Thank you, Sam Harris. As of January 1, he's arranged to have about 100 hours of recorded talks by Alan Watts put on his Waking Up app.
I've read just about of all of Watts' books. Some I've read numerous times, notably The Wisdom of Insecurity, one of my favorite books.
The recordings are arranged in categories: Tao of Philosophy, Philosophies of Asia, Myth & Religion, Philosophy & Society, Comparative Philosophy, Ways of Liberation, Religion of No Religion, Eastern & Western Zen, Taoism, Zen & Meditation, Comparative Religion, Early Radio Talks, Human Consciousness, Buddhism, Spiritual Alchemy, The Arts, The Future, The Self, The Universe.
I suspect there's considerable overlap between the various recordings, but I'll learn if that's true as I make my way through them. I'm starting with Tao of Philosophy, described as "Explore the limits of language, man and nature, the illusion of control, the myth of the self, and more."
Today I finished listening to a 54 minute talk, Not What Should Be. Here's a summary based on notes I took. Watts is an excellent speaker, who spoke without notes, according to a short introduction by Harris.
We have a false sense of personal identity, which creates a profound discord between man and nature. Actually, the environment is not something other than ourselves. Yet we make the mistake of viewing intelligence as being inside us, while outside is just a blind mechanism.
People say of a baby, it came into this world. In truth, we come out of this world. Our head is as much a part of the environment as our body.
Education leads us to view reality as made up of discrete lines/facts, linear scanning. Yet in the universe everything happens together all at once. We confuse the world as it is with how the world is described.
"I" is a symbol of ourselves. The real you is the universe centered on your organism. Your behavior is part of the environment. There's a continual push-pull between organism and environment.
A sense of cosmic consciousness causes us to say either "I do everything" or "I do nothing." There's just a single process going on, so both points of view are right.
Our sense of ourself is very limited. If we're asked what our childhood was like, we'll relate a few stories. But that's just a vanishingly small proportion of what actually happened during those years. We know nothing of how our heart beats, what is being secreted by our glands, the operation of our stomach, liver, and other organs.
Thus we have an impoverished image of ourselves. The unconscious is a mystery. We're full of illusions. Our history leaves out most of what happened. All I have is a caricature of myself, a skeleton. It's no wonder we feel so inadequate.
We hope for a divine event that will change our viewpoint. Yet we fail to realize that our "I" is an illusion. Any attempt to change ourselves through effort is bound to fail.
When you will, you grit your teeth. Muscular tension accompanies our effort. Try! We strain with the thought of gaining a psychological benefit. "I" is marked by chronic tension. When an organ is fully functioning, we are unaware of it. It's only when something goes strong that we're aware of our stomach, say.
The big difficulty is that I want to find a method to improve myself. But the self to be improved is that which is doing the improving. Unloving me has to make me into loving me. So I hope God will improve me.
In Zen many feel that it takes hard work to get rid of ego. The biggest ego trip is getting rid of ego. Actually ego is an illusion. Mystical experience is a gift of God. You can't do anything about it because you don't exist.
There is no method. Good news! The main obstacle to mystical realization has collapsed: you. You can't control thoughts and feelings. They are you.
Do you breathe? Do you see? There are just happenings. You can only preach to ego. I just talk about what it is. And I get paid for doing this.
The hallucination of ego disappears only in recognition of our own futility. You can't control your own mind. Quietness naturally comes over you when there is no controller. The experiencer of experience is just experience.
In nature there's just knowing. Not "I am feeling." There is feeling there. Just a happening. That space is meditation.
Don't try to get rid of mind chatter. This just keeps up the illusion of a controller. Eventually there is silence when thoughts and feelings are allowed to be like clouds appearing and disappearing in the sky.
Reality isn't material or spiritual. That's just an idea. You are this universe. Other people's doings are your doings. If you're going to say "I'm God," you must allow it for everybody else too. This was the mistake of Christianity. Only Jesus supposedly was godlike.
There are endless games of spiritual competition. My guru is better than your guru. My yoga is better than your yoga. You are this universe. The universe is still beginning now.
Lastly, here's an actual transcript of part of Watts' talk dealing with the idea of us being a caricature of ourselves. He starts off talking about the richness of his present-moment experience talking to a large group of people, and how different it is when he's asked to describe what he did that evening.
Instead of this rich physical experience, which is very rich indeed, I have to attenuate it in memory and description... So, therefore, in thinking of ourselves in this way, what I did yesterday, what I did the day before, in terms of this stringy, mangy account. All I have is a caricature of myself.
...We are, as it were, conceiving of ourselves as a bunch of skeletons. And there's no flesh on them, just a bunch of bones. And no wonder we all feel inadequate.
We're all looking to the future. To bring us a goodie. We know what we want to have is a golden goodie at the end of the line somewhere. There's a good time coming be it ever so far away, that one far-off divine event toward which creation moves.
We hope. And therefore we say of something that's no good, it has no future. I would say, it has no present. But everyone says it has no future. No.
Here we are, as it were, psychically starved. And always therefore looking, looking, seeking, seeking, seeking. And this confused seeking is going on everywhere. We don't know what we want.
Nobody knows what they want. We say what we want in vague terms. Pleasure, money, wealth, love, fulfillment, personal development. But we don't know what we mean by all that.