Friday, August 12, 2011

Alan Watts: A Modern Vedantist Examination of the "I"

In "The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are," philosopher Alan Watts examines the delusionary way in which each of us looks as him or herself as a separate "ego" or "self" and the implications this has for society's development and its future. Critically examining the way that all of us are conditioned in this belief, Watts presents an Advaita Vedantist view on the question of our consciousness with a decidedly modern twist.
"The sensation of "I" as a lonely and isolated sense of being is so powerful and commonsensical, " Watts notes, "and so fundamental to our modes of speech and thought, to our laws and social institutions, that we cannot experience selfhood except as something superficial in the scheme of the universe."

"I seem to be a brief light that flashes but once in all the aeons of time," he observes, "a rare, complicated and all-too-delicate organism on the fringe of biological evolution, where the wave of life bursts into individual sparkling, and multicolored drops that gleam for a moment only to vanish forever. Under such conditioning it seems impossible and even absurd to realize that myself does not reside in the drop alone, but in the whole surge of energy which ranges from the galaxies to the nuclear fields in my body. At this level of existence "I" am immeasurably old; my forms are infinite and their comings and goings are simply the pulses or vibrations of a single and eternal flow of energy."
 "As the ocean 'waves,'" notes Watts, "so the universe 'peoples.'"

For more on this topic: See "Einstein to Alan Watts and Beyond: Who Are We?"

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