The six essays in this volume all deal with the relationship of mystical experience to ordinary life. The title essay on "cosmic consciousness" includes the author's account of his own ventures into this inward realm. "Instinct, Intelligence, and Anxiety" is a study of the paradoxes of self-consciousness; "Spiritually and Sensuality," a lively discussion of the false opposition of spirit and matter; and "The New Alchemy," a balanced account of states of consciousness akin to spiritual experience induced by the aid of lysergic acid. The collection also includes the text of Watts' celebrated pamphlet, "Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen."
Alan W. Watts, who held both a master’s degree in theology and a doctorate of divinity, is best remembered as an interpreter of Zen Buddhism in particular, and of Indian and Chinese philosophy in general. Standing apart, however, from sectarian membership, he has earned the reputation of being one of the most original and “unrutted” philosophers of the twentieth century. Watts was the author of some twenty books on the philosophy and psychology of religion that have been published in many languages throughout the world, including the bestselling The Way of Zen. An avid lecturer, Watts appeared regularly on the radio and hosted the popular television series, Eastern Wisdom and Modern Life, in the 1960s. He died in 1973.