The Relevance of Alan Watts in Contemporary Culture : Understanding Contributions and Controversies book cover
1st Edition

The Relevance of Alan Watts in Contemporary Culture
Understanding Contributions and Controversies

Edited By

Peter J. Columbus

ISBN 9780367640354
Published May 13, 2021 by Routledge
282 Pages

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Book Description

Whilst accounting for the present-day popularity and relevance of Alan Watts’ contributions to psychology, religion, arts, and humanities, this interdisciplinary collection grapples with the ongoing criticisms which surround Watts’ life and work.

Offering rich examination of as yet underexplored aspects of Watts’ influence in 1960s counterculture, this volume offers unique application of Watts’ thinking to contemporary issues and critically engages with controversies surrounding the commodification of Watts’ ideas, his alleged misreading of Biblical texts, and his apparent distortion of Asian religions and spirituality. Featuring a broad range of international contributors and bringing Watts’ ideas squarely into the contemporary context, the text provides a comprehensive, yet nuanced exploration of Watts’ thinking on psychotherapy, Buddhism, language, music, and sexuality.

This text will benefit researchers, doctoral students, and academics in the fields of psychotherapy, phenomenology, and the philosophy of psychology more broadly. Those interested in Jungian psychotherapy, spirituality, and the self and social identity will also enjoy this volume.

Table of Contents

Editor’s Introduction

Alan Watts in the Twenty-first Century

Peter J. Columbus

Part 1: Humanistic Psychology

Chapter One

Jung Watts: Notes on C. G. Jung’s Formative Influence on Alan Watts

Ellen F. Franklin & Peter J. Columbus

Chapter Two

Alan Watts and the Re-visioning of Psychotherapy

Colin James Sanders

Chapter Three

Psychotherapy East and West: A Retrospective Review

Peter J. Columbus

Chapter Four

Alan Watts and Neurophenomenology

Susan Gordon

Chapter Five

Alan Watts and the Infinite Game: Playing Everything

Nathan L. Hulsey

Part 2: Comparative Religion and Philosophy

Chapter Six

Alan Watts, Psychedelic Buddhism, and Religious Play in Postwar America

Morgan Shipley

Chapter Seven

Alan Watts and the Occultism of Aquarian Religion: Square Gnosis, Beat Eros

Christopher W. Chase

Chapter Eight

Alan Watts and Secular Competence in Religious Praxis

Gerald Ostdiek

Chapter Nine

The Holistic Negation of Alan Watts: Reclaiming Value in the Void

Adrian Moore

Chapter Ten

Alan Watts’ "Dramatic Model" and the Pursuit of Peace

Juliet Bennet

Part 3: Arts & Humanities

Chapter Eleven

Reminiscences of Alan Watts’ Last Summer - "You Can Tell a Yogi by His Laugh"

Kenneth S. Cohen

Chapter Twelve

Literary Nonsense as Enactment of Alan Watts’ Philosophy - "Not just blathering balderdash"

Michael Heyman

Chapter Thirteen

Alan Watts, Ali Akbar Khan, and Hindustani Music in the Psychedelic Sixties

Samuel B. Cushman

Chapter Fourteen

Alan Watts and his Queer Readers: Not So Strange Bedfellows

Philip Longo

Editor’s Conclusion

Alan Watts: A Revised Bibliographic Resource

Peter J. Columbus

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Peter J. Columbus is administrator of Shantigar Foundation in Rowe, MA, USA, and formerly served on psychology faculties at Assumption College and Greenfield Community College, USA.


"Columbus (formerly, Assumption College; Greenfield Community College; currently, Shantigar Foundation) brings together a rich collection of 14 essays concerning the place of Alan Watts's thought in humanistic psychology, comparative religion and philosophy, and the arts and humanities. Watts was a synoptic thinker, a brilliant synthesizer of ideas from the Daoist and Zen traditions (and beyond), but he remains a figure whose contribution is shrouded by controversy. Some scholars have waved him aside as no more than an opportunistic guru or an Orientalist appropriator, but others, such as the contributors to this volume, see his relevance for fields as diverse as psychotherapy, music theory, and queer theory. The majority of the essays appeared in 2017 in special issues of the academic journal Self & Society, yet here the editor usefully reframes them in terms of future directions for research. An introduction develops Watts's relationship to 20th-century existentialism and to the current milieu of consumer capitalism. This book will be most valuable to scholars of psychology and the history of religion and to practitioners of psychotherapy who wish to broaden their therapeutic possibilities to encompass the contemporary space of mindfulness-informed practice." - M. Uebel, University of Texas, CHOICE Optional