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The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are Paperback – August 28, 1989

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 163 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Reissue edition (August 28, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723004
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Modern Western culture and technology is inextricably tied to the belief in the existence of a self as a separate ego, separated from and in conflict with the rest of the world. In this classic book, Watts provides a lucid and simple presentation of an alternative view based on Hindu and Vedantic philosophy.

From the Inside Flap

A witty attack on the illusion that the self is a separate ego that confronts a universe of alien physical objects.

Customer Reviews

I'm even buying extra copies to give away!
Alan Watts is great and the book is very well written.
It will be one of the best decisions of your life.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

496 of 512 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 26, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book when it was first published in 1966, re-read it after an unexpected opportunity to meet Alan Watts just before he died (in 1973), and then re-read it again recently after having recommended it highly to a close personal friend. Long ago, I became convinced that the nature and extent of any book's impact are almost entirely dependent on (a) the nature and extent of our life experiences when reading a book and (b) the nature and extent of our ability to absorb and digest whatever that book may offer. Watts's The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are offers an excellent case in point. Frankly, Watts's personal impact on me now is greater than were the first and second readings of his book. At the beginning of our brief encounter, I immediately sensed his stunning intellect and compelling decency. More impressive by far was a sense of his spirituality. It was most evident in his eyes and tone of voice. More then twenty years later, I re-read The Book. What follows is an admittedly clumsy attempt to share my thoughts and feelings about it.

First, with regard to the title and subtitle, Watts explains that "The Book I am thinking about [and later wrote] would not be religious in the usual sense, but it would have to discuss many things with which religions have been concerned -- the universe and man's place in it, the mysterious center of experience which we call 'I myself.' the problems of life and love, pain and death, and the whole question of whether existence has meaning has meaning in [in italics] any sense of the word."

With regard to the subtitle, Watts explains that there is no need for a new religion or a new bible. "We need a new experience -- a new feeling of what it is to be 'I.
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179 of 186 people found the following review helpful By n0s4a2 on August 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
A "hip" teacher lent me this book when I was 17, and I thought it was fascinating, entertaining, and thought-provoking. 20 years later, I was listening to a series of recorded lectures by the author on my local public radio station, and it finally dawned on me what he was talking about in the book I had read in 1971! This isn't even Watts' "best" book, but its the best one to start with if you have reached the intellectual dead-end, as I had as a bright teenager, of "scientific" materialism. Watts writes in plain language, using everyday examples, and is simply the best translator of Hindu, Toaist and Buddhist philosophies into language that Westerners can easily understand. He is also a witty storyteller and delightful personality. If you read this, give it 20 years to sink in before you write your review. When you finally "get" it, you'll be walking 3 inches off the ground. Of course, now that everybody you meet is either into quasi-Eastern New-Age beliefs or rutted in reactionary Fundamentalist dogma, the book may read differently. But it's more likely that Watts' genuine acceptance of human foibles, egoless wisdom, light-hearted, amused honesty and absolutely penetrating insights into the nature of reality would make "The Book" accessible to any human who likes to think.
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90 of 94 people found the following review helpful By John P. Morgan VINE VOICE on November 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
Being a "wannabe" Hippie, I kew that eventually I would have to read this book because this book was once considered a very subversive text. Nowadays, books by Wayne Dyer, Marrianne Williamson, and Deepak Chopra are writing books left and right with the same kind of stuff that Alan Watts wrote about in the late 50s, early 60s. And even though I appreciate the works of Dyer, Williamson, and Chopra, their words don't seem to carry as much as a "punch" as the words of Watts. I don't know why that is. Maybe it's just my own interpretation of the material. Maybe it's because I used to listen to him late at night on the far left-end of the dial on a publically sponsored radio station listening and reading everything that I knew my dad would "hate" and "dissaprove" of. The ironic thing is, is that he read and listened to Watts long before I did but like a lot of us, he got caught up in Life and put some things aside and focused on changing diapers instead of minds, rasing a family rather than raising consciousness, and yet he still held onto a few "jewels" of Truth that he wanted to impart with me, and me, being an idiot as well as a teenager (aren't they synonomous) thought and felt that somehow he was trying to be the boss of me.

When I read these essays now, I am comforted by Watts' brilliant way of making the abstract, a little more "user friendly". The essay, 'How To Be A Genuine Fake' was most helpful as I was studying to become a spiritual counselor (a practitioner)for my church. It seemed as though everyone was holding themselves in some glorious light of what they were doing. It became a new game that they were playing with themselves. "Oh, when I get this practitioner license I will be this and I will be that...
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93 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
I never gave Watts his full due of respect back in the 60's and 70's, because at the time I (and others) saw him as a trendy popularizer perhaps cashing in on the interest of that segment of the western readership who are perennially eastern-obsessed and therefore too naive and uncritical of their philosophy. Back then, there were just too many young people, who, having rejected whatever western culture they were brought up in, simply accepted, lock, stock, and barrel, Tao, Vedanta, and/or Buddhism after having read one or two books and therefore having finally discovered "the truth."
Well, looking back, that's perhaps too harsh an assessment, and I will say that Watts's book is an extremely well-written, concise, and clear introduction to Vedantic thought that is as relevant today as it was 35 years ago. I recently picked up the book after 30 years, and found that in many ways I enjoyed it even more than I did back then.
As others have commented more completely on the usefulness and relevance of the philosophy in the book, I will just mention one thing. I really enjoyed his discussion about the fear of death. Watts points out that the way western culture deals practically and philosophically with death, isolating the individual from feeling a part of the universe as a whole on the one hand, and as basically a taboo subject, on the other, is unproductive and ultimately does nothing to resolve the issue. He points out that the denial process of sweeping it under the rug only makes it worse, and that ultimately the only solution is to just face one's fear. If death frightens you or makes you afraid, well then, be afraid. At least be honest about it, because that's the first step to realistically starting to deal with the problem.
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