Zen and the Art of Alan Watts

On Education, Ego, and Prickles and Goo (Left Brainers and Right Brainers)

Animation of some of Alan Watts’ key ideas, produced by South Park creators Matt Parker and Trey Stone

Alan Watts (1915–1973) was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in England, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York, before attending Seabird-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master’s degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest in 1945, but left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Zen Studies.

vac-portrait_of_alan_wattsWatts gained a large following in the San Francisco Bay Area and wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to Eastern and Western religion, including The Way of Zen (1957), one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism, and Psychotherapy East and West (1961), in which he proposed that Buddhism should be thought of as a form of psychotherapy rather than a religion.

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Building Jerusalem: William Blake and the Counterculture, by Richard Holmes

Radical Agitation, Street Protest and the Poetry of the Underground

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There are many William Blakes, but mine arrived with the tigers in the 1960s. The first line I ever read by Blake was not in a book, but laid out in thick white paint (or should I say illuminated) along a brick wall in Silver Street, Cambridge, England, in 1968. It was not poetry, but prose: “The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.” It sent a strange shiver down my spine, as it did for thousands of other university students in England and America that year.

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The influence of Jacob Boehme on the work of Blake, by Bryan Aubrey

Blake, Boehme, and Left Brain Verstand 

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Boehme’s influence on Blake, although often acknowledged, is frequently underestimated and has never been comprehensively investigated. Much modern criticism regards Blake’s work as non-transcendental, even secular. This is partly a reaction against earlier criticism, which was more sympathetic to Blake’s connection with the mystical tradition. The argument of this article, however, is that Boehme exerted a continuous and pervasive influence on Blake, and that recognition of this can illumine some of the most difficult and contradictory elements in Blake’s work. These include the attitude to the body and the senses, and the metaphysical status of the selfhood and the created world.

Boehme’s system represents a synthesis of many different currents of thought, including the Dionysian via negativa, the Hermetic tradition, the Kabbalah and the Lutheran faith. It is emphasized, however, that his philosophy arose from intense mystical experience rather than academic study, and that he chose to express it in symbolic and mythological terms rather than rational concepts.

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From Hell: Alan Moore and William Blake, by E.M. Notenboom 

Psychogeography: Occult London and the City as Psyche

The Ghost of a Flea c.1819-20 William Blake 1757-1827 Bequeathed by W. Graham Robertson 1949 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05889

Milton, Blake and Moore are philosophical wanderers who share a tendency to connect history, spirituality, and place in their works through philosophers of the past. They journey horizontally through urban, rural, or spiritual locations and at the same time delve vertically through history. As this article will suggest, their legacy is a transformation of familiar landscapes.

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