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Alan Watts–Here and Now

Contributions to Psychology, Philosophy, and Religion

Peter J. Columbus, Donadrian L. Rice

Publication Year: 2012

Considers the contributions and contemporary significance of Alan Watts. Alan Watts—Here and Now explores the intellectual legacy and continuing relevance of a prolific writer and speaker who was a major influence on American culture during the latter half of the twentieth century. A thinker attuned to the spiritual malaise affecting the Western mind, Watts (1915–1973) provided intellectual and spiritual alternatives that helped shape the Beat culture of the 1950s and the counterculture of the 1960s. Well known for introducing Buddhist and Daoist spirituality to a wide Western audience, he also wrote on psychology, mysticism, and psychedelic experience. Many idolized Watts as a guru-mystic, yet he was also dismissed as intellectually shallow and as a mere popularizer of Asian religions (the “Norman Vincent Peale of Zen”). Both critical and appreciative, this edited volume locates Watts at the forefront of major paradigmatic shifts in Western intellectual life. Contributors explore how Watts’s work resonates in present-day scholarship on psychospiritual transformation, Buddhism and psychotherapy, Daoism in the West, phenomenology and hermeneutics, humanistic and transpersonal psychology, mysticism, and ecofeminism, among other areas.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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p. vii-vii

The inspiration and idea for this book came to light in the sacred clearing that is the Unitarian Universalist Rowe Conference Center in Rowe, Massachusetts. Sincere appreciation to Rev. Douglas Wilson, Pru Berry, Felicity Pickett, and the staff of the Rowe Center for maintaining a remarkable sanctuary. Infi nite gratitude goes to our contributors and their readiness to write ...


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p. ix-ix

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Introduction: A New Look at Alan Watts

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pp. 1-24

This book is a call to remembrance and an opportunity for reconsidering the life and work of Alan Watts. Writing a mere fifteen years after Watts’ untimely demise, Michael Brannigan (1988) suggested that Alan’s “place in our history remains to be ascertained. We are still too close to the events of his life and to his writings to perceive their full impact, but his infl uence has thus far been ...

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Chapter One. Alan Watts’ Anticipation of Four Major Debates in the Psychology of Religion

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pp. 25-42

It is appropriate in a volume dedicated to the work and influence of Alan Watts that academics evaluate a man who many in the academy dismissed as a mere popularizer of topics in religion, which some claimed he lacked the credentials to treat with proper depth. In his autobiography, Watts (1973) admitted to the charge of “popularizer” and to the horror of academics who largely ignored ...

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Chapter Two. Alan Watts: The Immediate Magic of God

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pp. 43-58

Alan Watts had an abiding fascination with Rowan Tree Cottage in Holbrook Lane, Chislehurst, in the county of Kent, his home for more than twenty years before he left England for the United States. The drawing room in the cottage was a place of sheer magic for him long before he learned a language to explain its fascination. His mother taught the children of missionaries and this room contained gifts from their parents, Asian treasures gathered on their ...

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Chapter Three. Phenomenological Exegeses of Alan Watts:Transcendental and Hermeneutic Strategies

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pp. 59-82

The sensibilities of twenty-first–century scholarship seem to require a statement of reflexivity by the author of a text. This means readers should be advised that information is being rendered to effectively structure the manuscript they are perusing, and this interpreted knowledge may be an artifact of an approach that is nuanced by personal experience, social and cultural ...

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Chapter Four. The Psychedelic Adventures of Alan Watts

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pp. 83-102

In 1963, I presented an extremely controversial paper at an international conference on general semantics at New York University. The presentation concerned LSD-type substances and how, if administered properly, they could help a person reestablish contact with what general semanticists call the “extensional world:” those aspects of nature that each culture fi lters and constructs ...

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Chapter Five. From the Joyous Cosmology to the Watercourse Way:An Appreciation of Alan Watts

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pp. 103-122

My first encounters with Alan Watts occurred via the Psychedelic Research Project under the direction of Timothy Leary at Harvard University. The research program originated when Leary happened upon psychedelics while vacationing in Mexico during summer 1960. He tried “sacred mushrooms” at the suggestion of psychologist Frank Barron and had a profoundly ...

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Chapter Six. Alan Watts and the Neuroscience of Transcendence

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pp. 123-148

Among the central aims of neuroscience researchers are (a) to determine what neural activities afford particular behaviors and mental states, and (b) to describe changes in the structure and function of the brain due to experience. Because of advances in brain-imaging techniques and other measurement strategies, neuroscientists are now able to explore in fi ner detail areas ...

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Chapter Seven. Listening to the Rain:Embodied Awareness in Watts

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pp. 149-162

In his wonderfully written autobiography, In My Own Way, Alan Watts quotes Zenroshi Morimoto who says “The sound of rain needs no translation” (Watts, 1972, p. 386).1 What matters is simply listening—not translating, interpreting, deciphering, not sidetracking attention from an encounter that is bodily and sensual. Listening is a confluence of impressions as when a “soft rain” ...

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Chapter Eight. Alan Watts on Nature, Gender, and Sexuality:A Contemporary View

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pp. 163-182

Alan W. Watts, in his best-selling books, radio programs, lectures, and workshops in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, had far more infl uence than any other student of “the East” on American thought about nature, gender, and sexuality. Three points Watts made are particularly interesting because they presaged what later became a popular point of view or started a trend within the ...

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Chapter Nine. Contributions and Conundrums in the Psychospiritual Transformation of Alan Watts

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pp. 183-202

The writings and lectures of Alan Watts elucidate a vision of psychospiritual transformation that is at once comprehensible and profound. Comprised of expositions on Eastern philosophy interpreted through his own Western enculturation, his work sheds light on presuppositions that guide philosophical and psychological inquiry, offering valuable critical perspectives on ...

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Chapter Ten. Buddhist Wisdom in the West: A Fifty-Year Perspective on the Contributions of Alan Watts

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pp. 203-219

As a student of Indian and Comparative Philosophy in the mid-1960s, I witnessed the encounter between Asian wisdom and American culture from a particular perspective—that of the scholar and philosopher in the Academy. At conferences I listened to philosophers and linguists discoursing on topics like “knowledge” and “reality” and the epistemological implications of ...

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Chapter Eleven. Watercourse Way: Still Flowing with Alan Watts

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pp. 219-232

After nearly a decade of collaborative teaching at various seminars and retreat centers with my mentor and friend, Alan Watts, I was honored to help on his book devoted to the essence of Daoism (Watts, 1975). It was a most inspiring and joyous period of our kindred sharing as close colleagues. I had long admired his genius of writing about the unwritable. Alan’s insights ...


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pp. 233-236


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pp. 237-253

E-ISBN-13: 9781438442013
E-ISBN-10: 1438442017
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438441993
Print-ISBN-10: 1438441991

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 1 figure
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: SUNY series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology