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Works by Alan Watts – Wikipedia

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Alan Watts was an orator and philosopher of the 20th century. He spent time reflecting on Personal Identity and Higher Consciousness. According to the critic Erik Davis, his "writings and recorded talks still shimmer with a profound and galvanising lucidity."[1]These works are not accessible in the same way as his many books.

The following lectures can all be obtained at[1].

Watts proposes a thought experiment of imagining that one has total control over the content of each night's dreams. He uses this thought experiment to make a case for the self as the ultimate reality.[2]

Watts argues that there is less difference than generally supposed between what one would want to do if money were no object, and what one should do under actual circumstances. He proposes that the question "What do I desire?" should be given greater emphasis, even under actual circumstances.[3]

Watts makes a case for quieting the mind by leaving it alone. He argues that we are "addicted to thoughts" and want to avoid ourselves, and that this quest for self-avoidance leads to a "vicious circle" of worry.[4]








Note: ISBNs for titles originally published prior to 1974 are for reprint editions.

Works by Alan Watts - Wikipedia

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The 25 Best Alan Watts Quotes of All Time – Goalcast

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A prolific author and speaker, Alan Wilson Watts is credited with the interpretation and introduction of Eastern philosophyto theWesternaudience.

As his mothers students were children of missionaries to Asia, Watts began to be fascinated by Asian art, literature, and philosophy; so in time, he learned Chinese and started to explore the fundamental beliefs and practices of religions and philosophies of India and East Asia.

After a rigorous research in Zen Buddhism, Watts published one of the first books on the topic The Way of Zen introducing the burgeoning youth culture to it. Due to all the wisdom it embodies, Watts even suggested that Buddhism could be presented and taught as a form of psychotherapy, and not only as a religion.

Alan Watts is the author of more than 25 books on various topics such as philosophy, Eastern and Western religion, natural history, semantics, cybernetics and the anthropology of sexuality.

Watts was a man who tried and explored all that he could on mystical insight. Here are 25 Alan Watts quotes to help you become more aware of yourself and your surroundings.

Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.

We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.

Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the Gods made for fun.

This is the real secret of life to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.

Just as true humor is laughter at oneself, true humanity is knowledge of oneself.

Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.

You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.

Every intelligent individual wants to know what makes him tick, and yet is at once fascinated and frustrated by the fact that oneself is the most difficult of all things to know.

A scholar tries to learn something everyday; a student of Buddhism tries to unlearn something daily.

No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time: he is like a steel bridge without flexibility, and the order of his life is rigid and brittle.

Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.

When we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us.

One is a great deal less anxious if one feels perfectly free to be anxious, and the same may be said of guilt.

The world is filled with love-play, from animal lust to sublime compassion.

What we have to discover is that there is no safety, that seeking is painful, and that when we imagine that we have found it, we dont like it.

Words can be communicative only between those who share similar experiences.

If you cannot trust yourself, you cannot even trust your mistrust of yourself so that without this underlying trust in the whole system of nature you are simply paralyzed.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.

Hospitals should be arranged in such a way as to make being sick an interesting experience. One learns a great deal sometimes from being sick.

Normally, we do not so much look at things as overlook them.

Our pleasures are not material pleasures, but symbols of pleasure attractively packaged but inferior in content.

It is hard indeed to notice anything for which the languages available to us have no description.

Its better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way.

Society is our extended mind and body.

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The 25 Best Alan Watts Quotes of All Time - Goalcast

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Alan Watts quotes that will change your perspective on life …

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To this day, Alan Watts's impactful and wise words circulate through the culture. We find them in the many books he left behind, countless lectures and pop-culture references galore. Renowned scholar and teacher, Joseph Campbell once said of him:

"The pomposities of prodigious learning could be undone by him with a turn of phrase. One stood before him, disarmed and laughed at what had just been oneself."

While it is no easy feat to distill the many whimsical phrases and knowledge Watts left behind, these quotes attempt to paint a broad picture of the Eastern scholar and philosopher-entertainer.

Here are some of the best Alan Watts quotes.

What is Zen? Better to ask what isn't Zen. Watts was one of a kind when it came to articulating what cannot be said. The ineffable comes down to an Earthly speakable form when Watts wanted to probe into the peculiarities of paradox.

"Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes."

"I prefer not to translate the word Tao at all because to us Tao is a sort of nonsense syllable, indicating the mystery that we can never understand the unity that underlies the opposites."

"A proper exposition of Zen should tease us out of thought, and leave the mind like an open window instead of a panel of stained glass."

Having obtained both a master's degree in theology and becoming an Episcopal priest, Watts had a thoroughly rounded Christian education on the concept of God. With his boundless knowledge of Eastern traditions, mysticism and ancient history Watts had a refreshingly comparative and unique take on the word and concept.

"So in this idea, then, everybody is fundamentally the ultimate reality. Not God in a politically kingly sense, but God in the sense of being the self, the deep-down basic whatever there is. And you're all that, only you're pretending you're not. And it's perfectly O.K. to pretend you're not, to be perfectly convinced, because this is the whole notion of drama."

"How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself anything less than a god."

Watts wasn't afraid to tackle one of the great philosophical questions that has faced all of humankind since time immemorial. He answers it with irreverent wit and a life-affirming answer that'll swing the worst of nihilists among us.

"The physical universe is basically playful. There's no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn't going anywhere; that is to say, it doesn't have a destination that it ought to arrive at. But it is best understood by analogy to music, because music as an art form is essentially playful."

"What happens if you know that there is nothing you can do to be better? It's kind of a relief isn't it? You say 'Well, now what do I do?' When you are freed from being out to improve yourself, your own nature will begin to take over."

Love ranks up there with the other mysteries of life. There are many degrees of love that we float and flounder through each day. Whether it's the whirlwind romantic kind, the love of god, country or self Alan Watts sets the record straight.

"Everyone has love, but it can only come out when he is convinced of the impossibility and the frustration of trying to love himself. This conviction will not come through condemnations, through hating oneself, through calling self love bad names in the universe. It comes only in the awareness that one has no self to love."

"The greater part of human activity is designed to make permanent those experiences and joys which are only lovable because they are changing."

"And so when the essential idea of love is lost there comes talk of fidelity. Actually, the only possible basis for two beings, male and female, to relate to each other is to grant each other total freedom."

Humans are an interesting and humorous species. Watts loved to riff and pick apart the hypocrisy and idiocy endemic to culture and mankind's perception of itself. Whether it was ripping apart the nonsensical education system or ersatz self-help meditation Watts was an expert in the takedown of such mendacity.

"When you tell a girl how beautiful she is, she will say, 'Now isn't that just like a man! All you men think about is bodies. O.K., so I'm beautiful, but I got my body from my parents and it was just luck. I prefer to be admired for myself, not my chassis.' Poor little chauffeur! All she is saying is that she has lost touch with her own astonishing wisdom and ingenuity, and wants to be admired for some trivial tricks that she can perform with her conscious attention. And we are all in the same situation, having dissociated ourselves from our bodies and from the whole network of forces in which bodies can come to birth and live."

"This is not a materialistic civilization at all. It is a civilization devoted to the hatred and destruction of material, its conversion into junk and poison gas. And therefore, one of the most sacred missions to be imposed upon those who would be liberated from this culture is that they shall love material, that they shall love color, that they shall dress beautifully, that they shall cook well, that they shall live in lovely houses, and that they shall preserve the face of nature."

"The word 'person' comes from the latin word 'persona' which referred to the masks worn by actors in which sound would come through. The 'person' is the mask the role you're playing. And all of your friends and relations and teachers are busy telling you who you are and what your role in life is."

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Alan Watts was an early proponent of basic income – Big Think

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What's likely to happen when you cut out common sources of fiber from your diet? Constipation. A 2015 study involving children on the keto diet showed that regular constipation was extremely common among participants, affecting about 65 percent of them.

"Many of the richest sources of fiber, like beans, fruit, and whole grains are restricted on the ketogenic diet," registered dietician Edwina Clark told Everyday Health. "As a result, ketogenic eaters miss out on the benefits of fiber-rich diet such as regular laxation and microbiome support. The microbiome has been implicated in everything from immune function to mental health."

Still, the keto diet doesn't need to lead to fiber deficiency: avocados, flaxseed, almonds, pecans and chia seeds can all provide fiber while still keeping you in ketosis when consumed in the right amounts.

Vitamin deficiency

Any diet that prohibits you from eating many types of fruits, vegetables and other foods is bound to leave you vulnerable to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and it's for this reason many doctors only advise going on the keto diet over the short term.

"Keto is not a great long-term diet, as it is not a balanced diet," says Nancy Rahnama, M.D., M.S., an internal medicine and bariatric specialist in Los Angeles. "A diet that is devoid of fruit and vegetables will result in long-term micronutrient deficiencies that can have other consequences. The keto diet can be used for short-term fat loss, as long as it is under medical supervision."

On the keto diet, your body begins to shed fat, water and glycogen, and as this happens you lose key electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium and magnesium. When you're running low on these electrolytes, you might experience headaches or extreme fatigue. These losses are most pronounced during the first few weeks after you enter ketosis, so if you're going to start the keto diet it's best to plan ahead to make sure you get healthy amounts of these electrolytes and other vitamins and minerals either through supplements or a thoughtfully-designed meal plan.

Muscle loss

Some research suggests that the keto diet can lead to the loss of lean body mass, which includes muscle protein.

"Muscle loss on the ketogenic diet is an ongoing area of research," Clark told Everyday Health. "Small studies suggest that people on the ketogenic diet lose muscle even when they continue resistance training. This may be related to the fact that protein alone is less effective for muscle building than protein and carbohydrates together after exercise."

The website sci-fit, which compiled a survey of the research on the keto diet, found:

"We generally see greater lean body mass (LBM) loss in ketogenic diet groups. Note that lean body mass contains water, glycogen, and muscle protein, by definition. It is hard to say with certainty that LBM loss implies greater "dry" muscle protein loss. "Wet" LBM can come and go quickly because it consists of water and glycogen."

In terms of gaining muscle, it seems protein alone doesn't do as well as it does when paired with complex carbs. These carbs don't become part of the muscle fiber, but they do help speed up the process, in part by helping cells regain glycogen a key source of fuel during exercise.

The 'keto flu'

One of the most immediate side effects of the keto diet is the "keto flu," a suite of symptoms that many experience in the first couple weeks after entering ketosis. Similar to the flu, these symptoms can include fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.

"The keto flu is definitely real," registered dietician Scott Keatley told Everyday Health. "Your body functions really well on carbohydrates that's what it was designed for. When it switches to fat burning, it becomes less efficient at making energy."

The keto flu and the accompanying sugar cravings often leads people to give up the diet and begin scarfing down carbs, but those who stick it out usually report that the symptoms clear up after a few days or a couple weeks.

Kidney damage

Some people inflict damage on their kidneys when they switch to the kidney diet because they eat too much meat and don't drink enough water. This can lead to an increase in uric acid, which is known to cause kidney stones.

"If you're going to do keto, there's a better and a worse way to do it," registered dietician Kim Yawitz told Everyday Health. "Loading your plate with meats, and especially processed meats, may increase your risk for kidney stones and gout... High intake of animal proteins makes your urine more acidic and increases calcium and uric acid levels. This combination makes you more susceptible to kidney stones, while high uric acid can increase your risk for gout."

Of course, a responsible keto diet plan need not result in damage to the kidneys. In addition to monitoring meat consumption, a 2007 study on kidney stone development within young participants on the keto diet found that taking oral potassium citrate tablets seemed to be effective at preventing kidney stones.

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The Ego and the Universe: Alan Watts on Becoming Who You …

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During the 1950s and 1960s, British philosopher and writer Alan Watts began popularizing Eastern philosophy in the West, offering a wholly different perspective on inner wholeness in the age of anxiety and what it really means to live a life of purpose. We owe much of todays mainstream adoption of practices like yoga and meditation to Wattss influence. His 1966 masterwork The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (public library) builds upon his indispensable earlier work as Watts argues with equal parts conviction and compassion that the prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East. He explores the cause and cure of that illusion in a way that flows from profound unease as we confront our cultural conditioning into a deep sense of lightness as we surrender to the comforting mystery and interconnectedness of the universe.

Envisioned as a packet of essential advice a parent might hand down to his child on the brink of adulthood as initiation into the central mystery of life, this existential manual is rooted in what Watts calls a cross-fertilization of Western science with an Eastern intuition.

Though strictly nonreligious, the book explores many of the core inquiries which religions have historically tried to address the problems of life and love, death and sorrow, the universe and our place in it, what it means to have an I at the center of our experience, and what the meaning of existence might be. In fact, Watts begins by pulling into question how well-equipped traditional religions might be to answer those questions:

The standard-brand religions, whether Jewish, Christian, Mohammedan, Hindu, or Buddhist, are as now practiced like exhausted mines: very hard to dig. With some exceptions not too easily found, their ideas about man and the world, their imagery, their rites, and their notions of the good life dont seem to fit in with the universe as we now know it, or with a human world that is changing so rapidly that much of what one learns in school is already obsolete on graduation day.

Watts considers the singular anxiety of the age, perhaps even more resonant today, half a century and a manic increase of pace later:

There is a growing apprehension that existence is a rat-race in a trap: living organisms, including people, are merely tubes which put things in at one end and let them out at the other, which both keeps them doing it and in the long run wears them out.

He weighs how philosophy might alleviate this central concern by contributing a beautiful addition to the definitions of what philosophy is and recognizing the essential role of wonder in the human experience:

Most philosophical problems are to be solved by getting rid of them, by coming to the point where you see that such questions as Why this universe? are a kind of intellectual neurosis, a misuse of words in that the question sounds sensible but is actually as meaningless as asking Where is this universe? when the only things that are anywhere must be somewhere inside the universe. The task of philosophy is to cure people of such nonsense. . . . Nevertheless, wonder is not a disease. Wonder, and its expression in poetry and the arts, are among the most important things which seem to distinguish men from other animals, and intelligent and sensitive people from morons.

At the heart of the human condition, Watts argues, is a core illusion that fuels our deep-seated sense of loneliness the more we subscribe to the myth of the sole ego, one reflected in the most basic language we use to make sense of the world:

We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms. Most of us have the sensation that I myself is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body a center which confronts an external world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange. Everyday figures of speech reflect this illusion. I came into this world. You must face reality. The conquest of nature.

This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not come into this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean waves, the universe peoples. Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated egos inside bags of skin.

(A curious aside for music aficionados and fans of the show Weeds: Watts uses the phrase little boxes made of ticky-tacky to describe the homogenizing and perilous effect of the American quest for dominance over nature , space, mountains, deserts, bacteria, and insects instead of learning to cooperate with them in a harmonious order. The following year, Malvina Reynolds used the phrase in the lyrics to her song Little Boxes, which satirizes suburbia and the development of the middle class. The song became a hit for Pete Seeger in 1963 and was used by Showtime as the opening credits score for the first three seasons of Jenji Kohans Weeds.)

Religions, Watts points out, work to reinforce rather than liberate us from this sense of separateness, for at their heart lies a basic intolerance for uncertainty the very state embracing which is fundamental to our happiness, as modern psychology has indicated, and crucial to the creative process, as Keats has eloquently articulated. Watts writes:

Religions are divisive and quarrelsome. They are a form of one-upmanship because they depend upon separating the saved from the damned, the true believers from the heretics, the in-group from the out-group. . . . All belief is fervent hope, and thus a cover-up for doubt and uncertainty.

In a sentiment that Alan Lightman would come to echo more than half a century later in his remarkable meditation on science and what faith really means, Watts adds:

Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, open-ness an act of trust in the unknown.


No considerate God would destroy the human mind by making it so rigid and unadaptable as to depend upon one book, the Bible, for all the answers. For the use of words, and thus of a book, is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience that is not mere words or even ideas. Just as money is not real, consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scriptures is like eating paper currency.

Instead, Watts proposes that we need a new domain, not of ideas alone, but of experience and feeling, something that serves as a point of departure, not a perpetual point of reference and offers not a new Bible but a new way of understanding human experience, a new feeling of what it is to be an I.' In recognizing and fully inhabiting that feeling, he argues, lies the greatest taboo of human culture:

Our normal sensation of self is a hoax, or, at best, a temporary role that we are playing, or have been conned into playing with our own tacit consent, just as every hypnotized person is basically willing to be hypnotized. The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego.

And yet, he argues, the sense of I and the illusion of its separateness from the rest of the universe is so pervasive and so deeply rooted in the infrastructure of our language, our institutions, and our cultural conventions that we find ourselves unable to experience selfhood except as something superficial in the scheme of the universe. The antidote lies in recognizing not merely that we belong to and with the rest of universe, but that there is no rest in the first place we are the universe.

Still, Watts cautions that this is not to be confused with the idea of unselfishness promoted by many religions and ideologies, which is the effort to identify with others and their needs while still under the strong illusion of being no more than a skin-contained ego:

Such unselfishness is apt to be a highly refined egotism, comparable to the in-group which plays the game of were-more-tolerant-than-you.

Echoing C.S. Lewiss advice to children on duty and love, Watts writes:

Genuine love comes from knowledge, not from a sense of duty or guilt.


Our whole knowledge of the world is, in one sense, self-knowledge. For knowing is a translation of external events into bodily processes, and especially into states of the nervous system and the brain: we know the world in terms of the body, and in accordance with its structure.

One thing that reinforces our isolated sensation of self, Watts argues, is our biological wiring to err on always either side of the figure-ground illusion, only ever able to see one half of the whole and remaining blind to the rest. He illustrates this with a beautiful analogy:

All your five senses are differing forms of one basic sensesomething like touch. Seeing is highly sensitive touching. The eyes touch, or feel, light waves and so enable us to touch things out of reach of our hands. Similarly, the ears touch sound waves in the air, and the nose tiny particles of dust and gas. But the complex patterns and chains of neurons which constitute these senses are composed of neuron units which are capable of changing between just two states: on or off. To the central brain the individual neuron signals either yes or no thats all. But, as we know from computers which employ binary arithmetic in which the only figures are 0 and 1, these simple elements can be formed into the most complex and marvelous patterns.

In this respect our nervous system and 0/1 computers are much like everything else, for the physical world is basically vibration. Whether we think of this vibration in terms of waves or of particles, or perhaps wavicles, we never find the crest of a wave without a trough or a particle without an interval, or space, between itself and others. In other words, there is no such thing as a half wave, or a particle all by itself without any space around it. There is no on without off, no up without down.


While eyes and ears actually register and respond to both the up-beat and the down-beat of these vibrations, the mind, that is to say our conscious attention, notices only the up-beat. The dark, silent, or off interval is ignored. It is almost a general principle that consciousness ignores intervals, and yet cannot notice any pulse of energy without them. If you put your hand on an attractive girls knee and just leave it there, she may cease to notice it. But if you keep patting her knee, she will know you are very much there and interested. But she notices and, you hope, values the on more than the off. Nevertheless, the very things that we believe to exist are always on/offs. Ons alone and offs alone do not exist.

Indeed, he argues that the general conditioning of consciousness is to ignore intervals. (Weve seen the everyday manifestation of this in Alexandra Horowitzs fascinating exploration of what we dont see.) We register the sound but not the silence that surrounds it. We think of space as nothingness in which certain somethings objects, planetary bodies, our own bodies hang. And yet:

Solids and spaces go together as inseparably as insides and outsides. Space is the relationship between bodies, and without it there can be neither energy nor motion.

What further fuels this half-sighted reliance on intervals is the way our attention which has been aptly called an intentional, unapologetic discriminator works by dividing the world up into processable parts, then stringing those together into a pixelated collage of separates which we then accept as a realistic representation of the whole that was there in the first place:

Attention is narrowed perception. It is a way of looking at life bit by bit, using memory to string the bits together as when examining a dark room with a flashlight having a very narrow beam. Perception thus narrowed has the advantage of being sharp and bright, but it has to focus on one area of the world after another, and one feature after another. And where there are no features, only space or uniform surfaces, it somehow gets bored and searches about for more features. Attention is therefore something like a scanning mechanism in radar or television. . . . But a scanning process that observes the world bit by bit soon persuades its user that the world is a great collection of bits, and these he calls separate things or events. We often say that you can only think of one thing at a time. The truth is that in looking at the world bit by bit we convince ourselves that it consists of separate things, and so give ourselves the problem of how these things are connected and how they cause and effect each other. The problem would never have arisen if we had been aware that it was just our way of looking at the world which had chopped it up into separate bits, things, events, causes, and effects.

Nature and nurture conspire in the architecture of this illusion of separateness, which Watts argues begins in childhood as our parents, our teachers, and our entire culture help us to be genuine fakes, which is precisely what is meant by being a real person.' He offers a fascinating etymology of the concept into which we anchor the separate ego:

The person, from the Latin persona, was originally the megaphone-mouthed mask used by actors in the open-air theaters of ancient Greece and Rome, the mask through (per) which the sound (sonus) came.

Indeed, this bisection is perhaps most powerful and painful not in our sense of separateness from the universe but in our sense of being divided within ourselves a feeling particularly pronounced among creative people, a kind of diamagnetic relationship between person and persona. While the oft-cited metaphor of the rider and the elephant might explain the dual processing of the brain, it is also a dangerous dichotomy that only perpetuates our sense of being separate from and within ourselves. Watts writes:

The self-conscious feedback mechanism of the cortex allows us the hallucination that we are two souls in one body a rational soul and an animal soul, a rider and a horse, a good guy with better instincts and finer feelings and a rascal with rapacious lusts and unruly passions. Hence the marvelously involved hypocrisies of guilt and penitence, and the frightful cruelties of punishment, warfare, and even self-torment in the name of taking the side of the good soul against the evil. The more it sides with itself, the more the good soul reveals its inseparable shadow, and the more it disowns its shadow, the more it becomes it.

Thus for thousands of years human history has been a magnificently futile conflict, a wonderfully staged panorama of triumphs and tragedies based on the resolute taboo against admitting that black goes with white.

Returning to our inability to grasp intervals as the basic fabric of world and integrate foreground with background, content with context, Watts considers how the very language with which we name things and events our notation system for what our attention notices reflects this basic bias towards separateness:

Today, scientists are more and more aware that what things are, and what they are doing, depends on where and when they are doing it. If, then, the definition of a thing or event must include definition of its environment, we realize that any given thing goes with a given environment so intimately and inseparably that it is more difficult to draw a clear boundary between the thing and its surroundings.


Individual is the Latin form of the Greek atom that which cannot be cut or divided any further into separate parts. We cannot chop off a persons head or remove his heart without killing him. But we can kill him just as effectively by separating him from his proper environment. This implies that the only true atom is the universe that total system of interdependent thing-events which can be separated from each other only in name. For the human individual is not built as a car is built. He does not come into being by assembling parts, by screwing a head onto a neck, by wiring a brain to a set of lungs, or by welding veins to a heart. Head, neck, heart, lungs, brain, veins, muscles, and glands are separate names but not separate events, and these events grow into being simultaneously and interdependently. In precisely the same way, the individual is separate from his universal environment only in name. When this is not recognized, you have been fooled by your name. Confusing names with nature, you come to believe that having a separate name makes you a separate being. This is rather literally to be spellbound.

So how are we to wake up from the trance and dissolve the paradox of the ego? It all comes down to the fundamental anxiety of existence, our inability to embrace uncertainty and reconcile death. Watts writes:

The hallucination of separateness prevents one from seeing that to cherish the ego is to cherish misery. We do not realize that our so-called love and concern for the individual is simply the other face of our own fear of death or rejection. In his exaggerated valuation of separate identity, the personal ego is sawing off the branch on which he is sitting, and then getting more and more anxious about the coming crash!

And so we return to the core of Watts philosophy, the basis of his earlier work, extending an urgent invitation to begin living with presence a message all the timelier in our age of worshipping productivity, which is by definition aimed at some future reward and thus takes us out of the present moment. Watts writes:

Unless one is able to live fully in the present, the future is a hoax. There is no point whatever in making plans for a future which you will never be able to enjoy. When your plans mature, you will still be living for some other future beyond. You will never, never be able to sit back with full contentment and say, Now, Ive arrived!

Traditionally, humanity has handled this paradox in two ways, either by withdrawing into the depths of consciousness, as monks and hermits do in their attempt to honor the impermanence of the world, or servitude for the sake of some future reward, as many religions encourage. Both of these, Watts argues, are self-defeating strategies:

Just because it is a hoax from the beginning, the personal ego can make only a phony response to life. For the world is an ever-elusive and ever-disappointing mirage only from the standpoint of someone standing aside from it as if it were quite other than himself and then trying to grasp it. Without birth and death, and without the perpetual transmutation of all the forms of life, the world would be static, rhythm-less, undancing, mummified.

But a third response is possible. Not withdrawal, not stewardship on the hypothesis of a future reward, but the fullest collaboration with the world as a harmonious system of contained conflicts based on the realization that the only real I is the whole endless process. This realization is already in us in the sense that our bodies know it, our bones and nerves and sense-organs. We do not know it only in the sense that the thin ray of conscious attention has been taught to ignore it, and taught so thoroughly that we are very genuine fakes indeed.

The failure to recognize this harmonious interplay, Watts argues, has triggered a lamentable amount of conflict between nations, individuals, humanity and nature, and with the individual. Again and again, he returns to the notion of figure and ground, of a cohesive whole that masquerades as separate parts under the lens of our conditioned eye for separateness:

Our practical projects have run into confusion again and again through failure to see that individual people, nations, animals, insects, and plants do not exist in or by themselves. This is not to say only that things exist in relation to one another, but that what we call things are no more than glimpses of a unified process. Certainly, this process has distinct features which catch our attention, but we must remember that distinction is not separation. Sharp and clear as the crest of the wave may be, it necessarily goes with the smooth and less featured curve of the trough. In the Gestalt theory of perception this is known as the figure/ground relationship.

Noting our difficulty in noticing both the presence and the action of the background, Watts illustrates this with an example, which Riccardo Manzotti reiterated almost verbatim half a century later. Watts writes:

A still more cogent example of existence as relationship is the production of a rainbow. For a rainbow appears only when there is a certain triangular relationship between three components: the sun, moisture in the atmosphere, and an observer. If all three are present, and if the angular relationship between them is correct, then, and then only, will there be the phenomenon rainbow. Diaphanous as it may be, a rainbow is no subjective hallucination. It can be verified by any number of observers, though each will see it in a slightly different position.

Like the rainbow, all phenomena are interactions of elements of the whole, and the relationship between them always implies and reinforces that wholeness:

The universe implies the organism, and each single organism implies the universe only the single glance of our spotlight, narrowed attention, which has been taught to confuse its glimpses with separate things, must somehow be opened to the full vision

In recognizing this lies the cure for the illusion of the separate ego but this recognition cant be willed into existence, since the will itself is part of the ego:

Just as science overcame its purely atomistic and mechanical view of the world through more science, the ego-trick must be overcome through intensified self-consciousness. For there is no way of getting rid of the feeling of separateness by a so-called act of will, by trying to forget yourself, or by getting absorbed in some other interest. This is why moralistic preaching is such a failure: it breeds only cunning hypocrites people sermonized into shame, guilt, or fear, who thereupon force themselves to behave as if they actually loved others, so that their virtues are often more destructive, and arouse more resentment, than their vices.

In considering how an organism might realize this sense of implying the universe and how we might shake the ego-illusion in favor of a deeper sense of belonging, Watts expresses a certain skepticism for practices like yoga and meditation when driven by striving rather than total acceptance a skepticism all the more poignant amidst our age of ubiquitous yoga studios and meditation retreats, brimming with competitive yogis and meditators:

An experience of this kind cannot be forced or made to happen by any act of your fictitious will, except insofar as repeated efforts to be one-up on the universe may eventually reveal their futility. Dont try to get rid of the ego-sensation. Take it, so long as it lasts, as a feature or play of the total process like a cloud or wave, or like feeling warm or cold, or anything else that happens of itself. Getting rid of ones ego is the last resort of invincible egoism! It simply confirms and strengthens the reality of the feeling. But when this feeling of separateness is approached and accepted like any other sensation, it evaporates like the mirage that it is.

This is why I am not overly enthusiastic about the various spiritual exercises in meditation or yoga which some consider essential for release from the ego. For when practiced in order to get some kind of spiritual illumination or awakening, they strengthen the fallacy that the ego can toss itself away by a tug at its own bootstraps.

In asserting that the ego is exactly what it pretends it isnt not the epicenter of who we are but a false construct conditioned since childhood by social convention Watts echoes Albert Camus on our self-imposed prisons and reminds us:

There is no fate unless there is someone or something to be fated. There is no trap without someone to be caught. There is, indeed, no compulsion unless there is also freedom of choice, for the sensation of behaving involuntarily is known only by contrast with that of behaving voluntarily. Thus when the line between myself and what happens to me is dissolved and there is no stronghold left for an ego even as a passive witness, I find myself not in a world but as a world which is neither compulsive nor capricious. What happens is neither automatic nor arbitrary: it just happens, and all happenings are mutually interdependent in a way that seems unbelievably harmonious. Every this goes with every that. Without others there is no self, and without somewhere else there is no here, so that in this sense self is other and here is there.

(Perhaps this is what Gertrude Stein really meant when she wrote there is no there there.)

And therein lies the essence of what Watts is proposing not a negation of who we are, but an embracing of our wholeness by awakening from the zombie-like trance of separateness; not in resignation, but in active surrender to what Diane Ackerman so memorably termed the plain everythingness of everything, in cahoots with the everythingness of everything else, that immutable recognition of the sum that masquerades as parts:

In immediate contrast to the old feeling, there is indeed a certain passivity to the sensation, as if you were a leaf blown along by the wind, until you realize that you are both the leaf and the wind. The world outside your skin is just as much you as the world inside: they move together inseparably, and at first you feel a little out of control because the world outside is so much vaster than the world inside. Yet you soon discover that you are able to go ahead with ordinary activitiesto work and make decisions as ever, though somehow this is less of a drag. Your body is no longer a corpse which the ego has to animate and lug around. There is a feeling of the ground holding you up, and of hills lifting you when you climb them. Air breathes itself in and out of your lungs, and instead of looking and listening, light and sound come to you on their own. Eyes see and ears hear as wind blows and water flows. All space becomes your mind. Time carries you along like a river, but never flows out of the present: the more it goes, the more it stays, and you no longer have to fight or kill it.


Once you have seen this you can return to the world of practical affairs with a new spirit. You have seen that the universe is at root a magical illusion and a fabulous game, and that there is no separate you to get something out of it, as if life were a bank to be robbed. The only real you is the one that comes and goes, manifests and withdraws itself eternally in and as every conscious being. For you is the universe looking at itself from billions of points of view, points that come and go so that the vision is forever new.

You do not ask what is the value, or what is the use, of this feeling. Of what use is the universe? What is the practical application of a million galaxies?

Watts ends with a wonderful verse by the infinitely inspiring James Broughton:

This is Itand I am Itand You are Itand so is Thatand He is Itand She is Itand It is Itand That is That

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.

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The Ego and the Universe: Alan Watts on Becoming Who You ...

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January 30th, 2019 at 10:45 pm

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Philosopher Alan Watts on money – Big Think

Posted: January 29, 2019 at 11:44 am

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In a thought-provoking lecture Alan Watts once posed this great question: "What would you do if money was no object?"

This pointed and hyperbolic question asks us to dig into the deeper truth of what it is we really want and desire in life and also question the symbolic importance we place on the almighty abstraction of the dollar.

Watts urged his listeners to detach themselves from the notion of chasing money to satisfy our desires. Easier said than done of course but in typical koan fashion, Watts manages to show us that when we instead seek something less material and more spiritually fulfilling, the money part won't become an issue in the end.

The gist of Watt's speech is as follows:

"So I always ask the question, 'what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?' Well, it's so amazing as a result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say well, we'd like to be painters, we'd like to be poets, we'd like to be writers, but as everybody knows you can't earn any money that way

Let's go through with it. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time To structure your existence with an objective of monetary gain is to spend a lifetime chasing an abstraction.

... And after all, if you do really like what you're doing, it doesn't matter what it is, you can eventually turn it you could eventually become a master of it. It's the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it. And then you'll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don't worry too much..."

Now money is a fundamental fact of our current constructed reality, even Alan Watts understood that. Barter, exchange, value, currency and what have you there is absolutely no feasible way around it. So leave your pipe dreams and utopian visions at the door, just entertain the question at face value for now. It's probing for something much deeper than some cheap ideological economic fix.

Alan Watts on money, possessions and lifestyle

Pontificating on this issue in any regard is risky business as inherent contradictory and seemingly hypocritical charges are bound to be directed at its speaker.

Watts rightfully so, silenced any criticism for any monetary gain he received for his work. After all, he knew that he was playing the society game and needed to make a living for himself. Watts was a philosopher and quite good at what he did.

This line of questioning would lead to Watts making an important distinction on the nature of differentiating between money and wealth. On a personal level, he understood what wealth was to him and the limits of a human's capacity to experience luxury and excess:

"There are limits to the real wealth that any individual can consume... We cannot drive four cars at once, live simultaneously in six homes, take three tours at the same time, or devour 12 roasts of beef at one meal."

Watts explored the issue deeper in his anthology Does It Matter? Essays on Man's Relation to Materiality. In the essay "Wealth Versus Money," Watts remarked on the inability for humankind to distinguish between the merely symbolic and the true.

He looks into our simple confusion between money and wealth:

"Money is a way of measuring wealth but is not wealth in itself. A chest of gold coins or a fat wallet of bills is of no use whatsoever to a wrecked sailor alone on a raft. He needs real wealth, in the form of a fishing rod, a compass, an outboard motor with gas, and a female companion.

But this ingrained and archaic confusion of money with wealth is now the main reason we are not going ahead full tilt with the development of our technological genius for the production of more than adequate food, clothing, housing, and utilities for every person on earth."

This type of symbolic thinking manifests itself in all outlets of the physical world. In his essay, Watts makes a point about the how the fundamental confusion between money and wealth leads us to preposterous positions. He used the Great Depression as an example.

"Remember the Great Depression of the '30s? One day there was a flourishing consumer economy, with everyone on the up-and-up; and the next, unemployment, poverty, and bread lines,

What happened? The physical resources of the country the brain, brawn, and raw materials were in no way depleted, but there was a sudden absence of money, a so-called financial slump

Complex reasons for this kind of disaster can be elaborated at length by experts on banking and high finance who cannot see the forest for the trees..."

Watts makes no claim of being an economic or financial expert. Those to him are mere surface roles muddying the waters at the core of this issue he's trying to broach. Watts likens the absurdity to a man coming to work on the building of a house, the morning of the Depression and the boss saying to him:

Watts realized that there was going to be and will always be harsh resistance to this type of idea or rather awareness of the symbolic:

"What wasn't understood then, and still isn't really understood today, is that the reality of money is of the same type as the reality of centimeters, grams, hours, or lines of longitude. Money is a way of measuring wealth but is not wealth in itself.

It is not going to be at all easy to explain this to the world at large, because mankind has existed for perhaps one million years with relative material scarcity, and it is now roughly a mere one hundred years since the beginning of the industrial revolution."

Now wait just a minute before flinging out those Communist manifestos and leading a riot down Billionaire's row. Regulation and taxation on this abstraction is not the answer.

"To try to correct this irresponsibility by passing laws would be wide of the point, for most of the law has as little relation to life as money to wealth. On the contrary, problems of this kind are aggravated rather than solved by the paperwork of politics and law.

What is necessary is at once simpler and more difficult: only that financiers, bankers, and stockholders must turn themselves into real people and ask themselves exactly what they want out of life in the realization that this strictly practical and hardnosed question might lead to far more delightful styles of living than those they now pursue. Quite simply and literally, they must come to their senses for their own personal profit and pleasure."

So then we're brought back to the original question: what do I desire?

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Philosopher Alan Watts on money - Big Think

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January 29th, 2019 at 11:44 am

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Home of the Alan Watts Audio Collection.

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As a philosopher, writer, and orator, Alan Watts is credited as one of the foremost scholars to bring Eastern philosophies to a Western audience. Born in rural England, his interest in Eastern art and culture began at a young age. As a teenager, his first written interpretation of Zen was published in London; he would eventually write over twenty-five books. After coming to America in the late 1930s, Alan studied theology in Chicago, and then relocated to upstate New York where he wrote his first pivotal book, The Wisdom of Insecurity. In 1950, Alan moved to San Francisco and began teaching Buddhism at the American Academy of Asian Studies. Shortly thereafter, he was given his own public radio talk show, which expanded nationwide and he toured the country, lecturing and growing his audience. Over the course of his life, Alan was married three times, and had seven children who continue their fathers legacy through promoting and protecting his books, videos, and lectures. Alan passed away in 1973 in his home on Mount Tamalpais. (Click here to read the full biography.)

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Alan Watts | Biography, Philosophy and Facts

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Alan Watts was a prominent British philosopher, writer and speaker, who is recognized for interpreting and promoting Eastern Philosophy by making it accessible to the Western audience. His services as a volunteer programmer at KPFA, a Pacifica Radio station in Berkeley made him a very famous figure in San Francisco Bay Area.

Alan was born as Alan Wilson Watts onJanuary 6, 1915 in Chislehurst, Kent, England. Alan belonged to a middle class family, his father was employed at the London office of Michelin Tyre Company, while his mother was a housewife. His mothers devout religiousness had a meaningful impact on his upbringing. Alan attended the Kings School in Canterbury and during his teen years, he was presented with the opportunity to travel to France along with wealthy Epicurean, Francis Croshaw. Croshaw also influenced Alan with his Buddhist beliefs and practices. After completing his secondary education, he briefly worked in a painting house, and later, at a bank. Watts interests were piqued by philosophy, he began extensively reading works of philosophy, history, psychology, psychiatry and Eastern wisdom. He encountered influential spiritual authors who had a profound impact in shaping his ideologies, such as, Nicholas Roerich, Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and theosophists like Alice Bailey.

Alan learned Chinese, and did significant research in Zen Buddhism and the fundamental beliefs and practices of religions and philosophies of India and East Asia. Alan was a prominent member of the London Buddhist Lodge, and in 1931, he was appointed the secretary of the organization. In 1936, he attended the World Congress of Faiths at the University of London, where he heard D.T. Suzuki, a prominent scholar of Zen Buddhism, who had a strong influence on his thoughts. The same year, inspired by the works of Suzuki, Watts published his first book, The Spirit of Zen. In 1938, he moved to America and began training in Zen Buddhism, however, unsatisfied with the methods of the teacher, he left Zen training. Alan then enrolled himself in the Anglican school of Sea-bury Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, where he studied Christian scriptures, theology and Church history and he received his Masters degree in theology. His thesis was published under the title, Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion.

In 1951, Alan Watts settled in California upon accepting a position in the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco. He was also on the administration board of the academy for several years. During his stay at the Academy, he instructed himself in written Chinese as well as, Chinese brush calligraphy. Watts left the Academy to embark on a freelance career, and in 1953, he began his career as a radio programmer for the Pacifica Radio Station KPFA in Berkeley.

In 1957, Watts published his highly acclaimed and much discussed book which rose to the status of international bestseller, titled The Way of Zen, which dealt with the philosophical fundamentals and history of Zen Buddhism. During his travels to Europe, Alan encountered eminent psychiatrist, Carl Jung, and on his return to America, Watts began exploring the subject matter of modern science and psychology, aiming to establish an alignment between mystical experiences and material theories of the universe. He also began taking psychedelic drugs. He published his famous book, Tao: The Watercourse Way, which firmly established him as a prominent Zennist. He also produced an audio series, Out of Our Mind, where he discussed diverse subjects such as arts, cuisine, child rearing, education, law and freedom, architecture and sexuality.

Alan Watts composed more than 25 books on diverse topics such as cybernetics, semantics, process philosophy, natural history, the anthropology of sexuality, and Eastern and Western religion. Some of his famous books include The Way of Zen (1957), Psychotherapy East and West (1961), The New Alchemy (1958) The Legacy of Asia and Western Man (1937), The Meaning of Happiness (1940) and The Joyous Cosmology (1962) among others.

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Alan Watts | Biography, Philosophy and Facts

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December 23rd, 2018 at 8:49 pm

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Psytrance & Psychill with Terence McKenna & Alan Watts …

Posted: December 19, 2018 at 9:41 am

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Since the dawn of psychedelic trance and psychedelic downtempo music, there has been a prominent tool in artists repertoires that has captivated us, made us think, and transported us to the vast reaches of the cosmos or our deepest inner selves: sampling. Whether from movies, literature, scientists, visionaries, or philosophers, samples serve to help producers tell their stories and set the mood for the listener.

Watts avuncular joy and McKennas hallucinogenic machine elf explorations just seem to fit perfectly within the psychedelic music scene.

Two of the more popular sources of samples are ethnobotanist and visionary Terence McKenna, and Alan Watts, Zen practitioner and philosopher. Watts avuncular joy and McKennas hallucinogenic machine elf explorations just seem to fit perfectly within the psychedelic music scene.

Here are some of our favourite psychill songs with our favourite Terence McKenna and Alan Watts quotes. At the bottom you can find also a long playlist with many other tracks using their vocal sample:

And since youre all here and engaged in this sort of inquiry I assume youre all in the process of waking up.There is the central Self and its All of Us. Its playing all the parts of All Beings whatsoever everywhere and anywhere. And its playing the game of hide and seek with itself. It gets lost, it gets involved in the farthest-out adventures, but in the end it always wakes up and comes back to itself.

We are living beings were very sensitive and inside the human skin by an extraordinary fluke of nature, there has arisen something called reason, and there have also arisen values, such as love.

We are somehow the children of the planet, we are somehow its finest hour; we bind time, we bind the past, we anticipate the future we are going hyper-spatial; we are claiming a whole new dimension for biology that it never claimed before. We are actually becoming a fourth-dimensional kind of creature. Our future is somehow with us, as we seem to be able to move through metamorphosis into our own imaginations a super civilization spread throughout space and time. Our future is a mystery, our destiny is to live in the imagination.

Every electron is the yawning mouth of a wormhole that leads to quadrillions of higher dimensional universes that are completely beyond rational apprehension matter is not lacking in magic matter is magic!

There are of course many many more. Click play on the playlist below and dive into a long long session of psychedelic electronic music with Terrence McKenna & Allan Watts samples. Including tracks from Shpongle, Entheogenic, Gnomes of Kush, Dhamika, Soulacybin, Ancient Core & more.


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December 19th, 2018 at 9:41 am

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Zen: The Best of Alan Watts – Top Documentary Films

Posted: December 12, 2018 at 7:48 am

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From the description: "A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except faults, so he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions." Some commenters say that is a misquote and state that it should be "thoughts" instead of "faults". Referring to "mental chatter"

Either way, it demonstrates a choice of choosing not to control what you think about. Focus on something you think worthwhile. It is possible to direct your thoughts away from mulling things over and over again or other chatter and onto constructing something worthwhile. The choice is yours, to let yourself be controlled or to control yourself.

Some people decide they need meditation. Others, like Tesla, honed his mind to the point he didn't need paper to work out the details of constructing his inventions. Fortunately many of them were documented for the purpose of obtaining patents. His assistants stated that his motors and such worked the very first time being built.

Maybe meditation could be a path to honing one's mind rather than only a means to remove the mental chatter.

People choose to drown out their conscience and conscious via chemicals when they could direct their mind to very interesting journeys without the need or expense of such chemicals. The most beneficial observation of all is to observe one's ego at work and gently observe it back into its proper place of being a clear pane of glass through which which things are observed, rather than a pain or splinter of glass in everyone's ass. Being in control of your ego and emotions rather than them controlling you is the worthwhile journey.

Unfortunately the evil in control of the world do much to make that journey harder than ever; for you are the easiest to control and inspire to do the wrong things they desire when your ego and/or emotions are in control of you.

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Zen: The Best of Alan Watts - Top Documentary Films

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December 12th, 2018 at 7:48 am

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