What do you call a scientist who studies clairvoyance, qigong, and psychic healing not in an effort to debunk them but rather to pursue the possibility that they might be real?
Well, you could call her a pioneer. At her Oakland-based Institute for Frontier Science, UC Berkeley-trained biophysicist Beverly Rubik studies the "biofield," the purported life-force energy that is called qi in Chinese martial arts, prana in yoga, and other things in other traditions. Proving the existence of the biofield, Rubik says, is "the next step" in science, a step that would "explain more deeply how the mind works and how the body responds to various types of alternative therapies" that the medical establishment disdains. As potentially "the closest that science can ever approach the soul," it would prove, too, that the human body is more than "just a bag of biomolecules," asserts Rubik, who will deliver a lecture titled "The Biofield: The Flame of Life and a Key Link Between Science and Spirituality" at Northbrae Community Church (941 The Alameda, Berkeley) on Wednesday, September 2.
Having worked with the University of Arizona's program on integrative medicine under wellness guru Andrew Weil, she's currently "investigating high-frequency brainwaves that may be involved in higher states of consciousness."
To this end, she's been wrapping Neurotek neurofeedback devices around the heads of habitual meditators. Fitted with electrodes and revealing levels of brain activity, the devices show that the meditators' brains ae able to produce higher frequencies than do the brains of non-meditators who are also included in the experiment, under neurofeedback. Significantly, the frontal portions of some meditators' brains — the region known in esoteric circles located just above the "third eye" — consistently operate at a speed of 40 hertz, especially Tibetan Buddhist meditators. And according to a rapidly expanding coterie whose seemingly disparate contingents include scientists, psychics, and makers of techno music, her research showed that this high frequency is associated with feelings of love, joy, gratitude, clairvoyance, and childlike wonder.
Rubik chooses not to view the world in terms of "paranormal versus normal, but rather as a continuum of events, some of which are closer to the dominant paradigm, others of which are further out. Science has had a long historical battle with religion for over four hundred years," she notes.
And although conventional scientists still pooh-pooh "anything that smells of spirituality," Rubik is excited by "the shift in attitude over my thirty postdoctoral years in the study of frontier science. In 1980, I was awarded my first small grant from a private foundation to study the possibility of spiritual healing on cell cultures. This grant was rejected by a major university in the Bay Area at which I taught, where the dean shook his head and said there was 'no such phenomena' and that it was an embarrassment to the school to host such research. Yet in 2001, I was awarded a prestigious National Institutes of Health grant to ask the same research question. ... It's nice to see the culture moving forward."
Then again, "it's also hard being a pioneer, because you end up with arrows in your backside along the way." Optional spaghetti dinner, 6:30 p.m., $7; lecture, 7:30 p.m., $7, free for kids ten and under. Northbrae.org
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