In 1950, both the world and Alan Watts were at a pivotal point.Russia had recently detonated its first atomic weapon, ushering in an age of global anxiety.

By the spring, Watts himself was undergoing a jarring transformation: his first wife had their marriage annulled because of an affair, and he resigned his position as an Episcopalian minister. Watts left the church, he later remembered, “not because it doesn’t practice what it preaches, but because it preaches.”

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