Childhood & Early Life
Alan Wilson Watts was born on the 6th of January, 1915, on the 6th of January 1915 in Chislehurst Village in Kent which is now south-east London. The father of Alan Wilson Watts, Laurence Wilson Watts, was a worker for the Michelin Tyre Company while his mother, Emily Mary Watts (nee Buchan) was a homemaker.
As the sole son of the parents, Alan grew up playing with his own brook on his own as he learned to recognize butterflies and wildflowers. Another aspect that had an enormous impact on his childhood was his family who was religiously inclined.
From a very young age, he displayed an attraction for China in particular and Japan. The romantic stories of the Far East interested him a great deal. When a group of missionaries returned from China were able to present a couple of Far Eastern paintings and embroideries to his mother. Even though he was only a child, he was enthralled by these works.
Alan Watts began his education at the school for children at Saint Nicolas and then went to King’s School in Canterbury. In addition to studies, this school offered religious instruction under the Muscular Christian faith, however Alan was not impressed by the school’s plight. However, he did exceptionally academically throughout his time at school.
As an elementary school student and was still in school, he took an excursion across France along with Francis Croshaw, a wealthy Epicurean who initially sparked the interest of Buddhism. Then he began to study about Buddhism and later became a member of the London Buddhist Lodge, now called the Buddhist Society.
After completing his general education at the age of 15 Then he delved into modern historyand hoped to be a recipient of a scholarship at Trinity College Oxford. He wanted to pursue a degree in philosophy however there was no room for it. He was also appointed the prefect of the highest rank as well as the house Captain.
He was unable to complete the opportunity to receive the scholarship and quit the school before the close semester. Lacking the funds to continue his studies He landed work at an office for printing and later at an institution.
In the meantime he was to spend his time at the Buddhist Society. There, he read extensively on the psychology, history, philosophy and psychiatry as well as Eastern wisdom. Though he got advice by Dimitrije Mitrinovic, and the Christmas Humphreys but he was mostly self-educated
In 1931 at the age of 16 years old, Watts was made the Secretary of the Buddhist Lodge. During this time Watts also came into contact with spiritual writers such as the Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, Nicholas Roerich and Alice Bailey and imbibed a quantity of their writings.
In 1932 at the age seventeen, he released his first publication, ‘An Outline Of Zen Buddhism’. The book was in fact a 32-page pamphlet, however it was greatly liked by experts and is still being printed. Then He was appointed editor of the book ‘Buddhism in England’.
He was in 1936 when he went to in 1936 the World Congress of Faiths at the University of London, where he had the pleasure of meeting Daisetsu Teitaro, an eminent researcher of Zen Buddhism. He had read his writings; the encounter was fascinating to him to an enormous degree.
In 1936, he released his second work “The Spirit of Zen: A way of life, work and Arts in the Far East’. The book was followed by The Legacy of Asia in the Age of Western Man’ (1937).
The year was 1938 when he fled England to go to his home in the United States of America with his family. At first, they arrived in New York, where he began formal education within Zen Buddhism. However, he was unable to change his ways of learning from his teacher and quit without being ordained the Zen monk.
To find a way to earn a living to fulfill his spiritual desires and inclinations, he enrolled in Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, which is an Episcopal (Anglican) institution located in Evanston, Illinois. There he learned Christian Scriptures and theology and the history of the church.
After finishing his seminary master’s program, he was an Episcopal priest. He also joined Northwestern University at Chicago as the Chaplain. He was extremely popular with students who joined him for lively discussions on Christian and Eastern philosophical thought.
In his time in Chicago, Watts wrote three books about Christian mysticism. He found it difficult to integrate the tenets of his Buddhist convictions in the light of Christian doctrines. In addition, he was entangled in an extramarital romance. Then he quit Chicago and, in the early part of 1951, he moved in the direction of San Francisco.
In San Francisco, he joined the American Academy of Asian Studies as a faculty member and was able to meet many scholars from around the world. He was particularly influenced Saburo Hasegawa, the well-known Japanese artist, who taught him many things about Japanese culture, art, and customs as well as their understanding of the natural world.
He also took advantage of the chance to study Chinese language and Chinese brush calligraphy. Alongside that, he also studied a variety of other disciplines which ranged in topics from Vedanta to quantum cybernetics and mechanics.
Then, Watts became the Dean of the Academy. Since then Watts began giving regularly scheduled talks on KPFA the free radio station located at Berkeley. His talks were well-loved by a broad variety of audiences. While he was speaking his writing continued and in 1957, he published his best-selling work, “The Way to Zen’.
At some point, he began to explore psychedelics and their effects on the mystical experience. The first experiment was mescaline. Then, in 1958, he collaborated alongside other researchers studying LSD as they took the drug numerous times. Then, he experimented on marijuana and also wrote about the effects in the upcoming books.
in 1958 Watts took a trip of Europe. When he returned back to San Francisco, he recorded two seasons of a TV series called ‘Eastern wisdom as well as Modern Life’ on KQED the television channel.
In the early 1960s, he visited Japan many times. In addition, from 1962 to 1964, he was awarded an appointment in Harvard University and in 1968 was named an academic from San Jose State University. In actuality in the latter half of the 1960s, he was an anti-culture star with a lot of fans and critics.
Then he began to travel extensively to give lectures in growth centers and universities throughout both the US in addition to Europe and, in the his early 70s, he had become the most prominent translator of Eastern views within the Western world.
Alan Watts was a prolific writer who wrote about 25 works. In all of them, ‘Ways to Zen’ may be most notable. The book was published in 1957. book is a philosophical guide as well as the history of Zen Buddhism as practiced in China and India. It soon became a best-selling book and made him more well-known.
Some of his other notable work include ‘The Spirit of Zen’ (1936), ‘The Legacy of Asia and Western Man’ (1937) and ‘The meaning of happiness’ (1940), ‘Psychotherapy East and West’ (1961) and “The Joyful Cosmology – Affections in the Science of Consciousness’ (1962).
Personal Life & Legacy
Alan Watts was thrice married. In 1936 He met Eleanor Everett at the Buddhist Lodge and was married in April of 1938. Their oldest child Joan is born the month of November 1938, and their younger daughter Anne in 1942.
At the end of the 1940s Watts was involved in an extramarital relationship with Jean Burden; as a result, Eleanor was able to have their wedding annulled. Though he didn’t marry Jean but she was in his thoughts until the very end. He also maintained contact to his sister-in-law Ruth Fuller Everett.
in 1950 Watts was married to Dorothy DeWitt. There were five kids: Tia, Mark, Richard, Lila, and Diane. The couple divorced when in the early 1960s Watts became acquainted with Mary Jane Yates King while on a lecture tour in New York. The divorce was approved in 1964. Watts and King were married that same year.
Up until the middle of the 1960s, Watts resided in the same house as King until the middle of 1960s in Sausalito, California. Then, he began to split his days in between Sausalito as well as Druid Heights, located on the southwest ridge of Mount Tamalpais. In Druid Heights, he stayed in a quiet cabin. While there the lecturer continued his lectures.
He died in October of 1973. came back from a journey to Europe and was able to stay in his home at Druid Heights. He passed away in his sleep on the 16th of November 1973. The body was cremated, and half of his cremated remains were placed in his library in Druid Heights while the other portion was buried at Green Gulch Monastery. Green Gulch Monastery.
Watts has left behind around 25 books, as well as an audio library of more than 400 talks that carry his legacy until today. To meet their ever-growing need His books aren’t only being republished today, copies of his lectures are also available in written form.
Saybrook University in the USA provides a course in Watts. This University has also created Watts academic chair.