Introducing Alan Watts?

It’s unlikely this will be an introduction for most Disnfonaughts but as the community grows it’s worth welcoming newcomers with a few of the basics. Trust me when I say he’ll be useful to you if you’re unaware of his work[1].

Open Culture has highlighted the arrival of the complete 1959 series of television shows which helped to make his name in the US.

If you’re familliar with his work you’ll have skipped this, prepared yourself a good fat tasty portion of Zen and already be watching the master weave some ‘classic’ spells.

Open culture writes:

The British-born interpreter and popularizer of East Asian Buddhist thought generated most of his media in the San Francisco of the 1950s and 1960s, and his televised lectures, produced for local public station KQED, must have offered many a San Franciscan their very first glimpse of Zen. Now that episodes of his series Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life have made it to YouTube (season one, season two), you can see for yourself that Watts’ then-cutting-edge delivery of this ancient wisdom remains entertaining, informative, and striking in its clarity. Begin with the introductory episode above, “Man and Nature,” in which Watts calmly lays out his observations of the ill effects of Westerners’ having grown to distrust their human instincts.


[1] Early rumours surrounding The Discordian Holy text “Principia Discordia” placed him as its author. This speaks to the clout he had in the US spiritual counter culture.

Nick Margerrison

Nick Margerrison

I write on Disinfo for fun, I've been a fan of the company for years.

In the real world I'm a freelance TV/radio presenter. I've worked for LBC, Kerrang Radio, The Bay, Edge Media TV, Hallam FM and The BBC.

My podcast is here:

11 Comments on "Introducing Alan Watts?"

  1. drokhole | Dec 5, 2012 at 8:25 pm |

    Fuck. Yes. First BoingBoing had an Alan Watts vid earlier this week, now this awesome shit. I’m seriously (or, as Watts would say, ‘sincerely’) loving the Watts love. And I have been dying to find this complete series. Thank you!

    I’ve got a good deal of his talks (clips and lectures) on a few the YouTubes channels:

    Also, Aeon Magazine had this fantastic essay on Watts:

    Off-beat Zen

    The author reads the essay here:

  2. mannyfurious | Dec 5, 2012 at 8:44 pm |

    Great to see this stuff so readily available. I remember when my old man had to wait once/year for a local radio station to do a marathon of Alan Watts radio. Now I get to watch the videos at my leisure. He must be spinning in his ashes…

    One thing that I find interesting is that the Zen community at large has largely tried to disassociate itself from Watts. I’m not quite sure why, but I’m guessing Watts would welcome such a turn of events. He was never truly a “zen” man, he was someone who searched for “truth” and I imagine he would be somewhat disgusted with the hierachal-fetishism that the Zen community has come to embrace in this country and how “Roshis” are venerated as demigods, as evidenced by many of the reactions to the recent Sasaki scandal (“Being near him was the closest I ever got to God, so it’s ok that he groped me.”). I’ll take Watts and D.T. Suzuki any day.

  3. alan watts is the shit

    also see:

    Tony Wright

    Terence McKenna

    Robert Anton Wilson

    Dennis McKenna

    Graham Hancock

    Philip K Dick

    Rupert Sheldrake


  4. BuzzCoastin | Dec 5, 2012 at 10:20 pm |

    Alan (nobody calls me Al) Watts was/is da bomb

    Reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot, you know.
    Alan Watts

  5. MoralDrift | Dec 5, 2012 at 11:27 pm |

    I was introduced to Alan Watts while working in the university book store, during buyback. I saw a copy of “The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” in the pile of books that had recently been bought back for around a buck. I opened it up out of curiosity and was never more pleasantly surprised by a random read in my life; I learned a lot in college, most of it outside of class

  6. Omfg… I went to a related article and I read the words “You’re trying to straighten out a wiggly world, and now you’re really in trouble” and immediately collapsed into hysterical laughter. A friend once said “There’s a kink in the wyrd”, and me being the dutiful soul I wanted to help. So I attempted a magickal working, visualising the ‘fabric’ of reality with a strange twist in it and trying to smooth it out. No matter how much I wrestled and stroked it it simply would not conform to my wishes, this being followed by a strange sensation of being laughed at…

  7. Matt Staggs | Dec 6, 2012 at 10:12 am |

    Not sure if any of you caught it, but the “existence is weird” sample in the beginning of the DisinfoCast theme is from an Alan Watts lecture.

  8. This post and the one by Tony Morrill are both important for reasons that were partially addressed in Haystack’s post “Allow me to shake my cane at you” .

    Providing newer members of the “community” access to the pure sources of inspiration that so many of us hold in common serves everyone.

    Entire schools of religion and philosophy are established through the bypassing of accumulated commentary and secondary explication in favor of direct interpretation of the primary sources themselves.

    I suspect it will do us some good, as well.

    I’m glad to see this post and the others like it.

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