57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In My Own Way: Alan Watts, His Own Way
This autobiography, published 1972, by Alan Wilson Watts, the expatriate British orientalist and philosopher, is a joy to read, a document of Watts' life, and a history of the 1960s counterculture.
Watts early on evidenced a love for eastern philosophy. At the age of 20, he was already one of the major writers and thinkers on subjects such as Zen Buddhism and...
Published on December 19, 1999 by Konrei
59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing
I didn't find this autobiography as appealing as many of the other flowery reviews. I like Alan Watts' philosophical pieces a lot, but there was something in the tone of his autobiography that was arrogant and misleading. His writing is beautiful, as usual, but there is lack of intimacy that I would have expected in a candid autobiography, especially from someone who...
Published on October 19, 2002
Most Helpful First | Newest First
57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In My Own Way: Alan Watts, His Own Way,
Watts early on evidenced a love for eastern philosophy. At the age of 20, he was already one of the major writers and thinkers on subjects such as Zen Buddhism and Taoism. He was a major exponent of the Zen outlook of Thou Art That.
Watts, an unfrocked Episcopal priest, has often been derided (wrongfully) as a 'popularizer' of subjects more properly reserved for serious study and practice, and (more rightly) as sometimes glib and definitely irreverent. This book is a record of Watts' indulgence in the pleasures of the flesh with a high spiritual purpose.
Watts wrote more than 20 books, and this is Watts at his irreverent best. Written with his tongue firmly jammed into his cheek, it is a compendium of a lifetime's worth of exuberant fun and learning for the joy of it.
Watts gleefully recounts tales of spiritual masters with stomachaches, hidebound bishops drinking fine wines, and sexy women discovering their Buddha-nature.
Nothing is too minor or too major for Watts's wit, and his reminiscences carry us from the bathroom of his childhood home in England to Canterbury Cathedral, from New York City to Big Sur, and touch on almost every major and many minor figures of the 1950s and 1960s.
Watts unabashedly tells us that he finds his life intensely interesting. Anyone reading IN MY OWN WAY would agree.
59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing,
By A Customer
More importantly, his recounting of his life completely lacks a sense of problems or misfortunes. Some people really do lack this, but from his biographies it is evident that Alan Watts did not. He does not (at the request of his father) talk about his relationship with his mother at all in the book, and he also does not discuss at all his alcoholism problems. He also does not discuss the sexual problems which led to his first marriage dissolving, and doesn't really explain why he divorced his second wife. I found this disappointing because he probably had a lot of wisdom to share about this. It also makes him seem less human. ...
Despite all this, the autobiography is entertaining and definitely worth reading for anyone interested in an inside view of the counterculture movement. His reflections, though at times a little too confident, are still mostly interesting to read.
However, I would recommend reading this book along with an objective biography like "Zen Effects- the Life of Alan Watts" to get a more balanced view on his life.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a courageous and original mind,
The book is also filled with details that are as fascinating as they are hilarious. A friend of his youth made a pilgrimage to a famous and ancient monastery, which he discovered was "an elaborate homosexual organization." Though he lacked a university degree, Watts was allowed to study at Northwestern, which he described as "the type of place where philosphers worked from 9 to 5." Later, in LA, he hung out with Aldous Huxley, experimenting with hallucinogens, beating drums all night long, and listening to the incredible rhythm of that brilliant man's speech, which he says arrested all conversation in entire restaurants. The list goes on and on.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Way I Came To Be,
It was only at the insistence of two women in his life, his publisher's editor, Paula McGuire, and his third wife, Mary Jane Yates, that he consented to write down the details of the making of Alan Watts. Along the way we meet the people who influenced Alan, who helped guide, shape, and direct his persona. And though he was influenced by many people in his life, whose works and ideas found their way into his many books, essays, and lectures, Alan possessed, all on his own, a certain knack or genius for getting at the essence of a theme or subject. And then he was able to effectively communicate that essence, using his abundant imagination, to his readers and listeners. And this not just for the highbrows in the audience, but for every class of person who picks up one of his books and proceeds to make the effort to understand the ideas and concepts he expresses. Alan's work was, if anything, accessible to the reader, whatever his level of interest.
The title of this review, The Way I Came To Be, refers to the story that makes up the book. And so much of that story centers around the people Alan interacted with from whom he gathered the ideas, concepts and "philosophy" that he expoused. It's the inside story of how Alan Watts came to think and see things in the way he came to think and see them. And for this value alone the book is abundantly worth reading and re-reading.
(From a personal point of interest, it fascinated and amazed me, at first reading several years ago, how much my own life paralleled and intersected the same aspects of cultivation as his life: an early interest in Eastern philosophy; being associated with and entering a Western religious order, Episcopal in his case and old Catholic in my own; an interest in the metaphysical rituals of religion; a background in meditation combined with a fascination with psychology and psychoanalysis; and an insight into the little talked about mystical aspects of Western religions and the thought to express the marriage between Western and Eastern mysticism.)
In My Own Way is, in reality, an extension of Alan Watts' previous books in that it covers a lot of the same ground but with new stories of the people he lived with which provides additional insight into the concepts and ideas he wrote about.
For instance, there is the passage that quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson from his famous essay on "Self-Reliance" in which Emerson is writing about the timelessness of things in nature, roses in this case, and how the roses "make no reference to former roses or the better ones; they are for what they are....There is no time for them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence...But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past,or,...stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time."
And then Watts writes: "Sokei-an Sasaki told me that reading this passage touched off his first experience of satori." Sokei-an Sasaki was one of the Zen masters with whom Watts studied. An alert reader, recognizing this fact, would be fascinated to learn about this passage which had such a profound effect upon a Zen master to see whether or not it could have the same effect on him. When one is on the path to self discovery, every little clue is valuable. And such clues as this, coming as it does from the experience of a Zen master, are especially invaluable.
There are dozens and dozens of such moments of insight and clarity offered up in this autobiography that it makes it a joy to read.
And if you are a careful reader, that is if you can read between the lines, you might even learn a thing or two about Alan Watts the man in addition to what you learn about his public facade. And herein lies the value of biography or autobiography and the reading of such, because the reader has the opportunity to gain a rare look at the inside workings of a fellow human being in order to learn and gain wisdom from that person's life which he can then apply to his own life.
You may learn, for example, to recognize and avoid the fatal flaw in Alan's approach to life that took him out at such a relatively young age, fifty-eight. And I'm not referring here to the much discussed abuse of alcohol, although that undoubtedly was a contributing factor. But it was secondary, however, and not the primary factor which led to his early death. He does mention the reason once or twice, but it's so well camouflaged that most people will read right through it without recognizing its significance. I'll leave it to you, the reader of his autobiography, to come to your own conclusion.
At any rate, suffice it to say that this book is a treasure trove of subtle wisdom, valuable perceptions, and fascinating stories of the development and coronation of one of Western civilization's most visible spiritual gurus.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly entertaining and a nice compliment to his other work,
One of the most memorable stories for me was his recounting of a game he used to play called, "you are the target." In this game, you shoot an arrow up in the air and measure how close it lands to you. This was done in the context of adolescent competition and Watts brings this spirit and fearlessness of youth alive.
Alan Watts had a great sense of humor and was a deep thinker. He also had a gift for analogy and getting his points across with rich prose. This book represents some of his best writing in terms of vulnerability, openness and reflecting on his own life. It may or may not be very accurate, but it is certainly quite entertaining.
I also found that this was a good book to get a sense of the context for various other books that Alan Watts wrote over the course of his life. I have found some to be better than others, but all of them to be useful in some ways.
My favorite books by Alan Watts are the WAY OF ZEN, THE WISDOM OF INSECURITY and THE BOOK. Some of his later books, I found to be of lower quality, but he was in the zone when he wrote the three above. NATURE, MAN and WOMAN was also quite good and there is a lot of humor and deep insights throughout.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars quite a guy.,
This review is from: In My Own Way: An Autobiography (Paperback)I saw Alan Watts speak at Oklahoma University. Dressed in a suit, he began by saying that he usually war robes but said that "I'd been told I was going somewhere called 'Norman' in 'Oklahoma.'" He'd given a speech the night before and the head of the philosophy department had presented him with a list of 13 logical objections to his speech. He thought that was pretty funny and didn't even bother to reply. I recall thinking how humiliated I would be if I'd been that guy.
Watts was my first introduction to Asian thought. As Buddhism became popular in America I began reading other authors who seemed to take it more seriously. For years I thought of Watts as a lightweight. When I picked up one of his essays a couple years ago I began thinking that really, his gift was his light heart.
He lived quite a life. He was born in Victorian England and he died in psychedelic America. He was a sharp observer of the world and understood both places very well. He was wise enough to avoid taking an ideological position on religion. He was a guy who was way out there living life just as it was. Anyone intersted in a breezy history of the counterculture will find this book a fascinating read.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Watts` journey from young man to Zen teacher,
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zen Hedonism,
Watts thinking and approach to life are emblematic of the 1960s,
It is interesting to consider, however, how far the human potential movement in its latest incarnation - the new-age movement- diverged from the course laid down by Watts. For one thing, though he was a popularizer, Watts was undoubtedly an intellectual and would accept little or nothing as a matter of faith. The "New Age", on the other hand, seems to be intellectually vacuous. Like newagers, Watts did turn to the Orient for answeres. This may originally have been inspired by a sort of exoticism, but after having tried to frame his spirituality withinin the epicopalian faith (he became an ordained minister),
The New Age seems to have reconstructed a more Oriental God, who nonetheless resembles the fatherly God of their Catholic/Protestant parents. This God says "Thou Shalt" (although his rules are slightly different) and looks after his followers as a shepherd does for his flock. This takes many guises...the New Thought one, where if you supplicate to God and repeat enough affirmations, God, under the sobriquet of "the Universe" will grant you what you want...or the guru, in traditional costume or in his new thread as psychotherapist.
On the one hand, the new age is either ascetic or it fully embraces hyperconsumersim. It is apparent throughout this biography that Watts rejects both of these paths. On the one hand, he does not envision the body as fallen spirit, but as part of the universe, hence part of God, and to be celebrated.
This was my first reading of Watts, though I had listened to a few of his recorded lectures. I shall read more. I am particularly interested in understanding this question of the "illusion of the ego", in comparison with concept of the individual from the point of view of cartesianism or postmodernism.
Apart from those concerns, it was an enjoyable read. I found the first 50 pages, concerned with his childhood, to be a bit slow, but after that it was a real page-turner.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE "SPIRITUAL ENTERTAINER" TELLS (SPINS?) HIS OWN STORY,
This review is from: IN MY OWN WAY, AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Mass Market Paperback)Alan Wilson Watts (1915-1973) was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as a populariser of Eastern philosophy. He and his then-wife left England for America in 1938 on the eve of WWII, and he became an Episcopal priest---but he left the priesthood in 1950 and moved to California, where he became a cult figure in the Beat movement of the 1950s and later.
He wrote in the Preface to this 1972 book, "I thought I had no business writing an autobiography, because I have been a sedentary and contemplative character... and also somewhat of a disreputable epicurean who has had three wives, seven children, and five grandchildren---and I cannot make up my mind whether I am confessing or boasting... It seemed to me, therefore, that I had no STORY to tell... But two women [his wife, and an editor] absolutely insisted that I write this tale..." (Pg. x)
He argues, "To take sides in a modern, technological war is to take sides in a lunatic asylum... Call me a physical coward, a sissy, a nervous Nellie, a traitor, a deserter, a chicken, a worm, a slug, a salamander, or anything you like, but I have always used my ingenuity to stay out of these ridiculous uproars. I would rather exercise my manhood in bed with the ladies..." (Pg. 23)
He admits, "I am an unrepentant sensualist. I am an immoderate lover of women and the delights of sexuality, of the greatest french, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine, of wines and spiritous drinks, of smoking cigars and pipes, of gardens, forests, and oceans, of jewels and paintings, of colorful clothes, and of finely bound and printed books." (Pg. 54-55)
He states, "I do not consider it intellectually respectable to be a partisan in matters of religion... Thus I am not formally a committed member of any creed or sect and hold no particular religious view or doctrine as absolute. I deplore missionary zeal... 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." (Pg. 72)
He concludes, "If I would become more Christlike, I should remember that the Crusades and the Holy Inquisition were conducted in his name. If I would practice asceticism, I should bear it in mind that Hitler was quite an ascetic... If I would observe sobriety, I should recall that Bertrand Russell put down a fifth of whiskey daily, and if I would find it in myself to be chaste, I should ... twit myself that I once had the privilege of sharing a mistress with one of the holiest men in the land." (Pg. 423)
For anyone interested in Watts' spoken words and writings, this (somwhat elusive) book will be of great interest.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In His Book's Way,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: In My Own Way: An Autobiography (Paperback)In My Own Way by good old Alan was a fantastically joyful experience, and I am still not quite at the end, although I have sneak-peaked at what the end is about, so I am convinced the last chapter will be just as fulfilling.
In the beginning of the book, Watts points out that in a biography there is basically two stances that the writer can take; either he/she boasts or confesses - that was not what our spiritual entertainer had in mind, even though, as he states in the book, he has of course had some wonderfully satisfying experiences at, and made even more enjoyable with, the expense of stuffy people. What I am trying to say here is that this book is not the ordinary autobiography at all, and that if you are expecting a very detailed and honest insight to his life, like a confession or a pompous description of himself, this book will disappoint you greatly. Although he lets out a few hints of his character at times, there is more of his always charming and complex descriptions of his experiences with places and people that impressed upon him more than usual. If anything is to be said about his philosophy within this book, I think it is safe to conclude that this book contains a large collection of his most profoundly written work, delivered within very short bursts, so naturally this book requires you to have heard some of his lectures and or read his other books before you delve into this one. He does not explain it very thoroughly, because it is his glimpses, and once again he most definitely wrote this in the assumption that you have been involved in his work before.
The only negative remarks I can contrive about this book is that it, at times, becomes somewhat uninteresting - but I am fully prepared to admit that that is because I have not yet the mindset to fully grasp his mumbling about detailed flower-types et cetera. This book was written by a man in his late 50's, and at the age of 17, I think, there is still a lot to be found in his work, which is why I always pay more and more attention to his work as I go my way; in Alan's work there are several layers, whether he planned that to be or not. Some of the layers you discover within the book or in his other work might even be your extended philosophy with his as the basis, so give yourself some credit when this happens! What I meant by uninteresting, was that he, as is obvious, because anything that is uninteresting to you is uninteresting for the very reason that it is uninteresting, writes about things that become quite lengthy and incomprehensible at times (for me who does not have the interest to go back and read it several times, but rest I am certain I will some time). But, however, these things that he writes of is probably the knowledge of a man who had really understood that it was his own life, and his interests were his universe; his playground. It is up to others if they want to hop in the sandbox and join in or go to church and whatnot.
Overall, this is a very witty and humorous book, describing only in elaborate detail his encounters with other famous philosophers and artists, and the dialogue between them of which he has a very good recollection. Enjoy In My Own Way, and even though I did not like parts of the book, there is a subtle feeling in me which tells me that I will at some point, which is why I gave this book five stars. I hope this book becomes a prominent influence In Your Way, as it did me!
Most Helpful First | Newest First
In My Own Way: An Autobiography by Alan Watts (Paperback - May 2, 2007)