Alan Watts was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker born in 1915, best known for popularizing Eastern philosophy in the West.
Raised in England, he moved to the United States, becoming an ordained Episcopal priest before delving into the study of Zen Buddhism. His exploration of Eastern philosophy resulted in him leaving the church and dedicating his life to the synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas.
Watts authored several notable works, such as “The Way of Zen” and “Psychotherapy East and West,” which introduced and made Eastern philosophies accessible to a Western audience. Even after his death in 1973, Watts’ legacy continues to influence modern spiritual leaders and mindfulness practitioners, and his ideas continue to inspire people globally.
Alan Watts Quotes
“You don’t look out there for God, something in the sky, you look in you.”
“No amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that is going to happen.”
Early Life: The Emergence of a Young Philosopher
Alan Watts, born in Chislehurst, England, on January 6, 1915, to Laurence and Emily Watts, was a philosopher, writer, and speaker who would go on to have a profound impact on Western society’s understanding of Eastern philosophy. Alan’s interest in philosophy and spirituality was piqued early in life when he stumbled upon a collection of Eastern art and literature. This interest grew into a lifelong fascination, setting him on a unique path that few in the West had trodden.
The Venture into Buddhism: An Unlikely Monk
As a young adult, Watts moved to America, where he joined the Episcopal Church and eventually became an ordained priest. However, his curiosity led him further eastward, and he explored Zen Buddhism’s tenets and teachings in depth. This exploration culminated in his decision to leave the church in 1950, marking a turning point in his life and career. He dedicated himself to studying Eastern philosophy, synthesizing its ideas with those of Western science and psychology.
Alan Watts – The Interpreter of Eastern Wisdom
In the early 1950s, Watts began working as a freelance writer and started hosting a weekly radio show, “Way Beyond the West.” Through his written work and radio show, he introduced countless Westerners to Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, interpreting and translating these philosophies in a way that made them accessible and appealing to a Western audience.
In 1958, Watts was able to meet Carl Jung, three years before his death, and he later recorded a lecture on the importance of his work.
Notable Works: Masterpieces of Spiritual Enlightenment
Alan Watts authored numerous books throughout his career. Some of his most famous works include “The Way of Zen,” which served as one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism in the West, and “Psychotherapy East and West,” a comparative analysis of Eastern spirituality and Western psychology. He used his knack for relatable storytelling and his eloquent writing style to share Eastern philosophies and wisdom with the broader world, thereby altering Western views of spirituality and selfhood.
Legacy: The Zen Philosopher of the West
Although Alan Watts passed away in 1973, his influence continues to reverberate through Western culture. Many of today’s spiritual leaders and mindfulness practitioners cite Watts as an important influence in their understanding of Eastern philosophy. His audio lectures, writings, and ideas continue to inspire people around the world, facilitating a broader and deeper understanding of Eastern wisdom.
Alan Watts’ life was one of constant exploration, both internally and externally. A philosopher, a writer, a speaker, and an interpreter, he managed to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western philosophy, paving the way for a more holistic understanding of spirituality. His work and wisdom continue to encourage individuals to seek inner peace and a deeper understanding of the universe.