(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,
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
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
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
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 IN TIME
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
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'..page 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.
MEMORY IN THE MUSCULATURE
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
"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."
WAITING FOR A VERDICT
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.