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Mystical Experiences of Alan Watts
(1915 - 1973)

Alan Watts travelled from England to the U.S. bringing with him a deep understanding of Buddhism and Zen at a time these topics were being discovered by Americans. Author of many books, Watts provides us with a direct view into two of his most mystical experiences.

Experience One

"Shortly after I had first begun to study Indian and Chinese philosophy, I was sitting one night by the fire, trying to make out what was the right attitude of mind for meditation as it is practiced in Hindu and Buddhist disciplines. It seemed to me that several attitudes were possible, but as they appeared mutually exclusive and contradictory I was trying to fit them into one---all to no purpose. Finally, in sheer disgust, I decided to reject them all and to have no special attitude of mind whatsoever. In the force of throwing them away it seemed that I threw myself away as well, for quite suddenly the weight of my own body disappeared. I felt that I owned nothing, not even a self, and that nothing owned me. The whole world became as transparent and unobstructed as my own mind; the "problem of life" simply ceased to exist, and for about eighteen hours I and everything around me felt like the wind blowing across a field on an autumn day."


Experience Two

"The second time, a few years later, came after a period when I had been attempting to practice what Buddhists cal "recollection" (smriti) or constant attention of the immediate present, as distinct from the usual distracted rambling of reminiscence and anticipation. But in discussing it one evening, someone said to me, "But why try to live in the present? Surely we are always completely in the present even when we're thinking about the past or the future?" This, actually quite obvious, remark again brought on the sudden senstation of having no weight. At the same time, the present seemed to become a kind of moving stillness, an eternal stream from which neither I nor anything could deviate. I saw that everything,. just as it is now, is IT---is the whole point of there being life and a universe. I saw that when the Upanishads said, "That art thou!" or "Al this world is Brahman," they meant just exactly what they said. Each thing, each event, each experience in its inescapable nowness and in all its own particular individuality was precisely what it should be, and so much so that it acquired a divine authority and originality. It struck me with the fullest clarity that none of this depended on my seeing it to be so; that was the way things were, whether I understood it or not, and if I did not understand, that was IT too. Furthermore, I felt that I now understood what Christianity might mean by the love of God---namely, that despite the commonsensical imperfection of things, they were nonetheless loved by God just as they are, and that this loving of them was at the same time the godding of them. This time the vivid sensation of lightness and clarity lasted a full week."

 

Watts, Alan. This Is It and Other Essays on Zen ( this selection was taken from a reprinting of This Is It in The Highest State of Consciousness, edited by John White), pp. 444-445.

 

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