John Hatcher and Hiroshi Ikeda: "You have to think!"

I’ve just read a good chunk of John Hatcher’s book The Purpose of Physical Reality (2005). This is the book about divine justice (theodicy) that I mentioned earlier — the book that I didn’t understand yet. I still don’t fully understand it (maybe I won’t), but I’ve made some progress.

The argument that leads all the way from our daily experience to the over-arching processes of divine justice is a long one — and it’s a string of reasoning that I’m not prepared to engage just yet. But I did pick up from this reading of Hatcher’s book what I think is the foundation of his argument.

The core of Hatcher’s argument is actually a redefinition of reality and of human nature. That’s cool, eh? Who couldn’t use a redefinition of reality on Monday afternoon? 🙂 And I’m always baffled by human nature by about 3:30 p.m. (I’m essentially a napping creature by that time of day…)

The gist of the redefinition? The gist of it is that human beings are learners. This is a concept you’ve probably heard before. Hatcher goes beyond our everyday concept of humans as learners, however, to suggest that the human soul is essentially an eternal learning entity. Our souls learn during our lives on earth how to independently investigate reality; our souls then take these learning skills into the next world, after our physical death, where each soul continues learning without end.

The necessity of developing a fundamental learning nature such as this gives us some specific life-long learning objectives. As Hatcher describes these objectives,

What we need to develop are faculties of discernment and judgment so that each of us has a degree of spiritual autonomy, coupled with the desire to foster our own spiritual advancement, together with the tools wherewith to carry out that progress (p. 182).

I went to “inner practice” class at the dojo last week. Ikeda Sensei was in town, and guided us through delicate exercises about how to connect with one another. He called up one of the students to help him demonstrate. As the student stood opposite him, Ikeda first pointed his bokken (wooden sword) toward the student. Then he moved closer, and set the tip of the bokken against the student’s throat — against the soft spot above where the clavicles meet. And then the student fell over. (And he was completely unharmed.)

“If you are connecting to the other person’s center with your center,” Ikeda explained, “you can do this without hurting him!” Then he added, “But don’t try this.” He had us set the long blade of the bokken against each other’s chests and connect that way instead.

We practiced connecting along the blade of the bokken, and we practiced other exercises as well. It seemed to me that every time Ikeda Sensei watched me, I wasn’t doing it right. This doesn’t bother me; it doesn’t seem to bother Ikeda either. Maybe a lot of us weren’t doing the exercises right, for he stood in front of the assembled class at one point, pointed to his head, and said, “You have to think! You have to use your body to learn how to move inside.”

Ikeda’s admonition sounds similar to the point Hatcher was trying to make: we have to make use of this world and our physical presence in it. We have to consciously learn. We have to learn how to learn, so we can independently progress, in this world and the worlds hereafter. (Of course, the Bahá’í writings explain that next world is an entirely spiritual realm, without material substance.)

How do you learn to learn in aikido, I wonder? I suppose you learn the principles of the art, and not just the forms. Just like life: if you learn the principles, then you can apply them in diverse situations.

I’ll have to think about all this some more. 🙂

(Perhaps next I can consider the relation between learning and justice more directly.)


Hatcher, J. (1987/2005). The Purpose of Physical Reality. Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing.


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