Part 2 of 2. Part 1 here.
Partings II – Watts and The Church Today: Real Presence or Real Estate?
Watts was quite successful in his attempt to express the religio perennis in the language of Christian theology; not just in my opinion today, but among his Episcopal peers at the time (one bishop even called it “the most important book on religion in this century”), yet within four years he resigned his position, left the Church and embarked on his more characteristic career as an alt-academic and, eventually, something of a counter-cultural guru. What happened?
According to his letter of resignation, it was what he later called the Church’s dogmatic imperialism:
“During the past years I have continued my studies of the spiritual teachings of the Orient, alongside with Catholic theology, and, though I have sometimes doubted it, I am now fully persuaded that the Church’s claim to be the best of all ways to God is not only a mistake, but also a symptom of anxiety. Obviously, one who has found a great truth is eager to share it with others. But to insist – often in ignorance of other revelations – that one’s own is supreme argues a certain inferiority complex characteristic of all imperialisms. “Me thinks thou doth protest too much.” This claim of supremacy is, for me, the chiefest sign of how deeply the Church is committed to this self-strangulation, this anxiety for certainty, and I cannot support the proselytism in which it issues.”
In an interview in LIFE magazine in 1961 Watts said that he left the church “not because it doesn’t practice what it preaches, but because it preaches.”
In 1964 in Beyond Theology he concluded:
My previous discussions did not take proper account of that whole aspect of Christianity which is uncompromising, ornery, militant, rigorous, imperious, and invincibly self-righteous.
Of course, forcing his hand would have been concern over his somewhat irregular lifestyle, which would ultimately include divorcing his first wife, Eleanor (who was, at the time, having an affair with the choirmaster), and marrying a former student. A bit tame compared to a Weinstein, but not really the done thing for an Episcopalian chaplain in the 1940s.
One can’t help but wonder if Watts would have found a more comfortable pew in today’s Church, especially the Episcopal branch. Surely the relentless liberalization of the last 75 years has enabled the Church to catch up with Watts?
Surprisingly, the answer is: no, not at all. Or perhaps not surprisingly; for the “liberalizing” in question has mostly in the political sense.
True, a church that positively welcomes gay and transgendered clergy would find Watts’ serial monogamy charmingly old fashioned; or perhaps dangerously cisgendered and triggering?
But more importantly, Watts – as clergyman or congregant — would find the contemporary Church even more boring and pointless than before, for liturgies, both Catholic and Protestant, have been rationalized and “popularized” more than ever, making contemplative prayer all but impossible, and the Social Gospel, the Good News in the Protestant, adolescent form of changing the world in the light of rigid principles of justice (all men are equal here and now, not in the Spirit), has not faded away in the growing light of the Spirit, but instead metastasized and taken over.
However much Watts might agree with those politics — in his autobiography he mentions the tedium of having to kowtow to the conservative businessmen who make up (then) the most important congregants — Watts was interested in the Spiritual, not such surface fripperies. As he insisted in his new Preface, itself now almost 50 years old, all this is a
[M]ere matter of changing the externals – of having rock bands instead of organs and Kyrie eleison set to jazz, [or] even of turning churches into social service centers with the idea that this would be practicing Christianity seven days a week instead of just talking it on Sundays. Indeed, one may well hope that monarchical Christianity will not be practiced, even on Sundays, since the dutiful spirit in which it dispenses charity breeds resentment in the giver and the receiver alike, for when the one gives with reluctance the other receives with guilt.
Speaking of social service centers (today, most likely to be “Mary and Joseph were illegals”- style immigrant service centers), Watts goes on to frame the issue in blunt, Trumpian terms of real estate:
The practical problem is, what are we going to do on Sunday mornings? How are ministers to continue their work? What is to be the use of church buildings, funds, and administrative machinery? Naturally, institutional Christianity will, in its present form, continue to supply the demand which remains for a monarchical [civil] religion. But a considerable number of ministers and even congregations – not to mention millions of reasonably intelligent young people – realize that churches must ‘put up or shut up,’ and that the chief business of religious facilities and assemblies is to provide a social milieu for religious experience. … Ministers and their congregations must instead consider what need there may be for churches as temples for contemplation and meditation, stripped of the courthouse furniture of stalls, pews, pulpits, lecterns and other equipment for throwing the Book at captive audiences. They must consider also the need for retreat houses and religious communities, and for guidance and instruction in the many forms of spiritual discipline which are conducive to mystical vision [non-dual knowing].” (pp. xx – xi).
Ironic, since the Episcopal Church has indeed taken the path of forcing change down the throats of those conservative vestrymen, and taken over the very buildings themselves – a quirk of the Episcopal Church is that the national body owns the buildings, the churches control their own endowments and other investments — but hardly to promote contemplation:
Convention attendees were told that they had spent $18 million this year suing their own local congregations — those which have protested the denomination’s policies by trying to secede. The New York hierarchy has consistently won in court – asserting that the local members signed over their buildings decades ago. As a result, some of the largest Episcopal congregations in the United States have been forced to vacate their buildings and meet elsewhere. So now, convention delegates were told, the denomination is the proud owner of scores of empty buildings nationwide – and liable for their upkeep in a depressed real estate market where empty church buildings are less than prime property. It’s the classic “dog in a manger.” The denomination has managed to keep the buildings – for which it has little use. However, they made their point – refusing to allow the congregations which built the facilities to have any benefit after generations of sacrifice, donations and volunteerism.
One former Episcopal priest wrote me, “The irony is that after all their property suits to get control of empty buildings, they now are losing their main property.”
One might hope that at least some of these buildings could be turned over to or acquired by some new Peter Gatien, who could turn them into pagan dance clubs, which at least would be more in line with Watts’ program.
Ironies abound, of course. Watts makes the interesting point that while he has no doubts at all that Jesus really existed, the refusal to “crack the shell” of scripture to obtain the nut of spirit has led, especially among Protestants, to obsessions with Biblical literalness and inerrancy. Today, of course, the very existence of Jesus is a hot topic, but ironically the last man standing among the candidates for the stripped-down, 100% real Jesus tends to be the wandering Jewish teacher or political zealot; the Spirit seems to have been “found” in the supposed political shell, not even the scriptural shell.
Indeed, the Episcopal Church’s new leader – a black man, since after Obama all leaders will have to be black – has proudly made his motto “We are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement,” a pretty explicit statement of a proud retreat to the most adolescent stage of the Western Spirit, rather than an advance to the fully mature life of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, the Episcopal Church has always been mostly the WASP elite at prayer (answering Watts’ question, what are we going to do on Sunday mornings?) so it’s hardly surprising that it serves mainly as a vehicle for SJW virtue signaling in the Present Year; thus:
In America last week a church in Virginia took down two plaques of men who had worshipped there, one of George Washington, the other of Robert E. Lee. The plaques distracted our worshippers, said the cowardly rector.
Rather than openness to other religions, it’s the phony openness of multiculturalism and unlimited immigration, in the service of global conformity.
Watts seems to have underestimated the ability of the adolescent Protestant conscience to sustain itself in its infinite regress of idealistic guilt. Like a collapsing neutron star, it needs more and more fuel, and it now gets it from endless spasms of masochistic White guilt. As we now know, SJW’s always double down.
Anti-Whiteness has replaced Christianity as the religion of post-1960s White America. Original sin has been replaced with “racism” and “white privilege.” Jesus Christ has been replaced with Martin Luther King. Satan has been replaced with Adolph Hitler. Anti-whiteness is not rational, it is an irrational and superstitious religion.
The entire facade of anti-Whiteness is based on the idea that it’s moral, the religious notion that people of European ancestry are uniquely evil and born with original sin. In order to atone for this original sin, White people must marry someone of another race, promote mass immigration into White countries and only White countries, make public apologies and displays of subservience for other races, and demean and disparage white people, white history, and white culture – while at the same time loudly proclaiming such things don’t exist.
No matter how bohemian his lifestyle, no matter how welcoming to other religions, spiritually Watts was profoundly conservative – or rather, archeofuturistic. A bohemian Tory?
In any event, Watts was aware of the difference between biblical symbols intended to promote the awareness of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and secular notions of purported social improvement.
Individual morality cannot just be mapped onto social morality or politics. Discussing the Old Testament image of a vengeful God, Watts observes that
God has no need to punish in the vengeful sense because he has no need to protect himself. He is not weak and vulnerable like human society. 
Delivered from the vicious circle of bad self-consciousness, the infinite regression of chasing oneself around and around, it is possible for man to move forward. But in moving forward his principle of action will no more be a moral code; it will be the indwelling Holy Spirit. 
Mature Christian morality … will lose the adolescent’s itch to change the world overnight, which has long characterized Western Christianity in its schemes for spiritual and material reforms. 
This will help free our idea of the Christian life from the false heroics of adolescence, that running around in search of great moral deeds to do, which is so often no more than hypocritical interference with the lives of others. [224}
It is not charitable to the poor to try all at once to abolish poverty, with the exception, indeed of really abject poverty. …Most of the wholesale and impersonal charity we practice today is mere patronization of the poor, motivated by pity and fear of their estate and not by respect and honor. 
The work of the Church is to share a sense of union with God by all the means at its disposal, symbolic or otherwise. The Christian morality of love, as distinct from the secular morality of justice, has meaning and value only in relation to this background. Apart from it, it disrupts the natural order of society, which based as it is on fear and collective self-interest, is to be preferred to Christian and supernatural virtues running amok in separation form their source. [221-22; italics in original]
Some people still understand this:
Christian belief contests all politics, its visions of human flourishing and the ethical claims it makes of people being so demanding that no political leader or political programme can fully satisfy them.
Again, as the dog returns to his vomit, the Christian returns to his infinite regress.
Excursus: Neville and Watts — The Same Man?
“Alan Watts is the Norman Vincent Peale of Zen.”
Right about the time Watts was writing Behold the Spirit and serving as a “paradox priest,” as he titles the relevant chapter in his autobiography, Neville Goddard was in the initial stages of a very successful career as a “metaphysical lecturer,” author, and broadcaster.
These are essentially the roles Watts took on after leaving the priesthood, and I’ve called attention before to the remarkable resemblances between Watts and Neville (he always went by name alone).  Revisiting Watts gives us a chance to review and expand on those similarities.
Both men occupied adjacent slices of the space/time continuum, and although Neville Lancelot Goddard was born in 1905 and Alan Wilson Watts in 1915, both died within months of each other (October 1, 1972, aged 67; 16 November 1973, aged 58, respectively). Both men had long before emigrated to the USA from parts of the British Empire (Neville from Barbados) to seek their fortune, mostly in California. Although Watts fitfully attended good schools he described himself in his autobiography with Shaw’s line about being “half-miseducated; Neville seems to have skipped schools altogether.
On a somewhat more relevant note, both men were tall, handsome, spoke with those authoritative British accents (Neville’s with an island lilt to it); charismatic, in short. I call this “more relevant” because this was an essential element to their careers: both men became great successes on the modern lecture circuits, utilizing the cutting-edge technologies of radio, TV, LP recordings, even airplanes (to appear at venues from coast to coast). And, although Neville was fading a bit as Watts was getting into stride, both men have had a remarkable “resurrection” on the internet, where Neville’s books and lectures are freely available, and both men are all over YouTube.
But what did they lecture on, surely that is the relevant point here? Again, the similarities are remarkable.
Both men had been attached to oddball gurus – Watts first with the “rascal guru” Dimitrije Mitrinovic, then with the iconoclastic Krishnamurti; Neville with a “black, Ethiopian rabbi” named Abdullah — but the ironic lesson they took from both was: ignore gurus and do it yourself!
As for the content of their teaching, Watts’ concerns here and later in Beyond Theology can perhaps be expressed in the title of Neville’s 1944 book: Feeling is the Secret.
Writing in 1949, Neville summed up what he modestly calls his “simple formula for changing the future:”
People have a habit of slighting the importance of simple things; but this simple formula for changing the future was discovered after years of searching and experimenting. The first step in changing the future is desire— that is: define your objective—know definitely what you want.
Secondly: construct an event which you believe you would encounter following the fulfillment of your desire—an event which implies fulfillment of your desire—something that will have the action of self predominant.
Thirdly: immobilize the physical body and induce a condition akin to sleep—lie on a bed or relax in a chair and imagine that you are sleepy; then, with eyelids closed and your attention focused on the action you intend to experience—in imagination—mentally feel yourself right into the proposed action—imagining all the while that you are actually performing the action here and now. You must always participate in the imaginary action, not merely stand back and look on, but you must feel that you are actually performing the action so that the imaginary sensation is real to you.
It is important always to remember that the proposed action must be one which follows the fulfillment of your desire; and, also, you must feel yourself into the action until it has all the vividness and distinctness of reality.
We can see two things here: first, the demand for experimental verification, not dogma; the same post-Protestant, post-adolescent demand Watts identifies as still necessary for the new mysticism to be acceptable to modern man.
The second, the importance of desire, or more generally, feeling, or aesthetic perception. As I noted above, in Partings I, Watts insists that our feeling is as valuable as our thinking, and that if we think otherwise it is only because we have, in fact, neglected to develop our feelings as we have our intellect. As it is, our outdated and in any event inadequate symbols of God, Christ, etc. make it impossible for modern man – or someone from a traditional culture as aesthetically developed as the Chinese or Hindu — to take the Christian message seriously.
As we’ve seen this is the nub of Perry’s disagreement over Watts’ iconoclastic approach to symbols, but pace Perry, it is soundly based in Tradition. Neville’s method seems definitely related to the discussion of the “dry” and “wet” paths discussed in the journals that Evola edited in the 30s, UR and KRUR, in which one must first create a mental image, and then bathe it in love and devotion, until it is realized on the material plane.
Another technical detail is in order. In order for any image to act in the way I am talking about, it must be loved. It must be assumed in a great, inner calm and then warmed up, almost nourished, with sweetness, without bringing the will or any effort into play, and much less without expectations. The Hermeticists called this agent “sweet fire,” “fire that does not burn,” and even “fire of the lamp” since it really has an enlightening effect on the images.
As Neville explains the general conception behind the method:
Sensation precedes manifestation and is the foundation upon which all manifestation rests. There is an unbroken connection between your feelings and your visible world.
All creation occurs in the domain of the subconscious.
The subconscious transcends reason and is independent of induction. It contemplates a feeling as a fact existing within itself and on this assumption proceeds to give expression to it.
Ideas are impressed on the subconscious through the medium of feeling. No idea can be impressed on the subconscious until it is felt, but once felt – be it good, bad or indifferent – it must be expressed. Feeling is the one and only medium through which ideas are conveyed to the subconscious…. 
As Neville unpacks his “simple method,” more parallels to Watts appear. As we’ve seen, the central insight Watts propounds in his mystical Christianity is that the Incarnation, God becoming Man, is a timeless event, always and already, so that rather than being pursued – which implies it hasn’t happened yet, and thus creates a Zeno-like infinite regress – it must simply be assumed as the ground note of our existence.
And so Neville emphasizes:
To impress the subconscious with the desirable state, you must assume the feeling that would be yours had you already realized your wish. In defining your objective, you must be concerned only with the objective itself. The manner of expression or the difficulties involved are not to be considered by you. To think feelingly on any state impresses it on the subconscious. Therefore, if you dwell on difficulties, barriers or delay, the subconscious, by its very non-selective nature, accepts the feeling of difficulties and obstacles as your request and proceeds to produce them in your outer world.
You are already that which you want to be, and your refusal to believe this is the only reason you do not see it.
Watts says that trying to achieve union presupposes its lack right now, thus stultifying the effort; Neville says that asking/praying for some change of circumstance assumes and therefore concretizes the present situation of lack.
We might also note a subtle implication: ordinary political “action,” especially of the SJW type, falls under that same ban —
The world cannot change until you change your conception of it. “As within, so without”.
Nations, as well as people, are only what you believe them to be. No matter what the problem is, no matter where it is, no matter whom it concerns, you have no one to change but yourself, and you have neither opponent nor helper in bringing about the change within yourself. You have nothing to do but convince yourself of the truth of that which you desire to see manifested.
— which certainly comports with what we’ve seen of Watts’ disinterest in the Social Gospel aspects of Christianity.
What’s interesting here is that while Neville never, like Watts, attempted to take on a formal role in mainstream religion, he also never abandoned Christianity – or rather, the Bible.
Neville once said that if he was stranded on an island and was allowed one book, he would choose, The Bible, without hesitation. If he could squeeze in more, he would add Charles Fillmore’s Metaphysical Dictionary of Bible names [sic], William Blake, (“… Why stand we here trembling around, Calling on God for help, and not ourselves, in whom God dwells?”) and Nicoll’s Commentaries. These were the books he recommended at his lectures.
How was Neville able to express his teachings entirely within the world of the Bible, while Watts found himself forced to increasingly make use of Eastern teachings? Perhaps because, although Watts, as we’ve seen, rejected the uniqueness of Christ, he still assumed the Bible, especially the New Testament, to be basically historical, while for Neville, the Bible, like all scriptures, is a psychological document, not a historical one: it is man’s own psychological drama, taking place within his own skull (Golgotha).
Today those to whom this great treasure has been entrusted, namely, the priesthoods of the world, have forgotten that the Bibles are psychological dramas representing the consciousness of man. In their blind forgetfulness they now teach their followers to worship its characters as men and women who actually lived in time and space.
This point is closely connected with the previous emphasis on experience, experiment, and testing, rather than dogmatic wrangling:
[The resurrected Christ] offers his knowledge of Scripture based on his own experience, for that of others based on speculation. Accept his offer. And it will keep you from losing your way among the tangled speculations that pass for religious truth. 
And, of course, it puts the kibosh on drawing any political instructions from what is intended to be an entirely psychological document.
Although Watts firmly believed in some kind of historical core to the New Testament, and in Behold the Spirit even provides some kind of Chestertonian-Thomist metaphysical argument for historicity (a timeless event must be communicated in time to creatures like us), while Neville just as firmly denied that the whole Bible was anything but an entirely psychological document, Watts surely would have had sympathy with Neville’s idea that the more you understand it historically the less you think to apply it to yourself – instead of the story of You, it becomes a story about those people out there and back there. As Watts says about Protestants, they cracked the shell but devoted all their time to studying the fragments and trying to put them back together in improved ways (including, pre-eminently, by the “search for the historical Jesus.”), rather than consuming the kernel.
Writing in 1947 – the same year as Behold the Spirit! – Israel Regardie (formerly Aleister Crowley’s private secretary), noted that Neville would seem to have some difficulty dealing with the more legalistic portions of the Old Testament. Yet Protestants routinely interpret such passages, or the risqué parts, such as the Song of Songs, in more or less forced analogies to Christ or the Church. And why not? As Neville says,
[The writers of the Gospels do not] hesitat[e] to interpret the Old Testament according to their own supernatural experiences. 
Indeed, many suggest today that the “writers of the Gospels” composed those pseudo-historical narratives entirely from their re-interpretations of the Old Testament. Either from being “self-educated,” or from the secret teachings of Abdullah, Neville’s psychological interpretation of the Bible is actually consistent with what was the early 20th century scholarly consensus, which is now, like Neville himself, being “resurrected” via the Internet; while Watts’ “academic” seminary training has rooted him in the mid-century historicist consensus.
But it must be emphasized that this is not clever hermeneutical sleight of hand or interpretive strait-jacket. In fact, while the laws, battles and genealogies Regardie refers to may indeed require a good deal of re-working, on an everyday basis Neville relies on a handful of familiar passages where he simply takes at face value texts that the usual clergyman strains to “explain”:
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” – Mark 11:24
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1
He calleth things that were not seen as though they were and things that were not seen become seen. – Romans, 4:17
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” – John 10:34
“I and my Father are one, but my Father is greater than I” – John, 10:30
“Before Abraham was, I am.” – John, 8:58
“The Kingdom of Heaven is within” – Luke 17:21
While giving overall a positive, even enthusiastic account of Neville, Regardie has makes a few negative points, at least one of which is also relevant here. While never questioning Neville’s own success, or his sincerity, Regardie doubts that Neville has fully realized the difficulty his audiences would have with his “simple method.”
The method, as we’ve seen, requires entering a “state akin to sleep,” a state of profound relaxation, on the very edge of sleep, but with the imagination still under conscious control; today, we might call this “lucid dreaming.” Regardie suggests that Neville underestimates the ability of his audience to achieve this kind of deep relaxation, due to his own previous training – as a professional dancer on Broadway.
“[T]he fundamental psychological factor in Neville’s teaching, [and] the fundamental fact about Neville himself… is a very simple fact: Neville is a dancer.” 
This has been a frequent criticism of Watts throughout his career: that he counsels an easy, fake, non-practicing kind of practice. As we’ve seen, Watts takes the Incarnation, the union of God and Man (or Atman and Brahman, in Hindu terms) as a given fact, which cannot be “gotten” by any method (prayer, sacraments, penance, meditation, austerities, whatever); in fact, the use of such methods presupposes and reinforces the presumption of a lack of union, leading to an infinite regress of futility. Such methods are as useless as “painting legs on a snake,” and to the extent that they trap us in a hall of mirrors, they are futile, unless, indeed, one suddenly “wakes up” and drops the pretense of needing to re-unite with that which we have never been severed from; the only subsequent use of such methods as prayer or meditation is simply to express or celebrate that union. At times Watts even adopts Neville’s talk of sleep and relaxation:
Egoism is like trying to swim without relying on the water; your whole body becomes tense, and you sink like a stone. Swimming requires a certain relaxation, a certain giving of yourself to the water, and similarly spiritual life demands a relaxation of the soul to god… If it is hard to relax the superficial tensions of jumpy nerves and insomnia, it is impossible to relax by any contrivance of our own a tension which grips the very core of our being. (p.70)
Obviously, this can seem like an excuse for inaction, a kind of more or less hypocritical perfectionism, along the lines of “Well, if something is worth doing, it must be done well” – although here, and throughout his career, Watts does a pretty good job of relating it to the darker extremes of Protestant self-doubt.
Now, Neville doesn’t have this problem because his method is part of what he calls The Law, rather than The Promise; the latter deals with realizing our union with God, which the former is the method given us by God to enable us to realize the good things of life, in preparation for acquiring the freedom to realize union. He takes this union — I and the Father are one – as a given, and asks his audience to simply see if the method works.
When taken to task for this seeming materialism – his reports of student successes do seem rather heavy with wealthy physicians finding just the right summer house – Neville simply noted that
One day you will be so saturated with wealth, so saturated with power in the world of Caesar, you will turn your back on it all and go in search of the word of God … I do believe that one must completely saturate himself with the things of Caesar before he is hungry for the word of God.
And Watts agrees with this division of labor:
To the extent that the poor man is a real materialist he is a real Christian, because he reverences matter. 
A Christian gives material benefits to those in need for the reason that, lacking things necessary for the body, they are distracted from their true aim as human person, which is God himself. 
When we turn to the world of action, based on this supposed union, Watts and Neville agree on the need for mental discipline. Neville says that
Control of your feeling is all important to a full and happy life.
The man who does not control his feeling may easily impress the subconscious with undesirable states. Never entertain an undesirable feeling, nor think sympathetically about wrong in any shape or form. Do not dwell on the imperfection of yourself or others. To do so is to impress the subconscious with these limitations. What you do not want done unto you, do not feel that it is done unto you or another. This is the whole law of a full and happy life. Everything else is commentary.
Watts agrees, noting anarchic madness unleashed in the Middle Ages by such misguided cults as The Brethern of the Free Spirit.
People who … have never dared to receive union with god, naturally have misgivings. They say that those who presume so cocksurely that God accepts them and that they are united with him will abandon themselves without qualm to a life of vice.
Yet it must be remembered that [such saints] had been through the impasse of self-consciousness, and had realized thoroughly and profoundly the impossibility of self-improvement. But when a similar attitude was adopted by certain cults of the middle Ages, such as the Brothers of the Free Spirit, the results were sometimes disastrous because of the lack of self-conscious experience. [201-202]
Watts then quotes C. G. Jung:
This attitude would be poison for a person who has already been overwhelmed by things that just happen (in the psyche), but it is of the highest value for one who, with an exclusively conscious critique, chooses from the things that happen only those appropriate to his consciousness.
On the other hand, we must not confuse this “conscious critique” with a rigid control (as in Catholic scrupulosity or the Protestant’s morose delectation over the total depravity of his will). Neville says that “By control of feeling is not meant restraint or suppression of your feeling, but rather the disciplining of self to imagine and entertain only such feeling as contributes to your happiness,” and here again Watts agrees, bringing up a now-familiar metaphor:
We have confused control with partial or total abstinence. But a controlled dancer is not one who dances rather seldom; he is one who dances often and well. 
Dancing is indeed almost the only metaphor for method that is consistent with the goal; elsewhere Watts brings together those elements Regardie emphasized in understanding Neville:
When … you realize that you live in, that indeed you are this moment now, and no other, that apart from this there is no past and no future, you must relax and taste to the full, whether it be pleasure or pain. At once it becomes obvious why this universe exists, why conscious beings have been produced, why sensitive organs, why space, time, and change. The whole problem of justifying nature, of trying to make life mean something in terms of its future, disappears utterly. Obviously, it all exists for this moment. It is a dance, and when you are dancing you are not intent on getting somewhere… The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance. 
Even later, the fully-New Age Watts makes the same point:
We could say that meditation doesn’t have a reason or doesn’t have a purpose. In this respect it’s unlike almost all other things we do except perhaps making music and dancing. When we make music we don’t do it in order to reach a certain point, such as the end of the composition. If that were the purpose of music then obviously the fastest players would be the best. Also, when we are dancing we are not aiming to arrive at a particular place on the floor as in a journey. When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point. And exactly the same thing is true in meditation. Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.
So, what “point” have we arrived at here? I’ve been comparing Watts and Neville – in the spirit of Watts’ own hermeneutical or “Chinese box” comparative method, of which more anon – to suggest that while Watts may have grown to find the Church an uncomfortable fit, he could have continued his teachings, however independently, within the Christian tradition.
One suspects the real problem here was that Watts had a low threshold of boredom, and no one tradition or scripture could hold his attention for long. Watts was destined for quite another role: what he called a “philosophical entertainer,” or what I’ve called “the first alt-academic;” a Joker, in short.
Exit – Stage Left, Even
Passing from Neville, we move on to another, more contemporary doppelganger.
The “philosophical entertainer” is Watts’ take on the classic American figure, the self-improvement lecturer. As I’ve noted before, he exists in an uneasy relationship with another American archetype, the con man; both the New Thought lecturer and the diddler trade on the listener’s store of that uniquely American virtue, confidence. 
As such, the entertainer may have one final card up his sleeve – a joker.
To start at the beginning, Watts in Behold the Spirit is very definitely of the foundationalist persuasion; for his life to have meaning, man must establish a connection with something “real” and permanent:
For creativity and sanity man needs to have, or at least to feel, a meaningful relation to and union with life, with reality itself…. He knows that men and peoples die, and that beyond them is a more permanent reality – the reality of the natural universe, and still beyond that the gods of God. Religion must relate man to the root and ground of reality and life. Without this man cannot feel that his life as any actual and objective meaning. Without this he feels that reality itself is an inane vacuum, a chaos, in which he creates purely artificial and make-believe meanings out of his own head. He feels, however dimly, that the emptiness of reality will at last engulf his make-believe, and that therefore to continue with it is mere postponement of ultimate frustration…. [T]he sense of futility remains as an undertone of feeling breaking out into consciousness in times of crisis. At such times man knows his need of religion…. [p4, italics added]
Again, outlining how, as rationalism metastasized, “reason destroyed itself,” Watts argues that
Man himself was part of this system, and man too was the product of statistical necessity, together with his reason, his hears, his ideas…. But if all ideas were equally the result of statistical necessity, the possibility of a true idea vanished. Reason itself disappeared in meaningless mechanism. Vision became a change form of blindness, consciousness a special form of unconsciousness, sense a special form of nonsense…. But a meaningless whole cannot evolve a meaningful part; a Godless universe cannot provide a sufficient cause for a rational man. (p.47)
This is not only a common attitude, it is also consistent with – as well as assumed if not always argued for – among Traditionalists. Conversely, Watts’ move from Traditionalism to the “hermeneutic” approach of his later writings is, implicitly, an abandonment of foundationalism, with the later given up as either nonexistent, or impossible to obtain.
This move from Guenonian foundationalism to Nietzschean perspectivism is often seen – from the former side – as a move into a pre-suicidal nihilism. The existence of the philosophical entertainer, however, suggests it might be exactly the opposite: a (literally) liberating realization, exactly the kind of “throwing oneself into the current” that Watts recommended as the only viable way to live.
Looking around on the – not very extensive – grounds of serious thought on the so-called “alt Right,” one can immediately find a very similar figure in the person of Jason Reza Jorjani, whose Prometheus and Atlas, as I’ve said in my review of the aforementioned Alan Watts – In the Academy,
emphasizes the need for a “mercurial metaphysics” and a literally playful or childlike use of language in order to explore the liminal or “spectral” aspects of our globalized and globalizing Western Weltanschauung. 
Behold the Spirit allows us to deepen that comparison, as Watts’ concern with the existential effects of various kinds of Christian symbolism echo Jorjani’s concerns with the divine (or “spectral”) archetypes that we inhabit and which thereby shape our perceptions and underlie our worldviews; and Watts’ consequent emphasis on the primacy of feeling or aesthetic intuition comports well with Jorjani’s privileging of aesthetic Ideas over scientific or philosophical concepts.
That Jorjani has recently published a denunciation of Traditionalism – His objections – the intellectually stultifying consequences of assuming pre-existing “perfect” body of knowledge, which can then only be acquired by attendance on a guru – parallel Watts’ own –  and that both authors are fascinated with the occult, Taoism, Zen and Japan (though perhaps reaching different evaluations of the latter) only adds to what both would likely call the synchronicity.
The latter is no mere dilettantism; like Watts, Jorjani sees the power of the Western or Aryan tradition (or what Watts would call Catholic Christianity) lies precisely in its ability to absorb aspects of other cultures.
In the great ages of Christian thought theology has always been able to embrace and absorb alien systems much to its own enrichment. In fact, every great advance in Christian theology has involved the absorption of an alien philosophy. (p54)
Ironically, Watts reverses the process; where Jorjani discerns the Aryan features of Asian traditions, Watts relies on these traditions to revivify Catholic Christianity. In so doing, he draws on the common core found at their deepest (or, pace Perry, highest) levels: Nondualism (the meaning of the Incarnation, in Watts’ interpretation), which resembles Jorjani’s disparagement of “false binaries.”
In general, Watts’ project to revive Catholic Christianity as the spiritual center of Western civilization, without further pursuing the futile path of Protestant/scientific rationalism, seems a theological restatement of Jorjani’s “search for some ideological basis for the progress of Western civilization other than the ahistorical Enlightenment rationalism of the French Revolution.”
Speaking of nondualism and “false binaries,” one striking dissimilarity is that Watts views mature, Incarnational spirituality as incompatible with not only with vague “pantheism” but also with “such crude dualisms as the Zoroastrian contrast of ultimate light and ultimate darkness, Ormuzd or Ahriman, or the Manichaean dualism of Spirit and Matter;” whereas Zoroastrianism is very much at the heart of Jorjani’s project of civilizational reconstruction.
But as the example of Watts himself shows, religion is whatever it can be interpreted as. As I criticized Jorjani for his overly-literal, almost fundamentalist, readings of Islam, there are other kinds of Zoroastrianism:
But this was not the purely abstract light of the Gnostics and Manicheans. It was not an alien presence imprisoned in the grossness of matter, calling out to the individual to free him out of the stinking body out of this desolate place.
The light did not require the individual to reject matter or retreat into the rarefied world of the intellect. This radiance was an intrinsic property of matter. Man belonged to the earth and the earth belonged to Man. He would never be able to feel himself at home anywhere else but in the material world. The Zarathushtrian conception of this interrelationship of man with nature was very strong. Man was not placed into the universe like an object among other objects in the way that the God of the Old Testament placed Adam into an already-completed garden. Rather he was born out of his environment like an apple from a tree, or ripples from a pond. 
Reflecting on Watts’ “hermeneutical turn” is also handy for addressing the issue of: is he right? Is there any truth value here, or rather, as William James (another of Jorjani’s role models) would say, using what Watts would call a very Protestant turn of phrase, what is the cash value of all this? Casting aside any attempt to hold it up for comparison to some unavailable or non-existent “reality,” what can we do with it?
Looking at it like one of Watts’s Chinese box situations, I can say it is quite illuminating to see Christianity viewed from this angle; puzzles in the history and development of Christianity loosen, and something like a meaning to the process emerges, along with a vision of where we can go with it.
Writing in her Editor’s Note to the Aristeia Press reissue of Colin Wilson’s Religion and the Rebel, Samantha Devin says that “We have forgotten that true religion should be a means of getting in touch with our divine self and that being religious signifies experiencing the mystery that pervades the universe,” and that Wilson’s book “is not a book about religion in its traditional sense. It is a bold and optimistic … book [that] will appeal to those who have “outgrown” traditional religious systems and ventured on their own into the exploration of their souls; … more than fifty years after its first publication, [it] remains ahead of its time.” Much the same can be said of Behold the Spirit.
But read it for yourself; if you’ve come this far, I must have succeeded in getting you somewhat interested. Read it and judge for yourself; what other kind of truth is there?
 In My Own Way, p.
 See “From Ultrasuede to Limelight: Halston & Gatien, Aryan Entrepreneurs in the Dark Age” in my collection Green Nazis in Space! New Essays on Literature, Art, & Culture; edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).
 “May I say I have no doubts in my mind as to the reality of the Incarnation ans as to the fact that something actually exists which might be called the Body of Christ.” Letter to Gertrude Moakly of the New York Public Library, August 22, 1950. Letters, p. 270.
 See my review of Kenneth Humphreys’ Jesus Never Existed: An Introduction to the Ultimate Heresy; with an interview by Chip Smith (Charleston, W.V.: Nine-Banded Books, 2014), here; and Aed0n Cassiel, “Is Jesus a Myth?” here.
 The Holy Spirit, saddled with its ridiculous symbol – a pigeon — is apparently still a problem: See Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan (David C. Cook, 2009); for his part, Chan never mentions Watts. For his part, Bishop Curry is the author of Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus (Morehouse, 2013). With a title like that, one might hope for some Wattsian playfulness or even “crazy wisdom” but it turns out to me more of that creepy Christian forced-cheerfulness that Watts deplores as the flip side of the torment of total depravity, with an extra helping of Jesus-centered politics: “What the Church needs, what this world needs, are some Christians who are as crazy as the Lord. Crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God—like Jesus. Crazy enough to dare to change the world.” The publisher says it “encourages all of us to let go of conventions and embrace the craziness of believing we can change the world for the better.” Hot diddley-doo!
 “Why is modern Christianity eerily in sync with the worldview of those nice folks sitting on giant piles of money left over from the glory days of the Standard Oil Company, Ford Motor Company and US Steel? Mainline Protestants have to get out the tweezers now and separate the Christian mustard seeds from the Fabian Society and Rockefeller Foundation mouse droppings.” Cagey Beast, commenting at Unz.com.
 God is not a schemer, as the Joker would say.
 The Mighty and the Almighty: How Political Leaders Do God; ed. by Nick Spencer (Biteback Publishing, 2017), p.346.
 H. Braun, “The Politics of Zen.” New Politics: A Journal of Socialist Thought, 1(1), pp.177-89; quoted in Alan Watts — In the Academy: Essays and Lectures (SUNY series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology); edited and with an introduction by Peter J. Columbus and Donadrian L. Rice (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2017).
 Though, as we will see, a British subject, Neville had been drafted in 1942, but used what we would call “meme magic” to get an honorable discharge within a few weeks. His Army records show he was “discharged from service to accept employment in an essential wartime industry”: delivering metaphysical lectures in Greenwich Village. Mitch Horowitz has recently verified Neville’s story; see “Neville Goddard: A Cosmic Philosopher,” here.
 See the Afterword to my kindle edition of Neville’s Feeling is the Secret (Amazon, 2016); and “Magick for Housewives: The Not-So-New, and Rather Traditional, Thought of Neville Goddard” in Aristokratia IV (Manticore Press, 2017).
 Horowitz describes him as “self-educated.”
 As Neville shifted his message from what he called The Law (cf. “The Law of Attraction”) to The Promise (realizing unity with Christ) “audiences drifted away. Urged by his speaking agent to abandon this theme, “or you’ll have no audience at all,” a student recalled Neville replying, “Then I’ll tell it to the bare walls.” Horowitz, op. cit.
 “His books, audios and videos are as relevant now as they were decades ago, and most of his body of work is still available through the usual sources and the website devoted to his life and work. If he is rediscovered four decades after his passing, it would be a well-deserved resurrection. He would probably light up a cigar and have a good laugh. “Alan Watts: Reborn in [the movie] Her” by Philip Goldberg, here. One could say the same of Neville.
 Unlike Watts, Neville never copyrighted any of his books, and encouraged taping and sharing his lectures; a strikingly modern attitude, reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, Mystery Science Theater (“Keep Circulating the Tapes!”) and the general Millennial attitude that “information wants to be free.”
 The editors of Alan Watts – In the Academy refer to “the tutorage from 1934 to 1936 of Serbian philosopher Dimitrije Mitrinovic (1887–1953),” whom they identify as “A formative thinker in the pre–World War I Young Bosnia movement and subsequent New Europe Group and New Britain Movement, Mitrinovic integrated mystical metaphysics and transformative political-social philosophy.”
 See, in addition to In My Own Way, the Perry article, op. cit.
 Here again Mitch Horowitz has done yeoman’s service tracking down and verifying Neville’s somewhat vague accounts of his teacher, who may have been Arnold Josiah Ford, a Barbados-born leader of the Ethiopian Movement (a precursor to Rastafarianism) in New York City; see “A Cosmic Philosopher,” op. cit.
 They also learned a disdain for ascetism; Watts and Neville, like their gurus, became legendary drinkers and lovers of fine food. There is precedent: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at this glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and of sinners!’ But wisdom is vindicated by her actions.” Matthew 11:19-20.
 Schuon mentions the impudent absurdity of expecting a Brahmin, the product of millennia of Traditional culture, to be “converted” on the basis of the half-baked “arguments” of some missionary; see Frithjof Schuon, The Transcendent Unity of Religion (London: Faber, 1953); Watts’ The Supreme Identity would find the same publisher in 1950.
 Due, no doubt, to the notorious lack of aesthetic appreciation in the Guenonian wing of Traditionalism; interestingly, Watts was closely associated with Coomaraswamy, who managed to combine both metaphysical and aesthetic interests, as shown by the two volumes of his collected papers.
 See the detailed discussion in my Afterword to Feeling is the Secret and “Magick for Housewives,” op. cit.
 “Commentary on the Opus Magicum,” in Evola, Introduction to Magic (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2001), p.57. The Tooth Fairy comes to mind: an investigator muses over one of his tell-tale moths: “Somebody grew this guy. Fed him honey and nightshade, kept him warm. Somebody loved him.” Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1990).
 Feeling is the Secret, Chapter One, “The Law and its Operation.”
 Feeling is the Secret, loc. cit.
 Colin Wilson identified the same methodological problem: “This ‘controlling ego’ does not realise it is in control. It believes itself to be passive and helpless, so it is inclined to lie in bed all day praying for peak experiences. The real solution to the ‘Outsider problem’ is to induce that basic insight again and again until it finally takes root, and we grasp that we already possess the power. This is why the mystics felt that there is an element of absurdity in the visionary experience, a sudden realization that made them want to kick themselves and shout “Of course!” the solution lies in the recognition that the left-brain is the gatherer of power.” “A Retrospective Introduction” to the 1984 reprint of Religion and the Rebel; reprinted in the Aristeia Press edition, London, 2017.
 Loc. cit.
 “This Metaphysical Bible Dictionary is offered by the Unity School of Christianity to meet a very definite demand, on the part of Bible students and of metaphysicians generally, for a work setting forth in simple language the inner, esoteric meanings of Scriptural names.” Online here.
 “Henry Maurice Dunlop Nicoll (19 July 1884 – 30 August 1953) was a Scottish psychiatrist, author and noted Fourth Way teacher. He is best known for his Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, a multi-volume collection of talks he gave to his study groups.” Wikipedia, here.
 Your Faith is Your Fortune, 1941.
 Resurrection, 1966.
 “Of course the whole thing is symbolic, but not merely symbolic… there is more actual evidence for the story of Christ than for a great many other historical events which we believe implicitly, such as the Battle of Thermopylae.” Letter to “Mummy & Daddy,” October 24, 1943, in Letters, pp152-53. The “clouds of witness” claim, first made by St. Paul, has been refuted over and over again, for which see almost any “mythicist” work, but especially Richard Carrier’s monumental attempt to apply Bayesian analysis to the historicist hypothesis, On The Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason to Doubt (Sheffield, UK: Phoenix Press, 2014). In the present context, his Chapter One is especially a propos to Neville, as he starts with a discussion of the process whereby Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, became deified by the Rastafarians.
 Cf. Schuon, op. cit.: “The Redemption is an eternal act which cannot be situated either in time or space, and the sacrifice of Christ is a particular manifestation or realization of it on the human plane; men were able to benefit from the redemption as well before the coming of Jesus Christ as after it, and outside the visible Church as well as within it. If Christ had been the only manifestation of the word… the effect of his birth would have been the instantaneous reduction of the universe to ashes.” (p.37).
 In his lecture “Parabolic Revelation,” Neville, talking about David and Saul not being historical personages, but psychological states of ourselves, says that if you regard them as such, you “see Jesus, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, or any of the characters of scripture as men of flesh and blood and external to yourself in the pages of history.” When describing his method of “feeling it real” he insists that you do not see yourself as outside yourself, as if looking at a movie screen, but as you would see things from your own perspective (such as climbing a ladder). Regarding the Bible as historical is the same mistake as, and probably leads to, the mistake of seeing yourself as an external being when “feeling it real.”
 The chapter on Neville, whom Regardie regards as “the most magical” of the proponents of New Thought, from the out of print Romance of Metaphysics is reprinted as the Introduction to The Power of Imagination: A Neville Goddard Treasury (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) which reprints ten of Neville’s little books.
 Resurrection. As Watts admits, “It is notorious that scripture can be quoted to prove almost anything.” (p81).
 For the mythicist, a likely source of the New Testament narratives are the typically Judaic homilies known as midrash. As mythicist academic (and Lovecraft scholar) Robert Price says, if we want to learn about Jesus, we turn to the New Testament; but what did the folks back then read? The Old Testament, suitably re-interpreted. “The gospel literature emerged at a time of mass illiteracy. A tiny clique of scribes and priests wrote and had access to the texts. By the time the era of fabrication … drew to a close, the texts had become sacred literature, too precious for vulgar eyes. Priests extracted whatever homilies they thought suitable for their flock. Kenneth Humphreys: Jesus Never Existed: An Introduction to the Ultimate Heresy; with an interview by Chip Smith (Charleston, W.V.: Nine-Banded Books, 2014), pp103-04.
 Bart Ehrman, in Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2012), claims to have never heard or heard of any scholar – as opposed to internet trolls –doubting the historical existence of Jesus, which is either a remarkable admission of ignorance of the history of his field, or a classic example of paradigm blindness and academic “gatekeeping.”
 “Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!” Matthew 23;24, New Living Translation.
 Not only is Neville’s stage training an important part of his method, I would add that as a dancer Neville is symbolically linked to Krishna, who “from time to time” reincarnates to “re-establish the Dharma.” (Bhagavad Gita). From Krishna to Alain Danielou, the dancer has always been an archetype of the Realized Man. Watts says that the mystic and saint “are in a special way possessed by this life which is God, somewhat as the heart and mind of a dancer are possessed by the music which he interprets in bodily movement.” [p12] Clifton Webb was also, like Neville, originally a Broadway dancer, making him the perfect choice to incarnate Krishna in the Mr. Belvedere movies; see my essay “The Babysitting Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty, Part Two,” here. Such dancing, of course, in its calm, hieratic gestures and world-creating power, has nothing to do with the negroid jitterbugging of today.
 Already, in his 1941 essay “The Problem of Faith and Works in Buddhism” (reprinted in Alan Watts – In the Academy, op. cit.), Watts had identified a recurrent pattern in all world religions, in which this problem of right work generates a demand for a no-work method of faith or grace. Here, to the charge of “quietism,” Watts points out that “human action has also its part, not, however as effort to earn the divine state, but as effort to express it and give thanks for its bestowal.” (p.85) Besides, in a typical Wattsian touch, the “error of quietism” is that “inaction is merely an indirect form of action; it is trying to possess God by doing nothing rather than by doing something.” (p.93)
 As noted above, his audiences seemed not really interested in this aspect of his teaching.
 Mitch Horowitz (op. cit.) notes “This passage sounds a note that resonates through various esoteric traditions: One cannot renounce what one has not attained. To move beyond the material world, or its wealth, one must know that wealth. But to Neville – and this became the cornerstone of his philosophy – material attainment was merely a step toward the realization of a much greater and ultimate truth.”
 Feeling is the Secret, loc. cit.
 Needless to say, the 60s Situationists thought this was OK; see Raoul Vaneigem: The Movement of the Free Spirit: General Considerations and Firsthand Testimony Concerning Some Brief Flowerings of Life in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and, Incidentally, Our Own Time (French, Editions Ramsay: 1986; New York: Zone Books, 1998).
 Secret of the Golden Flower, pp91-91.
 Loc. cit.
 The Wisdom of Insecurity (New York: Pantheon, 1951), p.116.
 Alan Watts Teaches Meditation (Macmillan Audio; Unabridged edition (November 15, 1992)
 See my “Don Draper’s Last Diddle,” here and reprinted in The End of an Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015). The locus classicus, of course, is Melville’s The Confidence Man, where modern goodthinkers are apt to be disconcerted to find Emerson and Thoreau among the dis-guises of the titular scallywag.
 This line of argument is often found among conservative intellectuals, especially Traditionalists – Schuon uses it in Logic and Transcendence. This is another motif Watts would continue to use for the rest of his career, developing a unique synthesis of LSD-fueled New Ageism and what would today be called Intelligent Design; in Beyond Theology he writes that “A universe which grows human beings is as much a human, or humaning, universe as a tree which grows apples is an apple tree. . . . There is still much to be said for the old theistic argument that the materialist-mechanistic atheist is declaring his own intelligence to be no more than a special form of unintelligence.” See my essay “’PC is for Squares, Man:’ Alan Watts & the Game of Trump,” here.
 In Hermann Hesse’s early novel, Beneath the Wheel, the failed schoolboy, unable to readjust to village life, finally just lets himself fall into a pond and drown. But in Hesse’s more mature final novel, The Glass Bead Game, the protagonist, having realized the futility of the Game’s academic pretensions, allows himself to drown in order to inspire his new pupil — the death itself is not a negative judgement, but merely a genre convention to bring the immense novel to an end (as is Hans Castorp’s death at the end of Mann’s The Magic Mountain); see my “Two Orders: Evola, Hesse, The Same Man,” here.
 For Jorjani in general, see my Aryan Imperium: The Worldview and Geopolitics of the Alt-Right (Amazon Kindle, 2017).
 Now reprinted in his collection Lovers of Sophia (Manticore, 2018)
 See Lovers of Sophia, passim.
 Jorjani, op. cit.
 See, for example, World State of Emergency (London: Arktos, 2017), especially Chapter 6, “Aryan Imperium (Iran-Shahr)” and 7, “The Indo-European World Order.”
 See Aryan Imperium, Chapters 1 and 2.
 Mandaean text in Jonas, Hans: The Gnostic Religion (Boston: Beacon Press), p.88.
 London, 2017.