Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Alan Watts Quotes

Alan Watts (January 6, 1915 – November 16, 1973) was a British philosopher, writer, talented speaker and teacher. He had an adept skill at bringing Eastern philosophies to western audiences. I have watched more youtube videos than I can count of his and one of my goals for 2012 is to read as many of his books as I can. While doing so, I will be posting the passages from the books I'm reading of his that stick out the most to me here. I look forward to your thoughts on them!


Quotes from "The Wisdom of Insecurity"

If happiness always depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will-o'-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss. 
p. 15

Once there is the suspicion that a religion is a myth, its power has gone. It may be necessary for man to have a myth, but he cannot self-consciously prescribe one as he can mix a pill for a headache. A myth can only "work" when it is thought to be truth, and man cannot for long knowingly and intentionally "kid" himself.    p. 19

The common error of ordinary religious practice is to mistake the symbol for the reality, to look at the finger pointing the way and then to suck it for comfort rather than follow it. Religious ideas are like words- of little use, and often misleading , unless you know the concrete realities to which they refer. The word "water" is a useful means of communication amongst those who know water. The same is true of the word and idea called "God.".    p. 23
We must here make a clear distinction between belief and faith, because in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith. Belief, as I use the word here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would "lief" or wish it to be. The believer will open his mind to the truth on condition that it fits in with his preconcieved ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of th emind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.    p. 24
Belief has thus become an attempt to hang on to life, to grasp and keep it for one's own. But you cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it. Indeed, you cannot grasp it, just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket. If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To "have" running water you must let go of it and let it run. The same is true of life and of God.     p. 24

...you can only know God through an open mind just as you can only see the sky through a clear window. You will not see the sky if you have covered the glass with blue paint.  p. 25

Because life is likewise a flowing process, change and death are its necessary parts. To work for their exclusion to work against life.     p. 32

The power of memories and expectations is such that for most human beings the past and the future are not as real, but more real than the present. The present cannot be lived happily unless the past has been "cleared up" and the future is bright with promise.   p. 34
A careful study of comparative religion and spiritual philosophy reveals that abandonment of belief, of any clinging to a future life for one's own, and of any attempt to escape from finitude  and mortality, is a regular and normal stage in the way of the spirit.  p. 25

To discover the ultimate Reality of life- the Absolute, the eternal, God - you must cease to try to grasp it in the forms of idols These idols are not just crude images...They are our beliefs, our cherished preconceptions of the truth, which block the unreserved opening of mind, and heart to reality. The legitimate use of images is to express the truth, not to possess it.   p. 26

Religion wants to assure the future beyond death, and science wants to assure  it until death, and to postpone death. But tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.  p. 52

It is surely absurd to seek God in terms of a preconceived idea of what God is...To believe in God and to look for the God you believe in is simply to seek confirmation of an opinion. To ask for a revelation of God's will, and then to "test" it by reference to your own preconceived moral standards is to make a mockery of asking. You knew the answer already. Seeking "God" in this way is not more than asking for the stamp of absolute authority and certainty on what you believe in any case, for a guarantee that the unknown and the future will be a continuation of what you want to retain from the past-a bigger and better fortress for "I".   p. 103

Quotes from "The Book on The Taboo of Knowing Who You Are"

Wonder, and its expression in poetry and the arts, are among the most important things that seem to distinguish men from other animals, and intelligent and sensitive people from morons.     ~  p. 11

"This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not "come into" this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean "waves," the universe "peoples." Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated "egos" inside bags of skin."  ~p. 13

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events—that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies—and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.  p. 13
"Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, open-ness—an act of trust in the unknown." p. 14

The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego.
~ p. 15

Just as sight is something more than all things seen, the foundation or "ground" of our existence and our awareness cannot be understood in terms of things that are known. We
are forced, therefore, to speak of it through myth—that is, through special metaphors, analogies, and images which say what it is like as distinct from what it is. At one extreme of its meaning, "myth" is fable, falsehood, or superstition. But at another, "myth" is a useful and fruitful image by which we make sense of life in somewhat the same way that we can explain electrical forces by comparing them with the behavior of water or air. Yet "myth," in this second sense, is not to be taken literally, just as electricity is not to be confused with air or water. Thus in using myth one must take care not to confuse image with fact, which would be like climbing up the signpost instead of following the road.  ~ p. 16

We might "conquer" nature if we could first, or at the same time, conquer our own nature, though we do not see that human nature and "outside" nature are all of a piece. In the
same way, we do not see that "I" as the knower and controller am the same fellow as "myself" as something to be known and controlled. The self-conscious feedback mechanism of the cortex allows us the hallucination that we are two souls in one body—a rational soul and an animal soul, a rider and a horse,
a good guy with better instincts and finer feelings and a rascal with rapacious lusts and unruly passions. Hence the marvelously involved hypocrisies of guilt and penitence, and the frightful cruelties of punishment, warfare, and even self-torment in the name of taking the side of the good soul against the evil. The more it sides with itself, the more the good soul reveals its inseparable shadow, and the more it disowns its shadow, the more it becomes it.  p. 42


Memory is an enduring pattern of motion, like the whirlpool, rather than
an enduring substance, like a mirror, a wax tablet, or a sheet of paper.   p. 44

My problem as a writer, using words, is to dispel the illusions of language while employing one of the languages that generates them.  p. 45

Society is our extended mind and body. Yet the very society from which the individual is inseparable is using its whole irresistible force to persuade the individual that he is indeed
separate! Society as we now know it is therefore playing a game with self-contradictory rules. Just because we do not exist apart from the community, the community is able to convince us that we do—that each one of us is an independent source of action with a mind of its own. The more successfully the community implants this feeling, the more trouble
it has in getting the individual to cooperate, with the result that children raised in such an environment are almost permanently confused.   p. 54

Life and love generate effort, but effort will not generate them. Faith—in life, in other people, and in oneself—is the attitude of allowing the spontaneous to be spontaneous, in its own way and in its own time. This is, of course, risky because life and other people do not
always respond to faith as we might wish. Faith is always a gamble because life itself is a gambling game with what must appear, in the hiding aspect of the game, to be colossal stakes. But to take the gamble out of the game, to try to make winning a dead certainty, is to achieve a certainty which is indeed dead.  ~ 56


Quotes from "In My Own Way"

" For I am committed to the view that the whole point and joy of human life is to integrate the spiritual with the material, the mystical with the sensuous, and the altruistic with a kind of proper self-love - since it is written that you must love your neighbor as yourself."
             ~ preface, xi

"Much of the secret of life consists in knowing how to laugh, and also how to breathe."
             ~ p. 6

" If God were the sort of being most Christians suppose him to be, he would be beside himself with boredom listening to their whinings and flatteries, their redundant requests and admonitions, not to mention the asinine poems set to indifferent tunes which are solemnly addressed as hymns. "      ~ p. 49

"A priest once quoted to me the Roman saying that a religion is dead when the priests laugh at each other across the altar. I always laugh at the altar, be it Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist, because real religion is the transformation of anxiety into laughter."   ~ p. 59-60

"I see religion as I see other basic fascinations as art and science, in which there is room for many different approaches, styles, techniques and opinions. Thus I am not formally a committed member of any creed or sect and hold no particular religious view or doctrine as absolute."   ~ p. 63

"I deplore missionary zeal, and consider exclusive dedication to and advocacy of any particular religion, as either the best or the only true way, an almost irreligious arrogance. Yet my work and my life are fully concerned with religion, and the mystery of being is my supreme fascination, though as a shameless mystic, I am more interested in religion as feeling and experience than as conception and theory."   ~ p. 63

"If I am asked to define my personal tastes in religion I must say that they lie between Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism, with a certain leaning towards Vedanta and Catholicism, or rather the Orthodox Church of Eastern Europe. The Russian Cathedral in Paris is, for me, one of the most joyous shrines in the world for its combination of gold-glorious ritual, angelic a capella music, and dignified informality. In the middle of a two-and-a-half-hour morning liturgy you can go out for a smoke or to the vodka and caviar shop across the street, and come back refreshed for declaring the gory of God,kissing an icon, holding a candle, or just wandering about among friends in the standing congregation. Bu I am still more at home in the serene and nonmilitant atmosphere of such Buddhist sanctuaries as Koya-san and Chion-in where the deep and sonorous chant is measured by the easy pulse of a wooden drum, where pines and maples stand beyond the open screens, and the smoke of aloeswood hangs in the air.    ~ p. 64-65

"Over the years it has become my firm opinion that sexual activity (even if only through masturbation) is "requisite and necessary, as well for the body as for the soul": for men and women alike. It stimulates your glands, exercises your pelvis, thrills your nerves, brings mind and body together as one, and culminates in an ecstasy in which there is neither past nor future nor separation between self and other. We need that as we need vitamins, proteins, water, and air."  ~ p. 129

"The universe appears as an intricate dynamism of balanced opposites, mutually interdependent, and in such faultless harmony that one could well be scared of it. "  ~ p. 146

"If one if going to have church and ritual of any kind, why not live it up? IF I put on vestment of brocade, light candles, burn incense, and intone mysterious chants, I do not do it to fool people or to flatter God. I do it out of simple delight and fascination for the color, the stately dance, and the sense of mystery-not of the kind of mystery which can be revealed or explained, but the kind of mystery which God must be to himself."    ~ p. 161

" Furthermore, if religion is a medicine, addiction to it should be discouraged. Physicians try to get rid of patients, but clergymen want to keep the coming. When Jesus healed people he sent them about their business and told the to keep their mouths shut."   ~ p. 171

"There must be some connection between the commercialization of life and the separation of religion from mysticism and magic."    ~ p. 178

" But personal talking and praying to God in so many words just isn't in my nature. I feel it as a clumsy encumbrance which not only puts God at a distance but also treats him as another person or creature, however exalted and holy, and distracts one from the realization that "God is nearer to you than you are to yourself." Personal prayer simply got in the way of my fundamental mystical feeling that God is what there is and all there is."    ~ p. 194

" For the body is as much a streaming pattern of energy as a flame. "   ~ p. 201

"Whenever I perform a ceremony of marriage for personal friends, I give some such discourse as this:

  ' What I am about to say may at first sound depressing and even cynical, but I think you will not find it so in practice. There are three things I would have you bear in ind. The first is that as you now behold one another, you are probably seeing each other at your best. All things disintegrate in time, and as the years go by you will tend to get worse rather than better. Do not, therefore, go into marriage with projects for improving each other. Growth ay happen, but it cannot be forced. The second has to do with emotional honesty. Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command. For the same reason, do not require love from your partner as a duty., for love given in this spirit doesn't ring true, and gives no pleasure to the other. The third is that you do not so cling to one another as to commit mutual strangulation. You are not each other's chattels, and you must so trust your partner as to allow full freedom to be the being that he and she is. If you observe these things in your marriage will have surer ground than can be afforded contract or promise, however solemn and legally binding.'  "
                  P. 200-01

" One of the curses of Western industrial culture is the proliferation of "nice residential areas" where no shop or small businesses are permitted, and which require as their counterparts, business districts for unrelieved commerce, to which one must commute for several miles to ply one's trade or buy groceries-there to find parking impossible and, in transit, to clog the air with unnecessary gasoline fumes. These "nice residential areas" establish an aesthetic standard of the good life which-though millions buy it-is for me a dreary wasteland in which people are trying to divorce pleasure and leisure from work, so that the pleasure becomes vapid and the work drudgery. Unless I am to live far out in the country, give me a place where a grocery, a laundry, a smithy, and a pub are within easy walking distance."     ~ p. 256

" Our grasp on reality is better when we look at it from the standpoints of different cultures, and the comparison brings to light aspects of one's own point of view so basic as to have been ignored".   ~ p. 260-61

"It is thus that almost every morning, when I awaken, I have a feeling of total clarity as to the sense of life, a feeling of myself and the universe as a matter of the utmost simplicity. "I" and "That which is" are the same. Always have been and always will be. I could say that what constitutes me is the same jazz that constitutes the cosmos, and that there is simply nothing special to be achieved, realized or performed. "            ~ p. 263

Other Quotes

“Where do I begin and end in space? I have relations to the sun and air which are just as vital parts of my existence as my heart. The movement which I am a pattern or convolution began incalculable ages before the (conventionally isolated) event called ‘birth’, and will continue long after the event called ‘death’. Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which IS Everything.”

"Try to imagine what it would be like to go to sleep and never wake up? Think about that, children think about it, its one of the great wonders of life. What would it be like to go to sleep and never wake up? And if you think long enough about that, something will happen to you. You'll find out, among other things, that it will pose the next question to you. What was it like to wake up after having never gone to sleep? That was when you were born. You see, You cant have a experience of nothing, nature abhors a vacuum. So after your dead the only thing that can happen is the same experience, or the same sort of experience, as when you were born."

"Western religions are more concerned with behavior, doctrine, and belief than with any transformation of the way in which we are aware of ourselves and our world."

“What you call the external world is as much you as your own body. Your skin doesn’t separate you from the world; it’s a bridge through which the external world flows into you and you flow into it.”

"This is the loneliness of liberation, of no longer finding security by taking sides with the crowd, of no longer believing that the rules of the game are the laws of nature. It is thus that transcending the ego leads to great individuality."

"Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command."

“It is obvious that the only interesting people are interested people, and to be completely interested is to have forgotten about 'I'.”

"The eyes are our most sensitive organ, and when you look and look and look into another person's eyes you are looking at the most beautiful jewels in the universe. And if you look down beyond that surface beauty, it's the most beautiful jewel in the universe, because that's the universe looking at you. We are the eyes of the cosmos. So that in a way, when you look deeply into somebody's eyes, you are looking deeply into yourself, and the other person is looking deeply into the same self, which many-eyed, as the mask of Vishnu is many-faced, is looking out everywhere, one energy playing myriads of different parts."

"Life is not a problem to be solved, nor a question to be answered. Life is a mystery to be experienced."

"To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float."


  1. My favorite is "the power of memories and expectations...." How true. We are easily so focused on baggage from our past. And if we don't have a vision for the future, as it says in the Bible, we perish.

  2. Thank you Lynne for your thoughts :) I'd like to add that the most important thing is the present moment, for the future is really an illusion, much of it doesn't turn out the way we project. Oftentimes we are so encumbered by dwelling on the past, or fretting about the future, that we miss out what is happening in the here and now. And from my experience, that is the only place to find God. Watts has some great passages about being in the present, I'm going to be adding them in the near future to this page. :)

  3. Much love for the second quote. Very true.

    As for the page as whole; I think it's a great addition to your blog. Quite nice. I like it.

  4. "If happiness always depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will-o'-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss."

    ...isn't that the truth!

    I am a big fan of quotes...great compilation!

  5. I wish the man was still alive so I could meet him.

  6. I like them all,infact I do love reading quotes,thank u for sharing this with us.

  7. Wonderful quotes. I enjoyed them all.

  8. My favorite is the first one...I know someone who really needs to read this... Thank you

  9. Thank you ChronicR...glad you enjoyed them and the page. It's great to have you here!

  10. Amy, Thank you...I'm glad you enjoyed it. There's definitely more to come!:)

    Janu, thanks for stopping by. :)

    JR, Me too! I would have loved to have met him. He had an amazing mind...He's kept immortal though his words of wisdom that still touch minds and hearts today. I'm really thankful that there are so many great youtube videos of him speaking! :)

  11. Alpana, Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed them. :)

    Jan, Thanks! :)

    Savira, My pleasure. :) Thanks for stopping by.

  12. I think the quote that resonated most with me was:
    "...you can only know God through an open mind just as you can only see the sky through a clear window. You will not see the sky if you have covered the glass with blue paint."
    Wonderful and enlightening quotes Jessica!

  13. made me think too!deep and profound!

  14. Thank you for including Mr. Watts. It shows (me) great insight and courage for a 'religious' page. I admire you. I have an Alan Watts Facebook page and have read all his books. Good luck! Philip

  15. Watts challenges his readers to be mindful. He points, but does not say. He rationalizes, but in an intuitive way.