Supposing I say everybody is playing the game “me first.” Now, I’m going to play the game “you first”—to use the phrase of Bonhoeffer, who called Jesus the man for others. Now, let’s see if we can play that game. Instead of “me first,” “you first.” “After you, please.” Will you please? You know, what a way this is at putting everybody down! See, I’m the one who’s so generous. I’m the one who’s so loving, so self-effacing. And all you inferior brats can go first. You can play “me first.” I’ll play “you first.” I’ll try and convince you to play “you first.” But the success of convincing you on that is relatively small and therefore the in-group will always be the people playing “you first.” And therefore they will get the honors.

from Four Ways to the Center

Portrait of Alan Watts

Alan Watts

Philosopher and Author
January 6, 1915 – November 16, 1973

Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer, speaker, and self-styled “philosophical entertainer,” best known as an interpreter and popularizer of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, England, 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 in 1945, then left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.

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, one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism. Towards the end of his life, he divided his time between a houseboat in Sausalito and a cabin on Mount Tamalpais.

WIKIPEDIA ➦

Frequently mentions:

Lao Tzu  41× Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki  24× Jiddu Krishnamurti  17× Aldous Huxley  13× Ramana Maharshi  13× Ludwig Wittgenstein  12× William James  10× Alfred North Whitehead  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin  Marshall McLuhan  Richard Buckminster Fuller  Gary Snyder  Lancelot Law Whyte  Timothy Leary  Albert Einstein 

166 Documents

Filter

Sort

Alphabetic

Date

Duration

Word Count

Popularity

A Psychedelic Experience

Fact or Fantasy?

As our minds melt into mystic union with the cosmos, philosopher Alan Watts implores us to embody the trippy truth—reality is but a divine drama. Let psychedelic portals transport you through the looking glass, where self and world swirl together like paints in a kaleidoscope. But tread carefully upon this razor’s edge, where heaven and hell commingle. Are you ready to lift the veil?

Alan Watts Interviews Laura Huxley

Alan Watts and Laura Huxley discuss the life and work of Aldous Huxley. They touch on his transformation into a skilled lecturer, his profound intellect and wide-ranging interests, his experiences with psychedelics, his relationship with Krishnamurti, and his ability to live fully in the present moment.

Art of Meditation

In this radio program, philosopher Alan Watts leads a meditation session to help listeners experience reality beyond mental chatter. Through mindful awareness of sounds, breathing, and chanting, he guides an exploration of slowing the thinking mind and awakening to the eternal now. The program offers an accessible introduction to meditation and its potential to transcend illusory divides between self and world.

Cover image for Behold The Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion

Behold The Spirit

A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion

Just as groundbreaking today as it was when it first appeared in 1947, Behold the Spirit is Alan Watts’ timeless argument for the place of mystical religion in today’s world. Drawing on his experiences as a former priest, Watts skillfully explains how the intuition of Eastern religion—Zen Buddhism, in particular—can be incorporated into the doctrines of Western Christianity, allowing people of all creeds to enjoy a deeper, more meaningful relationship with the spiritual in our present troubled times.

Being Far Out

(Spiritual Alchemy)

Alan Watts touches upon a peculiar tendency wherein psychedelic drugs may ignite mystical experiences similar to those known in the Eastern philosophies. However, wheras Buddhism, Hinduism, and Zen accompany these mystical experiences with discipline in order to cultivate positive outcomes, psychedelically induced insights may lead to unhealthy misinterpretations and possibly even delusions of grandeur if not handled properly.

Beyond Practicality

(Study of Asia)

Has our techno-scientific society created problems it can’t solve? Watts says the West excels at amplifying every folly humans are capable of, yet when it comes to answering the big questions we’re like a dog chasing its tail. Perhaps solutions lie not in narrow scholarship, but in re-examining our own premises through imaginative engagement with Asian worldviews. We need protected spaces where scholars can play with concepts freely—not for any practical purpose, but for the sheer joy of ideas, because creative insights arise unpredictably from the useless act of contemplation.

Cover image for Beyond Theology: The Art of Godmanship

Beyond Theology

The Art of Godmanship

Alan Watts examines the theme that our normal sense of the person as a lonely island of consciousness is a dramatic illusion based on theological imagery. In a global context, the meaning of this imagery inevitably changes, yet without losing its unique values.

Birth, Death, and the Unborn

All the patterns we see around us in the world are projections of our minds. There is no way things should be, there is no way things shouldn’t be. But if humans can adopt a mental discipline in which they remain able to project patterns without becoming hung up on them, life for everyone will transform into a beautiful artwork.

Buddhism as Dialogue

How does a person get out of a predicament they’ve talked themselves into?

Clarity of Mind

Watts reveals a simple truth to his audience at the University of California: the mind’s incessant chatter is the root of all that ails a mortal’s soul. By silencing its din one can get to know life’s mystery.

Cover image for Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal

Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown

A Mountain Journal

Over the course of nineteen essays, Alan Watts ruminates on the philosophy of nature, ecology, aesthetics, religion, and metaphysics. Assembled in the form of a mountain journal, written during a retreat in the foothills of Mount Tamalpais in California, Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown is Watts’ meditation on the art of feeling out and following the watercourse way of nature, known in Chinese as the Tao. Embracing a form of contemplative meditation that allows us to stop analyzing our experiences and start living into them, the book explores themes such as the natural world, established religion, race relations, karma and reincarnation, astrology and tantric yoga, the nature of ecstasy, and much more.

Cover image for Cosmic Network

Cosmic Network

Alan takes us from the very small to the very large, explaining the interrelatedness of all things in the universe as a vast network which weaves us into a united yet unnamable divinity.

Democracy in the Kingdom of Heaven

Does God really rule over humans like a monarch, or might the concept of divinity express itself as a drama through all of us?

Diamond Way

An introductory look at the ideas of Pure Land Buddhism.

Divine Madness

My dear, let’s explore how the madness of falling in love, though disruptive, can open our eyes to see the divine in our beloved. Pretending eternal passion as the sole basis for marriage builds impossible expectations. Might we not better cherish our loved ones by setting them free?

Do You Do It Or Does It Do You?

Alan explores the meaning of personal free will in the context of core tenets in Eastern mythology: how is it possible to control anything when preexisting conditions outside of our influence determine our present situation? It is a realization of the hidden unity behind our apparent diversity and a relinquishing of obsessive control that enables us to unlock a pathway leading out of the conundrum and towards a celebration and reverence of life.

Cover image for Does It Matter? Essays on Man's Relation to Materiality

Does It Matter?

Essays on Man's Relation to Materiality

In this short collection of essays, Alan Watts explores modern day problems from the outlook of his own philosophy, inspired mainly by Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. Tackling problems of economics, technology, cooking and clothing, Watts offers a fresh perspective which is all too foreign to Western society. Published in 1970 just shortly before his death, this book is as relevant now as it was when it was written.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 01: Man and Nature

Man and Nature

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 1)

Alan Watts speaks on the contrast between classical Chinese and historic Western attitudes in regard to man’s place in nature. Do we see ourselves as nature’s conquerors or collaborators?

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 02: Things and Thinks

Things and Thinks

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 2)

Alan Watts presents an explanation of the East Indian idea of māyā: the division of the world into separate things and events is a work of human thought and not a fact of nature. Watts examines the disastrous consequences of confusing thought with fact.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 03: Time

Time

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 3)

This program looks at the East Indian concept of time and the illusion of living for the future as the tomorrow that never comes. Plans for the future are only useful for those able to live fully in the present.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 04: The Void

The Void

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 4)

Buddhism symbolizes its basic spiritual experience as a void, but Alan Watts explains this must not be taken literally. Watts explores the void as a symbol of freedom and of a world feeling which can be described poetically though not logically as the "absolute rightness" of every moment.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 05: The Silent Mind

The Silent Mind

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 5)

One who talks all the time can never hear what others say. And one who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. Alan Watts examines the value of silent-mindedness or the practice of meditation in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 06: On Death

On Death

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 6)

Alan Watts explores Buddhist ideas of the value of death as the great renovator, including the Wheel of Life, and the idea of reincarnation as it is understood by philosophical Buddhists.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 07: Recollection

Recollection

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 7)

This program focuses on the East Indian idea that we have forgotten who or what we really are through identifying ourselves with the individual personality. The person or "persona" is also discussed as the social or dramatic mask assumed in daily life.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 08: Queries and Sources

Queries and Sources

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 8)

Alan Watts reveals his research resources for the series of Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life thus far, and he answers questions about points in the previous programs. He recommends books for further study.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 09: Pain

Pain

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 9)

Alan Watts discusses the Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist ideas about physical and moral pain, emphasizing the art of accepting pain by ridding it of its contextual associations.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 10: Nonsense

Nonsense

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 10)

Sense or meaning is a property ascribed to symbols rather than the real word. Alan Watts uses this differentiation as a prelude to the Taoist and Zen Buddhist idea of the perfectly "purposeless" life and its parallels in Christianity.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 11: On Being Vague

On Being Vague

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 11)

The idea of clear-cut "definiteness" reflects as a sharp and somewhat hostile attitude to life. In this talk, Alan Watts shows the value of the vague and gentle approach reflected in Far Eastern poetry and painting.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 12: Law And Order

Law and Order

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 12)

Alan Watts speaks on the contrast between organic and legalistic views of the order of nature, the former being based on visual pattern intelligence and the latter on verbal conventions.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 13: Omnipotence

Omnipotence

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 13)

Watts explores the contrast between organic and mechanical world views and the difference between the growing process and the making process, and he explains why one corresponds to a democratic principle and the other to a monarchical hierarchy.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 14: The Life Of Zen

The Life of Zen

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 14)

A look inside Zen monastic life and practice reveals a culture of dialog and subtle humor between master and student.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 15: Zen In Painting

Zen in Painting

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 15)

This program focuses on Zen-inspired brush painting in the Chinese and Japanese traditions, and it looks at the approach of the contemporary artist Saburō Hasegawa in his inspired return to primitivity in the arts.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 16: Zen In Gardens And Architecture

Zen in Gardens and Architecture

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 16)

An demonstration of the remarkable integration of traditional Japanese homes and gardens within the rural landscape, and the celebration of natural forms of mountains and waters in Zen gardens.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 17: Zen In Fencing And Judo

Zen in Fencing and Judo

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 17)

A demonstration how the Taoist influence in Aikido and Judo also influenced swordsmanship.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 18: Buddhism And Christianity

Buddhism and Christianity

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 18)

Watts brings his expertise to bear in this presentation of Mahayana Buddhist and traditional Christian world views (he was once an Episcopal priest), and how to bring the two together.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 19: The Discipline of Zen

The Discipline of Zen

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 19)

Enjoy an introductory explanation of Zen in this episode, including fundamental principles and the process of joining a monastery in search for answers.

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 20: Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 20)

Cover image for Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 21: Buddhism and Science

Buddhism and Science

Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life (Episode 21)

Eco Zen

Imagine waking up to realize you are not just a wave, but the entire ocean. In this talk, Alan Watts skillfully guides us through Zen concepts, explaining how techniques like kōans break down our false sense of a separate self, leading to the profound realization that we are the whole flowing universe.

Ecological Awareness

When Alan Watts talked about the ‘mystical experience’ among scientific circles, he preferred to call it ‘ecological awareness’—referring to a state of mind in which a person ceases to feel separate from the environment in which he or she exists.

Ecology and Religion

The raw beauty of nature belies a growing crisis. Brimming with insight, Watts argues the ecological predicament stems from long-held religious views of the world as separate from humankind. He urges rethinking this, and seeing ourselves as intertwined with the natural world, to find solutions. Recorded at the University of Texas as part of a weekend workshop.

Education for Non-Entity

(A True Materialist Society)

Alan presents his argument that the United States—often referred to as the ultimate materialist society—is anything but: it lacks a sincere appreciation for the material world and inadvertently destroys it in an attempt to “live the good life,” chasing after ever greener pastures just beyond the horizon of time.

Elliot Mintz Interviews Alan Watts

Philosopher Alan Watts reveals his fascination with Buddhism began in his teens. He urges fully experiencing the present moment by listening to sounds emerge from silence. Though concerned about social issues, he cautions against reactive anger. Watts sees humans as manifestations of an intelligent universe, not isolated egos. With humor and eloquence, he invites us to embrace the weird and follow our own path.

Cover image for Essential Lectures 01: Nothingness

Nothingness

Essential Lectures, Program 1

Basing his ideas on sensory perception and physical experience, Alan Watts makes a compelling argument that everything actually depends upon nothing for its very existence.

Cover image for Essential Lectures 02: Ego

Ego

Essential Lectures, Program 2

Alan Watts was concerned with the way we trap ourselves in words. He considered it unfortunate that we separate the “I” from reality and think of “I” in terms of how others see us or the image that we want to project. What is the answer?

Cover image for Essential Lectures 03: Meditation

Meditation

Essential Lectures, Program 3

As Alan Watts explains, “A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts and loses touch with reality.” He covers basic mediation techniques, including listening without naming and chanting mantras.

Cover image for Essential Lectures 04: God

God

Essential Lectures, Program 4

To many of us the image of God as a gray-bearded omnipotent and omnipresent supreme being has become implausible, yet the common sense notions of divine authority surrounding that image persist.

Cover image for Essential Lectures 05: Cosmic Drama

Cosmic Drama

Essential Lectures, Program 5

Alan Watts further explores the Hindu dramatic view of the universe, in which God plays all of the parts – all the while pretending not to know who he/she/it is!

Cover image for Essential Lectures 06: Time

Time

Essential Lectures, Program 6

Here Alan Watts points out that our insistence that the past determines the present is nonsensical.

Cover image for Essential Lectures 07: Work and Play

Work and Play

Essential Lectures, Program 7

Alan Watts swirls an orange on a string and shoots an arrow high into the air before explaining why the art of living is being paid to play—and to the extent that we feel compelled to work and survive, life becomes a drag.

Cover image for Essential Lectures 08: Death

Death

Essential Lectures, Program 8

Alan Watts comments on the circle of life and our response to the surprising event of being born in the first place.

Cover image for Essential Lectures 09: The More It Changes

The More It Changes

Essential Lectures, Program 9

Alan Watts speaks on our fascination with reproduction through media, and on the far out notion that human beings may just be one star’s way of becoming another star!

Cover image for Essential Lectures 10: Clothing

Clothing

Essential Lectures, Program 10

In this whimsical presentation, Alan Watts demonstrates a variety of cultural garb and points out how each influences the way we live and feel. His choices of attire include a western business suit, kimonos, and a sarong.

Cover image for Essential Lectures 11: Do You Smell?

Do You Smell?

Essential Lectures, Program 11

Alan Watts speaks about our most repressed sense. Here he introduces viewers to the intricacies of incense in front of a small Buddhist altar, while commenting on the types of incense used in Church rituals and all across Asia.

Cover image for Essential Lectures 12: Conversation With Myself

Conversation with Myself

Essential Lectures, Program 12

While walking in a field above Muir Woods, Alan Watts points to humankind’s attempts to straighten out a wiggly world as the root of our ecological crisis.

Face Your Problems Head-On

Following the Middle Way

Awaken and find peace. Alan illuminates the path out of suffering with Buddhist philosophy as our guide. Through practicing the Noble Eightfold Path of skillful understanding, action, meditation, and concentration, we walk the Middle Way to freedom from clinging and awaken to our interconnected nature.

Four Ways to the Center

Can an ego overcome egocentrism? Can a self become selfless? Is there even any value in this pursuit, and if so, how should one approach it? Through renunciation and repentance, or through acceptance and merging into it? Many consciousnesses encounter this conundrum on the brisk seas of being, and Alan invites us to take a closer look at our so-called individuality.

Future of Communications

Part 1

Our seeming separation is but a trick of the light, for in truth we are all one, connected like dewdrops on a spider’s web. As technology traverses the illusory distance between us, it leads us back to the recognition of our inherent unity. Communication, once imagined as bridges between islands, dissolves as we awaken to find ourselves a sea; not separate, but an oceanic communion. We return home.

Future of Communications

Part 2

Future of Politics

Watts argues against the traditional Western concept of politics and the idea of a powerful leader governing a nation. Instead, he proposes a more Eastern approach inspired by the Tao Te Ching, which emphasizes flexibility, spontaneity, and water-like qualities in leadership. He encourages leaders to avoid using force and to embrace the natural flow of events, allowing the governed to live their lives freely. A society modeled after this philosophy would be more harmonious and functional, as opposed to societies driven by hierarchical structures and coercion.

Game Theory of Ethics

Alan muses whether life’s a game worth playing. He argues we’re all gambling from birth, so best embrace the dice-roll with open arms. Though the rules seem fixed, we shape them by how we play. At the heart of it, trusting the game and one another renders it all worthwhile.

Games of Simplicity and Complexity

Watts discusses how cultures develop increasingly complex art forms, rituals, manners, and religions, reaching extremes of refinement. Then innovators emerge who return to simplicity, until that too becomes overly refined. The wise person avoids both awe and hostility toward complexity and simplicity, recognizing these cultural developments as elaborate games people play.

Hidden Belief Systems

Alan talks about unexamined assumptions that underlie our commonsense beliefs which may cause confusion in our thinking about nature.

Humor in Religion

Even God might get tired of all the grave piety, Alan suggests. To prove his point, he recounts irreverent tales—like a vagabond snoozing on temple pillows who retorts, “Can’t a guy catch some zzz’s in his Dad’s house?” Laughter, Watts argues, springs from embracing life’s contradictions, not fighting them. Seen thus, humor becomes divine comedy, with the Cosmos itself as the ultimate rascal.

Image of Man

Watts presents two world myths—existence as artifact versus performance—and shines light on their gifts. A fascinating talk on embracing all roles in life’s epic adventure.

Individual and the World

This seminar covers a variety of topics, from the illusion of our separation from the environment and the futility of trying to be genuine, all the way to the discipline required to handle mystical experiences in order to bring something back from them to share with the rest of the world. The presentation ends with his endorsement of insanity, saying a healthy amount of craziness in old age is necessary to prepare for a joyous death.

Ineffable Order

Societies—organisms or machines? Watts weighs in, finding us more cog-like than cells. But beneath individuals and collectives, he spies nature’s web—infinitely intricate, ineffably complex. This tangled tapestry, the Taoist , makes a mockery of our mechanistic ways. So while groups lack living complexity, the individual is no alpha and omega. Our world’s too messy for such simplicity.

Insight and Ecstasy

Alan says ecstasy is fleeting while insight endures. Drugs or mysticism may spark rapture, but real spirituality stems from seeing through the illusion of a separate self. This liberating insight dissolves imaginary problems, merging subject and object into a unified whole. Joy may follow, but penetrating truth remains.

Intellectual Yoga

“A Journey to Unthinking”—introducing Eastern traditions of yoga. Alan describes the entrance into the unspeakable reality, first from the East by practices of dhyāna yoga and zazen, and then from the West through the intellectual perspectives of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Spencer Brown. East and West all arrive at the same mysterious That Which Is Unspeakable. Delivered at the First Unitarian Church.

Intelligent Mindlessness

Alan discusses ways in which Western civilization confuses symbols with reality and introduces meditation and its associated gadgets as tools to get in touch with reality. Then he encourages his audience to cast off their reliance on symbols by guiding them through various mantra in a half-hour demonstration of this intelligent mindlessness.

Jesus, His Religion

Buckle up! Watts is taking us on a wild ride to assert Jesus was just a regular dude who attained cosmic consciousness as other mystics do. He condemns churches for dishing out guilt instead of providing contemplative quiet to realize our collective divinity.

Journey to India

Landscape, Soundscape in Painting, Music, and Mystical Vision

During a seminar at the New College of Sausalito, Alan asks: what is an aesthetically satisfying composition—not just in the visual and auditory arts, but also in the arrangement of the universe?

Love of Waters

Philosophy: East and West, Program 27

Watts shares his insights on the timeless wisdom of the ocean, inviting listeners to join him on a journey of discovery and enlightenment. Through his words, he reveals the magic of the sea and its ability to wash away the stresses of life, and encourages us to embrace the rhythm of the waves and the eternal nature of the universe. Listen closely and you may uncover some of the ocean’s secrets and gain access to its ancient wisdom.

Man is a Hoax

This talk plucks at the root of discontent in modern life. Watts reveals how society tricks children into chasing an always elusive happiness down the road, never to be found in the here and now. But ah, to truly live this moment! That is the secret. Let Alan dispel the myth of your separation from the joys inherent in our shared existence.

Mind over Mind

With penetrating insight Alan unravels the myth of self-improvement through willpower alone. Blending wit and wisdom, he exposes the fruitlessness of exerting control over one’s own mind. Watts points to another way: let go of straining, soften your grasp of yourself, and watch experience unfold with impartial awareness. In releasing the fantasy of domination, he says, our natural essence emerges freely. A thought-provoking exploration of the boundaries of self-mastery and the grace of acceptance.

Mysticism and Morality

What if our feelings were never wrong? Philosopher Alan Watts probes the liberating link between mysticism’s reverence for all things and an honest morality that accepts our emotions as natural, not shameful. By embracing our true feelings without pretense, we act with integrity, not violence.

No Laws to Linger On

Watts unwinds twisted views, freeing nature from Western chains. Tracking backwards in time, he reveals theories born of theology’s rigid womb and law’s worldly tomb. The veiled truth unfolds: regularities sip from the holy wellspring of our being, not external orders events obey. So too ethical waters flow from human nature’s course, not graven codes on stone. Our inner light, not outward laws, guides us rightly through terrestrial and cosmic seas.

Not What Should Be, But What Is

Alan reminds his audience that our mental image of the world is just an internal fairy tale loosely related to the truth of reality. Paying attention to our immediate sensory experiences can therefore help us lift this thought-tainted veil, an action which reveals the magic of being far better than any words ever could.

On Commerce

On G. K. Chesterton

Alan Watts reveals how G.K. Chesterton viewed existence as a merry metaphysical carnival, a holy hullabaloo in which we’re invited to gaily gallivant with the angels. Laughing in church? Chesterton insists – for the universe is God’s own vaudeville show, and we’re the bright-eyed children giggling in the front row. So cast aside solemnity, and come delight in the divine comedy!

On Instinct

Dive into the enchanting world of Alan Watts as he delves into the captivating dance between instinct and drive. Uncover the tapestry of our desires, woven intricately into our very beings rather than mere whims. Watts waltzes through the profound corridors of mortality, illuminating the beauty that arises when we embrace life’s fleeting nature. Join this intellectual soirée, where courage and liberation await your discovery.

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 01: The Nature of Consciousness (Part 1)

The Nature of Consciousness (Part 1)

Out of Your Mind 1

A seminar about “what there is.” Watts weaves together keen insights from science and spirituality to propose that existence is more like a game of hide-and-seek where we pretend not to recognize how self and other are interconnected.

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 02: The Nature of Consciousness (Part 2)

The Nature of Consciousness (Part 2)

Out of Your Mind 2

Alan Watts suggests the sole identity with our egoic thoughts limits our consciousness, and that existence is an interdependent web in which consciousness plays a game of pretending to be separate. We must recognize the fundamental unity of self and world; that consciousness encompasses all experience. He provides various techniques aimed at dissolving illusory boundaries of the ego. Watts maintains that enlightenment requires no striving, since we already live in eternal presence and are manifestations of the divine reality, pretending forgetfulness for the adventure of self-discovery.

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 03: The Web Of Life (Part 1)

The Web of Life (Part 1)

Out of Your Mind 3

Alan Watts explores the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things. He asserts that human consciousness excludes an awareness of the whole, instead focusing narrowly and seeing the world as disjointed parts. Watts aims to broaden awareness to encompass the fundamental unity underlying apparent diversity. Using examples like music intervals, Chinese philosophy, and weaving, he elucidates the inseparability of opposites like order and randomness, sound and silence, self and other. Watts contends that a recognition of the implicit wholeness of existence brings peace, joy and harmony. He encourages a view of life that pairs an individual persona with an understanding that each person is an expression of the total cosmos.

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 04: The Web Of Life (Part 2)

The Web of Life (Part 2)

Out of Your Mind 4

A deep dive into the cosmic game of life. Alan says existence is an interwoven, rhythmic dance veiled in illusion, but when we peek behind the veil, we find life is actually playful—so come on in and join the party!

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 05: The Inevitable Ecstasy (Part 1)

The Inevitable Ecstasy (Part 1)

Out of Your Mind 5

We are called to immerse in the sacred waters of the Now, releasing resistance’s vain clutch upon illusion’s crumbling stones. Feel each quivering wave, Alan chants, and the jewel of awakening will sparkle within your depths. Suffering fades when we cease damming the holy flow, surrendering instead to bliss’s inevitable tide. Allow yourself to be cradled within sensation’s currents. Let go, dissolve, and the river’s timeless mercy will carry you home, beyond words, to dissolve in the ocean’s mystical embrace.

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 06: The Inevitable Ecstasy (Part 2)

The Inevitable Ecstasy (Part 2)

Out of Your Mind 6

With cosmic wit, Watts unveils the mystic truth: our selves are but specks of dust, our lives a flicker in eternity’s eye. Yet in this vanishing wisp of consciousness, we may glimpse our true nature—the boundless void that births the ten thousand things. Facing the abyss with laughter, we find liberation in the inevitable ecstasy of dissolution.

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 07: The World As Just So (Part 1)

The World as Just So (Part 1)

Out of Your Mind 7

Alan Watts lectures on the origins and essence of Zen, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism that spread from India to China and Japan. He discusses key concepts like satori, no-mind, and non-attachment, and emphasizes Zen’s spontaneity, directness, and humor. Major figures covered include Bodhidharma, Hui-neng, Rinzai, and Dogen. Watts aims to illuminate Zen’s appeal in the West and convey the feeling of its practices.

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 08: The World As Just So (Part 2)

The World as Just So (Part 2)

Out of Your Mind 8

This lecture on Zen Buddhism describes the Japanese Zen monastery, meditation practices, kōans used by masters to guide students, and the enlightenment experience. Watts explains how masters help students break attachment to ego through impossible tasks. He contrasts Bankei’s simple "unborn mind" Zen with Hakuin’s intense kōan training.

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 09: The World As Self (Part 1)

The World As Self (Part 1)

Out of Your Mind 9

Alan parts the veil on Hinduism’s mystical heart. The cosmos is līlā, a divine dance between Brahman, the eternal Self, and māyā, the veiling illusion of multiplicity. We are That: Atman, non-separate from Brahman. Liberation dawns when we wake from māyā’s spell of separateness to realize our timeless unity with the One beyond all opposites.

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 10: The World As Self (Part 2)

The World As Self (Part 2)

Out of Your Mind 10

The journey of self-realization follows the winding path inward, to the place where you already are. As the egoic illusion falls away, the universe unveils your true face. Trust in the guru’s skillful means, which trick the mind into its own liberation. Embrace each stage of life with sincerity, not forcing but allowing insight to dawn in its own time. Know yourself to be That, the eternal Self of all that is.

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 11: The World as Emptiness (Part 1)

The World as Emptiness (Part 1)

Out of Your Mind 11

With Buddha as our guide, Watts leads us along the unfolding petals of the Eightfold Path—past the thorns of suffering, through the mists of illusion, and into the open arms of change. Life, impermanent as the wind, is ours not to grasp but to embrace. Accept each fading blossom without clinging, observe each passing cloud without craving, and suffering falls away like autumn leaves. We are left not with answers, but with questions that bloom into understanding.

Cover image for Out Of Your Mind 12: The World as Emptiness (Part 2)

The World as Emptiness (Part 2)

Out of Your Mind 12

Alan Watts talks about the Buddhist perspective on change and impermanence. He discusses how Buddhism encourages detachment from the world of change and pursuit of nirvana, the state beyond change. However, clinging to nirvana as something permanent is still seeking permanence. True liberation comes from fully accepting change and transience, including death. The void or emptiness doctrine in Mahayana Buddhism elaborates on this by teaching that reality escapes concepts. Freedom comes from letting go of fixed ideas and accepting the void.

Painting Outside the Lines of Functionality

Alan Watts rails against the pervasive mindset that art must be useful, whether for propaganda or profit. Art’s supreme purpose lies not in serving any practical function, but in the sheer joyful act of creating. For Watts, true art is meaningless like nature itself—a tree simply exists to exist. We must let go of valuing only what promotes survival, he implores, so that we can rediscover the profound uselessness of play.

Parallel Thinking

Philosophy: East and West, Program 19

What a tickling trickster the universe is! As Watts wanders down philosophical byways, tales emerge of those healed by harmonizing body and world. Yet we teach children to twist themselves to fit odd ideals. Tension tunnels through society, our “civilizing” ways quite uncouth! Might we reconsider, relax our willful ways? Observantly ambling amidst being’s little blooms, we rediscover unity in the unruly diversity—finding wisdom whispering within, inviting us to dance delightfully with life’s flowing forms.

Play and Survival

Life’s a game where we forget we’re the cosmic nerve-endings of an eternal now. So stop furrowing your brow—there’s divine frivolity in the endless, meaningless music of being. Drop your masks and dance lightly as angels, for you are the Joker in the pack. It’s all a joke, and the joke’s on you!

Power of Space

Weaving connections between Eastern thought and modern science, Alan Watts explores the wonder of space. For him, space is no mere emptiness but a cosmic tapestry integral to existence. He draws parallels between space and the Buddhist void, seeing both as the interwoven ground of being that allows consciousness to emerge.

Psychology of Mystical Experience

Psychotherapy and Metaphysics

This seminar explores the concept of consciousness and its limitations. Watts discusses the lack of depth in certain analytical approaches, highlighting the need for individuals to find harmony with life and death. He emphasizes the enrichment that comes from realizing the significance of everything and the potential healing effects of altering our state of consciousness. Watts also touches on the influence of scientific naturalism on modern psychiatry and shares a personal account of a transformative experience.

Cover image for Psychotherapy East and West

Psychotherapy East and West

Man is burdened with an ego that is in constant conflict with society and nature, in perpetual flight from loneliness and death. Despite its diverse methods, the single aim of psychotherapy is to free man from his endless self-battle. Alan Watts’ arresting, provocative study shows how Eastern philosophers long ago faced—and solved—the problem of man’s existence in a seemingly hostile universe. Buddhism, Vedanta, Taoism, are examined and related to the theories of Freud, Jung, Sullivan, May. The inscrutable wisdom of Zen masters is made clear by Alan Watts as he explains how the modern “fiction” of the ego has clouded the sights of psychotherapy, and blocked Western man from his true place in nature.

Pursuit of Pleasure

Where does pleasure come from? What are we trying to achieve in our frantic day-to-day activities? Why are we in such a hurry? And why do all of our efforts to pin the universe down and bring it under our control dial up the misery?

Q and A With God

After discussing the nature of consciousness, the human mind, and the philosophical viewpoint that every person is God, Alan Watts assumes the role of God himself for the latter half of this lecture, answering each question his audience serves with wit and insight.

Cover image for Reality, Art, and Illusion

Reality, Art, and Illusion

Join Alan as he expresses the meaning of life through the Hindu-Buddhist idea of reality as a divine game of hide-and-seek. "Life is not ultimately serious," Watts argues. By embracing the fluidity of identity and recognizing our interconnectedness, we can creatively engage with existence as impermanent, unified, and filled with playful potential. Accessible yet philosophically rich, these decades-old lectures offer timeless insights on the nature of reality.

Reconciliation of Opposites

Alan Watts reveals how Eastern thought embraces the wiggly dance between opposites. Buddhist masters nudge their students with banter to blend inner and outer worlds, topple rigid beliefs, and allowing freedom to rise from the rubble of shattered assumptions. In the end, clinging dissolves into flowing and suffering transforms into living.

Relevance of Oriental Philosophy

Religion Of No Religion

Self and Other

Alan coaxes the listener’s mind to simultaneously zoom in and zoom out in an effort to demonstrate that identity is merely an intellectual hallucination. Instead, personal identity is fluid, ranging from one’s constituent atoms and molecules all the way out to the farthest bounds of cosmic existence. Overcoming this mental myopia leads to greater harmony, contentment, and a desire to playfully dance with this universal energy system.

Sense of Nonsense

In this public radio broadcast, Alan explores the origin of the desire for meaningfulness. In the search for satisfaction, what is it that is really sought for or yearned after? The talk turns from academic discussion into poetry. What is the meaning of significance?

Sex in the Church

Watts tackles the everlasting taboo of sex in Western religions, and suggests we thank our prudish parents for making it so interesting.

Spectrum of Love

Alan Watts explores love in its many forms, from desire to divine connection. He argues against forcing or faking love, saying real charity can’t be willed. Instead, Watts suggests honestly examining one’s own selfish motivations, since even egotism stems from a distorted love. By following our inner drives, love can unfold organically. Watts sees embracing risks as better than bottling up this energy, which leads to self-destruction. Allowing love to flow freely, despite heartbreaks, enables human flourishing. For Watts, light passes through a prism, but it’s all love.

Spiritual Authority

Quit striving so hard spiritually, Watts implores. You’re already the Buddha you seek! Your constant efforts to improve yourself are like trying to bite your own teeth. So relax! Meditation isn’t about suffering through boredom or bragging about pain. Instead, penetrate the moment and have fun watching yourself be. Spiritual enlightenment isn’t some far-off goal—it’s already here, now. Dig it!

Still the Mind

Here Alan explores meditation and finding inner peace through watching your breath, chanting nonsense syllables, and generally chilling out. No goals, no force, just be. Let things flow through you. Some far-out stuff for sure, but Alan’s as sincere as they come. Give it a listen if you’re seeking something deeper.

Swimming Headless

Watts explores the Taoist concept of Te, or virtue, as a kind of natural excellence arising when one lives in harmony with the Tao. He examines how this spontaneous virtue contrasts with contrived virtue, relating it to wu wei and the power that comes from flowing with rather than against the river of existence.

Taoist Way

This talk explores the Taoist philosophy of living fully in the present moment without attachment to the past or future. According to Watts, following the Tao involves acting spontaneously and effortlessly without forcing, appreciating the interconnected nature of all things, and seeing through illusions of the ego and continuity of self across time. The goal is to experience each instant purely without getting caught up in intellectualizations.

Cover image for The Art of Contemplation

The Art of Contemplation

A manuscript with original doodles, handwritten by Alan Watts. It explores contemplation as awareness of the present moment without judgment. Watts advocates accepting what is happening now rather than trying to transform the mind. He sees contemplation as aligning with the flow of nature. Published as a limited edition by the Society of Comparative Philosophy.

Cover image for The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

The Book

On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

At the root of human conflict is our fundamental misunderstanding of who we are. The illusion that we are isolated beings, unconnected to the rest of the universe, has led us to view the “outside” world with hostility, and has fueled our misuse of technology and our violent and hostile subjugation of the natural world. In The Book, philosopher Alan Watts provides us with a much-needed answer to the problem of personal identity, distilling and adapting the ancient Hindu philosophy of Vedanta to help us understand that the self is in fact the root and ground of the universe. In this mind-opening and revelatory work, Watts has crafted a primer on what it means to be human—and a manual of initiation into the central mystery of existence.

Cover image for The Circle of Sex

The Circle of Sex

An ingenious delineation of the age-old magnetism between male and female in which a clock face is used to chart the 12 libidinal types that attract and repel. Originally printed in issue 144 of Playboy magazine.

The Constitution of Nature

Philosophy: East and West, Program 28

Watts unfurls three cosmic tapestries woven by ancient minds: the Western world’s vision of nature stitched as a crafted cloth, India’s playful drama where God dances every part, and China’s Taoist masterwork of nature flowing free like mountain streams. Though the West’s thread gave rise to technological gifts, it tangled our hearts. Now the Orient’s ancient organic insight whispers fresh hope, kindling new fires of wisdom within.

The Gateless Gate

Cover image for The Houseboat Summit

The Houseboat Summit

An extended conversation between Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder on the problem of whether to “drop out or take over,” conducted on Alan Watts’ houseboat in 1967.

The Individual as Man/World

Originally delivered as an impromptu lecture for the Social Relations Colloquium at Harvard University, this essay explores incompatible views of human identity—are we free agents or passive products of external forces? Watts argues we should see ourselves not as isolated egos nor as puppets, but as interdependent “organism-environment fields,” inseparable from our context. This view, he suggests, could bring science and subjective experience into alignment.

The Joker

One of Alan’s most popular seminars, and for good reason—in The Joker, listeners will find out why every society needs fools in order to remind itself not to take life so damn seriously.

The Joyous Cosmology

What kind of a theory of the universe would it take for us to willingly accept the pain, turmoil, chaos, heartbreak, and suffering that comes with the state of being a consciously aware and individuated Self?

Cover image for The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness

The Joyous Cosmology

Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness

The Joyous Cosmology is Alan Watts’ exploration of the insight that the consciousness-changing drugs LSD, mescaline and psilocybin can facilitate when accompanied with sustained philosophical reflection by a person who is in search, not of kicks, but of understanding. More than an artifact, it is both a riveting memoir of Alan’s personal experiments and a profound meditation on our perennial questions about the nature of existence and the existence of the sacred.

Cover image for The Meaning of Happiness: The Quest for Freedom of the Spirit in Modern Psychology and the Wisdom of the East

The Meaning of Happiness

The Quest for Freedom of the Spirit in Modern Psychology and the Wisdom of the East

Deep down, most people think that happiness comes from having or doing something. Here, Alan Watts offers a more challenging thesis: authentic happiness comes from embracing life as a whole in all its contradictions and paradoxes, an attitude he calls the “way of acceptance.” Drawing on Eastern philosophy, Western mysticism, and analytic psychology, Watts demonstrates that happiness comes from accepting both the outer world around us and the inner world inside us—the unconscious mind, with its irrational desires, lurking beyond the awareness of the ego. Although written early in his career, The Meaning of Happiness displays the hallmarks of his mature style: the crystal-clear writing, the homespun analogies, the dry wit, and the breadth of knowledge that made Alan Watts one of the most influential philosophers of his generation.

The Myopic View of the World

(We as Organism)

Alan Watts argues that we spend most of our life in a sort of myopia; that is, only perceiving a microscopic subsection of the reality which we occupy. By mentally “zooming out,” humans can begin to see (and enjoy) the marvelous universal dance that has been unfolding since the Big Bang—and which now expresses itself in and through us at this very moment.

The Problem with Christianity

Join Alan as he delves into the intriguing facets of Christianity. Unveiling its core, Watts illuminates three tenets: the timeless gulf between creator and creature, the ceaseless battle of good versus evil, and the everlasting division amongst individuals. Explore the riveting tales of angelic and human descents, and journey through the profound doctrine of incarnation. Watts paints Christianity as a solemn faith, casting the world’s essence as inherently tragic. Immerse yourself in the vivid tapestry of Christianity’s place amidst diverse cultures and creeds.

The Psychedelic Experience

Alan says psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin can provide religious insight, but should be used with spiritual discipline to integrate the mystical experience into everyday life. He critiques psychiatry’s lack of metaphysical grounding and calls for medical and religious professionals to work together on psychedelics. Watts emphasizes psychedelics’ potential as a bridge between mystical and ordinary consciousness, while warning against spiritual inflation or romanticizing substances. Overall he presents a balanced perspective, exploring psychedelics as tools for self-knowledge that require wisdom in application.

The Psychedelic Explosion

Alan talks about the upcoming revolution in which Western society will have to come to grips with the existence of the psychedelic/mystical experience, and how to integrate it into our culture in a productive, fulfilling, and responsible manner. Included are personal recollections of DMT and LSD trips experienced by Watts himself, why the utilization of psychedelic drugs should be seen as a tool, his vision of a psychedelic campus for guided mystical experiences, and why prohibition is doomed to failure.

The Smell of Burnt Almonds

Watts recounts a woman’s experience of mystical insight under anesthesia and her yearning to regain it. He suggests not seeking the experience, but realizing one’s ordinary state is still part of the universal harmony glimpsed then. Like the disciple who ignored the mahout’s warning because all is Brahman, we should heed our present feelings too as part of the whole.

Cover image for The Supreme Identity: An Essay on Oriental Metaphysic and the Christian Religion

The Supreme Identity

An Essay on Oriental Metaphysic and the Christian Religion

One of the most influential of Alan Watts’s early works, The Supreme Identity examines the reality of civilization’s deteriorated spiritual state and offers solutions through a rigorous theological discussion on Eastern metaphysic and the Christian religion. By examining the minute details of theological issues, Watts challenges readers to reassess the essences of religions that before seemed so familiar and to perceive Vedantic "oneness" as a meeting ground of all things – "good" and "evil." In addressing how religious institutions fail to provide the wisdom or power necessary to cope with the modern condition, Watts confidently seeks the truth of the human existence and the divine continuum.

The Symbolic and the Real

Though symbols empower us, they veil our oneness with the Infinite. Disconnection brings madness. Let us instead affirm our individuality while tasting universality, knowing we are the cosmos branching out to behold itself. We wave as the cosmos waves, seeding selves yet sprouted from the Source. Not apart but of the Whole, we wander home.

Slices of Wisdom

The Tao of Philosophy 1

Highlights from the "The Love of Wisdom" radio series by Alan Watts.

Images of God

The Tao of Philosophy 2

Alan Watts talks on the impact of various models of the ultimate reality, and the contrasts between male and female symbolism.

Coincidence of Opposites

The Tao of Philosophy 3

Alan Watts explains the sense in nonsense and how to enjoy the playfulness of life while sincerely participating in the human game.

Seeing Through the Net

The Tao of Philosophy 4

In a talk given to the IBM Systems Group, Alan Watts describes the wiggly world of nature and the net we cast over it.

Myth of Myself

The Tao of Philosophy 5

The ferryboat philosopher riffs on how we’re not skin bags with an “I” inside, but the whole cosmos peeking out! Says we feel separate because we ignore our cosmic “floodlight” consciousness. But we’re waves in the ocean, apples on the tree. Realizing this brings real joy.

Man in Nature

The Tao of Philosophy 6

How should we view nature—as machine, drama, or organism? Alan says we must trust its organic patterns, explaining that the borders of our imagined selves determine our relationship to the environment and our role in the universe. So go with the flow, be purposeless, let the Tao wash over you like wild geese vanishing into clouds.

Symbols and Meaning

The Tao of Philosophy 7

Alan Watts joyfully upends assumptions about reality, using wit and wisdom to reveal how existence is a dazzling, musical mystery beyond language—not a problem to be solved but an unfolding to be experienced.

Limits of Language

The Tao of Philosophy 8

Alan Watts explains how language helps to construct reality, and what to do about it. He then follows up with the challenges of expressing the ineffable.

Cover image for The Two Hands of God: The Myths of Polarity

The Two Hands of God

The Myths of Polarity

Watts takes readers on a fascinating journey through the mythology of China, Egypt, India, the Middle East, and medieval Europe. His theme is the human experience of polarity, a condition in which opposing qualities define and complement each other. Light cannot exist without darkness, good cannot exist without evil, and male cannot exist without female. Chinese philosophy expresses this idea of universal polarity with the concepts of yin and yang, while other cultures express it through the symbolic language of myth, literature, and art. Watts illustrates the way great sages and artists across time have seen beyond the apparent duality of the universe to find a deeper unity that transcends and embraces everything.

The Veil of Thoughts

Alan describes the ways in which we have concealed truth behind a veil of thoughts. He talks about how and why we mistake symbols for reality, argues that civilization may be a misguided experiment, offers observations about the way in which abstractions have become more powerful than the realities they are referencing, and explains how we can become “unbamboozled” from these ways of thinking.

Cover image for The Wisdom of Insecurity

The Wisdom of Insecurity

This 1951 classic explores how our modern pursuit of security through money, status, and technology leads to anxiety. Watts artfully weaves Eastern philosophy and Christian mysticism to argue that seeking permanence in an impermanent world is futile. Rather, we must embrace the present moment and recognize the illusion of the ego. Watts writes breezily with penetrating insight about how relaxing our grip on life’s impermanence paradoxically allows us to live fully. Though challenging at times, ultimately Watts’ message brings great comfort in understanding the futility of chasing security. Give it a read and you may just find the wisdom that insecurity brings!

Cover image for This Is It (and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience)

This Is It

and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience

Six revolutionary essays exploring the relationship between spiritual experience and ordinary life—and the need for them to coexist within each of us. With essays on “cosmic consciousness” (including Alan Watts’ account of his own ventures into this inward realm); the paradoxes of self-consciousness; LSD and consciousness; and the false opposition of spirit and matter, This Is It and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience is a truly mind-opening collection.

Thusness

Alan Watts discusses the concept of "thusness" or "suchness" in Eastern philosophy, exploring the meaning of the Sanskrit word tathātā and its potential to help us cultivate a deeper sense of presence and awareness in our daily lives.

Time and the Future

Immerse yourself in a mind-expanding seminar, where Watts illuminates the illusion of time and history, how our fixation on the future breeds anxiety, and how to break free and find fulfillment in the elusive present moment.

Transcending Duality

An exploration of the male and female symbolism in Tantric yoga and the unity of polar opposites as a form of resonance.

Transformation of Consciousness

Alan discusses the different states of consciousness which the human mind can attain, and some of the chemical compounds which may serve as tools to reach these mental realms.

Truth and Relativity

Philosophy: East and West, Program 14

Through the example of a city, Alan encourages his listeners to reevaluate the definition of their personal identities. Is a person a fully autonomous agent, or might they be a cell in a vast organism? Perhaps it’s necessary to understand both perspectives and recognize that each scale of magnitude depends on all others to manifest as it does.

Turning the Head, or Turning On

Talking to an audience at San José State University, Alan Watts recounts the first time he tried consciousness-altering substances after meeting Aldous Huxley. He argues that Western society largely isn’t ready for the mystical experience which can be triggered in these mental states, but nonetheless advocates for them, as they may arouse positive transformation in the human collectivity.

Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk

A delightful seminar in which Alan introduces his listeners to the details of Japanese and Chinese aesthetics.

Unpreachable Religion

Floating through this serene lecture, Alan Watts gently guides us to ponder our culture’s materialistic illusion. In calm wisdom, he unveils our preoccupation with purpose over presence and the separation from our sensual nature. Watts lovingly calls us home to the sacred play inherent in life, no longer exiled from the body’s temple. By joining life’s mystical dance arising through us, we are caressed again by joy’s timeless hands.

Unserious Wisdom

(Buddhist Mysticism)

While Pure Land Buddhism promises easy enlightenment through faith in Buddha Amitābha, Alan Watts explains how its eccentric followers, the myōkōnin, found wisdom by goofing off. With playful tales of the monk Ryōkan’s antics, from imitating tigers to forgetting letters mid-juggle, Watts shows how these rascal sages attained childlike wonder by ditching spiritual bootstraps for carefree acceptance of their flawed humanity. For the myōkōnin, the path to Buddhahood involved more fun and games than pious efforts.

USA 2000

Beginning with his prophecy that the United States of America will no longer exist in the year 2000, Alan introduces us to a possible utopia which he discerned in his vision of the future. Topics include automation, guaranteed universal incomes, the confusion of money with wealth, changing work ethics, and the grim necessity of our learning how to sensuously enjoy luxury if we want to avoid total destruction.

Way Beyond Seeking

With charm and wit, philosopher Alan Watts unpacks key principles of Taoism in this lecture. He muses how even a fruit fly sees itself as the pinnacle of creation, much as we humans do. Opposites like yin and yang depend on each other, Watts reminds us, like two sticks balancing upright. He warns of the limits of words to capture life’s complexity. Yet through stories and logic, Watts nudges us to embrace non-action, cultivate intuition, and realize our unity with nature. Trust your brain, he cajoles, but avoid overconfidence. Taoist perspectives to ponder and enjoy.

Who Is It That Knows There Is No Ego?

Alan explores the idea of separateness, and whether our language has tricked us into falsely believing that things are individual, independent, and comprehensible all on their own.

Wisdom of the Mountains

Wisdom of the Ridiculous

In this lecture, Alan Watts outlines the philosophy of Chinese thinker Zhuang Zhou, who believed in the value of useless things, relativity, and aligning with nature through “wu wei” or non-action. He used exaggeration and humor to argue against controlling life. Stories illustrate his ideas on uselessness and flowing with life’s currents. Zhuang Zhou’s approach contrasts with Western notions of God and law. Overall, his playful philosophy advocates not resisting the natural Tao or way of things.

World as Play

Watts presents a core Eastern philosophy of the world as a dramatic illusion, and that it exists for no other reason except to be experienced in a playful manner.

Zen and the Art of the Controlled Accident

Most people grow up learning to treat life as a problem, a set of circumstances which must be controlled with an iron will. Some transcend this view, realizing there is no problem and nothing to attain. In that state of mind it becomes possible to act without intention, to have “controlled accidents,” and in so doing one may rejoin society as a whimsical rascal who breaks things to improve them.

Zen Bones

In this talk, given to benefit the Zen Mountain Center and recorded at the Avalon Ballroom, Alan invites us to float like clouds; to directly experience life instead of mediating it through concepts. Constant thinking takes us from the real. Open wide the mind’s doors, be here, flow present like water. Watts touches on meditation’s liberating power in realizing our true nature already within. Sit, walk, breathe; see through illusion’s mist, marvel at the mundane’s hidden jewels, embrace each now, wake up! Enlightenment’s sunrise awaits those who cease thinking. Realize you’re already It and let life’s living magic move your feet.

Cover image for Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism

This insightful booklet illuminates Zen Buddhism’s iconoclastic yet practical approach to awakening one’s mind to the timeless Reality beyond concepts. Watts skillfully conveys how Zen uses spontaneity, humor, and shock tactics to point directly to the ever-present "now." A thoughtful exploration for any seeker.

Zen Clues

A small group of students traveled with Alan Watts through Japan, and along the way they stopped to visit the temples and gardens of Kyoto, listening to Alan bring ancient kōans to life.

Zen for Beginners

Watts challenges the prevalent Western assumption of humans as isolated "islands" in an alien and hostile universe. He asserts our essential unity with all existence, with nature as our very bodies. He urges ending our "crusades" against our own being which create conflict. Instead he calls for realizing our intrinsic identity with the cosmic process that "peoples" the universe. Therein lies harmony and understanding our true self.

Mentioned in 3 documents

Ram Dass

Seeing Through The Illusion

Ram Dass reveals how our senses and thoughts dupe us about the essence of reality. By liberating our consciousness from clinging to the body and mind, we can plunge into the primal energy coursing through all form. This raw perception exposes our supposed detached self as a fantasy.

Peter Russell

The Global Brain

Peter Russell’s award-winning video explores the idea that the Earth is an integrated, self-regulating living organism, and asks what function humanity might have for this planetary being. It suggests that we stand on the threshold of a major leap in evolution, as significant as the emergence of life itself, and the essence of this leap is inner spiritual evolution. Moreover, Russell maintains that it is only through such a shift in consciousness that we will be able to manage successfully the global crises now facing us.

Joanna Macy

World as Lover, World as Self

This overview of Joanna Macy's innovative work combines deep ecology, general systems theory, and the Buddha's teachings on interdependent co-arising. A blueprint for social change, World as Lover, World as Self shows how we can reverse the destructive attitudes that threaten our world.