The Wisdom of Insecurity
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Wisdom of Insecurity

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  2,752 ratings  ·  202 reviews
An exploration of man's quest for psychological security and spiritual certainty in religion and philosophy.
Paperback, 136 pages
Published 1974 by Rider (first published 1951)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
It's funny..., I showed this book to one of my brilliant high school students and he took a look at it and called it a self-help book for people who aren't strong enough to think for themselves and read Nietzsche. (Sounds exactly like something I would have said when I was his age, how far have I fallen...)
Anywho, I wasn't sure whether or not i wanted to give this four or five stars...and I couldn't help it, not only does Alan do a great job explaining some nuggets of Zen Buddhism to the masse...more
Doug Hagler
Alan Watts is an ex Episcopal priest who converted to Zen Buddhism and then to Taoism, and then sort of moved beyond both in his own way. The Wisdom of Insecurity is a book that was for me life-changing. It argues, among other things, that insecurity, indeterminacy, is the truth of existence, and that to cling to particular things as if they were eternal is to waste your time and strength. He says it far more eloquently than I can. If you are the kind of person who asks questions, this is a book...more
Ldrutman Drutman
To even attempt a review of this almost undermines the point, for Watts is writing about how definitions and descriptions always try and fail to fix what is fundamentally transient and flowing. But to attempt anyway: This is a book about living in the present moment, and it kind of messes with your mind in that great expansive sort of way. What if there really only is this present moment, unfolding forever? Watts was one of the early popularizers of zen buddhism in the west, and this book was wr...more
I think this book is bloody brilliant.

For the last couple of months, I've been very lost as far as my personal philosophy and religion. I used to be a Christian; I used to be an atheist; I used to be an agnostic; and then I couldn't even commit to not committing to anything. And I've been in a lot of pain, not from my philosophical and religious drifting but a medical condition beyond my control.

And then one day, on a whim, I decided to browse my local library's used bookstore and I saw this boo...more
If you are the type of reader that highlights the important parts, i would suggest just dipping this entire book in yellow dye. I read it in a little more than 4 hours but i could spend days talking about it. The clarity of Watts' writing amazes me. Highly recommended.

ح‍ک‍م‍ت‌ ب‍ی‌ق‍راری‌: پ‍ی‍ام‍ی‌ ب‍رای‌ ع‍ص‍ر اض‍طراب
هیچ وقت فکرشم نمی کردم شعری که چندین سال تو فکر و تمام جزوه هام بود، موضوع یک کتاب باشه!

جمله بی‌قراریت از طلب قرار توست/طالب بی‌قرار شو تا که قرار آیدت

وقتی طالب یک امر ثابت باشیم، هرچیزی که برای آن امر ثابت خطری ایجاد کند، ما را مشوش می‌کند. اگر دغدغه من این باشد که آنچه دارم دست نخورده باقی بماند، چون علل و عوامل بسیاری وجود دارد که آن را به مخاطره می‌اندازد، دائماً دلهره و دلشوره خواهم داشت و دائماً مضطرب و ناراحت خواهم بود. زیرا جهان را با...more
Webster Bull

This slim bit of hokum gets a second star only because I found it powerful 40 years ago. Unfortunately for the book, I am 40 years older, and Watts, who died in 1973 at the age of 58 claiming that immortality is a religious fiction, seems to have proved his point.

Defrocked as an Episcopal clergyman after being caught cheating on his first wife, Watts married twice again on his way to becoming an early popularizer of zen buddhism. It may seem gratuitous to mention Watts's serial marriages, but t...more
Stephanni Bahr
Very simply written and accessible, yet very complex at the same time. An amazing book that I will come back to again later and he says so much more than what I am going to mention here. In this book, Watts often states the obvious. But only because it needs to be stated in order to remind the reader of what is important or to ensure it is not forgotten. Sometimes what is the most obvious is exactly what we don't see. I saw this book as a sort of manual on how to train the mind to experience or...more
It's unbelievable that this short book was written in 1951, foreshadowing massive amounts of today's popular "self-help" ideology. However, this makes the stunning revelations in the book less stunning than they would have been 60 years ago. There's some good work here on the layers that our minds add to the true reality, and some good metaphors to explain why those should not be important to us. But it's a bit idealistic and very difficult to apply in practice. It's a personal revelation, not a...more
Words could never do the contents of this book or the power of the author ANY justice.
Donna Quesada
His wit, his piercing insight and cleverness at explaining the unexplainable has been duly noted, so I'll leave that to the side and comment on something a bit more subtle but equally delightful and delicious: His nuanced way of speaking, his style and elegance, his ease with the subject matter, and his sense of humor about it all. His voice is at once conversational and authoritative. And no one can turn a phrase with quite the same panache.

Nowhere is this flair more evident than in these "Wat...more
This book forever changed my life and irreversibly changed the way I look at anything and everything. Alan Watts has an ability to cut through the bullshit in human life and expose what it means to be alive: nothing.

Read it with a fresh mind, read it more than once, and remember that Watts will often sacrifice the clarity of his point for a play on words or a joke.
I keep coming back over and over to this book. It helps me cope with tragedy, anxiety, and the pressures I put myself under. The simple message in this short book is one of surrender and non-duality. It is filled with simple examples illuminating eternal truths of all spiritual paths and applying them to the modern world.

Steve Woods
This is an amazing book for 1951. Watts is probably one of the clearst writers dealing with the indescribable I have ever read. In this book he deals with the major teachings of Buddhism including the first 3 of the noble truth, impermanence, no self and dependent origination without a single word of jargon. He is able to relate these teachings in a meaningful way to the daily life and concerns of a person living in a western culture with poise clarity and some beautiful if sometimes ruthless tu...more
Stephen Gallup
First read this slim volume way back in the early 70s. Picked it up one day last month thinking I could reread it during a lunch hour between depositions downtown. Wrong! Every paragraph is worth five minutes' thought. But at the same time the concepts are so basic and so fundamental to everyday life.

As I slowly proceeded, I was reminded of a great many other books from the same general time frame, including Aldous Huxley's Island and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five . However, the one idea...more
Let me start out by stating that philosophy is not my favorite subject so it won't be a surprise that this review will most definitely reflect that prejudice. There were moments of enlightening wisdom in this little book specifically regarding being in the present moment and that embracing the uncertainty of life is the best means of riding out the insecurity that is inherent in living. Those I considered the high points.

The rest of the never-ending double-talk of "I" versus "me" and the sillin...more
I feel like this book is a good summary of what should be common sense but never will be in any Westernized society. It touches a bit on ideas also connected to Evolutionary Psychology, and other concepts of the physical reality of the human realm. A lot of the ideas presented are repeated, but with things that heavy, they need to be. I was given this recommendation by someone who flowed in and out of my life like a flood, and I could only hope to pass it on to someone in the same way. Huge fan...more
Easily in the top echelon of the most challenging books I've ever read, "The Wisdom of Insecurity" by the late Alan Watts is a necessary deconstruction of the idea of "security." Throughout the course of the book, Watts adventures into science, religion, philosophy and rational argument to make his case that as a society living for the future, we're misguided and will never achieve what we're looking for (due to the fact that it doesn't exist). He condones living for the present and accepting yo...more
Fred Darbonne
Fair warning: This work is not for the faint of heart, nor for those who desire every writer to flatter what they already believe or to help them prove that they are “right,” and others are “wrong.” Alan Watts does none of these things, but instead challenges our constant striving for security and permanence in a world that in reality is always changing, exposing our endless search for security for the illusion that it is. For Watts, “this insecurity is the result of trying to be secure.” We can...more
I bought this based in large part on the shout-out Alan Watts receives in the movie Her. I'm not entirely sure how to rate this book--on one hand, it makes for a short and compelling read, but on the other hand, I don't believe or agree with the author's main point, which is that there is no such thing as the self. Watts argues that there is no such thing as "I"; there is no soul; there are only thoughts without a thinker. This is not Watts' original idea, but rather reflects Buddhist and Easter...more
I want to hate Alan Watts as the forerunner of Western Buddhism, in which it is largely about spiritual pornography, et cetera, as opposed to the more hard-boiled stuff you might find if you stepped outside your gated community for once. (When I say You, I dont necessarily mean you, but someone who could very well be you but hopefully is not.) But I dont hate this book. Having lived within the waters of insecurity, and believing inherently in the wisdom of living in the waters of insecurity, thi...more
Adam Lofbomm
Brilliant, concise, no-nonsense approach to cultivating mindfulness and cutting through self-deception.
Utterly disappointing. It's like listening to a reasonably intelligent person talk out loud while cleaning his navel.

Watts posits all sorts of random ideas without backing them up in any form (i.e. evidence or even further thought), and there is no clear logic to the order in which he presents these ideas. I was expecting a thought-provoking question or two to rise to the surface, so I kept at it, but in the end was left with the distinct feeling that I'd just listened to a stoner with a big ego...more
This book had one central theme that the author pushed in every chapter. Although this was not an original idea and can be found in many other philosophers works, there were a few chapters that offered a little insight.

The writing is muddled in places and the continual pushing of the one idea that you understood from the first chapter was repetitive and eventually annoying.

It's not a bad book, but I can think of far better works to spend your time with.
"But the best pleasures are those for which we do not plan.."

"It needs but slight imagination to realize that everlasting time is a monstrous nightmare, so that between heaven and hell as ordinarily understood there is little to choose. The desire to continue always can only seem attractive when one thinks of indefinite time rather than infinite time. It is one thing to have as much time as you want, but quite another to have time without end. For there is no joy in continuity, in the perpetual...more
Without using any of the vocabulary from the Buddhist lexicon, Alan Watts endeavors to explain Buddha Consciousness, what it means to perceive the world with an undivided mind, how the self is really an artificial construct, and when one realizes that there is no self to love then love is unhindered, making it possible to embrace the world, not with fear and desire, but with wonder and awe.
Very good - I depart with him on the concept that "there is no ego" - - the ego is simply our frame of referece, and no matter how hard he tries, our frame of reference will never simply go away - realization of unity, yes. Destruction of individual frame of reference in mortality? No. That's why four stars and not five.
Taymara Jagmohan
This is an absolutely delightful read, which is truly beautiful in its meanings. Have you ever felt the honors of a new horizon beckoning upon the abyss of your merry tales? Yes, this is exactly the accelerated feeling I received from this read. Alan Watts has a name which is attractive in its undertone. Alan Watts. You can already predict the baritone of teachings and lessons you'll get with just the closeness of his name. The Wisdom of Insecurity was beautiful. It taught me that above all- you...more
Alex Kartelias
This book is brilliant. Alan Watts is a serious and sincere intellectual who takes really complicated concepts and puts them within a easier language to comprehend. I have so much respect for him doing so.

The main problem with modern society -according Alan Watts- is that we don't live in the present. But this is not just a sentimental problem- a problem considered with being blind to the miracle of everyday consciousness. It is a existential problem that far out reaches the poetic: it is the c...more
Keane Aldrich
Best book I have ever read.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Would anybody care to comment? 7 49 Jul 06, 2012 10:02PM  
  • Freedom from the Known
  • Manual of Zen Buddhism
  • The Only Dance There Is
  • The Perennial Philosophy
  • The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation
  • I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment
  • Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis
  • Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book
  • In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching
  • Toward a Psychology of Awakening: Buddhism, Psychotherapy, and the Path of Personal and Spiritual Transformation
  • Emptiness Dancing
  • Mystics and Zen Masters
  • Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening
Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer, speaker, who held both a master's degree in theology and a doctorate of divinity. Famous for his research on comparative religion, he was best known as an interpreter and popularizer of Asian philosophies for a Western audience.

He wrote more than 25 books and numerous articles on subjects such as personal identity, the true nature of reality, hi...more
More about Alan Wilson Watts...
The Way of Zen The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are Tao: The Watercourse Way This is It & Other Essays on Zen & Spiritual Experience Nature, Man and Woman

Share This Book

“Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.” 107 likes
“What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money ... but it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth ... In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are "coins" for real things.” 91 likes
More quotes…