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John E. Mack, M.D.
John Edward Mack, M.D. (October 4, 1929 – September 27, 2004) was an American psychiatrist, writer, and professor at Harvard Medical School. He was a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, and a leading authority on the spiritual or transformational effects of alleged alien abduction experiences.

Early career

Born in New York City, Mack received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School (Cum Laude, 1955) after undergraduate study at Oberlin (Phi Beta Kappa, 1951). He was a graduate of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and was certified in child and adult psychoanalysis.

The dominant theme of his life's work has been the exploration of how one's perceptions of the world affect one's relationships. He addressed this issue of "world view" on the individual level in his early clinical explorations of dreams, nightmares and teen suicide, and in A Prince of Our Disorder, his biographical study of the life of British officer T. E. Lawrence, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1977.

Alien abduction phenomenon

This theme was taken to a controversial extreme in the early 1990s when Mack commenced his decade-plus study of 200 men and women who reported recurrent alien encounter experiences. Such encounters had been reported since at least the 1950s (the account of Antonio Villas Boas), and had seen some limited attention from academic figures (Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle perhaps being the earliest, in the 1960s). Mack, however, remains probably the most esteemed academic to have studied the subject.

He initially suspected that such persons were suffering from mental illness, but when no obvious pathologies were present in the persons he interviewed, his interest was piqued. Following encouragement from long-time friend Thomas Kuhn, who predicted that the subject might be controversial, but urged Mack to collect data and ignore prevailing materialist, dualist and "either/or" analysis, Mack began concerted study and interviews. Many of those he interviewed reported that their encounters had affected the way they regarded the world, including producing a heightened sense of spirituality and environmental concern.

Mack was somewhat more guarded in his investigations and interpretations of the abduction phenomenon than were earlier researchers. Literature professor Terry Matheson writes that "On balance, Mack does present as fair-minded an account as has been encountered to date, at least as these abduction narratives go." In a 1994 interview, Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove stated that Mack seemed "inclined to take these [abduction] reports at face value." Mack replied by saying "Face value I wouldn't say. I take them seriously. I don't have a way to account for them." Similarly, the BBC quoted Mack as saying, "I would never say, yes, there are aliens taking people. [But] I would say there is a compelling powerful phenomenon here that I can't account for in any other way, that's mysterious. Yet I can't know what it is but it seems to me that it invites a deeper, further inquiry."

Mack noted that there was a worldwide history of visionary experiences, especially in pre-industrial societies. One example is the vision quest common to some Native American cultures. Only fairly recently in Western culture, notes Mack, have such visionary events been interpreted as aberrations or as mental illness. Mack suggested that abduction accounts might best be considered as part of this larger tradition of visionary encounters.

His interest in the spiritual or transformational aspects of people's alien encounters, and his suggestion that the experience of alien contact itself may be more transcendent than physical in nature—yet nonetheless real—set him apart from many of his contemporaries, such as Budd Hopkins, who advocated the physical reality of aliens.

His later research broadened into the general consideration of the merits of an expanded notion of reality, one which allows for experiences that may not fit the Western materialist paradigm, yet deeply affect people's lives. His second (and final) book on the alien encounter experience, Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters (1999), was as much a philosophical treatise connecting the themes of spirituality and modern worldviews as it was the culmination of his work with the "experiencers" of alien encounters, to whom the book is dedicated.

Investigation

In May 1994, the Dean of Harvard Medical School, Daniel C. Tosteson, appointed a committee of peers to confidentially review Mack's clinical care and clinical investigation of the people who had shared their alien encounters with him (some of their cases were written of in Mack's 1994 book Abduction). In the same BBC article cited above, Angela Hind wrote, "It was the first time in Harvard's history that a tenured professor was subjected to such an investigation." Mack described the investigation as "Kafkaesque": he never quite knew the status of the ongoing investigation, and the nature of his critics' complaints were not revealed to Mack until the committee had prepared a draft report eight months into the process. Because the committee was not a disciplinary committee, it was not governed by any established rules of procedure; the presentation of a defense was therefore difficult and costly for Mack.

Upon the public revelation of the existence of the committee (inadvertently revealed during the solicitation of witnesses for Mack's defense, ten months into the process), questions arose from the academic community (including Harvard Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz) regarding the validity of an investigation of a tenured professor who was not suspected of ethics violations or professional misconduct. Concluding the fourteen-month investigation, Harvard then issued a statement stating that the Dean had "reaffirmed Dr. Mack's academic freedom to study what he wishes and to state his opinions without impediment", concluding "Dr. Mack remains a member in good standing of the Harvard Faculty of Medicine." (Mack was censured in the committee's report for what they believed were methodological errors, but Dean Tosteson took no action based on the committee's assessment.) He had received legal help from Roderick MacLeish and Daniel P. Sheehan, (of the Pentagon Papers case) and the support of Laurance Rockefeller, who also funded Mack's non-profit organization for four consecutive years at $250,000 per year.

Works

He wrote the following books:

Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters (1999)
Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens (1994)
A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence (1976)
Nightmares and Human Conflict (1970)

 

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Edward_Mack
 
 
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