Re: The purpose of Aikido?
To me, one of the big issues about O Sensei's Aikido, his purpose, and Spirituality, is an inherent misunderstanding about what he was portraying Aikido as.
I have read people make statements like "Shinto is the spiritual basis for Aikido…." and I think it's more important to understand that, in my opinion, Shinto just happens to be the form that O Sensei resonated with and expressed his spiritual connection through. One could say that Aikido, in-and-of-itself, is also a form that he expressed it through.
The spiritual basis of Aikido, to me, is the experience(s) he had that revealed, what to him was, the "true nature of things." This is an experience of "spiritual Aiki", or joining with Universal Consciousness or Spirit, and it is beyond Shinto or any organized, codified, or dogmatic belief system or form. It is simply what it is: conscious spiritual connection.
It was out of this that I think he made statements like "Budo is Love" and his notions of the "loving protection of all things" and such. In the end, I believe that O Sensei's spirituality and his AIkido merged, and were inseparable.
Today, people obviously practice AIkido for any number of different reasons. I think O Sensei ultimately meant Aikido to be a way to practice manifesting spiritual experience in every day life, and the "good things" that go along with that. Does that means that one need have a spiritual experience first to do so? Can Aikido practice bring that? Perhaps, to some. Depends on the person, and/or the teacher, depends on what the person has been or is being inducted into. Reverse engineering can be tricky, but not impossible.
So, I think that, as O Sensei developed, Aikido became an expression of his spirituality, I don't think that his spirituality came about only because of his martial Aiki. For him, they were clearly intertwined, but I don't think his Aiki skills were what opened a spiritual door for him, not alone anyway. We'll never really know though.