Searching for extraterrestrial life will not change a scientist’s reputation, but if he/she believes that aliens exist, that might be problematic. Legendary astrophysicist Carl Sagan never denied the existence of life beyond Earth, however, John E. Mack, a Harvard professor had to face the wrath of the scientific community for his thoughts on aliens. Interestingly, Dr. Mack was a highly regarded intellectual.
John Edward Mack was born in 1929. He pursued his medical degree at Harvard where he would later practice and teach as a psychiatrist. He established the psychiatry department at the university’s Cambridge Hospital and oversaw the division for almost ten years. Mack investigated dreams and the psychological effects of the Cold War early in his career. In addition, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his famous biography of T.E. Lawrence, A Prince of Our Disorder.
Early in the 1990s, Dr. Mack revealed something shocking. He checked patients who said they had been abducted by extraterrestrials and believed them. He wrote a book titled “Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens” in 1994 that had a case study of 13 people. In 1999, “Passport to the Cosmos,” the sequel, was released. He claimed that Abduction was a logical development from his earlier work, which included studies of T E Lawrence, suicide, and the threat of nuclear warfare: “the connection resides in the matter of identity—who we are in the deepest and broadest sense.”
Despite the skepticism of his contemporaries, Dr. Mack persisted in his quest to integrate UFOs and aliens into the realm of modern science. But to be fair, he himself was initially dubious (like any good scientist would be). He acknowledged having grown up in a materialist home, but once he started interviewing “experiencers,” he discovered that his formative philosophy had been completely turned around.
“When I heard about this phenomenon in 1990, I was very doubtful. I thought it must be some kind of mental illness,” he told The Washington Post during an interview conducted in the mid-’90s. “I came gradually to the conclusion that I could not find any psychiatric explanation or other explanation except that some kind of trauma happened to them.”
What happened to Dr. Mack that made him believe and promote such outlandish claims? “These people suffered from no obvious psychiatric disorder, except the effects of traumatic experience, and were reporting with powerful emotion what to them were utterly real experiences,” he wrote in Abduction (via Vanity Fair).
“Furthermore, these experiences were sometimes associated with UFO sightings by friends, family members, or others in the community, including media reporters and journalists, and frequently left physical traces on the individuals’ bodies, such as cuts and small ulcers that would tend to heal rapidly and followed no apparent psychodynamically identifiable pattern as do, for example, religious stigmata. In short, I was dealing with a phenomenon that I felt could not be explained psychiatrically, yet was simply not possible within the framework of the Western scientific worldview.”
On January 10, 1990, Dr. Mack met Budd Hopkins, which became a life-changing event for him. Hopkins claimed to have seen a UFO on Cape Cod in 1964, and he then investigated into a neighbor’s story of seeing a spaceship with nine or ten tiny aliens land in a park close to Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Hopkins covered this story in a piece for “The Village Voice” that Cosmopolitan later published. His 1981 book “Missing Time” and its 1987 sequel “Intruders: The Incredible Visitations at Copley Woods” cemented his reputation as the father of the alien-abduction movement. He was immediately swarmed by abductees, whom he investigated under hypnosis.
Hopkins was then starting his investigation into the alleged abduction of the woman he dubbed Linda Cortile under the Brooklyn Bridge by UFOs, which would later become the subject of his third book, Witnessed, published in 1996. He gave Dr. Mack a box of letters from people reacting to aliens. “I think most of these people are perfectly sane, with real experiences,” Hopkins recalled telling Mack. But, he added, Mack could decide for himself. He was the doctor.
Mack was working with experiencers two years after first meeting Hopkins when he told his shocked fellow psychiatrists at Cambridge Hospital about extraterrestrial abduction. In 1992, he and David E. Pritchard, a trailblazing researcher in the field of atom optics at M.I.T., persuaded that university to host a ground-breaking conference on extraterrestrial abductions. “If what these abductees are saying is happening to them isn’t happening,” Mack demanded, “what is?”
Once NOVA, a popular primetime science series on American television interviewed Dr. Mack asking him if people are really being snatched from their beds by aliens and experiments onboard a spaceship. (Source)
Dr. Mack replied: Just how literally to take this, is one of the most interesting and complex aspects of this. And I want to walk through that as clearly as I can. There are aspects of this which I believe we are justified in taking quite literally. That is, UFOs are in fact observed, filmed on camera at the same time that people are having their abduction experiences.
People, in fact, have been observed to be missing at the time that they are reporting their abduction experiences. They return from their experiences with cuts, ulcers on their bodies, triangular lesions, which follow the distribution of the experiences that they recover, of what was done to them in the craft by the surgical-like activity of these beings.
All of that has a literal physical aspect and is experienced and reported with appropriate feeling, by the abductees, with or without hypnosis or a relaxation exercise.
…There is a—I believe, a gradation of experiences and that go from the most literal physical kinds of hurts, wounds, person removed, spacecraft that can be photographed, to experiences which are more psychological, spiritual, involve the extension of consciousness. The difficulty for our society and for our mentality is, we have a kind of either/or mentality. It’s either, literally physical; or it’s in the spiritual other realm, the unseen realm. What we seem to have no place for—or we have lost the place for—are phenomena that can begin in the unseen realm, and cross over and manifest and show up in our literal physical world.
So the simple answer would be: Yes, it’s both. It’s both literally, physically happening to a degree; and it’s also some kind of psychological, spiritual experience occurring and originating perhaps in another dimension. And so the phenomenon stretches us, or it asks us to stretch to open to realities that are not simply the literal physical world, but to extend to the possibility that there are other unseen realities from which our consciousness, our, if you will, learning processes over the past several hundred years have closed us off.
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Who are these alien beings/entities?
Mack hypothesized that the entities might have just come from a parallel universe rather than from space. When he finally published “Abduction,” he claimed that his experiences had “amply corroborated” Hopkins and Jacobs’ research, “particularly that the abduction phenomena is in some central way implicated in a breeding program that leads to the development of alien/human hybrid progeny.” Almost all of his abductees returned with “a resolve to changing their relationship to the earth,” which led him to the further conclusion that the aliens were bearing warnings about threats to the planet.
In November 1994, Dr. Mack performed his analysis on Ariel School students who claimed to encountered alien beings, which lasted for 48 hours. And, based on the results of the interviews, he came to the conclusion that the students had really experienced the event and perceived it exactly as they described it.
“It looked like it was glinting in the trees. It looked like a disc. Like a round disc,” one child witness told the BBC a few days after the incident. “I saw something silver on the ground amongst the trees. And a person in black,” another child said.
The same year, Harvard started a review of Mack’s position, but he resisted and kept his tenure. But the harm to his professional reputation was significant. Arnold Relman, Emeritus Professor at Harvard Medical School, told the Los Angeles Times in 2001 that “he’s not taken seriously by his colleagues anymore.”
Dr. Mack also received harsh criticism from those outside the academic world. He was duped by a journalist Donna Bassett into thinking that she had been abducted by aliens too. She claimed that she had been on a UFO in outer space during the Cuban Missile Crisis and witnessed Kennedy and Kruschev conversing. Dr. Mack accepted her fanciful story. She admitted to being a fraud in public, but the professor’s views on aliens visiting earth did not change. It damaged the respected university’s reputation in terms of public relations. (Source)
As a result, Dr. Mack was the subject of an internal Harvard probe. The executive branch wanted his dismissal. Professor of law Alan Dershowitz was among the academics who questioned the validity of the probe because Dr. Mack had not broken any of the Harvard school’s behavior policies.
The investigation was finished more than a year later, and the doctor kept his tenured position. But his formerly impeccable reputation was tarnished. His coworkers ceased to regard him seriously. Up until his tragic death, hit by a drunk driver while crossing the street in London in 2004, Professor Mack, a UFO and extraterrestrial abduction believer oversaw the department of psychiatry at Harvard University.