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The Archaeology of the Empty Self
Rob Schmidt, Ph.D., co-founder of Many Rivers Books & Tea and Co-Director of Tayu Meditation Center
Original Date: Thursday, December 3, 2015

Download MP3 Audio File Here (14.2 MB)

Who is this "myself" that I speak about to others? Who are the "yourselves" that "myself" believes it interacts with? The Buddha famously asserted that, if we look closely, there is no inherently existing separate self to be found-hence, no everlasting soul. The Armenian Greek mystic George Gurdjieff insisted that human beings do not come equipped with a soul, but must create a soul through intentional efforts. Neuroscientists identify the self as a contingent narrative, produced by the physiological processes of the brain, that functions to orient the organism within its environment. Do these assertions make the self just an illusion? Or is the self an illusion that bites off chunks of reality that it would be a mistake to discard? How do we understand claims about the nature of personal existence, when the gravity of our experience of life pulls us so strongly to believe stories we tell ourselves about me and the rest of the universe? The metaphor of archaeological investigation can point us in useful directions. As we excavate the story of a unique, permanent, unchanging self within the natural "strata" of experience within which it is embedded, we can test the assertions of the mystics within the context of our direct experience. Join us for a consideration of these and related questions.

Rob Schmidt, Ph.D., is a co-founder of Many Rivers Books & Tea and Co-Director of Tayu Meditation Center. He co-directs the Conscious Family Festival project. While obtaining his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in archaeological anthropology, he co-edited Archaeologies of Sexuality, the first edited academic volume to make sexuality an object of knowledge in archaeological contexts of the past.

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