This is an interesting, enjoyable and inspiring Q&A session with Alan Watts. It’s as enjoyable to listen to as to read so that’s why I did this transcription. The questions are not always audible but Alan’s answers are witty and worth it. The Q&A session begins at the 00:55 mark.
Alan Watts – So let us suppose I’m the patient and you are the students and the doctors. And I suffer from what you’d call a delusion that I’m God. And therefore you might wanna do something about me, or with me, or humor me or ask me questions. And so I’m perfectly willing to submit to your examination and your treatment. And invite you to help yourselves.
Question – When did you become God?
Alan Watts – Now.
Question – Will you marry me?
Alan Watts – No.
Question – Do you sleep on your stomach or your back?
Alan Watts – Sleeping is like politics. One sleeps on the right side, then when you’re tired of that you sleep on the left. When you’re tired of that you you sleep on your back; and when you’re tired of that you sleep on your stomach. And it is thus that the world goes around.
Question – If you’re God now what were you yesterday?
Alan Watts – Now.
Question – How can you become God?
Alan Watts – You don’t become God.
Question – Am I also a God?
Alan Watts – Yes.
Question – Are we the same person?
Alan Watts – No… Remember, three persons but one God.
Question – God, can you tell us a little bit about Satan?
Alan Watts – Could I tell you a little bit about Satan? Yes. Although the matter is a little esoteric. But I told you all about it in the book of Job. Where you will see that in the court of heaven, Satan is the district attorney. He’s not as Christians imagine, the enemy of heaven and the enemy of mankind. He’s merely the person, who sees the bad side of things and carries out the dirty work. And therefore, he saw Job and wondered whether Job really was as great guy as he seemed to be. And suggested that God should appoint a committee of investigation to find out. And the committee did its work very thoroughly but the case went against Satan. Because it was proven in the end that Job was an honorable man. Now you noticed that although we pay the salary of the district attorney whenever there’s a great criminal case before the public eye – people begin to take the side of the underdog. And the prosecutor always has less public sympathy, than the defense. Except in political trials. On the right hand of God, and you know the defense is always on the right hand of the judge in court. Is our only mediator and advocate, which is the phrase referring to Jesus Christ our Lord. So there is the defense and there is the prosecution. And it is the function of Satan to be the prosecutor. There is a good deal more to it than that because before all has started. Lies in a stage play there was an arrangement in the green room before coming on stage. In which, certain things were understood. But that are only to be revealed when the curtain goes down at the end of the play.
Question – Is Job God too?
Alan Watts – Yes, but he doesn’t know it.
Question – God, why do you hide from sight of so many?
Alan Watts – Why do you hide? It’s for the same reason you’re hiding.
Question – God, did you create man?
Alan Watts – Yes.
Question – And God?
Alan Watts – Who else?
Question – Does man have free will?
Alan Watts – Man has free will to the extent that he knows who he is. Not otherwise.
Question – Where did you get free will from?
Alan Watts – Where I got it from? (laughs)
Question – Do women have free will too?
Alan Watts – Yes, to the extent she knows who she is, yes.
Question – If man has free will on knowing just who he is and man is God. Then, you’re saying your no more than any other God in this room? Or any man.
Alan Watts – That’s correct, I’m no more God than any of you.
Question – Then you only have the power to know who you are?
Alan Watts – Well, that is saying quite a bit yes.
Question – What is not God?
Alan Watts – What is not God? There is nothing that is not God. And when you know your like everybody’s dream of the sultan and the paradise you suddenly notice there’s a button labeled ‘Surprise’. You push that – and here we are.
Question – How do you learn who you are.
Alan Watts – It’s like waking up from a dream. After a while once experiences begins to have a, what I would call “haven’t we been here before feeling?”. Going round and round and round. And then you begin wondering, where am I going? And to answer that question you have to try to find out what you want. And so I went into that very thoroughly, what do I want to happen? And of course as soon as you ask yourself that you begin to fantasize. And our amazing technology is of course an expression of human desire, desire for power – for what we want to achieve. So I simply set myself to thinking through how far we could go? And so I soon found myself at a great push-button place. Where I had a fantastic mechanism with buttons available for every conceivable thing I could wish. So I spent quite a bit of time playing with those. And science fiction wasn’t in it. You know you go “Going!” like that and here is Cleopatra. And so on you then press this button a symphonic music in a four channel sound. Ahmm, sixteen channel sound. Anything! You know all possible pleasures are available. And when you know your like everybody’s dream of the sultan and the paradise you suddenly notice there’s a button labeled Surprise. You push that – and here we are.
Question – Boredom problem?
Alan Watts – Yes, boredom is of course the problem. Boredom is the other side of creativity. And the energy of creation (Yang) has as its Yin side, the Yin side of that energy is called boredom. Everything of course is fundamentally Yang and Yin. If you understand that you really don’t need to understand anything else.
Question – As God, what responsibility do you feel to ameliorate the evil in the world?
Alan Watts – As God, what responsibility do I feel to ameliorate the evil in the world? I begin with the point that I’m responsible for the way the world is. If I couldn’t feel that then I’d blame somebody else. I’m not willing to do that. Because I know that under various changing circumstances it might be appropriate for me to be as bigger rascal as rascal has been. As to improving the world, the world is always improving. It may look to some people as slow. But it’s improving even as it is declining. Because the world works in an undulatory process. Like the wave, it goes up and it goes down, it goes up and it goes down. And it couldn’t go up all the time because if it did we wouldn’t know that was up. So it goes down some of the time so the we can know when it goes up because if we didn’t know when it went up it would be like being in a space – where everything was light. There would be nothing to write home about. There would be no black marks on the space and so it’ll be like a piece of perfectly empty paper. Similarly to be to be in a complete black space, would also be an unconsciousness with nothing to write home about. As nothing would ever make a difference. So therefore if your going to have black, you won’t know its black unless you have some white – and if you’re going to have white, you won’t know its white unless you have some black.
Question – Why do you teach us all to love one another? Because if we get to that point there won’t be any ups and downs – that happen anyway.
Alan Watts – Correct! But that’s not a teaching it’s a koan. A koan is Japanese word for a spiritual problem used in Zen Buddhism. Such as “What is the sound of one hand” and these problems are given to those who ask questions concerning their spiritual development. And sometimes as St. Paul pointed out commandments are not given in the expectation that they will be obeyed. But in the expectation that they will reveal something to those who hear them. That was St. Paul comment on the whole Mosaic law.
Question – If we accept that we try to se that we’re all God. Is there a heaven, is there a hell.
Alan Watts – The hereafter is of course here now. Because if you’ll examine it closely there is no when else than now. And if you want to make hell of it, you can make hell of it. If you want to make heaven out of it, you can make heaven of it. Purgatory, purgatory. It’s all here. Always was always will be.
Question – What is death?
Alan Watts – Death is an undulation in consciousness. How would you know if you were alive unless you’ve once been dead?
Question – If you’re saying your ways are the same as Jesus in the name of God. Why was it unnecessary for him to have material possessions and necessary for you?
Alan Watts – It wasn’t unnecessary for him to have material possessions. They said of St. John The Baptist that he was an ascetic but of Jesus consults with — and wine gibbers and comes eating and drinking. And when lady Mary poured precious ointment on his feet and anointed him. They said the same thing that the members of the vestry to the minister today “Why this great expense? Couldn’t it all be sold for much money and given to the poor?”.
Question – It is a problem
Alan Watts – It is a problem, sure. But you see, in many ways when you get down to these very deep ethical problem, where there sure is no easy decision one way or the other. You must look at the problem from the point of view of an artist. Which way of doing this, is in some sense greater? It may be better to go off with a bang than a with a whimper.
Question – Are you God all the time or conscious all the time?
Alan Watts – There is no time my dear it’s always now.
Question – During every event… in space time… every precise moment…?
Alan Watts – Yes if you put it that way of course.
Question – …Consciously God as an experiencing unit on this plane…
Alan Watts – Wait a moment. Consciously? Not necessarily. Because that would spoil the fun. If you press button Surprise, you’ll press the button so that you forget who you are.
Question – So you don’t always know of the answer to a given problem.
Alan Watts – Yes, that’s perfectly true. This is called in the Bible kenosis. In St. Paul’s epistle to the Philippians he says “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 grasped”. But humbled himself, made himself of no reputation and was found in fashion as a man and became obedient to death. And so you get from this the kenotic theory of creation. Held by some of the Greek fathers. That the creation of the universe is the self-emptying or the self-forgetting of the Godhead.
Question – How does your concept of the creation evolve so that man of critique comes from a buddhist is different from the story of the man beating his head to the wall so that he can feel how good it is to die?
Alan Watts – It’s really rather like it, because the universe is fundamentally a system which creeps up on itself and then says “BOOOH!”. And then it laughs at itself for jumping, and you see every time it does it, it forgets it did it before. So it never becomes a bore.
Question – Can you make yourself into a point of consciousness and travel around cosmos such as Dr. Lily was speaking of last night? In talking of —.
Alan Watts – Yes, but it’s not necessarily travel. (Re-reading the question “Can I make myself into a point of consciousness and travel around the cosmos, and see things from all sorts of places.”) Yes, but it isn’t necessarily travel, one is already there. In other words, I’m using your eyes, where you are. Like you’re using mine. Just in the same way my head is not my feet, it uses my feet. The head is very different from the feet. You couldn’t possible say the head and the feet are the same but they are one organism.
Question – They each have a soul.
Alan Watts – Two.
Question – What do you do about boredom?
Alan Watts – Press button ‘surprise’.
Question – Oh it’s always this?
Alan Watts – Always.
Question – You talk about boredom it seems to me at least in my own case, and in many people’s, that one of the biggest problems in life is being forced to earn a living in something which is what I’d rather not be doing. And I often wonder is the answer to move somewhere and live on less money and do the things that I’d like to do, or must I resign myself as many people have to? To do what I guess would be the bread and then in spare time try to make up. With as many days and weeks in a year… What is the answer?
Alan Watts – Well there are two sort of answers which you’ve already indicated. Which is to live with less and do what you want.
Question – …which one is that? You know those things… we sort of expect in life would not get done.
Alan Watts – I think the objection ‘if every one did that’ is rather like asking: What would happen if everybody wanted to catch the four o’clock train from Grand Central to Westport. Or if all the molecules of air in this room were suddenly to congregate over in that corner. There is a bare chance that might happen, but very low.
Question – Would you say we’re going around in circles trying to eliminate evil, because we never will and there might not be an evil…inaudible…playing games?
Alan Watts – Yes, we’re going around in circles but you see going around in circles as you may have observed by looking at the sky is what the universe is doing. You see, before…
Question – As long as we recognize we’re going in circles, we’re alright?
Alan Watts – Yes. That’s the thing it’s a dance and when you dance you don’t dance to get somewhere. Yes all right but when you wake up you turn the confusion into a dance and so I get back to your question “what is the alternative to clearing out of the job you’re doing and to say doing with less but having more fun”. Well there are ways of making almost any activity into a dance. Supposing you have to drive a bus in New York, which is a very harrowing job in the ordinary way. You must not take seriously anything about it. This is the first rule, that it doesn’t matter a damn if you get there on time. But it would be fun to go as fast as is consistent with safety and therefore you swing that bus and you play things with the horn, you take the whole thing lightly as if it is not serious. And because this is the nature, say in ritual, when you have a procession. Now people who don’t understand religion don’t know how to make the right kind of processions. There are those who go in military march and they don’t understand it because their objective is to get there. There are those who dawdle like ducks and they don’t understand because they are trying to be dignified. On the other hand there those who walk as if they had already arrived and this is the way kings walk. Because a king is the center and he’s always where it’s at. Where it’s at is where the king is by definition.
So if you work i this way even, I mean, people who are practicing meditation take up monotonous things for fun and meditation is supposed to be fun. I hope John Lilly told you that this morning.
Well you say you’re going to do “Om Mani Padme Hum” – you know you can really have a gas doing that. And so that anything monotonous can be treated in the same way. This is the way, one of the ways of overcoming boredom. Those boredoms are the great problem for energy. The energy is always on the go.
…Yes sir, the gentleman in the white shirt. Mythic? No mythic is a great word. (Can you repeat the question).
Question – Does it bother me to be called mythic?
Alan Watts – No. Myth is very powerful. Myth is fun. Myth is stories told stories told to children. Everybody loves them.
Question – Is God omniscient?
Alan Watts – Well, it depends on what you mean by the word. A lot of people think that omniscience is like knowing everything that’s in the Encyclopedia Britannica. That’s not omniscience, that’s the select intellectual elephantiasis.
Now you see, let me explain this question because it’s always important and when anybody that he or she is God. People say at once, well will you tell us in millimetres the height of Mont Blanc. When I say look it up in the encyclopedia it’s there. Thing is this, what we ordinary call knowledge is the translation of life into words. And that is a very cumbersome process. Because if we had to translate the process into words every time we took a breath we’d never get around to it. It takes so long to describe and think through the whole physiology of breath. Therefore we do it without thinking about it. And I find that I’m shining the stars in just the same way. I mean if you wanted it in words it’s going to take us a long time to get through them because words are strung out in a line.
Question – How do you, if you’re a God, how do you find such a difficulty in finding peace and tranquility in yourself.
Alan Watts – That’s because you’re looking for it away from the place in which you are. You are seeking it apart from the experience which you have at this moment. And you’re regarding that experience and saying that’s pretty lousy I’d like something better than that. But the trouble with that is that it splits you into two pieces. And once you’re split in two pieces you’re lost. Because you’ve made a difference between the experience you are now having on the one hand and yourself who’s having it on the other. And you wish you could get away from that experience, now the truth of the matter is you can’t because you are what you experience. It’s a myth, surely that there is some sort of experiencer who has the experience. You are what you know because it’s that I know something but there’s simply a process the knowing. You could say that knowing like the world has two poles like the north and the south, and so the knowing-ball has the knower and the known but only in that sense.
Now, knowing changes it changes itself. But if you try to stand outside it and change it it’ll be like standing outside your hand and trying to move your hand from outside. And so comes the difficulty. In other words this would be a difficulty for God in the press-button-surprise situation. Where you think you want something different from what you have. But if you do think that you’ve got to ask yourself the question “what is it that you really want?”. This is the most fundamentally important question, and you will find if you go into it very deeply that you have it.
Now, you may change your mind about it. But you do have what you want.
Question – God, if this place caught on fire I’d find myself so scared that I wonder if I’d also feel that I was God? And if I am God and scared, what do I do about that?
Alan Watts – Well, one of the ways of not being bored is to scare yourself. Don’t we all go to the movies just to be scared? We put some limits on it indeed before we go and say it’s a “well this isn’t really going to happen, it’s only a play or a movie”. And therefore while we see the safe outline of the proscenium arch back in the back of our minds as a sort of hintergedanke (German word meaning without any ulterior goals, as in nothing intended outside of the theatre stage or cinema screen) we know it’s only a play.
Question – I’m talking about what isn’t knowing.
Alan Watts – How do you you know it isn’t?
You see after all the totally the task of the actor on the stage is to come on so well that the audience thinks it’s real. So that he has them crying so that he has them shaking with fear, so he has them sitting on the edges of their chairs. Well that’s just one ordinary Joe doak’s actor but supposing the actor or the play is the real big actor? Wow! That play would seem real and so that’s what happens when the house catches on fire.
Yes, lady in red yes you’re looking behind yourself.
Question – What is sleep?
Alan Wats – What is sleep? The seventh day.
Question – When is the seventh day?
Alan Watts – When is the seventh day? When you sleep.
Question – Yes God. The only reason I know that I’m a goddess is because I take the responsibility for it. Isn’t that the answer to the lady’s question about the fire?
Alan Watts – Oh yes. That also, it would, would answer it. Yes. You… it’s a question of taking responsibility for what happens.
Question – What happens if you don’t do anything about…
Alan Watts – If I don’t do anything about the world?
Audience – The boredom.
Alan Watts – Well that’s another way. That’s another way. You can explore boredom, you can bore into boredom and watch it. Sometimes when you’re bored that’s the only thing to do. Because even for God you can’t lift yourself up by your own bootstraps. Because that is by nature of the definition impossible.
Question – You said… You would… Toy of having a myth of you?
Alan Watts – Yes, I think that would be fun. I mean why else does one go on stage except to make myths?
Question – (inaudible)
Alan Watts – Excuse me, what did you say?
Question – What is your motivation for going on stage?
Alan Watts – What is my motivation for going on the stage? That is like asking why is there a universe. Well now if you listened to George Leonard last night. George Leonard explained how children will be fuddled by being taught to ask why about everything. Because you always look away from what you’re asking about, to its antecedents. And that won’t lead you anywhere at all.
Why am I here? And I answer that question, then somebody says “well why that?” and then somebody says “Well why that? Why that? Why that?” and you get back, and back, and back and eventually you get tired of answering. And so fathers when their children say “Why daddy? Why? Why?” they say oh shut up and eat your lollipop!
So… But what happens you see, when we trace the causation of things into the past it all begins to fade out. In silence and no answer.
Because it didn’t begin there, the universe begins now. It didn’t begin in the past and the past trails back from now like the wake of a ship.
Question – If everything is God and there is no time except now. What is the role of chance?
Alan Watts – Chance pairs with order. We’ll say randomness, we’ll call it and it pairs with order, and it is part of the nature of order. If you know what you mean by order, you know that you mean contrast with randomness. And if you know what you mean by randomness, you know that you mean contrast with order. So if you want to have order you must have randomness. And vice versa.
Question – Did you have this much karisma before you discovered your true nature?
Alan Watts – Yes, yes. But he came out in a different way.
Question – I think there’s a sort of danger here, the rhythms are funny. And if you find the time to think each one through it would be quite profound. There’s a certain danger, of everything and everyone being God. Really, if you found yourself as god, then you know that certain things that you as God created that don’t personally affect you. You created for a reason and you stay out of them, and you go on (inaudible). But if you think you’re God and you try to go into too much social action and change the evils of this world. You end up hurting yourself and a lot of people when you’re playing God, and not really being god
Alan Watts – Well I admit to you my dear that this is a very very dangerous conversation. And that I thoroughly agree with. But we didn’t come here, did we, to play it safe? All, all profound ideas and profound questions are dangerous. It is dangerous to go into science, as we all know too well. It is dangerous to go into medicine. Dangerous to go into writing because the pen is often mightier than the sword. And, so I don’t think we should withdraw from certain things because they’re dangerous. But I entirely agree with you, that if I were, as it were, in the Spirit of God to go about social reform. I would be failing to realize the construction of my own universe. Which is that, when you interfere with it, you’ve got to know exactly how you’re interfering. Otherwise the most amazingly unexpected things will happen. So when people ask some miracles they don’t realize what the miracles involve. I mean if I turned the microphone into a rabbit, it’s altogether possible that you might drop dead. Because those events might be connected.
Question – Did you ever study with Carl Jung?
Alan Watts – Did I have a study with Carl Jung? Or knew him?
Question – Or ever work with him?
Alan Watts – I didn’t study with him, I knew him and I read a lot of his writings.
Question – The notion of watching yourself, watching your world, being aware of yourself. That does imply that there is a separation somewhere…
Alan Watts – It does in a way. Yes, and it depends how you’re watching. I some… There is a very interesting thing that comes up in this respect with regard to the Bhagavad-Gita and to the Yoga Sutra. Where they talk about the witness, there is as it were behind our ordinary self with its emotions and involvement a witness self. That does nothing more than perceive what happens. And this is the Atman or the “Purusha”. Which is not involved and some of you, no doubt especially in times of crisis, has suddenly discovered this sort of witness. Center behind everything that just isn’t involved. Most terrible things can be going on, but the witness is impassive. Now when we go into these states we’ve got to be very careful of our descriptive language. Because the descriptive language makes the witness seem something apart from what is happening. In such a way that if we want to become really sort of skitzy and catatonic about things. We can always be withdrawn and go in and in and identify ourselves with the solitaire and uninvolved witness. Who is merely a hangout for the ego, as when the police raid a house in which there are burglars. And the burglars know they’ll be caught if they’re on the ground floor, so they got the first floor. So then the police come up with the first floor, they’re up in the secondT they, finally they get to the roof where the open sky and the infinite. And in this way, this was why the Buddha did not teach about the Atman. The real self within us because he knew people would use the real self as a hideout for the ego. And so when, say Krishnamurti, tries to explain this, he, he doesn’t talk about the witness. He talks about awareness and people say to him “But who is aware?” “What is aware?”. And he seems a little sticky in his answer here because, what is, what is the matter is that: the people asking the question to be witched by grammar. They are using a language in which it is part of the grammatical convention that the verb always have a noun subject. Now how on Earth do verbs get started by nouns I ask you? How can a thing start a process?
Surely this is really the same problem Descartes was wrestling with when he tried to find out how spirit could influence matter. Or her mind could influence body. Because everybody knows that all proper ghosts walk straight through walls without disturbing the bricks. So how can the ghosts in the machine, as curse Laputa put it, the soul in the body, how can it do anything to the body with no connection to different realms? The point is when we’re talking about this awareness, what we call thought, feeling sensation emotion, we could say in a very clumsy ways it’s aware of itself. It’s the very nature there wouldn’t be sensation without awareness. You don’t have to have some thing, oh, which is aware of it. Any more than you have to have a thing called lightning which does something called flashing. The flashing is the lightning and so awareness is the one who’s aware of it.
Could say this awareness, if I say I am aware the word I, as William James, suggested is simply a word of position. Like this, or here, awareness here and your awareness there.
Transcription to be continued…
yes life is like one great cone no death
is not the solution it has no solution
otherwise it wouldn’t happen you see the
thing is like this this is what is hard
for Westerners especially to understand
I said if you understand the yang in the
Yi and you don’t need to ask any further
questions and all you aging buffs or to
know this by now what is not a component
of Western common sense is that nothing
is something now that may sound a little
contradictory but I think I can explain
it we treat nothingness as if it were
ineffective as if it wasn’t really
important at all and yet when we look
out at the night and we see all these
stars in space try and imagine what the
heavens would look like if there weren’t
any space then obviously there wouldn’t
be any stones I mean you could think
that it will all be jammed together in a
lump there are various objections to
that how would you see the edge of the
lump and know it was alone without space
around it furthermore we know when we
investigate the constitution of matter
physically that at the atomic level
there’s more space in something than
there is anything else most of it is
empty which led a physicist at the
Argonne lab at the University of Chicago
had become a little nutty he was so
impressed with the emptiness of matter
that he went around in the most enormous
padded slippers in case he should fall
through the floor
stuff so now what the point I’m making
is this if space is essential to solid
it’s perfectly obvious then that nothing
is essential to something if you can’t
have something about nothing means
nothing is pretty powerful stuff because
something comes out of it but like that
it’s a dogma of Western thought
expressed in the Latin phrase ex nihilo
near fit out of nothing comes nothing
but that’s not so out of nothing comes
something now you would say well if
something comes out of nothing there
must be some kind of mystery inside
nothing it must have a secret structure
of some kind I mean there must be sort
of electrical goings-on this is the
trouble they have about cosmology how
could this world generate could just be
out of free-floating hydrogen no we’re
just it much simpler idea than that it
comes out of real solid nothing it’s so
simple look if you if you if you listen
you see you live in a world where
there’s only sound for a moment you’ll
hear every sound coming out of silence
what are these sounds come from are they
come out of silence
suddenly bowing and you can accustom
yourself to seeing light doing the same
thing you can open your eyes and see all
this world emerging out of nothing
bowing like that and fading off into the
palace so that’s what the future is
unknown because the future is zero and
everybody who tries to know it and
that’s the whole endeavor of you see
trying to be God you don’t need to try
to be God you are but if you try to be
God it means you don’t know you are and
therefore you try to know and dominate
the future and you you believe prophets
and things like that well few dopes
prophecy is simply contaminating the
future with the past
projecting what we know upon the unknown
and that’s why really things like
astrology although interesting or rather
ridiculous because if you know the
future there’s no surprise for you a
completely known future is past you’ve
had it there are two answers to that
question this is a real fun question I
love it the question is about now he’s
saying really there is no now there is
the future and the past come together
the future turns into the past little
bit and it’s gone like that so you know
in no time at all the future has become
past as if we get this frantic feeling
well where do you go well let’s take the
small view first of all the now is
infinitely short and yet it’s the only
thing that is in that case this whole
world is an illusion it doesn’t really
exist so I when the king the emperor
Akbar once was feeling a little sorry
for himself and asked his jewelers said
make me a ring that will restrain me in
prosperity and support me in adversity
and so the jeweler made him a ring gave
it to the Emperor and he saw written on
it it will pass
now the other side of the matter is this
that this short now is an illusion of
the clock we make our second marks on
clocks as thin as is consistent with
visibility and therefore we always think
of the present that’s crossing the
hairline tick that’s too long
see how short can you get see but really
the present isn’t like that at all the
everything you know there is nowhere
else but now everything that happens is
happening now well it’s like your field
of vision your field of vision isn’t
just a point of light your field of
vision is an oval and at the it isn’t
fuzzy at the edges it just ceases to be
at the edges without there’s plenty of
room in it to see something move across
so in your field of time you’re now
there is enough now to include a phrase
of music if there weren’t you wouldn’t
be able to make out melodies because
they’re just be instantaneous notes with
no connection between you would never
hear intervals so now is a big sloppy
thing it comes out of nothing
yes ladies standing by the pillow
so the question is is there there no
need for man to seek for a meaning in
his life not only his life but the life
of the universe right no there is no
need to seek for a meaning meaning I use
the word in rather a definite way and
for me meaning is a function of signs
particularly of words and symbols
meaning is the referent of words as when
we take the word water the meaning of it
is something drinkable whereas the sound
water is not drinkable so therefore if
we ask life to have a meaning we look
for something other than life to be that
meaning and therefore we reduce life to
a being mere words and mere symbol now
of course you may use the word meaning
in a less precise way and say now
although the music of Bach has no
meaning in the sense that it is not like
the music of Tchaikovsky designed to
imitate natural events and noises
nevertheless it has meaning in the sense
that it enchants us it the patterns of
it ravish us in the same way as abstract
patterns in an arabesque that’s a little
different sense of the word meaning and
yes I would say that life has that kind
but that you don’t seek it because if
you seek it you lose it
I see the process of life as an
essentially musical process which has no
meaning except itself it is going round
in circles like we love to spin in
circles when we are down
sing like children love to spin around
in circles till they get dizzy that’s
and so the articulation of wonderful
patterns is the meaning of life
if you seek for meaning now this applies
to all seekers I’m sorry growth seekers
but seeking Zahl right I mean it’s a
free country but it go invariably takes
you away from what you’re looking for
because every search supposes I will
find it later
not now in the next moment that somehow
by some gimmick by some exercise by some
process of transformation I will later
discover what I want
this is postponement yes yes well this
is a matter of words my friend because
you may think the dancing is superficial
whereas I think it’s profound and so on
and that I suggested two meanings of the
word meaning one of which is merely
reduces life to being symbolic of
something else something always beyond
then I’m going to ask what’s the meaning
of that and then we get into that
infinite regression of questions I feel
that instead of getting into these
infinite regressions of what is beneath
what is behind look it’s right out in
front of you now and when you catch on
to that now gets very profound I mean
it’s the moment when nothing becomes
something and I don’t see how much
profounder than that you can get yes oh
yes I’m telling that’s I agree with
seeking can be fun but it won’t get you
to what you’re looking for see it’s away
seeking is a way of postponing finding
let’s put it off you see children on a
hot day they are terribly thirsty they
say let’s get an ice cream soda now the
kids is know let’s get thirsty er so
when we finally get the ice cream soda
with our real song
this is the principle of postponement
and everybody who is questing was
practicing yoga and Zen meditation all
that kind of thing he’s putting off that
ice cream soda what do I propose nothing
it’s doing something or thinking
something we definitely are not just
feeling that we’re gonna sit and let
everything happen when I come here yeah
but I mean look here when you ask always
why did you come
I repeat that is a barren question why
did you do it why did this happen it
goes a question that Peters out so this
is this is not important what is
important surely is it is is this
immediate now not why are we here but
what are we here in unless you live in
the eternal now consciously you have no
use for plans because people who live in
the future or for the future when their
plans come off they are not they’re
enjoying them they are planning for
another future they never catch up with
nothing matter tell you about your
future in the mouth yes in that sense of
course when you make plans you plan now
and that can be a gas making plans but
for goodness sake do it in the now
spirit rather than as it were oh if I
can’t wait till that happens because
then if you’re in I can’t wait spirit
you just bolt life like somebody
swallowing food so fast they can either
taste not adjusted yes something ii
wonder what is in a search is the way of
intellectually trying to figure it out a
planet whose the way of experiencing it
even part of your experience to be
taking in what would happen in the
future and that second way isn’t a bad
search it’s just really big yeah so
isn’t there a type that’s the type of
searching for meaning that would be okay
well yes ah there is a the searching in
a spirit that the search is more fun
than the finding you know that when
you’re when you’re traveling for example
going somewhere is is the real joy of it
often that’s the fallacy of the jet
plane that it abolished is distances
between places and all places which have
a distance abolished between them become
the same place so there’s no point going
to Tokyo if it’s already Los Angeles I
mean this is the thing yes it’s a hand
well the comment is about seeking is it
necessarily a road like taking a road or
is seeking also conceivable as readiness
to receive well of course the road isn’t
a merely Western analog it’s a very
common metaphor the the paths and the
stages of the path the steps of the path
are used in both east and west but the
Chinese word for the way is Dao Dao
and the path is what we’re looking for
in the Chinese sense you see the Dao is
the works baby that is the which than
which there is no witcher and there to
be in harmony with the way to be on the
way you see but the dow isn’t going
anywhere and that’s like when the
chinese poet is wandering in the forest
and he looks at the clouds and he says
where are they going
no one knows where does this path lead
no one cares
I’m wandering on and on in a great
forest without thought of return that is
poetic feeling to the Far East both of
the Japanese and the Chinese they call
that spirit you again and I it’s the
mysterious going nowhere Nisour things
the wandering spirit so that sort of
seeking is different from anxiety to get
something in the future which you don’t
have now yes sir what just existing now
and experiencing everything anything
your evening well pure hedonism is a
quest for pleasure the hedonist in that
sense of the word would not live in the
eternal now if he found it not
altogether enjoyable he would then read
romances of the past or fantasies of the
future to get away from now because what
he’s looking for is pleasure but when we
look for pleasure
you see we split ourselves we divide
ourselves from pleasure in seeking it
and in trying to get away from pain we
divide ourselves from pain not realizing
that that’s what creates pain is the
division of experience so that the
wholeness of experience is broken and we
are disintegrated yes and something
category it’s not just an intellectual
fallacy there’s no such thing as any
category that’s true categories do not
really exist in nature categories are
like taking a network printed on
cellophane and putting it over a picture
of a forest and then numbering the trees
according to what squares they’re in on
the cellophane that’s categorization in
that category nothing this really is
anything no such things that category
out there oh I said it was thoroughly
empty but wait a minute it isn’t it is a
category in the sense that something is
its limit so it has an edge and that’s
what you see in the yang yin diagram no
I I don’t want to comment on China at
that about pain yes what I was trying to
say about pain is this we are in a split
relationship with the contents of our
experience the knower and the known then
there is the knower is opposed with a
known called pleasure and tries to
identify with it the knower is
confronted with a known called pain and
tries to be disentangled front but it is
this very split it is trying to get away
from pain that makes pain painful it’s
as if you got caught in some brambles
and you pulled away from and they just
dug more deeply into your skin you would
have to go the other direction to let
the brambles out you’d have to go into
the bush yeah yeah so I mean that’s only
a metaphor but the point is that as we
keep got this distinction of the knower
from the known we are always running
away and wanted to change experience and
there’s a fundamental there for escape
in every project to transform
consciousness there is a an escape from
what is and when you realize you cannot
get away from what is not should you not
might you but you can then at that point
when you realize you can’t get away from
what is there’s nothing left to you but
to watch it and then for the first time
you are taking a good look at your real
self because your real self is there
those Chinese call it Zeron nature what
is so of itself and that’s you and you
is this happening and it’s everything
that you’re aware of is you’re happening
and a good deal more besides you’re not
aware of all of yourself like you don’t
have an immediate V Division of the
contents of your stomach they haven’t
got eyes down there um yes sir what is
yes at least you see I know when I’m
confronted with the beautiful or when I
pass into the beautiful as I know when I
pass into the ugly when I try to say
what these are or what my criteria are
all I’m doing is I’m trying to find a
form of words that will apply to all my
different sensations of beauty or of
ugliness the problem is not to know what
is beautiful but to know how to put it
into linear language that’s where the
company complexity comes in we very well
know what is beautiful but when we come
to talk about the words disappear I mean
here’s our fundamental problem because
you see in a certain way what we mean by
sense is God now it isn’t not that God
doesn’t have a sense of nonsense look at
giraffes for heaven’s sakes but it’s his
whole thing with one form is could God
make a stone so heavy that he couldn’t
lift it that is an equivalent question
to say could God make a dead body into a
living body that is was the same
question as asking could a dead body be
a living body and that is the same
question as asking could the head be the
yes that’s a different matter now look
one of the most interesting meditations
is to think about death and imagine what
it would be like to go unconscious and
never become conscious again that is as
Keats said of the Grecian urn it teases
you out of thought and while you think
of that say good heavens fancy never
never coming to again you get a mirror
image thought which is about your birth
my goodness you came to without ever
having gone unconsciously that’s pretty
and it seems to me that if that happened
once it can happen again
now what happens is this when you die
boy there’s a blank and the next thing
you know is this as you did it before
because every eye that comes into this
world is I it’s me it’s you on this
level it is diversified but yet I as
always central everyone feels is the
center of the universe and on the
surface of a sphere any point may be the
center of the surface so here it is
every time it happens it’s me so I
should worry about reincarnation
yes according to the Sufi doctor you
reach the third level you supposed to
have the choice you don’t have to be
reincarnated you feel that is that some
time all-wise action is never the result
of choice wise action is never the
result of choice
none choice implies ignorance indecision
when you know what to do you don’t
choose you do it what what question
could you ask about love what is love
love is not a pod love is the energy of
the world and nobody can say what that
is if anybody were to say what God is or
what the energy of the world is he would
be talking nonsense now there are times
when it is important to talk nonsense
because we can discover the energy of
the universe through nonsense when you
say you take a sound that really doesn’t
mean anything much like Oh
that’s the energy of the universe going
digging see as you listen to sound
that’s why music is a marvelous support
for meditation digging sound listening
just listening to that hum there goes
the energy of the universe see what is
it that’s what it is he looks it yeah
yes yeah that’s right
then if you do that it isn’t meditation
meditation is centered in the here and
now done for some other reason it isn’t
meditation it stops dead right there
what is Satori Satori is any kind of aha
Eureka phenomenon only specifically
applied to discovering who and what you
are the clear light is that you say I
saw the light it doesn’t necessarily
mean that there was the physical
hallucination of a flash it may mean
suddenly everything becomes transparent
that may be a way of feeling it it’s
just as the problem vanishes and you
stop asking the question I
what do you mean risk it the thing the
problem is no risk being God the risk is
claudiaMay 13, 2015
by “chance” i stumbled across the text that you wrote out from alan watts´ lecture “on being god”! thank you so much that you took the effort to present the video on your site along with this written part, – it is so profound!
i like alan watts since long and also love to hear him talk even though, as you noticed yourself, he is not always easy to understand in these older recordings.
anyway, thank you again, and all the best for your little family!
claudia zachmann from germany
Sanjin ĐumišićMay 13, 2015
I’m glad to know this transcript got read and as you say, it’s profound. It is amazing how elegantly Alan Watts still inspires people, with no other means than just simple audio recordings. That just shows the quality of those talks. Thanks for the comment, I appreciate to know people get here by “chance” and get something out of it.
/All the best to you
JacobOctober 19, 2018
Thank you for the transcript, a very interesting Q&A indeed. I have only recently started listening to Allan Watts and was wondering if you have any recommendations for where to start? I know there is tons available, so I was wondering if you know of any similar talks he has given that might be available online? Thanks again, I hope you are well!
Sanjin ĐumišićOctober 19, 2018
Thanks for dropping by! I’ll give you a few video links from the top of my head, as not to drown you because there are tons out there =). Take care & All the best!
Alan Watts – What You Weren’t Taught: https://youtu.be/6lmU3P0KLyY
John Frusciante – Interview on Creativity & Inspiration: https://youtu.be/5ArDkQJbVcE
Alan Watts & U.G. Krishnamurti – All Answers Mixtape (Video Footage): https://youtu.be/ZMLa89arbw4
Alan Watts – We’re Here, We’re Real (University Lecture): https://youtu.be/Kdc7kKILL7I
U.G. Krishnamurti – Freedom From Illusion & Facing Reality: https://youtu.be/9_sHrqk7Ezw
Alan Watts – Society Needs Outsiders (Unique Rare Footage): https://youtu.be/qQFcNFAzXGo