The Collected Letters of Alan WattsBy: Alan Watts


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“Altogether revelatory.”
— Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
“The writings of Alan Watts, a prominent 20th-century Western interpreter of East Asian religion and philosophy, receive a formidable bolstering in this revealing collection of unpublished letters compiled by two of his daughters. . . . The first half of the collection is particularly illuminating: the letters reveal a sharp, delighted mind, conversing with others in near-paroxysm to synthesize Buddhist insight with Christian metaphysics and “God-as-Person” theology (his early emphasis on mystical experience as a dramatic action hints toward his later intellectual development as a popular guru of 70s counterculture). Commentary by his daughters gives context to some crucial details that are otherwise elided by Watts himself, such as the deterioration of a few of his marriages and his relationships with literary figures such as Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, and Sokei-an Sasaki. This collection is a gold mine of insights, offering glimpses into a brilliant mind for newcomers and the acquainted alike.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Perhaps the most complete and accurate profile of the man and his work. . . . Watts’s daughters . . . add indispensable context and insights into Watts’s personal and family life. . . . The Collected Letters adds a new portal to the identity of the man most responsible for introducing Zen Buddhism and the many strands of Eastern philosophy to the masses in the West.”
— Foreword (starred review)
“Alan Watts’s influence in the USA, which began to really flourish in the mid-1950s, was remarkable. Alan was so clear and such a good writer, and so well grounded in the teachings and worldview he extolled, that he was taken by some as ‘easy’ and glib. Without artifice, a truly human life and heart, he was both deep and accessible, and made no effort to impress. Consequently, he was impressive, and he lived his life fully and to the end. . . . I knew Alan over twenty-five years, and he was always a grand and instructive friend to me. Yet it took some years after his death before I could see and appreciate the whole. This collection of letters will entrance and challenge you, and be with you for decades.”
— Gary Snyder, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet
“This collection of letters reveals more about Alan Watts than we’d known before, his faults as well as his many virtues, his weaknesses as well as his strengths, and turns of his wisdom not to be found in his books. He called himself a philosophical entertainer, but he was much more than that. You can learn a lot about Chinese and Japanese aesthetics from him, about secrets of language, about the satoris of everyday life. What a life he lived! Yeats said of Oscar Wilde that he left half of what he had to say in conversation instead of his written works. I can testify that Alan, too, left much of his genius unwritten. If Wilde was the greatest conversationalist of his day, Alan arguably was the greatest of his. Fortunately, though, he has left us his recordings and these letters.”
— Michael Murphy, cofounder of Esalen Institute
“Alan Watts once told me, ‘In fifty years, nobody will remember me.’ To the contrary, his books, essays, and recorded lectures have gained in stature in recent decades, and the claim that he simply popularized Eastern wisdom has been eclipsed by a recognition of his scholarly insights. I never knew Alan to utter a boring sentence or write a dull word. This collection of his letters bears testimony to my impressions. His keen observations, his witty rejoinders, and his depth of knowledge are reflected in this incredible collection. Brava to his daughters for their diligence, and bravo to their father for taking the time to write his circle of friends and acquaintances!”
— Stanley Krippner, Phd, coauthor of Personal Mythology
“Alan Watts has touched so many lives, then and now and forever into the future. The Chinese name I have chosen for him is ‘Ai-Lan,’ with two symbols — 愛蘭 — depicting ‘the love orchid ’: the man who loves the beauty and the quality of being a highly cultivated human being. These letters offer us further insights into the Man with Many Qualities we can admire and emulate. I am forever grateful to him as my mentor, colleague, and friend.”
— Chungliang Al Huang, founder and president of the Living Tao Foundation and director of the International Lan Ting Institute
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