Alan Watts, A Discreet And Charming Philosopher Of The Spirit
One of the most powerful, sensible voices to speak about our inner deeps.
You are something the whole Universe is doing in the same way that a wave is something that the whole ocean is doing. - Alan Watts
British thinker Alan Watts was one of the most accessible and entertaining Western interpreters of Oriental philosophy there have been. He was essential to the popularization of Zen in the West, and he also translated a rich language of living metaphors. Like the Zen tradition, he had an unusual humorous quality, which he used to understand the world around him; in addition to his powerful eloquence, this was one of the main reasons why he became a “rock star” in the field of Buddhist philosophy. Watts was not an average, dry and solemn scholar. He was, like Aleister Crowley, a joker and a thinker at once, and he described himself as a “spiritual animator”.
His interpretation of Tao and Zen was radical. In his book Psychotherapy East and West (1961), he explains that these disciplines are closer to psychology than they are to religion. For him, their practice is concerned with maintaining a healthy personality in a culture that tends to entangle individuals in a hundred different strands of the logical unconscious. And the most important instruction is: be spontaneous. Watts believed that his work could teach others how to think clearly in order to look through conventional thoughts, leading them to a place where our mind can be at ease within a culture that was designed to foster anxiety. Since the age of sixteen, this was his life mission.
For Zen writers —like for Shakespeare—, life is but a dream, and if you are not living in the present you are living a fantasy. Watt taught, above all else, that everything is transitory. He died of alcoholism after having been a heavy drinker all his life. He never expressed guilt or remorse because of his addiction, and he never missed one of his lectures or deadlines for his written works.
When he died in 1973 he had already written 27 books and had given hundreds of conferences with names like “Death”, “Nothing” and “Omnipotence”. There are thousands of books, essays and other materials that have stemmed from his work and all of them are impressed with affection, as if the people who read or heard him had somehow established a liaison with the author, this is evidenced in the animation made by the South Park creators, the song Van Morrison wrote for him or the immense allusion in the movie Her. Alan Watts was a character that helped establish a bridge to the beautiful Orient and he was also in charge of sparking the passion of innumerable seekers of wisdom and spiritual delights. Nonetheless, he was always adamant about making a path for oneself, saying: “the menu is not the meal”.
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