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Philosophy

Alan Watts | The Tao of Philosophy – Essential Lectures Collection (audio)

Who am I? Why am I here? What is the nature of the world around me?

These are the questions posed by Alan Watts (1915 – 1973)—noted professor, graduate-school dean, Harvard University research fellow, and Episcopal priest. Watts, in his witty, humorous signature style, examines these eternal philosophical questions from the perspective of Taoism.

In order to discuss such lofty issues, Alan Watts takes the listener of this brilliant lecture series on a tour of eastern and western perspectives, discussing the nature of God, the self, reality and the relationship between them all. The great intermediaries between them being, according to Watts – nature, simplicity and silence.

Entertaining, fascinating and irreverent, this audio version of the book is an absolute delight for anyone interested in the fundamental mysteries of one’s own existence.

The original, written collection of these eight unique, philosophical essays along with an early piece written in 1953 has a brief introduction by Alan’s son, Mark Watts, which gives the background of these pieces and their place in his father’s life and work. That introduction is not included in the audio version below, but you can buy the book in various formats by clicking here.

Whilst the book is of course a brilliant read, the audio version allows you to listen to Alan Watts himself deliver the lectures – a wonderful treat, enjoy!

Significant Quotes

On accepting yourself as you are:

When you look at the clouds they are not symmetrical. They do not form fours and they do not come along in cubes, but you know at once that they are not a mess. […] They are wiggly but in a way, orderly, although it is difficult for us to describe that kind of order. Now, take a look at yourselves. You are all wiggly. […] We are just like clouds, rocks and stars. Look at the way the stars are arranged. Do you criticize the way the stars are arranged?”

On relinquishing control & letting life happen:

“Your hair grows by itself, your heart beats by itself, and your breath happens pretty much by itself. Your glands secrete the essences by themselves and you do not have voluntary control over these things, and so we say they happen spontaneously. So, when you go to bed and try to go to sleep you interfere with the spontaneous process of going to sleep. If you try to breathe real hard you will find you get balled-up in your breathing. So if you are to be human, you just have to trust yourself to go to sleep, to digest your food, and to have bowel movements.

Of course if something goes seriously wrong and you need a surgeon that is another matter, but by and large the healthy human being does not from the start of life need surgical interference. One lets it happen by itself, and so with the whole picture that is fundamental to it. You have to let go and let it happen, because if you don’t then you are constantly going to be trying to do what happens easily only if you do not try.

When you think a bit about what people really want to do with their time, and you ask what they do when they are not being pushed around or somebody is telling them what to do, you find they like to make rhythms. They listen to music and they dance or they sing, or perhaps they do something of a rhythmic nature like playing cards, bowling, or raising their elbows. Given the chance, everybody wants to spend their time swinging.”

Alan W. Watts, The Tao of Philosophy