I see. You're saying that the experience of bonsai is a subjective, rather than objective, one? That's likely true. Everyone perceives it slightly differently.
Well yes, sure. However, I was less than direct in my observation before. True, that is my opinion, but I'll argue very clearly that art without an interpretive component is not art. Period. So, much to Walter's chagrin, I have to say as I have before that "natural style" bonsai are unartistic, deficient, half-works of bonsai. My opinion, certainly, but I also hold with this as a fact as it relates to artistry. "Natural style" bonsai are not works of art - or they are poor art.
And I'm sorry for this element of the discussion hijacking Walter's already interesting thread theme.
As to the historical record of bonsai being displayed in home tokonoma, surely this is true, but it does not describe or otherwise indicate attempts at artistry. These were typically cultural affectations - much like my mother-in-law's alcove for her statuette of the Virgin Mary in her own home. This example is no less spiritual and cultural than were bonsai displays in home alcoves. And I'm not referencing the purely religious elements here, merely the spiritual/cultural.
But yes, you got me with the whole circle/continuum thing. My careless mistake and poor example. ;-) You may indeed be correct as to Walter's purpose or motivations for his own stylistic forays. I wouldn't know. My point is that, on the whole, widespread evidence of poorly constructed bonsai are not necessarily evidence of returning to "our roots." They're most often evidence of inept artistry, I think.
And that's another thing we can't forget about the evolution of bonsai from naturalistic plants in pots to the rather exacting and manicured contemporary motifs. A significant part of that change was due, as I mentioned earlier, to advances in technique and horticulture (as well as the switch to art-driven cultivation). I am completely on board with you if what you suggest is that the similarity of many of today's efforts and those of yesteryear is due to a modern lack of artistic understanding or concern. If not, I'd have to disagree.