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Mr. Mack goes to the UFO convention

Harvard Professor John Mack was what many people believed the phenomenon had always been lacking: a big-time professor who spoke up for the reality of the phenomenon. Nevertheless, his message was more complex… and ultimately was a reiteration of what Jung had always argued the phenomenon was about.

Philip Coppens


If Bud Hopkins is Sigmund Freud, John Mack must be Carl Jung. This conclusion I wrote in 1994, for an American journal solely dedicated to the UFO abduction phenomenon, at a time when Mack’s star began to rise in the UFO research community.
Freud largely tried to explain the entire human psychology as based on sexuality. Hopkins approached the entire abduction phenomenon as the physical encounter with an extra-terrestrial life-source, involved in a cross-species breeding project. Jung was unwilling to reduce humanity to a purely sexual issue… and so Mack could not accept that UFO abductions were just that… it felt larger, and different.

Throughout most of its existence, the UFO phenomenon as a whole was seriously lacking a high profile scientist willing to acknowledge the scientific credibility of UFO research. Of course, the absence of such a person might indicate the state of the research. For the subject of “alien abductions”, John Mack was that god send. A Harvard professor, leader in his field, even Pulitzer Prize winner, with no skeletons in his closet; could anyone ask for more?

Mack, as mentioned, felt that the UFO phenomenon tested the boundaries of reality. It was neither totally physical nor totally mental – it crossed both dimensions; the UFO was almost like an inter-dimensional vehicle.
The physical aspects were that people had been observed to be missing, returning with cuts, ulcers, lesions, etc. But that was not all: it expanded “to experiences which are more psychological, spiritual, involve the extension of consciousness.” It was in this cross-over that Mack identified the core problem of the phenomenon: “The difficulty for our society and for our mentality is, we have a kind of either/or mentality. It's either, literally physical; or it's in the spiritual other realm, the unseen realm. What we seem to have no place for – or we have lost the place for – are phenomena that can begin in the unseen realm, and cross over and manifest and show up in our literal physical world.”
Still, Mack did not condemn science. If anything, he felt they were on the right track. If anything, most scientists could not keep up with science itself. “The new paradigm emerging from the current discoveries of laboratory science and consciousness research is in some ways embarrassingly old and familiar. This model embraces truths known to virtually all past cultures and most contemporary societies, however much the latter may be influenced by materialism and dualism in their pursuit of modernization, political power, and market advantage. How we in the West could have succeeded in forgetting this knowledge is one of the great untold stories of our time.” With this remark, Mack quite literally stepped in the footsteps of Jung.

It was not this identification as a cross-over phenomenon that made Mack famous. The central question of the phenomenon was whether the abductees were inventing their encounters or were accurately reporting events – real events. He argued that in his analysis, the abductees were reporting on real threat: they had not invented these experiences.
Mack published on his findings and quickly found himself the centre of a controversy that reached into the pages of TIME and other major publications. His university opened an investigation into whether or not Mack had acted inappropriately. Harvard Medical School appointed a special faculty committee to review Dr. Mack's clinical care and clinical investigation of his subjects. Though long drawn, with each month, Mack received more support. There were questions from the academic community (including Harvard Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz) regarding the validity of Harvard's investigation of a tenured professor.
After a 15-month process, Harvard issued a statement stating that the Dean had “reaffirmed Dr. Mack's academic freedom to study what he wishes and to state his opinions without impediment,” concluding “Dr. Mack remains a member in good standing of the Harvard Faculty of Medicine.”
What had hit Mack the most was that it was stated that he had lost his objectivity. “It's often said that I'm a believer and sort of have gone and lost my objectivity. I really object to that. Because this is not about believing anything. I didn't believe anything when I started, I don't really believe anything now. I'm come to where I've come to clinically. In other words, I worked with people over hundred and hundreds of hours and have done as careful a job as I could to listen, to sift out, to consider alternative explanations. And none have come forward. No one has found an alternative explanation in a single abduction case.”

Once his battles with the scientific world were settled, Mack continued in mapping the other dimensional aspects of this phenomenon. He felt it stretched Mankind, whereby we were forced not merely look at the everyday physical reality, but the possibility of other, unseen realities, “from which our consciousness, our, if you will, learning processes over the past several hundred years have closed us off”. In this respect, Mack followed Jacques Vallee’s observation that the phenomenon was old – and hence more likely other dimensional, rather than extra-terrestrial.

What has gone largely unnoticed, is that Mack also broadened the scope of the phenomenon. Hopkins had centred most of his research on American examples – some might even argue New York. As a result, some researchers were wondering why this was happening in the United States – and apparently nowhere else.

John Mack with Budd Hopkins

In 1995, Mack visited the Netherlands, where he spent a few days talking to Hilda Musch, who at the time was working with Dutch UFO abductees.
Mack had also studied the phenomenon as it manifested in indigenous people, the Native Americans, who had legends of the star people. “We've looked at this in South Africa, particularly in interviewing in depth a leading South African sangoma, or medicine man, who calls these beings ‘mandingdas’.” In South Africa, he worked with Credo Mutwa, though he also went to Brazil, to meet abductees there.
“I received a letter about abduction experiences from a person in Malaysia today. In other words, this is – as far as we can tell – a worldwide phenomenon. This is not restricted, as some people have thought, to Western or particularly American culture.”

These views were the culmination of a rich life. Mack interned at Massachusetts General Hospital and did his residency at Massachusetts Mental Health Center. Joining the Harvard Medical School faculty in 1964, he became professor of psychiatry in 1972. He was married to Sally (Stahl) Mack; with whom he had three sons, giving him two grandchildren. They divorced in 1995.
In 1983, he founded the Center for Psychology and Social Change, together with Robert Jay Lifton. Lifton was one of Mack’s long-time associates. Both were psychiatrists and authors. They worked together in the antinuclear movement and in the application of psychological approaches to the study of history.
His early work was sponsored by Laurance Rockefeller, the middle brother of the five prominent and philanthropic grandsons of John D. Rockefeller. Laurance did not want the political career that his brother Nelson achieved, resulting in a vice-presidency under President Ford in the 1970s. Laurance concentrated on conservation, recreation, ecological concerns and medical research, particularly the treatment of cancer. Rockefeller gave the Center for Psychology and Social Change a $194,000 grant in the 1993-1994 period. Mack used the money to start PEER, the Program for Exceptional Experience Research.

Mack wrote two books on the phenomenon – 11 books in total. Abduction was his debut, appearing in 1994, which landed him in trouble. It was the result of a four year long research into the abduction phenomenon.
With Passport to the Cosmos, Mack stated that he tried “to move the conversation out of the argument of whether UFOs and abductions are real or not. I have to confess to you that I believe that is boring at this point. It is definitely real, and if you want to deconstruct what ‘real’ means we can do that. Whether it is materially real or not, or comes from some other place and shows up materially—I love those ontologically sophisticated discussions—but this is not the main thing. The main thing, for me, has become ‘what does this mean for us?’ that people of sound mind, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people from all over the world, not just in the Western countries, but on other continents and among indigenous people, are having what seem like authentic, incontrovertible encounters with some sort of beings that apparently enter into our physical world and communicate to us about ourselves, and seem in some way to be connecting with us.”
He concluded that “the experiences that are written about in the book make it clear that the encounter phenomenon opens people to an awareness of Self, with a capital S, that goes way beyond any kind of ethno-national identification, to a much larger sense of being a child of the Divine, or a child of Spirit, a child of the Cosmos. And so it is in a sense a passage experience from a nationalistic identity to a collective identity, to a larger global identity.” And hence, the abduction became an encounter… Once again, Jung was merely an inch away.
Jung had written that the UFO phenomenon was real; its occupants were archetypes, who would be here to lead Mankind into a New Age. Mack largely came to the same conclusion: “I think that the most important point here is that something that opens us to a larger sense of self, of identification with others and with a more cosmic level of being, will open us to a sense of the divine and a reverence for life, for nature. That kind of shift of consciousness is the only thing, I think, which could possibly arrest the downward spiral of destruction that is happening here.”

Mack was already at retirement age when he published Abduction. Nevertheless, his dark painted hair was a visual sign that inside, he seemed to possess eternal youth. If UFOs were propelled with an unknown fuel source, then it seems that same fuel type drove Mack. When I met him for the first time in August 1995, he was still in his battles with Harvard University. He was notorious – haunted. Some stated that it showed… he acted differently, not as nice as his usual self. Nevertheless, he remained amazingly nice; later that year, I met Mack again and was able to spend some days with him and Karen. With his Harvard battle behind him, Mack was now relaxed and wonderfully nice...

“John Edward Mack” was merely a few days from his 75th birthday when he died on September 27, 2004. After a lecture in Oxford, he returned to North London, where he was staying. There, he was struck by a vehicle being driven by an intoxicated driver, pronounced dead on the scene by London police.
Rupert Sheldrake stated that “Mack had recently become very interested in evidence for survival and communications from those who had passed over, one big stimulus being the passing of Elizabeth Targ. He wondered why it had taken him so long to take up research in this field. In our conversation, he told me of several people who had made pacts with friends to communicate after death if they could, and was quite fascinated with this idea.” His death came as a total surprise – the circumstance of his death unrelated with his age. Still, his new interest in death may have been an unconscious sign of his own impeding fate… Jung would have said so…