Thanks for the discussion. You make some very good points, and I take no offense.
I really only have two additional comments:
1) What people get out of the spiritual side of aikido and what O'Sensei intended are often very different. Peter Goldsbury's series of articles, available here, on "Transmission, Inheritance, and Emulation" are eye-opening in this regard. Naturally, as the art evolved and opened up to the rest of the world after World War II, the core of the art was no longer closely associated with its Omoto Kyo roots.
That's fine. O'Sensei did not insist that his students follow the religion or even fully understand the spiritual foundation of his art.
But that leaves us with a quandary. His closest students sometimes profess to not understanding what O'Sensei was talking about, and so they focused on learning the body skills. They were also really dang good. Now here we are 60 to 70 years later and there are a whole bunch of people who are attracted to the spiritual side of aikido, but they understand even less of O'Sensei's spiritual foundation than his direct students and aren't anywhere near as good.
That's me, by the way.
I was attracted to aikido because of its emphasis on a model for conflict resolution that forged a middle ground between fight and flight. I still believe in the ideal of defending myself from violent attack by controlling my attacker(s) and causing as little harm as possible to him. But that brings me to my second point:
2) All of the above is predicated on actually being able to do
aikido well. For me, the spiritual stuff follows from the physical stuff. If I can only do effective techniques with a cooperating attacker, and my only option is the gentle one, then the foundation for the spiritual stuff is weak.
To put it another way, if aikido provides a way to resolve conflicts with minimal injury, and the physical stuff is the expression of the spiritual stuff, and the physical stuff doesn't work
, then the spiritual stuff is built on a faulty premise.
Having said all of that, there are folks who have the goods. Aikido does work for them, and they have the solid foundation for the more expansive spiritual side of things. The art has not failed them.
I'm not one of those people (yet?). So from what I've seen and experienced since I started in 1999, is that aiki (which I think of as mind/body and body/body integration) is the core from which all else flows: atemi, kuzushi, effective technique, great ukemi, and takemusu aikido.