went back and read an old thread which had quite a few folks http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=14063
memory lane. there was a time when jim sorrentino took exception to dan; rob liberti and sigman; david orange and IS folks in general; and the endless arguments between dan and mike. all these heated exchange brought back fond memory which i don't have to remember, since there is a search function in the forum. i remembered thinking what in the god name these folks talking about and made all these wild claims. i decided to go and experienced their stuffs. to date, i have not get the chance to experience a number of these folks, but the ones that i had, they actually walked the walk better than they talked the talk. i sometimes wondered how many of these folks who had debate with dan, mike, rob john, and so on, who went out and get their hands on these folks and changed their mind soon after. i tell ya, ego is a strange thing, just like waffle for breakfast and that just wrong; ham, egg, sausage and bacon for moi!
This was my experience as well. There is a lot of curmudgeonly discussion on this board around these skills, enough argument that I went and checked it out. The stuff is crazy and amazing. And it isn't spiritual.
That being said, it is pretty hard to deny that Ueshiba Sr was spiritually oriented -- why would he have spent so long in Omoto? You don't do that if you are just looking to be the biggest bad ass on the block.
I think the problem in this discussion is that if is one not reading the IS forums carefully, then they appear to say that Ueshiba never meant anything spiritual and that everything was only related to developing IS skills all the time. Probably the better way to view it is that some (but not all) of what appears to be namby-pamby New Age religious crap is actually a clue to IS training.
But there are also statements that are purely spiritual or religious. For example, I find it hard to believe that he was asked to give a lecture for Byakko in order to help them become better martial artists.
Perhaps someone with better J-language skills can shed some light on this aspect of it. Isn't there a statement attributed to Ueshiba that says Aikido is love? Doesn't that relate to a discussion of changing out the kanji for blending (ai -合) with the kanji for love (ai-愛)? That seems like it would be a pretty strong argument for their being a spiritual component outside of the IS discussion.