Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Omoto-kyo Theology
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.