This Is It
This is It is a book by Alan Watts which discuss the problem of Connection, or rather the lack thereof. Watts attempts to describe/define "It" (i.e. Connection) in Ch. 1, covers some Disconnection Outcomes, like confusion, impotence, neurosis, and self-doubt (Ch. 2), spends some time railing against the dualistic (read disconnected) nature of humanity in Ch. 3 and Ch. 5, and finally points directly to the power of Connection Supplements, in particular LSD to overcome the dualistic (read disconnection), that plagues humanity.
1. This is IT
Chapter one is an attempt to work out the nature of Connection Experience what Watt calls "It." In this chapter, he describes "It" as best he can, including his own connection experiences. The chapter has some useful insights and characterizations, describes quite a few Connection Outcomes, and even dives into a condemnation of Normal Consciousness, but lacks theoretical coherence and is really just a jumble of "wow, isn't this cool" statements. There are also useful arguments against the use of spiritual truths to justify inequality and injustice.
2. Instinct, Intelligence, and Anxiety
Chapter two is a discussion of the "peculiar neurosis" of civilized man, which is anxiety, self-doubt, and "paralysis" caused by, he says, our dualistic thinking, the separation of intelligence from instinct/faith/feeling. He suggests that the solution to this is not authoritarianism, anti-intellectualism, obedience to religion, etc., but connection(!), with nature, with each other, with the Universe!
For this is the sensation which, however garbled and perverted, is the impulse underlying the great religious traditions of the world—the sensation of basic inseparability from the total universe, of the identity of one’s own self with the Great Self beneath all that exists.
Watts attributes our inability to have what he calls the [[[Experience of Relationship]] with our lack of "spiritual poverty," and some other personal type failures. Of course, that's not true. Our inability to Connect is a consequence of the damage and confusion caused by Toxic Socialization and not because of some evolutionary moral, or spiritual failure/weakness.
3. Zen and the Problem of Control
This chapter is an attempt to understand, resolve, and provide guidance on the "dualistic" nature of humanity. This is an analysis of a dualistic conceptualization of humanity that sees us internally schizophrenic, as in a struggle between higher self and lower self, between acquired self and genuine self, etc. Watts suggest this conceptualization is bad, leading to double-binds, psychological disorders, and the like. Watts suggests move beyond this conceptualization and see things in a more "Zen" way, as attempting to get into "the flow" of things and not be so often engaged in "frontal observation."
Overall, this chapter is an attempt to understand the distinction between Spiritual Ego and Bodily Ego, and also how to figure out a way to integrate these in a sensible, non-oppositional, and fruitful manner. Watts suggests the Taoist principle of wu-wei, of not asserting oneself against nature, of not being in "frontal opposition" to the direction of things, of being able to pierce through one's Acquired Self and embrace one's Original Face, one's Genuine Self.
Like most people without a sociological background, he blames the individual for failure to connect with/embrace Spiritual Ego, saying that we've set a trap to trap ourselves rather than the true cause which is a Toxic Socialization process designed to serve a System that privileges a few, rather than serving to fulfill the actual needs of humanity as a whole. The bottom line is, merging Spiritual Ego with Bodily Ego would be easy if there weren't ongoing attempts to damage and break the Bodily Ego in order to make it incapable of properly connecting with its own Highest Self (i.e. Spiritual Ego)
4. Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen
An exposition of Zen as a possible Authentic Spirituality. What its strengths are, why it appealed at the time it did. An exposition of Beat Zen. Overall, an attempt to present the philsophy of Zen in a sensible way. At this moment, cannot assess his success at this because I am not familiar enough with Zen Buddhism to offer an assessment.
5. Spirituality and Sensuality
An attempt to resolve the "dualistic" nature of humanity, that we have a spiritual side, and a sensual/physical/animal side, and that these sides are, traditionally, considered separate, distinct, and unresolvably so--noting that we are actually encouraged to pick one or the other side, but never bring the two together.
Reading through this chapter, it is clear he is talking about Disconnection, though he doesn't rightly realize it. He speaks of the disconnection between spirit and the body. In the end, he suggests that the real way forward for humanity is to connect the two--to live as the artist who lives the "full life," the "love of both spirit and nature"
6. The New Alchemy
Alchemy is a medieval term that refers to the study of Connection. In this chapter, Watts points to LSD as a Connection Supplement capable of facilitating Connection. He describes some of his Connection Experiences while on LSD, including some powerful Revelations and Realisations, like the fact that creation is an emanation, and that it's all supposed to be fun.
- Watts, Alan W.. This Is It (pp. 54-55). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
- Watts, Alan W.. This Is It (p. 121). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.