Alan Watts Selected Writings

From: The Wisdom of Insecurity:

“…when you really understand that you are
what you see and know, you do not run around
the country-side thinking, ‘I am all this.’
There is simply ‘all this.’


“…our experience is altogether momentary.
From one point of view, each moment is so
elusive and so brief that we cannot even
think about it before it has gone. From
another point of view, this moment is always
here, since we know no other moment than the
present moment. It is always dying, always
becoming past more rapidly than imagination
can conceive. Yet at the same time it is
always being born, always new, emerging just
as rapidly from that complete unknown we
call the future. Thinking about it almost
makes you breathless.”
“…there is no formula for generating the
authentic warmth of love. It cannot be copied.
You cannot talk yourself into it or rouse it
by straining at the emotions or by dedicating
yourself solemnly to the service of mankind.
Everyone has love, but it can only come out
when he is convinced of the impossibility and
the frustration of trying to love himself.
This conviction will not come through
condemnations, through hating oneself, through
calling self-love all the bad names in the
universe. It comes only in the awareness that
one has no self to love.”
“We are accustomed to think that, if there
is any freedom at all, it resides, not in
nature, but in the separate human will and
its power of choice.

But what we ordinarily mean by choice is not
freedom. Choices are usually decisions
motivated by pleasure and pain, and the
divided mind acts with the sole purpose
of getting ‘I’ into pleasure and out of pain.
But the best pleasures are those for which we
do not plan, and the worst part of pain is
expecting it and trying to get away from it
when it has come. You cannot plan to be happy.
You can plan to exist, but in themselves
existence and non-existence are neither
pleasurable nor painful…”

“In the strictest sense, we cannot actually
think about life and reality at all, because
this would have to include thinking about
thinking, thinking about thinking about
thinking, and so *ad infinitum*. One can
only attempt a rational, descriptive philosophy
of the universe on the assumption that one is
totally separate from it. But if you and your
thoughts are part of this universe, you cannot
stand outside them to describe them. This is
why all philosophical and theological systems
must ultimately fall apart. To ‘know’ reality
you cannot stand outside and define it; you
must enter into it, be it, and feel it.

Speculative philosophy, as we know it in the
West, is almost entirely a symptom of the
divided mind, of man trying to stand outside
himself and his experience in order to verbalize
and define it. It is a vicious circle, like
everything else which the divided mind attempts.”


“The common error of ordinary religious
practice is to mistake the symbol for the
reality, to look at the finger pointing
the way and then to suck it for comfort
rather than follow it.”

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