Look forward to it. "Many Dimensions" was a good romp.
This is a brief first stab at a much larger discussion, and perhaps it might need a separate thread. First, a ‘self-introduction.’
I was exposed to the study of languages and language from an early age, for my father was determined that I should receive the kind of education that the upheavals of World War II had denied him. This involved both practical and theoretical training in language. During World War II and the invasion of Normandy, he was billeted with a French family and our family became friends. This meant operating in French and I was exposed to French newspapers and magazines from around the age of four or five.
When older I was sent to an English private school and was lucky to have many language teachers: one each for French, Latin, Greek and German, and three different teachers for English language and literature. English language studies involved much attention to metaphor and how this actually worked, while English literature was divided into three broad sections, each with a separate teacher: Beowulf and Chaucer; Shakespeare; and English Literature after Shakespeare, especially the poetry of Donne and the metaphysical poets, like George Herbert, some modern novels, by E M Forster and others, and especially the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. My teacher here had been taught by F R Leavis at Cambridge and he taught us the ‘practical criticism’ of I A Richards and Harley Granville Barker (Prefaces to Shakespeare
). We never used textbooks. Instead we were given reading lists and borrowed the books from a large municipal library, which was a short walk from school.
After school, at 18, I went to France and studied ancient and modern philosophy, but in French. This mainly involved Plato and Sartre, but I enjoyed wandering around libraries in Paris. Back in England after a few years, I spent much time studying the poetry of Hopkins, but from the ‘inside’, so to speak. I had received a Catholic education and was a member of the Jesuits. So, this involved a long spell at St Beuno’s college in North Wales, where Hopkins spent much of his life. Hopkins’ theories of inscape and instress make much better sense if you have studied Duns Scotus and this was quite possible, even in a rigid order like the Jesuits.
After the Jesuits, I needed a regular degree and went to Sussex University. This was in 1966 and Sussex was still quite small, with the ‘Oxbridge’ style of one-to-one teaching via tutorials. There were no faculties at Sussex, only ‘schools of study’ and I was in English and American Studies, but my main subject was philosophy. It was here that I had a literature teacher who had been exposed to the Inklings, especially the critical studies of Charles Williams and Owen Barfield. The main books here were The English Poetic Mind
and Poetic Diction
, but the rest followed. My way into C S Lewis was via his Allegory of Love
(allegory is also a very powerful literary device), which also involved reading Dante, but I avoided his religious works and all the works of Tolkien until much later. In fact, it was two prolonged stays in hospital that allowed me, separately, to go through Lewis’s Narnia volumes and his ‘popular’ Christianity and through Tolkien’s cycle of Hobbit, the Rings trilogy and the Silmarillion
. Tolkien, especially, was a revelation.
Along with literature, I had three teachers who specialized in Wittgenstein and they traced back their intellectual lineage to Wittgenstein himself. Sussex maintained a mansion in the South Downs and we could hire the place at weekends. I was in a philosophy-cum-literary society and I remember weekends spent with Gilbert Ryle and G E M Anscombe, who had translated Wittgenstein’s later work into English.
I continued studying Wittgenstein at Harvard, but combined this with intensive work on Plato and Aristotle, together with Greek prose, poetry and oratory. This provided sufficient background to do a Ph.D. on Aristotle’s theories of dialectic and how rhetoric and language lead to knowledge. In the meantime, Japan beckoned and I was fortunate not to go to Tokyo, but to Hiroshima, where the fact of the atomic bomb provides a locus for studying a whole cluster of issues involving language, culture, collective memory, and the mediation of meanings in language. Luckily, I had a succession of exacting teachers / tutors of Japanese language and literature, to whom I in turn taught English literature as I had learned it at Sussex. I now believe that such a background is very important in approaching someone like Morihei Ueshiba – and also seeing why it is actually so difficult to reach Ueshiba himself. You have to penetrate the veils of the Ueshiba family and what they stand for and also the benevolent work of popular translators like John Stevens.
I will stop here, but I strongly recommend approaching kotodama via Japanese literature and would suggest that Volume 1 of Konishi’s History of Japanese Literature
as a good starting point, if you can find it. He uses kotodama
as a way of organizing his material.
Apologies to all for the prolonged thread drift.