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Old 09-16-2008, 12:44 PM   #56
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 10

Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Yours is a very interesting line of thinking. I understand well that you yourself do not see the events in isolation, but the extent to which this can be said of Morihei Ueshiba is open to question. I do not think it is clear to what extent the operations of Unit 731 were common knowledge in the Army, or to what extent Ueshiba knew about these—and whether it would have mattered to him. You simply assume that it would—in the light of what he later states about aikido and killing. Certainly they were not common knowledge among the general population and even now the Japanese government is very loath to admit publicly that anything like that actually happened.
They were certainly not common knowledge, but I believe the running thesis is that Ueshiba had more than common access.
Certinaly by the time of the 1940 plague-food airdrops and 1942 dispersant tests (thousands of subjects), word had leaked through China missionary/medical societies back to the States to be reported a medical journal in Colorado. 1942 was the time of at least eleven documented gas attacks along the North China Railway.

The difficulties of research into this are remarkable. Our own government has been, shall we say, less than forthcoming, because of the war crimes amnesties granted to the likes of Ishii. A fairly good work surveying the sources and these difficulties is found here: Personally, I do not believe that the issue is likely any time soon to be resolved above the level of suggestive speculation, given these complexities.

As to the nature of the change, I do not assume merely from his statements about killing -- I read what he said in specficially and contextually significant mythic terms -- as he had to have understood it. This all comes from what seems to be a critical series of episodes in Manchuria.

Looking at the arc of his work from Budo and Budo Renshu, these read much more like what one would expect of an ardent utopian nationalist, and imperialist, with strong traditionalist leanings. Arguably, one could say he abandons his utopianism with the break from Deguchi in the mid-thirties, and perhaps leans even harder on his nationalism and imperialism.

In the imperial family demonstration in 1941, though, he is oddly reticent to do it, if his nationalist imperial beliefs are untainted at that point. He has to be persuaded by Takeshita his patron who had set it up. This is in the interim of the '40 and '42 visits to Manchuria, but it is unclear if it was before or after the visit in '41. I have never seen a list of the attendees at the demonstration , but it is known that Prince Tsuneyoshi of the Takeda no miya (first cousin to the Showa Emperor, grandson to Meiji) WAS directly associated with the unit 731 project, at first in Manchuria and then later in the Southern Army at Saigon.

The tone radically changes at Iwama and this change, the visions and the move all hinge around the repeated visits to Manchuria in '40, '41 and 42. Ueshiba had seen war in Manchuria in 1904-05 -- he was no delicate philosophe. Something truly life-changing was revealed to him in Manchuria, much more than the ordinary consequences of war and death. Surely the national chastening at being held to a costly draw by the Russians at Khalkho/Nomonhan, whom they had a generation before humiliated, played a part. But, the visions and the strong belief in the need for divine rescue was more profound than mere disappointment in the progress of imperialist cause.

You had asked if I would provide a mythic exposition on the forty three tutelary kami. I have now read the part in "A Life in Aikido" where a few of them are summarized by Kisshomaru. I will at least attempt to show the gist of such an approach to this issue. Sarutahiko is the chief and first so let's start there and apply it to the particular problem of the Manchuria/Visions/Iwama chronicle.

That he expressed it only in mythic terms indicates that his change of heart would not be socially acceptable in conventional terms. Certainly, he was capable of writing and expressing himself more directly and objectively, as his two early works showed. Thus using myth was either choice or necessity. The retreat into religious mystery is a classically Japanese resolution of an irretrievably broken tatemae -- or a substitute for it. I don't pick the mythic as a basis for understanding this aspect of him out of my preference, but his, since it appears he had no other accceptable choice of expression.

Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
I do not give the vision of conflagration in Tokyo the same value as you do. ... So I do not think that the threat of a conflagration of Tokyo, and by extension Hiroshima, was the prime motivation for the move.
You see the move as a consequence of the vision of conflagration. I see the vision of conflagration and the move both as consequences of something else, revealed by his "karma" comment and the close association of the three successive Manchuria trips (I had forgotten about the '41 trip) to the radical religious turn in his practice and understanding of his purpose.

And I think, respectfully, you may not have considered the scope of the audacity of his visions as they concern the Emperor's position. Where you seem to ascribe a pragmatically surreptitious continuity of the yamato damashii in his mind -- I see radical, indeed, epic disjunction -- from what he said and did about it after Manchuria, specifically, not merely after the War was lost and a new tatemae regime is in force to appease the foreign occupation with "make-nice" words.

The message of Sarutahiko reveals a command of Amaterasu. That is appealing ABOVE the power of the Emperor. This is a serious break with the ordinary yamato-damashii Emperor ideology one expects and sees in Budo and Budo Renshu . The Emperor alone is supposed to be the vehicle informing humanity of the divine will. Norinaga would be turning in his grave.

THIS mythology matters a great deal. The war was the DIRECT command of the Emperor. Stopping the war went directly against the command of the Emperor. This is a "Big Deal" (tm) culturally, socially, legally, religiously and metaphysically.

The visions purport to place Ueshiba's role, as a delegate of divine Amaterasu, the highest embodied heavenly kami, under the direct command of Sarutahiko, the highest earthly kami. Quite literally, the powers of Heaven and Earth have commanded him to countermand the Emperor by undertaking a divine task -- not a practical human one.

Sarutahiko is the kami of righteousness and justice -- i.e. this signals something is really badly wrong if he is personally on the scene -- and really badly wrong with the entire earthly order -- from the Emperor on down. To end the war the Emperor had begun -- Ueshiba by his visions is claiming superior moral and spiritual authority to the divine Emperor in order to do it. A REALLY Big Deal (tm).

Only a reaction to something tremendously and systemically wicked could possibly have called forth such a radical break with Japan's deeply held conventional moral ans spiritual hierarchy, with which he was formerly very attached and in agreement with. It is as close as one can come in purely Japanese cultural terms to a "Damascus road" moment. The Shrine and Aikido are his divine tasks -- to Japan (first) and the world (second), respectively.

And not only did the war end. In terms of myth, the Emperor was forced by an earthly power (thus also under the mythic authority of Sarutahiko) to abdicate from his divinity as the price of his human position. As such, the successors and followers of Sarutahiko begin their quest to reestablish his restored rulership of the earthly realm -- standing on the Ame no Ukihashi, as he did, mediating between the powers of heaven and of earth -- in place of the line of emperor to whom Sarutahiko had surrendred that position long ago.

Since the Emperor, consider as kami, was a kind of "living shrine" embodying the yamato-damashii- his abdication un-ensrhines him -- the yamato-damashii is symbolically broken from its source in Amaterasu -- as Ueshiba's mythic account gives it to us. Thus, in these terms, the enshrinement of Sarutahiko in the Aiki shrine and by extension in Aikido itself is a restoration a newer (and older) spirit of righteousness and justice now about in the land.

Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
The issue is how you analyze and connect the evidence and it is clear to me that you and I think differently.
You have a very appropriate scholarly detachment and the laudable suspension of any particular conclusions awaiting a full survey of the evidence. I come from a forensic background. Therefore, haziness of evidence does not deter me from coming to some preliminary conclusions at least at one level of inference beyond the available evidence, based on both objective and subjective analyses -- if nothing else, so as to frame inquiry looking for more evidence. Without a working theory, facts just sit there and do not direct you anywhere; without filling a theory up with some weighty facts, theories are wicker frameworks that just blow away. History is the acts of people, and therefore understanding their rational AND non-rational subjective motivations personal understandings is at least as important as their objective interests and concerns.

Last edited by Erick Mead : 09-16-2008 at 12:53 PM.


Erick Mead
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