Alan Watts was an interpreter of Eastern thought for a western audience. Although he was born in Britain he spent a large part of his life lecturing delivering radio broadcasts and writing books and articles in the United States. He sadly passed away in 1973; however there is resurgence in interest in his writings and philosophy that has taken place on the Internet. The Internet is a wonderful tool of accessing information some of Alan Watts’s books are available on Google or can be purchased from Amazon. There are also a number of useful websites dedicated to the man himself and his philosophy. Foremost among these is a website simply called “open minds” it features a number of cartoons illustrating the basic tenants have Alan Watt philosophy. You tube also features a wide variety of videos featuring the man himself, some are taken from a lecture tours of the United States whilst others are from documentaries he made during the 60s and 70s. Extended feature length videos are also available on Google.
Alan Watts’s main interest was in the parallels between Christianity and the religions of the East. He was particularly interested in Chinese Taoism and the practice of zazen from Japan. He was a practitioner of Zen methods and also practised the Chinese martial art of Tai Chi in his later years.
Alan Watts was also particularly interested, in how man could live a balanced life with nature. From time to time he would go retreat into the wilderness in order to meditate. Although Alan Watts could be described as an intellectual he was very interested in how all individuals could come to terms with the cosmos and our place in it. He wasn't interested in extreme forms of religious practice, which he considered overemphasised difficulty at the expense of understanding. Although he became a prominent speaker in the 1960s he also was quite wary of the psychedelic revolution and although he was close friend of Aldous Huxley, he questioned chemical means of attaining insight considering meditation to be a much more useful practice.
Alan Watts was also very interested in current scientific developments and expresses his own views on quantum theory in the book “the taboo against knowing who you are”. Quantum entanglement was of particular interest as it confirmed his belief that the self and the entire cosmos are really one and the same thing. This is very difficult concept to understand within western thought which is dominated by the 17th century philosophy of Rene Descartes and dualism. The concept of the oneness of the universe has been thoroughly explored over the centuries by those devoted to the practice of Hinduism and Buddhism in which he also had an interest.
Another figure whose works can readily be found on the Internet is Joseph Campbell. Similarly his writings and series of documentaries including “The hero with a thousand faces” and “the power of myth” are also available online. Joseph Campbell's work is often highly reflective of the same issues addressed in the work of Alan Watts. However where in Alan Watts’ work deals mainly with the religions of the East and their similarities with Christian and Judaic traditions, Joseph Campbell's work also considers other diverse cultures from around the world and primarily focuses on their mythic and storytelling traditions, Joseph Campbell also had a keen interest in the arts and was a huge influence on Hollywood filmmakers such as George Lucas to whom he was a personal mentor and too good friend the author Richard Adams who based his mythology in the book Watership Down on Campbell's central tennat in myth of the hero's journey.
Although both these fine philosopher and educators are no longer with us we are indeed fortunate to be able to access their thoughts and wisdom so easily.