Read Psychotherapy East and West 107

Read Psychotherapy East and West

Read Psychotherapy East and West 107 ✓ Thoughtful and thought provoking involving vast knowledge and research and deeply serious in intent — Los Angeles TimesBefore he became a counterculture hero Alan Watts was known as an incisive scholar of Eastern and Western psychology and philosophy In this 1961 classic Watts demonstrates his deep understandingRto secret wisdom of the Eastern traditions free man from his battle with the self “If we look deeply into such ways of life as Buddhism and Taoism Vedanta and yoga we do not find either philosophy or religion as these are understood in the West We find something nearly resembling psychotherapy” This synthesis is as powerful now as it was then and as ripe for revival. I'm really glad I got the stick out of my ass and started listening to reading Alan Watts For so long I wrote him off because the fans of his I knew were also the type to recommend burning sagebrush in my house to ward off evil spirits This book than any of his others I've come across cements just how anti woo he was The beauty to me of Eastern religion and philosophy is the lack of mumbo jumbo at its core—there's obviously still plenty but the basic message is very pragmatic and verifiable through observation of empirical reality Watts lets you see under the hood of both how and why Eastern ways of liberation and Western psychoanalysis lead to greater clarity about oneself and the world around us all It almost feels like a Penn Teller trick—he exposes exactly how this stuff produces valuable and beneficial change in human beings and that somehow makes it all the mystifying and awe inspiring Highly recommend it especially if you're skeptical of Watts himself or Eastern thought in general

Summary Ë eBook, PDF or Kindle ePUB ↠ Alan W. Watts

Piritual philosophies He examined the problem of humans in a seemingly hostile universe in ways that uestioned the social norms and illusions that bind and constrict modern humans Marking a groundbreaking synthesis Watts asserted that the powerful insights of Freud and Jung which had indeed brought psychiatry close to the edge of liberation could if melded with the hithe. This is certainly the most academic of Watts' books that I've come across and it is perhaps the most theoretical The book has an incredible number of philosophical and psychological sources featuring many long uotes which in my estimation make the book at least a third longer than it appears and certainly of a tough read Before reading the book I was surprised to discover how difficult it is to find and how expensive it is but given these facts I'm not that surprised now to find that it is actually out of print It seems that the contemporary audience for Watts' works is less interested in his hard nosed interpretations of Eastern philosophy and integration of it with revised conceptions of psychoanalytic theory and practice than with his popular works and with his lectures and I think readers will therefore at first wonder why this particular text is so difficultWhile I had to struggle to continue reading a few times and Watts' arguments cover such a vast range of content that it makes any place in any chapter a bad place to pause and the chapters are long the book is massively rewarding precisely because of the interpretations of concepts and experiences such as 'liberation' and 'upaya' and the novel connections between Eastern philosophy and psychoanalysis that Watts makes Watts takes great pains to show what is commendable in psychotherapeutic theories especially in the writings of Jung while also demonstrating their deficiencies He is also careful not to appear as an apologist or spokesman for Eastern philosophy While at times I found the number of authors referenced uite bewildering Watts' arguments are thorough and the thread of his general thesis is clear throughout the book I particularly enjoyed the last chapter which read like an independent essay but brought out the ethical implications of the arguments of the bookWhile the book presupposes basic knowledge of Eastern philosophy and psychoanalysis and goes into uite some detail I recommend the book to lay people scholars and practitioners in both areas I gained a lot of knowledge of both and some of the uotes particularly from Bateson had a big impact upon me

Alan W. Watts ↠ 7 Read

Psychotherapy East and WestThoughtful and thought provoking involving vast knowledge and research and deeply serious in intent Los Angeles TimesBefore he became a counterculture hero Alan Watts was known as an incisive scholar of Eastern and Western psychology and philosophy In this 1961 classic Watts demonstrates his deep understanding of both Western FreudianJungian psychotherapy and Eastern s. In Psychotherapy East and West Alan Watts compares eastern methods of liberation specifically Buddhism Taoism Vedanta and Yoga with modern western methods in particular the psychotherapeutic models pioneered by Freud and Jung In a complex lucid philosophical book of 214 pages he finds among other things that the very urge toward liberation is problematic since it presumes the existence of someone the ego who is not already liberatedPerhaps one of the most interesting claims Watts makes and the ramifications that he develops from it is the notion that enlightenment is not a metaphysical phenomenon but a social one; namely the liberation experienced is freedom from a socially imposed fiction that each of us inherits specifically that our ego identity is our real identity that we are an island of consciousness existing in a physical body separate from all other bodies and identified with a personal history Thus for Watts cosmic consciousness or enlightenment is not liberation from the bounds of physical existence nor does it confer psychic powers and reward in a heavenly hereafter; it simply restores the individual to a state of Reality wherein his own identity is felt as inseparable from everything previously taken as OtherWhat prompted me to re read this book after having read it than twenty years ago was a desire to review Watts's critiue of Carl Jung's thought That Watts had read Jung extensively is evident from this and other books including The Meaning of Happiness which has an extensive review of Jungian ideasIn the chapter Society and Sanity Watts asserts that human societies are consistent patterns of behavior All societies involve consistent patterns of organization traditions and customs Yet this pattern of organization is rooted in nature it is not separate and opposed to a nature which is chaotic Human beings are part of nature and all humans exist in societies hence societies too are part of nature The first rule of society is that life must go on Watts deconstructs such taken for granted notions as the survival instinct arguing that to say that an organism eats in order to survive is only to say that an organism is an expression of its environment ie a transformation of air sunlight vegetation water etcThere is no scientific reason to suppose that there are such things as instincts for survival or for pleasure When we say that an organism likes to go on living or that it goes on living because it likes it what evidence is there for this like except that it does in fact go on living until it doesn't 36The assertion is astonishing Don't we all know that all animals have a survival instinct We do but where do we get such knowledge and is there any basis for it Watts as always is brilliant at exposing the unconscious metaphysical assumptions which masuerade as scientific truth or common sense To say that animals possess a survival instinct is to say simply that animals prefer to go on living except when they commit suicide Watts' point is that organisms are expressions of environments a point which field theory has long ago articulated As such they are inseparable from their environments and exist in a state of dynamic euilibrium taking in nutrients and disposing of wastes in a manner consistent with the environment To project necessity onto what happens as a matter of course is to create a gigantic problem out of life by making what is play into work transforming a dance into drudgery As Watts puts it the first rule of the social game is that life is not a game but something deadly serious He calls this the primordial repression probably our most deeply ingrained social attitude As a result human life becomes problematic a predicament from which there appears to be no escape One manifestation of life as dilemma is our relationship to time One cannot enjoy the present moment because one worries about future events If we cannot enjoy ourselves in the present due to worries about the future we lose much of the joy available in life While being able to remember the past and predict future events based on it allows us to reduce suffering as for example with weather reports the same time sense renders human beings all too freuently lost regretting past events or dreading future onesMan is thus the self frustrating organism and this self frustrating activity Watts likens to the Buddhist concept of samsara Samsara is the restlessness that is the inevitable conseuence of our assumption that life is serious and that we must go on living Liberation depends upon becoming aware of this primordial repression and seeing that the problem is absurd Release does not come from seeing that there is no solution to the problem for that would only result in a stoic resignation to life as inevitable tragedy Rather enlightenment comes from seeing that the problem itself is meaninglessIn sum society is organized around a hallucination of a fictitious identity and includes basic premises such as that one must go on living and that life must go on In other words the source of all our anxiety and suffering is to be found in society not in the individual Various things follow from this insight for example the neurotic suffers overtly from the same problem everyone is burdened with being only a extreme case of the same fundamental problem which is alienation based on a false sense of identity inculcated by society For psychotherapy to be effective the therapist must not merely help patients adjust themselves to an insane social order but he must himself have already seen through to the sickness of societyIn The Ways of Liberation Watts claims that moksha or nirvana means release not from the bonds of the physical organism or universe but from society and the consensus trance it induces He is not impressed by the tales of feats of magic and psychic phenomena attributed to people who become enlightened and he claims that the testimony of friends and associates who have reached the other shore assure him that any changes in consciousness are far humble but in other ways impressive Accordingly Watts does not believe in reincarnation a doctrine he says is tied to the Hindu myth that liberation means freedom from the physical universe He adds that Buddhists and Vedantists who are in fact liberated do not take the doctrine of reincarnation literally If they have not gone out of their way to disabuse others of this doctrine it is because they are not revolutionaries and further they realize that people must discover this for themselves that telling them will do nothingHowever Watts' assumption that because enlightenment means awakening from consensus trance and not transcendence of the physical world therefore reincarnation as taught by the Buddha cannot be true is uestionable This raises a host of issues since Buddha explicitly taught a doctrine of reincarnation Why did Buddha teach it if he didn't think it was true It won't do to say that he was aware that Hindu society would not accept his teaching otherwise for in other important respects he was a harsh critic of Hinduism; for example he railed against the Hindu caste system as unnecessary and oppressive It is conceivable that Buddha thought that many people mired as the masses were in samsara and false egoic consciousness would not be able to follow his path of awakening without a sense that they would attain release from rebirth upon realizing nirvana or alternately they would attain to a auspicious rebirth upon becoming awakened bodhisattvas Of course this whole matter of what the Buddha thought begs the uestion Who was the Buddha Watts' critiue of Western Buddhists' finding reincarnation consoling in flat contradiction of the avowed objective of obtaining release from rebirth 67 may fairly apply to an Hinayana hermeneutic and to Theravada the only extant Hinayana school However that is ironic since Watts's states in one of the footnotes that the form of Buddhism he is referencing throughout is the Madhyamika of Nagarjuna ie a Mahayana teaching Mahayana does not teach an objective of release from rebirth but embracing rebirth as a bodhisattva so as to relieve the suffering of othersAccordingly since Siddhartha had been a bodhisattva for many lifetimes before becoming a Buddha as related in the Jataka tales which are accepted as canonical by both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhists he had vowed not to enter final nirvana until all beings were liberated Hence the teaching of a nirvana that is an escape from rebirth from life itself cannot possibly be consistent with Buddha's teaching unless one is to argue that his teaching is self contradictory in which case one can hardly argue he was genuinely enlightened But since emptiness is form nirvana is found nowhere else but in the midst of samsara or earthly life Nirvana is thus not an escape from life itself in the sense of obviating future rebirths but rather a mode of being in which life is fully embraced lived as it is rather than as seen through the distorting lens of egoIt is thus uite possible simultaneously to assert that 1 enlightenment or nirvana is an awakening from a social fiction not transcendence of the phenomenal world; and 2 though the ego self is a fiction reincarnation of a subtle mind stream or soul does occur The point here is not to assert that I know reincarnation is true but simply to state that I don't know whether it is true or not and neither did Alan Watts Moreover it is a logical fallacy to state that because liberation means liberation from a social fiction ego this necessarily means reincarnation is an illusion In addition it bears repeating that Buddha did teach the doctrine of reincarnation and that while there are varying interpretations of it within Buddhist hermeneutical tradition all schools of Buddhism accept the teaching of reincarnation in some form This of course does not make it true The point is rather that Watts' claim that enlightened Buddhists and Vedantists don't take reincarnation literally is debatable Certainly Buddha was enlightened and he clearly taught a doctrine of reincarnation Indeed he said that one of the powers gained upon realizing enlightenment was the ability to remember his many previous lifetimesWatts correctly asserts that the Madhyamika Buddhist concept of the world as maya does not mean the concrete world does not exist; rather it means that things are relative they have no self existence because no one thing can be designated without relation to others and further because 'thing' is a unit of description not a natural entity 64Some of Watts's strongest points come in his critiue of the limitations of psychotherapy as a way of liberation including the theories of Carl Jung The weakness of psychotherapy is less in the theoretical distinctions between schools than in the dualistic nature they all impose upon humankind ego and unconscious subject and object psyche and soma reality principle and pleasure principle reason and instinct If therapy is healing or making whole then psychotherapy by beginning from a premise of self division may be a medicine that simply perpetuates the disease At best it may help one achieve a courageous despair 117 He uotes Jung to the effect that Jung could not conceive of a state of consciousness without a subject an egoMoreover Jung viewed the accounts from the East of egoless states of mind as essentially regressive rather than transcendent To Jung it was nonetheless okay for Easterners to indulge in this participation mystiue of egoless states of consciousness because they had social structures that somehow kept them in closer touch with instinctual forces But Westerners he felt should avoid Eastern paths because Westerners had repressed the unconscious so much that they would be in danger inflation with the uprising of previously repressed instinctual forcesIf Eastern cultures were less ego conscious than Western Buddhist and Taoist texts would be relatively silent as to the illusory nature of he ego Jung is therefore perfectly right in sounding a warning but for the wrong reason He assumes that a strong ego structure a struggle against nature is the necessary condition of civilization and is thus in danger of reaching the same despair as Freud But it is one thing to note that civilization as we know it has depended upon the ego concept; it is uite another to assert that it must as if this convention were somehow in the nature of things Freud and Jung are both fully alive to the interdependence of life's great opposites but for both they constitute a finally insoluble problem Freud fears that the tension between them must at last become unbearable; Jung seems prepared to walk the tightrope between them forever 122For Jung there was no overcoming the problems of life; the meaning and purpose of life's problems was found in the incessant effort to overcome them This alone preserves us from stultification and petrifaction he wrote Watts called this attitude the voice of the Protestant conscience which assumes that man is inherently lazy; by nature by original sin he will always slide back into dissolution unless there is something to goad him 123 I don't know if this is uite fair to Jung Jung's uote may also be taken to mean that the path of transformation is endless and thus the meaning is in the effort of the journey not the destination This is a sentiment that seems characteristic of Eastern wisdom and I'm not sure that stating the necessity of incessant effort is tantamount to stating that man is inherently lazy Although laziness does seem to be the mother of all vices Call that Protestant conscience if you wish but that is how it seems to this reviewerWatts' analysis of the problems of Jungian thought is nonetheless fair and balanced He acknowledges that among Western psychotherapists Jung's theories most closely approached the wisdom of the East yet the Jungians didn't uite make it all the way He rightly says that Jungian writings abound in accounts of the fearsome and primitive shadow lurking just beneath the everyday consciousness which if left to function unchecked would wreak havoc upon the worldJungians never allow us to forget Watts maintains that not only consciousness but also psychic integration the goal of therapy is precarious This attitude echoes the Biblical warning Brethren be sober be vigilant for your adversary the Devil walketh about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour The unconscious can be creative it seems only if skillfully pacified by the conscious which must act all the while like the wary trainer of a performing lionJung's view was that the ego was the historically necessary yet problematic evolution which raised humankind out of a primitive animalistic state and thus its loss posed the danger of the individual being overwhelmed by regressive psychic forces But Watts theorizes instead that humankind's history of barbarity its wars and genocidal impulses stem not from insufficient or absent ego but from too much ego ie they are a rebellion against the double bind of a self contradictory social institution 127 Moreover he uestions the assumption whether development of an ego is the necessary basis for consciousness and intelligence by noting that the neural structures in the brain which are the basis of man's intelligence are certainly not the creation of any egoMoreover Watts uestions Jung's dictum that all experience is psychological asserting that this makes psychological meaningless just as any statement about everything is perfectly meaningless Watts uotes the Zen master Nansen who pointing at flowers said that people of the world look at them as if they were in a dream Yet the content of cosmic consciousness is not primarily an inner experience but consists in a new way of viewing the world Nansen's flowers are not intended to be seen as an archetype in a dream He is not pointing to them as if they were an archetype or visionary form seen in a dream or trance He is simply pointing to the flowers The confusion is due to the West's view of Taoism and Zen as religions and its notion that religions are concerned primarily with inner experience But while in the East aspirants to liberation are told to look within for truth this is so they will realize there is no inside per se but only a seamless being in the world as the existentialists call it Indeed Watts believes the existential school comes closer than either Freud or Jung to the Eastern forms of liberation inasmuch as existentialism seeks to overcome the artificial split between subject and object while Freud and Jung's thought only reinforce this split via their dualistic concepts of the psyche For example Jung and Freud both wrote about the unconscious as though it were a spiritual entity or personality with a mind of its own but Watts correctly observes that there is no such thing as the unconscious; it is accurate to speak of unconsciousness or as LL Whyte wrote that it would be accurate to speak of man's life as unconscious process with conscious aspectsBut Watts is not without criticism of the existentialists They give him the impression that to live without anxiety is to somehow lack seriousness which brings up the ancient uarrel between East and West the latter always alleging that the East does not take human personality seriously What amounts in Existentialism to an idealization of anxiety is surely no than a survival of the Protestant notion that it is good to feel guilty anxious and serious This is uite a different thing than accepting that one feels anxious which breaks the vicious circle of being anxious about being anxious At the other extreme if all compound things including human beings are in anguish without abiding self and impermanent isn't liberation tantamount to learning not to care But this is only a stereotype of the Eastern attitude and Watts wisely rejects it as a parody of serenity He suggests we may learn by examining the great works of art of east and west such as the faces of Christ and Madonna in Michelangelo's Pieta in St Peter's Cathedral in Rome or the statue of Maitreya at Horyu ji in Nara Such faces reveal great sadness resignation serenity compassion and wisdom all at the same time yet without any trace of guilt or apprehension He opines that such faces far from representing divine and impossible to attain states are similar to the faces of many people when they are dying Watts then hypothesizes that in death many people experience the curious sensation not only of accepting but of having willed everything that has happened to them 134