Peter A Goldsbury
The two books I discussed in the column are more closely tied to kotodama: to Ueshiba's own understanding of the term and to the 'multi-cultural' interpretation of kotodama in particular, as understood by Stevens. Stevens presents Ueshiba as creating an original system, but does not make clear to what extent Ueshiba took existing ideas and simply made use of them. ... Of course, like Willian Gleason, he sees himself as an interpreter of Ueshiba for the general public, so to speak. But we have to take him on trust and assume that his interpretation is right--and this is quite dangerous.... My philosophical bent is not really phenomenologist, but the type of presentation/interpretation favored by Stevens and Gleason is something I increasingly wanted to avoid.
Whether it is intended or not, I take from the effort so far on this point the following:
1) The substance of kotodama as practiced by Ueshiba, as such, (and such as it is) is not intrinsically amenable to non-native speakers, and barely, if at all, amenable to native speakers;
2) The interpretation of other aspects of "Ueshiba's training" ( such as certain ideas of what aiki is or isn't or how it is to be instilled) suffer similar defects in transmission, and from a similar problem.
I extend the points so as to save the baby I see here from the bathwater so plainly noted above. I see the process involved as of value without regard to the exact substantive content (within limits). In other words, the process seems the teaching -- more than the substrate on which it operates.
A sausage machine makes sausage. Beef, pork, chicken, turkey or venison -- all come out as recognizable sausage, having little to do with the source or nature of the meat concerned, though certainly each has its distinctive flavor, and further idiosyncratic flavoring or spice is an expected part of the process, and a matter of art in the making and the enjoyment of eating. .
Some efforts in this regard, however, have the distinct air of being stuck with some chickens, and yet desperately trying to make them collectively look like a cow before putting them through the sausage machine. I think they have missed the point. The limits of this understanding would be in assuring that there is SOME meat involved. Taking the feathers and making chicken sausage of them is -- well, not sausage, anyway -- and rather small and messy as pillows go ...