From This is It & Other Essays on Zen & Spiritual Experience (1960), by Alan Watts.
The whole point of these essays is to show the fallacy of this opposition, to show that the spiritual is not to be separated from the material, nor the wonderful from the ordinary. We need, above all, to disentangle ourselves from habits of speech and thought which set the two apart, making it impossible for us to see that this--the immediate, everyday, and present experience--is IT, the entire and ultimate point for the existence of a universe.
. . . I am neither a preacher nor a reformer, for I like to write and talk about this way of seeing things as one sings in the bathtub or splashes in the sea. There is no mission, nor intent to convert, and yet I believe that if this state of consciousness could become more universal, the pretentious nonsense which passes for the serious business of the world would dissolve in laughter. We should see at once that the high ideals for which we are killing and regimenting each other are empty and abstract substitutes for the unheeded miracles that surround us--not only in the obvious wonders of nature but also in the overwhelmingly uncanny fact of mere existence.
The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety (1951), by Alan Watts.From
Thus the “brainy” economy designed to produce this happiness is a fantastic vicious circle which must either manufacture more and more pleasures or collapse--providing a constant titillation of the ears, eyes, and nerve ends with incessant streams of almost inescapable noise and visual distractions. The perfect “subject” for the aims of this economy is the person who continuously itches his ears with the radio, preferably using the portable kind which can go with him at all hours and in all places. His eyes flit without rest from television screen, to newspaper, to magazine, keeping him in a sort of orgasm-with-out-release through a series of teasing glimpses of shiny automobiles, shiny female bodies, and other sensuous surfaces, interspersed with such restorers of sensitivity--shock treatments--as “human interest” shots of criminals, mangled bodies, wrecked airplanes, prize fights, and burning buildings. The literature or discourse that goes along with this is similarly manufactured to tease without satisfaction, to replace every partial gratification with a new desire.
For this stream of stimulants is designed to produce cravings for more and more of the same, though louder and faster, and these cravings drive us to do work which is of no interest save for the money it pays--to buy more lavish radios, sleeker automobiles, glossier magazines, and better television sets, all of which will somehow conspire to persuade us that happiness lies just around the corner if we will buy one more.
He went on to say that according to old Celtic occult lore we belong in the morning of our lives, or childhood, to the sea; in the afternoon, or maturity, to the land; and in the evening, or old age, to the air. Only after death do we mingle with and belong to all three elements. Then Time is undifferentiated, like a great wave which never breaks, like a wind blowing strong and free forever, like a vast range of hills unbroken by any plain. In this eternal time our strength does not ebb or flow and no moment is more propitious than another.
To find one's way home would be to undo the Fall and to achieve a re-entry into life. The outer world would then no longer be outside ourselves, and nothing would be seen as simply an ob-ject, i.e., as something which we re-ject or dis-own. In the union with life which overcomes man's alienation, the universe becomes his very own; he lives in it even as it lives in him. Life is no longer a collection of fragments externally and accidentally related, but a living whole in which the parts retain their identity as parts and yet at the same time are fully united with the whole. And the unity of all things is reflected in the wholeness of his inner life. His left hand knoweth what his right hand doeth, and his name is no longer legion. With his energies no more diminished by the warfare of the segments of his own being, man is then, for the first time, able to give life his undivided attention from moment to moment. His actions can then be truly characterized as wholeness responding to wholeness, and his life is then no longer, as heretofore, a matter of fragments pushing or being pushed by other fragments.
A Chinese Garden of Serenity (1959), by Hung Tzu-ch'eng, translated by Chao Tze-chiang:From
A conventional man delights in his prosperity, but the superior man's happiness comes from his adversity. A conventional man grieves at his dissatisfaction, but the superior man's sorrow arises from his satisfaction. This is so because the sorrow and happiness of a conventional man are induced by passion and those of the superior man by intellect.
Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. If we respected only what is inevitable and has a right to be, music and poetry would resound along the streets. When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality. This is always exhilarating and sublime. By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine and habit everywhere, which still is built on purely illusory foundations. Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.
Though not often consciously recognized, perhaps this is the great pleasure of summer: to watch the earth, the dead particles, resolving themselves into the living case of life, to see the seed-leaf push aside the clod and become by degrees the perfumed flower. From the tiny, mottled egg come the wings that by and by shall pass the immense sea. It is in this marvelous transformation of clods and cold matter into living things that the joy and the hope of Summer reside. Every blade of grass, each leaf, each separate floret and petal is an inscription speaking of hope. Consider the grasses and the oaks, the swallows, the sweet, blue butterfly-they are one and all a sign and token showing before our eyes earth made into life. So that my hope becomes as broad as the horizon afar, reiterated by each leaf, sung on every bough, reflected in the gleam of every flower. There is so much for us yet to come, so much to be gathered and enjoyed. Not for you or me, now, but for our race, who will ultimately use this magical secret for their happiness. Earth holds secrets enough to give them the life of the fabled Immortals. My heart is fixed firm and stable in the belief that ultimately the sunshine and the Summer, the flowers and the azure sky, shall become, as it were, interwoven into man's existence. He shall take from all their beauty and enjoy their glory.
A GARDEN!—The word is in itself a picture, and what pictures it reveals! All through the days of childhood the garden is our fairy-ground of sweet enchantment and innocent wonder. From the first dawn of thought, when we learned our simple lessons of Eden and its loss, and seemed to see the thornless garden, watered with clear streams, beautiful with spreading trees, and the train of unnamed beasts and birds meekly passing before their spotless lord; and then beyond, far onward to that other garden beloved by the Man of Sorrows, Gethsemane, where we could never picture the blossoming of roses or murmurous hum of summer bees, but only the sombre garden walks, and One kneeling among the olives, and dark, heavy drops upon the grass. And near to this, the garden of the Sepulchre—in a dewy dawnlight, angel-haunted. These were our Gardens of the Soul. In later years the mists of those older, holier spots wear away as snow-wreaths in the vivid brilliance of the Gardens of Poetry. Then, dreamlike, from sapphire seas arose the Gardens of the Hesperides, and we beheld the white-vestured maidens as they danced around the golden-fruited, dragon-guarded tree. Then bloomed for us the gardens of mediaeval Italy. The Poets' garden of cypress and lemon, of marble stairs and sparkling fountains, with all their moonlight mirth and sorrow; ilex-groves of song and silver-threaded laughter; visions of Rimini, or gay Boccaccio's tales. Then did we linger where high-piping nightingales sang to the Persian Rose in the Gulistan of Saädi; felt the pure sunlight shine in a little wilderness of roses, or the green shade that lay round the apple-trees of Andrew Marvell; or in the garden of the Sensitive Plant, we followed the shadowy steps of the Lady, our souls entranced with the love of every flower she loved. They are all beautiful, these Gardens of Poetry! and through the midst of them flows the broad stream of Memory, isled with fair lilied lawns, fringed with willowy forests and whispering reeds. And not less beautiful than these ideal shades are the gardens which live unchanged and unchanging in many a painted picture within the heart. Real, and not less ideal, is the remembrance of gardens we have seen: seen once, it may be, and never since forgotten.
My dream is of a Library in a Garden! In the very centre of the garden away from house or cottage, but united to it by a pleached alley or pergola of vines or roses, an octagonal book-tower like Montaigne's rises upon arches forming an arbour of scented shade. Between the book-shelves, windows at every angle, as in Pliny's Villa library, opening upon a broad gallery supported by pillars of "faire carpenter's work," around which cluster flowering creepers, follow the course of the sun in its play upon the landscape. "Last stage of all," a glass dome gives gaze upon the stars by night, and the clouds by day: "les nuages ... les nuages qui passent ... là bas . . . les merveilleux nuages!" And in this βιβλιοκηιιοσ—this Garden of Books—Sui et Amicorum, would pass the coloured days and the white nights, "not in quite blank forgetfulness, but in continuous dreaming, only half-veiled by sleep."
A. FORBES SIEVEKING
And in the rose-garden every flower was a flame! He thought in symbols, using the Persian imagery of a dusky court, surrounded by white cloisters, gilded by gates of bronze. The stars came out, the sky glowed a darker violet, but the cloistered wall, the fantastic trellises in stone, shone whiter. It was like a hedge of may-blossom, like a lily within a cup of lapis-lazuli, like sea-foam tossed on the heaving sea at dawn. Always those white cloisters trembled with the lute music, always the garden sang with the clear fountain, rising and falling in the mysterious dusk. And there was a singing voice stealing through the white lattices and the bronze gates, a soft voice chanting of the Lover and the Beloved, of the Vineyard, of the Gate and the Way. Oh! the language was unknown; but the music of the refrain returned again and again, swelling and trembling through the white nets of the latticed cloisters. And every rose in the dusky air was a flame.</blockquotes>