Alan Watts was one of those enigmatic, philosophical characters who promoted increased spiritual awareness during the 1960’s and 70’s. He was best known for being: “…a British writer and speaker known for interpreting and popularizing Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism for a Western audience.” (Wiki)
Before I get into my comments on him, here’s another memorial on Watts by David Chadwick:
“Of the books that look at Watts’ impact, one seems to be of particular significance: Alan Watts—Here and Now: Contributions to Psychology, Philosophy, and Religion (SUNY Series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology). The lead chapter is entitled ‘Alan Watts’ Anticipation of Four Major Debates in the Psychology of Religion.’ The book nails Watts’ critical influence on the study of the perennial philosophy as rooted in mystical experience, the relationship of the latter with psychedelics and eroticism, and the shift to the study of spirituality rather than religion. The book also explores Watts’ game-changing influence in psychology, the neuroscience of transcendence, and eco-feminism.”
And from Watts himself here are two variations on the ‘Universe as ocean’ theme:
“You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.” – Alan Watts
“We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves,’ the universe ‘peoples.’” – Alan Watts
What I’ve been noticing from the folks who I follow online is that Alan Watts has become very popular again—likely because he spoke 50 years ago about philosophy that is more mainstream in today’s world: the concept of ‘us’ being merely visible fragments of the invisible WHOLEness.
That’s why the ‘ocean analogy’ is so easily understood. You can’t define the power of a single ocean wave without first acknowledging that there is NO wave to be had without there being an actual Ocean behind it.
And as might be expected, Alan Watts was controversial in his day. He was often brash, outspoken, and was far from being considered a ‘perfect’ human being during his LIFE tenure. He had faults, as do we all; and he had weaknesses that he often indulged at the expense of his health. So unfortunately for the rest of us, he wasn’t around a very long time.
But it was his life and he said what he said and he did what he did while he was around to do it.
I just wanted to mention that many of his lectures have been revived on YouTube, and he’s always worth a listen just to hear the Universe expressing itself through Alan Watts.