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Old 09-07-2005, 03:41 PM   #13
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Re: Omoto-kyo Theology

First, for those interested…

Here is a "brief" summary of the Reikai Monogatari in English: (look for the link in the frame on the left)

Second, again, I want to thank those that have taken the time to read the piece and say a few kind words. I am very appreciative and humbled by both.

Third, I would say that most likely both forms of ritual are present in Omoto-kyo the tradition and thus most likely in Osensei's own practice -- which must include his teaching as well. Many cultures do indeed have an understanding where the ritual act itself, with its instruments, its scents, sounds, actions, symbols, etc., carry within them the potency for transformation and/or for purification, pacification, perfection, etc. Within such a view of ritual, neither understanding nor belief is all that relative to how viable the ritual performance remains. In fact, in many cases, such things may be seen as completely irrelevant. An example of this could be the rituals related to the puberty ceremonies of certain Native American traditions. In such rites, often times a white feather is brushed against the hair of the girl practicing this rite of passage. The white of the feather, through a system of correspondences and an episteme of resemblance, is considered "potent" enough to bring the girl to an old age -- one where the color of her hair (aged-white) will come to match the color of the feather. In such a rite, whether the girl understands what is occurring, or whether she believes that the feather has such potency, is irrelevant. We see such an understanding of rites throughout nearly every religious tradition. Omoto-kyo, and thus Osensei's understanding of Aikido would most expectedly follow this rule as well. That is to say, I would very much imagine that we would find either Osensei saying and/or someone claiming that Osensei said to them that simply doing Aikido would be enough -- that no more is needed (i.e. we don't really need ichirei-shikon).

However, in some of those traditions, and especially in those that seek to reconcile the subject/object dichotomy, like Omoto-kyo, we tend to also see something different. In these different cultural veins, we see at best a tolerance for the idea that rites are potent in and of themselves and at worst a total rejection of such an notion. In these cultural veins, rather, there is an emphasis given to the person and to the centrality of their body/mind and/or spirit. This means, or tends to mean, that if one does not bring to the rite a deep sense of self and/or of personal investment (according to whatever given ontology or theology, etc., that is supporting such a rite) the ritual act is without potency.

In such traditions, as such rites might be deemed hollow or empty, or "just going through the motions." They are also often reduced to being seen as talismanic, superstitious, of the masses, ignorant, etc. What does this mean? That means that one will have to determine if when Osensei said or meant that Aikido is all one needs, was he speaking literally, as we see in some rituals within some cultures, or was he speaking in light of how universal God and the cosmos are and that thus one can speak about one thing as if it is many and many things as if it is one thing. If he's coming from the point of view of these great universals, it would seem that seeing a ritual itself as something potent would in some way speak contrarily to this other view (which is precisely the way that most mystical traditions tend to look at the former view of ritual). In the end, and nevertheless, this may prove to be meaningless in terms of our own practice. Why?

Undoubtedly more work will have to be done on Omoto-kyo theology. However, when that work is done I still think there will remain a choice for those of us that might want to use such information to understand our art and/or the teachings of Osensei. It seems to me that Omoto-kyo is a kind of beast with at least two parts to it. This comes from the fact that Omoto-kyo grew out of a popular movement -- which means that most likely (very probably) it has one foot deeply entrenched in the idea that rites are potent in and of themselves. The other foot of Omoto-kyo however is deeply entrench in the complex and highly sophisticated philosophy/theology of both Buddhist epistemology and Christian mysticism. On this foot, rites as potent in and of themselves is a ridiculous notion since it is the underlying theology/philosophy which alone makes it possible to see so many rites as interrelated, etc.

Personally, I would never say which one is the more valid tradition in terms of history or in terms of understanding Aikido as Osensei may have understood Aikido. Both seem to have their possible flaws -- as the former can often be reduced to a fetishization of the mundane and the latter can often end in a paralysis of analysis. Moreover, the "in between" areas are too grey to make any kind of assertion practical. However, when it comes to understanding those poems and phrases whereby Osensei has become the world figure he is, when it comes to Aikido being something for all times and for all people, when it comes to Budo being practical in terms of our modern situation, for me, one has to look at those very efforts that Omoto-kyo itself made in addressing its interests in positing itself as a world religious tradition. In that sense then, one is going to have to look more toward the idea that it is what is inside of the person that counts and thus look away more from the idea that the rites in and of themselves are potent. In a way, at a certain point, one is going to have to be dissatisfied with saying "SU, " and then when one becomes dissatisfied with saying "SU," one can finally say it in the way it was supposed to be said -- for the first time, all over again.

Finally, in regards to the "silence," I agree with Peter here. However, I also think that for some, keeping Osensei's thought mysterious was a positive and useful thing. Penetrating this "mystery" a bit, which some would rather not have, is also adding to the "silence" some may be sensing. Personally, I see this work only as a direction. If it is standing out at all, it is only because most folks have often gone in another direction -- leaving this piece to stand alone -- which gives it the impression of standing out. What is the direction of this essay? It is the direction of looking at Omoto-kyo theology from the point of view of the History of Religions. The connection to Aikido is only hypothetical: that Osensei's thought (these phrases and passages that have made him a world figure) is based upon Omoto-kyo theology. However, if one looks at the essay, one can see that Onisaburo maxim is almost word for word the same thing as the passage next quoted (written by Osensei). So, for me, and as Peter and I have discussed together, the next steps for us to take is more comparative analysis of Omoto-kyo theology as written by Onisaburo (which may be different from what is being written by Omoto-kyo today) and Osensei's writings/lectures regarding his more ultimate understandings of Aikido.


David M. Valadez
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