Lectures by Prof Gavin Flood (OCHS)

There is a history to ideas about the self. These two lectures will sketch some shifts in the ways the self has been conceptualised in that history and will in particular pay attention to tensions in Brahmanical thinking between different metaphysics of the self and social, transaction reality of persons as social actors.


Week 3 (Thursday, 26 October, 2pm–3pm): The sacrificial and transcendent self 

In this opening lecture we will examine a first tension between the Vedic notion of sacrifice on the one hand and Upanishadic view of the self as transcendent, on the other. This also entails different concepts of redemption and differing understandings of the purpose of human life. We might offer a hypothesis that they both, in a sense, are the inverse of the other. We will focus on Mīmāṃsaka, Vedāntic and even Buddhist sources in our exploration and raise the question of how metaphysical conceptualisations relate to historical, social reality, gender roles, and notions of the common good, if at all.  


Week 5 (Thursday, 9 November, 2pm-3pm): The possessed self, the personal self, transcendence, and its collapse
Moving forward in time to the eve of modernity, we will contrast an older view of self as being able to be possessed by supernatural powers in the Śākta tradition (that Godfrey Lienhardt called the ‘passiones’ model of the self), with a view of the self that emerged in the sixteenth century with Caitanya (1486-1533) and the emergent devo¬tional tradition, contrasting this with the collapse of transcendence to immanence with Raghunātha Śiromaṇi (c. 1460-1540) of the Navya Nyāya, once the tantric kingdoms (apart from Nepal) were gone. We will offer a hypothesis that these conceptions of self present a new vision by re-tooling older ideas of both possession and transcendence. We will raise questions about whether such new conception has potential for social critique and how these new ideas affected modern concepts of self and society in India.