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Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A…

Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal (original 1973; udgave 1974)

af Alan Watts (Forfatter)

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Over the course of nineteen essays, Alan Watts ruminates on the philosophy of nature, ecology, aesthetics, religion, and metaphysics. Assembled in the form of a "mountain journal," written during a retreat in the foothills of Mount Tamalpais, CA, Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown is Watts's meditation on the art of feeling out and following the watercourse way of nature, known in Chinese as the Tao. Embracing a form of contemplative meditation that allows us to stop analyzing our experiences and start living in to them, the book explores themes such as the natural world, established religion, race relations, karma and reincarnation, astrology and tantric yoga, the nature of ecstasy, and much more.… (mere)
Titel:Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal
Forfattere:Alan Watts (Forfatter)
Info:Vintage Books (1974), 208 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek

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Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal af Alan W. Watts (1973)


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This is the last book Alan Watts published before he died in 1973 at 58, and includes 19 articles that he wrote for various publications between 1968 and 1972. It’s a little uneven in places, but there are plenty of nuggets of gold in his philosophy to be mined here.

At a fundamental level, Watts believed we are all connected, that we are all one with the universe, and in fact are just forms of the universe which can look out upon the rest, which he describes as us being God playing hide-and-seek with himself. One of things which follows from this is that we should be kind to one another, and to recognize the duality present in everything as being interwoven. Another is to dance with life, to let things flow, to be free and playful, to appreciate nature and one another, instead of rigidly trying to conform to an artificial, unnatural set of rules which have been passed down to us. Watts emphasizes this with a playfulness with words and his writing style, but at the same time, it’s clear that he’s well-versed in a number of Western and Eastern religions and philosophies.

Watts certainly probes the larger questions of life and arrives at meaning in what seems to be a meaningless existence, but he was also well aware of the issues of the day. In ‘What on Earth Are We Doing?’ he decries the waste of resources on the Vietnam War, the racism in the country, the risk of nuclear Armageddon, and dangers of pollution. He espouses environmentalism from a viewpoint that we are not something apart from the world, and it is not something to be conquered or misused. In ‘Black and/or White’, he confronts the race issues in America, first by pointing out the problematic association of ‘White’ with light, life, good, and god, and ‘Black’ with darkness, death, evil, and devil, and then relating this to our apparent need to form in-groups and out-groups, rather than perceiving the duality of all things, and the connection all beings have with one another. In ‘Consider the Lilies’ he observes that the hippie movement has gradually morphed into something else, slipping away from its originally ideals, and one wonders what he would have thought of the 70’s and 80’s had he lived.

While Watts is in general balanced, he does not hold back in his criticisms of the three related Western religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In one of the stronger essays, ‘What Shall We Do with the Church?’, he provides a fantastic review of Christianity and suggests reforms. He sees the flaws in both the belief in a religion with a ‘jealous God’ as well as how in it’s practiced, via preaching, as opposed to faiths with tolerance of others, whose practices involve introspective meditation. On the other hand, as many of the day were seeking spiritual enlightenment from the East, he recognizes the falseness of those who, unable to truly shed their egos while rushing off to meditate and chant, “compound a collective illusion, and even a mutual one-upmanship contest.”

He was also not afraid to speculate, and admit when he was doing so. In ‘The Reality of Reincarnation’, he provides an interesting argument for reincarnation, pointing out that perhaps if were able to speed up time and observe as if we were watching the time-lapse photography of a plant opening a flower, we might see connections and continuities between lives spaced out, e.g. from 10,000 BC to 9,930, from 8,500 to 8,430, and so on. It’s not that he convinced me, but what I liked was that he took a balanced view – recognizing that there must be a way for the self and memories to be ‘recorded’ outside of the gray matter in the brains of the life we’re living, since it obviously passes away, and admitting he is not aware of what that might be, but on the other hand, that conventional Western scientists err in dismissing evidence of people with apparent knowledge of past lives.

He may have had flaws and inconsistencies, and his writing may at times weave or be easily targeted as too idealistic. However, whether you call his worldview pantheistic, Taoist, Buddhist, or Hindu, or a blend of all of those, I think he was closer to the truth than most, and he was able to express this in lucid ways, making him a spiritual leader for a generation. I don’t think this collection represents his best work, but it’s got great breadth, real wisdom, and is well worth reading.

On Christianity and Hinduism, from ‘Was Jesus a Freak?’ (July 1971):
“It is obvious to any informed student of the history and psychology of religion that Jesus was one, of many, who had an intense experience of cosmic consciousness – of the vivid realization that oneself is a manifestation of the eternal energy of the universe, the basic ‘I am.’ … In India people would have laughed and rejoiced with him, because Hindus know that we are all God in disguise – playing hide-and-seek with himself.”

On dancing, from ‘What on Earth Are We Doing’ (Oct. 1970):
“Civilized human beings, and Westerners in particular, are always trying to straighten things out and put them in rectilinear boxes. …. Under some circumstances a straight line may be the shortest, and least fatiguing, distance between two points. But it’s no fun to follow the ‘straight and narrow way.’ Is the River of Life itself a mere canal? ….. Life itself dances, for what else are trees, ferns, butterflies, and snakes but elaborate forms of dancing?”

On enlightenment, from ‘The Art of Contemplation’ (April 1972):
“As another Zen verse puts it: If you understand, things are just as they are; If you do not understand, things are just as they are.”

On government, from ‘The Art of Contemplation’ (April 1972):
“For, speaking in religious language, it would be plain to the contemplative that only God exists and that there is nothing other than God. For obvious reasons this is a doctrine greatly feared by both ecclesiastical and secular rulers. On the one hand, when it is necessary that the people be exploited and oppressed, it is important to imbue them with a servile mentality. On the other hand, when people are vulgar and greedy, the mere idea that ‘all is God’ or that good and evil are polar is used to justify every wanton excess. It is for this reason that governments forbid the ingestion of hemp flowers and other psychedelic substances, lest immature and half-civilized individuals profane the mysteries. One does not wish noble wines to be used for drunken brawls.”

On men, from ‘What on Earth Are We Doing’ (Oct. 1970):
“For the life-ideal of power-crazy men is (and the word is not insignificant) screwing a plastic woman. She doesn’t talk back. She lies perfectly still. She will assume any position you want and be treated in any way. In fact, when it comes down to it, the whole enterprise of technology is to turn all nature into a plastic woman – a mass of completely obedient and predictable stuff. …. Why not, instead, lust over the syncopated convulsions of your wife or girlfriend in bed, when you get her into the genuine ecstasy of the witch riding on the broom? To me, this is far more manly than smashing and destroying other people and their property, killing wild animals that you neither need nor use for food, or thundering around racetracks in four-wheeled phalluses. Why not go in for something like gliding, sailing, swimming, or even dancing?”

On the ocean, from ‘The Water’ (April 1970):
“If ever I have to get away from it all, and in the words of the Chinese poet ‘wash all the wrongs of life from my pores,’ there is simply nothing better than to climb out onto a rock, and sit for hours with nothing in sight but the sea and sky. Although the rhythm of the waves beats a kind of time, it is not clock or calendar time. It has no urgency. It happens to be timeless time. I know that I am listening to a rhythm which has been just the same for millions of years, and it takes me out of a world of relentlessly ticking clocks.”

On oneness, from ‘The Water’ (April 1970); I love how he puts this as the real ‘fall of man’:
“To be human is precisely to have that extra circuit of consciousness which enables to know that we know, and thus to take an attitude towards all that we experience. The mistake which we have made – and this, if anything, is the fall of man - is to suppose that extra circuit, that ability to take an attitude toward the rest of life as a whole, is the same as actually standing aside and being separate from what we see.”

And this one, from ‘The Zero-One Amazement’ (Sept. 1971); fantastic:
“For Hotei [the monk known as ‘Laughing Buddha’] knows what to wish on the third [of three wishes granted] – which is to wish not to wish any more. For when you see that the universe cannot be distinguished from how you act upon it there is neither fate nor free will, self nor other. There is simply one all-inclusive Happening, in which your personal sensation of being alive occurs in just the same way as the river flowing and the stars shining far out in space.”

On plants, from ‘Consider the Lilies’ (May 1971):
“I could make a strong, if not conclusive, case for the idea that plants are more intelligent than people – more beautiful, more pacific, more ingenious in their ways of reproduction, more at home in their surroundings, and even more sensitive. Why, we even use flower-forms as our symbols of the divine when the human face reminds us too much of ourselves – the Hindu-Buddhist mandala, the golden lotus, and the Mystic Rose in Dante’s vision of Paradise. Nothing else reminds us so much of a star with a living heart.”

On religion, from ‘Spectrum of Love’ (Nov. 1969):
“The whole history of religion is the history of the failure of preaching. Preaching is moral violence. When you deal with the so-called practical world, and people don’t behave the way you wish they would, you get out the army or police force or ‘the big stick.’ And if those strike you as somewhat crude, you resort to giving lectures – ‘lectures’ in the sense of solemn adjuration to ‘behave better next time.’”

And this, from ‘What on Earth Are We Doing’ (Oct. 1970):
“Our religious observances consist almost entirely of talk – ‘about it and about’ – about obeying commandments and about believing in verbalized statements or creeds presuming to define the ineffable. Virtually nothing is done to encourage any form of silent, nonverbal meditation or yoga wherein the eternal is experienced and not merely discussed. Many Christians will even assert that, save under the most extraordinary circumstances, you cannot experience God until you are dead, and thus are terrified of ‘cosmic unconsciousness’ or mystical experience as something close to madness.”

Lastly, from ‘The Zero-One Amazement’ (Sept. 1971):
“To abandon the idea of separation from and submission to God has always been feared as a threat to morals, but there is absolutely no evidence to show that monotheists have behaved more lovingly to one another than pantheists. If anything, the evidence goes the other way, for all peoples who have a cosmology that corresponds to a military chain of command are obnoxious fighters and imperialists. They are forever punishing and disciplining other people for their own good, and milking them to the limit at the same time. …. When you no longer make the distinction between the universe and how you are acting upon it, you are really on your own and so acquire a sense of responsibility. And to the degree that we develop (or that there grows in us) this sense of compassionate, as distinct from anxious, carefulness we shall be able to do without the State just as we have been learning to do without the Church.”

On tolerance, from ‘Implications of Karma’ (Feb. 1971):
“His [The Buddha’s] dharma or method of life was, instead, the Middle Way of compassion – that is, of feeling for both sides, of allowing, respecting, and owning the apparently random and involuntary aspects of our karma. This means increasing tolerance for surprising and unscheduled events, for life-forms and life-styles other than our own, and for all things sinuous, slippery, wayward, and wiggly as distinct from straight, square, boxed and classified in defiance of the curvaceous forms of the natural world.” ( )
1 stem gbill | Sep 30, 2018 |
A wonderful introduction to Alan Watts who was one of the first people to bring Eastern ideas to this country. Like many popular-izers, he can tend to oversimplify at times, but also makes a good case for the integration of ideas. This is his more personal journal, written later in his life. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
After having read almost half of Watts' books, this offers little new in terms of material or stance. But probably my favorite thing about Watts is his gift of being able to say the same thing in various ways, and he definitely does that here. Additionally, he offers some harsh critiques of religion and the Church in general.

He loses me a little on some of his fantasizing about the way things could be, which he does once in a dream alternate universe and later on with suggestions on how Christianity/Catholicism might attract more followers. While his proposed changes come across as earnest, many are extremely naive and a little flaky, which is the first occasion I've ever had to use those adjectives with respect to Mr. Watts.

If you're new to Watts I don't think I'd start with this one. I myself started with
[b:Still the Mind: An Introduction to Meditation|60548|Still the Mind An Introduction to Meditation|Alan Wilson Watts|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347680498s/60548.jpg|58907] and I can't imagine a better way to do it. Since then, my favorite is [b:The Wisdom of Insecurity|551520|The Wisdom of Insecurity|Alan Wilson Watts|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320435143s/551520.jpg|538761] followed by [b:The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are|60551|The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are|Alan Wilson Watts|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347825310s/60551.jpg|58910]. ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
Written perhaps in connection with the Druid Heights retreat in the foothills of Mount Tamalpais, California. From his lectures and teachings on the water way.

"The good news is that if Jesus could realize his identity with God, you can also..." [149]

Proto-genesis: The Seven Secret Sayings of God.
1. I am;
2. You must draw a line somewhere;
3. Have a ball;
4. There are two sides;
5. It must be in Time;
6. Space it Out;
7. [to himself] Get lost.
  keylawk | Dec 29, 2012 |
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Over the course of nineteen essays, Alan Watts ruminates on the philosophy of nature, ecology, aesthetics, religion, and metaphysics. Assembled in the form of a "mountain journal," written during a retreat in the foothills of Mount Tamalpais, CA, Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown is Watts's meditation on the art of feeling out and following the watercourse way of nature, known in Chinese as the Tao. Embracing a form of contemplative meditation that allows us to stop analyzing our experiences and start living in to them, the book explores themes such as the natural world, established religion, race relations, karma and reincarnation, astrology and tantric yoga, the nature of ecstasy, and much more.

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