The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are – Alan Watts Book Summary

The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are – Alan Watts | Free Book Summary

The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are – Alan Watts

Alan Watts condenses eastern philosophy and spiritual teachings, providing insights into the language that the west understands.


The most powerful taboo in society is the one against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego.

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Wiggly Universe: An Undivided Entity

The universe is at root a magical illusion and a fabulous game… There is never anything to be gained; the zest of the game is to pretend that there is.

Everything is a big wiggle. They wiggle so much and in so many different ways that one can really make out where one wiggle begins and another ends, whether it be in space or time.Free book, podcast summaries

No matter how much we divide, count, sort, or classify the wiggle into particular things, this is nothing more than a method for thinking about the world; Nothing Is Actually Ever Divided.

The Real Self

The prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination that accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East.

To define is to limit. The words we use in language are limited to the magnificence that is our presymbolic. The boundaries we set on the boundless make it impossible to properly define things like the universe.

Real travel requires a maximum of unscheduled wandering, for there is no other way of discovering surprises and marvels, which, as I see it, is the only good reason for not staying at home.

Out Attention

Attention is an intentional, unapologetic discriminator. Attention is a narrowed perception. Like a scanning mechanism, it is a flashlight in the darkroom that narrows our perception. While a narrowed perception is great for being sharp, it can only focus on one area at a time.

The Duality Of Life

Life is a system of geological and biological cooperation. But man continues to separate himself, as though he is the only subject among a world of objects—such dualist thinking is a neurosis.

Not realizing that so-called opposites are poles of the same thing. Things like light and darkness, sound and silence, and solid and space cannot be without one another.

We are absorbed in conscious attention, convinced that this narrowed perception is the only real way of seeing the world.

The World Is One

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.


Memories over time convince you that “I” is real—they are actually one of the key parts of the ego sensation. It gives an impression of a self, the executive, as something that remains constant as life changes—as if our conscious selves were a static mirror reflecting a fixed perception

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

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