Alan Watts Quotations
March 12, 2009 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Searching for a good Alan Watts quote on how "the universe sees itself through our eyes"...

I know Alan Watts talks about this idea a lot, but I'm currently searching for a nice brief chunk of text to use as a quote. Anyone know a good example of him stating this idea succinctly?
posted by garethspor to Religion & Philosophy (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: there's this quote which I find all over the internet, but I can't find the proper citation:

"Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence."
posted by garethspor at 4:31 PM on March 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Here's a partial match. I wonder if the quotation is a corruption; it seems to appear both as "Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself" and "The univers is perceiving itself through our eyes."
posted by koeselitz at 4:50 PM on March 12, 2009

Hmm. Getting closer.

According to this, the end of Werner Herzog's film Encounters At The End Of The World, that quotation is attributed to Alan Watts.

Unfortunately, the direct trail seems to end there - apparently this quotation was popularized by the Herzog movie. I'll have to look into Herzog to see if I can go further...
posted by koeselitz at 4:57 PM on March 12, 2009

I'm beginning to think that it's almost certainly not a direct quotation but a sort of paraphrase. That movie I mentioned up above, Encounters At The End Of The World, is a documentary about the people living in Antarctica. The Alan Watts bit is on YouTube here; it's during an interview with the forklift operator, a Russian (I think) who says that "Alan Watts used to say..." and then appears to be formulating his words. I think that the fact that this seems to be the source for every accredited instance of the quote (and I've looked) amd the fact that there seems to be nothing linking it to an actual writing indicates that the man is a person who simply knows Alan Watts' work very well, and who is paraphrasing his views.
posted by koeselitz at 5:12 PM on March 12, 2009

Well, anyhow, that guy who recites the quote in the movie, Stepan Pashov, still seems to work at the materialsperson down there at the United States Antarctic Program. Presumably, you could get in touch with him down there - I don't think you'd be the only one, though.
posted by koeselitz at 5:28 PM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: Here's Alan Watts saying "you are an aperture through which the Universe looks at itself," which is my favourite version of this. As you say, he expressed this basic thought countless times. I realize that's not a proper citation, but it is Watts speaking.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:46 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

The first condition, therefore, that any mythology must fulfill if it is to render life to modern lives is that of cleansing the doors of perception to the wonder, at once terrible and fascinating, of ourselves and of the universe of which we are the ears and eyes and the mind.

-Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By (1972)
posted by Brian B. at 6:42 PM on March 12, 2009

We are a way for the universe to know itself.
- Carl Sagan
posted by benzenedream at 11:22 PM on December 12, 2009

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