Alan Watts, The Spiritual Herald

Sometimes it is difficult to speak about other people in our work. Because for many, we desire to be completely original and independent from the previous thought and ideas that, like a mimic, most people in our culture mindlessly copy and take as their own.

When I was young, there was no one I really admired. I had a slight inclination towards the various comedian personalities that I would see on television and on the internet, but never did I have the desire to be like them. It just felt as though, they had a gifted knack for humor and were drifting along society just like anyone else.

Then as I grew older, I found myself living alone in an apartment— living off my life savings, smoking weed, and watching various documentaries about society and life. Somehow it all seemed like an extremely bleak and hopeless situation for humanity as a whole. At the time, I was exploring the idea of Atheism through the well known “fundamentalist materialists” that were painted all over the internet. I thought it was liberating to uproot my Christian dogma into a more philosophical basis. It was comforting to believe that there would be no judgement after death. That my actions did not have to meet any specific criteria at all, since death was the end of everything I would know.

And then suddenly, like some sort of magical step-ladder towards higher and higher truth; was the most pivotal individual that I had learned about in my entire life. Alan W. Watts. The self-proclaimed “Spiritual Entertainer”.

For us, the spiritually-minded, we are always met with some kind of herald. Some individual that is able to breakaway all our previous philosophies and religions to escort us towards the widened path, which when set upon, cannot be so easily undone. For me (and I assume many others) this spiritual herald was Alan Watts. A wise man in the 1960’s-70’s who traveled to various locations to learn and teach about Eastern Wisdom.

The ideas Alan Watts conveyed was able to uplift me out of the dense swamp of materialism to a more spiritual outlook of the universe. In much of his lectures, we are given the perspective that we are not controlled by a tyrant named “God” (that demands our obedience), nor are we a random happen-chance that sprang forth out of the primordial soup. Instead, we are given a more expanded and empowering viewpoint of the world. Which is essentially, that we are God. That consciousness itself is the alpha and omega of which everything springs into life.

This idea was delivered so well, that it gave me a certain sense of peace that seemed to be missing from all other philosophies. Bringing the ideas of the East to the West, seemed to be the mission Alan Watts was meant for. His material can create leaps of insight and a more joyous perception of the universe we find ourselves in.

With the advent of the internet, his lectures reached millions of more people. I suppose this is the reason why he was the herald for so many individuals. The fact that his voice was recorded so much, gave everyone plenty of material to draw upon his basic points and understand the nature of reality in a more intimate way. To realize that one is not just an “ego in a bag of skin” is the beginning of an expanded consciousness.

Though, he definitely had help from his friends in spreading a similar type of reality altering message, such as Timothy Leary, Terence Mckenna, Ram Dass, John C. Lily, and Robert Anton Wilson (to only name a few). Similar folks, that many consider to be their own herald into the mystic realm of expanded wisdom and love.

When I was viewing the various documentaries that were on display, it gave me a strong sense that we were living in a very dystopian world. It was a relief to finally absolve the pain, within ideas that transcend our current society. The idea of reincarnation gave me more comfort than that of nihilism. Though, in accepting this idea, I came to realize that I had to change who I was as a person. All my actions meant far more than they had previously, and so there was a lot of suffering attached to the idea as well. Though once gone through, this suffering and anxiety collected from previous dogma and nihilism, became tranquil equanimity.

Within it all, was the still light perspective that you would get “another go around” if you did not reach enlightenment in this life. A certain air of eternity, that has been positive for me and the people around me. I remember listening to him as much as I could, to absorb the knowledge as part of my being. Whenever I would fall into doubt, and question whether or not I was lying to myself by not accepting the holy sacrament of materialist ideology, I would put on my headphones and boot up one of his old lectures. Instantly, I recalled the pure logic of everything that was being expressed. Eventually, I didn’t need to re-listen to his ideas anymore. Though, I still can’t recall word for word what he has said, I am now able to easily embody the message as a whole.

Unlike many of his friends, Alan Watts had a focus on Zen. Expressing Zen in the way he did, allowed me to realize many things about language, speech, and others in a way I have never considered before. There is much more I can say and not say about the subject of Zen, but I will save it for another writing. Zen was key for me, because it always allowed me to come to a grounded state of being, when I went too far off the fringe of astral dreams, and unusual visions. Like a keisaku to the back, Zen always found a way to bring my attention back to where it has never really left in the first place.

For others, they prefer to look at the personality of an individual, because they believe that appealing to authority is what makes information more valid. And thus, a more reputable authority has better information (according to their view). They would point to Alan Watts excess drinking, the fact that he had many wives, and perhaps even the fact that he made money off his talks; as an indication that he was not to be trusted as a viable source of information.

For me, this does not matter. It was the message that was given that played the most important role in my life. It is interesting to note the events that occurred in his life, but I don’t see how that would make the knowledge conveyed any less useful to me. It is very rare to find any individual that is free from all undesirable actions. Such as the Buddha leaving his child to seek Enlightenment.

However, there are many unique individuals that have never cheated, had any consumption dependency, nor even asked for money for their talks, and had attention all the same. Perhaps, there are higher routes for anyone to take when they are met with the realities of life, but Watts never hid away from admitting his irreducible “rascality”. Mentioning on a number of occasions in his writing or lectures that he was just a person like any other.

For me, there definitely were spiritual people I would consider far more courageous in action. I find my past to also be something of an annoyance. Many things I have done that were not of the highest integrity, that my current self has the hindsight to perceive. So I too, have to admit that I have the same rascality within me. Of course, there is no reason to judge anyone for their previous actions, and especially if they have never claimed Enlightenment. To keep a light heart about our faults is the only way we can evade an inauthentic personality that does far more harm than any perceived misdeed.

Which allows us to come full circle. Alan Watts was just a man, like any other, but his unique role was that of a “great bodhisattva” (as described by Shunryu Suzuki). A herald into our new age of spiritual expansion and insight. Yet, nothing he has done is anymore important than the endeavors you or I face as a collective. For sure though, he was cool. He is fun to talk about. He lead me and others towards a higher purpose— one that values nature as our self instead of one that dominates nature despite the self. So I sometimes have just a bit more awe for him, than I have had for the other entertainers I have known while growing up. They may have made me laugh for a moment or two and thus they are admirable, but Watts was a forerunner of laughter that I will remember for eternity.

One thought on “Alan Watts, The Spiritual Herald

  1. The cool thing about the way he delivered the message and who he was, is that it became relatable, less threatening, by it being delivered by such an imperfect ass who knew how to make the message light and interesting. When the message is delivered by a saint, to certain audiences, it becomes unattainable and they won’t see it as something relevant to their imperfect lives. It sets up a power dynamic, “I’m holy and perfect and enlightened, and you are not” that can become very corrupt.
    Fascinating topic though, the need to set spiritual teachers apart and make them superhuman or unaffected by a regular life. Pretty much makes it so that anyone who isn’t chosen to live in a monastery as an infant, isn’t going to be thought of as quite good enough. Hence all the weird competition you see in today’s modern spiritual movement imho.
    Nice article! Great food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

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