I hold a deep respect for both the scientific method and the wisdom traditions, which I think form an ideal marriage in an authentic pursuit of truth. Neither the mind nor the heart alone can make us whole. Scientific theories emerge from subjective minds and contemplative practices can be tested and re-tested in our lives.
[In the traditional third person]. Ruben is a postdoctoral fellow at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and lecturer at Amsterdam University College. He is also an honourary lecturer at The University of Queensland where he received his PhD and continues to advise new PhD students. Ruben seeks to uncover an empirically grounded and experientially authentic understanding of meditation, insight, and non-duality. Using a combination of methods including behaviour, neuroimaging, machine learning, and phenomenology, he is investigating some of the rarest states of consciousness available to human beings. Ruben’s research is deeply theoretically driven and traverses multiple levels of explanation, from neurons to psychology. He has published articles in leading journals, regularly speaks at international conferences, consults for the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, and has written on topics that range from artificial intelligence to psychedelics. Ruben has an eclectic contemplative background, including traditions such as Zen, Advaita, and Theravada.
I was raised in a Christian family that immigrated from Finland to Australia in 1989 where I attended school in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in my state. Somewhere around my 16th birthday, between several suspensions from school, I decided to seek truth regardless of the consequences, assuming that “all roads lead to Rome”. A few months later I could no longer hold onto my religion, which catalysed a deep-dive into science, philosophy, and rationality. In parallel I spent most of my afternoons practicing martial arts. After competing in Muay Thai Kickboxing semi-professionally for three years, my body started to give out. I found myself with two broken ribs, a torn chest muscle, and two prolapsed discs in my lower back (not exactly but almost at the same time), which made me rethink my trajectory. Then, at the age of 19, I had a revelatory experience that—once again—shook my worldview: I discovered that there was another way to “know” and that deeper insights and wisdom could be uncovered through direct experience. I transferred all my classes from geology to psychology and neuroscience, founded two businesses—one of which was the first online market for bitcoin in Australia—met a Zen teacher, and started a daily meditation practice. I began to see the emptiness of intellectual insights. 10 years later, in a final desperate run for the finish line, I rather spontaneously determined: “I will not stand up from the cushion until this is over”. Three minutes later an ineffable absence occurred and I could no longer find or remember any hint of a problem with life. There was no finish line but there was also never a race. Today I spend my time researching the mind through whatever means works with the goal of devising empirically grounded but wholehearted paths towards self-knowledge and beyond.