- Alan Watts was a British philosopher who was born on January 6th, 1915 in Chislehurst, England. He was the son of a successful accountant and grew up in a middle-class family. Despite his privileged upbringing, Watts was deeply dissatisfied with the conventional expectations of his society and sought to explore alternative lifestyles and philosophies.
In his early life, Watts was exposed to a wide range of religious and philosophical ideas through his mother’s interest in theosophy and his father’s membership in the Anglican Church. This exposure sparked his curiosity and he began to explore a variety of spiritual traditions, including Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Zen.
In 1934, Watts attended King’s School in Canterbury where he developed an interest in the study of Asian cultures and languages. After graduating, he moved to London to study at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where he earned a degree in Chinese studies. He later moved to the United States to pursue further studies at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Illinois.
Watts’ interest in Eastern philosophy and mysticism led him to become a popular lecturer on the West Coast, where he settled in the early 1950s. He wrote many influential books, including “The Way of Zen” (1957) and “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” (1966), which became classics of the counterculture movement of the 1960s.
Watts’ philosophy emphasized the interconnectedness of all things and the need to live in harmony with the natural world. He believed that human beings were not separate from nature, but rather an integral part of it. He was also critical of the dualistic thinking that separated mind from body and self from other, arguing that such distinctions were ultimately illusory.
Although Watts died in 1973, his ideas have continued to gain popularity in recent years, particularly on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. His distinctive voice, which was often recorded during his lectures, has become a popular audio accompaniment to inspirational posts and reels. Musical groups like INZO have also integrated his voice into their music, as in their hit song “Overthinker.”
Watts’ son, Mark, has continued to promote his father’s ideas through his podcast, “The Mark Watts Podcast.” In addition to featuring his father’s lectures, the podcast also includes interviews with other scholars and thinkers who are exploring similar topics.
Despite the passage of time, Watts’ ideas remain relevant and insightful, particularly as we confront the challenges of the 21st century. His emphasis on the importance of living in harmony with the natural world and recognizing the interconnectedness of all things has never been more urgent. As we face the existential threats of climate change, political polarization, and social inequality, Watts’ message of unity and interconnectedness offers a powerful alternative to the individualism and materialism that dominate our culture.
In conclusion, Alan Watts was a philosopher who was ahead of his time in many ways. His ideas have continued to resonate with people long after his death, and his influence can be seen in a variety of cultural and intellectual contexts. Whether through his written works, his recorded lectures, or his son’s podcast, Watts’ message of unity and interconnectedness remains as relevant as ever. As we confront the challenges of the 21st century, we would do well to heed his insights and seek to live in harmony with the natural world and with each other.