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Alan Watts: genius or charlatan?
06.01.2021
Religion
Alan Watts

The only thinker whose popularity on YouTube comes close to Jordan Peterson is Alan Watts, the British popularizer of Eastern wisdom. Watts’ talks from the 50s, 60s and early 70s have millions of views on YouTube. He’s become a guiding voice for the internet age — indeed, in Spike Jonze’s film Her, Watts is resurrected as a hyper-intelligent operating system.

Watts was a teenage prodigy, one of the earliest British converts to Buddhism. He published his first book on Zen aged 20, in 1932. He then moved to the US in the 1930s, and surprised everyone by becoming an Episcopalian priest (his daughter suggests he may have done this to avoid the draft). He foresaw that Western society needed a contemplative and mystical revival, but left the church when facing ejection for his unconventional lifestyle — he lived in a threesome, preached free love, and was finally divorced by his wife for being a ‘sexual pervert’ (British boarding school had apparently given him a taste for flogging).

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