In Aikido Shugyo, Gozo Shioda states, at that time, that after 50 years and serving a long time at O'Sensei's side, he still ended up indiffernet to the religious aspects of Aikido. He goes as far to say he is an atheist. Yet O'Sensei had great trust in him despite this.
He further goes on to say that one of the greatest things about O'Sensei was that he never forced his religious beliefs on his students. Shioda also mentions going to church with O'Sensei many times despite his lack of faith in a god.
I've read and heard many students of O'Sensei say they had no idea as to what he said when he started rambling on about such things as Kotodama. It was pretty much up to the individual to really figure out what he meant. I guess you never asked him to explain himself ...
Now with that said, Aikido to me is the unification of the Mind, body and spirit. It is the masterey of balance, at all levels. Physical, mental, etc (I got a long way to go on this) When asked about how one Harmonizes with the Universe, I usually respond, first you must learn to harmonize with yourself and those things that offend or dictate your life in a negative way. Once that's accomplished, then MAYBE one will start harmonizing with the universe. For me, this starts with YOSHIN, as in YOSHINKAN. Bringing the mind, body and spirit together. As I begin to see my physical techniques grow not just in power, but in balance and flow, I find that effecting how I deal with everyday life. Yes, I fall off the band wagon from time to time which draws the conclusion that after 20 years, I need more practice. I've also found this practice has help me become a bit more patient, especially since I now run my own school. I always practice with my students.
This is what Aikido means to me. I always liked the comment "Practice technique to learn Aikido, not Aikido to learn Technique."
I also think one can drive themselves crazy trying to figure out what O'Sensei really meant.
Not sure how this relates to this topic .. but thought I'd chime in. Didn't want Chris and Chuck thinking they were all alone.