« Alan Watts speaks about the Limits of Language | Main | Morality, like Alan Watts, is in the eye of the beholder »

January 24, 2022

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Brian Ji

I do love what Watts writes about honesty.

It's not about morality. Please read my comment again, that you posted.

You read something there that I never wrote.

What I wrote was what Alan Watts also wrote about... Honesty.

It's also about addiction. Addiction to drugs, alcohol and sex isn't good.

To claim that Addiction is a morality issue is your take, not mine.

But addictions are forms of self - enslavement.

The addict, once their addiction cannot be hidden, often starts with excuses.

We can look to ourselves for evidence.

And to Watts.

Alan Watts says we should accept ourselves honestly.

So then he can say what every recovering alcoholic says... "I am an alcoholic.... I also have a sex Addiction."

That's honest. And doesn't avoid anything.

It's not about morality, Brian Ji.

It's all about accepting ourselves AND moving forward.

Had Watts done this he might be alive today.

Not accepting who we are is the same as making excuses for who we are.

We don't need excuses, we all need to keep moving forward.

Because the entire creation is moving forward. And we should move forward.

It starts with openly acknowldging our issues, with forgiveness and the duty to make progress.

No excuses.

When we fully embrace and accept who we are, and what we are it isn't always pretty or prefect.

No one is perfect. Including us.

But perfect and imperfect have to do with the standard you choose to adopt.

Are there absolute standards? Yes. The physical body, what is in it, and your well being, what they require. What you require for life.

Where there is an internal conflict is where a person feels they must have something that will actually be harmful to themselves or others.

Yes, there can be a conflict between what society wants and what you want.

Between what is healthy and what you are addicted to.

Yes, there can be a conflict between what you are being pressed to do and what your heart says is right.

There are external pressures and internal pressures. Everyone wants balance but the fulcrum is going to be different for each person.

So, find the balance that feels right to you. But that might require rewriting your brain, being rid of destructive habits.

In those things that are harmful, but strong habit, have the courage to acknowldge that these convenient forms of self - medication are self - destructive, and what feels really good can also be really bad for you and those around you.


Isn't that sad? What feels great may not actually be what your body and mind need? That's the problem with addiction.

Set a healthier standard using the model built inside you, and work yourself out of the old identity and into the new.

This is where people turn to spirituality, because they know they can't do it alone.

But when they really do make change, it may only be successful because the help they had to have was what they really were all along, and they were just finally able to overcome old thinking, old habits of behavior and thinking, and merge with s hidden part of themselves. Some call that God. If it helps you do what the little you was unable to do, at least it is worthy of some title of respect. Perhaps true friend.

Your true friend will say things you may not want to hear. Good friends do that.

Spence writes, "Had Watts done this he might be alive today."

Not quite sure. Since he was born in 1915, then he would be in his 107th year here on planet earth.

That's pretty old and I am not quite sure he would want that!

Spence, you said "Allan Watts may appeal to drug addicts, alcoholics, sex addicts and fame addicts, but he would have done them greater good acknowledging his own struggles with these things."

That's a nasty thing to say. It infuriates me. It's amazingly judgmental. What evidence do you have that Alan Watts was addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, or fame? Put up or shut up. I can't tolerate holier-than-thou judgments when they aren't tethered to reality. But maybe you're right and I'm wrong. Prove I"m wrong.

Provide your proof. Share a link to a verified medical judgment that Watts was addicted to those things, or a statement from Watts that he was addicted to those things. Words matter. It doesn't matter to me that Watts is long dead. You've accused Watts of being something that, so far as I know, he wasn't.

Do he enjoy drugs, alcohol, sex, and fame? Yes, it definitely appears that he did. But to disparage a man who did so much to bring Eastern wisdom to the West, and was wonderfully sincere in his books and talks, needs to be called out.

I'm fine with controversial opinions being shared in comments on my blogs. But I draw the line at untruthful slander. Back up your words with some facts.

You claim that Watts should have acknowledged his struggles with drugs, alcohol, sex, and fame. Provide the evidence that he felt a struggle within himself. Don't project yourself into the mind of Watts. Do some research and learn more about the mind of Watts so you can project that knowledge into your own mind.

You're adept at sliding away from responsibility for your own words. Sometimes you succeed at this in comment conversations. Sometimes you don't. I'm holding you accountable for your words. Either back them up with facts, or admit that you should acknowledge your struggle with being truthful.

>> I'm fine with controversial opinions being shared in comments on my blogs. But I draw the line at untruthful slander. Back up your words with some facts<<

So truthful slander is allowed!
My understanding is that slander by itself is untruthful.

It's sanctimony to object to a guru who smoked, did drugs, gave drugs to his kids, screwed every 20 something groupie he could find, was serially divorced, and ultimately drank himself to death?

That's a pretty low bar for sanctimony. But then you've always ridden a high horse.

Watts was a priest but split from the church when facing ejection for his unconventional views and lifestyle – he lived in a threesome, preached free love, and was finally divorced by his wife for being a ‘sexual pervert’ (boarding school had apparently given him a taste for flogging).

main message, which he repeated over and over throughout his career, was that there is no separate self, that there is just IT, the Tao, the Brahman, and you are inescapably part of it, so relax and let go, rather than trying to pull yourself up by your spiritual boot-straps. Over-strenuous spiritual practice will actually just reinforce your ego. You are already perfect, already enlightened, you don’t need to do or change anything. There is no ‘you’, just IT.

He expressed this radical Zen view when he met Huxley, Heard and Isherwood in the company of their guru, Swami Prabhavananda:

‘But this is ridiculous,’ the Swami objected. ‘That amounts to saying that an ordinary ignorant and deluded person is just as good, or just as realized, as an advanced yogi.’ ‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘And what advanced yogi would deny it? Doesn’t he see the Brahman everywhere, and in all people, all beings?’ ‘You are saying,’ said the Swami, ‘that you yourself, or just any other person, can realize that you are the Brahman just as you are, without any spiritual effort or discipline at all!’ ‘Just so. After all, one’s very not realizing is, in its turn, also the Brahman. According to your own doctrine, what else is there, what else is real other than the Brahman?’

The Swami retorted that if Watts was really enlightened, he would feel no suffering, not even a pinch. Watts, resisting the urge to pinch the Swami, fell silent. But this remained his central idea, and it had a big influence on the ‘beat Zen’ of Jack Kerouac and others, and then on the antinomian flower children of the 1960s. Go with it, follow the law of your nature, be true to who you are, you’re beautiful.

What is the value of this idea? Well, Kerouac drank himself to death as well.

At the very least, the risk of Watts’ philosophy is it leads to a lazy and complacent egotism: ‘I am what I am, I’m part of the Brahman, we’re all perfect, so why bother trying to change?’

In other words, Spencer's POV is a valid one.

Hi Brian Ji!
"The problem is, you can be a perfect Buddha on the ultimate level, and still suffer a lot and cause a lot of suffering to others on the relative plain, where most of us are most of the time. And this is what happened to Watts. His friend, the Zen poet Gary Snyder, remarked: ‘He was one who sowed trouble wherever he went.’
"He failed as a husband, marrying three times, and driving his third wife to the bottle with his philandering —

"he would pick up a different college girl after most talks (‘I don’t like to sleep alone’).

"He failed as a father to his seven children: ‘By all the standards of this society I have been a terrible father’, although some of his children still remember him fondly as a kind man, who initiated each of his children into LSD on their 18th birthday. He was vain and boastful, ‘immoderately infatuated with the sound of my own voice’, although he didn’t try and hide his failings.

"By the end of his life he was having to do several talks a week to make enough money to pay his alimony and child support. And he was drinking a bottle of vodka a day to be able to do that. He died, exhausted, at 58.

"Snyder remembers:
'he had to keep working, and as you keep working, you know, you got to play these roles, and you also keep drinking ’cause there’s always these parties and so forth, so that doesn’t help you slow it down.

"So he just wore himself out. It was out of his control, that was my feeling. The dynamics of his life had gotten beyond his control, and he didn’t know what to do about it.

"One of his lovers, the therapist June Singer, visited him in hospital when he was admitted with delirium tremens. Why didn’t he stop drinking, she asked. ‘That’s how I am,’ he said to her sadly. ‘I can’t change.’

"Ultimately, Watts seems to have worked incredibly hard at his career, at his public profile, at the endless talks he gave on campuses, on radio and on TV. In other words, on the external self. And he worked very little on the inner man — psychotherapy bored him, while he felt too much meditation ‘is apt to turn one into a stone Buddha’."
https://julesevans.medium.com/alan-watts-genius-or-charlatan-72313fae997d

Spencer, thanks for the additional info about Watts. The more I learn about his life, the more it confirms my impression of him. He was a flawed human being, just as we all are. He didn't make any claim to being an enlightened being or possessing any special knowledge. He lived hard and died fairly young, as many artists did around his time. Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix come to mind. There were many others as well.

As Watts would say in his books and talks, for every inside there is an outside, and for every outside there is an inside. Having grown up with my divorced mother, an off-and-on alcoholic (sometimes she drank heavily, other times lightly), and being alone with her during my high school years when she drank most heavily, I'm well aware that alcoholics can be infuriating when they're at their worst, and wonderful when they're at their best.

So what bothered me about your seeming to dismiss Watts with a one word "addict" encapsulation is that this ignores the inside of Watts that I find so compelling -- and which came to light much more for me after listening to quite a few hours of his recorded talks recently. That made the man come to life for me, while his books are necessarily lacking in the man's tone of voice, humor, thought process, laughter, and such.

My mother struggled in various ways. She struggled to understand what life is all about. She struggled with relationships, being divorced twice. She struggled with being a divorcee in a time when few women worked outside of the home and divorce was less common than it is today. Yet as my 4th grade teacher liked to say, "Do your best. Angels can do no better." My mother did her best. I'm confident Watts did also, though from the outside his personal life is open to criticism.

Again, so far as I know Watts never claimed to be anything other than what he was: a human being trying to live life as best he could. That's all any of us can do. I think you and I can agree on that, even if we disagree about whether Watts could have done better for himself and others. My mother never acknowledged that she had a drinking problem, to my recollection. She never sought treatment, even after getting cirrhosis of the liver.

Alcoholism is a disease, really, not a moral failing. It isn't something most people can get out of by their own will power. So I can't fault Watts for drinking so heavily near the end of his life, and maybe before. Life is tough. We all have our own "addictions," religious and political belief systems, for example. Or for me, writing and reading.

Alan watts was a forerunner in presenting Eastern philosophy to the West. He laid out basically the philosophies of both Zen and Taoism revealing the new idea to many, of ‘No-self’.

Watts: - “The prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East.”

This is immensely significant toward our understanding of who/what we are – if we care to honestly look into it. He also descried how thought can separate us from nature being a major factor driving our feelings of isolation and incompleteness.

There is a vast body of thinking that believes enlightenment is something almost impossible to achieve and the preserve of a few ‘special’ people. Dogen said that the body is already enlightened but unseen due to the activity of the mind – of thinking. Steven Batchelor holds that enlightenment (or nirvana) is there when thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs (mind actions) result in conditioned reactivity (suffering) and that nirvana is freedom from such reactivity.

Included in the foregoing is the deep realisation that there is no self, no centre that is ‘me’. The notion that we are separate individuals reveals the disconnectedness we feel from nature, from life, from other people – and perhaps ourselves. The Buddhist term ‘dukkha’ emphasizes the suffering that arises from living a life where mental constructs cause conflicts and acute feelings of separation. After all, from early childhood when a ‘self’ structure becomes strongly formed, lives are spent trying to regain the infant state when there was no ‘me’ concept separating us from life, from reality. Enter the seeker!

Hi Brian Ji!
Watts writing is beautiful and affirmational.

I think we look at it in stages, but from different perspectives.

He literally wrote the foundation for the Beatnik and Hippie movements, for protesting the Viet Nam war, the Civil Rights movement, even the writings of J.D. Salinger. He was the earliest author of counter-culture. The philosophy he offered allowed us to see that we could adopt another way of thinking and acting that had greater authenticity, grounded in who we are, not what others want us to be.

His writings gave the insightful writings of others, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, to name two, a personal foundation for our own use in our own situations. If you want to be grounded more deeply in the truth than the manipulative push of a society gone mad, the wrench in the evil machine, to carry your own atmosphere, your own society of one, no better place to start than Watts.

I don't think there would even be a Dr. King, had there not been the broadening understanding of the legitimacy of each person's own reality, founded by Watts in the 1940's, and grown, carefully, painstakingly, by his untiring efforts decade upon decade.

As a thinker, and an articulate, accessible teacher, he was a genius.

But ....

And here it comes....

Or, maybe I should use the word...

However...when it comes to personal growth, once you accept that you are you, and can't be anyone else, and that is a mixed bag, a bag you can love, then what?

There is personal growth beyond that point. Growth that is so natural, so grounded in what we are that there is no philosophy to speak of, no thinking about it. There's just living that path.
And it is a path, because daily insights arise that are new, daily, we see from a higher perspective. It is a transcendent path that never ends, a mystery that continues to unfold every single day, with minimum effort to climb out of the hole of conditioned thinking once again, and be what we are, and look patiently, lovingly, with devotion and stillness, at all that harmony that surrounds and is within us. Then, yes, love pours forth, and our vision grows.

Work and struggle come naturally as we reach forward, to move in that groove that is one with all things.

Then it is no shame to own our shortcomings. I'm wrong several times a day, Brian Ji.
There is no shame is having an addiction. We all have them. No shame to acknowledge honestly what is there. But only shame to ignore something that needs work. If pollution is wrong in the world, it's also wrong for the body. And so there are things that we "should" do...but of course we ourselves should make that decision, and that effort.

There really is no purpose to insight without action.

Personal insights, and personal efforts go hand in hand. That is the natural way.

Things run a lot more smoothly with a little more insight, and those are good days, worth working for, worth struggling against our weaknesses to reach. Days of peace, days in a limited life of limited demands are beautiful days.

Brian Ji,
I would even go so far as to say that you can also blame Watts for encouraging millions of westerners to take an interest in Eastern thought.

How many fewer RSSB Satsangis seeking initiation in the 50'ss 60's and 70's would there be had there been no Watts first?

Alcoholism is indeed a moral failing if the alcoholic embraces his disease of body and soul ruining alcohol abuse.

What do I know about it? I'm an alcoholic myself. One that's been sober for 34 years. I've known thousands of recovering alcoholics, and they'd perhaps all agree that the alcoholic in his cups is living in a land of spiritual make-believe. They'd also likely agree that alcohol rots one's soul. Those who don't believe we have a soul are likely not alcoholics, for we know what the spiritual death from drinking feels like.

I can tell you that many alcoholics' philosophy was the same as Watts', and there's nothing really profound or useful about it. The notion that there's no God, that rules are for losers, that morality is foisted on us by society and is a drag, etc. None of Watt's palaver is new to me. It's the gospel of the narcissist, and no one is more narcissistic than the alcoholic.

But yes, alcoholism is an illness, Watts definitely had it, so that makes Watts a sick person. It seems obvious to me that Watt's philosophy served his narcissism and was an excuse for his drinking. There is no way I could recommend such a philosophy (however, there are people out there who say Watts has helped them, and I believe them. But that doesn't mean that what Watts is selling deserves praise).

The flip spiritual side of Watt's way might be (gasp) RSSB. Satsangis devote themselves to seva and to a power greater than themselves. They don't drink or get high. Many of them came from a background of trying to find God through self-seeking and chemicals and found it didn't work.

Perhaps none of them are saints, but they try to move along a path of selfless service as best they can. Perhaps they're not enlightened and their religion has some clunky elements, but they knew enough to not buy into Watts' creed of being the Great I Am.

Hi Tendzin:
"I can tell you that many alcoholics' philosophy was the same as Watts', and there's nothing really profound or useful about it. The notion that there's no God, that rules are for losers, that morality is foisted on us by society and is a drag, etc. None of Watt's palaver is new to me. It's the gospel of the narcissist, and no one is more narcissistic than the alcoholic.

"But yes, alcoholism is an illness, Watts definitely had it, so that makes Watts a sick person. It seems obvious to me that Watt's philosophy served his narcissism and was an excuse for his drinking. There is no way I could recommend such a philosophy (however, there are people out there who say Watts has helped them, and I believe them. But that doesn't mean that what Watts is selling deserves praise)."

I don't always agree with you, but in your last essay every word you wrote rings true.

In Watt's time sex and drugs were all the rage, and he was a famous consumer. What damns him to moralists today fed his celebrity then.

Money and influence are the new fashion trends. Strut for the camera with a billion dollars, and you're a cultic hero, even liars and thieves.

“I would even go so far as to say that you can also blame Watts for encouraging millions of westerners to take an interest in Eastern thought.
How many fewer RSSB Satsangis seeking initiation in the 50'ss 60's and 70's would there be had there been no Watts first?”

A rather snide way to get at Watts’s philosophy Spencer. It would have been more accurate and truer instead of saying “. . .you can blame Watts for encouraging . . .”, to simply say he ‘introduced’ millions, which is not to blame (which indicates a fault or wrong). And regarding trying to manipulate his philosophy to account for people joining RSSB is blatantly dishonest. Such cults were common in the 60’s and 70’s having sprung from teachings such as ‘Scientology’, The Manson’s, Osho etc. Dozens of them including the Hippy phenomenon which was a counter cultural movement that rejected the mores of mainstream American life.

And Tenzin, it’s equally dishonest to state: - “I can tell you that many alcoholics' philosophy was the same as Watts', and there's nothing really profound or useful about it. The notion that there's no God, that rules are for losers, that morality is foisted on us by society and is a drag, etc. None of Watt's palaver is new to me. It's the gospel of the narcissist, and no one is more narcissistic than the alcoholic.”

Watts’s is known for popularising the Zen and Buddhist teachings in Western Society, moving them from a religion to a way of life – which is not narcissist at all. Many Zen Buddhist teachers who made Buddhism acceptable to the west had a clear mandate to communicate Buddhism in a way suitable for the western mind-set.

"... Watts’s is known for popularising the Zen and Buddhist teachings in Western Society, moving them from a religion to a way of life – which is not narcissist at all. Many Zen Buddhist teachers who made Buddhism acceptable to the west had a clear mandate to communicate Buddhism in a way suitable for the western mind-set."

(Posted by: Ron E. | January 26, 2022 at 08:04 AM)

-------


This issue is absolutely clear, entirely black and white, as far as I am concerned.

Actually I tried to clearly explain my POV in the previous thread, via my analogy of the design engineer who's designed a dodgy car that crashes and kills people. That's not a moral failing, or the sign of a "bad" person, and to suggest such would be a very warped POV; but if this person were to try to teach others how to build cars, then his design creds would very much matter, and that faulty design would, very justifiably, come up for scrutiny. LIkewise, with Watts.

I don't know anything about Watts, beyond what Brian's discussed here, and what some commenters have revealed about his life. To me, this all-important question will hold the answer to whether his personal situation matters, as far as his work : Did he set out to simply teach Eastern philosophy as an abstract, impersonal subject? Or did he try to teach it as a way of life?

If he taught Eastern philosophy only as an abstract, impersonal subject, then that would mean that he'd simply conveyed that such and such philosophy and such and such tradition says such and such about such and such, without trying to claim or suggest or hint that following such and such philosophies or modes of thought or practices or ways of life might be good or beneficient or useful or whatever. Like teaching Tolkien, without suggesting that the teachings of the Silmarillion hold the key to a happy healthy fulfilled life. If that is the case, then his personal demons are entirely irrelevant to anything he taught. The only relevant yardstick to judge him by, then, would be in terms of how accurately his teachings conveyed those Eastern philosophies.

However, if he tried to teach those philosophies as things to be incorporated in one's life, as things not merely abstract and academic but actually to be made part of one's thought and belief and life, then absolutely, his personal issues do matter. Because --- like I said in my comment there --- that leaves us with exactly three possibilities, as far as his personal issues: (a) Either he followed what he taught, and ended up as he did, indicating that those teachings themselves were flawed; or else (b) He followed what he thought was Eastern philosophy, and ended up as he did, indicating that his interpretation of those philosophies was flawed; or else (c) He did not himself follow what he taught, or followed it only imperfectly, and ended up as he did, indicating that he was something of a hypocrite.

Those are the three possibilities that I'd listed in my last comment, and would apply if he taught Eastern philosophy not as an abstract impersonal subject, but as a living tradition to be incorporated in one's belief system and one's actual life. In fairness, and on second thought, I must add a fourth possibility there: (d) He suffered from issues that had nothing to do with his philosophy, maybe something neurological, or maybe some extraordinary trauma in his early life, or something, so that how he ended up was independent of his philosophy of life, and indeed maybe the latter actually helped him somewhat in dealing with such. You know, like if a man is born with a game leg, then his fitness regime cannot be blamed for the fact that he's lame.

-------

So well, given that, can anyone who's familiar with Alan Watts's teachings --- Brian, Tendzin, Spence, you Ron, anyone else --- throw light on that? Did Watts intend his teachings as impersonal abstract information, or did he intend them as a living tradition, to not just be learnt and understood but actually incorporated in one's life?

Hi Appreciative!
Great question.
He started as a scholar, and became a teacher, but more perhaps in his own words, "an entertainer."

You wouldn't look to Earnest Hemingway for advice on living, but he was one of the greatest authors in the English language.

I think that could apply to Watts in a similar vein.

Same with Picasso.

Or Miles Davis. Great artists. Not nice people.

Enjoy their art and interesting ideas, but don't consider them role models for how to live.

Biographer Monica Furlong notes in this 1986 "authorized" (by the family) biography about critics of his first book ( The Spirit of Zen - A Way of Life, Work and Art in the Far East (The Wisdom of the East) ), "At his age, they wondered, what did he know of wisdom, of suffering, or mystical experience? Where was his apprenticeship to a guru, his initiation, his gradual growth into God-consciousness? Wisdom demanded that the disciple should work away faithfully until crisis-point or breakdown was reached... yet here was young Alan Watts claiming that you could get there without the agony... instead of making the long, painful journey by foot or camel. Who did he think he was?" (Pg. 75)

Of his time as a priest, she observes, "it is difficult not to feel a twinge of cynicism about this scheme. A young man who has been Buddhist for the past ten years ... suddenly decides to become a Christian priest... because, to put it bluntly, it provides a convenient way of earning a living... knowing that he knows a great deal about religion, and that he is a natural speaker, singer, and theologian... he adds all of these considerations together and decides that switching religions may be the answer." (Pg. 78) She adds, "Watts's daughter Joan suggests another reason for Alan's 'conversion'. In 1941 he was in danger of being drafted, and having escaped the war in England he did not propose to have it catch up with him in America. As a minister he would be safe from the draft. It is not a reason he mentions in his autobiography." (Pg. 79-80) Of his leaving the priesthood, Furlong wrote, "Watts had shown no sign of wishing to leave until his position became impossible---he had taken the Church's money and preached its accepted wisdom only moderately critically... it seems too striking a coincidence that the Church's value in general seemed to decline in Watts's eyes just at the moment that it rejected him." (Pg. 109)

His first wife Eleanor reports, "Over the years of his marriage his pornographic interests and phantasy, while more attractive to him than the normal marriage relationship, lost some of their power to stimulate him and he began to seek stimulation from women outside his marriage." (Pg. 102) In 1950 she had their marriage annulled on the grounds that "her husband had concealed from her that he was a 'sexual pervert.'" (Pg. 106)

She observes, "He was drinking heavily, vodka mostly... He tried to insist that he was a 'philosophical entertainer'... 'a genuine fake'... perhaps to help him endure the sense of hypocrisy that fame gave him." (Pg. 133) She adds, "Film taken of him in 1969 shows him looking seedy, ill and older than his 54 years; friends were concerned about his obvious fatigue and about his heavy drinking." (Pg. 166) In 1968 his doctor warned him that he had an enlarged liver and must give up drinking, but he did only for a few months. (Pg. 167) Jungian analyst June Singer "was saddened to see how heavily he was drinking. On one occasion she visited him in hospital where he was suffering from delirium tremens, and she realised that he knew how destructive the habit had become." (Pg. 175) His son Mark once asked him, "Dad, don't you want to live?" and Watts replied, "Yes, but it's not worth holding on to." (Pg. 177)

"He started as a scholar, and became a teacher, but more perhaps in his own words, "an entertainer." ... "You wouldn't look to Earnest Hemingway for advice on living, but he was one of the greatest authors in the English language. ... I think that could apply to Watts in a similar vein."

"Same with Picasso. ... Or Miles Davis. Great artists. Not nice people. ... Enjoy their art and interesting ideas, but don't consider them role models for how to live."


..........Well, if that is right, Spence, and if, like Hemingway for instance, Watts set out not to teach a philosophy of life to be incorporated in one's life, but only to exercise his craft and engage with his academic discipline, and if his aim was only to teach abstract philosophy as an academic discipline, as a scholar to other (would-be) scholars, and to entertain, in that case I don't see that his drinking or his philandering or his less-than-ideal parenting has anything to do with his work. That shouldn't concern anyone other than his family and friends and associates, and maybe the subjects/victims of his roving eye, and/or the HR and legal departments of the universities and organizations he represented. To the rest of us his personal life isn't at all relevant, and it does not speak to his actual work.

After all, Einstein was not exactly a figure of rectitude in matters sexual, or so I've heard. That's entirely irrelevant to this work and/or his place in the history of science and knowledge. (Your own examples, Hemingway and Picasso, etc, make that same point, I guess.)

So then, if you're right about this, Spence, then that settles the issue. Brian's right about this after all. Assuming what you say is correct.

Alan Watts was true to his moral philosophy

Which is a Standard most can't even reach let alone think about

The no morals Gurinder Singh Dhillion is a perfect example of such a person who preaches like the endless parrot that he is but in his own shower of a shit life has nothing to live up to.

Morals what Morals?

Honesty and morality is something Gurinder hasn't even heard about himself but he loves to tell the world "They" should live by them.

Contradicting C..T

His life plays a very different tune, as we begin to see even more of his frivolously fraudalent ways of reaching enlightenment by walking the path by crime.

It pays way for Gurinders billionaire baba lifestyle as he continues to live that perfect lie he portrays to the world

Babas n Dera are a well known no go zone by the likes of Asaram Bapu and Ram Rahim MSG who showed us all the true colours of such false fabricated religious beliefs and they're true mischievous intentions.

Gurinder is known for Conjuring black magic on stage with his eyes on all who come before him, real Satans work as the devoted discipline that he is.
Come on people fight for your soul and get out of the evil spell this little devil has put on you.

Darshan is the Devil himself working his magic through little Devil Dhillion

Take a page from a real enlightend man like Alan Watts and drop the deciteful devious ways of the Devil, there's still time Dhillion.

"No Shame Dhillion living like a Villian"

I made a punctuation error in my last comment, so feel free to disregard the whole thing.

The spiritual path is lonely, I guess we can say, and it's easy to get sidetracked. "A word to the wise is sufficient," but "Experience is the best teacher."

A code of conduct can be empty unless you learn the hard way. People process by their own mechanisms and by their own time.

Hi AR
You may have confused two things.
Yes, Watts was a scholar.
Yes, his personal life is unrelated to the philosophies he spoke of.
But, no, he did not live by the teachings he gave. They are two entirely separate things.

He was discussing the teachings of others ' liberation, not his own.

His ability to articulate those philosophies and to popularize them as interesting concepts had no connection to his personal behavior or morals.

That people took these as his personal philosophy is their mistake.

His narcissism has little to do youth what he spoke.

He wasn't a hypocrite because he never claimed to have reached the liberation he spoke of so glibly.

That he may not have understood that liberation, or its cost, makes no difference to those who are still enslaved.

It is only glaringly apparent to anyone who has had to fight for their own emancipation. Those folks at clearly the paper thin and narcisstic veracity of Watts pop cultue version of spirituality.

Still, it's fun. And there is truth in it.

Now, AR, if it were the case that Watts was actually trying to convince others to live as he lived, that would also not be hypocrisy. It would only be destructive.

Well done everyone for solving the Alan Watts paradox. Now that he is safely labeled and filed away in secure little conceptual boxes, we can now relax - until the next challenge!

Hi Ron
I don't think Watts fits into anyone else's box but his own. You are hearing his personal take on Zen and liberation. It's what he sees from his position. Whether people find it attractive or not is only relative to their own situation and not to the truthfulness or lack thereof of what he spoke.

Your box and mine are going to be different. And they are at best only yours and mine.

Personally, I like Watts discussion about leaving behind our little persona.

But it is clear he thinks that 's just a change of lateral viewpoint. He had no idea of transcending experience beyond mind through practice. He had to take drugs to alter his mind. So it's very Western in that sense. Take a pill to solve this problem or that. But all that is just mind.

His notion that more practice fed ego was ignorant and lazy. Real practice is submission, and that happens to you, you don't own that. It owns you. You follow, not lead. You listen, not speak.

His idea, borrowed from Thoreau, that nature is already perfect therefore we need do nothing is a misunderstanding. Nature is perfect and we have a lifetime's work growing and unfolding in it. That's 100% submission 24/7.

But like Evangelism, and EST, he promised liberation on the cheap.

How often will it take for each of us to realize that you get what you pay for?

Oops typo.. "How long will it take for each of us to realize that you get what you pay for."

“Hi AR
You may have confused two things.
Yes, Watts was a scholar.
Yes, his personal life is unrelated to the philosophies he spoke of.
But, no, he did not live by the teachings he gave. They are two entirely separate things.”


Hey, Spence.

I’d say that that “But” of yours is unwarranted. As you say, they are two separate things. I’d add, for emphasis, that the one has nothing at all to do with the other.

I’d wondered, in the other thread, how one should deal with contradictions of this kind, generally speaking. Well, I think I’ve arrived at a satisfactory answer to my question. The answer would be: It has to be a case-by-case thing. And further, here also, as far as this specific case, this Alan Watts business, again, I think I’ve arrived at a satisfactory answer, which is that his personal life has nothing to do with this teachings, the former does not detract from the latter.

You agreed with the reasoning I presented here, right? And the answer to the question I’d posted, that I didn’t have myself, is what you yourself supplied. So then, given that Watts didn’t teach his philosophy as something to be lived, but only as something abstract and academic --- and assuming, absent correction by others, that you’re right in saying that --- then I don’t see why we’re even looking at the man’s personal life at all. It makes no sense to do that, at all, any more than it would make sense to try to judge the moral character of someone teaching a course on the Silmarillion, or Shakespeare, or Greek mythology. And nor would any sensible person think to even ask the question, "Does Professor of Greek Mythology at the University of Athens Dr Homer Simpson sacrifice cattle to the Olympian Pantheon at the appointed dates every year?" (But mind you, if it turns out that you’re mistaken, and that Alan Watts intended his teachings as something that people should be incorporating into their lives, then that would change the equation, and drag his personal life, as well as his observance or otherwise in his own life of what he taught, back into the discussion.)

“Well done everyone for solving the Alan Watts paradox. Now that he is safely labeled and filed away in secure little conceptual boxes, we can now relax - until the next challenge!”


Hey, Ron. Apologies if I’m misreading you, but I sense sarcasm there, as opposed to straightforward agreement and appreciation. If you don’t agree with any part of how this particular problem has been “solved”, then perhaps you could clearly unpack your views and arguments. That would let us see if your disagreement --- assuming I’m not mistaken in thinking that you do disagree --- has merit, and whether it might add to our understanding about this issue.

Hi App Reader – and Spence. No, it wasn’t sarcasm, well not really. It is more (for me) a kind of exasperation. I’ll explain. It seems to me that we (ALL of us mere mortals) spend a great deal of energy maintaining a ‘me’ (an ‘I’, a ‘self’ – or ego) that is a mere mental construct. The ‘me’ has to maintain itself, has to be right and to do this it searches for certainty or some formular that helps sustain its illusory self.

And, one of the ways it does this is to form conclusions and opinions where it feels it has triumphed or settled an issue (as far as ‘me’ is concerned). In a very common way for example, to put a name to something is to the ‘me’ to have understood it, when all that it has done is just labelled it and filed it away. The ultimate response to Watts’s life and work (as an example) is that we do not really know so ‘me’ resorts to opinions.

What vexes me is that we do not seem to be aware of this process that the mind – the ‘me’ engages in and how it is often the cause of much disharmony and conflict – and I see this in many of our life’s problems. You may be totally aware of the (me) phenomenon and its processes – then I apologise for ‘my’ assumption.

Hi AR
The problem is not that Watts life and teachings are entirely separate.

It is the claim that he lived according to his teachings. That is false.

And that is why his personal life has become a subject of discussion.

Hi AR, Ron and Brian Ji

You guys don't have a problem with Woody Allen, right?

You still like watching Woody Allen movies, right?

Just like with Alan Watts?

And, AR, Ron and Brian Ji...

What about Bill Cosby, America's Dad?

We still live his shows and his stand up comedy, right? Bill was very insight about family and kids, and this formed the basis of his brilliant comedy.

His personal life should have nothing to do with enjoying his work, right?

Same, I guess with Charlie Chaplin. Everyone loves the little tramp. Just because he loved the pre-teens back has nothing to do with enjoying his performance (on screen), right?

The two are completely separate and no one should judge the work kb the basis of personal behavior, right?


.. And what about Harvey Weinstien? He produced some of the finest classics of the last thirty years... No one here has any issues watching his films, right?

Yes, almost exactly! Glad you finally understand my point, Spence. Art is separable from the artist. Politics is separate from the politician. Acting is separate from the actor. Music is separate from the musician. I read lots of books, both fiction and nonfiction. I spend zero time concerned about the author's personal life, just as until moralists on this blog started complaining about Watts, I'd spent zero time concerned about his personal life.

This is especially true when the person is dead. I'm concerned about how, say, the Radha Soami Satsang Beas guru is behaving, because he's still alive. When he is accused of making death threats, siphoning off hundreds of millions of dollars from companies, and taking land away from villagers in an unfair manner, among other things, that behavior deserves notice, because it is affecting people now.

But since Watts' philosophy is separate from his personal life, there's no value in someone like you criticizing his choices in life, since he's no longer alive. You do realize that if the life of every famous person who has used drugs, had affairs, was repeatedly divorced, or drank too much was viewed as meaningless for those reasons, we'd have to rewrite history markedly.

I think what's going on here is both religious and cultural. Religious people like yourself tend to have a top-down rigid view of morality, since what is right and wrong is considered to flow from God, and God must be obeyed. Watts talked about this a lot. The United States also happens to be a very religious nation, so the culture here often is similarly judgmental and moralistic. I have friends who came from Europe. They speak of how strange it seems to Europeans when Americans freak out over a politician having an affair. In Europe, they say, it is common for well-known men (mainly) to have a mistress. Not sure if this is true, but it fits with what I read about European ethics, which tends to be more open-minded and flexible than ours.

Spence, you do understand that Alan Watts didn't set himself up as a guru, right? He didn't expect people to follow the Commandment of Watts slavishly. I've shown how his philosophical message was compatible with the life he lived. His biographer agrees. You don't like the philosophy Watts espoused, so you're dragging to drag his personal life down so you can drag his philosophy down.

That's intellectually dishonest. It's like saying the words of Martin Luther King should be ignored because he had extramarital affairs. The FBI tried to discredit King though wiretaps and such. You do find that abhorrent, don't you, Spence? So why are you playing the same sort of game with Alan Watts? If you disagree with aspects of his philosophy, say what you disagree with and why. But don't claim that because Watts was a flawed human being like you, me, Martin Luther King, and everybody else, his philosophy was crap. See:

https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/love-life-of-martin-luther-king-jr-193f19db839

That article ends with:

"Conclusion
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a saint, he was a human. Despite his weaknesses, he was a great man, one of a kind." Just like Alan Watts was.

Hi Brian Ji
It's difficult to watch anyone hurt themselves or anyone else. And if we are sensitive to the feelings of others, and our own psychological health, we try to meet our needs without hurting them or ourselves.

And if a philosophy enables those flaws, then, yes, I guess I have a problem with the philosophy.

It's not complicated.

I was being sarcastic. I can't watch Woody's pictures any more, brilliant as they are.

If you separate someone from their work, then you can't make a moral equivalency as you have attempted to do, trying to offset their personal failings with their work accomplishments. You can't defend Alan Watts addictions on the basis of his contributions. They don't balance out. They are separate.

So, rather than try to defend the person, defend the philosophy.

It's not a perfect philosophy either, he Jay has

The great women and men are those you may never know.

And, Brian Ji...
It is precisely because drug, alcohol and sex addictions are harmful to oneself and other innocent people that they should never be excused away.

You quoted..
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a saint, he was a human. Despite his weaknesses, he was a great man, one of a kind." Just like Alan Watts was.

No. Dr. King did great things. He liberated the world. He achieved greatness But to say he was a great man would be to weigh his strengths with his weaknesses and that can never be done.

When Thomas Jefferson approached his female slaves and had children from them, did those slaves really have any choice?

Can you say Thomas Jefferson was a great man?

No. A great man doesn't do those things.

But he did accomplish great things. He changed the world for the better.

Was he a great man? No. No one can say that. He harmed people along the way, voiceless and nameless to us today.

We simply cannot judge. But we shouldn't ignore the harm.

If you are going to remember the good, remember also the harm done. Both are lessons. One doesn't erase the other.

They are separate. And therefore it is impossible to judge the man.

Did Alan Watts live according to his own philosophy?

No. Because he was a slave. He wasn't free.

@ Ron E. [ The ultimate response to Watts’s life and work (as an example) is that we do not really know so ‘me’ resorts to opinions... What vexes me is that we do not seem to be aware of this process that the mind – the ‘me’ engages in and how it is often the cause of much disharmony and conflict – and I see this in many of our life’s problems. ]

Actually, the "real me" is not the mischievous villain in
the scene. How often alien feeling "judgments" crop up
though or kneejerk reactions pounce and leave us
gobsmacked. The "false me" silently weeps while the
mastermind -the mind itself- lurks guiltily.

The issue is not the real "me" which is just the observer.
The mental construct -the false, scapegoated "me"- gets
the blame. Then, with a quick shift of the hustler's wrist,
real me is tricked into identifying with the false me.

The solution, as you've hinted, is in heightened aware-
ness. The mystic pursues a discipline to raise this
awareness and uncover the real "me" (which is a power
not a mental construct) to prevent being hoodwinked
ever again. Or, you can hone mindfulness to try to nab
the scapegoater in the act... again and again, 24x7.
Good luck.

Hi Ron
You wrote
"What vexes me is that we do not seem to be aware of this process that the mind – the ‘me’ engages in and how it is often the cause of much disharmony and conflict – and I see this in many of our life’s problems. You may be totally aware of the (me) phenomenon and its processes – then I apologise for ‘my’ assumption."

Let's say for the moment that Watts, Brian Ji, AR, Tendzin, Dungeness, you and I all are sincerely looking to the light of liberation we sense within. And that light, as best we can follow it, has helped us to live.

But it is vague in some ways beyond thought. The mind has a tendency to fill in the blanks with its own ideas about that light. But the mind is a machine coded by our conditioning. That is individual, and so its telling of the tale is going to be a little different for each of us. When we compare notes, we see differences. And that becomes the basis of argument.

You can't really have a pitched battle, though, if you understand this.

Where you see people get defensive and double down, there is ego.

We all have our issues with ego as well.

Ultimately we argue with the version of the other's position as best we understand it. The version our mind creates. We aren't even arguing with each other. We are really arguing with ourselves. And so this reflects the shattered self, our own consciousnes shattered into so many mirrored pieces, each reflecting a part of our own mind we presume to be "the other".

As Dungeness mentioned, you can withdraw from all that because the seat of your consciousness isn't actually your mind. Your mind is the program you are running, not the processor itself.

Your consciousness sits quietly in the background largely unconscious of itself, occupied with mind. Your consciousness is fueling mind, diligently serving mind.

Of course mind has gone mad without a leader. It is keeping all these plates spinning atop straws that you told it to simply by attending to these different notions. Mind was supposed to be the servant of consciousness. It's trying to follow you. But you are hooked on arguing with all these fractured pieces of yourself.

Withdraw from mind into worship, devotion, practice, and all the fractured pieces evaporate. It is a natural experience of purification and transcendence. And part of every day meditation.

Then everyone is right, everyone is a little part of the window to the one light. What you are looking at is yourself.

Good comments D'ness and Spencer. And a timely reminder here.

Hello, Ron. Okay, I get now where you're coming from. (Your comment addressed to me.)

That takes this discussion beyond the scope of this thread, and has nothing at all to do with Alan Watts, but still, I'd like to comment on your POV here, if I may:


I'm not sure why exactly you're referring to our sense of self as illusory.

Now we haven't interacted much, you and I, and never about this subject as far as I remember, so let me say, right off, that I don't subscribe to the eternal-soul belief, and concur with what science points towards, which is that our sense of self is an artifact of our body-mind complex. So with that qualification out of the way, here's where I'm coming from:

Sure, our sense of self is an emergent property of our body-mind complex, and our mind itself a function of the complexity represented by our brain and neural system and symbiotic bacteria and so forth. But I don't see, at all, how that makes it "illusory".

I mean, at one time we didn't know what "we" are. We made up all kinds of wild stories about this "we" thing. Now, thanks to science, we've started getting a tentative idea of what we might be. But because we've understood what we are (or might be), and because it is not the eternal (or at least substantial) thing that religions teach, it is not, therefore, "illusory". It is what it is.

You get me, right? We'd see matter, in ages past, as some kind of solid substantial thing. Today we know that matter, even solid matter, consists of a relatively very small collection of very small particles and the rest huge vast empty space; and indeed, even those particles are some stochastic wave function that can hardly qualify even as "particles". So fine, we've understood, to an extent, what solid matter is. But that doesn't make solid matter not solid, does it? We just know a bit better what it is. And thus with this self thing. We now know what it is, and realize it is an emergent property of our body (and our mind, which itself is an emergent property of our nervous system and brain and the symbiotes that populate our bodies). How on earth does that make this thing "illusory"?

And that thing about our sense of self being held together by creating constructs, where does that come from? I mean, I know where that comes from, it comes from Buddhism, but objectively speaking, does that make sense? Our sense of self is a survival mechanism that evolution has equipped us with. I don't see any reason to want to "weaken" it; and nor, in any case, that not creating concepts would "weaken" it any. (Sure, we need to guard against forming concepts that aren't borne out by evidence, absolutely; but what has that got to do with our sense of self?)

And finally, I don't see why you say that the ultimate response to the Alan Watts question is that we don't know, or why you imply that that is where we should leave it be. Like many things we do not know, why shouldn't we, if the question interests us, try to find out, objectively, what we can? Sure, we must guard against running away with unwarranted conclusions, absolutely; but that does not make the project of finding out what we can a fool's errand, does it now?


----------


Sorry, like I said I realize this is off-topic, and I'll refrain from taking this further beyond this one single comment. But I'd be interested in reading your response, if you'd like to post one comment clarifying your POV further in light of what I've said here.

Hi, Spence. That's a great follow-on, actually, your question about how we might view the works of the Roman Polanskis and Woody Allens and Harvey Weinsteins and Kevin Spaceys --- and for that matter the Hitlers --- of the world. Entirely apposite, given the direction our discussion on Alan Watts has gone off in of late.

This is a controversial subject, obviously, and, I don't know, deeper introspection, or maybe being exposed to others' POVs and arguments, might end up my changing my position --- I say this because I don't know that I've deliberated much over this question in the past --- but sitting where I am, this is the POV that seems reasonable to me at this point. I'll break it down into separate parts for clarity.


1. Their personal failings don't impact any worth their art might have. Not even someone like Hitler.

2. At this point, it might be important to clarify the nature of the work. So that, if we're discussing a work on political philosophy written by a Hitler, or a treatise on corporate ethics or personal relationships written by a Weinstein, then absolutely, their personal lives would be relevant. But if we're talking about something entirely unrelated, then no, their personal failings don't impact any worth their work might have.

3. That said, we don't really owe even a bona fide artist, and for that matter even a bona fide genius, recognition and fame and fortune from the fruits of their talent/genius/art. There is no contradiction if we should, even while recognizing the merit of someone's work, choose not to enrich them or their estates by buying their work. That is a political decision, and is independent of our appreciation of their work.

4. All of that said, I have to admit, at a gut level, at a level beyond what I've tried to reason out here, to an extent a person's personal failings might indeed impact my appreciation of their work --- I don't mean milquetoast and not even criminal failings of an Alan Watts, but I mean if I come up against something extreme, like a brilliant piece of art created by Hitler. I realize that would be an ad hominem fallacy, but at some extreme end I guess I'd still be susceptible to it, to an extent, if I'm to be fully honest here.

5. And finally, I have to say, there's a difference between how we might look at "art", and how we might look at things factual. So that it would be silly to reject the work of a physicist even if it turns out that they'd been fascist monsters; but it is conceivable that some otherwise brilliant piece of art or literature they've composed might leave me cold, if their personal failings were monstrous enough.


----------


I've not put in too much "work" into arriving at this POV, other than five or ten minutes of introspection, so like I said it is conceivable that I might have occasion to review my views on this basis other POVs and arguments I might come across in future. But still, such as it is, this is my considered view on this at this point. And thanks for bringing out this nuance, as logically it is indeed of a part with the Alan Watts question, and made for great food for thought.

Briefly, my view is that the mind is the accumulation of information in the brain from birth and from this store of data a self or me is inferred along with thought and memory – all the mental (non-physical) elements that emerge from the brain.

The self then is a construct that emerged from the mind and is composed of ad hoc information derived from one’s time and culture. In this sense it is illusory, illusory in that it is not what it seems in that it is widely believed to be a distinct entity, a type of homunculus running the show – and sometimes even a soul! For me it’s a question of identity, ‘who am I’, and I don’t think I am my information – as valuable and necessary as it is for our survival. It’s not a case of ‘weakening’ it, but understanding it.

And can we really know Watts and what drove him to live the way he did? There must be a million factors that go to make a person what he/she is. Of course, we can ask questions and form opinions of Watts’s words and morals (mostly from what others have said) but I still don’t know Watts – only my opinion of him, which says more about me than it does of Watts.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Welcome


  • Welcome to the Church of the Churchless. If this is your first visit, click on "About this site--start here" in the Categories section below.
  • HinesSight
    Visit my other weblog, HinesSight, for a broader view of what's happening in the world of your Church unpastor, his wife, and dog.
  • BrianHines.com
    Take a look at my web site, which contains information about a subject of great interest to me: me.
  • Twitter with me
    Join Twitter and follow my tweets about whatever.
  • I Hate Church of the Churchless
    Can't stand this blog? Believe the guy behind it is an idiot? Rant away on our anti-site.