Alan Watts

“Behold the Spirit” (New Preface) by Alan Watts



This book was written twenty-five years ago, during the experiment of trying to immerse myself in Christianity —to the extent of being a priest of the Anglican Communion, Episcopal Chaplain at Northwestern University, and an examining chaplain for candidates for holy orders in the Diocese of Chicago. Prior to this experiment, indeed since the age of fifteen, my outlook had been Buddhist rather than Christian even though I had been schooled in the heart of the Church of England and had learned a version of Christianity which was not that of this book. In adolescence I had rejected it, but as time went on the study of comparative religion and Christian mysticism suggested a way in which I might operate through the forms and in the terms of the official religion of Western culture. I did not want to be an eccentric outsider, and felt that Catholic Christianity might be taught and practiced as a form of that perennial philosophy which is the gold within the sectarian dross of every great religion…

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"Judo: The Gentle Tao" by Alan Watts



"Man at his birth is supple and tender, but in death, he is rigid and hard. Thus, suppleness and tenderness accompany life, but rigidity and hardness accompany death.”

I have just been reading from Lao-tzu on the philosophy of the strength of weakness. It is a strange thing, I think, how it is men in the West do not realize how much softness is strength. One of old Lao-tzu's favorite analogies was water. He spoke of water as the weakest of all things in the world, and yet there is nothing to be compared with it in overcoming what is hard and strong. You can cut water with a knife. It lets the knife go right through, but when the knife is withdrawn there's not even the trace of a wound.

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"PHILOSOPHY OF THE TAO" by Alan Watts

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The subject of this seminar is going to be Taoism as contained in the teachings of Lao-Tzu and Chuang Tzu who lived approximately 400 years or more before Christ, separated probably by 100 years from each other. And as is often repeated, Lao-Tzu started out by explaining that "The Tao which can be explained is not the eternal Tao," and then went on to write a book about it, also saying "Those who say do not know; those who know do not say." Because there's nothing to be explained. You must remember that the word "explain" means to lay out in a plane. That is, to put it on a flat sheet of paper…

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"What is Zen?" — Alan Watts

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"So it is Zen that, if I may put it metaphorically, Jon-Jo said, 'the perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing, it refuses nothing. It receives, but does not keep.' And another poem says of wild geese flying over a lake, 'The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection, and the water has no mind to retain their image.' In other words this is to be—to put it very strictly into our modem idiom—this is to live without hang-ups…”

—Alan Watts
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"Myth of Myself" (excerpt) The Tao of Philosophy by Alan Watts

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...Generally speaking, we have two kinds of consciousness. One I will call the "spotlight," and the other the "floodlight." The spotlight is what we call conscious attention, and we are trained from childhood that it is the most valuable form of perception. When the teacher in class says, "Pay attention!" everybody stares, and looks right at the teacher. That is spotlight consciousness; fixing your mind on one thing at a time…

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"The Wisdom of Insecurity" by Alan Watts — Alan Watts


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"...when you really understand that you are what you see and know, you do not run around the country-side thinking, 'I am all this.' There is simply 'all this.'

"...our experience is altogether momentary. From one point of view, each moment is so elusive and so brief that we cannot even think about it before it has gone. From another point of view, this moment is always here, since we know no other moment than the present moment. It is always dying, always becoming past more rapidly than imagination can conceive. Yet at the same time it is always being born, always new, emerging just as rapidly from that complete unknown we call the future. Thinking about it almost makes you breathless."…


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"Science, Religion and Living for the Future" (excerpt) THE WISDOM OF INSECURITY - Alan Watts

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The scientific way of symbolizing the world is more suited to utilitarian purposes than the religious way, but this does not mean that it has any more “truth.” Is it truer to classify rabbits according to their meat or according to their fur? It depends on what you want to do with them. The clash between science and religion has not shown that religion is false and science is true. It has shown that all systems of definition are relative to various purposes, and that none of them actually “grasp” reality. And because religion was being misused as a means for actually grasping and possessing the mystery of life, a certain measure of “debunking” was highly necessary…

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"Was Jesus a Freak?" (excerpt p.147) CLOUD HIDDEN WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN (1971) by Alan Watts

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A few days ago (1971) I gave a ride to a rather pleasant hippie couple who seemed to have no particular destination. I asked, "What trip are you on?" He said, "Like spiritual trip?" I said, "Yes." He said, "We’re on the Jesus trip." "Whose Jesus?" I asked, "Billy Graham’s or mine?" "Well, it’s all sort of the same, isn’t it?" It is not. For Billy Graham follows a long tradition, both Catholic and Protestant, wherein the gospel (or "good news" of Jesus has been eclipsed and perverted by pedestalization, by kicking him upstairs so as to get him out of the way, and by following a religion about Jesus instead of the religion of Jesus. Obviously, Jesus was not the man he was as a result of making Jesus Christ his personal savior. The religion of Jesus was that he knew he was a son of God, and the phrase "son of" means "of the nature of," so that a son of God is an individual who realizes that he is, and always has been, one with God. "I and the Father are one."…

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“ON BEING AWARE” (excerpt from) The Wisdom Of Insecurity by Alan Watts

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The question "What shall we do about it?" is only asked by those who do not understand the problem. If a problem can be solved at all, to understand it and to know what to do about it are the same thing. On the other hand, doing something about a problem which you do not understand is like trying to clear away darkness by thrusting it aside with your hands. When light is brought, the darkness vanishes at onc

This applies particularly to the problem now before us. How are we to heal the split between "I" and  "me", the brain and the body, man and nature, and bring all the vicious circles which it produces to an end? How are we to experience life as something other than a honey trap in which we are the struggling flies? How are we to find security and peace of mind in a world whose very nature is insecurity, impermanence, and unceasing change? All these questions demand a method and a course of action. At the same time, all of them show that the problem has not been understood. We do not need action yet. We need more light…

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"Ego" (excerpt) THE ESSENCE OF ALAN WATTS by Alan Watts

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The word person comes from the Latin persona, which means that through which {per) the sound (sona) goes. It referred originally to the masks worn by actors in classical drama, because those masks had megaphonic mouths, so that in the open-air theater they would project the sound. So the persona, the person, is the mask, is the role you're playing. And all your friends and relations and parents and teachers are busy telling you who you are, what your role in life is, and there are only a certain number of acceptable roles you can play…

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"God" (excerpt) The Essence of Alan Watts by c

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Modern Protestant theologians, and even some Catholics, have been talking recently about the death of God and about the possibility of a religionless religion, a religion which does not involve belief in God. What would become of the Gospel of Jesus Christ if it were shown that Jesus' own belief in God was unnecessary and invalid? What would remain of his teachings? Of his ideas about caring for other human beings, about social responsibility and so on. I think that would be a pretty wishy-washy kind of religion. If you're going to say that this life is fundamentally nothing but a pilgrimage from the maternity ward to the crematorium and that's it, baby, you've had it, I think that indicates a singular lack of imagination. I would like to look at the death-of-God theology in an entirely different way. What is dead is not God but an idea of God, a particular conception of God that has died in the sense of becoming implausible. And I find this a very good thing…

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"In Order to Discover God "(excerpt) DEMOCRACY IN THE KINGDOM by Alan Watts

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In order to discover God you have to stop clinging entirely. Why does one cling to God? For safety, of course. You want to save something; you want to save yourself. I don’t care what you mean by saved, whether it means just feeling happy, or that life is meaningful, or that there is somebody up there who cares. If you do not cling to one god, you cling to another: the state, money, sex, yourself, power. These are all false gods. But there has to come a time when clinging stops; only then does the time of faith begin. People who hold on to God do not have any faith at all, because real faith lies in not holding on to anything…

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Alan Watts' Letter of Resignation to the Episcopal Church

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My dear friends,


After long and careful thought I have had to take a step which will perhaps be most disturbing to many of you, though to others it may come as no surprise. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot remain in either the ministry or the communion of the Episcopal Church.

In retrospect, I believe that I entered the ministry under the influence of a tendency which has become rather widespread – a tendency to seek refuge from the confusion of our times by giving into a kind of nostalgia. In a world where all the traditions in which men have found security are crumbling, the mind seeks…

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“Death” by Alan Watts - PART 2 (excerpt) THE ESSENCE OF ALAN WATTS

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The universe is a system which forgets itself and then again remembers anew so there’s always constant change and constant variety in the span of time. It also does it in the span of space by looking at itself through every different living organism, giving an all-around view.

That is a way of getting rid of prejudice, getting rid of a one-sided view. Death in that sense is a tremendous release from monotony. It puts an end to all of total forgetting in a rhythmic process of on/off, on/off so you can begin all over again and never be bored. But the point is that if you can fantasize the idea of being nothing for always and always, what you are really saying is
after I’m dead the universe stops, and what I’m saying is it goes on just as it did when you were born. You may think it incredible that you have more than one life, but isn’t it…

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“Death” by Alan Watts - PART 1 (excerpt) THE ESSENCE OF ALAN WATTS

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I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of death as far back as I can remember, from earliest childhood. You may think that’s kind of morbid, but when a child at night says the phrase If I should die before I wake, there’s something about it that’s absolutely weird. What would it be like to go to sleep and never wake up? Most reasonable people just dismiss the thought. They say, “You can’t imagine that”; they shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, that will be that.”

But I’m one of those ornery people who aren’t content with an answer like that. Not that I’m trying to find something else beyond that, but I am absolutely fascinated with…

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"Yin-Yang Polarity" (excerpt) — Tao: The Watercourse Way by Alan Watts

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At the very roots of Chinese thinking and feeling there lies the principle of polarity, which is not to be confused with the ideas of opposition or conflict. In the metaphors of other cultures, light is at war with darkness, life with death, good with evil, and the positive with the negative, and thus an idealism to cultivate the former and be rid of the latter flourishes throughout much of the world. To the traditional way of Chinese thinking, this is as incomprehensible as an electric current without both positive and negative poles, for polarity is the principle that + and —, north and south, are different aspects of one and the same system, and that the disappearance of either one of them would be the disappearance of the system…

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"The Ego and the Universe: Alan Watts on Becoming Who You Really Are" by Alan Watts by Maria Popova

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During the 1950s and 1960s, British philosopher and writer Alan Watts began popularizing Eastern philosophy in the West, offering a wholly different perspective on inner wholeness in the age of anxiety and what it really means to live a life of purpose. We owe much of today’s mainstream adoption of practices like yoga and meditation to Watts’s influence. In The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (public library), originally published in 1966 and building upon his indispensable earlier work, Watts argues with equal parts conviction and compassion that “the prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither…

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The World's Most Dangerous Book [Part 3] by Alan Watts

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PART 3
It should be understood that the expression "son of" means "of the nature of," as when we call someone a son of a bitch and as when the Bible uses such phrases as "sons of Belial" (an alien god), or an Arab cusses someone out as e-ben-i-el-homa "son of donkey!" or simply "stupid". Used in this way,"son of" has nothing to do with maleness or being younger than. Likewise, the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, the Logos-Sopia, refers to the basic pattern or design of the Universe, ever emerging from the inconceivable mystery or the Father as the galaxies shine out of space. This is how the great philosophers of the Church have thought about the imagery of the Bible and as it appears to a modern student of the history and psychology of world religions. Call it intellectual snobbery if you will, but although the books of the Bible might have been "plain words for plain people" in the days of Isaiah and Jesus, an uneducated and uninformed person who reads them today, and takes them as the literal Word of God, will become a blind and confused bigot…
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The World's Most Dangerous Book [Part 2] by Alan Watts
Alan W. Watts

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When one considers the architecture and ritual of churches, whether Catholic or Protestant, it is obvious until most recent times that they are based on royal or judicial courts. A monarch who rules by force sits in the central court of his donjon with his back to the wall, flanked by guards, and those who come to petition him for justice or to offer tribute must kneel or prostrate themselves simply because these are difficult positions from which to start a fight. Such monarchs are, of course, frightened of their subjects and constantly on the anxious alert for rebellion. Is this an appropriate image for the inconceivable energy that underlies the universe? True, the altar-throne in Catholic churches is occupied by the image of God in the form of one crucified as a common thief, but he hangs there as our leader in subjection to the Almighty Father, King of the universe, propitiating Him for those who have broken His not always reasonable laws. And what of the curious resemblance between Protestant churches and courts of law? The minister and the judge wear the same black robe and "throw the book" at those assembled in pews and various kinds of boxes, and both ministers and judges have chairs of estate that are still, in effect, thrones.
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PART 2

The World's Most Dangerous Book [Part 1] by Alan Watts

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For many centuries the Roman Catholic Church was opposed to translating the Holy Scriptures into the "vulgar tongue." To this day, you can still get rid of a Bible salesman by saying, "But we are Catholics and, of course, don't read the Bible." The Catholic hierarchy included subtle theologians and scholars who knew very well that such a difficult and diverse collection of ancient writings, taken as the literal Word of God, would be wildly and dangerously interpreted if put into the hands of ignorant and uneducated peasants. Likewise, when a missionary boasted to George Bernard Shaw of the numerous converts he had made, Shaw asked, " Can these people use rifles?" "Oh, indeed, yes," said the missionary. "Some of them are very good shots." Whereupon Shaw scolded him for putting us all in peril in the day when those converts waged holy war against us for not following the Bible in the literal sense they gave to it. For the Bible says, "What a good thing it is when the Lord putteth into the hands of the righteous invincible might." But today, especially in the United States, there is a taboo against admitting that there are enormous numbers of stupid and ignorant people, in the bookish and literal sense of these words. They may be highly intelligent in the arts of farming, manufacture, engineering and finance, and even in physics, chemistry or medicine. But this intelligence does not automatically flow over to the fields of history, archaeology, linguistics, theology, philosophy and mythology which are what one needs to know in order to make any sense out such archaic literature as the books of the Bible.

PART 1
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"TAO - Two Insights" — Alan Watts (TAO:THE WATERCOURSE WAY) and commentary by Bei Kuan-tu

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Jesus and His Religion (or the religion about Him) [3rd of 3 Parts] by Alan Watts

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Jesus and His Religion (or the religion about Him) [2nd of 3 Parts] by Alan Watts

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Jesus and His Religion (or the religion about Him) [1st of 3 Parts] by Alan Watts

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