All quotes from Alan Watts’

I’m not going to take the position that technology is a mistake. I think there could be a new kind of technology, using a new attitude.

You know what happens when New York City goes wrong—when there’s a subway strike, or when the power fails, or when the sewers back up, your life is in danger. Because you are not only constituted by the bloodstream of your veins and the communications network of your nervous system. An extension of your bloodstream, and of your alimentary canal, and of your nervous system, is all the communication systems of this city. In other words, as you know well: every night, streams of trucks pour into this city, carrying food. I understand there is even a kind of a big drain pipe which brings milk in. You consume three million pounds of fish a week. You then also have to have the exit end of this, and the sewers are very complicated. The water system and all its pipes, the telephone systems, the electric light systems, the air conditioning things, the traffic streams. All these things going on are essential extensions of your own inner tubing. And therefore, you have to be aware, more and more, that the city is an extended body for every person living in it. And not only, of course, the city, because the city depends on untold acres of fields (where farm products are grown, cattle are raised), on lakes and underground water sources, on the constitution of the atmosphere, and finally on the location of the Earth in this propitious spot rather close to the sun, where we have our basic heating system working. And all that is not a world into which you arrived from somewhere else altogether, it is a complex system of relationships out of which you grew in exactly the same way that fruit grows on a tree, or a flower on a stem.

You are all growing in this world, and so we know that this world is a “human-ing” system. And therefore it has a certain kind of innate intelligence, just as this tree, with its roots, has the innate intelligence which comes out in these oranges.

What we are coming to see is that the total universe, consisting of all its galaxies (and not only this galaxy), is a living organism.

We are (inside us, each individual body) an enormous ecological system. And what we have to recognize is that that interconnected system which constitutes the beauty of a human organism—that sort of interconnection is going on outside us.

Instead of evolving bigness of brain, we are evolving an electronic network in which our brains are very swiftly being plugged into computer systems.

What I think we could aim for in the way of human civilization and culture would be a system in which we are all highly aware of our existing interconnection and unity with the whole domain of nature, and therefore do not have to go to all sorts of wild extremes to find that union.

More people spend more time running away from themselves. Well, isn’t that wretched? What a definition. What an experience of selfhood if it’s always something you’ve got to be running away from and forgetting. Say you read a mystery story—why? To forget yourself. You join a religion—why? To forget yourself. You get absorbed in a political movement—why? To forget yourself. Well, it must be a pretty miserable kind of self if you have to forget it like that, you see? Now, for a person who doesn’t have an isolated sense of self, he has no need to run away from it, because he knows.

If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you come to understand that you’re connected with everything. That every little insect who comes buzzing around you is a messenger. And that little insect is connected with human beings everywhere else. You can hear: you become incredibly sensitive in your ears and you hear far-off sounds. And just by the very nature of isolating yourself and getting quiet, you become intensely aware of your relatedness to everything else that’s going on. So if you really want to find out how related you are, try a little solitude off somewhere, and let it begin to tell you how everything is interdependent.

It’s going to become basic common sense that you are not some alien being who confronts an external world that is not you, but that almost every intelligent person will have the feeling of being an activity of the entire universe.

The process of your bodily existence and its rhythms is a process, an energy system, which is continuous with the shining of the sun. Just like the East River, here, is a continuous energy system, and all the waves in it are activities of the whole East River. And that’s continuous with the Atlantic Ocean, and that’s all one energy system. And finally, the Atlantic Ocean gets around to being the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, et cetera. And so all the waters of the Earth are a continuous energy system. It isn’t just that the East River is part of it. You can’t draw any line and say, “Look, this is where the East River ends and the rest of it begins,” as if you can in the parts of an automobile, where you say, “Well, this is very definitely the generator, here, and this over here is a spark plug.” There’s not that kind of isolation between the elements of nature.

Supposing there was an original cosmic explosion which went FOOM, we—sitting around in this room now—are little curlicues on the end of it, you see? We are—actually, every one of us is—incredibly ancient. The energy which is now manifested as your body is the same energy that was there in the beginning. If anything at all is old, this hand is as old as anything there is. Incredibly ancient! I mean, the energy keeps changing shapes, doing all sorts of things, but there it all is. It’s one continuous SPAT.

Everybody’s being a blushing violet, and saying, “I’m not responsible for this universe, I merely came into it.” And the whole function of every great guru is to kid you out of that, and look at you and say, “Don’t give me that line of bull!” But you have to be tactful, you have to be effective. You can’t just tell people this. You can’t talk people out of an illusion.

The point is that God is what nobody admits to being, and everybody really is. You don’t look out there for God, something in the sky; you look in you.

In Oriental cultures they don’t think of God as an autocrat. God is the fundamental energy of the world which performs all this world without having to think about it. Just in the same way that you open and close your hand without being able to say in words how you do it. You do it.

The discovery of our inseparability from everything else is something that I don’t think will have to come by the primitive methods of difficult yoga meditations, or even through the use of psychedelic chemicals. I think it’s something that is within the reach of very many people’s simple comprehension—once you get the point.

We can very simply come to see that you are not some kind of accident that pops up for a while and then vanishes, but that deep inwards, you are what there is and all that there is—which is eternal, and that which there is no whicher.

Your own organism, in a certain sense, knows its identity with its whole environment. In other words, the human body belongs in a continuous energy system which is co-extensive with the universe.

There is a very close connection between your conceptual understanding of the world and how you actually see the world.

The intellect is not something just cut off from every other kind of experience, existing in a sort of abstract vacuum which has nothing to do with anything else. The intellect is part and parcel of the whole fabric of life. It goes along with your fingers, it goes along with being able to do this, and touch. After all, what an intellectual thing, in a way, the human hand is!

A plant is intellectual. This thing is a gorgeous pattern. If you look into it and realize how this is designed to absorb light and moisture and so on, and to expose itself in different ways and to propagate its species, that it is in alliance with bees and other insects so that the bees and the plants—since they go together and are found together—they’re all one continuous form of life. This doesn’t exist except in a world where bees are floating around. I mean, you can bring it into an apartment, but you don’t expect this plant to propagate beyond that point. It’s decorative here. But in its natural habitat, this goes with there being bees, and bees go with there being something else. So this form that you see here is inseparable from all kinds of other forms which must exist if this is to exist.

The intelligence of the plant is the same as the pattern of the plant. You shouldn’t think I would say the plant is the result of intelligence. The shape of it is the same as its intelligence. So the shape of your brain, the shape of your face, the whole structure of the culture you live in, the human interrelationships that go on—it is that pattern which is intelligence.

We have specialized in a form of attention to the world which concentrates on certain features as important. We call this conscious attention, and therefore it ignores or screens out everything which doesn’t fit into its particular scheme.

When you discover that everything you do is completely determined, then you suddenly have to wake up to the fact that the only real you is whatever it is that’s determining what you do.

We are all different, but we are as interrelated and indispensable to each other as the different organs in our body—stomach, heart, glands, bones, et cetera. Now, you see, you can argue that the stomach is fundamental: eating is the big thing. And therefore we grew brains as extensions of the stomach to get it more food. So that you say, “The brain is the servant of the stomach.” But you can argue equally that the brain is primary, and it has all these thinking games to play, and it needs a stomach as an appendage to supply it with energy. Or you can argue that the sex organs are primary, and that they need the brain and the stomach to keep that ecstasy going. But the brain and the stomach can equally argue that they wouldn’t find it worthwhile going on unless they had the sex organ appendage to give them solace. The truth of the matter is that nobody comes first. Nobody pushes the other one around. You don’t find brains without stomachs and sex organs. They all go together.

You learn to see that there is simply one behavior pattern working, which we will call the organism-environment. And if you understand that, you understand that you are this totality organism-environment. And so you are moving with it in the same way that all the organs of your physical body are moving together, as all the cells of the brain cooperate. You don’t have to make them cooperate, you don’t have to tell them to, you don’t have to arrange a treaty of some kind. They just do so.

You see, that attitude—that you are here on probation, on sufferance, that you don’t matter, that you’re not important to this whole thing at all, and that you could be wiped out any time and no one would miss you—is very, very deeply pushed into us by social institutions. Because we’re afraid that if we taught people otherwise, they would get too big for their boots.

You can look at our taboos: we have no taboo against pictures of people being tortured and murdered, which are very unpleasant, but we do have a taboo against pictures of people making love. Why? We have the feeling, you see, that everything to do with the glowing, flowing, glorious, warm participation with life is slightly sickening.

When you then change your level of magnification so that you go down to the small components, you suddenly find that what you thought was a thing (that is to say, a unity) disappears into a multiplicity.

When you examine your situation in the midst of humanity and realize that you are looking at it microscopically, and that if you can alter your point of view and (as it were) draw away from it, you suddenly see everything that you thought was a separately functioning molecule of experience merge into a larger whole. Now, for some reason or other, human beings are made happy by seeing that.

When you get the sense, now, of yourself as a unit, and the sense of magnification grows, and you see yourself now as a component in a larger pattern, you’re doing just the same thing as you did when you stepped back from the microscope and saw all the crystals or all the amoebas or all the cells fit into the pattern of living tissue. Now let me ask you the question: when you understand this and you suddenly see that you fit in, who’s understanding this? Where are “you” at that moment? See, you thought you knew where you were. You thought you were looking down the microscope, and at those little things on the other end, and you suddenly found out that all those little molecules turn into your finger. Then you suddenly are looking through another kind of a telescope maybe, and you find out that you’re a molecule looking up at something to which you belong. Now, who is “you” at that point?

You believe that you are a sort of electrical buzz given off by the brain—that is to say, the sensation of “I,” the sensation of consciousness. And here’s this brain inside your head, and that buzzes in a certain way and gives off an electrical charge, or a field, and that’s “you.” And when you blow the brains out, all that will stop and “you” will vanish forever. But that’s just because you’re being myopic. If you want to identify yourself that way, it’s your privilege to do so. But you can (with just as much right) identify yourself as a far vaster system than that.

The whole world is a single energy system.

Some people couldn’t possibly accept this theory. It would destroy their whole lives; unnerve them. But at the same time it is actually no different in principle—as a theory of human nature, as a theory of identity—it is no different in principle whatsoever from seeing and being able to understand that all the cells in your body function together as a single organism.

What would your state of mind be if you knew everything? If you were in control of everything, including your own will? Let’s suppose your entire being-structure is voluntary and it’s up to you now. What are you going to do?

Wherever you think you’ve got it—that you understand, that you claim something as a certain kind of spiritual possession—get rid of it and see that there isn’t any security at all.

He who knows Brahman does not know him, but he who does not know Brahman truly knows. Why? Because, of course, the ultimate reality doesn’t make itself an object of its own knowledge. I mean, that would be the ultimate stupidity.

You don’t know who you are. And you can go ’round in circles for ever and ever trying to find out, but that’s just going ’round in circles. You don’t know. And because you don’t know who you are, you are never, never, never going to be bored.