In the lore of the Komuso Ryu there is the concept of the Kagejin or shadow self which is the true self of the Ninja. This is the aspect of the self that does the work of the Silent Way; the creation of this aspect of the Self allows the adept to inwardly disavow his acts in the field if caught. The west in fiction knows of the Kagejin as the idea of dual identities and in occult lore as the higher self and/ or magickal persona. It was the development of this “shadow-self” in fact that in part lead to the old idea that the Ninja had to be demonic in nature.
The Komuso Ryu took this legend as a symbolic prism through which they could view, understand and define there concept of the self and so encoded psychological training under the guise of ritual. Note that the rituals used by the ryu are not purely psychological in nature but esoteric as well based on the Fuke Zen sect basis of the ryu.
The Kagejin is composed of two aspects the Tengu which represents the spiritual side of the individual and the Oni which represents the more psychical aspect of the individual. The Tengu has five elements, each represented by an animal that are sought via ritual, one for the mind, one for the desires, one for the will, one for the body and one for the life force. These five animals compose a composite creature that is seen as the esoteric part of the self. Once the composite form of the Tengu is found the Tengu takes a winged form that is seen as the Tengu’s true form.
The Ninja once he has knowledge of his inner Tengu must seek his inner Oni. The Oni represents the spiritual force of the Ninja made manifest on Earth. Like the animals of the Tengu the one animal that represents the Oni is sought through ritual. The Oni animal is an earth bound animal as the spirit made manifest on Earth as well as the corporeal spiritualized. The use of these animals as symbols is likely what led to the idea of the Ninja taking on animal forms. In ritual the Komuso Ninja uses the Tengu bird form to project his spirit into the esoteric realms and the Oni form is used to project invisibly onto the mundane realm.
In Japanese lore both the Tengu and Oni are classified as Yokai or monstrous beings. The Tengu are called the slayer of vanity and are seen by the people in a positive if tricksterish light while the Oni is generally seen as evil. The reason for the Komuso Ninja defining there sense of self as being inhuman stems from the fact that many Komuso and ninja in general come from the Henin or inhuman station of Japanese society. By study of the animals of his Kagejin via legend the ninja informs his own personal mythology. As in much of the world in Japan animals are linked to the elements of nature and because the Komuso Ryu links personality types and so on to the nine elements of nature by study of his animal symbols and the elements the ninja discerns his personal element and in some cases exactly what type of Yokai one’s Kagejin is.
With this lore the adept is able to take advantage of those myths and legends that his personality is resonate with. For those who actively pursue the occult aspect of the path the lore of the Kagejin becomes an important aspect of his spirituality.
In the Kuji Kiri sub discipline known as Saiminjitsu the seven Kagejin animals are used to guard the seven paths of the inner maze that protects the tower or sanctum of the self, these seven paths also correspond to the seven Chakra up the front of the body just as the nine Chakra up the spine on the back of the body correspond to the inner Tower or sanctum of the Self.
These seven animals also correspond to the seven planes of reality known to many ryu of the Koga
Clan. These seven planes are the outer forms of the seven paths of the inner maze just as the inner sanctum is an inner form of the Kokoro. The inner landscape is the ninja’s own form of the Diamond realm of the Buddhists while the outer is the same as the Womb realm of the same.
With the Kagejin obtained through ritual and understood through study of mythological resonances the ninja now has a sense of Self that is not the product of parent or society but rather born purely of the self. This self is shown in the tool known as the Death’s Head mask used by the Komuso Ryu, the use of such masks led to the ryu becoming known as the Oniwaban (Demon Spies) in public. Within the ryu each of the members take names for themselves within the ryu once they have taken there first test and passed. Later on in the course of the path once the Kagejin is known in full it is given a name. To use a modern example the in-ryu name of the member would be the equivalent of Bruce Wayne and Batman
would be Wayne’s Kagejin.
When the Ninja has his Kagejin he also obtains the Kagejin Me or shadow self eye with which the adept may shift his perception from that of mundane reality to that description of reality that belongs to him as a part of the ryu. The ryu paradigm includes the Wa or aura, energy and nonhuman beings of many kinds it is in this prism of reality that the ninja changes shape and so forth.
Whether seen as metaphor or as spiritual truth or as both, each in there own context the Kagejin is the shadow of the individual’s own essence that he has taken full control of and responsibility for. As the ninja harnesses his Kagejin he must overcome the inner flaws that all people have. As the Ninja masters his inner demons they become the servants of the Kagejin.
In the Hai Lung ryu of the Koga Clan the Kagejin is known as the Tiger Face and his servants are called spirit helpers. The helpers are eight in number as they correspond to the yin and yang forms of the four enemies of the student of the path of the ninja (Fear, Hate, Anger and Greed) and hence to the eight forms of Chi that correspond to the eight Trigrams of the I-Ching, these are also the guardians of the inner sanctum that is the lair of the Kagejin. It is said in the lore of the Komuso Ryu that if the body of the ninja is destroyed his Kagejin becomes a true being of the realm of the Kami. An example of this in Ninja history is the legend of the Leaping Monkey Ninja detailed in the book Secret Ninja Alchemy written by Grand Master Ashida Kim.