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Old 01-19-2006, 12:42 PM   #49
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,616
Re: Religion and Aikido

Mark Freeman wrote:
how you can be a fully functioning and practicing member of a religious community and not believe in the reason for the religion existing in ther first place? And if faith is not required to believe in the existence of God ( in light of there not being any evidence that the atheists of the world can see ) then what is?
Oh, I don't know that I would recommend it -- but it is a fact. It does not do to overburden rationality in religious decisions. Existence and contentment predate rationality. That is perhaps the best ad hoc argument against atheism. The rational argument is Gödel and Heisenberg. But that gets us nowhere.

We are in this age, a very few of us excepted, uncomfortable with things unseen. The hazards of an instant video era, among other things. "It's not real unless its on tape" There are many levels of irony contained within that statement.

At the same time we hesitate to believe what we see. At a vicsceral level, we sense an increasingly constructed reality, increasingly rational, and yet very unsatisying and suspect for that same reason.

Perfunctory religious observance is common in the modern world. The point of practice is to assist a person, even absent conscious perception of the faith that practice represents for oneself. So many different practices may be adaptable to diferencet trafditions during such a time of instability. The cross-pollination of Zen and yogic practice into western religion is occurring today, as Western religion was earlier crosspollinated into Pure Land Buddism in the post-Hellenic period in Asia. Aikido, and the ideas of budo more generally, are becoming yet another graft onto the stem of Western culture.

Mark Freeman wrote:
I like the passages from Tolkien, thanks, I never expected to see him quoted on an Aikido forum.
Tolkien is moving to believer and non-believer alike, as is Aikido. I think, if my intuition holds true, that what motivates most atheists or agnostics is a kind of iconoclasm, a deeply felt need to make no image or statement and to attempt no description of that which cannot be described or defined. Carl Sagan, as vehemently reductionist and empirical as his philosophy was, wrote about the beauty of universe he could describe with a spirit that denied his words. This sensibility too has a long tradition, both East and West. I am not offended by what an atheist may think or believe. It is what we do that defines us.

I can respect this -- as long as they do not disrespect Tolkien or O-Sensei.

"Renewed shall be blade that was broken." A resonant Aiki sentiment, to my mind. Tolkien deserves more credit, and he is beginning to receive it. His example showed how moving religious feeling could be expressed in non-religious contexts. His work bears much reflection. He, while exceedingly devout in his own habits, deplored the kind of literalism and dogmatism that is so prevalent and deadening to both non-religious as well as religious life today.

Tolkien's method, as you will see from the question below, I think has much in parallel with that of O-Sensei in an utterly different medium. Both transmit an intentional religious sensibility without any direct or even allegorical religious statement.
Mark Freeman wrote:
My experience in the past, has led me to realise, that a discussion between a believer and a non believer is one destined to be long, drawn out, and usually frustrating for both sides.
You are so right. The splashing is wildest in the shallow end of the pool. I prefer those who will quietly contemplate and when prompted by someone else's desire for it, discuss the effects of faith, not its presumed content, which, frankly, is not describable. On this, I and any atheist would agree.

Mark Freeman wrote:
So I wish you well in both your aikido and religious practice. You seem to be from the moderate and reasonable end of the spectrum, but probably not as far to the left as an atheist catholic though!
A good bit further right is fair to say. If I may ask, and I will not pursue where the discussion is not wanted, I wonder a couple of things. Some thoughts from those on the committed secular side may help others, both secular and non-secular.

I will not use the terms atheist or agnostic (a quick philosophy dig -- atheism is defined by something that it claims to have no existence, thus an atheist has a kind of second order non-existence). The problem is truly broader than that.

O-Sensei's spiritual sensibility was important to him. This much is clear. He had no concern about the particular spiritual sensibilities of others as to their aikido practice. But he also thought that aikido was a good adjunct to the practices of any religious person.

Mysticism across the globe has the flavor of faith without conscious content. Aikido as taught by O-Sensei was in this vein. These practices have very similar reference images and effects on adherents, across many cultures and religious beliefs.

So-- the question.

If one is without faith, how does one fit the groundwork for the moral elements of aikido, which are closely woven into its practical elements, without taking on board the mystical side? I have met very few second dan or above, and none that I can recall fourth dan or above, who did not take that side very seriously, although there are wide variations in emphasis, surely.

I wonder what is the experience of others in this regard.

Erick Mead
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