Alan Watts, fully Alan Wilson Watts

Alan
Watts, fully Alan Wilson Watts
1915
1973

English-born American Philosopher, Writer, Exponent of Zen Buddhism

Author Quotes

The reason we want to go on and on is because we live in an impoverished present.

The timid mind shuts this window with a bang, and is silent and thoughtless about what it does not know in order to chatter the more about what it thinks it knows. It fills up the uncharted spaces with mere repetition of what has already been explored. But the open mind knows that the most minutely explored territories have not really been known at all, but only marked and measured a thousand times over. And the fascinating mystery of what it is that we mark and measure must in the end "tease us out of thought" until the mind forgets to circle and to pursue its own processes, and becomes aware that to be at this moment is pure miracle.

The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced.

The reason why certain people turn to philosophy, why I became a philosopher, since I was a little boy, I always felt that existence as such was weird. I mean, here we are. Isn?t that odd?

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 one-up-man-ship, and Guru competitions.

The myths underlying our culture and underlying our common sense have not taught us to feel identical with the universe, but only parts of it, only in it, only confronting it - aliens.

The relationship between the environment and the organism is transactional.

The narrow slit in the fence is much like the way in which we look at life by conscious attention, for when we attend to something we ignore everything else. Attention is narrowed perception. It is a way of looking at life bit by bit, using memory to string the bits together-as when examining a dark room with a flashlight having a very narrow beam. Perception thus narrowed has the advantage of being sharp and bright, but it has to focus on one area of the world after another and one feature after another. And where there are no features, only space or uniform surfaces, it somehow gets bored and searches about for more features. Attention is therefore something like a scanning mechanism in radar or television, and Norbert Wiener and his colleagues found some evidence that there is a similar process in the brain.

The relationship of self to other is the complete realization that loving yourself is impossible without loving everything defined as other than yourself.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

The religious idea of God cannot do full duty for the metaphysical infinity.

The only Zen you'll find on mountain tops is the Zen you bring up there with you.

The root of the difficulty is that we have developed the power of thinking so rapidly and one-sidedly that we have forgotten the proper relation between thoughts and events, words and things. Conscious thinking has gone ahead and created its own world, and, when this is found to conflict with the real world, we have the sense of a profound discord between the "I," the conscious thinker, and nature.

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.

The scope and purpose of science are woefully misunderstood when the universe which it describes is confused with the universe in which man lives... It is just this reality of the present, this moving, vital now which eludes all the definitions and descriptions. Here is the mysterious real world which words and ideas can never pin down. The miracles of technology cause us to live in a hectic, clockwork world that does violence to human biology, enabling us to do nothing but pursue the future faster and faster. Deliberate thought finds itself unable to control the upsurge of the beast in man--a beast more "beastly" than any creature of the wild, maddened and exasperated by the pursuit of illusions. Specialization in verbiage, classification, and mechanized thinking has put man out of touch with many of the marvelous powers of "instinct" which govern his body. It has, furthermore, made him feel utterly separate from the universe and his own "me."

The point, which can hardly be repeated too often, is that differentiation is not separation. The head and the feet are different, but not separate, and though man is not connected to the universe by exactly the same physical relation as branch to tree or feet to head, he is nonetheless connected ? and by physical relations of fascinating complexity.

The secret of the enjoyment of pleasure is to know when to stop. Man doesn't learn this secret easily, but to shun pleasure altogether is cowardly avoidance of a difficult job. For we have to learn the art of enjoying things BECAUSE they are impermanent.

The precious? uniqueness which the human individual claims is conferred on him not by possession of an immortal soul but by possession of a mortal body? If death gives life individuality and if man is the organism which represses death, then man is the organism which represses his own individuality.

The self-styled practical man of affairs who pooh-poohs philosophy as a lot of windy notions is himself a pragmatist or a positivist, and a bad one at that, since he has given no thought to his position.

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.

The sense of wrong is simply failure to see where something fits into a pattern, to be confused as to the hierarchical level upon which an event belongs.

The problem comes up because we ask the question in the wrong way. We supposed that solids were one thing and space quite another or just nothing whatever. Then it appeared that space was no mere nothing, because solids couldn't do without it. But the mistake in the beginning was to think of solids and space as two different things, instead of as two aspects of the same thing. The point is that they are different but inseparable, like the front end and the rear end of a cat. Cut them apart, and the cat dies. Take away the crest of the wave, and there is no trough.

The source of all light is in the eye.

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.

The startling truth is that our best efforts for civil rights, international peace, population control, conservation of natural resources, and assistance to the starving of the earth?urgent as they are?will destroy rather than help if made in the present spirit. For, as things stand, we have nothing to give. If our own riches and our own way of life are not enjoyed here, they will not be enjoyed anywhere else. Certainly they will supply the immediate jolt of energy and hope that methedrine, and similar drugs, give in extreme fatigue. But peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love. No work of love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.

Author Picture
First Name
Alan
Last Name
Watts, fully Alan Wilson Watts
Birth Date
1915
Death Date
1973
Bio

English-born American Philosopher, Writer, Exponent of Zen Buddhism