Alan Watts was and remains, nearly 40 years after his death, one of the most enigmatic, influential figures of the 20th century. Revered as well as reviled, Watts, along with D. T. Suzuki, was largely responsible for the re-introduction of Eastern philosophy and wisdom to the West in the 1950s and 60s.
The influence of the East on the various counterculture movements of the 60s cannot be overestimated. The confluence of East and West, evinced in the Peace, Black Power, and Women’s Movements, changed how we perceive our selves, our culture, and our world.
Alan Watts played no small part in these changes.
Many people were first introduced to Watts via a series of radio programs, originally broadcast late at night on rock radio stations that were playing their part in the larger cultural revolution. In recent years, these same programs have begun to be transcribed into book form and have rekindled interest in the philosophy and ways of Alan Watts.
Many found their way East via Watts’ lectures and books on Zen Buddhism, particularly the book on Zen and its relevance to Beat Literature.
One book that I have recommended innumerable times to friends and customers alike is The Book: The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. Certainly a product of its time, The Book still speaks loud and clear to those with open hearts and open minds.
Besides these particular titles, a number of others worth looking into include:
~ Behold the spirit; a study in the necessity of mystical religion
In addition, there are other books by Watts that are currently either out of print or not available through our local system: This Is It and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience; Does It Matter?: Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality; Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal; Psychotherapy East and West; The Joyous Cosmology; and Beyond Theology. All these titles are readily available at libraries outside our system and may be obtained through interlibrary loan.
Don’t know what interlibrary loan is? Well, here’s a FAQ that will tell you all about it.
The full list of locally available titles by Watts, including the audio transcripts, may be found here.
Finally, if you’d like to hear some samples of Watts’ lectures, his melodious voice and abundant humor, the Alan Watts homepage has provided some audio to tantalize your curiosity.