All quotes from Alan Watts’

The more you try to rule things by force, the more you will stir up violence against you. And so you can never hold on to your power and your possessions; it will always flow away from you.

We imagine, for example, that money is wealth. Here we have fantastic wealth, you know, and we have the technological possibility of making everybody on Earth the enjoyer of an independent income. We can’t do it because people say, “Where’s the money going to come from?” Because they think money makes prosperity. It’s the other way around: it’s physical prosperity which has money as a way of measuring it. But people think money has to come from somewhere, like hydroelectric power or lumber or iron, and it doesn’t. Money is something we invent, like inches. So, you remember the Great Depression; when there was a slump? And what did we have a slump of? Money. There was no less wealth, no less energy, no less raw materials than there were before, but it’s like you came to work on building a house one day and they said, “Sorry, you can’t build this house today. No inches!” “What do you mean, no inches?” “Just inches! We got inches of lumber, yes. We got inches of metal. We’ve even got tape measures. But there’s a slump in inches as such,” you see? And people are that crazy! They can have a depression because they have no inches to go around, or no dollars. That’s all a lot of nonsense!

There are no separate events. This is startling to people. But it’s really quite easy to see that there are no events in nature, because you can ask very simply—let’s take something called an event: how do we demark it from other events? At what point, shall we say, were you born? Were you born at parturition? Or when the doctor slapped you on the bottom? Or cut the umbilical cord? Or when you were conceived? Or when your father and mother were first attracted to each other? When was it? When did you begin? There’s no way of deciding except arbitrarily.

When that tension ceases you discover immediately that the separate ego has disappeared, and that what “I” refers to is simply the total panorama of experience: everything that’s happening. That’s “I.” And obviously, I don’t know all of it because I can’t inspect all of it with my radar; with my conscious attention. That would be a ridiculous undertaking—to know everything in that sense. We know it in a much better way, as we know how to grow hair and open and close our hands.

Whether you like it or not and whether you know it or not, the relationship between you and the environment is always one that is harmonious. So, in the same way, you are always living the uncalculated life. And you have to find out, first of all, that you’re always doing it, and that what you call your calculations and the things you did were funny little rationalizations. In other words, your ego has about as much control over what goes on as a child sitting next to its father in a car with a plastic steering wheel that is turning the car the way daddy drives it. Because, as I pointed out, most of the functions, most of the goings-on in you, around you, the circumstances of life, have nothing to do with your ego at all.

As I investigate what I mean by “me,” I find that I can’t put any limits on it; that I cannot experience “me” without “you,” or without the “other.” They’re inseparable. But you don’t find this out until you investigate it, until you really go into the question: “What do I want?” And that’s the most important investigation anyone can make.

If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living; that is, to go on living doing things you don’t like doing—which is stupid! Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.

What we want is to control everything: to create girls that don’t grow old, apples that don’t rot, clothes that never wear out, conveyances that get from one place to another instantly so we don’t have to wait, power available to do anything that you could conceive and do it just instantly; like that. To get this funny technological omnipotence. But if you take time out to think about that, and really go into it with your full strength of imagination and find out whether that’s where you want to be, you will soon see: that’s not what you want. Because the moment you have a situation where you are really in control of things—that is to say, in which the future is almost completely predictable—you will see, as I said last night, that a completely predictable future is already the past. You’ve had it. And that’s not what you wanted. You want a surprise. You don’t know what that’s going to be because, obviously, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you did.

This is the greatest possible lesson for the Western world to learn, because we are so hung up on the idea of power, of control, of being able to make everything go the right way, and we’ve never thought it through. When you get control of it, what are you going to do with it?

When you have explored pleasure to its ultimate limit, the only thing you can get a kick out of is pain.

If the motivation of power-gaining disappears—you've seen through it and you know that's not what you want—what other motivation takes its place as the origin of actions? And it seems to me that the answer here is compassion. Simply because, when you want to relate to another living being, what you really are asking of them is that they be in the same situation that you are. You want to meet and encounter someone else who has your problems, your fears, and your delights. You don't want a doll, you want another “you,” another “self,” because that would be at least as surprising to you as you are.

In giving away the control, you got it. You’ve got the kind of control you wanted.

If the president the United States has to lie awake at nights thinking what every official under his command is going to do, he can’t be president. He’s got to make an act of trust in all those subordinates to be responsible and carry on their things in just the same way as you make an act of trust to all your subordinate organs to carry on their functions without you having to tell them what to do. And this is the secret of what we will call organic power, as distinct from political power.

The more, therefore, you relinquish power—trust others—the more powerful you become. But in such a way that, instead of having to lie awake nights controlling everything, you do it beautifully by trusting the job to everyone else, and they carry it on for you.

The principle of unity—of coming to a sense of oneness with the whole of the rest of the universe—is not to try to obtain power over the rest of the universe. That will only disturb it and antagonize it and make it seem less one with you than ever. The way to become one with the universe is to trust it as an other—as you would another—and say, “Let’s see what you’re going to do.”

There is always, then—operating in the development of cellular life on any level—a new way of organization, higher than any existing form. And we’re not aware of it until after it’s happened.

All falling apart. Everything is. That’s the great assistance to you. See, that fact—that everything is in decay—is your helper. That is allowing you that you don’t have to let go because there’s nothing to hold on to. It’s achieved for you, in other words, by the process of nature. So once you see that you just don’t have a prayer, and it’s all washed up, and that you will vanish and leave not a rack behind—and you really get with that—suddenly you find you have the power; this enormous access of energy. But it’s not power that came to you because you grabbed it. It came in entirely the opposite way. And power that comes to you in that opposite way is power with which you can be trusted.

If you go to a teacher and ask for spiritual instruction, or even if you come to a seminar like this, you are—by doing that—confusing yourself, because you are looking for what you are asking for outside; as if someone else could give it to you, as if you didn’t have it.

It’s like someone who’s a pickpocket, and he’s stolen your own watch and is selling it to you. But just so long as you can be talked out of yourself, you deserve to be!

All sights and all sounds are what the nerves inside your head are doing.

All constant stimulations of consciousness become unconscious. And when we take it as a matter of course to have certain comforts, then we switch the level on which we worry. When you solve a whole set of problems, people find new ones to worry about. And after a while you begin to get that haven’t-we-been-here-before? feeling.

You—now, at this minute, you see—are the whole system of inning and outing. In other words, you often think, perhaps, “Maybe a long, long time ahead I shall reach the point where I wake up from manifestation and overcome the world-illusion, and discover that I am the supreme reality behind all this diversification.” My friends, there is no diversification! In other words, what you call diversification is your game in the same way as you chop the thing and then you say it is made of pieces. But you forget that you’ve cut it.

Life—as one looks at it, you see—is in fact a celebration of itself. When you look out at night at the stars and you really wonder, “Good god, what is all that about?” Well, it’s a firework display and it’s celebrating high holy day. It’s “Whoopie!” And the whole world is “Whoopie!” It’s a kind of exuberance. And therefore, the proper function of religion is digging this. It’s not seeking. It’s not seeking anything, but is in a way thanks-giving.