The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery

by Lorne Mitchell on 13/12/2017

It’s fascinating how aspects of Westernised Zen philosophy came out of Hitler’s Germany. Below is the link to a paper called “The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery” with some extracts below that to prove the point.

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/…/download;jsessionid=CB13F300…

‘Eugen Herrigel’s “Zen in the Art of Archery” has been widely read as a study of Japanese culture. By reconsidering and reorganizing Herrigel’s text and related materials, however, this paper clarifies the mythical nature of “Zen in the Art of Archery” and the process by which this myth has been generated.

This paper first gives a brief history of Japanese archery and places the period at which Herrigel studied Japanese archery within that time frame. Next, it summarizes the life of Herrigel’s teacher, Awa Kenzõ. At the time Herrigel began learning the skill, Awa was just beginning to formulate his own unique ideas based on personal spiritual experiences.

Awa himself had no experience in Zen nor did he unconditionally approve of Zen. By contrast, Herrigel came to Japan in search of Zen and chose Japanese archery as a method through which to approach it.

The paper goes on to critically analyze two important spiritual episodes in “Zen and the Art of Archery.” What becomes clear through this analysis is the serious language barrier existing between Awa and Herrigel. The testimony of the interpreter, as well as other evidence, supports the fact that the complex spiritual episodes related in the book occurred either when there was no interpreter present, or were misinterpreted by Herrigel via the interpreter’s intentionally liberal translations.

Added to this phenomenon of misunderstanding, whether only coincidental or born out of mistaken interpretation, was the personal desire of Herrigel to pursue things Zen. Out of the above circumstances was born the myth of ‘Zen in the Art of Archery.'”

To copy YAMADA Shõji’s concluding paragraphs:

“Zen in the Art of Archery continues to be a bestseller. The Japanese language version, Yumi to Zen (1956), which represents the culmination of a circular translation process that rendered Awa’s original Japanese words into German and, then, from German back into Japanese, has altered Awa’s words to such an extent that it is impossible to ascertain his original expressions. Yet, in spite of this fact, many Japanese rely on it to acquire a certain fixed interpretation of Japanese archery.

Faced with this situation, I have attempted to present a new reading of Herrigel and associated documents from a different perspective so as to clarify the mythic function that creates our conception of what constitutes “Japanese-ness.” At the same time, I have attempted to counter the tendency that has prevailed up until now to read Zen in the Art of Archery with little or no critical awareness.

This paper represents only a preliminary analysis of Zen in the Art of Archery. The next step must compare and contrast Herrigel’s account with descriptions of Japanese archery written by other foreigners during the same period in order to bring to light the idiosyncratic nature of Zen in the Art of Archery and the peculiar way in which it has shaped foreign understanding of Japan and foreign interpretations of Japanese archery in particular.

Moreover, it is necessary to reposition Herrigel’s first essay on Japanese archery within the milieu of the Berlin of 1936 when the storm of Nazism was raging.   Finally, it will be necessary to trace the process by which the ideas in Zen in the Art of Archery, the revised version of Herrigel’s 1936 essay, were imported back into Japan and widely accepted, creating the illusion that the archery of Awa and Herrigel represented traditional Japanese archery. I hope to address these issues in the future.”

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Form, Function and other “F” words

by Lorne Mitchell on 16/10/2017

When I started this blog in 2010, the first article was called “Form follows Function – or does it?”.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of form following function ever since – and have been trying to work out what might follow function itself.

And so, earlier this year, I played around with the idea with a few friends that there might be a sequence:

  • Form follows Function
  • Function follows Flow
  • Flow follows Focus
  • Focus follows Foresight

I presented these ideas at a recent workshop that I was running and Brian Condon, a good friend and one of the participants said that the one “F” word that was missing was feedback!

Now, feedback is different.  It can follow anything.  So here is a diagram that shows these six ideas:

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Connecting Dots, Throwing Javelins and Grassroots Movements

15 August 2017

We all love them, don’t we? Whether it is the weather, election results or even horoscopes, the human psyche is intrigued by those who believe that they can predict the future. Yet, in the past few of years, things that seemed to have been stable and predictable have had an uncanny knack of not being […]

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Churchill on Brevity

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Be Brief!  Says it all!

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The Stage Gate Process Kills True Innovation

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The Best Source of Innovation

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The news this week that the upwards-ever-upwards iPhone sales are finally stalling was a stark reminder that even the greatest companies struggle to keep the juices of innovation flowing year-on-year.  The Apple Watch couldn’t replace the iPhone and the iCar (if it ever arrives) is still a few years out. Most companies that I study […]

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What you must open today….

31 December 2015

New Year: A Dialogue by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1909) ———— MORTAL: “The night is cold, the hour is late, the world is bleak and drear; Who is it knocking at my door?” THE NEW YEAR: “I am Good Cheer.” MORTAL: “Your voice is strange; I know you not; in shadows dark, I grope. What seek […]

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Had I the power to cast a bell…..

24 December 2015

A Bell Poem by Clinton Scollard — Had I the power To cast a bell that should from some grand tower, At the first Christmas hour, Outring, And fling A jubilant message wide, The forged metals should be thus allied:- No iron Pride, But soft Humility, and rich-veined Hope Cleft from a sunny slope; And […]

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Thinking Outside-In: A Thinking Tool for the Festive Season

19 December 2015

Looking at “Major Tim” the Astronaut talking from space on the TV last night, it got me thinking.  How cool it must be to get outside of the earth’s atmosphere and look back down on the earth! It triggered another thought.  One particular type of thinking I find very useful is called “Outside-In” thinking.  It […]

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Jump Out!

10 December 2015

Yesterday I flew from the UK to Germany to have the first meeting this year with a client that I last worked for ten years ago.  Getting up at 4.00am and struggling through the security gates which reminded me of a cattle ranch and then twisting and turning through the duty-free glitter path that is […]

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