Philosophy and Society is part of the Essential Lectures Collection. This album was one of the original six albums compiled by Alan and his son, Mark, in 1973. It includes some of Alan’s most inspiring public lectures, as well as his powerful Veil of Thoughts seminar recorded aboard the SS Vallejo (Alan’s floating studio) two years prior. In the Veil seminar, he explores the limitations of thought, explaining that thought makes a good tool but a poor master, before taking a turn to touch upon love and the institution of marriage from both historic and pragmatic perspectives; speaking from “a certain amount of bitter experience.”
[knocking mokugyo] 00:34 A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions. By “thoughts” I...
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.
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.
How does a person get out of a predicament they’ve talked themselves into?
Delivered at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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.
Does God really rule over humans like a monarch, or might the concept of divinity express itself as a drama through all of us?
An introductory look at the ideas of Pure Land Buddhism.
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.
00:00 I suppose most of you have heard of Zen. But before going on to explain any details about it I want to make one thing absolutely clear: I am not a Zen Buddhist, I am not advocating Zen...
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.
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.
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.
00:00 This is part of a series of seminars on the future, and last weekend we were discussing the very nature of time. And I want to give a sort of summary of what we were...
00:00 When we communicate, what are we really communicating about? What is the content of communication? Because, you see, McLuhan has come up with a very strange idea: that...
Is playing the game of life worth the effort required? Alan turns the question upside-down and investigatates the alternative, allowing us to appreciate every being’s gamble with fate taken upon birth.
00:06 I want to start by giving (what may be to many of you) a new definition of the word “myth.” As normally used, the word “myth” means an idle tale, a fable, a falsehood, or an idea...
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.
“A Journey to Unthinking”—an introduction to the Eastern traditions of yoga. Alan describes the entrance into the unspeakable reality, first from the East by practices of dhyana 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.
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.