Beth MacDonald 4 min read

40 Alan Watts Quotes to Quench Your Existential Thirst

Philosophy Random + Awesome alan watts

alan watts quotes
alan watts quotes

Most often the best advice is just a mere tidbit of insightfulness, another way to understand ourselves and the world around us, a comment of encouragement, or positivity. Below is an accumulation of insightful quotations by British-born American philosopher, Alan Watts who spent his career teaching others to unlearn everything society has taught us, and to recognize the only moment that exists perpetually is the present.

Any time you have a question about life, love, reality or your own self Watts can offer you an idea to quench you existential ponderings. Watts’ teachings remain relevant long after his death in 1973, and will perhaps remain eternally applicable to questions concerning our day to day existence. Here are 40 Alan Watts quotes on topics such as perception, creativity, the cosmos, emotions, love, death, and “self.”

On Perception

“This whole world is a phantasmagoria, an amazing illusion.”

“We notice only what we think noteworthy, and therefore our vision’s highly selective.”

“Memory creates the future as well as the past, you wouldn’t know that you were going to have anything happen tomorrow if you didn’t have something yesterday.”

“The world is precisely the relationship between the world and its witnesses, and so if there are no eyes in this world, the sun doesn’t make any light, nor do the stars.”

“If you don’t remember anything you don’t know you’re there.”

“There is nothing except the eternal now.”

“Things and events have only a verbal reality.”

On Art and Creativity

“An artist is a person who performs certain things skillfully, but doesn’t really know how he does it. You learn art by methods that you don’t know how you learnt, you can’t describe, because your brain is capable of absorbing all kinds of information that is much too subtle to be translated into words.”

“Creative people can stimulate creativity in others, by osmosis.”

On the Universe

“You and I are as much continuous with the universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.”

“Everything in this universe depends on everything else.”

“Everything that happens, everything that I have ever done, everything that anybody else have ever done is part of a harmonious design, that there is no error at all.”

“Through our eyes, the universe perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”

Read this: Top 5 Alan Watts Videos

On Life and Death

“Dying should be one of the great events of life.”

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

On Balance

“Everybody has to be salted by a certain unrespectability.”

“The positive cannot exist without the negative.”

“To be implies not to be.”

“All insides have outsides.”

“You can only be on the in in relation to something that is out.”

On Choice and Misguidedness

“Choice is not a form of freedom in the sense of the word; choice is the act of hesitation that occurs before making a decision.”

“We have been literally hypnotized by social convention into feeling and sensing that we exist only inside our skins.”

“Every manifestation of life is impermanent. Our quest to make things permanent, to straighten everything out, to get it fixed is an impossible and insoluble problem.”

On Emotions

“There are no wrong feelings.”

“This is one of the peculiar problems of our culture, that we are terrified of our feelings.”

“Most problems that are solved in a rush are solved in the wrong way, especially emotional problems between people.”

“We have frustration because we are fighting the changing of things.”

On Love

“The first thing to discover is what indeed you do love, and you will find there is something.”

“Love is not something that is a sort of rare commodity, everybody has it.”

“Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command.”

Read this: Alan Watts' 3-part Advice to Couples

On You

“The ego is your symbol of yourself, just as the word ‘water’ is a noise that symbolizes a certain liquid reality. So the idea of the ego, the role you play, who you are is not the same as your living organism. Your ego has absolutely nothing to do with the way you colour your eyes, shape your body, circulate your blood, thats the real you, but its certainly not your ego.”

“You are the animate sensitive being on the inside of the skin.”

“All people feel themselves in the middle, they feel central to their own experience.”

“My image of me is not at all your image of me.”

“[Our ego] is composed of our image of ourselves, as when we say to somebody, you must improve your image. Now, this image of ourselves is obviously not ourselves any more than the idea of a tree is a tree.”

“A lot of the current quest for identity among younger people is a search for an acceptable image.”

“Our image of ourselves is completely inaccurate and incomplete.”

“That, you see, is the most difficult thing to do: to accept oneself completely.”

“You have all eternity through which to live in various forms.”

“The physical body is the body as examined by others; the subtle body is the way you feel yourself.”

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