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The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

Alan Watts

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Souvenir Press
05 May 2009
We are therefore in urgent need of a sense of our own existence, which is in accord with the physical facts and which over comes our feeling of alienation from the universe. In The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Alan Watts asks what causes the illusion of the self as a separate ego, housed in a bag of skin, which confronts a universe of physical objects that are alien to it. Rather, a person's identity (their ego) binds them to the physical universe, creating a relationship with their environment and other people. The separation of the self and the physical world leads to the misuse of technology and the attempt to violently subjugate man's natural environment, leading to its destruction. Explaining man's role in the universe as a unique expression of the total universe, and interdependent on it, Alan Watts offers a new understanding of personal identity. It reveals the mystery of existence, presenting an alternative to the feelings of alienation that are so prevalent in Western society, and a vision of how we can come to understand the cosmic self that is within every living thing.

The foremost Western expert on Eastern thought, Alan Watts urges against the idea that we are separate from the world. Nowhere is this idea more apparent than in the concept of cultural taboos. The biggest taboo of all is knowing who we really are behind the mask of our self as presented to the world. Through our focus on ourselves and the world as it affects us, we have developed narrowed perception. Alan Watts tells us how to open our eyes and see ourselves not as coming into the world but from it.

Alan Watts takes us through our daily lives, explaining how our goal-oriented selves leave something missing. In tackling technology and consumerism from the 1960s, Alan Watts demonstrates ways of thinking that have become increasingly urgent in the time since The Book was first published. In our increasingly adversarial times, The Book offers a way out of conflict by reckoning first with who we are before defining us against others.

Alan Watts overturns the illusion that individuals are merely 'egos' contained within their bodies who are separate from the rest of the universe. Drawing on the Vedanta religion, Alan Watts explains how a person's identity makes them the centre of the universe, and outlines that the universe has meaning only if each individual places himself at the centre of it. The separation of the Self from the physical universe has led to Mankind's hostile attitude to the environment, and a destructive attitude to Nature. In coming to understand the individual's real place in the universe, Alan Watts presents a critique of Western culture and a healing alternative.
By:   Alan Watts
Imprint:   Souvenir Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   Main
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm,  Spine: 10mm
Weight:   153g
ISBN:   9780285638532
ISBN 10:   028563853X
Pages:   176
Publication Date:   05 May 2009
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Alan Watts was central in introducing Eastern philosophical and religious thought to Western readers. He was a philosopher, academic and theologian, who wrote and spoke widely on Asian philosophy and theology. He became a cult figure in the 60s and 70s, lecturing and presenting radio shows in San Francisco and the Bay Area. His ideas especially gained a following in counter-cultural circles, including among the Beat generation. He is best known as an interpreter of Zen Buddhism in particular, and of Indian and Chinese philosophy in general. He was the author of more than twenty books on the philosophy and psychology of religion including Behold the Spirit, The Way of Zen, and Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal. He died in 1973.

Reviews for The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

The best book I've ever read on the nature of what actually is, what the world is about, and how you should behave. -- John Lloyd * Desert Island Discs * Offering spiritual answers to the problems of a materialistic lifestyle, alienated from the natural world, Watts is the voice of all who seek a deeper understanding of their own identity and role in the world. * Watkins Review * No words can describe just how profoundly perspective-shifting The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are is in its entirety, and with what exquisite stickiness it stays with you for a lifetime. * Brain Pickings *


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