Professor Jacobo Grinberg's Relationship with Castaneda

From an article regarding the mysterious disappearance of Jacobo Grinberg Zylberbaum in 1994, entitled "Looking for Doctor Grinberg," by Sam Quinones, in the July/August 1997 New Age Journal:

"Another idea Padilla [the Police Commandante heading the investigation into Grinberg's disappearance] has considered involves Carlos Castaneda. The relationship between Grinberg and Castaneda was complicated, a turbulent mixture of restless minds and powerful egos. Grinberg once wrote of his admiration for the reclusive author, saying that Castaneda had influenced his thinking with regard to shamanism. In 1991, Grinberg, his wife, and Tony Karam visited Castaneda at the latter's invitation in Los Angeles. There, Karam says, Castaneda proposed that Grinberg leave his UNAM lab to live in his community. Grinberg declined. Their relationship disintegrated during a trip Castaneda took to Mexico City two years later. Grinberg's friends and family remember him frequently calling Castaneda an egomaniac, more interested in power than truth. They also recall that Tere [Grinberg's wife] remained enamored with Castaneda and his group. Students remember her speaking of her friendship with Florinda Donner, an associate of Castaneda's.

'It's a line of investigation,' says Karam, who until recently had close ties to Castaneda's group. 'It's a very strange world. People who go into that group tend to sever ties with the rest of the world. Nobody knows about them anymore. Still, I've talked to them about this many times, and they repeatedly say they don't know anything about it. They seem to be very sad about it, too.' Padilla says he has no evidence that Grinberg or his wife is with Castaneda. Through a spokesman in Mexico City, Castaneda has declined to comment."

For further background on Grinberg, and his relationship with Doña Pachita, here are more excerpts from the article "Looking for Doctor Grinberg," by Sam Quinones, in the July/August 1997 New Age Journal. The article begins:

"For Jacobo Grinberg Zylberbaum, 1994 was a pretty good year. Sure, the rest of Mexico seemed to be unraveling swiftly. Peasants had rebelled in the southern state of Chiapas, the ruling party's presidential candidate and its secretary general had both been murdered, and the year ended with a devastating peso devaluation. But for Grinberg, perhaps Mexico's most controversial neuroscientist, 1994 marked high point professionally.

At his laboratory in the psychology department of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, he recorded the brain waves of a shaman, Don Rodolfo from Veracruz, in a trance state. In August, he took those findings to an international conference in Germany and returned radiant at the response.

Grinberg's book on his seminal influence, Barbara Guerrero, the blind witch doctor known as Dona Pachita, was finally about to be published in English. A large grant from Mexico's National Science and Technology Council was allowing him to buy computers that would do calculations in seconds that had once taken weeks.

Meanwhile, there were more invitations to conferences and seminars. After almost twenty years in his lab, he was receiving international recognition, even if his work was still largely scorned by his more traditional Mexican peers. Plus, he had a group of excited and dedicated graduate students working with him.

Sure problems at home with his second wife, Tere, kept Grinberg on edge. She, at 38, desperately wanted children. He, at 47, just as desperately did not. But there really was every reason for Jacobo Grinberg to stick around.

Then in December, Grinberg missed some appointments with students. Two days before his long-awaited trip to Nepal on December 14, he failed to attend his own birthday party. True, he had been flighty at times, and besides, Tere said he'd had to go to the state of Campeche suddenly. But Tere later called a student to tell her to care for the lab while they were both in Nepal. This was strange because Grinberg had always transmitted these kinds of messages himself.

When Grinberg did not return from Nepal as planned, still no one thought much of it. He had been excited about meeting the great teacher of dzogchen meditation, Tsok-nyi Rinpoche. He'd probably just extended his stay, everyone assumed. But the weeks became months. Calls were made to Nepal, to the Indian Embassy, to acquaintances in other countries, to an aunt in Israel he had planned to visit on the way. Nothing. No record of Grinberg or his wife even leaving Mexico.

It was May 1995, six months after his supposed trip to Nepal, when it finally dawned on his family and friends that Jacobo Grinberg had utterly vanished. They went to the police--so far, to no avail. In the two-and-a-half years since he disappeared, no trace of him, dead or alive, has been found. All that remain are his books, his theories, memories of a complex man, and a missing-persons case that has confounded his family, his friends, and police investigators.

. . . .

Grinberg's family says that his adult life was divided into two phases: the first secular, scholarly, and scientific, the second mystical. But in the last few years before he disappeared, both phases seemed to be part of his personality.

A deeply spiritual man, Grinberg had moved from houses where he felt bad energy, believed he once had flown, and kept a meditation room lined with books and pictures of gurus. A semi-observant Jew, he sought out great thinkers on the Kabbalah. Yet he was also conversant in subjects like brain electric field analysis, the only professor in the UNAM psychology department who understood the workings of an oscilloscope.

'None of his colleagues believed in what he was doing, but if there was a great mind in the department it was his,' says Dulce Maria Gonzalez, a student of Grinberg's. 'Everyone came and asked him how to do a brain-wave measurement, how to interpret certain data, for help in their own work.'

Of the more than fifty books Grinberg wrote, some are standard neurophysiology texts in many Latin countries; others read like religious mysticism. Grinberg seemed aimed at fusing the two parts of his own soul in his work.

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'That was his main thrust--trying to figure a way of justifying this whole magical worldview through neuroscience,' says Tony Karam, director of the Tibet House in Mexico City and a close friend of Grinberg's.

The theory for which Grinberg came to be known reflected his personality. Relying on physics and his experiences with witch doctors, or *curanderos*--a bit of Einstein, a bit of Dona Pachita--its essential message was warm and hopeful: All humankind is interconnected. Grinberg spent most of his adult life attempting to prove this idea. Whether he was successful is a debate that continues in his absence.

. . . .

In 1977 Grinberg returned to Mexico City and a teaching job at UNAM. Around this time, he produced some of his most important work of hard science. He wrote and published several volumes on the physiology of learning and memory, one outlining new principals [sic] in physiological psychology, and one on visual perception. But he also met the person who, he wrote later, would influence him more than any other: Barbara Guerrero, a former cabaret singer and lottery ticket seller who had fought with Pancho Villa as a young girl. Doña Pachita, as Guerrero was known, was a curandera.

Pachita could go into a trance state during which the spirit of Cuauhtémoc, the nephew of the great Aztec ruler Moctezuma, occupied her consciousness. Through Cuahutemoc, Pachita cured the ill. Or rather, according to Grinberg, she performed successful surgery without anesthesia, using a mountain knife. She replaced diseased organs with others that appeared out of thin air, he wrote. Grinberg spent several months watching Pachita's operations and talking and traveling with her. He admitted that his descriptions of her operations sounded like ravings, but he insisted he'd seen them.

His experiences with Pachita also influenced his scientific thinking. Grinberg came to believe that the neuronal field he had postulated interacted with what he called an 'informational matrix,' a complicated concept that his students still have trouble explaining. He believed that experience and perception were created as a result of this interaction, and that the curative powers of shamans and *curanderas* like Pachita came from their ability to gain access to the informational matrix and change it, thereby affecting reality.

This distillation of mysticism and hard science thrilled him. By the mid-1980s, Grinberg was deep in research for what would become seven volumes on the shamans of Mexico. But what brought him to the attention of scientists elsewhere were the experiments he began doing in his UNAM laboratory.

Grinberg designed an experiment . . . using two people instead of one. Both subjects, with electrodes attached to their skulls, were put in a dark room and told to try to achieve a sort of meditative union. After twenty minutes, one was sent to a separate room. The remaining person was stimulated with a series of light flashes or sounds while his or her brain waves were measured. The brain waves of the isolated person were also measured. In 1987 Grinberg recorded for the first time a simultaneous reaction to the stimuli on the part of the isolated, non-stimulated person, a phenomenon he called 'transferred potential.' Over the years, with increasingly sophisticated equipment, he documented transferred potential 25 percent of the time, he wrote. It was a remarkable finding, totally contrary to the tenets of mainstream science. Grinberg believed it supported his theory of a neuronal field connecting all human minds.

His Mexican colleagues ridiculed the results as impossible. How coincidental, they said, that the results happened to support a theory Grinberg already believed. He was measuring interference caused by the machines, one colleague suggested.

E. Roy John was among those who believed the experiments were shoddy. 'The kinds of tests to which such data should be subjected are well known,' John says. 'He certainly knew what those tests were and never applied them. I don't think he had a dishonest bone in his body, but he certainly had a lot of wishful thinking.'

Yet others were excited by the results. 'The experiments seemed very good,' says Amit Goswami, a physics professor at the University of Oregon and an adviser to Grinberg. 'They established that there are non-local connections between brains, between people.'

Karl Pribram, one of the deans of American neuroscience along with John, was sufficiently intrigued to come down to the UNAM lab twice. Pribram found the experiments interesting but inconclusive. 'If it's true what he was finding, it could be very, very important,' he says. 'But I think that his work needs a lot of confirmation and testing in other laboratories.'

Grinberg's experiments did, in fact, prompt one group to try to replicate his results. 'His work was probably some of the most important going on in the world,' says Sperry Andrews, director of the Human Connection Project in New York City. 'To establish that humanity is an interconnected whole is probably the most important thing that humanity needs to know today.'

And that's about where things stood when Jacobo Grinberg was last seen.

. . . .

The Grinberg case is one that fuels all kinds of speculation. About the only limitation on the possibilities is that friends and family all agree Grinberg would never have voluntarily left his work or his daughter without saying why. That shoots down the theory that he's communing with shamans or gurus somewhere. But almost anything else is worthy of consideration.

. . . .

Investigators grew intrigued as they traced [his wife] Tere's behavior around the time Grinberg disappeared. On December 9, a day after he was last seen, she cashed a check from his book distributor for $1,000. The next day, she told the watchman at their country house in the neighboring state of Morelos not to show up for work, saying her husband had flown to Guadalajara.

On December 14, she told Grinberg's stepmother, when he missed his birthday party, that he'd gone to Campeche and that they would leave for Nepal immediately upon his return.

On December 24, she showed up with a blond-haired foreign woman at the house in Morelos. She left with her dog, kitchen utensils, clothes, and a table.

A watchman at the couple's Mexico City apartment says that Tere moved out on December 29, though their lease didn't expire until March. This was three weeks after Grinberg was last seen. About that time, a man showed up with Tere's dog at her mother's house with a note from Tere asking her to care for the animal. The dog is still there. Her mother first told police she hadn't spoken with her daughter in years, but they found phone records showing that the two had repeated contact in late 1994.

Where Tere spent the next five months is unknown. However, in May 1995, she appeared at her aunt's house in Rosarito Beach south of Tijuana. She stayed about two weeks, called her mother on Mother's Day, and then left. No one's heard from her since. At least no on who's willing to say so.

Tere's relatives all say she mentioned nothing about being married and that the first they knew of a husband was when police showed up with a photo of Grinberg. Grinberg's family, meanwhile, is living with the idea that Tere killed him, 'though I don't believe she could do it alone,' says Hilda Elterman.

. . ..

'The overwhelming fact, investigatively speaking, is that he's not here. I don't have a body. I don't have blood. I don't have a trail. I don't know,' says Padilla. 'From there it's really a question of what you want to believe. The evidence shows that the wife is on the run . . . that she might be in the U.S. I presume that there's something illicit behind all this and that she knows something about it. Whether he's dead, alive, or kidnapped is another question.'"