Alan Watts, “The Nature of Consciousness,” and the Myths of Western Civilization.

The Western image of ourselves:

“You are a fluke, you are a separate event, and you run from the maternity world to the crematorium and that’s it, baby. That’s it. Now why does anybody think that way? There’s no reason to, because it isn’t even scientific. It’s just a myth, and it’s invented by people who wanted to feel a certain way, play a certain game.”


This whole idea, that the universe is just nothing at all but unintelligent force, playing around, not even enjoying it, is a put-down theory of the world. People who had an advantage to make, a game to play by putting it down, and making it out that because they put the world down they were a superior people. That just won’t do, because if you seriously go along with this idea of the world, you’re what is technically called alienated. You feel hostile to the world. You feel that the world is a trap. It is a mechanism, it is electronic. A neurological mechanism into which you somehow got caught. And you, poor thing, has to put up with a body that falls apart.


The fully automatic model of the world, is simply a myth. If you want to say that the idea of God-the-Father is just a myth, so is this other one. It’s just as phony and has just as little to support it.

An Alternative Myth:

If, there is any such thing at all as intelligence, and love, and beauty, well, you found it in other people. In other words it exists in us as human beings. And as I said, if it is there, in us, it is symptomatic of the scheme of things. We are as symptomatic to the scheme of things as the apples are symptomatic of the apple tree, or the rose of the rose bush. The Earth is not a big rock infested with living organisms, anymore than your skeleton is bones infested with cells. The Earth is geological yes, but, this geological entity grows people, and our existence on the Earth is a symptom of the solar system and its balances. As much as the solar system in term is a symptom of our galaxy, and our galaxy in its term is a symptom of a whole company of galaxies.


You don’t know who you are unless you know who I am. We are not separate, we define each other. We and our environment, all of us and each other are interdependent systems. We know who we are in terms of other people. This is, again and again, a serious scientific description of how things happen. Any good scientist knows, therefore, that what you call the external world is as much you as your own body. Your skin doesn’t separate you from the world, it’s a bridge which the external world flows into you.


Here is a flow of water, and suddenly it does a whirlpool, then it goes on. The whirlpool is a definite form, but no water stays put it in it. The whirlpool is something the stream is doing, and exactly the same way, the universe is doing each one of us. The whole world is moving through you, all the cosmic rays, all the food your eating…is just flowing right through you.


But the problem is, you see, we haven’t been taught to feel that way. The myths underlying our culture and underlying our common sense, have taught us not to feel identical with the universe, but only parts of it, but only in it, only confronting it…aliens! And we are quite urgently, in need of coming to feel that we are the eternal universe, each one of us. Otherwise, we’re going to go out of our heads.



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One thought on “Alan Watts, “The Nature of Consciousness,” and the Myths of Western Civilization.

  1. “It is here, in this global age where the world has converged, that we face a crisis together, and as one species, one civilization we can emerge from it.”

    So very true! Love this post, just discovered this blog – seems interesting – I look forward to follow it!

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