Alan Watts

Alan Watts - Philosophy of the Tao

Non-Duality3g

The subject of this seminar is going to be Taoism as contained in the teachings of Lao-Tzu and Juang-Tzu who lived approximately 400 years or more before Christ, separated probably by 100 years from each other. And as is often repeated, Lao-Tzu started out by explaining that "The Tao which can be explained is not the eternal Tao," and then went on to write a book about it, also saying "Those who say do not know; those who know do not say." Because there's nothing to be explained. You must remember that the word "explain" means to lay out in a plane. That is, to put it on a flat sheet of paper.

All mathematics is done on a flat sheet of paper until very recent times. But it makes a great deal of difference, because this world isn't flat. If you draw a circle on a flat sheet of paper it has an inside and an outside which are different. On the other hand if you draw a circle around a doughnut the inside and the outside are the same. So what we are first of all saying is that the Tao - whatever that is - cannot be explained in that sense.

So it's important, first of all, to experience it so we know what we're talking about. And in order to go into Taoism at all we must begin by being in the frame of mind which can understand it. You cannot force yourself into this frame of mind, any more than you can smooth disturbed water with your hand. But let's say that our starting point is that we forget what we know - or think we know. That we suspend judgment about practically everything, returning to what we were when we were babies. When we have not yet learned the names, or language, and although we have extremely sensitive bodies - very alive senses - we have no means of making an intellectual or verbal commentary on what is going on.

Now can you consider that as your state? Just plain ignorant, but still very much alive. And in this state you just feel what is without calling it anything at all. You know nothing at all about anything called an external world in relation to an internal world. You don't know who you are. You haven't even got the idea of the word "you" or "I." It's before all that. Nobody has taught you self-control. So you don't know the difference between the noise of a car outside and a wandering thought that enters your mind. They're both something that happens. You don't identify the presence of the thought, which might be just an image of a passing cloud in your mind's eye, and the passing automobile. They happen. Your breath happens. Light all around you happens. Your response to it by blinking happens.

So you simply are really unable to do anything. There's nothing that you're supposed to do. Nobody's told you anything to do. You're unable, completely, to do anything but be aware of the buzz. The visual buzz, the audible buzz, the tangible buzz, the smellable buzz, all buzz that's going on. Ha ha. Watch it! Don't ask who's watching it. You've no information about that yet, that it requires a watcher for something to be watched. That's somebody's idea. You don't know that.

And Lao-Tzu says, "The scholar learns something every day. The man of Tao unlearns something every day... until he gets back to non-doing." And that's what we are in at the moment.

Just simply, without comment, without an idea in your head, be aware. What else can you do? Don't try to be aware. You are. You'll find, of course, that you can't stop the commentary going on inside of your head. But at least you can regard it as interior noise. Listen to your chattering thoughts as you listen to the singing of a kettle. We don't know what it is we are aware of. Especially when you take it all together. And there's this sense of something going on. I won't even say that. This. You see? This.

Well, I said it was going on. That's an idea. It's a form of words. Obviously I wouldn't know if anything was going on unless I could say something else wasn't. Huh. I know motion by contrast with rest. So while I am aware of motion I am also aware of rest, so maybe what's at rest isn't going on and what's motion is going on. So I won't use that concept because I've got to include both. And if I say, "Well here it is," that excludes what isn't - like space. And if I say "this" it excludes "that." Ha ha ha, I'm reduced to silence!

But you can feel what I'm talking about, can't you? That's what's called "Tao" in Chinese. That's where we begin.

Tao means basically "way" - and so "course" - the course of Nature. Of which Lao-Tzu says "Tao fa tzu yan," which means - the "fa" - "Tao fa" means the way of functioning of the Tao. "Tzu yan" is of itself, so. That is to say, is spontaneous.

Watch again what's going on. If you approach it with this wise ignorance you will see that you are witnessing a happening. In other words, in this primal way of looking at things there's no difference between what you do on the one hand and what happens to you on the other. It's all the same process. Just as your thoughts happen the car happens outside. The clouds. The stars.

When a Westerner hears that he thinks of fatalism or determinism. That's because he still preserves in the back of his mind two illusions. One is that what is happening is happening to him, and therefore he is the victim of circumstances. But when you are in primal ignorance there is no you different from what's happening, and therefore it's not happening to you. It's just happening. Ha ha. So is you, you know, what you call "you," what you later call "you" is part of the happening. You're part of the Universe. Although the Universe, strictly speaking, has no parts. We only call certain features of the Universe parts of it, but you can't disconnect them from the rest without causing them to be not only nonexistent but never to have existed. Ha ha.

So when you have this happening the other illusion that a Westerner is liable to have is that it's determined in the sense that what is happening now follows necessarily from what happened in the past. But you don't know anything about that in your primal ignorance. Cause and effect? Why, obviously not! Ha ha ha! Because if you're really na•ve you see that the past is the result of what's happening now. It goes backwards into the past like a wake goes backwards from a ship. All the echoes are disappearing, finally, going away and away and away. And it's all starting now. What we call the future is nothing, the great void. And everything comes out of the great void.

That's the way a na•ve person - and as I explained if any of you were at my lecture last night, if you shut your eyes and contemplate reality only with your ears you'll find there's a background of silence and all sounds are coming out of it. They start out of silence. If you close your eyes - listen, just listen. [rings meditation bell] You see the bell came out of nothing, floated off, off, off, off, and then stopped being a sonic echo and became a memory, which is another kind of echo. A wake. It's very simple!

It all begins now. And therefore it's spontaneous. It isn't determined. That's a philosophical notion. Nor is it capricious! That's another philosophical notion. As we distinguish between what is orderly and what is random. Of course we don't really know what randomness is. If you talk to a mathematician about randomness he'll make you feel quite weird.

What is so of itself? "Sui generis" in Latin. That means coming into being spontaneously on its own accord. It's the real meaning of "virgin birth." Sui generis. And that's the world. That is the Tao. That makes us feel scared. Perhaps. Because we say "Well if all this is happening spontaneously who's in charge? I'm not in charge, that's pretty obvious! Ha ha ha! But I hope there's God or somebody looking after all this." Though why should there be someone looking after it? Because then there's a new worry that you may not have thought of. Like who takes care of the caretaker's daughter while the caretaker's busy taking care? Who guards the guards? Who supervises the police? Who looks after God? Well you say "God doesn't need looking after." Oh. Oh, then nor does this!

Tao. Because Tao is a certain kind of order. And this kind of order is not quite what we call order. When we arrange everything geometrically in boxes or in rows that's a very crude kind of order. But when you look at a plant it's perfectly obvious that this bamboo plant has order. We recognize at once that that is not a mess. But it is not symmetrical. And it is not geometrical looking. It looks like a Chinese drawing. Because the Chinese appreciated this kind of order so much that they put it into their painting. Non-symmetrical order.

In the Chinese language this is called "li" and the character for li means originally the markings in jade. Also means the grain in wood, and the fiber in muscle. We could say too that clouds have li, marble has li, the Human body has li. And we all recognize it, and the artist copies it whether he is a landscape painter, a portrait painter, or an abstract painter, or a non-objective painter. They all are trying for li.

And the interesting thing is that although we all know what it is there's no way of defining it. But because Tao is the course we can also call li the watercourse, because the patterns of li are patterns of flowing water. And we see those patterns of flow memorialized as it were in sculpture, in the grain in wood (which is the flow of sap), in marble, in bones, in muscles. All these things are patterned according to the basic principles. That is the fa, Tao fa, the Tao's principle of flow.

There is a book called "Sensitive Chaos" by Theodore Svenk with many many studies and photographs of flow patterns. And there in the patterns of flowing water you will see all kinds of motifs from Chinese art. Immediately recognizable, including the S-curve in the circle, the yang-yin, like this.... See?

So li means then the order of flow, the wonderful dancing pattern of liquid. Because Lao-Tzu likens Tao to water. "The great Tao," he says, "flows everywhere, to the left and to the right. [Like water]," - I'm interpolating that - "it loves and nourishes all things but does not lord it over them." "Because," he says elsewhere, "water always seeks the lowest level, which men abhor." Because we're always trying to play games of one-upmanship and be on top of each other. Well, Lao-Tzu explains that the top position is the most insecure. Everybody wants to get to the top of the tree. But then if they do the tree will collapse.

That's the fallacy of American democracy. You too might be president. The answer is, no one but a maniac would want to be president! [Laughter] Who wants to be put in charge of a runaway truck? [Laughter]

So, Lao-Tzu says that the basic position is the most powerful. And this we can see at once in Judo, or Aikido, which are wrestling arts or self-defensive arts where you always get underneath the opponent, and so he falls over you if he attacks you. The moment he moves to be aggressive you go either lower than he is, or in a smaller circle than he's moving. And you have spin if you know Aikido. You're always spinning, and you know how something rapidly spinning exercises centrifugal force. So if somebody comes into your field of centrifugal force he gets flung out, but by his own bounce. Huh, it's very curious. So, therefore, the watercourse way is the way of Tao.

Now, that seems to white Anglo-Saxon Protestants and Irish Catholics... lazy... spineless... passive. And I'm always being asked when I talk about things, "If people did what you suggest wouldn't they become terribly passive?" Well, from a superficial point of view I would suggest that a certain amount of passivity would be an excellent corrective for our kind of culture. Because we are always creating trouble by doing good to other people. [Laughter] You know, we wage wars for people's benefit. [Laughter] And educate the poor for their benefit, so that they desire more things which they can't get. I mean, that sounds rather callous. But our rich people are not happy, whereas the poor people of Haiti are - to judge by the way they laugh. And we think-- we're sorry, really, not for the poor but for ourselves. Guilty.

So a certain amount of doing nothing, and stopping rushing around, would cool everything. But also it must be remembered that passivity is the root of action. Where do you suppose you're going to get enery from, just by being energetic? No, you can't get energy that way. That is exhausting yourself. To have energy you must sleep, but also much more important than sleep is what I told you at the beginning. Passivity of mind, mental silence. Not-- you can't, as I tried to explain, be passive, as an exercise that's good for you. You can only get to that point by realizing there's nothing else you can do. So for God's sake don't cultivate passivity as a form of progress. That's like playing because it's good for your work. [Laughter] You never get to play! [Laughter]

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"How to Reach Where You Already Are" by Alan Watts

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So, how can an individual realize that they are the universal self? In what way can a person who is under the impression that they are a separate individual enclosed in a bag of skin effectively realize that they are Brahman? This, of course, is a curious question. It proposes a journey to the place where you already are. Now, it’s true that you may not know that you are there, but you are. And if you take a journey to the place where you are, you will visit many other places than the place where you are, and perhaps when you find through some long experience that all the places you go to are not the place you wanted to find, it may occur to you that you were already there in the beginning. And that is the Dharma, or “method,” as I prefer to translate the word. That’s the method that all gurus and spiritual teachers fundamentally use. So, they are all tricksters.

Why use trickster as a word to describe them? Did you know that it’s terribly difficult to surprise yourself on purpose? Somebody else has to do it for you, which is why a guru or teacher is so often necessary. And there are many kinds of gurus, but among human gurus there are square gurus and beat gurus. Square gurus take you through the regular channels; beat gurus lead you in by means that are very strange indeed—they are rascals. Also, friends can act as gurus. And then there are gurus who aren’t people, like situations or books. Regardless, the guru’s job is to show the inquirer in some effective way that they are already what they are looking for.

In Hindu traditions, realizing who you really are is called Sadhana, which means “discipline.” Sadhana is the way of life that is necessary to follow in order to escape from the illusion that you are merely a skin encapsulated ego. Sadhana comprises yoga, which has the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join,” and it is from this root that we have the English words yoke, junction, and union. Strictly speaking, yoga means “the state of union”—the state in which the individual self, the jivatman, finds that it is ultimately atman. So a yogi is someone who has realized that union. But normally yoga as a word isn’t used that way; it’s normally used to describe a practice of meditation whereby one comes into the state of union, and in that sense a yogi is a traveler or seeker who is on the way to that union. Of course, strictly speaking, there is no method to arrive at the place where you already are. No amount of searching will uncover the self, because all searching implies the absence of the self—the big self, the Self with a capital S. So to seek it is to thrust it away. And to practice a discipline to attain it is to postpone realization.

There’s a famous Zen story of a monk sitting in meditation. The master comes along and asks, “What are you doing?” And the monk replies, “Oh, I’m meditating so I can become a Buddha.” Well, the master sits down nearby, picks up a brick, and starts rubbing it. And the monk asks, “What are you doing?” The master says, “Oh, I’m rubbing this brick to make it into a mirror.” And the monk says, “No amount of rubbing a brick can turn it into a mirror.” To which the master replies, “And no amount of zazen will turn you into a Buddha.” They don’t like this story very much in modern day Japan.

Suppose I were to tell you that you, right now, are the great Self— the Brahman. Now, you might feel somewhat sympathetic to this idea intellectually, but you don’t really feel it. You’re looking for a way to feel it—a practice for getting there. But you don’t really want to feel it; you’re frightened of it. So you get this or that practice so you can put it off, so that you can feel that you have a long way to go, and maybe after you’ve suffered enough, then you can realize you are the atman. Why put it off? Because we are brought up in a social scheme that tells us we have to deserve what we get, and the price to pay for all good things is suffering. But all of that is mere postponement. We are afraid here and now to see the truth. And if we had the nerve—you know, real nerve—we’d see it right away. But that’s when we immediately feel that we shouldn’t have nerve like that, because it would be awful. After all, we’re supposed to feel like a poor little me who has to work and work and suffer in order to become something far away and great, like a Buddha or Jivanmukta—someone who becomes liberated.

So you can suffer for it. There are all kinds of ways invented for you to do this. You can discipline yourself and gain control of your mind and do all sorts of extraordinary things—like drink water in through your rectum and push a peanut up a mountain with your nose. There are all sorts of accomplishments you can engage in. But they have absolutely nothing to do with the realization of the self. The realization of the self fundamentally depends on coming off it, just as when someone is putting on some kind of act and we say, “Oh, come off it.” And some people can come off it—they laugh, because they suddenly realize they’ve been making a fool of themselves.

So that’s the job of the trickster—the guru, the teacher—to help you come off it. And to this end, the guru will come up with all sorts of exercises to get you to come off it. And maybe after you get enough discipline and frustration and suffering, you’ll finally give it all up and realize that you were there from the beginning and there was nothing to realize in the first place. See, the guru is very clever. They don’t go out on the streets and preach and tell you that you need to be converted— they sit down under a tree and wait. And people start coming around and bringing their problems and propositions to the guru, and the guru answers and challenges you in whatever way they think is appropriate to your situation. Now, if you’ve got a thin shell and your mask is easily dispatched with, the guru uses the easy method. They’ll say, “Come off it, Shiva! Stop pretending you’re this guy here. I know who you are!” But most people won’t respond to that. Most people have very thick shells, so the guru has to invent ways of cracking those shells.

To understand yoga, you should read Patañjali—the Yoga Sutras. There are so many translations, and I’m not sure which is the best. This sutra begins, “Now yoga is explained.” That’s the first verse, and the commentators say that “now” in this context carries the meaning that you’re supposed to know other material beforehand. Specifically, you’re supposed to be a civilized human being before you begin yoga—you’re supposed to have been disciplined in Artha, Kama, and Dharma. You’re supposed to have engaged in politics, the arts of sensuality, and justice before you can begin yoga. The next verse is “Yogash chitta vritti nirodha,” which means “Yoga is the cessation of revolutions of the mind,” and this can mean many things—stop the waves of the mind, attain a perfectly calm mind, stop thinking entirely, or even eliminate all contents from the mind. How can you do that? Well, the sutra goes on to give you particular steps: pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi.

Pranayama means controlling the breath, pratyahara refers to preliminary concentration, dharana is a more intense form of concentration, dhyana—the same dhyana from which the word Zen comes—means profound union between subject and object, and then there’s samadhi—the attainment of non-dualistic consciousness. See what’s happening here? First, you learn to control your breath. And breathing is a very strange thing, because breathing can be viewed both as a voluntary and involuntary action. You can feel that you breathe and yet you can also feel that breathing breathes you. And there are all sorts of fancy ways to breathe in yoga which are very amusing to practice, because you can get quite high on them. So this sutra sets you up with all sorts of tricks and if you are bright you may begin to realize some things at this point.

But if you are not very bright, you’ll have to go on to work on concentration. You learn to concentrate the mind on one point. Now, this can be an absolutely fascinating undertaking. Here’s one way to try it out: find some bright, polished surface—say, on copper or glass or something—and select on it some reflection of light. Now, look at it and put your eyes out of focus so that the bright spot appears to be fuzzy, like a fuzzy circle. You’ll see a definite pattern of blur and you’ll have a wonderful time looking at that. Then get your eyes back into focus and look at an intense light and go deep into it, like falling down a funnel and at the end of the funnel is this intense light. Just go in and in an in—it’s a most thrilling experience.

So you’re doing this kind of practice when the guru suddenly wakes you up. And they say, “What are you looking at that light for?” And you stammer something about wanting realization because we live in a world in which we identify ourselves with the ego and we therefore get into trouble and suffer. And the guru asks, “Well, are you afraid of that?” And you respond, “Yes.” Well, then the guru points out to you that all you’re doing is practicing yoga out of fear—you’re just escaping and running away. And how far do you think you can get into realization through fear? So then you think, “Well, now I’ve got to practice yoga, but not with a fearful motive.” And all the while, the guru is watching you. They’re a highly sensitive person, and they know exactly what you’re doing—they know exactly what your motive is. So they put you onto the kick of getting a pure motive, which means getting a very deep control of your emotions. So you try not to have impure thoughts. You try and try and maybe manage to repress as many impure thoughts as possible and then one day the guru asks, “Why are you repressing your thoughts? What’s your motive here?” And then you find out that you had an impure motive for trying to have a pure mind. You did it for the same old reason. From the very beginning you were afraid, because you wanted to play one-up on the universe.

Eventually you see how crazy your mind is. It can only go in circles. Everything your mind does to get out of the trap puts it more securely in the trap. Every step toward liberation ties you up even more. You started with molasses in one hand and feathers in the other, and the guru made you clap your hands together and then told you to pick the feathers off. And the more you try to do so, the more mess you make. Meanwhile, as you get more and more involved in this curious process, the guru tells you how you’re progressing. “You attained the 8th stage today. Congratulations. Now you only have 56 steps remaining.” And when you get to that 64th stage, the guru knows how to spin it and drag it all out, because you are ever so hopeful that you’ll get that thing, just as you might win a prize or win a special job or great distinction and finally be somebody. That your motivation all along, only it’s very spiritual here. It’s not for worldly recognition, but you want to be recognized by the gods and angels—it’s the same story on a higher level.


So the guru keeps holding out all these baits and the student keeps taking the bait. And the guru holds out more baits until the student gets the realization that they’re just running around faster and faster in a squirrel cage. I mean, the student is making an enormous amount of progress, but they’re not getting anywhere. And this is how the guru tricks you. The guru impresses this realization upon you by these methods until you finally find out that you—as an ego, as what you ordinarily call your mind—are a mess. And you just can’t do this thing. You can’t do it by any of the means that have been presented to you. You can now concentrate, yes, but you discover you’ve been concentrating for the wrong reason, and there’s no way of doing it for the right reason.

Krishnamurti did this to people. He was a very clever guru. And Gurdjieff, too, although he played the same game in a different way. He made his students watch themselves constantly and told them to never, never be absentminded. And the Japanese sword teachers do the same thing. Their first lesson is to always be alert—constantly— because you never know where or when the attack is going to come. Now, do you know what happens when you try to always be on the alert? You think about being alert—you’re not alert. And you’re a hopeless prey to the enemy. So the trick is to be simply awake and relaxed. Then all your nerve ends are working and whenever the attack comes, you’re ready. The great teachers liken this to a barrel of water—the water sits there in the barrel, and as soon as you put a hole in the barrel the water just falls out. It doesn’t have to think about it. In the same way, when the mind is in a proper state, it is ready to respond in any direction without any sense of being taut or anxious. And the minute anything happens, it’s right there, because it didn’t have to overcome anything, like coming back from the opposite direction to respond to an attack. See, if you’re set for the attack to come from over there and it comes from here, you have to pull back from there and come here, but by then it’s too late. So sit in the middle and don’t expect the attack to come from any particular direction.

In yoga, you can be watchful and concentrated and alert, but all that will ever teach you is what not to do—how not to use the mind. You have to just let it happen, like going to sleep. You can’t try to go to sleep. It’s the same with digesting your food—you can’t try to digest your food. And it’s the same with liberation—you have to let yourself wake up. When you find out there isn’t any way of forcing it, maybe you’ll stop forcing it. But most people don’t believe this. They say, “Well, that won’t work for me. I’m very unevolved. I’m just poor little me and if I don’t force it nothing will happen.” I know some people who think they have to struggle and strain to have a bowel movement—they think they have to work to make it happen. But all of this is based on a lack of faith—not trusting life. How do you get people to trust life? You have to trick them. They won’t jump into the water, so you have to throw them in. And if they’re very unwilling to be thrown in, they’re going to take diving lessons or read books about diving or do preliminary exercises or stand at the edge of the diving board and inquire which is the right posture until somebody comes up from behind and kicks them in the butt to get them in the water. 

Excerpted from Out of Your Mind: Tricksters, Independence, and the Cosmic Game of Hide and Seek by Alan Watts. Copyright © 2017 Alan Watts. Preface © 2017 Mark Watts. To be published by Sounds True in March 2017.

From our current issue Parabola Volume 42, No. 1, “The Search for Meaning,” Spring 2017. This issue is available to purchase here. If you have enjoyed this piece, consider subscribing.

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“Behold the Spirit” (New Preface) by Alan Watts

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This New Preface to “Behold the Spirit” by Alan Watt was added to the reprinting of the book in 1971.  In it Watts explains his “evolutionary thought process” and eventual decision to leave the Anglican Church.   His university Episcopal Chaplain position was a last attempt for him to embrace the “faith of his youth” and “work within the system.”   Problem was, his passion and connection to the philosophies of the East and a robust Bohemian lifestyle eventually pushed him to move on in his spiritual trek.  

When Behold the Spirit was reprinted (1971) Watts required this new preface be added to explain his own evolving journey. Enjoy!

Original printing - 1947

Blessings,
Bei Kuan-tu
__________________


This book was written twenty-five years ago, during the experiment of trying to immerse myself in Christianity —to the extent of being a priest of the Anglican Communion, Episcopal Chaplain at Northwestern University, and an examining chaplain for candidates for holy orders in the Diocese of Chicago. Prior to this experiment, indeed since the age of fifteen, my outlook had been Buddhist rather than Christian even though I had been schooled in the heart of the Church of England and had learned a version of Christianity which was not that of this book. In adolescence I had rejected it, but as time went on the study of comparative religion and Christian mysticism suggested a way in which I might operate through the forms and in the terms of the official religion of Western culture. I did not want to be an eccentric outsider, and felt that Catholic Christianity might be taught and practiced as a form of that perennial philosophy which is the gold within the sectarian dross of every great religion.

I still believe that this experiment had validity, and I have consented to the republication of
Behold the Spirit with the thought that it may prove useful to the t many Catholic and Protestant theologians who are now revolutionary enough to understand it. For it speaks to their condition in their own language—more so, perhaps, than my later theological essays, The Supreme Identity (1950), Myth and Ritual in Christianity (1953), and Beyond Theology (1964), which last represents my present way of thinking within this context.

Even twenty-five years ago this experiment had some success. I did not pursue it for the purely personal reason that my bohemian style of life did not fit well with the clerical stereotype, and because even then I was ill at ease with the commitment to spiritual imperialism which most Christians feel to be the
sine qua non of being Christian, as if one could not be a true Christian without being a militant missionary. But then, and more than ever today, there were both clergy and laity who hungered for a mystical approach to Christianity, concerned with the non-verbal spiritual experience of the divine rather than mere doctrine and precept. Yet now, as then, the Church is still overwhelmingly didactic and verbose, both as it faces God and as it faces the world. Its liturgies consist almost entirely of telling God what to do and the people how to behave. By rationalizing the Mass and celebrating it in the vernacular instead of Latin, even the Roman Church has made the liturgy an occasion for filling one’s head with thoughts, aspirations, considerations and resolutions, so that it is almost impossible to use the Mass as a support for pure contemplation, free from discursive chatter in the skull.

Today, the idea of the mystical finds greater acceptance, both within and outside the Church, than in 1946. A vast and well-informed literature on the subject has made it clear that “mysticism” is not a collective term for such spookeries as levitation, astrology, telekinesis, and projection of the astral body. Theologians can no longer dismiss or distort the mystical teachings of either East or West without revealing plain lack of scholarship. Scientists—now familiar with field theory, ecological dynamics and the transactional nature of perception—can no longer see man as the independent observer of an alien and rigidly mechanical world of separate objects. The clearly mystical sensation of self-and-universe, or organism-and-environment, as a unified field or process seems to fit the facts. The sensation of man as an island-ego in a hostile, stupid or indifferent universe seems more of a dangerous hallucination.

At the same time it is less and less plausible to conceive God in the thought-graven image of a transcendental monarch modeled on the Pharaohs and Cyruses. But the dissolution of this idol need not leave us with no other alternative than the insipid humanism suggested by “death of God” and “religionless Christianity” theologians. The God of mystical experience may not be the ethically obstreperous and precisely defined autocrat beloved of religious authoritarians; but as an experience, not concept, as vividly real as indefinable, this God does not violate the intellectual conscience, the aesthetic imagination, or the religious intuition. A Christianity which is not basically mystical must become either a political ideology or a mindless fundamentalism. This is, indeed, already happening, and it is curious to note that, for lack of the mystical element, both trends fall back on the Bible as their basic inspiration—and it has always struck me that Biblical idolatry is one of the most depressing and sterile fixations of the religious mind.

We now know beyond doubt that large and widely scattered numbers of otherwise sane and sober people have had experiences of “cosmic consciousness” in which the sense of life becomes perfectly clear. The antagonisms of good and evil, life and death, being and nothing, self and other are felt as the poles or undulations of a single, eternal and harmonious energy—exuding a sense of joy and love. The feeling may be purely subjective and without reference to “external reality” [as if “external” could be independent of “internal”], but it comes upon us with the same startling independence of wishing and willing as a flash of lightning. Debates as to whether this vision is or is not “true” seem as pointless as asking whether my sensation of green is just the same as yours. But the vision is not pointless because, when seen, it is obviously the whole point of life and, often enough, it transforms one’s way of living.

In our inevitably clumsy attempts to describe this vision it often seems necessary to say that everything is God, that God alone is real, that a crumb is the whole universe, or that you and God are one. At the same time, the experience is somehow a grace: it is
given and cannot be evoked by effort of will. In Behold the Spirit I was trying to show that the gift of the Incarnation, of God becoming man (virgin-born, without human effort), implied and fulfilled itself in this experience, and in this sense I quoted the saying of St. Athanasius that “God became man that man might become God.” But I was pussyfooting, as is always the way with theologians when they try to discuss the Christology of ordinary human beings as distinct from the Christology of Jesus. For the Church’s habitual assumption, having the force of dogma, is that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the only son of woman who was at the same time God.

This Godhood is extended to other people by “participation in the human nature of Jesus,” explained by the tortuous Greek notion that human nature is a “real universal” or “substance” in which we all share. When the
person of God the Son assumed this nature, he assumed all our natures and became mankind, leaving, however, the person (or ego) of each man distinct and separate from his own divine person. In other words, God the Son was the person of the particular man Jesus. He assumed the nature, but not the person, of such particular men as Peter, Paul, John and the rest of us.

Looking back on this pussyfooting I find it somewhat less than a gospel—a tremendous proclamation of good news. I now find it easier to assume that Jesus was a man like ourselves who had a spontaneous (
i.e., virgin-born) and overwhelming experience of cosmic consciousness in which it became completely clear to him that “I and the Father are one” and that “before Abraham was, I am.” But it was as tactless to say this in terms of Jewish theology as it still remains to say it in terms of Christian. Jesus had to hedge by identifying himself as the Son of Man, the Suffering Servant—or spiritual messiah—of Isaiah II. It would have been outrageous and criminal blasphemy to come right out and say, “I am God”— assuming the throne of the Cyrus of the universe. But, if we are to believe the Gospel of St. John, conviction got the better of tact—for in all those “I am” passages he came out with the simple truth of his experience and was crucified for blasphemy.

The Gospel was that “in my Father’s house are many mansions,” that his disciples would all be one even as he and the Father were one, and thus perform even greater works than he. It is not easy for the pious Christian to realize that Jesus was not an expert on the history of religion, and had probably never met anyone whose mystical vision was as deep as his own. The only religious language available to him was that of the legal and prophetic Hebrew scriptures which, with their image of God as the King-Father, do not easily lend themselves to a mystical interpretation. Jewish mystics—the Kabbalists and the Hasidim—have always had to read the scriptures as complex allegories in order to go beyond their literal sense. Therefore Jesus had difficulty in saying what he felt, not only because it was officially blasphemous, but also because it made no sense to say that he was consciously and personally ruling and causing every detail of the universe, and attending to all prayers from everywhere. Thus on the one hand he could say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and on the other, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but God.” But such problems do not arise for those whose image or non-image of God is not monarchical.

The Gospel must therefore be the communication of Jesus’ own experience of Godhood. Otherwise Christians put themselves in the absurd situation of reproaching themselves for not following the example of one who had the unique advantage of being God or, at the very least, “the Boss’s son.” It is thus that the “saving truth” of the Gospel appears, not as Jesus’ experience of Godhood, but as his punishment for proclaiming it, and that sanctity in the following of Christ is chiefly measured by the degree of guiltiness felt in failing to come up to his example. Christians dare not believe that, as St. John says, they have been given power “to become the sons of God,” remembering that the expression “sons of” means “of the nature of.” The dubious uniqueness of the monarchical religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is that they over-stress the difference between Creator and creature and, by making virtues of feeling guilty and frightened, inculcate a very special terror of death—which Jesus saw as a source of life. Is it really such a profound theological paradox to be trying at once to “be not anxious” and to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”? To substitute the fear of God for the fear of the world is to exchange a finite terror for one that is infinite—for the terror of everlasting damnation. As an inheritor of the monarchical tradition, Jesus recognized this terror, for would not the Court of Heaven also have dungeons? But he saw the possibility of overcoming it in his and our realization of divine sonship—that is, in mystical experience. Lacking such experience, religion is only a futile straining to follow a way of life for which one has neither the power nor the grace, and there is no power in a merely theoretical grace which one has allegedly been given but does not feel.

From this point of view it would seem that the Church has rendered the Gospel ineffective by setting Jesus on a pedestal of excessive reverence and making him so unique that he is virtually isolated from the human condition. By setting itself apart from the world-wide traditions of mystical religion Christianity appears, not as unique, but as an anomalous oddity with imperious claims. Thus the religion
of Jesus became the religion about Jesus, lost its essence, and appeared more and more to be ridiculously aggressive as the context of world religion came into view. How can there be “one flock, one fold, and one Shepherd” unless it is recognized that there are already “other sheep who are not of this fold”?

As might have been expected,
Behold the Spirit was criticized for its creeping pantheism—a point of view which, in its many forms, is so repugnant to religious monarchists that simply to be named a pantheist is enough to have one’s case excluded from an intelligent hearing. I am no longer concerned to defend myself against the charge of pantheism because, from my present point of view, all doctrines of God—including atheism—are ultimately false and idolatrous, because doctrines are forms of words which can never be more than pointers to mystical vision, and not by any means the best pointers. At most I feel that some sort of pantheism is the least inconsistent with that vision, and by pantheism (or panentheism) I mean the conception of God as the total energy-field of the universe, including both its positive and negative aspects, and in which every discernible part or process is a sort of microcosm or hologram. That is to say, the whole is expressed in or implied by every part, as is the brain in each one of its cells. This view strikes me as cleaner and simpler than monotheism.

Theoretically, pantheism may blur or confuse the distinction between good and evil, but where is the evidence to show that monotheists are better behaved than pantheists—and by whose standards? Moral principles and sanctions are weakened when absolutized, for much the same reasons that respect for law is diminished by judicial torture and frantic punishment for crime. Metaphysically and intellectually, solutions to the problem of evil require far more tortuous conceptualization for monotheists than for pantheists. Furthermore, the notion that any identity of Creator and creature makes a fundamental “I-Thou” relationship of love between the two impossible is untenable for any believer in the Holy Trinity. How, then, could there be mutual love between God the Father and God the Son, since both, though different, are yet one God? And the objection that the pantheist conception of God is too vague and impersonal to inspire devotion or grace could be to the point if it were no more than a conception, but is groundless if held against the vision which the concept merely represents. Inspiring and worshipful as the character of Jesus may be, it was not what inspired Jesus himself, for he was what he was because he knew of himself that “I and the Father are one,” and not—obviously—because he had accepted Jesus as his Savior. But, from the beginning, institutional Christianity has hardly contemplated the possibility that the consciousness of Jesus might be the consciousness of the Christian, that the whole point of the Gospel is that everyone may experience union with God in the same way and to the same degree as Jesus himself. On the contrary, one who says, with Meiser Eckhart, that “the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me” is condemned as a heretic.

Small wonder, for the immediate following of Jesus was Jewish and it was as difficult for them as for him to reconcile mystical experience with Biblical monotheism. Instead of following him they worshipped him, for they still felt that—for anyone except Jesus—it would be pride, presumption, and insubordination for a mere creature to be one with the Creator. For monotheism can allow only the devotional
(bhakti) style of mysticism, where Creator and creature find union in intense mutual love, never in basic identity. In the context of monarchical monotheism to say, “I am God,” doesn’t seem to carry the implication, “And so are you,” because it has the same ring as saying, “I’m the boss around here.” Within this context the mystic is always in danger of that spiritual megalomania which Jung called “psychic inflation” in which one takes one’s ego for God instead of God for one’s ego—and Christianity has maneuvered Jesus into just that position. It is thus that the individual Christian frustrates himself perpetually, always finding himself guilty for not living up to the example of one who had the unique advantage of being God incarnate, and who was by definition incapable of being guilty.

The question then arises: Can Christianity abandon the monarchical image of God and still be Christianity? Why should this be of concern? For which is more important—to be a Christian or to be at one with God? Must religion be Christian, Islamic or Hindu, or could it simply be religion? Certainly there must be the same variety of style in religion as there is in culture, but the concern to preserve, validate and propagate Christianity as such is a disastrous confusion of religious style with religion. Indeed, this sectarian fanaticism (shared alike by Judaism and Islam) is all of a piece with the monarchical image and its necessary imperialism. Even such scholarly theologians as Maritain and Zaehner keep up this pitiful game of spiritual one-upmanship in differentiating the “natural” mysticism of Hindus and Buddhists from the “supernatural” mysticism of Christians, and continue to damn other religions with faint praise. If Christianity cannot be Christianity without pushing the claim to be the best of all possible religions, the world will breathe more freely when it dissolves.

The practical problem is, what are we going to do on Sunday mornings? How are multitudes of ministers to continue their work? What is to be the use of Church buildings, funds, and administrative machinery? Naturally, institutional Christianity will, in its present form, continue to supply the demand which remains for a monarchical religion. But a considerable number of ministers and even congregations—not to mention millions of reasonably intelligent young people—realize that churches must “put up or shut up,” and that the chief business of religious facilities and assemblies is to provide a social milieu for religious experience. This is no mere matter of changing the externals—of having rock bands instead of organs and
Kyrie eleison set to jazz, nor even of turning churches into social service centers with the idea that this would be practicing Christianity seven days a week instead of just talking it on Sundays. Indeed, one may well hope that monarchical Christianity will not be practiced, even on Sundays, since the dutiful spirit in which it dispenses charity breeds resentment in the giver and the receiver alike, for when the one gives with reluctance the other receives with guilt. Ministers and their congregations must instead consider what need there may be for churches as temples for contemplation and meditation, stripped of the courthouse furniture of stalls, pews, pulpits, lecterns and other equipment for throwing the Book at captive audiences. They must consider also the need for retreat houses and religious communities, and for guidance and instruction in the many forms of spiritual discipline which are conducive to mystical vision. They must further consider whether, as things now stand, they are even able to offer such services— sorely neglected as they have been in theological education. Obviously, if Christian groups cannot or will not provide mystical religion, the work will be (and is already being) done by Hindus, Buddhists, Sufis, unaffiliated gurus, and growth centers. Churchmen can no longer afford to laugh these things off as cultish vagaries for goofy and esoteric minorities—as if any intensive practice of religion had ever, anywhere at any time, been of interest to the majority of people.

This prompts me to say that I no longer set much store in the notion that we are about to enter upon some great New Age of spiritual development, or in such theories of historical epochs as were proposed by Joachim of Flora and Oswald Spengler. Fortunately, the preoccupation with these ideas in the first chapter, “The Epoch of the Spirit,” is not essential to the main argument of the book. I am not saying that some great resurgence of spiritual vitality may not be coming upon us. The point is rather that such apocalyptic and messianic hopes for the future distract from the mystic’s essential concern for the Eternal Now and encourage a dependence upon the mere passage of time as a vehicle of grace and growth. The concomitance of our perilous ecological crisis with the sudden expansion of mass-communication technology does indeed suggest that the world is in an apocalyptic and even eschatological situation, in a period of catastrophic revelation and imminent disaster. At times when the future appears to be failing us it is only natural that there should be a resurgence of religion and of interest in things eternal: it is our only recourse. It may amount to no more than the superstitious comforts of fantasy and magic, or of shrieking in desperation to high heaven. But, on the other hand, it may be something like the overwhelming sensation of release and peace which occasionally comes to people facing death.

For at such times there is no escaping the fact that in the pursuit of happiness, power and righteousness the human ego, with all its will and intelligence, has come to its wits’ end. Even the solaces of religious hope and belief seem hollow—being no more than refined and fantastic forms of trying to save our carefully fabricated personalities from coming to an end. But the personality is a phantom even less substantial than the body, being an ephemeral work of art like a musical composition that dies away as it is played. But when it comes to silence we hear another tune, for we are reduced to the guileless simplicity of listening to what is—now. This is really all there is to contemplative mysticism—to be aware without judgement or comment of what is actually happening at this moment, both outside ourselves to do, and no way on or back.

Wait without thought, for you are not yet ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be light, and the stillness the dancing.

For here, where there is neither past nor future, the doors of perception are cleansed, and we see everything as it is—infinite.

Of course, those who have never let themselves be reduced to this simplicity will feel that it is an arid oversimplification, that there must be much more than this—by way of doctrines, precepts and practices—to an effective religious consciousness. Here, then, will be trotted out all the old objections to the negativity c mystical ideas, to the dissolution of God our Father int the “divine darkness” or “cloud of unknowing” c Western mystics, or the featureless Void of the Buddhists. One can but reiterate the point that the mystic is negating only concepts and idols of God, and in this way cleansing the doors of perception in the faith that if God is real, he need not be sought in any particular direction or conceived in any special way. To see the light, it is only necessary to stop dreaming and open the eyes.

ALAN WATTS
Sausalito, California
February, 1971


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"Judo: The Gentle Tao" by Alan Watts

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Judo: The Gentle Tao by Alan Watts
by Alan Watts

"Man at his birth is supple and tender, but in death, he is rigid and hard. Thus, suppleness and tenderness accompany life, but rigidity and hardness accompany death.”

I have just been reading from Lao-tzu on the philosophy of the strength of weakness. It is a strange thing, I think, how it is men in the West do not realize how much softness is strength. One of old Lao-tzu's favorite analogies was water. He spoke of water as the weakest of all things in the world, and yet there is nothing to be compared with it in overcoming what is hard and strong. You can cut water with a knife. It lets the knife go right through, but when the knife is withdrawn there's not even the trace of a wound.

Lao-tzu also said that while being a man, one should retain a certain essential feminine element, and he who does this will become a channel for the whole world. The ideal of the hundred percent tough guy, the rigid, rugged fellow with muscles like rocks, is really a weakness. Probably we assume this sort of tough exterior as a hard shell to protect ourselves so much from the outside as from fear of weakness on the inside. What happens if an engineer builds a completely rigid bridge? If, for example, the Golden Gate Bridge or George Washington Bridge didn't sway in the wind, if they had no give, no yielding, they would come crashing down. And so you can always be sure that when a man pretends to be one hundred percent man, he's in doubt of his manhood. If he can allow himself to be weak, he can allow himself what is really the greatest strength, not only of human beings, but of all living things. It is upon the philosophy of the strength of weakness that came from China to Japan through the migration of Zen Buddhism that there has largely been inspired one of the most astonishing forms of self defense known as Judo, or perhaps more popularly, Ju-jitsu.

The word Judo is fascinating because it means Ju- the gentle, do- way. Do is the Japanese way of pronouncing the Chinese Tao, and so it is the gentle Tao, the philosophy of the Tao as applied to self defense. Now this philosophy has various components, and one of the most basic things to the whole practice of Judo is an understanding of balance. Balance, indeed, is a fundamental idea in Taoist philosophy. The philosophy of the Tao has a basic respect for the balance of nature. You don't upset that balance. You try to find out what it is and go along with it. In other words you avoid such mistakes as the wholesale slaughter of an insect pest, of the introduction of rabbits into a country like Australia without thought as to whether the rabbit has a natural enemy, because through such interference with the balance of nature you find yourself in trouble. So the philosophy of balance is the number one thing that all students of Judo have to learn.

You may illustrate this principle using a ball. Wherever one pushes the ball it yields, but it never loses its balance. It is the safest form in the world; completely contained, and never off center. And thus to be completely contained, and never put off center by anything, this is what is aimed at in Zen.

This is also symbolized sometimes in the figure of the legendary founder of Zen, Bodhidharma. Japanese toy makers represent him as a little dumpy toy figure weighted in such a way that however you hit it, it always comes upright again. And so in the same way the expert in Zen, as well as in Judo, must be a man who is never fazed. He is never brought to a point of doubt where he hesitates, where there's an interval between the action of life and his response to it. Now if we look at these principles of Judo the problem of balance is easily demonstrated with a question of lifting a heavy roll of material. We would be foolish to try and just pick it up from the top because that shows no understanding of the laws of balance. If you want to lift something, go below its center of gravity. Put your shoulder to it, undermine it, and lift it so. And that principle goes throughout Judo. Part of the understanding of balance in Judo is to learn to walk in such a way that you are never off center. That is to say your legs form a triangle, and your body is on the apex of it, and when you turn you always try to keep your feet approximately under you shoulders, and in this way you are never of balance.

The second principle, beyond keeping balance, and understanding balance, is not to oppose strength to strength. When one is attacked by the enemy you do not oppose him. Instead you yield to him, just like the matador yields to the bull, and you use his strength and the principle of balance to bring about his downfall. Supposing, for example, there is a blow coming at me from a certain direction. Instead of defending myself, and pushing the blow off, the idea in judo is to carry the blow away. The knee goes out, catching the adversary below his point of balance, and he drops with a 'bang' brought about on his own initiative, and your cunning. The same attitude of relaxed gentleness is most beautifully seen, for instance, in watching cats. When a cat falls of a tree, it lets go of itself. The cat becomes completely relaxed, and lands on the ground with a heavy thud. And if, for example, a cat were about to fall off a tree and suddenly made up its mind that it didn't want to fall at all and became tense, it would be just a bag of broken bones upon landing.

So, in the same way, it is the philosophy of Zen that we are all falling off a tree. As a matter of fact, the moment we were born we were kicked off a precipice and we are falling, and there is nothing that can stop it. So instead of living in a state of chronic tension, and clinging to all sorts of things which are actually falling with us because the whole world is impermanent, be like a cat.

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"PHILOSOPHY OF THE TAO" by Alan Watts

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The subject of this seminar is going to be Taoism as contained in the teachings of Lao-Tzu and Chuang Tzu who lived approximately 400 years or more before Christ, separated probably by 100 years from each other. And as is often repeated, Lao-Tzu started out by explaining that "The Tao which can be explained is not the eternal Tao," and then went on to write a book about it, also saying "Those who say do not know; those who know do not say." Because there's nothing to be explained. You must remember that the word "explain" means to lay out in a plane. That is, to put it on a flat sheet of paper.

All mathematics is done on a flat sheet of paper until very recent times. But it makes a great deal of difference, because this world isn't flat. If you draw a circle on a flat sheet of paper it has an inside and an outside which are different. On the other hand if you draw a circle around a doughnut the inside and the outside are the same. So what we are first of all saying is that the Tao - whatever that is - cannot be explained in that sense.

So it's important, first of all, to experience it so we know what we're talking about. And in order to go into Taoism at all we must begin by being in the frame of mind which can understand it. You cannot force yourself into this frame of mind, any more than you can smooth disturbed water with your hand. But let's say that our starting point is that we forget what we know - or think we know. That we suspend judgment about practically everything, returning to what we were when we were babies. When we have not yet learned the names, or language, and although we have extremely sensitive bodies - very alive senses - we have no means of making an intellectual or verbal commentary on what is going on.

Now can you consider that as your state? Just plain ignorant, but still very much alive. And in this state you just feel what is without calling it anything at all. You know nothing at all about anything called an external world in relation to an internal world. You don't know who you are. You haven't even got the idea of the word "you" or "I." It's before all that. Nobody has taught you self-control. So you don't know the difference between the noise of a car outside and a wandering thought that enters your mind. They're both something that happens. You don't identify the presence of the thought, which might be just an image of a passing cloud in your mind's eye, and the passing automobile. They happen. Your breath happens. Light all around you happens. Your response to it by blinking happens.

So you simply are really unable to do anything. There's nothing that you're supposed to do. Nobody's told you anything to do. You're unable, completely, to do anything but be aware of the buzz. The visual buzz, the audible buzz, the tangible buzz, the smellable buzz, all buzz that's going on. Ha ha. Watch it! Don't ask who's watching it. You've no information about that yet, that it requires a watcher for something to be watched. That's somebody's idea. You don't know that.

And Lao-Tzu says, "The scholar learns something every day. The man of Tao unlearns something every day... until he gets back to non-doing." And that's what we are in at the moment.

Just simply, without comment, without an idea in your head, be aware. What else can you do? Don't try to be aware. You are. You'll find, of course, that you can't stop the commentary going on inside of your head. But at least you can regard it as interior noise. Listen to your chattering thoughts as you listen to the singing of a kettle. We don't know what it is we are aware of. Especially when you take it all together. And there's this sense of something going on. I won't even say that. This. You see? This.

Well, I said it was going on. That's an idea. It's a form of words. Obviously I wouldn't know if anything was going on unless I could say something else wasn't. Huh. I know motion by contrast with rest. So while I am aware of motion I am also aware of rest, so maybe what's at rest isn't going on and what's motion is going on. So I won't use that concept because I've got to include both. And if I say, "Well here it is," that excludes what isn't - like space. And if I say "this" it excludes "that." Ha ha ha, I'm reduced to silence!

But you can feel what I'm talking about, can't you? That's what's called "Tao" in Chinese. That's where we begin.

Tao means basically "way" - and so "course" - the course of Nature. Of which Lao-Tzu says "Tao fa tzu yan," which means - the "fa" - "Tao fa" means the way of functioning of the Tao. "Tzu yan" is of itself, so. That is to say, is spontaneous.

Watch again what's going on. If you approach it with this wise ignorance you will see that you are witnessing a happening. In other words, in this primal way of looking at things there's no difference between what you do on the one hand and what happens to you on the other. It's all the same process. Just as your thoughts happen the car happens outside. The clouds. The stars.

When a Westerner hears that he thinks of fatalism or determinism. That's because he still preserves in the back of his mind two illusions. One is that what is happening is happening to him, and therefore he is the victim of circumstances. But when you are in primal ignorance there is no you different from what's happening, and therefore it's not happening to you. It's just happening. Ha ha. So is you, you know, what you call "you," what you later call "you" is part of the happening. You're part of the Universe. Although the Universe, strictly speaking, has no parts. We only call certain features of the Universe parts of it, but you can't disconnect them from the rest without causing them to be not only nonexistent but never to have existed. Ha ha.

So when you have this happening the other illusion that a Westerner is liable to have is that it's determined in the sense that what is happening now follows necessarily from what happened in the past. But you don't know anything about that in your primal ignorance. Cause and effect? Why, obviously not! Ha ha ha! Because if you're really na•ve you see that the past is the result of what's happening now. It goes backwards into the past like a wake goes backwards from a ship. All the echoes are disappearing, finally, going away and away and away. And it's all starting now. What we call the future is nothing, the great void. And everything comes out of the great void.

That's the way a na•ve person - and as I explained if any of you were at my lecture last night, if you shut your eyes and contemplate reality only with your ears you'll find there's a background of silence and all sounds are coming out of it. They start out of silence. If you close your eyes - listen, just listen. [rings meditation bell] You see the bell came out of nothing, floated off, off, off, off, and then stopped being a sonic echo and became a memory, which is another kind of echo. A wake. It's very simple!

It all begins now. And therefore it's spontaneous. It isn't determined. That's a philosophical notion. Nor is it capricious! That's another philosophical notion. As we distinguish between what is orderly and what is random. Of course we don't really know what randomness is. If you talk to a mathematician about randomness he'll make you feel quite weird.

What is so of itself? "Sui generis" in Latin. That means coming into being spontaneously on its own accord. It's the real meaning of "virgin birth." Sui generis. And that's the world. That is the Tao. That makes us feel scared. Perhaps. Because we say "Well if all this is happening spontaneously who's in charge? I'm not in charge, that's pretty obvious! Ha ha ha! But I hope there's God or somebody looking after all this." Though why should there be someone looking after it? Because then there's a new worry that you may not have thought of. Like who takes care of the caretaker's daughter while the caretaker's busy taking care? Who guards the guards? Who supervises the police? Who looks after God? Well you say "God doesn't need looking after." Oh. Oh, then nor does this!

Tao. Because Tao is a certain kind of order. And this kind of order is not quite what we call order. When we arrange everything geometrically in boxes or in rows that's a very crude kind of order. But when you look at a plant it's perfectly obvious that this bamboo plant has order. We recognize at once that that is not a mess. But it is not symmetrical. And it is not geometrical looking. It looks like a Chinese drawing. Because the Chinese appreciated this kind of order so much that they put it into their painting. Non-symmetrical order.

In the Chinese language this is called "li" and the character for li means originally the markings in jade. Also means the grain in wood, and the fiber in muscle. We could say too that clouds have li, marble has li, the Human body has li. And we all recognize it, and the artist copies it whether he is a landscape painter, a portrait painter, or an abstract painter, or a non-objective painter. They all are trying for li.

And the interesting thing is that although we all know what it is there's no way of defining it. But because Tao is the course we can also call li the watercourse, because the patterns of li are patterns of flowing water. And we see those patterns of flow memorialized as it were in sculpture, in the grain in wood (which is the flow of sap), in marble, in bones, in muscles. All these things are patterned according to the basic principles. That is the fa, Tao fa, the Tao's principle of flow.

There is a book called "Sensitive Chaos" by Theodore Svenk with many many studies and photographs of flow patterns. And there in the patterns of flowing water you will see all kinds of motifs from Chinese art. Immediately recognizable, including the S-curve in the circle, the yang-yin, like this.... See?

So li means then the order of flow, the wonderful dancing pattern of liquid. Because Lao-Tzu likens Tao to water. "The great Tao," he says, "flows everywhere, to the left and to the right. [Like water]," - I'm interpolating that - "it loves and nourishes all things but does not lord it over them." "Because," he says elsewhere, "water always seeks the lowest level, which men abhor." Because we're always trying to play games of one-upmanship and be on top of each other. Well, Lao-Tzu explains that the top position is the most insecure. Everybody wants to get to the top of the tree. But then if they do the tree will collapse.

That's the fallacy of American democracy. You too might be president. The answer is, no one but a maniac would want to be president! [Laughter] Who wants to be put in charge of a runaway truck? [Laughter]

So, Lao-Tzu says that the basic position is the most powerful. And this we can see at once in Judo, or Aikido, which are wrestling arts or self-defensive arts where you always get underneath the opponent, and so he falls over you if he attacks you. The moment he moves to be aggressive you go either lower than he is, or in a smaller circle than he's moving. And you have spin if you know Aikido. You're always spinning, and you know how something rapidly spinning exercises centrifugal force. So if somebody comes into your field of centrifugal force he gets flung out, but by his own bounce. Huh, it's very curious. So, therefore, the watercourse way is the way of Tao.

Now, that seems to white Anglo-Saxon Protestants and Irish Catholics... lazy... spineless... passive. And I'm always being asked when I talk about things, "If people did what you suggest wouldn't they become terribly passive?" Well, from a superficial point of view I would suggest that a certain amount of passivity would be an excellent corrective for our kind of culture. Because we are always creating trouble by doing good to other people. [Laughter] You know, we wage wars for people's benefit. [Laughter] And educate the poor for their benefit, so that they desire more things which they can't get. I mean, that sounds rather callous. But our rich people are not happy, whereas the poor people of Haiti are - to judge by the way they laugh. And we think-- we're sorry, really, not for the poor but for ourselves. Guilty.

So a certain amount of doing nothing, and stopping rushing around, would cool everything. But also it must be remembered that passivity is the root of action. Where do you suppose you're going to get energy from, just by being energetic? No, you can't get energy that way. That is exhausting yourself. To have energy you must sleep, but also much more important than sleep is what I told you at the beginning. Passivity of mind, mental silence. Not-- you can't, as I tried to explain, be passive, as an exercise that's good for you. You can only get to that point by realizing there's nothing else you can do. So for God's sake don't cultivate passivity as a form of progress. That's like playing because it's good for your work. [Laughter] You never get to play! [Laughter]

PHILOSOPHY OF THE TAO BY Alan Watts
(Lecture by Alan Watts, circa 1970 transcribed by Scott Lahteine)


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"What is Zen?" — Alan Watts

zendream_galitz
---Zen Dream by Roie Galitz

I just finished reading an essay by Alan Watts entitled, "What is Zen?" Comically, the commentary below made my belly smile like a Buddha!
—Bei Kuan-tu

___________________


"So it is Zen that, if I may put it metaphorically, Jon-Jo said, 'the perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing, it refuses nothing. It receives, but does not keep.' And another poem says
of wild geese flying over a lake, 'The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection, and the water has no mind to retain their image.' In other words this is to be—to put it very strictly into our modem idiom—this is to live without hang-ups…”

—Alan Watts

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"Myth of Myself" (excerpt) The Tao of Philosophy by Alan Watts

309 Earthling
--309 Earthling by Dracorubio
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...Generally speaking, we have two kinds of consciousness. One I will call the "spotlight," and the other the "floodlight." The spotlight is what we call conscious attention, and we are trained from childhood that it is the most valuable form of perception. When the teacher in class says, "Pay attention!" everybody stares, and looks right at the teacher. That is spotlight consciousness; fixing your mind on one thing at a time. You concentrate, and even though you may not be able to have a very long attention span, nevertheless you use your spotlight: one thing after another, one thing after another . . . flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. However, we also have floodlight consciousness. For example, you can drive your car for several miles with a friend sitting next to you, and your spotlight consciousness may be completely absorbed in talking to your friend. Nevertheless, your floodlight consciousness will manage the driving of the car, will notice all the stoplights, the other idiots on the road, and so on, and you will get there safely without even thinking about it.

However, our culture has taught us to specialize in spotlight consciousness, and to identify ourselves with that form of consciousness alone. "I am my spotlight consciousness, my conscious attention; that is my ego; that is me." Although we very largely ignore it, the floodlight consciousness is working all the time, and every nerve ending that we have is its instrument. You can go out to a luncheon and sit next to Mrs. So-and-So, and you go home and your wife asks you, "Was Mrs. So-and-So there?"

"Yes, I sat next to her."
"Well, what was she wearing?"
"Well, I haven't the faintest idea."

You saw, but you did not notice. Now, because we have been brought up to identify ourselves with the spotlight consciousness, and the floodlight consciousness is undervalued, we have the sensation of ourselves as being just the spotlight, just the ego that looks and attends to this and that and the other. So we ignore and are unaware of the vast, vast extent of our being. People, who by various methods become fully aware of their floodlight consciousness, have what is called "a mystical experience," or what the Buddhists call
bodhi, an awakening. The Hindus call it moksha, or liberation, because they discover that the real deep, deep self, that which you really are fundamentally and forever, is the whole of being—all that there is, the works, that is you. Only that universal self that is you has a capacity to focus itself at ever so many different here-and-nows. So, as William James said, "The word T is really a word of position like 'this,' or 'here.'" Just as a sun or star has many rays, so the whole cosmos expresses itself in you and you and you in all the different variations. It plays games: it plays the John Doe game, the Mary Smith game. It plays the beetle game, the butterfly game, the bird game, the pigeon game, the fish game, the star game. These are games that differ from each other just like backgammon, bridge, poker, or pinochle; or like the waltz, mazurka, minuet, and tango. It dances with infinite variety, but every single dance that it does—that is to say, you—is what the whole thing is doing. However, we forget and we do not know who we are. We are brought up in a special way so that we are unaware of the connection, and unaware that each one of us is the works, playing it this way for awhile. So we have been taught to dread death as if it were the end of the show because it will not happen any more.

Therefore we are conditioned to be afraid of all the things that might bring about death: pain, sickness, suffering. If you are not really vividly aware of the fact that you are basically "the works," chances are you have no real joy in life, and you are just a bundle of anxiety mixed in with guilt.

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"The Wisdom of Insecurity" by Alan Watts — Alan Watts

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"...when you really understand that you are what you see and know, you do not run around the country-side thinking, 'I am all this.' There is simply 'all this.'

"...our experience is altogether momentary. From one point of view, each moment is so elusive and so brief that we cannot even think about it before it has gone. From another point of view, this moment is always here, since we know no other moment than the present moment. It is always dying, always becoming past more rapidly than imagination can conceive. Yet at the same time it is always being born, always new, emerging just as rapidly from that complete unknown we call the future. Thinking about it almost makes you breathless."


"...there is no formula for generating the authentic warmth of love. It cannot be copied. You cannot talk yourself into it or rouse it by straining at the emotions or by dedicating yourself solemnly to the service of mankind. Everyone has love, but it can only come out when he is convinced of the impossibility and the frustration of trying to love himself. This conviction will not come through condemnations, through hating oneself, through calling self-love all the bad names in the universe. It comes only in the awareness that one has no self to love."

"We are accustomed to think that, if there is any freedom at all, it resides, not in nature, but in the separate human will and its power of choice.

But what we ordinarily mean by choice is not freedom. Choices are usually decisions motivated by pleasure and pain, and the divided mind acts with the sole purpose of getting 'I' into pleasure and out of pain. But the best pleasures are those for which we do not plan, and the worst part of pain is expecting it and trying to get away from it when it has come. You cannot plan to be happy. You can plan to exist, but in themselves existence and non-existence are neither pleasurable nor painful..."

"In the strictest sense, we cannot actually think about life and reality at all, because this would have to include thinking about thinking, thinking about thinking about thinking, and so *ad infinitum*. One can only attempt a rational, descriptive philosophy of the universe on the assumption that one is totally separate from it. But if you and your thoughts are part of this universe, you cannot stand outside them to describe them. This is why all philosophical and theological systems must ultimately fall apart. To 'know' reality you cannot stand outside and define it; you must enter into it, be it, and feel it.

Speculative philosophy, as we know it in the West, is almost entirely a symptom of the divided mind, of man trying to stand outside himself and his experience in order to verbalize and define it. It is a vicious circle, like everything else which the divided mind attempts."

"The common error of ordinary religious practice is to mistake the symbol for the reality, to look at the finger pointing the way and then to suck it for comfort rather than follow it."


—All Spirit Website

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"Science, Religion and Living for the Future" (excerpt) THE WISDOM OF INSECURITY - Alan Watts

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From THE WISDOM OF INSECURITY (Pages 51-54)

The scientific way of symbolizing the world is more suited to utilitarian purposes than the religious way, but this does not mean that it has any more “truth.” Is it truer to classify rabbits according to their meat or according to their fur? It depends on what you want to do with them. The clash between science and religion has not shown that religion is false and science is true. It has shown that all systems of definition are relative to various purposes, and that none of them actually “grasp” reality. And because religion was being misused as a means for actually grasping and possessing the mystery of life, a certain measure of “debunking” was highly necessary.

But in the process of symbolizing the universe in this way or that for this purpose or that we seem to have lost the actual joy and meaning of life itself. All the various definitions of the universe have had ulterior motives, being concerned with the future rather than the present. Religion wants to assure the future beyond death, and science wants to assure it until death, and to postpone death. But tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.

But it is just this reality of the present, this moving, vital now which eludes all the definitions and descriptions. Here is the mysterious real world which words and ideas can never pin down. Living always for the future, we are out of touch with this source and center of life, and as a result all the magic of naming and thinking has come to something of a temporary breakdown.

The miracles of technology cause us to live in a hectic, clockwork world that does violence to human biology, enabling us to do nothing but pursue the future faster and faster. Deliberate thought finds itself unable to control the upsurge of the beast in man —a beast more “beastly” than any creature of the wild, maddened and exasperated by the pursuit of illusions.

Specialization in verbiage, classification, and mechanized thinking has put man out of touch with many of the marvelous powers of “instinct” which govern his body. It has, furthermore, made him feel utterly separate from the universe and his own "me.” And thus when all philosophy has dissolved in relativism, and can make fixed sense of the universe no longer, isolated “I” feels miserably insecure and panicky, finding the real world a flat contradiction of its whole being.

Of course there is nothing new in this predicament of discovering that ideas and words cannot plumb the ultimate mystery of life, that Reality or, if you will, God cannot be comprehended by the finite mind. The only novelty is that the predicament is now social rather than individual; it is widely felt, not confined to the few. Almost every spiritual tradition recognizes that a point comes when two things must happen: man must surrender his separate-feeling “I,” and must face the fact that he cannot know, that is, define the ultimate.

These traditions also recognize that beyond this point there lies a “vision of God” which cannot be put into words, and which is certainly something utterly different from perceiving a radiant gentleman on a golden throne, or a literal flash of blinding light. They also indicate that this vision is a restoration of something which we once had, and “lost” because we did not or could not appreciate it. This vision is, then, the unclouded awareness of this undefinable “something” which we call life, present reality, the great stream, the eternal now—an awareness without the sense of separation from it.

The moment I name it, it is no longer God; it is man, tree, green, black, red, soft, hard, long, short, atom, universe. One would readily agree with any theologian who deplores pantheism that these denizens of the world of verbiage and convention, these sundry “things” conceived as fixed and distinct entities, are not God. If you ask me to show you God, I will point to the sun, or a tree, or a worm. But if you say, “You mean, then, that God is the sun, the tree, the worm, and all other things?”—I shall have to say that you have missed the point entirely.

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"Was Jesus a Freak?" (excerpt p.147) CLOUD HIDDEN WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN (1971) by Alan Watts

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---“Abstract Jesus” by Jason Beck

A few days ago (1971) I gave a ride to a rather pleasant hippie couple who seemed to have no particular destination. I asked, "What trip are you on?" He said, "Like spiritual trip?" I said, "Yes." He said, "We’re on the Jesus trip." "Whose Jesus?" I asked, "Billy Graham’s or mine?" "Well, it’s all sort of the same, isn’t it?" It is not. For Billy Graham follows a long tradition, both Catholic and Protestant, wherein the gospel (or "good news" of Jesus has been eclipsed and perverted by pedestalization, by kicking him upstairs so as to get him out of the way, and by following a religion about Jesus instead of the religion of Jesus. Obviously, Jesus was not the man he was as a result of making Jesus Christ his personal savior. The religion of Jesus was that he knew he was a son of God, and the phrase "son of" means "of the nature of," so that a son of God is an individual who realizes that he is, and always has been, one with God. "I and the Father are one."

When Jesus spoke those words the crowd took up stones to stone him. He said, "I have shown you many good works from the Father, and for which of them do you stone me?" They answered, "We’re not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God." And he replied, Isn’t it written in your Law that ‘I have said: you are gods’? If he addressed those to whom he gave his words as gods (and you can’t contradict the Scriptures), how can you say that I blaspheme because I said ‘I am a son of God;?" But the self-styled Christians, and especially the fundamentalist bibliolaters, always insist that Jesus was the only son of a woman who was also the son of God, and thus call upon all the rest of us to follow the example of the one human freak who had the unique advantage of being the Boss’s son.

This is not a gospel: it is a chronic hang-up, a self-frustrating guilt trip. It isolates the career of Jesus as an exhibit in a glass case – for worship but not for use.

It is obvious to any informed student of the history and psychology of religion that Jesus was one, of many, who had an intense experience of cosmic consciousness – of the vivid realization that oneself is a manifestation of the eternal energy of the universe, the basic "I am."

But it is very hard to express this experience when the only religious imagery at your disposal conceives that "I am" as an all-knowing and all-powerful monarch, autocrat, and beneficent tyrant enthroned in a court of adoring subjects. In such a cultural context, you cannot say "I am God" without being accused of subversion,
insubordination, megalomania, arrogance, and blasphemy. Yet that was why Jesus was crucified. In India people would have laughed and rejoiced with him, because Hindus know that we are all God in disguise-playing hide-and-seek with himself.

Their model of the universe is not based on the political states of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Persians, whose awesome dictatorships still hold sway through the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions, even in the Republic of the United States. In Hinduism the whole universe is like the Holy Trinity – one as many, and many as one. (And, of course, the Hindus are the despised of the earth, having been reduced to utter poverty by Muslims and Christians.)

But Jesus had to speak through a public address system, the only one available, which distorted his words, so that they came forth as the bombastic claim to be the one and only appearance of the Christ, of the incarnation of God as man. This is not good news.

The good news is that if Jesus could realize his identity with God, you can also – but this God does not have to be idolized as an imperious monarch with a royal court of angels and ministers. God, as "the love which moves the sun and other stars," is something much more inward, intimate, and mysterious – in the sense of being too close to be seen as an object. So it turns out, alas, that our new breed of Jesus freaks are following the old non-gospel of the freaky Jesus – of the bizarre man who was unnaturally born and whose corpse was weirdly reanimated for a space trip into heaven. (One can, of course, interpret these ancient images in a more profound an nonliteral way, as I tried to show in my book Beyond Theology.)

But to identify Jesus the man as the one and only historical incarnation of a divinity considered as the royal, imperial, and militant Jehovah, is only to reinforce the pestiferous arrogance of "white" Christianity – with all the cruel self-righteousness of its missionary zeal. They may perhaps be forgiven for their ignorance, but today, when we are exposed to all the riches of Earth’s varying cultures and religions, there is no further excuse for the parochial fanaticism of spiritual in-groups. Jesus freaks are still in a state of enthusiastic innocence, as yet unaware of the frightful implications of their claims. But they must realize that Christianity would seem ever so much more valid if it would stop insisting on being an oddity.

Christianity has universality, or catholicity, only in recognizing that Jesus is one particular instance and expression of a wisdom which was also, if differently, realized in the Buddha, in Lao-tzu, and in such modern avatars as Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna, and, perhaps, Aurobindo and Inayat Khan. (I could make a very long list.)

This wisdom is that none of us are brief island existences, but forms and expressions of one and the same eternal "I am" waving in different ways, such that, whenever this is realized to be the case, we wave more harmoniously with other waves.

Christians, who so often affect prickly and astringent attitudes, may cluck and pishtush that this all very imprecise, vague, woolly, and sentimental. But in the harsh clacking of their disciplined voices, their accurate distinctions, and precise calculations, I hear the rattle of rifle bolts and clicking of heels. "Like a mighty army moves, But this is no way for a gentleman".

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“ON BEING AWARE” (excerpt from) The Wisdom Of Insecurity by Alan Watts

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The question "What shall we do about it?" is only asked by those who do not understand the problem. If a problem can be solved at all, to understand it and to know what to do about it are the same thing. On the other hand, doing something about a problem which you do not understand is like trying to clear away darkness by thrusting it aside with your hands. When light is brought, the darkness vanishes at once.

This applies particularly to the problem now before us. How are we to heal the split between "I" and  "me", the brain and the body, man and nature, and bring all the vicious circles which it produces to an end? How are we to experience life as something other than a honey trap in which we are the struggling flies? How are we to find security and peace of mind in a world whose very nature is insecurity, impermanence, and unceasing change? All these questions demand a method and a course of action. At the same time, all of them show that the problem has not been understood. We do not need action yet. We need more light.

Light, here, means awareness  to be aware of life, of experience as it is at this moment, without any judgement or ideas about it. In other words, you have to see and feel what you are experiencing as it is. And not as it is named. This very simple "opening of the eyes" brings about the most extraordinary transformation of understanding and living, and shows that many of our most baffling problems are pure illusion. This may sound like an over-simplification because most people imagine themselves to be fully enough aware of the present already, but we shall see that this is far from true.

Because awareness is a view of reality free from ideas and judgements, it is clearly impossible to define and write down what it reveals. Anything which can be described is an idea, and I cannot make a positive statement about something-the real world-which is not an idea. I shall therefore have to be content with talking about the false impressions which awareness removes, rather than the truth which it reveals. The latter can only be symbolized with words which mean little or nothing to those without a direct understanding of the truth in question.

What is true and positive is too real and too living to be described, and to try describe it is like putting red paint on a red rose. Therefore most of what follows will have to have a rather negative quality. The truth is revealed by removing things that stand in its light, an art not unlike sculpting, in which the artist creates, not by building, but by hacking away.

We saw the question about finding security and peace of mind in an impermanent world showed that the problem had not been understood. Before going any further, it must be clear that the kind of security we are talking about is primarily spiritual and psychological. To exist at all, human beings must have a minimum livelihood in terms of food, drink, and clothing-with the understanding, however, that it cannot last indefinitely. But if the assurance of a minimum lively hood for sixty years would even begin to satisfy the heart of man, human problems would amount to very little. Indeed, the very reason why we do not have this assurance is that we want so much more than the minimum necessities. It must be obvious, from the start, that there is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is commentaries and fluidity. But the contradiction lies a little deeper than the mere conflict between the desire for security and the fact of change. If I want to be secure, that is, protected from the flux of life, I am wanting to be separate from life. Yet it is this very sense of separation which makes me feel insecure. To be secure means to isolate and fortify the "I", but it is just the feeling of being an isolated "I" which makes me feel lonely and afraid. In other words, the more security I can get, the more I shall want.

To put it still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.

We look for this security by fortifying and enclosing ourselves in innumerable ways. We want the protection of being "exclusive" and "special," seeking to belong to the safest church, the best nation, the highest class, the right set, and the "nice" people. These defences lead to  divisions between us, and so to more insecurity demanding more defences. Of course it is all done in the sincere belief that we are trying to do the right things and live in the best way; but this, too, is a contradiction.

I can only think seriously of trying to live up to an ideal, to improve myself, if I am split in two pieces. There must be a good "I" who is going to improve the bad " me." "I," who has let has the best intentions, will go to work on wayward "me," and the tussle between the two will very much stress the difference between them. Consequently "I" will feel more separate than  ever, and so merely increase the lonely and cut-off feelings which make "me" behave so badly.

We have hardly begun to consider this problem unless it is clear that the craving for security is itself a pain and a contradiction, and that the more we pursue it, the more painful it becomes. This is true in whatever form of security may be conceived. You want to be happy, to forget yourself, and yet the more you remember the self you want to forget. You want to escape from pain, but the more you struggle to escape, the more you inflame the agony. You are afraid and want to be brave, but the effort to be brave is fear trying to run away from itself. You want peace of mind, but the attempt to pacify it is like trying to calm the waves with a flat-iron.

We are all familiar with this kind of vicious circle in the form of worry. We know that worrying is futile, but we go on doing it because calling it futile does not stop it. We worry because we feel unsafe, and want to be safe. Yet it is perfectly useless to say that we should not want to be to be safe. Calling a desire bad names doesn't get rid of it. What we have to discover is that when we imagine that we have found it, we don't like it. In other words, if we can really understand what we are looking for-what safety is isolation, and what we do to ourselves when we look for it-we shall see that we do not want it at all. No one has to tell you that that you should not hold your breath for ten minutes. You know that you can't do it, and that the attempt is most uncomfortable.

The principle thing is to understand that there is no safety or insecurity. One of the worst vicious circles is the problem of the alcoholic. In very many cases he knows quite clearly that he is destroying himself, that, for him, liquor is poison, that he actually hates being drunk, and even dislikes the taste of liquor. Yet he drinks. For, dislike it as he may, the experience of not drinking is worse. It gives him the "horrors," for he stands face to face with the unveiled, basic insecurity of the world.

Herein lies the crux of the matter. To stand face with insecurity is still not to understand it. To understand it, you must not face it but be it. It is like the Persian story of the sage who came close the door of Heaven and knocked. From within the voice of God asked, "Who is there" and the sage answered, "It is I." "In this House," replied the voice, "there is no room for thee and me." So the sage went away, and spent many years pondering over this answer in deep meditation. Returning a second time, the voice asked the same question, and again the sage answered, "It is I." The door remained closed. After some years he returned for the third time, and, at his knocking, the voice once more demanded, "Who is there?" And the sage cried, "It is thyself!" The door was opened.

To understand that there is no security is far more than to agree with the theory that all things change, more even than to observe the transitoriness of life. The notion of security is based is based on the feeling that there is something within us which is permanent, something which endures through all the days and changes of life. We are struggling to make sure that of the permanence, continuity, and the safety of this enduring core, this centre and the soul of our being which we call "I." For this we think to be the real man-thinker of our thoughts, the feeler of our feelings, and the knower of our knowledge. We do not actually understand that there is no security until we realise that this "I" does not exist.

Understanding comes through awareness. Can we, then, approach our experience-our sensations, feeling, and thoughts-quite simply, as if we had never known them before, and, without prejudice, look at what is going on? You may ask, "Which experiences, which sensations and feelings, shall we look at?" I will answer, "Which ones can you look at?" The answer is that you must look at the ones you have now.

That is surely rather obvious. But very obvious things are oftened overlooked. If a feeling is not present, you are not aware of it. There is no experience but present experience. What you know, what you are actually aware of, is just what is happening at this moment, and no more.

We are seeing, then, that our experience is altogether momentary. From one point of view, each moment is so elusive and so brief that we cannot even think about it before it is gone. From another point of view, this moment is always here, since we know no other moment than the present moment. It is always dying, always becoming past more rapidly than imagination can conceive. Yet at the same time is always being born, always new, emerging just as rapidly from the complete unknown which we call the future. Thinking about it almost makes you breathless.

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"Ego" (excerpt) THE ESSENCE OF ALAN WATTS by Alan Watts

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The word person comes from the Latin persona, which means that through which {per) the sound (sona) goes. It referred originally to the masks worn by actors in classical drama, because those masks had megaphonic mouths, so that in the open-air theater they would project the sound. So the persona, the person, is the mask, is the role you're playing. And all your friends and relations and parents and teachers are busy telling you who you are, what your role in life is, and there are only a certain number of acceptable roles you can play.

First of all then, your sense of
I is your sense of who you are, whether you're tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief, whether you're a clown, strong and silent, a clinging vine—we can name dozens of them—you identify yourself with a certain way of acting. It's quite complicated, but nevertheless there's a certain way of acting with which you identify yourself and which constitutes your image.

The image of yourself that you have is a social institution in the same way as it is, for example, a social institution to divide the day into twenty-four hours, or to divide the foot into twelve inches, or to draw lines of latitude and longitude which are purely imaginary over the surface of the earth. It's very useful to do that because these lines are the means of navigation, but there are no lines of latitude and longitude on or over the earth—they are imaginary. You cannot, for example, use the equator to tie up a package, because it's an abstract, imaginary line. And in just the same way, your image of yourself as an ego is an imaginary concept that is not the organism and furthermore, is not this organism in its inseparable relationship to its whole physical and natural environment.

The image of yourself that you have is simply a caricature! A caricature is an excellent example: When we make a caricature of Adolf Hitler, we pull down the hair and put a comb under his nose instead of a mustache. In the same way, our image of ourselves is a caricature of ourselves because it does not include almost all the important things about ourselves; it does not include all the goings-on inside the physical organism. Oh, we get belly-rumbles; occasionally we're aware of our breathing; occasionally we're aware that it hurts somewhere. But for the most part we're totally unconscious of everything going on inside us. We're unconscious of our brains and how they work. We're unconscious of our relationships to the external world, many of our relationships to other people are completely unconscious. We depend on telephone operators, electricians supplying our electricity, on all kinds of service that we never even think about. We don't think about air pressure. We don't think about the chemical composition of the air we breathe, we don't think about cosmic rays, gamma rays. X-rays, the output of the sun. All these things are absolutely essential to our life but they are not included in the ego image.

So the ego image is very incomplete. In fact, it's an illusion. But we say, "Now, look, it can't be that way, because I feel
I, I mean, it's not just an image of myself I have; I have a solid feeling behind the word I, when I think I, I feel there's something there." What is that? Interesting question. Because if your brain is your ego, you have very little in the way of direct sensation of your brain. In fact, operations can be performed on the brain with only surface anesthesia—there's no feeling in the brain itself. Therefore, the brain cannot be the sensation of ego.

When your eyes are functioning well you don't see your eyes. If your eyes are imperfect you see spots in front of them. That means there are some lesions in the retina or wherever, and because your eyes aren't working properly, you feel them. In the same way, you don't hear your ears. If you have a ringing in your ears it means there's something wrong with your ears. Therefore, if you do feel yourself, there must be something wrong with you. Whatever you have, the sensation of
I is like spots in front of your eyes—it means something's wrong with your functioning. That's why you feel you're there, why you feel you as being different from, somehow cut off from, all that you really are, which is everything you're experiencing. The real you is the totality of everything you're aware of and a great deal more besides.

But what is this thing that we feel in ourselves when we say, "That is the concrete, material me"? Well, I'll tell you what it is. When you were a little child in school, you were picking your nose and looking out the window or flicking spit balls or something, suddenly the teacher rapped the desk, "Pay attention!" Now, how did you pay attention? Well, you stared at the teacher, and you wrinkled your brow, because that's how you look when you pay attention. And when the teacher sees all the pupils in the class staring and frowning, then the teacher is consoled and feels the class is paying attention. But the class is doing nothing of the kind. The class is pretending to pay attention.

You're reading a book; there's some difficult book you have to read because it's required. You're bored to death with it, and you think, "Well, I've really got to concentrate on this book." You glare at it, you try to force your mind to follow it's argument, and then you discover you're not really reading the book—you're thinking about how you ought to read it. What do you do if I say to you, "Look, take a hard look at me, take a real hard look." Now what are you doing? What's the difference between a hard look and a soft look? Why, with your hard look, you are straining the muscles around your eyes, and you're starting to stare. If you stare at a distant image far away from you, you'll make it fuzzy. If you want to see it clearly you must close your eyes, imagine black for awhile, and then lazily and easily open them and you'll see the image. The light will come to you. And what do you do if I say, "Now, listen carefully, listen very carefully to what I'm saying." You'll find you're beginning to strain yourself around the ears.

I remember in school there was a boy who couldn't read. He sat next to me in school, and he wanted to convince the teacher that he really was trying to read. He would say, "rrruuunnn, ssspppooottt, rrruuunnn." He was using all his muscles. What have they got to do with reading? What does straining your muscles to hear have to do with hearing? Straining your muscles to see, what's that got to do with seeing? Nothing.

Supposing somebody says, "O.K. now, you've got to use your will, you've got to exercise strong will." That's the ego, isn't it. What do you do when you exercise your will? You grit your teeth, you clench your fists. If you want to stop wayward emotions you go uptight. You pull your stomach in, or hold your breath, or contract your rectal muscles. But all these activities have absolutely nothing to do with the efficient functioning of your nervous system. Just as staring at images makes them fuzzy, listening hard with all this muscular tension distracts you from what you're actually hearing; gritting your teeth has nothing to do with courage, all this is a total distraction. And yet we do it all the time; we have a chronic sensation of muscular strain, the object of which is an attempt to make our nervous system, our brains, our sensitivity function properly—and it doesn't work.

It's like taking off in a jet plane. You're going zooming down the runway and you think, "This plane has gone too far down the runway and it isn't up in the air yet," so you start pulling at your seatbelt to help the thing up. It doesn't have any effect on the plane. And so, in exactly the same way, all these muscular strains we do and have been taught to do all our lives long, to look as if we're paying attention, to look as if we're trying, all this is futile. But the chronic sensation of strain is the sensation to which we are referring as /.
So our ego is what? An illusion married to a futility. It's the image of ourselves, which is incorrect, false, and only a caricature, married to, combined with, a futile muscular effort to will our effectiveness.

Wouldn't it be much better if we had a sensation of ourselves that was in accord with the facts? The facts, the reality of our existence, is that we are both the natural environment, which ultimately is the whole universe, and the organism playing together. Why don't we feel that way? Why, obviously because this other feeling gets in the way of it. This socially induced feeling which comes about as a result of a kind of hypnotism exercised upon us throughout the whole educational process has given us a hallucinatory feeling of who we are, and therefore we act like madmen. We don't respect our environment; we destroy it. But you know, exploiting and destroying your environment, polluting the water and the air and everything, is just like destroying your own body. The environment is your body. But we act in this crazy way because we've got a crazy conception of who we are. We're raving mad.

"Well," you ask, "how do I get rid of it?" And my answer to that is, that's the wrong question. How does what get rid of it? You can't get rid of your hallucination of being an ego by an activity of the ego. Sorry, but it can't be done. You can't lift yourself up by your own bootstraps. You can't put out fire with fire. And if you try to get rid of your ego with your ego, you'll just get into a vicious circle. You'll be like somebody who worries because they worry, and then worries because they worry because they worry, and you'll go round and round and get crazier than ever.

The first thing to understand when you say, "What can I do about getting rid of this false ego?" is that the answer is "nothing," because you're asking the wrong question. You're asking, "How can
I, thinking of myself as an ego, get rid of thinking of myself as an ego?" Well, obviously you can't. Now, you say, "Well then, it's hopeless." It isn't hopeless. You haven't got the message, that's all.

If you find out that your ego feeling, your will and all that jazz, cannot get rid of that hallucination, you've found out something very important. In finding out that you can't do anything about it, you have found out that you don't exist. That is to say, you as an ego, you don't exist so obviously you can't do anything about it. So you find you can't really control your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions, all the processes going on inside you and outside you that are happenings—there's nothing you can do about it.

So then, what follows? Well, there's only one thing that follows: You watch what's going on. You see, feel, this whole thing happening and then suddenly you find, to your amazement, that you can perfectly well get up, walk over to the table, pick up a glass of milk and drink it. There's nothing standing in your way of doing that. You can still act, you can still move, you can still go on in a rational way, but you've suddenly discovered that you're not what you thought you were. You're not this ego, pushing and shoving things inside a bag of skin.
You feel yourself now in a new way as the whole world, which includes your body and everything that you experience, going along. It's intelligent. Trust it.

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"God" (excerpt) The Essence of Alan Watts by c

Nice-God-Jesus-Wallpaper
Modern Protestant theologians, and even some Catholics, have been talking recently about the death of God and about the possibility of a religionless religion, a religion which does not involve belief in God. What would become of the Gospel of Jesus Christ if it were shown that Jesus' own belief in God was unnecessary and invalid? What would remain of his teachings? Of his ideas about caring for other human beings, about social responsibility and so on. I think that would be a pretty wishy-washy kind of religion. If you're going to say that this life is fundamentally nothing but a pilgrimage from the maternity ward to the crematorium and that's it, baby, you've had it, I think that indicates a singular lack of imagination. I would like to look at the death-of-God theology in an entirely different way. What is dead is not God but an idea of God, a particular conception of God that has died in the sense of becoming implausible. And I find this a very good thing.

The Greek word in the New Testament for a sin is antinomic or anomia and that means to miss the point or, as in archery, to miss the mark. And therefore, from the Mosaic Ten Commandments comes the idea that it is a sin, a missing of the point, to substitute an idol for God.

Then, the statue of God I described is an idol. But even those Mexican-Indians, don't seriously confuse that particular image with God. The danger of it is they may think of God in the form of man. But the images that have been made of God out of wood and stone and in painting have never really been taken seriously as actually what God is like. Nobody has confused the actual image of Buddha for the statues commonly seen in the East. Buddha is never identified with a god because Buddha is a human being, and these images are never seriously confused with what they represent any more than a Catholic confuses a crucifix with Jesus Christ.

The images of God that are tangible are not really very dangerous. The dangerous images of God are those that we make, not out of wood and stone, but out of ideas and concepts. Sir Thomas Aquinas, for example, defined God as a necessary being. He who is necessarily. That is a philosophical concept; but that concept is an idol because it confuses God with an idea. Because an idea is abstract it seems much more spiritual than an image made of wood or stone. That's precisely where it becomes deceptive.

Many people think that the Bible is the authentic word of God and they worship the Bible, making it into an idol.
They disregard the ironical remark of Jesus to his contemporary Jews, "You search the scriptures daily, for in them you think you have life." And as St. Paul said later, "The letter kills, but the spirit gives life." So whatever you put as an image or an idea in the place of God necessarily falsifies God.

A lot of people say, "I don't think I could face life unless I could believe in a just and loving god." It strikes me that that kind of belief in God is actually expressing a lack of faith. The word belief in Anglo-Saxon comes from the Anglo-Saxon root lief which means to wish. So belief really means a strong wish. When you say the creed, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things seen and unseen," you are really saying: "/ fervently wish that there exists God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, etc." Because, if you really have faith you don't need belief, because faith is an entirely different attitude from belief.


Faith is a state of openness or trust. To have faith is like when you trust yourself to the water. You don't grab hold of the water when you swim, if you go stiff and tight in the water you sink. You have to relax. Thusly, the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging, of holding on. In other words, a person who is a fanatic in religion, one who simply has to believe in certain propositions about the nature of God and of the universe is a person who has no faith at all- he’s holding on tight.

Although Martin Luther made such a thing about faith, he wrote a hymn —in German, Ein fest Burg ist unser Gott,
"A Mighty Fortress is our God." That's not a hymn of faith!
A person of faith doesn't need a fortress; he's not on the defensive.

In the same way, many churches are designed like the royal courts of kings. In the church design called the basilica,,
which means the court of a basileus or king, the bishop sits at the back in his throne and all his attendant clergy stand around him like his guards in a court. Why is this? A king stands with his back to the wall because he rules by force.

And when his subjects and his courtiers approach him they prostrate themselves, they kneel down. Why? Because that's a difficult position from which to start a fight. Are we projecting the image of a frightened king as being the godhead?

The usual Protestant church, on the other hand, looks like a courthouse. The minister wears a black gown as is worn by a judge, and there are pews and pulpits and all the familiar wooden boxes of court furniture. And the minister, like the judge, throws the book at you! He preaches the law laid down in that other idol of God, the Bible. But does God need all that? Is God somebody who takes this aggressive attitude either of the king in court where all the subjects must prostrate, or of the judge who bangs the gavel and interprets the law? This is ridiculous! And a God so conceived is an idol and manifests the absence of faith of all those who worship him because they demonstrate no attitude of trust. They cling to these rules, to these conceptions, and have no fundamental adaptability to life.

You might say that a good scientist has more faith than a religious person, because a good scientist says, "My mind is open to the truth, whatever the truth may turn out to be. I have no preconceptions, but I do have some hypotheses in my mind as to what the truth might be, and I'm going to test them." And the test is to open all the senses to reality and find out what that reality is. But then again, the scientist runs into a problem because he knows that whatever comes to him as reality depends on the structure of his instruments and his senses, and ultimately the structure of his brain. So he has to have faith in his own brain, faith in himself, faith that his physical organism including his mind is indeed reliable and will determine reality, truth—what is.

You have to believe your reason, your logic, your intelligence. You have to have faith in them even though you can't ultimately check on yourself to make certain you're operating properly. It's not like your mind is a radio and can be fixed by screwing in a new connection here and there— you always have to trust.

Therefore, one could say that the highest image of God is the unseen behind the eyes—the blank space, the unknown, the intangible and the invisible. That is God! We have no image of that. We do not know what that is, but we have to trust it. There's no alternative. You can't help trusting it. You've got to.

That trust in a God whom one cannot conceive in any way is a far higher form of faith than fervent clinging to a God of whom you have a definite conception. That conception can easily be wrong and, even if it's right, clinging to it would be the wrong attitude, because when you love someone very much you shouldn't cling to them.

In a New Testament story Mary Magdalene, who loved Jesus very much, is said to have seen him after his resurrection, and she immediately ran to cling to him. And he said, "Do not touch me,'' but the Greek word hatir means to cling to. Don't cling to me! Don't cling to anything of the spirit. Don't cling to the water, because the more you grab it the faster it will slip through your fingers. Don't cling to your breath, you'll get purple in the face and suffocate. You have to let your breath out. That's the act of faith, to breathe out, and it will come back. The Buddhist word nirvana actually means to breathe out; letting go is the fundamental attitude of faith.

It isn't as if Christians haven't been aware of this. One of the most fundamental sourcebooks of Christian spirituality,
Theologia Mystica, was written in the sixth century by an Assyrian monk, Dionysius Exiguus. It is a very strange document, because it explains that the highest knowledge of God is through what he calls in Greek agnostos, which means unknowing. One knows God most profoundly, the most truly, in not knowing God.

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"In Order to Discover God "(excerpt) DEMOCRACY IN THE KINGDOM by Alan Watts

dionysius2

In order to discover God you have to stop clinging entirely. Why does one cling to God? For safety, of course. You want to save something; you want to save yourself. I don’t care what you mean by saved, whether it means just feeling happy, or that life is meaningful, or that there is somebody up there who cares. If you do not cling to one god, you cling to another: the state, money, sex, yourself, power. These are all false gods. But there has to come a time when clinging stops; only then does the time of faith begin. People who hold on to God do not have any faith at all, because real faith lies in not holding on to anything.

In the Christian tradition this nonclinging is called the cloud of unknowing. There is a book about it written by a fourteenth-century British monk. He got it from a man called Dionysius the Areopagite, who had assumed the name of Saint Paul’s Athenian convert, a Syrian monk living in the sixth century. Meister Eckehart, Saint Thomas Aquinas, John Scotus Erigena, and many other great medieval theologians studied Dionysius the Areopagite. His book was
The Theologica Mystica, in which he explained that, in order to come to full union with God, you must give up every conception of God whatsoever. And he enumerates the concepts that must be given up: don’t think that God is a oneness or a threeness or a unity or a spirit or any kind of anything that the human mind can conceive. He is beyond all that.

This is called
apophatic theology, a Greek term that contrasts with catophatic. When you speak catophatically you say what God is like. Dionysius also wrote a book of catophatic theology called The Divine Names. Catophatic theology tells what God is like according to analogy. He is like a father. We do not say God is a cosmic male parent but that he is, in some respect, like a father. This is the catophatic method. The apophatic method says what God is not. All those theologians who followed Dionysius said that the highest way of talking about God is in negative terms, just as, to use Dionysius’s own image, when a sculptor makes a figure he does it entirely by removing stone, by taking away. In that same spirit, Saint Thomas Aquinas said, “Because God, by His infinity, exceeds every idea to which the human mind can reach, the best way to speak of Him is by removal.” That is, removing from our view of God every inadequate concept. This is what the Hindus refer to as neti neti, saying of the Brahman of the supreme reality, “It is not this, it is not this.”

This intellectual operation of destroying concepts must go hand in hand with the psychological operation of ceasing to cling to any image whatsoever. Simply cease to cling, because there is no need to. There is no need to cling because when you were born you were kicked off a precipice. There was a big explosion, and you are falling, and a lot of other things are falling with you, including some pretty large lumps of rock, of which one is called the earth. It will not help you to cling to the rocks, when they are falling, too. It may give you an illusion of safety, but everything is falling, and falling apart. The ancients said, in the words of Heracleitus, “All is transient, all flows.” You cannot cling to anything; it is like grabbing at smoke with a nonexistent hand. Clinging only makes people anxious.

When you come to the realization that you cannot cling to anything, that there is nothing to cling to, there transpires a change of consciousness that we can call either faith or letting go. In Sanskrit they put it this way: —
tat tvam asi, — meaning literally “That are thou,” or as we would say, “You are it.” And if you are God, then you cannot have an idea of God any more than you can chew your own teeth. You do not need any idea of God. The sun does not need to shine on itself. Knives do not need to cut themselves. All the things you see on the outside are states of the nervous system in the brain. When the Zen master suddenly discovered that carrying a pail with water in it was a miracle, he realized there isn’t anything except God. If you really know that, you don’t need to have a religion. You can have one, because it is a free world, but you don’t need one. All religion—any outward manifestation of religion—is pure gravy after that realization. It is like a man with lots of money making some more; it is quite unnecessary.

According to the very best theologians, it was never necessary for God to create the world; it did not add anything to Him. He did not have to do it, was under no compulsion. He did it out of what Dionysius the Areopagite called—to anglicize it—super fullness, or, in other words, for kicks. We do not like using that kind of language in connection with God, but it is completely contemporary and exactly right. That is what the Bible says, only it puts it in a more sedate way. It says, “His majesty did it for his pleasure.” That is the way you talk about somebody who is the king. As Queen Victoria said, “We are not amused.”

It says in the Book of Proverbs that the divine wisdom speaks as an attribute of God, but standing aside from God, in a sort of primitive polytheism. The goddess Wisdom says that in the beginning of the world her delight was to play before the divine presence, and especially to play with the sons of men. The word in Hebrew is “play,” but in the King James translation it is “rejoice,” because that is a more sedate word. You may rejoice in church, but not play. You may not have fun in church, but you may rejoice. Do you see the difference? The point of the matter is that there was no reason to make the world, and it was done just to make celestial whoopee. Alleluia. That is why the angels are laughing. Only when you hear it in church, everybody has forgotten what
alleluia means. Alleluia is like bird’s song. Bird song is not about anything, it is just for kicks. Why do you sing? Why do you like dancing? What is music for? For kicks. That is what alleluia is. When nothing is being clung to, one gets to the point where everything blows up. That is what is meant in Zen by satori, “sudden awakening.” You suddenly see, “Good heavens, what was I making all that fuss about?” Because here we are. This, right here, is what we have been looking for all the time. It was right here.

Many little children know from the beginning what life is all about, only they haven’t got the words to tell us. That is the whole problem with child psychology. What child psychologists are looking for ideally is an articulate baby who can explain what it is like to be a baby, but they will never find one. By the time you teach a child to speak, you mess it up. You give it language, but it can’t think big thoughts with this funny, limited language, especially using the words children are started out with. Then finally, when they’ve got the poor child completely hypnotized, they tell it the most preposterous things. They tell it that it must be free. They say, “You, child, are an independent agent, and you are responsible. Therefore we command you to love us. We require that you do something which will please us, and that you do it voluntarily.” And no wonder people are mixed up!

ALAN WATTS WEBSITE: http://alanwatts.com

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Alan Watts' Letter of Resignation to the Episcopal Church

henry1560
—-PORTRAIT: Henry VIII

My dear friends,

After long and careful thought I have had to take a step which will perhaps be most disturbing to many of you, though to others it may come as no surprise. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot remain in either the ministry or the communion of the Episcopal Church.

In retrospect, I believe that I entered the ministry under the influence of a tendency which has become rather widespread – a tendency to seek refuge from the confusion of our times by giving into a kind of nostalgia. In a world where all the traditions in which men have found security are crumbling, the mind seeks peace and sanity in an attempt to return to a former state of faith. It envies the inner calm and certitude of an earlier age, where men could put absolute and childlike trust in the authority of the Church, and in the ordered beauty of an ancient doctrine.

Undoubtedly the form of Christian doctrine and worship contains the most profound truth, but I am afraid that the attempt to maintain and revive it is an ineffectual resistance to inevitable change. For so many people, the forms no longer convey their meaning, and the language they speak is both archaic and cumbersome. Others want to believe, and try to convince themselves that they do so, but their faith has that hollow self-consciousness so characteristic of the modern convert, since the mind is acting a role untrue to its inmost state. You cannot imitate faith, and when forms of belief, like all other finite things, begin to die, the effort to revive them is imitation. It doesn’t ring true. But the forms perish, not only because they are mortal, but also because the Spirit within them is breaking them as a bird breaks from its shell.

We are living in a time of disintegration and iconoclasm which the Hindus call Kali Yuga. It hurts and frightens us, but is not essentially evil. It is rather a universal Passion in which man cries, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But it is the prelude to a Resurrection, because spiritual growth depends upon ceasing to cling to any form of life for security. Forms are not contrary to the Spirit, but it is their nature to die; their transiency is their very life, and a permanent form would be a monstrosity – a finite thing aping God.

The Spirit uses forms, and reveals itself through them, for which reason they are both wonderful and necessary. But they are not exempt from the simplest law of life – that, life every other living thing, to grasp them is to strangle and kill them. To preserve them in death is to cling to corruption.

He who is, for Christians, the form of God, the “express image of his Person,” did not forget to warn us: “It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away the Paraclete cannot come to you.” After his Resurrection the same warning was given to Saint Mary Magdalene: “Do not cling to me!” The tragedy of the Church is that in trying to love form, it has denied its image and the words of Christ himself have been corrupted in the very act of giving them permanent and absolute authority. He has been made into an idol which must be destroyed in his own Name.

I do not want anything that I say here to hurt the Church. For the Church is people – people whom I have learned to love. For that very love I cannot be a party to their hurting themselves and others by seeking security from forms which, if understood aright, are crying, “Do not cling to us!” Out of very gratitude for all that the Church has done for me, I must be honest, and say what I see to be true.

Insofar as the Church is committed to a desire for and a clinging to authority, permanence, spiritual safety, and absolute guides of conduct, it is clinging to its own death. By such means, belief in God, the hope of immortality, and the quest for salvation, become only escapes from the inner emptiness and insecurity which most of us feel in the depths of our being when confronted with the loneliness, the transiency, and the uncertainty of human life. But that inner emptiness is not a void to be filled with comforts; it is a window to be looked through. It is not an evil that life – our own life – flows, changes, and passes away. It is a revelation to prevent us from clinging to ourselves, for whoever lets go of himself finds God. The state of eternal life and oneness with God comes to pass – like a miracle – only when we release our grasp on every kind of spiritual security. To cling to security is only to cling to oneself, and perish of strangulation.

It would be a silly kind of pride to pretend that we can surrender this passion for safety just by trying. It is not effort that breaks the vicious circle of self-strangulation; it is an awareness and understanding of its complete futility. To be aware of this futility is to look through the emptiness within – that window into heaven which affords the vision of God.

Much of this has a familiar ring to the Christian. “Whosoever would save his soul shall lose it.” But I have found that you cannot make the point clear within the Church as it exists without running into contradictions at every step. The liturgy is cluttered beyond hope with sentiments, prayers, and hymns conceived in the state of anxious grasping to forms. And that is by no means all.

During the past years I have continued my studies of the spiritual teachings of the Orient, alongside with Catholic theology, and, though I have sometimes doubted it, I am now fully persuaded that the Church’s claim to be the best of all ways to God is not only a mistake, but also a symptom of anxiety. Obviously, one who has found a great truth is eager to share it with others. But to insist – often in ignorance of other revelations – that one’s own is supreme argues a certain inferiority complex characteristic of all imperialisms. “Me thinks thou doth protest too much.” This claim of supremacy is, for me, the chiefest sign of how deeply the Church is committed to this self-strangulation, this anxiety for certainty, and I cannot support the proselytism in which it issues.

It has been my privilege to know priests of the Church who are men of wonderful humility. But, whether they intend it or not, their assumption of that office usually becomes, in the eyes of laymen and the general public, a claim to spiritual authority and moral superiority. Beyond doubt there are priests who speak with true authority and who are morally superior. But to claim such gifts vitiates them, even when the claim is tacit or derivative, and is the stumbling-block to those who mistakenly cling to authority in their quest for security. For true authority says, “Let go. You will only find God if you do not try to possess him.” I must, then, do what lies in my power to renounce even tacit claim to superiority, whether spiritual or moral. For one reason, such a claim would be untrue. For another, the expectation that every clergyman be a moral exemplar is an aspect of that unfortunate moral self-consciousness which has so long afflicted the Western world.

The best Christian thought has always seen that only Pharisaism comes through trying to be good. For sanctity is less in wanting to be moral than in loving God and other men. But the moralism which condemns a man for not loving is simply adding strength to that sense of fear and insecurity which prevents him from loving. You may help him to live neither by condemning nor consoling, but by encouraging him to understand and accept the fear and insecurity which he feels. Yet one who tries to suggest this healing acceptance of fear within the framework of the church is again beset by contradictions, since in all its official formularies and utterances the Church is either threatening with penalties or consoling with promises. The result is to exploit and aggravate man’s fear, to foster a simulated love which is fear in disguise – fear running away from itself – for love will no more grow from such blind fear than the grape from the thorn...


...Am I, in all that has been said here, demanding of the Church a spiritual perfection which cannot be forced – falling into the old heresy of antinomianism, which expects all Christians to be so completely in the Spirit that they need no law? I ask no such thing. Nothing is further from my mind and my meaning than to condemn the Church for falling short of an ideal. My departure from the Church is not a moral protest; it is simply that seeing what I see, I cannot do otherwise. I take no credit for it. My viewpoint is not one of moral judgment and condemnation, but of simple inability to conform to a rule of life based on what I see to be illusions.

What I see is what life has shown me: that in fear I cling to myself, and that such clinging is quite futile. I have found that trying to stop this self-strangulation through discipline, belief in God, prayer, resort to authority, and all the rest, is likewise futile. Trying not to be selfish, trying to realize an ideal, is simply the original selfishness in another form. Worship as an expression of joy or thanksgiving I can understand. But spiritual exercises or moral disciplines undertaken to raise oneself by one’s own spiritual bootstraps are absurd, for they are based on the illusion that the “I” who would improve is different from the “me” who must be improved. And to ask for the grace to be so improved is merely an indirect form of the same thing.

The more clearly I see this, the less choice I have in the matter: I cannot go on doing. The more I am aware of the futility of myself trying not to be selfish, of the contradiction of myself even desiring or asking not to be selfish, or to love where I do not love, I have no choice but to stop it. At a yet deeper level, the more I see the futility of myself for clinging to myself, I have no choice but to stop clinging. In this choiceless bondage one is miraculously free. For where the actual possibility of “I” loving “me” is seen to be an illusion, the vicious circle is broken, and there remains only that outflowing love which is called God.

Much more remains to be said, but in this brief space I can do no more than sketch the point of view on which I must act. But I do want to warn any of you who might want to follow my example and leave the Church likewise. You cannot act rightly by imitating the actions of another. This is to act without understanding, and where there is no understanding the vicious circle goes on. I have no wish to lead a “movement” away from Church. If any leave, let them do so on their own account, not from choice, not because they feel they “should,” but only if understanding makes it clear that, for them, there is no other alternative.

I expect, now, to devote most of my time to writing and lecturing, not because I wish to make converts, but because I love this work more than any other, because it enables me to live and take care of my family, and because I believe I have something to say which is worth saying.

Faithfully yours,
Alan W. Watts
August 1950

_____________________________

COMMENTARY (BEI KUAN-TU)

Much debate is 
directed at the life and times of Alan Watts.  From "troubadour of liberty", "bridge to the East", "joyous sage", and one who “failed miserably to walk the talk,”  Watts, maybe a tortured soul, in fact blessed his listeners to see beyond the cultural biases of their day   As an old Zen proverb suggests, "the finger that points to the moon is never the moon".  A paramount point! We demand that our way-showers be of such a character what we can certainly trust in their lives and personal integrities — only to find they, like us, are immensely  fragile and woefully flawed Beings.  Remember the Old Testament story of Balaam's talking donkey (Numbers 22:28) “And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam...”  

God Moves in Mysterious Ways
—William Cowper (1731–1800)

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will...


As for Alan Watts, Thomas M. Cushing (Amazon review) insightfully states, “wisdom often is born of failure and struggle, and his loss was our gift. I consider him one of my finest teachers while growing up...  He "played" his part to teach us that the falseness and contradictions of the world can be reconciled in one true spirit.”

—Bei Kuan-tu


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“Death” by Alan Watts - PART 2 (excerpt) THE ESSENCE OF ALAN WATTS

Hum.Beauty.Sleep.full
“Beauty Sleep” by Rachael Parker


The universe is a system which forgets itself and then again remembers anew so there’s always constant change and constant variety in the span of time. It also does it in the span of space by looking at itself through every different living organism, giving an all-around view.

That is a way of getting rid of prejudice, getting rid of a one-sided view. Death in that sense is a tremendous release from monotony. It puts an end to all of total forgetting in a rhythmic process of on/off, on/off so you can begin all over again and never be bored. But the point is that if you can fantasize the idea of being nothing for always and always, what you are really saying is
after I’m dead the universe stops, and what I’m saying is it goes on just as it did when you were born. You may think it incredible that you have more than one life, but isn’t it incredible that you have this one? That’s astonishing! And it can always happen again and again and again!

What I am saying then is just because you don’t know how you manage to be conscious, how you manage to grow and shape your body, doesn’t mean that you’re not doing it. Equally, if you don’t know how the universe shines the stars, constellates the constellations, or galactifies the galaxies – you don’t know but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing it just the same way as you are breathing without knowing how you breathe.

If I say really and truly I am this whole universe, or this particular organism is an
I’ing being done by the whole universe, then somebody could say to me, “Who the hell do you think you are? Are you God? Do you warm up the galaxies? Canst’ thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades or loosen the bonds of Orion?” And I reply, “Who the hell do you think you are! Can you tell me how you grow your brain, how you shape your eyeballs, and how you manage to see? Well, if you can’t tell me that, I can’t tell you how I warm up the galaxy. Only I’ve located the center of myself at a deeper and more universal level than we are, in our culture, accustomed to do.”

So then, if that universal energy is the real me, the real self which
I’s as different organisms in different spaces or places, and happening again and again at different times, we’ve got a marvelous system going in which you can be eternally surprised. The universe is really a system which keeps on surprising itself.

Many of us have an ambition, especially in an age of technological competence, to have everything under our control. This is a false ambition because you’ve only got to think for one moment what it would be like to really know and control everything. Supposing we had a supercolossal technology which could go to our wildest dreams of technological competence so that everything that is going to happen would be foreknown, predicted, and everything would be under our control. Why, it would be like making love to a plastic woman! There would be no surprise in it, no sudden answering touch as when we touch another human being. There comes out a response, something unexpected, and that’s what we really want.

You can’t experience the feeling you call self unless it’s in contrast with the feeling of other. It’s like known and unknown, light and dark, positive and negative. Other is necessary in order for you to feel self. Isn’t that the arrangement you want? And, in the same way, couldn’t you say the arrangement you want is not to remember? Memory is always, remember, a form of control:
I’ve got it in mind. I know your number, you’re under control. Eventually you want to release that control.

Now if you go on remembering and remembering and remembering, it’s like writing on a piece of paper and going on writing and writing until there is no space left on the paper. Your memory is filled up and you need to wipe it clean so you can begin to write on it once more.

That’s what death does for us: It wipes the slate clean and also, for looking at it from the point of view of population and the human organism on the planet, it keeps cleaning us out! A technology which would enable each one of us to be immortal would progressively crowd the planet with people having hopelessly crowded memories. They would be like people living in a house where they had accumulated so much property, so many books, so many vases, so many sets of knives and forks, so many tables and chairs, so many newspapers that there wouldn’t be any room to move around.

To live we need space, and space is a kind of nothingness, and death is a kind of nothingness – it’s all the same principle. And by putting blocks or spaces of nothingness, spaces of
space in between spaces of something, we get life properly spaced out. The German word lebensraum means room for living, and that’s what space gives us, and that’s what death gives us.

Notice that in everything I’ve said about death I haven’t brought in anything that I could call spookery. I haven’t brought in any information about anything that you don’t already know. I haven’t invoked any mysterious knowledge about souls, memory of former lives, anything like that; I’ve just talked about it in terms that we already know. If you believe the idea that life beyond the grave is just wishful thinking, I’ll grant that.

Let’s assume that it is wishful thinking and when we are dead there just won’t be anything. That’ll be the end. Notice, first of all, that’s the worst thing you’ve got to fear. Does it frighten you? Who’s going to be afraid? Supposing it ends – no more problems.

But then you will see that this nothingness, if you’ve followed my argument, is something you’d
bounce off from again just as you bounced in in the first place when you were born. You bounced out of nothingness. Nothingness is a kind of bounce because it implies that nothing implies something. You bounce back all new, all different, nothing to compare it with before, a refreshing experience.

You get this sense of nothingness, just like you’ve got the sense of nothing behind your eyes, very powerful frisky nothingness underlying your whole being. There’s nothing in that nothing to be afraid of. With that sense you can come on like the rest of your life is gravy because you’re already dead: You know you’re going to die.

We say the only things certain are death and taxes. And the death of each one of us now is as certain as it would be if we were going to die five minutes from now. So where’s your anxiety? Where’s your hangup? Regard yourself as dead already so that you have nothing to lose. A Turkish proverb says, “He who sleeps on the floor will not fall out of bed.” So in the same way is the person who regards himself as already dead.
Therefore, you are virtually nothing. A hundred years from now you will be a handful of dust, and that will be for real. All right now, act on that reality. And out of that…nothing. You will suddenly surprise yourself: The more you know you are nothing the more you will amount to something.

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“Death” by Alan Watts - PART 1 (excerpt) THE ESSENCE OF ALAN WATTS

Alan Watts-DeathHum.Beauty.Sleep.full
“Beauty Sleep” by Rachael Parker


(PART 1)


I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of death as far back as I can remember, from earliest childhood. You may think that’s kind of morbid, but when a child at night says the phrase If I should die before I wake, there’s something about it that’s absolutely weird. What would it be like to go to sleep and never wake up? Most reasonable people just dismiss the thought. They say, “You can’t imagine that”; they shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, that will be that.”

But I’m one of those ornery people who aren’t content with an answer like that. Not that I’m trying to find something else beyond that, but I am absolutely fascinated with what it would be like to go to sleep and never wake up. Many people think it would be like going into the dark forever or being buried alive. Obviously it wouldn’t be like that at all! Because we know darkness by contrast, and only by contrast, with light.

I have a friend, a girl, who is very intelligent and articulate, who was born blind and hasn’t the faintest idea what darkness is. The word means as little to her as the word light. So it is the same for you: you are not aware of darkness when you are asleep.

If you went to sleep, into unconsciousness for always and always, it wouldn’t be at all like going into the dark; it wouldn’t be at all like being buried alive. As a matter of fact, it would be as if you had never existed at all! Not only you, but everything else as well. You would be in that state, as if you had never been. And, of course, there would be no problems, there would be no one to regret the loss of anything. You couldn’t even call it a tragedy because there would be no one to experience it as a tragedy. It would be a simple – nothing at all. Forever and for never. Because, not only would you have no future, you would also have no past and no present.

At this point you are probably thinking, “Let’s talk about something else.” But I’m not content with that, because this makes me think of two other things. First of all, the state of nothingness makes me think that the only thing in my experience close to nothingness is the way my head looks to my eye, and then behind my eye there isn’t a black spot, there isn’t even a hazy spot. There’s nothing at all! I’m not aware of my head, as it were, as a black hole in the middle of all this luminous experience. It doesn’t even have very clear edges. The field of vision is an oval, and because this oval of vision there is nothing at all. Of course, if I use my fingers and touch I can feel something behind my eyes; if I use the sense of sight alone there is just nothing there at all. Nevertheless, out of that blankness, I see.

The second thing it makes me think of is when I’m dead I am as if I never had been born, and that’s the way I was before I was born. Just as I try to go back behind my eyes and find what is there I come to a blank, if I try to remember back and back and back to my earliest memories and behind that – nothing, total blank. But just as I know there’s something behind my eyes by using my fingers on my head, so I know through other sources of information that before I was born there was something going on. There were my father and my mother, and their fathers and mothers, and the whole material environment of the Earth and its life out of which they came, and behind that the solar system, and behind that the galaxy, and behind that all the galaxies, and behind that another blank – space. I reason that if I go back when I’m dead to the state where I was before I was born, couldn’t I happen again?

What has happened once can very well happen again. If it happened once it’s extraordinary, and it’s not really very much more extraordinary if it happened all over again. I do know I’ve seen people die and I’ve seen people born after them. So after I die not only somebody but myriads of other beings will be born. We all know that; there’s no doubt about it. What worries us is that when we’re dead there could be nothing at all forever, as if that were something to worry about. Before you were born there was this same nothing at all forever, and yet you happened. If you happened once you can happen again.

Now what does that mean? To look at it in its very simplest way and to properly explain myself, I must invent a new verb. This is the verb
to I. We’ll spell it with the letter I but instead of having it as a pronoun we will call it a verb. The universe I’s. It has I’d in me it I’s in you. Now let’s respell the word eye. When I talk about to eye, it means to look at something, to be aware of something. So we will change the spelling, and will say the universe I’s. It becomes aware of itself in each one of us, and it keeps the I’ing, and every time it I’s every one of us in whom it I’s feels that he is the center of the whole thing. I know that you feel that you are I in just the same way that I feel that I am I. We all have the same background of nothing, we don’t remember having done it before, and yet it has been done before again and again and again, not only before in time but all around us everywhere else in space is everybody, is the universe I’ing.

Let me try to make this clearer by saying it is the universe
I’ing. Who is I’ing? What do you mean by I? There are two things. First, you can mean your ego, your personality. But that’s not your real I’ing, because your personality is your idea of your self, your image of yourself, and that’s made up of how you feel yourself, how you think about yourself thrown in with what all your friends and relations have told you about yourself. So your image of yourself obviously isn’t you any more than your photograph is you or any more than the image of anything is it. All our images of ourselves are nothing more than caricatures. They contain no information for most of us on how we grow our brains, how we work our nerves, how we circulate our blood, how we secrete with our glands, and how we shape our bones. That isn’t contained in the sensation of the image we call the ego, so obviously, then the ego image is not my self.

My self contains all these things that the body is doing, the circulation of the blood, the breathing, the electrical activity of the nerves, all this is me but I don’t know how it’s constructed. And yet, I do all that. It is true to say I breathe, I walk, I think, I am conscious – I don’t know how I manage to be, but I do it in the same way as I grow my hair. I must therefore locate the center of me, my
I’ing, at a deeper level than my ego which is my image or idea of myself. But how deep do we go?

We can say the body is the
I, but the body comes out of the rest of the universe, comes out of all this energy – so it’s the universe that’s I’ing. The universe I’s in the same way that a tree apples or that a star shines, and the center of the appling is the tree and the center of the shining is the star, and so the basic center of self of the I’ing is the eternal universe or eternal thing that has existed for ten thousand million years and will probably go on for at least that much more. We are not concerned about how long it goes on, but repeatedly it I’s, so that it seems absolutely reasonable to assume that when I die and this physical body evaporates and the whole memory system with it, then the awareness that I had before will begin all over once again, not in exactly the same way, but that of a baby being born.

Of course, there will be myriads of babies born, not only baby human beings but baby frogs, baby rabbits, baby fruit flies, baby viruses, baby bacteria –and which one of them am I going to be? Only one of them and yet every one of them, this experience comes always in the singular one at a time, but certainly one of them. Actually it doesn’t make much difference, because if I were born again as a fruit fly I would think that being a fruit fly was the normal ordinary course of events, and naturally I would think that I was an important person, a highly cultured being, because fruit flies obviously have a high culture. We don’t even know how to look at it. But probably they have all sorts of symphonies and music, and artistic performances in the way light is reflected on their wings in different ways, the way they dance in the air, and they say, “Oh, look at her, she has real style, look how the sunlight comes off her wings.” They in their world think they are as important and civilized as we do in our world. So, if I were to wake up as a fruit fly I wouldn’t feel any different than I do when I wake up as a human being. I would be used to it.

Well, you say, “It wouldn’t be me! Because if it were me again I would have to remember how I was before!” Right, but you don’t know, remember, how you were before and yet you are content enough to be the me that you are. In fact, it’s a thoroughly good arrangement in this world that we don’t remember what it was like before. Why? Because variety is the spice of life, and if we remembered, remembered, remembered having done this again and again and again we should get bored. In order to see a figure you have to have a background, in order that a memory be valuable you also have to have a
forgettory. That’s why we sleep every night to refresh ourselves; we go into the unconscious so that coming back to the conscious is again a great experience.

Day after day we remember the days that have gone on before, even though there is the interval of sleep. Finally there comes a time when, if we consider what is to our true liking, we will want to forget everything that went before. Then we can have the extraordinary experience of seeing the world once again through the eyes of a baby – whatever kind of baby. Then it will be completely new and we will have all the startling wonder that a child has, all the vividness of perception which we wouldn’t have if we remembered everything forever.

NEXT WEEK PART 2 OF “DEATH” by Alan Watts

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"Yin-Yang Polarity" (excerpt) — Tao: The Watercourse Way by Alan Watts


Tao: The Watercourse Way
by Alan Watts



At the very roots of Chinese thinking and feeling there lies the principle of polarity, which is not to be confused with the ideas of opposition or conflict. In the metaphors of other cultures, light is at war with darkness, life with death, good with evil, and the positive with the negative, and thus an idealism to cultivate the former and be rid of the latter flourishes throughout much of the world. To the traditional way of Chinese thinking, this is as incomprehensible as an electric current without both positive and negative poles, for polarity is the principle that + and —, north and south, are different aspects of one and the same system, and that the disappearance of either one of them would be the disappearance of the system.

People who have been brought up in the aura of Christian and Hebrew aspirations find this frustrating, because it seems to deny any possibility of progress, an ideal which flows from their linear (as distinct from cyclic) view of time and history. Indeed, the whole enterprise of Western technology is “to make the world a better place”—to have pleasure without pain, wealth without poverty, and health without sickness. But, as is now becoming obvious, our violent efforts to achieve this ideal with such weapons as DDT, penicillin, nuclear energy, automotive transportation, computers, industrial farming, damming, and compelling everyone, by law, to be superficially “good and healthy” are creating more problems than they solve. We have been interfering with a complex system of relationships which we do not understand, and the more we study its details, the more it eludes us by revealing still more details to study. As we try to comprehend and control the world it runs away from us. Instead of chafing at this situation, a Taoist would ask what it means. What is that which always retreats when pursued? Answer: yourself. Idealists (in the moral sense of the word) regard the universe as different and separate from themselves—that is, as a system of external objects which needs to be subjugated. Taoists view the universe as the same as, or inseparable from, themselves— so that Lao-tzu could say, “Without leaving my house, I know the whole universe.” This implies that the art of life is more like navigation than warfare, for what is important is to understand the winds, the tides, the currents, the seasons, and the principles of growth and decay, so that one’s actions may use them and not fight them. In this sense, the Taoist attitude is not opposed to technology per se. Indeed, the Chuang-tzu writings are full of references to crafts and skills perfected by this very principle of “going with the grain.” The point is therefore that technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe. Our overspecialization in conscious attention and linear thinking has led to neglect, or ignore-ance, of the basic principles and rhythms of this process, of which the foremost is polarity.


tao-the-watercourse-way-by-alan-watts



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"The Ego and the Universe: Alan Watts on Becoming Who You Really Are" by Alan Watts by Maria Popova

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The World's Most Dangerous Book [Part 3] by Alan Watts

1885 Still Life with Bible
---Still Life of the Bible by Vincent van Gogh


[Part 3]
It should be understood that the expression "son of" means "of the nature of," as when we call someone a son of a bitch and as when the Bible uses such phrases as "sons of Belial" (an alien god), or an Arab cusses someone out as e-ben-i-el-homa "son of donkey!" or simply "stupid". Used in this way,"son of" has nothing to do with maleness or being younger than. Likewise, the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, the Logos-Sopia, refers to the basic pattern or design of the Universe, ever emerging from the inconceivable mystery or the Father as the galaxies shine out of space. This is how the great philosophers of the Church have thought about the imagery of the Bible and as it appears to a modern student of the history and psychology of world religions. Call it intellectual snobbery if you will, but although the books of the Bible might have been "plain words for plain people" in the days of Isaiah and Jesus, an uneducated and uninformed person who reads them today, and takes them as the literal Word of God, will become a blind and confused bigot.

Let us look at this against the background of the fact that all monotheistic religions have been militant. Wherever God has been idolized as the King or Boss-Principle of the world, believers are agog to impose both their religion and their political rulership upon others. Fanatical believers in the Bible, the Koran and the Torah have fought one another for centuries without realizing that they belong to the same pestiferous club, that they have more in common than they have against one another and that there is simply no way of deciding which of their "unique" revelations of God's will is the true one. A committed believer in the Koran trots out the same arguments for his point of view as a Southern Baptist devotee of the Bible, and neither can listen to reason, because their whole sense of personal security and integrity depends absolutely upon pretending to follow an external authority. The very existence of this authority, as well as the sense of identity of its follower and true believer, requires an excluded class of infidels, heathens and sinners people whom you can punish and bully so as to know that you are strong and alive. No argument, no reasoning, no contrary evidence can possibly reach the true believer, who, if he is somewhat sophisticated, justifies and even glorifies his invincible stupidity as a "leap of faith" or "sacrifice of the intellect." He quotes the Roman lawyer and theologian Tertullian Credo, quia absurdum est , "I believe because it is absurd" as if Tertullian had said something profound. Such people are, quite literally, idiots originally a Greek word meaning an individual so isolated that you can't communicate with him.

Oddly enough, there are unbelievers who envy them, who wish that they could have the serenity and peace of mind that come from "knowing" beyond doubt that you have the true Word of God and are in the right. But this overlooks the fact that those who supposedly have this peace within themselves are outwardly obstreperous and violent, standing in dire need of converts and followers to convince themselves of their continuing validity just as much as they need outsiders to punish.  Mindless belief in the literal truth of the Bible and furious zeal to spread the message lead to such widespread follies, in the American Bible Belt, as playing with poisonous snakes and drinking strychnine to prove the truth of Mark 16:18, where Jesus is reported to have said: "They [the faithful] shall take up serpents: and if they drink any deadly, thing, it shall not hurt them." As recently as April 1973, two men (one a pastor) in Newport, Tennessee, died in convulsions from taking large amounts of strychnine before a congregation shouting, "Praise God! Praise God!" So they didn't have enough faith; but such barbarous congregations will go on trying these experiments again and again to test and prove their faith, not realizing that by Christian standards this is arrant spiritual pride. Meanwhile, the Government persecutes religious groups that use such relatively harmless herbs as peyote and marijuana for sacraments.

What is to be done about the existence of millions of such dangerous people in the world? Obviously, they must not be censored or suppressed by their own methods. Even though it is impossible to persuade or argue with them in a reasonable way, it is just possible that they can be wooed and enchanted by a more attractive style of religion, which will show them that their unbending "faith" in their Bibles is simply an inverse expression of doubt and terror a frantic whistling in the dark.  There have been other images of God than the Father-Monarch: the Cosmic Mother; the inmost Self (disguised as all living beings), as in Hinduism; the indefinable Tao, the flowing energy of the universe, as among the Chinese; or no image at all, as with the Buddhists, who are not strictly atheists but who feel that the ultimate reality cannot be pictured in any way and, what is more, that not picturing it is a positive way of feeling it directly, beyond symbols and images. I have called this "atheism in the name of God" a paradoxical and catchy phrase pointing out something missed by learned Protestant theologians who have been talking about "death of God" theology and "religionless Christianity," and asking what of the Gospel of Christ can be saved if life is nothing more than a trip from the maternity ward to the crematorium. It is weird how such sophisticated Biblical scholars must go on clinging to Jesus even when rejecting the basic principle of his teaching the experience that he was God in the flesh, an experience he unknowingly shared with all the great mystics of the world.


Atheism in the name of God is an abandonment of all religious beliefs, including atheism, which in practice is the stubbornly held idea that the world is a mindless mechanism. Atheism in the name of God is giving up the attempt to make sense of the world in terms of any fixed idea or intellectual system. It is becoming again as a child and laying oneself open to reality as it is actually and directly felt, experiencing it without trying to categorize, identify or name it.


This can be most easily begun by listening to the world with closed eyes, in the same way that one can listen to music without asking what it says or means. This is actually a turn-on a state of consciousness in which the past and future vanish (because they cannot be heard) and in which there is no audible difference yourself and what you are hearing.  There is simply universe, an always present happening in which there is no perceptible difference between self and other, or, as in breathing, between what you do and what happens to you. Without losing command of civilized behavior, you have temporarily "regressed" to what Freud called the oceanic feeling of the baby the feeling that we all lost in learning to make distinctions, but that we should have retained as their necessary background, just as there must be empty white paper under this print if you are to read it.


When you listen to the world in this way, you have begun to practice what Hindus and Buddhists call meditation a re-entry to the real world, as distinct from the abstract world of words and ideas. If you find that you can't stop naming the various sounds and thinking in words, just listen to yourself doing that as another form of noise, a meaningless murmur like the sound of traffic. I won't argue for this experiment.  Just try it and see what happens, because this is the basic act of faith of being unreservedly open and vulnerable to what is true and real. Certainly this is what Jesus himself must have had in mind in that famous passage in the Sermon on the Mount upon which one will seldom hear anything from a pulpit: "Which of you by thinking can add a measure to his height? And why are you anxious about clothes?  Look at the flowers of the field, how they grow. They neither labor nor spin; and yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his splendor was not arrayed like any one of them. So if God so clothes the wild grass which lives for today and tomorrow is burned, shall He not much more clothe you, faithless ones? . . . Don't be anxious for the future, for the future will take care of itself. Sufficient to the day are its troubles." Even the most devout Christians can't take this. They feel that such advice was all very well for Jesus, being the Boss's son, but this is no wisdom for us practical and lesser-born mortals. You can, of course, take these words in their allegorical and spiritual sense, which is that you stop clinging in terror to a rigid system of ideas about what will happen to you after you die, or as to what, exactly, are the procedures of the court of heaven, whereby the world is supposedly governed. Curiously, both science and mysticism (which might be called religion as experienced rather than religion as written) are based on the experimental attitude of looking directly at what is, of attending to life itself instead of trying to glean it from a book.  The scholastic theologians would not look through Galileo's telescope, and Billy Graham will not experiment with a psychedelic chemical or practice yoga.


Two eminent historians of science, Joseph Needham and Lynn White, have pointed out the surprising fact that in both Europe and Asia, science arises from mysticism, because both the mystic and the scientist are types of people who want to know directly, for themselves, rather than be told what to believe. And in this sense they follow the advice of Jesus to become again "as little children," to look at the world with open, clear, and unprejudiced eyes, as if they had never seen it before. It is in this spirit that an astronomer must look at the sky and a yogi must attend to the immediately present moment, as when he concentrates on a prolonged sound. Years and years of book study may simply fossilize you into fixed habits of thought so that any perceptive person will know in advance how you will react to any situation or idea. Imagining yourself reliable, you become merely predictable and, alas, boring. Most sermons are tedious. One knows in advance what the preacher is going to say, however dressed up on a fancy language. Going strictly by the book, he will have no original ideas or experiences, for which reason both he and his followers become rigid and easily shocked personalities who cannot swing, wiggle, lilt or dance.

In this connection it should be noted that the blacks of the South swing and wiggle quite admirably, even in church but this is because the preacher, starting from the Bible in deference to his white overlords, very soon reverts to the rhythms and incantations of some old-time African religion, and there is no knowing at all what he is going to say. This is perhaps one of the principle roots of conflict between whites and blacks in the American South that the former go by the Book and the latter by the spirit, which, like the wind, as Jesus put it, blows where it wills, and you can't tell where it comes from or where it's going.

Thus, we reach the seeming paradox that you cannot at once idolize the Bible and embody the spirit of Jesus. He twitted the Pharisees as today he would twit the fundamentalists: "You search the Scriptures daily, for in them you think you have life." The religion of Jesus was to trust life, both as he felt it in himself and as he saw it around him. Most of us would feel that this was a ridiculous gamble to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness but, come to think of it, is there any real alternative? Basically, no human community can exist that is not founded on mutual trust as distinct from law and its enforcement. The alternative to mutual trust, which is indeed a risky  gamble, is the security of the police state.

—Alan Watts (Dec. 1973)
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The World's Most Dangerous Book [Part 2] by Alan Watts
Alan W. Watts

1885 Still Life with Bible
---Still Life of the Bible by Vincent van Gogh


[Part 2 of 3 ]

When one considers the architecture and ritual of churches, whether Catholic or Protestant, it is obvious until most recent times that they are based on royal or judicial courts. A monarch who rules by force sits in the central court of his donjon with his back to the wall, flanked by guards, and those who come to petition him for justice or to offer tribute must kneel or prostrate themselves simply because these are difficult positions from which to start a fight. Such monarchs are, of course, frightened of their subjects and constantly on the anxious alert for rebellion. Is this an appropriate image for the inconceivable energy that underlies the universe? True, the altar-throne in Catholic churches is occupied by the image of God in the form of one crucified as a common thief, but he hangs there as our leader in subjection to the Almighty Father, King of the universe, propitiating Him for those who have broken His not always reasonable laws. And what of the curious resemblance between Protestant churches and courts of law? The minister and the judge wear the same black robe and "throw the book" at those assembled in pews and various kinds of boxes, and both ministers and judges have chairs of estate that are still, in effect, thrones.

The crucial question, then, is that if you picture the universe as a monarchy, how can you believe that a republic is the best form of government, and so be a loyal citizen of the United States? It is thus that fundamentalists veer to the extreme right wing in politics, being of the personality type that demands strong external and paternalistic authority. Their "rugged individualism" and their racism are founded on the conviction that they are the elect of God the Father, and their forebears took possession of America as the armies of Joshua took possession of Canaan, treating the Indians as Joshua and Gideon treated the Bedouin of Palestine. In the same spirit the Protestant British, Dutch and Germans took possession of Africa, India and Indonesia, and the rigid Catholics of Spain and Portugal colonized Latin America. Such territorial expansion may or may not be practical politics, but to do it in the name of Jesus of Nazareth is an outrage.

The Bible is a dangerous book, though by no means an evil one. It depends, largely, on how you read it with what prejudices and with what intellectual background. Regarded as sacred and authoritative, such a complex collection of histories, legends, allegories and images becomes a monstrous Rorschach blot in which you can picture almost anything you want to discover just as one can see cities and mountains in the clouds or faces in the fire. Fundamentalists "prove" the truth of the Bible by trying to show how the words of the prophets have foretold events that have come to pass in relatively recent times. But any statistician knows that you can find correlation's, if you want to, between almost any two sets of patterns or rhythms between the occurrence of sunspots and fluctuations of the stock market, between the lines and bumps on your hand and the course of your life or between the architecture of the Great Pyramid and the history of Europe. This is because of eidetic vision, or the brain's ability to project visions and forms of its own into any material whatsoever. But scholars of ancient history find the remarks of the prophets entirely relevant to events of their own time, in the ancient Near East. The Biblical prophets were not so much predictors as social commentators.

I am not in the position of those liberal Christians who reject fundamentalism but must still insist that Jesus was the one and only incarnation of God, or at least the most perfect human being. No one is intellectually free who feels that he cannot and must not disagree with Jesus and is therefore forced into the dishonest practice of wangling the words of the Gospels to fit his own opinions. There is not a scrap of evidence that Jesus was familiar with any other religious tradition than that of the Hebrew Scriptures or that he knew anything of the civilizations of India, China or Peru. Under these circumstances, he was faced with the virtually impossible problem of expressing himself in the peculiar religious language and imagery of his local culture. For it is obvious to any student of the psychology of religion that what he needed to express was the relatively common change of consciousness known as mystical experience the vivid and overwhelming sensation that your own being is one with eternal and ultimate reality. But it was as hard for Jesus to say this as it still is for a native of the American Bible Belt. It implies the blasphemous, subversive and lunatic claim to be identical with the all-knowing and all-ruling monarch of the world its Pharaoh or Cyrus. Jesus would have had no trouble in India, for this experience is the foundation of Hinduism, and the Hindus recognize many people in both ancient and modern times as embodiments of the divine, or sons of God but not, of course, of the kind of God represented by Jehovah. Buddhists, likewise, teach that anyone can, and finally will, become a Buddha (an Enlightened One), in the same way as the historic Gautama.

If the Gospel of Saint John, in particular, is to be believed, Jesus emphatically identified himself with the Godhead, considering such phrases as "I and the Father are one," or "He who has seen me has seen the Father," or "Before Abraham was, I am," or "I am the way, the truth and the life." But this was not an exclusive claim for himself as the man Jesus, for at John 10:31, just after he has said, "I and the Father are one," the crowd picks up rocks to stone him to death. He protests: "Many good works have I shown you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me?" The Jews answered him, saying, "We do not stone you for a good work, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, make yourself God."  And here it comes: Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, I said, you are gods [quoting Psalms 82]? If He [i.e., God] called those to whom He gave His word gods and you can't contradict the Scriptures how can you say of Him whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world, 'You blaspheme!' because I said, 'I am a son of God" [The original Greek says "a son," not "the son."]

In other words, the Gospel, or "good news" that Jesus was trying to convey, despite the limitations of his tradition, was that we are all sons of God. When he uses the terms I am (as in "Before Abraham was, I am") or Me (as in "No one comes to the Father but by Me"), he is intending to use them in the same way as Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita :  He who sees Me everywhere and sees all in Me; I am not lost to him, nor is he lost to Me. The yogi who, established in oneness, worships Me abiding in all beings, lives in Me, whatever be his outward life.  And by this "Me" Krishna means the atman that is at once the basic self in us and in the universe. To know this is to enjoy eternal life, to discover that the fundamental "I am" feeling, which you confuse with your superficial ego, is the ultimate reality forever and ever, amen.  In this essential respect, the, the Gospel has been obscured and muffled almost from the beginnings. For Jesus was presumably trying to say that our consciousness is the divine spirit, "the light which enlightens every one who comes into the world," and which George Fox, founder of the Quakers, called the Inward Light. But the Church, still bound to the image of God as the King of kings, couldn't accept this Gospel. It adopted a religion about Jesus instead of the religion of Jesus. It kicked him upstairs and put him in the privileged and unique position of being the Boss's son, so that, having this unique advantage, his life and example became useless to everyone else. The individual Christian must not know that his own "I am" is the one that existed before Abraham. In this way, the Church institutionalized and made a virtue of feeling chronic guilt for not being as good as Jesus. It only widened the alienation, the colossal difference, that monotheism put between man and God. 

When I try to explain this to Jesus freaks and other Bible bangers, they invariably reveal theological ignorance by saying, "But doesn't the Bible say that Jesus was the only-begotten son of God?" It doesn’t? (not, at least, according to Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican interpretations). The phrase "only-begotten son refers not to Jesus the man but to the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, who is said to have become incarnate in the man Jesus. Nowhere does the Bible, or even the creeds of the Church, say that Jesus was the only incarnation of God the Son in all time and space. Furthermore, it is not generally known that God the Son is symbolized as both male and female, as Logos-Sophia, the Design and the Wisdom of God, based on the passage in Proverbs 7:9, where the Wisdom of God speaks as a woman.

"But then," they go on to argue, "doesn't the Bible say that there is no other name under heaven whereby men may be saved except the name of Jesus? But what is the name of Jesus? J-E-S-U-S? Lesous? Aissa? Jehoshua? Or however else it may be pronounced? It is said that every prayer said in name of Jesus will be granted, and obviously this doesn't mean that "Jesus" is a signature on a blank check. It means that prayers will be granted when made in the spirit of Jesus, and that spirit is, again, the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal God the Son, who could just as well have been incarnate in Krishna, Buddha, Lao-tzu or Ramana Maharshi as in Jesus of Nazareth.

It is amazing what both the Bible and the Church are presumed to teach but don't teach. Listening to fundamentalists, one would suppose that if there are living beings on other planets in this or other galaxies.  They must wait for salvation until missionaries from earth arrive on spaceships, bringing the Bible and baptism. But if "God so loves the world" and means it, He will surely send His son to wherever he is needed, and there is no difference in principle between a planet circling Alpha Centauri and peoples as remote from Palestine AD 30 as the Chinese or the Incas. 

Watts
NEXT WEEK: THE CONCLUSION TO “THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS BOOK”

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The World's Most Dangerous Book [Part 1] by Alan Watts


1885 Still Life with Bible
---”Still Life of the Bible” by Vincent van Gogh
[Part 1of 3 ]

For many centuries the Roman Catholic Church was opposed to translating the Holy Scriptures into the "vulgar tongue." To this day, you can still get rid of a Bible salesman by saying, "But we are Catholics and, of course, don't read the Bible." The Catholic hierarchy included subtle theologians and scholars who knew very well that such a difficult and diverse collection of ancient writings, taken as the literal Word of God, would be wildly and dangerously interpreted if put into the hands of ignorant and uneducated peasants. Likewise, when a missionary boasted to George Bernard Shaw of the numerous converts he had made, Shaw asked, " Can these people use rifles?" "Oh, indeed, yes," said the missionary. "Some of them are very good shots." Whereupon Shaw scolded him for putting us all in peril in the day when those converts waged holy war against us for not following the Bible in the literal sense they gave to it. For the Bible says, "What a good thing it is when the Lord putteth into the hands of the righteous invincible might." But today, especially in the United States, there is a taboo against admitting that there are enormous numbers of stupid and ignorant people, in the bookish and literal sense of these words. They may be highly intelligent in the arts of farming, manufacture, engineering and finance, and even in physics, chemistry or medicine. But this intelligence does not automatically flow over to the fields of history, archaeology, linguistics, theology, philosophy and mythology which are what one needs to know in order to make any sense out such archaic literature as the books of the Bible.

This may sound snobbish, for there is an assumption that, in the Bible, God gave His message in plain words for plain people. Once, when I had given a radio broadcast in Canada, the announcer took me aside and said, "Don't you think that if there is a truly loving God, He would given us a plain and specific guide as to how to live our lives?"

"On the contrary," I replied, "a truly loving God would not stultify our minds. He would encourage us to think for ourselves." I tried, then, to show him that his belief in the divine authority of the Bible rested on nothing more than his own personal opinion, to which, of course, he was entitled. This is basic. The authority of the Bible, the church, the state, or of any spiritual or political leader, is derived from the individual followers and believers, since it is the believers' judgment that such leaders and institutions speak with a greater wisdom than there own. This is, obviously, a paradox, for only the wise can recognize wisdom. Thus, Catholics criticize Protestants for following their own opinions in understanding the Bible, as distinct from the interpretations of the Church, which originally issued and authorized the Bible. But Catholics seldom realize that the authority of the Church rests, likewise, on the opinion of its individual members that the Papacy and the councils of the Church are authoritative. The same is true of the state, for, as a French statesman said, people get the government they deserve.

Why does one come to the opinion that the Bible, literally understood, is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Usually because one's "elders and betters," or an impressively large group of ones peers, have this opinion. But this is to go along with the Bandar-log, or monkey tribe, in Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books , who periodically get together and shout, "We all say so, so it must be true!" Having been a grandfather for a number of years, I am not particularly impressed with patriarchal authority. I am of an age with my own formerly impressive grandfathers (one of whom was a fervent fundamentalist, or literal believer in the Bible) and I realize that my opinions are as fallible as theirs.

But many people never grow up. They stay all their lives with a passionate need for eternal authority and guidance, pretending not to trust their own judgment.  Nevertheless, it is their own judgment, willy-nilly, that there exists some authority greater than their own. The fervent fundamentalist whether Protestant or Catholic, Jew or Moslem is closed to reason and even communication for fear of losing the security of childish dependence. He would suffer extreme emotional heebie jeebies if he didn't have the feeling that there was some external and infallible guide in which he could trust absolutely and without which his very identity would dissolve.

This attitude is not faith. It is pure idolatry. The more deceptive idols are not images of wood and stone but are constructed of words and ideas mental images of God. Faith is an openness and trusting attitude to truth and reality, whatever it may turn out to be. This is a risky and adventurous state of mind. Belief, in the religious sense, is the opposite of faith because it is a fervent wishing or hope, a compulsive clinging to the idea that the universe is arranged and governed in such and such a way. Belief is holding to a rock; faith is learning how to swim and this whole universe swims in boundless space.

Thus, in much of the English-speaking world, the King James Bible is a rigid idol, all the more deceptive for being translated into the most melodious English and for being an anthology of ancient literature that contains sublime wisdom along with barbaric histories and the war songs of tribes on the rampage. All this is taken as the literal Word and counsel of God, as it is by fundamentalist Baptists, Jesus freaks, Jehovah's Witnesses and comparable sects, which by and large know nothing of the history of the Bible, of how it was edited and put together. So we have with us the social menace of a huge population of intellectually and morally irresponsible people. Take a ruler and measure the listings under "Churches" in the Yellow Pages of the phone directory. You will find that the fundamentalists have by far the most space. And under what pressure do most hotels and motels place Gideon Bibles by the bedside Bibles with clearly fundamentalist introductory material, taking their name Gideon from one of the more ferocious military leaders of the ancient Israelites?

As is well known, the enormous political power of fundamentalists is what makes legislators afraid to take laws against victimless "sins" and crimes off the books, and what corrupts the police by forcing them to be armed preachers enforcing ecclesiastical laws in a country where church and state are supposed to be separate ignoring the basic Christian doctrine that no actions, or abstentions from actions, are of moral import unless undertaken voluntarily. Freedom is risky and includes the risk that anyone may go to hell in his own way.

Now, the King James Bible did not, as one might gather from listening to fundamentalists, descend with an Angel from heaven AD 1611, when it was first published. It was an elegant, but often inaccurate, translation of Hebrew and Greek documents composed between 900 BC and AD 120. There is no manuscript of the Old Testament, that is, of the Hebrew Scriptures, written in Hebrew, earlier than the Ninth Century BC But we know that these documents were first put together and recognized as the Holy Scriptures by a convention of rabbis held at Jamnia (Yavne) in Palestine shortly before AD 100. On their say-so. Likewise, the composition of the Christian Bible, which documents to include and which to drop, was decided by a council of the Catholic Church held in Carthage in the latter part of the Fourth Century. Several books that had formerly been read in the churches, such as the Shepherd of Hermas and the marvelous Gospel of Saint Thomas , were then excluded. The point is that the books translated in the King James Bible were declared canonical and divinely inspired by the authority (A) of the Synod of Jamnia and (B) of the Catholic Church, meeting in Carthage more than 300 years after the time of Jesus. It is thus that fundamentalist Protestants get the authority of their Bible from Jews who had rejected Jesus and from Catholics whom they abominate as the Scarlet Woman mentioned in Revelation.

The Bible, to repeat, is an anthology of Hebrew and late Greek literature, edited and put forth by a council of Catholic bishops who believed that they were acting under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Before this time the Bible as we know it did not exist. There were the Hebrew Scriptures and their translated into Greek the Septuagint, which was made in Alexandria between 250 BC and 100 BC There were also various codices, or Greek manuscripts, of various parts of the New Testament, such as the four Gospels. There were numerous other writings circulating among Christians, including the Epistles of Saint Paul and Saint John, the Apocalypse (Revelation) and such documents (later excluded) as the Acts of John , the Didache , the Apostolic Constitutions and the various Epistles of Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp.

In those days, and until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century, the Scriptures were not understood exclusively in a narrow literal sense. From Clement of Alexandria (Second Century) to Saint Thomas Aquinas (13th Century), the great theologians, or Fathers of the Church, recognized four ways of interpreting the Scriptures: the literal or historical, the moral, the allegorical and the spiritual and they were overwhelmingly interested in the last three. Origen (Second Century) regarded much of the Old Testament as "puerile" if taken literally, and Jewish theologians were likewise preoccupied with finding hidden meanings in the Scriptures, for the concern of all these theologians was to interpret the Biblical texts in such a way as to make the Bible intellectually respectable and philosophically interesting. Concern over the historical truth of the Bible is relatively modern, whether in the form of fundamentalism or of scientific research.

But when the Bible was translated and widely distributed as a result of the invention of printing, it fell into the hands of people who, like the Jesus freaks of today, were simply uneducated and who, as the depressed classes of Europe, eventually swarmed over to America. This is, naturally, a heroic generalization. There were, and are fundamentalists learned in languages and sciences (although the standard translation of the Bible into Chinese is said to be in fearful taste), just as there are professors of physics and anthropology who somehow manage to be pious Mormons. Some people have the peculiar ability to divide their minds into watertight compartments, being critical and rational in matters of science but credulous as children when it comes to religion.

Such superstition would have been relatively harmless if the religion had been something tolerant and pacific, such as Taoism or Buddhism. But the religion of the literally understood Bible is chauvinistic and militant. It is on the march to conquer the world and to establish itself as the one and only true belief. Among its most popular hymns are such battle songs as "Mine eyes have seen the glory" and Onward, Christian Soldiers. The God of the Hebrews, the Arabs and the Christians is a mental idol fashioned in the image of the great monarchs of Egypt, Chaldea and Persia. It was possibly Ikhnaton (Amenhotep IV, 14th Century BC), Pharaoh of Egypt, who gave Moses the idea of monotheism (as suggested in Freud's Moses and Monotheism). Certainly the veneration of God as "King of kings and Lord of lords" borrows the official title of the Persian emperors. Thus, the political pattern of tyranny, beneficent or otherwise, of rule by violence, whether physical or moral, stands firmly behind the Biblical idea of Jehovah.

—December 1973

Watts
NEXT WEEK: PART 2 “THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS BOOK”
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"TAO - Two Insights" — Alan Watts (TAO:THE WATERCOURSE WAY) and commentary by Bei Kuan-tu

waytodaylogo
As days turn to months, then years, a blurring of all that once appeared axiomatic becomes the ground for a germinating process of the heart, an upward flight to freedom—the flowering of a hungry soul. In part, this gift is an ongoing process of seeing/learning beyond the tentacle-like cultural biasses that seem to haunt so many of us so much of the time. From “getting ahead at any cost” to “sacrificing one’s own authenticity for personal gain,” to hiding from a monarchical god whose judgement is precarious at best.“ We can find great solace in the infinitude of the Tao. Not as another ideology, religion or movement “to get the world right,” but simply what intuitively settles the mental dust, allows the bullfrog to bellow at night and leads to right-mindedness.

-Bei Kuan Tu

_______________________


Below Alan Watts gives a rather artistic perspective on the inconceivability, yet wonderful buoyancy of the Tao.

alan-watts-drawing 2...to conceive the Tao as an unconscious energy is as much off the point as to conceive it as a personal ruler or God. But if, as is the case, the Tao is simply inconceivable, what is the use of having the word and of saying anything at all about it? Simply because we know intuitively that there is a dimension of ourselves and of nature which eludes us because it is too close, too general, and too all-embracing to be singled out as a particular object. This dimension is the ground of all the astonishing forms and experiences of which we are aware. Because we are aware, it cannot be unconscious, although we are not conscious of it—as of an external thing. Thus we can give it a name but cannot make any definitive statement about it—as we saw to be the case with whatever it is that is named "electricity." Our only way of apprehending it is by watching the processes and patterns of nature, and by the meditative discipline of allowing our minds to become quiet, so as to have vivid awareness of "what is" without verbal comment.

-Alan Watts
(from Tao: The Watercourse Way)


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Jesus and His Religion (or the religion about Him) [3rd of 3 Parts] by Alan Watts

entrada_bis
--Photograph by Eugenio Pastor

(Part 3)


CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK:

But you see what happens. If you pedestalize Jesus you strangle the Gospel at birth. And it has been the tradition in both the Catholic Church and in Protestantism to pass off what I will call an emasculated Gospel. Gospel means "good news," and I cannot for the life of me think what is the good news about the Gospel as ordinarily handed down. Because, look here – here is the revelation of God in Christ, in Jesus, and we are supposed to follow his life and example without having the unique advantage of being the boss's son. Now, the tradition – both Catholic and Protestant Fundamentalist – represents Jesus to us as a freak! Born of a virgin, knowing he is the son of God, having the power of miracles, knowing that basically it's impossible to kill him, that he's going to rise again in the end. And we are asked to take up our cross and follow him when we don't know that about ourselves at all! So what happens is this: we are delivered, therefore, a Gospel which is in fact an impossible religion. It's impossible to follow the Way of Christ. Alright. Many a Christian has admitted it. "I am a miserable sinner. I fall far short of the example of Christ." But do you realize the more you say that the better you are? Because what happened was that Christianity institutionalized guilt as a virtue. (enthusiastic applause) You see, you can never come up to it. Never. And therefore you will always be aware of your shortcomings, and so the more shortcomings you feel the more – in other words – you are aware of the vast abyss between Christ and yourself.

[Audience member] "You are just setting up straw men and knocking them down!"

You will have your opportunity to speak during the question period, madam. So, you go to confession.... (laughter and applause) ... and if you've got a nice dear understanding confessor he won't get angry with-at you. He'll say, "My child, you know you've sinned very grievously but you must realize that the love of God and of Our Lord is infinite and that naturally you are forgiven. As a token of thanks-giving say three 'Hail Mary's." And you know, you've committed a murder and robbed a bank and fornicated around and so on, but the priest is perfectly patient and quiet. Well you feel awful! "I have done that to the love of God? I have wounded Jesus, grieved the Holy Spirit," and so on. But you know in the back of your mind that you're going to do it all over again. You won't be able to help yourself. You'll try. But there's always a greater and greater sense of guilt.

Now, the lady objected that I was putting up a straw man and knocking it down. This is the Christianity of most people. Now there is a much more subtle Christianity of the theologians, the mystics, and the philosophers. But it's not what gets preached from the pulpit, grant you. But the message of Billy Graham is approximately what I've given you, and of all – what I will call – fundamentalist forms of Catholicism and Protestantism.

What would the real Gospel be? The real Good News is not simply that Jesus of Nazareth was THE son of God, but that he was a powerful son of God who came to open everybody's eyes to the fact that you are too. Now this is perfectly plain. If you will go to the tenth chapter of Saint John, verse 30, there is the passage where Jesus says "I and the Father are one." And this is – there are some people who aren't intimate disciples around, and they are horrified! And they immediately pick up stones to stone him. He says "Many good works I have shown you from the Father, and for which of these do you stone me?" And they said, "For a good work we stone you not, but for blasphemy, because you being a man make yourself God." And he replied "Isn't it written in your law 'I have said you are gods'?" (He's quoting the 82nd Psalm.) "Isn't it written in your law 'I have said you are gods'? If God called them those to whom he gave his word 'gods' – and you can't deny the scriptures – how can you say I blaspheme because I said I am a son of God?" Well there's the whole thing in a nutshell.

Of course if you read the King James Bible that descended with the angel you will see in italics in front of these words "son of God," "THE son of God" – "...because I said I am THE son of God." And most people think the italics are for emphasis. They're not. The italics indicate words interpolated by the translators. You will not find that in the Greek. The Greek says "a son of God." So it seems to me here perfectly plain that Jesus has got it in the back of his mind that this isn't something peculiar to himself.

So when he says "I am the way. No man comes to the Father but by ME," this "I am," this "me" is the divine in us which in Hebrew would be called the "Ruach Adonai." This – a great deal is made of this by the esoteric Jews, Kabbalists and the Hasidim. The Ruach is the breath that God breathed into the nostrils of Adam. It is differing from the soul. The individual soul in Hebrew is called "Nephesh." And so we translate the "Ruach" into the Greek "pneuma" into "psyche" [see´kay] or "psyche" [sy´kee]. The spirit – and you ask the theologian what's the difference between the soul and the spirit and he won't be able to tell you – but it's very clear in Saint Paul's writings.

So the point is that the Ruach is the divine in the creature by virtue of which we are sons of, or of the nature of God: manifestations of the divine. This discovery is the Gospel. That is, the Good News. But this has been perpetually repressed throughout the history of Western religion because all Western religions have taken the form of celestial monarchies, and therefore have discouraged Democracy in the Kingdom of Heaven. Until, as a consequence of the teachings of the German and Flemish mystics in the Fifteenth Century there began to be such movements as the Anabaptists, the Brothers of the Free Spirit, and the Levelers, and the Quakers. A spiritual movement which came to this country and founded a republic and not a monarchy.

And how could you say that a republic is the best form of government if you think that the Universe is a monarchy? Obviously, if God is top on a monarchy, monarchy is the best form of government. But you see, ever so many citizens of this republic think they ought to believe that the Universe is a monarchy, and therefore they are always at odds with the republic.

It is from, principally, white racist Christians that we have the threat of Fascism in this country. Because you see, they have a religion which is militant, which is not the religion of Jesus – which was the realization of divine son-ship – but the religion ABOUT Jesus which pedestalizes him and which says "Only this man – of all the sons of woman – is divine, and you had better recognize it." And so it speaks of itself as The Church Militant, the onward Christian soldiers marching as to war. Utterly exclusive. Convinced, in advance of examining the doctrines of any other religion that it is the top religion. And so it becomes a freak religion, just as it has made a freak of Jesus, an unnatural man. It claims uniqueness, not realizing that what it does teach would be far more credible if it were truly "Catholic" – that is to say: restated again, the truths which have been known from time immemorial, which have appeared in all the great cultures of the world.

But even very liberal Protestants still want to say, somehow – so as, I suppose to keep the mission effort going or to pay off the mortgage – "Yes, these other religions are very good. God has no doubt revealed himself through Buddha and Lao-Tsu. But...!"

Now, obviously, it is a matter of temperament. You could be loyal to Jesus just as you're loyal to your own country, but you are not serving your country if you think that it's necessarily the best of all possible countries. That is doing a disservice to your country. It is refusing to be critical where criticism is proper. So of religion. Every religion should be self-critical. Otherwise it soon degenerates into a self-righteous hypocrisy. If then we can see this, that Jesus speaks not from the situation of a historical deus-ex-machina – a kind of a weird, extraordinary event – but he is a voice which joins with other voices that have said in every place and time "Wake up, Man. Wake up and realize who you are."

Now I don't think, you see, until churches get with that that they're going to have very much relevance. You see, popular Protestantism and popular Catholicism will tell you nothing about mystical religion. The message of the preacher, fifty-two Sundays a year, is "Dear people, be good." We've heard it ad-nauseam! Or: "Believe in this." He may occasionally give us a sermon on what happens after death or the nature of God, but basically the sermon is "Be good." But how? As Saint Paul said, "To will is present with me, but how to do that which is good I find not; for the good that I would I do not, and the evil that I would not, that I do." How are we going to be changed? Obviously, there cannot be a vitality of religion without vital religious experience. And that's something much more than emoting over singing "Onward Christian Soldiers."

But you see what happens in our ecclesiastical goings-on is that we run a talking shop. We pray. We tell God what to do, or give advice as if He didn't know. We read the scriptures, and remember: talking of the Bible Jesus said "You search the scriptures daily, for in them you think you have life." Saint Paul made some rather funny references about the spirit which giveth life and the letter which kills. I think the Bible should be ceremoniously and reverently burned every Easter. We need it no more because the Spirit is with us. It's a dangerous book. And to worship it is of course a far more dangerous idolatry than bowing down to images of wood and stone. Because you can –– nobody's senses can confuse a wooden image with God, but you can very easily confuse a set of ideas with God, because concepts are more rarified and abstract.

So with this endless talking in church we can preach, but by-and-large preaching does nothing but excite a sense of anxiety and guilt. And you can't love out of that. No scolding, no rational demonstration of the right way to behave is going to inspire people with love. Something else must happen. But we will say "What are you going to do about it?" Do about it? You have no faith? Be quiet. Even Quakers aren't quiet. They sit in meeting and think. At least some of them do. But supposing we get really quiet; we don't think; be absolutely silent through-and-through? We say "Well, you'll just fall into a blank." Oh? Ever tried?

I feel then, you see, that it's enormously important that churches stop being talking shops, they become centers of contemplation. What is contemplation? Con-templum: It's what you do in the temple. You don't come to the temple to chatter, but to be still and know that "I am God." And this is why, if the Christian religion – if the Gospel of Christ – is to mean anything at all instead of just being one of the forgotten religions along with Osiris and Mithra we must see Christ as the Great Mystic. In the proper sense of the word "mystic," not someone who has all sorts of magical powers and understands spirits and so on. A mystic – strictly speaking – is one who realizes union with God, by whatever name. This seems to me the crux and message of the Gospel, summed up in the prayer of Jesus which Saint John records as he speaks over his disciples praying that "they may be one even as you, Father, and I are one." That they may be all one. All realize this divine son-ship, all oneness, basic identity with the eternal energy of the universe and the love that moves the Sun and other stars.

Watts
http://alanwatts.com/
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Jesus and His Religion (or the religion about Him) [2nd of 3 Parts] by Alan Watts

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Photograph by Eugenio Pastor

PART 2

CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK:

Now so therefore everybody who receives divine inspiration – and I'm using that in a very loose way – you could mean anything you like by "divine" – that's your option – but anybody who receives it will express it within the limits of what language he knows. And by language here I don't only mean English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, or Sanskrit. I mean language in the sense of what sort of terms are available to you; what kind of religion were you brought up with.

Now you see, if you were brought up in the Bible Belt – you came out of Arkansas somewhere – and that's all the religion you knew, and you had a mystical experience of the type where you suddenly discover that you are one with God, then you're liable to get up and say "I'm Jesus Christ!" And lots of people do. Well the culture that we live in just can't allow that. There is only one Jesus Christ. And so if you don't look like you're Jesus Christ coming back again – because it said in the scriptures that when He comes back there'll be no doubt about it: He'll appear in the Heavens with legions of angels, and you're not doing that; you're just old Joe Dokes we knew years ago. Well now you say you're Jesus Christ. Well, he says that when Jesus Christ said he was God nobody believed him and you don't believe again. You know you can't answer that argument. (laughter)

But you see, he says it that way because he is trying to express what happened to him in terms of the religious language which is circumscribed by the Holy Bible. He's never read the Upanishads. He's never read the Diamond Sutra. He's never read The Tibetan Book of the Dead or the I-Ching or the Lao-Tsu, and therefore there is no other way in which he can say this.

But if he had read the Upanishads he would have had no difficulty, and nor would the culture – the society in which he was talking – have any difficulty. Because it says in the Upanishads we are all incarnations of God. Only they don't mean by the word "God" – in fact they don't use that word; they use "Brahman" – they don't mean the same thing that a Hebrew meant by "God." Because the Brahman is not personal. Brahman is – we would say – supra-personal. Not impersonal, because that is a negation. But I would say supra-personal.

Brahman is not he or she, has no sex. Brahman is not the creator of the world – as something underneath and subject to Brahman – but the actor of the world, the player of all the parts, so that everyone is a mask (which is the meaning of the word "person") in which the Brahman plays a role. And like an absorbed actor the divine spirit gets so absorbed in playing the role as to become it, and to be bewitched. And this is all part of the game, hereto believing that I am that role. When you were babies you knew who you were. Psychoanalysts refer to that as the oceanic feeling. They don't really like it, but they admit that it exists. Where the baby cannot distinguish between the world and the way it acts upon the world. It's all one process. Which is of course the way things are.

But we learn very quickly because we are taught very quickly what is you and what is not-you, what is voluntary, what is involuntary, because you can be punished for the voluntary but not for the involuntary. And so we unlearn what we knew in the beginning. And in the course of life if we are fortunate we discover again what we really are, that each one of us is what would be called in Arabic or Hebrew "a son of God." And the word "son of" means "of the nature of" as when you call someone a "son of a bitch," or in Arabic you say "Ibn-kalb" which means "son of a dog," "Ibn al-Himar": "son of a donkey." So, "a son of Belial" means "an evil person." "Son of God" means "a divine person," a Human being who has realized union with God.

Now my assumption – and my opinion – is that Jesus of Nazareth was a Human being like Buddha, like Sri Rama Krishna, like Ramana Maharshi, etc., who early in life had a colossal experience of what we call "cosmic consciousness." Now you don't have to be any particular kind of religion to get this experience. It can hit anyone anytime, like falling in love. There are obviously a number of you in this building who've had it in greater or lesser degree. But it's found all over the world. And when it hits you, you know it. Sometimes it comes after long practice of meditations and spiritual discipline. Sometimes it comes for no reason that anybody can determine. We say it's the "Grace of God," that there comes this overwhelming conviction that you have mistaken your identity, that what you thought, what I thought was just old Alan Watts – who I know very well is just a big act and a show – but what I thought was, you know, "me!" – was only completely superficial, that I am an expression of an eternal something-or-other: "X," a name that can't be named, as the name of God was taboo among the Hebrews; "I am."; and that I suddenly understand why – exactly why – everything is the way it is. It's perfectly clear.

Furthermore I no longer feel any boundary between what I do and what happens to me. I feel that everything that's going on is my doing, just as my breathing is. Is your breathing voluntary or involuntary? Do you do it or does it happen to you? So you can feel it both ways. But you feel everything like breathing. And it isn't as if you had become a puppet. There is no longer any separate "you." There is just this great Happening going on. And if you have The Name in your background you will say "This happening is God," or "the Will of God," or "the Doing of God." Or if you don't have that word in your background you will say with the Chinese "it is the flowing of the Tao." Or if you're a Hindu you will say "it is the Maya of Brahman." "The Maya" means "the magical power," "the creative illusion," "the play."

So you can very well understand how people to whom this happens feel genuinely inspired. Because very often there goes along with it an extremely warm feeling. Because you see the Divine in everybody else's eyes. When Kabir, a great Hindu Muslim mystic, was a very old man he used to look around at people and say "To whom shall I preach?" Because he saw the Beloved in all eyes, and could see – sometimes I look into people's eyes, and I can look right down, and I can see that Beloved in the depths of those pools, and yet the expression on the face is saying "What, me?!" Ha ha ha ha, it's the funniest thing! But there is everybody, in his own peculiar way, playing out an essential part in this colossal cosmic drama. And it's so strange, but one can even feel it in people you thoroughly dislike.

So, let's suppose then that Jesus had such an experience. But you see, Jesus has a limitation that he doesn't know of any religion other than those of the immediate Near-East. He might know something about Egyptian religion, a little bit maybe about Greek religion, but mostly about Hebrew. There is no evidence whatsoever that he knew anything about India or China. And we – people who think that, you know, Jesus was God assume that he must have known because he would have been omniscient. No! Saint Paul makes it perfectly clear in the Epistle to the Phillipians that Jesus renounced his divine powers so as to be Man. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God thought not equality with God a thing to be hung onto, but humbled himself and made himself of no reputation and was found in fashion as a man and became obedient to death." Theologians call that "kenosis," which means "self-emptying."

So obviously an omnipotent and omniscient man would not really be a man. So even if you take the very orthodox Catholic doctrine of the nature of Christ, that he was both true God and true Man, you must say that for true God to be united with true Man, true God has to make a voluntary renunciation – for the time-being – of omniscience and omnipotence... and omnipresence for that matter. Now therefore if Jesus were to come right out and say "I am the son of God" that's like saying "I'm the boss's son," or "I AM the boss," and everybody immediately says that is blasphemy. That is subversion. That is trying to introduce Democracy into the Kingdom of Heaven. That is –– you are a usurper of the throne. No man has seen God.

Now, Jesus in his exoteric teaching – as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels – was pretty cagey about this. He didn't come right out there and say "I and the Father are one." Instead he identified himself with the Messiah described in the second part of the prophet Isaiah, "the suffering servant who was despised and rejected by men." And this man is the non-political Messiah, in other words. It was convenient to make that identification even though it would get him into trouble.

But to his elect disciples as recorded in Saint John, he came right out "Before Abraham was, I am." "I am the way, the truth, and the life." "I am the resurrection and the life." "I am the living bread that comes down from Heaven." "I and the Father are one, and he who has seen me has seen the Father." And there can be no mistaking that language.

So the Jews found out and they put him to death – or had him put to death – for blasphemy. This is no cause for any special antagonism toward the Jews. We would do exactly the same thing. It's always done. It happened to one of the great Sufi mystics in Persia who had the same experience. Now, what happened? The Apostles didn't quite get the point. They were awed by the miracles of Jesus. They worshipped him as people do worship gurus, and as you know to what lengths that can go if you've been around guru-land. And so the Christians said "Okay, okay: Jesus of Nazareth was the son of God but let it stop right there! Nobody else." So what happened was that Jesus was pedestalized. He was put in a position that was safely upstairs so that his troublesome experience of cosmic consciousness would not come and cause other people to be a nuisance. And those who have had this experience and expressed it during those times when the church had political power were almost invariably persecuted. Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake. John Scotus Eriugena was excommunicated. Meister Eckhardt's theses were condemned. And so on, and so on. A few mystics got away with it because they used cautious language.

Watts
http://alanwatts.com/

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Jesus and His Religion (or the religion about Him) [1st of 3 Parts] by Alan Watts


entrada_bis
--Photograph by Eugenio Pastor

PART 1

Some years ago I had just given a talk on television in Canada when one of the announcers came up to me and said "You know, if one can believe that this universe is in charge of an intelligent and beneficent God, don't you think he would naturally have provided us with an infallible guide to behavior and to the truth about the universe?" And of course I knew he meant the Bible. I said "No, I think nothing of the kind. Because I think a loving God would not do something to His children that would rot their brains."

Because if we had an infallible guide we would never think for ourselves, and therefore our minds would become atrophied. It is as if my grandfather left me a million dollars: I'm glad he didn't." And we have therefore to begin any discussion of the meaning of the life and teaching of Jesus with a look at this thorny question of "authority." And especially the authority of Holy Scripture. Because in this country in particular [the USA] there are an enormous number of people who seem to believe that the Bible descended from Heaven with an angel in the year sixteen-hundred and eleven, which was when the so-called King James – or more correctly Authorized – version of the Bible was translated into English.

I had a crazy uncle who believed that every word of the Bible was literally true including the marginal notes. And so whatever date it said in the marginal notes, that the world was created in 4004, B.C., and he believed it as the Word of God. Until one day he was reading - I think - a passage in the book of Proverbs and found a naughty word in the Bible. And from that time on he was through with it. You know, how Protestant can you get?

Now, the question of "authority" needs to be understood, because I am not going to claim any authority in what I say to you, except the authority – such as it is – of history. And that's a pretty uncertain authority. But from my point of view the four Gospels are I think to be regarded on the whole as historical documents. I'll even grant the miracles. Because, speaking as one heavily influenced by Buddhism, we're not very impressed with miracles! The traditions of Asia – Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and so forth – are full of miraculous stories. And we take them in our stride. We don't think that they're any sign of anything in particular except psychic power. And we in the West have by scientific technology accomplished things of a very startling nature. We could blow up the whole planet, and Tibetan magicians have never promised to do anything like that.

And I'm really a little scared of the growing interest in psychic power because that's what I call "psycho-technics." And we've made such a mess of things with ordinary technics that Heaven only knows what we might do if we got hold of psycho-technics and started raising people from the dead, and prolonging life insufferably, and doing everything we wished.

The whole answer to the story of miracles is simply imagine that you're God and that you can have anything you want. Well you'd have it for quite a long time. And then after awhile you'd say "This is getting pretty dull because I know in advance everything that's going to happen." And so you would wish for a surprise. And you would find yourself this evening in this church as a Human being.

So, I mean, that is the miracle thing. I think miracles are probably possible. That doesn't bother me. And as a matter of fact when you read the writings of the early fathers of the church – the great theologians like Saint Clement, Gregory of Nissa, Saint John of Damascus, even Thomas Aquinas – they're not interested in the historicity of the Bible. They take that sort of for granted but forget it. They're interested in its deeper meaning. And therefore they always interpret all the tales like Jonah and the whale. They don't bother even to doubt whether Jonah was or wasn't swallowed by a whale or other big fish. But they see in the story of Jonah and the whale as a prefiguration of the resurrection of Christ. And even when it comes to the Resurrection of Christ they're not worrying about the chemistry or the physics of a risen body. What they're interested in is that the idea of the resurrection of the body has something to say about the meaning of the physical body in the eyes of God. That the physical body – in other words – is not something worthless and unspiritual, but something which is an object of the Divine Love.

And so therefore I'm not going to be concerned with whether or not miraculous events happened. It seems to me entirely beside the point. So I regard the Four Gospels as on the whole as good a historical document as anything else we have from that period, including the Gospel of Saint John. And that's important. It used to be fashionable to regard the Gospel of Saint John as late. In other words, at the turn of the century the higher critics of The New Testament assigned the Gospel of Saint John to about 125 A.D.. And the reason was just simple. Those higher critics at that time just assumed that the simple teachings of Jesus could not possibly have included any such complicated mystical theology. And therefore they said, "Well, it must be later."

Now, as a matter of fact, in the text of the Gospel of Saint John the local color, his knowledge of the topography of Jerusalem, and his knowledge of the Jewish calendar is more accurate than that of the other three writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And it seems to me perfectly simple to assume that John recorded the inner teaching which He gave to His disciples and that Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the more exoteric teaching which He gave to people-at-large.

Now, what about them, the authority of these scriptures? We could take this problem in two steps. A lot of people don't know how we got the Bible at all. We Westerners got the Bible thanks to the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church and members of the church wrote the books of the New Testament. And they took over the books of the Old Testament which even by the time of Christ had not been finally decided upon by the Jews. The Jews did not close the canon of the Old Testament until the year 100 A.D. – or thereabouts – at the Synod of Jamnia. And then they finally decided which were the canonical books of the Hebrew Scriptures and embodied them in the Masoretic Text, the earliest copy of which dates from the tenth century – early in the tenth century A.D.. The books to be included in the New Testament were not finally decided upon until the year three hundred and eighty-two – A.D. again – at the Synod of Rome under Pope Damasus. So it was the church – the Catholic Church – that promulgated the Bible and said "we are giving you these scriptures on our authority and the authority of the informal tradition that has existed among us from the beginning, inspired by the Holy Spirit."

So you receive historically the Bible on the church's say-so. And the Catholic Church insists, therefore, that the church collectively, speaking under the presumed guidance of the Holy Spirit, has the authority to interpret the Bible. And you can take that or leave it. Because obviously the authority of the Bible is not first of all based on the Bible itself. I can write a bible and state within that book that it is indeed the Word of God which I have received. And you're at liberty to believe me or not. Hindus believe that the Vedas are divinely revealed and inspired with just as much fervor as any Christian or any Jew. Muslims believe that the Koran is divinely inspired. And some Buddhists believe that their Sutras are of divine – or rather Buddhic – origin. The Japanese believe that the ancient texts of Shinto are likewise of divine origin. And who is to be judge?

If we are going to argue about this – as to which version of the Truth is the correct one – we will always end up in an argument in which the judge and the advocate are the same person. And you wouldn't want that if you were brought into a court of law, would you? Because if I say that, "Well, thinking it all over I find that Jesus Christ is the greatest being who ever came onto this Earth," by what standards do I judge? Why obviously, I judge by the sort of moral standards that have been given to me as somebody brought up in a Christian culture. There is nobody impartial who can decide between all the religions because more or less everybody has been in one way or another influenced by one of them.

So if the church says the Bible is true it finally comes down to you. Are you going to believe the church or aren't you? If nobody believes the church it will be perfectly plain, won't it, that the church has no authority. Because the people is always the source of authority. That's why de Tocqueville said that the people gets what government it deserves. And so you may say "Well, God Himself is the authority!" Well, how are we to show that? That's your opinion. Well you say "Well, you wait and see. The Day of Judgment is coming, and then you'll find out who is the authority!" Yes, but at the moment there is no evidence for the Day of Judgment, and it remains until there is evidence simply your opinion that the Day of Judgment is coming. And there is nothing else to go on except the opinion of other people who hold the same view and whose opinions you bought.

So really, I won't deny anybody's right to hold these opinions. You may indeed believe that the Bible is literally true and that it was actually dictated by God to Moses and the Prophets and the Apostles. That may be your opinion and you are at liberty to hold it. I don't agree with you.

I do believe, on the other hand, that there is a sense in which the Bible is divinely inspired. But I mean by "inspiration" something utterly different from dictation, receiving a dictated message from an omniscient authority. I think inspiration comes very seldom in words. In fact almost all the words written down by automatic writing from psychic input that I've ever read strike me as a bit thin. When a psychic tries to write of deep mysteries instead of telling you what your sickness is or who your grandmother was, he begins to get superficial. And psychically communicated philosophy is never as interesting as philosophy carefully thought out.

But divine inspiration isn't that kind of communication. Divine inspiration is, for example, to feel – for reasons that you can't really understand – that you love people. Divine inspiration is a wisdom which it's very difficult to put into words. Like mystical experience. That's divine inspiration. And a person who writes out of that experience could be said to be divinely inspired. Or it might come through dreams. Through archetypal messages from the collective unconscious, through which the Holy Spirit could be said to work. But since inspiration always comes through a Human vehicle it is liable to be distorted by that vehicle. In other words, I'm talking to you through a sound system. And it's the only one now available. Now if there's something wrong with this sound system whatever truths I might utter to you will be distorted. My voice will be distorted. And you might mistake the meaning of what I said.

Watts
http://alanwatts.com/

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