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Alan Watts: Death (1959) [full length]

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Published on Feb 20, 2012

Here is the sixth episode of Alan Watts' 1959 KQED television series, Eastern Wisdom & Modern Life.

To find out how you can purchase the entire Eastern Wisdom & Modern Life series on DVD, please visit: http://alanwatts.com/collections

A native of England, Alan Watts attended the King's School near Canterbury Cathedral, and at the age of fourteen he became fascinated with the philosophies of the Far East. By sixteen he regularly attended the Buddhist Lodge in London, where he met Zen scholars Christmas Humphries and D. T. Suzuki. As a speaker and contributor to the Lodge's journal, The Middle Way, he wrote a series of philosophical commentaries and published his first book on Eastern thought, The Spirit of Zen, at age twenty-one.

In the late thirties he moved to New York, and a few years later he became an Episcopalian priest. In 1942 he moved to Illinois and spent the wartime years as chaplain at Northwestern University.

Then, in 1950, he left the Church, and his life took a turn away from organized religion back toward Eastern ways and expanding horizons. After meeting author and mythologist Joseph Campbell and composer John Cage in New York he headed to California and began teaching at the American Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco. There his popular lectures spilled over into coffeehouse talks and appearances with the well-known beat writers Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. In late 1953 he began what would become the longest running series of Sunday morning public radio talks, which continue to this day with programs from the Alan Watts tape archives. In 1957 he published the bestselling The Way of Zen, beginning a prolific ten-year period in which he wrote Nature, Man and Woman; Beat Zen, Square Zen and Zen; This Is It; Psychotherapy East and West; The Two Hands of God; The Joyous Cosmology; and The Book: On the Taboo against Knowing Who You Are.

By 1960 Watts's radio series Way Beyond the West on Berkeley's KPFA had an avid following on the West Coast, and NET television began national broadcasts of the series Eastern Wisdom in Modern Life. The first season, recorded in the studios of KQED, a San Francisco television station, focused on the relevance of Buddhism, and the second, on Zen and the arts.

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