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The wisdom of insecurity [Hardcover]

Alan W Watts
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 152 pages
  • Publisher: PANTHEON BOOKS (1951)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0006ASTGQ
  • Product Dimensions: 18.3 x 10.7 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,122,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
BY ALL OUTWARD APPEARANCES OUR LIFE IS A SPARK of light between one eternal darkness and another. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh thinking for modern life. 16 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Alan Watts was one of the great popularisers of 'eastern' thinking in the west. This 1951 classic is probably an excellent starting point for anyone wanting an introduction to Watts' writing. Even though this book is well over 60 years old, it remains an extremely timely read, and it is surprisingly fresh in both its approach and thinking. Watts' starting point is the predicament of western man in the mid twentieth century; the book is definitely a product of 'you've never had it so good' 1950's materialism. Watts was one of the first people to detect the spiritual emptiness that many people feel in modern society (in spite of rising living standards and longevity) and in this book he proposes, if not a cure for this feeling of emptiness, then at least a new way of looking at things.

Watts also shows how scientific scepticism has undermined the belief in God. Watts sums up this stance perfectly: 'If, the scientists would say, you believe in God, you must do so on purely emotional grounds, without basis in logic or fact.' Needless to say such scepticism has grown inordinately since Watts wrote these words and it has perhaps reached its zenith in recent years with the 'New Atheist' movement. This scientific viewpoint has made the belief in the Christian God untenable for many western people, and it is to such an audience that Watts aims his writing.

There are so many pithy statements in this book; every page seems to contain a phrase or sentence that just leaps out at you and I love Watts' distinction between faith and belief: 'belief clings while faith lets go.' You could certainly see similarities between Watts' writing in this book and the work of J. Krishnamurti in such books as 'The First and Last Freedom.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Belief clings, but faith lets go." 24 Jun 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
One of my favorite books of all time. I've reread it more times than any other, but never without reaching new insights and finding new inspiration. It's filled with wisdom like the following: "[I]t is a serious misapplication of psychology to make the presence or absence of neurosis the touchstone of truth, and to argue that if a man's philosophy makes him neurotic, it must be wrong. 'Most atheists and agnostics are neurotic, whereas most simple Catholics are happy and at peace with themselves. Therefore the views of the former are false, and of the latter true.' Even if the observation is correct, the reasoning based on it is absurd. It is as if to say, 'You say there is a fire in the basement. You are upset about it. Because you are upset, there is obviously no fire." Watts talks about the many subtle proprieties of life in which we are all engaged but which we seldom discuss. Then, the instant you read them, you feel as if your own thoughts had been read aloud. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Alan Watts (1915-1973) initially trained as an Anglican priest and became increasingly interested in the 1940s in the teachings of Eastern philosophy and religion. Watts published over 25 books on the brain, human consciousness, faith and the true nature of reality.

Almost universally glowing reviews about how his 1951 book The Wisdom of Insecurity has radically changed people's lives runs the risk of new readers' expectations being too high. It is quite a hardgoing book written in a deceptively simple style. Watts pointedly writes that the 150-page book "is not a psychological or spiritual discipline for self-improvement"; instead he considers himself (as he has said elsewhere) to be a "philosophical entertainer", showing you his vision of the world for you to enjoy with him. The road can be as witty as it is enlightening - for example when he looks up to the night sky and asks: "How long have the planets been circling the sun? Are they getting anywhere, and do they go faster and faster in order to arrive?".

Back on the ground the key to Watts's argument is that the age of insecurity and anxiety is "the result of trying to be secure". To resolve this painful circularity of feeling, we should accept that "we have no way of saving ourselves" and learn to be "effortlessly aware of the present experience". Watts vividly describes the existence with which many can identity: people living in a "fantasy of expectation rather than the reality of the present", failing to really live "because they are always *preparing* to live. Instead of earning a living they are mostly earning an earning.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 24 Jan 2005
By John
Format:Paperback
What can i say, this book is truly brilliant. Watts identifies the destructive ways in which the majority of human race seem to lead their lives: attempting to achieve security which does not exist, and pointlessly chasing it faster and faster in the attempt.
While this outlook may seem pessimistic it is rather the opposite. Watts is pointing to another way to live, the discovery of our true selves, it's just we have forgotten our true nature, which has been clouded by the worship of consumerism, materialism and scientific thought.
'Belief clings on, but faith lets go'. Watts suggests that we need to release our burdens of life before we will find our way again. And he is right.
My favourite part in the book is where Watts explores the use of language and 'describing' things.
"What is this? This is a rose. But 'a rose' is a noise. What is a noise? A noise is an impact of air waves on the ear drum. Then a rose is an impact on the eardrum? No, a rose is aroseis a rose..."
This attitude to everyday life is present throughout the book and simply makes you think about the way you lead your life. I keep reading this book over and over again and finding i understand more each time. This book will help you to find your way again.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Watts at his best
Great Book, wonderfully written and weirdly still so true even though its forty years old! The truth doesn't change, how cool
Published 1 month ago by Tao
5.0 out of 5 stars Focused, poetic and transformative
A short, accessible yet profound book about the human condition and its easy cure. Decades old but perfectly fitted to today, it is at once the most theoretically solid and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Dylan Cotter
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
I was expecting something less theoretical and more anecdotal. It was extremely well written but the content was too 'uncertain'.
Published 3 months ago by Alchemy2011
1.0 out of 5 stars Pop philosophy
There are some good solid common sense ideas in this book. We should step out of the crazed race to the top and enjoy the here and now. Read more
Published 5 months ago by John Stewart
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful summation of our times
this book gave words to the incoherence and confusion in which I was/am living and many times I smiled in recognition and in simple satisfaction. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Polly
5.0 out of 5 stars I gave it all away to find myself!
It's like Zen, man. I read it cover to cover and found it most enjoyable however, it was more of a nostalgic 'trip' as I have discovered all those things he writes about for myself... Read more
Published 9 months ago by David Henderson
4.0 out of 5 stars 100W
A crackin' read. You'll look at a lot with a keener eye and learn to evade times grip with the past and future and focus on the instantaneous.
Published 15 months ago by Nomad20
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opener
So much wisdom in this book. Alan Watts is a fantastic writer. This book really changed my perspective on life and inspired me through a difficult period of change and adjustment.
Published 15 months ago by Louise Chisholm
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick delivery
The book itself provides a different approach to the day to day problems. I am happy with purchase and would recommended it.
Published 16 months ago by Joanne Grecu
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible
This is the only book you need,you could throw the rest away.Amazingly written in the fifties,before modern self help books were invented,and the counter culture was going to the... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mr. M. Cragg
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