View Single Post
Old 04-23-2017, 08:03 PM   #13
Peter Goldsbury
Peter Goldsbury's Avatar
Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 2,244
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 28 (Part One)

Erick Mead wrote: View Post
I would be very interested in your view of Owen Barfield's "Saving the Appearances." It seems to relate to the "Three Worlds" focus that plays out in the understandings of what aiki is, was or was supposed to be (or become) in the eyes of its founder, its inheritor -- and those who seek whatever lies behind (or within) its forms. In Barfield's line of thought, the latter was ultimately to become a "final participation" as fully internalized by a practitioner such that he owns and in a sense IS the essence of the art - rather the art (and its institutions) "owning" him, as it were.)

Given your interest in the Wittgenstein parallel to Ueshiba's legacy and the overall problems presented in this context with language, concepts and their expression -- (native and otherwise) I also highly recommend his "Poetic Diction." Barfield is an English developer of the Goetheian, anthroposophic line of thought continued by Rudolf Steiner. To my mind, that ferment of ideas developing in the European context bears curious resonances with New Religions like Omoto-kyo in Japan.

Barfield was influential in the Inklings set -- and much disaffected with Bloomsbury, particularly with its divorce between disembodied values and their practical effects. The Goethe legacy itself through Steiner may also be a similar parallel to that you are examining in the concrete and conceptual development and transmission of aikido.
As I stated earlier, I read Barfield, Williams, and, later, Lewis and, finally, Tolkien, separately and piecemeal and I think in retrospect that this was a better approach than taking them all at once. However, to see the connections you do need an overview. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, by Philip and Carol Zaleski, provides such an overview, but needs to be approached with great care. The tone is breathless adulation, but I think that treating each author separately, and each on his respective merits, is a better approach.

This is what happened to me at Sussex. My teacher was a High Anglican and once put on a performance of one of Charles Williams' plays. So, The English Poetic Mind was the first book I read. My teacher at school had been taught by F R Leavis, who was as much of an institution in Cambridge as the Inklings were in Oxford, and it seemed to me that Williams was following a similar critical method, which is first and foremost, to look at what the text means and then to examine the textual history. Barfield does this, but his classical education also comes out in his writings. This is why I found him attractive as a literary critic, since my own intellectual training was in the Greek and Latin classics.

In the seventh essay in Saving the Appearances, Barfield discusses the meaning of this phrase and traces its origin to Simplicius, in his commentary on Aristotle's De Caelo. At the time when I was doing my Ph.D., the only version of this text was the Greek original, but my supervisor just happened to be editing a translation of the entire corpus of the ancient Greek commentators on Aristotle, and I read Simplicius under his direction. What Barfield does not take account of is the vast amount of critical study about ‘the appearances' as it has featured in Greek philosophy. (Simplicius was writing in the six century AD, but Aristotle was using the term about 1,000 years earlier.) De Caelo, for example, is one part of a vast three-part treatment by Aristotle on the physical world, along with his Physics, and his De Generatione et Corruptione. However, it is not clear at all that ‘appearances' (phainomena, in Greek) always carried the same meaning in its 1,000-year journey from Plato to Simplicius. The phainomena were the focus of an analytical and philosophical method that probably began with the Presocratics, who were ‘ancient' even when Aristotle was writing.

The studies by the Inklings are one small part of an enormous intellectual enterprise, transcending cultures and spanning centuries, to make sense of the connection, broadly stated, between ‘words' and ‘the world' (both concepts understood in their most general sense). The Inklings were doing this; Hopkins was doing this in his poetry; Wittgenstein was doing this in his study of language; Plato and Aristotle were doing this, centuries earlier.

Morihei Ueshiba was doing this, also, but he was part of an intellectual tradition that was Chinese and Buddhist, which followed a different set of parameters. I think this is why kotodama is a concept that needs to be looked at from many directions, including Japanese language, Japanese literature, and ‘new' religions like Omoto and their antecedents.

P A Goldsbury
Kokusai Dojo,
  Reply With Quote