Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Colin Marshall — Alan Watts Brings Eastern Wisdom to American TV Viewers in 1959 (Complete Episodes)

Nearly forty years after his death, the words of Alan Watts still generate excitement. Fans trade them, in the form of texts, radio broadcasts, recorded talks, and television programs, both online and off. The British-born interpreter and popularizer of East Asian Buddhist thought generated most of his media in the San Francisco of the 1950s and 1960s, and his televised lectures, produced for local public station KQED, must have offered many a San Franciscan their very first glimpse of Zen. Now that episodes of his series Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life have made it to YouTube (season one, season two), you can see for yourself that Watts’ then-cutting-edge delivery of this ancient wisdom remains entertaining, informative, and striking in its clarity. Begin with the introductory episode above, “Man and Nature,” in which Watts calmly lays out his observations of the ill effects of Westerners’ having grown to distrust their human instincts.
Open Culture
Alan Watts Brings Eastern Wisdom to American TV Viewers in 1959 (Complete Episodes)
Colin Marshall

Alan Watts exerted a huge influence on the Beat Generation of the Fifties, like poet Allen Ginsberg and novelist Jack Kerouac, as well as on the development of the counterculture of the Sixties. His work is relevant today in light of the similarity of the times. He is a cultural icon, a harbinger of spiritual awakening in his era, and it is nice to see this appearing on YouTube. Many of the issues he addressed and things he had to say are just a relevant today. What strikes me as a participant at the time is how much richer the cultural revolution was at that time than the one now underway. Maybe it is still early.


G. Uribe said...

As Whitall Perry once observed, Watts more or less understood immanence, but not transcendence.

Tom Hickey said...

For those who may not know about him, Whitall N. Perry was a perennialist.

Perry's masterwork, A Treasury of Traditional Wisdom (1971, reedited twice), is a testament to his contacts and personal ties with representatives of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Sufism, and, not least, with Native American Indians. This opus is a true Summa of the Philosophia perennis, namely a harvesting of the timeless spiritual wisdom culled from every major tradition in the world. (see link above)

Peery's A Treasury of Traditional Wisdom has been a valuable reference for me in my work on articulating core spirituality. BTW, I post a daily quote from perennial wisdom daily via Circle of Love at Yahoo Groups and also at the "Beads on One String" group on FB, should anyone be interested.

My own view is that perennial wisdom is a key input to human knowledge and this is being recognized scientifically in transpersonal psych and consciousness studies, after having been marginalized for a long time. But it was not always so as the contribution of William James to early psychology go to show.

Alan Watts was an "editor" rather than someone cognizant of the matters about which he wrote based on his own inner experience. But he was very good at what he did, that is, applying ancient wisdom to modern life (as he understood it anyway), and he played a significant role in the development of American culture, both directly and through the people he influenced.

G. Uribe said...

Perry: "Anti-Theology and the Riddles of Alcyone"

See also:

The Return of the Perennial Philosophy