"That was Alan Watts with 'Way Beyond the West.'"
May 21, 2022 12:12 AM   Subscribe

Alan Watts on KPFA - "A carefully curated collection of Alan Watts wisdom."[1,2] (via)

Levels of Magnification (mp3) - "We can never change things until we first accept them."
In Septmebr 1961, when atomic testing has started again and when international tensions are mounting and mounting, even a fairly optimistic person must be compelled to recognize that at this time the future of man on this planet is in critical danger. And yet I personally am amazed at the degree of apparent indifference to this crisis, which exists among just ordinary people. Despite the cataclysm that seems to be facing us, there is an extraordinary atmosphere of business as usual. The foreboding headlines in the newspaper alternate quite easily with the usual headlines about the affairs of baseball, the current scandals and murders, because the problem in a way is too big for anyone to think about. There seem to be complete limits to the powers of the individual to deal with this situation. And when the individual finds that it is absolutely beyond his scope to do anything about it, his only defese is to neglect it. And therefore we are living in the midst of an absolutely terrifyingly critical danger and somehow being hyptonized into accepting it, almost as a bird is hypnotized by an attacking snake. Now there is a great deal of difference between this kind of hypnotized indifference and what I might call philosophical acceptance of reality. Hypnotized indifference simply succumbs, but paradoxically the philosophical acceptance of reality has power; it can change things. I think it was Jung who said that we can never change things unless we first accept them, and I'd like to talk to you for awhile about this curious paradox.
Bus or Tram (mp3) - "The old Limerick that says, 'Damn! For it certainly seems that I'm a creature who moves in determinate grooves. I'm not even a bus I'm a tram', is usually applied to the problem of fate and free will. It is equally applicable to another problem says Alan Watts which is the problem of searching for a basis for ethical behavior."

Way Beyond the West (mp3) - "The English word 'way' is the nearest translation perhaps that we can make of the Chinese word Tao, meaning the way of nature or the way things go."

Reconciliation of Opposites (mp3) - "Watts points out that so many things that seem at one level to be opposed to each other, are at another level mutually necessary, including life and death."

Insight and Ecstasy (mp3) - "This talk begins with Alan Watts commenting on a book review show he heard on KPFA hosted by Kenneth Rexroth that looked at what could be called a cult of ecstasy among poets and thinkers of the day."

Fundamentals of Buddhism (mp3) - "A talk on the influence of Eastern philosophy on Western culture, broadcast at KPFA in 1960."

Return to the Forest (mp3) - "Alan Watts on the work of Joseph Campbell, best-known work is his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), in which he discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero."

Spiritual Odyssey of Aldous Huxley (mp3) - "On the transformation of novelist Aldous Huxley towards a spiritual path."

also btw...
The Collected Letters of Alan Watts (mp3) - "Today we are in conversation with Joan Watts and Anne Watts who have collected, curated, and edited the Letters of his father, Alan Watts."

-Alan Watts on KPFK
-Alan Watts' Pacifica Radio Archives

KPFA bonus :P
Malcolm X's The Ballot or the Bullet (mp3, starts at 1h10m; yt) - "On April 12, 1964, one month after splitting with the NOI, Malcolm X gave his 'Ballot or the Bullet' speech at King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit."[3,4] (previously)
posted by kliuless (13 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Ooh, love me some Alan Watts
posted by Going To Maine at 12:37 AM on May 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

Nicely sampled in Fish Dances.
posted by aubilenon at 12:52 AM on May 21, 2022

I remember a driveway moment with some hippy-dippy on WFMU talking about buddhism and such. I kept waiting for him to veer off into nonsense so I could finally get out of the car. He remained cogent, of course, and that's how I came to dig Alan Watts.
posted by whuppy at 7:33 AM on May 21, 2022 [10 favorites]

something I've always found very curious is how those whose wisdom seems like a beacon for many/most of us can sometimes face difficulties in implementing their wisdom into their own lives... I am of course referencing Watts' heavy drinking later in his life, which might speak to the powerlessness that some have over addiction even when armed with tools that'd seem powerful enough to battle their way back ? or to something else ... not really sure, + there's no judgment here, just ... questions
posted by clandestiny's child at 8:04 AM on May 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

another great "pop" music integration is this track from UK dance music producer Om Unit - The War (featuring Jehst).

it has 2 fire-ass rap verses from Jehst for the first half then it flips around and the second half is Alan Watts calmly eviscerating western culture in just under 2 minutes. i appreciate this tune for many reasons and it's one of my go-to's when i'm meeting new people and exploring their compatability. not many people love it on first-listen, but how they react is a great indicator to me of their curiosity, self-awareness, and ability for cultural introspection.
posted by glonous keming at 11:57 AM on May 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

@clandestiny's child, maybe it would make more sense if you remember that Watts himself never claimed to be a teacher, in fact denied being a teacher, and identified as a raconteur or "philosophical entertainer."
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 12:51 PM on May 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

ok thanks Aardvark C. ... that is a valid thing to consider, for certain, esp as regards how his thoughts were intended to be received by others ... thanks for pointing it out, I did not know that ... as for how he reconciled his habits with his wisdom, that is for him to determine, not me ... + I've long thought that certain aspects of his personal biography do not and should not detract from the validity of the wisdom in + of itself ... like I said, mostly just curious, by no means to I intend to criticize here
posted by clandestiny's child at 2:15 PM on May 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

I was in a small group that met with Alan Watts back in 1963 or '64. I had read The Way of Zen and was really interested. He spoke and... his false teeth didn't fit. He whistled and clattered. I spent a while trying to reconcile that with Zen practice.
posted by CCBC at 2:40 PM on May 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

Hearing Watts lecture in 1969, remarking about LSD: "When you get the message, hang up the phone." That was valuable. I hung it up after I got the message in 1972.

He was the gateway drug (umm...) for a lot of us still meditating now--after all these years. His interpretations of Zen etc. were not uneducated guesses. One can still be an alcoholic and accurately Anglicize "Eastern" teachings.

My freshman roommate in college and I, soon to become a jazz duo, had both read Nature, Man, and Woman over the summer. He, a farmer's kid, me a suburban white privileged child.

Watts, Castaneda, and Yogananda were scriptures for us hippies fifty years ago. Their veracity was not under question for us then. Now, with the internet, we have fuller insights into their lives, although many of their recommendations for practice were useful at the time.
posted by kozad at 5:14 PM on May 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

I was surprised and impressed by his sorta-cameo in Her, a lovely movie that I hope will not be forgotten soon:
posted by aquanaut at 5:33 PM on May 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

I think many who are interested in Alan Watts would appreciate this introduction to early Buddhism by the renowned scholar monk Bhikkhu Bodhi. It is a masterpiece of expository writing.
posted by little eiffel at 11:32 PM on May 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

@little eiffel: thanks for the link

The writing is wonderful.
posted by aleph at 6:26 AM on May 22, 2022 [2 favorites]

I felt that Watts was rather good at synthesizing aspects of Eastern Philosophies for Western Audiences. He sure didn't have a perfect personal life, but he still seemed to come across as more likeable than most hippy gurus (a pretty low bar sure).

His recorded musings are sometimes quite profound. There used to be more of those YT mash-ups with stoner found-footage visuals a few years ago, but some of them have been taken down since.
posted by ovvl at 12:49 PM on May 22, 2022

« Older Albo v ScoMo - Australia Votes 2022   |   No Woman Ever Wants to be a Muse Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments