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