All quotes from Alan Watts’

The psychedelic explosion is something which is highly prevalent among young people, and is a quest (very largely on the part of young people) for something which civilization as we know it in the West seems to have failed to supply.

Something, then, is apparently wrong with one’s self if one’s self is something that you need to forget. If you feel (when you’re alone) hopelessly anxious and bored, what’s wrong with you? Why is your self so intolerable to you? You can’t really well love your neighbor as yourself unless you have some love for yourself. If you don’t have any love for yourself, you don’t have any store or a fountain of love in you to give to your neighbors.

Even though we say that everybody in this country is given religious liberty, that is not true. You do not really have religious liberty if you subscribe to the heretical doctrine that the universe is not a political state, but instead an organism.

It is a fallacy, you see, that the human being has parts like a car. Because a human being is not a mechanism, a human being is an organism. And an organism functions quite differently from a mechanism. An organism functions in such a way that every part is a complete expression of the whole. And this, of course, is what Jesus was trying to say when he said to his disciples, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”

Who is under a hallucination? Look at it: recently, Congress passed very strict laws against burning the American flag. And they did it with great fervor and all sorts of patriotic speeches, and this, that, and the other. While they are—by acts of commission or omission—they are burning up the country for which the flag stands: allowing continued pollution of the atmosphere, of the water, ravaging of the forests, destruction of wildlife on a fantastic scale. Oh yes, that doesn’t matter. You can tear the physical territory to pieces—just so long as you don’t burn the flag! And this is the hallucination. This is the divorce from reality.

“Yourself.” Does this word, “yourself,” refer to your total organism? Does it refer to some sort of psychic entity which inhabits your organs? And if the former, then if you are your whole organism, you cannot neglect the principle that you are what you eat. And that, for example, if you don’t have the right kinds of vitamins and the right kinds of minerals, you’re not going to be healthy. If, on the other hand, your spiritual sanity—let’s call it that—really doesn’t depend on the state of your body (because, after all, we know many people with extremely sick bodies who are nevertheless absolutely marvelous as individuals), then it would suggest that the functioning of the psyche is fundamentally different and independent from the functioning of the physical organism. But, on the other hand, we know all sorts of people who are quite plainly neurotic or even psychotic, but who are also geniuses and very creative. So if you can function well with a sick body, if you can function well with a sick psyche, who are you? What are you?

I tend to the view of what I would call body and spirit as being aspects of the same process. That, in other words, it is sort of artificial to make a distinction between the human organism and the human mind.

To me, the human body is a pattern dancing in space. “A pattern,” you will say, “of what?” It doesn’t have to be of anything, all you need is the pattern. Because when you try to describe the component materials of which bodies are composed, what you describe is always another pattern working on a smaller scale at a lower level of magnification—and nobody ever described anything except that.

The human body has every conceivable kind of materials flowing through it. We are a stream—or we are a form in a stream, like a whirlpool. And the stream consists of milk, and beefsteak, and water, and beer, and every conceivable sort of thing. Air, cosmic rays, and so on. And each one of us is a wiggle in this field of energy.

Your body is an energy pattern. Nobody is doing the pattern. The pattern is, shall we say, doing itself. And what you are experiencing—in every conceivable sense of the word “experience”: what you feel, what you sense, what you think—all that is you. And it’s merely a social convention that we think about some agent who does deeds, who feels feelings and thinks thoughts, standing as a constant behind them.

Some time ago, the American Medical Association and the American Bar Association formed a joint committee for legal purposes to try and find a definition of addiction. And every time they thought they had addiction defined, they found that their definition was indistinguishable from a definition of dependence on food. And they had the greatest difficulty in pinning down any distinction between a food and a drug—like the Food and Drug Administration. What is the difference between a food and a drug?

An enormous number of people are apparently addicted to music. Now, music—when you look at it from a strictly practical survival point of view—music is a waste of time. You don’t really need music, do you? I mean, you could go on and you could do your business without any music at all. Music’s a luxury. And yet, it is a major industry today; producing music. And I suppose you could say—Ed Dalton made the suggestion—that people who are addicted to music have a disease called chorditis. And really, music should be stopped. It’s such a terrific waste of time. It achieves nothing constructive and is really, therefore, very bad for you because you become hung up on it. You can’t do without music if you’re a real music lover. And music even isn’t something you eat! It’s just something you listen to. But boy, can you become addicted to it! So should we get rid of it?

You suddenly see that all this—the people around you, the houses, the mountains, the stars—are ripples in a kind of energy water. And they come and they go, they come and they go, they come and they go. But the water is always there. And that’s you. That there’s this marvelous mirage going on. But you are it. You’re not just the ripple that comes and then disappears, you’re the whole process. Only, you don’t always know it for the simple reason that part of the fun of the whole thing is to forget it and to imagine that you’re all lost and alone. And wowee! What a thrill that is! See?

The fun of this whole thing is to make patterns, to figure out games, to do something with it.

It’s going to surprise itself because, you know: what a shock death is! You know? It just blows you right out. But if you observe the world, you see that it keeps coming back. So for heaven’s sakes, don’t worry yourself with images of being annihilated forever—you know, of being, as it were, buried alive in the dark and to be confined in darkness for always and always and always, which would be just unbearable. Just forget it. That’s a complete hallucination. After you’re dead, you know, you’ll be someone else just as you are now! You know? You came into this world—came out of this world is a more correct way of saying—and experienced yourself altogether new. Well, everybody who comes out of this world has the same experience. And it keeps happening. And when one of them is finished and feels itself disappear, then, as we know, another one starts. And that’s you all over again.

Life is simply what it is, that it has no absolute value, but you put your values on it like you put values on the chips in poker.

We are taught to think that if your life doesn’t have some purpose, you’re a washout; you’re just an idiot. But maybe it’s a very good thing to be an idiot, to be a complete fool, and simply to sit and watch the waves. You know how good a thing it is to sit on a beach and just watch waves breaking and dissolving? You can sit for hours completely fascinated. And children like to do this. They like to sit by a pond and drop pebbles into it and see all the concentric circles coming out of the plop. Why not? You could say: well, it’s much more important to go into business and achieve some substantial results, and raise a family—why? You’re just making a bigger splash, that’s all.

I think this is one of the most important things in life: to realize how powerful and how great in conferring order and sanity and a feeling of comfort on any conceivable situation it is to be able to let go.

If you relax psychologically and completely let go of things, you will find that you have psychological tonus; energy. And you cannot really do anything skillfully—any art, you can’t talk, you can’t think, you can’t have sexual orgasms, or anything like that—unless you have learned fundamental relaxation.

You remember Jesus? When he said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.” And I’ve never yet heard a sermon on that passage where the preacher commended it. They all say, “Well, that’s a great life. But of course, for all practical purposes, it’s impossible.” The most subversive passage in the New Testament: “Be not anxious for the morrow.” Let it take care of itself. Drift. Be like a leaf on the wind.

To let go in that sense, and allow and really consider the possibility that everything in life is completely out of control and at random, but go with it—this is fundamental to any kind of strength, any kind of real control.

“Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God.” Heh, better watch out if you don’t! Well, you can’t love on that basis. You can’t love because you know that you ought to love in self-defense. It’s impossible. Love is something not under any ego control at all. You have to let go to let love happen. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But that’s none of your business.

Do I really need to exist? To be here as an organism? I mean, good lord, I am here, you know? And, well, I can’t help it! It has nothing to do with my ego that I have feet and that I exist and that I’m here. Do I really mean it or don’t I? Well, I guess I do. I mean, my physical existence here is perfectly sincere. It’s about as real as anything can be, but I didn’t intend it. I don’t have to say UGH! you know?

You will learn that you’ve got nothing else to do but completely relax your controller, your sensor, your ego. And that, to the degree that you really let go and don’t try to hold on to life anymore, you become enormously strong and able actually to control things. But all fundamental control depends on giving up control. And this paradox—which scares the hell out of us—is the is the main lesson of the whole thing.

There is no such thing as safety. There never was in life and there never will be. And unless you take that as your first premise in living, nothing will happen. You must be insecure.

Man (as many, many scientists now say) is no longer passively undergoing an evolutionary process. He is involved in it. And therefore we are reaching out to try and control ourselves—our brains, our nervous systems—by surgery, by electrical stimulation, by chemicals. All sorts of things we’re using to try and find out how we tick.