Ruben holds a deep respect for both the scientific method and the wisdom traditions, which he believes 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.
Ruben is a postdoctoral fellow at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and lecturer at Amsterdam University College. Using a combination of neuroimaging, machine learning, and phenomenology, he is investigating some of the rarest states of consciousness available to human beings. Ruben’s core research fascination is in uncovering the top-down volitional plasticity of the mind, brain, and behaviour. Meditation is a powerful tool for investigating plasticity because no other population has such a profound agency over what happens in the mind. Which is why Ruben focuses on the ‘far-end’ of the meditation spectrum, the elite athletes, so-to-speak. Another uniquely ‘plastic’ moment in human psychology is when an insight or revelation event occurs and one’s worldview shifts in a single moment. Ruben has been researching such insight experiences for the past ten years. 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.
Ruben was raised in a Christian family that immigrated from Finland to Australia in 1989, there he attended school in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in his state. At the age of 16, between several suspensions from school, he decided to seek truth regardless of the consequences, assuming that ‘all roads lead to Rome’. A few months later he gave up his religion and discovered the intellectual path of science and clear thinking. After competing in Muay Thai Kickboxing professionally for three years, he found himself with two broken ribs, a torn chest muscle, and two prolapsed discs in his lower back, making him rethink his life’s trajectory. Then, at the age of 19, he had a revelatory experience that shook his worldview: He discovered that there was another path towards knowing and wisdom that involved direct experience. Ruben transferred all his classes from geology to psychology and neuroscience, founded two businesses, met a Zen teacher, and started a daily meditation practice. He began to see the emptiness of intellectual insights. 10 years later, in a final desperate run for the finish line, he determined: “I will not stand up from the cushion until this is over”. Three minutes later an ineffable absence occurred and Ruben could no longer find any hint of a problem with life. There was no finish line but there was also never a race.