The following text consists of excerpts from Alan Watts’ book, Psychotherapy East and West, selected by Heron Stone.
** means that part of a paragraph is missing. Editorial comments have been added and appear within brackets.
1. Psychotherapy and Liberation
2. Society and Sanity
3. The Ways of Liberation
4. Through a Glass Darkly
5. The Counter-Game
1. Psychotherapy and Liberation
If we look deeply into such ways of life as Buddhism and Taoism, Vedanta and Yoga, we do not find either philosophy or religion as these are understood in the West. We find something more nearly resembling psychotherapy. This may seem surprising, for we [many] think of the latter as a form of science, somewhat practical and materialistic in attitude, and the former as extremely esoteric religions concerned with areas of the spirit almost entirely out of this world. This is because the combination of our unfamiliarity with Eastern cultures and their sophistication gives them an aura of mystery into which we project fantasies of our own making. Yet the basic aim of these ways of life is something of quite astonishing simplicity, beside which all the complications of reincarnation and psychic powers, of superhuman mahatmas, and of schools of occult technology, are a smoke screen in which the credulous inquirer can lose himself indefinitely.**
by Bruce Lee
Gung fu is a special kind of skill, a fine art rather than just a physical exercise or self-defence. To the Chinese, gung fu is the subtle art of matching the essence of the mind to that of the techniques in which it has to work. The principle of gung fu is not a thing that can be learned, like a science, by fact-finding or instruction in facts. It has to grow spontaneously, like a flower, in a mind free from desires and emotions. The core of this principle of gung fu is Tao – the spontaneity of the universe. The word Tao has no exact equivalent in the English Language. To render it into the Way, or the “principle” or the “law” is to give it too narrow an interpretation. Lao-tzu, the founder of Taoism, described Tao in the following words:
Of the two main Chinese trends of thought, Confucianism and Taoism, the latter is the one which is mystically oriented and thus more relevant for our comparison with modern physics. Like Hinduism and Buddhism, Taoism is interested in intuitive wisdom, rather than in rational knowledge. Acknowledging the limitations and the relativity of the world of rational thinking, Taoism is, basically, a way of liberation from this world and is, in this respect, comparable to the ways of Yoga or Vedanta in Hinduism, or to the Eightfold Path of the Buddha. In the context of Chinese culture, the Taoist liberation meant, more specifically, a liberation from the strict rules of convention.
Mistrust of conventional knowledge and reasoning is stronger in Taoism than in any other school of Eastern philosophy. It is based on the firm belief that the human intellect can never comprehend the Tao. In the words of Chuang Tzu,
The most extensive knowledge does not necessarily know it; reasoning will not make men wise in it. The sages have decided against both these methods.
Chuang Tzu’s book is full of passages reflecting the Taoist’s contempt of reasoning and argumentation. Thus he says,
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