It’s not about the great person – but what ignited the greatness in that person.
Who is Alan Watts for you? I must start off with by saying that the first times I heard his audio lectures they really did good for me. In a way he’s responsible for opening up to further references and knowledge, as in hearing a talented man articulating himself and igniting inspiration and some deep realizations. All which strengthened me in all aspects of life. Only years later did I look up more into his biography and found out bits of pieces of who he was. But does that really matter? Even though there’s a passion in us to see if something that inspired us, actually was that “pure” or “perfect”, according to our own subjective ego-biased belief system, or if it wasn’t. The man himself is always detached and separate from the pure wisdom that touches him. It’s not about the great person – but what ignited the greatness in that person.
There are facts about Alan Watts being an alcoholic, a cheater on his wives and generally that he talked good and inspiring about ideas – but didn’t walk the talk or let his own talk make him better. He even said in one of his lectures, that he was an entertainer of ideas and it pays well off. But what’s wrong with that? Now, we could take U.G. Krishnamurti as an example of someone who walks the talk and who never took money for opening his mouth, yet people swarmed to him. In both men, as with yourself, you can find faults and aspects of faulty character attributes that aren’t living up to some image, that once again, is based upon our eventual ego-biased belief system.
If we focus on what ignites the greatness in a person, the messenger becomes irrelevant. It’s hard in our culture, that has an inherent way of adoring and focusing on the persona and not the message.
I looked up some discussion about this dualism people find out about Alan Watts – I see that some people reevaluate their position on whether or not to continue to like Alan Watts (meaning feeling cheated while listening to the recordings). That is silly if you ask me. First of all, being an alcoholic is bad but it’s not the worst of crimes. Second, having many marriages and cheating on your beloved one is stupid, disgusting, a lack of maturity, self awareness and respect. But, the women in his life knew what they were into and what kind of man he was, the choice was theirs. The fact he drank a lot later in his life means he probably felt much of the past coming back to him – or more simply put, that’s his own business. Es ist was es ist.
One cannot think he didn’t regret it all somehow and the “life as a play” talk he gave was interesting and inspiring for us, but for him perhaps a way to distance himself from his own immature behavior. To justify or re-rationalize his life choices. There are many wo/men that we can analyze like this. But to what point? Do you know there are saints who actually were mass murderers? Still people pray over them. If we focus on what ignites the greatness in a person, the messenger becomes irrelevant. It’s hard in our culture, that has an inherent addiction of adoring and focusing on the persona and not the message. As if knowing more about the messenger will make us understand and embody the message more…
Alan Watts was some kind of messenger, he pointed to some aspects that can (if you pursue them for real) change your life for the better. Remember that today and for all future, it’s only the recordings that are left, besides the books and some video footage. These are of great benefit and will get many of us interested and searching for more, looking deeper.
A candle light cannot represent the sun.
For a real teacher (can be anyone or anything), for a real school of thought and for a real path; you have to find purity. In the end it has to be that way. Especially in this realm of practical personal development, as in habits or behaviour we like to improve. It takes humbleness to accept that someone else is better at something than you are. It takes even more humbleness to learn from that source. A candle light cannot represent the sun. Likewise bad behavior can never be justified, it can be understood, forgiven, forgotten but never justified. Life is about mistakes, but also about learning from them. If we don’t learn or improve from our mistakes something is wrong.
Alan Watts is one example, Carlos Castaneda is another and a more dirtier one. I remember asking a huge fan of Castaneda’s book about how he felt on the hoax, the whole blatant and tragic hoax of Castaneda’s lifestyle. He answered that he didn’t want to think about it, somewhat evasive. Yet, if you read the first three books, you’ll get heavily inspired, and that will stick with you for the rest of your life. (The other books and the whole Castaneda thing after that is a waste of time). That’s my take on Castaneda and they did inspire me.
If you’re really into freedom then you must learn how to feel free taking the best of things – even from the worst of sources whoever or whatever those might be. Thich Nhat Hanh said something like – you need manure to grow a beautiful garden. Which is a wonderful way to look at things, embracing it all and seeing the potential from every outcome. Even the problematic sides of yourself and others.
Sometimes just trying something passionately and hard is worth a lot, and even if failure looms around the corner. The effort and actions can bless other people. Here is Alan’s daughter Anne Watts in an interview about her father and her own work. She kind of demystifies her father, really worth watching. Also, check out this discussion from another blog – Alan Watts Revealed and Reconsidered.
FilipposJuly 29, 2015
Thanks to saying that i like Alan Watts when i heard about alcohol i was sad but now reading this i’m calm thanks.
Sanjin ĐumišićJuly 29, 2015
Hello Filippo! I’m glad it helped in continuing to enjoy his talks =)
/All the best
Christopher WhiteAugust 20, 2015
When did Alan Watts ever say he was a “good” man in his lectures? In fact he made it clear that anybody with genuine wisdom to impart had something of the rascal about him. There are lectures in which he speaks to the folly of holding gurus up to some higher moral standard, and how that is completely missing the point. Like Thoreau said: “…if I repent of anything, it is likely to be my good behavior.” None of this detracts a bit from Watts’s well-studied and well-articulated message.
Sanjin ĐumišićAugust 20, 2015
Yes, as I say in the post, it doesn’t distract at all. The lessons are something on their own. But people notice that he didn’t live as he talked. But then again, he says in a lecture that he is an entertainer and not some teacher/guru or such.
But I wouldn’t go so far as to lay 100% value in what he says about wisdom and rascals – that’s just his way of doing it, and therefore his generalization and view on it. Sort of like an excuse of being one himself maybe (if he ever was one by which standards in that case?). But who cares, the lectures are something on their own now. Detached from the personal life of his.
/All the best
TomSeptember 24, 2017
Watts did live as he talked. He, believed God got bored with paradise and wanted some excitement and adventure. God went to sleep, divinely inspired us all here in a dream to experience life without knowing for sure we are all God. Alan was a finger of Gods hand, and he dipped that finger into the all the pudding he could simply wanting to give God a really good taste of this life. Alan Watts had genius, talent, lots of fun and much more faith in his beliefs then I could ever have.
Andrew KinsellaMay 16, 2018
So is the definition of “A Good Person” someone who adheres to the rules of society? ie the Rules of a bunch of ignorant people who happen to agree with each other? It is infuriating that Alan drank so much– it took him from us sooner than was necessary. That point, however, nicely defines why his drinking is a problem. It would have been nice if he stuck around for longer. We need people like him to counter the “Three Poisons”- Nixon, Reagan and Clinton.
Sanjin ĐumišićMay 16, 2018
Hi Andrew, No that’s not the definition of a good person. I hope you didn’t interpret this post as claiming that. /All the best
TeeJune 3, 2022
Allan was from a differnt time though, a different kind of breed in those days. He is very self aware of his surroundings, which in terms could mean your surroundings too. We are our worst enemies when it comes to destructive tendencies. For someome to be able to talk so intimately and coherently, years passed his death, in todays day, to todays young adults (or whoever) is unreal. Never for a second would i have the audacity to criticize this man. Sure he has probablly made some mistakes, and had difficultly battling with his demons. But haven’t we all? I think if anyone feels any sort or resentment or betrayal (“insert feelings here”), should take a good long look in the mirror. Worry about yourself first, and stop stressing out over what a next man is doing.
~ peace out yall ✌️let me know what you guys think.
marioclesAugust 1, 2016
Alan did not want to be a teacher and never spoke of “good behaviour”. You need to dig deeper if you want to understand his philosophy :)
Sanjin ĐumišićAugust 1, 2016
Hello! No he didn’t and that is not the point of this post. But good behavior is on people’s minds. Hence people react when they find out how he lived, I’ve heard of people “leaving him” because of that. This post clears out why his personal life doesn’t matter and why people shouldn’t give up on him because he acted “bad”. This post is about the focus on what ignites the mind, and not the life of the person. There’s nothing to understand nor judge, but only yourself to improve and perfect. /All the best
David G ParrNovember 26, 2016
I ‘discovered’ Alan Watts – no searching, no researching. After the discovery I bought one of his books “The Freedom of Insecurity” – and it was an epiphany! I bought more books then found dozens of lectures on U Tube.
Through his writings and lectures he certainly has ‘changed my life’ – and that’s a big thing to say, but it’s true. In fact it’s a massive thing to say; a person has changed my life. (And for the better)
It’s not just what he wrote, it was the way he wrote it. Paragraph to paragraph of pure captivation, page after page of sagacity in prose so pleasurable.
He wasn’t a ‘perfect’ man, he never claimed to be and moreover – who is? A concept is valid no matter where it originates. When we hear profundity, especially beautifully articulated, we so want – even expect – it to come from a ‘beautiful person’ cleansed by the knowledge of their own teachings.
We all loved the ‘lovely’ teachers at school not the harsh and demanding ones. So Alan Watts drank too much in later life, I find that sad but certainly not evil! He said, “I like myself better when I drink”. So do I. I can temporarily forget my imperfections and past wrongdoings. Isn’t that why people drink? Observe a collection of people in a social group over drinking. They not only like themselves more but each other more.
This doesn’t condone drinking to excess; it’s delaterious and pernicious. If it’s spirals out of control, it can destroy your life and indeed end it. So can smoking, drug taking or overeating. Life can be terribly boring without a vice or indeed unbearably painful without a ‘self medication’, that doesn’t justify them, it merely explains them.
I say ‘get addicted to the good stuff’ – working out, running, hobbies.
Getting back to Alan Watts and certainly putting aside his seemingly unashamed over drinking, he was quite an extraordinary man. I SO wish he had lived longer, he has a kindly face and demeanour. His mellifluous voice seemed custom designed for delivering his so very ‘welcomed’ lectures.
I have always had an interest in eastern philosophy and he manages to ‘bridge the gap’ and bring that philosophy so beautifully translated and explained direct to a western world of confused and didactic religious. To me he is a breath of fresh air, an incredible intellect so easily understood.
I am so very, very pleased and privileged to have discovered the intensely interesting and ‘life changing’ teachings of Alan Watts. I’m not going to say, “God bless him” because he would probably retort, “Who’s God?” Or even, “But you are God”.
David G Parr
Sanjin ĐumišićNovember 26, 2016
Thanks for sharing your Alan-story David!
David TateMarch 8, 2018
I love what you said about allan watts.i love his lectures.vides talkes.the east to the west on life and living .and death.to wake up hour minds .R.i.p my gunu.
GeorgeNovember 17, 2020
Thanks👌I fully agree! Alan Watts touched my heart deeply what a beautiful person .
MarcoMarch 24, 2017
I think now i understanding more why Alan was an alcoholic. He was suffering, and although he learned that meditation can end suffering he was too weak, or maybe too western to actually go that deep.
Alcohol ends suffering too. Maybe not as good meditation, but when your not that good and pure, when youre too human, then you get to the best next thing. Or the thing you know the best.
Alan got drunk, and then he talked about the dream of getting enlightened. To bad for him it was all empirical.
Athough i’m not an alcoholic im afraid that i understand him much more than i wish. But ill keep trying and feel compassion for Alan and evrybody else.
Sanjin ĐumišićMarch 24, 2017
Hi Marco and thank you for the input here. I like how you write “… then he talked about the dream of getting enlightened.” One thing I’ve noticed after listening to endless hours of his recorded talks over the years is that there is a thread of justification, for the way he was and lived, in his talks. If you put that thread along his dynamic lifestyle one gets the sense of what you inclined to say in that passage. /All the best
AllanMarch 25, 2017
One would have to believe that Alan truly cared about people and was/ is, most likely, an empath. the burden must have been very heavy indeed.
His lectures, along with those of others, have truly helped me in my journey of awakening . we will sit down, have a drink and talk of the human condition in the next dimension, realm or whatever is next
Thanks for the great words of wisdom my friend. i love you
NealApril 30, 2017
How exactly did he not walk the talk? He didn’t talk about being a purist or a perfectionist. He was rather not fond of such ideas. He talked about yetzer hara, the spice element in us humans. So what if he turned out a bit spicier than some people wanted him to be? After all, he was only human, like you and I.
To think enlightenment is some Utopian perfection is to completely miss the point. This Christian-like purist ideology is often a cause for many uptight-like problems. It is like trying to grasp an origami crane so tight that you don’t lose it, but instead you end up breaking it.
“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
In his Spectrum of Love, he gives an example saying “to talk beautiful nonsense by making it sound profound” and if you pay close attentiom to it, you’ll hear him chuckle a bit there.
If someone is to say he didn’t walk the talk, they ought to understand the talk first.
Sanjin ĐumišićMay 1, 2017
Ok so you got hung up on some words in this post, “walk the talk”. And your outlook on this dwells in a dichotomy of either utopian christian puritanism or whatever else? The scope is wider than that. One simply has missed something if you cheat on others or destroy yourself, truistic as it seems. Ones actions are ones life in the end, simple as it is.
On the other hand, the ideas are always separated from the person, so the person himself becomes irrelevant. Nothing to compete over who understands a dead man better than somebody else. But justifying destructive behavior is to miss the point.
Lastly, you’ve missed the point of this post. It’s for people who doubt and “lose lust” for listening to Alan Watts because they found out he was “not that perfect”. It’s to encourage them not to and realise the man has no relation to the ideas. Nobody understands a dead man and his ideas can only inspire. Ironically you’re being “abrahamically puritan now” in squeezing this understanding so hard not to lose it =)
/All the best
NealMay 27, 2017
I’m just pointing out that he clearly walked his talk, squeezing or not.
I agree, the person is one thing and his ideas are another, to not personify a person’s works or ideas with his/her personality.
But again, ‘justifying destructive behavior’ (whether it was destructive or not) — but this just doesn’t sync with Watts’ philosophy, because he said things like — a smart kid ought to commit suicide then if the game is not worth the candle. There is no morality, no right or wrong in his philosophy. There was just ‘flow’ in his philosophy, to flow with the good as much as to flow with the bad, in the way of the Tao.
You say cheating others or destroying oneself — this also just doesn’t go with his talks, that’s what I’m saying. His talk about the yetzar hara, or about how CG Jung saw the devil in each of us too contradicts such ways of looking at things. And the whole philosophy he presented on this case of yetzer hara or irreducible rascality is way too big that there’s no way it’s rationalisation or justification because he spoke it at a universal level and CG Jung and Zen and other philosophies support it too, as he showed it.
And then, shouldn’t we, or I, if I do think he walked his talk, say that he did to those who lost their ‘lust’ for his talks thinking he was not perfect. Shouldn’t I point that out, that perfection is not his philosophy? I mean ‘walk the talk’ is like a core idea, one of the deciding factors for those who shy away from his talks.
Shouldn’t this be the case presented to them, as you’re trying with this blog post? I’m only adding to it.
So, since I do think he clearly walked his talk, too gracefully, in fact — I ought to point that out and the other that perfection is not his philosophy, two things that tackle the case.
So, in all, if someone is shying away from his talks, I think they should at least explore these ideas which I’m pointing out.
Also, you cannot accuse me of getting hung up on ‘walk the talk’ when that is the first half of the argument in your blog post. Well, I accuse you, Sanjin, of getting hung up on ‘bad behaviour and its justification’ which is basically morality, which in no way constitutes Watts’s talks.
While I agree with you on ‘the message is the message and the messenger is just the messenger’, I have these said things that contradict with your views, which I consider them to be relevant, and important in making a case to those who shy away.
And another is that Watts said, in the end, he was always a Westerner. He was closer to us, to modern society than Krishnamurthy or Thich Nhat Hanh is. So, where or how he was in relative to society played an important role in distinguishing him from the more detached and perfect-looking individuals.
NealMay 27, 2017
“The most important things that each man must learn, no one else can teach him. Once he accepts this disappointment, he will be able to stop depending on the therapist, the guru who turns out to be just another struggling human being.” — Sheldon B Kopp, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him
I stress here at the words “the guru who turns out to be just another struggling human being”.
Sanjin ĐumišićMay 27, 2017
You write “There is no morality, no right or wrong in his philosophy.” And “Well, I accuse you, Sanjin, of getting hung up on ‘bad behaviour and its justification’ which is basically morality, which in no way constitutes Watts’s talks.”
“His” philosophy does not exist, only the recorded audio or video talks. How can anyone even talk about his philosophy? We are only left with the message, the media recordings that inspire or entertain our intellect. Morality on the other hand does exist, basic morality is something basic and fundamental and envelopes our lives. One can comment on moral behaviour without judgement, it’s a very important part of our lives.
You mention Krihnamurti, which one do you mean Jiddu or U.G. Krishnamurti? Jiddu was not at all a “walk the talk” type in my opinion. And there are westerners and easterners of many sorts. We don’t need any familiar names nor gurus, just decent people.
My point is and remains to notify those who lose interest in him, after they discover aspects of his personal life, to realize it’s just a message. Why is this so hard to grasp? It’s so simple? You talk about Tao, universal flows, accepting the bad sides etc. But in all honesty – we are responsible for our actions and no washing away of individual responsibility changes that. I respect people who are looking for morally synchronised inspirations, it’s a genuine part of us that wants that. I find Watts recordings have so much to offer and that people should be less hung up on his personal side. While at the same time acknowledge that it was how it was.
The thing here is that I believe you want everyone to talk and reflect about Watts within your parameters of what “his” philosophy was – and the claims that you understand his talks etc. I maintain what I have said by the first and this second reply to your comments. It’s all very simple.
/All the best
NealMay 28, 2017
‘His’ philosophy is his outlook, whatever he said, in all togetherness. If you say it doesn’t exist, I don’t know then, because the recorded talks, videos, and the books — all presents his outlook, his perspective and it is one wholesome thing in the end. How can he be a philosopher (a gooey one and an entertainer, his words) without a philosophy — isn’t that just absurd — a philosopher without a philosophy, to just say it is just a video, or an audio, nothing more?
Why do you say, why is it so hard to grasp, when I have already stated that, on that point, I’m with you? Have you completely overlooked what I’ve said that I’m only adding because I think these are things to be talked about with the ones who shy away? Isn’t this only rationale?
And I only used his own words and his arguments and I paraphrased those, so I can’t see how what I have said is “my parameters”. In simplicity, I only said what he said, and I have no intentions to make big claims.
I didn’t say morality didn’t exist. I said morality doesn’t go with his talks. And I’m okay if I’m proved otherwise, I don’t claim my understanding of him is absolute. Like how morality is a big thing with Kant, it’s not with some other philosophers. Whatever you said about morality would be your philosophy just like how I said Watts has his philosophy.
You said ‘talk about morality without judgement’ and I agree on that little phrase but it could be just me but I can’t help but feel there’s a slight tone of condemnation in the blog post, and the comments, when you say things like ‘we only need decent people’.
But in all, I hope people who come across this blog post will reflect on the things said in the comments. To agree or disagree is another, but to reflect, is what I hope.
And let me just add this one, why I’m hooked on ‘walk the talk’ and why I say he does it gracefully, it is that it’s the most beautiful game Watts played, with inside jokes and all. For example and I repeat, when he says “to talk beautiful nonsense making it sound profound”. And then, he would talk about recording while his talk is being recorded and he would make fun of it. “To play the game and to give a little bit of it away,” as he would say. And then he would give a lecture on “The Joker” or the court jester, all the while we all would know that he’s being that. He was one hell of a genuine fake. But again Sanjin, these are personal observations and I do not claim these to be the absolute. And on whatever I have said about ‘his philosophy’, I’m happily okay if I’m proved otherwise, but I believe I didn’t present any irrational arguments, and that I presented enough for my ‘claims’ using Watts’ own words.
Sanjin ĐumišićMay 28, 2017
It’s wholesome for you, and me, and to others – and in different ways. I see no philosophy at all anywhere at all, keep Kant and everything aside it’s useless. There is no argument here, no debate and nothing to be convinced of really. You want to be convinced? You could wait a lifetime.
You put in very interesting ideas to add on this post and people will hopefully find our conversation amusing, interesting or a good pastime if they are “Watts-fans”. If one steppes outside of any “philosophers-illusional-bubble” and see action not in accordance with the teaching then that is so. Pure simple and brutal, no nonsense. Just because the philosopher him or herself didn’t involve that, or post-interpetations dwell within that philosophers “philosophy-bubble” doesn’t change the fact. So that’s why I’m saying you have your own version of Watts like anybody else. I just don’t understand the clinging to try to get away from this fact? History is full of inspiring people who were very immoral in their private life – or responsible for mass suffering of people. Is it that people can’t accept the duality? Why must anyone at all keep in regard the non-existent “philosophy” of Watts made up by us in the 21th century? You had a man, good ideas, he died and he lived the way he did. I’m not condemning anything, but some behavior is and never will be considered good. So indeed, we need decent people, but that doesn’t mean the most interesting people will always be decent. But if you can chose yourself, you’d try to be interesting and decent. It’s like health, we all like to have healthy babies, but if we had a sick baby we’d still take care of it. Alarming the sickness is not condemnation, just a notice that something is out of “order”. So once again, this post is very simple. If someone gets appaled by his private life, don’t, his ideas are detached and he was a very good man anyway, working and making a business for himself. Financing seven kids and so on.
Watts was a fantastic visionary, his talk about the subject of the future is fantastic – https://youtu.be/_vIaSJuckak
People today are to sensitive and relativize everything, straying away from the obvious in my opinion. No amount of conceptualizing nor roundabout talking will change the essential aspiration we have, to be strong, creative and decent if I may say so. For some Watts recording help out this way – for other it may just push them on into further ego-trips of attachment and abuse of themselves or others. We have the full spectrum because there is no philosophy, no idea other than the one peoples heads make up in that special time they listen =)
So for me, you haven’t used any words of Watts, it’s your own, there is no agenda here, no argument, nothing to be convinced to or from. I just hope people give him a chance if they get doubts about the private side of his life.
/All the best
NealMay 28, 2017
I’m leaving this here, so people will get to explore this too. It’s related.
JasperJune 6, 2018
“On the other hand, the ideas are always separated from the person, so the person himself becomes irrelevant.”
I find this an interesting distinction to make, especially when viewed through the idea that ‘thought’ and ‘object’ are not separate but one and the same. Or, the ‘object’ and the ‘environment’ cannot be separated because without one the other would not be the same.
Andrew GroffmanSeptember 2, 2017
I love all this banter about Watts, it’s truly amusing. To those detractors ,after finding out that Watts drank heavily and smoked, towards the latter part of his life, or cheated on his wife,is simply missing the point. People have all sorts of ideas,about who people should be,including themselves,all concepts, that never match reality and then use their projections to feel deceived,even betrayed. This is something Watts railed about,as pure hypocrisy. He never considered himself a guru and certainly not a saint, painstakingly trying to point out the duality of manifest life,as single event,and was in his own way a perfect manifestation of IT! He was an entertainer and entertaining he was,to the point of the sublime. He had a gift,of which he shared,in such an honest and open way,that it touched all of us,and so was then a gift for those who listened to him. He is now to some, flawed, due to details of his personal life, understandable, but a little misguided in my opinion. He was and remained unapologetically himself throughout, a trait which made him so attractive.He was also an anchor for many a child of the sixties,confused by both internal and external upheaval,and was able to use words, in a way that helped so many,if not make sense of the chaos,at least expose the mistaken futility, of fearing it. To my great joy, his work continues to provide this and more, to another generation.Thank you Alan, Andrew
Martin JonesSeptember 27, 2017
I stopped reading you article pretty quickly, you seem very immature and arrogant as soon as I read this: Second, having many marriages and cheating on your beloved one is stupid, disgusting, a lack of maturity, self awareness and respect. But, the women in his life knew what they were into and what kind of man he was, the choice was theirs. The fact he drank a lot later in his life means he probably felt much of the past coming back to him – or more simply put, that’s his own busines. What a fool you are.
Sanjin ĐumišićSeptember 27, 2017
It is bad behaviour. You seem to have missed the whole point of this blog post. Seems that you cannot read a text without getting emotional as soon as you read something that disconnects your belief-system. It doesn’t help you to call people foolish, arrogant and so on. I stand by that alcoholism, cheating etc is bad. Now you may talk about black and white – this doesn’t change the point of the blog post which you clearly missed. It’s not about him, but about the thing he left for others. And to make this more easy for you, the point of this post was to make those people doubting about this realize it doesn’t matter, just enjoy his work that survived. Try reading past those words and triggering things in texts next time, you might get the actual perceptive intended.
/All the best
GarryDecember 6, 2018
Sorry drinking alcohol and cheating is Neither BAD nor Good. This is human/animal behaviour. Even wild animals would drink alcohol or take cocaine if they could get it. Monkeys have been regularly recorded getting pissed on fermented fruits and lab rats love illegal highs. They keep coming back for more. Does this make them bad? Obviously not! Alan went way deeper then this conversation, but he was evidently more intelligent then most. You see good, bad etc are just human construction and nothing more. The universe just IS! There is no right or wrong. Simply flow and we don’t even have the words or language to express it. You are free to literally do whatever you want and it’s a non conversation for intelligent readers to be concerned over his private life.
Never dismiss intelligent work, even if its source is deemed evil in basic blue pill human thinking. Only a fool would do such a thing. Don’t get too caught up with religious thinking either as the closest thing you have to god is you. Your very consciousness! You are neither good nor evil, you simply exist and you do as you please. In a world of nearing 8 billion people, very few will understand this. Nonetheless this is mandatory for transcendance.
Sanjin ĐumišićDecember 6, 2018
Hi! Did you read this post at all? I never dismissed his work. The first lines are “It’s not about the great person – but what ignited the greatness in that person.” Seems from your answer you skimmed through the text, and before the end of it your mind had already an answer? =)
As you mention cheating, well that is bad because you gave your word to someone. Breaking agreements is bad. It’s not about alcohol nor how or with whom you are. If you make a commitment, or give your word and break it you aren’t doing something good. I’m not a monkey, nor are you. We’re humans and a fine thing we can do is to keep our word, stay upright, honest and trustworthy. Alcoholism is like a sickness, it doesn’t make the sick person bad but in itself it’s bad. You wouldn’t want to wish your kids or friends to be alcoholics. You’re confusing enjoying alcohol with the sickness/habit of being an alcoholic.
I couldn’t tell you what we are nor what we are here for – it’s insanity to claim anything like that. No need to hide behind words like “intelligent readers”, “blue pill humans”, “understanding”, “mandatory transcendence”. Are you really sure you can claim what the universe is? I can only represent myself, my mind and the current state I see things, just like you are only limited to that. Leave the universe alone =) I smell something fishy anytime dogmatic people put a hard effort as not to come off as dogmatic. /All the best
Martin JonesSeptember 27, 2017
”being an alcoholic is bad” Who are you to judge this, are you saying people who are alcoholics are bad? Nothing is that black and white. The fact that you are even writing about this man suggests he has had a much bigger impact on this world and the consciousness of humanity that you will likely ever have. I suggest you learn some respect.
Sanjin ĐumišićSeptember 27, 2017
You’re such a good observer, of course he impacted more than me. I do respect his work and have not called him anything, nor warned against his lectures and so on. You must be seeing something in your head while reading this, because there is no disrespect. As I already answered in your other rude comment, you missed the point and obviously cannot read past any sentence that immediately doesn’t go along with your belief-system. This post is for encouraging people to not throw away his work if it inspired them, even if it involves morals they are not okay with. Watch that video above with his daughter and relax. There is tons of respect and love for his lectures that we are left with.
/All the best
Colin MitchellSeptember 28, 2017
A cheat is usually a liar, but who doesn’t lie, so we are all cheats.
An alcoholic has an addiction to alcohol, but who isn’t addicted to something. All addictions, effect the purity of the mind
Therefore we are all Alan Watts,
I love you and i love Alan Watts
Brian P.October 1, 2017
Perhaps, on one level, we need to separate the message from the messenger.
Sanjin ĐumišićOctober 3, 2017
Indeed, that’s my main theme here in the post because humans have a tendency to personify anything in hope of getting closer to the understanding, the art or genius of some person. It’s all in vain as it all boils down to what ignited that greatness in the person, not who s/he was or did. I think that’s something separate and nobody draws lasting attraction for their bad sides, but only the good and inspiring ones.
/All the Best
markOctober 7, 2017
Whether your into meditation or medication so what. Those two words are only seperated by one letter for good reason.
Alan saw the joke played out and laughed.
And im laughing with him
Now wheres that Whiskey
Sanjin ĐumišićDecember 6, 2018
SusanaMarch 8, 2018
Very well said.
What matters to me is his message, the rest is for gossip magazines.
Besides as Jesus said to the Pharisees: “All right, hurl the stones at her until she does. But only he who never sinned may throw the first” John 8:7
Sanjin ĐumišićDecember 6, 2018
Indeed, we can learn from anybody and anything. It’s okay to agree with and find inspiration from with people one feels a polar opposite to. A comfy echo-chamber makes for a dull stagnation and never tests ones mind with reality. Thank you for stopping by and reading! /All the best
Andrew SmithMay 20, 2018
Behind every sinner, there is a saint.
“. . . every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” – Oscar Wilde
thelittleJokerJune 15, 2018
Very interesting article…I still follow his talks despite knowing what i know about him because on some level i feel i am the same in a way when i try to part with advice that i dont always follow myself…
Sanjin ĐumišićDecember 6, 2018
Thanks for stopping by and reading. /All the best
travellingmanAugust 24, 2018
Thoughful article. I can say without a doubt that Alan Watts has been a significant influence in my life and way of thinking for many years. Thanks to my early love of Tom Robbins novels, I discovered in reading interviews that Watts was an influence in Tom’s own work and life, particularly ” the book on the taboo against knowing who you are”. True beacons of light are often the enemies of a dull, unenlightened, fear driven society. Allan Watts was one of those beacons and his struggles as a man have always, somehow made me respect him more. Go your own way.
Sanjin ĐumišićDecember 6, 2018
Exactly, represent yourself and go your own way. Watts lectures initiated a courage for all that in my life. Now I can say I have created a thriving enclave with my wife and kids amid the dull and fear based system. Some commentators have missed the point of this blog post, it’s that the message is not the messenger. We can all learn from anything and anything if we’re willing to. /All the best
Anthony GarciaNovember 26, 2018
NicoleDecember 28, 2018
You really put my feelings on Alan Watts in words, thank you so much. (;
Sanjin ĐumišićDecember 28, 2018
Thank you & all the best to you in the new cycle of light =)
Mark DeeganJanuary 12, 2019
A Great Man, a Great Thinker…
John FFebruary 7, 2019
“For a real teacher (can be anyone or anything), for a real school of thought and for a real path; you have to find purity.”
I disagree. A tenet promoted by Alan Watts, and dao, is that to aim to be more than human is to miss the point. If he was alcoholic and so forth, I understand that in light of this principle.
Sanjin ĐumišićFebruary 7, 2019
True, but just being faithful, respectful and honest. In other words, not lying, cheating, destroying yourself and others is nothing to do with aiming to be more than a human. It’s just common respect and common sense, something very human. Failing once, twice or so and you may be forgiven, but a dozen times – it’s a sign something is wrong. One can’t hide behind beliefs, tenets, Dao or what have you. We learn from those better than us, in one area of life or life in general. /All the best
John FFebruary 12, 2019
There is an arbitrariness in your answer. Identifying ‘[who] is better than us’ is a risky business.
Sanjin ĐumišićFebruary 12, 2019
It’s your life and you decide. We’re not here to find one solution for all, that would be scary. It takes humbleness to the creation to recognize others as being better at some aspects and/or practices than oneself is. Even more humbleness to learn from somebody else. So is your life and your decisions a risky business?
Do you agree or disagree with this statement: “Just being faithful, respectful and honest. In other words, not lying, cheating, destroying yourself and others is nothing to do with aiming to be more than a human. It’s just common respect and common sense, something very human. Failing once, twice or so and you may be forgiven, but a dozen times – it’s a sign something is wrong.” Can you twist that? Can you arbitrarily bend that into some theoretical idea or principle of some sort? Or would you prefer to deal with a human who keeps to common respect and common sense to a decent length?
/All the best
MelyssaFebruary 24, 2019
I’d rather hear the words of one who lived and experienced the purity of mistake than a person who lived and experienced only purity. I could never wholly trust in the latter.
Sanjin ĐumišićFebruary 24, 2019
No one is purity. We all experience the rough ends of life, don’t we? Is there even an example of someone who’e only had pure experiences? Life involves mistakes, that’s why we seek some sort of “purity” and improvement. If you don’t learn from mistakes, or improve from them. Then you can’t be trusted, nor can you trust yourself. /All the best
MelyssaFebruary 24, 2019
I was addressing your Feb 7th comment. I don’t necessarily learn only from those that are better than me. Is there really such a thing? Purity to me is truth. I experience purity daily if I allow others to see me in my truth and vulnerability and in return I have the opportunity to see others in their purity. This is a great discussion you have started, thank you for posting this. I actually have only hear of Watts directly today. Thank you again.
Sanjin ĐumišićFebruary 24, 2019
Thanks for stopping by! It’s an old blog post and some interpret it rather strictly while the point of making it was simply that – don’t discriminate the source depending on lifestyle, ideological conviction, faith and so on. In that comment you mention I was referring to the things we need to improve on practically in our lives. Like changing habits, behavior etc. So if I have a problem X, I will learn to solve it from someone who’s done that. Who’s better at me at that specific thing. But of course, we can learn from anyone and any source if we don’t discriminate the source. And not everything has to be about personal development stuff – learning is spontaneous and fun. If you’ve just discovered Watts stuff, then you’re up for hours and hours of material online. Enjoy it & All the best
JerryMay 15, 2019
I do not care about the man, but only the message. Alan Watts is a mortal just like every single one of us. His words have always made me look at the other side of the coin. I have known many preachers in christianity that have been a very big disappointment once you realize they are just people.
Arun ReddyMay 30, 2019
Alan Was an amazing person who opened up a lot of modern gross minded people & helped many a people to open up & investigate within.
I don’t think we writing blogs & egoistic minds judging his personal life. It’s bad taste and many haven’t yet understood the mystical teachings of the east. There is not an iota of doubt that he spoke from the experiencial knowledge.
Good Bad Ugly are mind made concepts and I hope pray for human beings to move ahead & know thy real selves.
Sri Ramana Maharshi a master who doesn’t need an introduction & lived in south of India made a very apt statement then and I think it’s relevant here for its very apt in this situation ..he said ‘If you see your Guru going into the house of a woman of ill repute or if you see your Guru drinking in the local toddy (Liquor) shop you just follow him.’
And we all know very well the quote by Jesus Christ ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged!
Love & Peace
30th May 2019
Sanjin ĐumišićMay 30, 2019
Another comment missing the fact this post didn’t judge him (nor his personal life), but promoted what’s left of him in the recordings available – for obvious reasons already stated many times. All that “no good, no bad” is schoolboys logic. If you and me have an agreement and one of us betrays the other, it’s inherently a violation of dignity. Call it good or bad, call it whatever. But for people who can’t straighten up their behavior all that relativistic clutter becomes a scapegoat. Humans do everything possible, even being honest and dishonest. So the latter is not the safety net for bad behavior. We represent ourselves, forget about references, mysticism or anecdotes you never experienced for yourself. Are you a person worth your word? That’s what matters; we and the context we live in. Each one of us are faced with that. Everyone has an opinion, or judgement about this and that, just like you come here to a 5 year old post to comment on who understands what. Stop acting like a faux non-ego based ethereal being =) /All the best
JerryJune 17, 2019
I think the alcoholism brought down walls and defenses and made Alan express and say things with out judgment by his own ego
MarkJune 21, 2019
Alan embodied what he preached perfectly, actually. You miss the point of his message. Life, as he always put it, is a big hoax. Everything that embodies ethics and morality as we know it is one big con job that society pushes onto people to control desires, emotions and impulses.
Your implication that Alan’s alcoholism and womanizing went against his teaching entirely ignores the exquisite nuance of his dialectic to the traditional view of Zen as it was misconstrued. Your assertion that “having many marriages and cheating on your beloved one is stupid, disgusting, a lack of maturity, self awareness and respect.” is so naive to the train of thought Alan was putting forth in his lectures. Are you so unaware that that is YOU regurgitating the opinion of ‘universal morality’ that was taught to you by ‘society’, a big lie that you’ve swallowed whole, believed and assumed to be the correct way of living?
In Alan’s words “Life is a dance, it’s all squiggles and curvy lines.” Alan went against the grain and indulged in alcoholism and womanizing BECAUSE he believed whole-heartedly in what he taught and practiced what he preached. There is an element of anarchy to his view on the modern world and in the (widely misconstrued) world of Zen that he taught, which he tried to convey clearer for westerners. Your opinion is like Alan saying “we’re all trying to straighten out a wriggly world.” It’s simply you forcing your opinion about something on top of Alan’s teachings to make him appear to be a hypocrite. He was far from it.
In light of his behavior beyond his talks, I think you should re-evaluate his words. Alan lived wholeheartedly, embracing his shadow self and explored his emotional canvas right across the spectrum of existence. He had a full life. He danced. He laughed. He cried. What else would’ve given him the wisdom to talk to such depths? I can guarantee you the profundity of his teachings would’ve been less impactful had he been hamstrung by a ‘moral duty to existence’ that a lot of modern-day Buddhists proselytize and get wrong.
Sanjin ĐumišićJune 21, 2019
It is you who has claims about how he lived, not me. You ended your comment with how you “know” how he lived according to “his” philosophy. Funny. I commented on one aspect of life, that has nothing to do with the person who lived. Your comment is yet another one missing the fact this post promoted what’s left of him in the recordings available.
Forget the schoolboy logic you write about society, correct way of living etc. If you and me have an agreement and one of us betrays the other, it’s inherently a violation of dignity. Call it good or bad, call it whatever. Once, ok, twice, you can apologize, multiple times, well then you have a problem. It has nothing to do with me, you nor dead people’s lives, but it has to do with reality.
Everyone has an opinion, or judgement about this or that, just like you come here to a 5 year old post to comment. Why bother? What triggered you to utterly misunderstand the post? Did you read the other comments? But I don’t see ‘you’ in your comment, I see nothing but a regurgitation of concepts, ideas and you come off like a self-proclaimed priest of “Wattsism”, a mind fantasy that you invented yourself on a great dead mans recording online.
How on Earth do you know how someone lived their life? How do you know what he thought, how he reasoned? That’s insanity from your arrogance and the way you end your comment. You are the one being naive and talking about it. Not me. All I said is that breaking trusts and agreements is inherently bad. That’s an aspect of life, not something about someone at all. Snap out of it. Represent yourself, your relation to reality.
/All the best
NomeroJonesJune 11, 2020
Yes, Alan had no moral duties because he was not enlightened. Remember, he died as an unhappy chap because of his alcoholism. Most of us have lived “full” lives and we dance, we love, we cry. Alan was not enlightened otherwise he would not have indulged in at least 3 marriages, fathered many children whom he didn’t take care off (and maybe didn’t care about?), philandered on the site because nothing could satisfy his human urges. I’m sorry to hear you’ve not had the live you wanted. Life is not easy and suffering the mind is no picnic. Yet, realize that not keeping your commitments to your fellow human beings has nothing to do with enlightenment or any insight in your own insatiable urges of the flesh. Poor thinking on our part may turn it into a revolt against societal norms. Yet, it’s not. If one wants to rebel, just don’t get married which is a promise “till death do us part”. If one wants to rebel, don’t make any promises. Keeping your word is keeping your dignity and your word which should be taken seriously, the most by yourself. Alan died an unhappy alcoholic. Not a happy enlightened being despite 3 marriages, numerous girlfriends on the site and 7 kids he didn’t take care off.
benAugust 24, 2019
THE BIG PROBLEM with gurus in general is lot of them come in reality light as power ego users in the fields of material ,sex , righteousness ,spirituality etc and that whatever they preach /talk/act about is really not true/exaggerated/misguiding about concepts regarding Synchronicity, Connection between humains and their surrounding, definitions of living and after life, and more.
Like in reality, its about the strong dog leading the pack, and in the spiritual field, thrue Charisma /physical/or mental confident strength, those gurus come in reality as cheaters and liars to a degree. It does make BS
benAugust 24, 2019
now Alan seems like he was not claiming himself to be Enlighted in a Guru way and that’s good. Also is talk is critical of many concepts, wich is totally in line wt his argumentative mind. the alcohol intakes should be see maybe in a light that it helped him for public talks, numb is own critical self, be more into is surrounding and not. Alcohol buzz you, can make you more enthusiastic, re,ove inhibition/filtering/ even moral concepts barrier down. my own experience wt alcohol. definitely make someone more righteous and argumentative. also bad for liver and other organs. so if you want to be more understanding and thoughtful about your own actions and behavior, definitely not drinking is appropriate. so many incident, accident,crimes are accentuated from alcool intake.
D. PettersonSeptember 6, 2019
As to the ultimate cause of his death death my vote goes to the 20th century. The proximate cause of his death was addiction to tobacco combined with alcohol. A deadly combination for both heart and lungs.
Gary StrongMarch 26, 2020
Love Alan Watts, a legend and inspiring people always.
Joe JonesJune 11, 2020
Yes, Alan was a true legend. He married at least three times and philandered on the site. He didn’t take care of his kids, I believe there were at least 7 kids who Alan left to be taken care off by his numerous wives. The gift of gab returned its favors in alcoholism and philandering because the gabber is not happy. The gab about the life that is not being lived but gabbed about. The gift of gab is not the same as living enlightenment. If Alan had been happy because he was enlightened, numerous marriage where he promised “till death do us part” would not have been the outcome. It’s not even so much his many marriages, his failure to take care of his own kids, but maybe it is on some level because it shows a self-centered male living life for his own pleasures. It is the opposite of enlightenment where one feels one with all beings.
William ChristieAugust 19, 2020
You seem to ignore the issue by JUDGING anyone who JUDGES Alan Watts as being merely into their subjective ego. That is really beneath anyone intelligent reading this article. As sovereign beings, we have a right to discern (a much more neutral word) who we wish to emulate and spend our time on. I want to give my time to someone who walks the talk. I don’t want someone who can talk a good spiel but does so just as his shtick, not his committed spiritual path. How can I know if anything a speaker says is valid if that speaker doesn’t even bother to try to live up to the admonishments and advice he so freely gives us. The quaint old fashioned word for this is hypocrisy. When someone is taking upon themselves the moniker of a teacher of spirituality and enlightenment, then the least I would expect is that such a speaker has accomplished this himself. Otherwise, it is just show business, giving people what sells. To me, this is no different than the evangelical preacher who demands sexual purity from his flock of sheep, while he is buggering teenage boys in the church restroom! So please stop the condescending attitude that anyone who is put off that Alan Watts did not live his message is therefore just into their ego. The irony is that your statement itself shows that YOU are in your ego. Guess what? We all are! This is reality.
Sanjin ĐumišićAugust 19, 2020
You are triggered by something not even mentioned in the blog post, there’s no condescendence in the blog post. All this six year old blog post said is – it’s okay to get some inspiration (idea or whatever insight) from a character you don’t like, don’t trust or whatever. You eat the food from a farmer you wouldn’t like in private. You use tech made by people you might be in moral opposition with. The same way you can make use of things uttered by people you don’t affiliate with. Get it? If you can’t separate the man from the ideas/products- you’re too obsessive in your mental prison. Alan was a self-proclaimed entertainer as he said many times himself, a jester, not a guide of “enlightenment” and “spirituality”. If you catch something for your good, nice, then move on. Funny you’re the first one getting hysterical on the opposite side, most often people comment feeling attacked for some reason and defending decadence and all that loose talk of new-age morality. Read again, calmly, you’ll get it. /All the best
Little EddieDecember 23, 2020
Yep you sum up Alan about the way I do and I still bought lock stock and barrel about 98% of writing and talks. He liberated me and set the path for me . I have his knowledge and always check him out for over forty years.. what I learned in my twenty years in the Marine Corps is “Never Trust Your Squad Leader “. And after almost 50 years of being retired from the Corps (retired June 1971 having joined in April 1951. ) . I still think that is the best advice for everyone. Check out everything you hear, read, ask questions do your research . Truth will only come to you when you are ready. Each day I learn new things . Personally has a teacher of exercise and Tai Chi for over thirty years, I perfectly understand Alan Watts not walking the talk even half the time. Well since I am IT , I must go now and figure out how stop this virus .just kidding.
JudyAugust 24, 2021
The times he was living in made it difficult to avoid drugs and alcohol.
No one chooses alcoholism which is a disease that controls the individual unless abstinence and sobriety are met head and addressed one day at a time. I believe he tried. Not everyone makes it.
He did the best he could with his habits and lifestyle. He was a genius, a very, very smart and special man. We are blessed with his work and love of wisdom.
CoryNovember 25, 2021
You and I are one. As are him, her and they. Some know no better, therefore negative behaviours are to be excused. If one is unaware of their slumber who am I to expect their coherence. Alan knows better yet chooses to engage in selfishness and desire. If that makes one bad then surely he and I both are morally and ethically unjust humans.
ethanMay 4, 2022
Gee, maybe he aspired and failed as in imperfect being, just as we all do…the only difference being that he seemed to have a clarity of vision into the depth of aspiration and the ability to articulate it in a way that resonates with many people. And then should we punish him for it?
The alternative is that he was conning people in his own unexamined ego game. But that’s one hell of a con job.
Regardless, if the sum total of his impact is mass inspiration toward personal and relational growth, I don’t see why we should neither a. dismiss that impact for his flaws (both those he struggled with, and those he reveled in), nor b. ignore his flaws altogether as if they somehow diminish his work.
Since you brought up Krishnamurti…that famous quote comes to mind… “It is no measure of well-being to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Maybe Alan Watts would still be with us if he was well-adjusted. And maybe he would have had less insight and inspiration. Because he’d be well-adjusted. No need to dig any deeper. He dug as deep as he could, and something drove him to do so. I would say, blanket-level, spiritual impoverishment. And he refused to accept that dominant cultural narrative of disconnection and alienation, and he asked us not to, either.
I would find it more disturbing if evidence came out of any opportunistic predatory behavior came out, like so many professors of the “free love” era hitting on and taking sexual advantage of their students. But even then, reprehensible behavior does not condemn good ideas, just as good ideas should not nullify reprehensible behavior. But I think many of us find it very uncomfortable to let those things co-exist and let ourselves co-exist liminally, which leads to these “was he a good or bad person? should we write him out of history or celebrate him as a messiah?” false dichotomy sort of discussions where we put ourselves into ideological camps in self-exile from the whole picture, like the parable of the blind men arguing over their various (mis)interpretations of an elephant based on the parts they had access to and could feel.
Sanjin ĐumišićMay 5, 2022
Well, that was the point of this eight year old blog post. “If we focus on what ignites the greatness in a person, the messenger becomes irrelevant.”