Dear Prof Goldsbury,
An amazing piece of scholarship.
It opens up many questions.
Although O-sensei's technuical and physical development are unquestioned it begs the question in how far the spirit possession played a critical role in his aikido prowess.
Even if you do not believe in the reality of spirit possesion, the assumption that you have an altered personality and/or enhanced abilities through the spirit possession would play a key role.
It reminds me of three anecdotes about O-sensei, how in his last years when he was barely able to walk he could, maybe through a belief in spirit possession , still demonstrate on the tatami without hindrances. The belief in spirit possession could short out the brain to bypass the pain and other sensations.
There is the anecdote of the imperial demonstration where a very ill O-sensei put up a fantastic demonstration and collpased afterwards, as the spirit left him.
There is also the Hawaii demonstration where Koichi Tohei was recovering from an excess of Whisky and O-sensie is said to have berated him and asked how a kami can inhabit such body.
Put in the context of your article this might imply a belief of O-sensei that spirit possession was essential to aikido, even where Koichie Tohei considered aikido as something merely physical.
I eagerly await the next T.I.E. column and the book.
I wish you a happy and productive (in terms of writing) New year
Thank you for your comments. One of the aims of this series of essays is to place aikido in as detailed a cultural context as possible and at present these essays deal primarily with Morihei Ueshiba. I am aware of the issues involved here: establishing a working definition of culture and deciding what will be included; looking at the history of Japan from at least 1868 until 1945 and then looking at how postwar Japan deals with the legacy of World War II. That this is still an issue can be seen from the reactions to Abe Shinzo's recent visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. Some would prefer these issues to be left quietly alone and focus instead on world peace and the future of mankind -- as if one could easily do this without worrying about the darker aspects of Japan's history.
Morihei Ueshiba lived through an unusually turbulent period of Japanese history (even for Japan), but it is difficult to obtain a clear picture of this background from the biographies of Ueshiba that have been published. The same is also true of Onisaburo Deguchi. Some think this man was a charlatan, a purveyor of religious snake oil and kool-aid and if so it is reasonable to wonder whether this had any influence on his disciples. Mediated spirit possession is a convenient focus for looking at other aspects of Deguchi's religion and its influence on Morihei Ueshiba.
Happy New Year!