Sunday, July 2, 2017

Wisdom of the Ridiculous: 3 timeless lectures by Alan Watts







Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience.

Born in Chislehurst, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master's degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest but left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.

Living on the West Coast, Watts gained a large following in the San Francisco Bay Area while working as a volunteer programmer at KPFA, a Pacifica Radio station in Berkeley. Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to Eastern and Western religion, introducing the then-burgeoning youth culture to The Way of Zen (1957), one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism.

In Psychotherapy East and West (1961), Watts proposed that Buddhism could be thought of as a form of psychotherapy and not just a religion. Like Aldous Huxley before him, he explored human consciousness in the essay, "The New Alchemy" (1958), and in the book, The Joyous Cosmology (1962).

Towards the end of his life, he divided his time between a houseboat in Sausalito and a cabin on Mount Tamalpais. His legacy has been kept alive by his son, Mark Watts, and by many of his recorded talks and lectures that have found new life on the Internet. According to the critic Erik Davis, his "writings and recorded talks still shimmer with a profound and galvanizing lucidity."

NOTE: These brilliant lectures were digitally rescued from analog audio recordings and made available to the present generation by Mark Watts, keeper of his father's wisdom archives. I suggest you bookmark this post and return to it from time to time - whenever you feel prompted to lean back and be reassured by a warm, human voice of crystalline intelligence, mental clarity, infinite compassion, spiritual depth, and supreme eloquence.

Alan Watts & The Skin-Encapsulated Ego

Several decades ago I stumbled upon the writings of a wry English theologian and philosopher named Alan Watts (1915-1973).

I owe Alan Wilson Watts a huge debt of gratitude for having provided me effortless access to the essence of Eastern mysticism as expressed in the Tao Te Ching and the basic tenets of Zen. Ironic, isn't it, that someone like me whose physical body can be categorized as "Asian" has to engage the timeless teachings of Eastern mystics through the medium of an Englishman's mind?

The most endearing - and enduring - quality of Alan Watts's writing is its elegant, poetic lucidity, and the tangible warmth of his exquisitely noble personality. Watts had the uncanny knack of drawing his readers gently into his private thought-streams and lofty musings minus the intellectual haughtiness of so many run-of-the-mill academics.

[Read the rest here.]

[First posted 11 May 2012]

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