Re: Article: O-Sensei's Aikido by George S. Ledyard
"So what is being passed down is a simpler, secularized version which is primarily a physical practice with an attached ethical system but lacking in the elements of true insight which supplied the Founder with his realizations."
Honestly, when I first read Aikido and the Harmony of Nature, I thought it was overwhelming and I felt like I wouldn't be able to do aikido if I had to adopt that religious view. I hardly know enough of my own religion, Buddhism, to be able to adopt the beliefs of O Sensei. I think there might be something like ki, but I don't know if I believe it in the way it is presented in that book. And I don't think about the creation and destruction of galaxies when I'm doing aikido--I think that it's an interesting philosophical perspective, and I think that kind of embodiment of (or being in harmony with) the workings of the universe may contribute to the transformative nature of the art, but it's just too much for me to wrap my mind around.
Also, I don't think I'd be interested in aikido if it wasn't for the ethical and philosophical system attached to it. If it was just strengthening the ego through fighting and competition, I wouldn't enjoy it at all. I just limit myself to what I can identify with, which is from the perspective that if I'm really doing aikido, then I'm acting in harmony with what is, and the idea of non-competition and such. Even though I don't have the same belief system as the founder, I certainly do not think that aikido is a waste of time, and I don't think that it's a "mundane" rather than "spiritual" pursuit for me.
I think that aikido is a transformative path for a lot of people even without the esoteric Shinto beliefs attached to it. In the same way, I guess, that certain techniques of Buddhism like mindfulness meditation and loving-kindness practices can do benefit to people even if they don't adopt Buddhist beliefs. People who aren't Buddhist probably won't have the same relationship with Buddhist mind-training techniques as Buddhists do, but that doesn't change their transformative power.
I don't know if I believe that transformative power is inherent in the movements of aikido, but I do think that with certain conditions in the way it is practiced, like in an atmosphere of non-competition and attempting musubi rather than beating someone up, can contribute to human betterment. As long as those conditions are there, I think that aikido can certainly be an aspect of a spiritual path even without the Omoto Kyo doctrine.