Alan Watts is a British philosopher known for his popularization of Zen Buddhism and the translations of works on Eastern philosophy.
Childhood and early years
Alan Watts was born into a middle-class family. His father worked in the London office of the company “Michelin”, producing automobile tires, the mother was a housewife.
A significant impetus to the development of religious views of the boy was given by his mother’s faithful family.
Alan studied at the Royal Canterbury School.
In adolescence, the boy goes to France with a rich epicurean Francis Croshaw.
The Buddhist beliefs of Kroshow have a strong influence on Alan’s worldview.
Returning to his homeland, Watts becomes a member of the London Buddhist Lodge, founded by Theosophists and acted under the guidance of attorney Krismas Humphreys.
In 1931 Watts is appointed secretary of this organization.
The Philosophical Path
After graduating from high school, Watts works as a painter, and later gets a job at the bank.
At the same time, he diligently studies philosophy, history, psychology, psychiatry and eastern wisdom.
He communicates with such outstanding authors of works on spiritual development as Nicholas Roerich, Dr. Sarwepalli Radhakrishnan, as well as theosophists – such as Alice Bailey.
In 1936 Wats attended the World Congress on Faith, held at the University of London. It was there that he first heard about DT Suzuki, a well-known follower of the Zen-Buddhist teachings, which he would later meet personally.
Watts also studies the fundamental theories and terminology of the mainstream philosophies of India and East Asia.
In 1936, Wats publishes his first book, The Spirit of Zen, on which he was inspired by the writings of Suzuki.
Two years later, in 1938, Watts moved to America.
In New York, he throws the doctrine of Zen Buddhism, because he is not satisfied with the approach of the teacher to the treatment of this philosophy.
To find a professional application of the accumulated philosophical knowledge, he enters the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, where he studies Christian scripture, theology and the history of the church. Defending the thesis, Watts receives a master’s degree in theology.
Subsequently, this thesis will be published under the title “Contemplation of the Spirit: The Teaching
on the Need for a Mystic Religion.”
In 1951 Watts moved to California to enter the staff of the American Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco.
For several years, Watts will be a member of the Academy’s senior staff. During his stay at the school, he studies Chinese writing and learns the techniques of Chinese calligraphy.
However, the teaching post of Wats soon leaves, and goes on a free voyage, which in 1953 begins with what constitutes a program of programs for “Pacific Radio” on the radio station “KPFA” in Berkeley.
In 1957, Watts published his most famous work, The Zen Path, in which he discusses the explication of philosophical problems at various stages in the development of history.
At the same time Watts goes to Europe, where he meets with the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung.
Upon his return to America, under the influence of this meeting, he begins to take hallucinogenic drugs.
Watts wrote his works in this period in the language of modern science and psychology, searching for the points of contact between the mystical phenomena and theories of materiality of the universe put forward by physicists of the 20th century.
During his research, Watts meets with many outstanding minds, art figures and teachers of his time.
In his book “Tao: the path of water,” he declares himself a follower of the Zen doctrine in spirit.
In his cycle of audio lectures “We are all crazy,” Watts discusses in detail about the upbringing of children, art, kitchens of the world, education, legislation and freedom, as well as architecture and the division of the sexes.
The divergences of his views with the generally accepted understanding of the institution of marriage and the traditional values of American society are vividly reflected in his classic judgments about love relationships in the book “Divine madness.”
“The spirit of Zen”
“The Western man and the heritage of Asia”
“The meaning of happiness”
“Psychotherapy in the East and West”
“Cosmic joy of enlightenment: adventures in the world of self-awareness”
Personal life and heritage
His first wife, Eleanor Everett, Wats meets in 1936, and in April 1938 the couple plays a wedding. In the family, two children were born. The marriage lasted eleven years.
In 1950, he married Dorothy DeWitt, from the union with which he will have five children.
At his lectures in New York, Watts meets his third wife, Mary Jane Yates King, whose marriage will be concluded in 1964.
November 16, 1973, in his own house on Mount Tamalpais, Alan Watts died of heart failure.
Today, at Seybrook University there is a course of lectures on the philosophy of Watts. At the same university the academic department of Watts was created.