The Collected Letters of Alan Watts

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9781608686087: The Collected Letters of Alan Watts
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Philosopher, author, and lecturer Alan Watts (1915-1973) popularized Zen Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies for the counterculture of the 1960s. Today, new generations are finding his writings and lectures online, while faithful followers worldwide continue to be enlightened by his teachings. The Collected Letters of Alan Watts reveals the remarkable arc of Watts's colorful and controversial life, from his school days in England to his priesthood in the Anglican Church as chaplain of Northwestern University to his alternative lifestyle and experimentation with LSD in the heyday of the late sixties. His engaging letters cover a vast range of subject matter, with recipients ranging from High Church clergy to high priests of psychedelics, government officials, publishers, critics, family, and fans. They include C. G. Jung, Henry Miller, Gary Snyder, Aldous Huxley, Reinhold Niebuhr, Timothy Leary, Joseph Campbell, and James Hillman. Watts's letters were curated by two of his daughters, Joan Watts and Anne Watts, who have added rich, behind-the-scenes biographical commentary.

Edited by Joan Watts & Anne Watts

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Review:

"Altogether revelatory."
-- Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

"The writings of Alan Watts, a prominent 20th-century Western interpreter of East Asian religion and philosophy, receive a formidable bolstering in this revealing collection of unpublished letters compiled by two of his daughters. . . . The first half of the collection is particularly illuminating: the letters reveal a sharp, delighted mind, conversing with others in near-paroxysm to synthesize Buddhist insight with Christian metaphysics and "God-as-Person" theology (his early emphasis on mystical experience as a dramatic action hints toward his later intellectual development as a popular guru of 70s counterculture). Commentary by his daughters gives context to some crucial details that are otherwise elided by Watts himself, such as the deterioration of a few of his marriages and his relationships with literary figures such as Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, and Sokei-an Sasaki. This collection is a gold mine of insights, offering glimpses into a brilliant mind for newcomers and the acquainted alike."
-- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Perhaps the most complete and accurate profile of the man and his work. . . . Watts's daughters . . . add indispensable context and insights into Watts's personal and family life. . . . The Collected Letters adds a new portal to the identity of the man most responsible for introducing Zen Buddhism and the many strands of Eastern philosophy to the masses in the West."
-- Foreword (starred review)

"Alan Watts's influence in the USA, which began to really flourish in the mid-1950s, was remarkable. Alan was so clear and such a good writer, and so well grounded in the teachings and worldview he extolled, that he was taken by some as 'easy' and glib. Without artifice, a truly human life and heart, he was both deep and accessible, and made no effort to impress. Consequently, he was impressive, and he lived his life fully and to the end. . . . I knew Alan over twenty-five years, and he was always a grand and instructive friend to me. Yet it took some years after his death before I could see and appreciate the whole. This collection of letters will entrance and challenge you, and be with you for decades."
-- Gary Snyder, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet

"This collection of letters reveals more about Alan Watts than we'd known before, his faults as well as his many virtues, his weaknesses as well as his strengths, and turns of his wisdom not to be found in his books. He called himself a philosophical entertainer, but he was much more than that. You can learn a lot about Chinese and Japanese aesthetics from him, about secrets of language, about the satoris of everyday life. What a life he lived! Yeats said of Oscar Wilde that he left half of what he had to say in conversation instead of his written works. I can testify that Alan, too, left much of his genius unwritten. If Wilde was the greatest conversationalist of his day, Alan arguably was the greatest of his. Fortunately, though, he has left us his recordings and these letters."
-- Michael Murphy, cofounder of Esalen Institute

"Alan Watts once told me, 'In fifty years, nobody will remember me.' To the contrary, his books, essays, and recorded lectures have gained in stature in recent decades, and the claim that he simply popularized Eastern wisdom has been eclipsed by a recognition of his scholarly insights. I never knew Alan to utter a boring sentence or write a dull word. This collection of his letters bears testimony to my impressions. His keen observations, his witty rejoinders, and his depth of knowledge are reflected in this incredible collection. B --Chungliang Al Huang, founder and president of the Living Tao Foundation and director of the International Lan Ting Institute

About the Author:

Alan Watts is best known as an interpreter of Zen Buddhism in particular and of Indian and Chinese philosophy in general. He earned the reputation of being one of the most original and unfettered philosophers of the twentieth century. He was the author of more than twenty books, including The Way of Zen, The Wisdom of Insecurity, The Meaning of Happiness, Psychotherapy East and West, The Book, This Is It, The Joyous Cosmology, In My Own Way, and Tao, the Watercourse Way (with Chungliang Al Huang). He died in 1973.

Editors Joan Watts and Anne Watts are Alan Watts's eldest children.

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