Review and Summary of This is it, by Allan Watts: Spiritual experience and its relation to ordinary material life

The author goal in these 6 essays is to demystifying the contradiction and separation of spiritual experience and the material life. The spiritual is not to be separated from the material, nor the wonderful from the ordinary. We need, above all, to disentangle ourselves from habits of speech and thought which set the two apart, making it impossible for us to see that this—the immediate, everyday, and present experience—is IT, the entire and ultimate point for the existence of a universe.1

This is it

The names applied for mystical, spiritual or poetic experiences often refer to something out of this world, as it’s something related to metaphysical. It’s important to notice that the moment isn’t special because of that moment, as there’s nothing different in that from all the other ordinary moments. The world has that in it, as well as all the other parts in it.

That change in perception brings more clarity into the ordinary moments, commonly classified as worse if compared to the spiritual ones. It is usual for the individual to feel that the whole world has become his own body, and that whatever he is has not only become, but always has been, what everything else is.2

The immediate now is the consequence and goal of embracing the world as perfect as it is, which should bring a sense of freedom and relief from the anxiety commonly felt – the anxiety from past and future are gone because they don’t exist. It shouldn’t be difficult as we are already in the present moment, and something that we’ve always been. Someone said to me, “But why try to live in the present? Surely we are always completely in the present even when we’re thinking about the past or the future?”

The experiences described are not to say that the author, like a preacher or philosopher, is to live in constant enlightenment as most religions or philosophies may assume. It’s not about testing the character or his morals, whether he has stomach ulcers or likes money, whether he loses his temper, or gets depressed, or falls in love when he shouldn’t, or sometimes looks a bit tired and frayed at the edges. It’s possible that we can improve ourselves, even though the aspects of life that change are small compared to the static nature of life.

Nature is much more playful than purposeful, and the probability that it has no special goals for the future need not strike one as a defect. On the contrary, the processes of nature as we see them both in the surrounding world and in the involuntary aspects of our own organisms are much more like art than like business, politics, or religion.

Instinct, intelligence and anxiety

Animals learn what they need in much less time than humans, that need almost a quarter of life to The difference is roughly that action by instinct is spontaneous, whereas action by intelligence involves a difficult process of analysis, prediction, and decision.

LSD and consciousness

I asked, too, whether what I was seeing was “drugged.” In other words, was the effect of the LSD in my nervous system the addition to my senses of some chemical screen which distorted all that I saw to preternatural loveliness? Or was its effect rather to remove certain habitual and normal inhibitions of the mind and senses, enabling us to see things as they would appear to us if we were not so chronically repressed? Little is known of the exact neurological effects of LSD, but what is known suggests the latter possibility.2

  1. This Is It: and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience by Alan W. Watts
  2. This Is It: and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience by Alan W. Watts
  3. This Is It: and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience by Alan W. Watts

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