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The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,154 ratings  ·  90 reviews
The Joyous Cosmology is Alan Watts’s exploration of the insight that the consciousness-changing drugs LSD, mescaline & psilocybin can facilitate “when accompanied with sustained philosophical reflection by a person who is in search, not of kicks, but of understanding.” More than an artifact, it is both a riveting memoir of Watts’s personal experiments & a profound meditati ...more
Paperback, 106 pages
Published August 12th 1965 by Vintage Books/Random House (NY) (first published 1962)
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Erik Graff
Jul 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: psychonauts
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: religion
Alan Watts, the student of comparative religions and exponent of Zen to the West, was originally reluctant to equate some of the experiences readily afforded by the psychedelics to those obtained through long yogic disciplines. He changed his views after some experiences with the drugs and this book is his contribution to the discussion, a contribution specifically focusing on the emotional and religious aspects of the experience.

I had a similar experience in college. For some months a Buddhist
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Alan Watts Effs the inEffable: Part 435
Apr 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mason by: David Watts
This book does an incredible job at explaining the many thoughts that cross the minds of people who are fortunate enough to really explore their inner self while under the influence of certain chemicals. There is no way to explain what happens to consciousness during these experiences but Alan Watts does an incredible job at giving an idea.
One of the virtues of this book in comparison to something like The Doors of Perception (Huxley) is that Watts does not hesitate to express the sentiments tha
Arnold Wanker
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I sometimes feel as though some of Alan Watts's descriptions of his cosmology can't possibly be improved upon. He is at once very succinct and very poetic - his language is communicative and engaging without ever coming across as obtuse or obnoxious. I would have loved to have seen Watts write fiction, because his use of metaphor and analogy is inspiring.

Ostensibly this is a book about a philosopher taking psychedelic drugs. While his views on drugs are interesting and probably ahead of his time
Aug 29, 2020 rated it liked it
psychedelics are a difficult topic to write about for anyone as it pertains to personal experience. This short book also struggles with this topic but may be part of an introduction with other works
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alan Watts is arguably one of the more important writers of the past century. He brings all of his theological experience to bear in this book.

This book follows in the steps of Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception, but goes to a whole new elevation. Watts held a doctorate in Divinity and a Masters in Theology, and was well versed in religions of East and West. The search for and acceptance of the self, as well as the spiritual way, permeate his work. This work, dealing with his epiphanies and
Uldis Lazdiņš
It was an interesting read.
The very last footnote got too much of my attention - it is legal to grow deadly mushrooms (which look very similar to edible mushrooms), but there is criminal penalty for the possession/cultivation of psychedelics. Although the conversation throughout the book is pro-psychedelic (making it very one-sided), this argument with all the thoughts/sentences (don't want to quote it all here) surrounding it was something I had not really thought about (very obvious one, I kno
Jaroslav Vašák
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
(Čeština níže)

Alan Watts had to be a great man. I would like to sit with him on the grass, observe the surrounding nature and contemplate the workings of this world. After all, how it would look like can be found by listening to his recordings or reading his books.

The book The Joyous Cosmology surprised me above all opinions that you will not hear, or you will not see anywhere else. Alan Watts by beautiful playing with words allowed me to get into a completely different world, whether it was phy
Mar 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A joyous read. Five stars.
Dila Afiani
Interesting read but don't know yet what to make of it. ...more
Dimitris Hall
Mar 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Seldom before have I read 30 pages of printed .pdf so tightly packed with meaning. A lot of it was profound, written in a time when psychedelic substances were a new unexplored area of the human experience. Research was being done on their medical and other properties (with Watts being sceptical about whether the proper environment for relative experimentation really was research laboratories and clinics). It was an innocent time, before the powers that be had really found out about what a gapin ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like it would be impossible to review this book without comparing it to The Doors of Perception. Watts himself mention the book in the first sentence of the preface and he then write that "...the time is ripe for an account of some of the deeper , or higher, levels of insight that can be reached through these consciousness-changing drugs..." Unfortunately I feel like Watts fail in this task. The main body of the work, while occasionally poetic and beautifully written, is rambling and friv ...more
Jason Gregory
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In modern times the use of psychedelics is at a premium. But in most cases people suffer from having no frame of reference for the experience they have during psychedelics. It is usually only those people who have already embarked on the spiritual journey prior to a psychedelic experience that have the most insights to bring back for the rest of us to learn from. Alan Watts is one such individual. His life was dedicated to the mystery of life and the exploration of consciousness. In this book he ...more
Jeff Bobula
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's Alan Watts in 1962 correctly predicting today. He describes psychedelics being used with meditation to bring us closer to a real reality and peace in consciousness. In the ways the promises of religion and capitalism and politics have not. So current yet so far ahead of his time and our time even today. Predicted our struggle of technology trying to dominate nature instead of working with it. An honest attempt (successful) in trying to communicate what these psychedelic medicines are like a ...more
Jesse D.
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Another from Alan Watts, creator rest his soul, that is just unbelievably well done. This book further opened my eyes to things I had already seen, but had never understood, or connected. I wouldn't say this book really "taught" me anything, but it was more of a reaffirmation of many of my beliefs. I would highly recommend this to anyone who has had a positive experience with LSD. ...more
At a time where much of the world, and especially North America, is making great strides in ending the insane prohibition on Cannabis, its cohort of banned “mind-manifesting” substances remains a few steps behind in both understanding and acceptance. There is certainly a new wave of social progress with federally approved medicinal research programs from orgs like MAPS and bestseller mainstream books from those like Michael Pollan. Yet this slim, half century-old volume is no less relevant to ou ...more
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a strange little book. The main portion comprises a stream-of-cosciousness essay on man’s place in the universe. Watts wrote most of it while on drugs. The tone varies along a spectrum from Harvard-intellectual to childlike wisdom. The essay is punctuated by trippy pictures that would be even more impressive if they were in full color rather than black and white. This builds on Huxley’s Doors of Perception and uses Watts characteristic perspicacity and lyricism to dig even deeper.

Pat Rolston
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Having read the, Doors of Perception, by Aldous Huxley, I have a baseline for consideration of, Joyous Cosmology. Both are outstanding and merit the accolades afforded by so many readers. If pressed for time I recommend Joyous Cosmology as an extremely efficient and beautifully written depiction of psychedelic states of mind and the associated critical observations by eminent authorities. Much is to be gained with the literary exploration of such naturally and chemically induced states of mind. ...more
Farah Chamma
A good descriptive read of Watts’ personal experiences with psychedelics. Left me with some or maybe even many unanswered questions. The images were not clear and somewhat uninteresting to me. May have to reread some parts.

Some excerpts which I enjoyed:

Sometimes the image of the physical world is not so much a dance of gestures as a woven texture. Light, sound, touch, taste, and smell become a continuous warp, with the feeling that the whole dimension of sensation is a single continuum or fiel
Tushar Poddar
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Really need your input on this review. Hopefully it helps. :)
I still can't figure whether the author is really smart or just trying to present himself as really smart.
A lot of simple ideas can be expressed in a much more simpler way. In the end the book is about him tripping hard on some really intense psychedelics.
The philosophy is certainly debatable, which more often seems spontaneous and not really thought over deeply.
I read the first half of the book re reading bit by bit to actually dec
Joao Amaral
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful account of three psychedelic experiences merged into one. This work is a fine example of the deep insights and mystical experiences that the psychedelic experience catalyzes for those who are on a serious search. Alan Watts explains that which cannot be explained in an impressive manner.
This book is also a valuable historical piece, showcasing the cultural and legal reality of the 1960’s psychedelic uprising.
A must-read for those who are interested in the potential of these mind-rev
Seekers of Unity
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Alan writes about a quaint garden tea-party where they got really and tripped hard on who knows what. He writes about his philosophical musing during and after his trip and unsurprisingly and not unsatisfactorily the questions he trips on are perennial themes throughout his work and thinking. The one big one that stayed with me was, if there is nothing but the self/if the self is one and the self is ‘good’ how does the self keep getting in way of the self, what part of us keeps messing with us a ...more
Dec 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mindfulness, 2020
Essentially a series of trip reports condensed into a single 'day' for continuity and then evaluated by Watts' against his spiritual and intellectual experience/insight. Also refreshing was his resulting viewpoint that while perhaps useful to some degree, these substances were not the end-all-be-all of spiritual enlightenment; something of a stark contrast to the more vocal evangelism of his famous contemporaries. ...more
Ankit Bansal
Nice book.

A book for someone who has enough experience in this arena..:) watts has tried to explain something which can never be put in words. It is a pictorial book where watts has tried to explain everything images in an altered state of conciousness or a mystical state. Anyone who has done few experience can reasonate with his words.
Justin Iatropoulos
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you read this you'll find that almost every other paragraph contains an extremely insightful and powerful idea that is worth writing down and reading again later. Alan Watts has an incredible ability to explain his experiences and thoughts in ways that are easily comprehensible even for people who have never explored any kind of psychedelic experience. ...more
Andrew Murray
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written; much of the book reads like a conversation with Alan, with copious amounts of love and laughter, and amused bewilderment with powerful drugs and powerful stated of mind. best read a couple days in advanced of taking a psychedelic, preferably in Golden Gate park in the springtime.
not quite as good as Huxley's DoP. and for large swaths of the book I had a hard time following him--which isn't that surprising since it's difficult to really communicate the personal effects of psychedelics. he did have a few beautifully-written nuggets of insight later in the book though, and as always Watts' writing is lovely. ...more
Brandon Nankivell
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
A little-over poetic but fantastic insights, especially the one about how crazy it is in society that it's abnormal to make physical contact with fellow men. Holding hands and saying 'I love you' to friends apparently isn't normal past the age of 6. Love <3. Also great section of 4 things that describe the mystical experience. ...more
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Anyone contemplating the use of a psychedelic chemical should weigh this risk carefully: there is a slight chance of becoming, at least temporarily, insane. The risk is probably much greater than in traveling by a commercial airline, but considerably less than in traveling by road."

"The sure foundation upon which I sought to stand turns out to be the center from which I seek."
Peter Valeri
So many incredible quotes and descriptions of the seemingly esoteric yet highly descriptive elements of reality, both in prosaic and psychedelic reality. Probably my favorite moment from the book was his description of the indoors, where every object was an event rather than just a being - the pots were potting, the fixtures were fixturing, the pictures were picturing.
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Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer and speaker, who held both a Master's 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 over 25 books and numerous articles on subjects such as personal identity, the true nature of reality, higher con ...more

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For hard-core book lovers, the month of December is a mixed blessing. Those relentless holiday obligations tend to cut into reading time....
20 likes · 2 comments
“But the transformation of consciousness undertaken in Taoism and Zen is more like the correction of faulty perception or the curing of a disease. It is not an acquisitive process of learning more and more facts or greater and greater skills, but rather an unlearning of wrong habits and opinions. As Lao-tzu said, "The scholar gains every day, but the Taoist loses every day.” 50 likes
“Behind the mask of love I find my innate selfishness. What a predicament I am in if someone asks, “Do you really love me?” I can’t say yes without saying no, for the only answer that will really satisfy is, “Yes, I love you so much I could eat you! My love for you is identical with my love for myself. I love you with the purest selfishness.” No one wants to be loved out of a sense of duty. So I will be very frank. “Yes, I am pure, selfish desire and I love because you make me feel wonderful—at any rate for the time being.” But then I begin to wonder whether there isn’t something a bit cunning in this frankness. It is big of me to be so sincere, to make a play for her by not pretending to be more than I am—unlike the other guys who say they love her for herself. I see that there is always something insincere about trying to be sincere, as if I were to say openly, “The statement that I am now making is a lie.” There seems to be something phony about every attempt to define myself, to be totally honest. The trouble is that I can’t see the back, much less the inside, of my head. I can’t be honest because I don’t fully know what I am. Consciousness peers out from a center which it cannot see—and that is the root of the matter.” 10 likes
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