Alan Watts had a net worth of 2 million dollars. Alan Watts was an English philosopher, writer, and social critic best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience.
Early Life and Education
Alan Watts was born as Alan Wilson Watts on 22 January 1915, in Surrey, England. He was educated at St Paul’s School and studied Agriculture at the University of Cambridge.
His first book, The Spirit of Zen (1944), led to a long and successful career as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience.
Philosophy and Writings
His best known work is the book The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety (1968). He also wrote many short stories which were anthologized in The Way of Zen (1957), and penned numerous essays, including “The Meaning of Happiness” (1955), “Nature, Man and Woman” (1958), and “This Is It” (1960). In addition to his books, he left a large body of unpublished work.
He was heavily influenced the work of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, Aldous Huxley, Sri Aurobindo and others, and was regarded as a student of the American philosopher Alan Watts (1915–1973), who was also greatly influenced by these thinkers.
He considers himself indebted to the ideas of G. I. Gurdjieff (1866–1949), Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950) and the authors of the Vedanta philosophy, especially Ram Mohan Roy (1774-1833). He also admired the work of the Taoist Lao Tzu, P. D. Ouspensky, the ancient Greek philosophers Heraclitus, Anaximander and Parmenides, and Mahatma Gandhi.
The Struggle for Wholeness
There are two aspects to Watts’ understanding of the struggle to realize full human potential: one is physical or bodily growth; the other is philosophical or spiritual growth.
In “This Is It”, Watts writes that the ordinary person is generally unaware of spiritual growth or spiritual progress, and that most people use their minds to define themselves rather than to develop their spirit.
He observes that this tendency is deeply ingrained in most people and it is a natural condition for humans.
He argues that the only way to overcome it is to be aware of it and keep in mind that our ideas about ourselves will always be based on who we were at a previous time, rather than who we are right now. This awareness helps us to appreciate our current state or condition.
Art and Music
Watts worked closely with artist and sculptor Brion Gysin in London in the 1950s and 1960s and was greatly influenced by Gysin’s ideas on art, painting, poetry and literature.
He wrote a tribute to Gysin entitled In Tribute to Brion Gysin, in which he says “I am grateful to him for a continuing revelation in the world of art and in the world of ideas.”
Watts was also familiar with the work of composer Erik Satie, whose music he described as “the most beautiful sound in the world.” He was acquainted with painter and poet Max Ernst, who stated that Watts had been his mentor.
Watts was married four times: to Isabelle Collomb (1953-1970), Helen Spiegelman (1971-1975), and Jano Watts (1977-1997). He has two sons, Mark and Erik.
Death and Legacy
Alan Watts died on 16 November 1973, in his sleep, in his home in the Dutch town of Oss. He is buried at the cemetery of St Laurens Parish Church in Amersfoort.
His epitaph reads: “To speak of Alan Watts is to enter a labyrinth of a thousand dimensions, all of which have their own names. He was a poet, a painter, a sculptor, an essayist, a lecturer, the author of numerous books on philosophy and religion.”