Alan Watts: An Original And Unfettered Philosopher with Joan and Anne Watts

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This dialogue with the daughters of Alan Watts takes a deep dive into the colorful and controversial life of this late philosopher and popularizer of Zen Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies. Through his collected letters they describe the story of Watts’ correspondence with the founder of the Buddhist Society of London that led to an invitation for him to give a lecture. The Society was totally shocked to see a teenage boy show up. Such was the erudition and wisdom of Watts even as a youngster. He was a most devoted son. After moving to the U.S., he kept up a daily correspondence with his parents, even during WWII. His letters show that he was always learning something new and he would write long letters about these things. He was clear that his views will always be under revision and that wisdom is not a static thing. He wrote, “[W]hat I think now, what shall I think tomorrow? I don’t know. The whole fun of life is that it’s full of new surprises and new things to learn, provided you are willing to keep on growing and not settle into a rut.” They describe his aversion to being put up on a moral pedestal that he could never live up to. In another letter his humor was showing when he got an award for an article he wrote for Playboy Magazine about Wealth versus Money and replied, “Thank you very much. In some ways I prefer this award to getting an honorary degree from Harvard.” Such are a few gems gleaned from this delightful conversation about this most impressive, playful, and erudite genius. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms) 


Alan Watts was a British-born American philosopher, writer, speaker, and counterculture hero, best known as an interpreter of Asian philosophies for a Western audience. He wrote over 25 books and numerous articles applying the teachings of Eastern and Western religion and philosophy to our everyday lives. During the 1960s Watts became well known as a lecturer, writer, and radio and TV personality, both in philosophical and psychological venues and among the youth of the nation, who were disenchanted with the Vietnam War. He was a gifted speaker. He could stand at a podium without notes and deliver a lecture with such lucidity as to leave his audience spellbound. He died in late 1973. In this program we speak with his daughters, Joan and Anne Watts. 

Joan and Anne Watts are editors and curators of the book: 

To learn more about the work of Joan and Anne Watts go to

To learn more about Alan Watts go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How the memory of our personal history and the way things actually unfolded are different
  • What was Alan Watts like as a young father
  • How the Buddhist Society of London was surprised by this teenage boy invited to lecture
  • What Watts had to say about neurological manipulation of the brain and controlling of genetic code
  • His advice to a woman to get over her fear of spiders
  • His relationship with Karl Jung and mandalas
  • How he stood up for Native American values
  • How he stood up against the exploitation of natural resources
  • What he said in an article for Playboy Magazine about wealth versus money
  • What was Anne’s experience of being in the kitchen with Watts just before he died 

Host: Justine Willis Toms         Interview Date: 1/29/2018        Program Number: 3637

Music Playlist

From Album: Call of the Mystic
Artist: Karumesh
2004 Real Music RM 4159

Opening Essay: Track 01 For the Joy of it All
Music Break 1: Track 02 Hearing You Now
Music Break 2: Track 03 Monsoon’s Dance
Music Break 3: Track 04 Mount Kailash