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Alan Watts

AKA Alan Wilson Watts

Born: 6-Jan-1915
Birthplace: London, England
Died: 16-Nov-1973
Location of death: Mill Valley, CA
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Cremated, Druid Heights, CA

Gender: Male
Religion: Buddhist [1]
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Philosopher

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Zen beat counterculture sage

Alan Watts described himself as "an ego inside a bag of skin" before adding that even that was really a hallucination. A popular American writer and thinker, he was born and raised in England, and helped introduce Zen philosophy in the United States. He became an Episcopal minister and worked for six years as chaplain during and after World War II, then abruptly quit the pulpit and the church, writing later that Zen Buddhism allowed him to escape "the monstrously oppressive God the Father".

For several years he taught college courses in comparative philosophy, but then he abandoned academia except for short stints as a visiting scholar. He spent the remainder of his years writing and lecturing independently, living in a houseboat on San Francisco Bay, and hosting a popular radio program on KPFA, the community radio station in Berkeley, CA. He experimented with mescaline, dimethyltryptamine, and LSD, describing the latter as "quite emphatically a new religion". His work shot to widespread popularity with the Beat movement of the 1950s and the protest movements of the '60s. Time called him "the psychedelic generation's most revered and thoughtful guru".

He had two children with his first wife, who had their marriage annulled after discovering his affair with their babysitter. Watts subsequently married the babysitter, and they had five children before his affair with the woman who would be his third wife. "When you die in the ordinary way", he wrote, "you just stop doing this thing, in this case called Alan Watts, but you do something else later. And there is nothing to worry about at all." After his death, his third wife had his body burned by Buddhists at the beach, and although cremation was illegal in Marin County at the time, no charges were filed.

[1] Alan Watts, In My Own Way: An Autobiography, 1915-1965 (1972), he refers to himself as Buddhist: "For reasons which I still cannot quite understand, Eleanor and I were married on April 2, 1938, at the Parish Church (of England) in Earl's Court. After all we were both Buddhists. So was her mother, and at that time my father was Treasurer of the Buddhist Lodge."

Father: Laurence Wilson Watts (tire company executive)
Mother: Emily Mary Buchan Watts
Wife: Eleanor Everett (m. 2-Apr-1938, div. 1950, two children)
Wife: Dorothy Dewitt (Watts' babysitter, m. 1950, div. 1963, five children)
Wife: Mary Jane Yates King Watts ("Jano", m. 1963)

    High School: King's School, Canterbury, UK
    Theological: MA Theology, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary (1948)
Comparative Philosophy, California Institute of Integral Studies (1951-57)
    Scholar: Harvard University (1962-64)
    Scholar: San Jose State University (1968)

    Naturalized US Citizen (1943)
    Ordained Episcopal Church (1944)
    English Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Alcoholism, DMT, LSD

Official Website:

Author of books:
The Spirit of Zen (1936)
The Legacy of Asia and Western Man (1937)
The Meaning of Happiness (1940)
Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion (1947)
Easter: Its Story and Meaning (1950)
The Supreme Identity (1950)
The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951)
Myth and Ritual in Christianity (1953)
The Way of Zen (1957)
Nature, Man, and Woman (1958)
This Is It and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience (1960)
Psychotherapy East and West (1961)
The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness (1962)
The Two Hands of God: The Myths of Polarity (1963)
Beyond Theology: The Art of Godmanship (1964)
The Book on the Taboo against Knowing Who You Are (1966)
Nonsense (1967)
Does It Matter?: Essays on Man's Relation to Materiality (1970)
Erotic Spirituality: The Vision of Konarak (1971)
The Art of Contemplation (1972)
In My Own Way (1972, memoirs)
Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal (1974, published posthumously)
The Essence of Alan Watts (1974, published posthumously)
Tao: The Watercourse Way (1975, published posthumously)
Essential Alan Watts (1976, published posthumously)
Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk: The Mystery of Life (1978, published posthumously)
Om: Creative Meditations (1979, published posthumously)
Play to Live (1982, published posthumously)
Way of Liberation: Essays and Lectures on the Transformation of the Self (1983, published posthumously)
Out of the Trap (1985, published posthumously)
Diamond Web (1986, published posthumously)
The Early Writings of Alan Watts (1987, published posthumously)
The Modern Mystic: A New Collection of Early Writings (1990, published posthumously)
Talking Zen (1994, published posthumously)
Become What You Are (1995, published posthumously)
Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion (1995, published posthumously)
The Philosophies of Asia (1995, published posthumously)
The Tao of Philosophy (1995, published posthumously)
Myth and Religion (1996, published posthumously)
Taoism: Way Beyond Seeking (1997, published posthumously)
Zen and the Beat Way (1997, published posthumously)
Culture of Counterculture (1998, published posthumously)
Buddhism: The Religion of No-Religion (1999, published posthumously)
Still the Mind: An Introduction to Meditation (2000, published posthumously)
What is Zen? (2000, published posthumously)
What is Tao? (2000, published posthumously)

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