Alan Watts on the ego

As a young adult, I loved the writing of Alan Watts. I felt he opened up new dimensions in my understanding of myself and my relationship to the universe. Reading him now as an adult simply reinforces the feeling of wonder at his insight and skill with words.

The root of the matter is the way in which we feel and conceive ourselves as human
beings, our sensation of being alive, of individual existence and identity. We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms. Most of us have the sensation that “I myself” is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body—a center which “confronts” an “external” world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange. Everyday figures of speech reflect this illusion. “I came into this world.” “You must face reality.” “The conquest of nature.”

This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole
realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.

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6 thoughts on “Alan Watts on the ego

  1. It is interesting to me how we can believe something without experiencing it deeply, as Watts notes. And yet I find it hard to imagine we would believe such things as we do without some deep knowing at work. It seems like we’re cut off from the reality of ourselves sometimes, like we’re blindfolded to what is waiting patiently for our discovery of it. I’ve only read snippets of Watts, but always enjoy them very much! I love the idea that “the universe ‘peoples’ …” So good!

    Peace
    Michael

    Like

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