Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born inChislehurst, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master's degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest but left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.
Living on the West Coast, Watts gained a large following in the San Francisco Bay Area while working as a volunteer programmer at KPFA, aPacifica Radio station in Berkeley. Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to Eastern and Western religion, introducing the then-burgeoning youth culture toThe Way of Zen (1957), one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism. In Psychotherapy East and West (1961), Watts proposed that Buddhism could be thought of as a form of psychotherapy and not just a religion. Like Aldous Huxley before him, he explored human consciousness in the essay, "The New Alchemy" (1958), and in the book, The Joyous Cosmology (1962).
Towards the end of his life, he divided his time between a houseboat in Sausalito and a cabin on Mount Tamalpais. His legacy has been kept alive by his son, Mark Watts, and by many of his recorded talks and lectures that have found new life on the Internet. According to the critic Erik Davis, his "writings and recorded talks still shimmer with a profound and galvanizing lucidity."
"Alan Watts moved from his native London to New York in 1938, then eventually headed west, to San Francisco in the early 1950s. On the left coast, he started teaching at the Academy of Asian Studies, wrote his bestseller Way of Zen (among many other books), and began delivering a long-running series of talks about eastern philosophy on KPFA radio in Berkeley (listen to some sample audio here). During these years, Watts became one of the foremost popularizers of Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoisim, which made him something of a celebrity, especially when the 60s counterculture movement kicked into gear.
Now, almost 40 years after his death, you can find no shortage of vintage Watts’ media online. And today we’re featuring an episode from a TV series called Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, which aired in San Francisco circa 1960. “The Silent Mind” runs 28 minutes, and it offered American viewers an introduction to the philosophy and practice of meditation, something still considered exotic at the time. History in the making. You’re watching right here."