Re: Ueshiba's Golden Lights
There are accounts of Ueshiba doing things that none of his compatriots could do - these regarding spirit possession and spirit calling (I'm a deep agnostic on all of this - but Mariye Takahashi's account in Aikido Journal is quite striking). Just as Sagawa took pains to state that his aiki was not the same as Horikawa's or Matsuda's or Yoshida Kotaro's, it is possible that Ueshiba took Daito-ryu and augmented it with his spiritual practices in some unique and wonderful ways. (This is different from a denial that aikido, in substance, is derived directly from Daito-ryu and that aiki, in particular, is derived from Daito-ryu and is the same (although each may articulate nuances and details differently) of Chinese internal arts.
I'm not directing this or what follows as a criticism of anyone's commentary here, fwiw.
Simply this: The man was deeply religious. Terry Dobson described traveling with him and listening to him pray through most of the night. In trying to say that aikido is not a religious practice, one can easily denigrate the deep spiritual, deep religious path that Ueshiba was on.
On the other hand, I have no doubt that he melded his spiritual practices in such a way that they contributed to his development and training in aiki - so that, for him, the stronger he got, the closer to the gods, and the closer to the gods, the stronger he got.
It is very unfortunate that some practice reduction when it comes to Ueshiba. "Well, his spiritual practices were all just his odd language for internal training," or "internal training? No way. He was a 'spiritual' man!" Didn't someone say that the secret of aiki is in in-yo? So, when it comes to Ueshiba,
this is one more dichotomy that needs to be taken into account. Not either-or. Not even both-and. For Ueshiba, it was "both-either-and-or
It is also probably true that Ueshiba began to believe that without the spiritual practices, the physical skills could not be developed. I have two reasons for saying this:
1. His outrage when Tohei demonstrated ki tricks after a night of debauchery - per Tohei's account
2. My essay, Aikido is Three Peaches, goes into depth. Most people were, as he put it, generators of power for him, the avatar to use.
I have no doubt that he was disheartened, to some degree, that 'no one is following me' - but on another level, he showed both the physical and the spiritual. If people didn't follow both, that was on them, not him.