I understand your predicament--and can tell you that things will become less 'heavy' as the story proceeds. However, when you read O Sensei, even the watered down version as per John Stevens, you may well wonder what planet he is on. Similarly with Deguchi, whose views on kotodama are reminiscent of Harry Potter / Albus Dumbledore with a wand.
Quite apart from O Sensei and Harry Potter, have you trained with William Gleason, or read his books? I read his second book, on kotodama, and was curious that a student of Seigo Yamaguchi could believe in kotodama. I trained with Yamaguchi Sensei for as long as Gleason--and found him on of the most 'un-kotodama-ish' teachers I have ever met. Gleason also trained with Odano Sanae and this led me to her stuff, which is as amazing as kotodama.
In addition, I believe that you regularly train with John Stevens, who incorporates some kind of kotodama chanting into his aikido. Again, his books on kotodama seem to take very much for granted about the world.
So 'aiki' and 'kotodama' are pretty much in the same category. They are Japanese terms, always left untranslated, that have not been anglicized to the degree that 'judo' and 'karaoke' have. So it is not clear what meanings they have in English. I have just received the latest edition of the huge Oxford English Dictionary
. 'Judo' and 'aikido' are both given in this dictionary as English terms, with definitions, but 'aiki' and 'kotodama' do not appear. So there is no 'common usage', against which you can check the use of these terms in English.
With 'kotodama', this is a major problem, since one never knows what the users take for granted about the world.
Man, this is sooo far above my head. Printing and reading in snippets (I think it's my only hope for understanding).
I'll be honest...I think I've given up all hope of truly understanding the kotodama aspects. Sticking to aiki for now...
And eagerly awaiting posts concerning any explorations of yours in that area!