. For example, Omoto-kyo considers the Earth to be marked by various ages. These ages are all defined according to the spiritual regression of Man – it being directly related to Man’s attachment to material culture. The ages are broken down as follows:

- The First Stage: The Age of the Gods – in this stage humans on Earth were capable of very high states of spirituality and were thus able to mingle with celestial beings or discarnate entities.

- The Second Stage: The Age of Silver – in this stage Man was still capable of mingling with celestial beings but here He also began to seek mundane knowledge and thus he began to deviate from the laws of Heaven and Earth.

- The Third Stage: The Age of Copper – in this stage, while He remained aware of the laws of Heaven and Earth, Man no longer relied upon them to make decisions.

- The Fourth Stage: The Age of Iron – in this stage Man disregarded the laws of Heaven and Earth entirely and thus he became materialistic. As a result, Man lost His knowledge on the spiritual world. Virtue disappears from Man’s everyday existence, but Truth remained.

- The Fifth Stage: The Age of Mud – in this stage Man progresses materially as He continues to regress spiritually. Here both Virtue and Truth disappear from Man’s daily existence. Now, in this age, in the age we are now in, Man must work to discover for himself both Virtue and Truth. To do this, Man must distance himself from the trend toward materiality (i.e. from His desires for material things and for superficial knowledge).

In the end, like all mystical traditions, and as we can see here in Osensei, Omoto-kyo approximates one’s closeness to God with one’s distance from the material world. In classic fashion, we thus see Osensei opting to increase his distance from the material world and from people attached to the material world when he writes:

“Even so, as I traveled down this path I found human interaction had become more and more of a hindrance so I moved up to Tokyo and now I have retreated to (a farm in) Iwama, in Ibaraki Prefecture. It seems that by lessening my interaction with human beings I am much more able to acutely intuit the principle of oneness with the Universe.”)

So what is sangen as the Body Attribute of God? Sangen are the three irreducible elements of the physical world. Many East Asian traditions have such a notion. However, there is not a single understanding of what these three elements are or how they are to fit in with one’s practice. For Omoto-kyo, in terms of matter (i.e. in terms of God’s body), the world of existence can be broken down into the categories of mineral, plant, and animal. These are the sangen of Omoto-kyo. As I said above, we are to think of the sangen and the hachiriki as interrelated. These sangen (i.e. God’s body or the world of matter) consists of subtle and intricate combinations of the hachiriki, or the eight powers, or the eight forces. The eight powers/forces (i.e. hachiriki) are varying degrees of the union of Yin and Yang energies (which are the forces of God, “his” movement, “his” action, “his” energy, etc.). The eight types of energies (i.e. varying degrees of the union of Yin and Yang or God’s Power) are: an activating force, a quieting force, a melting force, a coagulating force, a pulling force, a loosening force, a combining force and a dividing force. Because of the interdependency of God’s spirit to God’s energy to God’s body, force or energy on this plain of existence also has the capacity to interrelate power/force/energy to matter/shape/form. These combinations or energy mark the mineral, plant, and animal aspects of creation. However, because all of these things are of God, and as we are of God as well, and as these things are also of God’s Power, the sangen also function within the microcosm of our being. For example, the mineral aspect is used to fasten our soul to our physical body; the plant aspect is used to enrich us; the animal aspect is used to animate us with Life.

As with the shikon, the sangen and the hachiriki also correspond to numerous other things, feelings, directions, colors, sounds, shapes, kami, etc., in Omoto-kyo. These correlations are used ritually to bring a sense of being of the presence and in the presence of God and/or “his” primary attribute of Love – which can be thought of as the ultimate power of God. It is important to understand this sense of power that is quite peculiar to Omoto-kyo and thus most likely to Osensei as well. Please note the following two passages. The first one is considered an Omoto-kyo maxim. Onisaburo authors it:

"God is the spirit which pervades the entire universe, and man is the focus of the workings of heaven and earth. When God and man become one, infinite power will become manifest.”

Now please note the following passage written by Osensei in the related article:

“Thus, by imbibing the principle of the Universal, and receiving the ki of the Heaven and Earth, when I unified this entire human body, I realized the subtle depth of Aikido that manifests such great power, and attained the principle of oneness with the Universe.”

Remembering that the universe is equivalent with God, we see that Osensei is opting to follow the Omoto-kyo maxim perfectly, suggesting that his realizing of the subtle depth of Aikido and the manifestation of great power is directly attributable to him having attained a mystical union with God. Whatever this power is, or however it may be applied, for better or worse, we know from what Osensei says earlier in this article that he is not referring to the kind of power that makes one unequal in martial prowess. It is not the kind of power that comes to you by trying to be the strongest martial artist in the world. If anything, Osensei’s shared confession suggests, such a quest, as a quest of the ego, of selfish desire, of pursuing material or worldly things, prevents us from attaining the infinite power of which Onisaburo speaks – the power he pointed Osensei toward, and the power Osensei seems to be pointing us toward: The Power of Aikido.

Ben Joiner
09-06-2005, 06:28 AM
Just thought I'd say thank you for such an interesting and well structured post as nobody else has. Not really sure how to respond to it as yet though. :)

senshincenter
09-06-2005, 09:35 AM
Ben,

Thank you just for reading it - your kind words are an extra I had no intention of receiving. So they are a very nice surprise. :-)

Thank you,
david

rogueenergy
09-06-2005, 12:08 PM
Wow. I am awed by the flood of thought this has inspired. This has also peaked my curiosity. Time to learn more about Omoto-kyo.

Thank you. In the most sincere way possible. Thank you.

bkedelen
09-06-2005, 03:43 PM
What a fantastic post. Often I have wondered at the significance of the subject matter, and I could not have asked for a more thorough interpretation. I would love to see more discussion and essay relating to such matters. This type of post renders discussions about application and technical detail obsolete.

Ron Tisdale
09-06-2005, 03:52 PM
There is a good (and related) discussion on Aikido Journal's front page...Aikido and Three Peaches, by Ellis Amdur.

Best,
Ron

senshincenter
09-06-2005, 04:52 PM
Hi All,

As a suggestion – on some discussion relating to things mentioned in the essay – I would highly recommend reading the thread on Shame linked above in the essay. Many people in that thread made some very relevant points – with lots of insight in my opinion. You can find that thread here:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8611&highlight=shame

Remember, according to Omoto-kyo theology, but also according to any other spiritual tradition I know of that seeks to reconcile the subject/object dichotomy, a sense of shame was one of the drives or capacities that marks the spiritual life.

As for the blog entries on “The Three Peaches” – yes, I would advise reading everything you can. Especially the writings these blog entries are commenting upon (written by Osensei). I feel Osensei’s writings on takemusu aiki may make a lot more sense to many more people after they have read this brief summary on Omoto-kyo theology.

As a (perhaps) meaningless comment, if I understand Mr. Amdur’s view on ritual correctly, I would have to say that my own view of Aikido as a system of purification and/or as a ritual (i.e. a rite or a technology of the self) is slightly different. Though I must admit it is hard to note if we are saying something similar or something different - as I believe Mr. Amdur was providing the reader with the benefits of joining him in his self-reflections upon reading Osensei’s essays, not necessarily a summary of Omoto-kyo theology.

Nevertheless, as a point of personal clarity, in my interpretation, everything comes back to how the various soul-aspects work in conjunction with the divine soul-aspect. In other words, what brings potency (i.e. the capacity to transform us) to the act, any act (be that a rite before a shrine or be that Aikido praxis), is the cultivation of the various virtues and their corresponding sets of functions as they go on to generate the five necessary drives or capacities that mark the spiritual life. Meaning, if one is not cultivating these virtues and/or generating these drives/capacities in their training, in their practice of Aikido, one’s Aikido practice is impotent in terms of operating as a technology of the self as laid out within Omoto-kyo theology. In short, the act is not enough. The act alone remains hollow, empty. The engine for all self-transformation, or self-cultivation, etc., in Omoto-kyo is Ichirei-Shikon. This is the center of every practice. It seems very reasonable to assume that it was the same for Osensei.

For me personally, the act is not enough. The act alone is never enough.

Thanks everyone for your kind words and also for making the time and effort to do further thinking, reading, and/or research.

david

Charles Hill
09-07-2005, 01:45 AM
David,

I am very glad you posted this here and got some comments. I was a bit surprised at the roar of silence your blog received at AJ. Your reinterpretation of O`Sensei`s enlightenment experience is important and is making me go back to the original with fresh eyes. The Japanese response to O`Sensei`s words seems to be a general "I have no idea what he is talking about so I`ll just kind of ignore it." And this has majorly influenced the rest of the Aikido world. In my opinion, your attempt to analyse and explain the founder`s words in more understandable terms is something sorely needed. I sincerely hope that this is just the start of more such writings, by you and others.

Thank you,
Charles

Peter Goldsbury
09-07-2005, 03:24 AM
Hello Charles,

I think the deafening silence that greeted David's article in AJ is due to the fact that virtually no one has had the opportunity so far to examine all the texts thoroughly.

For example, Ellis's "Three Peaches" blogs are very good, but seem to be based on the translated parts of Takemusu Aiki. The translated portions are a small part of the whole and I think the other parts need to be looked at. In addition, these lectures were made to members of the Byakko Shinkoukai, which is a distant offshoot of Omoto. I am curious about the extent to which O Sensei was lecturing with a particular audience in mind, but to check this we would need to look also at the writings of Masahisa Goi.

Then there are the discourses that have appeared in Aiki Shinzui, but I understand that these have been edited.

I have the same suspicions as David does about the Founder's close reliance on Omoto theology and have been acquiring a collection of texts on Omoto theology in Japanese. I think the most important text is Reikai Monogatari and I know from the Aikikai that O Sensei had a text of work which he annotated and often had read to him. No one sems to know where this text is.

So I think that David has made a very good start, but I also think, as any academic would, that his conclusions need to be closely evaluated.

Best wishes,

Ron Tisdale
09-07-2005, 11:28 AM
I'm really a light weight in this area, but it seems to me that

a) for the ritual to have the greatest personal meaning to the individual, the individual must be a full participant

which does not negate

b) the aikido praxis itself operating as a general rite from which all benefit at some level.

a) is better, but maybe b) suffices in the interim? There are styles of aikido (Yoshinkan, Shodokan) which pretty much eshew the Shinto/Omoto paradigm. I personally am not sure how that then is resolved in terms of this discussion. Even some Aikikai teachers focus on Zen, as opposed to Omoto.

I would also suggest that the silence (deafening or not) is the result of this being an extremely difficult area to get one's head around. Someone with Peter's or David's background may find this kind of topic relatively accessable. Personally....well, as I said, I'm a lightweight in this area. Anyhoo....

Best,
Ron

SeiserL
09-07-2005, 12:47 PM
I found that thier web-site has a great deal of downloadable free literature that I personally found very insightful and assisted me in seeing maybe a small bit more of the bigger picture.

http://www.oomoto.or.jp/index.html

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-07-2005, 04:26 PM
Hi David,

Interesting reading. I'll save my personal comments for whenever we have the chance to meet someday when I am in Los Angeles. I do however have a few questions to which perhaps you can provide short and direct (Read: brief - knowing your writing style, the request is in response to this particular post only) answers. I will post my questions after your previous comments.
Meaning, if one is not cultivating these virtues and/or generating these drives/capacities in their training, in their practice of Aikido, one's Aikido practice is impotent in terms of operating as a technology of the self as laid out within Omoto-Kyo theology.
I am aware of several tertiary sources that are often quoted, and more often accepted without meaningful question. However, other than any conclusions you or anyone else might draw from the myriad of sources from which you have quoted and considered, do you have a firsthand source (O-Sensei said...) or even second hand source (Someone overhearing O-Sensei saying...) that straightforwardly states, "Aikido is based in any part on Omoto-kyo, theology or otherwise?
In short, the act is not enough. The act alone remains hollow, empty. The engine for all self-transformation, or self-cultivation, etc., in Omoto-kyo is Ichirei-Shikon. This is the center of every practice. It seems very reasonable to assume that it was the same for Osensei.
Taking for granted (for a moment) that your conclusions are 100% correct (so as to remove the question of if...), How is one to practically (Read: physically) incorporate "Ichirei-Shikon" or any other relevant Omoto-Kyo theology into one's own aikido practice?

I have several follow-up questions, but I do believe those will require answers in your typical length and manner, so I will save them for after I have read the hopefully as requested, brief and terse reply.

Thank you in advance for the time and effort you might put forth in your consideration of, or in your answers to my above questions.

I am looking forward to reading your reply.



.

senshincenter
09-07-2005, 04:41 PM
First, for those interested…

Here is a “brief” summary of the Reikai Monogatari in English:

http://www2.plala.or.jp/wani-san/home.html (look for the link in the frame on the left)

Second, again, I want to thank those that have taken the time to read the piece and say a few kind words. I am very appreciative and humbled by both.

Third, I would say that most likely both forms of ritual are present in Omoto-kyo the tradition and thus most likely in Osensei’s own practice – which must include his teaching as well. Many cultures do indeed have an understanding where the ritual act itself, with its instruments, its scents, sounds, actions, symbols, etc., carry within them the potency for transformation and/or for purification, pacification, perfection, etc. Within such a view of ritual, neither understanding nor belief is all that relative to how viable the ritual performance remains. In fact, in many cases, such things may be seen as completely irrelevant. An example of this could be the rituals related to the puberty ceremonies of certain Native American traditions. In such rites, often times a white feather is brushed against the hair of the girl practicing this rite of passage. The white of the feather, through a system of correspondences and an episteme of resemblance, is considered “potent” enough to bring the girl to an old age – one where the color of her hair (aged-white) will come to match the color of the feather. In such a rite, whether the girl understands what is occurring, or whether she believes that the feather has such potency, is irrelevant. We see such an understanding of rites throughout nearly every religious tradition. Omoto-kyo, and thus Osensei’s understanding of Aikido would most expectedly follow this rule as well. That is to say, I would very much imagine that we would find either Osensei saying and/or someone claiming that Osensei said to them that simply doing Aikido would be enough – that no more is needed (i.e. we don’t really need ichirei-shikon).

However, in some of those traditions, and especially in those that seek to reconcile the subject/object dichotomy, like Omoto-kyo, we tend to also see something different. In these different cultural veins, we see at best a tolerance for the idea that rites are potent in and of themselves and at worst a total rejection of such an notion. In these cultural veins, rather, there is an emphasis given to the person and to the centrality of their body/mind and/or spirit. This means, or tends to mean, that if one does not bring to the rite a deep sense of self and/or of personal investment (according to whatever given ontology or theology, etc., that is supporting such a rite) the ritual act is without potency.

In such traditions, as such rites might be deemed hollow or empty, or “just going through the motions.” They are also often reduced to being seen as talismanic, superstitious, of the masses, ignorant, etc. What does this mean? That means that one will have to determine if when Osensei said or meant that Aikido is all one needs, was he speaking literally, as we see in some rituals within some cultures, or was he speaking in light of how universal God and the cosmos are and that thus one can speak about one thing as if it is many and many things as if it is one thing. If he’s coming from the point of view of these great universals, it would seem that seeing a ritual itself as something potent would in some way speak contrarily to this other view (which is precisely the way that most mystical traditions tend to look at the former view of ritual). In the end, and nevertheless, this may prove to be meaningless in terms of our own practice. Why?

Undoubtedly more work will have to be done on Omoto-kyo theology. However, when that work is done I still think there will remain a choice for those of us that might want to use such information to understand our art and/or the teachings of Osensei. It seems to me that Omoto-kyo is a kind of beast with at least two parts to it. This comes from the fact that Omoto-kyo grew out of a popular movement – which means that most likely (very probably) it has one foot deeply entrenched in the idea that rites are potent in and of themselves. The other foot of Omoto-kyo however is deeply entrench in the complex and highly sophisticated philosophy/theology of both Buddhist epistemology and Christian mysticism. On this foot, rites as potent in and of themselves is a ridiculous notion since it is the underlying theology/philosophy which alone makes it possible to see so many rites as interrelated, etc.

Personally, I would never say which one is the more valid tradition in terms of history or in terms of understanding Aikido as Osensei may have understood Aikido. Both seem to have their possible flaws – as the former can often be reduced to a fetishization of the mundane and the latter can often end in a paralysis of analysis. Moreover, the “in between” areas are too grey to make any kind of assertion practical. However, when it comes to understanding those poems and phrases whereby Osensei has become the world figure he is, when it comes to Aikido being something for all times and for all people, when it comes to Budo being practical in terms of our modern situation, for me, one has to look at those very efforts that Omoto-kyo itself made in addressing its interests in positing itself as a world religious tradition. In that sense then, one is going to have to look more toward the idea that it is what is inside of the person that counts and thus look away more from the idea that the rites in and of themselves are potent. In a way, at a certain point, one is going to have to be dissatisfied with saying “SU, “ and then when one becomes dissatisfied with saying “SU,” one can finally say it in the way it was supposed to be said – for the first time, all over again.

Finally, in regards to the “silence,” I agree with Peter here. However, I also think that for some, keeping Osensei’s thought mysterious was a positive and useful thing. Penetrating this “mystery” a bit, which some would rather not have, is also adding to the “silence” some may be sensing. Personally, I see this work only as a direction. If it is standing out at all, it is only because most folks have often gone in another direction – leaving this piece to stand alone – which gives it the impression of standing out. What is the direction of this essay? It is the direction of looking at Omoto-kyo theology from the point of view of the History of Religions. The connection to Aikido is only hypothetical: that Osensei’s thought (these phrases and passages that have made him a world figure) is based upon Omoto-kyo theology. However, if one looks at the essay, one can see that Onisaburo maxim is almost word for word the same thing as the passage next quoted (written by Osensei). So, for me, and as Peter and I have discussed together, the next steps for us to take is more comparative analysis of Omoto-kyo theology as written by Onisaburo (which may be different from what is being written by Omoto-kyo today) and Osensei’s writings/lectures regarding his more ultimate understandings of Aikido.

dmv

senshincenter
09-07-2005, 05:12 PM
Hi Shaun,

Thanks for chiming in.

I will try and be brief – as requested.

No, I do not have any nor do I know of any original sources whereby Osensei can be quoted as saying “This I am basing on Omoto-kyo” (or some other variant), etc. As for second hand sources, there are only those various figures inside and outside of Aikido that mention the influence that Omoto-kyo theology had on Osensei. However, there is no other secondhand source that I know of that has someone saying “Osensei told me that he got this from Omoto-kyo.” All of them only talk about the influence the theology had on him – as they witnessed it secondhand.

In short, as I said above, and in the essay, this is the hypothesis of the whole piece: That Osensei’s thought has been heavily influenced by Omoto-kyo theology. As a hypothesis it is not something I would expect to be provable in any kind of direct way. I am coming from the view of cultural influence. I understand this in the same way, for example, that we know that Chinese culture influenced Japanese culture – though we have never found a text written by anyone from Japanese culture to read explicitly, “I have been influenced by Chinese culture.”

Your second question is one I would see as requiring a very long response, one I am not sure I am even yet able to write. I am sorry. Let me say this though – still trying to be brief. The question as I understand it can be taken in three ways: a) How does Omoto-kyo suggest we apply ichirei-shikon in our lives (since they may not at all be talking about Aikido); b) How does Osensei suggest we apply ichirei-shikon in our lives (since he most likely will talk about Aikido); and c) How can we apply ichirei-shikon in our lives. For the first two takes on this question, more historical analysis will have to be done. For the last take on the question, I would say the answer is a very personal thing – one that takes full advantage of Omoto-kyo’s position on the universality of Man’s inner nature and God, etc., and thus of the applicability of all creeds, practices, and doctrines. What one requires then is not so much a specific creed, or a specific practice, or a specific doctrine. What one requires is a specific quality – one which may mark our creeds, or practices, and/or our doctrines, etc. In particular, one is looking for ways to generate, for example, the five drives or capacities that mark the spiritual life through one’s training. A possible example of this, though not brief, would be the way that a sense of shame is being used in one’s practice as it is being discussed in the above mentioned thread – pasted here below as well.

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8611&highlight=shame

Another possible way is to see what is being cultivated as it is being mentioned here:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8728&highlight=quickness+accuracy

And, there is also this thread:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8205&highlight=culture+mediocrity

Finally, from our own web site, there are our Budo Contemplations and our Exchanges – which also mention such things. (The Exchanges are much more brief in their discussion.)

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/writs/budocontemplations.html

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/writs/exchanges.html

Outside of this, I am afraid I have not formulated for mass consumption (i.e. in brief form) my own practice nor my own pedagogical slant concerning such things as they are played out in our dojo. I hope that one day I will be able to do so.

I too look forward to meeting one day – it would be a great thing to discuss many of these issues, and other issues as well, with you. Please always consider yourself welcome at our dojo. This next year, I am planning to attend the Expo – so hopefully you will be going to the next one as well and I can meet your there.

Thank you very much,
david

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-07-2005, 05:58 PM
Hi Shaun,

Thanks for chiming in.

I will try and be brief -- as requested.

And I thank you for doing so. It allows me to quickly post some things on which I would love for you to comment.
No, I do not have any nor do I know of any original sources whereby Osensei can be quoted as saying "This I am basing on Omoto-kyo" (or some other variant), etc.
Thank you.
As for second hand sources, there are only those various figures inside and outside of Aikido that mention the influence that Omoto-kyo theology had on Osensei.
Again, thank you.
However, there is no other secondhand source that I know of that has someone saying "Osensei told me that he got this from Omoto-kyo." All of them only talk about the influence the theology had on him -- as they witnessed it secondhand.
Yes, these individuals might very well consider Omoto-Kyo to have been the source. Of course, that does not make it so, as I am sure you will agree.
In short, as I said above, and in the essay, this is the hypothesis of the whole piece: That Osensei's thought has been heavily influenced by Omoto-kyo theology. As a hypothesis it is not something I would expect to be provable in any kind of direct way.
I can not thank you enough for this clear and concise way of asking your readers to approach your material. In that vein, speaking in terms of hypothesis, (regardless of any of it being right or wrong) it will no doubt give many people much to consider within the context of their own practice and life. It therefore is a effort that is well intended and allows for a powerful reception as a tool for self analysis.
Your second question is one I would see as requiring a very long response, one I am not sure I am even yet able to write. I am sorry.
No apologies necessary, as we are both perhaps in a similar place.

Let me say this though -- still trying to be brief. The question as I understand it can be taken in three ways: a) How does Omoto-kyo suggest we apply ichirei-shikon in our lives (since they may not at all be talking about Aikido); b) How does Osensei suggest we apply ichirei-shikon in our lives (since he most likely will talk about Aikido); and c) How can we apply ichirei-shikon in our lives.
I would say that my question, as stated was with regards to "B" above.
For the first two takes on this question, more historical analysis will have to be done.
I would agree, and I would like to discuss this privately with you, if you are interested.
Outside of this, I am afraid I have not formulated for mass consumption (i.e. in brief form) my own practice nor my own pedagogical slant concerning such things as they are played out in our dojo. I hope that one day I will be able to do so.
As do I for my own group.

Here are some thoughts I penned while awaiting your reply.

O-Sensei said Aikido is not a religion but the completion of all religions. Wouldn't that also include Omoto-Kyo? followed by...
O-Sensei said it is not necessary to follow his religious path in order to learn Aikido. If this is so, why should non-Japanese follow Omoto-Kyo theology? If this is not so, how are non-Japanese, or non-Omoto-Kyo followers supposed to follow along the overly complex theological path?
Is it not more likely that the path is very simple, and the entrance to the path well hidden, rather than finding any answer by subscribing to a religion that forces the entire world to have to follow some overly complex theology which can barely be understood in any practical sense, even by those who are practicing it?
Is it not more likely that O-Sensei, noted as a very practical man (exemplified by his decision to move forward from his Daito-Ryu practice) would seek to put his efforts into developing a practice that would circumvent the need to over-think the world, one that is an ill-fitting response to that mystical nature of the universe as sold to us by all the priests of all religions? Would he not prefer a process that would short circuit the complex God/man, Shame/Blame & it's not the same games proffered by religions since time memoriam, so as to give people what he considered a direct path as opposed to one based upon the empty concept of "faith" and isn't that something called Aikido?
If we accept (only for this moment) that O-Sensei came up with something different, something more direct, and look at his art from that possibility, does Aikido not become the art that he felt could be easily adopted by people of all nationalities, cultures, age or what have you, just like he said it was?

Please feel free to comment on any, all or none as you see fit. Knowing what a great amount of time and effort you put into all of your posts, please feel free to respond to them individually or in groups or as you like.

Given the depth of the content and the length of the posts, I would like to emphasize this particular comment that you made:
Personally, I would never say which one is the more valid tradition in terms of history or in terms of understanding Aikido as Osensei may have understood Aikido. Both seem to have their possible flaws -- as the former can often be reduced to a fetishization of the mundane and the latter can often end in a paralysis of analysis. Moreover, the "in between" areas are too grey to make any kind of assertion practical.
Personally, I can't find one other thing which you have written that I would agree with more than the above comments. It seems that the answer is very simple, but somehow simply hidden, just as it was before... That is why we must look towards the practical not the mystical when approaching O-Sensei. By the way, your particular phrasing of paralysis of analysis is a rare and priceless gem. May I borrow it on occasion?
I too look forward to meeting one day -- it would be a great thing to discuss many of these issues, and other issues as well, with you. Please always consider yourself welcome at our dojo. This next year, I am planning to attend the Expo -- so hopefully you will be going to the next one as well and I can meet your there.
Thank you. I hope to have the time to at least come by your dojo and pay my respects at the Kamiza. As for the Expo, as I plan to attend each and every one while they are here in the States, I am sure to be there.



.

Erick Mead
09-07-2005, 07:09 PM
Thank you David.

Thought provoking, although I seek the threads of continuity back of Omoto in the origins of tantric Shingon whose influence upon and correspondence with kotodama is, well, diffuclt to ignore.

Hi All,
what brings potency (i.e. the capacity to transform us) to the act, any act (be that a rite before a shrine or be that Aikido praxis), is the cultivation of the various virtues and their corresponding sets of functions as they go on to generate the five necessary drives or capacities that mark the spiritual life. Meaning, if one is not cultivating these virtues and/or generating these drives/capacities in their training, in their practice of Aikido, one's Aikido practice is impotent in terms of operating as a technology of the self as laid out within Omoto-kyo theology. In short, the act is not enough. The act alone remains hollow, empty.
.....
For me personally, the act is not enough. The act alone is never enough.

david


An act imparts meaning without regard to the intention of the actor, and without the required mediation of language. Doing something without having the proper mind about it may not be the fullness of experience, but it is vitally important and has powerful effect in itself. If you doubt this, walk up to a co-worker and slowly, place your hand on his or her shoulder. Musubi -- a relationship is immediately formed, whose content is not immediately conscious to either of you, but whose connection is undeniable and immediately made important to both persons, both the "doer" and the "doee."

What these observations hold for David's point, though, is more interesting to me because of O-Sensei's highly practical use of musubi as his primary teaching. This echoes (pun intended) in the
kotodama "SU"( Ame-no-minakanushi no kami) and its emanations (hypostases?) in Taka-musubi and Kami-musubi.

Kokugaku (national studies) was the conscious revival of Shinto and its explict differentiation from Buddhism (Shinbutsu Bunri) just before and during the Meiji.

Kokugaku did much in spite of itself to explain the direct correspondences between Shinto Shingon. Shignon was itself an esoteric syncretism with both Indian tantric as well as strongly Christian elements (even more evident in Jodo). For those of us in the Christianized West it is notable that some of Motoori Norinaga's successors were in fact strongly criticized for the expressly trinitarian strain of thought developed in the mid nineteenth century.

The trinitarian elements (also echoed in the sangen) are strongly present in the kotodama system worked out by O-Sensei. He placed great personal emphasis in the correspondecen between kotodama and the Kojiki's expressly trinitarian creation myth (zoka no sanshin) and explored the nature of the relationships and function of the three Ame-no-minakanushi no kami, Takamimusubi no kami, and Kamimusubi no kami.

These trinitarian elements are possibly artifacts of the Silk Road and the intricate chain of syncretic developments that ties Shinto, Vajrayana and Mahayana Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism and Confucianism. This continued its play in the new religions of Japan, notably Omoto.

This strain of thought deeply influenced the development of Omoto. It furthered O-Sensei's own laying out of these principles. The genius of his approach is that he did it in a way that is peculiarly non-doctrinal. What doctrinal beliefs he had he made no requirement that his student of aikido share, or even understand.

Great prejudices and jealousies have marked this process of religious development along its path, both in China and in Japan (or anywhere else for that matter). Japanese examples include the shogunate's early suppression of Christianity, and imposition of household butsudan and temple registration, the Meiji imposition of Shinbutsu Bunri to aid the Imperial State Shinto cult, and the late suppression of the new religions, such as Omoto, in the 20th century.

O-Sensei's Aikido makes it exceedingly difficult to offend any particular doctrinal system. This suggests it was intended thus. Its acceptance in so many cultures and over the tops of so many language barriers is ample witness to the effectiveness of its non-verbal, non-doctrinal teaching. The simple practice of Aikido techniques taught by O-Sensei for his students to pass on was not intended to be religious doctrine, even though its import and original development was emphatically, highly religious. He simply taught them -- "Do this."

Acts have significance in and of themselves, and have moral efficacy without regard to the virtue or intent of the actor. Ask of the storm victim if he cares what your intent is handing him a cup of water. In Christian teaching about sacramental grace, this is the doctrine of ex opere operato -- "by the work done." The same is true of all right actions in whatever tradition. The work works on us as much as, if not more than, we do the work.

Action is necessary to create musubi. Musubi forms a common vessel, one that is meant to be filled. The cup implies drink. The vessel will be filled. Whether it be filled by you or by someone observing you or by someone participating with you, this is not important. Correct action is important, and this does not depend on subjective intent.

If we seek in our aikido practice to magnify our ego, we cannot possibly do technique properly. If we seek in our practice to remove our ego satisfaction from the equation, it is not required that this be motivated by any sense of virtue or enlightenment, but because ego-satisfaction interferes with good technique. Our personal intent in the immediate act, seen in this light, is especially shown to be beside the point.

That seems to me why O-Sensei whittled away and supplemented the Daito-ryu legacy and the other arts that he received. He selected techniques for which this approach is a prerequisite or at least a powerful element of its expression.

And in the process, whether we intend it or no, the stone is ground, the mirror is polished. The jealously vain "be me" is reduced and the all-embracing "I AM" is magnified. Right action creates right virtue. Right virtue alone is peculiarly impotent.

Tat tvam asi. "This thou art." Chuang-tsu dreams he is the butterfly, or the butterfly dreams he is Chuang-tsu.

Eight powers (the changes (I Ching))

resolve to

four souls (cardinal directions, i.e -- the whole world; the four living creatures)

resolve to

three bodies (trikaya, zoka no sanshin, the Holy Trinity)

resolve to one spirit. ( )


"The Way gives rise to One, One gives rise to Two, Two give rise to Three, Three give rise to the ten thousand things."


Not there yet, but ain't the sightseeing grand?

Cordially,

Erick Mead

senshincenter
09-07-2005, 08:01 PM
Hi Shaun,

- Yes, I agree, that a secondhand source saying so does not make it so. For me, it remains a hypothesis. Yet, it is one that gains more weight by demonstrating a consistency of thought and practices than by noting statements. Cultural influence is a strange thing, and often elements that demonstrate it even come to take precedence over those statements that might seek to prove it or to disprove it. For example, for many, it has become important that Osensei has said he has disapproved of Zen. So for many it has become plausible to think of Budo and even Aikido as something totally separate from Zen. However, from the view of cultural influence, this is not an accurate understanding of history. This is remains so even in spite of Osensei’s statement. Another example: Take the American constitution, it is heavily influenced by Judeo/Christian culture, and this remains true even if the founding fathers of the United States said they were out to establish a clear break between Church and State. Etc. In almost a counter-intuitive way, statements, whether they go one way or another, have little weight in terms of cultural influence. Rather, when noting cultural influence, we are looking for systems of thought that go on to make certain actions (which includes the writing of discourses) possible (and vice versa).

- Yes, then, right now I am not capable of answering this question of how Osensei felt we should bring the concept of Ichirei-Shikon into our lives. The only work I have done on this is related to the article I used to shed some light on the larger topic of Omoto-kyo theology. In that article, he briefly mentions some of his practices (e.g. Aikido, a simple existence, a departure from material culture, various religious rites, a discipline lifestyle, etc.) He also provides some commentary on some key moments in his life where he is attempting to summarize how certain drives/capacities have played themselves out. I think we can gain some insight in these summaries as well (e.g. his vision of turning into a gold body). However, in my opinion, this is only one article and much more would have to be researched before we could determine what Osensei’s applications actually looked like – or if he even had one in terms of a system of practice.

- I am always open for discussion – personal or otherwise. Please always feel free to contact me. My email is found our dojo web site. However, I think many people would benefit from such a discussion, and if possible I would like to keep things open for all to share in and to partake of.


Some comments on your comments – in the spirit of sharing…


- An interesting thing is that Omoto-kyo has said a very similar thing about their tradition – that it was kind of a meta-tradition or para-tradition – not really a tradition at all. This is very connected to presenting oneself as a “world” tradition – as something that is beyond all “creeds and races” – something that all of humanity can find him or herself within, etc. How close Omoto-kyo is to actually being this, or even how borrowed Osensei’s statement may have been, I too personally understand Aikido in this same way that you imply here. Aikido is not a religion but a way of deepening all things because of the space it has for personal investment and thus for spiritual cultivation – which all aspects of life benefit from (which includes religious practice).

- I agree, I would say that it is not necessary to follow Omoto-kyo. I would also say that Omoto-kyo would also say this same thing. Please note how Omoto-kyo has found a way within their discourse to suggest that all of the other major world traditions are part of the same religious worldview (i.e. how the high-god is the hypostasis for all of the other major religious figures of history). In its quest to be a world religion, Omoto-kyo is not saying it is the source of all other traditions – they are not trying to co-opt everything else. They are merely trying to identify what is common to all of them – which it sees itself as a part of as well. For my own person, I think it is very important to not follow Omoto-kyo practice – to not adopt them as one’s own. As one can guess, I would consider many of its elements to be bordering on a fetishization of the mundane – so you know which side I would personally be coming from. No, what is important, and what Omoto-kyo would allow for, is that you come to this ever-present truth through your own means. However, that means must be real – meaning, for example, it must include the cultivation of those key virtues and their corresponding functions and drives. I would also apply this to Osensei’s own practice. The point is not to fetishize it – so one is taking a big risk by seeking to copy it element for element. In my opinion, the point is the same – to find one’s own (real) path.

- I agree – simple is always better than overly complex.

- There is a lot in there. I am not sure I can agree with everything you state in this comment. It may be your path, and if through it you can cultivate the virtues and drives relevant to a spiritual life – more power to you. Still, I am not sure about what you are saying here – to be honest. I sense that you have thought about this for some time and that you are speaking with silent referents that you are long familiar with. Not partial yet to those referents, I nevertheless sense that my own path is somewhat different. Thus, for example, I am not so motivated to see Osensei as a simplifier of things (though I can see how one might come to this view).

- I do not think that Aikido has to be separated from one tradition that says, “everything is the same and it’s all good” in order to say, “everything is the same and its all good.” My own perspective is that Aikido’s view of itself as something that is beyond all creed and race is something it got from Omoto-kyo. In “getting this” from Omoto-kyo it was only itself practicing the same philosophy. It was not seeking to rise above it and/or to evolve beyond it – since such concepts could not find their philosophical space. If Osensei did not make folks practice Omote-kyo practices, it was not because he felt he moved beyond them but rather because Omoto-kyo itself probably at that time had no real system of practices like it might today. In addition, it also had a great deal to do with the fact that for Omoto-kyo no set of practices (e.g. Aikido) were thought to be outside of the eternal truth that Onisaburo was attempting to lay out. Finally, there are these reasons: 1) One also has to realize how in Japanese culture, especially around this time, the “spreading” of religion was a kind of social taboo; 2) The view of religion that allows missionary work to actually function in a way we are use to in the West has never really been a part of the larger Japanese cultural conscience; and 3) Mystical systems of thought almost never tend to emphasize their actual practices since the fetishization of rites is a very real danger to be avoided. In my opinion, if Osensei posited Aikido as a kind of ritual, etc., or as its own thing, it was because it fit squarely within the worldview that underlying our material reality rested a singular spiritual reality. The singularity of this spiritual reality is what allows us to do Aikido without having to do Omoto-kyo. In that sense, it is not really an evolution over Omoto-kyo but more an extension or an application of Omoto-kyo’s position regarding this singular spiritual reality.

- The phrase is something my Kenpo teacher makes use of. I am sure is not copyrighted - J

Thank you again for your thoughtful comments and for sharing some of your ideas with me.

Honored,
david

senshincenter
09-07-2005, 08:41 PM
Hi Erick

Thank you for writing.

No doubt – Shingon is relevant here. That was something I have tried to say as well, in response to those that like to see Aikido as being not related to Buddhism. However, the piece is not so much dealing with the topic of where Omoto-kyo might have gotten its ideas from as much as it is with the topic of where Osensei might have gotten his ideas. So please excuse the obvious void here. If you would like to comment more on such a relationship, I would dearly love to read anything you might add to this thread in that regards. A gentlemen I met in grad school, Fabio Rambelli, turned me on quite a bit to Shingon studies – which was his area of specialty. So I am always very interested. Several of his works are on the Net (if you google his name). You might find them very interesting too.

As I said above, most likely one will indeed find within both Aikido and Omoto-kyo the position that acts in and of themselves are spiritually potent. One is also going to find the exact opposite view as well. My personal preference for the latter view is merely my personal preference. I do not mean to assign it any greater virtue or relevance than that. Still, in preferring the latter, I do not mean to imply that acts do not carry the potential for meaning and/or for significance regardless or absent of intent. Nor does the latter view of ritual either.

What is at issue is how do we make these acts manifest the specific potency desired. If I touch someone’s shoulder, I have the potential for a great many kinds of meanings – some relative to my perspective, some relative to the other person’s perspective, some relative to a bystander’s perspective. You are right in relating this to Aikido. This is indeed the very way that much of Aikido throughout the world is practiced. As I said above, this view, for many reasons, seems to go hand-in-hand with popular movements. However, for this very reason, we see many folks doing many kinds of Aikido – some that have nothing to do with the founder, some that have nothing to do with other Aikido traditions, and a whole lot of them that don’t do what they say they do do.

When I look at these three things, especially the latter one, I personally am inclined to see it as problematic (meaning, as a practitioner, as someone trying to practice something, it would be problematic to not be practicing something I am saying I am practicing). Moreover, I tend to see its source in the idea that one can just do Aikido and benefit spiritually from it as if one puts a white feather to their head in order to live a long life.

For me, Aikido is no white feather and those I have come across that seek to make it one are like a person that sits still rubbing their hair with that feather, over and over again, doing nothing else, having no life, but hoping not to die. It may be a matter of the glass being half full or half empty, but I do not look at my own Aikido practice or that of the world in general and see Aikido working its talismanic power in ridding us of self-delusion and egocentricism on any kind of grand scale. For me, like any practice, Aikido has both the potential to bring me awareness and/or to delude me further; it has the potential to further cultivate my humility, my wisdom, or my capacity for love or to enslave me more to my pride, my ignorance, and/or my fears. What makes the difference is not how many times we do Ikkyo, but how many times we do Ikkyo right – with the right intention, with the correct corresponding body/mind, with the investment of my deepest self, etc. To just do Ikkyo over and over again, to rely upon its “talismanic” potency, is to, in my opinion, practice superstition. Moreover, it is to never do Ikkyo right.

But this is just my view and shouldn’t mean much to anyone but me and my students.

Kindest regards, thanks for sharing,
dmv
p.s. Again - please write more on Shingon if you can spare the time and energy. Thanks in advance.

Erick Mead
09-10-2005, 02:34 AM
Hi Erick

No doubt -- Shingon is relevant here. That was something I have tried to say as well, in response to those that like to see Aikido as being not related to Buddhism.
.......................
To just do Ikkyo over and over again, to rely upon its "talismanic" potency, is to, in my opinion, practice superstition. Moreover, it is to never do Ikkyo right.
...................

p.s. Again - please write more on Shingon if you can spare the time and energy. Thanks in advance.

First things first. I never do ikkyo just right. Been trying to do that off and on since 1986. That's what keeps me practicing.

Bigger picture, I agree. To become entranced by the specific technique is to become entrapped in one desire.

But ikkyo gets better and better the more its actual connection to your partner moves from the wrist to the elbow to the shoulder to the center. But to do that, you have to progessively abandon the wrist, and then the elbow and then the shoulder and then learn to simply step in and stand at the center.

The process of abandonment of each immediate and successive desire as it appears is not talismanic, it is highly instructive and effective in both physical and psychological terms.

The work works on me, whether I am fully conscious of that fact or not. Ikkyo ... ikkyo, ikkyo ... Guess what we're practicing tonight?

Shingon and Omoto.

Omoto is interesting and sincere, but it is such a "new age" type of religious movement (even if it is late nineteenth century) that it is difficult for those not already interested in it to become so. O-Sensei, I think realized this, and his approach to these issues confirms it in my view. That is not to say that he did not take things from his Omoto experience and incorporated them in the implicit pedagogical purpose that underlies Aikido. If a student has not realized there is a teaching purpose other than are techniques by the fifth or sixth class, then he or she is not paying adequate attention.

While we have seen similar efforts in the West in a variety of settings in recent decades, Omoto is actually contemporary with a similar synthetic religious effort at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, in the Theosophical, Transcendental and Aesthetic movements. Yeats, Emerson, Steiner, are good examples of this trend of thought. Marxism also falls within this same group.

All of these movements, while quite different in their particulars, were born of the same apparent disconnection between the traditional religious rites and structures, and the simultaneous need to adapt to, and distaste of, the aggressive hyper-rationalism of the industrial revolution that was ongoing in the West and Japan at that time.

Like Omoto (and other Japanese "new religion" movements) these Western movements were highly creative in their use and selection of various historical antecedents to found their particular approach to the same essential problem. Like Omoto, these movements became involved in significant social controversies of their times, often incurring official wrath, and or proscriptions of various sorts.

I make this point to show that what is going on is larger than some unique aspect of Japanese religious culture. It is in fact a problem of modernity, apart from particular culture. Modernity is highly corrosive and quickly dissolves traditional cultures of all types. These movements are basically all cultural salvage missions, which goes far in explaining the fervor and energy of their adherents that is often difficult for the outsider to fathom otherwise.

I believe the impulse of Omoto, like these others, is in the right direction. However, in reaching for a universal solution to this universal problem they become too focused on appearances and particularities. In Omoto's case it may also involve trying to encompass too many particularities at one time. This accounts for the complexity of the Omoto theology, although it is a stretch I think to call it thus.

I would describe Omoto's theology, like that of many other such movements as synthetic, rather than syncretic. "Syncretism" is rooted in an historical incident in classical Western antiquity whereby the different factions of Crete found a way to bridge their differences and to unite against a common foe. Thus, a synthetic religion pieces together parts that fit some preconceived organizing principle. Syncretism is a more organic process and permits differing traditions to find the common threads that can bind them closer together, while simultaneously acknowledging their critical differences.

Sutra is a word for Buddhist scripture, but its meaning in Sanskrit is "thread," and is a direct cognate to the word "suture." There is a common thread of meaning that can be traced. It is a historical exercise as much as it is a topical exercise. Analogous principles and concepts are not uncommon even in wholly disconnected cultures, but when one finds such things that are both analogous as well showing they have a common source, and thus homologous, we have some real meat to chew upon.

Tendai, Shingon, and Jodo are all deeply connected with the Silk Road. Ch'an (Zen) is a more wholly Chinese creature with Taoist roots. That corridor created cultural interplay to both East and West over the span of some fourteen centuries. With the advent of substantial navigation contacts in the fifteenth century, and the abandonment by the Chinese of any similar significant efforts after the voyages of Zheng He, the Silk Road fell into relative decline as a cultural transmitter.

It is in these sources and the threads of relationship that can be followed from East to West, and from West to East, and ultimately through Shingon, Tendai, Jodo, Ryobu Shinto and Kokugaku Shinto, Omoto and to O-Sensei. Here is where I think a really useful effort lies.

Omoto is valuable in this area precisely because it picks up where the kokugaku (to which it is a reaction) leaves off and gathers together a great many of these threads. They are not always found in the most coherent order, however. The energetic hodgepodge that characterizes Onisaburo's writings, is a rich source to mine, which O-Sensei plainly appreciated, but it was desparately in need of thorough organic principles which betrays its synthetic nature.

This sense of a need for the syncretic approach is what brought Kukai and Saicho to China in the first place. He had finally abandoned attmepts to understand Buddhist teaching from the transmitted and several times translated sources available in Japan. So he went to the clearing house for Buddhist, Taoist and Christian writing in the early 9th century, Chang-An. They needed to study enough to put be able, not merely to transfer Chinese Buddism to Japan, but to find the aspects that would make Buddhism more thoroughly "of" Japan.

What Kukai came back with was the beginnings of Ryobu Shinto. This was the basis for Buddhism and Shinto to enjoy in Japan a near symbiotic relationship for nearly five hundred years. Ryobu Shinto was a true syncretisim. It permitted Buddhism to be comprehended in Shinto terms and Shinto to be understood in Buddhist terms without doing injury to either, and to the profit of both. Kami could be understood as various manifestations of the threefold (trikaya) Buddha nature. Buddhas and bodhisattvas could be placed in a proper functional role in the ranks of the eight myriads of kami.

True syncretisms have happened elsewhere and even in relation ot the concepts described here.

The Greek pagan metaphysical trinity, had earlier become associated into related concepts in the Buddhism of Hellenic Afghan Ghandara and the Christianity of the Hellenic Near East. This activity on the West end of the Silk Road has often been pointed to as the likely source of or instigation for the development of the soteric (savior) forms of Buddism seen in Jodo and other Maitreyan (Miroku) schools. The same kind of cross over influences are seen in Persian religion before Mohammed with the rise of Mithraic and other savior cults, as well as the Manicheans.

Belief in Maitreya, Buddha of the West, and his saving power to bring his people to his Pure Land, one step away from nirvana, itself is a neat inverse of the orthodox and Catholic teachings on Purgatory. The difference is really more of perspective, as they perform the same essential function in the economy of salvation. Buddism posited the original nature of Man as good, and which must be purified of acquired impurity to reach perfection. Christanity posited the nature of man as fallen and which must stripped of sin and made holy to be worthy of God's presence. Both the Pure Land and Purgatory are envisioned as places of temporary purification on the path toward the ultimate destiny.

The trikaya doctrine in Japan thus began to be interpreted in Shinto terms in association with the Kami of divine creation. The Dharmakaya, the Ultimate and Ineffable Reality, became associated with Ame no minakanushi no kami. = SU [kotodama] seed sound of creation= "Lord Deity of Heaven's Center." (And subsidiarily, in order to magnify the Imperial cult, with Amaterasu no omikami.)
Similarly, the Nirmankaya (or rupaya), the manifesting Buddha nature making up the phenomenal or physical world, is associated with Takamimusubi no kami. And Samboghakaya, the Buddha nature of the noumenal or spiritual functions of the world became associated with Kamimusubi no kami

At this point a suggestion of the modern possibilities of this type of project is in order.
The Nicene creed tracks this same shape rather closely "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen, …"
This is plainly part of a common Thread connecting to both Dharmakaya and
Amenominakanushi no kami "God Ruling the Center of Heaven."
Jesus, in the meaning of the Nicene Creed, is the manifesting of physical creation and ruler of the created order, "all that is seen" (Takamimusubi no kami, Nirmankaya)
Samboghakaya is the manifesting principle of the Spiritual realm : "all that is … unseen" which in the terms of the Nicene creed is the Holy Ghost.

Aikido is a modern tool for this kind of useful syncretism, precisely because our age has tended to abandon ritual and mythical symbolisms as tools for universal comprehension and teaching. It is my snes that Onisaburo was conscious of the limitiations of symbloic comprehension in the modernizing world. We are all too self-conscious of our social pressure to be "objective" and rational for that kind of conscious and yet intuitive approach to learning and understanding. An yet we still have these unsatisifed needs, we are just actively discouraged from talking about them except in these kinds of dispassionate and distanced tones.

Aikido does not offend any doctrine because it has none to contend. At the same time and without having to say anything about it, Aikido manifests all three of the threads I have pointed out. It is physically manifest (hoo-boy!). It is spiritually manifest, in how it affects us and our practice partners. And without doubt, O-Sensei intended it to point, like a finger to the moon, to a greater and ineffable truth.

And that is just what Onisaburo told O-Sensei he ought to do in pursuing the development of his art of Aikido, as she told others to do in their own respective fields.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

senshincenter
09-10-2005, 03:06 AM
Well, thanks Erick for the post. I'm not sure of how it is all connected to the current discussion or the points you brought up earlier, but it was an effort I can appreciate.

I think my approach to history is a bit different from yours - we tend to be more local specific and we seem to have our reasons for that, etc. So as a result, we tend not to jump all over the map and/or time like this - so maybe the connection is there only I have not been so trained to see it. Apologies.

Again, thanks,
dmv

Erick Mead
09-11-2005, 01:53 PM
Well, thanks Erick for the post. I'm not sure of how it is all connected to the current discussion or the points you brought up earlier, but it was an effort I can appreciate.

I think my approach to history is a bit different from yours - we tend to be more local specific and we seem to have our reasons for that, etc. So as a result, we tend not to jump all over the map and/or time like this - so maybe the connection is there only I have not been so trained to see it. Apologies.

Again, thanks,
dmv

The more local is history the more likely that its significance will be understood from a standpoint of exceptionalism. This risk is evidence in Japanese history, and even in the U.S. "manifest destiny" and similar colonialist, and some far worse, ideologies in Western Europe.

What was often ignored is the fact of continuing and important contacts between distant parts of the world from a very early time. These connections are often diminished or suppressed in order to indulge the collective ego exercise of cultural exceptionalism, in whatever nation it happens to rear its head.

I do not mean to deflect discussion of the particulars of Omoto and its place in creating preconditions for the transition away from State Shinto in post-War era Japan. But there is a larger picture to consider when looking at Omoto and its relationship to aikido. The the international presence of aikido across so many cultural boundaries compared with the seeming relegation of Omoto itself to its particular milieu of Japan, needs some observation and explaining, especially if we are acknowledge O-Sensei's sense of debt to Omoto in his creation of aikido.

The thrust of Omoto is its embracing of particular expressions of religion within a universal framework in order to better relate them to one another. This has been pursued in mythological terms
by Onisaburo's direct intellectual decendants wihtin Omoto. Mythological is not meant derogatorily; myth is extremely powerful, but also highly suspect as an explicit teaching mechanism in the modern world. It nevertheless survives with fervent abandon in the subversive elements of culture, Warner Brothers and other comics/cartoons come to mind, and various manga and anime in Japan.

O-Sensei pursued the same ideals as Omoto but using non-mythological tools. He was, evidently, successful. The scale and vigor of Aikido's spread thoughout the world over many cultural boundaries is testament to that success. Aikido is an antidote to exceptionalism, certainly of the personal ego trip, and potentially of much large type. O-Sensei clearly envisioned its purpose in these terms. We should do as much as possible to unbury the totality of legacy that aikido expresses.

Connections (musubi) exist between parts of the world from an early age. The destruction of musubi is, in terms of budo, the precondition of conflict. Creating musubi is the task of aikido, and it is made far easier by understanding the connections that already exist to be discovered, and those that once existed and may be reestablished.

Cordially,

Erick Mead

senshincenter
09-11-2005, 04:44 PM
Hi Erick,

Thanks for writing.

LIke I said, these are different training methods in viewing history. From my school of thought, it is the lack of specificity that leads to the repressions and other political manipulations of information. As such, partly in an attempt to expose such efforts for what they are, we ask different questions, and as a result we get different answers.

For example, your larger perspective makes it seems like there is one type of Aikido - a practice that has existed without modification and that exists in the same shape or form wherever it is present throughout the world. Hence, you can say things like, "

senshincenter
09-11-2005, 05:29 PM
Sorry - here is the whole of my post:


Hi Erick, thanks for writing.


Like I said, these are different training methods in viewing history. From my school of thought, it is the lack of specificity that leads to the repressions and other political manipulations of information (i.e. fabricated beginnings, false continuities, etc.). As such, partly in an attempt to expose such efforts for what they are, folks from my camp ask different questions, and as a result, we get different answers.

For example, your larger perspective makes it seems like there is one type of Aikido - a practice that has existed without modification and that exists in the same shape wherever it is present throughout the world – one traced to the Founder. It seems deny how contrary many styles of Aikido are to each other and how determined things are by the individual practitioner. It also seems to deny the numerous discontinuities that actually separate us from “The Founder.” Hence, you can say things like, "Aikido is an antidote to exceptionalism,” etc. From my perspective, no statement could be further from the truth. Moreover, when you say such things, you need to manufacture support for such claims, and hence you say things like, “Osensei pursued the same ideal as Omoto but using non-mythological tools.” Again, from my perspective, nothing could be further from the truth.

In contrast to your perspective, if we look at things more specifically, we find that there is indeed no one thing called “Aikido.” Moreover, we realize that the defining and/or describing of “Aikido” is actually a political game currently being played out – one a historian is supposed to be reflective enough to not be suckered into playing right along with everyone else. Once we realize that “Aikido” does not exist as a single agreed upon event and/or practice, we are not only able to better record the relevant larger economy of power, we are better able to note those agents that seek to exchange one form of capital for another form of capital in the truth game of defining “Aikido.” Since, Osensei (or one’s understanding of “Osensei”) is big capital in such a truth game, we can see how and why certain folks want to look at him in a certain way and measure these efforts against the accuracy of documents proven to be reliable. From here, we can with greatly clarity add to our self-reflective efforts to not be suckered in by the current political battles that are raging and thus produce ourselves histories that are more accurate. Alternatively, we can go on to study sociologically or politically the various moves that certain groups, or individuals who act in the name of a group, perform in their pursuit to understand “Osensei,” “Aikido,” etc.

When we do this, it becomes very strange (suspect) to suggest that Osensei in some way demythologized Aikido and/or the possible philosophies that underlie Aikido. From a local specific point of view, it is clear that Osensei did no such thing, nor attempted to do such thing. From a local specific point of view, it would have been impossible for Osensei to do this. From a local specific point of view, if there are today demythologized Aikidos out there, they are obviously the product of later folks who seek to legitimate their efforts by saying that they are only doing what Osensei already did. A more accurate form of history would see such statements for the political maneuvers that they indeed are – truth games where social and cultural power is at stake.

Once you reach this point, we aren’t so subject to the party line of one group in particular and thus better come to see that there are probably a whole lot of other more relevant reasons than the demythologization of Aikido (in certain areas, but individuals other than Osensei) for explaining how or why Aikido has spread throughout much of the modern world. When I said earlier that we are looking at history differently, this is exactly what I meant. I see us coming to different understandings regarding all of the things you have mentioned in your posts (e.g. Shingon, Shinto, Omoto, Aikido, Osensei, Japan, the Silk Road, etc.). For me, to go into why I choose not to look at history in the manner that you seem to opt for would be an immense project, but one can see here what I mean in this brief example I provided regarding “Aikido,” “Osensei,” the demythologization of Aikido, etc.

Indeed there are personal preferences to why we do one form of history over the other, and often both sides deem that “accuracy” is the primary motivator. However, when two perspectives are coming out with two contrary interpretations, while both can claim “accuracy,” only one perspective can indeed be deemed “accurate.” For me, you got a long road ahead of you in proving that Osensei sought to demythologize Aikido (and that it was not others like Kisshomaru, etc., who are primarily responsible for this departure from what Osensei did do – which is speak with the voice of his personal culture, one that was saturated in mythological understandings), or that Aikido is spreading around the world because a single reason and/or even because of a single set of reasons. Etc. However, that is just my perspective, coming to me from my own slant on how to do History.

Thank you for your reply,
dmv

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-11-2005, 06:49 PM
Hi David,

I wanted to address your recent post. However, while I may be putting forth questions with regards to your comments, I do not want in any way to make it seem that I am in support of Erick's point of view, which by and large I am not.


For example, your larger perspective makes it seems like there is one type of Aikido - a practice that has existed without modification and that exists in the same shape wherever it is present throughout the world -- one traced to the Founder.
I ask this question over and over and really don't get a satisfactory answer (read: I get answers contrary to mine…) Do you believe that O-Sensei would be able to watch someone practice Aikido and say, "that is not aikido" My answer is a resounding yes, there are things that are not aikido. As an example, as many Daito-Ryu practitioners would have us believe, Aikido is just watered down, or a pared down practice of DRAJ. Of course, you and I do not really support that view. As such we believe that even if on the surface if a specific Aikido & DRAJ technique looks the same, in fact, one is Aikido and one is not. Therefore, is it not empirically logical to say that one is Aikido and the other (being DRAJ) is not. From there is it not plausible to say with some certainty that two Aikido dojos, while have Aikido in their name, may in fact also be doing different things, and for the sake of this argument, one of them is Aikido and the other is not…
It seems to deny how contrary many styles of Aikido are to each other and how determined things are by the individual practitioner.
Well, actually from my point of view it merely says that some people know what they are doing, and some do not. I dare not say which is which, but I do say that both are possible states of being. If someone watched a thousand hours of aikido videos and read 100 books in various languages, and yet had no interaction with any aikido teacher, is what he is practicing with his next door neighbor in his garage aikido because it looks like the aikido he saw in the pictures and videos? How does he even know what Aikido is, or that any of the individuals in the videos or books did not garner their understanding of the art in the exact same fashion as he - that being completely disconnected from the art.
It also seems to deny the numerous discontinuities that actually separate us from "The Founder."
What separates most from the founder is their own ability to say, "Yeah, this is what the founder was doing, cause if I'm doing it, and I say it is Aikido, then it must be aikido…
Moreover, when you say such things, you need to manufacture support for such claims,
Okay, I agree with your point here. I am going to use this below… noted as STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT
In contrast to your perspective, if we look at things more specifically, we find that there is indeed no one thing called "Aikido."
STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT
Moreover, we realize that the defining and/or describing of "Aikido" is actually a political game currently being played out -- one a historian is supposed to be reflective enough to not be suckered into playing right along with everyone else.
STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT
Once we realize that "Aikido" does not exist as a single agreed upon event and/or practice, we are not only able to better record the relevant larger economy of power, we are better able to note those agents that seek to exchange one form of capital for another form of capital in the truth game of defining "Aikido."
STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT Strong arguments are never based upon a point founded on incomplete data and inconclusive evidence. Since all of your subsequent arguments are based upon this point, they too appear to be very weak. Just as important, does your "historian" practice Aikido and did he happen to get all his information from books and videos?
Since, Osensei (or one's understanding of "Osensei") is big capital in such a truth game, we can see how and why certain folks want to look at him in a certain way and measure these efforts against the accuracy of documents proven to be reliable.
Sure, I would agree with this to some extent, that being about 99.9 percent. However, do you not think that O-Sensei, might, and I just say might have actually given a few students his thoughts on the matter? Often it is hypothesized that because Kishomaru Doshu said this that or the other thing about his father that it must be so. I don't buy that in the least. It is a very weak argument at best. I look at what I know about my own father, someone whom I have always been close to, and in truth I know very little, especially about what happened in the three plus decades he lived before I was born. He also know much about my life, however there are many things that he does not know, things that my students who are with me most of the time don't know, and neither of them will ever know. However, friends of mine know these things because we discuss them casually. I am sure the friends of O-Sensei know much more about O-Sensei's thoughts and feelings than anyone within his various dojos or circle of martial influence.
From here, we can with greatly clarity add to our self-reflective efforts to not be suckered in by the current political battles that are raging and thus produce ourselves histories that are more accurate.
Or less accurate on an increasingly exponential path.
When we do this, it becomes very strange (suspect) to suggest that Osensei in some way demythologized Aikido and/or the possible philosophies that underlie Aikido.
STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT I say that because I personally find it interesting (ridiculous and contradicting) when those who claim that O-Sensei didn't have a teaching methodology or that his lectures didn't make sense because they were based on various mythological, cultural, older-style Japanese (Chinese, Shingon, Buddhist…etc.) paradigms or other religious sources then go out to try and explain the very methodologies they say O-Sensei didn't have. When I asked Abe Sensei about this aspect of O-Sensei's teaching, and the individuals who proffer teaching methods based upon Myth, Mystery, and Mimicry he said, "If it sounds like the person explaining it to you doesn't understand what he was talking about, he doesn't." (Clarifying - that if he is merely repeating it in lecture form, but it is just repetitious academic reference material, walk away quickly as there is nothing to learn from such a person.)
From a local specific point of view, it is clear that Osensei did no such thing, nor attempted to do such thing.
STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT This I do disagree with wholeheartedly. I do so based upon information that I have to prove otherwise. However at this time I will not support my own statement, but ask you how you can support such a statement without having consulted every possible individual living or dead that may have received opposing information.
From a local specific point of view, it would have been impossible for Osensei to do this.
STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT Again, read my above comments. I will say that while it would certainly be difficult from a cultural perspective for specific reasons, that it would be wholly possible to do so outside of the cultural paradigm. This is easy to envision like the way a person in the military must act when on duty versus off duty versus when on leave versus when he completes his service. He is always the same person, but acts according to a wide set of parameters based upon whichever circumstance he chooses for himself.
From a local specific point of view, if there are today demythologized Aikidos out there, they are obviously the product of later folks who seek to legitimate their efforts by saying that they are only doing what Osensei already did.
STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT Again, I must disagree here as stated before. This is merely a revisionist's approach, something that historians are often guilty of and much less often than they should be, held to account for the damage they do to actual history.
A more accurate form of history would see such statements for the political maneuvers that they indeed are -- truth games where social and cultural power is at stake.
While this may be 100 % accurate in 99.9% of the cases, it may not be so in 100% of them.
Once you reach this point, we aren't so subject to the party line of one group in particular and thus better come to see that there are probably a whole lot of other more relevant reasons than the demythologization of Aikido (in certain areas, but individuals other than Osensei) for explaining how or why Aikido has spread throughout much of the modern world.
Actually this is very easy to describe. When we look at Gendai budo versus Koryu budo we see a much larger group of practitioners of the former than the latter. Why? It is because it is always more difficult to keep something the same for a long period of time than it is to let it, encourage it or even force it to change during a much shorter period of time. Simply speaking, Mediocrity is a meal for the masses. The masses want things to come to them easy, and so they seek an art that appears to them to say "I can do whatever I like and call it Aikido" Try that B.S. at a Koryu dojo and see how long you get to stay.
Indeed there are personal preferences to why we do one form of history over the other, and often both sides deem that "accuracy" is the primary motivator. However, when two perspectives are coming out with two contrary interpretations, while both can claim "accuracy," only one perspective can indeed be deemed "accurate."
I agree with what you say here, but obviously with conclusions that are 180 degrees out of sync with yours.
For me, you got a long road ahead of you in proving that Osensei sought to demythologize Aikido (and that it was not others like Kisshomaru, etc., who are primarily responsible for this departure from what Osensei did do -- which is speak with the voice of his personal culture, one that was saturated in mythological understandings), or that Aikido is spreading around the world because a single reason and/or even because of a single set of reasons. Etc.
Like Erick, I too would have such a long road if either of us tried to prove such a thing on our own. Fortunately we do not have to do any such thing. I am not sure that Erick was even attempting to say that O-Sensei did such a thing, as from what I gathered he was merely another type of revisionist, the one that says we do not need to travel along the path O-Sensei traveled in order to come to the place O-Sensei ended up. As you might have guessed, I don't concur with that view of history, at least not lock, stack and barrel. My own opinion is that while we certainly don't need to travel exactly the same path, there are certain points along that path that must be visited, taken in and digested in order to understand what the next point along the path must be. I do believe that you fall somewhere in between Erick's and my view, but I could very well be mistaken.
However, that is just my perspective, coming to me from my own slant on how to do History.[/b]
Yes, this is clear to see. I for one would invite you to look at history from another place just for the opportunity it might give you to see something of high valuse that seemed not to be there before.

I look forward to any reply you (or Erick Mead for that matter) care to make with regards to my questions and comments.



.

senshincenter
09-11-2005, 09:39 PM
(This only seems long because I have pasted the whole of the original post and inserted my reply within - in short paragraphs.)


Hi Shaun,

Thank you for writing.


I will try and insert my replies:

You quoted: David Valadez wrote: For example, your larger perspective makes it seems like there is one type of Aikido - a practice that has existed without modification and that exists in the same shape wherever it is present throughout the world -- one traced to the Founder.

You wrote: I ask this question over and over and really don't get a satisfactory answer (read: I get answers contrary to mine…) Do you believe that O-Sensei would be able to watch someone practice Aikido and say, "that is not aikido" My answer is a resounding yes, there are things that are not aikido. As an example, as many Daito-Ryu practitioners would have us believe, Aikido is just watered down, or a pared down practice of DRAJ. Of course, you and I do not really support that view. As such we believe that even if on the surface if a specific Aikido & DRAJ technique looks the same, in fact, one is Aikido and one is not. Therefore, is it not empirically logical to say that one is Aikido and the other (being DRAJ) is not. From there is it not plausible to say with some certainty that two Aikido dojos, while have Aikido in their name, may in fact also be doing different things, and for the sake of this argument, one of them is Aikido and the other is not…

Reply: I can agree with this – at a personal level. That is to say, for me, I believe what I do is Aikido. I believe this because I feel that I am doing Aikido. For those folks that do what I do, personally, naturally, I feel they do Aikido too. For those folks that do something close to what I do, I feel they do Aikido too, only I dismiss the notable differences to variations on a single theme (which I note by what I do). For folks that do not do anything close to what I do, I do not think they are doing Aikido – even if they claim to be doing Aikido. For the latter, group, if I thought that they WERE doing Aikido, I would stop what I am doing and then do what they are doing, but then they would not be in this group at all – rather they would fall into the first group. However, this is all purely subjective. The historian must seek to transcend his/her own subjectivity and thus his/her own limited point of view. This is the angle I am coming from.

From the historian’s point of view, what is Aikido and what is not Aikido is still in the process of being decided – and it will continue to be in this state of transition until it becomes extinct as a cultural tradition. A historian has to accept this, otherwise he or she will stop studying the tradition and actually merely become a part of it (by saying, as an authority, “This IS Aikido.”)

When I practice my own Aikido, in my dojo, there are clear lines as to what is and is not Aikido. In many ways, by what we do in our dojo, for example, we are at odds even with the Aikikai Hombu. This is me studying Aikido as a practitioner – as a single part of the continuing and ever changing history of Aikido. However, when I speak from the point of view of the historian, which is even the view I adopt when I speak with folks from outside of our dojo, I see my own take on Aikido as simply that: My own take on Aikido. In that sense, we are not at more odds with the Aikikai Hombu than they are with us or we are with anyone else. We are all really just a bunch of small parts that will one day help to define this tradition once and for all – when it is dead and experiences itself entombed in the kind of museum death that now exhibits other martial arts from our human past.

In short, I agree with you, there is such a thing as an Aikido – not everything is Aikido. Not everything that everyone calls Aikido is Aikido. However, from a historical point of view, what we should pull out of this is that there is no singular Aikido as a cultural phenomenon. There are only competing variations all playing the same game of trying to define what Aikido is and/or is not. Consequently, culturally, historically, Aikido as a singular entity only exists as an ideal that is utilized by competing groups to raise themselves above others or to lower others below them, etc.

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
It seems to deny how contrary many styles of Aikido are to each other and how determined things are by the individual practitioner.

You wrote: Well, actually from my point of view it merely says that some people know what they are doing, and some do not. I dare not say which is which, but I do say that both are possible states of being. If someone watched a thousand hours of aikido videos and read 100 books in various languages, and yet had no interaction with any aikido teacher, is what he is practicing with his next door neighbor in his garage aikido because it looks like the aikido he saw in the pictures and videos? How does he even know what Aikido is, or that any of the individuals in the videos or books did not garner their understanding of the art in the exact same fashion as he - that being completely disconnected from the art.

Reply: Yes, of course we can ask such questions. And we should. You are right for doing so. Moreover, we can keep asking such questions – such as: What if his/her Aikido teacher learned the art that way – from books and videos? What is his/her teacher learned from the Founder but didn’t really study with him all that much? What if his/her instructor learned from the Founder but did not really understand him? What if his/her instructor was more influenced by his other instructors than by the Founder? What if his instructor only dabbled in Aikido for much of his life and has sort of just come into a position of authority by some kind of social default? Etc. In addition, we can also ask: What does it mean to have an instructor? And, are those qualities truly being met? What does it mean to be a Founder? And, were those qualities really met? Etc. Can an art be learned by videos and books? Can it be learned without videos and books? Do all instructors provide better instruction than what is found in videos and books? Etc. This is what we do – we do this as practitioners. After asking these kinds of questions, we try to satisfy them in as best a way we can, using our experience and our reason to the best of our abilities.

However, in seeking to answer them, in each of us seeking to answer them, we add to the cultural history of our art. We do this by speaking with specific discourses long considered legitimate by our tradition, and we do this by adopting particular outward appearances (e.g. symbols, icons, etc.) long associated with our tradition, etc. This is why on the surface we all look the same and we all sound the same. However, we are different underneath – some of us our very different from each other. In other words, much of our likeness to each other is only superficial. This is something you note as well. You as a practitioner – which I do as well – opt to understand these things as a difference between those that know and those that do not know. As a historian, we see that this division that you and I may use as a practitioner is actually a play in the truth game of Aikido – that ultimate cultural struggle that is made up of all of our individual struggles that make up our own practice. As a historian, when I say there is no single agree upon thing known as Aikido, I am referring to this ultimate cultural struggle that is not captured by the division between those that know and those that don’t but that exists beyond it and because of it.


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
It also seems to deny the numerous discontinuities that actually separate us from "The Founder."

You wrote: What separates most from the founder is their own ability to say, "Yeah, this is what the founder was doing, cause if I'm doing it, and I say it is Aikido, then it must be aikido…

Reply: Indeed.


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
Moreover, when you say such things, you need to manufacture support for such claims,

You wrote: Okay, I agree with your point here. I am going to use this below… noted as STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
In contrast to your perspective, if we look at things more specifically, we find that there is indeed no one thing called "Aikido."

You wrote: STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
Moreover, we realize that the defining and/or describing of "Aikido" is actually a political game currently being played out -- one a historian is supposed to be reflective enough to not be suckered into playing right along with everyone else.

You wrote: STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
Once we realize that "Aikido" does not exist as a single agreed upon event and/or practice, we are not only able to better record the relevant larger economy of power, we are better able to note those agents that seek to exchange one form of capital for another form of capital in the truth game of defining "Aikido."

You wrote: STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT Strong arguments are never based upon a point founded on incomplete data and inconclusive evidence. Since all of your subsequent arguments are based upon this point, they too appear to be very weak. Just as important, does your "historian" practice Aikido and did he happen to get all his information from books and videos?

Reply: I am not sure I follow your many points here. Please be so kind as to explain further if you feel it is necessary. It seems you are suggesting that the statement (which is not an argument) I made could be used equally in my own case, as I had uttered in understanding Erick’s case. However, a difference remains – a strong difference: In my case, my statements are supportable by social and/or historical phenomena. In this sense, support is not so much needed, as it is available. Therefore, it does not have to be concocted by the historian as much as it has to be acknowledged by the historian. This was the main difference I was wishing to demonstrate with the using of this phrase you have quoted several times above.

As for your last line, asking if the historian practices Aikido, I would say that I do practice Aikido, but that as a historian I do not need to in order to understand Aikido as a cultural phenomenon. This is the bedrock of History as a field of science. For if it was not, we would never be able to understand any tradition from our past that is now extinct, and/or we would not be able to without holding the utterly false notion that things do not change through time (even against our best intentions).

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
Since, Osensei (or one's understanding of "Osensei") is big capital in such a truth game, we can see how and why certain folks want to look at him in a certain way and measure these efforts against the accuracy of documents proven to be reliable.

You wrote: Sure, I would agree with this to some extent, that being about 99.9 percent. However, do you not think that O-Sensei, might, and I just say might have actually given a few students his thoughts on the matter? Often it is hypothesized that because Kishomaru Doshu said this that or the other thing about his father that it must be so. I don't buy that in the least. It is a very weak argument at best. I look at what I know about my own father, someone whom I have always been close to, and in truth I know very little, especially about what happened in the three plus decades he lived before I was born. He also know much about my life, however there are many things that he does not know, things that my students who are with me most of the time don't know, and neither of them will ever know. However, friends of mine know these things because we discuss them casually. I am sure the friends of O-Sensei know much more about O-Sensei's thoughts and feelings than anyone within his various dojos or circle of martial influence.

Reply: I would agree that this is quiet possible. However, even then, we should note, it would only be a part of the man. Moreover, while that part might be relevant to some things, it may not be relevant to the greatest (subjectively defined) things. Who can say, right? Life is so diverse, so complex, in the end, we all are who we are, and so those next to us must come to accept that when we part we will barely know each other. We of course must accept this in the reverse. If we learn that lesson sometime in our lifetime, though few of us do, maybe then we will not waste our days thinking we know each other when we do not really. For me, yes, this is life. And for that reason, this whole notion of the Founder, and of legitimacy gained through the Founder is a whole lot of hogwash when it comes to our individual practice. I am into tradition, but I am not traditionalistic. I personally like to work off the notion of “we are who we are” - which I consider to be more real.


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
From here, we can with greatly clarity add to our self-reflective efforts to not be suckered in by the current political battles that are raging and thus produce ourselves histories that are more accurate.

You wrote: Or less accurate on an increasingly exponential path.


Reply: I think on this point I will have to disagree. Self-reflection and a disinterest in the relevant political economies will always produce more objective truth than any method that attempts to carry on without these things.


(…)


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
From a local specific point of view, it is clear that Osensei did no such thing, nor attempted to do such thing.

You wrote: STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT This I do disagree with wholeheartedly. I do so based upon information that I have to prove otherwise. However at this time I will not support my own statement, but ask you how you can support such a statement without having consulted every possible individual living or dead that may have received opposing information.

Reply: History does not need to obtain the input of every possible witness in order to draw an accurate conclusion. After all, we do not even have to do that in a court of law when explaining something that happened just last week. The evidence I feel supports my take that Osensei did not seek to demythologize Aikido is twofold: First, there are his actual writings. They constantly make use of mythic themes and/or of a discourse that is using a thought that is grounded in an episteme of resemblance – which is what marks most myths throughout the world and throughout human history. Second, there is the history of ideas, which suggests more that Osensei lived and experienced reality according to a Japanese culture that understood itself mythically. This same history of ideas puts the demythologizing of Japanese culture either after Osensei’s life or near the end of his life (after his thought was already well-formulated regarding what he was saying, doing, and thinking).


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
From a local specific point of view, it would have been impossible for Osensei to do this.

You wrote: STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT Again, read my above comments. I will say that while it would certainly be difficult from a cultural perspective for specific reasons, that it would be wholly possible to do so outside of the cultural paradigm. This is easy to envision like the way a person in the military must act when on duty versus off duty versus when on leave versus when he completes his service. He is always the same person, but acts according to a wide set of parameters based upon whichever circumstance he chooses for himself.

Reply: I can agree with what you are saying here in regards to the example you raise. However, what I am suggesting is that it would be impossible for Osensei to speak or think with the now dominant episteme that marks the modern age because for all intents and purposes he was from the preceding age (of thought), when the episteme of resemblance was the dominant way of thinking and acting, etc. In short, Osensei never would have felt he would have had to demythologize anything – which is what his lectures (which we can hear now on many recordings) and his writings demonstrate. He never would have considered that he might not be making sense and/or that he might not be offering a discourse that could address the multitudes that would eventually practice his art. That kind of thought is from a later age. Osensei lived during a time of transition, from one age of thought to another age of thought, but he was clearly one of the “dinosaurs” that fell on the side of extinction when his culture made the transition from the episteme of resemblance to the modern one.

If Osensei’s thought has now been demythologized in certain areas of Aikido praxis, it is from the efforts of others that were more in line with the modern episteme. I am not saying this is a bad thing or even that it is unneeded. Personally, I consider this all good, but the history of ideas would not support the view that Osensei was into demythologization any more than it would support the view that Greeks did not believe in their myths because we see the seeds of modern democracy in their culture (for example).


You quote: David Valadez wrote:
From a local specific point of view, if there are today demythologized Aikidos out there, they are obviously the product of later folks who seek to legitimate their efforts by saying that they are only doing what Osensei already did.

You wrote: STATEMENT CLEARLY NEEDS SUPPORT Again, I must disagree here as stated before. This is merely a revisionist's approach, something that historians are often guilty of and much less often than they should be, held to account for the damage they do to actual history.

Reply: I feel my reply can be seen in the reply above. I guess at this point the ball is in your court. Before I would ever feel like I was being revisionistic and/or contributing to some damage being done to Aikido history, I would ask you to explain all of the mythic themes and/or the use of the episteme of resemblance (which I said marks mythical thought) in the lectures and writings of Osensei. Another historian might also hold you up to your own standard of talking to every other person that was ever present at such talks, etc. I will not however. Though I would be very interested in how you would address the History of Ideas - as it has connected the demythologization of thought to the modern era and Japan during this time to not quite being “modern.”

You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
A more accurate form of history would see such statements for the political maneuvers that they indeed are -- truth games where social and cultural power is at stake.

You wrote: While this may be 100 % accurate in 99.9% of the cases, it may not be so in 100% of them.

Reply: Yeah, I think we are going to have to disagree on this – for the reasons I gave up above regarding a similar point.


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
Once you reach this point, we aren't so subject to the party line of one group in particular and thus better come to see that there are probably a whole lot of other more relevant reasons than the demythologization of Aikido (in certain areas, but individuals other than Osensei) for explaining how or why Aikido has spread throughout much of the modern world.

You wrote: Actually this is very easy to describe. When we look at Gendai budo versus Koryu budo we see a much larger group of practitioners of the former than the latter. Why? It is because it is always more difficult to keep something the same for a long period of time than it is to let it, encourage it or even force it to change during a much shorter period of time. Simply speaking, Mediocrity is a meal for the masses. The masses want things to come to them easy, and so they seek an art that appears to them to say "I can do whatever I like and call it Aikido" Try that B.S. at a Koryu dojo and see how long you get to stay.

Reply: Undoubtedly, this would be related. I agree – as this is one of the things I refer to when I used the phrase “modern world” – addressing the needs of the masses.


(…)


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
For me, you got a long road ahead of you in proving that Osensei sought to demythologize Aikido (and that it was not others like Kisshomaru, etc., who are primarily responsible for this departure from what Osensei did do -- which is speak with the voice of his personal culture, one that was saturated in mythological understandings), or that Aikido is spreading around the world because a single reason and/or even because of a single set of reasons. Etc.

You wrote: Like Erick, I too would have such a long road if either of us tried to prove such a thing on our own. Fortunately we do not have to do any such thing. I am not sure that Erick was even attempting to say that O-Sensei did such a thing, as from what I gathered he was merely another type of revisionist, the one that says we do not need to travel along the path O-Sensei traveled in order to come to the place O-Sensei ended up. As you might have guessed, I don't concur with that view of history, at least not lock, stack and barrel. My own opinion is that while we certainly don't need to travel exactly the same path, there are certain points along that path that must be visited, taken in and digested in order to understand what the next point along the path must be. I do believe that you fall somewhere in between Erick's and my view, but I could very well be mistaken.

Reply: I am not sure Erick has tried to address this point at all – of how close we have to get to Osensei’s exact path. So I do not think we really can speak for him. For me, however, I would say that I am in 100% agreement with your position: That while we do not have to travel exactly the same path, there are certain points along that path that must be visited, taken in, and digested in order to understand what the next point along the path must be. I am sensing that our only disagreement here is that you feel (I am assuming based upon what your teacher has told you, etc.) Osensei consciously not only distanced himself from Omoto-kyo socially but also epistemologically. As a result, you feel that he, for very good reasons, sought to demythologize Aikido and/or Omoto-kyo theology. While I feel that demythologization is a good thing, a thing we can and should do in regards to Osensei’s thought as it is related to our own individual practice, I do not attribute any such actions to the Founder. More accurately, I do not feel that Osensei made any attempts to make his message more universal than Omoto-kyo already made (which he witnessed and studied and then applied) to make its own message more universal. However, most significantly, I do not at all feel that we need to have Osensei demythologize Omoto-kyo theology and/or his own discourse (assuming that such a thing existed outside of Omoto-kyo theology – regarding the writings and lectures in question) before we do this one very good thing and very necessary thing for ourselves in our own practice. So really, my “disagreement” with your position is not at all that strong and comes only from an academic point of view.


You quoted: David Valadez wrote:
However, that is just my perspective, coming to me from my own slant on how to do History.

You wrote: Yes, this is clear to see. I for one would invite you to look at history from another place just for the opportunity it might give you to see something of high value that seemed not to be there before.

Reply: I think we as historians do this naturally or we cannot really be historians. So I am always open to this. For that reason, I would dearly love to have you write that history regarding Osensei’s attempts to demythologize his own discourse. It would be very interesting, and, as I said, while it may only affect some (perhaps very little) of the Aikido world, it would radically change what we think we know about the History of Ideas – that entire field of historiography would perhaps be under pressure to change forever. That would be quite a feat, and that would be a feat I would always be interested in learning about.

I realize that that is a big task, so please do not feel that I am challenging you to such a task. I am merely trying to encourage you to take on such a task, by revealing to you my heart-felt interest. That history, written by you, would be well worth reading in my opinion – regardless of what it affect it might have on the whole of Aikido. So I am in complete understanding if you must opt to pass on this request at this time. I only ask that you offer the same understanding if I hold changing my final judgment until more such information comes my way, and that the holding of changing my final judgment is not perceived as a blindness brought about by my own academic stubbornness or ignorance. Please/thanks.

As always, kindest regards,
dmv

MM
09-11-2005, 11:22 PM
Shaun wrote: I ask this question over and over and really don't get a satisfactory answer (read: I get answers contrary to mine…) Do you believe that O-Sensei would be able to watch someone practice Aikido and say, "that is not aikido" My answer is a resounding yes, there are things that are not aikido. As an example, as many Daito-Ryu practitioners would have us believe, Aikido is just watered down, or a pared down practice of DRAJ. Of course, you and I do not really support that view. As such we believe that even if on the surface if a specific Aikido & DRAJ technique looks the same, in fact, one is Aikido and one is not. Therefore, is it not empirically logical to say that one is Aikido and the other (being DRAJ) is not. From there is it not plausible to say with some certainty that two Aikido dojos, while have Aikido in their name, may in fact also be doing different things, and for the sake of this argument, one of them is Aikido and the other is not…

David's Reply: I can agree with this -- at a personal level. That is to say, for me, I believe what I do is Aikido. I believe this because I feel that I am doing Aikido. For those folks that do what I do, personally, naturally, I feel they do Aikido too. For those folks that do something close to what I do, I feel they do Aikido too, only I dismiss the notable differences to variations on a single theme (which I note by what I do). For folks that do not do anything close to what I do, I do not think they are doing Aikido -- even if they claim to be doing Aikido. For the latter, group, if I thought that they WERE doing Aikido, I would stop what I am doing and then do what they are doing, but then they would not be in this group at all -- rather they would fall into the first group. However, this is all purely subjective. The historian must seek to transcend his/her own subjectivity and thus his/her own limited point of view. This is the angle I am coming from.

My Reply: I would have to disagree to a certain extent here. While those who practice Aikido in one way, others may practice Aikido in another way. The two may not overlap in their teaching methodologies nor their curriculum, but the two can be Aikido. As the founder knew when he gave his blessing to several people to go out and teach their Aikido. Tomiki style is definitely not the same as Tohei style, yet both were and are acceptable. I think this is from Yagyu Munenori - "To reach a house you must first enter the gate. Learning is a gate, the way to a house. Do not mistake the gate for the house." Each dojo is merely a gate. The training merely a gate, but the destination is Aikido. Just because training looks different from what one is doing, doesn't mean the path won't take you to Aikido.


===

Shaun wrote: Like Erick, I too would have such a long road if either of us tried to prove such a thing on our own. Fortunately we do not have to do any such thing. I am not sure that Erick was even attempting to say that O-Sensei did such a thing, as from what I gathered he was merely another type of revisionist, the one that says we do not need to travel along the path O-Sensei traveled in order to come to the place O-Sensei ended up. As you might have guessed, I don't concur with that view of history, at least not lock, stack and barrel. My own opinion is that while we certainly don't need to travel exactly the same path, there are certain points along that path that must be visited, taken in and digested in order to understand what the next point along the path must be. I do believe that you fall somewhere in between Erick's and my view, but I could very well be mistaken.

David's Reply: I am not sure Erick has tried to address this point at all -- of how close we have to get to Osensei's exact path. So I do not think we really can speak for him. For me, however, I would say that I am in 100% agreement with your position: That while we do not have to travel exactly the same path, there are certain points along that path that must be visited, taken in, and digested in order to understand what the next point along the path must be. I am sensing that our only disagreement here is that you feel (I am assuming based upon what your teacher has told you, etc.) Osensei consciously not only distanced himself from Omoto-kyo socially but also epistemologically.

My reply: I don't believe you have to travel Osensei's exact path, but saying that there are points along the path that must be visited, is like saying that grass is green. Every art has these "points along the path that must be visited", no matter what art it is. Could either one of you, or both, address that issue in more specific terms? Personally, I believe that you don't have to be part of Omoto-kyo to gain understanding of Aikido. However, I do believe that if you are to progress to the higher levels, that you must have some understanding of spirituality. That you must progress to a place where you know without knowing how or why, just that you know. There are many examples of this in Budo where a martial artist knew what his opponent's attack was even before the opponent attacked. I believe that if you train long enough, you can become very proficient in Aikido. But you won't reach any higher than that unless you add the spiritual aspect. I don't think Osensei spoke about this because of the time period he lived in. A lot of his peers went through much the same training and life that he did. There were very good martial artists who attained a level of physical prowess and spiritual prowess. I believe that's why Osensei never talked about having to join Omoto-kyo as part of Aikido. I believe he understood that each martial artist takes his/her own path in that area. In that, I believe there are points along the path. From what I've seen and from the people I've talked to, shodan ranking is one of those points. It's a pinnacle where one starts to see Aikido in a new light and begins to understand things on a different level. Although that level is still mostly physical training related. I also believe the yondan level is another point. That's an area where one starts to catch sen sen no sen timing and that is the start of knowing without knowing. I don't believe that spirituality plays an important part in Aikido until some time after shodan level. While it may start there, it slowly progresses to playing a more vital role as one climbs in rank. And one can certainly avoid spirituality and achieve a purely physically proficiency and gain higher ranks. But others who add spirituality will progress beyond that point. My opinion anyway. :)

Erick Mead
09-11-2005, 11:45 PM
Hello Shaun

Your post, BTW, is an excellent example of "enter and blend." Much appreciated.

As to David's objection, it is reasonable to make. While I could could argue hammer and tongs the specifics of the Neo-Confucian revival of the Ming, the results of that experience in my education attuned me to patterns and processes of interaction between different modes of thought as they historically encountered one another ultimately affected and adapted, both one another and the societies that they serve (or disserve, as the case may be).

These processes turn out to be remarkably similar in their shape and nature the world over, even where the specific cultures in conflict or transmission involved may vary greatly from circumstance to circumstance, and even though the results, highly contgent as they must be, vary also. I do not feel it improper to examine the matter on such broad scales, because a worldwide culture is in the process of forming around us. It is of a scale and coherence not before seen. That said, it is however, not the first example of this process, by any means.

That "meta-question," if you will, is my chief interest, played out with as much specifics as the situation demands for sound observation and analysis. To me, the meta-question is indispensable precisely because Aikido is encountering numerous particular idiosyncratic traditional cultures, a rising worldwide culture that is, to various degrees, encountering each of them at the same time, (in some cases threatening to supplant them), as well as number of the synthetic cultural movements (the cultural salvage missions as I have desribed them). I do not place any value judgments on any of these classifications, as each has it respective merits and demerits depending on the issue at hand.

My point is this that this process has happened before, a number of times, just not at the same pace or with the same seemingly irresistible flood.

Now as to David's points :


"Aikido is an antidote to exceptionalism," David says that no statement could be further from the truth.

On this I submit only the experience of the dojo. Ikkyo requires, REQUIRES, for its effectiveness that in performing the initial irimi that one not care about the fact that one is stepping under a sword, a shomenuchi, into munetsuki or what have you. Ego is self-consciousness, because the conscious appreciation of "me doing [fill in the blank]" is what ego is all about.

If I am self-absorbed to any extent, to that extent I am a danger to myself in trying to step under a sword. The conscious part of my brain is busy watching me step under the sword, when it could helping out more with its focussed observation ability or even by just getting out of the way and quit commanding attention to itself. That does not mean that innocence without technique will not be brutally cut down, but that a new innocence, (the beginner's mind so bandied about) must be regained through the learned technique, once its rudimentary forms are grasped.

Ego is thus reduced through the medium of practice (how much depends on the will of the practitioner). This process is evident in watching anyone who sticks with practice. The objection will be made as to the self-selection of this group, but this is an unavoidable fact.

David also challenged:
"Moreover, when you say such things, you need to manufacture support for such claims, and hence you say things like, "Osensei pursued the same ideal as Omoto but using non-mythological tools." Again, from my perspective, nothing could be further from the truth."

Ask and it shall be given:

It is undeniable that O-Sensei spoke freely about his own understandings of the cosmological and psychological principles underlying aikido, and that these were from traditional sources, given his own idiosyncratic interpretation framed by his Omoto experience, and colored by explicit early Shingon teaching as a child. David had asked for more specifics on the Shingon aspects of O-Sensei's systematic thought. A good discussion with references on the correspondences between Shingon mantrayana and the kotodama system developed by O-Sensei, and a few too brief points on his early education in Shingon is here:

www.lpc.ufrj.br/~jmarcelo/kitojidojo/kotodama.html (if it is no longer there, Google it for the cached version)

It is equally undeniable that virtually none of his first line student had any of the necessary background in such matters to thoroughly understand what he was saying. They largely did not see its significance to their practice, much less to try to convey to others in turn. It is, in fact, from the third and fourth order students that detailed interest in such things has been awakened, and not from his direct students.

This is not to say that O-Sensei was some idiot savant, whose only competence was the physical art of aikido, far from it. He explained what he was doing, and why he was doing it, simply in terms that do not translate well to post-modern observers, because of their specific mythological basis, and the reliance upon cultural allusions that are esotreic and difficult even for ordinary Japanese to appreciate.

Many of these students around trhe world are already fully invested in aikido and understand to varying degrees its practice and significance in its own terms. They are now trying to translate its significance into terms that their cultural references make available. This is strongly suggestive. They are looking Omoto and Kokugaku and other aspect of Pre and Post War Japan for clues that will tie in more readily to their own cultural systems, to furthr aid their own students in turn.

The point is, O-Sensei had developed an art of intuitive physical and spiritual significance which did not depend on the mythological underpinnings he used to develop it and to understand its significance for himself. Aikido as he developed it did not require his particular mythological foundation to teach it, as few if any of his primary students ever learned it. He also made clear by his continued teaching that aikido did not require scientific validation in order to justify its effectiveness. (Science is but another, vastly more rigorous, highyl effective, form of mythology. If you disagree with this, ask any handy quantum physicist.) It is not too far a leap to suggest that he intended his art therefore to be taught in terms that were spiritual, but not mythological, and physical but not physics.

But I do not have to make that leap because he said it for himself.
He did not intend for his own mythological understanding to be a limitation on the understanding of his art in extremely large terms. He meant his art to be understood in any mythological tradition, and thus it could not be dependent upon his own.

For such traditions to survive for any length of time they must speak to truths of the human condition that are relatively timeless, and therefore common to all human societies. When references become stale, they necessarily change, but the core content (while not rational in nature) is true, coherent and preserved. In making the multifarious connections I have discussed, I am, indeed, merely following his lead.

"Kirisuto ga ‘hajme ni kotoba ariki' to itta sono kotodama ga SU de arimasu. Sore ga kotodama no hajimari de aru." (‘In the beginning was the Word', spoken by Christ is this kotodama SU. This is the origin of kotodama.) See "Andre Nocquet Returns To Japan," Aiki News #85 (Summer 1990).

Some ideas or observation have been made in one place and then and transmitted around the world. These broad connections have potential significance. Some ideas echo around the world and then are given new and different voice when they are heard across the seeming chasm. Aikido is one of these ideas.

I will immediately depart from the particular content of the quote, if only to avoid the crows squawking "Christian" "not Christian" in the "are not" "are too" mode that tends to be prevalent in other threads that venture into the topic. Do not infer any disagreement on my part with the quote, however.

Hi David,

I do not want in any way to make it seem that I am in support of Erick's point of view, which by and large I am not.

If someone watched a thousand hours of aikido videos and read 100 books in various languages, and yet had no interaction with any aikido teacher, is what he is practicing with his next door neighbor in his garage aikido because it looks like the aikido he saw in the pictures and videos? How does he even know what Aikido is, or that any of the individuals in the videos or books did not garner their understanding of the art in the exact same fashion as he - that being completely disconnected from the art.

What separates most from the founder is their own ability to say, "Yeah, this is what the founder was doing, cause if I'm doing it, and I say it is Aikido, then it must be aikido…
.

Shaun leaves me teased and wondering on what we may disagree, but I will await the opportunity for him to elaborate.

I find Shaun's point a useful observation, because Aikido has often been described by the unknowing as somehow related to Zen when it comes from a different Buddhist lineage altogether, and that only derivatively as a result of ryobu shinto and continued transmission of that line of thought through Omoto, and other dissident to the Meiji kokugaku official orthodoxy.

Aikido does relate to Zen, but rather by right of common function. They are in fact two examples of the same class of teaching methodology even though they are only very loosely related in historical terms. The classical definition of Zen, which focusses on the manner and purpose of its method, resonates well with Aikido as it is taught by those generally acknowledge to be among its best teachers.

A special transmission outside the scripture;
No dependence on words or letters;
Direct pointing at the mind of man;
Seeing into one's nature and the
attainment of enlightenment.

This perspective also makes a significant reason for aikido's cross-cultural success intuitively obvious. It is the things taught that are not said in books, or said at all, and certainly not capable of being seen on video, that define the art. For this reason lineage of teaching still matters, not for narrow parochial competition, but to understand one's place and role in the universe of teaching that exists.

That is why Omote matters to me, as it lies in the lineage of my teaching, as does Shingon, and perhaps as well some of the more interesting connections that I explore.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-12-2005, 02:14 AM
Hi Mark,

Thanks for your comments and your participation in this very good thread. I will try to add my thoughts to yours, and address any questions you put forth. I giving some clarification to my previous remarks add something to the thread and moves your thoughts along if at all possible.
My Reply: I would have to disagree to a certain extent here. While those who practice Aikido in one way, others may practice Aikido in another way. The two may not overlap in their teaching methodologies nor their curriculum, but the two can be Aikido. As the founder knew when he gave his blessing to several people to go out and teach their Aikido. Tomiki style is definitely not the same as Tohei style, yet both were and are acceptable. I think this is from Yagyu Munenori - "To reach a house you must first enter the gate. Learning is a gate, the way to a house. Do not mistake the gate for the house." Each dojo is merely a gate. The training merely a gate, but the destination is Aikido. Just because training looks different from what one is doing, doesn't mean the path won't take you to Aikido.
Mark, I agree with everything that you wrote, completely actually. However, many gates will, in fact lead you to the wrong house. Of course, this can't be judged by looking at the gate, or even at the house, as some houses on the same block may be exactly the same. As you have said, there is no way of knowing which until you get all the way in and see the familiar face of the family member you are there to see.
My reply: I don't believe you have to travel Osensei's exact path, but saying that there are points along the path that must be visited, is like saying that grass is green. Every art has these "points along the path that must be visited", no matter what art it is. Could either one of you, or both, address that issue in more specific terms?
Sure, thanks for asking... I would say that while each art has points along a path, I don't believe that they are the same points. I do not relegate Aikido to a simple physical activity as I so often read other's comments so indicating. Aikido is not dancing, golf or race car driving, and I have heard it compared to these things on many occasions. On a very simple level what I mean by that is that with the latter endeavors, while one may use them or study them in whatever capacity or for whatever reason they may see fit, and while they may grow as individuals on physical, mental emotional and even a spiritual level, there is something inherent to understanding aikido that is not part of those other practices. My own personal view on what that might be is not germane to this thread, and I reserve them for my private students.
Personally, I believe that you don't have to be part of Omoto-kyo to gain understanding of Aikido. However, I do believe that if you are to progress to the higher levels, that you must have some understanding of spirituality. That you must progress to a place where you know without knowing how or why, just that you know.
I agree with you 100% here. However it is how and why one achieves those goals that may separate our individual perspectives. I do not know what you might say, but to expand the thread, how do you believe one achieves this? As for me, I have in mind a very specific route on a physical plane to achieve a very specific goal along a spiritual one.
There are many examples of this in Budo where a martial artist knew what his opponent's attack was even before the opponent attacked. I believe that if you train long enough, you can become very proficient in Aikido.
As for me, while typically share these thoughts with my private students, I will offer one glimpse of my personal view, and that is to say that I do not believe if one merely participates with a sincere heart, or practices with intensity, or maintains any other type of linear performance for some extended period of time that they are guaranteed any modicum of success at understanding O-Sensei's Aikido. While those things are a bare minimum in that pursuit, there are many other things involved that one's own teacher can't even give you, teach you or otherwise. In actuality I believe that they are in 99% of the cases wasting their time. Not that they will not benefit from their practice in many ways or that other people within their circle (friends& family, fellow students or their own students should they eventually teach) will not benefit from their practice, merely that they will never discover Aikido as O-Sensei meant it.
But you won't reach any higher than that unless you add the spiritual aspect.
Well I am not sure what you mean here. Should we put hope or even faith in the mere coincidence that two aikidoka, Sam and Mary, Sam seeking his spirituality from Zazen and Mary seeking it from piercings and tattoos that either will eventually manage to trip over the answer? Many people feel that their religion gives them spirituality, but I would say that is most often the exception, not the rule.
I don't think Osensei spoke about this because of the time period he lived in. A lot of his peers went through much the same training and life that he did. There were very good martial artists who attained a level of physical prowess and spiritual prowess. I believe that's why Osensei never talked about having to join Omoto-kyo as part of Aikido. I believe he understood that each martial artist takes his/her own path in that area.
With regards to your last point, please see my comments above.
In that, I believe there are points along the path. From what I've seen and from the people I've talked to, shodan ranking is one of those points. It's a pinnacle where one starts to see Aikido in a new light and begins to understand things on a different level. Although that level is still mostly physical training related.
Hmmm, well the points which I have mentioned are not points along a linear path, for those are too easy to reach and become predictable merely with time spent in the art. Many people know nothing about aikido at Shodan. I have met Godan that couldn't do tenkan when I grabbed their wrist. As for what they have learned or have yet to learn on a spiritual level, one can only guess. It is unfortunately predictable that these same shodan if they continue to practice for a long time will reach Godan and the Godan in question will reach Shihan and be accountable for hundreds if not thousands of Aikido students, Go figure. I also believe the yondan level is another point. That's an area where one starts to catch sen sen no sen timing and that is the start of knowing without knowing.
DANGER!!! I have never met anyone who used the term sen sen no sen timing actually know anything about it to the point that they could demonstrate it effectively against even a low level attack. That is not to say it is not an important aspect of one's training, only that those whom I have seen demonstrate it at a high level never, ever use the term in English anyway…
I don't believe that spirituality plays an important part in Aikido until some time after shodan level.
This is the only point that I would caution anyone against adopting for themselves or advocating for others. My own personal path has always been a spiritual one. It is that very fact that when I first saw Aikido I understood it to be a spiritual path that I must seek out. When I had the opportunity to look deeply at the practice O-Sensei passed on, it was long before I was able to achieve Shodan which was more than six years later. It was my unwavering penchant to shake the tree that bore me the fruit which I now seek to consume and from which I seek to take sustenance.
While it may start there, it slowly progresses to playing a more vital role as one climbs in rank. And one can certainly avoid spirituality and achieve a purely physically proficiency and gain higher ranks. But others who add spirituality will progress beyond that point. My opinion anyway. :)
I am sure that your mention of rank is not to indicate that two individuals both sincerely interested in assimilating spirituality into their practice will do so in a linear fashion proportional to their rank. My own view is (and this is not to say that your view is contrary) that it never matters what one's rank is, nor if one is a higher rank today than yesterday. Thus, spirituality can not be any more important tomorrow than it already is (or should already be) today. It also is important to note that spirituality has about as much to do with technical ability as technical ability has to do with spirituality, as while they may overlap at some point the two are (in 99.9% of the people) unfortunately mutually exclusive.



.

MM
09-12-2005, 11:08 AM
Thanks for the reply Shaun. It's been a great thread, but I'm still trying to wrap my mind around some of it. :) Definitely worth trying, though.

Shaun wrote:
Mark, I agree with everything that you wrote, completely actually. However, many gates will, in fact lead you to the wrong house. Of course, this can't be judged by looking at the gate, or even at the house, as some houses on the same block may be exactly the same. As you have said, there is no way of knowing which until you get all the way in and see the familiar face of the family member you are there to see.

True. But, the only point I was trying to make here was that two schools of Aikido can be vastly different in training methodology but can still be doing Aikido.

Shaun wrote:
Aikido is not dancing, golf or race car driving, and I have heard it compared to these things on many occasions. On a very simple level what I mean by that is that with the latter endeavors, while one may use them or study them in whatever capacity or for whatever reason they may see fit, and while they may grow as individuals on physical, mental emotional and even a spiritual level, there is something inherent to understanding aikido that is not part of those other practices.

Ah, but Aikido could be compared to dancing. In both you learn physical steps, blending, movement, etc. And like dancing, some people can study Aikido and grow as individuals such as you state. But, you are right in that the points are different while studying either. Is Aikido truly comparable to dancing? No, I don't think it is just for the reason you state. There is something that is a part of Aikido that isn't a part of those others and that something is what I call spirituality. Well, spirituality on a grander scale. :)


Shaun wrote:
I agree with you 100% here. However it is how and why one achieves those goals that may separate our individual perspectives. I do not know what you might say, but to expand the thread, how do you believe one achieves this? As for me, I have in mind a very specific route on a physical plane to achieve a very specific goal along a spiritual one.

Wow, there's a great question that a lot of people are still looking for the answer. :) I think you're right in that physical practice of Aikido does help one along this path, but I wouldn't say it helps everyone. But, to answer your question, I don't know how to achieve that. Just that I keep stumbling along learning.

Shaun wrote:
As for me, while typically share these thoughts with my private students, I will offer one glimpse of my personal view, and that is to say that I do not believe if one merely participates with a sincere heart, or practices with intensity, or maintains any other type of linear performance for some extended period of time that they are guaranteed any modicum of success at understanding O-Sensei's Aikido.

No, they may never understand Osensei's Aikido, but they can become physically proficient in Aikido. See below for rest of explanation …

Shaun wrote:
Well I am not sure what you mean here. Should we put hope or even faith in the mere coincidence that two aikidoka, Sam and Mary, Sam seeking his spirituality from Zazen and Mary seeking it from piercings and tattoos that either will eventually manage to trip over the answer? Many people feel that their religion gives them spirituality, but I would say that is most often the exception, not the rule.

What I mean is that while someone who goes through training, may gain a proficiency in Aikido, it will not be an understanding of Osensei's Aikido. Look at it this way … Osensei studied many martial arts and was considered very proficient even before he joined Omoto-kyo. So, sometime afterwards, either from Omoto-kyo or age, his Aikido transformed. But we also have other martial artists from Japan who were also exemplary in their arts but never belonged to Omoto-kyo. However, you can usually find some spiritual aspect like Zen, etc amidst their personal history and learning. So, yes, you can become physically proficient in Aikido and never understand Osensei's Aikido as he knew it towards the end of his life. Can body piercings and tattoos get you there? Personally, I don't think they can. But you may find one in a million who can use that. After all, Omoto-kyo wasn't exactly your mainstream choice of "religion". :)

Shaun wrote:
Hmmm, well the points which I have mentioned are not points along a linear path, for those are too easy to reach and become predictable merely with time spent in the art. Many people know nothing about aikido at Shodan. I have met Godan that couldn't do tenkan when I grabbed their wrist. As for what they have learned or have yet to learn on a spiritual level, one can only guess.

I'm not saying that achieving any of these points will let you understand or know Aikido in any depth. Um, let me try this analogy. When a baby learns to walk, it crawls around, then it pulls itself up using the coffee table, then it stumbles along using the coffee table as a crutch, then it finally lets go and takes that first step without the table, using its own legs. Course, the baby falls after one step, but reaching that one step is definitely a pinnacle of learning how to walk. I view some points in Aikido like that. Shodan, Yondan, etc. Not that they are exact points, but merely areas where the points occur. Did I explain that any better?

Shaun wrote:
DANGER!!! I have never met anyone who used the term sen sen no sen timing actually know anything about it to the point that they could demonstrate it effectively against even a low level attack. That is not to say it is not an important aspect of one's training, only that those whom I have seen demonstrate it at a high level never, ever use the term in English anyway…

I use those words because that is what was taught to me. :) But I was on the receiving end as uke just one time with sen sen no sen and it opened my eyes to a whole new world in Aikido. I have never been able to do that again, but the experience remains with me. So, no, I can't demonstrate it. Heck I can't even explain it very well, but I do know what it is in relation to being uke. I can't imagine what it would be like as tori, let alone if I could manage to do it even 50% of the time. But I do know that it is something in my training that I know is there and can be done. I don't know if I'll ever be able to do it, but it's a worthwhile goal.

Shaun wrote:
This is the only point that I would caution anyone against adopting for themselves or advocating for others. My own personal path has always been a spiritual one.

Oh, no. Sorry, let me explain. I didn't mean that one shouldn't have spirituality throughout their training. I started Aikido as a spiritual path. But, what I meant was that to truly understand Osensei's Aikido, Shodan is a minimum to having spirituality play an important part in one's study of Osensei's Aikido. In other words, I view it as there being a physical training that one must complete before one can start understanding Osensei's Aikido. You can have spirituality when you start, but you really won't understand Osensei's Aikido until some time after Shodan level.

Shaun wrote:
I am sure that your mention of rank is not to indicate that two individuals both sincerely interested in assimilating spirituality into their practice will do so in a linear fashion proportional to their rank. My own view is (and this is not to say that your view is contrary) that it never matters what one's rank is, nor if one is a higher rank today than yesterday. Thus, spirituality can not be any more important tomorrow than it already is (or should already be) today. It also is important to note that spirituality has about as much to do with technical ability as technical ability has to do with spirituality, as while they may overlap at some point the two are (in 99.9% of the people) unfortunately mutually exclusive.

No, I don't belive that two individuals will move in a linear fashion proportional to their rank. Everyone progresses differently, in technical ability and spiritual understanding.

Erick Mead
09-12-2005, 11:58 AM
In discussing Omoto, I feel disposed to be eclectic. While I both distinguished and compared Aikido and Zen earlier, I happened on the following commentary on a koan by Ekai (Mumon) which is perhaps apropos to finding the right way both to practice a true path in aikido, and to know it when we see it practiced.

To tread the sharp edge of a sword
To run on smooth-frozen ice,
One needs no footsteps to follow.
Walk over the cliffs with hands free.

This precise sentiment is echoed in a number of the doka.

In my view, the surest way to test if you are practicing good aikido is to irimi without caring what you end up doing, and see what happens. If you blend and flow, it is good aikido, if you struggle or catch yourself in the process, it is not. Whe you stop getting hit, you know you are getting better.

Omoto has this quality in a theological sense. Onisaburo similarly felt no sense of boundaries in putting his foot in to comment upon and amalgamate anyone's mythological system into Omoto's understanding of the Divine. At bottom, that is the chief significance of Omoto to me, the process rather than the content.

Omoto denies pantheism, as there is but one Divine and the sum of the universe does not equal God. However, it embraces a multiplicity of aspects of deity present in creation that, while not polytheistic, is much like the Christian Trinity of hypostases, or persons of God, and incarnational theology, all run amok.

It is unclear to me if Onisaburo denies what would be decribed in the West as as "orthodox" panentheism, that God "indwells" all creation, which maitains the separateness of the created and Uncreated. That would be opposed to the heterodox type of panentheism that holdsa that all things are part of God, in which the created partakes of the same nature as God, but God is that, plus more.

The doka make clear that O-Sensei adopted the Omoto Mizu/Izu dichotomy of material and non-material aspects of existence (seen/unseen, omote/ura). It seems to me that he departed from the Omoto's "watchmaker" model involved in the temporary inattention of the Ushitora spirit that Nao Deguchi asserted as authority for her revelations that Onisaburo interpreted.

O-Sensei's focus upon the emanations of kotodama SU, Amenominakanushi no kami, and the two Musubi deities (respectively the seen/unseen, mizu/izu) suggest that he agreed with the operative theology the Deguchi espoused ( the Isu/Mizu), but departed from them in terms of ultimate cosmology. O-Sensei's position is far more orthodox in term of Shingon Vajrayana trinitarian AdiBuddha cosmology and the five-fold Vajkrayana desription of created nature (i.e.-- four souls, one spirit, connoting the four-fold emanations of the central Vairocana Buddha in the Diamond mandala) as it was elaborated through Ryobu Shinto.

Omoto, as a dissenting group from the kokugaku, which expressly existed to create support for Imperial cult nationalism, helped to preserve both the substantive and operative elements that underlay ryobu shinto and its organic syncretic process. In my view however, while the synthesis Onisaburo worked out is useful, it does not on its face seem to create a real basis for syncretism of the type I have described, precisely because it is too systematic. Certinaly as its history has played out, it also did not succeed in translating its message to a great number of adherents who could "make it their own."

It seems to me that O-sensei's thoughts are much closer to the ideal for syncretic thought. Apart from the physical system of aikido he did not attempt to rationally systematize his thought to any significant degree. That makes his kotodama system and the doka based upon it far more suggestive rather than authoritative, connatative rather than denotative.

This requires one to struggle with the meaning and to give it context. This makes it more, rather than less, successful in this regard. Certainly it is more organic in feeling for this reason. The comparison of the relative success of his message, and the maintenance of its essenitla integrity in the process of itsa expansion, especially when compared with that of Onisaburo Deguchi, is significant.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

senshincenter
09-12-2005, 02:12 PM
- On the issue of Aikido relativism:

To be clear, it is not that I would say that everyone has to be doing the same Aikido or even that only one Aikido exists, can exist, or should exist. As I said, from an objective point of view, there are many Aikidos and one either has to ignore that there are many takes on what Aikido is or is not OR one has to adopt a completely unfounded position of authority and then the gall to go around and point a finger so as to say, “you are doing Aikido,” “you are not doing Aikido,” if one wants to deny this social fact.

However, subjectively, we do not live like this – we ourselves do not practice many Aikidos. We practice what we consider to be Aikido and we mark this as different from any will or capacity to practice everything that has ever been called Aikido by anyone or that has been understood to be Aikido by anyone. In short, in our own practice, we do not practice just anything, nor do we seek to (nor can we) practice everything. Our own practice is made up of judgments, decisions, etc., and thus it consists as much of rejections as it does of acceptances.

The short of it is this: As much as we can understand that there are many Aikidos (i.e. many understandings of what Aikido is or is not), we must understand that our own version is not universal in light of this multitude. For this reason, we can note the great multitude that makes up Aikido as a cultural phenomenon. At the same time we can be reflective enough to know that our own Aikido is just one take of many – knowing that there are things we have rejected in the practice of our own Aikido, that these rejections are there by the very nature of accepting the things we have opted to include in our practice. We can thus say what is and is not Aikido according to our own subjectivity, knowing that by someone else’s subjectivity our own Aikido is likely to be rejected as such. However, by understanding the larger objective sense of all these individual struggles/practices, we can remain wise enough, and thus compassionate enough, to feel strongly about what we do while not acting toward another who does something differently than us in a manner that is lacking in moral virtue.



- On the manner of Osensei demythologizing Aikido:

Erick, I think you need to make a distinction between these two phrases:

“Osensei demythologized Aikido/Omoto-kyo.” (or any variation of this phrase)

and

“Aikido can be demythologized.” (or any variation of this phrase)

My position is with the latter. You first seemed to be saying the former phrase, but then later you have moved slightly toward the second phrase. However, these phrases are very different in meaning and it is the first phrase that I suggested is not supported by current historical research (acknowledging that Shaun has said that there is a history out there yet to be known by everyone).

For me, when you say the following, you cannot go on to say that Osensei demythologized Aikido/Omoto-kyo, etc.:

“It is undeniable that O-Sensei spoke freely about his own understandings of the cosmological and psychological principles underlying aikido, and that these were from traditional sources, given his own idiosyncratic interpretation framed by his Omoto experience, and colored by explicit early Shingon teaching as a child…It is equally undeniable that virtually none of his first line student had any of the necessary background in such matters to thoroughly understand what he was saying. They largely did not see its significance to their practice, much less to try to convey to others in turn. It is, in fact, from the third and fourth order students that detailed interest in such things has been awakened, and not from his direct students.”

When you acknowledge all of this, you can only speak of the demythologization of Aikido as either a philosophical potential or as a historical act carried out by others. It is not an act that can be attributed to Osensei – which was what was at issue here – (currently) that data is not there to support such a view of agency. We can thus only go with the second phrase, “Aikido can be demythologized” – which I agree with and even recommend.



- As to Mark’s charge of “grass is green:”

I will have to side with Shaun here when he states that such information is really for one’s students. I do not say this to mean that such knowledge is hidden and kept from others, etc., for whatever reason, etc., but rather that such teachings are better understood through the daily ins and outs of actual mentorship, training, etc. This was the same way I replied to Shaun when he asked me “How?” - how should one address the developing of a sense of shame via one’s training, etc. Therefore, I still do not feel that I can at this time or via this medium go into “How?” – as in many ways, such a question contradicts and/or subverts the entire process (e.g. by having us think linearly, or having us plagued by notions of attainment and/or of progress, or having us think outside of an actual practice, etc.). Still, if one wanted to have a better idea of what I might be referring to, outside of actually training at our dojo, Senshin Center (where all are welcome, of course), one can easily go to our web site and get a better than average view of what we do, and why we do it, just by reading the all the writings and watching all the videos.

That said, I think I can still give you an answer if you do not press me into trying to answer “How?” in too detailed a fashion. Small “Hows?” I might be able to answer here should you request of me to do so in a follow-up reply.

For me, after a level of basic acquirement (e.g. physical fitness, body/mind coordination, discipline, commitment, endurance, DAILY practice, etc.) Aikido training should be marked by the following (not necessarily listed in sequential order but to be understood interdependently):

- A reconciliation of Pride, Ignorance, and Fear
- A cultivation of Humility/Selflessnes, Wisdom/Truth, and Love/Compassion
- A cultivation of a capacity for Non-Attachment
- A cultivation of a capacity for a detachment from Materialism
- A reconciliation of the subject/object dichotomy/spontaneous expression of the above reconciliations/cultivations

This is how I have chosen in my dojo to demythologize Aikido. For me, in our dojo, these are the “steps” we should see in our training. If we do not see these “steps” in our training, we are still in the process of waiting to train (which is a stage we all must go through, according to our understanding) – not quite training yet (even if we are on the mat working out, etc.)

Hope this explains a bit more. Feel free to ask for more information if you feel it might help, etc.

Thanks,
dmv

Erick Mead
09-12-2005, 08:28 PM
Thanks David.
- On the manner of Osensei demythologizing Aikido:

Erick, I think you need to make a distinction between these two phrases:

"Osensei demythologized Aikido/Omoto-kyo." (or any variation of this phrase)
and
"Aikido can be demythologized." (or any variation of this phrase)

My position is with the latter. You first seemed to be saying the former phrase, but then later you have moved slightly toward the second phrase.
...
When you acknowledge all of this, you can only speak of the demythologization of Aikido as either a philosophical potential or as a historical act carried out by others. It is not an act that can be attributed to Osensei -- which was what was at issue here -- (currently) that data is not there to support such a view of agency. We can thus only go with the second phrase, "Aikido can be demythologized" -- which I agree with and even recommend.

dmv

My position is not binary. That is to say, that the light is not either on or off, but neither is it anywhere in between. It is the two sides of the coin (Izu/Mizu again). Heads is up, but tails is still there even if not seen.

O-Sensei achieved a severance between the mythological environment in which aikido arose and the manner in which it may be taught. The effect of this was to allow aikido to be effectively taught in almost any cultural environment. I contend this was O-Sensei's purpose, based on his own statements and his willingness to engage his students on their own cultural basis, as the experience of Andre Nocquet in the late 50's shows. The essential elements remain, but in much more effectively translated form.

One face of aikido is a spare schematic, stripped of its original mythological basis; the other face is fully fleshed in the garb of the cultural environment in which it is taught. The first ensures the skeleton maintains its fundamental shape. The second allows exploration of the universe of creativity in its expression that the specifics of a given culture permit.

They are complements, not irreconcilable alternatives. One is a check upon the other. Either alone could not survive for long. It would either collapse as a shapeless mass under accumulated novelty, or remain a figure of dry bones. Together, there is, apparently, no cultural landscape in which they cannot flourish.

This is the effect of the substance and form of O-Sensei's teaching. Given his willingness to explain himself in Christian, Buddhist or Shinto terms as needs must, it is not too much to say it was intended so.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

senshincenter
09-12-2005, 09:17 PM
Until you can demonstrate clearly that this was Osensei's intention and not a merely a philosophical potential of the practice in general that others were able to rightly tap into, it is indeed quite a bit to say it was intended so. Of course, please feel free to believe this, and to do with this position as you will. I'm not out at all to stop such things - having no will, no right, nor any power to do so. However, from a historical point of view, what you say is without support - and this remains true whether we wish to step out of dualistic thinking or not.

As I said, if you can offer some actual historical evidence, I would be most glad to reconsider and/or to continue this part of the discussion, but if all you can offer now is that "it must have been intended so, because we have seen it done," then we must simply acknowledge that this conversation has run aground, as that premise would never hold up in any kind of forum on the history of anything - including Osensei. For me, that is what we were trying to discuss. Outside of that, I really have little to offer regarding the contemporary practices of how Aikido is or is not marked by the culture in which it comes to be practiced and/or what general traits are related to that process across the globe and across time. For me, as you can guess, outside of what universal traits that I believe we practice at our own dojo, I would hold myself uninformed to comment on such traits in regards to the multiple cultures that Aikido is or has been practiced.

Thank you for your reply,
dmv

SeiserL
09-12-2005, 09:34 PM
I must admit I am really in awe of so many people knowing what O'Sensei meant and intended.

I never trained with him, nor can I read the original caligraphy, so I personally have no idea.

Erick Mead
09-13-2005, 12:23 AM
Until you can demonstrate clearly that this was Osensei's intention and not a merely a philosophical potential of the practice in general that others were able to rightly tap into, it is indeed quite a bit to say it was intended so.
...
As I said, if you can offer some actual historical evidence, I would be most glad to reconsider and/or to continue this part of the discussion, but if all you can offer now is that "it must have been intended so, because we have seen it done," then we must simply acknowledge that this conversation has run aground, as that premise would never hold up in any kind of forum on the history of anything - including Osensei.
dmv

Evidence is good, but your standard is overly narrow.

Explicit evidence of intent, speaking as a lawyer now, is rarely if ever admitted. Nearly every issue of intent or purpose has to be proved by circumstantial evidence. Some are not convinced that by raising one's hand, one intends to -- raise one's hand.

But let us examine what was said, since some find actions and results ambiguous evidence of intent.

Kisshomaru, 2d Doshu, reported O-Sensei to have said, on his deathbed, "Aikido is for the entire world. Train not for selfish reasons, but for all people everywhere." In common law jurisdictions, dying utterance is admissible. Hopefully, this passes evidentiary muster.

O-Sensei did not say Omoto was for the whole world, nor that Shinto or Shingon or anything other than aikido was for the whole world. He did not commission his students to teach these things through the medium of aikido, he simply commissioned them to teach aikido.

If he directed his teaching at the whole world, did he intend thereby to have Omoto taught as a necessary precondition? Is this not especially probklematic since he dod not require this of his own students in Japan? I think the case in rebuttal has to be made if this is seriously contended to be O-Sensei's objective intent.

When O-Sensei went to Hawaii to visit and teach he said this, so his son reports: He had come to "build a Silver Bridge of Understanding. . . overseas and through aikido to cultivate mutual understanding between East and West." "I want to build bridges everywhere and connect all people through harmony and love. This I believe to be the task of aikido."

A number of doka translated by John Stevens in "The Art of Peace," follow this theme of the individuation of aikido in each place it is practiced, without losing its essence.

Leaving aside the nature metaphors and psychological observations, only about twenty or so, of the one hundred fourteen doka, use mythological allusion. In this number I include those speaking of ki, God, or gods the divine, buddha and suchlike.

"Each and every master, regardless of the era or place, heard the call and attained harmony with heaven and earth. There are many paths leading to the top of Mount Fuji, but there is only one summit - love." Doka 30
"The Path is exceedingly vast. From ancient times to the present day, even the greatest sages were unable to perceive and comprehend the entire truth; the explanation and teachings of masters and saints express only part of the whole. It is not possible for anyone to speak of such things in their entirety. Just head for the light and heat, learn from the gods, and through the virtue of devoted practice of the Art of Peace, become one with the Divine." Doka 113

Theological irimi, indeed. And:

"The Art of Peace that I practice has room for each of the world's eight million gods, and I cooperate with them all. The God of Peace is very great and enjoins all that is divine and enlightened in every land." Doka 103
And as to the nature of technique and its relation to the larger goals of Aikido, this:
"Ultimately, you must forget about technique. The further you progress, the fewer teachings there are. The Great Path is really No Path." Doka 102
"The Art of Peace is the religion that is not a religion; it perfects and completes all religions." Doka 112
"Instructors can impart only a fraction of the teaching. It is through your own devoted practice that the mysteries of the Art of Peace are brought to life." Doka 46
"Even though our path is completely different from the warrior arts of the past, it is not necessary to abondon totally the old ways. Absorb venerable traditions into this Art by clothing them with fresh garmets, and build on the classic styles to create better forms." Doka 37
"Contemplate the workings of this world, listen to the words of the wise, and take all that is good as your own. With this as your base, open your own door to truth. Do not overlook the truth that is right before you. Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything - even mountains, rivers, plants and trees - should be your teacher." Doka 14

Kisshomaru Doshu reported in the appendix to "Aikido" his father's words upon other occasions:
"This is not mere theory. You practice it. Then you will accept the great power of oneness with Nature."
"When anybody asks if my Aiki budo principles are taken from religion, I say, ‘No.' My true budo principles enlighten religions and lead them to completion."

And lastly:

"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 Aikido. This is the mission of Aikido and this should be your mission."

O-Sensei was not engaged in a forensic exercise. But his own statements in context support both a decoupling of his art from its native culture and mythological structure, while intending that it simultaneously serve as a tool to link people among all cultures and for aikido, and be able communicate its understanding through the myths and religions of all people.
I could probably find more, but this is what I have on short notice.
Cordially,
Erick Mead

senshincenter
09-13-2005, 02:34 AM
Erick,

Like I said, you need the evidence to show intent not possibility. That is the differences between the two phrases I suggested you needed to distinguish from each other. In that light, we can hardly consider the requesting of ANY evidence "narrow." One either has it, or one does not. Moreover, by any standard of history, what you have provided here is not the evidence you would require to show either an intent to demythologize and/or a demythologization by Osensei. In fact, even what you quote has several tones and undertones of what are normally considered mythic themes (e.g. bridge, heaven and earth, saints, light, heat, gods, divine, eight million gods, God, religion, holy books, etc.) - AND THAT IS WITH STEVEN'S ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS.

You must understand that there is a difference - a very big difference - between Osensei demythologizing Aikido and Aikido being an art that need not be housed in any one/given cultural discourse. The latter is perfectly true - and some of what you quote lends itself to the position that Osensei would agree with you there. However, as I said above, this is different from Osensei demythologizing Aikido. It is even very different from saying that Osensei sought to create a distance from Omoto-kyo theology because he saw it as too culturally limiting for the art he wanted to spread to the whole world. For this last phrase, you would need to show where Osensei has said something to that effect: "My Aikido goes beyond Omoto-kyo." or "I have moved past Omoto-kyo." etc. What is particularly interesting, if one looks more closely at Omoto-kyo teachings at the time of Osensei, is this: Osensei is only saying things about his Aikido that Onisaburo said about Omoto-kyo. This notion of "completing all religions, being beyond all religions," etc., is standard Omoto-kyo discourse at that time. In all likelihood then, Osensei's poems are not a moving beyond but the simple act of repeating what someone (Onisaburo) said and sticking it on top of "his" own thing and then feeling justified for such an act by the system of correspondences that those folks all felt perfectly comfortable within.

Is Aikido open to all cultural interpretations and/or discourses? Yes, indeed. Did Osensei feel that one could only do this if one stopped referring to the Kojiki, kami, etc.? No way. Did Osensei feel that Omoto-kyo was too limiting a cultural discourse? I do not think we can really say at this point, but it would be highly unlikely since Omoto-kyo could hardly be called exclusive in any way, nor could it have been experienced by Osensei as exclusive.

Perhaps we are using our methodologies differently here - and so we have different understandings of the word "intent" and/or even the word "demythologize." Perhaps that is why we seem to be talking past each other. In the history of ideas and in the history of religions, these things mean very specific things. Then again, there is a very good chance that you have put all of your eggs in a basket that is made up of a backwards argument: Today, Aikido is taught all over the world; being all over the world, it must contend with different cultural discourses in order to remain meaningful; Aikido was created by Osensei; Therefore, Osensei designed Aikido to be beyond all cultural discourses; Therefore, Osensei had to first move beyond his own cultural discourse; Therefore, Osensei had to demythologize Aikido/Omoto-kyo.

I get it. However, going backwards like this never makes for good history, as one is sure to miss all of the relevant discontinuities - which I feel you have - for the sake of recognizing the present in the past.

Thanks for the reply, and for taking the time to cite those quotes.

dmv

Erick Mead
09-13-2005, 09:12 AM
Erick,

Like I said, you need the evidence to show intent not possibility.
.....
Then again, there is a very good chance that you have put all of your eggs in a basket that is made up of a backwards argument: Today, Aikido is taught all over the world; being all over the world, it must contend with different cultural discourses in order to remain meaningful; Aikido was created by Osensei; Therefore, Osensei designed Aikido to be beyond all cultural discourses; Therefore, Osensei had to first move beyond his own cultural discourse; Therefore, Osensei had to demythologize Aikido/Omoto-kyo.

I get it. However, going backwards like this never makes for good history, as one is sure to miss all of the relevant discontinuities - which I feel you have - for the sake of recognizing the present in the past.
....
dmv

The problem you identify is known as "stacking inferences." Ordinarily, it is admissible to infer one fact from given evidence that will support it, but not admissible to make a further inference from the fact thus inferred. This is as impermissible in my field of law, as it is in academic arguments, where I suspect your chief efforts lie.

Respectfully, I have not done this. It is fair to say you remain unpersuaded. It is not correct to say that my argument is unsupported or fallacious.

My conclusion flows from two prongs of argument, independent and mutually corroborating. The first prong is the evidence of what O-Sensei did, and the further fact of what those student he directly taught did in turn. This is action with meaningful content, what we lawyers like to call res gestae. This is probative evidence of intent, precisely because usually one does what one intends to do. The desired consequence of an act may or not be achieved as contingency dictates, but the intent to do the thing immediately done speaks for itself.

O-Sensei taught many students Aikido. To my knowledge, I have never seen evidence that he failed to advance a student of aikido because the student was insuffciently founded in Omoto, or indeed had any knowledge of it at all. After some considerable time knocking around the aikido world, from ASU, Federation, Iwama
a little Yoshinkan and Ki society, I have yet to here of such a case.
O-Sensei selected the methods in which he instructed his students.
He could easily have made a grounding in Omoto a condition of his grant authority to teach. He did not.

If O-Sensei had cared care that his aikido students transmit an understanding of Omoto, he took no care to ensure they were trained in it before they were authorized to teach aikido. Thus the contrary inference of intent, that he wanted Omoto to follow aikdo is not supported by evidence from which it may be inferred, and is not admissible.

It is therfore permissible to conclude from this evidence and argument, at a single level of inference, his intent on this point: that he did not intend for Omoto theology to follow his aikido.


A different argument can be framed from his statements and about the desired conseuqences of his teaching. As with the res gestae argument where it is possible that the ultimate consequnces is not intended, while the immediate act is, similarly with stated intent. It is possible that his means were ill-fitted to his desired ends, and that his immediate intent in teaching was ill-conceived to effect the conditions necessary to achieve it.

The citations of the doka and other statements that I provided, indicate an O-sensei's desire that the aikido that he taught be able to function in and among the various cultures of the world. He taught his students with this thought in mind. I have shown with but one permissible inference, that he did not condition the teaching of aikido on the teaching or knowledge of Omoto.

I have shown by his stated intent that he desired the ultimate consequence of aikido's success throughout the world that has been to a degree achieved by those students.

O-Sensei's statement to Andre Nocquet about whether he should remain Christian is probative on this poitn, as he could told that man he could not practice aikido without believing in Omoto. He did not do this. Andre Nocquet recounts: in Aikido Journal #85 (1990)

"Ueshiba Sensei had a great deal of respect for Christ. I was living in a four-mat room in the dojo and he would knock on the door and enter. He would sit down beside me and there was a portrait of Jesus Christ. He would place his hands together in a gesture of respect. I asked him one day if there wasn't a similarity between his prophecies and those of Christ. He answered, "Yes, because Jesus said his technique was love and I, Morihei, also say that my technique is love. Jesus created a religion, but I didn't. Aikido is an art rather than a religion. But if you practice my Aikido a great deal you will be a better Christian"

And in this same article Nocquet recounts a spiritual crisis of his own, resolved neatly by O-Sensei himself:


Doka 8

Shin no bu wa True bu[dō]
fude ya kuchi niwa cannot be described
subekarazu by the brush or the mouth
kami wa yurusazu kami will not allow you
to rely upon words!


Doka 9

Aiki towa Aikido (its mysteries)
fude ya kuchi niwa can never be encompassed
tsukusarezu by the brush or by the mouth
kotobure sezuni Do not rely on words to grasp it
satori okonae Attain enlightenment through practice


And Doka 42

Bu to wa ie Bu[dō] --
koe mo sugata mo no voice, no form,
kage mo nashi no shadow
kami ni karete Question kami as you like
kotau subenashi but there is no reply.

senshincenter
09-13-2005, 12:34 PM
Hi Erick,

Thanks for writing.

I understand the problem of stacking inferences - which is permissible in the field of History but only as to formulating one’s hypothesis. What was problematic, rather, was exactly what I said: That you are going backwards in time in your reasoning. You are looking at the present time, seeing a unified Aikido in the sense of it being demythologized, and then attributing that (hardly supportable) interpretation of Aikido to the designs of Osensei. As I said, the problem with this is that it fails to recognize the discontinuities of history. Moreover, it purports a view of agency that today is simply not acceptable (for one million and one reasons) in the field of History as a whole. This may be one reason why we have lawyers and we have historians – because these folks do not do the same kind of work in the same kind of way. This is what I have been attempting to suggest for a while now – that we are perhaps looking at certain things differently because of our training.

As I said before, I feel these differences are really centered on one or two elements in your position that simply cannot be supported historically. THE MAIN ONES TO NOTE ARE THESE:

- There is a difference between demythologizing something (which IS what you first said and IS what I first – and have only - had a contention with) and saying that we do not need to practice or know Omoto-kyo theology in order to do Aikido.

- There is also a difference between Osensei demythologizing Aikido and/or Omoto-kyo theology and he not feeling that we have to practice Omoto-kyo and/or any of their other traditions and/or practices he himself practiced.

The issue here is with the word “demythologize.” In short, you are using it incorrectly. Moreover, because you are using it incorrectly, you have tended to say things that make little sense and/or that cannot be supported historically. Please allow me to explain a bit on this word for those that might not be familiar with it:

Though in Western civilization the act of demythologization goes back to at least the Greeks, the pivotal figure in the History of Religions and who gives us our current meaning of the word – what one would see if you looked it up in a dictionary – is Rudolf Bultmann. In short, demythologization means, “the restatement of a religious message and/or myth in rational terms.” An example of demythologizing Aikido/Omoto-kyo theology would be my reply to Mark – which I did in fact call then a demythologization. Osensei did no such thing. Osensei freely expressed his art and his understanding of the art via mythic themes. When you say he did not, when you say he demythologized Aikido/Omoto-kyo theology, THIS is what history does not support. It is an ungrounded claim and therefore likely to be considered false.

More on “demythologization:”

According to Bultmann, the Bible with all of its mythic themes presented a problem for us moderns. We, with our modern worldview, simply were no longer capable of believing what we were reading or hearing. Too many elements now understood as fantastic were in the way of us understanding what was at the heart of the message. As a result, we as a culture tended to throw out the baby with the bath water – dismissing the inner message (which is True) because of its context (which cannot be True – by our modern standards). Bultmann sought a solution to this problem by examining the Bible -- and the New Testament in particular -- to see if it presented a deeper message that did not so depend on its mythical themes. He concluded that it did, and, as a result, he concluded that the only purpose of the myths was to give expression to an inner message that was stated for a given and dated culture that is not our own.

Undoubtedly, this kind of thinking that was coming out of Europe at that time had some impact on the World Religion movement and thus also most likely on Omoto-kyo. However, when we see Osensei telling Nocquet that he can keep his beliefs in Christ, etc., we are not seeing an act of demythologization. We are merely seeing an act of religious inclusiveness. There are no attempts to rationalize either the teachings of Omoto-kyo, Catholic Christianity, or Aikido discourse. On all accounts, the mythic themes of each discourse are allowed to remain and moreover they are not thought to be distractions that are false and that prevent us from seeing some inner message that is thought to be true.

Again – you got the wrong word here. However, as I said earlier to Shaun and to you as well, I do agree with you here again that this sense of inclusiveness (especially religious), that an absence of exclusiveness (especially religious), was indeed part of Osensei’s understanding of his art. Yet, there is one more small point here that needs to be addressed and that I feel comes from you misuse of the word “demythologization.” Namely, it is your earlier suggestions that somehow Osensei’s sense of inclusiveness and/or his lack of exclusiveness were something that was beyond Omoto-kyo theology. I do not believe it is accurate to say that he went beyond said theology when he is in that very act practicing said theology. Allow me to explain…

On top of Japan never really having a religious history of exclusivity (though there were attempts to be sure), Omoto-kyo was itself all about trying to find the inner truths of all religious messages, myths, traditions, etc. In this way, as I said above, there is some overlap with Bultmann’s efforts – only Omoto-kyo, or Osensei, never felt that the mythic themes of a given tradition had to be seen as false and/or therefore rejected. Omoto-kyo, as the tradition states, was into discovering that message that was beyond all racial divisions and all creeds. To be sure, in adopting such a position, they were also aware of other religious traditions that for centuries had practiced no such thing – that were into exclusiveness, antagonism, war, etc. The World Religion movement, and thus Omoto-kyo, was itself an alternative to this path of intolerance. As I said earlier in the thread, it seems that Omoto-kyo saw itself as a kind of meta-religious movement or a para-religious movement – as something that met all other traditions in the light of this deeper truth or this deeper bond that all traditions were thought to have in common. So, in a way, they were a religion, and they were not a religion. They were a religion in that they existed in common with all the other religious traditions of the world that stated the universal truth of Man, God, and existence, etc. Yet, they were not a religion in the sense of a tradition that sought exclusive rights to the one and only truth that was theirs and theirs alone. This is what Osensei was exposed to if he was exposed to Omoto-kyo theology.

Now, is it a transcendence of one’s theology when one allows for inclusiveness and/or universality if one’s theology is itself a message of inclusiveness and/or universality? That is the question to ask as far as determining whether Osensei did or did not teach Omoto-kyo theology and/or base his understandings of Aikido on said theology. It is also the question to ask if one is seeking to determine the basis under which folks were not “required” to learn Omoto-kyo theology, etc. For me, it is Omoto-kyo theology to not have one pressed into learning Omoto-kyo theology. Moreover, it is extremely Japanese, especially during the years in question, to not force anyone into following a specific religious doctrine as a requirement of anything. In fact, as I said, particularly during the years in question, even if Omoto-kyo were not a theology of inclusiveness and/or universality, Osensei probably would have had no epistemological, ontological, or cultural recourse for requiring students to learn Omoto-kyo in order to understand Aikido, etc. Thus, we are not seeing an act of agency – a conscious intent to demythologize Omoto-kyo theology for the sake of worldwide cultural dissemination. We are simply seeing a man of his times acting in the only way he could have: A man understanding his art and practice through a theology of universality and inclusiveness that was itself loaded with mythic themes.

Why might this be important to note? Well, in many places, in many cultures, we do see a demythologization of Aikido. Demythologization, as a sign of modernity, is indeed something that has become a part of Aikido history. If we want to do that history, we are going to have to distinguish where then the discontinuity arose – because there is one - because we see no such thing in Osensei’s thinking or his actions. Along side this discontinuity, something else has crept in that was not of the Founder’s doing nor of his position but like demythologization is indeed a part of Modernity. This is the secularization of Aikido (e.g. the training in Aikido for mundane reasons). For all of its inclusiveness, and for all of its universality, neither Osensei’s message or his understanding of Aikido, nor Omoto-kyo theology, can create space for the secular trends we see gaining dominance today. This secularization, in my opinion, is very much related to the discontinuity of the demythologization of Aikido – as demythologization and secularization tend to always have a close relationship. Nevertheless, this is Aikido history, and thus, for better or for worse, this is Aikido. If we want to understand Aikido history, and thus if we want to understand Aikido in this larger objective sense, we are going to have to be able to note these discontinuities more accurately than the position of “Osensei demythologized Aikido” currently allows for.

Again, thanks for the discussion,
david

Erick Mead
09-13-2005, 01:02 PM
Apologies, but a stray keystroke posted my last before it was intended. So here is the the latter part as it was was intended

Erick Mead
............................................
And in this same article Nocquet recounts a spiritual crisis of his own, resolved neatly by O-Sensei himself:

"Sensei should I remain a Christian?" He replied,
"Yes, absolutely. You were raised as a Christian in France. Remain a Christian." If he had told me to stop being a Christian and become a Buddhist, I would have been lost. "

From this evidence I can permissibly infer that O-Sensei did intend
that aikdio should function as well in a Christian spiritual mode as it would in Buddhist (or Omoto) circumstances.

As to further evidence for the "stripped down" mode of aikido teaching the following may also be of interest:

Doka 8

Shin no bu wa
fude ya kuchi niwa
subekarazu
kami wa yurusazu

True bu[dō]
cannot be described
by the brush or the mouth
kami will not allow you
to rely upon words!

Doka 7

Aiki towa
fude ya kuchi niwa
tsukusarezu
kotobure sezuni
satori okonae

Aikido (its mysteries)
can never be encompassed
by the brush or by the mouth
Do not rely on words to grasp it
Attain enlightenment through practice


And Doka 9

Bu to wa ie
koe mo sugata mo
kage mo nashi
kami ni karete
kotau subenashi

Bu[dō] --
no voice, no form,
no shadow
Question kami as you like
but there is no reply.


With these two lines of argument corroborating one another as to both directly intended act, and stated intent, I feel comfortable in standing by the validity and support for my position,. You may remain unpersuaded as you wish. But that is an objection to weight, not suficiency.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Erick Mead
09-13-2005, 05:18 PM
I understand the problem of stacking inferences
...
What was problematic, rather, was exactly what I said: That you are going backwards in time in your reasoning. You are looking at the present time, seeing a unified Aikido in the sense of it being demythologized, and then attributing that (hardly supportable) interpretation of Aikido to the designs of Osensei.
....


The points I have made are not post-hoc fallacies either. He said things he said; he did (or omitted to do) the things he did or omitted. The statements and actions together evidence an intent that supports my position for at least one valid forensic methodology, if not all.

I think your other observations are more on point, however, and get to the heart of the matter. The point, after all, is what we do now, and whether it is in keeping with the teaching we have been entrusted to maintain.


As I said before, I feel these differences are really centered on one or two elements in your position that simply cannot be supported historically. THE MAIN ONES TO NOTE ARE THESE:

- There is a difference between demythologizing something (which IS what you first said and IS what I first -- and have only - had a contention with) and saying that we do not need to practice or know Omoto-kyo theology in order to do Aikido.

- There is also a difference between Osensei demythologizing Aikido and/or Omoto-kyo theology and he not feeling that we have to practice Omoto-kyo and/or any of their other traditions and/or practices he himself practiced.


A predicate needs discussing, and that is one of human nature. It is my position that human beings mythologize to the same degree that they use tools. We chip stone and fashion metal and we tell stories to make sense of what we may have done or regret doing.

When I speak of demythologizing something it is only the clearing of deadwood, because it will be re-mythologized in short order. That is the source of my heads/tails observation. The foolish, "demigod" crowd touting magical stories of O-Sensei's invulnerability and war time exploits are a perfect example of this process in the last two decades.

"Dewatering" means causing there to be less water in the ground not no water in the ground. I propose that O-Sensei demythologized aikido, to reduce the operation of that content. He did not suck it dry of all mythological significance or possible connections. By purifying it, minimlaizing it it made the possibility fo greater and more numerous connectison than there would have been without that effort in its development.

This is process is equally evident in science, where despite an unstated pretension to rise above the human nature, mythology prevails equally. A prevailing view in a field will hold on for a time quite well past the loss of evidence for it. Science incorporates its own system of meta-rules about how to redress such a state of affairs. It is the experimental testing of falsifiable, material statements. Law and history operate in different forensic arenas but similar meta-rules can be found in both.

Mythology establishes tradition, which is important to stability, but after a time, accretions can be deadly to integrity. Without a means to clear the decks of the increasing elaborations, the identiy of the core mesage can be lost.

O Sensei's emphasis on the ontological significance of physical practice is this meta-rule for aikido, that strips away the accretion of particularized ideations and gets back the essential of spirit and body in one concert.

"The only thing I do is leave everything to God's will and give birth to techniques according to the divine law of the creation of islands and deities. Thus, all my techniques are purification (misogi)."
Takemusu Aiki (lectures), Sonoko Tanaka , tr., See Aikido Journal # 118, Fall/Winter 1999



Now, is it a transcendence of one's theology when one allows for inclusiveness and/or universality if one's theology is itself a message of inclusiveness and/or universality?


This almost posits O-Sensei as the anti-Groucho Marx, who famously said he would not join a club that would have him as a member. I have images of eyeglasses and mustaches adorning the kamidana.


That is the question to ask as far as determining whether Osensei did or did not teach Omoto-kyo theology and/or base his understandings of Aikido on said theology. It is also the question to ask if one is seeking to determine the basis under which folks were not "required" to learn Omoto-kyo theology, etc. For me, it is Omoto-kyo theology to not have one pressed into learning Omoto-kyo theology.
....


There is no need for determinaton on the first point. He did base it, in part from what he learned in Omoto. But Omoto while eclectic, is not so without boundaries that it cannot be distinguished from more conventional Ryobu Shinto, however much Omoto may owe to the predecessor.

In the "Divine Signposts," Part 1, Ch. 2., Onisaburo posits the one-four-three-eight revelation that remarkably corresponds to aspects of the Christian trinity, and the Buddhist trikaya and esoteric systems from both faiths:

"85. God is one only. He is the holy God, without beginning and without end.
86. In the universe there exists nothing other than these three elements: spirit, power and body.
87. By spirit is meant God. The human soul, too, is part of God.
88. By power is meant motive power. The movement of the sky and the earth and the changes of the
seasons, are all the power of God.
89. God divided His spirit, power and body and created all things in such a way that He created first the
body and later gave to it power and spirit.
90. By body is meant matter. The body of God consists of three functions, which can be named solidity,
softness and fluidity. These three comprise the Divine body.
91. Spirit consists of four distinctive qualities: activity, harmony, love and wisdom. These four comprise
the complete Divine spirit.
92. The human soul, too, is endowed with these four divine qualities.
93. Although human beings are endowed with these four workings, they make their souls impure and
degenerate into devils. Whose fault is this?
94. The power of God has eight functions, otherwise called the "eight powers". This is called "the
complete power of God":
1. Power of movement
2. Power of rest

3. Power of dissolution
4. Power of coagulation

5. Power of tension
6. Power of relaxation

7. Power of combination
8. Power of separation"

A Christian would find little of substance to object to in these statements, although it might be expressed in a different anaytical convention. So, is Omoto distinguishable from Christian theology in any meaningful way at this root level? Omoto is also hardly distinguishable from the ryobu shinto syncretic expression of these same basic points. JIgohei Tanaka plainly sees shinto as a complement not an antagonist of Christian teaching. Clearly, when we get to the level of soteric function and redemptive processes we see some of these far more critical differences. But did O-Sensei adopt any of these more idiosyncratic elements of Omoto in the development of Aikido? I find no evidence of it.

And at what level do we define a difference of meaning, and on what criteria? Is a proposed difference merely the product of the analytical convention, which the quoted Omoto material would plainly support, or is it a real, substantive conflict?

The same question then arises whether O-Sensei's teaching differs from Omoto and then at what level do we determine the difference. If as I suggest, he was operating at the level I have generally identified, his teaching is little at odds with Omoto as it is with Christianity or Buddhism. In terms of his adoption of Omoto's teaching into his own Ichirei-Shikon-Sangen-Hachiriki is among the most explicit Omoto legacies. Izu/Misu, the trinitarian Amenominakanushi and the two musubi deities all are nearly indistinguishable from Ryobu shinto and are hardly even remarkable even in kokugaku, which would add only their own parochial take on Amaterasu omikami.

The development of O-Sensei's thought along the lines described in his Takemusu Aiki lectrues makes the objection largely a distinction without a difference. He sees the significance of his effort in cosmic terms, but does not depend upon his students seeing it for his work to be continued through them.

The only question for us lies in the work, "Is it worth doing?" All else is tossing slippery names back and forth.

"No matter what name you assign or change, it only means that a human being changes or assigns a name. From my point of view, aiki is a great purification, a wonderful, healthy method, and a Grand Way to bear and cultivate all things in nature. Therefore, I know that takemusu aiki, as one flow of the world, is the Way to serve the Supreme Truth which fosters and protects the World of Universal activities." from Takemusu Aiki (lectures), Sonoko Tanaka , tr., See Aikido Journal # 118, Fall/Winter 1999







This secularization, in my opinion, is very much related to the discontinuity of the demythologization of Aikido -- as demythologization and secularization tend to always have a close relationship.
Again, thanks for the discussion,
david


I agree that secularization is occurring, but it is being subsumed about as fast by the re-religioning. I do not think that the issue is as ipso facto as that. Demythologization is distinct from secularization. After all, Protestantism was the demythologization movement toward Catholicism. Then the Counter-Reformation was provoked. Now Catholics are the majority group of Christians on the planet, superseding even the Orthodox of all stripes.

The feedback mechanisms purify, misogi creates a healthy body, whether individual or social.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

senshincenter
09-13-2005, 07:23 PM
Hi Erick,

Thanks again for writing.

It is not that the points in your position are post-hoc, it is that your position makes use of notions regarding time and the passage of time (regarding human culture) that allows you to see the present in the past – which allows you to travel from the present to the past in your method. There are these grand underlying theories to your methodology that by today’s standards show no reflexology regarding the point of view of the observer – in this case you. It is these grand theories that allow you to connect things across time and across space (which I mentioned before) and that thus allow you to see the present in the past. This type of methodology has been under serious critique since the late 60’s and has for the most part been under serious rejection since the mid-80’s.

Another such theory that I did not bring up, but one should have been able to locate it just the same, is your notion that myth makes things resistant to cultural transmission and/or migration. This, as you can note now, is obviously a post-Enlightenment idea that for us (us moderns) has its source in late 19th century European thought. This is not a view that the majority of human history shares with you – as mythic discourses have never had a difficult time in crossing borders. In fact, many have believed and still do believe that mythic discourse is much more open to cultural migration than rational thought. In the 19th century, such a view was only a competing alternative in determining the truth of anything. In other words, such a view was just one more player in the game for determining Truth. Back then, not many folks bought the notion – though it ultimately came to be the dominant position in much of (Western) academic thought – especially regarding the study of religion.

Nevertheless, for Osensei, he certainly does not at all seem to be of the notion that myth and/or mythic discourse was resistant to cultural migration and/or discursive penetration. This is your view, a view you yourself have come to adopt as part of culture that had adopted it for you. Being self-reflective would have you attempting to better adopt the view that Osensei had of his own time – regarding the cultural truth-games that Osensei was working with and/or within – by having you be more aware of how your own cultural is playing its truth-games with you as a pawn. If Osensei had thought that mythic themes and/or mythic discourses were resistant to cultural migration and/or penetration, we would have seen him speaking and acting thusly. Many folks of his period did precisely that. However, in the case of Osensei, we do not see him acting like that, we see him continually using mythic themes and mythic discourses and we also see him making room for more (across cultures) – not less.

Now that you have opted to define “demythologization,” which is fine by me as your working definition, it still does not suffice that this is something Osensei felt or did. Moreover, just as before with Bultmann’s understanding of the word, Osensei’s historical evidence still has him acting within mythic themes and discourses as comfortably as ever. It is not that Osensei sought to demythologize anything because of some negative notion regarding the transmission potential of mythic discourse and thus said (as you quoted),

“"The only thing I do is leave everything to God's will and give birth to techniques according to the divine law of the creation of islands and deities. Thus, all my techniques are purification (misogi)."
Takemusu Aiki (lectures), Sonoko Tanaka , tr., See Aikido Journal # 118, Fall/Winter 1999”

Rather, it is that he had NO problem using mythic discourse, that he used it frequently, and that he NEVER for a second felt that it might provide some sort of resistance to the seeker trying to find the “true” message, that he THUS said,

“"The only thing I do is leave everything to God's will and give birth to techniques according to the divine law of the creation of islands and deities. Thus, all my techniques are purification (misogi)."
Takemusu Aiki (lectures), Sonoko Tanaka , tr., See Aikido Journal # 118, Fall/Winter 1999”

Here you wrote: “O Sensei's emphasis on the ontological significance of physical practice is this meta-rule for aikido, that strips away the accretion of particularized ideations and gets back the essential of spirit and body in one concert.”

- But let us look at how Osensei himself addresses this issue of dealing with the ontological significance of things. In the article that my essay is attempting to summarize, after Osensei says that Aikido is good for the weak people of then Japan, what does he recommend to make them stronger? Does he, like many Aikido instructors today might, recommend more suburi, more randori, or more work on tenkan or irimi-ashi, Suwari-waza Shomen-uchi Ikkyo? Nope. He only offers several religious practices and makes ample use of mythic themes to make them “clear.” He writes:

“In the early morning hours, before dawn, at 4:00 I am out of bed, and immediately perform a misogi (purification ritual)…Then I go outside barefoot, and pray to the eastern sky. "Tying my ki together with that of the Universe, I greet and commune with all creation. This is when I become one with the Universe and imbibe and inhale the holy teachings of Heaven and Earth. My form, standing in front of the shrine (of the Universe) is in a state of harmony with the Heavens and the Earth…Next I pray to the 4 directions and lift my eyes to the shrine of the eight gods in the Imperial Palace wishing his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor, long life. So doing we placate all the gods and pray for their pacification…There is also the method of vocalization known as Aikido Kotodama. The intoning of the 75 sounds forms words of purification for the universe…Next I stand before the household shrine. After a short time I perform prayers before the nearby Aiki Shrine which honors Hayatakenushi No O Mikoto, Sarutahiko No O kami and various others of the gods…In summary, weak people are the result of not knowing the truth of the unity of mankind with the Heavens and the Earth. By realizing the principle of unification with the Universal (tenchi) and making it active in your daily life, human beings become capable of sending forth the "holy technique of the gods".”

For some today, practicing tenkan is just like praying before a shrine. For some of us today, these things are very different. For Osensei, it was undoubtedly the same, and that is precisely why he did not, could not, feel it warranted to separate Aikido from any type of mythic discourse. Whether using your understanding or Bultmann’s there is no demythologization going on here.

You wrote: “There is no need for determinaton on the first point. He did base it, in part from what he learned in Omoto. But Omoto while eclectic, is not so without boundaries that it cannot be distinguished from more conventional Ryobu Shinto, however much Omoto may owe to the predecessor.

In the "Divine Signposts," Part 1, Ch. 2., Onisaburo posits the one-four-three-eight revelation that remarkably corresponds to aspects of the Christian trinity, and the Buddhist trikaya and esoteric systems from both faiths:”


- To be sure, one could at a practical level site differences between Omoto-kyo and another tradition. However, theologically, Omoto-kyo sought not to do this – but perhaps for those theological stances that were explicitly exclusive (and thus, in their opinion, leading to the world’s capacity for hatred, war, etc.). That is what is at issue, and in particular, it is only one aspect of that theology that is at issue – hence the key question remains: “Is it a transcendence of one's theology when one allows for inclusiveness and/or universality if one's theology is itself a message of inclusiveness and/or universality?” Omoto-kyo would of course say “no” and Osensei seems more to have followed that than what you are suggesting he felt and/or could have felt.

- It is not remarkable that Onisaburo posits element key to some schools of Christian theology. He exposed himself to it via the World Religion movement as he came into contact with groups that were using theologies from Christian mystic traditions to achieve the same thing - i.e. peace on Earth)via the formation of a “World Religion.” We are not looking here at any kind of Campbell-esque archetype. This is pure borrowing.

You wrote: “But did O-Sensei adopt any of these more idiosyncratic elements of Omoto in the development of Aikido? I find no evidence of it.”

- Here, I am beginning to wonder if you read the essay we are centering this discussion on or the article that that essay was centered on – since what you quote by Onisaburo in this last post is nothing more than ichirei-shikan-sangen-hachiriki – the phrase Osensei was known to use quite frequently in most of his lectures on Aikido. Assuming you did, let me answer your question briefly then: Though I certainly would not what to put the development of Aikido all on the shoulders of Osensei, if we are interested in his own practice, it is (currently) clear that he did indeed bring these “more idiosyncratic elements” of Omoto-kyo into it. For example, something relative here is his usage of the circle, triangle, and square – which as you may know were themselves items meant to correspond between the various aspects of ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki and various tactical architectures of Aikido waza. I imagine there are much more such correspondences. The research has not been done, and it will not be done if we stick with the view that Osensei sought to demythologize Aikido/Omoto-kyo, but I would propose the following: If Osensei did in fact create some sort of distinction between his Daito-ryu training and his own art (what came to be called “Aikido”), there is a very good chance that it was laid out according to those principles, tactics, strategies of Daito-ryu that Osensei felt he could more smoothly connect to theological propositions like ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki.

Again – thank you,
dmv

Erick Mead
09-13-2005, 11:35 PM
Now we are making some progress. Thanks David

It is not that the points in your position are post-hoc, it is that your position makes use of notions regarding time and the passage of time (regarding human culture) that allows you to see the present in the past -- which allows you to travel from the present to the past in your method. There are these grand underlying theories to your methodology
...
This type of methodology has been under serious critique since the late 60's and has for the most part been under serious rejection since the mid-80's.


Again, a point about predicates. Human society is an organic complex system which therfore obeys mathematical rules of organic (i.e. self-maintaining) complex systems. These systems demonstrate patterns that while unique and unrepeated are mathematically similar in shape across multiple scales of observation. Clouds form identifiable but unique patterns and tend to look the same whether seen from near or far, at a variety of scales.

Patterns of human organization obey similar laws. Really. People make money on the commodities markets with these algorithms.

The history establishment may question the relatively unsupported pattern theories of the mid century, but the math has now definitely caught up. Toynbee's intuition is vindicated in many ways by present science of complex systems.


Another such theory that I did not bring up, but one should have been able to locate it just the same, is your notion that myth makes things resistant to cultural transmission and/or migration.
...-- as mythic discourses have never had a difficult time in crossing borders.

Tell that to the marriageable Hindu singles in India who cannot easily marry a Jain, Sikh or Muslim, and their parents will object in any event, despite the fact that these different cultures have existed side by side for a couple thousand years, and share as many references as they do not. (We Indo-Europeans will look for any excuse for a good argument.)


However, in the case of Osensei, we do not see him acting like that, we see him continually using mythic themes and mythic discourses and we also see him making room for more (across cultures) -- not less.
...
It is not that Osensei sought to demythologize anything because of some negative notion regarding the transmission potential of mythic discourse ...
"Thus, all my techniques are purification (misogi)."
Takemusu Aiki (lectures),


A simple question. If aikido technique is misogi and misogi purifies, what is discarded?


Here you wrote: "O Sensei's emphasis on the ontological significance of physical practice is this meta-rule for aikido, that strips away the accretion of particularized ideations and gets back the essential of spirit and body in one concert."

- But let us look at how Osensei himself addresses this issue of dealing with the ontological significance of things.
...
"In the early morning hours, before dawn, at 4:00 I am out of bed, and immediately perform a misogi (purification ritual)…
...In summary, weak people are the result of not knowing the truth of the unity of mankind with the Heavens and the Earth. By realizing the principle of unification with the Universal (tenchi) and making it active in your daily life, human beings become capable of sending forth the "holy technique of the gods"."


O-Sensei clearly believed that personal strength came not from individual achievement but from realizing unification with Heaven and Earth. This is but a commonplace of Western amd Eastern thought for several millennia now. This is not at the level of mythology. More importantly, O-Sensei did not say that if you fail to observe Ueshiba's misogi regimen your are unworthy of his aikido. Describing one's personal observance is exemplary but not bay any menas command. Plainly, his direct students did not take it that way, why should I?


... he did not, could not, feel it warranted to separate Aikido from any type of mythic discourse. Whether using your understanding or Bultmann's there is no demythologization going on here.

And again, I think we begin to talk past one another
Once again, wherefore misogi? What is discarded?


You wrote: "But did O-Sensei adopt any of these more idiosyncratic elements of Omoto in the development of Aikido? I find no evidence of it."

- Here, I am beginning to wonder if you read the essay we are centering this discussion on or the article that that essay was centered on -- since what you quote by Onisaburo in this last post is nothing more than ichirei-shikan-sangen-hachiriki --
...


Of course I did.. I simply thought it would be useful to see the actual text under discussion and see how unremarkable ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki, really is in context. Most of those reading this without a background in serious history of East Asian thought will be struck by the use of conventions that are novel to the Western ear, but unremarklable when compared in a ssytematic way with ordinary tropes of Western thinking.

This is opposed to the truly idiosynctratic elements of Omoto. The "God in exile" trope, the positing of Onisaburo as a savior in the Maitreya mode, as opposed to an inspired prophet (a proposition I am not arrogant enough to dismiss, even as I question the totality of the proposed revelation). Most unique is the eschatological component of Omoto. This distinguishes it in Eastern religions, even from the very schematic Pure Land (and was a cause for much the Japanaese State's concerns with Omoto, in a way similar to the Chinsese government's dim view of Fa Lung Gong). The presence of eschatology betrays its Western influences, even as the particulars bear no relation to one another whatsoever. These unique elements of Omoto find no expression in O-Sensei's thought.


If Osensei did in fact create some sort of distinction between his Daito-ryu training and his own art (what came to be called "Aikido"), there is a very good chance that it was laid out according to those principles, tactics, strategies of Daito-ryu that Osensei felt he could more smoothly connect to theological propositions like ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki.

dmv

On this I think we agree. But the circle square and triangle have physical meaning. Technique is ontologically significant even if we keep our mouth shut while teaching it. If the lesson can be taught through the mythological symbol, or by conceret action without words, it is demythologized by any definition.

That which is a precondition for creation is not ipso facto a preconditon for continuity. As a matter of fact it was not made a condition of cointuity by O-Sensei, when he could easily have done so. Why did he not?

One of the frustrating things for practitioner intersted in placing these matters in context is the paucity of sources for the material. The only reason we know about his "Takemusu aiki" lectures to Nakazono's macrobiotic movement, which also flowed from Omoto is that a kindly attendant transcribed them for her colleagues. To my knowledge they have never been conventionally published.

O-Sensei was not reputed to be a habitually careless man ( except as is tyoicla of an aged man in later years. He took no care to ensure the transmission of the unique aspects of Omoto. HIs Doka, while a marvelous insight into his thought, are conventional examples of the type (even antiquated in style at the time he wrote them), and not exceptional either in style or content.

Aikido was not made a vehicle of Omoto. His direct students barely attempted to understand it. Although O Sensei's goal shares much with that of Onisaburo, O-Sensei particularly lacks Omoto's very particular eschatology, while the ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki rubric is not exceptional in its essential content as a point of theology and involves no particularized myth-making of its own.

I therefore end with my same question, which by now seems almost koan: Aikido practice is misogi; what is discarded?

Cordially,

Erick Mead

senshincenter
09-14-2005, 12:58 AM
Hi Erick,

You are using that same theoretical groundwork again - I do not think I can comment upon it any more than I already have. I am sorry. This medium, in which only our two voices are speaking, where we are not being weighed against a larger field of research, etc., is allowing us to too easily ignore each other's relevant points. I do not think we can accomplish more here than we already have.

As to your new question - it is a different matter entirely and it would feel somewhat foolish to take on a new question when the old one had us going from using a word incorrectly, to not using it, to having a working definition, to going on to a new topic altogether. I am going to have to bow out respectfully at this point. Thank you again for the conversation and I wish you the best with your continuing studies and your practice.

peace be with you,
david

Erick Mead
09-14-2005, 11:12 AM
David,

And here I thought it was going just swimmingly.

I do not come from the school that holds history to be just one damn thing after another. Santayana said to the effect that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This position presupposes that there are patterns of similarity, repetition such that, within a certain margin, likely consequences of certain circumstances can be avoided, or at the very least preparations for them made in advance.

There is an obvious risk of assuming teleology from these intuitve meta-theories of history. The suspicion of historians in the last several decades about this problem understandable in our highly empirical age. You have on more than one occasion, incorrectly, inferred precisely that from my argument. But complex systems theory has now provided an strong empirical basis for confiming the viability of such theories, if not their particular conclusions, and which, emphatically, do not involve any kind of teleology.

Finding ways to test historical conclusions in light of our greater knowledge of the nature of complex systems is the real challenge. I do not suggest that because meta-theories can have validity that my conclusions flowing from such a theory are necessarily correct. However, my arguments cannot be discarded on the basis that meta-theories of history are inherently unsupportable. That is simply a fasle premise based on our empirical knowledge at this time.

For an art that hopes to endure for any significant time, Aikido must endure the vicissitudes of fashion and cultural interplay. It cannot easily do that if its mythological base becomes overcommitted, unduly fixed, or exceedingly idiosyncratic. People simply cease to care, as it has no references for them to connect to.
Such an art would lose musubi, actually, because it becomes too committed to its own idea of what must occur next. At the same time it must maintain an core essence that preserves its identifiable integrity.

These are really my only points. Omoto went too far the other way, to the point of near irrelevance at this time. Its conflict with the kokugaku establishment and ultimately with the Imperial State were most un-Aikido like, I would note.

O-Sensei seems to have provided a suitable antidote or astringent through the ontology of practice that allows the accumulated glosses of mythological components of teaching to be stripped away from time to time and preserves the core meaning through the misogi of practice.

I hold this was done intentionally, on some evidence. You do not seem disagree that it has happened and functions this way at least in a few dojos. You seem to hold it occurred by mere happenstance, but respectfully, you have not rebutted my case for the intent with conflicting evidence. You have simply insisted on a different mode of argument upon the same evidence.

I do encourage you to look further into complex systems theory and its utility to good historical analysis. My own interest in this has led me to begin looking at the Chou I Ching in this light, as a basis to see if the Chinese historical works which trace the patterns of changes in the mode created by that work can be mapped upon, or alternatively, be shown to be unworkable, with analytic tools in complex systems theory.

It has been interesting all the same.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

John Matsushima
09-14-2005, 10:44 PM
Geez Erick, you use such big words, how are the simpletons like me supposed to understand anything??? :hypno: . If I may so approach the bench and resound the Big Green Drum...

I agree that many people try to follow the words and teachings of O'Sensei without going to deeply into it. Is it really neccessary that we have a complete understanding of Omoto-kyo or Shinto, or of every other thing that had an influence on O'Sensei's life to understand his teachings? It is quite a task to take on, but even though, is it necessary, or even possible? The intricate and deep study of Omoto-kyo philosophy may give some insight as to the meanings of things he mentioned in his lectures, but how much did HE or his closest students really know about Omoto-kyo? I know some very devout and religious Christians who practice and pray diligently everyday and can even quote the bible, but they are not expert theologans. I am saying merely that perhaps we are looking to deeply into this. I do believe that in studying Aikido, the study of Japanese culture and expecially the language does help to reveal its true nature. As for O'Sensei's writings in particular, I don't believe we can accurately depict what was going on in his head when he said those things, and then if he would still agree with those same things he said today. I myself have kept a personal journal of my thoughts and ideas since I have begun my journey in Aikido, and sometimes I even look back at things which I wrote years ago and think, "What the heck I mean by that?". I have heard that Saotome sensei sometimes regrets the videos that he made because people analyze them to much and fail to understand the big picture. How many people try so hard to understand the writings of the bible, yet come up with so many interpretations? Is it possible to understand truth through words?

So, until I someday master the Japanese Language, and can read his writings myself, I'm just going to go with the following explanation of Ichi Rei, San Gen, Shi Kon, Hachi Riki to mean; the one spirit of the universe (or emptiness); the three fundamentals of Irimi, Kokyu, and Tenkan (or the plum, the bamboo, and the pine); and the eight powers of movement, calm, extension, contraction, solid, fluid, unification, and division (heaven and earth). I can't for the life of me remember Shi Kon off the top of my head right now.

I so rest my case Erick, and plead guilty to the charge of ignorance. (By the way, ikkyo is the one where uke falls down on the floor ) :D

Erick Mead
09-15-2005, 12:20 AM
Geez Erick, you use such big words, how are the simpletons like me supposed to understand anything???
(By the way, ikkyo is the one where uke falls down on the floor ) :D

And here I kept thinking it was where I fell to the floor regardless. This explains a lot.

Good to hear from you John.

Big words are lonely and don't get out much --- so it's a kindness really.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

tedehara
09-15-2005, 01:09 AM
While I've been following this thread with some interest, I notice a failure to mention the simple fact that O Sensei was a devout believer in Omoto-kyo. It is this position of faith that separates his perspective from most of our own.

The religious experience of a devout believer in any religion, be it Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish or Shinto, is very different than someone trying to intellectually analyze it. You can call it theology, but for the faithful religion is life itself, not some intellectual study.

I think this is why most of O Sensei's direct students did not even attempt to investigate Omoto-kyo. They simply realized that there was no personal belief in Shinto or Omoto-kyo. Because of that, the personal perspective was radically shifted. They were not Morihei Ueshiba, but themselves.

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-15-2005, 11:57 AM
I tried to continue to avoid the word battle between the didactic quasi-historians, as I really didn't agree with the facts supporting either postulation. However, I did enjoy reading all the jargon (we love jargon) and I truly learned a thing or two about the subject matter each was quoting. I think from a philosophic level I could reach similar conclusions as each David and Erick have regarding their own process, but the facts dictate that neither process was the one of the Founder. If I had to pick one, I would lean towards Erick's view, but that is mostly because he correctly identifies the very large hole in David's argument, something that I have pointed to in so many arguments by many other, even more well known historians, that being that just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there.

However, when I read Ted's last post, and particularly the tone he may have inadvertently used, I had to chime back in.

While I've been following this thread with some interest, I notice a failure to mention the simple fact that O Sensei was a devout believer in Omoto-kyo. It is this position of faith that separates his perspective from most of our own.
I notice that you fail to mention any source for your astounding revelation... On what source do you base it?
The religious experience of a devout believer in any religion, be it Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish or Shinto, is very different than someone trying to intellectually analyze it. You can call it theology, but for the faithful religion is life itself, not some intellectual study.
True at some level. However, there are many whose devout appearance is but a sham. As for (theology) and what anyone (faithful) calls it, being convinced of something that isn't really there in most circles is defined in terms like, paranoia, schizophrenia and insanity. Remember it was the faithful that kept the world flat and at the center of the universe. They are still keeping stem-cell research at a minimum; teaching Intelligent Design (creationism with a new name) as an option; don't believe in global warming, and kill people in the name of their lord and savior... and that is just the ones in this country… Need I go on and on and on?
I think this is why most of O Sensei's direct students did not even attempt to investigate Omoto-kyo. They simply realized that there was no personal belief in Shinto or Omoto-kyo. Because of that, the personal perspective was radically shifted. They were not Morihei Ueshiba, but themselves.
While this seems like a great explanation on the surface, it simply doesn't hold any water. O-Sensei is thought to have taught Aikido to many within the Omoto circle. The postulation repeatedly made is that "we" (us non-Japanese, or even Japanese non-Omoto followers) are missing something and that the delving into Omoto mythology (sincerely or analytically) would somehow serve to unlock the key in terms of O-Sensei's aikido (or even our own) at some mythical, mystical or magical level. If this were correct, it would seem quite logical that there would be scores of high level Omoto theologists (devout or otherwise) who would be proportionally skilled in Aikido as O-Sensei. We don't see this at all. Why, because the two are not related to each other. Any attempt to create some connection between the two is still unproven at best.

I think it important to note, and something I especially acknowledge David for doing, that these discussions are discussions of theories. More importantly, that the so-called source material 99% of people are basing their arguments on are the theories and postulations of other historians. To quote them and theirs as one might quote the Bible and then drown it all in a see of historical metaphor skillfully contrived as evidence and expect the rest of us to simply swallow it hook, line and sinker, just does not go very far towards establishing a concrete argument.

What I liked most about David's posts is where he turned things around and said, it really doesn't matter if it was the training of the Founder because if you believe it to be, then you believe yourself to be on the right path. He extended that to include all others doing the same and that group as that which defines Aikido on the world stage. I would agree with his estimate that the world would see aikido in this light. However, while this is what I liked most about his posts it is also what I liked least. Simply - just because everyone believes it to be true, does not make it O-Sensei's aikido.

There is a dual nature to Aikido training, the first being seeking O-Sensei and the second being seeking the art of the Founder. There is certainly a divide between the two. Through training, one's efforts should be focused on first developing an understanding of what each is on its own followed by creating a bridge between the two. That is the first ten or twenty years. The rest of one's training (in my opinion) is creating an overlap between the two where one sources the other, feeds off the other and the process accelerates. This is O-Sensei's actual process. The clear sign post was his mantra "Masakatsu-Agatsu-Katsuhayahi" which is the process described above. Historians have gutted this expression to mean "true victory is victory over oneself." While this too is clear on its face, it is fortune cookie clear at best. It does describe the end result, but it does nothing to indicate what to do or how to do it. This is what my exception is with David's original postulation. Where is the How and What within Omoto? More directly, where is the How and What of incorporating Omoto into Aikido? While his idea "sounds great…"just like "true victory is victory over oneself" sounds great, it just doesn't help us at all in our quest to seek O-Sensei or the Art of the Founder.


.

senshincenter
09-15-2005, 01:34 PM
I am glad to hear more voices – not that I did not enjoy Erick’s – but that it is nice to hear other viewpoints along ours. I thus feel a bit better in trying to restate things more clearly – trying to again at least.

I think my point is being slightly misconstrued. Moreover, it is not a flaw of history to say “We cannot say yet” or “We do not know yet,” so I don’t think it is accurate Shaun to say there is big whole in one’s theory if conclusions must remain hypothetical. For a historian, because we cannot see it/something, it does not mean it does not exist, it simply means we cannot say it exists historiographically. That is tenet of History that any historian is perfectly fine living with. Today, historians that are good, choose to wait for further evidence before they imply that something exists because we do not see it.

I imagine my essay was read by many folks as a kind of attempt to summarize a “gospel” (once and for all) of some sorts. This could only take place for folks that see Osensei and his practice of Aikido as the source for their own practice. I must tell you, personally, I do not understand my own practice in that way.

Reading an essay like the one I wrote, I presume, would make such folks all ruffled up if they could not see themselves in the piece in some way. As a result, they would most likely have to reject what was said and/or reject the relevance of what was said. Somewhere in there, for those reasons, because of those efforts, I am being tagged with things I did not say and/or mean.

In particular, through the thread at least, I tried to point out that I did not say or mean that Osensei felt that we had to learn Omoto-kyo theology in order to understand him and/or Aikido.

Personally, as I said earlier, I do not think we have to do any such thing – that in fact, it would be better not to – that I myself do not base my practice on Omoto-kyo. Etc. So there is no reason to see the essay as a reason for suggesting that one’s, everyone’s, practice must look one way, or this exact way, and not some other way or any way. That is a direction that one takes as one’s own accord to see Osensei as some sort of beacon for his or her own practice. For me, this is a strange thing because none of us study with the man.

However, because my piece did suggest a connection between Osensei’s own understanding of his practice and Omoto-kyo theology, two more issues were raised.

There was the suggestion that this hypothetical (i.e. cultural influence) is a weak one because more evidence shows that he was not so connected or invested in Omoto-kyo theology than does show that he was. As I said, I have not seen this evidence. This does not mean it is not there, but it does mean that I cannot say it is there. My own support comes mainly from second-hand accounts that say that Osensei was greatly influenced by Omoto-kyo and by Onisaburo (that he was involved with these people and exposed to their ideas, practices, etc.), from what appears to be an exact borrowing of discursive elements by Osensei from Omoto-kyo (e.g. ichirei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki), and even from things that show that Osensei did have a relationship with Onisaburo (e.g. a picture drawn by Onisaburo that Osensei had in his position, copies of texts by Onisaburo in Osensei’s possession, accompanying Onisaburo on trips, etc.).

Shuan has suggested that there is evidence out there, yet to be published, that would make us look at all this other evidence in a different light. I look forward to it – should it exist – but for now the ball is in the other court. It is not necessary for this side to every time say how we know Osensei was influenced by Omoto-kyo theology when everything that is currently available is pointing toward that. Rather, it is the other side, where proof is required, that must seek to explain away points of contact and such things as identical discursive elements, etc. If such support comes out for this other side, and if it holds water, we will only be presented with a more accurate history of the Founder – which would be good all around. However, such things do not currently gain weight because present theories of influence are willing to remain hypothetical. You got to do the work before you can start rejecting things properly when you are dealing with hypotheticals. So until then, until the contrary evidence is published, until, for example, something comes out that can reject all of the research that has been done by AikidoJournal.com, for better or for worse, the dominant hypothetical must remain that Osensei was greatly influenced by Omoto-kyo theology and that therefore if one wanted to understand Osensei’s more enigmatic phrases, one could gain insight into them by understanding more of Omoto-kyo theology.

The second issue raised suggested that Osensei in some way rejected Omoto-kyo theology and/or attempted to distance himself from mythical discourse in general for the sake of cultural migration. My position here was not that Omoto-kyo theology alone held the answers to Aikido or to Osensei. Nor was it my suggestion that Osensei felt such a thing. I agreed with the position that Osensei would not have felt that we NEEDED to learn Omoto-kyo theology in order to understand him or Aikido. I also agreed with the fact that Osensei made no attempt to establish Aikido practice as something to be practiced in conjunction with the Omoto-kyo religion. There was no attempt by Osensei to have Omoto-kyo be the established religion of Aikido. My rejection of this position was that no evidence suggests that Osensei either rejected Omoto-kyo theology for himself or his own practice and/or that he felt that mythical discourse was in some way a hindrance to the art migrating across cultures. Pointing out that today Aikido has been demythologized in most of the world is not proof that Osensei rejected Omoto-kyo theology for himself and/or his own practice of Aikido and/or that he felt that mythical discourse was in some way a hindrance to the art migrating across cultures. Again, there may be evidence to suggest otherwise, but right now, the current body of research (e.g. AikidoJournal.com) suggests something very different from what Erick has been trying to posit regarding this very specific point.

What people seem to be misunderstanding is the concept of “influence.” In the field of History it is an age-old concept and it has gone on to develop itself in some very refined ways in the field of cultural studies. When I say Omoto-kyo has influenced Osensei’s thought, I do not mean to suggest that Osensei does not exist outside of Omoto-kyo theology. It is like this when one says that Japanese culture has been influenced by Chinese culture. In saying that, one does not mean to suggest that there is no Japan – only China – that there is not Japanese culture, only a Chinese one. At the same time, however, when we mention an influence, we do note that we can indeed gain more understanding of one thing by knowing more about one if its foundations or points of origination, etc. In common terms, it is very much the same way that a spouse gets to know you more once they meet your parents and hear stories of your upbringing. When they hear those stories, and when the come to know you more, it is not that you become a child for them – they are not now married to the boy or girl you once were. However, they do gain some insight on why you might be uncomfortable at a formal dinner party, and/or talking on the phone, and/or still afraid of shots, etc.

If one wants to have the suggested (hypothetical) notion of influence rejected, one will either have to show how Osensei actually had a different understanding of ichiei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki (different from the one of Omoto-kyo’s understanding) or one will have to show how no such influence existed and/or ceased to exist at a given point of time. That work will be huge, and that work, to date, has not been done. We, as folks wanting to talk about the history of Osensei, are currently left with the immense block of research done by the folks at AikidoJournal.com that is by far the largest and currently most sophisticated work done to date – a body of research that does indeed suggest that such a cultural influence is a very supportable hypothesis.

To really get what I have said, you are going to have to separate a work of historical and/or cultural analysis from a religious commentary on some sort of doctrine. If you can't, you are going to force yourself to ask questions like Shaun's: How? What? But you are going to be shocked by the historan's answer to those questions: Who cares.

Erick Mead
09-16-2005, 12:55 AM
I tried to continue to avoid the word battle between the didactic quasi-historians, as I really didn't agree with the facts supporting either postulation. However, I did enjoy reading all the jargon (we love jargon) and I truly learned a thing or two about the subject matter each was quoting.

That's the problem with theology and philosophy. Better than half the argument is usually about defining terms. Tedious but necessary, and lending one to seek out those godawful big words, for precision, if nothing else.

I suspect Shaun's point is not theological in that respect, so small words should suffice, at least for my good friend, John :p

Simply - just because everyone believes it to be true, does not make it O-Sensei's aikido.

I had the same impression. David's position is by no means in this category or to such a degree, but it is in the negihborhood of the Humpty Dumpty tendency in Aikido:

"When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

There is a dual nature to Aikido training, the first being seeking O-Sensei and the second being seeking the art of the Founder. There is certainly a divide between the two. Through training, one's efforts should be focused on first developing an understanding of what each is on its own followed by creating a bridge between the two. That is the first ten or twenty years. The rest of one's training (in my opinion) is creating an overlap between the two where one sources the other, feeds off the other and the process accelerates. This is O-Sensei's actual process.

I also find this duality in patterns of religious thought, as I have indicated, as well as O-Sensei's thought. Metaphor (or myth) seems to play a necessary part, even as it is often troubling and misleading. The core truth is ineffable, evading attempts to fix it in one place.

A sword truly functions only because it dwindles down to nothing. In fact it, it is this almost-nothing at the edge that does all the work. But it is a very dangerous and powerful sort of nothing.

Everything else about the blade furniture is about US, not about the essential truth of the blade. The things we attach to the essential and vanishingly insubstantial truth of the blade provide us a means to grasp, employ, store and transport it without undue risk of injury to ourselves or others.

To a significant degree, essential truth is similarly dangerous to approach without mediating structures. It may be contemplated. But to grasp it nakedly is fraught with peril. Esoteric traditions the world over caution about this danger. Mediating structures can seem highly idiosyncratic, even arbitrary. The mediating structures are often mistaken for the thing they serve. But this risk cannot be avoided.

I do not think human beings can get rid of mediating structures altogether. And sometimes they teach us things we could not learn about how to practically employ the exceedingly subtle truth. One simply cannot afford mistake the one for the other.

The physicality of aikido practice, the ability to teach and learn without even speaking, if you choose, provides a fundamentally different way to grasp the problem than mere intellectual understanding will permit.

I see the process that Shaun describes as O-Sensei's process, as it seems to me: Constantly seeking ways and means to grasp and move around the irreducible fact of the blade without getting cut, or having to cut another.

This was, I have reason to believe, O-Sensei's intent. To let practice strip off as much of the acquired layers of metaphor as is safe. That allows one to seek out other metaphors, other techniques, that may also allow us to work safely perhaps even closer to the blade.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

tedehara
09-16-2005, 01:07 AM
Many times when we run into difficulties, we take a look around and see what others have done in our place. When we study Aikido, problems arise and it is natural to be curious about the founder and see how he overcame his problems.

However this is a budo. It is not about the theoretical concept of the martial art. It is about the martial artist. It is about the practitioner, not the art. A person is real, an art is an abstraction.

The solution of problems are not in the history of the art. It is in the practice of that art. The martial artist is not only the problem but also the key to the solution. It is through training that the solution can be found.

Knowing the history of the art and understanding the viewpoint of the founder is a valuable aid. Yet I've read too many Aikido Spin Doctors who would use their interpretation of the facts, to misinform you into a false position. Their history of Aikido follows their own agenda. I'm not writing about anyone who has posted here BTW.

O Sensei was a Shinto mystic. One of the properties of a mystic is that they cannot be entirely captured in words. If you have a definition of a mystic which completely describes them and categorizes them in their proper niche, then you know you're wrong. This applies to people like Black Elk, Bankei, Meister Eckhart or O Sensei. For those of you who would like to try, I wish you "Good Luck".

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-16-2005, 01:25 PM
Hi Ted,

I liked your latest post. It was straight to the point and directly related to the healthy training philosophy you obviously hold up for yourself. I posted a few comments, most of which is me cheering on what you said.

Many times when we run into difficulties, we take a look around and see what others have done in our place. When we study Aikido, problems arise and it is natural to be curious about the founder and see how he overcame his problems.
True. True. This is certainly a place we can look. Our teachers, seniors, heck even our juniors are our best source for information.
However this is a budo. It is not about the theoretical concept of the martial art. It is about the martial artist. It is about the practitioner, not the art. A person is real, an art is an abstraction.
True. True. It is the abstraction that leads us to seek out something within ourselves as human beings. In the end all martial artists who train (and continue to train throughout their lives) whether they do or do not ever confront someone in battle are always human beings. In some ways we train for an encounter on a day that we hope will never come, in other ways we train for what we encounter on a day to day basis. In the end all we ever really have is ourselves.
The solution of problems are not in the history of the art. It is in the practice of that art. The martial artist is not only the problem but also the key to the solution. It is through training that the solution can be found.
True. True. One must practice to find solutions. However the practice is at one level the solution, but it merely begins there, it does not end there. I am not so interested in the historical perspective that dominates the mind of the academic, or the academic-sage that so heavily weighs down many of the posts in this thread, along with an entire other website noted in one recent post. For me, it is counter intuitive (which is redundant, really) because O-Sensei's message was very simple, Train and then train some more... However his particular path was unique in some ways, but when I say unique I do not mean new or even improved as there are many examples we can find in various cultures around the globe which would mirror O-Sensei's to a "T".
Knowing the history of the art and understanding the viewpoint of the founder is a valuable aid. Yet I've read too many Aikido Spin Doctors who would use their interpretation of the facts, to misinform you into a false position. Their history of Aikido follows their own agenda. I'm not writing about anyone who has posted here BTW.
True. True. Whole arts have done so maintaining some connection to O-Sensei by keeping the name aikido (snicker) when they are clearly not based upon the Founders thinking or his process. However it is for exactly this reason why it is important that we ask ourselves, "What is this art (from the perspective of what am I doing that is not of this art)?"
O Sensei was a Shinto mystic. One of the properties of a mystic is that they cannot be entirely captured in words. If you have a definition of a mystic which completely describes them and categorizes them in their proper niche, then you know you're wrong. This applies to people like Black Elk, Bankei, Meister Eckhart or O Sensei. For those of you who would like to try, I wish you "Good Luck".
Well, I knew it was too good to all be true...

I do not see O-Sensei as any sort of mystic. The silliness of the argument reminds me of an occasion when I was listening to a fascinating dissertation on some mystical way I should approach my life and training as interpreted by someone whom I deeply respect. When finished, I asked, "Did you base that upon some deeply studied religious text upon which one needed to spend long hours meditating to discover its true meaning?" Answer: "No, this is just simple common sense!" I felt stunned, as if I had received a slap on the forehead. I was so busy looking for the Asian "mystique" that I had completely "missed" the simplicity of the solution.

Having said all of the above, my initial point in chiming into this thread is with regards to a historical redressing of O-Sensei's art by the author of the thread. He indicated in his last post that he bases his opinions on the preponderance of the evidence he read somewhere else, evidence which is in my opinion nothing more than the purely speculative effort of the academic historian. His is but one example which points out the importance of addressing what is found on the internet. I do so for the casual reader who does not know the history of aikido might have counter opinions to balance out his thinking before he is encouraged to go off on some tangent that has yet to be proven to have any positive results with regards to training in the art. Sure, weightlifting, Pilates, skiing and shodo (calligraphy) are all things that might help to improve my aikido, as might the studying of Omoto. However these things are not aikido. Any attempt at calling them "pillars" of the art, or even pillars of the Founder's life should be met with a blank stare, a non-committing nod and a smile, but not much more.



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Mike Fugate
09-17-2005, 12:18 AM
Ravens Sensei,
In regards to your comment about the mystics I have a question. Now I have heard my Sifu speak of the"mystics", and also other such as Seagal Sensei. Seagal mentioned that he was training hard and not getting anywhere and wasnt until he studied the mystics that his Aikido took off. In your opinion what is this "mystics" he and others speak of...is it proper understanding and control of ones Ki, to therefor have truly a "soft" art? For having that kind of control could be considered "mystical" by some I guess.
Thanx You and Peace :ki:

senshincenter
09-17-2005, 10:12 AM
This is from dictionary.com:

mys·tic   
adj.
1 Of or relating to religious mysteries or occult rites and practices.
2 Of or relating to mysticism or mystics.
3 Inspiring a sense of mystery and wonder.
4 a Mysterious; strange.
b Enigmatic; obscure.
5 Mystical.

n.
One who practices or believes in mysticism or a given form of mysticism: Protestant mystics.

[Middle English mystik, from Latin mysticus, from Greek mustikos, from must?s, initiate. See mystery1.]


mys·ti·cism   
n.
1 a Immediate consciousness of the transcendent or ultimate reality or God.
b The experience of such communion as described by mystics.
2 A belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible by subjective experience.
3 Vague, groundless speculation.

mysticism

n 1: a religion based on mystical communion with an ultimate reality 2: obscure or irrational thought

Erick Mead
09-18-2005, 12:00 AM
David is not specific about which theme of the quoted definitions he wishes us to focus upon. I will hazard a guess that many who read it may unfortunately focus upon the following:


1 Of or relating to religious mysteries or occult rites and practices.
...
4 a Mysterious; strange.
b Enigmatic; obscure.

mysticism
...
3 Vague, groundless speculation.
...
2: obscure or irrational thought
But the ground of mystical experience has been notable for the many common elements in its description across cultures. Current research has found empirical neurological evidence that meditation does indeed involve an other than ordinary experience at aneuorlogical level. See for instance:

http://www.shinzen.org/shinsub2/_disc1/0000003c.htm

Dr. Andrew Newberg, a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania, undertook a radilogical examination of the neurological basis of mystical expereince. subject included a Catholic nun and a and practioner of Tibetan Buddhist meditation. He later wrote a book outlining called "Why God Won't Go Way"
One subject, typical in feeling to the rest, described his experience at the time of the neurological investigation thus:

"There was a feeling of energy centered within me... going out to infinite space and returning... There was a relaxing of the dualistic mind, and an intense feeling of love. I felt a profound letting go of the boundaries around me, and a connection with some kind of energy and state of being that had a quality of clarity, transparency and joy. I felt a deep and profound sense of connection to everything, recognizing that there never was a true separation at all."

I challenge ayone to compare the report of this experience to O-Sensei's own report of his three revelatory episodes.

At the time of this reported subjective experience, the radiological examination revealed two significant facts, that the attentional center of the brain was extraordinarily active, and the orientation center of the brain ( which knows where "I" stops and everything else begins) was abnormally inactive.

Lest anyone think this a crock or one- off study, other studies have found similar brain activity changes in religious and mystical experience.

http://hendrix.imm.dtu.dk/services/jerne/brede/WOBIB_22.html

The short answer is that mystical experience is both subjectively and objectively real experience. It is as empirically verifiable in its neurological occurrence in the brain as the difference in seeing red and tasting sour. It is undeniably repeatable; similar techniques have been taught and similar experiences reported in cultures around the world for countless centuries.

It is also an experience maddeningly evasive of content, famously described by the anonymous English mystic as the "Cloud of Unknowing." How does one describe "this" experience in terms of "that" experience, when the experience itself is defined by the loss of the this/that distinction.

This is why people create myth. They have a very real, and very intense experience that is incapable of description by ordinary means. At the same time it is subjectively perceived as a having profound meaning. It is as real and immediate to the percipient as catching an inflamed hangnail or stubbing your foot on the door.

Myth is a way to try to talk about and to communicate to others in language what is, quite literally, unspeakable in itself. This is also why any mythological system is, in and of itself, ultimately inadequate to describe the real experience.

In the practice of the Way of Harmony, O-Sensei set up a martial art (maximizing the attentional faculties) and which trains to make the Attacker and Attacked gradually become less readily distinguishable (eliminating the perceived difference in subject and object). This practice communicates the enlargement of the sense of self beyond the sphere of ego, without the necessity of mediating language.

As I have said before, the work works on us.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

senshincenter
09-18-2005, 01:21 PM
Hi Shaun,

I came across this this morning at AJ.com. I was wondering if this might be part of the total (or alternate/more accurate) history you have mentioned/spoken about several times through this thread:

"More interestingly, also another person is mentioned in this book as a Japanese who did qigong. His name is Bonji Kawatsura (1861~1929). He was originally a political journalist and politician. Around 1900, it is said that he went to the mountain, and trained to rediscover ancient Shinto training methods, using old Shinto text and Classical Chinese text. Later he declared that he had refound these old Shinto training methods which he called “Misogi”. A student of him was a person whose name was Ken Tatsumi. The top student of Tatsumi was Dr. Kenzo Futaki. Dr. Futaki was also a student of Ueshiba Morihei during the Kobukan era.

Dr. Futaki learned 8 methods of these “Misogi” methods “rediscovered” by Kawatsura from Tatsumi. These 8 methods are “Norito( prayers)”, “Mizu-Gyo (water training)”, “Furitama” , “Ameno torifune(known also as “Funakogi Undo”), “Chinkon-kishin” and others. Dr. Futaki also organized an organization called the “Misogi kai”, and the first student of this organization was Seiseki Abe Sensei."

Thanks in advance for any reply,
take care,
d

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-18-2005, 07:04 PM
Hi Shaun,

I came across this this morning at AJ.com. I was wondering if this might be part of the total (or alternate/more accurate) history you have mentioned/spoken about several times through this thread:

"More interestingly, also another person is mentioned in this book as a Japanese who did qigong. His name is Bonji Kawatsura (1861~1929). He was originally a political journalist and politician. Around 1900, it is said that he went to the mountain, and trained to rediscover ancient Shinto training methods, using old Shinto text and Classical Chinese text. Later he declared that he had refound these old Shinto training methods which he called "Misogi". A student of him was a person whose name was Ken Tatsumi. The top student of Tatsumi was Dr. Kenzo Futaki. Dr. Futaki was also a student of Ueshiba Morihei during the Kobukan era.

Dr. Futaki learned 8 methods of these "Misogi" methods "rediscovered" by Kawatsura from Tatsumi. These 8 methods are "Norito( prayers)", "Mizu-Gyo (water training)", "Furitama" , "Ameno torifune(known also as "Funakogi Undo"), "Chinkon-kishin" and others. Dr. Futaki also organized an organization called the "Misogi kai", and the first student of this organization was Seiseki Abe Sensei."

Thanks in advance for any reply,
take care,
d

Hi David,

May I ask you the exact source of your last post. Please direct me to the thread so that I may read it within the full context. Thanks. I'll make a coment as soon as I am able to find a few minutes to write a reply.



.

senshincenter
09-18-2005, 08:24 PM
Hi Shaun,

Sure thing - it's on at the bottom of the blog comments on the blog entry "Hidden in Plain Sight" - written by Toomo.

Thanks so much,
david

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-19-2005, 05:31 PM
Hi Shaun,

Sure thing - it's on at the bottom of the blog comments on the blog entry "Hidden in Plain Sight" - written by Toomo.

Thanks so much,
david

David,

Sorry it took me a long time to read the thread (slow enough not to trip and fall over some of the misinformation, or gag on the "pride" and prejudice" replete within the thread).

You asked:
I was wondering if this might be part of the total (or alternate/more accurate) history you have mentioned/spoken about several times through this thread...?
I think the first thing I would need in order to give you any sort of answer is for you to point me to the location within my posts to which you are specifically referring?

The passage indicated in the other thread merely states the relationships between a few individuals, but does not go into the specifics of training at all.




.

senshincenter
09-19-2005, 06:33 PM
Hi Shaun,

Sorry you had to read that whole thing - I should have been more clear that only the comment in question (the last one made by Toomo) contained the context you probably were seeking. Again - apologies. I am sure that was a drag.

I was trying to refer to a couple of questions you asked in your very first post - I think. In those questions, I remember you implying/suggesting/noting (please, you pick the word) that there was another history of Osensei, yet to be fully researched and/or fully written, that went against the hypothetical that Osensei's phrases that are known around the world, and/or those aspects of Aikido that draw folks from around the world, and/or Aikido in general (again - you can pick the descriptive) were based upon Omoto-kyo theology - that there was another history out there that suggested that such a hypothetical was in no way true/accurate/meaningful (again - you pick the word).

I was wondering if Osensei's reliance upon the teaching/practices of Kawatsura was part of that implied history - that if folks knew better, for example, they would not be looking to Omoto-kyo to understand "ichei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki" or to understand "God," or "Love," etc., but to the teachings of Kawatsura instead.

Again - thanks for your time and effort. Much appreciation.
david

Charles Hill
09-20-2005, 01:23 AM
I was wondering if Osensei's reliance upon the teaching/practices of Kawatsura was part of that implied history - that if folks knew better, for example, they would not be looking to Omoto-kyo to understand "ichei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki" or to understand "God," or "Love," etc., but to the teachings of Kawatsura instead.

There is an Aiki News interview with Abe Sensei that I read on Matsuoka Sensei`s website. In it Abe Sensei was asked something like if what the Misogikai was doing was the same as what Omoto Kyo was doing. He didn`t answer the question and I was left wishing that the interviewer had asked the question again.

Charles

Erick Mead
09-20-2005, 10:59 AM
I read the interview of Abe Sensei. The translation is rough in patches, but a fascinating insight even so.

Shaun, since you have had an indirect connection to Abe Sensei through Matsuoka Sensei, your observations on a few of these points would be of interest.

Abe Sensei clearly spoke of OSensei in terms somewhat different than protraying him as a simple follower of Omoto. Unlike Charles, it seems to me that Abe Sensei's point was to emphasize the distinction between OSensei's thought and that of Omoto, placing him in a far more traditionalist lineage. It is possible that this is true, but it also may be revisionism of a sort to disassociate an honored teacher from a movement that was not well thought of among people of influence in Japan.

"O'Sensei described something about spirituality using easy-to-understand Ohmotokyo-like words, in other words, "kotodama". "

I would like to know what Japanese expression Abe Sensei used was translated as "Omotokyo-like" and its use in other contexts.

He also deals with the Kojiki as though to sever its mythological interprtetation from its use for practice of kotodama. The way it is described seems analogous to a cyphertext read out with a key to obtain plaintext. This is very suggestive to me. There are strong similarities in this sensibility with mantrayana. Nevertheless, Abe Sensei seems to criticize specific aspects of the mythological figures in Kojiki as being too Chinese in derivation, an implicit swipe against ryobu shinto.

"O'Sensei strongly insisted to understand "Kojiki" thoroughly. Story at the mythological time in "Kojiki" is our back bone. Therefore, O'Sensei told us to read "Kojiki" thoroughly and read it by way of "Kotodama". This is what was O'Sensei's desire and our mission."

On the significance of center and breath, Abe Sensei also seems to bring perspective to understanding of Minakanushi no kami, as the kami of the center.

"It means that the smallest of oneself is a dot, which is 'There is a location, but there is no size.' The center of universe does not have size, either. ... [Of breath in the abdomen] It becomes such a small thing, like "there is a location, but there is no size." This is Minakanushi of breathing.

Again, I would love to have the Japanese to compare, and to see what other connotations his choice of words would encompass.

In light of my inquiry into broader and deeper connections, (which David criticizes, although not unfairly) I cannot help but observe that Abe Sensei's description of the qualities of Minakanushi no kami as written in English seems strongly to echo a description of God that has been a topic of metaphysics in the Christian world since the twelfth century.

This translated version was ascribed to Alain de Lille. It was later adopted by theologians Nicholas of Cusa and Pascal in their metaphysics:

"God is an intelligible sphere whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere."

The version in the Pseudo-Hermetic text of the Liber XXIV Philosophorum ("Book of 24 Philosophers") is:

"Deus est sphaera infinita, cuius centrum ubique, circumferentia nusquam." "God is an infinite sphere, whose center is everywhere, circumference nowhere."

The Pseudo-Hermetic Liber dates to the eleventh century, but of whole Corpus Hermeticum we have only parts, and the Liber text may be a medieval copy or collection from some lost original(s), but it is impossible to know. The Corpus itself reliably dates to the third century of the Christian era together with a number of related Gnostic texts.

While I feel certain that David has already jumped ship on my voyage at this point, these connections are important. Whether they bespeak direct relationship or merely show parallel development is not crucial. This is not mere idle speculation either. Ideas matter. They are the weapons and tools of the mind, as sharp and dangerous as any blade, and as liable to misuse or tragic accident.

Abe Sensei's description gives a powerful point of reference in the Western tradition for the ideas and techniques the OSensei has communicated. This kind of connection allows them more easily to be translated into a native intellectual idiom.

In light of Oscar Ratti's recent untimley death, the singular phrase "Dynamic Sphere" cannot help but remind me of this. For that specific idea imparts a meaningful way of digesting and dwelling upon the function and further exploration of the techniques we practice.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-20-2005, 03:28 PM
There is an Aiki News interview with Abe Sensei that I read on Matsuoka Sensei`s website. In it Abe Sensei was asked something like if what the Misogikai was doing was the same as what Omoto Kyo was doing. He didn`t answer the question and I was left wishing that the interviewer had asked the question again.

Charles
Hi Charles,

You asked yourself, "Where are the follow-up questions???" Great point! I remember having the exact same thought the first time I read that article. However, much of it Abe Sensei had already shared with us privately in one form or another. There is another article Seiseki Abe Sensei Interview - Aikido Journal (http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=151&highlight=Seiseki+Abe+Sensei) that I had a chance to assist in preparing for the AJ website. That article is actually a bit more startling in terms of what is revealed. However, as before the interviewer seems to miss it and doesn't ask the follow-up questions you and I might have asked. Perhaps he had a list of questions to get through, or didn't feel comfortable enough to ask what might seem to some to be a question that might reveal controversial information. Both are understandable. Who can say?

Since both interviews left me to wonder about so many things I made it a point to discuss them with Abe Sensei the next time I went to Japan to stay at his dojo. If you think the articles tickled some interest, you can imagine what several extended discussions might do for an eager mind looking for any item it could find to turn over in case a rare gem was to be found lurking below. I have spent more than a decade decoding that initial information, some of which I can't even share with but two or three other individuals to get some outside influence on my thinking. At the time, there was a bit of a backlash from other students over my continuous ventures back to Japan to train with Abe Sensei. However, I had traveled with one other individual three or four times so we could compare notes for a while, but he eventually moved away. I felt I was on my own. I found that the techniques at our dojo, dynamic as they are known to have been seemed quite hollow to me. I was desperate to find some way to reconcile two seemingly opposite approaches to learning the art of Aikido.

As it turns out, once my teacher (Matsuoka Sensei) aligned himself with Abe Sensei in 2000, from that point forward I had the best ally I could ever wish to have working towards that same result - reconciling what we both saw as two completely different systems. Matsuoka Sensei has been the key person in interpreting Abe Sensei's message, both figuratively and literally. Two trips to Japan ago, I was able to spend time with both Abe Sensei and Matsuoka Sensei going very deeply into some longstanding questions that I had always wanted to ask. Some questions took several hours to answer and I simply could not imagine being able to even ask the question should Matsuoka Sensei not have been there to translate it and interpret the answer. Unfortunately sometimes a Japanese interpreter will change a question to soften it so as not to offend anyone. While this is good on one level it tends to distort the intention with which I chose to ask the question.

However it was another chance encounter that I was fortunate to have had that would eventually provide the "language" I would need to learn to decode the information that was coming my way. At one point I had a chance to conduct my own interview with Abe Sensei. I published it in our Dojo Newsletter Aikido (which by the way was supposed to be named Aikido Journal, but alas, Stanley Pranin scooped us when he changed the name of his publication from Aiki-News to Aikido Journal here in America). In that article I was able to ask all of the follow-up questions that I wanted based upon what came up in the interview. Although I didn't know it then, my life would change forever on that very day. I am not posting the contents to what seemed like a long interview. However, to give some context, the next section is basically an overview of our meeting.

The interview was with Abe Sensei and also with Shiro Matsuoka Sensei, the longtime Chairman and President of Seishoku Kyoukai, The Japan Macrobiotics Association. Shiro Matsuoka Sensei is Haruo Matsuoka Sensei's (my teacher's) father. Matsuoka Sensei was an uchi-deshi of the founder of Macrobiotics, Nyoichi Sakurazawa (George Ohsawa). Ohsawa Sensei and O-Sensei knew each other. I believe that Kenzo Futaki Sensei and Okada Sensei had a very strong connection to both Macrobiotics and Aikido. Please be clear, O-Sensei was not macrobiotic. His diet was very particular, and he did not eat meat. However O-Sensei's diet came from a purely Shinto and Buddhist perspective, whereas macrobiotic is based upon genmai (brown rice) and is supported by a more rigorous scientific approach rather stemming from a spiritual (or religious) approach. Abe Sensei used to travel with O-Sensei to visit with Okada Sensei to learn more about how best to prepare food for O-Sensei. As it turned out, Matsuoka Sensei also had prepared food for O-Sensei, probably through Okada Sensei who had founded the Macrobiotic Association in the Kansai area.

So as it was I found myself sitting with two individuals both of whom had a direct connection to O-Sensei and they are both telling me about how Aikido and food are intertwined in a very specific way. I came up with the title, "Eating Aikido" to reflect what I considered to be a major discovery. I still hold that to be true today. Later I was able to study briefly with Herman Aihara sensei, another of the senior uchi-deshi of George Ohsawa. His book on Acid/Alkaline was as pivotal a point in understanding my path as discovering Aikido was towards setting me on it in the first place. When I had enough information to overlap Yin/Yang theory in which Shiro Matsuoka Sensei is one of the world's most knowledgeable people with the concepts of Acid/Alkaline (Aihara Sensei,) both from the Macrobiotic approach, I was able to come up with a total approach to my training and life. I train, teach and live from this approach.

So with regards to your initial question, one would have to know Abe Sensei to understand why he didn't answer it directly. However if you reread it, he actually does answer it directly, but you would have to know Abe Sensei to understand his answer. It is what he said that struck me so hard. I couldn't understand that someone could have heard that answer and not asked a follow-up question. The first time I met Abe Sensei I had asked him something that lay upon the same line of questioning. I was wondering about Omoto-Kyo and was considering what path to take. I asked Abe Sensei the importance of the teachings and just like in his interview with Stanley Pranin, he didn't answer me. However, when I look back on what he said and knowing what I know now (i.e. understanding how Abe Sensei prefers to always be encouraging) I realize that he did answer my question quite clearly. At the time I was very disappointed because I expected one answer and got another so I could not take in what Abe Sensei did say. Fortunately over the years I guess I must have been receptive to Abe Sensei's very gentle guiding hand because unbeknownst to me, I have followed his teachings to the letter.

That is my long answer to your short question. As for the short answer, how's this:

Abe Sensei told me that if I followed his instructions that my Aikido would improve dramatically. In truth what I thought that meant, actually what I wanted that to mean and what it has come to mean turned out to be two very different things. About eight years later, one of my juniors decided that he would go to Abe Sensei and seek O-Sensei's Aikido. I was skeptical as while his waza was certainly very decent I didn't think he would receive Abe Sensei's real message. What I can say is that a few years later his Aikido has changed dramatically and improved immeasurably over where he would be know if he had continued on his old path.

Many apologies for the length of the post.



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Misogi-no-Gyo
09-20-2005, 04:29 PM
Hi Shaun,

Sorry you had to read that whole thing - I should have been more clear that only the comment in question (the last one made by Toomo) contained the context you probably were seeking. Again - apologies. I am sure that was a drag.
Hi David,

As it turns out, for me it was interesting reading. I enjoyed the back and forth and the mixing of styles of the various key posters in that thread. While I may disagree with some, most or all of it, I still believe that it is interesting reading. In any case, simply reading the one post which contained the section you quoted would not have allowed me to consider answering your question or making any comment.
I was trying to refer to a couple of questions you asked in your very first post - I think. In those questions, I remember you implying/suggesting/noting (please, you pick the word) that there was another history of Osensei, yet to be fully researched and/or fully written, that went against the hypothetical that Osensei's phrases that are known around the world, and/or those aspects of Aikido that draw folks from around the world, and/or Aikido in general (again - you can pick the descriptive) were based upon Omoto-kyo theology - that there was another history out there that suggested that such a hypothetical was in no way true/accurate/meaningful (again - you pick the word).
Okay, let me pick the word... how's "opining" (based upon specific information that I have received, as opposed to something I read somewhere...) Will "opine" work?

While you didn't ask a specific question, I have a few things I would like to point out. First, the reason why I chose not to get involved publicly with the thread: For me, metaphorically speaking most of the people driving it seem to be more interested in who shot JR than they are in JR who just happens to be laying at their feet bleeding to death.

When I met my macrobiotic teacher he said, "If you wait until you understand what I am saying to follow what I am saying, you might not be around long enough for it to matter." While those individuals argue (intelligently and mostly on a dignified level) about how what O-Sensei used to generate his power got to Japan (through China...), or how it got to O-Sensei ( through Omoto-Kyo or Shinto or Buddhist or Shingon practices, via DRAJJ (Takeda Sensei) or via some other art (and its associated teacher) they have simply not embraced the methodology O-Sensei actually used.

As to your implied point:
O-Sensei didn't hide his process. He shared it with those who would follow it. The rest were left to wander 40 years in the desert. O-Sensei didn't obfuscate his process. It is a very direct, multi-pronged approach. Yes he did encapsulate his message in several meaningful languages, ones particularly suited to the audience with whom he was sharing it. However, if I speak French, does it make me French? Surely not... just ask a Frenchman! If I speak about studying the New Testament, does that make me a Christian? Of course it doesn't. (I am going to hell, regardless...)
I was wondering if Osensei's reliance upon the teaching/practices of Kawatsura was part of that implied history - that if folks knew better, for example, they would not be looking to Omoto-kyo to understand "ichei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki" or to understand "God," or "Love," etc., but to the teachings of Kawatsura instead.

Again - thanks for your time and effort. Much appreciation.
david
One has to look at the totality of O-Sensei's daily life to understand the Founder and his art. It is not going to come to us on the mat, no matter how many hours, weeks, months, years, decades or lifetimes some of us pretend it will take. It is not going to come to us simply sitting Zazen, even if we should do so for eternity. It is not going to come to us meditating on "ichei-shikon-sangen-hachiriki" or "nam-yo-ho-ren-gei-kyo" even if we did so before breakfast lunch and dinner until we depart this very realm. One simply must follow the daily routine, soup to nuts, no shortcuts, like it or not. So sorry.

As for the need for it to be fully researched, there really is no need to do so. There are teachers out there who are preparing their students to receive O-Sensei's message when they are ready. As for writing it, truth be told, those who will follow the path don't need a map to do so. As for the rest, they are already lost and no map will help them. Remember, the menu is not the meal.

If there is one thing people don't like to hear it is that what they are doing, have been doing and will continue to do won't get them any closer to the answer that they are seeking regardless of the passion, sincerity, will, hope or effort with which they do so. Face it, if you are headed in the wrong direction, no matter how fast you run, how high you jump or the myriad of expressions on your face which you choose to adopt along the way, you simply will never get there.



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senshincenter
09-20-2005, 05:14 PM
Hi Shaun,

Is that a "yes"? :-) I'll take that as a one then.

It is a very interesting view of things. As a historian however, I do not think it would cancel out the significance of Omoto-kyo theology as far as gaining some insight into the more universal and well-known statements made by the Founder. Such a history would simply add to the overall history of Osensei - not force currently accepted parts of it out and/or render them as meaningless. This is not an endorsement suggesting that if you want to do "real" Aikido or if you want to do the Aikido of the Founder you have to do Omoto-kyo theology. I hardly believe that - as I have said many times. This is to say that one is going to have to look at all of these things, and more, if one wants to understand Osensei historically.

On a different note:

As a person that considers himself to be practicing Aikido, as a person that considers himself an aikidoka, I must depart from your concern with pedigree here. In other words, I cannot share in such a concern. Personally, I feel there are two areas where Aikido must survive in order to define itself properly. These are the areas of martial validity (i.e. its capacity to gain victory over defeat in hand to hand combat scenarios) and of spiritual maturity (i.e. social/moral harmony and gaining a proximity to God). As far as these things go, there are many ways for one to achieve them. I cannot look at the obvious multiplicity of paths and denounce one path over another because it does not look like that of the Founder's. I cannot judge or rather condemn one path to futility because it varies either in part or in total from what Osensei did. I can only determine the value, or the viability, of a given path by looking at it in and of itself.

Thanks so much for sharing,
dmv

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-20-2005, 06:35 PM
Hi Shaun,

Is that a "yes"? :-) I'll take that as a one then.

Hi David,

Actually, it is not a yes by any stretch of the word. I did answer the question, but I did so in a way that might encourage one where to look as opposed to telling them where not to look.

It is a very interesting view of things. As a historian however, I do not think it would cancel out the significance of Omoto-kyo theology as far as gaining some insight into the more universal and well-known statements made by the Founder.
Nor should you discard them. I never said that. As a matter of fact, I would suggest everyone to conduct their own investigations of the subject matter. I went to Ayabe and spoke with the Omoto priests there. I had the proper introductions and was there as a student of Seagal Sensei, who was quite well known by the priests there, as he had been there a decade, or so earlier to get his own answers. While I have this, I have also asked repeatedly for anyone to show me any first or second hand source material that indicates that Omoto theology is in any way source material for the art of the Founder. Of course, one could say that anything and everything one encounters is source material for everything that person says and does that comes afterward. On one level this is correct. However I mean that Aikido is directly founded upon the principles of Omoto. I have not presented my own opinion on the matter, either in favor or against the theory. But regardless of whether I am trying to eliminate it as source material for further study, or am merely trying to confirm my own conclusions so as to embrace further study, I have yet to encounter anyone giving any conclusive evidence (or anything even palatable for that matter) that would support it. That is all I have been trying to say...
Such a history would simply add to the overall history of Osensei - not force currently accepted parts of it out and/or render them as meaningless. This is not an endorsement suggesting that if you want to do "real" Aikido or if you want to do the Aikido of the Founder you have to do Omoto-kyo theology. I hardly believe that - as I have said many times.
However that does not mean that if standing on one's head for two hours before every meal was the answer we have all been looking for that there wouldn't be whole groups invalidating the concept as (take your pick)
bad science
spiritually void
physically impractical for self defense...
As we all know magic is not the thing it seems to be, but rather the slight of hand that we are not supposed to see. If one spends their day, or their life training themselves to levitate (I can say with 99.999% confidence) they will not get any better at whatever David Blaine, or your favorite magician of choice is actually doing when he wants it to appear that he is levitating. Meaning Maybe O-Sensei's waza was misdirection in terms of his own training and goals. In other words the car and the road are not the focus of the journey.
This is to say that one is going to have to look at all of these things, and more, if one wants to understand Osensei historically.
Perhaps we should start with clarifying the importance, if any of understanding O-Sensei historically versus Seeking O-Sensei's art. I have a pretty good idea of the (current thought on the) historical significance of Jesus Christ, Buddha and Mohammed. However, that doesn't help me even 1/10th of 1% to be a better Christian, Buddhist or Muslim...

On a different note:

As a person that considers himself to be practicing Aikido, as a person that considers himself an aikidoka, I must depart from your concern with pedigree here.
While I may have done or said something to which you are referring, I am not sure what you specifically pointing to or at. Would you please clarify as to what statement I may have made that implies such a thing?
In other words, I cannot share in such a concern. Personally, I feel there are two areas where Aikido must survive in order to define itself properly.
Again, the term, "define itself" is strange for me. O-Sensei defined Aikido, and it is there for us to discover. I once did a seminar where 3000 people spent an entire weekend discussing how to "define" something. the process directly relates to Kotodama and is immutable. Define, discern discover, etc are fixed variables strung out in a particular order (fixed) along a particular process. In that regard, we don't define Aikido, and Aikido certainly does not define itself. Of course, from your historical perspective, you make a valid point in speaking in such terms. However, as you will notice from the title I have ascribed to my posts, one has to wonder if such a perspective is even relevant.
These are the areas of martial validity (i.e. its capacity to gain victory over defeat in hand to hand combat scenarios) and of spiritual maturity (i.e. social/moral harmony and gaining a proximity to God).
Well, as for the first, according to the Founder, winning and losing are not part of the Aikido praxis, either on the physical or spiritual plain. So once again, I would have to wonder as to the relevance of that path. Having said that, I certainly would agree that the techniques (the waza itself) must be martially viable - just not in terms of victory or defeat. As for the second point you expressed as paramount, I would again have to question the direction of such thinking. When one stands at the center and breathes in an out with the rhythm of the universe, there is no sense of morality, social harmony or proximity to God as these things are merely the musings of man's small mind and are of no matter or consequence whatsoever.
As far as these things go, there are many ways for one to achieve them. I cannot look at the obvious multiplicity of paths and denounce one path over another because it does not look like that of the Founder's.
I would agree, especially when one has yet to understand the path of the Founder, to do so would be ludicris. One must first seek the Founder, for that is the center of centers.
I cannot judge or rather condemn one path to futility because it varies either in part or in total from what Osensei did.
If it is in terms of victory versus defeat and morality, spirituality and harmony versus immorality, a-spiritual and discord, I would tend to agree with you. Knowing as you now do how I do not ascribe to the relevance of those terms when it comes to seeking O-Sensei, I would not be able to agree. I would therefore ask, Why not judge (use one's power of judgment) or condemn (using one's power to discriminate right from wrong, better from worse...etc.) in order to better reach your goal?
I can only determine the value, or the viability, of a given path by looking at it in and of itself.
Without inferring hipocrisy, isn't the difference between your last two points just semantics and in essence the same thing?



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senshincenter
09-20-2005, 07:31 PM
Hi Shaun,

Thanks for writing.

On some historical points:

I think you are either overstating what folks have been saying about the historical significance of Omoto-kyo or understating the implication of your statements made thus for OR that you and I can agree on the position that all of this stuff has to be considered if one wants to do a history of the Founder (which may itself be irrelevant to one's actual practice). I'm going to opt to go with the latter position if you don't mind, so we can move forward.

I agree with much of what you say here, however, where I part is over the type of significance you give to the Founder and/or to his path when it comes to defining things, events, paths, etc. This is read by me in the phrases you use, like, "Osensei defined Aikido..." "In seeking Osensei...(outside of historical investigations)," "According to the Founder...," etc.

Here's an exact example: "Well, as for the first, according to the Founder, winning and losing are not part of the Aikido praxis, either on the physical or spiritual plain. So once again, I would have to wonder as to the relevance of that path. Having said that, I certainly would agree that the techniques (the waza itself) must be martially viable - just not in terms of victory or defeat."

Where I part is where you determine relevance by what the Founder said or did - where you look at one path and then look at what the Founder did, and if that first path is different from how you see the Founder (or even from how it is), you come to determine the former as irrelevant and/or suspect for relevance. That is where you and I part in our opinions. I have chosen not do that. I have my reasons for not doing that - just as you have your reasons for doing that. These reasons are different from each other.

thanks so much for the reply,
take care,
david

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-21-2005, 12:21 AM
Hi Shaun,

Thanks for writing.

On some historical points:

I think you are either overstating what folks have been saying about the historical significance of Omoto-kyo or understating the implication of your statements made thus for OR that you and I can agree on the position that all of this stuff has to be considered if one wants to do a history of the Founder (which may itself be irrelevant to one's actual practice). I'm going to opt to go with the latter position if you don't mind, so we can move forward.
Hi David,

I am in the middle of writing a long (okay, very long-winded) reply to Erick's last post, but I wanted to respond to yours as quickly as I could, so I am taking a break long enough to post this. I liked your point with regards to a history of O-Sensei and the possible irrelevance of such a history outside of ones training. That is an important point to delineate, if you meant it in the way that I read it.
I agree with much of what you say here, however, where I part is over the type of significance you give to the Founder and/or to his path when it comes to defining things, events, paths, etc. This is read by me in the phrases you use, like, "Osensei defined Aikido..." "In seeking Osensei...(outside of historical investigations)," "According to the Founder...," etc.
Of course, you are entitled to do just this, or even completely invalidate the Founder completely if you like. I have already seen that done in many dojos. All one needs to do is walk into any Aikido dojo and see whose picture is up on the wall, and whose is not. Personally, I have no problem with that (i.e. as Ueshiba O-Sensei's art is separate from Daito-Ryu) as long as the name is changed to indicate such a separation. However it is when both are simply called Aikido that I see a contemporary marketing issue - one for the scholars and academics to revel in and argue over - where the students think they are studying one thing (the art of the Founder), but in actuality are studying something else entirely.
Here's an exact example: "Well, as for the first, according to the Founder, winning and losing are not part of the Aikido praxis, either on the physical or spiritual plain. So once again, I would have to wonder as to the relevance of that path. Having said that, I certainly would agree that the techniques (the waza itself) must be martially viable - just not in terms of victory or defeat."
Well I will let that point stand, as you can not be dealing with O-Sensei's art and disqualify the point made without contemplating changing the name and putting your own picture on the wall. I am all for that, so no worries. Again, anyone is free to do what they will, but be honest with the students. That is all I ask.
Where I part is where you determine relevance by what the Founder said or did - where you look at one path and then look at what the Founder did, and if that first path is different from how you see the Founder (or even from how it is), you come to determine the former as irrelevant and/or suspect for relevance.
Yes, I would have to say that one needs to do this at every turn. However, one quickly realizes that as ones idea of what the Founder was doing changes based upon training or on some new information direct from someone close to the Founder, one has to look back on what one validated or invalidated. In short, be open to something being it, and not being it at any given moment.
That is where you and I part in our opinions. I have chosen not do that. I have my reasons for not doing that - just as you have your reasons for doing that. These reasons are different from each other.

thanks so much for the reply,
take care,
david
I am sure we would both agree that:

Opinions are like a$$holes, everybody has one.

and


Not everyone's reasons can be considered reasonable within the context of the stated goal.



.

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-21-2005, 02:12 AM
I read the interview of Abe Sensei. The translation is rough in patches, but a fascinating insight even so.

Shaun, since you have had an indirect connection to Abe Sensei through Matsuoka Sensei, your observations on a few of these points would be of interest.
Hi Erick,

Your post is most intriguing. I had feared that this thread would fall victim to the same things that the AJ thread had, becoming a lengthy exercise where much effort was put forth but no real work got done. I originally chimed in here to provide a bit of balance to the original ideas David raised. However your last post makes things very interesting for me. Although I have been training a scant 16 years, the last 14 I have spent seeking O-Sensei via my relationship with Abe Sensei. I have done so through my teacher, Matsuoka Sensei, for it was he who made it possible for me to have a direct relationship with Abe Sensei. While I may be grateful, gratitude in and of itself is not merely enough. Most of the dojo students simply do not have the kind of access to Abe Sensei that a few of us have been afforded. Therefore, I feel responsible to maintain a sustained effort, continue with whatever suffering maybe necessary and approach this rare opportunity with the level of sincerely it dictates.

I once asked Abe Sensei why he shared what he did and his answer was the single most startling thing anyone has ever said to me. It is personal and therefore private, but I believe it is okay to say that I feel responsible to maintain the closest relationship with Abe Sensei that is possible given that I have a life here in America. Hopefully I have not yet failed in my efforts, and that I will be able to sustain them while I am still alive.

I mention all that so that you understand the context in which I respond to your questions. They are the most direct and intelligent of questions. Since you have asked me to contribute something I feel that I should respond to my best ability. However, I will try to keep things to a minimum simply to conserve time and space.
Abe Sensei clearly spoke of OSensei in terms somewhat different than protraying him as a simple follower of Omoto.
True. Regardless of the prevalent opinion proffered by several particular academics, he was much more than a simple follower of anything, Omoto-Kyo, or otherwise.
Unlike Charles, it seems to me that Abe Sensei's point was to emphasize the distinction between OSensei's thought and that of Omoto, placing him in a far more traditionalist lineage.
Well, I will leave the labeling to the academics. Again, I am no map maker, nor am I interested in spending all day reading maps. I am already traveling on the path. If I can just manage stay the course there is no doubt at all that I will arrive where it is that I am headed.
It is possible that this is true, but it also may be revisionism of a sort to disassociate an honored teacher from a movement that was not well thought of among people of influence in Japan.
Abe Sensei would never assume enough to do such a thing. I also believe, and this is my "opinion" that O-Sensei had nothing to distance himself from, so the issue is moot.
"O'Sensei described something about spirituality using easy-to-understand Ohmotokyo-like words, in other words, "kotodama".
I am not sure if you were quoting Abe Sensei or O-Sensei here. If you would you please clarify that, I would better understand how to respond. However in either case, kotodama can be at the heart and center of all of one's actions and words. I don't believe that this relates to Omoto (Kyo) directly, but if one determines that Omoto-Kyo was based upon the principles of kotodama, then the comparison could remain valid. Comparison of two things is not based upon the things being equal, merely relative on a particular plain.
I would like to know what Japanese expression Abe Sensei used was translated as "Omotokyo-like" and its use in other contexts.
I do think this was an interview so there must be tapes somewhere. If so, then I would ascribe to the importance of making those publicly available. However, they may already be publicly available in the form of Aiki-News which was and is still published in Japanese. You may be in luck.
He also deals with the Kojiki as though to sever its mythological interprtetation from its use for practice of kotodama. The way it is described seems analogous to a cyphertext read out with a key to obtain plaintext. This is very suggestive to me.
With regards to kotodama, ki and kokyu, without a practical understanding and a practical course of study there is no real basis in reality in training in these things in relation to one's martial training or an understanding of the Founder. If one is interested in deeply understanding O-Sensei and his art, Abe Sensei's lectures on Kojiki will change your life. It did mine, but that is another story entirely.
There are strong similarities in this sensibility with mantrayana. Nevertheless, Abe Sensei seems to criticize specific aspects of the mythological figures in Kojiki as being too Chinese in derivation, an implicit swipe against ryobu shinto.
I would need to see a specific passage referenced in both mythological terms and de-mythological terms to know for sure what you mean. I am not sure I have every seen Abe Sensei publicly criticize anyone or anything so again, I would have to have a chance to read the same thing to which you are referring and then would need to ask Abe Sensei what he meant to make any conclusive statements. As for things Chinese, Abe Sensei is a student of classic Chinese literature and calligraphy and is therefore very sensitive to things Chinese. I have only seen him say positive things and attribute much of his own understanding to Chinese people and Chinese culture.

As it turns out, I will be with Abe Sensei this coming Friday. I already have a list of 30 or so questions that have come up since I was with him this past December, but if there is something specific you are interested in having me ask, and there is an opportunity to do so, I would be happy to try to bring you back his answer.
"O'Sensei strongly insisted to understand "Kojiki" thoroughly. Story at the mythological time in "Kojiki" is our back bone. Therefore, O'Sensei told us to read "Kojiki" thoroughly and read it by way of "Kotodama". This is what was O'Sensei's desire and our mission."
It would be of great help if you would please specify if you are quoting Abe Sensei (quoting O-Sensei) or you are quoting O-Sensei directly. Again, in either case, I read that and say a resounding YES! That is the point of the whole process. However that point is infinitesimally small and spinning at the speed of light...
On the significance of center and breath, Abe Sensei also seems to bring perspective to understanding of Minakanushi no kami, as the kami of the center.
This is the first lecture I received from Abe Sensei, and is the center of centers when it comes to understanding kojiki, kotodama, and O-Sensei and his art. I can't be any clearer or state it more simply. This is paramount to the entire process.
"It means that the smallest of oneself is a dot, which is 'There is a location, but there is no size.' The center of universe does not have size, either. ... [Of breath in the abdomen] It becomes such a small thing, like "there is a location, but there is no size." This is Minakanushi of breathing.
Yes! But how does one get there? That is the question that O-Sensei set out to answer for us, and the path which we must understand how to follow. Otherwise it is all just jujitsu.
Again, I would love to have the Japanese to compare, and to see what other connotations his choice of words would encompass.
If you are referring to the interviews that AJ did with Abe Sensei, please let me know if you are able to retrieve the back issues of Aikido Journal (I am fairly sure they are in pdf format on a DVD - at least the English ones are). There really is not a lot of time for this most important of projects.
In light of my inquiry into broader and deeper connections, (which David criticizes, although not unfairly) I cannot help but observe that Abe Sensei's description of the qualities of Minakanushi no kami as written in English seems strongly to echo a description of God that has been a topic of metaphysics in the Christian world since the twelfth century.
There are some similarities in this area. That had been an interest of mine as early as 10 years before I began my aikido training. With all of the study and training I did before I joined an aikido Dojo I was able, when I first saw aikido, to immediately recognize it as a synthesis of my martial, spiritual and intellectual paths. I was elated to find it staring me in the face. I had a friend who eventually went on to become a great master teacher in his own right. He had been telling me to loo at Aikido for several years before I finally "got it" When I finally did so, and went to tell him his reaction was classic. It was one of those slap yourself in the forehead gags you see in the movies from time to time...
This translated version was ascribed to Alain de Lille. It was later adopted by theologians Nicholas of Cusa and Pascal in their metaphysics:

"God is an intelligible sphere whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere."

The version in the Pseudo-Hermetic text of the Liber XXIV Philosophorum ("Book of 24 Philosophers") is:

"Deus est sphaera infinita, cuius centrum ubique, circumferentia nusquam." "God is an infinite sphere, whose center is everywhere, circumference nowhere."


The Pseudo-Hermetic Liber dates to the eleventh century, but of whole Corpus Hermeticum we have only parts, and the Liber text may be a medieval copy or collection from some lost original(s), but it is impossible to know. The Corpus itself reliably dates to the third century of the Christian era together with a number of related Gnostic texts.
This approaches material I am not ready to discuss in a public forum. However I will say that careful study and consideration is necessary to steer clear of the cliff that lay at the end of the plain. A simple understanding of the word Gnostic gives us a clue where to delineate truth from faith, or the metaphoric plain from the cliff.
While I feel certain that David has already jumped ship on my voyage at this point, these connections are important. Whether they bespeak direct relationship or merely show parallel development is not crucial. This is not mere idle speculation either. Ideas matter. They are the weapons and tools of the mind, as sharp and dangerous as any blade, and as liable to misuse or tragic accident.
I can't agree with you more.

Philosophy is a wonderful tool with which to dissect the body of human understanding. However, all things can be either a medicine or a poison. A scalpel in the hands of a surgeon may save your life, but in the hands of a madman it may end it. One of my uncles was a musical prodigy and went on to become a well-known, published philosopher in the areas of both religion and government. I was raised in his shadow and challenged throughout my childhood and teens by his consistent prodding of my questionable early mental capacities. I would have to say that I am him in many ways, much to the chagrin of my mother (his sister).

When you mention sharp weapons and tools it brings up the preverbal double edge one must always consider. My uncle could not put down his beloved philosophy, that tool through which he viewed life. I do believe it eventually drove him mad. Again, the plain and the cliff are but married by proximity. Walking along the ledge while exhilarating in one moment may be the last thing one does in life.

That is why I sometimes wonder about David - not his martial path, but perhaps his philosophical one. I don't mean to judge him in any way, merely evaluate his stated goals when mapped against his apparent direction. David may or may not be interested in the issue of, or contention between "direct relationship" versus "parallel development." I would bet based upon what he noted in his last post that this would only be in terms of the historical understandings of Aikido, or the significance or insignificance of the Founder and not related to his own personal views on the desire to improve one's martial (technical) ability.
Abe Sensei's description gives a powerful point of reference in the Western tradition for the ideas and techniques the OSensei has communicated. This kind of connection allows them more easily to be translated into a native intellectual idiom.
I couldn't agree more.
In light of Oscar Ratti's recent untimley death, the singular phrase "Dynamic Sphere" cannot help but remind me of this. For that specific idea imparts a meaningful way of digesting and dwelling upon the function and further exploration of the techniques we practice.
I had the chance to meet with Oscar and Adele (Westbrook), and was most fascinated by his take on things. He, too, was rooted in martial realities. His attitude and manner were quite refreshing. The few things we discussed were very deep. A mutual friend of ours provided the introduction, one he had been trying to set up for quite a while. After we each had a chance to speak for a while he looked at me and openly wondered as to the source of the material I presented to him. He said something to the effect that I would need to have lived about thirty more years than I already have to have come to the conclusions that I presented. He very kindly offered that should I ever write a manuscript that I forward it to him if I was interested in his input. Needless to say that would have been a great honor, one that I will only have in the form of what could have been. I am not sure what became of the work he and I discussed that he was working on. It was very important stuff - a real breakthrough for martial arts and martial artists. Let' just say that it would be the metaphoric equivalent of reading kojiki from the point of kotodama - groundbreaking in this modern time of openly accepted empty anemic academic materials. His book, Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere was the first book on the subject I ever read. Both he and Adele were very dynamic. I am sure it is not a coincidence. Dynamic Sphere, indeed.

Again, sorry for the length, but I do feel that your post marks a significant turn in the thread, one that warranted such a lengthy effort on my part.

It is clear that with regards to the relevance of Omoto-Kyo as any sort of foundation or Onisaburo as a main pillar in the house of Aikido, that these posts are not related to such issues and probably should have their own thread entitled something along the lines of The significance of kojiki, kotodama and misogi in understanding O-Sensei and Aikido I will leave that up to David to decide as he is the author of the thread.



.

Erick Mead
09-21-2005, 01:12 PM
Thanks Shaun:

I will respond in detail later and with some further questions, but I too feel that David's input is important as to the topical nature of these issues. The thread as started is important in its own right, and his efforts should be respected. If he feels it shoould be split, I will be pleased to accommodate.

To clarify some of the points you asked about, as to the quotes they are all quotes of Abe Sensei in the AJ interview reprinted at Matsuoka Sensei's website, which was my most convenient source.

As to the criticism of Chinese mythological symbolism, I infer from the context that Abe Sensei's implied criticism was leveled at the (too often adhoc) admixture of the two streams of tradition, rather than being derogatory to the foreign tradition.

As to finding the AJ versions of the entire Abe Sensei interviews in English and Japanese -- .

A'hunting we will go....

My proficiency is linguistic in nature, rather than having any fluency at all, so it will take me a little while after I find it to tease it apart, although my much more intensive study of Chinese language makes it easier to pull apart kanji for this purpose, assuming anyone has transcribed it in more than simple kana.

On the other issues, I await David's determination before I reply with some additional points and questions.

Cordially,

Erick Mead

Mike Fugate
09-21-2005, 11:06 PM
Hello all,
Through reading this forum, I have to my delight seen alot of otherwise "almost dead" information. Philosophy is truly one of my passions. From Daoism, Confuscism, Buddhism, Shinto, Omoto Kyo ect..I love it all. To me, these teachings and martial arts are the same. Martial, medicinal,spirtitual,philosophical...I believe that they are all parts in the same puzzle, and must be studied together in order to achieve a proper unserstanding of martial arts, whether it be Shaolin or Aikido. I see O'Sensei as an individual who succeded in doing just this, a true Master. Although he was a practicioner in certain feilds doesnt mean he nessecarily should be placed with that title. I dont know if this is making any sense, but I look to O'Sensei, as yes a Master, but even more as, One who truly Understood.
I remember asking my Sifu about his Grandmaster. Now although he was a Shaolin preist, Sifu always says " Grandmaster wasnt anything. He was open to anything, as we should all be". What he is referring to was my question of due to his origins, was he "Buddhist", or "Daoist". I wanted to lable him, an all too comon mistake we humans do. Now I understand what he means by that, and I see alot of the same characteristics in O'sensei. :ki:
Peace :ki:
Mike

Misogi-no-Gyo
09-25-2005, 08:38 AM
Hello all,
Through reading this forum, I have to my delight seen alot of otherwise "almost dead" information. Philosophy is truly one of my passions. From Daoism, Confuscism, Buddhism, Shinto, Omoto Kyo ect..I love it all. To me, these teachings and martial arts are the same. Martial, medicinal,spirtitual,philosophical...I believe that they are all parts in the same puzzle, and must be studied together in order to achieve a proper unserstanding of martial arts, whether it be Shaolin or Aikido. I see O'Sensei as an individual who succeded in doing just this, a true Master. Although he was a practicioner in certain feilds doesnt mean he nessecarily should be placed with that title. I dont know if this is making any sense, but I look to O'Sensei, as yes a Master, but even more as, One who truly Understood.
I remember asking my Sifu about his Grandmaster. Now although he was a Shaolin preist, Sifu always says " Grandmaster wasnt anything. He was open to anything, as we should all be". What he is referring to was my question of due to his origins, was he "Buddhist", or "Daoist". I wanted to lable him, an all too comon mistake we humans do. Now I understand what he means by that, and I see alot of the same characteristics in O'sensei. :ki:
Peace :ki:
Mike

I took all of my students and we are here with Abe Sensei, so I haven't had time to check in until now. This thread sure got quiet in a hurry. I guess we are waiting for David to chime back in and give us his stamp of approval to continue along with the tangential conversation...

...David?



.

senshincenter
09-25-2005, 03:06 PM
I am sorry if it has been a while since I returned to this thread. I thought we had reached some points of conclusion: that both Omoto-kyo and the various practices and beliefs of the Miitsu-kai/Misogi-kai (plus anything else that could prove itself relevant) would have to be looked at if one were to paint an accurate picture of Osensei's life; and that Shaun and I disagree on how one should relate to the Founder in terms of one's own practice. I felt there was not much more to say since the former conclusion left only the actual research to be undertaken and the latter was simply a personal impasse (i.e. an agreement to disagree).

As for this thread, I view it like Aikido. It is not for me to adopt some kind of fundamentality and/or some sort of dogmatism in attempt to prevent folks from talking about what they may feel is relevant. This thread is a living thing -- made up of many minds and levels of experience. It breathes and lives through this multiplicity. It is not challenged, defeated, nor subverted, by people making connections that are significant and/or that are real for them. For me, there remains a single thread here; as diverse as it is, there is a unity to it. If one wants to understand more these aspects of Osensei's history, then one is going to work to find that single thread that ties all of these posts together -- rather then trying to weed this idea or that idea out because it appears not to "fit." As I said, it is like Aikido for me.

In respect to Shaun and Erick, I would like to stick with my suggestion that all of this has to be looked at historically. I can repeat here that it is my opinion that no one tradition is going to cancel out the significance of any other tradition. Again, in writing the history of Osensei, all of this has to be researched. Human lives are too complex for such simplistic breakdowns that might ignore this for the sake of that -- how much more so the life of another man who lived on the others side of the world on the other side of an epistemic shift, etc. I thus do not doubt that the various teachings of Kawatsura had a great impact on Osensei, and on his Aikido. It is just that that impact is in no way going to decrease the impact that Omoto-kyo is known to have had. This would be true regardless of all the "unsaid" things Abe "didn't say."

In regards to Abe as the source for this implied "alternate" (though I see it as a contributing) history of Osensei, one has to not give more credit to one voice over any other. Thus, one has much to consider when seeing Abe as such a source. This was a point Shaun made earlier in regards to other second hand sources mentioned earlier. Whereas Abe may be one "unsaid" voice to the contrary, there were many people who have openly spoke of Osensei's intimate relationship with Onisaburo and his teachings. These people are people who trained with Osensei before Abe started training in Aikido, who trained with Osensei after Abe started training in Aikido, and who trained more closely with Osensei than Abe, etc. Moreover, while Abe may in the confines of an intimate conversation diminish the significance of Omoto-kyo theology on Osensei's relevant writings and lectures, he has never done this openly. Openly, he, along with everyone else, speaks of Osensei's ties to Omoto-kyo.

Moreover, also in seeing Abe as a historical source, there is the fact that Abe had been practicing misogi, and been familiar with the teachings of Kawatsura and Futaki, for at least eleven years before he came to practice Aikido. This rather begs the old "chicken and the egg" question. We might also want to note that while Osensei was not a brown rice diet -- following Futaki's prescriptions -- it appears that when he visited Abe he would adopt this diet. Could this have been how he came to emphasize Misogi with Abe as well? Knowing Abe was into misogi, it would make sense in my book, seeing where Osensei was coming from, that he would tell Abe, "Yes, misogi, is the key, keep doing what you are doing." In that light, it would be a gross misunderstanding of Osensei's overall history to say, "You see, there you have it -- misogi and only misogi is the key -- forget Omoto-kyo, it won't get you anywhere in terms of your practice or in terms of understanding Osensei's history."

Again, this is not to say that misogi-no-gyo is not a legitimate part of Osensei's history. Most importantly, this is not to say that misogi-no-gyo is not a currently viable way of deepening one's own practice and understanding of Aikido. What this does say is that Kawatsura, Futaki, the Miitsukai, Abe, and misogi-no-gyo are NOT alternate histories to the one being deduced from current research. We are merely looking at a contributing history.

For me, in regards to some of the other things Shaun and Erick have brought up outside of understanding Osensei's history, I think Abe says it better than I ever could. He says the following when asked if it is impossible for Westerners to practice true Aikido if they cannot have access to these more culturally specific ideas/practices:

-"I don't think that is the case. There is no distinction in Aikido between being Japanese and being non-Japanese. This is because as you delve deeper and deeper into Aikido, you will naturally encounter a sort of Kojiki and a sort of Kotodama. In another, broader sense, we can say that Omoto is not the only religion and Reverend Deguchi's kotodama isn't the only kotodama. Also this means that when we go to Europe, we find the Bible; in India, Buddhism; and so on. Nevertheless, whether it is Christianity, Buddhism, or what have you, essentially they are seeking a single goal. In the Kojiki, we find the expression, "Amenominakanushi Omikami." This means to become one body with the Great Universe. It is the same goal simply expressed in different words. If you happen to be speaking about Japan, then you should look to the Kojiki. Therefore, if by chance, you are non-Japanese, it is enough that outside of the (physical) techniques there exists some spiritual direction in your mind. If you have incorporated this element (into your training) then you will develop a kind of Aikido. Anyone who delves deeply into this budo, which we have inherited from O-Sensei, will eventually enter a religious realm."-


Again, I think more research has to be done -- the more the better. Again, I would encourage Shaun to take this on -- to write something up and to put it out there. Such work would benefit us all. If there is anything I could do to assist him with such efforts, he need only request it of me. For me, my personal leaning is to see Omoto-kyo theology as relevant to those ideas/phrases of Osensei that lend themselves to a more universalistic thought. This I do because of where Omoto-kyo fits in the world religion movement (which precisely attempted to do this) and because of where its theology is being repeated almost word for word by Osensei (please see in the essay Osensei's wording of Onisaburo's Omoto-kyo maxim). This does not make me an Omoto-kyo practitioner nor even a proponent of its teachings. To be sure, I am not trying to capture once and for all the whole of Osensei's life, nor of his Aikido, etc., through Omoto-kyo. However, these universalistic phrases are the parts of Osensei that speak to me, that allow me see my personal goal in Osensei's goal -- as Abe suggests we can and should do. This is the spiritual direction that orients me as an aikidoka and that thus connects me to what we have inherited from Osensei. Again, this does not uphold Omoto-kyo theology historically over and above the teachings and practices of Kawatsura, nor even at the level of one's individual practice. And as Erick would note, this does not mean that Omoto-kyo is the only place we can or should look. This only means that there is a historical connection between such phrase and such a theology, and that one could use one to gain some insight into the other.

My many thanks to you for keeping this thread so dynamic and so interesting.

Humbly yours,
dmv

Paula Lydon
09-25-2005, 04:20 PM
~~David, I am awed and humbled by your extensive research and compilation. So grateful, as well, that you chose to share this . In all honesty, I never thought I'd be especially interested in O Sensei's religious background; considered it just one of the many paths that led him to establish and evolve the art I'm studying today. I didn't think it'd have any intrinsic bearing on the Aikido taught today. I think I was wrong and will now consider this more deeply. Your dedication is admirable and a lesson.

Thank you again!

Erick Mead
09-26-2005, 01:39 AM
Thank you David for the quote of Abe Sensei. He sums up my enterprise : "Anyone who delves deeply into this budo, which we have inherited from O-Sensei, will eventually enter a religious realm."

I want to take on Shaun's invitation and flow from what David has provided.

"Story at the mythological time in Kojiki … is our back bone. … read it by way of ‘Kotodama'."

If we accept at face value Abe Sensei's interpretation of O-Sensei's project, a project that O-Sensei himself plainly intended to be carried on after him, we are left with a number of questions that need answering. None of them are simple.

Law is my chosen field, so I will try to do some yeoman work to frame the questions. I have my own ideas about some of the answers.

The first topic for questions is the organizing principle of O-Sensei's program:

In Abe Sensei's "broader sense" we are meant to find in the depths of aikido practice "A sort of Kojiki and a sort of Kotodama." in which "whether it is Christianity, Buddhism, or what have you, essentially they are seeking a single goal."

What is the nature of the single goal?

Is it the goal an effect or a cause?

Or is it more complex, like living things?

A single genotype produces nearly limitless phenotypes, each unique but also functionally equivalent. The phenotype is the necessary condition to transmit the genotype, which also is the necessary condition to produce the phenotype. Chickens, eggs, ... etc. Genotype defines, phenotype expresses.

Based on Abe Sensei's comments, my tentative conclusion is toward the more complex answer. His description of the relationship between Kojiki and kotodama fits this architecture. He seems to say that the elements of the kojiki/kotodama paradigm are available to most any culture. If he is correct, there would have to be to be many possible examples of ur-Kojiki and ur-Kotodama to be practiced. We seem very close in this instance to the archetypes and collective unconscious described by Carl Jung (and presaged by the Gnostics, I might add).

Some more questions on the operative aspects:

What are some examples of a "sort of Kotodama" in terms that are not Japanese?

What is "a sort of Kojiki" in terms that are not Japanese?

How do we identify them if we do not already know what they are?

What is the process by which kojiki and kotodama jointly operate ?

What does the process operate upon?

What is the intended result?

What are the common errors or diversions from the path of O-Sensei's project?

David's quote of Anbe Sensei again:

"If by chance, you are non-Japanese, it is enough that outside of the (physical) techniques there exists some spiritual direction in your mind. If you have incorporated this element (into your training) then you will develop a kind of Aikido."

So a few questions on the nature of these other traditions which have potential for kojiki/kotodama process.

In this light, what is the relationship of other (non-Japanese) traditions to Aikido?

[In other guise, this is the root question about Omoto as it relates to aikido in my view.]

Do they relate in a developmental sense? , i.e. -- are there connections in their history that explain the working correspondences?

[This has been my primary focus of inquiry.]

Do they relate in merely an analogous sense, as similar solutions ot the same essential set of problems?

Does this distinction matter for the future of aikido?

Does this distinction matter for an understanding of the historical and philosophical development of Aikido ?

Is physical practice of aikido enough?

Is the practice of misogi enough?

Is the practice of a particular ur-kojiki/kotodama system enough?

If any one alone is not adequate, in what manner are they best fitted togehert

The Abe Sensei's quote provided by David seems to suggest that the misogi of practice refine the initial trend of the mind/heart, leading it in O-Sensei's path. If he is correct, practice/misogi is essential in some sense.

However, the other portions of the quote suggest that a process of ur-Kojiki/kotodama is available to nearly any culture, and, in some sense, seems necessary to O-Sensei's project as well.

Note that we have not even touched on chinkon kishin, which also has some part to play given the emphasis upon it elsewhere. It played a seemingly larger part of O-Sensei's personal efforts in his latter years.

Cordially,

Erick Mead

Chizikunbo
12-02-2005, 11:09 PM
Wow. I am awed by the flood of thought this has inspired. This has also peaked my curiosity. Time to learn more about Omoto-kyo.

Thank you. In the most sincere way possible. Thank you.
www.oomoto.co.jp very nice people Masamichi Tanaka sensei, the webmaster is a wonderful person :-)

RobertBrass
12-04-2005, 03:02 PM
Besides the official Oomoto site which was linked somewhere above another interesting site has translations of the earliest Shinto texts which in turn were a large influence on Onisaburo.
http://www.sacred-texts.com/shi/
This is a great thread and a large part of why I just began my practice of Aikido (the subject not the actual thread).
Thanks for the thought provoking discussion.
Bob

senshincenter
12-04-2005, 10:50 PM
Here is also another translation of the Kojiki - pdf format:

http://www.udel.edu/History/figal/Hist138/Text/er/kojiki.pdf