Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts (Skylight Lives). Read more Alan Watts - Here and Now: Contributions to Psychology, Philosophy, and Religion. students and scholars, called The Alan Watts Mountain Center, is now under construction north of ON THE TABOO AGAINST KNOWING ALAN WATTS. $ FRQWHPSRUDU\ musicmarkup.info Ellwood, R. (). Alan Wilson Watts (January 6, – November 16, ) was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and.
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On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. ALAN WATTS. Alan Watts, who died in , held both a master's degree in theology and a doctorate of divinity. The Library of Congress cataloged the first Vintage Books edition as follows: Watts, Alan, – The way of Zen = [Zendō] / Alan W. Watts — 1st ed. p. cm. sight and imagination on their part that they have been willing to interest themselves in so “contrary” an ap- proach to metaphysical knowledge. ALAN W. WATTS.
Looking for a review of The Book by Alan W. Read this summary first: We often talk about how many distractions there are today and how they can keep us from living in the present and truly connecting with the people around us. Back in the s, when there were no pop-up ads and social media notifications, Alan Watts already thought the people around him were failing to connect with each other as human beings or tackle the bigger questions in life. So the words of wisdom Alan Watts provides are still relevant today. Maybe more relevant than ever! His message is one of connectivity — and not just with our fellow women and men, but with all of creation. In this summary of The Book by Alan W.
Like other volunteer programmers at the listener-sponsored station, Watts was not paid for his broadcasts. These weekly broadcasts continued until , by which time he had attracted a "legion of regular listeners". These recordings are broadcast to this day. For example, in Watts lectures were broadcast on Sunday mornings on San Francisco radio station KSAN;  and even today a number of radio stations continue to have an Alan Watts program in their weekly program schedules.
In Watts, then 42, published one of his best known books, The Way of Zen, which focused on philosophical explication and history. Besides drawing on the lifestyle and philosophical background of Zen, in India and China, Watts introduced ideas drawn from general semantics directly from the writings of Alfred Korzybski and also from Norbert Wiener 's early work on cybernetics , which had recently been published.
Watts offered analogies from cybernetic principles possibly applicable to the Zen life. The book sold well, eventually becoming a modern classic, and helped widen his lecture circuit. This became one of his passions in his research and thought. Experimentation[ edit ] Some of Watts' writings published in e. Watts had begun to experiment with psychedelics, initially with mescaline given to him by Oscar Janiger.
Ditman, Sterling Bunnell Jr. He also tried marijuana and concluded that it was a useful and interesting psychoactive drug that gave the impression of time slowing down. Watts' books of the '60s reveal the influence of these chemical adventures on his outlook.
For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen. He later equated mystical experience with ecological awareness, and typically emphasized whichever approach seemed best suited to the audience he was addressing.
These neighbors accomplished this by relying on their own talents and using their own hands, as they lived in what has been called "shared bohemian poverty". Regarding his intentions, Watts attempted to lessen the alienation that accompanies the experience of being human that he felt plagued the modern Westerner, and like his fellow British expatriate and friend, Aldous Huxley to lessen the ill will that was an unintentional by-product of alienation from the natural world.
He felt such teaching could improve the world, at least to a degree. He also articulated the possibilities for greater incorporation of aesthetics for example: better architecture, more art, more fine cuisine in American life. In his autobiography he wrote, "… cultural renewal comes about when highly differentiated cultures mix". A few years before, Watts had discussed the theme in his own book, Nature, Man and Woman, in which he discusses the possibility of the practice being known to early Christians and of it being kept secretly by the Church.
In his mature work, he presents himself as "Zennist" in spirit as he wrote in his last book, Tao: The Watercourse Way.
Child rearing, the arts, cuisine, education, law and freedom, architecture, sexuality, and the uses and abuses of technology were all of great interest to him. Though known for his discourses on Zen, he was also influenced by ancient Hindu scriptures, especially Vedanta.
He spoke extensively about the nature of the divine reality which Man misses: how the contradiction of opposites is the method of life and the means of cosmic and human evolution, how our fundamental Ignorance is rooted in the exclusive nature of mind and ego, how to come in touch with the Field of Consciousness and Light, and other cosmic principles. These are discussed in great detail in dozens of hours of audio that are in part captured in the 'Out of Your Mind' series.
Watts sought to resolve his feelings of alienation from the institutions of marriage and the values of American society, as revealed in his classic comments on love relationships in "Divine Madness" and on perception of the organism-environment in "The Philosophy of Nature". In looking at social issues he was quite concerned with the necessity for international peace, for tolerance and understanding among disparate cultures. Watts also came to feel acutely conscious of a growing ecological predicament.
Writing, for example, in the early s: "Can any melting or burning imaginable get rid of these ever-rising mountains of ruin—especially when the things we make and build are beginning to look more and more like rubbish even before they are thrown away? Friends of Watts had been concerned about him for some time over what they considered his alcoholism. He was reported to have been under treatment for a heart condition.
His ashes were split, with half buried near his library at Druid Heights and half at the Green Gulch Monastery. He advocated social rather than personal ethics.
In his writings, Watts was increasingly concerned with ethics applied to relations between humanity and the natural environment and between governments and citizens. He wrote out of an appreciation of a racially and culturally diverse social landscape. He often said that he wished to act as a bridge between the ancient and the modern, between East and West, and between culture and nature.
But he cannot help himself. This is the typical human problem. The object of dread may not be an operation in the immediate future. It may be something out of the past, some memory of an injury, some crime or indiscretion, which haunts the present with a sense of resentment or guilt. The power of memories and expectations is such that for most human beings the past and the future are not as real, but more real than the present. There can be no doubt that the power to remember and predict, to make an ordered sequence out of a helter-skelter chaos of disconnected moments, is a wonderful development of sensitivity.
In a way it is the achievement of the human brain, giving man the most extraordinary powers of survival and adaptation to life. But the way in which we generally use this power is apt to destroy all its advantages.
For it is of little use to us to be able to remember and predict if it makes us unable to live fully in the present. What is the use of planning to be able to eat next week unless I can really enjoy the meals when they come? I shall still be dimly aware of the present when the good things that I have been expecting come to pass.
For I shall have formed a habit of looking behind and ahead, making it difficult for me to attend to the here and now. If, then, my awareness of the past and future makes me less aware of the present, I must begin to wonder whether I am actually living in the real world.
After all, the future is quite meaningless and unimportant unless, sooner or later, it is going to become the present. This kind of living in the fantasy of expectation rather than the reality of the present is the special trouble of those business men who live entirely to make money.
So many people of wealth understand much more about making and saving money than about using and enjoying it. They fail to live because they are always preparing to live. Instead of earning a living they are mostly earning an earning, and thus when the time comes to relax they are unable to do so.
From still another point of view the way in which we use memory and prediction makes us less, rather than more, adaptable to life.
The best predictions are still matters of probability rather than certainty, and to the best of our knowledge every one of us is going to suffer and die.
If, then, we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans, accidents will happen, and where death comes at the end.
This, then, is the human problem: there is a price to be paid for every increase in consciousness. We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain. By remembering the past we can plan for the future. Furthermore, the growth of an acute sense of the past and the future gives us a correspondingly dim sense of the present. In other words, we seem to reach a point where the advantages of being conscious are outweighed by its disadvantages, where extreme sensitivity makes us unadaptable.
The discontent of our souls would appear to be the sign and seal of their divinity. But does the desire for something prove that the thing exists? We know that it does not necessarily do so at all. For it would seem that, in man, life is in hopeless conflict with itself. To be happy, we must have what we cannot have. In man, nature has conceived desires which it is impossible to satisfy.
To drink more fully of the fountain of pleasure, it has brought forth capacities which make man the more susceptible to pain. It has given us the power to control the future but a little—the price of which is the frustration of knowing that we must at last go down in defeat. If we find this absurd, this is only to say that nature has conceived intelligence in us to berate itself for absurdity.
Of course we do not want to think that this is true. Reasoning, then, is not enough. We must go deeper. We must look into this life, this nature, which has become aware within us, and find out whether it is really in conflict with itself, whether it actually desires the security and the painlessness which its individual forms can never enjoy.
Because life is sweet we do not want to give it up, and yet the more we become involved in it, the more we are trapped, limited, and frustrated. We love it and hate it at the same time. We fall in love with people and possessions only to be tortured by anxiety for them. The conflict is not only between ourselves and the surrounding universe; it is between ourselves and ourselves.
For intractable nature is both around and within us. It is as if we were divided into two parts. For the perishability and changefulness of the world is part and parcel of its liveliness and loveliness. Our revels now are ended. There is more in this beauty than the succession of melodious images, and the theme of dissolution does not simply borrow its splendor from the things dissolved.
The truth is rather that the images, though beautiful in themselves, come to life in the act of vanishing. The poet takes away their static solidity, and turns a beauty which would otherwise be only statuesque and architectural into music, which, no sooner than it is sounded, dies away. The towers, palaces, and temples become vibrant, and break from the excess of life within them.
To be passing is to live; to remain and continue is to die. Here, if anywhere, truth is beauty, for movement and rhythm are of the essence of all things lovable. In sculpture, architecture, and painting the finished form stands still, but even so the eye finds pleasure in the form only when it contains a certain lack of symmetry, when, frozen in stone as it may be, it looks as if it were in the midst of motion.
For change is not merely a force of destruction. Every form is really a pattern of movement, and every living thing is like the river, which, if it did not flow out, would never have been able to flow in. Life and death are not two opposed forces; they are simply two ways of looking at the same force, for the movement of change is as much the builder as the destroyer.
The human body lives because it is a complex of motions, of circulation, respiration, and digestion. To resist change, to try to cling to life, is therefore like holding your breath: if you persist you kill yourself.
It is as much a part and product of the stream of change as the body and the whole natural world. We shall then have a war between consciousness and nature, between the desire for permanence and the fact of flux. This war must be utterly futile and frustrating—a vicious circle—because it is a conflict between two parts of the same thing. It must lead thought and action into circles which go nowhere faster and faster.
For when we fail to see that our life is change, we set ourselves against ourselves and become like Ouroboros, the misguided snake, who tries to eat his own tail. Ouroboros is the perennial symbol of all vicious circles, of every attempt to split our being asunder and make one part conquer the other. The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
Religion, as most of us have known it, has quite obviously tried to make sense out of life by fixation. It has tried to give this passing world a meaning by relating it to an unchanging God, and by seeing its goal and purpose as an immortal life in which the individual becomes one with the changeless nature of the deity.
We think that making sense out of life is impossible unless the flow of events can somehow be fitted into a framework of rigid forms. To be meaningful, life must be understandable in terms of fixed ideas and laws, and these in turn must correspond to unchanging and eternal realities behind the shifting scene.
The root of the difficulty is that we have developed the power of thinking so rapidly and one-sidedly that we have forgotten the proper relation between thoughts and events, words and things. What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously.
A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money. Money gets rid of the inconveniences of barter. But it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth, because it will do you no good to eat it or wear it for clothing.
But real wealth, such as food, is perishable. Thus a community may possess all the gold in the world, but if it does not farm its crops it will starve. They are not those things, and though they represent them, there are many ways in which they do not correspond at all.
As with money and wealth, so with thoughts and things: ideas and words are more or less fixed, whereas real things change. It is also convenient to agree to use the same words for the same things, and to keep these words unchanged, even though the things we are indicating are in constant motion. In the beginning, the power of words must have seemed magical, and, indeed, the miracles which verbal thinking has wrought have justified the impression.
What a marvel it must have been to get rid of the nuisances of sign-language and summon a friend simply by making a short noise—his name! It is no wonder that names have been considered uncanny manifestations of supernatural power, and that men have identified their names with their souls or used them to invoke spiritual forces.
To define has come to mean almost the same thing as to understand. Thus he begins to feel, like the word, separate and static, as over against the real, fluid world of nature. Feeling separate, the sense of conflict between man, on the one hand, and nature, on the other, begins.
Language and thought grapple with the conflict, and the magic which can summon a man by naming him is applied to the universe.
Its powers are named, personalized, and invoked in mythology and religion. Natural processes are made intelligible, because all regular processes—such as the rotation of the stars and seasons—can be fitted to words and ascribed to the activity of the gods or God, the eternal Word. At a later time science employs the same process, studying every kind of regularity in the universe, naming, classifying, and making use of them in ways still more miraculous. But because it is the use and nature of words and thoughts to be fixed, definite, isolated, it is extremely hard to describe the most important characteristic of life—its movement and fluidity.
Just as money does not represent the perishability and edibility of food, so words and thoughts do not represent the vitality of life. But this is not quite true. You can only say that the moving train actually is i. But infinitely small points and fixed moments are always imaginary points, being denizens of mathematical theory rather than the real world. It is most convenient for scientific calculation to think of a movement as a series of very small jerks or stills.
But confusion arises when the world described and measured by such conventions is identified with the world of experience. A series of stills does not, unless rapidly moved before our eyes, convey the essential vitality and beauty of movement. The definition, the description, leaves out the most important thing. It is to prefer a motion-picture film to a real, running man.
Words and measures do not give life; they merely symbolize it. The dictionary itself is circular. It defines words in terms of other words. The dictionary comes a little closer to life when, alongside some word, it gives you a picture.
But it will be noted that all dictionary pictures are attached to nouns rather than verbs. An illustration of the verb to run would have to be a series of stills like a comic strip, for words and static pictures can neither define nor explain a motion. Even the nouns are conventions. We do not know. That is to say, we cannot define it in any fixed way, though, in another sense, we know it as our immediate experience—a flowing process without definable beginning or end. It is convention alone which persuades me that I am simply this body bounded by a skin in space, and by birth and death in time.
Where do I begin and end in space? I have relations to the sun and air which are just as vital parts of my existence as my heart. The movement in which I am a pattern or convolution began incalculable ages before the conventionally isolated event called birth, and will continue long after the event called death. Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything.
Now these are useful words, so long as we treat them as conventions and use them like the imaginary lines of latitude and longitude which are drawn upon maps, but are not actually found upon the face of the earth. But in practice we are all bewitched by words. We confuse them with the real world, and try to live in the real world as if it were the world of words.
As a consequence, we are dismayed and dumbfounded when they do not fit. The more we try to live in the world of words, the more we feel isolated and alone, the more all the joy and liveliness of things is exchanged for mere certainty and security. On the other hand, the more we are forced to admit that we actually live in the real world, the more we feel ignorant, uncertain, and insecure about everything.
But there can be no sanity unless the difference between these two worlds is recognized. The scope and purposes of science are woefully misunderstood when the universe which it describes is confused with the universe in which man lives. Science is talking about a symbol of the real universe, and this symbol has much the same use as money.
It is a convenient timesaver for making practical arrangements. But when money and wealth, reality and science are confused, the symbol becomes a burden. Similarly, the universe described in formal, dogmatic religion is nothing more than a symbol of the real world, being likewise constructed out of verbal and conventional distinctions. We hunger for the perpetuity of something which never existed.
It depends on what you want to do with them. The clash between science and religion has not shown that religion is false and science is true. But in the process of symbolizing the universe in this way or that for this purpose or that we seem to have lost the actual joy and meaning of life itself. All the various definitions of the universe have had ulterior motives, being concerned with the future rather than the present.
Religion wants to assure the future beyond death, and science wants to assure it until death, and to postpone death. But tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.
But it is just this reality of the present, this moving, vital now which eludes all the definitions and descriptions. Here is the mysterious real world which words and ideas can never pin down. Living always for the future, we are out of touch with this source and center of life, and as a result all the magic of naming and thinking has come to something of a temporary breakdown.
The miracles of technology cause us to live in a hectic, clockwork world that does violence to human biology, enabling us to do nothing but pursue the future faster and faster. Of course there is nothing new in this predicament of discovering that ideas and words cannot plumb the ultimate mystery of life, that Reality or, if you will, God cannot be comprehended by the finite mind.
The only novelty is that the predicament is now social rather than individual; it is widely felt, not confined to the few. The moment I name it, it is no longer God; it is man, tree, green, black, red, soft, hard, long, short, atom, universe. If you ask me to show you God, I will point to the sun, or a tree, or a worm. What is life?
What is motion? What is reality? To all such questions we must give St. You know very well what they are. For when we begin to think about experience we try to fix it in rigid forms and ideas. It is the old problem of trying to tie up water in parcels, or attempting to shut the wind in a box. We have become accustomed to the idea that wisdom—that is, knowledge, advice, and information—can be expressed in verbal statements consisting of specific directions.
If this be true, it is hard to see how any wisdom can be extracted from something impossible to define. But in fact the kind of wisdom which can be put in the form of specific directions amounts to very little, and most of the wisdom which we employ in everyday life never came to us as verbal information.
It was not through statements that we learned how to breathe, swallow, see, circulate the blood, digest food, or resist diseases. Yet these things are performed by the most complex and marvelous processes which no amount of book-learning and technical skill can reproduce.
This is real wisdom—but our brains have little to do with it. This is the kind of wisdom which we need in solving the real, practical problems of human life. It has done wonders for us already, and there is no reason why it should not do much more.
If they could talk, they could no more explain how it is done than the average man can explain how his heart beats. In general, however, human beings have ceased to develop the instruments of the body. On the other hand, the civilized woman has to be moved to a complicated hospital, and there, surrounded by doctors, nurses, and innumerable gadgets, force the poor thing into the world with prolonged contortions and excruciating pains. The answer to this, and many similar questions, is that we have been taught to neglect, despise, and violate our bodies, and to put all faith in our brains.
Indeed, the special disease of civilized man might be described as a block or schism between his brain specifically, the cortex and the rest of his body. Happily, there have, in recent years, been at least two scientists who have called attention to this schism, namely Lancelot Law Whyte and Trigant Burrow. Both Whyte and Burrow have given a clinical description or diagnosis of the schism, the details of which need not detain us here.
As a consequence, we are at war within ourselves—the brain desiring things which the body does not want, and the body desiring things which the brain does not allow; the brain giving directions which the body will not follow, and the body giving impulses which the brain cannot understand.
In one way or another civilized man agrees with St. Francis in thinking of the body as Brother Ass. The animal tends to eat with his stomach, and the man with his brain. When he has eaten as much as his belly can take, he still feels empty, he still feels an urge for further gratification. This is largely due to anxiety, to the knowledge that a constant supply of food is uncertain.
Therefore eat as much as you can while you can. It is due, also, to the knowledge that, in an insecure world, pleasure is uncertain. Therefore the immediate pleasure of eating must be exploited to the full, even though it does violence to the digestion. Human desire tends to be insatiable.
We are so anxious for pleasure that we can never get enough of it. We stimulate our sense organs until they become insensitive, so that if pleasure is to continue they must have stronger and stronger stimulants. In self-defense the body gets ill from the strain, but the brain wants to go on and on. The brain is in pursuit of happiness, and because the brain is much more concerned about the future than the present, it conceives happiness as the guarantee of an indefinitely long future of pleasures.
Yet the brain also knows that it does not have an indefinitely long future, so that, to be happy, it must try to crowd all the pleasures of Paradise and eternity into the span of a few years. This is why modern civilization is in almost every respect a vicious circle. It is insatiably hungry because its way of life condemns it to perpetual frustration.
As we have seen, the root of this frustration is that we live for the future, and the future is an abstraction, a rational inference from experience, which exists only for the brain.
It lives completely in the present, and perceives nothing more than what is at this moment. The ingenious brain, however, looks at that part of present experience called memory, and by studying it is able to make predictions.
These predictions are, relatively, so accurate and reliable e. But the future is still not here, and cannot become a part of experienced reality until it is present. Since what we know of the future is made up of purely abstract and logical elements—inferences, guesses, deductions—it cannot be eaten, felt, smelled, seen, heard, or otherwise enjoyed. To pursue it is to pursue a constantly retreating phantom, and the faster you chase it, the faster it runs ahead, This is why all the affairs of civilization are rushed, why hardly anyone enjoys what he has, and is forever seeking more and more.
Happiness, then, will consist, not of solid and substantial realities, but of such abstract and superficial things as promises, hopes, and assurances. The literature or discourse that goes along with this is similarly manufactured to tease without satisfaction, to replace every partial gratification with a new desire. For this stream of stimulants is designed to produce cravings for more and more of the same, though louder and faster, and these cravings drive us to do work which is of no interest save for the money it pays—to download more lavish radios, sleeker automobiles, glossier magazines, and better television sets, all of which will somehow conspire to persuade us that happiness lies just around the corner if we will download one more.
Despite the immense hubbub and nervous strain, we are convinced that sleep is a waste of valuable time and continue to chase these fantasies far into the night. Animals spend much of their time dozing and idling pleasantly, but, because life is short, human beings must cram into the years the highest possible amount of consciousness, alertness, and chronic insomnia so as to be sure not to miss the last fragment of startling pleasure.
The real trouble is that they are all totally frustrated, for trying to please the brain is like trying to drink through your ears.
Thus they are increasingly incapable of real pleasure, insensitive to the most acute and subtle joys of life which are in fact extremely common and simple. The vague, nebulous, and insatiable character of brainy desire makes it particularly hard to come down to earth—to be material and real. Generally speaking, the civilized man does not know what he wants. They are the by-products, the flavors and atmospheres of real things—shadows which have no existence apart from some substance.
It is therefore far from correct to say that modern civilization is materialistic, that is, if a materialist is a person who loves matter.
The brainy modern loves not matter but measures, no solids but surfaces. Therefore he tends to put up structures which appear from the outside to be baronial mansions but are inwardly warrens.
The individual living-units in these warrens are designed less for living as for creating an impression. Animals have sexual intercourse when they feel like it, which is usually in some sort of rhythmic pattern. Between whiles it does not interest them. But of all pleasures sex is the one which the civilized man pursues with the greatest anxiety. That the craving is brainy rather than bodily is shown by the common impotence of the male when he comes to the act, his brain pursuing what his genes do not at the moment desire.
This confuses him hopelessly, because he simply cannot understand not wanting the great delicacy of sex when it is available. He has been hankering after it for hours and days on end, but when the reality appears his body will not co-operate. He is attracted to his partner by the surface gloss, by the film on the skin rather than the real body. The only means of exploiting it is through cerebral fantasy, through surrounding it with coquetterie and suggestions of unspecified delights to come—as if a more ecstatic embrace could always be arranged through surface alterations.
A clock is a convenient device for arranging to meet a friend, or for helping people to do things together, although things of this kind happened long before they were invented.
Clocks should not be smashed; they should simply be kept in their place. And they are very much out of place when we try to adapt our biological rhythms of eating, sleeping, evacuation, working, and relaxing to their uniform circular rotation. Our slavery to these mechanical drill masters has gone so far and our whole culture is so involved with it that reform is a forlorn hope; without them civilization would collapse entirely.
A less brainy culture would learn to synchronize its body rhythms rather than its clocks. The capacity of the brain to foresee the future has much to do with the fear of death. One knows of many people who would have said with Stevenson, Under the wide and starry sky Dig me a grave and let me lie; Glad did I live and gladly die, And I laid me down with a will. For when the body is worn out and the brain is tired, the whole organism welcomes death. But it is difficult to understand how death can be welcome when you are young and strong, so that you come to regard it as a dread and terrible event.
For the brain, in its immaterial way, looks into the future and conceives it a good to go on and on and on forever—not realizing that its own material would at last find the process intolerably tiresome.
Not taking this into account, the brain fails to see that, being itself material and subject to change, its desires will change, and a time will come when death will be good. Unfortunately, not very many of us die peacefully. I am sure, however, that the body dies because it wants to. It finds it beyond its power to resist the disease or to mend the injury, and so, tired out with the struggle, turns to death.
If the consciousness were more sensitive to the feelings and impulses of the whole organism, it would share this desire, and, indeed, sometimes does so. We come close to it when, in serious sickness, we would just as soon die, though sometimes we survive, either because medical treatment reinvigorates the body, or because there are still unconscious forces in the organism which are able to heal.
We are perpetually frustrated because the verbal and abstract thinking of the brain gives the false impression of being able to cut loose from all finite limitations. It forgets that an infinity of anything is not a reality but an abstract concept, and persuades us that we desire this fantasy as a real goal of living.
The externalized symbol of this way of thinking is that almost entirely rational and inorganic object, the machine, which gives us the sense of being able to approach infinity.
For the machine can submit to strains far beyond the capacity of the body, and to monotonous rhythms which the human being could never stand. Useful as it would be as a tool and a servant, we worship its rationality, its efficiency, and its power to abolish limitations of time and space, and thus permit it to regulate our lives. Thus the working inhabitants of a modern city are people who live inside a machine to be batted around by its wheels. They spend their days in activities which largely boil down to counting and measuring, living in a world of rationalized abstraction which has little relation to or harmony with the great biological rhythms and processes.
As a matter of fact, mental activities of this kind can now be done far more efficiently by machines than by men—so much so that in a not too distant future the human brain may be an obsolete mechanism for logical calculation. Already the human computer is widely displaced by mechanical and electrical computers of far greater speed and efficiency. In other words, the interests and goals of rationality are not those of man as a whole organism.
If we are to continue to live for the future, and to make the chief work of the mind prediction and calculation, man must eventually become a parasitic appendage to a mass of clockwork. The brain is clever enough to see the vicious circle which it has made for itself. But it can do nothing about it.
Seeing that it is unreasonable to worry does not stop worrying; rather, you worry the more at being unreasonable. It is unreasonable to wage a modern war, in which everybody loses. Neither side actually wants a war, and yet, because we live in a vicious circle, we start the war to prevent the other side from starting first. We arm ourselves knowing that if we do not, the other side will—which is quite true, because if we do not arm the other side will do so to gain its advantage without actually fighting.
From this rational point of view we find ourselves in the dilemma of St. For the good that I would I do not. There are few grounds for hoping that, in any immediate future, there will be any recovery of social sanity. It would seem that the vicious circle must become yet more intolerable, more blatantly and desperately circular before any large numbers of human beings awaken to the tragic trick which they are playing on themselves.
But for those who see clearly that it is a circle and why it is a circle, there is no alternative but to stop circling. For as soon as you see the whole circle, the illusion that the head is separate from the tail disappears.
And then, when experience stops oscillating and writhing, it can again become sensitive to the wisdom of the body, to the hidden depths of its own substance. I am not asserting that the ultimate reality is matter. Matter is a word, a noise, which refers to the forms and patterns taken by a process. Matter is spirit named. After all this, the brain deserves a word for itself!
For the brain, including its reasoning and calculating centers, is a part and product of the body. It is as natural as the heart and stomach, and, rightly used, is anything but an enemy of man.
But to be used rightly it must be put in its place, for the brain is made for man, not man for his brain. In other words, the function of the brain is to serve the present and the real, not to send man chasing wildly after the phantom of the future. Furthermore, in our habitual state of mental tension the brain does not work properly, and this is one reason why its abstractions seem to have so great a reality.
When the heart is out of order, we are clearly conscious of its beating; it becomes a distraction, pounding within the breast. It seems most probable that our preoccupation with thinking and planning, together with the sense of mental fatigue, is a sign of some disorder of the brain. The brain should, and in some cases does, calculate and reason with the unconscious ease of the other bodily organs.
After all, the brain is not a muscle, and is thus not designed for effort and strain. But when people try to think or concentrate, they behave as if they were trying to push their brains around. They screw up their faces, knit their brows, and approach mental problems as if they were something like heaving bricks. Yet you do not have to grind and strain to digest food, and still less to see, hear, and receive other neural impressions.
Those of us who are not geniuses know something of the same ability. You can work over these letters for hours, trying system after system of rearrangement in order to discover the scrambled word.
Try, instead, just looking at the anagram with a relaxed mind, and in a very short space of time your brain will deliver the answer without the slightest effort.