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The Book

On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

By Alan W. Watts
13-minute read
Audio available
The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan W. Watts

The Book (1966) is about the big questions in life. What’s the meaning of it all? Where do we really exist in the universe? Author Alan Watts guides the reader on a voyage of discovery that questions popular assumptions about what’s important in life, how the universe functions, and the nature of God.

  • Spiritual seekers
  • Students of theology or religion
  • Readers interested in Eastern philosophies

Alan Watts was an alternative theologian and new-age philosopher who died in 1973. He was a specialist in Zen Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies and religions. His many publications include The Joyous Cosmology, The Way of Zen and The Wisdom of Insecurity.

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The Book

On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

By Alan W. Watts
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan W. Watts
Synopsis

The Book (1966) is about the big questions in life. What’s the meaning of it all? Where do we really exist in the universe? Author Alan Watts guides the reader on a voyage of discovery that questions popular assumptions about what’s important in life, how the universe functions, and the nature of God.

Key idea 1 of 8

Few taboos remain in Western society, except the truth about what it means to be human.

As society moves from one generation to the next, we tend to shed taboos along the way.

In many societies, sex was the major taboo. In Japan, families were far too embarrassed to speak openly about sexual matters. Instead, young newly-wed couples were traditionally given a “pillow book” for their honeymoon, containing details of sexual positions and letting the couple know everything they needed to know about lovemaking.

In today’s Western culture, sex is hardly a taboo anymore. Instead, you can find it being used on billboards to sell products and referred to in most pop songs.

But one important taboo has remained, and it’s the discussion about what it means to be human.

Often, the way in which we define and understand ourselves as human beings is wrong. We think that each person is a unique organism, living a life that is completely separate from those of others and the environment.

This misunderstanding of our place in the world is apparent in how we speak: Phrases like “we came into the world,” or a person who “must face reality,” all suggest that we see ourselves as belonging to some entirely distinct and unique world or other reality.

But this is all an illusion and self-deception on our part. The truth is, we’re born from the world, not into it.

Much as the ocean creates waves, the planet earth creates people. While each wave is a movement happening on the surface of the ocean, it isn’t separate from the ocean or created any differently than another wave. The same is true of every person on the planet.

Nevertheless, we continue to think of ourselves as unique, independent individuals.

In the next blink, we’ll take an even closer look at the ways in which we deceive ourselves.

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