Alan Watts—The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are—Book Review

book on the taboo alan watts

Alan Watts–The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are–Book Review

In this book Alan Watts explores the foundations of what it means to exist in disconnected  society and proposes a new viewpoint as part of the solution.

‘We do not need a new religion or a new bible. We need a new experience–a new feeling of what it is to be “I.”‘

So, who are you? What aren’t we supposed to know about who we are?

That you’re it. You’re what the word God tries to express and fails to do in myth and metaphor.

‘But this is because we think of God as the King of the Universe, the Absolute Technocrat who personally and consciously controls every detail of his cosmos–and that is not the kind of God in my story. In fact, it isn’t my story at all, for any student of the history of religions will know that it comes from ancient India, and is the mythical way of explaining the Vedanta philosophy…In the Vedanta philosophy, nothing exists except God. There seem to be other things than God, but only because she is dreaming them up and making them her disguises to play hide-and-seek with herself. The universe of seemingly separate things is therefore only real for a while, not eternally real, for it comes and goes as the Self hides and seeks itself.’

Your experience is simply the universe exploring what it means to be you and the whole of existence is in support of your exploration of free will.

You’re Joseph Campbell’s hero at the center of every journey ever taken—’And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.’

Deep down, you’re an expression of the whole universe; the unfathomable and eternal consciousnesses that lies at the center of every life form and object in existence. And so is everyone else. The people you love and the people you label as evil. We’re all it. You’re just playing that you’re not so that the universe can know what it’s like to wear your personality; to taste the unique flavor of your life and experience; to feel your loves, horrors, victories, defeats, and everything in between.

You’re TS Eliot’s ‘Still point of the turning world.’

You’re the essence that every religion ever imagined has tried to capture through metaphor.

You’re it.

And so is everyone else.

And why does shifting our view and changing our experience of “I” matter?

Because we’re distorting reality with our current view.

 ‘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 always sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.

The first result of this illusion is that our attitude to the world “outside” us is largely hostile. We are forever “conquering” nature, space, mountains, deserts, bacteria, and insects instead of learning to cooperate with them in a harmonious order….The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events–that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies–and will end in destroying the very environment we from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends. ‘

At only 160 pages it’s a quick and fascinating read.

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