One or two more comments.
George S. Ledyard
My picture of O-Sensei was formed first and foremost sitting around with Sensei after class back in the seventies. Sensei talked about the Founder and his own experience as an uchi deshi all the time. For us, even though we had never seen the Founder or trained in Japan, it was impossible to picture Aikido without his presence.
What I tried to communicate with my statements about "myth" and it's function was to express the sense I always had from the beginning in my own Aikido experience of O-Sensei as a figure somewhat larger than life. All of the uchi deshi I talked to over the years were profoundly effected by the Founder. He was "mythic" more than "mythical" I think. It is this aspect of him that continues to inspire and motivate. To this extent I understand the desire of the Aikikai to promote their own version of the story. My own vision of the mythic figure is a bit different than the one that's official but it is very important to me in my relationship to the art.
PAG. I think that here in Japan I have been exposed to more of the hagiography than I was before I came here, and this becomes more intense the closer you are to the Hombu Dojo. The founder has been given a role to play and any warts and blemishes which would make him an ordinary man have long disappeared--and this is really the ura-gawa of the 'mythic'. There is a great need for a detailed discussion about omote & ura as applied to the culture in general and I plan at least to start this towards the end of the series of columns (if I am not assassinated before then
I am not, of course, saying that it wrong for the deshi to be profoundly affected by the Founder. Chiba Sensei has said the same thing. However, it is also true that Ueshiba was well into guru status by the time Chiba entered the Hombu Dojo. There is an omote / ura aspect to this status, too. I often wonder what the conversations between Ueshiba and Goi or Odano Sanae (I have Earle's book) were actually like...
I think the problem here is that O Sensei has not been given any middle ground between (a) full aikido sainthood and (b) being a relic of prewar aikido--with all that this implies--that we may revere, but not take seriously today. The Hombu oscillates between (a) and (b) and he is portrayed by John Stevens as a Christlike figure, or like Ghandi. However (this omote version goes), we have moved on since then, of course, because aikido has changed to take account of the times etc etc. But if we read his writings, courtesy of Prof Stevens, we can see that O Sensei's essential message has not changed at all and is exactly the one so tirelessly proclaimed by Kisshomaru Doshu and now by his son.
My gut feeling is that we deserve better than this.