Excerpt transcribed April, 2013 by M.H. from the Alan Watts Lecture Series, The Tao of Philosophy #3: The Coincidence of Opposites. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/HE4HwaGhGmo
“In the science of ecology, one learns that a human being is not an organism in an environment, but is an organism-environment; that is to say, a unified field of behavior. If you describe carefully the behavior of any organism, you cannot do so without at the same time describing the behavior of the environment. And by that, you know that you’ve got a new entity of study. You are describing the behavior of a unified field.
But you must be very careful indeed not to fall into old Newtonian assumptions about the ‘billiard ball’ nature of the universe. The organism is not the puppet of the environment, being pushed around by it. Nor on the other hand is the environment the puppet of the organism, being pushed around by the organism. The relationship between them is, to use John Dewey’s word, ‘transactional’- a transaction being a situation like buying and selling, in which there is no buying unless somebody sells and no selling unless somebody buys.
So that fundamental relationship between ourselves and the world, which is in an old fashioned way by people such as Skinner who has not updated his philosophy, interpreted in terms of Newtonian mechanics. He interprets the organism as something determined by the total environment. He doesn’t see that in a more modern way of talking about it, we are simply describing a unified field of behavior – which is nothing more than any mystic ever said.
That’s a dirty word in the modern, academic, scientific environment. But, if a mystic is one who is sensibly or even sensually aware of his inseparability as an individual from the total existing universe, he is simply a person who has become sensible – aware through his senses of the way ecologists see the world. So when I’m in academic circles, I don’t talk about mystical experience. I talk about ecological awareness. Same thing.”