It begins to become clear to you that there really is no one separate from this changing stream of feelings who’s having them; they’re just there.

Alan Watts

Born: January 6, 1915

Died: November 16, 1973 (Age 58)

Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser 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.

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A True Materialist Society
Lecture
7,629
01:02:26
6,059
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.”
Being Far Out (Spiritual Alchemy)
Lecture
5,197
40:31
5,711
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 Theology: The Art of Godmanship
Book
1964
59,781
4,758
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.
Can You Be In Control?
Lecture
10,289
01:25:55
154
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.
Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal
Book
1974
48,648
1,519
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, CA, 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 in to 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.
Cultural vs. Natural Behavior
Lecture
7,329
51:18
3,751
Discipline
Lecture
2,991
23:08
2,753
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 01: Man and Nature
Television Episode
1959
27:43
1,636
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?
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 02: Things and Thinks
Television Episode
1959
27:05
549
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 03: Time
Television Episode
1959
26:58
553
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 04: The Void
Television Episode
1959
28:15
522
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 05: The Silent Mind
Television Episode
1959
28:12
468
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 06: On Death
Television Episode
1959
27:08
505
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 07: Recollection
Television Episode
1959
27:05
277
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 08: Queries and Sources
Television Episode
1959
28:59
124
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 09: Pain
Television Episode
1959
28:06
448
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 10: Nonsense
Television Episode
1959
27:06
331
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 11: On Being Vague
Television Episode
1959
27:57
269
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 12: Law And Order
Television Episode
1959
27:05
238
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 13: Omnipotence
Television Episode
1959
26:51
106
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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 14: The Life Of Zen
Television Episode
1959
27:53
204
A look inside Zen monastic life and practice reveals a culture of dialog and subtle humor between master and student.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 15: Zen In Painting
Television Episode
1959
29:00
104
This program focuses on Zen-inspired brush painting in the Chinese and Japanese traditions, and it looks at the approach of the contemporary artist Sabro Hasegawa in his inspired return to primitivity in the arts.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 16: Zen In Gardens And Architecture
Television Episode
1959
29:00
130
Alan Watts speaks about 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.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 17: Zen In Fencing And Judo
Television Episode
1959
29:00
115
Alan Watts demonstrates how the Taoist influence in Aikido and Judo also influenced swordsmanship.
Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Episode 18: Buddhism And Christianity
Television Episode
1959
29:00
182
Alan 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.
Ecological Awareness (Part 1)
Lecture
6,866
54:30
2,766
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.
Ecological Awareness (Part 2)
Lecture
6,531
57:40
994
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.
Ecological Awareness (Part 3)
Lecture
6,327
55:42
877
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.
Ecological Awareness (Part 4)
Lecture
7,617
01:05:05
875
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.
Essential Lectures 01: Nothingness
Television Episode
1972
3,374
27:11
4,174
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.
Essential Lectures 02: Ego
Television Episode
1972
3,609
28:44
1,813
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?
Essential Lectures 03: Meditation
Television Episode
1972
3,094
28:32
3,439
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 mantras or sonic meditations.
Essential Lectures 04: God
Television Episode
1972
3,491
27:56
3,505
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.
Essential Lectures 05: Cosmic Drama
Television Episode
1972
3,382
28:06
1,775
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!
Essential Lectures 06: Time
Television Episode
1972
2,563
20:26
2,875
Here Alan Watts points out that our insistence that the past determines the present is nonsensical.
Essential Lectures 07: Work and Play
Television Episode
1972
3,517
28:39
2,731
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.
Essential Lectures 08: Death
Television Episode
1972
3,509
29:15
6,854
Alan Watts comments on the circle of life and our response to the surprising event of being born in the first place.
Essential Lectures 09: The More It Changes
Television Episode
1972
3,767
29:15
1,199
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!
Essential Lectures 10: Clothing
Television Episode
1972
4,119
28:52
1,685
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.
Essential Lectures 11: Do You Smell?
Television Episode
1972
2,972
27:42
763
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.
Essential Lectures 12: Conversation With Myself
Television Episode
1971
3,122
27:59
2,376
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.
Future of Communications (Part 1)
Lecture
7,371
01:09:13
1,199
Future of Communications (Part 2)
Lecture
7,049
57:14
109
Future of Privacy and Human Organization
Lecture
6,496
55:00
1,913
Alan Watts calls into question whether our desire of privacy is justified, and how we can organize ourselves into resilient structures (or metaorganisms) that are less susceptible to corruption.
Lecture on Zen
Lecture
5,951
4,558
Mysticism and Morality
Lecture
5,425
51:21
2,637
On G. K. Chesterton
Lecture
5,310
41:01
1,672
On Money, Guilt, and The End
Lecture
5,998
51:47
402
A lucid examination of money (exploring topics such as technological automation and universal basic income), the origins of guilt, as well as the question: “Are we going to make it?”
Out Of Your Mind 01: The Nature of Consciousness (Part 1)
Lecture
8,134
01:02:39
4,387
Out Of Your Mind 02: The Nature of Consciousness (Part 2)
Lecture
8,270
01:03:55
6,847
Out Of Your Mind 03: The Web Of Life (Part 1)
Lecture
6,308
56:16
8,012
Out Of Your Mind 04: The Web Of Life (Part 2)
Lecture
8,342
01:03:13
6,689
Out Of Your Mind 05: The Inevitable Ecstasy (Part 1)
Lecture
8,750
01:18:20
5,806
Out Of Your Mind 06: The Inevitable Ecstasy (Part 2)
Lecture
8,673
01:16:55
4,092
Out Of Your Mind 07: The World As Just So (Part 1)
Lecture
9,088
01:15:52
5,514
Out Of Your Mind 08: The World As Just So (Part 2)
Lecture
8,921
01:10:34
3,269
Out Of Your Mind 09: The World As Self (Part 1)
Lecture
8,702
01:18:30
3,617
Out Of Your Mind 10: The World As Self (Part 2)
Lecture
9,158
01:18:06
2,742
Out Of Your Mind 11: The World as Emptiness (Part 1)
Lecture
8,066
01:17:04
6,114
Out Of Your Mind 12: The World as Emptiness (Part 2)
Lecture
7,094
01:05:01
2,837
Power of Space (Part 1)
Lecture
5,279
48:16
143
Power of Space (Part 2)
Lecture
5,794
53:11
90
Power of Space (Part 3)
Lecture
4,930
45:29
60
Power of Space (Part 4)
Lecture
4,909
47:59
50
Q and A With God
Lecture
13,320
01:45:21
4,503
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.
Relevance of Oriental Philosophy
Lecture
6,424
46:32
23
Self and Other (Part 1)
Lecture
5,705
1,091
Self and Other (Part 2)
Lecture
5,049
377
Self and Other (Part 3)
Lecture
4,771
703
Spectrum of Love
Lecture
3,576
26:54
21
The Art of Contemplation
Book
1972
4,492
29
A manuscript with doodles, handwritten by Alan Watts. Published as a limited edition by the Society of Comparative Philosophy.
The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are
Book
1966
42,273
3,303
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.
The Houseboat Summit
Discussion
February 1967
11,375
01:07:02
+3
2,323
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 Joker (Part 1)
Lecture
5,900
50:49
465
One of Alan’s most popular lecture series, 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 Joker (Part 2)
Lecture
4,364
41:28
454
One of Alan’s most popular lecture series, 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 Joker (Part 3)
Lecture
4,778
49:14
228
One of Alan’s most popular lecture series, 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 Joker (Part 4)
Lecture
5,390
46:43
192
One of Alan’s most popular lecture series, 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: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness
Book
1962
19,397
665
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.
The Meaning of Happiness
Book
1940
2,112
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)
Lecture
6,980
54:04
8,315
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 Noösphere: A Cosmic Network
Lecture
11,942
01:40:41
378
Alan takes us from the very small to the very large, explaining the interrelatedness of all things in the universe. Then he takes the argument a step further to examine the implications for humanity: how is networking technology reshaping human consciousness?
The Symbolic and the Real
Lecture
5,224
45:11
717
The Tao of Philosophy 1: Slices of Wisdom
Lecture
3,395
25:33
3,579
Highlights from the "The Love of Wisdom" radio series by Alan Watts
The Tao of Philosophy 2: Images of God
Lecture
2,822
25:16
8,049
Alan Watts talks on the impact of various models of the ultimate reality, and the contrasts between male and female symbolism.
The Tao of Philosophy 3: Coincidence of Opposites
Lecture
2,604
21:08
3,214
Alan Watts explains the sense in nonsense and how to enjoy the playfulness of life while sincerely participating in the human game.
The Tao of Philosophy 4: Seeing Through The Net
Lecture
1969
5,367
44:17
1,856
In a talk given to the IBM Systems Group, Alan Watts describes the wiggly world of nature and the net we cast over it.
The Tao of Philosophy 5: Myth of Myself
Lecture
1965
4,891
41:34
5,980
Alan Watts explains how we are not born into this world, but grow out of it; for in the same way an apple tree apples, the Earth peoples.
The Tao of Philosophy 6: Man In Nature
Lecture
1965
6,696
54:24
6,353
Alan Watts explains that how we define the borders of our self determines our relationship to the environment and our role in the universe.
The Tao of Philosophy 7: Symbols and Meaning
Lecture
2,682
25:10
2,796
The Tao of Philosophy 8: Limits of Language
Lecture
April 1973
2,778
26:00
2,462
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.
The Two Hands of God: The Myths of Polarity
Book
1963
470
The Veil of Thoughts (Part 1)
Lecture
1965
4,260
36:45
4,484
In this seminar, held in Sausalito, 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.
The Veil of Thoughts (Part 2)
Lecture
1965
4,511
40:37
1,270
In this seminar, held in Sausalito, 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.
The Veil of Thoughts (Part 3)
Lecture
1965
5,189
43:58
1,056
In this seminar, held in Sausalito, 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.
The Wisdom of Insecurity
Book
1951
34,302
16,203
This book explores our quest for psychological security, examining efforts to find spiritual and intellectual certainty in the realms of religion and philosophy. The Wisdom of Insecurity underlines the importance of our search for stability in an age where human life seems particularly vulnerable and uncertain. Watts argues our insecurity is the consequence of trying to be secure and that, ironically, salvation and sanity lie in the recognition that we have no way of saving ourselves.
This Is It (and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience)
Book
1960
31,971
3,438
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.
Transcending Duality
Lecture
3,247
27:01
135
Alan Watts explores the male and female symbolism of Tantric yoga and explores the unity of polar opposites as a form of resonance.
Trust
Lecture
1,915
15:04
13,314
Alan Watts asks whether playing the game of life is worth the effort required. The answer is, as always, simple: if you’re going to play the game, commit to it, play it well, and trust yourself to play it well.
Who Is It That Knows There Is No Ego?
Lecture
5,487
50:41
3,724
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.



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