The paradox of Alan Watts

There’s a P&O advert airing at the moment with a voiceover of Alan Watts spouting platitudes about following your dreams. The choice of Watts for a luxury cruise ad was a decision I found odd, given Watts’s reputation (in my mind) as a schlocky new-age huckster. Gus Carter agrees, in some entertaining detail:

“Watts’s philosophy is difficult to define. He spoke in aphorisms, linguistically clear but conceptually fragmented reflections on the contradictions of human experience. He rejected the idea of the individual and spoke of the ‘European dissociation’, the feeling of oneself as an outsider in a hostile world. Instead, he argued, we are all the universe and any sense of one’s own desires or exertions are merely an expression of the singular universe unfolding.

“In one lecture, Watts explains: ‘As you cannot conceive, possibly, of the existence of a living body with no environment, that is the clue that the two are basically one… You are both what you do and what happens to you.’ It is a strange argument: you can easily imagine an environment without humans. How is it then that nature and human experience can be described as one and the same? But his pronouncements aren’t designed to be logically analysed. It’s a philosophy of vibes.”