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Old 03-31-2009, 04:56 AM   #22
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
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Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 12

Hello Steve,

A few more comments, signalled PAG.

Steve Earle wrote: View Post

Thanks for your comments; very helpful. Haven’t had to think about these subjects in quite this way for some time and notice my scalp beginning to itch!

I’m a little rusty on my Plato, but wasn’t what he was always trying to get at in his questioning the points or limits at which logic inevitably contradicts itself and formalism breaks down? In other words, the formlessness behind the form. This it seems to me is the perennial goal of philosophy—to construct new structures that extend the limits of human understanding while also invariably demonstrating the futility of the effort: No conceptual framework will ever explain everything for all time, and all more or less end in the epitaph “of that whereof I cannot speak I must remain silent”.
PAG. I do not think so. I do not attribute to Plato any ulterior aims about the goal of philosophy other than the questions he himself asks (usually, but not always, through the mouth of Socrates) and the answers he gives in his dialogues.

Steve Earle wrote: View Post
To take the aikido analogy another step further, I might say that the intent (the founder’s intent) behind the transmission of ikkyo was not to simply leave his students with a form to be imitated but to point them in the direction of the formless essence or aiki behind the form.
PAG. Do you have any evidence for this, in the form of statements in his discourses? Or are you speculating on the Founder's supposed intent on the basis of your own training?

Steve Earle wrote: View Post
Likewise, in the discussion taking place here, what (I assume) we are mutually up to is trying to come to a shared sense of understanding and clarity about the subjects at hand—and understanding and clarity are always formless. When that subject is words and language, however, the endeavor is made more difficult to the extent that we are communicating about the very thing that we are communicating with—or if you prefer, the very medium that we are communicating in.
PAG. I have little interest in the question whether understanding and clarity are formless or not. You state that they are always formless. Fine. It does not really affect what is going on here, which is a discussion taking place that very much follows Grice's maxims discussed in the column.

Steve Earle wrote: View Post
Won’t attempt to speculate on what the venerables Kukai or Deguchi were up to, but since you included Odano’s name in the same paragraph, I will respond specifically to that part: First it is important to point out that Odano did not start with questions about words and language. That is where she ended up after many years of attention to fundamental questions about life and the universe.
PAG. She might have done this, but starting with questions, or rather statements, about words and language is what you yourself seem to be doing in your book. There are charts and diagrams right from Chapter One (The Beginning, p. 28). The charts and diagrams occupy many pages and it seems to me that you have written a book about words and things.

Steve Earle wrote: View Post
Second, this was not an academic pursuit. For her, this work was her life, and the act of taking apart words in their written form was a practice—to talk about whether or not that practice is meaningful or philosophically sound without engaging in the practice is a bit like talking about whether or not practicing Zen is meaningful or philosophically sound without sitting.
PAG. Perhaps. One can indeed talk about whether or not practising zen is meaningful or philosophically sound without sitting. Similarly, one can indeed talk about whether The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola are meaningful or philosophically sound without having done them. This is part of the immense value of language. To judge from your book, it does not make much difference to me whether or not her taking apart words in their written form was an academic pursuit.

Occasionally people come to my door seeking new recruits for the religions they belong to. They invariably tell me that the religion they espouse is meaningful and philosophically sound. Sometimes they bring glossy brochures with illustrations of people in unusual clothes speaking to large audiences. Clearly I have to make a judgment on their statements without actually having experienced or believed in the religion in question.

Steve Earle wrote: View Post
Third, by looking at words in their written form through the particular lenses (the particular means of analysis) that she developed as a result of this life-long practice, what she was doing was piercing the formal aspect of words and characters and showing how they related directly back to formlessness. One of the essential conclusions of her work was that life (the energy of life), transparent nothingness, and word-sounds/word-characters are all aspects of the same fundamental formless reality.
PAG. Fine. I accept that she might well have thought that she was piercing the formal aspect of words and characters and showing how they related directly back to formlessness and that her conclusions were as you have described them. Whether I, as a reader and language user, accept these conclusions is quite another question.

Steve Earle wrote: View Post
Again, I would warn that to approach that statement academically without actually engaging in the practice is something akin to trying to understand ikkyo through third-person observation without ever having practiced aikido.
PAG. I disagree and 1-kyo is a red herring . Third person observation is all we have, in order to make judgments about what she was doing. I have spent much of my life looking at words in their written and spoken form, though not with the particular assumptions and presuppositions of Odano Sanae. Whether this activity is academic or not is really immaterial to me, as it probably was to her.

Steve Earle wrote: View Post
Finally in answer to the question, why should this be the archetype of the language of kotodama, my only answer is that there is no good reason of which I am aware; Odano-sensei for one certainly never suggested such a notion.

Look forward to your next installment.

PAG. Well, you mention kotodama on p.13 of the book. I was led to consider Odano in relation to kotodama because William Gleason was her student and wrote books on kotodama and aikido. Having read your book, I think that her approach could indeed be the basis for theses on kotodama that do not rely so much on the kana systems.

I have postponed the next installment, since I need to do some more reading.

Best wishes,


Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 03-31-2009 at 04:59 AM.

P A Goldsbury
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