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The Wisdom of Insecurity Paperback – September 12, 1968

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Paperback, September 12, 1968
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Edition edition (September 12, 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394704681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394704685
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 4.4 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #578,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Reading Alan Watts challenges us to explore new avenues of thinking, inspires us to lead more fulfilling lives. His legacy lives on in The Wisdom of Insecurity, a work that energetically displays Watts’s piercing intellect, razor-sharp wit, and winning grace. For the clarity and wisdom with which it engages timeless concerns crucial to us all, it is unmatched. An important book.”
Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea

“Perhaps the foremost interpreter of Eastern disciplines for the contemporary West, Watts had the rare gift of ‘writing beautifully the unwritable.’”
Los Angeles Times

“The wisdom of insecurity is not a way of evasion, but of carrying on wherever we happen to be stationed—carrying on, however, without imagining that the burden of the world, or even of the next moment, is ours. It is a philosophy not of nihilism but of the reality of the present—always remembering that to be of the present is to be, and candidly know ourselves to be, on the crest of a breaking wave.”
—Philip Wheelwright, Arts and Letters
“This book proposes a complete reversal of all ordinary thinking about the present state of man. The critical condition of the world compels us to face this problem: how is man to live in a world in which he can never be secure, deprived, as many are, of the consolations of religious belief? The author shows that this problem contains its own solution—that the highest happiness, the supreme spiritual insight and certitude are found only in our awareness that impermanence and insecurity are inescapable and inseparable from life. Written in a simple and lucid style, it is a timely message.”
Book Exchange (London)

From the Inside Flap

An exploration of man's quest for psychological security and spiritual certainty in religion and philosophy.

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Customer Reviews

This book is extremely well written.
Alan Watts is one of the most understandable writers on the topic of Zen Buddhism.
Shawn Regan
It will very likely change the way you think about your life.
Scott Hess

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

155 of 155 people found the following review helpful By Jerry L. Brinegar, Ph.D. on November 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
I am a therapist that recommends this incredibly insightful book to most of my clients, especially those suffering from anxiety disorders and control issues. Alan Watts is a century ahead of his time. "For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable." For man, we often miss this moment by trying to assure the next moment will be as enjoyable. Alan's book is required reading, in my opinion, for all therapists practicing therapy in this security obsessed world. Great book! One of my psychotherapy bibles!
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83 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Joseph L. Rockne on May 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'm no longer sure how I bumped into this book. I'm sure it was from a review or a list of best books to read. In any event, I'm glad I did bump into.
Alan Watts writes about the obvious. But, like so many simple things, we need his clear and effective writing to see that what he says is truely obvious. Basically, we spend too much time planning and anticipating the future and too much time thinking about, lamenting and wishing to change the past. I have dogeared too many corners underlying too many quotes to reproduce them all here, but let me give you a flavor:
"If happiness always depends on the future, we are chasing a will-o-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future,and ourselves,vanish in the abyss of death."
This quote is taped to the cover of my fanancial notebook that contains my financial portfolio data, 401K information and reams and reams of retirement plan calculations.
He also wrote:
"But tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unlessyou are in full contact withthe reality of the present,since it is in the present and onlyin thepresent that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly."
This short book contains so many pearls, go get yourself a copy, pick some quotes, write them down, look at them, reread them (e-mail them to me) and get on with living today.
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78 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Brandy on February 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
At the tender age of eight years, I held this book in my hands for the first time, a gift from my father. Somehow he (who then and always has known too much) felt that by allowing me to find such insight while still so young he could show me intellectual avenues that happened upon him too late. Of course at eight years old I had not lived or thought enough to understand much of the more self-centered implications of what Watts has to say, but the intellectual gyrations got me started. I've never stopped since. Since then, now nearly twenty years ago, I have revisited this book whenever I feel myself growing unclear and uneasy about the universe and my "place" within it. The only problem is that I find myself buying it over and over again because I keep giving it away, to those that, at the time, seem to need clarity more than do I. But I always come back.
Oh, and if anyone becomes desperate for the answer to the anagram, I know it (after ten years of crossing my eyes at it). But it's much more satisfying to see it for yourself.
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69 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Ross James Browne on March 26, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent place to start reading philosophy. _The Wisdom of Insecurity_ was obviously written for the layman, making it ideal for those who are new to this type of nonfiction. In it, Alan Watts explains to us various ways of accepting and dealing with anxiety and insecurity in spiritual matters. This technique of acceptance was clearly derived from the Hindu and Buddhist methods of establishing a calm and mellow outlook on life. Like these great Eastern religions, Alan Watts does not try to tackle issues of theological truth head-on, but instead sidesteps the eternal questions. This is not because he is incapable of dealing with more complex metaphysical issues - he does so in great depth in his other, longer works. Neither is this method of sidestepping our sources of anxiety an evasion of rational, empirical truth. This book is not a rigorous empiricist study, and never claimed to be. It is instead a psychotheapeutic work verging on the anti-intellectual, but at the same time embracing meditation and contemplation. Watts shows us ways to act out our love for wisdom and enlightenment by concentrating on the positive and accepting (but not dwelling on) disturbing questions which he considers to be unanswerable. This is not an atheistic work nor is it a tale of despair. This is a work infused with hope, while being mindful of the truth. It succeeds in treading a sort of middle ground between the love of knowledge and anti-intellectualism.
The only problem with this book is its short length, although some might consider this an advantage. If you are looking for a more in-depth and rigorous study, try _Behold the Spirit_ or _Psychotherapy East and West_, also by Alan Watts.
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful By wendy on May 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
The path is simple, but walking it is more difficult than it sounds. This book was a gift to me from a friend whose sanity, insight and wisdom I've always admired.
This book, although written in very basic, simple but elegant language, is a challenging read merely because the ideas that are expressed are so powerful that you may well find yourself reading the same sentence several times over before you feel like you've completely taken it in.
Its been absolutely instrumental in helping me navigate through a particular instable period in my life. Everyone knows the key to happiness boils down to a simple, hackneyed cliche: 'Don't Worry, Be Happy.' But this books explains very rationally, yet gently, why this is so. I keep it on my bed at all times, and pick it up on certain difficult nights, read a few paragraphs, and remember: the future is out of my hands, and the past is both out of my hands and distorted by my own interpretation of it. The past can never be usefully compared to the present. NOW is the time to focus on. Wake up! Look around! Everything is before you...NOW.
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