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Why Health Professionals Become Quacks
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 04, 2004 11:41AM

The author's findings may perhaps apply to:

Some psychotherapists with legitimate credentials who shift gears and eventually become charismatic gurus who commit boundary violations and other acts of malfeasance, (Timothy Leary who started out as a professor of psychology and ended up being an apostle of psychedlic drug use) as well as leaders in authentic spiritual traditions who go in ego driven directions, and displace their problems onto their followers-with their followers paying the price.

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[b:d04e32f832]Why Health Professionals Become Quacks[/b:d04e32f832]

William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.

It is especially disappointing when an individual trained in the health sciences turns to promoting quackery. Friends and colleagues often wonder how this can happen. Some reasons appear to be:


Daily practice can become humdrum. Pseudoscientific ideas can be exciting. The late Carl Sagan believed that the qualities that make pseudoscience appealing are the same that make scientific enterprises so fascinating. He said, "I make a distinction between those who perpetuate and promote borderline belief systems and those who accept them. The latter are often taken by the novelty of the systems, and the feeling of insight and grandeur they provide" [1] Sagan lamented the fact that so many are willing to settle for pseudoscience when true science offers so much to those willing to work at it.

Low professional esteem.

Nonphysicians who don't believe their professions is sufficiently appreciated sometimes compensate by making extravagant claims. Dental renegades have said "All diseases can be seen in a patient's mouth." Fringe podiatrists may claim to be able to judge health entirely by examining the feet. Iridologists point to the eye, chiropractors the spine, auriculotherapists the ear, Registered Nurses an alleged "human energy field," and so on. Even physicians are not immune from raising their personal status by pretension. By claiming to cure cancer or to reverse heart disease without bypass surgery, general physicians can elevate themselves above the highly trained specialists in oncology or cardiology. By claiming to heal diseases that doctors cannot, faith healers advance above physicians on the social status chart (physicians are normally at the top of the chart while preachers have been slipping in modern times). Psychologists, physicians, actors, or others who become health gurus often become darlings of the popular press.

Paranormal tendencies.

Many health systems are actually hygienic religions with deeply-held, emotionally significant beliefs about the nature of reality, salvation, and proper lifestyles. Vegetarianism, chiropractic, naturopathy, homeopathy, energy medicine, therapeutic touch, crystal healing, and many more are rooted in vitalism, which has been defined as "a doctrine that the functions of a living organism are due to a vital principle ["life force"] distinct from physicochemical forces" and "the theory that biological activities are directed by a supernatural force." [2,3] Vitalists are not just nonscientific, they are antiscientific because they abhor the reductionism, materialism, and mechanistic causal processes of science. They prefer subjective experience to objective testing, and place intuitiveness above reason and logic. Vitalism is linked to the concept of an immortal human soul, which also links it to religious ideologies [4].

Paranoid mental state.

Some people are prone to seeing conspiracies everywhere. Such people may readily believe that fluoridation is a conspiracy to poison America, that AIDS was invented and spread to destroy Africans or homosexuals, and that organized medicine is withholding the cure for cancer. Whereas individuals who complain about conspiracies directed toward themselves are likely to be regarded as mentally ill, those who perceive them as directed against a nation, culture, or way of life may seem more rational. Perceiving their political passions are unselfish and patriotic intensifies their feelings of righteousness and moral indignation [5]. Many such people belong to the world of American fascism, Holocaust deniers, tax rebels, the radical militia movement, and other anti-government extremists who would eliminate the FDA and other regulatory agencies that help protect consumers from health fraud. Liberty Lobby's newspaper The Spotlight champions such causes and also promotes quack cancer cures and attacks fluoridation.

Reality shock.

Everyone is vulnerable to death anxiety. Health personnel who regularly deal with terminally ill patients must make psychological adjustments. Some are simply not up to it. Investigation of quack cancer clinics have found physicians, nurses, and others who became disillusioned with standard care because of the harsh realities of the side effects or acknowledged limitations of proven therapies.

Beliefs encroachment.

Science is limited to dealing with observable, measurable, and repeatable phenomena. Beliefs that transcend science fall into the realms of philosophy and religion. Some people allow such beliefs to encroach upon their practices. While one may exercise religious or philosophical values of compassion, generosity, mercy and integrity (which is the foundation of the scientific method's search for objective truth), it is not appropriate for a health professional to permit metaphysical (supernatural) notions to displace or distort scientific diagnostic, prescriptive or therapeutic procedures. Individuals who wish to work in the area of religious belief should pursue a different career.

(Corboy note: serious problems have come up when psychotherapists, many with excellent intentions, try to combine the role of guru/spiritual guide with that of mental health professional. Or ministers may try to do long-term counseling without having the necessary training in both counseling technique, diagnosis or how to manage transferance/countertransferance and boundary issues.)

The [i:d04e32f832]profit [/i:d04e32f832]motive.

Quackery can be extremely lucrative. Claiming to have a "better mousetrap" can cause the world to beat a path to one's door. Greed can motivate entrepreneurial practitioners to set ethical principles aside.

The [i:d04e32f832]prophet [/i:d04e32f832]motive.

Just as Old Testament prophets called for conversion and repentance, doctors have to "convert" patients away from smoking, obesity, stress, alcohol and other indulgences [6]. As prognosticators, doctors foretell what is going to happen if patients don't change their way of life. The prophet role provides power over people. Some doctors consciously avoid it. They encourage patients to be self-reliant rather than dependent, but in doing so they may fail to meet important emotional needs. Quacks, on the other hand, revel in, encourage, and exploit this power. Egomania is commonly found among quacks. They enjoy the adulation and discipleship their pretense of superiority evokes.

Psychopathic tendencies.

Studies of the psychopathic personality provide insight into the psychodynamics of quackery. Dr. Robert Hare who investigated for more than twenty years, states, "You find psychopaths in all professions. . . the shyster lawyer, the physician always on the verge of losing his license, the businessman with a string of deals where his partners always lost out." [7] Hare describes psychopaths as lacking a capacity to feel compassion or pangs of conscience, and as exhibiting glibness, superficial charm, grandiosity, pathological lying, conning/manipulative behavior, lack of guilt, proneness to boredom, lack of empathy, and other traits often seen in quacks. According to Hare, such people suffer from a cognitive defect that prevents them from experiencing sympathy or remorse.

The conversion phenomenon.

The "brainwashing" that North Koreans used on American prisoners of war involved stress to the point that it produced protective inhibition and dysfunction. In some cases, positive conditioning causes the victim to love what he had previously hated, and vice-versa; and in other cases, the brain stops computing critically the impressions received. Many individuals who become quacks undergo a midlife crisis, painful divorce, life-threatening disease, or another severely stressful experience. The conversion theory is supported by a study of why physicians had taken up "holistic" practices. By far the greatest reason given (51.7%) was "spiritual or religious experiences." [8]

Many people -- including far too many health professionals, law enforcement officials, and judges -- exhibit a cavalier attitude toward quackery. Although most reject the idea that quackery is "worth a try" for a sick person [9], it is important to reinforce and mobilize those who understand quackery's harmful potential.


Reid WH and others. Unmasking the Psychopath. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1986.

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary.

Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 25th Edition. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Co. 1974.

Sarton G. A History of Science, Volume I. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1952, p.497.

Hofstadter R. The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966.

Dominian J. Doctor as prophet. British Medical Journal 287:1925-1927, 1983.

Goleman D. Brain defect tied to utter amorality of the psychopath. The New York Times, July 7, 1987.

Goldstein MS, Jaffe DT, Sutherland C. Physicians at a holistic medical conference: Who and why?" Health Values 10:3-13, Sept/Oct 1986.

Morris LA, Gregory J D, Klimberg R. Focusing an advertising campaign to combat medical quackery. Journal of Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management 2:(1):83-96, 1987.

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Why Health Professionals Become Quacks
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 04, 2004 12:11PM


[b:773e396759]The Doctor's Plot[/b:773e396759]

In the world of professional wrestling, fans fall into two categories, known as the Smarts and the Marks. The Marks believe that they are watching spontaneous contests of strength and skill. The Smarts know that they are watching a fascinating, highly plotted, roughly scripted form of dramatic entertainment--a sort of sweaty soap opera. The Smarts and the Marks have a lot to talk about, though their conversation sometimes seems at cross-purposes. They have both developed an enthusiastic appreciation for the phenomenon, but on different levels.

In the world of unidentified flying objects, John E. Mack (or, as his book jacket labels him, "John E. Mack, M.D., the Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard psychiatrist") is a Mark masquerading as a Smart.

Mack believes that little gray aliens have been abducting Americans in large numbers and subjecting them to various forms of unwilling sex. (Yes, that again.) Mack also believes that, for a bunch of cosmic rapists, these aliens are a pretty benign bunch. They're trying to bring us in touch with our spiritual sides, or trying to remind us how important it is to care about the planet, or otherwise trying to help our consciousness evolve.
But you already know this--unless you've missed him these past few weeks on Oprah, in the New York Times Magazine, on 48 Hours, and in supermarket tabloids, talk shows, and news programs across the country.

Alien-abduction mythology has been one of this country's tawdry belief manias since the 1960's. It is a leading case of the antirational, antiscience cults that are flourishing with dismaying vigor in the United States, and with dismayingly little counterbalance from people who ought to know better--the Smarts. UFO's in general, paranormals who bend spoons, parapsychologists who sense spiritual auras, crystal healers, believers in reincarnation, psychic crime-solvers--all of these natural descendants of Tarot-readers and crystal-ball-gazers get uncritical television time and newsprint. It's a dangerous trend. The blurring of distinctions between real knowledge and phony knowledge leaves all of us more vulnerable to faith healers and Holocaust-deniers of all sorts.

The new wave of marketing the abduction myth has been grotesquely effective. [i:773e396759]The New York Times Book Review [/i:773e396759]chose to give Mack's new book, [i:773e396759]Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens[/i:773e396759], a major illustrated review written by another psychiatrist who has spent time interviewing supposed abductees. This reviewer, James S. Gordon, criticizes some of Mack's methods, but hails him for giving "visibility to a phenomenon that is ordinarily derided" and concludes that Mack "has performed a valuable and brave service, enlarging the domain and generosity of the psychiatric enterprise."

Let's stop right here and consider, hypothetically, for the first and last time in this article, the possibility that Americans really are being kidnapped by aliens in vast numbers.

All right. We're undergoing a large-scale invasion by gangs of alien sex abusers. There are millions of victims, according to Mack and his fellow abduction proponents. To begin with, is this a matter that should be handled by psychiatrists? Wouldn't astronomers and physicists have some interest in the matter as well? Shouldn't these kidnappings be reported to law-enforcement authorities (they virtually never are)? Wouldn't they be of interest to the FBI, the military, and, say, world leaders?

The publishers, Charles Scribner's Sons, promote the book with a dust jacket claiming that these are "alien encounters reported in no previous book on UFOs," that they are "real experiences," that Mack's book is "above all authoritative." Do they believe this, individually? According to their hype, one in fifty of their own friends and relatives have been abducted by these little gray rapists--are they, in real life, worrying about this? Similarly, do the editors of the Times Book Review, or the television news directors who are helping promote this book with equal foolishness, seriously believe these claims? No, they do not. All these people are Smarts, at heart. Their news departments aren't wasting any time investigating this story, though surely a galactic sex crime of this magnitude would be worth assigning at least as many reporters as the question of whether the President's wife once made a killing in commodities.

"Statistics show that 4 million Americans have been abducted . . ." began a Fox TV news item about the Mack book the other day. (It continued with unidentified footage of realistic-looking aliens, from a science-fiction movie.. There are no standards left, it seems, in the world of television news.)

We'll all be hearing this statistic incessantly in the next few weeks, so it's worth showing once and for all where it comes from. **It is the product of a 1991 study conducted by the Roper Organization under the sponsorship of abduction buffs, who mailed their interpretation of the results--titled [i:773e396759]Unusual Personal Experiences: An Analysis of the Data from Three National Surveys[/i:773e396759]--to tens of thousands of mental-health professionals.

The Roper pollers read a list of experiences to 6,000 people and asked them whether they had undergone these experiences, as a child or an adult, more than twice, once or twice, or never (a construction that routinely generates more positive responses than the straightforward ever or never).

The relevant experiences were:

Waking up paralyzed with a sense of a strange person or presence or something else in the room.

Experiencing a period of time of an hour or more, in which you were apparently lost, but you could not remember why, or where you had been.

Seeing unusual lights or balls of light in a room without knowing what was causing them, or where they came from.

Finding puzzling scars on your body and neither you nor anyone else remembering how you received them or where you got them.

Feeling that you were actually flying through the air although you didn't know why or how.

Most healthy people can answer yes to a few of these. I certainly can. They are all well known feelings and dream types. Even the sinister-sounding scar question is an easy yes for many people (take a moment to examine your body carefully and you'll see what I mean).

The answers to these five questions form the entire basis for the alien-abduction statistic. Are you wondering how a respectable survey organization could take these and produce a claim that "one out of every fifty adult Americans may have had UFO abduction experiences"? Easy. The authors had only to make a single fraudulent assumption:

"Based upon the data we have collected, we decided to regard only [!] those respondents who answered 'yes' to at least four of our five key indicator questions as probable abductees."

That was 119 people. Hence--simple arithmetic from here on--4 million Americans.

Perhaps Mack is embarrassed enough by the absurdity of this exercise not to rely on it heavily. He mentions it only once in his book. But he did put his Harvard Medical School imprimatur on the original report, writing the introduction and enclosing a helpful mail-in card for his readers.

The alien-abduction phenomenon began in 1966 with the case of Betty and Barney Hill. They were a New Hampshire couple who--years after having got lost one night in the White Mountains--read some UFO literature, spent a fair amount of time with psychiatrists, finally underwent hypnosis and "remembered" having been kidnapped by aliens and subjected to various indignities. Scores of books, movies, and television docudramas followed as the genre evolved--Barney Hill himself was portrayed by James Earl Jones. For the entertainment industry, this isn't a cultural nuisance; it's a cash cow. And every few years some author finds a new way to cash in, as Whitley Strieber did with his 1987 fiction-posing-as-nonfiction best-seller [i:773e396759]Communion[/i:773e396759].

Mack has a new angle. "None of this work," he writes, "in my view, has come to terms with the profound implications of the abduction phenomenon for the expansion of human consciousness, the opening of perception to realities beyond the manifest physical world and the necessity of changing our place in the cosmic order if the earth's living systems are to survive the human onslaught."

What really makes Mack different from the standard flying-saucer nut is that he's got authority. "Ordinarily," Oprah declared, "we would not even put people on television, on our show certainly, who make such bizarre claims. . . . But we were intrigued by this man. . . . Dr. Mack is a respected professor who teaches at Harvard University. He is an eminent psychiatrist . . ." The promotion surrounding his new book, Abduction, leans heavily on his professional trappings. There is his status as a medical doctor and psychiatrist. There is his Pulitzer Prize (won not for anything to do with UFO's, of course, but for a biography of T. E. Lawrence published 17 years ago). There is Harvard University, where Mack enjoys the comfort of academic tenure.

Mack's publicists--besides Scribner's, he uses a New Jersey firm, PR with a Purpose Inc--are combining and recombining these elements in sleazy ways. A press release begins: "Abduction by aliens was not a topic taken seriously at Harvard University, until John E. Mack, a medical doctor and professor of psychiatry . . ." (Of course, it is still not a topic "taken seriously" at Harvard, except to the extent that Mack and fellow gulls happen to be on campus.)

For readers, [i:773e396759]Abduction [/i:773e396759]will seem a cross between the Whitley Strieber genre and the Nancy Friday sort of one-sexual-fantasy-after-another-as-told-to-me genre. Ed has sex in a "pod" with a silvery-blond alien and finds it "fulfilling" and "great." Catherine is forced to lie on a table naked and spread her legs while an alien with cold hands inserts an instrument into her vagina. Eva is fondled by three "midgets." And so on. It's all excruciatingly unpleasant and incoherent. Just about everyone gets painful needles in the brain or the leg, and just about everyone gets a lecture about pollution or global consciousness on the way out.

The core of Mack's belief is the following cocktail-party syllogism:

People think they were abducted. They don't seem crazy. (And we ought to know--we're experts on mental illness.)
Therefore people were abducted.

It sounds more respectable in psychiatrist talk, naturally: "Efforts to establish a pattern of psychopathology other than disturbances associated with a traumatic event have been unsuccessful. Psychological testing of abductees has not revealed evidence of mental or emotional disturbance that could account for their reported experiences." Ergo . . .

No one remembers their abductions right away. These aliens, clumsy as they are about anaesthesia and scars, have a way of making the experience vanish from the conscious minds of all 4 million of their American victims. (Why is abduction such a peculiarly American phenomenon, by the way? Our national borders aren't visible through the portholes of those spaceships. Mack has an answer: abductions are global, but it's only in the United States that we are lucky enough to have large numbers of UFO-obsessed therapists to help people uncover their suppressed experiences.)

Abduction psychiatrists like Mack need a method of helping people remember, and that method is hypnosis.

You are getting sleepy . . . when you awake you will remember . . . Hypnosis is all about suggestion. It has always been a fringe practice, as useful to carnival magicians and movie-makers as to clinical psychiatrists, and for every genuine buried memory unearthed by a hypnotists, many more false memories have been implanted. At its best, the process is a conspiracy between hypnotist and willing subject. Time magazine has quoted one of Mack's subjects as saying that she was given UFO literature to read in preparation for her sessions and was asked obvious leading questions. Garry Trudeau has shined his own form of common sense on the process in a Doonesbury sequence that has a hypnotized subject saying "Now I see a . . . a blinding light."

"It's a vehicle, isn't it? Some sort of space vehicle?" the hypnotist prompts.

"I . . . I can't tell. It has Nevada plates."

From a scientific point of new, Mack's anecdotes are grossly lacking in respectable methodology.

He doesn't provide information about his hypnotic techniques, though he does give the impression that there's a lot of breathing involved.

He provides no data from psychological tests. These are "time-consuming and expensive," he notes--gosh, right, in that case, why bother?

There is nothing remotely resembling a control or a negative case.

There is no explanation of how he selected Abduction's 13 case studies from his total caseload of 76, except for the following: " . . . there are abductees I have know longer or worked with in greater depth. If I have chosen not to tell their stories here it is because I could not do justice to the richness of their experiences in a sufficiently clear and concise manner." (In other words, there's even better stuff in his files--he just couldn't squeeze them into these 422 pages.)

It's never clear where Mack finds his subjects or who they are. They seem to be shuttled to him by the UFO/abduction network, and particularly by Budd Hopkins, author of two 1980's best-sellers on the phenomenon. It was Hopkins who introduced Mack in 1990 to his first four supposed victims and then began a regular series of referrals.

Mack's anecdotal descriptions give only a cardboard sense of who they are--despite the torturous physical detail, there is little to flesh out his sweeping claim that "they seem to come, as if at random, from all parts of society."

It seems safe to say that there's one kind of patient that Mack never sees: a person suffering from vague and unexplained feelings of anxiety or trauma who, without any familiarity with UFO books or movies and without any suggestion whatsoever on the part of psychiatrist or hypnotist, then remembers an abduction experience. If he had any of those, it would be interesting to see the transcripts. In reality, though, by the time Mack sees them, his patients know very well what they're in for and have been well prepped.

As for his own biases, Mack claims he began as a skeptic, but this he is clearly not.

He's a firm believer, for example, in auras--"the energy fields around us that some especially sensitive people can see" He is certainly (much like his aliens) one of the many people who began talking a lot over the past decade or two about saving the planet, protecting the environment, understanding spirituality, and so forth.

Mack seems to have been a sixties late-bloomer, falling belatedly and hard for Werner Erhard, Carlos Casteneda, est, Esalen, and so forth. It's really no wonder his abductees find themselves getting such a warm dose of mind expansion along with the extraterrestrial sex abuse.

Mack never manages to discuss the world's most widely shown piece of popular entertainment on his subject, [i:773e396759]Close Encounters of the Third Kind[/i:773e396759], though surely many, if not all, of his patients saw Steven Spielberg's lovable little bug-eyed aliens long before they came up with their own memories of virtually identical aliens. In fact Mack's whole new mood about abductions isn't new at all--it's all there in [i:773e396759]Close Encounters[/i:773e396759]: the Eastern mysticism, the spiritual save-the-planet denouement. (Remember the closing sound-track of the original version? "When you wish upon a star,/Makes no difference who you are,/Anything your heart desires will come . . . to . . . you.")

The entire issue of contaminating influences is constantly being swept under Mack's rug.

He writes at one point, "Eva had written in her journal that she had started to read Whitley Strieber's Communion, but discontinued it so as not to be 'influenced by anyone or anything.' " Oh, sure. Anyway, all this scientific, methodological criticism rolls off believers like water off a duck. It's merely "rational" or "empirical" or, worst of all, "Western" (generic terms of dismissal).

Mack knows his hypnotism sessions are a collaboration, and he's unrepentant:

"I cannot avoid the fact that a co-creative process such as this may yield information that is in some sense the product of the intermingling or flowing together of the consciousnesses of the two (or more) people in the room," he says. "Something may be brought forth that was not there before in exactly the same form. Stated differently, the information gained in the sessions is not simply a remembered 'item,' lifted out of the experiencer's consciousness like a stone from a kidney. It may represent instead a developed or evolved perception, enriched by the connection that the experiencer and the investigator have made.

"From a Western perspective this might be called 'distortion'; from a transpersonal point of view the experiencer and I may be participating in an evolution of consciousness."

Arguing with someone who uses language in this blousy manner is like dancing with smoke. It is useless to find errors in reasoning or logic.

Logic? What an beggarly, earthbound affair. There are moments when you find yourself wondering whether even Mack knows what he's claiming. With all his harrowing descriptions of rapes and torture, he's still capable of retreating to, " . . . we do not know what an abduction really is--the extent, for example, to which it represents an event in the physical world or to which it is an unusual subjective experience with physical manifestations."

This sounds almost sane. I would translate it into my boring kind of English as "we don't know whether abductions are real events or fantasies." And physical manifestations is a nice little addendum--it glides right past the fact that there are no physical manifestations, if this means tangible evidence the aliens might have left behind.

They're wonderfully tidy about their needles and handcuffs.

Mack continues: "A still greater problem resides in the fact that memory in relation to abduction experiences behaves rather strangely." Why, yes! " . . . the memory of an abduction may be outside of consciousness"--translation: nonexistent--"until triggered"--translation: created-- "many years later by another experience or situation that becomes associated with the original event."

Such as, maybe, going to the drive-in and watching [i:773e396759]Close Encounters[/i:773e396759]? Mack continues (and by the way, does Harvard offer its professors any course in remedial English?): "The experiencer in a situation such as this could be counted on the negative side of the ledger before the triggering experience and on the positive side after it." In plain language: it's hard to count the people who have been abducted, because if someone says he hasn't been abducted, he may just not remember--yet.


Though he is in all the machinery surrounding his book as true a believer as can be, still, in the actual text, he engages in a slippery form of rhetoric--as if somehow he still wanted to hedge his bets. He writes of "the actual experience (whatever the source of these experience may ultimately prove to be)."

What does John Mack really believe (assuming that the whole thing isn't just a calculated scam)?

Does he have [i:773e396759]any [/i:773e396759]curiosity about the technology of this species, on the one hand capable of passing through walls and beaming people about on rays of light, and on the other hand, sometimes reduced to flagging down cars? Does he believe that creatures from another planet are grabbing our fellow humans, pinning them down, and engaging in weird sex with them? Literally?

Well, yes--and no. Certainly he writes as though he does, but he also manages to avoid answering such tacky direct questions.

Sometimes he switches over to writing in terms of "the abduction phenomenon" (Smartspeak) instead of "abductions" (Markspeak). Mack says, "Our use of familiar words like 'happening,' 'occurred,' and 'real' will themselves have to be thought of differently, less literally perhaps"--it's a sickeningly corrupt style of hiding behind language. His writing is full of phrases drained of all meaning: "the collapse of space/time"; "the alien being opened Ed's consciousness." And there is always the ultimate hedge: "the problem of defining in what reality the abductions occur."

We know some realities they aren't occurring in. They aren't occurring in the reality Mack calls "the ontological framework of modern science." This is the reality where we might be tripped up by things like "accepted laws of physics and principles of biology." They aren't occurring in "the Judeo-Christian tradition"--Jews and Christians have become such stick-in-the-muds compared to (no surprise here) "Eastern religions, such as Tibetan Buddhism, which have always recognized a vast range of spirit entities in the cosmos . . ." Things that, after all, could not have really happened, are constantly happening in "converging time frames" or "another dimension."

The game of let's-find-another-reality turns someone like me into such a party-pooper, having to fall back on the common-sense idea that reality is in fact . . . reality.

But it's not just a game. Mack is a practicing psychiatrist, and he's toying with real people.

There is "Ed," who first got in touch with Mack in 1992 and "recalled" having been abducted, raped (not Mack's word), and lectured to about "the way humans are conducting themselves here in terms of international politics, our environment, our violence to each other, our food, and all that"--all this having supposedly occurred 31 years earlier, in 1961, though Ed didn't begin to recall it until 1989.

In a chilling aside, Mack writes that Ed and his wife, "Lynn," have had "a number of fertility problems, which may or may not be abduction-related, including three or four spontaneous terminations of Lynn's pregnancies."

It's a reminder: [i:773e396759]This man is practicing medicine[/i:773e396759]. He is telling patients that their miscarriages may be due to imaginary aliens. Why do the medical licensing boards permit this?

Mack represents the most visible agent of an especially disturbing trend in the UFO landscape: [i:773e396759]mailings and publicity targeted specifically at psychologists and psychiatrists[/i:773e396759]. Private organizations financed by abduction devotees are spending money to persuade these professionals that there is something clinically respectable about looking for UFO's along with, say, child abuse in their patients' troubled histories.

Mack's own tax-exempt funding source is his Center for Psychology and Social Change. He also has a Program for Extraordinary Experience Research.

These organizations want clinicians to look for abduction cases whenever they encounter such tell-tale symptoms as (I'm quoting from a 1992 Mack mailing to mental-health professionals) "fears of the dark and of nightfall."

Sadly, in the age of depth psychology and transpersonal psychology, hypnotherapy and psychic healing, willing professional dupes are in ready supply. It seems that anything goes these days in the mental-health business. Even more sadly, psychiatrists are exactly the people who should be treating the scores of people who think they have been abducted by aliens and who should be trying to understand the phenomenon.

For there is an abduction [i:773e396759]phenomenon[/i:773e396759], and it's worth studying.

Cultural historians might think fruitfully about the shared details of the abduction mythology, at least to the extent that they can be disentangled from the influences of the self-referential movies and books that victims have been exposed to.

Carl Sagan has pointed out similarities with old (pre-space-age) stories of incubi and succubi, witches and fairies.

"Is it possible," he wrote last year, "that people in all times and places occasionally experience vivid, realistic hallucinations, often with sexual content--with the details filled in by the prevailing cultural idioms, sucked out of the Zeitgeist. When everyone knows that gods regularly come down to Earth, we hallucinate gods; when everyone knows about demons, it's incubi and succubi; when fairies are widely believed, we see fairies; when the old myths fade and we begin thinking that alien beings are plausible, then that's where our hypnagogic imagery tends."

The problem is that, by and large, the Smarts aren't interested in arguing with the Marks. It seems unprofitable, when no amount of rational discourse can change the mind of a believer.

A few worthy organizations devote themselves to this sort of thing, most notably the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, publishers of the Skeptical Inquirer. But most astronomers, physicists, and paleontologists have better things to do, though they are the sorts of people best equipped to explain just how infinitely unlikely it is that our corner of the universe should be receiving alien visitors in such strikingly near--human form at just the eyeblink of history when we have discovered space travel.

Outside of hard science, all too many academics have fallen into the literary conceit that anyone's version of reality is as valid as anyone else's, and here in the real world, it's a conceit with bad consequences.

Not that mental-health workers have nothing to contribute to understanding phenomena like the abduction myth. On the contrary--scores or perhaps even hundreds of people do "remember" having been kidnapped by aliens, and this needs to be understood. There is an explanation. As with so many belief manias, the explanation is unwelcome to many people:

We are not fully rational creatures.

Our minds are not computers. We see people, we hear voices, we sense presences that are not really there. If you have never seen the face of someone you know, in broad daylight, clear as truth, when in reality that person was a continent away or years dead, then you are unusual.

Our memories cannot be trusted--not our five-minute-old memories, and certainly not our decades-old memories. They are weakened, distorted, rearranged, and sometimes created from wishes or dreams. With or without hypnosis, we are susceptible to suggestion.

The painful irony is that of all the people--the Smarts--who should know these lessons and articulate them for the rest of us, none are better placed than professors of psychiatry.

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Why Health Professionals Become Quacks
Posted by: supermonkey ()
Date: July 04, 2004 12:54PM

John Mack is just another cult leader who leads the public astray with his fantasies about alien abduction. Does he sleep with some of the people adminsters therapy to? Your guess is as good as mine. What we need is people in positions to stop quack therapists and fake medical experts from destroying minds and feeding LIES and FALSE HOPE to avereage joes who just might need genuine therapy and not MYTH and invented alien star wars stories...

A cult is a cult and as far as I can see I have not found one yet that is based on true science or logic. Gurus need a dose of their own medicine. I always say that I AM MY OWN GURU and as a result my mind is mine and mine alone. I don't need a john mack feeding me made up mumbo jumbo nor does anyone else expect maybe hollywood science fiction movie script writers.

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Why Health Professionals Become Quacks
Posted by: Cosmophilospher ()
Date: July 04, 2004 03:48PM

I like the tone of these articles. Sagan wrote about, and criticized Mack when he was alive.
Carl Sagans's influence is being felt from beyond the grave!!!
Its paranormal!!!

I have a friend who is a "quack", and i think its a combination of being a True Believer and being indoctrinated, its also a sense of "superiority", as in he knows more than those stupid medical doctors and knows all about the drug company conspiracies, etc.
Also, the MONEY he makes is serious, and some people "get better".
Also, back to Ego, his patients treat him like he is a Genius/God.

What's not to like?

What's the down side?

If my buddy were a sociopath, he could start a cult if he wanted.
But he is not.
He is one hellava good salesman though, and makes a lot of money, and gets lots of Ego strokes, and also seems to believe he is doing Gods work.

It seems to really be a few steps down the road to cultish indoctrination and even brainwashing.

I think a human can genuinely believe ANYTHING in the right circumstance, and i do mean ANYTHING.
Its all just an internal mental construct.

The problem is when these internal constructs don't match up to external reality...
Oops, i forgot. There is no external reality....only perception...
here we go....


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Why Health Professionals Become Quacks
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 04, 2004 11:35PM

Years ago, I read a memoir by a physician named Axel Munthe, entitled [i:459ee7e471]The Story of San Michele.[/i:459ee7e471]

I dont have the book in front of me so I have to paraphrase.

Dr. Munthe was a Swede, studied medicine in France and was licensed to practice in France. In the late 19th century, he was a specialist in internal medicine, and practiced in Paris.

A lot medical quacks and frauds flocked to Paris, most from other countries. The legitimate physicians became annoyed, and French government issued a law forbidding anyone to practice medicine in France without a degree from a reputable medical school. All known health care professionals were required to bring their medical school diplomas to their local police station by a certain date or 1) stop practicing or 2) leave the country.

Dr Munthe presented his credentials to the local police chief. The [i:459ee7e471]Prefect [/i:459ee7e471]told Munthe there was a well known quack in the district. The police chief expected to deport him.

A few days later the deadline passed, and Dr. Munthe happened to run into the [i:459ee7e471]Prefect[/i:459ee7e471]. (All this is my paraphrase, but it follows the story line in the book--Corboy)

'So what about Dr. X?' Munthe asked.

The official shook his head. 'He's legitimate. He came to me, requested a private interview, and once we were in my office, with the door shut, he showed me his medical school diploma. He has a MD degree from an excellent medical school in Germany. But he doesnt want anyone to know this.'

'My God, why?'

'Because' said the [i:459ee7e471]Prefect[/i:459ee7e471] 'patients flock to this Dr. X, and he has a booming practice precisely they think he is a quack! These patients dont want a legitimate practitioner because they dont trust dont them. Dr X fears he would be out of business if his patients found he was a real physician and not a quack!'

It isnt clear whether Dr. X pretended to be a quack while actually giving his patients good, standard medical care, or if he had actually abandoned his professionalism, become a quack and concealed that he'd once been a legitimate physician.

In any case, what brought Dr. X patients was his reputation as being 'outside' the medical establishment. It wasnt just that his patients wanted care, it appears they also wanted to rebel against authority. (this is my hunch, not Dr. Munthe's-Corboy)

Munthe said he decided that Dr X would indeed earn a fortune because he had such an excellent grasp of psychology.

So it may be that people deliberately avoid legitimate health care professionals because they dont just want health care, they want to rebel against authority while getting that care, and they rebel by going to 'outsiders'.

Munthe's vivid story is anecdotal evidence, enough to justify further research but not enough to support a conclusion.

We need to verify (which means getting more evidence through use of research protocols) that some people prefer the rogue medic because this maverick is an outsider and is perceived to have rejected the mainstream medical/scientific establishment. This 'outsider/rebel' stance may make the rogue medic so attractive to a large and important sub-group of consumers.

A sociologist could do some good research by studying attitudes toward authority in 4 groups: Persons who go only to practitioners of mainstream medicine with legitimate credentials, those go only to alternative practitioners with legit credentials, and those who get health care from mainstream and alternative medicine with legit credentials. The fourth group would be those who only get health care from persons whose therapies are not recognized as meeting current standards of care and who lack legitimate credentials.

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Why Health Professionals Become Quacks
Posted by: Cosmophilospher ()
Date: July 05, 2004 01:55AM

I think some people LIKE going to these Quacks, because they simply tell the patient what they WANT to hear.
They tell them they can get better, without drugs or surgery.
They tell them that God/Universe/YaddaYadda wants them get better, and heal, and live and be happy.

Also, the Quacks are warm and fuzzy. They are Empathic Therapists, as well as dispensers of potions and hand-wavers. They spend TIME with you, unlike a doctor.

I know this one girl who is OBSESSED with Homeopathy. (her latest fad). No matter what i say to her, the cure is Homeopathy! I told her i had a zit last month, and she literally tells me to get some Homeopathy! I bet she is taking about 35 concoctions from her Homeotherapist. (I don't have the heart to tell her i think its a bunch of Placebo Water, and HIGHLY profitable Snake Oil - Holy Water).

So no question, certain types of people gravitate towards this kind of stuff. This one girl just goes from one fad to the next.
She was heavily involved in the SGI cult, but walked away after a number of years, totally in DeNile.

Another friend of mine who worked in "alternative cancer treatments" for years, eventually quit, and went back to music.
In her words, even after all the treatments,

"they still died".


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Why Health Professionals Become Quacks
Posted by: supermonkey ()
Date: July 07, 2004 06:09AM

Of course people died as they should have consulted a real medical doctor with science background. Cults do the same thing they feed people lies and falsehope and then the people die with brains washed by the nonsense the cult leading snake peddlars spoon feeed them.

Con artists gurus and cult leaders and fake faith healers are one and the same as are priests and ministers who give people hope in a fairy tale god.

we all die and cease to exist in the end...


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Why Health Professionals Become Quacks
Posted by: Cosmophilospher ()
Date: July 08, 2004 03:13AM

I am sure you have all heard about the new scientific study that proves that cough medicines do not work.
This is what is going on, in my view, with "Homeopathy", which is just a bunch of Placebo Water, and most of these other Quack "tonics".

Why do people buy these products? Advertising.
Just watch the new advertising blitz which will start very soon.

This is a similar dynamic to the Quacks. They sell stuff that does not work, and people keep buying it, and convince themselves it works through the Placebo effect.

Great business model. Worth BILLIONS.




Water may be just as effective as cough syrup

Tuesday, Jul 6, 2004

A glass of water will do as much to relieve your child's cough as an expensive, over-the-counter cough syrup, a new study suggests.

The research, published in today's edition of the medical journal Pediatrics, concludes that parents who treat a child's nighttime cough with the widely available medications are wasting their money.

"Consumers spend billions of dollars each year on over-the-counter medications for cough," said Ian Paul, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey, Pa.

"But our study showed that the two ingredients used in most over-the-counter medications were no better than a placebo, non-medicated syrup, in providing nighttime relief for children with cough and sleep difficulty as a result of upper-respiratory infection," he said.

In Canada, cough syrup sales exceed $80-million a year, according to the Non-Prescription Drug Manufacturers Association.

About 95 per cent of syrups, including the best-selling brands Benylin DM and Robitussin, have dextromethorphan as their active ingredient. It is an expectorant, meaning it is supposed to clear the respiratory tract of phlegm and make breathing easier. Other cough syrups contain diphenhydramine, an antihistamine, designed to reduce swelling in the respiratory tract.

To conduct the study, researchers recruited 100 children with upper-respiratory-tract infections who had been coughing for an average of more than three days.

The children were given one of three treatments 30 minutes before bedtime: A cough syrup containing dextromethorphan, a cough syrup containing diphenhydramine or a placebo syrup.

Children in all three groups showed a dramatic reduction in cough frequency, but those taking the placebo -- essentially flavoured water -- had the best results. On four other measures, the three treatments had virtually identical outcomes.

Dr. Paul said this demonstrates that time and proper hydration are the best treatment for most respiratory infections and that the benefit that comes from cough syrups is likely psychological.

"The desire to ease symptoms is strong for both parents and clinicians. This study, however, questions whether over-the-counter medications have a place in the treatment of these illnesses for children."

The study confirms what many physicians already know. In fact, the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, a reference book used by physicians and written by an editorial board of medical experts, says there is little evidence that cough syrups provide any benefit.

George Murray, co-owner of the Tantramar Pharmacy in Sackville, N.B., said the new research is nonetheless useful because it will get consumers thinking a little before reaching for medication.

"In my opinion, anything that pushes people to dialogue with their pharmacist and make more informed choices is beneficial."

Mr. Murray said he generally tells people with respiratory infections that fluid and rest are the best treatments, but he recognizes that some seek the reassurance of taking an over-the-counter medication.

"If there's a placebo effect that works, why not?" he said.

While they may not provide much benefit, the cough syrups have virtually no side effects if taken at the recommended doses.

However, dextromethorphan, or DXM as it is known on the streets, has become a popular recreational drug. Taken in significant doses -- and up to 1,500 milligrams is not uncommon -- it is a psychedelic, one that has found favour with computer fantasy game players.

Dr. Paul said while this was not a focus of his research, the abuse of cough syrup by teenagers is another reason to not have the product around the house.

Most pediatricians recommend that if a cough syrup is used, that parents buy the smallest bottle and toss it out when the respiratory-tract infection has passed.

Adult formulations of cough syrup are similar, but contain higher doses of the active ingredients.

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Why Health Professionals Become Quacks
Posted by: Cosmophilospher ()
Date: July 08, 2004 09:18PM

Here is an ironic coincidence and addendum to this.

Today i worked with a young man who has some very serious illnesses going on. He is in chronic pain, with arthritis, and a number of other ailments. It gets so bad, he walks with a cane a times, and at times has to sleep sitting up.
The guy is in horrible chronic pain.

Medical science doesn't seem to have much to offer him.

So he is searching out alternative therapies, and even going to Mexico, etc.
He is now into Homeopathy. He saw a practitioner, who has imbibed his "energy" into some solutions, which he is taking. He says it is making him worse right now, but he hopes it will make him feel better.

In that moment, i did not dare talk about Placebos, or the like.
Here is a real person, with real chronic pain.
If the guy believes in something, maybe he WILL get a placebo relief from some of his pain.

Its sad to see him going off to Mexico, to get ripped off by liars, and charlatans, who are selling him some useless crap for $350 US a month.
But this guy is DESPERATE.
His desperation is being exploited by hucksters for BIG MONEY.

But i did not have the heart to share my views with him.
If he gets a Placebo effect, he deserves it.

Perhaps if i get to know him, i can try to steer him away from these rip-off sociopaths.
But they are offering him what no one else is.

That is what they sell.
False Hope.

But sometimes, if a person totally believes in some quack sugar water, they can get a big placebo pain relief response. I hope he gets at least that.

Here is a real guy, in real pain, being ripped off by these criminal anti-medical sociopaths operating out of Mexico, beyond the reach of the law, and lying and exploiting human pain for huge profits.
It boggles my mind how sick and sociopathic a person would have to be to do this to real people, in real pain.
Human wolves preying on the desperate for fast cash.

I cannot even comprehend that level of depravity.


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Why Health Professionals Become Quacks
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 25, 2004 09:50PM

(Curious about why Dr. John Mack chose to endanger his
professional crediblity by becoming a UFO-logist, I ran a
google search and found this article. It appears that John
Mack was exposed to Erhard Seminars Training and a
variety of other mind bending New Age interventions.)

[b:f98f0cca55]Psychology Today [/b:f98f0cca55] March/April 1994 >\

The Harvard professor & the UFOs

by Neimark, Jill | Mar 01 '94

One of the best and the brightest, a Pulitzer Prize-winning
psychiatrist, has made himself into a high priest of what is politely
called the "abduction phenomenon." He insists it's a form of cosmic
correction of our Earth-polluting ways.

In a tiny, utilitarian office at Cambridge Hospital--a nondescript
cubicle on the the third floor, overlooking the parking lot--Harvard
psychiatrist John Mack is seeking God. And the way this 64-year-old
Pulitzer Prize winner is going about it is truly unprecedented: He has
become a kind of paterfamilias and healer to a whole underground of
Americans who claim they have been abducted by aliens in UFOs.

They flock to him from all around the country, these abductees, then
lie down on his office couch and are coaxed into a hypnotic trance.
Under hypnosis, sometimes weeping and shouting with agony and terror,
they recover buried memories of alien encounters. Many of them come to
believe that they have been kidnapped by extraterrestrials regularly
since they were children, that they are guinea pigs in an
intergalactic hybrid-breeding program, and that in a close encounter
of a truly original kind, they have had sperm and egg samples taken,
alien fetused implanted and removed, and probes inserted in their
vagina, anuses, and up their noses.

And here's the clincher: Most of them recall that after suffering the
indignities of lab animals in outer space, they are given a picture
show that aliens project onto the walls of their spacecraft--or
directly into their brains--images amd movies of ecological disaster
that terrify and ultimately transform them into spiritual seekers
hoping to save the polluted Earth.

"Some other intelligence is reaching out to us. It's the most exciting
work I've ever done," claims Mack. A few minutes later he admits, "I'm
shocked in a way to hear myself saying such things. But I've been as
careful as possible to exhaust conventional explanantion. None of them
begin to explain this phenomenon."

This alien invasion--subtle, shattering, mysterious--is really a form
of cosmic correction by beings more advanced than we, believes Mack,
whose about-to-be-published book, Abduction (Scribners), details the
kidnappings of 13 individuals by aliens and fits them into a new
cosmology. It's a vew of the universe that's both high-tech and
ancient, one that assumes intelligence can take many forms and melds
Eastern sprirituality and Western science. Above all, it's a cosmology
eerily well adapted to our country's obsession with abuse, confession,
and transcendence.

Mack has long been one of the brightest minds at Harvard, a man whose
prize-winning [i:f98f0cca55]A Prince of Our Disorder [/i:f98f0cca55](1977)--a psychological study
of T.E. Lawrence--was hailed as one of the most remarkable biographies
of its time. Mack was one of the men who forged Harvard's Cambridge
Hospital Department of Psychiatry into a premier teaching hospital, a
place where psychiatrists and residents now vie for positions, and for
four years he was its head. He's been a member of the Boston
Psychoanalytic Institute, certified as a child psychoanalyst, and
chairman of the Executive Committee for all five hospital-based
departments of psychiatry that make up the huge Department of
Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

He's also a high-profile idealist who has been at the forefront of
efforts by his peers for global peace and conservation. He is founding
director of the Center for Psychological Studies in the Nuclear Age
and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and International
Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. He is an outspoken
advocate of corporate and industrial policies that sustain the

The list of accomplishments doesn't stop there; Mack has
published over 150 articles and books on subjects ranging from
nightmares to teenagers who kill their mothers to Russian children's
feelings about nuclear weapons. And so his excursion into the realm of
ETs has elicited an outcry of contempt, sorrow, bewilderment, anxiety,
confusion, interest, and even admiration from his colleagues.

Is Mack legitimizing ufology, a pursuit that has until now found its
warmest reception on the pages of supermarket tabloids? Or has he, as
one longtime colleague laments, ruined his career?

More than the legitimacy of UFOs is at stake. The fact is that
Mack--at least to those who view him from the outside--is actually in
the white hot center of a controversy that has been raging around the
country. It's a battle about the essential nature of the human mind,
really; a war over the nature of memory, and access routes to it,
particularly hypnosis. Can hypnosis recover repressed memories of
sexual abuse, satanic ritual abuse, past life abuse, and abuse at the
hands of aliens? In a tabloid culture, recovered memories have led to
accusations and court cases so damaging and sordid they've been
compared to the witch-hunts of another age.

John Mack's UFO work rests in great part on the validity of hypnosis
as a tool to recover memory. The cultural uproar over this modus
operandi may not resolve itself for years to come.

Strangely enough, he shrugs off the controversy. "I have such long
relationships here at Harvard, they just tolerate me. Of course, I
don't know what they say behind my back. But the abduction
phenomenon," insists Mack, "gets at the core of who we are. It's
traumatic for me as well as others, but it expands us into a different

I'D BEEN CHASING JOHN MACK FOR months before he agreed to an
interview. One of his assistants, Karen Wesolowski, at a branch of The
Center for Psychology and Social Change, his own private umbrella
organization for UFO research, had been stonewalling me, supposedly
because he was under crushing pressure to finish his book, for which
Scribners had reportedly paid him a handsome $200,000. But it was easy
to detect another reason: fear of a hatchet job in the press. Mack
himself has confessed, "The experience of taking on a subject which
has been fare for the tabloids and the seamier side of the mass media
has been a story in itself."

The first time I spoke with Karen on the phone, I heard the clacking
of computer keys: she was taking down every word I said. She asked
more preliminary "who are you and what do you want" questions than I'd
encountered in a decade of reporting. She called Psychology Today and
asked to see samples of my work. She instructed me not to speak to Dr.
Mack's department head, Malka Notman, M.D., until he had had a meeting
with her first.

She told me that in part she and Dr. Mack were simply
protecting the abductees. Karen likened individuals who did not
believe these victims' stories to people who tell holocaust survivors
that Nazi atrocities never happened.

([i:f98f0cca55]This is gaslighting. It makes it seem that anyone who has misgivings about Dr. Mack's UFO hobby is in the same catagory as Holocaust denialists. Thats a shame-tripping move that would intimidate all but the most intrepid journalists--Corboy.)[/i:f98f0cca55]

When I finally faced Mack a deux, I found a tall, lanky man with eyes
like cobalt glass. He was wearing a slightly wrinkled button-down
shirt of the same startling blue, khaki pants, and loafers. He had a
boyish, baffled sincerity about him, an almost bedazzled helplessness
that would both endear him to me and irritate me throughout the

It was lunchtime and we shared Mack's typical fare: peanut butter from
a gallon-size plastic container stored in his secretary's adjacent
office, bagels, and Mars bars. As we ate, he told me how he'd arrived
at his fixation on UFOs as agents of cosmic correction of our
Earth-destroying ways. Although the press, when credulous, recounts
his story as if he simply woke up one day and was confronted with
irrefutable evidence that aliens are kidnapping and experimenting on
humans, the truth is far more complex and intriguing.

First, Mack has never been your garden-variety shrink. He openly
admits that he has always felt a bit like Georg Simmel's "The
Stranger," the marginal man who participates in the culture but is not
part of it. He was raised in a rationalist, German-Jewish, New York
household, where his father read him the Bible not because he believed
in God but because the stories were fascinating.

From Oberlin he went to Harvard Medical School and set out to become a
psychoanalyst. He continued his internship and residency training at
Harvard institutions, and was accepted at the Boston Psychoanalytic
Institute, then at the pinnacle of its reputation, where he underwent
both personal and a training psychoanalysis. He went on to specialize
in child psychoanalysis. He also trained at the Harvard-affiliated
Massachusetts Mental Health Center when it was leading psychiatry to
alternatives to institutionalization for the mentally ill, and was
chief resident there. Mack was on a brilliant trajectory in Harvard's
prestigious embrace.

Coming to Cambridge Hospital was his first major departure from the
beaten track: At the time "it was a derelict community hospital. It
was not the place to fast-track." He was its head of psychiatry until
1977 and was instrumental in crafting a community mental health
program that today is the centerpiece of a citywide network of clinics
and hospitals.

His biography of T. E. Lawrence was another departure: though
psychobiography is an honored tradition among analysts, Lawrence was
an unusual choice. Mack was fascinated by this man who himself was a
stranger, a troubled hero caught in the fate of a culture not his own.

Later he began to work on issues of nuclear disarmament, global peace,
and conservation. He has traveled the world attending conferences on
ecology and the Earth, mingling with everyone from scientists to
philosophers, philanthropists, and economists.

(John Mack's Exposure to EST and Holotropic Breathwork)

He also began to explore alternative approaches to consciousness. In
the 1970s, Mack was taken with Werner Erhard's est and assorted
mind-altering techniques. The final break with tradition came when
Mack met Stanislav Grof, a Russian who had developed "holotropic
breathwork," a technique of rapid breathing that allegedly accesses
nonordinary states of consciousness.

[i:f98f0cca55](Note: hyperventilation produces changes in blood
chemistry that affect mental states and enhance
suggestibility. For more information about this go to[/i:f98f0cca55]

The first time he tried it, Mack not only "reexperienced" his mother's death when he was eight months old, he also felt "my father's grief at the time. There was a businessman in the room who was screaming his head off because he was reliving the time when his mother tried to choke him as an infant. I got more out of one session than I had in all my years of analysis."

(Note: The presence of another anxious person
in the room could have greatly affected Mack's experience
and enhanced it--Corboy)

Later in the session, "I became a Russian father in the 16th century,
a man whose four-year-old son was decapitated by Mongol hordes."


Mack begs the question of past lives here. He says that at the time he
was in Russia as part of an exchange project, sponsored by Esalen, to
talk about the impact of the nuclear arms race on children. His
consciousness, he told me, "traveled in time to identify this Russian
man. After that experience I felt great empathy for the Russians I was
working with."

He took a three-year training program in Grof's breathing technique,
which concluded in 1988.* A year later, a psychologist who also
practiced the technique urged him to meet Budd Hopkins, a New York
artist who had published a best-selling book, Intruders, about UFO

*('Because of their reliance on idiosyncratic belief
systems, the New Age therapies stand in contrast
to most traditional psychotherapies, in which therapists
have avoided inculcating new and untested theories
of behavior into the belief systems of their patients...
The New Age therapies teach individuals to overcome
their problems by adopting and developing a belief
in new cosmologies and belief systems. In so doing,
therapists tend to create intense dependency in their
clients' 183 'New Age Therapies' from
[i:f98f0cca55]Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology[/i:f98f0cca55],
edited by Lilienfeld, Lynn and Lohr, Guilford, 2003)

Mack claims that "nothing in my 40 years as a psychiatrist prepared me
for what he had to say. I was impressed with his sincerity, depth of
knowledge, and deep concern for the abductees. But what affected me
even more was the internal consistency of the highly detailed accounts
[of abduction] by different individuals who would have had no way to
communicate with one another."

He cites the specific, consistent information abductees give about the
inside of spaceships, procedures, medical instruments, and more, as
absolute evidence of the veracity of their reports. He notes the
interesting but inconclusive physical "evidence" of abduction--strange
"scoop" marks, nodules, and cuts (in one case, on a quadriplegic man
who would have been unable to self-inflict them); and the fairly
common experience of waking upside down in the bed or sometimes
outside the house, with clothes removed or lost.

Today he calls himself a "co-investigator and co-creator" in the
abduction phenomenon. Mack has scaled down his private psychiatric
practice and his teaching to focus on exploring this field. He has now
hypnotized and "regressed" nearly 80 abductees and, in his home, where
he encourages them to talk about their experience, holds monthly
support group meetings.

([i:f98f0cca55]By today's standards, it would be considered
borderline risky for a psychotherapist to see patients
and conduct group therapy sessions at his or her home--
especially if the therapist has sufficient funds to rent or
share rent on office space. Seeing one's patients at
the therapist's home was common in the early days
of psychoanalysis, but mental health professionals now
have greater understanding of boundaries, and found
it was safer to conduct psychotherapy in a neutral setting
(an office) rather than at the therapist's home.
If a therapist conducts therapy sessions at home, he or she
has a special obligation to be alert about boundary issues,
because if anything goes wrong, a therapist who counsels
patients at home would be especially vulnerable in the event
of a lawsuit--especially if the person could have afforded to
rent office space--Corboy[/i:f98f0cca55])

Mack's abductees undergo a remarkably uniform
transformative shift in consciousness and become committed to
preserving the Earth; they report dreams of floods and other
destruction that will otherwise occur. "I have no way to explain this
except as some sort of robust emergence of an intelligence reaching
out to us in some way. The hybrid[-breeding] program may have
something to do with the state of the Earth at this time."

Mack's history, he admits, has prepared him for exactly this work. One
almost wonders if he could have ever resisted it, for it so perfectly
occupies his clinical, mystical mind. [i:f98f0cca55]Abductions allow him to be far
more than a psychiatrist. [/i:f98f0cca55]He is now an explorer of consciousness, at
play in the fields of the universe itself, a participant in an
ecological and global transformation that he sees as part of a cosmic

But what's really going on? I decided to retrace Mack's steps.

Take a visit with me to the New York City home of Budd Hopkins, the
man John Mack dedicates his book to, the one who "led the way."
Hopkins is an abstract expressionist who has brushed elbows with many
of the great painters of our day, and has the look of a slightly
disheveled but friendly Phil Donahue. He's an ingenuous guy, happily
showing off his studio and his upstairs home, where original art by
Degas, Franz Kline, and Frank Stella grace the walls. Hopkins' time
these days is spent conducting free hypnotic regressions and support
groups for abductees, traveling constantly to lecture on the subject,
and preparing a third book for publication.

Hopkins sat with me in his studio, which was filled with a series of
brightly painted, wooden wall hangings he calls " the guardians," and
rattled on enthusiastically about UFOs. He brought out a notebook of
pictures of people with indeterminate "marks" from space-alien
probings, which seemed unremarkable to me, garden-variety abrasions
and minor bruises. He then showed me drawings, made by victims, of
what they had seen on the inner walls of spaceships. He requested that
I not describe them in print; yet they are generic and primitive
enough to also seem unremarkable.


It was when he began to talk about other "proofs" that he began to
lose me--and I wondered how he had been able to retain Mack's
interest. For example, the problem with clothes. Hopkins mentioned one
abductee who woke up wearing lavender underwear, and she owns no
lavender underwear because she hates the color. Others wake up with
pajama bottoms several sizes too small--clearly not their own; or with
bottoms and tops reversed.

Picture this: We've got aliens who are smart enough to travel
light-years across the universe, whisk us up into spaceships that move
at unthinkable speeds, communicate telepathically and transform our
consciousness, and yet they're so disorganized that when they're ready
to drop us down again they dress us in the wrong clothes. (Mack
himself has made equally amazing statements; he told me, "They can't
do anything they want. Apparently they can take you through a window
or a door but not walls of a certain thickness. But I'm not one to
talk about that kind of technical stuff.")

Hopkins' reliability began to crumble like old cake when he told me
about the case of the decade, if not the century, which is the subject
of his next book. A woman, Linda N., was abducted from her high rise
in November of 1989 in lower Manhattan; Hopkins claims the abduction
was witnessed by a woman driving over the Brooklyn Bridge a quarter of
a mile away, and by two security officers driving former U.N.
Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar (who refuses to admit this;
nor are there records of his car stalling that night, as Hopkins

Hopkins told me about this case at length. However, he managed to
leave out a remarkable series of details, all of which are revealed in
a 25-page study of the "incident" published by three independent UFO
researchers, including a former special agent for the U.S. Army and a
former security police specialist for the U.S. Air Force. According to
the information they gathered from papers Hopkins wrote and talks with
him personally, Linda said that the two security officers who
supposedly witnessed her abduction later kidnapped her, asked her to
remove her shoes to find out if she was an alien (they claimed aliens
lack toes); and that one of the officers drove her to a beach house,
asked her to put on a nightgown, and requested she have sex with him.
She says he also tried to drown her and that at one point he wrote her
saying he was in a mental hospital. Yet Linda never made an official
complaint or contacted the police.

The investigators note that these
bizarre details of Linda's story--none of which Hopkins told me--turn
out to be uncannily similar to a science fiction novel, [i:f98f0cca55]Nighteyes[/i:f98f0cca55],
published a few months before Linda claimed to be abducted.

If Mack accepts Hopkins wholeheartedly as the pioneer in whose path he
has followed, what are we to conclude? This question haunted me simply
because the distinction between Mack and Hopkins is enormous. Hopkins
is an artist, but Mack is a high priest at a most sanctified temple of
science: Harvard Medical School. He also happens to be a man with a
halo of perfection about him, an honorable man given to just causes, a
man with a reputation for kindness. Mack more than anybody needs to be
rigorous in his research. Otherwise he may become a kind of Pied
Piper, seducing and perhaps terrifying us with visions of a world that
may not exist. Can Mack corroborate his own findings?

I asked him about the physical evidence: "Why aren't the ETs showing
up on the White House lawn?"

His answer sounded like better sleight of hand than Freud himself, who
invented the term "resistance" to fend off naysayers. "Is it real? Did
it happen? That looks like an irreducible question. But the answer is,
in what reality? Ours, or another reality? My hunch is that this is
some new kind of entity that exists in a marginal place between the
physical and the nonphysical. I would almost say this phenomenon, by
its very nature, is trying to get us off the pure reliance on physical

I asked him how he responds to the criticism that he is "leading" his
clients to the stories he wants to hear--a criticism not leveled
solely at Mack but at many of those who rely on hypnosis to provide
proof of any sort. Mack admits that not every UFO researcher gets the
same powerful information he does about ecology and Earth changes. In
fact, the field is rent by disagreement and argument about the meaning
of UFOs. Early researchers, who were interested in the flying saucers,
have trouble believing there are creatures inside who are performing
experiments on us. Many of those who do believe feel, like Hopkins,
that "the aliens' agenda is not focused on us particularly, we're
incidental." And other researchers find the aliens are more body
snatchers than angelic guides to a purer Earth.

Nonetheless, Mack insists, "I do not lead people. We look together at
a shared mystery, but they are not alone in the strange,
reality-shattering matter here." When I asked him what percentage of
abductees come up with a new "Earth consciousness," he said
percentages were not valid. "If I said half did, the other half may
still come up with it. We just may not have gotten that far with them

I asked about his contention that these people lack pathology. He has
given only four of nearly 80 clients any kind of psychological
testing. No independent clinician has verified his statements of his
patients' mental health.

However, in a recent study of 49 people reporting encounters with
UFOs, four Canadian psychologists found them free of psychopathology.
What did set them apart from others, the researchers, led by Nicholas
P. Spanos, Ph.D., state in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, was "a
belief in UFOs and in the existence of alien life forms." Most of
their experiences took place at night, and the team attributes them to
temporary sleep paralysis, a condition associated with vivid
hallucinations. Under these conditions, believers tend to confuse
"internally produced images and sensations" with external reality.


Mack insists that his patients are able to provide detailed accounts
of abduction because of his use of Grof breathwork. "I tell the person
about the breath, that it gives them power and connects them to the
life-giving forces of the cosmos." He believes that traumatic
experiences are held in the body's tissues and that, using the Grof
method, pressure in the "blocked area of the musculature will bring
the stored emotions forth and discharge the tensions that have been
out of reach until this time, stuck in the body. As strong emotions
are coming to the surface, I can feel, for example in the client's
neck or back, in a place where he feels the alien instrumentation once
occurred, a powerful tightness or spasm in the muscle."

The most unwieldy question is that of hypnosis. All roads to UFOs
always seem to lead back to hypnosis. It is when patients are under
hypnosis that Mack witnesses extremes of emotion. Patients thrash,
cry, shout. Stories pour out of them. The drama is so great it's hard
not to be convinced.

Mack, who "taught myself to do hypnosis in this work," here stands on
shaky ground. Though scores of therapists around the country are
happily in his camp--fully believing in repressed memories, and
regressing patients who then come up with never-before-remembered
stories ranging from ritual torturing of babies to copulation with
aliens-- a furious backlash has begun.

Many professionals are concerned that such work is a misuse of the power of the therapist. They are also alarmed that innocent individuals are being accused of unthinkable crimes, by patients who themselves have been utterly terrified by hypnotic "memories" they believe are real. Mack's use of hypnosis enrages some psychologists, because it opens a very dark Pandora's box.

Perhaps the most outspoken is Berkeley social psychologist Richard
Ofshe, who shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his work in exposing
the Synanon cult in California. Ofshe, with his olive-dark eyes and
majestic white beard, looks a bit like a feudal king you wouldn't want
to mess with. He's become a crusader against what he calls extreme
forms of influence--from coerced police confessions to
therapist-induced false memories retrieved in trance. He sees a direct
and dangerous bridge between them, and doesn't exempt John Mack for a

"If there's a certain brilliance in backing the trendiest wrong horses
available, then John Mack has it," he comments. "He has made a
stellar, absolutely impressive, world-class series of mistakes. First
he was in bed with Sigmund Freud, and we are already beginning to see
the obituary of Freud. Then he was in bed with Werner Erhard, another
big-time loser. Now he's in bed with E.T.'s evil brother."

Ofshe points out that nobody has proved the concept of "robust"
repression of memory, which is far different from traumatic amnesia
(forgetting a single, horrendous event) or normal memory's denial and
whitewashing. Robust repression requires that one repeatedly forget a
recurring event--whether it's that your father kept raping you or
aliens abducted you from the time you were three. "That's like
forgetting you went to high school."

"John Mack's use of hypnosis runs counter to all we know about it,"
agrees Fred Frankel, M.D., psychiatrist-in-chief at Boston's Beth
Israel Hospital, a professor at Harvard Medical School, and editor of
the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.
Frankel tells a story that seems to put Mack in questionable light: a
woman was referred to Frankel for disturbing dreams. "I explained to
her that hypnosis does not necessarily provide accurate recall. I told
her that in hypnosis fantasy and suggestion play a major role. Her
response to hypnotic induction was minimal." Not much happened.

But the woman then found her way to Mack, and "he got a major
response." She recalled abduction experiences in great detail. Mack
describes her reaction in his book: "Her fear seemed to reach a
crescendo as her body writhed in awful contortions. "They take control
and you don't have the energy to fight....'"

Mack called Frankel and they talked for two hours about their
different results. This past September, they presented the case at a
Grand Rounds, a standard teaching event for residents and other
doctors, whose comments are always openly invited. The subject was a
fairly big draw as these things go. Seventy people came. "It was done
in a cooperative spirit'" says Frankel. A third doctor presided and
monitored the discussion of explanations for why hypnosis could yield
two such opposite responses.

"But [Mack] incorporated none of what was said there into his book,"
reports Frankel. "In fact, Mack has devoted an entire chapter to this
woman's case and entitled it, 'Personally, I Don't Believe in UFOs.'"
The woman claims that Frankel himself said this, which he indignantly
denies. "Look, I don't know enough to ever make that statement. I have
enough problems with this planet!"

Although Mack acknowledges Frankel's denial in the book, he makes his
bias stunningly clear by using the disputed statement as the chapter

[i:f98f0cca55]Frankel's main point is that Mack continually claims to be
neutral but is in fact totally supportive of abductees and thus must
be skewing his results. [/i:f98f0cca55]

For instance, Frankel observes, before beginning hypnosis, Mack often gives people a pilot interview [i:f98f0cca55]during which he indicates that he believes in abduction.[/i:f98f0cca55] (And Mack is revealing his beliefs to patients while in the context of a power imbalance in which Mack has all the prestige. He's Harvard-affiliated psychiatrist. So when someone like that says he believes in UFO's, most patients will feel impressed--Corboy)

If Mack has so clearly cast his lot, that is a stance far removed from balanced scientific research. The issue is not whether Mack is right or wrong, but that he has abdicated scientific objectivity; his methods preclude us from ever getting an answer.

Hypnosis expert Michael Yapko--whose textbook, [i:f98f0cca55]Trancework [/i:f98f0cca55](Brunner Mazel), is the leading book in the field--has equally strong words of caution. Yapko recently surveyed nearly 900 psychotherapists and found that "they are grossly misinformed about the nature of hypnosis." The great strength of hypnosis, says Yapko, is that under trance "you can
accept and respond to a suggested reality. [i:f98f0cca55]Therapists like Mack may be
oblivious to the fact that they're creating the experiences they then
have to treat. These phenomena are not arising independent of his

Even therapists who are intrigued by and half-convinced of the reality
of UFOs concede this fact. "Expectations of the observer have a
tremendous amount to do with what's produced," explains Jim Gordon, a
clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School who
published an article on UFOs in The Atlantic. "Patients in Jungian
analysis have Jungian dreams, and in Freudian analysis they have
Freudian dreams. That's why therapists with different approaches to
UFOs produce different reactions in their patients."

Mack responds to all these protests with the helpless shrug of a man
who is simply convinced of what he is seeing. "I know this sounds like
hedging, but we don't know in what reality this occurs. False and true
memory don't apply. This is powerfully real, but in what reality?" I
asked him where he felt he belonged in the raging controversy over
memory and abuse. Does he think memories of satanic abuse might be
happening in an alternate reality? He postulated that indeed they
might: "Perhaps those memories are experientially true but they didn't
factually happen in this reality." What does this mean? In the fourth
dimension--or perhaps the sixth dimension?

Mack is the most frustrating type of true believer: congenial,
intelligent, and absolutely impenetrable. "People say you must be
influencing them, there must be childhood trauma, memory is not
reliable. I could say all those things but it's not like that. It's

But what does he mean by authentic? I interviewed one of Mack's prime
abductees, Peter Faust, a Boston acupuncturist and spiritual healer, a
man Mack says the aliens simply won't let rest. Faust is as handsome
as a soap-opera star, with dark hair and dimples. He and his wife were
in the Caribbean when he had a strange dream, in which he remembers
saying, "You little f**ers get out of here!" The next morning he had
some odd bites behind his ears. It was years and several dreams later
that he "realized" what might have happened to him and went to Mack
for hypnotic regression.

Peter told me with absolute sincerity how he recalled under trance
that during his abductions, sperm had been suctioned from him with a
funnel device and that he was being bred with a particular alien
female. I turned to his wife at that point and asked her how she felt
about it.

"Well," she admitted, "it's hard. Sometimes I wonder if I should pack
up and leave. It's like the affair that never ends. And I can't do
anything about it."

I turned to Peter. His eyes were burning with a believer's intensity.
"They're coming in our lifetime, I guarantee it."


The jury on UFOs may forever remain out--floating somewhere in the
cosmos among spaceships and alien breeders. Yet perhaps the most
interesting aspect of John Mack and his work is not whether it is
valid, but the intense furor surrounding it. Carl Sagan, the foremost
astronomer of our time, wrote an impassioned cover story for [i:f98f0cca55]Parade[/i:f98f0cca55]
magazine about our national obsession with aliens. (Mack wrote him a
nine-page letter in rebuttal, but it went unpublished.) Sagan contends
that there is no hard evidence of ETs on this planet, and that
so-called abductions are most likely hallucinations. Nonetheless "we
have before us a matter of supreme importance--touching on our
limitations...the fashioning of our beliefs and perhaps even the
origins of our religions."

So, when Mack says this phenomenon gets at the very core of "who we
are" and "makes us question all realities," he is right. We will
always wonder about our place in the universe, and the form that
wonder takes will always reflect the age. Ours is an age of rockets
and radio waves, an era mesmerized by the pleasures of purging and
confession, caught by the belief in widespread abuse, and both
troubled and inspired by questions of consciousness itself. If anyone
is an emblem of our age, John Mack is. The real disappointment is that
he brings us no closer to the truth--even though he could.



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