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on July 12, 2005
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.

Alan Watts is very intelligent, and very interesting - a combination not found in too many philosophers at all, let alone in the twentieth century. Though he would never claim to be offering any type of assistance or prescription, it is likely that this book will inspire you to see the world from another angle or two.
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on May 13, 2003
_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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on September 13, 2002
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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on February 10, 2009
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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on July 17, 1997
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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This was one of my favorite books by Alan Watts when I first discovered his work as a teen in the late 1960s. Upon re-reading several decades latter, I'm delighted to find that it still holds up beautifully, with its questions about the "mind forg'd manacles" society makes for itself, its deceptively simple elucidation regarding the difference between our words for things & the things themselves, the need to unify (or hold in harmonious & dynamic balance) spirit & flesh -- and much more. As always, Watts writes in a congenial, almost casual style that's more like a friend engaging you in exceptionally good conversation. That doesn't mean there's no substance to go with the style! But the style helps quite a bit, as there's no lecturing, no hectoring, and a warm sense of humor to go along with a lifetime of experience & knowledge.

Some may wonder if two of the essays are dated & irrelevant now: the essay on Beat & Square Zen, and the essay on LSD & other mind-opening drugs. I don't think they're dated at all -- "dated" being a word & concept used too often these days to dismiss anything more than a year or two old as useless & hopelessly antiquated. Fact is, society is still unwilling to genuinely explore the worthwhile uses of such drugs, due to the destructive & fear-driven War On (Some) Drugs. And as for the Beats, they remain a source of awareness & wonder for successive generations discovering them.

But the emphasis in this little volume is Zen. Not so much what it is, but what it isn't ... and also what it's sometimes mistaken for, too. The idea of cutting through our own self-imposed & self-imprisoning nets of words & ideas & constricting abstractions is always relevant. Watts doesn't pretend to be a master or teacher, just a fellow seeker with perhaps a bit more experience than most of us. And what he has to say is food for thought ... or perhaps food for the spirit. In any case, this book is most highly recommended!
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on January 18, 2003
Alan Watts explains what unity/non-dual consciousness or nothingness really is and explains how it may be different from what many people think it is. He uses various interesting examples to make his case and I thought they were very effective. Ken Wilber has elaborated on this error that people tend to make as well but I think Toru Sato's "The Ever-Transcending Spirit" really explains it the best. Although it is impossible to explain this distinction in words, it is the only medium writers have and Sato uses this meduim in a very nice way to help us understand this concept (or shall we say "non-concept"). Anyways all of these author's books are well worth reading. They are all brilliant! We are very fortunate that these people write books.
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on April 19, 2000
Zenmeister and superb wordsmith Watts becomes increasingly obscure, paradoxical, antithetical in these essays compiled in part to take the reader on a journey toward the realm of cosmic consciousness. That's okay by me, because he ends up saying some of the things I've heard before and I have started to believe: the spiritual and material are inseparable and that clarity comes about not after some years of study, and years of indoctrination and years of doing what is felt to be right and holy and is neigh impossible to make rational what is emotional. Clarity is now. It is here, it is now.
Watts' essays have not ignored the fact that people perceive things differently and that people are different--this book has some of Watts trademark wordworkings with definitions, modern parables, and comparisons of how the nature of the Zen experience should be/is....but...
The ultimate point doesn't have to go through what anyone preaches and evvyelse tells you to do to have one, it will be anyway. We in the Western 'Judeo-Christian' influenced world would perhaps rather believe in the order, the hierarchy of a supreme consciousness, hence we blind ourselves to the miracle of "it is now", "this is it"...the paradox of Watts' many writings, histories, descriptives is somewhat understandable. We don't wanna believe personal and spiritual awareness could come so easy. We say, "Where's the levels, where are the steps to happiness, where the intellectual satisfaction of a journey sought for...." Watts has provided the academics for those who want it,...but...
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon January 29, 2014
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 many popular books, such as The Spirit of Zen,The Way of Zen,Nature, Man and Woman,Psychotherapy East & West,Beyond Theology,The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,Does It Matter?,Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown,Tao: The Watercourse Way, and his autobiography, In My Own Way.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1960 book, "Although written at different times during the past four years, the essays here gathered together have a common point of focus---the spiritual or mystical experience and its relation to ordinary material life... We need... to see... that THIS---the immediate, everyday, and present experience---is IT, the entire and ultimate point for the existence of a universe." (Pg. 11)

He says, "Human purposes are pursued within an immediate circling universe which does not seem to me to have purpose, in our sense, at all. Nature is much more playful than purposeful, and the probability that is has no specific goals for the future need not strike one as a defect. On the contrary, the processes of nature as we see them both in the surrounding world and in the involuntary aspects of our own organisms are much more like art than like business, politics, or religion." (Pg. 32)

He suggests that Hinduism and Buddhism's "grasp of the mutuality of opposites is infinitely more thorough than that of our romanticist with his exclusive valuation of precipitate and uncalculated action. The difficult and subtle point which the romanticist misses and which, on the other extreme, the strict intellectual rationalist cannot understand at all, is that if ALL action and existence is in accord with the undeviating Tao or way of nature, no special means or methods are required to bring this accord into being." (Pg. 51)

He states, "If, therefore, consciousness ceases to ignore itself and becomes fully self-conscious, it discovers two things: (1) that it controls itself only very slightly, and is thoroughly dependent on other things---father and mother, external nature, biological processes, God, or what you will, and (2) that there is no little man inside, no 'I' who owns this consciousness. And if that is so, if I do not own my own consciousness, and if there is even no 'me' to own it, to receive it, or to put up with it, who on earth is there to be either the victim of fate of the master of nature?" (Pg. 56)

He asserts, "The world is seen to be beyond right and wrong when it is not framed: that is to say, when we are not looking at a particular situation by itself---out of relation to the rest of the universe. Within this room there is a clear difference between up and down; out in interstellar space there is not. Within the conventional limits of a human community there are clear distinctions between good and evil. But these disappear when human affairs are seen as part and parcel of the whole realm of nature." (Pg. 93)

He argues, "If the love of God and the love of the world are mutually exclusive, then, on the very premises of theology, God is a finite thing among things---for only finite things exclude one another. God is dethroned and un-godded by being put in opposition to nature and the world, becoming an object instead of the continuum in which we 'live and move and have our being.'" (Pg. 120)

These six essays (only two of which were published previously) will be of interest to all fans of Watts' later writings.
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on July 17, 2011
I am an avid follower of the spacial concepts presented by "Stephen Hawking," (Cosmologist, Physicist - see Discovery Channel version of "Into the Universe" - DVD). So for me, Alan Watts makes a great deal of sense. Each book from this deceased author (circa 1940's - 1970's), has been an inspiration in Eastern thought. While one must consider our immediate Western world, with all of it's buildings and bridges, Alan Watts takes us down another path. The path of calmness and reflection. For me, the author lends value and understanding to a complicated subject. I can still live and work in a Westernized medium, while applying to my own life, a calming Eastern philosophy that makes me realize that "stress," is simply "fear," and that fear is from the unknown. Once we get that, and this book along with other works makes that perfectly clear. I am that I am!
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