(Carried over from the thread on sport in order to not degrade the discussion topic there)
Thank you, Peter.
Related to "Reiki"? Metaphorical use of "breath"? OK. Many thanks. I've often wondered about "spirit" when I see it translated by English-speakers, so that helps with a long held question in my mind. Well, it's always confusing and interesting how the gods and cosmologies seem to be capriciously interchanged with practical reality in both Japan and in China, particularly in the topics in and around so-called "internal strength". There is a worrisome aspect to this which I'll try to make a case for.
In terms of the intermingling of reality and relious metaphor, I always like this bit from the first interview of Koichi Tohei on Aikido Journal:
My general point about the quote is that it's very difficult to tell when Ueshiba was honestly talking about the gods as opposed to when he was talking about physical aspects of "internal strength" using religious metaphor. If he was freely intermingling religious discussion with comments, say, on how to do things practically, then it's easy to see that many of the current translations are potentially wildly off-point.
In the Chinese views, from which much of the basic pattern is borrowed by the Japanese, it gets worse. The further I progress in these things, the more suspicious I am that the whole ki, acupuncture, TCM, qigong, etc., paradigm is essentially what the Chinese cosmology is based on. Previously I thought there were some unusual and telling cross-overs, but as the number of these has grown over the years I'm being forced to take a different perspective. Generally what I'm saying is that too many of these discussions, in both Japanese and Chinese, are not what they superficially seem(ed) to be.
intriguing subject, I hope I am not misunderstanding you.
In historical discussions here, it sometimes strikes me that there seems to be a notion that religious metaphor and practical advice are domains that can be separated for the historical topics discussed. Of course for us, that is the case, but I am not so sure it was for the historical figures. So when you say he was "honestly" talking about the gods, do you mean there was such separation in his own mind, or from our point of view in retrospect? If so, what makes you think that, in Ueshiba's world, there existed a division between practical IS training and religious metaphor? I am not asking this as a loaded or rhethorical question, btw.
One coudl argue that Tohei was just a later generation with a different (modernised) upbringing and cosmology.
In a similar vein, of course there is a philosophical position that metaphor (for some: should) be "reduced" to reality - there is also a strong argument, I find, that metaphor cannot always be reduced in such manner, that there are "absolute" metaphors (I take this from German philosopher Hans Blumenberg), and that philosophy and the history of science themeselves are full of important root metaphors (like "reading" nature, or the like).
Especially in relation to the experience of the body, I would tend to think myself that metaphor is irreducible. (Recently it was pointed out to me that a lot of body metaphors are apparently the result of synaesthesia, which again would be a facinating, different line of inquiry).
Just some points to start a discussion on a topic I find interesting - again, maybe based on a misunderstanding of the gist of your initial argument.