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This Is It: and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience Mass Market Paperback – March 12, 1973


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 12, 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394719042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394719047
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.4 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The six essays in this volume all deal with the relationship of mystical experience to ordinary life. The title essay on "cosmic consciousness" includes the author's account of his own ventures into this inward realm. "Instinct, Intelligence, and Anxiety" is a study of the paradoxes of self-consciousness; "Spiritually and Sensuality," a lively discussion of the false opposition of spirit and matter; and "The New Alchemy," a balanced account of states of consciousness akin to spiritual experience induced by the aid of lysergic acid. The collection also includes the text of Watts' celebrated pamphlet, "Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen."

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Customer Reviews

That's a good starting point.
Steven Cain
Within the conventional limits of a human community there are clear distinctions between good and evil.
Steven H Propp
I read this book the first time in my 20's.
Nova137

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lotto Budweiser on July 12, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The apparent simplicity of a statement like "This is it" is beautiful, and at the same time it is clear and equivocal. Why would we be dissatisfied with "This is it" as an explanation, proclamation, or celebration? Perhaps because we have been conditioned to expect more before ever being given the chance to appreciate the immanent.

Aside from theology, no field is more guilty of overlooking the "here and now" than philosophy - overlooking it, or simply missing it. But Alan Watts believes in a philosophy that is true to its spirit, the love of wisdom. "Such philosophy will not preach or advocate practices leading to improvement." As he understands it "the work of the philosopher as artist is to reveal and celebrate the eternal and purposeless background of human life." It may seem presumptuous for Watts to use the word purposeless, but if fact it's the opposite. To begin with, in relationships that involve observation, appreciation, celebration, or interaction with the "here and now," (life) there should be no assumptions made regarding a purpose. Assuming a purpose is already removing oneself from the "here and now" by imposing an impression that only could have been established through time, in the past. In truth, the purpose or lack thereof is not important.

We don't realize how many of these assumptions form the base for all that we experience. Watts pulls a wonderful line from Dostoyevsky: "Man is unhappy because he doesn't know he's happy. It's only that...If anyone finds out he'll become happy at once, that minute." Watts isn't trying to imply that happiness is easy. But we don't make things easier on ourselves by entangling ourselves in webs of assumption, dogma, and rigidity.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Steven Cain on September 13, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Yes, the Nike ads have captured the essence of Zen. As Alan Watts puts it, This Is It.
Logical paradoxes aside, the "just shut up and get on with it" approach to Life is one of the key elements in Zen. The 'kill the Buddha' psychology of avoiding the pitfalls of externally arising enlightenment is well in line with Watt's own philosophy.
Completeness comes from within and from a place of non-duality, which the koans of Zen are designed to lead you towards. One of the key human errors and the cause of immense suffering is the belief that Life must make sense. Who ever said that? And make sense to whom?
The Techno Bible in The Hitch Hiker's Guide bore the words "Dont Panic" on the cover. That's a good starting point. Add to that Just Do It and This Is It, and you're going to be just fine.
Another great read from the man who gave us The Two Hands Of God.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Ross James Browne on May 13, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
_This Is It_ by Alan Watts is a good solid work, but is too short to provide the rigorous instruction needed to achieve any appreciable amount of enlightenment or Zen Satori. That said, it is a wonderful, enjoyable, and profound book page for page, and is essential to round out your collection of Alan Watts' more recent and well-known works. _This Is It_ is also perfect for someone who does not want a megadose of strenuous philosophy and theology; it is ideal for those who are new to psychological-religious non-fiction, or who do not have the time to hack through some kind of magnum-opus epic of philosophy. If, however, you want to read one of the more comprehensive books by Alan Watts, I would recommend _Psychotherapy East and West_, which is his best work.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Alan Watts will remove the scales of anxiety and doubt from the eyes of anyone who suffers from the "daily-ness" of life. His clarity and exuberance of mind refreshes the spirit and refills the fuel tank of hope for the journey through "now!"
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Nova137 on February 10, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book the first time in my 20's. I read it with a fervor, but didn't get It. What he describes I had never experienced. I'm 43 now and picked it back up the other night. The first chapter describes in detail what it is like to experience Enlightenment on a daily basis, 24/7. The first chapter describes the world I inhabit now. Not the ecstasy, but the human experience of coming to grips with It, Enlightenment, the end of seeking and then simply living It. Enlightenment may have many definitions and may be different for everyone who comes to It, but Alan Watts describes some of the basic ingredients that are shared by those who live It. For one thing, Enlightenment has nothing to do with religion or the religion you are in (or not). For another, it is not a "future" event. An ecstatic state reached or other mind altering or distorting events/states are not Enlightenment, but possible signposts of it (although in my experience they did not play any significant part). My experience of Enlightenment is constant and can best be described by the author himself. He says on page 20 (Tenth Collier Printing 1971), "The central core of the experience seems to be the conviction, or insight, that the immediate now, whatever its nature, is the goal and fulfillment of all living. Surrounding and flowing from this insight is an emotional ecstasy, a sense of intense relief, freedom, and lightness, and often of almost unbearable love for the world, which is, however, secondary. Often, the pleasure of the experience is confused with the experience and the insight lost in the ecstasy, so that in trying to retain the secondary effects of the experience the individual misses its point--that the immediate now is complete even when it is not ecstatic."
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