“One spirit, four souls”— bringing positive guidance to humankind
Spiritual and physical instincts
AJ: In our last conversation you talked about two types of human “instinct,” the spiritual and physical, and suggested the importance of maintaining them in a relationship you referred to as a “spiritual primary — physical secondary.” We would like to ask you to go into the concepts of spirit and soul in more detail. Morihei Ueshiba often explained his aikido using expressions Uke “one spirit, four souls.” What exactly does this expression mean?
Human spirituality is comprised of one spirit and four souls. The one spirit is that which we refer to as naohi (lit. direct spirit). The four souls are called aramitama, nigimitama, kushimitama and sachimitama.
AJ: Before you go on, permit me to ask a very basic question. How do this spirit and these souls differ from one another? Do you mean that the one spirit — the one you call naohi — has four different functions?
Deguchi: Naohi may be understood as the simplest, purest, innermost aspect of the human spirit, embodying supreme good and ultimate beauty. Think of it as something resident in — or underlying or permeating — each of the four souls. Or, you might think of the human spirit as having four modes of operation.
All human beings have been endowed by God (kami in Japanese) with one spirit and four souls, and humankind are children of the kami. Now, each of these four souls is associated with both a substance and a set of functions.
The substance of aramitama is courage. The functions of aramitama are advancing, achieving, flourishing, endeavoring and prevailing.
When aramitama becomes active, the energy to move things forward is engendered and advancement occurs. Achieving manifests as decisiveness and resolution. Flourishing manifests as rousing oneself to action and execution. Endeavoring manifests as striving, industriousness and the urge to work hard. Prevailing manifests as striking down and triumphing over all evil and over all desires and appetites. These are all functions of aramitama. One might encapsulate these more generally in terms like courage and nerve, patience and perseverance, and executive ability.
The substance of nigimitama is affinity. Its functions are peace, self-governance, purification and association.
Thus, when nigimitama is at work people create peace around them, order their affairs so as to live virtuous lives, prepare their homes and govern their nations. They also enter a state of communion with God, their fellow humans and everything in the universe. Conjugal affection, the tenderness of lovers, brotherly love and a love for humanity in general are all functions of nigimitama, generalized as affinity.
The substance of sachimitama is love. Its functions are increase, creation, engenderment, change and rearing.
Sachimitama augments surroundings, creates things, brings forth all that is, promotes change and evolution, rears and fosters. Thus, the substance of sachimitama may be generalized as love. This does not refer to the kind of love felt between husband and wife or between lovers, for this falls within the province of nigimitama. The term love is used here to suggest the urge to engender, create, give birth and cultivate. The wholehearted enthusiasm of the artist or craftsman pursuing his or her work, for example, the great affection and devotion of a mother in bearing and raising her child, or the care with which farmers devote themselves to planting and tending their crops and their love of the land.
Next is kushimitama, the substance of which is wisdom. The functions of kushimitama include skill, realization, perception and comprehension.
The activation of kushimitama gives rise to accomplishment through skill, a sharpening of the senses and powers of observation and a honing of objective judgement. Intellectual enlightenment comes through perception, realization and knowledge. Spiritual enlightenment comes through direct perception and intuitive comprehension.
The four functions (or souls) — courage, affinity, love and wisdom — are inherent in all human beings.
AJ: With humanity having such a wonderful spiritual composition, our world should be in a little better shape than it is.
For that to happen, the one spirit and four souls must develop correctly. To that end, we need to consider the forces that discipline the five passions associated with each of these souls.
AJ: Do you mean something like admonitions or commandments?
Yes, in a way, but these forces are not, like commandments, imposed from without; they exist more as part of an intricate system of checks and balances. The relationship between the one spirit and four souls and these disciplining forces is like that between the engine and brakes of an automobile — the one spirit and four souls being the engine, the disciplining forces the brakes. No matter how good the engine is, if the brakes fail the vehicle turns into something with a tremendous destructive potential.
The disciplining force inherent in naohi is a capacity for reflection. This is something that only human beings are capable of. When this capacity is functioning soundly, the one spirit and four souls operate in a manner that is predominantly positive.
The disciplining force balancing aramitama is a capacity to feel shame. The substance of aramitama is courage, but courage alone, unchecked, has the potential to manifest negatively as audacity or impetuousness. This is what happens when the strong strike down the weak and take what they want from them. If the capacity for reflection is functioning properly, the capacity to feel shame will also come into play to counterbalance such urges. The thought, “If I do that I will be ashamed,” enters the person’s mind, urging them to apply their courage in other directions. If the capacity for reflection is forgotten or ignored, naohi is reversed and transformed into magahi (lit. twisted spirit) and courage becomes misguided.
The disciplining force associated with nigimitama is a capacity for regret and repentance. If the august spirit underlying naohi goes awry and the capacity for reflection fails, the capacity for regret does not function either. The affinity associated with nigimitama then becomes an inclination toward evil and the individual turns to embrace that which is wrong or immoral.
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