(Redirected from Watts, Alan)
- Zen ... does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.
- The Way of Zen, Pt. 2, Ch. 2 (1957)
- Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.
- As quoted in Life magazine (21 April 1961)
- I'm an entertainer. That is to say, in the same sense, that when you go to a concert and you listen to someone play Mozart, he has nothing to sell except the sound of the music. He doesn’t want to convert you to anything. He doesn’t want you to join an organization in favor of Mozart's music as opposed to, say, Beethoven's. And I approach you in the same spirit as a musician with his piano or a violinist with his violin. I just want you to enjoy a point of view that I enjoy.
- I have suggested that behind almost all myth lies the mono-plot of the game of hide-and-seek.
- The Two Hands of God : The Myths of Polarity (1963), p. 29
- But what we've got going wrong is we've got a kind of bifurcation [in cultural development]:
You take your classified telephone directory, and open up "Churches", and have a ruler in your hand. And you will find that the longest space is occupied by authoritarian, Bible-banging churches. And these people are barbarians, who take the written word of the Bible literally. Because they need terribly, they have a personal need, for something to depend on. … The government realizes that there is a very large number of people like that; and therefore, to keep their votes, they have to pander to those kind of people. And these are the boys who never grew up; they always need Papa. … The trouble is that the boys who need Papa, are violent. They have the guns. And they are the types of people who like to be soldiers, policemen— tough guys. And therefore they have a great deal of power.
- Interviewed on Les Hixon's show "In The Spirit" on WBAI New York (November 1972)
- To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.
- The essence of Alan Watts, by Alan Watts (1977)
- This is the real secret of life -- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.
- The essence of Alan Watts, by Alan Watts (1977)
- Archimedes said, "Give me a fulcrum and I will move the Earth"; but there isn't one. It is like betting on the future of the human race — I might wish to lay a bet that the human race would destroy itself by the year 2000, but there is nowhere to place the bet. On the contrary, I am involved in the world and must try to see that it does not blow itself to pieces. I once had a terrible argument with Margaret Mead. She was holding forth one evening on the absolute horror of the atomic bomb, and how everybody should spring into action and abolish it, but she was getting so furious about it that I said to her: "You scare me because I think you are the kind of person who will push the button in order to get rid of the other people who were going to push it first." So she told me that I had no love for my future generations, that I had no responsibility for my children, and that I was a phony swami who believed in retreating from facts. But I maintained my position. As Robert Oppenheimer said a short while before he died, "It is perfectly obvious that the whole world is going to hell. The only possible chance that it might not is that we do not attempt to prevent it from doing so." You see, many of the troubles going on in the world right now are being supervised by people with very good intentions whose attempts are to keep things in order, to clean things up, to forbid this, and to prevent that. The more we try to put everything to rights, the more we make fantastic messes. Maybe that is the way it has got to be. Maybe I should not say anything at all about the folly of trying to put things to right but simply, on the principle of Blake, let the fool persist in his folly so that he will become wise.
- Play to Live : Lectures of Alan Watts (1982)
- If you awaken from this illusion, and you understand that black implies white, self implies other, life implies death — or shall I say, death implies life — you can conceive yourself. Not conceive, but feel yourself, not as a stranger in the world, not as someone here on sufferance, on probation, not as something that has arrived here by fluke, but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental. What you are basically, deep, deep down, far, far in, is simply the fabric and structure of existence itself. So, say in Hindu mythology, they say that the world is the drama of God. God is not something in Hindu mythology with a white beard that sits on a throne, that has royal perogatives. God in Indian mythology is the self, Satcitananda. Which means sat, that which is, chit, that which is consciousness; that which is ananda is bliss. In other words, what exists, reality itself is gorgeous, it is the fullness of total joy.
- The Nature of Consciousness; also published as What Is Reality? (1989)
- So in this idea, then, everybody is fundamentally the ultimate reality. Not God in a politically kingly sense, but God in the sense of being the self, the deep-down basic whatever there is. And you're all that, only you're pretending you're not. And it's perfectly OK to pretend you're not, to be perfectly convinced, because this is the whole notion of drama.
- The Nature of Consiousness; also published as What Is Reality? (1989)
- Camus said there is only really one serious philosophical question, which is whether or not to commit suicide. I think there are four or five serious philosophical questions:
The first one is: Who started it?
The second is: Are we going to make it?
The third is: Where are we going to put it?
The fourth is: Who's going to clean up?
And the fifth: Is it serious?
- Out Of Your Mind (2004), Audio lecture 1: The Nature of Consciousness: A Game That's Worth The Candle
- Religion is always falling apart.
- Buddhism, the Religion of No-Religion
- There is obviously a place in life for a religious attitude for awe and astonishment at existence. That is also a basis for respect for existence. We don’t have much of it in this culture, even though we call it materialistic. In this culture we call materialistic, today we are of course bent on the total destruction of material and its conversion into junk and poisonous gases. This is of course not a materialistic culture because it has no respect for material. And respect is in turn based on wonder.
- Images of God
- Ego is a social institution with no physical reality. The ego is simply your symbol of yourself. Just as the word "water" is a noise that symbolizes a certain liquid without being it, so too the idea of ego symbolizes the role you play, who you are, but it is not the same as your living organism.
- Buddhism : The Religion of No-Religion
- I am amazed that Congressmen can pass a bill imposing severe penalties on anyone who burns the American flag, whereas they are responsible for burning that for which the flag stands: the United States as a territory, as a people, and as a biological manifestation. That is an example of our perennial confusion of symbols with realities.
- Audio lecture "Individual and Society"
- Now, you see, if you understand what I'm saying, with your intelligence, and then take the next step and say "But I understood it now, but I didn't feel it." Then, next I raise the question: Why do you want to feel it? You say: "I want something more", because that's again that spiritual greed. And you could only say that because you didn't understand it.
- Intellectual Yoga
- The pity of all this is, you know, a man like that [Sri Ramakrishna] has to have disciples, or no one would ever hear about him. But somehow, as the generations pass, the flame dies out. And eventually the disciples kill him.
I wish that there was a way of putting a time-bomb into scriptures and records — not a time-bomb, but some kind of invisible ink, so that all scriptures would un-print themselves about fifty years after the master's death. And just dissolve.
- Audio lecture Ramakrishna, Ramana, and Krishnamurti (in part three of four)
- Nowadays, of course, progressive theologians are all for sex; they say it's a good thing, the biblical position was not that sex was evil, but that it was good, and that it's alright.
But now, look here, what is the real point here? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. What can you get kicked out of the church for? Any church — Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, and the synagogue I think too. What's the real thing for which people get kicked out, excommunicated?
For "envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness"? "Pride, vainglory, and hardness of heart"? Owning shares in munitions factories? Profiting off slums? No sir. You can be a bishop and live in all those sins openly. But if you go to bed with the wrong person, you're out.
So one has to conclude that, for all practical purposes, the church is a sexual regulation society; and it really isn't interested in anything else. Christianity is more preoccupied with sex than even Priapism or Tantric Yoga [are]. Because that's the thing that counts, that's the sin, the really important sin.
- Audio lecture "Beyond Theology"
- Doctors try to get rid of their patients - clergymen try to get them hooked on the medicine so that they will become addicts to the church. 
The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951)
- The greater part of human activity is designed to make permanent those experiences and joys which are only lovable because they are changing.
- p. 32
- It must be obvious... that there is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity.
- Running away from fear is fear; fighting pain is pain; trying to be brave is being scared. If the mind is in pain, the mind is pain. The thinker has no other form than his thought.
- There is no formula for generating the authentic warmth of love. It cannot be copied. You cannot talk yourself into it or rouse it by straining at the emotions or by dedicating yourself solemnly to the service of mankind. Everyone has love, but it can only come out when he is convinced of the impossibility and the frustration of trying to love himself. This conviction will not come through condemnations, through hating oneself, through calling self love bad names in the universe. It comes only in the awareness that one has no self to love.
Psychotherapy, East and West (1961)
- If we look deeply into such ways of life as Buddhism and Taoism, Vedanta and Yoga, we do not find either philosophy or religion as these are understood in the West. We find something more nearly resembling psychotherapy. ... The main resemblance between these Eastern ways of life and Western psychotherapy is in the concern of both with bringing about changes of consciousness, changes in our ways of feeling our own existence and our relation to human society and the natural world. The psychotherapist has, for the most part, been interested in changing the consciousness of peculiarly disturbed individuals. The disciplines of Buddhism and Taoism are, however, concerned with changing the consciousness of normal, socially adjusted people.
- pp. 3-4
- Buddhism ... is not a culture but a critique of culture, an enduring nonviolent revolution or “loyal opposition” to the culture in which it is involved.
- p. 7
- The psychotherapist ... tries to help the individual to be himself and to go it alone without giving unnecessary offense to his community, to be in the world (of social convention) but not of the world.
- p. 7
- Whenever the therapist stands with society, he will interpret his work as adjusting the individual and coaxing his 'unconscious drives' into social respectability. But such 'official psychotherapy' lacks integrity and becomes the obedient tool of armies, bureaucracies, churches, corporations, and all agencies that require individual brainwashing. On the other hand, the therapist who is really interested in helping the individual is forced into social criticism. This does not mean that he has to engage directly in political revolution; it means that he has to help the individual in liberating himself from various forms of social conditioning, which includes liberation from hating this conditioning — hatred being a form of bondage to its object.
- p. 8
- Psychotherapists ... are dealing with people whose distress arises from what may be termed maya, to use the Hindu-Buddhist word whose exact meaning is not merely 'illusion' but the entire world-conception of a culture, considered as illusion in the strict etymological sense of a play (Latin, ludere). The aim of a way of liberation is not the destruction of maya but seeing it for what it is, or seeing through it. Play is not to be taken seriously, or, in other words, ideas of the world and of oneself which are social conventions and institutions are not to be confused with reality.
- p. 9
- When a man no longer confuses himself with the definition of himself that others have given him, he is at once universal and unique. He is universal by virtue of the inseparability of his organism from the cosmos. He is unique in that he is just this organism and not any stereotype of role, class, or identity assumed for the convenience of social communication.
- p. 9
The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (1966)
- How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself anything less than a god.
- Page 138
- The prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East — in particular the central and germinal Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. This hallucination underlies the misuse of technology for the violent subjugation of man's natural environment and, consequently, its eventual destruction.
We are therefore in urgent need of a sense of our own existence which is in accord with the physical facts and which overcomes our feeling of alienation from the universe.
- Sex is no longer a serious taboo. Teenagers sometimes know more about it than adults.
- Inside Information (page 4)
- There is always something taboo, something repressed, unadmitted, or just glimpsed quickly out of the corner of one's eye because a direct look is too unsettling. Taboos lie within taboos, like the skin of an onion.
- Inside Information
- Wonder is not a disease. Wonder, and its expression in poetry and the arts, are among the most important things which seem to distinguish men from other animals, and intelligent and sensitive people from morons.
- Inside Information (page 7)
- The world is in an extremely dangerous situation, and serious diseases often require the risk of a dangerous cure — like the Pasteur serum for rabies.
- Inside Information
- We do not "come into" this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean "waves," the universe "peoples." Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated "egos" inside bags of skin.
- Inside Information
- The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego.
- Inside Information
- I seem to be a brief light that flashes but once in all the aeons of time — a rare, complicated, and all-too-delicate organism on the fringe of biological evolution, where the wave of life bursts into individual, sparkling, and multicolored drops that gleam for a moment... only to vanish forever.
- Inside Information
- Nothing fails like success.
- How to be a Genuine Fake
Alan Watts Teaches Meditation (1992)
- A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality, and lives in a world of illusion.
- The transformation of human consciousness though meditation is frustrated, as long as we think of it in terms as something that I, my self can bring about. because it leads to endless games of spiritual oneupmanship, and Guru competitions.
- [Successful meditation brings about realizations:] That we are no longer this poor little stranger and afraid in a world it never made. But that you are this universe and you are creating it in every moment... Because you see it starts now, it didn't begin in the past, there was no past. See, if the universe began in the past when that happened it was now; see, but it's still now — and the universe is still beginning now, and it's trailing off like the wake of a ship from now, and that wake fades out so does the past. You can look back there to explain things, but the explanation disappears. You'll never find it there... Things are not explained by the past, they are explained by what Happens Now. That Creates the past, and it begins here... That's the birth of responsibility...
- On deep meditation and enlightenment that transcends temporal experiences and most notions of selfhood.
- If you know that "I", in the sense of the person, the front, the ego, it really doesn't exist. Then...it won't go to your head too badly, if you wake up and discover that you're God.
Quotes about Watts
- I remember asking Alan why he was teaching. He just smiled at me, and pointed out the window, to a bird flying. There was no reason why he was teaching, he replied. He taught, he said, just as the bird flies.
- The basic problem is to understand that there are no such things as things; that is to say separate things, separate events. That is only a way of talking. What do you mean by a thing? A thing is a noun. A noun isn’t a part of nature it’s a part of speech. There are no nouns in the physical world. There are no separate things in the physical world either.
- used in the Cosmosis track No Such Thing (2007). Watts on Wiggles Waves. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
- What is government? Government is the boot. The boot steps here and there, careful to avoid a blade of grass, to nurture it, coddle it, water it. The boot spots a snail heading toward its grass - slowly, surely. The boot smashes down on the snail and twists and laughs at its squelching noises, its last grasp for breath. The boot seeks a new snail - heading slowly toward the blade, sometimes simply minding its own business entirely - and smashes it too, like the first. The boot goes on and on - smashing, twisting, smashing, twisting - until finally it tires too of the blade of grass. The boot stops for only a moment and twists itself back down toward these carcasses lying about its yard. 'How sad,' it says to itself, 'that some otherworldly spirit, possessing me, could do this!' It goes to take a step, lets down onto the ground, and feels a dead snail. It instantly picks itself up, feeling proud - not that it will not stomp the snails in the future, but that it at least is starting to feel remorse for their deaths. It smashes the shells and bodies of hundreds of thousands of millions of snails, only to understand its weakness as originating from someplace else entirely; and then it has the audacity to smash even more.
- In music, though, one doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest; and there would be composers who only wrote finales. People go to concerts only to hear one crashing chord - because that’s the end. Same way in dancing—you don’t aim at a particular spot in the room; that’s where you should arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance. Now, but we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our everyday conduct. We’ve got a system of schooling which gives a completely different impression. It’s all graded—and what we do is we put the child into the corridor of this grade system, with a kind of "c’mon kitty kitty kitty…". And yeah, you go to kindergarten, and that’s a great thing, because when you finish that, you’ll get into first grade. And then c’mon, first grade leads to second grade, and so on… And then you get out of grade school you go to high school—and it’s revving up, the thing is coming… Then you’re going to go to college, and by jove then you get into graduate school, and when you’re through with graduate school, you’ll go out to join the world. And then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance. And they’ve got that quota to make. And you’re going to make that. And all the time, this thing is coming, it’s coming, it’s coming—that great thing, the success you’re working for. Then when you wake up one day about forty years old, you say "My God! I’ve arrived! I’m there!" And you don’t feel very different from what you always felt. And there's a slight letdown, because you feel there's a hoax. And there was a hoax. A dreadful hoax. They made you miss everything. By expectation. Look at the people who live to retire, and put those savings away. And then when they’re sixty-five, and they don’t have any energy left, they’re more or less impotent, they go and rot in an old people’s “senior citizens” community. Because we’ve simply cheated ourselves, the whole way down the line. We thought of life by analogy was a journey, was a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end. And the thing was to get to that end. Success, or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing, or to dance, while the music was being played.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29atSZKbmS4 Audio Lecture "The Human Game"
- ‘In terms of the great Oriental philosophies, man’s un-happiness is rooted in the feeling of anxiety which attends his sense of being an isolated individual or ego, separate from “life” or “reality” as a whole. On the other hand, happiness – a sense of harmony, completion, and wholeness – comes with the realization that the feeling of isolation is an illusion. [... This order of happiness] is not a result to be attained through action, but a fact to be realized through knowledge. The sphere of action is to express it, not to gain it.’‘The Meaning of Happiness explains that the psychological equivalent of this doctrine is a state of mind called is “total acceptance,” a ‘yes-saying to everything that we experience, the unreserved acceptance of what we are, of what we feel and know at this and every moment.’
- Alan Watts, The Meaning of Happiness: The Quest for Freedom of the Spirit in Modern Psychology and the Wisdom of the East. http://www.julietbennett.com/2012/12/03/alan-watts-fan-club/
- It's like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it's dense, isn't it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see? So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting. But so we define ourselves as being only that. If you think that you are only inside your skin, you define yourself as one very complicated little curlique, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time. Billions of years ago, you were a big bang, but now you're a complicated human being. And then we cut ourselves off, and don't feel that we're still the big bang. But you are. Depends how you define yourself. You are actually—if this is the way things started, if there was a big bang in the beginning— you're not something that's a result of the big bang. You're not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are. When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as—Mr so-and- so, Ms so-and-so, Mrs so-and-so—I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I'm that, too. But we've learned to define ourselves as separate from it.
- Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, 'My goodness, I've just discovered that I'm God,' they'll laugh and say, 'Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.
- Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t.
- Everything that we're doing to try to improve the world was a success in the short run- made amazing initial improvements. But in the long run, we seem to be destroying the planet, by our very efforts to control and improve it. And it strikes me that that is because we are really too simple minded to understand what we're doing when we interfere with the natural world strongly and on a massive scale. We don't really interfere with it, because that would suggest that we are something different from it, something outside, but I think what we're doing is we are understanding it in terms of languages, numbers, in terms of a logic which is too simple for the job, too crude for the job. To begin with, we understand everything in terms of words or numbers and they're stretched out in lines, and our eyes have to scan those lines in order to understand them. But when I scan this view, I don't do it line by line by line, I see the whole thing at once, I take it in as if it were a wide-angle lens. But when I try to understand the world through literature and mathematics, I have to scan the lines. You know, that is why it takes us so long to get educated in school: I have to scan and organize miles and miles of print. And that takes us twenty years or more, to get through it. But life happens, changes go on too rapidly for that. Because you see in the world, everything is happening everywhere all together at once. And meanwhile we with out myopic little minds are working it out step by step.
- You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.
- We seldom to realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society. We copy emotional reactions from our parents, learning from them that excrement is supposed to have a disgusting smell and that vomiting is supposed to be an unpleasant sensation. The dread of death is also learned from their anxieties about sickness and from their attitudes to funerals and corpses. Our social environment has this power just because we do not exist apart from a society. Society is our extended mind and body. Yet the very society from which the individual is inseparable is using its whole irresistible force to persuade the individual that he is indeed separate! Society as we now know is therefore playing a game with self-contradictory rules.
- How did you know you're alive, unless you'd once been dead?
- The Alan Watts foundation
- Alan Watts Podcast
- Master Enlightenments Arts Seminars and Lectures by Alan Watts - Looking at many different forms of enlightenment - Recorded by Henry Jacobs in 1964/65 who set up the original Alan Watts radio network.
- Alan Watts Online - Project Unicorn (also via Archive.org)
- Works by or about Alan Watts in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Watts essay on Nothingness
- "Alan Watts Theatre" - audio recordings of Watts set to animations
- Alan Watts audio archive from the DIY Dharma website
- Alan Watts Lectures and Essays Audio, video, essays and articles - resources from deoxy.org
- Alan Watts Resource Compilation A collection of audio and video links of Alan Watts lecture and essays
- Alan Watts on YouTube, South Park Interview with Mark Watts on the resurgence of his father's work
- watts.progressiveradionetwork.org Gary Nulls online station with Alan Watts show including some archived audio lectures.
- www.souljerky.com Collection of Trey Parker and Matt Stone animations.
-  Alan Watts on Goodreads.