Editors’ note. This is part one of a two part series. You can find part two here.
O Sensei believed deeply that it was always possible and desirable to go more deeply into our practice of Aikido, that every day can be a day of spiritual progress.
One example illustrating this progress is dimensionality, or the greater depths available to us.
We can see this in viewing the films of O Sensei from the oldest film we know of, taken in 1935 at the Asahi Newspaper Dojo to the last film taken in 1969 at the newly built Hombu dojo in Tokyo shortly before his passing away that same year.
Comparing his Aikido in the two films, the difference is dramatic. The 1935 movements are sharp and direct. The 1969 movements are softer and appear to envelope his partner.
Another way to look at the difference between 1935 and 1969 is to say it is more refined. Dimensionality practice is about a deeper experience and functionality from more refined states of consciousness.
O Sensei often referred to three basic dimensions of consciousness: manifest, hidden and divine, (gen, yu and shin) in Japanese. He stressed the ability to experience and function from them was a crucial part of Aikido practice.
“To truly implement the Art of Peace, you must be able to sport freely in the manifest, hidden and divine realms.” (The Art of Peace translated by John Stevens page 87).
It is a fair question to ask what did he mean by these realms of consciousness and how can they be experienced in a functional way?
O Sensei did not make up these dimensions of consciousness; wisdom traditions at least as far back as ancient India recognized them. We will start with a basic definition and then look at some examples from other traditions.
Manifest Dimension of Consciousness
This is the basic physical world in which we live during our daily activities and experience. It includes our physical bodies and all the familiar aspects of creation with which we routinely interact.
In the practice of T’ai-chi Ch’uan the same three levels of consciousness are also recognized. The manifest is called the human level. For a detailed outline of the T’ai-chi perspective on these dimensions of consciousness see Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai-chi Ch’uan by Professor Cheng Man-ching Chapter 11, pages 75-81.
In ancient India the manifest is called the gross dimension of consciousness as outlined in Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination. Shakara was a teacher in India who lived from about 686 to 717 AD. (Crest-Jewel of Discrimination translated by Swami Prabhavanada and Christopher Isherwood pages 45-49).
Hidden Dimension of Consciousness
The hidden dimension of consciousness is the realm of subtle energies. This is where the predominate experience is of ki or chi in Chinese. Every culture has its own name for this subtle energy.
Shankara from India called it the Subtle dimension. We experience this dimension in many ways on a regular basis when we act on intuition and also when we dream. The dream state is not the hidden dimension but it is one way we routinely experience it.
Professor Cheng Man-ching in Thirteen Treatises calls it the Earthly Dimension.
When we experience ki flowing through our bodies we are in touch with the hidden dimension through the vehicle of our physical or manifest bodies.
In the Tibetan Book of the Dead they describe the hidden dimension as the Bardo with many layers to it. (The Tibetan Book of the Dead, translated by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Oxford University Press, page xvi and many other references throughout the book)
Onisaburo Deguchi, O Sensei’s primary spiritual teacher and co-founder of Omoto-kyo, a spiritual group in Japan, wrote an exhaustive account of the hidden dimension in his Reikai Monogatari (Journeys in the Spirit World), an 81 volume treatise of his experiences in the hidden dimension.