"Heroes And Villains"

"Now in watching a drama or reading a story we know, at least in the back of our minds, that the situation is "in play." We have therefore not the least objection to there being a "villain of the piece" or other agency which upsets the initial status quo. On the contrary, this is just what we expect to see, and, at the end of the show, hero and villain alike are applauded. For the hero is the hero just because of the villain. To put it in another way, the convention of the stage or the proscenium arch enables us to see that the deeds of the villain are grounds for the heroism of the hero, and we recognize the necessity of the relationship."~Alan Watts, The Two Hands Of God(pgs.32-33.)

" is long as it seems that there is a real choice between the opposites. True integrity is therefore the recognition that it is simply impossible to take sides, except in play or illusion. To take the side of one's own advantage in the struggle to survive is not so much a wickedness as an impossibility, for no being lives (i.e., survives) except in relation to the whole community of beings."
~The Two Hands Of God(pgs.201-202.)

A dominant characteristic of the religious psychedelic experience is what Alan Watts calls awareness of polarity. "This is the vivid realization that states, things, and events which we ordinarily call opposite are interdependent, like back and front or the poles of a magnet. By polar awareness one sees that things which are explicitly different are implicitly one: self and other, subject and object, left and right, male and female--and then, a little more surprisingly, solid and space, figure and background, pulse and interval, saints and sinners, and police and criminals, ingroups and outgroups."-Does It Matter?, published 1970, (pg.83.)

Heroes and villains, ingroups and outgroups, self and other, organism and environment, they all go together. "From the ecological and biophysical standpoints every organism goes with its environment transactionally: the one implies the other as buying implies selling and front implies back and the positive pole implies the negative....The basic point to be understood, then, is that it is simply impossible to improve either oneself or the world by force. Because you yourself are both the organism and its environment....Untold psychic and physical energy is wasted in this ludicrous enterprise, which, when seen to be absurd, is abandoned, releasing that energy for tasks which can indeed be accomplished."-Does It Matter?, (pgs.76-77.)

"What, exactly, is polarity?
It is something much more than simple duality or opposition. For to say that opposites are polar is to say much more than that they are far apart: it is to say that they are related and joined--that they are the terms, ends, or extremities of a single whole. Polar opposites are therefore inseparable opposites, like the poles of the earth or of a magnet, or the ends of a stick or the faces of a coin. Though what lies between the poles is more substantial than the poles themselves--since they are the abstract "terms" rather than the concrete body--nevertheless man thinks in terms and therefore divides in thought what is undivided in nature. To think is to categorize, to sort experience into classes and intellectual pigeonholes. It is thus that, from the standpoint of thought, the all-important question is ever, "Is it this, or is it that?" Is the experience inside, or is it outside? By answering such questions we describe and explain the world; we make it explicit. But implicitly, in nature herself, there are no classes. We drop these intellectual nets and boxes upon the world as we weave the imaginary lines of latitude and longitude upon the face of the earth and the, likewise imaginary, firmament of the stars. It is thus the imaginary, abstract, and conceptual character of these divisions which renders them polar. The importance of a box for thought is that the inside is different from the outside. But in nature the walls of a box are what the inside and the outside have in common.
It is thus when anyone draws attention to the implicit unity of polar opposites we feel something of a shock. For the foundations of thought are shakes by the suspicion that experiences and values which we had believed to be contrary and distinct are, after all, aspects of the same thing...."~Alan Watts, The Two Hands Of God, (pgs.49 & 50.)

"...oneself," in the ordinary sense of one's ego, doesn't exist. It seems to exist, in a way, in the same sense that the equator exists as an abstraction. The ego is not a psychological or physical organ, it's a social convention, like the equator, like the clock or the calendar, or like the dollar bill. These social conventions are abstractions which we agree to treat as is if they did exist. We live in relation to the external world in just exactly the same way that one end of the stick exists in relation to the other end. The ends are indeed different, but they're of the same stick.
Likewise, there is a polar relationship between what you call your "self" and what you call "other." You couldn't experience your "self" unless you could experience "other," nor could you experience "other" unless you also had the experience of "self." We might say that we feel that one's "self" and the "other" are poles apart. Oddly, we use that phrase, "poles apart," to express extreme difference. But things that are "poles apart" are poles of something, as of a magnet, or a globe, and so are actually inseparable. What happens if you saw the south pole off a magnet with a hacksaw? The new end, opposite the original north pole, becomes the south pole, and the piece that was chopped off develops its own north pole. The poles are inseparable and generate each other."
~Alan Watts, Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown, published 1974, (pg. 93.)

"Like Zen, the Tao is beyond words, and any attempt to pigeonhole it is to miss the point....Yet it has a symbol which is very instructive, the tai chi symbol of yin-yang."
~Gary Gach, The Complete Idiot's Guide To Understanding Buddhism,
published 2002, (pg. 63.)

"They go together....And this of course is represented in this fundamental Chinese figure of the yang, or positive principal, and the yin, or the negative principal, like two fishes constantly circling going round and round and round and round in the alternations of life.
Now, the question is, "are these two fishes involved in a fight? Is the white one eating up the black one and the black one trying to eat up the white one?" If that is the situation...then of course life is a fundamentally nothing but a grim contest. If this one up here is the good fellow and this one is the bad fellow...if this is order and this is chaos, then a fight goes on between them and that's largely the way in which our technology has interpreted man's situation against nature. This is man, the white, the good fellow, this is nature the dark, the bad fellow, and the white one has to eat him up. But what happens if the white fish succeeds in eating up the dark fish? The white fish disappears as well as the dark one, 'cause the white one is only there in relation to the dark.
So then, if these two fishes, as it were, wake up...if this one wakes up and this one wakes up, which is called "awakening" in Buddhism, they realize they're one! In other words they go together, they're inseparable from each other. And this realization is that experience which is called in Zen satori, or in Buddhism bodhi, awakening. This sudden dawning on our consciousness that life is not really a contest to make yes triumph over no, to make the positive triumph over the negative. The two sides go together. And then one sees in this strange way that underlying all that is negative in the world all, that is in a way painful and evil there is a kind of a necessity to it. It goes with the good. It is necessary for the good.
Disorder is necessary for the manifestation of order just as you must have, say, a black background to show off a light figure and then when one sees that--a profound transformation takes place in one's altitude toward the world. That is to say...instead of looking upon life as a contest it becomes a game. One doesn't withdraw from it, one doesn't stop living, but one goes into the game so that these revolving fishes are no longer trying to eat each other but they're going around dancing having the biggest fun in the world. So then, must we have fixed in our minds the idea that all the forms and patterns in nature are simply methods of attack or defense, that they're devices for camouflage, that they're simply lures for sexual attraction or other utilitarian purposes, or can we see in them a dance, a joyous cosmology."-Alan Watts

"The more extreme my position is, the more it embraces my worst enemy's."
~Gary Gach, The Complete Idiot's Guide To Understanding Buddhism,
published 2002, (pg. 63.)

""Rio Grande" is a Cowboy song and an Indian song....It wasn't Indians and Cowboys fighting..."-Brian Wilson

"Opposites and differences have something between them, like the two faces of a coin; they do not meet as total strangers. When this relativity of things is seen very strongly, its appropriate affect is love rather than hate and fear....It is fine for us to agree that we are different from each other, provided we do not ignore the fact that we agreed to differ. We did not differ to agree, to create society by deliberate contract between originally independant parties. Furthermore, even if there is to be a battle, there must be a field of battle; when the contestants really notice this they will have a war dance instead of war."
~Alan Watts, Psychotherapy East And West, (pg. 44.)

Flower Power | Self and Other | Bibliography

The Good Humor SMiLE Site!

"...I was no longer a detached observer, a little man inside my own head, having sensations. I was the sensations, so much so that there was nothing left of me, the observing ego, except the series of sensations which happened--not to me, but just happened--moment by moment, one after another.
To become the sensations, as distinct from having them, engenders the most astonishing sense of freedom and release. For it implies that experience is not something in which one is trapped or by which one is pushed around, or against which one must fight. The conventional duality of subject and object, knower and known, feeler and feeling, is changed into a polarity: the knower and the known become the poles, terms, or phases of a single event which happens, not to me or from me, but of itself. The experiencer and the experience become a single, ever-changing, self forming process, complete and fulfilled at every moment of its unfolding, and of infinite complexity and subtlety."~Alan Watts, This Is It, (pg. 138.)