From: Center for Psychology & Social Change
Date: Wednesday, June 25, 2003
I cannot comment directly on what was said in the Psychology Today article
(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nhnenews/message/5456), for, like many people
in this and related fields, the distortions of positions and outright
misquoting is so rampant in most mainstream articles on these subjects that
it is impossible to "set the record straight." It may be unwise to give
interviews at all, but there is always the hope that something useful may
get across -- the reporters always assure you of their openness (they may be
sometimes; editors and executives is another matter). There is also the
damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don't problem: if you give an interview
you're likely to get distorted or boxed by a twisting context; if you don't
they sometimes get downright nasty.
With regard to my position on UFOs and abductions, and the criticism that I
am wishy-washy and come across as confused, there is only so much that can
Do I believe UFOs are real? Yes.
Do I believe they are physically real? Yes, sometimes.
Are abductions real? Yes.
Are they physically real? Yes. But these statements must be qualified by
Are they _only_ physical? No.
What does that mean?
Here is the way I would like to approach that question. At the time of my
fourteen-month "trial" by a Harvard committee, I received an outpouring of
support from the UFO community, and from some mainstream scientists and
philosophers, for which I will be eternally grateful. Some of these
individuals, especially Bruce Maccabbee and Stan Friedman, addressed
specifically and in convincing detail the matter of physical evidence, for
the committee reflected on many occasions how poorly informed it was on this
subject. In fact, I received an avalanche of solid material documenting the
physical reality of UFOs which was incorporated in the brief that my
attorneys and I prepared in response to the committee's report. Needless to
say, this did not convince its members, but, I believe, made them more
cautious and contributed greatly to the favorable outcome. I was and am
prepared to stand by what was said in our response to the committee's poorly
informed assertions. With regard to Stan's comment that I accepted that "one
can't get there from here," this is simply not true. Obviously I don't know
enough about engineering to comment on this at all. But the beings may not
rely on our conventional technologies. That they get here, by whatever means
they use is, to me incontrovertible.
In the years that I have been investigating the alien encounter phenomenon
have been impressed with many of the ambiguities and paradoxes it contains.
Sometimes the contact seems physically real, but not always. Sometimes there
is physical evidence, but not always, and it is often rather elusive. This
has forced me - I'm not alone in this - to become more sophisticated about
how we understand or think about reality.
For many scholars, including psychiatrists, philosophers and theologians,
reality does not fall neatly into two categories, viz. physical or mental,
external or internal. There are other dimensions of reality and phenomena
can be both. Several write of a third domain, "one that draws upon the
psychological and physical, but that is reducible to neither" (Tulane
Professor of Philosophy, Michael Zimmerman).
With regard to UFOs the renowned transpersonal psychiatrist, Stanislav Grof,
wrote to the Harvard Committee:
"Conventional approaches to this area are characterized by thinking in
of a simplistic dichotomy: real material events involving extraterrestrial
spacecraft and alien visitors from another part of the physical universe
versus hallucinations of a psychotic person." Grof then suggests that the
discoveries of contemporary physics have "dramatically changed the
understanding of the physical universe and the relationship between
consciousness and matter, yet an outdated model of reality continues to
dominate the thinking in other disciplines, including psychiatry and
The research that has been done to establish the physical reality of UFOs
and abductions is of great importance, however, in my opinion, it is not
sufficient for understanding these phenomena. They require -- in addition to
direct perception - more intuitive, holistic or "heart" knowing. For
clinicians this has always been essential for learning of the experiences of
The idea, a nineteenth century holdover, that we can learn about what
matters to people -- surely alien encounters would fall into this
category simply by objectifying them is wrong. We must make a connection by
entering their worlds and learning together. This co-creative learning
process may tell us something of the physical events of a person's life. But
just how to credit reports of reported abduction experiences is a
complicated and important scientific question. We need to establish clearer
criteria for assessing the accuracy, precision, reliability and ontological
status of such reports. But even without such certainty these accounts tell
us a lot more that is important -- for example, about the meaning of the
events, the state(s) of consciousness in which the experiences occurred, and
the necessity of trying to grasp the significance of the expanded view of
reality that these experiences reveal. These are huge questions that deserve
a lot more attention.
With warm regards,
John E. Mack, M.D.
June 24, 2003