The importance of Alan Watts philosophy in today’s split and dangerous world

The most powerful copy divides people into rabid buyers vs wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole non-buyers. Why? because the only products that don’t need promotion in this way are commodities, and since commodities are everywhere, there’s nothing worth dividing.

Now, you might be thinking that just because a tin of beans is a commodity, surely it still needs promotion? And you’d be right, but if you look carefully, you’ll discover it’s the brand, not the beans, that the advertising dollars are spent on (Beanz Meanz Heinz).

Non-commodities are non-commodities by definition of having a non-universal appeal (or affordability, political, ethical, or other barrier to entry).

That means they have a smaller audience and are going to need promotion if they’re to have any chance at all.

The best way to make something like that stand out, is to target everyone in order to ensure the real audience sees it. And that’s best done using controversy.

(obviously, it’s impossibly expensive to advertise to everyone for something only a few people need, so we’re going to need help if we are to achieve it – that’s where professional copywriters come in)

But it’s not just products that use this device to sell themselves. Ambitious politicians, dictators, criminals, and ruthless corporations use it all the time.

Divide and conquer – the world’s oldest profession.

So what has all that got to do with Alan Watts?

In his speech, entitled “The nature of consciousness”, he explains our divided world, and how it came to be that way (with help on how to join it back together again).

You can use what he says and observes for good or evil. He was aware of that more than anyone.

I highly recommend a listen. You can find recordings on YouTube and other channels. You can also find transcripts, but it’s far better to set aside an hour or two and listen to his silky smooth and calming voice.

Once you’ve done that, the bullet points below can be used to remind you of key points (you won’t find any of the important nuances from the bullet points unless you listen to Watts’ speech first).

From here, it’s fairly simple to use his ideas to help you build better big ideas for your campaigns.

The Nature of Consciousness

  • Watts critiques two dominant Western “myths” or models of the universe – the “ceramic model” stemming from Judeo-Christian ideas of God as an external creator, and the “fully automatic model” of a mechanical, materialist universe without conscious purpose.
  • The ceramic model sees the universe as something made, like a pot, with God as the potter/architect imposing design from outside. The fully automatic model sees the universe as just a mechanistic system of unintelligent matter/energy.
  • Watts sees both models as limiting and problematic. They posit humans as somehow separate from and inferior to external reality. This leads to alienation and meaninglessness.
  • He proposes instead a “dramatic” model. The universe is not a static thing nor mechanical, but a dynamic, interdependent flow. Reality is fundamentally “wiggly”- always changing, interconnected, not bounded.
  • We should see ourselves as waves in the ocean of the universe, not isolated. Our consciousness and the external world interpenetrate. We as individuals are symptoms of the greater process of existence.
  • Watts uses analogies of games, drama, music, and the polarity of magnets to illustrate the interplay of existence. Life is not fundamentally conflict, but relationship between polarities that imply each other.
  • He advocates moving away from rigid concepts about reality to a more open, intuitive sense of being “identical with the universe.” This brings awe rather than alienation.
  • Watts critiques the common assumption that only things that can be put into words are real. He argues that many essential aspects of life like love transcend language.
  • He sees the universe as a drama in which the ultimate Self plays all the parts. We pretend to be separate egos and forget our true nature.
  • The ego is not a real thing, just our conscious focus of attention – like a radar on a ship. Identifying with it causes anxiety.
  • Realizing you are the whole universe solves problems like birth/death and the notion of a separate self. Everything is one process.
  • Spiritual practices often aim to persist in folly (ego illusion) to its extreme until it becomes clear it was false.
  • Awakening is being absolutely present now and realizing the eternal nature of this moment. No need to attain anything.
  • We are already “there” but keep playing the game of separation. Understanding this frees you from constant becoming.
  • The boundary between self and world disappears. You are doing everything that is happening.
  • We need to reexamine our common sense assumptions that posit humans against nature/the universe. We are continuous with it.
  • The main points are moving beyond ego to a realization of unity with the cosmos, ending the illusion of separation, and breaking free of cultural conditioning to see our interconnection. Awakening to the present, eternal now.

The key themes are a critique of scientific materialism; seeing the universe as organic and conscious rather than mechanical; and overcoming human alienation through recognizing our interconnected, impermanent nature.

Why this matters to copywriters

Like the best books, films, wine, you name it, the best copy always has a big idea buried somewhere in it.

It may even be just an amazing headline. Something that makes you think immediately (that pulls you forward without you even knowing it), or it may be an idea that talks to your subconscious.

Whatever it is, it will be different from the normal. Normal doesn’t sell. No one wants normal unless it’s a commodity, and even then it’s going to have to be a pretty special type of normal.

Alan Watts uses big ideas throughout his writing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a hero or villain (for that is your character and not your fault), what matters is your education.

The more you read and research great people, the wider your experience. And with that wider experience comes great thinking.

The ICA’s ProCopyClub course will help you develop those big ideas to help you stand out from the crowd (and trust me, you’re going to need to do that if you want to be successful).


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