Talk:Alan Watts

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The subject of this article is a book, and as a result, the proposal would set a limitation of five lines of prose (or eight lines of poetry) for every ten pages.

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Life's a bubble;dance before it pops - Lauri

—This unsigned comment is by (talkcontribs) .

1. Graphically this page does not convey ideas as clearly as it could... too much bolding is distracting. 2. There's a lot more Alan Watts quotes that can be had... Additionally the "attributed" section has a poor feeling to it. I have lots of podcasts in his voice where he says some really amazing things. Why must those be attributed? Can anyone find transcripts of those podcasts? What about the numerous books he's written. I feel Watts is quite an important philosopher to the West, and ought to have more devoted in Wiki to understanding what he's talking about. Some of the attributed quotes will only confuse people out of context.

—This unsigned comment is by (talkcontribs) .


Published sources should be provided before moving these back into the article : Wikiquote no longer allows unsourced quotations, and they are in process of being removed from our pages (see Wikiquote:Limits on quotations); but if you can provide a reliable, precise and verifiable source for any quote on this list please move it to Alan Watts. --Antiquary 17:51, 11 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Life is a game, the first rule of which is that IT IS NOT A GAME.
    • on Hinduism
  • There’s something a lot more to you than you think there is. The real you is the Self. The Self of the universe.
  • The only real crime is that you won't admit that you are God.
  • Beyond positive and negative, what is reality?
  • Faith is a state of openness or trust. 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. And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.
  • 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.
  • I find that the sensation of myself as an ego inside a bag of skin is really a hallucination. What we really are is, first of all, the whole of our body. And although our bodies are bounded with skin, and we can differentiate between outside and inside, they cannot exist except in a certain kind of natural environment. Obviously a body requires air, and the air must be within a certain temperature range. The body also requires certain kinds of nutrition. So in order to occur the body must be on a mild and nutritive planet with just enough oxygen in the atmosphere spinning regularly around in a harmonious and rhythmical way near a certain kind of warm star.
    That arrangement is just as essential to the existence of my body as my heart, my lungs, and my brain. So to describe myself in a scientific way, I must also describe my surroundings, which is a clumsy way getting around to the realization that you are the entire universe. However we do not normally feel that way because we have constructed in thought an abstract idea of our self.
  • I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.
  • It is, indeed, a remarkable circumstance that when Western civilization discovers Relativity it applies it to the manufacture of atom-bombs, whereas this Oriental civilization applies it to the development of new states of consciousness.
  • Light shines in darkness because what else could it shine in?
  • Many people never grow up. They stay all their lives with a passionate need for external authority and guidance, pretending not to trust their own judgment.
  • Psychedelic experience is only a glimpse of genuine mystical insight, but a glimpse which can be matured and deepened by the various ways of meditation in which drugs are no longer necessary or useful. If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen.
  • Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command.
  • Some believe all that parents, tutors, and kindred believe. They take their principles by inheritance, and defend them as they would their estates, because they are born heirs to them.
  • Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.
  • The difficulty for most of us in the modern world is that the old-fashioned idea of God has become incredible or implausible. When we look through our telescopes and microscopes, or when we just look at nature, we have a problem. Somehow the idea of God we get from the holy scriptures doesn't seem to fit the world around us, just as you wouldn't ascribe a composition by Stravinsky to Bach. The style of God venerated in the church, mosque, or synagogue seems completely different from the style of the natural universe. It's hard to conceive of the author of one as the author of the other.
  • The idea of nothing has bugged people for centuries, especially in the Western world. We have a saying in Latin, Ex nihilo nihil fit, which means "out of nothing comes nothing." It has occurred to me that this is a fallacy of tremendous proportions.
    It lies at the root of all our common sense, not only in the West, but in many parts of the East as well. It manifests in a kind of terror of nothing, a put-down on nothing, and a put-down on everything associated with nothing, such as sleep, passivity, rest, and even the feminine principles. But to me nothing — the negative, the empty — is exceedingly powerful. I would say, on the contrary, you can't have something without nothing. Image nothing but space, going on and on, with nothing in it forever. But there you are imagining it, and you are something in it. The whole idea of there being only space, and nothing else at all is not only inconceivable but perfectly meaningless, because we always know what we mean by contrast.
  • To the philosophers of India, however, Relativity is no new discovery, just as the concept of light years is no matter for astonishment to people used to thinking of time in millions of kalpas, (A kalpa is about 4,320,000 years). The fact that the wise men of India have not been concerned with technological applications of this knowledge arises from the circumstance that technology is but one of innumerable ways of applying it.
  • Underneath the superficial self, which pays attention to this and that, there is another self more really us than I. And the more you become aware of the unknown self — if you become aware of it — the more you realize that it is inseparably connected with everything else that is. You are a function of this total galaxy, bounded by the Milky Way, and this galaxy is a function of all other galaxies. You are that vast thing that you see far, far off with great telescopes. You look and look, and one day you are going to wake up and say, "Why, that's me!" And in knowing that, you know that you never die. You are the eternal thing that comes and goes that appears — now as John Jones, now as Mary Smith, now as Betty Brown — and so it goes, forever and ever and ever.
  • We are at war between consciousness and nature, between the desire for permanence and the fact of flux. It is ourself against ourselves.
  • We are all basically scams and if you haven’t found that — you are very unconscious. I know all sorts of people who are full of outward love, but of course it always turns up that they need money. And where it comes to money, the virtue flies out of a window.
  • When no risk is taken there is no freedom. It is thus that, in an industrial society, the plethora of laws made for our personal safety convert the land into a nursery, and policemen hired to protect us become selfserving busybodies.
  • You can't get rid of your hallucination of being an ego by an activity of the ego.
    Sorry, but it can't be done . . .
    If you try to get rid of your ego with your ego you will just end up in a vicious circle. You'd be like somebody who worries because they worry because they worry.
  • Wars based on principle are far more destructive...the attacker will not destroy that which he is after.
    • this expression cannot be located — it had been cited to the The Way of Zen (1957)

Sorting Apart "Various"[edit]

The "Various" section is... well, it's nearly the entirety of the page, so I'd say that it'd be great to break it up at least into two bits-- the obvious division being to pull into a separate section all of the quotes that are about the inseparability of: the self, life, the life-as-game, god, and the universe. I'm thinking of having a try at it, since having them all in one solid section would show how broadly the single idea pervades his work, and can be viewed from different angles; and is distinct in quality and quantity from, say, his social criticism. Of course, I wouldn't remove any quotes, just move them. Sburke 06:08, 10 October 2010 (UTC)

Creating "subjective" sub-headings is generally discouraged here — a more appropriate set of divisions which is used where such sections as this have become overly long is division by dates or eras — as has been done with a few of the more extensively quoted politicians, and recently with Albert Einstein — I might do this as a non-controversial edit shortly — am presently reviewing recent changes that have occurred while I was away. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 08:45, 10 October 2010 (UTC)
I hadn't even looked at the page prior to commenting, but there are perhaps many quotes that could be headed under sections for different works — I have several of his books immediately available in my library, and might delve into them for more material to fill out a few sections sometime this week; after that, if there is still a clear need for chronological divisions I might add these. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 08:49, 10 October 2010 (UTC)
Thank you for moving all those unsourced quotes! Anyway, that huge block of them just rubbed me the wrong way, in every way. If any of the quotes strike me as gems, I'll go hammer on Google Books for them again.
But on to other biz: thank you for pointing out that subjectivity in headings is discouraged; because as I think across quotes pages I've read before, I remember boggling over how the willy-nilly headings did vastly more harm than good.
So I understand why it is generally discouraged.
But I think that Watt's work over the years is exceptional in that each lecture/book has a topic, but is often linked with the central theme of his larger work: the unity of self and everything else. This is an unusual situation, compared to typical authors' books which are either the same thing over and over again, or are each about the book's one topic and that's pretty much it. Instead, he is generally (well, prototypically!) a sort of topic-plus-one, or, if you will, topic-plus-One!
I am not, in the least, speculating or handwaving here: some days ago, I hardcopied the whole web page of quotes and sat down with it and had a try at going through and marking which ones were about self-and-everything. I was quite surprised by how little a sense of subjectivity was involved: only a few got a "maybe".
I think that unifying that one topic, self-as-everything, will benefit the whole Watts entry (in a way that a sheerly per-work classification would leave scattered), and that the other, per-work) sections would benefit from having the that topic's particular topic more focused.
(As to what to call the self-and-everything section, I'm quite stymied, but we'll wing it- nothing is cast in stone here. Wax maybe?)
(I was looking for something to do tonight... I guess. It beats doing the dishes.)
I'll put in anchors, for at least two reasons I can think of: we can discuss a quote by its anchor name; and that people can link to it externally by its anchor name (in anticipation of that glorious day when Wikipedia makes these anchors somehow visible... or are they and I just don't have some switch turned on?)
With everything in their current place but anchors inserted, then I'll precipitate out the self-as-everything stuff.
I've had to do this before, with authors whose books I've edited. ("Why do you keep discussing database normalization in a dozen little scattered sections instead of in one section we can put in an appendix or in chapter one?")
I'm glad that we can confer on this-- it's deep and complicated issues that we're trying to organize in ways optimally helpfully for the reader, and that's something that Watts strugged with for years upon years. 05:49, 29 October 2010 (UTC)

need clearer citations[edit]

  • 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.
  • ‘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.’
  • 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.
  • "I am a son of God," well there’s the whole thing in a nutshell. If you read the King James Bible… You will see in italics, in front of the words "son of God," THE "son of God." Most people think the italics are for emphasis. They’re not. The italics indicate words interpolated [as preference] by the translators. You will not find that in the Greek. In the Greek it says, a son of God. It seems to me here perfectly plain. That Jesus has got it in the back of his mind that this isn't something peculiar to himself. So when he says, "I am the Way, no Man comes to the Father but by me." This "I am" this "Me" is the divine in us. We are sons of, or of the nature of God. Manifestations of the divine. This discovery is the gospel. That is the Good News. But this has been perpetually repressed throughout the history of Western religion…
  • 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?