“Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal, for the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever….” – Alan Watts
Do you ever fantasize about dying for just one day and having your ghost linger around your house to see for yourself just how much your friends and family would really care if you were to cease existing? Do you ever wonder about the sort of realm your soul will enter once it departs the futility of the present world? Do you even believe in a life after death, or with adulthood, have your hopes for a heaven and hell washed away into nothingness?
What if you were to completely rethink your conceptions of life and death, and merge them both together into one entity? This idea may seem completely baffling and mindboggling at first, but once you venture deeper into the parallels between life and death, the boundaries between living and dying start to appear murkier. Unravelling the binds between death and life, Alan Wilson Watts (1915-1973), British writer and philosopher, with his charisma, knowledge, and ingenuity, explores the workings of the world in a manner unique and yet, wholly convincing. Galvanizing the world of academia, religious studies and contemporary philosophy, Watts’s proclamations on the unity of life and death continue to keep scholars and critics awake at night, scratching their heads and poring over Watts’s posthumously published essays, books, and lectures.
Born into a rural and middle-income family, Watts grew up in (majorly) pastoral surroundings. Watt’s intense interest in the Far East stems from his familial ties with missionaries, with his grandfather living as a missionary in China. Watts’s childhood was full of oriental trinkets, flowers, butterflies, the stream-side, and playing in the yard of the local church. As he grew older, his interest in religion, philosophy, the Far East, and life cycles was only fueled further.
More on the life of Watts:
A highly prolific student labelled as a child prodigy in school, Watts was a confident, imaginative, sensitive, and intelligent young student. As he grew older, his interests expanded from Christianity to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.
Despite the scholarly reverence dedicated to Watts’s works, his thoughts on the cyclical nature of life and death, the correlation between DMT with knowledge, the lucidity and futility of doing work without passion, and the interlinks between world religions are far from widespread. Absence of Watts’s texts in schools and colleges maybe because of the highly radical, subtly socialist, and intellectually challenging nature of his content. Watts’s lectures on topics as controversial as prolonging life unnecessarily, and the thoughtlessness behind considering death as the ceasing of existence are popular,
yet, censored within mainstream academic situations. He was also a strong proponent of the belief that the Zen in one’s life derives from one’s daily actions and from the way we communicate with the people around us.
Watts on the journey of life:
“Every individual is a unique manifestation of the Whole, as every branch is a particular outreaching of the tree.” – Alan Watts
Watts’s understanding of the universe as whole is that of a linear manifestation of everything –cultures, languages, nature – all at once. Each individual is composed of the universe, with there being particles of everything in existence within all individuals. His theorization of life and death follows a similar terrain, with his lectures and writings repeating that life and death are not two separate processes. According to him, death does not follow the end of life, and nor does the beginning of life follow the end of death; both of these occurrences are simultaneous in nature. He has spoken and written extensively on the simultaneous occurrences of life, death, childhood, adulthood, and old age.
Watts on death:
Watts’s charismatic personality and down-to-earth nature are evocative of his brilliance, eruditeness, and knowledge. Despite his immense contributions to the topics of life and death, readers of his works continue to be labeled ‘weirdos’ and ‘lazy’ and wannabe Carl Jungs’. The absence of Watts’s works from mainstream academia are a great disservice to contemporary philosophic and religious studies.
Keeping the greatness of Watts’s personality alight, it is important that his works be reignited with renewed interest in our schools, colleges, and universities. The state and ‘liberals’ may hinder the process, but we must continue fighting against censorship and work towards spreading intellectual discourses on how the world is in existence- the process is miraculous, magical, and simply stunning.