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The Book summary

Alan W. Watts

On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

4.4 (294 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

"The Book" by Alan W. Watts is a philosophical exploration of human consciousness and its relationship to the universe. Through diverse perspectives, the book challenges readers to question their assumptions and seek a more profound understanding of existence.

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    The Book
    Summary of 7 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 7

    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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    Key ideas in The Book

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    What is The Book about?

    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.

    The Book Review

    The Book (1966) by Alan W. Watts is a thought-provoking exploration of our fundamental understanding of reality and the nature of being. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Delving into philosophical and metaphysical concepts, it challenges readers to question their beliefs and expand their perspective.
    • With an engaging writing style, it presents complex ideas in a clear and accessible manner, making it easy to comprehend.
    • Through riveting examples and reflections, the book captivates readers by offering profound insights into the human experience and the mysteries of existence.

    Best quote from The Book

    We do not need a new religion or a new Bible. We need a new experience – a new feeling of what it is to be I.

    —Alan W. Watts
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    Who should read The Book?

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

    About the Author

    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 FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Book?

    The main message of The Book is deepening our understanding of ourselves and the world.

    How long does it take to read The Book?

    The reading time for The Book varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Book a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Book is a thought-provoking read. It offers valuable insights into life and philosophy.

    Who is the author of The Book?

    The author of The Book is Alan W. Watts.

    What to read after The Book?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Book, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts
    • On Having No Head by Douglas Harding
    • The Way of Zen by Alan W. Watts
    • Loving What Is by Byron Katie
    • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
    • What Are You Doing with Your Life? by Jiddu Krishnamurti
    • Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
    • Think Remarkable by Guy Kawasaki & Madisun Nuismer