Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Re: Omoto-kyo Theology
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.