On Human Identity

by John E. Mack, M.D.

The most important change that is needed by humanity now is to move beyond the boundaries of a limited group identity to a larger sense of being human.

When you open self to a connection beyond the material world, beyond the Earth to a larger firmament, to a larger identification with all-that-is, a sense of the sacredness of everything emerges. It opens one to a sense of the divine, what people often call God. And when that occurs, everything you do, everything you see, every material or non-material object, every person, whatever or whomever you encounter becomes a part of that sacred universe.

Any trauma may carry with it the possibility of personal transformation and growth. But the “alien encounter” experience seems different to me because of its specific capacity to shatter the boundaries of the psyche and to open consciousness to a wider sense of existence and connection in the universe.

The so-called alien encounter phenomenon seems to belong to that particular class of phenomena, not even generally accepted as existing by mainstream Western science, that seems not to be of this visible, known, material universe and yet appears to manifest in it.

This engagement with an intelligence (“Source” is the word most often used) through intermediaries (the “aliens”), appears to be part of the evolution of consciousness and the preservation of this planet.

What I find touching about the alien encounter phenomenon is the subtle way that it coaxes us, opens us, sometimes with tough love, sometimes by a seeming indifference, to exceed our expectations. Its methods are to invite, to coax, to show, to give opportunity, but not to do it for us, which is, at its highest level, the way that a person – a parent perhaps – tries to create growth for a child.

Rilke put it perhaps more beautifully than anyone else has. His definition of devotion was the unswerving commitment to standing guard over the privacy of another. He explained the value of this manner of commitment in the following way:

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky.

So, to people who ask why the aliens do not help us overcome our ecological and social problems directly, I would suggest that most of what goes on here is not being done for us; it is showing a way, which is similar to what occurs in the most profound spiritual traditions. Ultimate responsibility for growth is left to each of us.

  • John E. Mack, M.D. was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

© 2000 John E. Mack
PEER’s Karen Wesolowski interviewed Dr. John Mack about the relevance and larger context of researching alien encounters and other extraordinary experiences in March 2000. These remarks were excerpted from that interview. Originally published in PEER Perspectives, No. 3