Talk:Alan Watts

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Former featured article candidate Alan Watts is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.
May 10, 2005 Featured article candidate Not promoted


"Although in one Koan Zhaozhou is said to have answered that a Dog does not have Buddha nature, in a different Koan from the same period Zhaozhou answered the same question in the positive, demonstrating the disagreements between the sects of 'walking monks' and 'sitting monks' that go back thousands of years."

What?! How could anyone read the koan and come to that conclusion? Almost anything you about the koan anywhere will refute this, since the correct 'doctrinal' answer is that yes, a dog 'has' buddha nature, but of course Zhaozhou is not answering the question as a simple affirmation or denial. Maybe if you didn't know what a koan was and found it decontextualized somewhere (with the commentary removed) you would argue this but anyone with any knowledge of zen knows this is just dead wrong (just look at the wikipedia article for the koan, or basically any commentary written since it appeared). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:54, 6 March 2013 (UTC)


We need an image for the infobox, and more for the rest of the article. Viriditas (talk) 02:09, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

I found that this image of Alan is much nicer and less austere than the one previously hosted, as he is almost smiling.--Rainnelliott (talk) 09:22, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

I don't see any image currently, just a photo of a stone sculpture. Is this deliberate? David Spector (user/talk) 15:05, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

Although the current image is a pretty rare photo of young Watts, wouldn't his infobox be improved if the picture was of adult Watts? I mean, there's no reason not to just move the image of young Watts down the page a bit, right? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:25, 12 October 2015 (UTC)

Early years[edit]

This section needs expansion and citations. Viriditas (talk) 02:07, 23 November 2009 (UTC)


How is it that the article does not explain how he died? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:35, 15 June 2011 (UTC)  Done

This sentence is missing something, it does not scan grammatically and I do not know what it is saying, either. " His ashes were split with half buried near his library at Druid Heights and half at the Green Gulch Monastery."

Wait, I get it now but this part is very weird sounding: "His ashes were split with half buried".. It could be much more clear with a comma or something. Or just rewritten.

"His ashes were buried in two places: 1. Near his library at Druid Heights, and 2. The Green Gulch Monastery." — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wlexxx (talkcontribs) 14:48, 27 February 2017 (UTC)

Alan Watts Renaissance through Internet-Video[edit]

Someone should really start a section on this. The web-video culture around his stuff is amazing, there are many lectures with over half a million views and many many others that have been privately reproduced tens of times... The wave of revolution that he started at his time is coming big 100 times more powerful today, through the Internet and his brilliant ability to articulate what so many are trying. --Procrastinating@talk2me 16:07, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

Thers should be mention of the matt stone and trey parker animated piece and his use in 'spiritual atheism'. Gabbyyellow 10:42, 22 May 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Gabbyyellow (talkcontribs)  Done

University offers the only course on Alan Watts -- Not that unusual[edit]

There is a section that says Saybrook University Saybrook Graduate School offers the only course in the world on Alan Watts. That's not all that unusual and I think it should be considered removed. Why? Because how a university comes to have a course is 99% of the time dependent on what interests the teacher (i.e., the professor, lecturer, or graduate student-teacher) has. I am a graduate student and I have offered my own courses before, courses that were not taught elsewhere before. It's not all that unusual, really, and nothing worth mentioning.

What would be unusual, however, would be if a university offered a degree on Alan Watts Philosophy. Now that would mean there is a whole programme to look at Alan Watts. Obviously, this isn't the case at Saybrook University Saybrook Graduate School.

Consider removing that point in the article that Saybrook University Saybrook Graduate School offers the only course in the world on Alan Watts. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:21, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

I agree with the editor above that the entry for one University having a course about Alan Watts doesn't belong here. For one thing the entry is not sourced and could be removed on that matter alone. Second (especially without a source that says this) how do we know that there is no other course about Alan Watts at some university somewhere? --MLKLewis (talk) 17:33, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

Disagree. While I agree that the fact of only one course is not unusual, it is still significant that some university does offer an ongoing course. I agree that a reference is needed. David Spector (user/talk) 15:10, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

The fact of a course being offered may be significant, but as pointed out, it is impossible to reference its uniqueness, despite the claim of Saybrook College, and thereby raising an eyebrow about that claim itself. Jackaroodave (talk) 04:59, 21 May 2013 (UTC)


The early life section says his mother was a housewife, but according to Watts himself, his mother "taught physical education at a school in England which was specially designed for the daughters of missionaries to China". Viriditas (talk) 06:53, 10 December 2010 (UTC)

In the absence of a reliable public reference, the word of Alan Watts should be sufficient, if a reference to that can be found. David Spector (user/talk) 15:13, 3 October 2012 (UTC)


Do you think this should be added to the "list of British philosophers"? I don't know how to add it, myself :( (talk) 09:03, 24 February 2011 (UTC)

Yes, but I don't know either.--Rainnelliott (talk) 09:24, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

 Done --Arno Matthias (talk) 14:10, 20 February 2012 (UTC)


Why has the reference to his alcoholism been removed? It feel it's essential to understanding Watts as a complex and multi-layered personality. Should we perhaps remove the same references on the Kerouac page aswell? --Torsrthidesen (talk) 07:45, 15 February 2012 (UTC)

Very strongly agree with the above comment. If I had not lent out the biography in which this is well referenced I would re-insert a section on this. --Steve M Kane (talk) 10:55, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not in the business of publishing hagiographies - it is an encyclopedia, and should include all relevant information - and this most certainly is. He could "talk the talk" but could he "walk the walk"? The whole dynamic of his drinking "He could not *be Alan Watts* (for public appearances) without drinking a bottle of vodka" And the necessity of doing ever more well paid talks to pay a lot of money in child support, possibly to salve his conscience at abandoning his wives and children - and how this shed light on his views on marriage. All this should be in and referenced. Like I said the biography "Zen Effects" by Monica Furlong (not a sensationalist person in the least) has all this in it, but I don't have my copy.--Steve M Kane (talk) 11:06, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

This biography also appeared under the title "Genuine Fake"--Steve M Kane (talk) 11:22, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

A philosopher, who writes and talks about religions therefore has to be a holy man? What an extraordinarily stupid argument. Nietzsche was no ubermensch? Down with his Zarathustra! --Arno Matthias (talk) 20:14, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
Agree that a philosopher of enlightenment need not be enlightened; also agree that his alcoholism and alleged family abandonments belong in the article if reliable references can be found. David Spector (user/talk) 15:19, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
He was not really a philosopher of enlightenment, but a preacher of enlightened. Being alcoholic indeed is relevant here. OsmanRF34 (talk) 01:02, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

Reading about Watt's drinking, especially before his preaching, makes him a much more rounded and sympathetic person to me. Knowing him through some of his fans, I had always thought of him as a glib "No mind? No sweat!" zen entrepreneur. Frankly, I doubt anyone can really "walk the walk," and in a melancholy way, it's to his credit that his contradictions burned him so deeply. It also may shed light on Sunryu Suzuki's characterizing him as a great boddhisattva. He continued to hold the door open for others at great cost to himself. Jackaroodave (talk) 04:28, 21 May 2013 (UTC)

I have reinserted mention of Watts' drinking, and here is my reasoning: According to the article revision history, the original mention of his potential alcoholism specifically stated that alcoholism contributed to his death. That statement was removed by an anonymous user on 06:49, 8 November 2011‎ as being speculative, and that removal seems appropriate given that the source (Furlong biography) does not state any medical opinion of his death being related to alcohol. However, Furlong does describe in detail in several places in the book that his friends and family were concerned over his drinking, so that is how I've described it in my edit. If reference to his drinking is to be removed, then an argument must be made that it is not relevant to the wiki article. The argument cannot be based on lack of citation, given that this same source is used throughout this wiki article. It's not fair to refute only one part of a source, unless the refutation comes from a different source. And in that latter case, the article should state that sources disagree on this point. Jmattthew (talk) 00:07, 16 June 2013 (UTC)

Dates of KPFA broadcasts?[edit]

I have to question the statement that Watts's weekly broadcasts on radio station KPFA continued until his death. I lived in Berkeley from late 1967 to 1975 and was an avid listener of KPFA, but I do not recall ever hearing him on that station. During that time KPFA sent a monthly newsletter to subscribers which included a program grid, but I do not recall seeing his name there either. I just now searched for "Alan Watts" in the Pacifica Radio Archive. The search came up with over 100 items. I randomly examined a dozen or so -- I found a couple that said they were broadcast in 1966, and a fair number broadcast in 1960, but none between 1967 and his death. Tomtab (talk) 21:25, 16 November 2013 (UTC)

A year after writing the above, I have investigated further and confirmed my doubts about the statement in this article that Watts' weekly KPFA broadcasts continued until his death. In fact, his last weekly program at KPFA was in 1962.

I got an initial confirmation of my suspicion -- from Watts himself -- several months ago when listening to one of his recorded lectures titled "The Spectrum of Love". At the very end of that lecture, while telling a story about Jacques Cousteau and an octopus, he mentions his Pacifica broadcasts in a way that makes clear they are in the past: "Some years ago, ... . I was at that time making regular broadcasts over the Pacifica radio. ..."

Now I have researched this more thoroughly. It happens that all the issues of the KPFA program guide, the "KPFA Folio", have been archived at I examined all issues of the KPFA Folio from January 1962 to December 1969, searching for references to Alan Watts. (There was just one issue from this period that I was unable to access, covering the two-week period September 7-20, 1964.)

Here is what I found. Watts had a 30-minute weekly program "Philosophy East and West", the last scheduled broadcast of which was on April 22, 1962. After that date, programs involving Alan Watts continued to be broadcast from time to time, but not on any regular schedule.

Between May 1962 and December 1965, there were Watts programs in 12 of the 90 mostly-biweekly schedules that I examined. These include four rebroadcasts of programs from the KPFA archives, three vinyl LP recordings of Watts and others reading Japenese poetry or performing music, three recordings of lectures, and two recorded panel discussions. The KPFA Folio for March 11-24, 1963 states that "Dr. Watts is presently on a two-year traveling fellowship and is unable to produce regular programs for Pacifica."

Between January 1966 and December 1969, Alan Watts programs appeared in 16 of 48 monthly program schedules. These are mostly recordings of talks given at various locations.

These findings clearly establish that Watts' regular weekly KPFA broadcasts ended in 1962. I will now change the main article to reflect this.

I realize this is a lot of verbiage to justify one small change. But the statement that Watt's weekly programs continued until his death is wide-spread on the internet (perhaps arising out of this article), so I feel a detailed justification of this correction is in order.Tomtab (talk) 08:49, 26 November 2014 (UTC)


Pictogram voting question.svg Question: I find it very strange that none of Watt's books has an individual article. Some of his books were very popular and remain so today, while others are important scholarly works. Has this issue been discussed?

I will add a stub for TAO: The Watercourse Way, which is a broken wikilink here & on several other pages. D A Patriarche, BSc (talk) (talk) 00:52, 19 July 2014 (UTC)

  • This appears to be a misuse of the RfC process and an attempt at circumvent WP:NOTAFORUM. If you think an article should be written, then research and write it. --Scalhotrod - Just your average banjo playing, drag racing, cowboy... (Talk) 16:12, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
I agree, this is just the usual case of missing content, which is why we are all still editing here. find sources, add an article. What we need is a free image. I think we can agree mr watts would be all for cc licenses, at least for some information.Mercurywoodrose (talk) 18:37, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
  • Point taken; I was just concerned that for some (perhaps good) reason an earlier consensus had been reached not to write articles for the individual books. My Watts collection is mostly in storage, but I will add a few articles as & when I can. I have commented out the inappropriate rfc. D A Patriarche, BSc (talk) (talk) 00:20, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

Watts's experiences with psychedelics[edit]

A paragraph in the "Experimentation" sub-section of the "Middle years" section says: "In the 1960s, Watts began to experiment with psychedelics, initially with mescaline given to him by Dr. Oscar Janiger." It's a minor point, but I think his experimentation with these chemicals probably began before 1960. A footnote in his 1958 book Nature, Man, and Woman makes reference to the mescaline experience, in such a way that it would seem this was his personal experience and not something he'd merely read about. Janiger, a physician, may well have been the officiating guide and safety net in an experience Watts may have had in the late 1950s.Joel Russ (talk) 19:06, 10 December 2014 (UTC)

Christian priest and after[edit]

RE: {{refimprove section|date=November 2014}} The principal references for this section are in primary sources, especially Watts' autobiography. I have added a couple of cites of his works, but more secondary sources would be helpful. D A Patriarche, BSc (talk) (talk) 03:19, 17 March 2015 (UTC)

New image[edit]

I replaced the unfree image with a now available image from commons; the justification for using the unfree image is that there was no other image available, but this is no longer the case. ♫ RichardWeiss talk contribs 06:00, 2 October 2015 (UTC)

@RichardWeiss: and you thought this was a good idea, why? Let's recap: you replaced the popular visage of an easily recognized figure image of a seven year old child that is entirely unrecognizable as the subject? Viriditas (talk) 11:53, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
We can only use the non-free image if a free image is not available but a free image is available. You are anyway surely not seriously suggesting we use an unfree image in preference to a free one? ♫ RichardWeiss talk contribs 19:26, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
That's not how it works, and black and white thinking is not helpful. There is no free image available depicting the subject as he is known. The image you added does not depict the subject as he is known, it depicts a child who is unrecognizable as the subject. This kind of ridiculous black and white thinking has to end. Viriditas (talk) 20:12, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
I disagree that the child is unrecognisable and absolutely dont think that justifies using an unfree image when a public domain image is available. I am not sure what you mean either by "black and white thinking" or by "this has to end". In spite of your unsubstantiated claim that you know more about the subject of image copyright than me I am left wondering if you are referring to general problems with images on wikipedia when you talking aboiut it having to end. perhaps you can enlighten me? And because wikipedia now sues this image on all its different language articles about Alan (none of which used the unfree image), its likely this image is already more associated with him than it was. You at the very least need to come up with some policy justifying your claims. ♫ RichardWeiss talk contribs 23:04, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
You can disagree all you want, and you are free to live in the fantasy world you created for yourself, but you won't find a single, sane individual who believes that this image looks like the popular visage of Alan Watts or is a reasonable replacement. Your argument is absurd, ridiculous, and harms the encyclopedia. You're not the first image warrior to make a ridiculous argument like this and use policy as a weapon to support your insanity, nor the last. Viriditas (talk) 23:29, 26 October 2015 (UTC)
That's ridiculous thinking that this image of Alan Watts as a child is a substitute for the mature Alan Watts. I see the non-free image has now been deleted on the grounds that it hasn't been used for 7 days. All in all, this has been a big step backwards. --Epipelagic (talk) 04:59, 27 October 2015 (UTC)