Alan Watts - Veil of Thoughts I

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Alan Watts - Veil of Thoughts I

The subject of this seminar is The Veil of Thoughts, and following out the theme that somebody once suggested by saying that thought is a means of concealing truth, despite the fact that it’s an extraordinarily useful faculty. But in quite recent weeks we’ve had an astounding example of the way mankind can be bamboozled by thoughts.

the confusion of money—in any form whatsoever—with wealth is one of the major problems from which civilization is suffering.

the real reason why, in our world today—where there is no technical reason whatsoever why there should be any poverty at all—the reason it still exists is people keep asking the question: “Where’s the money going to come from?” Not realizing that money doesn’t come from anywhere and never did, except if you thought it was gold.

It was like someone came to work and they said to him, “Sorry, chum, but you can’t build today. No building can go on. We don’t have enough inches.” He’d say, “What do you mean, we don’t have enough inches? We’ve got wood, haven’t we? We got metal, we even got tape measures!” They say, “Yeah, but you don’t understand the business world. We just haven’t got enough inches! Just plain inches. We’ve used too much of them.” And that’s exactly what happened when we had the Depression. Because money is something of the same order of reality as inches, grams, meters, pounds, or lines of latitude and longitude. It is an abstraction. It is a method of bookkeeping to obviate the cumbersome procedures of barter. But our culture, our civilization, is entirely hung up on the notion that money has an independent reality of its own.

The truth of the matter is that we are as successful as we are—which is surprising, the degree to which we are successful in conducting our everyday practical lives—because our brains do the thinking for us in an entirely unconscious way. The brain is far more complex than any computer. The brain is, in fact, the most complex known object in the universe.

the story of the two Zen monks who were crossing the river, and the ford was very deep because of the flood. And there was a girl trying to get across, and one of the monks immediately picked her up, threw her over his shoulder and carried her across. Put her down on the other side, and then the monks went one way and she went another. And the other monk, who had been in a kind of embarrassed silence and which he finally broke, he said, “You realize that you broke a monastic rule by touching and picking up a woman like that?” And he said, “Oh, but I left her on the other side of the river, and you’re still carrying her!”

in the first place, we confuse abstract symbols—that is to say, numbers and words and formulae—with physical events as we confuse money with consumable wealth. In the second place, we confuse physical events—the whole class and category of physical events—with matter. But matter, you see, is an idea; it’s a concept. It’s the concept of stuff, of something solid and permanent that you can catch hold of. Now, you just can’t catch hold of the physical world. The physical world is the most evasive, illusive process that there is.

-Alan Watts - Veil of Thoughts I

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