Maarten De Queecker
It's not only a problem of language, it's also a problem of culture. To put it bluntly: Western People (US, EU) don't think in the same way as Eastern people do. This is the main reason why it's seemingly difficult to accurately translate the word "Aiki". Japanese is a language that's very context based (high-context) whereas English and other European languages are a lot more explicit: if we say "a", we mean "a" and not "b" or "c" or "d", depending on which context the word "a" occurs in.
If we, as Westeners, try to interpret O'Sensei's words, we will do so within a Western framework, ie. any interpretation will be subject to cultural bias. We will unconsciously project our values and ideas in our interpretation. The only people who would have been able to correctly interpret O'Sensei's texts are those who were close to him when he wrote those texts, because they lived in the same context as him.
You have a good point here. Translating a word from one language to another even when done correct, does not mean that it becomes more understandable. A few years ago at the beginning of the month may it started to snow one night. I talked to my neighbour about it and he said it was the "neige de coucou". It translates as; cuckoo's snow. Good translation, but it does not bring me any closer to the meaning.
Cartesian dualism was unknown to O Sensei. Body and mind/spirit were one to him. We do not only have this division of mind and body, but also tend to view the body as a mechanism. We often compare it with a machine, just like we tend to compare the mind with a computer. With such a mechanistic point of view, which is, although outdated, part of our culture and not easy to get rid off, it becomes difficult to understand or to teach even basic principles of Aikido, let alone ideas about the spiritual side of it. After all, why would a machine with a computer have any need for a spirit?
Greetings from the Auvergne,