Artificial Intelligence and the Superorganism
Daniel Schmachtenberger and Nate Hagens discuss a surprisingly overlooked risk to our global systems and planetary stability: artificial intelligence. Through a systems perspective, Daniel and Nate piece together the biophysical history that has led humans to this point, heading towards (and beyond) numerous planetary boundaries, and facing geopolitical risks all with existential consequences. How does artificial intelligence not only add to these risks, but accelerate the entire dynamic of the metacrisis? What is the role of intelligence versus wisdom on our current global pathway, and can we change course? Does artificial intelligence have a role to play in creating a more stable system, or will it be the tipping point that drives our current one out of control?
Be Here Now
This book is a classic text on Hindu spirituality that bloomed open like a lotus flower in the wake of the hippie movement. The seed for this book was planted in the mind of Harvard psychiatrist turned Indian mystic, Ram Dass, and was written—with the blessings of his guru Neem Karoli Baba—for a Western audience who were, for the most part, materially rich but spiritually poor. Be Here Now offers its readers and followers a drug-free alternative for attaining higher states of consciousness, while its simple message to live in the present encourages the pursuit and cultivation of inner peace.
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.
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.
Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown
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.
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.
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.
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.
Evolution and Consciousness
Evolution and Consciousness is one of the first, still rare, truly transdisciplinary books: it deals with a totality, not a sector of it. Therefore, it defies any disciplinary labeling. It is a scientific book, yet also deals with topics until now reserved for books of mysticism and poetry. It bridges the gap between science and other forms of knowledge. It deals not just with scientific questions, but with existential questions which concern all mankind, such as the meaning of life and the evolutionary significance of human design and action. It challenges the whole dominant Western world view: process thinking instead of structural thinking, dynamic instead of static, evolution instead of permanency.
From Psychedelics to Cybernetics
Timothy Leary journeyed through Europe as head of the psychedelic revolution and consciousness research movement, and he invited some of his tagalong friends to this evening lecture held at the "Alte Feuerwache" in Mannheim to talk about the future evolution of humanity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Law and Order
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.
Man and Nature
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?
Man in Nature
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.
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.
My View of the World
A Nobel prize winner, a great man and a great scientist, Erwin Schrödinger has made his mark in physics, but his eye scans a far wider horizon: here are two stimulating and discursive essays which summarize his philosophical views on the nature of the world. Schrödinger's world view, derived from the Indian writings of the Vedanta, is that there is only a single consciousness of which we are all different aspects. He admits that this view is mystical and metaphysical and incapable of logical deduction. But he also insists that this is true of the belief in an external world capable of influencing the mind and of being influenced by it. Schrödinger's world view leads naturally to a philosophy of reverence for life.
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.
On Being Vague
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.
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.
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.
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?
Queries and Sources
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.
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.
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.
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.
The First Storytellers
Bill Moyers and mythologist Joseph Campbell discuss the importance of accepting death as rebirth as in the myth of the buffalo and the story of Christ, rites of passage in primitive societies, the role of mystical Shamans and the decline of ritual in today’s society. Campbell explains how ancient myths were designed to “put the mind in accord with the body, and the way of life in accord with the way nature dictates.” As one example, Campbell explains how myths bring humans to understand and accept birth, growth and death.
The Joyous Cosmology
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 Life of Zen
A look inside Zen monastic life and practice reveals a culture of dialog and subtle humor between master and student.
The Medium is the Massage
The Medium is the Massage is Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic perception on life in the age of electronic information, exhibiting his understanding of the power of media long before those in control did. The Medium is the Massage presents some of McLuhan’s most amazing insights and cognitive observations on the global village: the rear-view mirror, the invisible environment, the end of nature, and sensory impact set against the everyday imagery of mass media, consumer goods, the press, advertising, and the arts. Although originally printed in 1967, the art and style in The Medium is the Massage seem as fresh today as in the summer of love, and the ideas are even more resonant now that computer interfaces are becoming gateways to the global village.
The Religion of Man
The Religion of Man is a compilation of lectures by Rabindranath Tagore, edited by him and drawn largely from his Hibbert Lectures given at Oxford University. A Brahmo playwright and poet of global renown, Tagore deals with the universal themes of God, divine experience, illumination, and spirituality.
The Self-Organizing Universe
The evolution of the universe—ranging from cosmic and biological to sociocultural evolution—is viewed in terms of the unifying paradigm of self-organization. The contours of this paradigm emerge from the synthesis of a number of important concepts, and provide a scientific foundation to a new world-view which emphasizes process over structure, nonequilibrium over equilibrium, evolution over permanency, and individual creativity over collective stabilization. The book, with its emphasis on the interaction of microstructures with the entire biosphere, ecosystems etc., and on how micro- and macrocosmos mutually create the conditions for their further evolution, provides a comprehensive framework for a deeper understanding of human creativity in a time of transition.
The Two Hands of God
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.
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.
Understanding the Chaos at History's End
Delivered at the end of McKenna’s first month as scholar-in-residence at Esalen, when he began a new phase in his public speaking career. This weekend workshop provides an early glimpse at Terence’s description of the looming “transcendental object at the end of time,” and the psychedelic insights which led him to become an oracle.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 in Fencing and Judo
A demonstration how the Taoist influence in Aikido and Judo also influenced swordsmanship.
Zen in Painting
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.