Alan Watts Biography
Like most British children of the middle and upper classes, he attended boarding schools from a young age. He attended King's School which is located next to Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent. Watts was at the top of his classes scholastically, but lost an opportunity to obtain a scholarship to Oxford for being presumptuous and capricious in his reading of an essay on the scholarship exam. His religious education continued both at home and at school, but he was introduced to Buddhism from a young age, and became a Buddhist at age 16.
After graduating from secondary school, therefore, Watts went to work in London, first in a printing house and later in a bank.
In 1936, at age 21,
Watts attended the World Congress of Faiths at the University of London,
where D.T. Suzuki, a scholar of Zen Buddhism, presented a paper. Afterwards,
the two men met. This meeting had a profound impact on the young Watts,
who shortly thereafter published his first book, The Spirit of Zen, which
synthesized Suzukis work.
Watts went to a school in Illinois to study Christian scriptures, theology, and Church history. His goal was to blend of contemporary Christian worship, mystical Christianity, and Asian philosophy. He received a master's degree in theology, and his thesis, Behold the Spirit, was published in book form for the masses. Watts refuted all religious outlooks that were dour, guilt-ridden, or militantly proselytizingno matter if they were found within Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, or Buddhism.
At age 30, in 1945,
he became an Anglican priest. However, he had an affair, and his wife
had their marriage annulled. As a result, in 1950 Watts left the ministry.
In the 1960s Watts experimented with such drugs as mescaline and LSD (as a participant in research projects led by noted doctors). Although he found the experience helpful in growing his philosophy, he soon gave it up. As he said: "When you get the message, hang up the phone.
Watts was married
to his first wife, Eleanor, for 11 years, and had two daughters with her.
His second wife was named Dorothy he had five children with her
three more daughters and two boys. Tiring of the institution of
marriage, he left his wife although he always supported the children
financially. His third wife was Mary Jane Yates King.