Related Subjects: Author Index Reviews Page 1 2
Book reviews for "Watts,_Alan_Wilson" sorted by average review score:

Behold the Spirit; A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion
Published in Paperback by Random House Trade Paperbacks (1972)
Author: Alan Wilson Watts
Amazon base price: $8.80
List price: $11.00 (that's 20% off!)
Used price: $4.40
Collectible price: $5.50
Buy one from zShops for: $7.40
Average review score:

One of His Best!
_Behold The Spirit_ is one of the most clearly written, profound, and enlightening books on theology I have ever read. This book represents the ideal combination of profundity and readability - never again will you say that a book must be difficult to read just because it deals with extremely complex and deep subject matter. Like most of Alan Watts' books, _Behold the Spirit_ is an absolute pleasure to read, yet competently deals with universal metaphysical questions which have troubled man for many centuries. For instance, Alan Watts talks at length about the problem of what God was doing before He created the universe. Was He just sitting there alone? The answer can be found in the book.

To me, this type of theological question is quite fascinating. I appreciated the unorthodox and critical approach Watts took in examining a wide range of theological and general metaphysical issues. In other words, this is not an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian book; it is a critical and sceptical examination of Christianity and man's belief in God. I highly recommend this work to anyone, and if you only want to read one or two of Alan Watts' most important works, they should be _Behold the Spirit_ and _Psychotherapy East and West_. These two works represent the solid core of Alan Watts' philosophy. They are rigourous, profound, and comprehensive psychological works which are also remarkably succinct, miserly, and readable. With Alan Watts, you can obtain large amounts of elightenment in a short amount of time, with minimal aggravation and headache.

excellent introduction to Watts
this is my favorite book by Alan Watts. originally published in 1947 while he was still an Anglican priest, it is perhaps a better introduction to his work for newcomers--not only because the book is written in a readable and accessible style, but also for his clear discussion of basic tenets and flaws in the Western/Protestant framework of theology and religion.

from there, he shows how the mystical aspects of Christianity can reconcile with more intuitive traditions such as Zen Buddhism--and break beyond Western culture's materialist representation of religion.

i found this book useful because of the straightforward writing style, and because it depicts Watts' own thoughts on mysticism, religion, and God at a foundational level, using practical examples from various rites and liturgies. Watts shows us how to be alive, spiritually.

better than a cup of steaming java
During my days as a resident assistance of a christian fellowship i discovered this book in a rather large box donated to me by my sister. Amongst the books their were titles by Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copland. I perused these and hastily laid them aside. then i commenced this book by Dr. Watts and my my jaw hit the floor. what a radical departure from the sterile christianity I was mired in.
I started to incorporate Watt's teaching in my bible studiesand eventually i left that bastion of provincial thought and started
my own search.
All of alan's writings are absolutely enlightening i would recommend this book to anyone, no matter what they denominate themselves

This Is It, and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience
Published in Mass Market Paperback by Random House Trade Paperbacks (1973)
Author: Alan Wilson, Watts
Amazon base price: $8.00
List price: $10.00 (that's 20% off!)
Used price: $5.49
Collectible price: $22.95
Buy one from zShops for: $6.75
Average review score:

Short but Good
_This Is It_ by Alan Watts is a good solid work, but is too short to provide the rigorous instruction needed to achieve any appreciable amount of enlightenment or Zen Satori. That said, it is a wonderful, enjoyable, and profound book page for page, and is essential to round out your collection of Alan Watts' more recent and well-known works. _This Is It_ is also perfect for someone who does not want a megadose of strenuous philosophy and theology; it is ideal for those who are new to psychological-religious non-fiction, or who do not have the time to hack through some kind of magnum-opus epic of philosophy. If, however, you want to read one of the more comprehensive books by Alan Watts, I would recommend _Psychotherapy East and West_, which is his best work.

Great explanation of the non-dual
Alan Watts explains what unity/non-dual consciousness or nothingness really is and explains how it may be different from what many people think it is. He uses various interesting examples to make his case and I thought they were very effective. Ken Wilber has elaborated on this error that people tend to make as well but I think Toru Sato's "Rhythm, Relationships, and Transcendence" really explains it the best. Anyways all of these author's books are well worth reading. They are all brilliant! We are very fortunate that these people write books.

Just do it...
Yes, the Nike ads have captured the essence of Zen. As Alan Watts puts it, This Is It.

Logical paradoxes aside, the "just shut up and get on with it" approach to Life is one of the key elements in Zen. The 'kill the Buddha' psychology of avoiding the pitfalls of externally arising enlightenment is well in line with Watt's own philosophy.

Completeness comes from within and from a place of non-duality, which the koans of Zen are designed to lead you towards. One of the key human errors and the cause of immense suffering is the belief that Life must make sense. Who ever said that? And make sense to whom?

The Techno Bible in The Hitch Hiker's Guide bore the words "Dont Panic" on the cover. That's a good starting point. Add to that Just Do It and This Is It, and you're going to be just fine.

Another great read from the man who gave us The Two Hands Of God.

The Essence of Alan Watts
Published in Paperback by Celestial Arts (1978)
Author: Alan Wilson Watts
Amazon base price: $5.95
Used price: $3.50
Collectible price: $10.00
Average review score:

The Essence of Alan Watts, The Year 2000
I have written my review today 4/1/2000. I did not finish my biography review list. I want to make sure that you put me on the biography review list so that people can contact me by my e-mail address. Pease do this for me. Thanks!

The Essence Of Alan Watts, The Year 2000
I already wrote my review; i wanted you to place my name on the WRITER'S REVIEW LIST. I wrote my review, and did the information for the writer's list. BUT, i somehow disconnected myself from you and me before i could enter my writer's review application on my computer. Please enter me on your writer's review list. You have all the information;except, i did not write a biographical paragraph, as was requested. I did correctly send or submit my review of, The Essence of Alan Watts, The Year 2000.

The Essence of Alan Watts, The Year 2000
The content of this book is divided into 10 modes:EGO,GOD,Meditation,Incense,Nothingness,Death,Time,The Nature Of Man,The Cosmic Drama,Philosophical Fantasies. The basic content is that you do not exist as EGO; you are "free" to be a organism/environment,thus releasing you, so to speak, from being "trapped" inside your body as though you were a prisoner. The EGO content, in my opinion, equates to 90% of all of the book. Next, the content, GOD: we can know GOD most profoundly, the most "truly", in not knowing an "image" of GOD, or in not knowing GOD. For WATTS, not knowing GOD, equates to FAITH in the obvious "existence" of GOD. Meditation is to get in touch with yourself through "reality," by closing out all of your active "thoughts." Bottom line: you exist as "reality." FINAL thoughts:Incense connects a person's sense of smell with all of the universe. Nothingness is the "what" that allows something to happen. It is background, and will always be seen as "structure." Death, you are already "dead;" however, you will HAPPEN again. Time is breaking the habit of thinking about yourself in the "past;" and JUMP starting yourself into the "always" now. The Nature of Man is that he is "unhappy" because of the lack of knowlege between WORK and PLAY. They are the same; man looks at them as separate,thus going crazy or almost insane. We ned to get our heads and genitals together/with work and play together: so that we create life as a pleasure or "unified" one. The Cosmic Drama is GOD playing all the acts of the "play" earth. GOD is us; meaning no victims. All horrible "things," pain, human torture,etc. are victimless, because GOD is playing the victims. In the Cosmic Drama we realize that we are GOD. Watts ends with Philosophical Fantasies. Here by three fantasies, Watts ties together the content of the EGO and the final content of the BOOK. (1) Everybody is a constant "reproduction." (2) Every living being thinks it's human:worms,virus,etc. All living beings look at themseles as the center of the universe. (3) How do stars begin? In the third fantasy, Watts unites all of the book. A planet is one star's "way" of becoming another star. A star will in turn explode to form another planet like/earth. All life forms up to the present day on earth, came as a result of the previous star exploding. And where are we today? We are a reproduction of what Watts defined in the chapter of the EGO. Watts says,"if you understand that you are always in the same place, just as every creature thinks it's a human being, and just as every being turns out to be a reproduction, whether it's electronic or biological, then you understand the "nature" of LIFE." And just as planets may be stars' ways of becoming other stars, you're always in the same place. And where is that place? You can ask, if that is so, if the place in which you are now is the place where everything and everybody else really is? However, we pretend there is an arrangement to be somewhere else, so the place where you are is the place where you are always pretending you ought to be somewhere else. WE think we should be somewhere else, but that is a "trick" we are playing on ourselves. Watts says, "when you discover you are playing a "trick" on yourself, and see through it, you become calm, serene and enjoy the game of life for what is-----FUN. P.S. I am finished. I have written a complete detailed version of this book; if you would want me to send you a copy for whatever reason, i would be glad to do so. You can do what you want with my long version. Keep it for legal publication,etc. PLEASE, let me KNOW? THANKS, a philosopher, and WATTS "follower for many years," John B. Larson Florence , Arizona

Psychotherapy, East and West
Published in Paperback by Random House Trade Paperbacks (1975)
Author: Alan Wilson Watts
Amazon base price: $10.00
Used price: $3.20
Collectible price: $7.00
Average review score:

His Best Work.
Vastly underrated and tragically out of print, _Psychotherapy East and West_ is Alan Watts' greatest work, and is one of the greatest works of psychology/philosophy of the twentieth century written in English. This book is also an ideal introductory course to the psychology of Carl G. Jung. Anyone who wants to read Jung should read this first (even though it came later) because it encompasses all of Jungs key concepts in an ultra-concentrated yet remarkably readable form. That is not to say that Jung is unreadable, because he most certainly is a great, easily translatable writer. But Alan Watts had the advantage of writing in English, and for this reason I believe _Psychotherapy East and West_ is THE ULTIMATE introduction to psychology for the Anglo-American reader. It represents the new wave of fusion psychology/philosophy/religious Asian cusine. No longer should all these fields be separated. Alan Watts and Carl Jung together have succeeded in combining the fields of psychology, philosophy, theology, and anthropological mythology. This is the new wave of generalized spiritual enlightenment which is also unbiased, critical, sceptical and truthful. It has spawned such other great authors as Julian Jaynes and Terrance McKenna. The best thing about this new kind of psychotherapy is that it is not cold and pretentious with regard to religion, but is tolerant and advocating of any type of belief system which enhances people's well being and mental health. Because it is nevertheless rigorous in uncovering the truth, it resembles Eastern Buddhism. Keep in mind that Buddhism makes no firm and unverifiable claims regarding the existence of God or an afterlife; it is simply a stategy for living one's life in the most enjoyable way possible, and _Psychotherapy East and West_ does an excellent job in making this way of life accessable to Americans. This book is the ultimate alliance of belief, spirtuality, psychotherapy, and mental well-being on the one hand, and truthful, critical philosophy on the other. It does not wish to insulate people from spiritual crises and keep them suspended in naive belief, but introduces us to a new wave of spiritualism that is hardened by scepticism and impervious to doubt. While some philosophy might pride itself on debunking unverifiable beliefs, it does not provide a solution to man's broken and neurotic psychological condition due to his lost spirituality. _Psychotherapy East and West_, on the other hand, is respective of truth, critical and sceptical, yet provides firm answers as to how we can avoid the neuroses and depression that might result from an upending of our spiritual beliefs. Unconditionally recommended. One of my top five books of all time, of any genre.

Be spontaneous!
Alan W. Watts' excellent looks into the world of psychotherapy, in particular those dealing with schizophrenia, and a world of Eastern religion; Hindu, Buddhist, Zen, Tao. The main topic of psychotherapy the author reaches is on the subject of the "double-bind" where one is forced to do two things at once. And the only way a human can do two things at once is to split into two people. Thus we have the psychological break. Discussing the writings of such known authors as Norman O. Brown, Wittgenstein, Freud as well as J. Haley, Erickson, Laing, Reich, Watzlawick, and Greagory Bateson. Noting mainly that the result of psychotherapy is that of the East in their liberation. Liberation and a successful therapeutic treatment are one in the same. The individual is free from binds, either double or singular, yet, now and again able to relate to the others world, as well as the world of the self. Watts "dances" about saying that to be therapeutic, one must also initate a double-bind so the patient can struggle to break it by "being himself." In which, as the subject refers to, to "be spontaneous" (which is in itself a paradox, as if someone were controlling you to do something without thinking). Watts concludes in his classic style discussing the liberation from the self in which words are constantly changing no matter where you are going or coming from. Vernaculars and lexicons are part of the moment, not something to be restricted in time; like all things to be - live in the moment. Reccomended for the theoretical psychologist as well as the Eastern frame of mind reader.

cream of the practical zen/tao/buddhist/castaneda offerings
I have many books covering the eastern mental and behavioral teachings; taoist, buddhist, zen, meditation,including DT Suzuki, Watts, Trungpa, the Dhali Llama, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, and have snaked through almost all of Castaneda's books. This particular book by Watts slams the topic down with intense clarity, with more power and direct, practical relevance than most books that cover eastern thought. It is intense, challenging, and Watts plows through relentlessly, viewing many cultural habits, and vindicating his central thesis with precision, humour and always good intentions. I have highlighted, re-read, dog-eared and referenced this book the most. Where Lao Tzu could seem overly refined and get vague, Watts turns the table and gets to the nitty gritty with powerful rewards, yet never losing the scope, the reflections, the principle and process that blend with the product. In addition to Edward De Bono and Carlos Castaneda arguing the same point, Watts here also gives intense support to the value and practical applications of HUMOUR in our lives. I love this freedom. If I died tomorrow, and someone wanted to know what my top 50 books list was, this one would be in the top 5.

Handbook of Memory Disorders
Published in Hardcover by John Wiley & Sons (16 May, 1995)
Authors: Alan D. Baddeley, Barbara A. Wilson, Fraser N. Watts, and Alan Braddeley
Amazon base price: $375.00
Used price: $99.99
Buy one from zShops for: $65.00
Average review score:

For the professional in the trenches
The first edition of this book was exceptionally useful to the forensic psychologist attempting to stay current in both theory and applications in the field of cognition and memory. The second edition is also excellent -- it is readable, relevant, and accessible to the non-specialist in this area.

Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk: The Mystery of Life
Published in Paperback by A & W Pub (1978)
Author: Alan Wilson, Watts
Amazon base price: $10.00
Used price: $10.00
Average review score:

23 years of inspiration
"Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk - The mystery of life" covers basic elements of visual design while serving to link these elements into basic aspects of life. Alan Watts presents some of the aesthetic principals underlying both Chinese and Japanese arts and along the way illuminates something of the Taoist and Buddhist philosophies that run underneath them. I'm neither a Buddhist nor a Taoist but the ideas explored in this book are still valid to my work as a designer. Half the fun of this book is that the terms don't belong to English so they often bracket concepts in unusual ways bringing new angles of view on common design principles. Watts also doesn't ignore visual design's ability to be meaningful to people at a deep level. His measured words on the relationship between visual aesthetics and the issues of living from one day to the next provide a balanced counterpoint to many of the works contained in the body of contemporary American and European design theory. I've been returning to this book over and over again since it was published in '78 and can't recommend it highly enough.

Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown; A Mountain Journal
Published in Mass Market Paperback by Random House Trade Paperbacks (1974)
Author: Alan Wilson Watts
Amazon base price: $8.80
List price: $11.00 (that's 20% off!)
Used price: $2.10
Collectible price: $4.95
Buy one from zShops for: $5.50
Average review score:

Nunc Dimittis
This was the 13th of his books I've read this year, and I think it will be the final one. After a while, all his books begin to sound the same. I thought he was way off base in the chapter titled, "Was Jesus a Freak?" He may have taught seminary and served as an Anglican priest, but he sure didn't know much about Christianity. It is typical of his books that he makes false or misleading statements about Christian ideas, and then proceeds to show why Christianity itself is in error. What stupidity from a brilliant mind. The chapter titled "What Shall We Do with the Church?" was unrealistic. Many churches have indeed implemented the changes he recommended in this book, but the result has been declining membership for the past three decades. The only churches or denominations which seem to thrive are those which emphasize formality and tradition. The rest of the book was mostly a re-hash of his other books. Well-written as always, but nothing really new in terms of topics. This has been one of the more interesting reading projects I have engaged in. Well worth my time and effort, but, after thirteen of his books, it's time to move on.

rebel with a cause
Timeless wisdom wrapped in beautiful language that soothes the soul. Alan Watts was a brilliant storyteller who managed to stir things up a bit before leaving on an optimistic note.

This work is edgier than his others and will satisfy the more rebellious new agers.

just marvelous
This is perhaps the best of the half dozen or so Watts books I've read. Watts is a brilliant philosopher of the "Big Picture", and it is all wonderfully laid out here: Cosmic consciousness, Tantric Buddhism, the Hippies, Tao... he nails them all in splendid fashion. Highly recommendable.

The Supreme Identity: An Essay on Oriental Metaphysics and the Christian Religion
Published in Paperback by Random House Trade Paperbacks (1972)
Author: Alan Wilson Watts
Amazon base price: $9.00
Used price: $5.90
Average review score:

Dense and Potent
_The Supreme Identity_ is one of the more important among the earlier works by Alan Watts. It engages the reader with a rigorous theological discussion which is thought provoking yet mentally taxing. At times he lapses into hair-splitting minutae in examining theological issues, and the result is what the author himself admitted was a "sometimes tortuous argument". However, I would still recommend this one to anyone who wants to go right after the meat of Alan Watts' theology, or for those who wish read stuff from his earlier Christian stage as opposed to his later works, when he dealt almost exclusively with Eastern religion. Before you read this one, I would strongly suggest you read _Behold the Spirit_, which is more readable but just as profound as _The Supreme Identity_.

Good book; very informative
Watts is doing here what many people have done in the past: write about the "common core" in all religions. Specifically, he is writing about our "true self," the eternal self in all of us
that is identical with the Eternal Self "out there." He covers
Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and Vedanta. Even though Watts was trained as a Christian minister, this book is not traditionally Christian, although he defends many Christian beliefs. Excellent book, and very thought-provoking.

a mind's eye opener
when i first encountered this book in the mid-eighties i was a pastor of a small church in pennsylvania. i am now a dance musician at slippery rock university and must say that The Supreme Identity is probably watt's most enlightening work. it will be outright rejected and considered dangerous by probably most religious minded folks but that will only serve to make it more interesting to anyone who is ready for it's message. if you feel that religion in its current form is simply too small minded and practically irrelevant but don't know exactly why, then read this book. watts is not anti-religion by any means.
but he courageously and clearly sets forth the truth of the human/divine continuum by elucidating the essence of vedantist realization. he uses clear and plain language with that wry humor
that endeared him to so many. this book changed my life nearly twenty years ago. i'm glad i read it and hope many find it in their hands in years to come..

The Wisdom of Insecurity
Published in Paperback by Random House Trade Paperbacks (1968)
Author: Alan Wilson Watts
Amazon base price: $8.95
Used price: $3.25
Collectible price: $8.50
Buy one from zShops for: $6.03
Average review score:

"Belief clings, but faith lets go."
One of my favorite books of all time. I've reread it more times than any other, but never without reaching new insights and finding new inspiration. It's filled with wisdom like the following: "[I]t is a serious misapplication of psychology to make the presence or absence of neurosis the touchstone of truth, and to argue that if a man's philosophy makes him neurotic, it must be wrong. 'Most atheists and agnostics are neurotic, whereas most simple Catholics are happy and at peace with themselves. Therefore the views of the former are false, and of the latter true.' Even if the observation is correct, the reasoning based on it is absurd. It is as if to say, 'You say there is a fire in the basement. You are upset about it. Because you are upset, there is obviously no fire." Watts talks about the many subtle proprieties of life in which we are all engaged but which we seldom discuss. Then, the instant you read them, you feel as if your own thoughts had been read aloud. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

This man changed my life.
If you're scared to challenge beliefs you've always held to be true, don't touch this book. If you're ready to think about things in a way most people don't, this book could put you right on a path that's so fresh and inspiring, it's lead me to read every book Watts wrote and explore the various Eastern religions he always refers to. The Wisdom of Insecurity discusses extremely foreign and complex concepts in a way that is beautiful to read and calming to imagine.

Timely...and timeless.
Each time I pick up my latest copy of this book I find a new, seemingly self-evident truth. My first copy, which I received in 1972 from my girlfriend, opened my eyes to the futility of chasing headlong after so-called "security." Watts blends eastern and western thought and cultural habits, and shows ever-so-clearly that this chase is futile, indeed an oxymoron: the chase is doomed to be eternal, only in giving up the chase can we reach the prize (or, more precisely, can it reach us).

I've given copies to so many friends over the years, but as I write these words it still graces the bookshelf beside me. I treasure it highly, and read passages from it often, 26 years later.

In My Own Way: An Autobiography
Published in Paperback by Random House Trade Paperbacks (1974)
Author: Alan Wilson Watts
Amazon base price: $6.95
Used price: $29.97
Collectible price: $31.76
Average review score:

A bit disappointing
I didn't find this autobiography as appealing as many of the other flowery reviews. I like Alan Watts' philosophical pieces a lot, but there was something in the tone of his autobiography that was arrogant and misleading. His writing is beautiful, as usual, but there is lack of intimacy that I would have expected in a candid autobiography, especially from someone who claims to be a spiritual entertainer. The prose is sprinkled with reminders of how he realizes the ego is a fiction, and how he is enlightened in that sense. Which is fine, I suppose, but I thought the frequent reminders were a little unnecessary, or as he likes to put it, "putting legs on a snake."

More importantly, his recounting of his life completely lacks a sense of problems or misfortunes. Some people really do lack this, but from his biographies it is evident that Alan Watts did not. He does not (at the request of his father) talk about his relationship with his mother at all in the book, and he also does not discuss at all his alcoholism problems. He also does not discuss the sexual problems which led to his first marriage dissolving, and doesn't really explain why he divorced his second wife. I found this disappointing because he probably had a lot of wisdom to share about this. It also makes him seem less human. ...

Despite all this, the autobiography is entertaining and definitely worth reading for anyone interested in an inside view of the counterculture movement. His reflections, though at times a little too confident, are still mostly interesting to read.

However, I would recommend reading this book along with an objective biography like "Zen Effects- the Life of Alan Watts" to get a more balanced view on his life.

Zen Hedonism
The unabashedly eclectic Alan Watts neither aspired to dogmatic purity nor engaged in academic nitpicking. He culls what he needs, mostly from the Oriental tradition, in order to construct a project of spiritual hedonism.

Watts thinking and approach to life are emblematic of the 1960s,
even though his quest began many years prior to that tumultuous decade. He rejects the transcendental God, super-ego and status quo, in favor of a spirituality of immanence and id. This coincided with the human potential movement, blossoming at that time.

It is interesting to consider, however, how far the human potential movement in its latest incarnation - the new-age movement- diverged from the course laid down by Watts. For one thing, though he was a popularizer, Watts was undoubtedly an intellectual and would accept little or nothing as a matter of faith. The "New Age", on the other hand, seems to be intellectually vacuous. Like newagers, Watts did turn to the Orient for answeres. This may originally have been inspired by a sort of exoticism, but after having tried to frame his spirituality withinin the epicopalian faith (he became an ordained minister),
Zen/taoism turned out to be the best vehicle for him.

The New Age seems to have reconstructed a more Oriental God, who nonetheless resembles the fatherly God of their Catholic/Protestant parents. This God says "Thou Shalt" (although his rules are slightly different) and looks after his followers as a shepherd does for his flock. This takes many guises...the New Thought one, where if you supplicate to God and repeat enough affirmations, God, under the sobriquet of "the Universe" will grant you what you want...or the guru, in traditional costume or in his new thread as psychotherapist.
Watts rejects all of this transcentalism. He accepts the notion of karma, becoming as one acts,(but not necessarily the new age conception of karma which clings to the idea of returning in a next life).

On the one hand, the new age is either ascetic or it fully embraces hyperconsumersim. It is apparent throughout this biography that Watts rejects both of these paths. On the one hand, he does not envision the body as fallen spirit, but as part of the universe, hence part of God, and to be celebrated.
This is to be done through wine, food, sex and many other ways.
On the other hand, he is wary of the money game, and a blind pursuit of things.

This was my first reading of Watts, though I had listened to a few of his recorded lectures. I shall read more. I am particularly interested in understanding this question of the "illusion of the ego", in comparison with concept of the individual from the point of view of cartesianism or postmodernism.

Apart from those concerns, it was an enjoyable read. I found the first 50 pages, concerned with his childhood, to be a bit slow, but after that it was a real page-turner.


The Way I Came To Be
In My Own Way: An Autobiography is the endlessly engrossing story of the persona, the public figure, of Alan Wilson Watts, who is sometimes referred to, and rightly so, as "the foremost interpreter of Eastern disciplines," and Zen Buddhism in particular. It was not Alan's idea to write this book, as he candidly admits in the Preface to the book, since in his opinion he had not done anything worthy of recounting. "I have not fought in wars, explored mountains and jungles, battled in politics, commanded great business corporations, or accumulated vast wealth. It seemed to me, therefore, that I had no story to tell as the world judges stories."

It was only at the insistence of two women in his life, his publisher's editor, Paula McGuire, and his third wife, Mary Jane Yates, that he consented to write down the details of the making of Alan Watts. Along the way we meet the people who influenced Alan, who helped guide, shape, and direct his persona. And though he was influenced by many people in his life, whose works and ideas found their way into his many books, essays, and lectures, Alan possessed, all on his own, a certain knack or genius for getting at the essence of a theme or subject. And then he was able to effectively communicate that essence, using his abundant imagination, to his readers and listeners. And this not just for the highbrows in the audience, but for every class of person who picks up one of his books and proceeds to make the effort to understand the ideas and concepts he expresses. Alan's work was, if anything, accessible to the reader, whatever his level of interest.

The title of this review, The Way I Came To Be, refers to the story that makes up the book. And so much of that story centers around the people Alan interacted with from whom he gathered the ideas, concepts and "philosophy" that he expoused. It's the inside story of how Alan Watts came to think and see things in the way he came to think and see them. And for this value alone the book is abundantly worth reading and re-reading.

(From a personal point of interest, it fascinated and amazed me, at first reading several years ago, how much my own life paralleled and intersected the same aspects of cultivation as his life: an early interest in Eastern philosophy; being associated with and entering a Western religious order, Episcopal in his case and old Catholic in my own; an interest in the metaphysical rituals of religion; a background in meditation combined with a fascination with psychology and psychoanalysis; and an insight into the little talked about mystical aspects of Western religions and the thought to express the marriage between Western and Eastern mysticism.)

In My Own Way is, in reality, an extension of Alan Watts' previous books in that it covers a lot of the same ground but with new stories of the people he lived with which provides additional insight into the concepts and ideas he wrote about.

For instance, there is the passage that quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson from his famous essay on "Self-Reliance" in which Emerson is writing about the timelessness of things in nature, roses in this case, and how the roses "make no reference to former roses or the better ones; they are for what they are....There is no time for them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence...But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past,or,...stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time."

And then Watts writes: "Sokei-an Sasaki told me that reading this passage touched off his first experience of satori." Sokei-an Sasaki was one of the Zen masters with whom Watts studied. An alert reader, recognizing this fact, would be fascinated to learn about this passage which had such a profound effect upon a Zen master to see whether or not it could have the same effect on him. When one is on the path to self discovery, every little clue is valuable. And such clues as this, coming as it does from the experience of a Zen master, are especially invaluable.

There are dozens and dozens of such moments of insight and clarity offered up in this autobiography that it makes it a joy to read.

And if you are a careful reader, that is if you can read between the lines, you might even learn a thing or two about Alan Watts the man in addition to what you learn about his public facade. And herein lies the value of biography or autobiography and the reading of such, because the reader has the opportunity to gain a rare look at the inside workings of a fellow human being in order to learn and gain wisdom from that person's life which he can then apply to his own life.

You may learn, for example, to recognize and avoid the fatal flaw in Alan's approach to life that took him out at such a relatively young age, fifty-eight. And I'm not referring here to the much discussed abuse of alcohol, although that undoubtedly was a contributing factor. But it was secondary, however, and not the primary factor which led to his early death. He does mention the reason once or twice, but it's so well camouflaged that most people will read right through it without recognizing its significance. I'll leave it to you, the reader of his autobiography, to come to your own conclusion.

At any rate, suffice it to say that this book is a treasure trove of subtle wisdom, valuable perceptions, and fascinating stories of the development and coronation of one of Western civilization's most visible spiritual gurus.

Related Subjects: Author Index Reviews Page 1 2

Reviews are from readers at To add a review, follow the Amazon buy link above.