JEMI observes the passing of Sandra Wright, former board member

December 20, 2009

The current board of the John E. Mack Institute acknowledge the passing of a former board member, Sandra Wright, whom many of us knew as a friend.

We honor her dedication to, in her words, “assist global man to better understand the various routes available to enlightenment”.

Sandra helped promote this shift through her involvement with many organizations including the Friends of the Institute of Noetic Science, through which she became aware of Dr. John Mack’s work.

Sandra became a key board member of our organization and a powerful supporter of Dr. Mack’s PEER program, the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research. “The true calling,” she said of the organization, “is PEER and its related studies, research and message. Simple, direct, and earth shaking in its import.”

With her participation, PEER was for many years our best-known project, helping to recast the subject of alien encounters from a matter treated with frivolity, if not derision, to a matter recognized as inherently transformative to man’s very sense of identity and responsibility.

Sandra saw that interaction with other sentient life, as reported to Dr. Mack by countless individuals, broadened perspectives and acted as a prompt for the evolution of consciousness. “We are only just beginning to touch the subjects of UFO’s/ETI and ‘Higher Mind’,” she noted. “There is a vital connection amongst these subjects.” she asserted; a sentiment that we continue to share today.

Sandra was most recently supporting a documentary film (underway now) of the historic 1994 Ariel School sighting — an event in which sixty children reported seeing a landed UFO and “strange beings” during morning recess — and had established a matching grant challenge to help encourage donations from the public.

We feel tremendous respect for her openness, receptivity and commitment to help promote, through research and education, an evolution in consciousness that could lead to positive social change and the experience, for billions, of a better world.

Sandra S. Wright passed away on December 15, 2009 in McLean, Virginia, following a long and brave battle with cancer.

A link to Sandra Wright’s obituary in the New York Times

Driver In Dr John Mack Accident Sentenced

Sentencing of the automobile driver who struck and killed Harvard professor of psychiatry John E. Mack, M.D. on the night of September 27, 2004, took place earlier today in London at the Wood Green Crown Court.

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Results of UK Study of Alien Encounter “Experiencers” Previewed

On June 4, 2005 at a confernece in Liverpool, Professor Chris French gave a presentation on the alien abduction study undertaken by him and his team at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

On this page we present:

  • French’s abstract (from the soon-to-be-published paper);
  • a comment from the John Mack Institute written in advance of French’s presenation;
  • NEW: an update with an excerpt from French’s conclusions;
  • a summary of French’s presentation by Nick Pope
  • a response to Pope’s summary by Will Bueché of the John Mack Institute;
  • NEW: an audio comment from John Mack (from the archives)

Psychology and parapsychology of the alien contact experience
Christopher C. French, Julia Santomauro, Victoria Hamilton, Rachel Fox & Michael Thalbourne Goldsmiths College, University of London & University of Adelaide

Abstract — Recent systematic research has supported previous anecdotal observations that those reporting alleged alien contact (known as ‘experiencers’) report a much higher incidence of ostensibly paranormal experiences and higher levels of paranormal belief than those not claiming such contact. The results of a study of a UK-based sample of experiencers are presented. Specifically, the project focussed upon quantitative and qualitative data relating to postulated psychological differences between experiencers and non-experiencers (with respect to fantasy-proneness, dissociativity, sleep paralysis experiences, and history of paranormal/anomalous experiences). Furthermore, data were collected pertaining to susceptibility to false memories using a word list paradigm. Finally, data were collected relating to possible paranormal abilities (ESP and PK) in experiencers and a comparison control group. The implications of the results are discussed.

Comment from the John E Mack Institute
(not part of the above):

Professor Chris French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit (APRU) at Goldsmiths’ Psychology Department, stated in the original press release for this study that “Abductees report a wide range of experiences; the research project aims to test not only the psychological aspects of the abduction experience, but also to find out more about the other kinds of experiences that abductees report, and includes some tests for psychic abilities.”

That this study recognizes and seeks to understand these factors is a significant advancement in alien encounter research. In the past, other studies have approached these factors with disdain. A study at Harvard Medical School by Richard J. McNally a few years ago suggested that the range of extraordinary experiences reported by experiencers was evidence that such people were fantasy prone — rather than considering that extraordinary phenomena and alien encounters may be related.

French’s study may have taken us another step towards identifying what kind of people are more likely to perceive and recall alien encounters. However, since the existence of psychic phenomena is often considered to be as unlikely as alien encounters, this is unlikely to settle the debate about whether or not such encounters are real.

Professor French is editor of a UK quarterly titled “The Skeptic,” which may give some indication about how the information will be presented.

An earlier paper of French’s from 2002 begins “Many thousands of people around the world firmly believe that they have been abducted by alien beings and taken on board spaceships where they have been subjected to painful medical examination. Given that such accounts are almost certainly untrue, four areas of neuroscience are considered with respect to possible clues that may lead towards a fuller understanding of the alien abduction experience…” (emphasis added).

French’s website further opines “UFOs and alien abduction” and a range of other extraordinary experiences such as ESP “can be plausibly explained in non-paranormal terms.”

We hope to find out more about the presentation after June 4th.

Update with Professor French’s Conclusions

A summary of French’s presentation was distributed in late June 2005 to select readers, however we cannot present the data until such time as the paper is accepted for publication. French’s conclusion reads as follows:

In general our results are consistent with those psychological models of the alien encounter experience that posit that such anomalous experiences may be a reflection of problems with reality monitoring (Johnson & Raye, 1981), that is, our ability to distinguish between events which take place out in the real world and those that occur only in our subjective mental space (via imagination, fantasy, dreams and so on). Modern theories of both hallucinations and false memories are often conceptualised in terms of problems with reality monitoring. Absorption, dissociativity and fantasy proneness have all been shown to be correlated with susceptibility to false memories (French, 2003). However, these results by no means prove that such explanations are correct. At least two other explanations of the psychological profile of experiencers would have to be ruled out first. The first is that a particular type of psychological profile is required if one is to be psychologically open to experiencing genuine paranormal and related phenomena (such as alien encounters), if indeed such phenomena genuinely exist. The second possibility is that the psychological profile that we see in the experiencers is a consequence of their experience and not a causal factor at all.

We would like to thank Professor French for including these possibilities (in the latter part of his conclusion). His honest analysis of the meaning of his hard data stands in marked contrast to the manner in which other researchers have presented their data. This forthrightness is the reason why even research by an avowed skeptic such as French can be of great value. The alternate possibilities French refers to seem to us at the John Mack Institute to be the possibilities that will someday be recognized as true.

Summary of Preview Event by Nick Pope, and Response by JEMI
Summary provided to UFOUpdates list by Nick Pope; Reproduced here for informational purposes only.

From: Nick Pope
Date: Sun, 5 Jun 2005
Subject: Chris French Abduction Study Results

I’ve posted previously on this List information relating to the scientific study into alien abductions conducted by Professor Chris French at Goldsmith College, University of London.

As previously notified, Professor French presented a paper on this at a conference in Liverpool on Saturday.

Chris forwarded me a copy of his paper, but asked me not to post it for now, as this might cause problems with subsequent publication in scientific journals. He did, however, say that I could post a summary of the paper. I’m wary of this, as I’m not a scientist, but I think I can safely say the following:

The study involved 19 abductees (8 male, 11 female) and a control group matched by age and gender. The study looked for postulated psychological differences between the two groups, for differences in susceptibility to false memories, and for differences in ESP and PK abilities.

Significant differences were found in areas such as tendency to hallucinate, absorption and dissociative tendencies.[1] The results were less clear on fantasy-proneness, while no significant differences were found on susceptibility to false memory.[2]

Greater incidence of sleep paralysis was found among the abductees, though it was acknowledged that this might be a symptom of, and not an explanation for, alien abduction.[3]

The tests on paranormal abilities did not appear to show any significant differences, though there was one apparent difference on the clairvoyance test, which I’m attempting to clarify.

Once the paper’s been published in scientific journals, I’ll post it to this List, provided Professor French is content.

Best wishes,

Nick Pope

Response to Nick Pope’s Summary of Chris French’s Study Results
by Will Bueche, The John E. Mack Institute (JEMI)

Back in the 1950s and early 1960s when people thought about alien encounters, they imaged silver metallic saucers traveling across interstellar space and landing in the Mojave Desert in California. They imagined ambassadors from other worlds would contact mankind. That was more or less what the culture expected could happen. But it isn’t what happened. In fact, what people describe is far stranger.

What people are in fact experiencing today is not a straightforward visit from an alien who steps out from a silver saucer. Instead, people describe something a bit more surreal, involving the appearance of a bright light that either descends from the sky (or if one is indoors, light that fills the room yet seemingly comes from nowhere & everywhere), a sense that time is being distorted, the arrival of strange beings who pass directly through walls and communicate telepathically, and other exceptionally strange sensations of vibration, of being moved into an alien environment and later returned.

These strange descriptions, and the lack of any direct physical evidence (no alien artifacts), have led modern day researchers to consider the possibility that what people are describing may be more akin to a meeting of worlds or dimensions, rather than a visit from another planet. Something which by its very nature cannot leave traces, only memories.

Naturally, there is a predisposition in our culture to assume that an experience that leaves no physical evidence must be an illusion. Lacking any technology which can explore other realities (or even prove that other dimensions posited by physicists even exist, let alone contain life forms), research has turned to the minds of the experiencers themselves to see if their minds possess any particular qualities which might account for why they have perceived something which may seem, on the face of things, to be unreal.

Regrettably, those conducting this research have often carried an assumption into their work; an assumption that if any personality differences in experiencers are uncovered, that these differences may imply that their perceptions can be dismissed as illusions.

For example, most everyone who has looked at alien encounters notices a similarity between alien encounters and the natural illusions that occur in the states of consciousness that exist between waking and sleeping. Particularly, the sense that something vaguely threatening is in one’s room, and the sense that things are a bit odd. Often those who note this similarity do so because they believe that alien encounters are examples of these sleep related fantasies.

But there are also cultures who believe that altered states of consciousness – such as the states one cycles through when meditating – are conducive to the perception of other aspects of reality beyond the material world. A person meditating may experience what they describe as a connection with the spiritual world, but there’s no way to prove that such a world exists even if many people perceive it!

Nonetheless, because many people have perceived it (the sense that the world includes more than the physical plane), most every culture believes the world is a continuum of the physical and something else which theologians dubbed the spiritual, for lack of a better word. Today we wonder if it might be what physicists such as Michael Greene call other dimensions, but science still has a very long way to go to catch up with these theories.

The late Harvard psychiatrist Dr John Mack asked us to consider the possibility that alien encounters might be experiences in which something from beyond the material world is “crossing over” into our world, but which is not native to our reality and may therefore may require an altered state of consciousness to even perceive it.

Dr Remo Roth in Switzerland suggests that when the so-called aliens cross over into our world, they affect not only the physical environment (causing the odd lights and the feeling of vibration) but also affect the state of consciousness of the people to whom it is occurring. He suggests that people are being forced to perceive something which is normally beyond our range of perception.

When one looks at studies of the minds of experiencers, one needs to be mindful of the possibility that if there are character traits that are different from average, these differences may be qualities which have enabled these people to perceive and recall their experiences, rather than assume that these character traits somehow implies that their experiences are not real.

Here then are some brief comments in response to Nick Pope’s summary of Christopher French’s presentation:

[1] “Significant differences were found in areas such as tendency to hallucinate, absorption and dissociative tendencies.”

Regarding the “tendency to hallucinate,” we must be wary that the researcher may be defining every visual or auditory element related to alien encounters — such as bright light at the onset of an alien encounter, telepathic communication, associated experiences such as seeing auras around people, and the very sight of aliens themselves — as hallucinations.

Such a definition would lead to circular reasoning in which the researcher fulfills his own expectations (as in “I assume aliens are hallucinations, therefore anyone who tends to see aliens must have a tendency to hallucinate.”)

If on the other hand the researcher has found that the experiencers also report hallucinations of things which are known to be unreal (visits by Bugs Bunny, for instance), that will need to be studied further.

Less prone to the possibility of researcher bias is the part of the statement referring to a tendency towards “absorption and dissasociate tendencies.” That French has again found experiencers to score higher in this quality raises provocative questions.

Similar results have been found by researchers who believe that alien encounters may be real. A study of 40 experiencers and 40 control subjects conducted in the 1997 by John Mack’s organization PEER (but left unpublished) found that “experiencers show moderate dissociative capacities (lower than pathological norms) and high absorption.” PEER’s report explained the terms:

“Dissociation and absorption are two personality characteristics related to entering altered states. Dissociation is an ability to split off certain mental processes from the main body of consciousness with various degrees of autonomy. Absorption is a personality style which denotes the degree to which an individual’s attention can remain absorbed cognitively in sensory stimuli or daydreams. Thus, dissociation seems to mark an ability to enter altered states, while absorption seems to relate to an ability to maintain consciousness in that altered state.”

“Absorption,” although sounding as if it may be a term for some kind of frightening condition, is in fact not a reference to a character flaw at all. Rather, absorption is a person’s ability to enter into or become “one” with an experience; to fully engage an experience so that it is felt to be a living part of yourself. It is a quality associated with spiritual or meditational practices.

That experiencers score higher in this trait may again indicate that alien contact is a more intimate form of connection with another world than our culture may have expected.

Most psychiatrists believe that “dissociation”, the ability to disengage from or isolate one’s feelings or awareness of particular experiences, is a coping mechanism formed in response to having lived through events which were exceptionally traumatic.

That experiencers in French’s study were evidently more dissociative than average will likely not be seen as evidence that their reports of terrifying alien encounters, recurrent since childhood, may be accurate. Rather, we expect the report will suggest that experiencers’ dissociative tendencies may have been caused by a more convential form of trauma, such as undocumented childhood sexual abuse, and that the people later erroneously came to believe their dissociative tendencies could be explained by alien encounters. (The familiarity of this debate is realized in the new motion picture “The Mysterious Skin,” which features a character who believes he was abducted by aliens as a child when he was in fact sexually abused by his little league coach).

[2] “no significant differences were found on susceptibility to false memory.”

This may be a reference to a word-list experiment in which a group of thematically related words are presented to the subject, who is then asked (after a suitable period of distraction) to try to recall as many of the words as they can — and to also indicate how confident they are in their recollection. For example, a list might include words such as “sheets, pillow, comforter, blanket, teddy bear.” When this word-list experiment was conducted at Harvard Medical School a couple years ago by doctorial student Susan Clancy, she found that experiencers tended to have more errors, and to express a higher confidence in their erroneous answers. For example, the experiencers may have stated with confidence that the word “bed” was on the list, even though it was only the concept of “bed” and not the word itself which appeared in the list. This tendency was used by Clancy to suggest that experiencers were more prone to creating “false memories.” However, more established experts in memory dismissed the suggestion that rote recollection of word lists can be compared to the creation of experiential memories in real-life situations.

That the replication of this experiment has failed to detect what Clancy detected is puzzling; had the results matched, it would have further strengthened the possibility that people who report alien contact tend to process information conceptually rather than in words. These people may have a greater ability to perceive and later attempt to describe experiences which may exceed what language is designed for (the difficulty people have in describing in what reality alien encounters take place is a good example of where language breaks down).

[3] “Greater incidence of sleep paralysis was found among the abductees, though it was acknowledged that this might be a symptom of, and not an explanation for, alien abduction.”

Some suggest that alien encounter experiences are fantasies experienced during naturally occurring altered states of consciousness, such as those which transpire between sleep and wakefulness. During these hypnagogic or hypnopompic states the physiological process of sleep paralysis (a restriction of movement which our bodies enact during rest so as to prevent our limbs from reacting to illusory events in dreams) experienced in concert with hallucinations derived from imagination and cultural material, and perhaps accentuated by dreams, creates the impression in some people that an extraordinary event has taken place in reality.

Others suggest that naturally occurring altered states of consciousness, such as those which transpire between sleep and wakefulness, may facilitate perception of or contact with another aspect of reality—such as what in traditional theological terms is described as the “spiritual” world (see Sherwood, Simon J. “Relationship between the hypnagogic/hypnopompic states and reports of anomalous experiences” Journal of Parapsychology, The, June 2002).

While different states of consciousness are entered into purposefully by meditators, shamans, other spiritual practitioners, it should not be overlooked that everyday men and women also pass through different states of consciousness. A greater incidence of sleep paralysis among experiencers may indicate that they experience natural altered states of consciousness more frequently than average, or recall their altered states more acutely than average.

While a higher incendence of sleep paralysis among experiencers neither proves that the experience of alien contact is real, nor proves that it is fantasy, it may support the theory — held by both skeptics and believers of alien contact — that altered states of consciousness are involved in the alien encounter experience in some way.

A Comment from John Mack: From the Archives

I think that the mind that has visions is very close to the mind that can have these experiences. [Even though] conventional psychological studies don’t distinguish abduction experiencers from other folks, there are differences. And one of them is this kind of openness to visionary experience. Either because people were already that way, or because the experiences opened them to a visionary kind of consciousness. A lot of times the experiences seem to begin in hypnagogic states, but that doesnt mean they are dream states, that would be a mistake [to assume that].
            — Dr John Mack at Oberlin College, 2001

Listen to the above remark spoken by Dr. John Mack at Oberlin College, 2001 (mp3)

Reality Check: Alien Encounters

Kate Farmer of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) explores opposing views of alien encounters in this brief episode of “Reality Check”, originally aired in June 2005. Guests are Harvard Medical School psychologist Richard J. McNally and Will Bueché of the John E. Mack Institute.

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Andrew Beath’s new book, Consciousness in Action, features John Mack

May 30, 2005 – A conversation from 2001 between Andrew Beath and the late Harvard psychiatrist John E. Mack, M.D. is included in a new book by Andrew Beath. Beath’s conversations with many philosophers weave throughout the book, touching on many subjects. For his part, Mack touches on subjects ranging from Gorbachev to alien encounters.

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Archiving effort to save John Mack’s papers underway

April 12, 2005 – As a prolific writer, Dr. John Mack left behind many papers when he passed away – some widely read, others barely known outside of professional circles. One of the initiatives of the John E. Mack Institute is the archiving of his works.

We spoke with Will Bueche about this archiving effort, which has been underway for the past few months.

“The challenge we face,” Bueche explained, “is that most of these writings exist only on paper. The earliest are typewritten, and then much of the rest were written on computer systems which are no longer with us. Only a small amount of papers from more recent years exist as electronic documents.”

“So what I am engaged in is the process of scanning these physical papers through a professional scanning machine which simultaneously scans both the front and back of every page and is smart enough to figure out if there is writing on one or both sides, and then it turns that into a Adobe Acrobat portable document file, a pdf.”

“A pdf is the same sort of document that you get when you download a product brochure, for a new stereo for example. We’re preserving the look and feel of the original paper, we’re not simply reading the text. There is technology available that can attempt to discern the text, but it tends not to work very well – you need to proofread every line if you attempt that, and that would be millions of lines. It is easier to simply scan each paper as an image, as we are doing. This also enables us to capture handwritten notes, corrections scrawled in the margins for example. If you think of the scanner as a camera, essentially what we are doing is we are photographing every paper that John Mack ever wrote.”

Every paper?

“As many as we can; we have a time limitation in that these materials have to be packed up eventually. We have some months to work in, yet it still feels like a race simply because of the sheer volume. John’s papers were in three locations – the old PEER (Program for Extraordinary Experience Research) office, his home office, and his Cambridge Hospital office – and each would be a challenge unto itself.”

“Patricia Carr, John’s longtime associate from the department of psychiatry, kept many of John’s published papers carefully organized, so we’ve begun by scanning what she had already arranged in chronological order.”

“We started with the early 1960s – a few from the 1950s when he was getting his doctorate at Harvard – and we’ve nearly reached the 1990s.”

“But bear in mind I am referring only to his published papers. Once we’ve finished with his published papers, then we need to start again in the 1950s with his talks and some of his more notable exchanges of correspondence. The entire Harvard inquiry, for instance, produced reams of correspondence. I expect we may find some unpublished essays also. Even among the published works I am sometimes finding alternate drafts, which we are scanning as well.”

What sorts of essays are they?

“There are many papers about psychiatry of course, but his sense of what it was to be a psychiatrist was expansive. From his papers from the seventies and eightes, I am getting a much stronger sense about how politically active he was during the nuclear arms race, how active psychiatrists and doctors were in social causes. I’ve been scanning papers written when doctors were speaking out boldly in defense of the human race. You don’t see that so much anymore. It is an example we can learn from.”

“I’d also never read some of his earlier books, such as Vivienne, the one about a young girl’s suicide. As I look back on that era I’ve begun to really see how careful he was about gathering biographical material, a skill which infused all of his work even up through his research into the lives of alien encounter experiencers.”

“I’m beginning to appreciate why he won the Pulitzer in biography (for his book on T.E Lawrence); being a good biographer isn’t simply a matter of writing in an elegant style or telling a good story. Good biography, and good psychotherapy I expect, is about being meticulous in how you listen to another person, in how you attend to every nuance of what is being said to you. In this John was expert.”

Any chance that these materials may be published, or republished?

“That’s actually a question for the estate of John Mack [Note: later the John E. Mack Archives LLC], which is now responsible for his creative works. What we at JEMI [the John E. Mack Institute] are able to contribute to his legacy is an assurance that these materials will survive; I have every faith that John’s sons and ex-wife will explore options regarding how best to make them available. We are in constant communication, and they actually provided some of the equipment we needed to accomplish this task.”

“Personally I’d love to see a volume of his collected works, pulling together his best essays – both published and unpublished ones – but would any publisher opt for a book with sections ranging from T.E. Lawrence to alien encounters? You can imagine it may take some time to figure these sorts of practical questions, and you must factor in the simple truth that his family is still coming to terms with their loss. It may be some time before they will be able to look to the future.”

“But I am certainly acting with the faith that these writings will be preserved for future generations to look at and learn from, in some way. ”

We will revisit the progress of this initiative again, soon.

Update: August 26, 2005

The scanning effort is coming to an end this week, and so we caught up with Will Bueche for a final report.

How many papers did you ultimately scan?

“More than 10,000. I passed the 10,000 mark a couple weeks ago, and it is now hovering at about 10,200, with perhaps a few strays left to do. That includes correspondence in addition to essays, of course. These last few days I literally was scanning the last papers while furniture was being carried out around me, and the materials I’d scanned earlier were being carted off.”

And you also scanned in press coverage that Dr Mack had received?.

“I scanned about 900 newspaper and magazine clippings. The newspaper reviews of Prince of Our Disorder (his 1976 biography of T. E. Lawrence) made me sneeze, they were shedding so many paper particles. The last time they’d been taken out of storage was for the reprinted edition of Prince from Harvard University Press – but all they’d wanted them for was for critics’ blurbs. But in those reviews there was also a lot of quality discussion about the differing views of T. E.’s role in shaping the modern Middle East. So there is good cause to save them.”

“Did I already mention – I’ve always felt that the press coverage that Dr. Mack received when he came out with his opinions about alien contact was an invaluable portrait of how our culture felt about aliens at the time he made his case. In fact I’d begun scanning in the press clippings of that era even before the family of John Mack stepped in and made the full-scale archving effort possible.”

How was the scanning of press clippings different from scanning the essays and letters?

“The Mack family made it possible to scan in many essays quickly, using a scanner with a built-in paper feeder. But magazines or newspapers with illustrations required a great deal more care. First, I had to find the original materials, because most of the press clippings had been filed by Dr Mack’s office as photocopies, which tended to be muddy. Whenever I came across the original magazines and newspapers I patiently used a traditional flatbed scanner to create new high-quality scans (see illustration below). So, future researchers looking at this electronic archive will see the press clippings in full color and fully legible quality. I hope that’ll be nice for them!”


You mentioned future researchers – can you say what will be happening to this archive? Where will it be?

“I can’t say yet. I have some idea, but I can’t say yet because the estate is still in talks. I believe that Dr Mack’s published papers will be relatively easy for researchers to obtain, and possibly his drafts as well, but I am not sure what will be happening to the correspondence.”

“Obviously there is a great deal of scholarly interest in correspondence, particularly Dr Mack’s exchanges with various relatives and associates of T. E. Lawrence. I scanned every bit of it that I could find, including many Air Mail letters written on tissue-thin blue papers that were popular in the UK in the 1960s. Very difficult to scan blue paper by the way. But… there may be legal considerations that would affect whether that sort of material could become part of a library.”

“Letters are obviously a valuable part of history, and if you walk into any book shop you’ll see the collected letters of Freud or Jung or James, etc., but traditionally some history has to flow by before that becomes available to the public. In the future, letters serve as a portrait of an era. But if made available too soon, they lack perspective.”

“In fact we didn’t even scan the 10,000 letters that Dr Mack received from self-described ‘experiencers’ of alien contact. It is simply too current, too sensitive, to scan now.”

“What we did scan in – planning for the future – were the professional exchanges, the correspondence exchanged with colleagues. Opinions back and forth from Mack and his peers about whether alien encounters are real, and who was being most stubborn in defending their opinions. But again, those exchanges will likely have to be kept private for a generation or so.”

Update: January 2009

An additional set of documents were recently recovered by attorney Eric MacLeish, who defended Dr. John Mack from an unprecedented, 14-month long inquiry by the Harvard Medical School into Dr. Mack’s research into the alien encounter phenomenon in 1994 and 1995.

Three large boxes, containing in the range of 500 documents concerning this period of time, 350 of which were unique, were delivered by Mr. MacLeish to the Mack family, and were again scanned by Will Bueche.

Of particular interest was correspondence between the attorneys, which demonstrated a level of friction between the sides that could only have been imagined prior to receiving these documents. Also included were letters from Dr. Mack to his attorneys during the inquiry process.

Our thanks to MacLeish, and to the firms which retained these documents in storage rather than destroying them.

Kosmos Journal nominated for “Best Spiritual Coverage” by Utne!

January 12, 2005 – The Kosmos Journal, created by the John E. Mack Institute’s own Dr. Nancy Roof, has been nominated for its excellence in Spiritual Coverage by the prestigious Utne Independent Press Awards!

As our United Nations NGO representative for more than fifteen years, Dr. Roof has been informing and inspiring participation in shaping our emerging global civilization through an integral approach that is based on the interdependence of all life.

Kosmos Journal is but a part of her team’s remarkable work.

Fostering “an integral approach to global awakening,” Dr Roof and her distinguished associates elevate and deepen discourse and dialogue on global affairs; explore new forms of global governance; deepen and strengthen the inner life and its interconnectedness to the whole; explore new forms of spirituality for a global era; deal with complexity through an Integral Worldview; enhance human solidarity through honoring cultural and developmental differences; and encourage the growth of an informed Global Civil Society.

No small goal, to be sure. But Dr. Roof’s infectious conviction that this can be done was in abundant evidence at the United Nations this past September at the launch of the World Culture Open. As the final speaker, Dr. Roof had the opportunity to introduce some basic principles of the integral approach. She declared:

“Humanity is on a great journey evolving along a trajectory towards wholeness. This journey takes the individual and the collective through many levels in the outer and inner worlds. Different political, economic and social arrangements are suited to each culture along the way. Kosmos supports a comprehensive integral approach to managing a complex world through designing solutions aligned with the natural evolutionary flow and creating enabling environments for change at the global level.

“[We] need to break down cultural boundaries based on fear that serve to alienate rather than embrace. Beyond the celebration of the diversity of cultures is the promise of a certain kind of art to soften boundaries that separate. Transformative art transcends cultural habits, differences and the agony of unlived lives, and leads to a place where we remember our collective origin and once again feel nourished and at home in the world; to a place where we are enabled to go with the natural organic flow rather than to go against it; to a place where every action becomes a gesture of love; where beauty of being flows into beauty of nations, into beauty of the earth, into the beauty of the Kosmos.”

To learn more about the Kosmos Journal and to see their nomination for “Best Spiritual Coverage” from Utne, visit the

John Mack Remembrance Event in San Francisco, January 16

December 1, 2004

With speakers Joe Firmage, Stan Grof, James O’Dea, and many more.

An alliance of Bay Area organizations are presenting a large-scale event in memory of Dr John Mack. This event is sponsored by Joe Firmage and co-sponsored by the the following organizations:

  • John E. Mack Institute (
  • Institute of Noetic Sciences – IONS (
  • International Contact Support Network – ICSM
  • Organization for Paranormal Understanding & Support – OPUS (
  • Friendly Favors (
  • Mutual UFO Network – MUFON (
  • Bay Area UFO Expo (
  • Bay Area Consciousness Network – BACN (

Confirmed speakers for this event

  • Joe Firmage
  • Stan Grof
  • James Gilliland
  • James O’Dea
  • Kathy Vaquilar
  • June Steiner, and
  • Daniel Sheehan

Live music provided by Breandain & Chris Langlois of “Demons Defeated” and others. A short film with clips from various films of John Mack will be presented at the beginning of the program.

Oakland Asian Cultural Center, 388 9th Street, Oakland, CA
Sunday January 16th at 2:00 PM
Admission: FREE. Suggested donation $10. Proceeds will help cover the expenses for this event and benefit the John E. Mack Institute.

John Mack Remembrance and Fundraiser in Los Angeles on Dec 9

November 4, 2004

You are invited to join friends of John Mack at 6 pm on Thursday, December 9th in Malibu at the home of Andrew Beath for a commemoration of John Mack’s life and a fundraiser for the John Mack Institute. Join friends of John Mack for shared remembrances of John, video clips, and discussion of the Institute.

WHERE: 20178 Rockport Way, Malibu (7 miles north of Santa Monica on PCH)
WHEN: Thursday, Dec 9 at 6 PM

The executive committee of the Institute has unanimously affirmed our intention to honor Dr Mack by carrying forward his mission. We believe, as John did, that the essence of science is an open-minded spirit of inquiry and a tradition of public validation of knowledge.

We understand that some knowledge may seem so remarkable that nothing less than cultural transformation may be required in order for the knowledge to be appreciated. We are dedicated to fostering this transformation.

To realize the Institute’s mission, we need your support. Please consider making an immediate tax-deductible gift to the Institute. Gifts can be made online or sent via mail.

Memorial Service for Dr. John Mack at Harvard Memorial Church

November 2004

Memorial Service for Dr. John Mack in Cambridge, MA

The family of John E. Mack wish to announce that there will be a memorial service in his honor at the Harvard Memorial Church in Cambridge, MA on Saturday, November 13th at 12:00 Noon.

Harvard’s Memorial Church is located in the center of Harvard Yard, only a short stroll from the Harvard Square subway station on the Red Line; see for map.

Laurance Rockefeller, early funder of Dr. Mack’s work, dies at 94

Front to Back: Laurance Rockefeller, John Mack, Trish Pfeiffer, Whitley Strieber

July 11, 2004 – Laurance Rockfeller, an early funder of Dr. John Mack’s research into alien encounters, has passed away.

Read the full obituary notice at the New York Times:

Excerpt: Laurance Rockefeller, the middle brother of the five prominent and philanthropic grandsons of John D. Rockefeller, who concentrated his own particular generosity on conservation, recreation, ecological concerns and medical research, particularly the treatment of cancer, died today at his home in Manhattan. He was 94.

Harvard researcher (not John Mack) publishes study on “experiencers” of alien contact

June 29, 2004

Harvard psychologist Richard J McNally has published a study of “experiencers” of alien contact in the journal Psychological Science, Vol 15, No. 7, pp. 493-497.

Harvard psychologist Richard J McNally has published a study of “experiencers” of alien contact in the journal Psychological Science. The National Institute of Discovery Science (NIDS) obtained permission to reprint the article:

Click here to read the study at [no longer available].

The study, which showed that people who claim to have been abducted by aliens show the same physiological signs of distress shown by people recalling more plausible traumatic events, was previewed a year ago; see archived press reports by clicking here.

Colm Kelleher, Ph.D., a research scientist at NIDS, notes:

“The journal Psychological Science is one of the more prestigious journals in psychology and is also one of the flagship journals of the American Psychological Society. It is read by thousandsof professional and research psychologists worldwide. Cumulatively Psychological Science readers hold tens of millions of dollars in research grants from NIMH and other grant giving bodies.”

“My hunch is that the data in this paper will surprise many Psychological Science readers in the psychology research community, since it greatly undermines their common perception that abductees are merely attention seekers, charlatans etc who want nothing more than to get their 15 minutes of fame. The data in Dr McNally’s paper are saying that the responses of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) victims and abductees are almost indistinguishable and will therefore demolish some commonly-held stereotypes. I believe that Dr MacNally’s paper may stimulate members of the psychological research community to take the next research step: to use the tools of fMRI and other brain-imaging techniques to take these (to their readers, very surprising) data to the next level. That is precisely what is needed in this field.”

“As such, I believe Dr McNally’s paper is a positive contribution.”

Dr McNally’s interpretation of his data, which relies upon his opinion that alien encounters are not real events, is said to have been criticized by colleagues at Harvard’s 2003 Mind/Brain/Behavior Junior Symposium “Schizophrenia, Dreams, and Alien Encounters”, who noted that his data just as easily supported the theory that the encounters were real.[1]

McNally explained his position to the Harvard Crimson in 2003. “The core findings of this study underscore the power of emotional belief. If you genuinely believe to have been traumatized—even by an alien abduction, which we think is clearly fanciful—you show the psycho-physiological profile of those who have been.”

McNally’s paper concludes by cautioning that “the physiological markers of emotion that accompany recollection of a memory cannot be taken as evidence of the memory’s authenticity,” while simultaneously noting that “one should not conclude that PTSD patients are reporting false memories of trauma” in the case of “more conventional and verifiable” traumatic memories.

William Bueché, communications director for the John E Mack Institute, told the Harvard Crimson in 2003 that McNally’s study is “a significant landmark in alien encounter research,” but criticized what he called McNally’s “leap of faith.” “McNally assumes that the alien encounters are just beliefs,” Bueché said, “but that’s not clear-cut.”

Harvard psychiatrist Dr John Mack, whose clinical interviews with more than 200 “experiencers” led him to conclude that prosaic explanations were insufficient to account for the phenomenon, argues “The claim (made to argue from an apriori position that this can’t be real) that people can cook up a genuine traumatic physiological state by simply imagining something that bears no actual relation to their experience goes against all our clinical knowledge accumulated over centuries.”

A Discover magazine article endorsing McNally’s interpretation is expected next month.

[1] Reporters and audio recording devices were prohibited from Harvard’s 2003 Mind/Brain/Behavior Junior Symposium in order to facilitate more candid discussion of this subject.

Announcement of John E Mack Institute

June 14, 2004

As long time friends, colleagues and associates of Dr. John E. Mack, Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, we are delighted to announce the birth of the new John E Mack Institute.

Effectively immediately, the Center for Psychology and Social Change, which Dr. Mack established in 1983, is renamed.

In dedicating the Institute in his name, we honor Dr. Mack’s courageous examination of human experiences, and his landmark explorations of the ways in which perceptions and beliefs about reality shape the human condition.

The Institute will honor his example by uncovering and developing areas of inquiry that profoundly contribute to our understanding of human experience, while providing a safe environment for healing discoveries.

On our website,, you can learn more about our plans for: research, education; interdisciplinary initiatives; educational programs, presentations and publications that will foster positive cultural changes and provide the basis for a more inclusive framework of knowledge for generations to come.

With your participation, we look forward to creating a world richer in understanding and possibilities.


Richmond Mayo-Smith (Board Member and Chair Emeritus “92-“01)
Dennis Briefer (Board Member and Chair Emeritus ’01-’03)

TOUCHED wins best documentary at Female Eye Film Festival, Toronto

December 14, 2003 — Local filmmaker Laurel Chiten’s documentary “Touched,” about Harvard psychiatrist-turned-philosopher John Mack and “experiencers” of alien contact, won best documentary at the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto earlier this month. This was the film’s first festival and first award.

The Female Eye Film Festival (FeFF) is a Toronto based international independent women’s film festival. The screening was held Saturday Nov 22 at 1:30 PM on the documentary screen of the festival. Filmmaker Laurel Chiten also took part in a panel discussion on Sunday. For more information on the film festival, please visit

Chiten is currently in New Mexico, where her film screened at the Santa Fe Film Festival. “Touched” played earlier this year at the Museum of Fine Arts. See previous article about Touched’s premiere.

The educational premiere of Touched was at Harvard University, at a Mind / Brain / Behavior Junior Symposium: “Schizophrenia, Dreams, and Alien Encounters” convened in September 2003 by Edward Kravitz, Ph.D. of the Neurobiology Department of Harvard Medical School.

2004 Updates: In response to the favorable reception of the film by the students and faculty at this day-long symposium, educational distribution of Touched to colleges and universities began in January 2004; institutions that have purchased Touched include Stanford University; Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio; Bates College, Lewiston, Maine; Cal State San Marcos; Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas; Argosy University, Twin Cities, Minnesota; Bosque School (6-12), Albuquerque, New Mexico; William Woods University, Fulton, Missouri; University of Great Falls, Montana; Covenant College, Georgia; Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio; Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut; The Hume Center, Concord, California.

Filmmaker Laurel Chiten was interviewed by Whitley Strieber on Dreamland.

Touched also won Best Documentary of 2003 in the “Abductee or Contactee” category (!) at a long-running UFO convention, The International UFO Congress in Laughlin, Nevada, in 2004.

2004 Screenings of TOUCHED:

Cambridge: MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Wednesday, February 11, 7:00 pm
Showing as part of the “Chicks Make Flicks” series sponsored by Women in Film/New England. Filmmaker Laurel Chiten will be speaking. MIT is located at 77 Massachusetts Avenue. Screening will take place in Building 4, Room 270. Free admission. For more info contact Women in Film at 617.612.0091.

San Francisco
Friday, Feb 20th, tentatively planned for 6:00 pm.
Join Dr. John Mack and filmmaker Laurel Chiten for a special screening and reception in the Penthouse of 3220 Sacramento Street (near Lyon), San Francisco. $40 admission per person, proceeds to support the making of the film; please contact us for more information.

Saturday, Feb 21 at 7:00, Sonoma Film Institute, Darwin Hall, Rm 108.
Sunday, Feb 22 at 4:00 Warren Auditorium, Ives Hall.
Filmmaker Laurel Chiten in Person! Dr. John Mack present Saturday night only. For more information and ticket information, visit

Los Angeles
Join Dr. John Mack, filmmaker Laurel Chiten, and host Shirley MacLaine for our first Los Angeles screening and discussion.
DATE TO BE RESCHEDULED: CHECK BACK SOON! The date we had planned was so close to the Academy Awards that we felt it would be in the best interests of everyone if we changed it to another weekend, probably in April or May. We are checking in to possibilities now and expect to announce a new date soon!

Monday Feb 23rd, Time TBA
Tuscon Medical School Auditorium of Tuscon University (students and the public are both welcome).

Santa Fe
Tuesday Feb 24th, 6:00 pm
The Screen at the College of Santa Fe with John E. Mack and Laurel Chiten.

Wednesday Feb 25th, 7:00 pm
The Madstone Theater Albuquerque at San Mateo
with John E. Mack and Laurel Chiten.

Newburyport Firehouse Center for the Arts, One Market Square
Thursday, April 1st, 7:30pm
with filmmaker Laurel Chiten present for Q&A

NEW YORK [This screening was added after the death of Dr. Mack in Sept 2004]
A screening of the 65 minute film, and a tribute to Dr Mack’s life hosted by Alan Steinfeld of the New Realities cable tv series, with speakers Trish Corbett and Michael Mannion of the Mindshift Institute, Harold Eglen, director of S.P.A.C.E., and Alex Grey, visionary artist. Sponsored by: New Realties; Healing Gifts; The Concordia Foundation; Spirit New York; and FIONS (Friends of the Institute of Noetic Sciences) as part of the FIONS film series.
WHERE: Healthy Yoga, 4th floor, 540 West 27th (between 10th & 11th Ave)
WHEN: Saturday December 11th, 7pm

Feedback from the Screenings of TOUCHED:

“I screened Touched at a symposium for undergraduate juniors. Students’ initial skepticism about the subject was replaced with curiosity, tolerance, and a desire to understand. They could not stop asking questions!”
—Edward A. Kravitz, Ph.D.
Professor, Harvard Medical School

“Chiten’s masterful accomplishment combines great tenderness towards the ‘experiencers’ with rigorous questioning. It’s a mind-expanding journey that will ignite any classroom debate.”
—Eleanor Nichols Director,
Sonoma Film Institute,
Sonoma State University

“Touched opens up questions about the complexity of human psychological experience, human relationships, and scientific investigation. It does all this with sensitivity, humor, and impressive cinematic flair. Highly recommended for a lively classroom discussion.”
—Anne Harrington, Ph.D.
History of Science,
Harvard University

“An extraordinary evening. I highly recommend bringing this film to communities around the world if you want to spread the message of the possibility of intelligent life beyond the earth and our unfolding role in the evolving universe.”
—Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
University of Arizona

“Touched shone as a piece of filmmaking… I’d recommend the film highly, if one wants to hear human stories about seemingly normal, yet torn people, and the people in their lives. I’d also recommend it as a superb piece of documentary filmmaking… Ms Chiten is to be commended for her artistry.”
—Nick DiCiaccio,
Freedom of Mind Resource Ctr

“Touched, a documentary by Laurel Chiten, offers a uniquely contemplative perspective on the alien abduction phenomenon. It avoids cheesy flying saucer footage and tabloid hyperbole to focus on real people looking for the truth behind their unique experiences. Chiten presents the ‘experiencers’ and their stories with sensitivity and without judgment, and does not attempt to prove or disprove their theories. She was introduced to their world by John Mack, M.D., a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Harvard Medical School professor whose research into alien abductions has brought him professional ridicule. Initially uninterested, Chiten became intrigued once she met the human beings behind the wild stories. Mack is an eccentric presence throughout the film, which allows him a dignity he doesn’t often receive in the press. Along with Harvard colleague Alan Dershowitz, he provides some amusingly outspoken commentary on the university’s academic politics. Brazilian experiencers and a surprisingly open-minded Vatican demonologist also provide intriguing commentary.”
—Amy Roeder, Boston’s Weekly Dig (April 9, 2003)