By Jordan Rich
An interview in support of Dr. Mack’s second book about alien encounters, Passport to the Cosmos (1999), on Boston’s WBZ Newsradio 1030, January 16, 2000.
JORDAN RICH: Good evening New England, good evening America. Its 10:07. This is WBZ and Jordan Rich at your service until midnight. And it’s our opportunity to get together and chat about the important issues and learn a little bit about these issues as well.
A fascinating couple of guests, I know you will enjoy them. I’m honored to have with us a gentleman who is known, pretty much around the country now, for his earlier work and now his current work that I have before me.
Let me tell you a little bit about our guest and then we’ll chat with him. He is professor John Mack. Founding director of the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research (PEER). A professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and the co-founder of the Center for Psychology and Social Change.
He’s written about a dozen books including a Pulitzer prize-winning biography of T.E. Lawrence or “Lawrence of Arabia” as he’s known. And a few years back, in 1995 or so, he wrote a book that absolutely swept the country, became an instant best-seller. And of course that was called Abduction. And a lot of people are still talking about that book.
Now, there’s more food for thought because he’s written a follow-up to that and expanded on the search for information on this phenomenon, which is so fascinating. Its called Passport to the Cosmos.
Please welcome John Mack, Professor Mack to our WBZ audience. Professor, nice to have you onboard!
JOHN MACK: Thanks for having me, Jordan.
JORDAN RICH: It’s a pleasure. I’ve been a big fan of yours ever since I saw you on one of a million television programs back in the mid-90s. And I’m actually I’m going backwards because I’ve read Passport to the Cosmos and I’m almost halfway through Abduction at this point.
Can you tell us first of all a little bit about PEER, the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research? You founded it. Tell us what its goals are.
JOHN MACK: The program was started in 1993, when I began to realize that there was a lot to be learned about this whole subject of people who were reporting experiences of contact with some sort of strange energy or beings, and a lot to be studied. It wasn’t something that I could do by myself. I needed colleagues. I needed people that were able to think through these questions with me. And able to try to get some help – funding help for it – and just to have a team that could work together and provide some education around these matters. And as I said, also define and then follow up on research projects.
JORDAN RICH: There are just a whole slew of people who when you mention the words “abduction” and “UFOs” and so forth, who immediately want to suggest that this is just science fiction fluff and people are just trying to get attention and all. You however are coming at it from a very scholarly point of view. You’ve raised a lot of interesting questions, and eyebrows have been raised in places they haven’t been raised before.
Your first book on the on the subject was called Abduction. And in that you I guess you worked with about 13 people right, who had such odd experiences?
JOHN MACK: There are 13 stories that I go into in detail. But when I wrote the book, I had worked with over 50 people intensively. So I had some greater sense than just the 13 that are in the book of what I was trying to deal with.
JORDAN RICH: And you’ve gone from that to a study in Passport to the Cosmos that really covers the entire world spectrum. You’re all over the world in fact, with, as the press material says, over 200 individuals from six continents.
If this had been a, quote, fad, or some kind of psychological blip on the map it certainly hasn’t gone away. In fact in Passport to the Cosmos you’ve uncovered just so much more information that seems to be mushrooming here.
JOHN MACK: Well the thing that kept hitting me was that as a clinician, somebody who had worked for over 40 years, a person – that is me – whose main job was to try to decide, when I was meeting with somebody, was what kind of a situation was this? Was I dealing with somebody who was simply upset about something that happened? Are they telling me about dreams? Are they telling me fantasies? Are they telling me something that just isn’t that you can tell is a delusion that make no sense in reality, or are they talking about something that has disturbed them or upset them?
And from every point of view that I could take on this, these are individuals who seem to be largely of sound mind, who were talking about experiences the way you or I would talk about something that had actually happened.
In other words, they were appropriately questioning, frightened… it isn’t as if they were claiming anything, in fact, the greatest doubters are the people that have had the experiences. They didn’t behave in any way the way a deluded person would talk. [A deluded person] would try to convince you that their husband or their parent was trying to poison their food or something like that, and you would know that there’s something strange going on here.
But in these situations, these people are not trying to convince you. In fact they are very cautious about who they’ll tell these stories to because they know, as you mentioned earlier, what the general public attitude about this is, among people that are not informed.
JORDAN RICH: Precisely. The feeling I get from your current book, Passport to the Cosmos, is a much more positive, sort of uplifting note for these people – and for all of us if we are to believe what these people tell us is true. And I’m wondering if you feel the same way. If you feel better after having written this book about the human family, shall we say?
JOHN MACK: What I have learned in the several years since Abduction, the first book, was published, was that this phenomenon and these experiences have profound philosophical implications whether we prove that these are physical beings like us, material in the same way we are, or they are in some gray area between the unseen world and the physical world, or show up and manifest physically but they’re not of this world. Whatever it is, it is something real.
And however we may define reality, it is not something – I’m quite convinced – it is not something that is simply coming from the inner world of the people reporting these experiences. There is some kind of a provoker in the outside world as far as we can tell.
Now, we can’t prove that. We can’t. Science, justifiably requires, when it talks about proof, something different. In other words that you can repeat an experiment and make it come out the same way or that you have a physical object that is unquestionably a piece of a spaceship or something like that. We don’t have that kind of evidence, and I don’t believe we will, because I don’t think it’s that kind of a phenomenon.
But it does affect people physically. It does seem to result in certain kinds of bodily wounds – small ones. Cuts, scrapes, things that seem to be related to the experiences and to when some sort of instruments are stuck in people’s bodies. And some kind of energy is involved, which takes form and which powerfully affects people.
And if that could be happening, whatever the reality of it, whatever kind of reality is it, it has very deep meaning for who we are in this culture and the nature of reality and what the universe is like and what it contains. And that’s what I’ve been particularly interested in. Not simply to get into a debate about “can you prove there’s aliens here?”. I don’t think that’s the most important question.
I think the most important question is, what does it say, if in fact some kind of intelligence, entities, energies, beings, creatures, whatever you want to call it, can come from we know not where and show up in a real way in peoples lives? [If] it’s not something that’s generated from within them, something is occurring outside of these individuals and coming to them. That has profound meaning for our world, for our notion of ourselves.
JORDAN RICH: We’re talking with Dr John Mack, who is a Pulitzer prize-winning author. Of course, he wrote Abduction and now a perfect follow-up which is called Passport to the Cosmos. And as we move through the hour we’re going to talk in more detail about this particular book and where you go, but, you mentioned culture. And the fact that you studied people through your earlier research obviously from this culture, but now you’ve expanded it to really talk with people from around the world, and to look at some of the ancient, almost mystic cultures of shall we say the third world. And you’ve discovered some remarkable things. There are similarities in these experiences not only among Americans or Westerners but people from other parts of the world.
JOHN MACK: One of the questions that are always raised is, well, maybe this is some sort of reflection of our aerospace hi-tech imagination in this culture. So the fact that this is a phenomenon that is familiar to native peoples in other countries tells me at least that this is something that is not simply generated by Western scientific mindset.
And indeed, there are medicine men in this country as you mentioned, in South America, Africa and in Australia that I’ve spoken with, who are very familiar with the sort of thing that I’m talking about. They don’t talk about it in exactly the same way. They don’t emphasize the technological aspects. But there are beings, creatures, that resemble the ones I talk about that enter people’s lives. They have the experience of being taken into some other sort of place, experiments done, something done to their body, some sort of profound connection with these beings – all that seems to repeat itself in different cultures.
JORDAN RICH: And before we take our first break of the hour, Professor Mack, the messages and the thoughts that are relayed and perhaps the changes in lifestyle and attitude that some of these people reflect, there are similarities there too and you wouldn’t think so. You know, we in the America we know of with the tall steel concrete buildings and the fast cars and the cellular phones… in some ways, as you point out, are sharing similar messages as the people who are in say the rainforest. There’s a lot of, apparently from what you discovered and researched, there’s a lot of thought about protecting this environment that we have been sort of given license to. Is that what you’ve discovered?
JOHN MACK: I think that’s the most important dimension of this whole phenomenon. It acts as if there… first of all, I was raised to believe that we live in a dead universe of matter and energy and that the only way we’re going to find out if there’s anybody else around is by listening for radio waves or laser technology that will discover something that is sort of like us. The idea that there can be some kind of intelligence that can take this sort of form was utterly shocking to me. Because I simply wasn’t raised that way.
But it seems to occur over and over again. And it acts as if there is somebody or some intelligence that notices what goes on here and that these beings seem to operate as if they were emissaries from… from spirit, from source, from God, from you know, all of those are sort of words for this discredited notion that there is some kind of higher intelligence at work in the cosmos, that does notice. Or at least, what we do does impact beyond ourselves, beyond the Earth. Again a notion that was absolutely out of the question for me the way I was raised.
JORDAN RICH: We’ll take a very short break. When we return we will delve further into Passport to the Cosmos with professor John Mack, and also talk with Professor Mack about what it feels like even today, seven or eight years later after beginning this research, what it feels like to be a well-respected – and he is a well-respected scientist and an investigator and psychiatrist in the scientific community who still, you know, throws stones obviously at this idea. Remember Galileo, who wound up in jail for a while because he believed the world was round? Who got the last laugh there? Well, we know it was Galileo, although he did spend some time in jail. We must come back after this and talk with you and our guest, the esteemed professor John Mack, author of Passport to the Cosmos. And we’ll open up the lines in a bit as well, at 617-254-1030 if you have questions, right here on WBZ.
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JORDAN RICH: Welcome back it is 10:23. I’m really thrilled to have with us on the line professor John Mack, who’s written a new book, Passport to the Cosmos. Professor Mack and I are talking about this book and some of his research with PEER, the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research.
I was just thinking during the break, we can’t see a lot of things with the naked eye. We can’t see spectrums of light yet with a prism one can see. And also obviously bacteria can’t be seen without the use of a microscope. Is it just that period we live in now, where we’re just scratching the surface of this strange new phenomenon, because science views you and others rather skeptically? I mean, isn’t it just a matter of time before we become more knowledgeable about this and shouldn’t we have a more open mind about it, professor?
JOHN MACK: It depends on how you define of the world you live in. If you require, in order for something to be real, that you can demonstrate its physical reality by the criteria of material science, then that will define the world in a certain way. But in the case of this phenomenon, it is human experience that is what I’m trying to deal with. Human experience as something that we respect scientifically really doesn’t have that kind of status. If somebody is reporting something that they are certain happened to them, if it can’t be proven physically, then well, it is just a report. It’s just an anecdote.
But if you have the same report coming from people over and over again, people who are of sound mind who are describing with very appropriate emotion – intense emotion – something that they doubt themselves, then even if you can’t physically get up there and say, get a picture inside the UFO or get photographs of the aliens or take blood samples of these creatures, the experience still has to be taken seriously. Because its powerful. It affects their lives deeply. It even effects their bodies. And it is similar all over the country and in many other countries as well.
JORDAN RICH: I’ll just quote from one chapter on page 207. This is a quote from Isabel, one of the people you’d studied. She says, “You become very sharp, very clear. You hear very well . . . it’s like you become this super person in the few minutes that you’re at that point. . . . It’s a spiritual terror. It opens you up totally. Your whole song changes. You become receptive. It’s almost like you’re a doorway and it opens up.”
Of course she does mention the word “terror” there.
JOHN MACK: Yes.
JORDAN RICH: There is quite a bit of trauma and fear is there not?
JOHN MACK: Yes indeed. Particularly early on. The person has – like you and me – this is utterly unfamiliar. To suddenly have some kind of beings with intense energy that don’t look like creatures are supposed to look like coming into your bedroom or taking you – seeming to take you – from a car, paralyzing you, strange lights, strange humming sounds, being poked/probed, whatever. That is the experience of it. That can be very frightening.
But it is, as Isabel there says, that through the terror that there’s an opening up of consciousness that occurs. And people do feel that they become a kind of doorway and that they open up to a much deeper connection with other people, with the universe as a whole, with in Isabel’s case with all living creatures. And they feel connected to what they call Source, which is what we used to call god. In other words, the Divine principle in the universe. It is a kind of opening of consciousness, or opening up of those dimensions of ourselves which have been closed down in the last several hundred years. In our efforts to master the material world we’ve actually so restricted consciousness, that something like this comes to us very strange. But those people, like the Native Americans that I’ve met with, or people in South Africa, they’ve not restricted consciousness in the way that we have. And so this is something that they know. And they, they said lets not argue about this, it is real, we’ve known about this for hundreds if not thousands of years.
JORDAN RICH: Who’s to say that down through history, many of those who we’ve known in the history books to have had religious conversions or changes in their lives – dramatic changes in their lives – might have experienced the same kind of phenomena?
JOHN MACK: It might have been the same kind of thing, but in a different form. But I think the debate and I think what is at the heart of the controversy in this country is… People don’t have a problem with some kind of a reality of spiritual conversion. What creates the argument is that there is something [coming] from the unseen realm beyond the veil.
There are different ways of putting this. The “spiritual realms”. The “other side”. The “other reality”. “Beyond the veil” is a term you often hear. Yet those dimensions do not manifest in the physical world. There can’t be a crossover. We’ve created a kind of barrier there, culturally speaking.
JORDAN RICH: And I imagine, you’ve talked with so many of these and worked with so many of these people from all walks of life, that many of them would consider themselves, before this, religious. Or even perhaps spiritual. And yet this experience supersedes what they’ve known in the past.
JOHN MACK: They tend, I mean like most of us they’ve had some kind of religious upbringing. They may not have allowed it to remain an important part of their lives. They may have found it too rigid or didn’t really mean much to them.
But what this does is it sometimes will revitalize their whole spiritual nature. They’ll feel, yes indeed, the cosmos does contain a divinity or other kinds of powerful sources of light and of energy. And they find themselves connecting with that. It can be a very powerful spiritual opening that occurs – much more profound than anything that’s happened to them before. Although, often they’ll find they’ve been having these experiences since they were children, but simply hadn’t really come to grips with it, or it hadn’t really fully entered their consciousness.
JORDAN RICH: That was another one of my questions, too. To talk with us a bit about the fact that some of these people have been repeatedly quote-unquote visited. And for some reason, and I imagine these people you talk with and interview and discuss in the book and follow along, must – I don’t know, are they frustrated that their lives are continually interrupted, so to speak? Or are they resigned to the fact that they are sort of the chosen ones?
JORDAN RICH: Originally, these beings were called “aliens” and more and more that term seems not to apply. I mean, when the people first talk about it, they will speak about it as a kind of adversarial relationship. That they’ve been treated coldly, that they’re helpless, that their home is invaded or they’re taken from their cars or whatever. And so they’re angry, they are terrified by it, they feel that its an intrusion and indeed that’s totally appropriate. But for some reason, as you work with them, as you enter into this kind of “Dark Night of the Soul”, there’s some sort of transformation [that] seems to occur. Where the whole relationship with the beings moves from one of utter terror to one of profound connection, even love. And that was one of the most extraordinary findings for me, that there could be this – if the fear was really looked at, gone into, then some sort of profound transformation could occur.
JORDAN RICH: You’ve studied and written about nightmares. And I suppose you would be the expert.
JOHN MACK: You’ve really done your homework!
JORDAN RICH: I’ve done my homework and I did because I’ve been looking forward to this, to talking with you, for quite some time. And in a sense, those people who just follow along and watch The X-Files and think about the pop culture aspect, the Roswellian aspect of all this, yeah it seems nightmarish and doesn’t seem that there’s anything positive. And yet we keep coming back to this in Passport to the Cosmos, there seems to be a universal message and one that for the most part these people are accepting. And perhaps using in their own lives in some small way.
Let me ask you though about something that does sound rather nightmarish. And that is the idea of hybrids – the cross-pollination of the species or whatever. You talk a little about this and it is something that really gets deep into the sci-fi aspect of it all. The mere fact that we could, you know, have crossbreeding of other species and ourselves. What does this do to somebody’s psyche, when they realize – at least this is what they think – that this is going on?
JOHN MACK: Well again, its a very sensitive subject. And first of all, philosophically it raises profound questions. In other words, what is the status of these hybrids? The people will feel that through a series of experiences, that they are the parent – particular the women – of one or more of these what you call hybrids, beings that are a kind of cross between the human and the alien. And that those beings are somewhere out there – they don’t know where – and that they are brought to be with those beings because they apparently need to be nourished or they need some kind of human connection, [without] which, the alien breeding of them in space just doesn’t work.
And that’s a very profound kind of experience particularly for the mothers because they feel that they can’t see these creatures when they want to and they feel it has been imposed upon them, and they may have a lot of rage at first about it.
But then what seems to happen in many cases, at least the ones that I’ve worked with, they come to feel that they’re part of some kind of life-giving process; that they are, that the universe or our part in the universe has been a destructive one and that this is somehow a project that can preserve life after we’ve completed the project we seem to be on – which is destroying the living systems on the earth including ourselves.
There’s reports coming out now in the year 2000 by Lester Brown and WorldWatch and other groups that say the environment and life on the planet is being destroyed at a rate that is continuing to accelerate. And in that context this whole hybrid project is as if to protect or preserve something of ourselves, of our biology, in connection with these beings.
JORDAN RICH: It is a fascinating thought. And most interesting because we on the Earth know that we’re very – in terms of the size of the Earth and the galaxy that we’re in and the universe that we’re in, that it’s a small rock in space. And yet its kind of reassuring to think – if you’re not afraid of the concept – that there are others looking after us.
JOHN MACK: Credo Mutwa, who is an African medicine man, a very high sanusi as they call them or sangoma, he says in Zulu legend the Earth is one of 25 mother or “womb” planets in the cosmos. And that those planets are ones where the great spirit or whatever can create life, can experiment with life-forms, can bring life into being.
And so the fact that this one species, our species, has set about (this was not our intention, but its what we seem to be doing) to destroy other species at a phenomenal rate, in fact we’re on a trajectory of destroying all life on Earth, that that’s a crime at a cosmic level. That’s not just an international crime or a crime at the level of the Earth, we’re doing something to one of the rare planets that can bear life. And so this, you could think of this phenomenon as a kind of feedback from the cosmos to somehow affect – it doesn’t intervene directly, but somehow to affect our consciousness in a way that will reverse this malignant process.
JORDAN RICH: A message heard in the 1953 classic film The Day the Earth Stood Still, by the way.
JOHN MACK: A message we don’t really get no matter where it comes from.
JORDAN RICH: Professor hold on one moment, we’ll take another break and come back. We’re talking with John Mack. Dr Mack is a doctor of psychiatry at Harvard. He is the founder, the founding director of PEER, the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research. He’s one of the most respected men in his field, and has written another book called Passport to the Cosmos – a phenomenal follow-up to Abduction, the huge best-seller of 1995. If you’d like, I know that many people are listening to this interview right now and enjoying it very much, but if you’d like to get in, we’ll open up the lines for one segment here, coming up, at 254-1030, area code 617. I’ve got a billion questions – pardon the reference to Carl Sagan there. And we’ll continue right after this on WBZ.
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JORDAN RICH: Welcome back. We are talking with the professor John Mack, who has written a new book called Passport to the Cosmos. You’ll find it at bookstores everywhere right now. And professor Mack’s research has been ongoing for the last several years through the 1990s in this whole idea of alien encounters and Abduction and all that. It sounds odd to many. And its still science fiction to some. But from a psychological point of view there is something happening here. And as you read his books, both of them, you’ll get a better understanding of just what is occurring.
Before we take our call from a listener, professor Mack, very briefly can you describe how you really research the individuals? Obviously psychiatry is a science and there are many methods to use. I imagine hypnosis may be one of them. But is there a standard practice in interviewing these people?
JOHN MACK: At PEER we’re trying to develop, we have developed, a semi-structured interview in which you have a whole list of items you want to cover, which involve questions of, is this a disturbed person? Something about their history, background, family story, and of course the history of these experiences. The important thing is to develop a relationship with the person so they can trust you enough to tell you what they are troubled about – what may have happened. If they’ve had some missing time they can’t account for, or seen some strange lights, or they’ve seen some odd being in their room, or they have some bad dreams of being in some sort of an enclosure and probed or poked or something of that sort.
And they wont tell anybody this because they know – and this is one of the kind of catch-22 things – you know they’re sane because they wouldn’t be talking about this with such questioning if they were not. They have an appropriate doubt about what they’re saying. And you have to make an assessment about this. You have to walk a very fine line between being open and listening but being careful not to lead in any way, in other words not to indicate, “Yes, this is this, this is that, yes, you’ve been abducted blah blah blah.” You never say that to somebody, you just listen and try to draw out with very non-intrusive questions.
There’s a lot of controversy around hypnosis, there’s a lot of baggage connected with it. It’s a word I almost never use. Sometimes we will, with Roberta Colasanti who is the clinical director at PEER who works with me in almost every case, what we will sometimes do to try to develop a deeper understanding or help the person relax is to do a kind of relaxation exercise, where the person doesn’t have to be staring at you and looking at you.
And so they lean back and you ask them to go more deeply and relax them to go more deeply into their inner world. But you don’t get anything from that process that they aren’t able, most of the time, to recall consciously. So the idea that this all somehow comes out of hypnosis is simply false.
JORDAN RICH: Before we continue I have to ask, after Abduction, after the whirlwind of publicity and the book rose to the best-seller list, did your phone did your mailbox overflow, did your phone ring off the hook from people all over the world wanting to talk with you this?
JOHN MACK: Well we get a lot of letters and inquiries. But people are cautious. They write. We get many letters, but many people are doing this work who were at this long before I was. Budd Hopkins, Dave Jacobs at Temple – there are people, not many, but quite a few around the country who have been looking into this and knew about it years before I did. The reason that I’ve gotten so much attention is that I come from the center of the medical or psychiatric establishment. People who are in the academic world or the professional world tend to shy away from this, because it is not something that is necessarily very good for somebody’s reputation.
JORDAN RICH: You’re still there though, which is a credit to you and the institution.
JOHN MACK: Well yeah, but I mean, it’s been a struggle. Little by little I think, my experience is that more and more people in Boston, also around the country in various fields, have become interested in this. We had, a few months ago here in Cambridge, we had a multidisciplinary meeting, in which a number of Harvard people were there. People from different fields – anthropology, history of science, psychology, psychiatry, astronomy, who, we all looked together in some depth at this phenomenon and related so-called anomalies, that which does not fit the expectations of science. So it’s getting more respectable to study this in-depth.
JORDAN RICH: Let’s take a caller who has a question. Reg, in Quincy, you’re on WBZ with Professor John – whoops, we lost him. Son of a gun. No? Is he back? Nope he’s gone. Alright. Sorry about that. Perhaps he is there? Reg, hello? It might be one of those one of those messages from the cosmos perhaps. Who knows. [laughs] Those things happen with human contact occasionally.
We’re talking with John Mack and Professor Mack has written Passport to the Cosmos, a wonderful follow-up to the book Abduction, which of course was a huge best-seller. And this one is as well as people continue to want to learn more about this subject. And I imagine that there are people who read this book and have read Abduction who might say, yeah, that sounds very familiar to me and I’ve never heard anyone else express it that way. It might bring some solace to some people, as we’ve been discussing along the way.
JOHN MACK: Solace but also shock. People somehow, something… the way someone recognizes that this is an experience that they may have had, some small thing that you say, a description of the being or something about the light or something about missing time, or simply the attitude of skepticism or doubt or the nature of dreams that seem to occur in the wake of it will make the person suddenly realize, “Oh my God, that might be me”.
JORDAN RICH: We’ve re-establish contact with some callers here. Lets go to Reg in Quincy. Hi Reg you’re on WBZ.
JORDAN RICH: Hi there.
REG: I don’t know if this has anything to do with your program or not but I had a dream that I went through three sets of stars, and I was wondering, what’s beyond the stars?
JORDAN RICH: Well Professor Mack is looking at the psychological ramifications, but lets talk about – thank you for the call, Reg. Let’s talk about the dream idea. I mean of do a lot of people believe at first that they’re just dreaming?
JOHN MACK: There’s two ways that dreaming, the word “dream” comes up in this. One is that they will talk about the experiences as if they were dreams because they occurred at night. And then when you ask them, “tell me what happened. So you went to bed and you… and then what?” And they say, well there was this intense light in my room, or I was paralyzed, or there was this funny being with big black eyes. And you say to them, you didn’t say anything about being asleep. At that point the person will sometimes become very disturbed, because they’d wanted to think of it as a dream, not as real. Because then it could, you know, they can wake up and it never happened.
So “dream” is used that way. But that isn’t a dream at all. That’s an experience which gets called a dream because they don’t want to acknowledge it as an experience.
The other way that “dream” is, is people do have dreams which will, as many dreams do, reflect something that’s happened. The dream will be not so much like what the previous caller was saying but they will dream that they were on some kind of a journey. That they were carried some place, that they were taken into some sort of a strange craft, some place, something that resembles the actual experience itself, because the dream is a re-experiencing, in a way, as many dreams can be, in somewhat disguised form of something that has happened. So “dream” gets used in both of those ways.
JORDAN RICH: We’ll take one more quick break this hour and return and conclude. And I also want to ask you a little bit about what you wrote on the Harry Potter fantasy books.
JOHN MACK: Oh!
JORDAN RICH: Because that ties in very closely I think with what we’re discussing. We’ll be right back with professor John Mack, author of a fascinating book called Passport to the Cosmos. You know, you don’t have to necessarily believe in little green men. However, you will believe that there is something going on and it’s something that Professor Mack explores and studies with several very well-respected people throughout the academic community. We’ll be right back on WBZ.
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JORDAN RICH: And the guest in this hour is John Mack, professor Mack from Harvard University. Passport to the Cosmos is the name of the book. Let’s take another call. Mark, in a car somewhere out there on the roadways is on WBZ. Hello, Mark.
MARK: How are you?
JORDAN RICH: Fine. How are you? What’s your question?
MARK: Um, Mr. Mack, a few times in my life I’ve experienced sleep paralysis and felt I was not alone in my room. Is this common?
JOHN MACK: Say what happened again?
JORDAN RICH: I’m sorry. He said sleep paralysis he’s experienced and you said, what, you felt you were not alone in your room?
JORDAN RICH: Is this common?
JOHN MACK: Well we’d have to know more. People can sometimes have what is called sleep paralysis.
MARK: That’s what I’ve been told it is, what it was.
JOHN MACK: But the question was there more to it than that. In other words, whether you perceived any kind of strange light, some sort of entity around you…
MARK: Well I’ve actually, you know, something was… the one… the last time I actually watched, I could not move and I actually watched my clock move about 10 minutes.
JORDAN RICH: Oh, sort of time moving and you can’t move.
JOHN MACK: And was there any – you said there was, was there a sense of a presence, of some other…
MARK: Oh it was right next to me! I mean I was fully in contact with it, and was communicating with it. And was scared to touch it. Basically all I could do was lift my arms up probably about four inches off my bed.
JOHN MACK: The paralysis is very common but that in itself doesn’t mean that you’ve had a so-called abduction experience, unless there’s more to it. You mentioned some kind of a jolt in time there, a hitch in time, also that sense that you weren’t alone, that there was some other kind of being, or, you didn’t say being but some sort of presence around you. But again, was there anything else?
MARK: Other than there’s a being being there? No, there wasn’t.
JORDAN RICH: May I, because we’re running a little tight on time, Mark, I’m just going to take you off for just a second, and listen to the radio. If people have questions can they write to the organization PEER?
JOHN MACK: Yeah I was going to suggest that they can either write to me at the Cambridge Hospital department of psychiatry, it will get to me, or they can send email to PEER, to the website, which is you know, www.peer-mack.org.
JORDAN RICH: Right, I’ve got that information if anyone lost it or doesn’t have time to write it down, call me. We only have time for two more quick questions. One is actually a question just came in off the air: Do all of these experiences happen when people are alone?
JOHN MACK: That’s one of the most interesting things. One of the things that gives it such a certain solid basis is that there are sometimes multiple, what are called multiple witness cases, where more than one person has had the experience – sometimes several.
We’ve been, we have an actual research project at PEER where we studied people, where there’s more than one person. For example, there was a man who was with his wife on a sailboat coming back from Bermuda. And there was, they saw these strange kind of “city of lights” out, several hundred yards away, that didn’t follow, the lights didn’t follow any configuration of another boat. And both members of a couple saw this. The man actually had an abduction experience. The woman, we’re not sure, we haven’t worked with her intensively. But when there are witnesses to the experience, or somebody notices that a person is missing during an experience…
I don’t personally think that the physical body is necessarily missing or taken any place in all of these cases. This gets into the whole question of the complex nature of our bodies. Is it just a physical body, are there other kinds of bodies that are called in other cultures “ethereal bodies” or “etheric bodies” or “astral bodies”. And I’m not myself convinced that the actual physical body always is taken someplace. Although the experience is certainly vividly of that.
JORDAN RICH: Finally, and we only have about a minute-and-a-half, and of course tons of people want to talk to you now at the end of the hour because we’ve covered so much ground, but, you wrote a piece in The Boston Globe that I’ve got a copy of, “Long-Live Magic and Wizardry”, in response to those who suggest that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books may not be appropriate for children and may not be ideal for people because they promote fantasy. Can you paraphrase in 30 seconds why it is such a wonderful thing for us to imagine and to believe and to enjoy the fantasy?
JOHN MACK: Well children love these books, and have been reading them where they haven’t been wanting to read much else because first of all it teaches and expands the imagination. It’s a whole world beyond our own world, which is very rich. It’s a world of magic, sorcery – much more interesting in some ways than the everyday mundane world that people are in but that isn’t even the main point – that the universe that we’re learning about from science is in its own way, in many ways, seems quite magical. The whole of discoveries of astronomy, or that the universe is filled with very powerful unseen energies that we never believed were there before.
JORDAN RICH: Well along with Harry Potter, let’s read Passport to the Cosmos by John Mack. We’re out of time. It’s been a fabulous hour. I thank you for it. And I wish you and your organization PEER all the best and continued success with the research.
JOHN MACK: Thanks so much, Jordan.
JORDAN RICH: It was a pleasure. John Mack, our guest in the first hour.