Quite simply a wonderful book. Not at all focused on the techinical aspect of aikido, but that's what you go to the dojo for. This is a book covering the philosophical and spiritual dimensions of aikido, as written by the founder, Morihei Ueshiba. The book gives insight into beautiful yet sometimes complex thoughts and views of the founder and his ideals and reasons for developing the art. Therfore this book will be exteremly helpful for anyone seeking to descover the non-practical side of aikido and spiritual development through the art. Ueshiba himself said that aikido is more than just a series of techniques and that there is indeed an important philisophical aspect as well which is often over looked, however this is necessary to complete the yin-yang concept which the art encompases. To read this book is to delve into spiritual side of aikido, which O Sensei beleived was every bit as essential as what you learn on the mat.
It is clear from reading this book that Aikido dojo practice was but part of O'Sensei's way of life (The "Do" in "AikiDo"). This book paraphrases his writings on this way of life and as such it should be of benefit to the serious practitioner who is on a path of spiritual growth.
As a reader who has come to this book from an Indian (Yogic) and Chinese (Daoist) background, I am struck by the similarities between the practices I have been incorporating into my life from these backgrounds and O'Sensei's way - he makes mention of meditation; purification of the body, mind and heart; chanting, etc., and we can see the various branches of the science of yoga in O'Sensei's science/ mystical way: karma, bhakti, mantra, gyana, nada, and kundalini yoga, amongst others.
As O'Sensei progressed in his life his individual being opened to universal being; he realised the unity of both, and the simple fact that all creatures are of one family. Thus convinced of the futility of war and strife, he developed Aikido, often referred to as the "Art of Peace". A martial art for world peace? O'Sensei has much to say on these topics in the book!
This is a very spiritual book, talking about the way of life of the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, and how he believed things in the world work. Beginners of the spiritual world can find this book more challenging, a leap of faith if you haven't experienced anything to reassure yourself with, but even then I'd say it's a worthy read for you.
The book goes along with what I've learned from other spiritual sources like Cayce's work and astrology, and my little experiences with spirituality. The breathing of heaven and earth, and how we're a cosmos in ourselves, like string theory implies.
If you practise aikido, tai chi, self-development, seek a better way of life, want to be happier, you should read this book. Open up, be sincere, and read up. Along with the book "Art of Peace", this is very useful, and has tools for you to make a better life.
A lot of the material here has been published before but always in bowdlerised, cut and paste versions which resulted in the segmentation of the Founder's thought and ideas, making what appears merely complex, virtually opaque, mysterious and "secret". The title of this book, unfortunately, follows this trend of previous publications: Fortunately, the book itself doesn't. Here we get clear, unambiguous statements by the Founder, such as, "Aikido is the study of the spirit", upon which he elaborates quite succinctly. The "secret" philosophy of aikido, once the veil of mystery put over it has been removed, is digestible and really quite simple and elegant. The text, we are told in the preface, is a series of lectures given by the Founder and translated by his son. Unfortunately, we are not told anything more about those lectures. Perhaps the organisation of the book into discrete chapters follows the original organisation of the lectures? By keeping the reader in the dark about the original sources this book helps perpetuate the "secrecy" which has surrounded the Founder for decades. That said, this book begins the task of putting the Founder's thoughts into context if only because the Founder himself makes a few very specific references such as: "... on December 14, 1940, around 2:00 o'clock in the morning when I was performing misogi, I suddenly forgot every martial art technique I had learned". You will have to buy the book to find out what happens next, but through gems like this we get to see the developing thought of the Founder, presented in this book , coherently and, it seems, for the first time, as a whole. This book gives us access to the world view of a man who saw himself as an avatar, born at this time to teach the world anew that budo is the way of restoring peace not the art of waging war. It is no longer a secret.