|Born||Alan Wilson Watts
(1915-01-06)6 January 1915
Chislehurst, Kent, England
|Died||16 November 1973(1973-11-16) (aged 58)
Mt. Tamalpais, California, United States
|Nationality||British and American|
Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, England, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master's degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest in 1945, then left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.
Watts gained a large following in the San Francisco Bay Area while working as a volunteer programmer at KPFA, a Pacifica Radio station in Berkeley. Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to Eastern and Western religion, introducing the then-burgeoning youth culture to The Way of Zen (1957), one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism. In Psychotherapy East and West (1961), Watts proposed that Buddhism could be thought of as a form of psychotherapy and not a religion. He considered Nature, Man and Woman (1958) to be, "from a literary point of view—the best book I have ever written." He also explored human consciousness, in the essay "The New Alchemy" (1958), and in the book The Joyous Cosmology (1962).
Towards the end of his life, he divided his time between a houseboat in Sausalito and a cabin on Mount Tamalpais. Many of his books are now available in digital format and many of his recorded talks and lectures are available on the Internet. According to the critic Erik Davis, his "writings and recorded talks still shimmer with a profound and galvanizing lucidity."
- 1 Early years
- 2 Middle years
- 3 Later years
- 4 Death
- 5 Views
- 6 Personal life
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 In popular culture
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Watts was born to middle class parents in the village of Chislehurst, Kent (now south-east London), in 1915, living at 3 (now 5) Holbrook Lane, which was subsequently lived in by author John Hemming-Clark in the early 2000s. Watts' father, Laurence Wilson Watts, was a representative for the London office of the Michelin Tyre Company; his mother, Emily Mary Watts (née Buchan), was a housewife whose father had been a missionary. With modest financial means, they chose to live in pastoral surroundings and Alan, an only child, grew up playing at brookside, learning the names of wildflowers and butterflies. Probably because of the influence of his mother's religious family the Buchans, an interest in "ultimate things" seeped in. But it mixed with Alan's own interests in storybook fables and romantic tales of the mysterious Far East.
Watts also later wrote of a mystical dream he experienced while ill with a fever as a child. During this time he was influenced by Far Eastern landscape paintings and embroideries that had been given to his mother by missionaries returning from China. The few Chinese paintings Watts was able to see in England riveted him, and he wrote "I was aesthetically fascinated with a certain clarity, transparency, and spaciousness in Chinese and Japanese art. It seemed to float...". These works of art emphasized the participatory relationship of man in nature, a theme that stood fast throughout his life, and one that he often writes about. See, for instance, the last chapter in The Way of Zen.
By his own assessment, Watts was imaginative, headstrong, and talkative. He was sent to boarding schools (which included both academic and religious training of the Muscular Christianity sort) from early years. Of this religious training, he remarked "Throughout my schooling my religious indoctrination was grim and maudlin…"
Watts spent several holidays in France in his teen years, accompanied by Francis Croshaw, a wealthy Epicurean with strong interests in both Buddhism and exotic little-known aspects of European culture. It was not long afterward that Watts felt forced to decide between the Anglican Christianity he had been exposed to and the Buddhism he had read about in various libraries, including Croshaw's. He chose Buddhism, and sought membership in the London Buddhist Lodge, which had been established by Theosophists, and was now run by the barrister Christmas Humphreys. Watts became the organization's secretary at 16 (1931). The young Watts explored several styles of meditation during these years.
Watts attended The King's School, Canterbury next door to Canterbury Cathedral. Though he was frequently at the top of his classes scholastically and was given responsibilities at school, he botched an opportunity for a scholarship to Oxford by styling a crucial examination essay in a way that was read as "presumptuous and capricious."
When he left secondary school, Watts worked in a printing house and later a bank. He spent his spare time involved with the Buddhist Lodge and also under the tutelage of a "rascal guru" named Dimitrije MitrinoviÄ. (MitrinoviÄ was himself influenced by Peter Demianovich Ouspensky, G. I. Gurdjieff, and the varied psychoanalytical schools of Freud, Jung and Adler.) Watts also read widely in philosophy, history, psychology, psychiatry and Eastern wisdom. By his own reckoning, and also by that of his biographer Monica Furlong, Watts was primarily an autodidact. His involvement with the Buddhist Lodge in London afforded Watts a considerable number of opportunities for personal growth. Through Humphreys, he contacted eminent spiritual authors (e.g. the artist, scholar, and mystic Nicholas Roerich, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, and prominent theosophists like Alice Bailey).
In 1936, aged 21, he attended the World Congress of Faiths at the University of London, heard D. T. Suzuki read a paper, and afterwards was able to meet this esteemed scholar of Zen Buddhism. Beyond these discussions and personal encounters, Watts absorbed, by studying the available scholarly literature, the fundamental concepts and terminology of the main philosophies of India and East Asia.
Influences and first publication
Watts's fascination with the Zen (or Ch'an) tradition—beginning during the 1930s—developed because that tradition embodied the spiritual, interwoven with the practical, as exemplified in the subtitle of his Spirit of Zen: A Way of Life, Work, and Art in the Far East. "Work", "life", and "art" were not demoted due to a spiritual focus. In his writing, he referred to it as "the great Ch'an (or Zen) synthesis of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism after 700 CE in China." Watts published his first book, The Spirit of Zen, in 1936. Two decades later, in The Way of Zen he disparaged The Spirit of Zen as a "popularisation of Suzuki's earlier works, and besides being very unscholarly it is in many respects out of date and misleading."
Watts married Eleanor Everett, whose mother Ruth Fuller Everett was involved with a traditional Zen Buddhist circle in New York. Ruth Fuller later married the Zen master (or "roshi"), Sokei-an Sasaki, who served as a sort of model and mentor to Watts, though he chose not to enter into a formal Zen training relationship with Sasaki. During these years, according to his later writings, Watts had another mystical experience while on a walk with his wife. In 1938 Watts and his wife left England to live in the United States. Watts became a United States citizen in 1943.
Christian priest and after
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Watts left formal Zen training in New York because the method of the teacher did not suit him. He was not ordained as a Zen monk, but he felt a need to find a vocational outlet for his philosophical inclinations. He entered Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, an Episcopal (Anglican) school in Evanston, Illinois, where he studied Christian scriptures, theology, and church history. He attempted to work out a blend of contemporary Christian worship, mystical Christianity, and Asian philosophy. Watts was awarded a master's degree in theology in response to his thesis, which he published as a popular edition under the title Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion. He later published Myth & Ritual in Christianity (1953), an eisegesis of traditional Roman Catholic doctrine and ritual in Buddhist terms. However, the pattern was set, in that Watts did not hide his dislike for religious outlooks that he decided were dour, guilt-ridden, or militantly proselytizing—no matter if they were found within Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism.
As recounted in his autobiography, Alan was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1945 (aged 30) and resigned the ministry by 1950, partly as a result of an extramarital affair which resulted in his wife having their marriage annulled, but also because he could no longer reconcile his Buddhist beliefs with the formal doctrine of the church. He spent the New Year getting to know Joseph Campbell and Campbell's wife, Jean Erdman; as well as John Cage, the notable composer.
In early 1951, Watts moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco. Here he taught from 1951 to 1957 alongside SaburÅ Hasegawa (1906–1957), Frederic Spiegelberg, Haridas Chaudhuri, lama Tada TÅkan (1890–1967), and various visiting experts and professors. Hasegawa, in particular, served as a teacher to Watts in the areas of Japanese customs, arts, primitivism, and perceptions of nature. It was during this time he met the poet, Jean Burden whom he called an "important influence." Alan placed a "cryptograph" crediting her in his book "Nature, Man and Woman" to which he alludes in his autobiography (p. 297). Besides teaching, Watts served for several years as the Academy's administrator. One notable student of his was Eugene Rose, who later went on to become a noted Orthodox Christian hieromonk and controversial theologian within the Orthodox Church in America under the jurisdiction of ROCOR. Rose's own disciple, a fellow monastic priest published under the name Hieromonk Damascene, produced a book entitled Christ the Eternal Tao, in which the author draws parallels between the concept of the Tao in Chinese philosophy and the concept of the Logos in classical Greek philosophy and Eastern Christian theology.
Watts also studied written Chinese and practiced Chinese brush calligraphy with Hasegawa as well as with some of the Chinese students who enrolled at the academy. While Watts was noted for an interest in Zen Buddhism, his reading and discussions delved into Vedanta, "the new physics", cybernetics, semantics, process philosophy, natural history, and the anthropology of sexuality.
After heading up the Academy for a few years, Watts left the faculty for a freelance career in the mid-1950s. In 1953, he began what became a long-running weekly radio program at Pacifica Radio station KPFA in Berkeley. Like other volunteer programmers at the listener-sponsored station, Watts was not paid for his broadcasts. These weekly broadcasts continued until 1962, by which time he had attracted a "legion of regular listeners". Watts continued to give numerous talks and seminars, recordings of which were broadcast on KPFA and other radio stations during his life. These recordings are broadcast to this day. (For example, in 1970 Watts lectures were broadcast on Sunday mornings on San Francisco radio station KSAN; and even today a number of radio stations continue to have an Alan Watts program in their weekly program schedules.) Original tapes of his broadcasts and talks are currently held by the Pacifica Radio Archives, based at KPFK in Los Angeles, and at the Electronic University archive founded by his son, Mark Watts.
In 1957 Watts, then 42, published one of his best known books, The Way of Zen, which focused on philosophical explication and history. Besides drawing on the lifestyle and philosophical background of Zen, in India and China, Watts introduced ideas drawn from general semantics (directly from the writings of Alfred Korzybski) and also from Norbert Wiener's early work on cybernetics, which had recently been published. Watts offered analogies from cybernetic principles possibly applicable to the Zen life. The book sold well, eventually becoming a modern classic, and helped widen his lecture circuit.
In the 1960s, Watts became increasingly interested in how identifiable patterns in nature tend to repeat themselves from the smallest of scales to the most immense. This became one of his passions in his research and thought.
Though never affiliated for long with any one academic institution, he was Professor of Comparative Philosophy at the California Institute of Integral Studies (as mentioned above), had a fellowship at Harvard University (1962–64), and was a Scholar at San Jose State University (1968). He also lectured to many college and university students as well as the general public. His lectures and books gave him far-reaching influence on the American intelligentsia of the 1950s–1970s, but he was often seen as an outsider in academia. When questioned sharply by students during his talk at University of California, Santa Cruz in 1970, Watts responded, as he had from the early sixties, that he was not an academic philosopher but rather "a philosophical entertainer."
Some of Watts’ writings published in 1958 (e.g., his book Nature, Man and Woman and his essay "The New Alchemy") mentioned some of his early views on the use of psychedelic drugs for mystical insight. Watts had begun to experiment with psychedelics, initially with mescaline given to him by Oscar Janiger. He tried LSD several times in 1958, with various research teams led by Keith S. Ditman, Sterling Bunnell, Jr., and Michael Agron. He also tried marijuana and concluded that it was a useful and interesting psychoactive drug that gave the impression of time slowing down. Watts' books of the '60s reveal the influence of these chemical adventures on his outlook. He later said about psychedelic drug use, "If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen."
For a time, Watts came to prefer writing in the language of modern science and psychology (Psychotherapy East and West is a good example),[tone] finding a parallel between mystical experiences and the theories of the material universe proposed by 20th-century physicists. He later equated mystical experience with ecological awareness, and typically emphasized whichever approach seemed best suited to the audience he was addressing.
Watts sometimes alluded to a group of neighbors in Druid Heights (near Mill Valley, California) who had endeavored to combine architecture, gardening, and carpentry skills to make a beautiful and comfortable life for themselves. These neighbors accomplished this by relying on their own talents and using their own hands, as they lived in what has been called "shared bohemian poverty". Druid Heights was founded by the writer Elsa Gidlow, and Watts dedicated his book The Joyous Cosmology to the people of this neighborhood. He later dedicated his autobiography to Elsa Gidlow, for whom he held a great affection.
Regarding his intentions, Watts attempted to lessen the alienation that accompanies the experience of being human that he felt plagued the modern Westerner, and (like his fellow British expatriate and friend, Aldous Huxley) to lessen the ill will that was an unintentional by-product of alienation from the natural world. He felt such teaching could improve the world, at least to a degree. He also articulated the possibilities for greater incorporation of aesthetics (for example: better architecture, more art, more fine cuisine) in American life. In his autobiography he wrote, "… cultural renewal comes about when highly differentiated cultures mix".
In his last novel, Island (1962), Aldous Huxley mentions the religious practice of maithuna as being something like what Roman Catholics call "coitus reservatus". A few years before, Watts had discussed the theme in his own book, Nature, Man and Woman, in which he discusses the possibility of the practice being known to early Christians and of it being kept secretly by the Church.
In his writings of the 1950s, he conveyed his admiration for the practicality in the historical achievements of Chán (Zen) in the Far East, for it had fostered farmers, architects, builders, folk physicians, artists, and administrators among the monks who had lived in the monasteries of its lineages. In his mature work, he presents himself as "Zennist" in spirit as he wrote in his last book, Tao: The Watercourse Way. Child rearing, the arts, cuisine, education, law and freedom, architecture, sexuality, and the uses and abuses of technology were all of great interest to him. Though known for his Zen teachings, he was also influenced by ancient Hindu scriptures, especially Vedanta, and spoke extensively about the nature of the divine reality which Man misses: how the contradiction of opposites is the method of life and the means of cosmic and human evolution; how our fundamental Ignorance is rooted in the exclusive nature of mind and ego; how to come in touch with the Field of Consciousness and Light, and other cosmic principles. These are discussed in great detail in dozens of hours of audio that are in part captured in the 'Out of Your Mind' series.
Watts sought to resolve his feelings of alienation from the institutions of marriage and the values of American society, as revealed in his classic comments on love relationships in "Divine Madness" and on perception of the organism-environment in "The Philosophy of Nature". In looking at social issues he was quite concerned with the necessity for international peace, for tolerance and understanding among disparate cultures. He also came to feel acutely conscious of a growing ecological predicament; writing, for example, in the early 1960s: "Can any melting or burning imaginable get rid of these ever-rising mountains of ruin—especially when the things we make and build are beginning to look more and more like rubbish even before they are thrown away?" These concerns were later expressed in a television pilot made for NET (National Educational Television) filmed at his mountain retreat in 1971 in which he noted that the single track of conscious attention was wholly inadequate for interactions with a multi-tracked world.
In October 1973, Watts returned from a European lecture tour to his cabin in Druid Heights. Friends of Watts had been concerned about him for some time over what they considered his excessive alcohol consumption. On 16 November 1973, he died in his sleep. He was reported to have been under treatment for a heart condition. His body was cremated shortly thereafter. His ashes were split with half buried near his library at Druid Heights and half at the Green Gulch Monastery.
Watts disliked much in the conventional idea of "progress". He hoped for change, but he preferred amiable, semi-isolated rural social enclaves, and also believed in tolerance for social misfits and eccentric artists. Watts decried the suburbanization of the countryside and the way of life that went with it. In one campus lecture tour, which Watts titled "The End to the Put-Down of Man", Watts presented positive images for both nature and humanity, spoke in favor of the various stages of human development (including the teenage years), reproached excessive cynicism and rivalry, and extolled intelligent creativity, good architecture and food.
In regards to his ethical outlook, Watts felt that absolute morality had nothing to do with the fundamental realization of one's deep spiritual identity. He advocated social rather than personal ethics. In his writings, Watts was increasingly concerned with ethics applied to relations between humanity and the natural environment and between governments and citizens. He wrote out of an appreciation of a racially and culturally diverse social landscape.
He often said that he wished to act as a bridge between the ancient and the modern, between East and West, and between culture and nature.
In several of his later publications, especially Beyond Theology and The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Watts put forward a worldview, drawing on Hinduism, Chinese philosophy, pantheism or panentheism, and modern science, in which he maintains that the whole universe consists of a cosmic Self playing hide-and-seek (Lila); hiding from itself (Maya) by becoming all the living and non-living things in the universe and forgetting what it really is – the upshot being that we are all IT in disguise. In this worldview, Watts asserts that our conception of ourselves as an "ego in a bag of skin," or "skin-encapsulated ego" is a myth; the entities we call the separate "things" are merely aspects or features of the whole.
Watts' books frequently include discussions reflecting his keen interest in patterns that occur in nature and which are repeated in various ways and at a wide range of scales – including the patterns to be discerned in the history of civilizations.
Supporters and critics
Watts's explorations and teaching brought him into contact with many noted intellectuals, artists, and American teachers in the human potential movement. His friendship with poet Gary Snyder nurtured his sympathies with the budding environmental movement, to which Watts gave philosophical support. He also encountered Robert Anton Wilson, who credited Watts with being one of his "Light[s] along the Way" in the opening appreciation of Cosmic Trigger. Werner Erhard attended workshops given by Alan Watts and said of him, "He pointed me toward what I now call the distinction between Self and Mind. After my encounter with Alan, the context in which I was working shifted."
Watts has been criticized by Buddhists such as Philip Kapleau and D. T. Suzuki for allegedly misinterpreting several key Zen Buddhist concepts. In particular, he drew criticism from those who believe that zazen must entail a strict and specific means of sitting, as opposed to a cultivated state of mind available at any moment in any situation. Typical of these is Kapleau's claim that Watts dismissed zazen on the basis of only half a koan. In regard to the aforementioned koan, Robert Baker Aitken reports that Suzuki told him, "I regret to say that Mr. Watts did not understand that story." In his talks, Watts addressed the issue of defining zazen practice by saying, "A cat sits until it is tired of sitting, then gets up, stretches, and walks away".
Watts’s biographers saw him, after his stint as an Anglican priest, as representative of no religion but as a lone-wolf thinker and social rascal. In David Stuart’s warts-and-all biography of the man, Watts is seen as an unusually gifted speaker and writer driven by his own interests, enthusiasms, and demons. Elsa Gidlow, whom Alan called "sister," refused to be interviewed for this work but later painted a kinder picture of Alan's life in her own autobiography, "Elsa, I Come With My Songs."
However, Watts did have his supporters in the Zen community, including Shunryu Suzuki, the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center. As David Chadwick recounted in his biography of Suzuki, Crooked Cucumber: the Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki, when a student of Suzuki's disparaged Watts by saying "we used to think he was profound until we found the real thing", Suzuki fumed with a sudden intensity, saying, "You completely miss the point about Alan Watts! You should notice what he has done. He is a great bodhisattva."
Watts married three times and had seven children (five daughters and two sons). Watts met Eleanor Everett in 1936, when her mother, Ruth Fuller Everett, brought her to London to study piano. They met at the Buddhist Lodge, were engaged the following year and married in April 1938. A daughter, Joan, was born in November 1938 and another, Anne, was born in 1942. Their marriage ended in 1949, but Watts continued to correspond with his former mother-in-law.
Jean Burden, his lover and the inspiration for Nature, Man and Woman, remained in his thoughts to the end of his life.
In 1950, Watts married Dorothy DeWitt and moved to San Francisco in early 1951 to teach. They began a family that grew to include five children: Tia, Mark, Richard, Lila, and Diane. The couple separated in the early 1960s after Watts met Mary Jane Yates King (called "Jano" in his circle) while lecturing in New York. After a difficult divorce he married King in 1964. The couple divided their time between Sausalito, California, where they lived on a houseboat called the Vallejo, and a secluded cabin in Druid Heights, on the southwest flank of Mount Tamalpais north of San Francisco.
Watts' eldest daughters, Joan Watts and Anne Watts, own and manage most of the copyrights to his books. His son, Mark Watts, serves as curator of his father's audio, video and film and has published content of some of his spoken lectures in print format.
Note: ISBN's for titles originally published prior to 1974 are for reprint editions.
- 1932 An Outline of Zen Buddhism, The Golden Vista Press (32 page pamphlet)
- 1936 The Spirit of Zen: A Way of Life, Work and Art in the Far East, E.P. Dutton ISBN 0-8021-3056-9
- 1937 The Legacy of Asia and Western Man, University of Chicago Press
- 1940 The Meaning of Happiness. (reprinted, Harper & Row, 1979, ISBN 0-06-080178-6)
- 1944 Theologia Mystica: Being the Treatise of Saint Dionysius, Pseudo-Areopagite, on Mystical Theology, Together with the First and Fifth Epistles, West Park, New York: Holy Cross Press
- 1947 Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion, Pantheon Books, ISBN 0-394-71761-9
- 1950 Easter: Its Story and Meaning New York: Schuman
- 1950 The Supreme Identity: An Essay on Oriental Metaphysic and the Christian Religion, Noonday Press/Farrar, Straus & Giroux ISBN 0-394-71835-6
- 1951 The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety. Pantheon Books. 1951. ISBN 0-394-70468-1.
- 1953 Myth and Ritual in Christianity, Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0-8070-1375-7, including essay "God and Satan"
- 1957 The Way of Zen, Pantheon Books ISBN 0-375-70510-4
- 1958 Nature, Man and Woman, Pantheon Books, ISBN 0-679-73233-0
- 1959 Beat Zen Square Zen and Zen, San Francisco: City Lights Books, ASIN B000F2RQL4
- 1960 This Is It and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience, Pantheon Books, ISBN 0-394-71904-2
- 1961 Psychotherapy East and West, Pantheon Books, ISBN 0-394-71609-4
- 1962 The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness, Pantheon Books
- 1963 The Two Hands of God: The Myths of Polarity, George Braziller
- 1964 Beyond Theology: The Art of Godmanship, Pantheon Books, ISBN 0-394-71923-9
- 1966 The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. Pantheon Books. 1966. ISBN 0-679-72300-5.
- 1967 Nonsense, illustrations by Greg Irons (a collection of literary nonsense), San Francisco: Stolen Paper Editions
- 1970 Does It Matter?: Essays on Man's Relation to Materiality, Pantheon Books, ISBN 0-394-71665-5
- 1971 The Temple of Konarak: Erotic Spirituality, with photographs by Eliot Elisofon, London: Thames and Hudson. Also published as Erotic Spirituality: The Vision of Konarak, New York: Macmillan
- 1972 The Art of Contemplation: A Facsimile Manuscript with Doodles, Pantheon Books
- In My Own Way: An Autobiography 1915–1965. Pantheon Books. 1972. ISBN 9781577315841. , Vintage Books pocket edition 1973, ISBN 0-394-71951-4, New World Library edition, 2007, ISBN 1-57731-584-7
- 1973 Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal, Pantheon Books. Also published in Canada in 1974 by Jonathan Cape, ISBN 0224009729. ISBN 0-394-71999-9
- 1974 The Essence of Alan Watts, ed. Mary Jane Watts, Celestial Arts
- 1975 Tao: The Watercourse Way, with Chungliang Al Huang, Pantheon
- 1976 Essential Alan Watts, ed. Mark Watts,
- 1978 Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk: The Mystery of Life
- 1979 Om: Creative Meditations, ed. Mark Watts
- 1982 Play to Live, ed. Mark Watts
- 1983 Way of Liberation: Essays and Lectures on the Transformation of the Self, ed. Mark Watts
- 1985 Out of the Trap, ed. Mark Watts
- 1986 Diamond Web, ed. Mark Watts
- 1987 The Early Writings of Alan Watts, ed. John Snelling, Dennis T. Sibley, and Mark Watts
- 1990 The Modern Mystic: A New Collection of the Early Writings of Alan Watts, ed. John Snelling and Mark Watts
- 1994 Talking Zen, ed. Mark Watts
- 1995 Become What You Are, Shambhala, expanded ed. 2003. ISBN 1-57062-940-4
- 1995 Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion, ed. Mark Watts A preview from Google Books
- 1995 The Philosophies of Asia, ed. Mark Watts
- 1995 The Tao of Philosophy, ed. Mark Watts, edited transcripts, Tuttle Publishing, 1999. ISBN 0-8048-3204-8
- 1996 Myth and Religion, ed. Mark Watts
- 1997 Taoism: Way Beyond Seeking, ed. Mark Watts
- 1997 Zen and the Beat Way, ed. Mark Watts
- 1998 Culture of Counterculture, ed. Mark Watts
- 1999 Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion, ed. Mark Watts, edited transcripts, Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-3203-X
- 2000 What Is Zen?, ed. Mark Watts, New World Library. ISBN 0-394-71951-4 A preview from Google Books
- 2000 What Is Tao?, ed. Mark Watts, New World Library. ISBN 1-57731-168-X
- 2000 Still the Mind: An Introduction to Meditation, ed. Mark Watts, New World Library. ISBN 1-57731-214-7
- 2000 Eastern Wisdom, ed. Mark Watts, MJF Books. ISBN 1-56731-491-0, three books in one volume: What is Zen?, What is Tao?, and An Introduction to Meditation (Still the Mind). Assembled from transcriptions of audio tape recordings made by his son Mark, of lectures and seminars given by Alan Watts during the last decade of his life.
- 2002 Zen, the Supreme Experience: The Newly Discovered Scripts, ed. Mark Watts, Vega
- 2006 Eastern Wisdom, Modern Life: Collected Talks, 1960–1969, New World Library
Audio and video works, essays
Including recordings of lectures at major universities and multi-session seminars.
- 1960 Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, television series, Season 1 (1959) and Season 2 (1960)
- 1960 Essential Lectures
- 1960 Nature of Consciousness (here)
- 1960 The Value of Psychotic Experience
- 1960 The World As Emptiness
- 1960 From Time to Eternity
- 1960 Lecture On Zen
- 1960 The Cross of Cards
- 1960 Taoism
- 1962 This Is It - Alan Watts and friends in a spontaneous musical happening (Long playing album - MEA LP 1007)
- 1968 Psychedelics & Religious Experience, in California Law Review (here)
- 1969 Why Not Now: The Art of Meditation
- 1971 A Conversation With Myself: on YouTube, on YouTube, on YouTube, on YouTube
- 1972 The Art of Contemplation, Village Press
- 1972 The Way of Liberation in Zen Buddhism, Alan Watts Journal, vol. 2, nr 1
- 1994 Zen: The Best of Alan Watts (VHS)
- 2004 Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives, Sounds True, Inc. Unabridged edition,
- 2005 Do You Do It, or Does It Do You?: How to let the universe meditate you (CD)
- 2007 Zen Meditations with Alan Watts, DVD (here)
- 2013 What If Money Was No Object? (3 minutes) on YouTube
- 2016 "You Are The Universe" Youtube
- Furlong, Monica 1986 Genuine Fake: a Biography of Alan Watts. Heinemann. (or titled Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts as published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, ISBN 0-395-45392-5)
- Lhermite, Pierre 1983 Alan Watts, Taoïste d'Occident, éd. La Table Ronde.
- Stuart, David 1976 (pseudonym for Edwin Palmer Hoyt, Jr.) Alan Watts: The Rise and Decline of the Ordained Shaman of the Counterculture. Chilton Book Co, Pa.
In popular culture
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- Watts appears in two books written by Jack Kerouac. Given the objections of his publishers, Kerouac was not permitted to use the real names of the people featured in his books. Therefore, Watts appears as Arthur Whane in the book The Dharma Bums and Alex Aums in Desolation Angels.
- Watts' talks inspired Van Morrison to write the song "Alan Watts Blues" for his 1987 album Poetic Champions Compose.
- Psytrance artist Mekkanikka features samples of Watts describing the Chinese conception of nature, as that which proceeds involuntarily and in essence uncontrollably, throughout the 2006 song "Let Go".
- The math rock band Giraffes? Giraffes! sample Watts in their song "I Am S/H(im)e[r] As You Am S/H(im)e[r] As You Are Me And We Am I And I Are All Our Together: Our Collective Consciousness’ Psychogenic Fugue", off of their 2007 album "More Skin With Milk-Mouth".
- Samples from lectures by Alan Watts are featured in the intros or endings of several of STRFKR songs, including 2008's "Florida", "Isabella of Castile"; 2009's "Medicine"; 2010's "Pistol Pete"; 2011's "Mystery Cloud", "Hungry Ghost" and "Quality Time", and in their 2016 album 'Being No One, Going Nowhere' on the song "Interspace".
- Ott features samples of Alan Watts lectures in his 2011 album Mir, on the first track, "One Day I Wish to Have This Kind of Time".
- The artist Will Cady included samples of Watts' lecture "The Dream of Life" in a 2013 single "What Fills The Gap".
- In 2013, britsh post-hardcore band, Our Last Night released their hit single, Sunrise, which at the end features part of his lecture called "The Spectrum of Love."
- Around 2013, many Chillstep producers began sampling Alan Watts' recorded speeches in their music, resulting in what is called Philosophystep. Killigrew, CMA, and Electus among those artists. 
- Cheryl sampled the "What Do I Desire (What If Money Was No Object)" lecture on her album Only Human in 2013 on the track "Intro". It is further sampled in the following track, "Live Life Now".
- Nothing More's 2014 self-titled album has passages from Watts's lectures incorporated into the background of two songs. Both Gyre and Pyre consist of instrumentals with Watts' quotes used over the music.
- The progressive metal band The Contortionist features a sample of Alan Watts at the end of their 2014 album Language.
- In 2015, Logic sampled the "What Do I Desire (What If Money Was No Object)" lecture on his 2015 album The Incredible True Story in the title song. Watt's lecture concludes the album before it transitions to an audio cut-scene consistent with the rest of the album.
- A sample of Watt's lecture "The Spectrum of Love" begins the song "Intro/Spectrum" by the band HÆLOS on their 2016 album Full Circle
- The metalcore band Architects released an album in 2016 entitled All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, which includes Watts' "The Mercy of Nature" quotes in the song Memento Mori.
- Sound Tribe Sector 9 features samples of Alan Watts in their live performances of the songs "World Go Round" and "Totem".
- Canadian hardcore band Mil-Spec references Watts' 'join the dance' quote in their song "When the Fever Broke..."
- Yob's album Clearing the Path to Ascend's first song, "I Our Blood", features a sample of Alan Watts in the middle of the song.
- Rameses B song "Nameless Existence" from the 2017 album Freedom II features samples from "The Art of Meditation" by Alan Watts
- The Electric Sons song "Japanese Ceremonial Tea" from the 2015 EP "Golden Age" features samples forming an abridged summary of the video lecture "Conversation with Myself" by Alan Watts.
- The 2013 film Her features Watts as an artificially intelligent operating system, portrayed by Brian Cox.
- The 2014 Red Bull Media House/Matchstick Productions skiing documentary Days Of My Youth uses Watts' spoken word in a number of sequences through the film.
- In recent years[when?], portions of Watts' lectures have been popularized by a series of animated internet videos.
- In the 2007-09 US-aired NBC TV series Life, Damian Lewis' character often listens to Alan Watts' recordings in his car and their significance was woven into the plot.
- The video game Everything, released on March 21, 2017, features a soundtrack and narration from Alan Watts. It relates heavily to the game's theme of perspective. Bits and pieces of his lectures are also played during the game at certain times.
- James Craig Holte The Conversion Experience in America: A 'Sourcebook on American Religious Conversion Autobiography page 199
- Watts, Alan W. (1973). In My Own Way: An Autobiography 1915–1965. New York: Pantheon Books. p. 280.
- David, Erik (2006). The Visionary State: A Journey through California's Spiritual Landscape. Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-4835-3.
- Watts, Alan W. 1973, Part 1
- Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts, by Monica Furlong, p. 12
- Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts, by Monica Furlong, p. 22
- Watts, Alan W. 1973, p. 322
- Watts, Alan W. 1973, pp. 71–72
- Watts, Alan W. 1957, Part 2, Chapter 4
- Watts, Alan W. 1973, p. 60
- Watts, Alan W. 1973, p. 102
- Watts, Alan W. 1973, pp. 78–82
- Watts, Alan W. 1947/1971 Behold the Spirit, revised edition. New York: Random House / Vintage. p. 32
- Watts, Alan W., 1957, p.11
- "Alan Wilson Watts". Encyclopedia of World Biography.
- KPFA Folio, Volume 13, no. 1, 9–22 April 1962, p. 14. Retrieved at archive.org on 26 November 2014.
- KPFA Folio, Volume 14, no. 1, 8–21 April 1963, p. 19. Retrieved at archive.org on 26 November 2014.
- Susan Krieger, Hip Capitalism, 1979, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, ISBN 0-8039-1263-3 pbk., p. 170.
- KKUP Program Schedule. Retrieved on 26 November 2014.
- KPFK Program Schedule. Retrieved on 26 November 2014.
- KGNU Program Schedule. Retrieved on 26 November 2014.
- Watts, Alan W. 1973, p. 321.
- Alan Watts, "Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, Season 1 (1959)" and Season 2 (1960), KQED public television series, San Francisco
- Ropp, Robert S. de 1995, 2002 Warrior's Way: a Twentieth Century Odyssey. Nevada City, CA: Gateways, pp. 333-334.
- "Alan Watts - Life and Works".
- "Deoxy Org: Alan Watts".
- Weidenbaum, Jonathan. "Complaining about Alan Watts".
- The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness (the quote is new to the 1965/1970 edition (page 26), and not contained in the original 1962 edition of the book).
- ^ Davis, Erik (May 2005). Druids and Ferries "Druids and Ferries". Arthur (Brooklyn: Arthur Publishing Corp.) (16). "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-13. Druids and Ferries.
- Davis, Erik (May 2005). "Druids and Ferries". Arthur. Brooklyn: Arthur Publishing Corp. (16). Archived from the original on 16 October 2012.
- The Joyous Cosmology, p. v
- Watts, Alan W. 1973, p. 247.
- The Joyous Cosmology, p. 63
- Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts, by Monica Furlong
- "Alan Watts, Zen Philosopher, Writer and Teacher, 58, Dies". The New York Times. 16 November 1973. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
- Watts, Alan (1975). Huang, Chungliang Al, ed. TAO: The Watercourse Way (Foreword). New York: Pantheon Books. pp. vii–xiii. ISBN 0-394-73311-8.
- De Ropp, Robert S. 2002 Warrior's Way. Nevada City, CA: Gateways, p. 334.
- Watts, Alan W. 1947/1971, pp. 25–28.
- William Warren Bartley, Werner Erhard, The Transformation of a Man
- Kapleau 1967, pp. 21–22
- Aitken 1997, p. 30. 
- Stuart, David 1976 Alan Watts. Pennsylvania: Chilton.
- Chadwick, D: Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki, Broadway Books,2000
- Stirling 2006, pg. 27
- The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (1966)
- Watts, Alan, 1973, pp. 300–304
- Theologia Mystica at WorldCat
- The Supreme Identity atWorldCat
- Nonsense at WorldCat
- Will Cady (2013-02-28), Will Cady - What Fills The Gap (feat. Alan Watts), retrieved 2016-08-07
- Japanese Ceremonial Tea - Interlude, retrieved 2017-05-20
- TheCanuckdian (2015-04-27), Alan Watts - Full Unedited Version of 'Conversation with Myself', retrieved 2017-05-20
- "Her (2013)". IMDb.com, Inc. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- Flash Animated Philosophy From South Park Creators www.coldhardflash.com
- Aitken, Robert. Original Dwelling Place. Counterpoint. Washington, D.C. 1997. ISBN 1-887178-41-4 (paperback)
- Charters, Ann (ed.). The Portable Beat Reader. Penguin Books. New York. 1992. ISBN 0-670-83885-3 (hard cover); ISBN 0-14-015102-8 (paperback)
- Furlong, Monica, Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts Houghton Mifflin. New York. 1986 ISBN 0-395-45392-5, Skylight Paths 2001 edition of the biography, with new foreword by author: ISBN 1-893361-32-2
- Gidlow, Elsa, "Elsa:I Come With My Songs". Bootlegger Press and Druid Heights Books, San Francisco. 1986.
- Kapleau, Philip. Three Pillars of Zen (1967) Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-5975-7
- Stirling, Isabel. Zen Pioneer: The Life & Works of Ruth Fuller Sasak, Shoemaker & Hoard. 2006. ISBN 978-1-59376-110-3
- Watts, Alan, In My Own Way. New York. Random House Pantheon. 1973 ISBN 0-394-46911-9 (his autobiography)
|Library resources about
|By Alan Watts|
- Clark, David K. The Pantheism of Alan Watts. Downers Grove, Ill. Inter-Varsity Press. 1978. ISBN 0-87784-724-X
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Alan Watts|
- AlanWatts.org run by Watts' son Mark, who has produced a documentary about his father's life called Why Not Now?
- Why Not Now? film trailer
- Alan Watts Mountain Center north of San Francisco
- Alan Watts Electronic University – Alan Watts' audio and video courses, co-founded by Alan Watts, Mark Watts, and Henry Jacobs in 1973.
- Alan Watts Podcast – the official podcast
- Master Enlightenments Arts Seminars and Lectures by Alan Watts – looking at many different forms of enlightenment; recorded by Henry Jacobs in 1964/65.
- Alan Watts Online – Project Unicorn (also Archived 31 October 2004 at the Wayback Machine.)
- Works by or about Alan Watts in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Watts essay on Nothingness (This link no longer functions, but is available at"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 31 August 2008. Retrieved 2013-03-10. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) .)
- Alan Watts Lectures and Essays audio, video, essays, and articles – resources from deoxy.org
- Alan Watts' This Is It: The First Psychedelic LP essay by Patrick Lundborg
- Alan Watts Resource Compilation audio and video links of his lectures and essays
- "Alan Watts on YouTube, South Park". Archived from the original on 9 September 2010. Retrieved 2009-09-09. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) interview with Mark Watts on the resurgence of his father's work
- "What if money was no object?" interpretation of Watts' lecture at ZenPencils.com
- Alan Watts on Cuke.com
- Alan Watts page on Facebook public discussion group