Archive for March 13th, 2011

Irreducible Rascality

“I had a long talk with him back in 1958 … and there was a sort of twinkle in Jung’s eye that gave me the impression that he knew himself to be just as much a villain as everybody else … It showed that he knew and recognized what I sometimes call,  “The Irreducible Element of Rascality” in himself.”

Alan Watts (1961)

I am going to wander from the central theme of this blog on Jungian psychology. I want to reflect on certain people who had a major influence on me. These people influenced how I view my world and provided me with a certain direction on this journey called life. I note that these are people who I never personally met. I know them only through their words and their (auto)biographies. Looking back, I realize I could have met a number of these people had I been brave enough to travel around the country to meet them in person. Unfortunately I lacked the courage to make these journeys. I also realize that these men (yes, I am going to discuss the men who have influenced me) were all rascals. In today’s world of political correctness, ethics, rules, regulations and moral judgment  it is impossible to be a rascal. The world no longer has the kind of rascals I am going to talk about. To be honest, I feel the world is the worst off for it. Gone are the tricksters, the pranksters, and men of crazy wisdom. Now the world will only tolerate fools from Hollywood, who – from what I can tell – sorely lack the intelligence, wit, wisdom and heart like the people I will describe.

For the morally sensitive, I realize that the people I will talk about had big shadows. The important thing to note is that all of these men realized they had these shadows. Indeed, it was part and parcel of what made them who they were. I will not apologize for their “shadow issues” and I doubt they ever would have. There is another curious fact about these men. Many of them met Jung at some point in their lives and had a deep respect for him as a man.

The first rascal I would like to talk about is Alan Watts, who often described himself as a “genuine fake.” I first started to read Watts when I was seventeen, in 1969. Well, that was a different world and Watts was all the rage among those of us who were searching for something beyond the Judeo-Christian myth. Here was a man who had been ordained in the Anglican church, had written numerous books on Christianity, but had left the church to explore eastern religions, in particular Buddhism. For a seeker like myself, I was immediately captured by Watts’ writings on religion, the illusion of our encapsulated ego and our relation to nature. I often go back to re-read his books and they are as fresh today as they were over 40 years ago. He was certainly a rascal. He poked fun at the social establishment, the corporate world, the military and most of all religions and philosophies. Like Jung, he had an innate ability to pull information from mythology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, etc. His gift was to weave all of this material into the most interesting stories. He was a great storyteller (and again, I realize this is a common gift of a number of the people I will talk about). He was adept at coming up with the best metaphors for his stories.

I can’t summarize Watts’ works. If you are interested, I would suggest you read some of his books. Luckily, we can also still listen to Watts. For example:

What did Alan Watts give me? He made me ask questions about how I experienced life. He opened a door allowing me to look at the world through the lens of eastern religions. He made me think and feel a different way. For a seventeen year old living in a small town in Pennsylvania surrounded by farmland, this was significant. At that time, I had a close friend Patrick, who first turned me on to Watts. Patrick and I would sit for hours talking about the books we had read. It was in that place, at that time that I was initiated into experiencing the world in a new and exciting way. I realize I am still on the path that I started with Alan Watts and Patrick, so many years ago. Alas, Patrick is no longer here, but I still have Alan Watts to journey with and to make me think and laugh.

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