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Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion Paperback – February 12, 1972
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Behold The Spirit
"I regard [the] book as one of the best -- in fact the only first-rate -- book in recent years in the field of religion. It gets to the fundamental problem, it honestly sees the weaknesses of contemporary Protestantism, and it attempts to diagnose and cure the evil in the only way a cure can be effected, namely by a doctrine with content at the basic metaphysical level.
"It also goes further than this, recognizing contributions from Oriental religion which simply are not present in contemporary Western religion. More than this it shows how the traditional Western doctrine of the Incarnation and the Atonement can be reconciled with and combined with the intuitive religion of the Orient, such as that of Zen Buddhism. These are exceedingly important and outstanding achievements."
"Behold the Spirit will, I think, prove to be one of the half-dozen most significant books on religion published in the twentieth century." Canon Iddings Bell
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Top Customer Reviews
To me, this type of theological question is quite fascinating. I appreciated the unorthodox and critical approach Watts took in examining a wide range of theological and general metaphysical issues. In other words, this is not an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian book; it is a critical and sceptical examination of Christianity and man's belief in God. I highly recommend this work to anyone, and if you only want to read one or two of Alan Watts' most important works, they should be _Behold the Spirit_ and _Psychotherapy East and West_. These two works represent the solid core of Alan Watts' philosophy. They are rigourous, profound, and comprehensive psychological works which are also remarkably succinct, miserly, and readable. With Alan Watts, you can obtain large amounts of elightenment in a short amount of time, with minimal aggravation and headache.
Written almost sixty years ago, Alan Watts "Behold the Spirit" is as relevant today, if not moreso, than it was then. Addressing the acute problems within both Catholicism (which is used loosely, including Orthodoxy and "High Church" protestants such as Episcopalians and Anglicans) and Protestantism, Watts chalks them up to an irrelevancy steming from the periods they evolved out of. As Watts points out, the early Christianity of the bible, Paul, the Church Fathers, the Neoplatonists, and Augustine was the high wisdom of a dying civilization- Rome. The Christianity of the medieval era was the literalist religion of a newly born Western civilization, while the Christianity of the Renaissance and modernity is the stripped-down moral faith of an adolescent civilization rebelling against it's roots. In order to gain a wisdom appropriate for a mature civilization, Watts contends, we must look to the wisdom of other mature civilizations- the Christianity of the ancients, and the mystical wisdom of the Eastern religions.
Watts goes on to discuss what a "nondual" Christianity and Christian mysticism would look like ("we must develop a Christian way of washing our hands"), the problems with philosophical modernity and Protestant moralism, and the issues of spiritual "monkey business"- thinking that we can attain sanctity by imitating forms rather than recognizing the spirit.
Overall, an important contribution to modern theology, and a worthwhile, though quick, read.
Whatever one may think of where Watts ended up late in life, this is quite simply outstanding and completely orthodox Christian theology, and treats the great doctrines of the faith through the prism of mystical experience while integrating the thought of many of the great Catholic mystics (e.g., JP de Cassaude, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Genoa, Meister Eckhart).
I was quite surprised to find that his methodology relies so heavily on Aquinas. His grasp of Aquinas' theology is sound, and his idea that the incarnation is an eternal expression of God's loving acceptance and oneness with his creation, not a shield for divine wrath, is a refreshing antidote to much of what passes for theology in evangelical circles. His adaptation of Vedanta to convey the idea of God as non-dual...that God can create REAL, OTHER beings and things and yet remain in a sense the one and only reality...the "one without a second" (I doubt I am doing his argument justice here)...was really eye-opening.
There are also flashes of pure poetry...his lengthy description of the 'purposelessness' of much of creation as a testament to God's sense of humor and loving prodigality stands as a challenge to a variety of atheisms that are based on Western bourgeois notions of 'usefulness.'
I have already given a copy of this book to friend and bought another copy for myself, and am reading it through a second time.
I started to incorporate Watt's teaching in my bible studiesand eventually i left that bastion of provincial thought and started
my own search.
All of alan's writings are absolutely enlightening i would recommend this book to anyone, no matter what they denominate themselves
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was hard to understand. I guess it was over my head, even though I'm pretty smart.
The author used a lot of references to ideas that I just couldn't quite put... Read more
Very progressive for the 1940s.
A well thought out analysis of current and past Christianity (with his Eastern bias, of course) and then a suggestion for the future of... Read more
Great ideas but he is hard to read. He is so much more intelligent than I and that is why I find him hard to read.Published 15 months ago by Clyde Komp
One of the most important book about religion available. 100% recommended.Published 15 months ago by Mrbeyong
I have read 4 Alan Watts books in my life, and this one is my favorite by far and away. Amazing and life-changing! Christianity from a Zen perspective!Published 19 months ago by video vidiot
Alan Wilson Watts (1915-1973) was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as a populariser of Eastern philosophy. Read morePublished on January 28, 2014 by Steven H Propp
There are few better explications of authentic Christianity than this one. Watts presents the great questions of suffering and evil in brilliant, accessible and honest terms. Read morePublished on January 28, 2014 by Fr. Antony