I appreciate what you're saying but I still think that you're still missing my point. I was not claiming that there was a monetary or business benefit to an association with the Aikikai. That's why I said that independent dojos weren't second class in my scenario. If finances and business are the issue, I say a dojo is better off staying independent. My argument rather, is that there is an intrinsic value to having an Aikikai Hombu dojo as the central point of a common identity and hertitage and that what it gives all aikidoists is priceless. It is priceless with regard to our self identity and the effect that it has to promote a real unity in the hearts of all aikidoists if we believe in and value that center point. My point was that when something unprecedented like major Aikikai shihan beginning to issue their own Dan rankings occurs, then we are seeing the end of an era that will never come again due to the normal fragmentation that will follow. It is akin to being able to live in the time period in Christianity when the Church on earth was still united under apostolic leadership versus the checkerboard, cafeteria style, consumer oriented Christianity we have in our day. Seeing what has happened, so many Christians long for the day when things were still in their pristine state and we dream of what could have been! As we look back, we say, if only this one or that one could have sacrificed self interest for the whole! We still have that opportunity today in aikido. Not because Hombu dojo is perfect or is intrinsically superior in some way but because for a few inconveniences and concessions, we could keep aikido from going the way of karate and judo for another generation but it does not appear that will happen.
As for your comments on what you got from Hombu dojo vs. before, I agree. Institutionally, the testing, the seminars,and the dues are all for Aikido (at large) and not for the local dojo. I have always thought that of seminars. They are in no way for the aikidoist, but they are for the art at large. By supporting the institution in this way, we as individual aikidoists and individual dojos can repay the art for all it has given us. Lest we get into too selfish a mood, we must understand that the symbolic institutions in any culture represent us, the people, and if we see ourselves far removed from them, it is only because our perspective is unbalanced in that we are failing to see that as the centerpoint is strenghtened and enhanced, so are we. You cannot give sacrificially without getting back down the line. That is the vital nature of the relationship between the individual and the symbols of authority in his culture.
At any rate, I have probably exhausted all reasonable means to explain myself so I will cease posting along this line. Thanks for the vigorous discussion!