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.
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.
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.
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. Originally broadcast on KPFA as episode 14 of the Philosophy East and West series.
Watts explores the different meanings of the Sanskrit word māyā and explains them to the Western audience.