1st Edition

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

Edited By Peter J. Columbus Copyright 2021
    282 Pages
    by Routledge

    282 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.

    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


    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