It would’ve been Alan Watts’ 100th birthday this week (6th January).
A key figure in introducing Eastern philosophical and religious thought to Western readers, and a source of inspiration for many (Cheryl Fernandez-Versini recently used his work in some of her lyrics), Watts was born in Kent and raised as an Anglican. He became a Buddhist as a teenager and moved to California in 1951, where he became a counterculture icon and one of the best-known writers of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
The Book explores an unrecognised but mighty taboo – our tacit conspiracy to ignore who, or what, we really are. We are therefore in urgent need of a sense of our own existence, which is in accord with the physical facts and which over comes our feeling of alienation from the universe.
What is the cause of the illusion that the self is a separate ego, housed in a bag of skin, and which confronts a universe of physical objects that are alien to it? Rather a person’s identity (their ego) binds them to the physical universe, creating a relationship with their environment and other people. The separation of the self and the physical world leads to the misuse of technology and the attempt to violently subjugate man’s natural environment, leading to its destruction.
Explaining man’s role in the universe as a unique expression of the total universe, and interdependent on it, Alan Watts offers a new understanding of personal identity in The Book. It reveals the mystery of existence, presenting an alternative to the feelings of alienation that is prevalent in Western society, and a vision of how we can come to understand the cosmic self that is within every living thing.
Some praise for The Book:
“The best book I’ve ever read on the nature of what actually is, what the world is about, and how you should behave.” – John Lloyd, BBC Radio 4, Desert Island Discs.
“For a new generation of readers… look at this ancient philosophy from a modern counter-cultural standpoint. Alan Watts explores the subject in concrete terms, using current idioms and expressions which will also appeal to the younger reader.” – ‘Vedanta’
“Offering spiritual answers to the problems of a materialistic lifestyle, alienated from the natural world, Watts is the voice of all who seek a deeper understanding of their own identity and role in the world.” – ‘Watkins Review’
“Reminds us how Watts presented complex theories and views in a subtle yet straightforward fashion… Still an iconic figure… he made great breakthroughs in stretching our philosophical horizons.” – ‘Beat Scene’