Xperiencers

This project has been completed

AUGUST 2012 — The John E. Mack Institute (JEMI) is pleased to announce an alignment between a television production company and JEMI for the creation of a television series that will explore the meaning of alien encounter experiences via open-minded interviews with experiencers.

The board of JEMI believes the proposed series, currently in development under the title “Xperiencers”, is in line with the research Dr. Mack conducted under the PEER project at JEMI (the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research) in the 1990s and early ’00s; the series will continue his efforts to give voice to the diversity of men and women whose lives have been affected by extraordinary experiences.

More info to come as the series takes shape.

A statement from the Xperiencers producers:

An unspoken bond is shared between “experiencers” (those who have had extraordinary experiences with apparently alien beings).

Sometimes when experiencers are brought together, there is an unexplained sense of recognition, and insights about their experiences flow more freely than when they are isolated from one another.

Therefore, our intention is to bring experiencers together and to record their insights. Each person may have a piece of a larger puzzle that, when assembled, could present a more complete picture of this phenomenon.

Our team members themselves have lived through extraordinary experiences. Each has been propelled by the initial shockwave to question their life goals, religious beliefs, relationships, and even their own sanity. We remember the late Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Mack, who felt that once we learn to move past the fear, these encounters can be the most amazing events a human can experience.

Our Xperiencers Team understands how it feels to be labeled “crazy” as perspectives shift and personalities transform. Having set down safely on the other side of this difficult process, our team is able to listen with empathy and understanding to others who are now going through, or have gone through, the same transformation.

We are not psychiatrists or therapists. Our goal is simply to amass the best insights from men and women around the world who have experienced these paradoxically invasive and enlightening events. It is our hope that each participant may feel some peace and release from having been able to share their most valuable insight with us.

We make no judgement about whether these events are caused by “aliens” in any sense of the word. We only know that these events are real to those who experience them, and we hope that together, in connection with one another, we may come closer to the truth.

Xperiencers is a collaboration between Jim O’Connell’s X Marks the Spot Entertainment and the John E. Mack Institute.


UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 10, 2013 — The John E. Mack Institute (JEMI) is pleased to have offered guidance during the development of the Xperiencers program. Our year-long affiliation with the production has concluded. As the program moves into production without our collaboration1 we wish it well. We’d particularly like to thank the co-producer with whom we worked most, who has since left the production, for her efforts to bring a refined tone to the program.

We believe there is much to be learned from extraordinary experiences; the experiences commonly referred to as “alien encounters” seem to reveal opportunities for humanity to expand beyond its current precarious state of affairs in bold and dramatic ways – opportunities that many (including the late Dr. John Mack) have feared we will fail to take. Presenting material of such import with the respect and sensitivity it deserves is an exceptionally difficult prospect, and one that we cannot yet say if this program, absent our collaboration, will achieve.

For further information please visit X Marks the Spot’s Xperiencers.com and the Xperiencers Facebook page.

UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 13, 2015 — The producer of Xperiencers, Jim O’Connell, passed away on September 9, 2015.

1 Reportedly now being developed as a 6-episode web series, without any guidance from the John E. Mack Institute.

PlanetEarth.com

Created by Richard Rivers

This project is in limbo — we are moving this project from Current Projects to Completed Projects but it is not in fact complete

PlanetEarth.com is building the premier science education website to teach children and adults about sustainable living and engage them in the process of creating a thriving, balanced, enduring relationship with the Earth. Visit www.PlanetEarth.com for more information.

Ariel Phenomenon

2019 Update

On January 1, 2019, the documentary filmmakers sent out a special announcement to their subscribers:

Happy New Year from Ariel Phenomenon!

What a year we’ve had! The film is completed, mixed and mastered. It is looking absolutely beautiful, and sounding great. We are so honored to have had the chance to give this incredible archival footage, and this unique story, the attention it deserves.

We have found a wonderful composer (whose work can be heard in the recent film Fault in Our Stars, among others) to create some original music; meanwhile, we are beginning to screen it for potential distributors.

This fall we released our newest 2-minute trailer on our website!

Those who have seen the film are incredibly excited about its quality and are helping get it in front of the right people. We just can’t wait to share it with you all as soon as possible!

As we approach the 25th anniversary of the event (coming up this September), we are wishing you the happiest of 2019!

Sending our thanks and appreciation to you, our supporters.

The Ariel Phenomenon Team
Randall, Rebecca, Anne, Chris & Rikk (and many other helpers and volunteers!)

2018 Update

The filmmakers report that Ariel Phenomenon is nearly complete. “We remain humbled by and grateful for the bravery of all of the witnesses and others who have come forward, all these years later, to share their memories of that day and all of the days and years after. This film simply wouldn’t exist without their courage and willingness to be vulnerable in speaking their truth. We hope this documentary will do them proud. There’s a special place in all of our hearts for these incredible people!”

Visit Ariel Phenomenon on Facebook for more updates.

2017 Updates

SEPTEMBER 2017 – New “teaser” poster revealed:


AUGUST 2017 – A new trailer has been released along with a statement from the filmmaker:

Randy Nickerson, String Theory Films

Now with seeing somewhat the light of day on this extensive project, it brings me back to the beginning when I first received the BetaCam footage from the Dr John Mack family members. After seeing this footage, I could understand what Mack saw in the testimony of these children and the events around the Ariel School sightings. That was in 2007. This film was supposed to be just a DVD project with John Mack’s material for online sales but I had so many questions that his interviews did not answer. That began the quest to find the school in 2008. I was told it had burnt down, that it no longer existed, and then I found the name of the reporter who helped out John Mack in 1994. She informed me the school was still there and so were some of the original teachers. I booked the flight to South Africa within days. Landed in Johannesburg, South Africa and was shuttled to where I was staying. There was an armed guard with an M4 in front of the 12 foot wall that surrounded the building. I was definitely not in Kansas anymore. Went into Zimbabwe a week later with a reporter with warnings from our US State Department not to do so. Zimbabwe was in civil unrest due to the elections and the dictatorships actions against its own people. People were starving. It left an impression on me that changed me fundamentally. To be in Zimbabwe covering a story and there being another big story happening at the same time, was overwhelming. I stayed in a shack about 7 miles from the Ariel school with no electricity, no hot water. I had to charge batteries and do everything from generator power when it was running. It was a humbling and I had to buck up and face the music in ways that I was not prepared for.

Seeing the school for the first time was a moment I will never forget and meeting the teachers and those that were there in 1994 was fascinating. The school and the Head Mistress were so gracious and accommodating given the circumstances that they were under.

The Headmistress shared with me photos, drawings, and the story of the 1994 incident.

My question was “Do you really believe it happened?” Her and the 2 other teachers I spoke with and interviewed were convinced that it did. I walked the playground for days and the site where the witnesses said this silver disc was. I met with parents of the some of the children and people from Ruwa that also witnessed unusual things in the sky the day before. A paramedic who met with some of the children who were traumatized after the event. It became more and more apparent that there was an incredible story here.

I noticed on a tiled brick wall and on the walkway were the names of the children that attended Ariel School in 1994. That was the moment when I said to myself, I can find them. I didn’t know how but I was determined to do it. A woman in Johannesburg helped me set up a Facebook page. It was the advent of Facebook and social media that made it possible to find these now adult kids.

It was in 2008 that I interviewed the first witness who was in grade 7 in 1994.It began a long journey of tracking people down.It was not my intention to be an investigative reporter but that is what I had to become in order to tell this story. Locating the BBC reporter who was first on scene was a big moment. I had been looking for him for years and when I heard from him, out of the blue, I flew to England to interview him. He had kept everything from covering that event in 94. Every piece of video and even his paper scratch notes, I found other reporters and investigators had done the same thing. Whatever happened there was important enough for people to make a special place in their homes to save everything from that time.

I would find that these children were scattered all across the globe now due to the situation in Zimbabwe.

Funds were an issue and the credits will be filled with so many people who helped me. Getting to these kids was difficult. It took time, lots of effort and I was learning how to make a feature documentary all at the same time. It was gorilla film making at its core.

I had made several short films with the longest being 18 minutes but a feature documentary was an entirely different animal. The further I went and the more I found out about this story, the more I was convinced that this had to be a done properly no matter what.

There is so much more to this story, John Mack’s story, and the whole issue of life outside this planet. As I get closer to the end of this film I can finally start to talk about the journey and all the things I have kept close to the chest for so long. I look forward to that time and it is near. Thank God! It is indeed time to tell the story and bring the facts around this event to screen.

2015 Updates

The filmmakers have launched a Facebook page. Join this page to be among the first to hear news of the upcoming completion of the Ariel School documentary: facebook.com / arielschooldocumentary.

The Ariel Phenomenon website now features an extended preview of the documentary: Visit ArielPhenomenon.com

A note from JEMI: Donations in support of the film may be made directly to String Theory Films on their website.

All decisions regarding any additional interviews with former Ariel School students or other last-minute production additions are being made at the discretion of the filmmakers; the John E. Mack Institute trusts their judgement and encourages your support.

Producer Randall Nickerson says, “This film has been a labor of love for many years. There has never been a lack of effort or time; it’s just been a struggle to get the production funded. Nevertheless, we’re close to completion and it will be done this year. This will be the definitive documentary on this incident and will introduce a new audience to John Mack’s heartfelt approach to the subject. Most importantly, it will give a voice to all those who experienced something profound. This is the final push and we could use any help possible.

About the Production

In 1994, Harvard Professor of Psychiatry John E. Mack, M.D. traveled to Zimbabwe with research associate Dominique Callimanopulos to study one of the most extraordinary UFO sighting/alien encounter cases in modern history.

On September 16, 1994 at the Ariel primary school in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, 60+ school children claim to have seen a disc-shaped object land behind the school during the morning break time. Two strange beings were reported, one of which approached the children. What they witnessed had a profound impact on their lives; an impact that has continued to this day.

Dr. Mack (who died in 2004) wrote about this event in his 1999 book Passport to the Cosmos, and he shared 3 minutes of the original video recordings of his interviews with the students on the television program Sightings in 1996, and a couple minutes more with Unsolved Mysteries. On YouTube, the popularity of those brief excerpts (traded around in ever-diminishing quality) has been enduring because of the power of the students’ testimony.

Listen to an Ariel School student
interviewed by Dr. Mack (mp3)

In 2007, at the request of the John E. Mack Institute, filmmaker Randall Nickerson began production of an edited video program that (as originally conceived) would present the entirety of John Mack’s interviews with the schoolchildren and faculty, digitally remastered from the original Betacam footage that was shot between November 28 and December 6, 1994.

The film became a consuming passion of Nickerson’s, and he set about broadening the scope far beyond expectations.

• In 2008-2009 Nickerson spent 9 months in Africa, discovering new witnesses that corroborate the students’ accounts.

• In England, he interviewed BBC reporter Tim Leech who was on the scene within days of the sighting, who first brought the case to the attention of Dr. Mack. Leech’s interview for Ariel Phenomenon was his only interview about his coverage of the Ariel School event, and it was recorded just months before his untimely death.

• And most importantly, in 2010 Nickerson succeeded in finding many of the former students who had since moved from Zimbabwe to other countries. He re-interviewed them to hear their adult perspectives on what happened. As word of the production spread, more former students got in touch with the production and they have been interviewed as well.

About the Filmmaker

Randy Nickerson, Filmmaker, String Theory Films
Randy Nickerson has worked on both sides of the camera, as an actor and a filmmaker. He has a keen interest in the human condition and trauma recovery. His most recent work includes a film, titled “A Silence in the Heard”, about the significance of listening and silence on an interpersonal and global level. Randy is also a classical pianist and nature photographer.

Earlier Updates

2015 Updates

In December 2015, the filmmakers traveled with a former student (now living in Canada) to the site where it all began. This completes the extra filming that was made possible by donations; editing has resumed.

2014 Updates

Click here to listen to Randall Nickerson talk about the 1994 Ariel School sighting and how the then children feel about the encounter today. Interview by Martin Willis on Podcast UFO, October 1, 2014. This is Randall’s first live interview since he began his research.

The filmmakers have launched a Facebook page. Join this page to be among the first to hear news of the upcoming completion of the Ariel School documentary: facebook.com/arielschooldocumentary. And remember there is also an official John E. Mack author page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JohnEMackMD

Remembering Zimbabwe’s Mass UFO Sighting – 20 Years On”, an article about the Ariel School sighting, has been published on the website EducatingHumanity.com. The article is recommended, but be aware that the author’s supposition that Nickerson’s documentary is dead is not accurate; neither is it true that 2 hours of Nickerson’s footage appeared on YouTube – rather, someone bootlegged several minutes of footage that Nickerson had shown to an audience at an event and mixed that together with the usual clips from SIGHTINGS and UNEXPLAINED MYSTERIES and Stephan Allix’s EXPERIENCERS that have been floating around for aeons.

2013 Updates

One hour of edited program now exists. Refinement of this hour and editing of an additional hour is underway. 2 additional former students have been located and are being interviewed.

5 minutes of footage (archival footage and/or Nickerson’s new footage) has been licensed to James Fox’s documentary “701” (2015).

Various contractual matters have been agreed to between Nickerson’s String Theory Films and the John E. Mack Institute, providing a clear path forward.

2011 Updates

Despite the death of the film’s primary funder, former JEMI board member Sandra Wright, work on the Ariel School Sighting film has continued thanks in large part to filmmaker Randall Nickerson, who has endeavored to work on the film between other paid jobs. Naturally this has extended the time-frame for when the film will be completed, but progress has been substantial.

2009 Updates

Boston Globe article
Say you’re a documentary filmmaker. Someone comes to you with four hours of riveting archival footage taken in Zimbabwe starring a Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard psychiatrist, and asks you to turn it into a film. It involves travel. Investigative work. A mystery… (Read Article)

2008 Updates

The South African newspaper The Witness reports on the progress of the John E. Mack Institute’s documentary about the Ariel School Sighting. By the way, the article generated over 8500 views for the newspaper, 6000+ from the United States. As comparison, a top news story in The Witness tends to generate between 1500 and 5000 views, so this article received substantially more attention than usual:

The day the aliens landed

16 Apr 2008 Stephen Coan, The Witness

American film maker Randall Nickerson is currently visiting southern Africa to make a documentary that follows up an incident that happened at the Ariel School in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, in 1994, when 62 children aged between eight and 12 reported seeing a UFO and “strange beings” during their morning break.

Those children are now young adults scattered around the globe. Nickerson is tracking them down and interviewing them about the experience. “Their stories have not changed at all,” he says. “Not what you would expect if they had made it all up.”

So what exactly happened on that day in 1994 at the school in Ruwa just east of Harare? “It was morning break and they were out in the school yard playing,” says Nickerson. “They saw one main silver craft that had four others around it,” says Nickerson. “It came down on a hill beyond the school yard that was out of bounds. The boundary was the edge of the school yard, then it was bush and the hill.

“They ran to the edge of the school yard to see what this thing was. They saw this small creature walk around on top of the craft while another came down to check out the children. He was all in black, with a very tight suit. The children said he had big eyes ‘like rugby balls’.

“The children had direct eye contact with this creature. There seems to have been some kind of communication with the children about the state of the world — what we are doing to the planet, the destruction we are causing, although not all the children got this message. Some of the children were traumatised, others were excited. The young children were the most traumatised as they were at the front of the group.

“They all went screaming back to the teachers. The teachers didn’t believe them at first. But then they went home and told their parents who came to the school and wanted to know what had happened.”

Soon afterwards the children were asked to draw pictures of what they had seen. “They did this separately. The drawings were all the same.”

A BBC television crew were first on the scene to follow it up. In November 1994, Harvard professor of psychiatry John E. Mack visited the school and filmed interviews with the children. He was assisted by South African producer Nicky Carter who had already made a short documentary on the subject for the SABC. “I had a half-brother at the school,” she says. “He was off sick on the day it happened, but the children told him all about it and he contacted me.”

Carter has no doubt the children were telling the truth. “When they were interviewed by Mack with all his professional skills it was clear they were telling the truth — their voice tone, their body language. They were so consistent, they told their stories with such conviction. And they spoke about it in their own language. One child recalled being told by the alien that we should not be so ‘techknowledged’ — why make up something like that?”

Mack, a Pulitzer prize winner for his biography of T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) titled A Prince of Our Disorder, was a highly respected psychiatrist. However, when he began researching the phenomenon of reported alien abductions, his fellow academics looked askance. In 1994, when his book Abduction appeared, a committee was appointed to review Mack’s clinical care and investigation of the people who had shared their alien encounters with him. According to the BBC, “It was the first time in Harvard’s history that a tenured professor was subjected to such an investigation.”

After 14 months of inquiry, Harvard issued a statement stating that the dean had “reaffirmed Dr Mack’s academic freedom to study what he wishes and to state his opinions without impediment”.

In 2004, Mack was killed by a drunk driver while he was visiting London to lecture at a T. E. Lawrence conference.

Mack was guarded in his interpretation of the abduction phenomenon. To one interviewer who said that Mack seemed “inclined to take these [abduction] reports at face value”, Mack replied saying: “Face value I wouldn’t say. I take them seriously. I don’t have a way to account for them.”

In a BBC interview he said: “I would never say, yes, there are aliens taking people. [But] I would say there is a compelling powerful phenomenon here that I can’t account for in any other way. Yet I can’t know what it is but it seems to me that it invites a deeper, further inquiry.”

Nickerson sees himself as taking that inquiry further after being commissioned by the John E. Mack Institute, along with producer Dominique Callimanopulos, to make a documentary incorporating the interview footage shot in 1994 with follow-up material shot in the present.

“I want to present the story objectively,” says Nickerson. “To show the original raw material. That’s what initially interested me about this case. These children all describing seeing the same thing. You can tell they are not lying. But having seen this footage I thought: I need to go to this place, to talk to people, I need to investigate it for myself. Did this really happen?

“The subject has to be approached as scientifically as possible,” he says. “There are questions that we need to ask. It’s a case of presenting the evidence just like court.”

Despite this rigorous approach, isn’t there a danger he will simply encounter those on the “lunatic fringe”? “I have found those are the people who have all the answers, but people to whom something like this has really happened don’t. They have millions of questions. There is a humility about them, they realise it’s not about them.

At the beginning of the project Nickerson set about contacting those people who had been among the 62 children who had witnessed the sighting. They are mainly students in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Britain.

Tracking them down hasn’t been that difficult. “They are contacting us because of what we put up on the John E. Mack Institute website. What is interesting is that their stories remain the same as in 1994.

“They were affected profoundly,” says Nickerson. “At the time one girl was told by her parents not to talk about it, that she had imagined it all. But then she found other people’s stories on the Internet. She got in touch with them and realised ‘Oh my God, that was real’.

“Others I’ve met never doubted it. They say the experience opened up new horizons for them.”

Nickerson cites two students who are now studying in the U.S. “Their father said they would never have done that, but after their experience the children were totally changed, that’s what convinced him that something really happened.”

Nickerson’s first stop during his visit to southern Africa was Ariel School. “I interviewed teachers and workers who were there at the time.” He also came across people from two different schools in the area who had similar sightings on the same day.

Nickerson is now in South Africa trying to track down those living here who were witnesses on that day. He will be here until the end of April following up leads resulting from two radio interviews he has given.

If you witnessed the Ariel School sighting or have any information regarding it, you can contact Randall Nickerson at — — —- or e-mail ——@gmail.com You can also contact Nicky Carter at 072 632 2330 or producer Dominique Callimanopulos on ———@gmail.com
Check out the website: www.johnemackinstitute.org

© 2008 The Witness, The Witness, 45 Willowton Rd, Pietermaritzburg 3200

Download PDF of the actual newspaper page or Read at The Witness newspaper website


The South African newspaper Cape Times also reported on the continuing progress of the John E. Mack Institute’s documentary about the Ariel School Sighting:

US film maker in city to probe UFO sightings

Tom Powell, Cape Times
2008.08.26 p.4

American film-maker Randall Nickerson is in Cape Town this week seeking inspiration for a documentary he is putting together about a UFO sighting in Zimbabwe in 1994.

During morning break on September 14 of that year, 62 schoolchildren between the ages of eight and 12 saw a strange craft land 150 metres from the Ariel School in Ruwa, from which two small beings emerged which were described as having “big eyes like rugby balls”.

The children’s individual descriptions of the phenomenon were so similar that news of the sighting spread around the globe.

Nickerson was approached with footage taken by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning Professor John Mack, who travelled to Zimbabwe to interview the children after the event.

Nickerson said: “This is a story the world needs to see. Personally, I think it’s moving. I’ve found hundreds, if not thousands, of people who believe it and couldn’t find anyone who didn’t. It blew my mind when I saw it.”

Although Nickerson admits the footage of the event makes it difficult to disprove the phenomenon, he doesn’t want his film to be biased.

“I don’t want to steer the documentary in any direction at all. I’d rather present all the evidence and let people make up their own minds.”

Refusing to believe so many people can be mistaken, Nickerson is visiting southern Africa to shed light on those events.

Having visited the school itself, Nickerson is now in Cape Town to track down some witnesses and investigate some “unearthly” sightings that occurred in South Africa, including two UFO sightings in Port Shepstone and Johannesburg in April.

Anyone who saw the event in Zimbabwe can contact Nickerson on — — —- or by e-mail at ——@gmail.com

This article was originally published on page 4 of Cape Times on August 26, 2008, http://www.capetimes.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=4576833

IONS Shift Report 2007: Evidence of a World Transforming

This project has been completed

Directed by Diane Powell, M.D.

JEMI is co-sponsoring Dr Diane Powell’s efforts to produce IONS annual Transformation of Consciousness report, The Shift Report 2007: Evidence of a World Transforming. The report, available now (April 2007), is an 80 page overview of cutting-edge research, with Dr Powell’s examination of what the implications and applications of this research are for people personally and collectively.

Visit ShiftReport.org by clicking here

Diane Powell, M.D. is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she also completed her psychiatric training. She was a former colleague of John Mack at Cambridge Hospital and Harvard Medical School and was Clinical Director of JEMI from 2006-2007. Her clinical work has been a bridge between allopathic and complementary medicine. Her long-standing interest in human rights has resulted in clinical work with survivors of torture from over 15 countries, as well as involvement in the promotion of peace. She is also currently completing her book on a new model for consciousness that incorporates her background in spirituality, neurology, psychiatry, metaphysics, and physics.

The 2007 Shift Report: OVERVIEW

The 2007 Shift Report: Evidence of a World Transforming, attempts to chart the transition we believe is underway from a rigid, mechanistic, and materialistic worldview to one that is built on a foundation of interconnectedness, cooperation, and the intersection of science and spirituality. This 80-page document, highlighted with sidebars, charts, and quotations, is organized into four major sections:

Section I – Worldview Breakdown
While acknowledging the benefits that the Newtonian paradigm has provided, this section makes clear that the limitations of this worldview are exceeding our ability to overcome them, leading to potential worldwide disaster. The impacts of such factors as trauma, stress, and the fragmentation of consciousness are addressed.

Section II – Worldview Emergence
The unprecedented intersection of biology, systems theory, neuroscience, and quantum physics is revealing the contours of a new worldview, potentially sparking a new human potential movement. From epigenetics and the study of resilience to chaos theory and insights into the “god experience,” researchers are revealing a world of untapped possibilities, individual as well as collective.

Section III – Integration / Application
This emerging paradigm is showing up in different ways in the major institutions of modern life. This section briefly explores those impacts in the areas of education, medicine, business, psychology, and international trends. IONS’ relevant contributions to these various areas are highlighted.

Section IV – Living Deeply: The IONS Transformation Research Project
This section describes the methodology and some of the most compelling findings of this ongoing ten-year project to map the phenomenon of individual transformation.

Examining the Healing Potential of Holotropic Breathwork in Addiction

This project has been completed

Directed by Oliver Williams

It is strongly indicated that the primary cause of an individual’s use of alcohol and drugs is the desire to seek transcendence. The proposed study would offer Holotropic Breathwork to volunteers selected at random from a treatment facility as a means of allowing the participant access to deep levels of the psyche.


Holotropic Breathwork is aptly named; its active component is the breath and it is most definitely work, for both participants and facilitators. It is not a magic bullet, but Byron Metcalf, PhD author of a 1995 Arizona study, suggests that Holotropic Breathwork appears to help some people heal the root causes of addiction.

This simple and wholesome technique encourages and supports a falling-away of present reality for the few hours of the session, allowing the participant access to deep levels of the psyche. Within this experiential framework profound healing can occur in the form of insights, epiphanies, catharsis and understandings of self quite beyond the capacity of ordinary consciousness.

The proposed study would offer Holotropic Breathwork to volunteers selected at random from a treatment facility for a period of one year and assess their recovery against a control group from the same recovery pool similarly selected, all of whom would maintain their ongoing recovery efforts. Research instruments would evaluate participants prior and throughout the year. Final results assessing self-esteem, emotional expression, ability to relate to others and behavioral functioning would also be made at one year post-treatment.

It is strongly indicated that the primary cause of an individual’s use of alcohol and drugs is the desire to seek transcendence. This is seen an entirely legitimate endeavor, the alcoholic or addicted individual only having chosen ‘the wrong doorway”; indeed, it is considered by some authorities to be as fundamental to our well being as food, shelter and warmth. Further, the lack of acknowledgement of this essential drive may impair our ability to understand the mechanisms of the causes of alcoholism and addiction.

Oliver Williams, B.A., graduated from Brighton Art School at the
University of Sussex, England, in 1968. He subsequently pursued a career as a working artist and cartographer in England, Europe and the USA, his work appearing in The New York Times, Newsweek, the New Yorker and other publications. He has practiced self-exploration with primal therapy, bio-energetics, meditation and cognitive therapy since 1972, and first experienced Holotropic Breathwork (HB) in 1992. Oliver began the Grof Transpersonal Training (GTT) in 1994, and since certification in 1996 has offered, through Journeywork, open public HB workshops and private sessions in New York City, NJ, CT, VT and MA, as well as in England.


This following paper was made possible in part by private funding administered by the John E. Mack Institute:

Rhinewine, Joseph P. and Williams, Oliver J. “Holotropic Breathwork: The Potential Role of a Prolongued, Voluntary Hyperventilation Procedure as an Adjunct to Psychotherapy”, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Sept 2007, vol. 13, no. 7, pp. 771-776

Objectives: To pose the question of whether Holotropic Breathwork (HB), a prolonged, voluntary hyperventilation procedure, might be useful in treatment of common psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depressive disorders.

Design: This is a hypothesis-posing paper pertaining to a potential novel treatment.

Summary: The neurophysiology and psychology of hyperventilation are reviewed, including findings demonstrating that hyperventilation leads to significant changes in central nervous system activity as measured by various technological means. Preliminary evidence suggesting efficacy for HB is reviewed. A tentative biopsychologic hypothesis is offered, suggesting a potential mechanism that may underlie putative therapeutic effects of HB. Specifically, when HB is used in the context of ongoing psychotherapy, hyperventilation may facilitate generalized extinction of avoidance behaviors, resulting in therapeutic progress. Individuals high in trait absorption and social desirability who have failed to respond adequately to psychotherapy might be those most likely to respond to HB. Recommendations for future research directions examining the therapeutic potential of HB are offered.

Click here to download this paper (.pdf)

Program for Extraordinary Experience Research (PEER)

This project has been completed

When we created the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research (PEER) in 1993, we gave careful thought to the selection of our name and articulation of our purpose. “Extraordinary experiences”, as some have wondered, was not merely a euphemism for “alien encounter experiences.” We envisioned PEER as a place for supportive exploration, neutral listening, and open inquiry for people having experiences that challenge our notions of reality and the world in which we live. Our intention was to find language to describe what may not yet be known and hold that challenging place of not knowing as an evolving process of self-inquiry.

PEER has grown into its name and its purpose, both scientifically and philosophically. Through our own research and through partnerships with colleagues in many diverse fields, we have expanded the context of the extraordinary experiences that we explore, while maintaining our primary focus on the alien encounter experience.

The nature of aliens (whether or not they are “real”) is secondary to PEER’s primary interest in how alien encounters affect people’s lives and their personal, societal and global worldviews.

“What do people really want when they think about UFOs? According to John Mack, the first thing they want is for their experiences to stop. Only after they realize they have no power to stop the experience do they begin to to accept a process that is informative and transformative – a process that propels them out of their narcissistic concerns and towards active involvement with environmental values, the survival of humanity and an exploration of spiritually-based consciousness.
Perhaps Wilber, the philosopher…might discover he has more in common with Mack than he realizes.”

— The Vancouver Sun

 

The emergent themes documented in interviews conducted by Dr John Mack and colleagues with “experiencers” from around the country and other parts of the world, and affirmed by more than ten thousand letters from the public, reveal an experience that touches people deeply, affecting their outlook on spiritual, environmental, and social aspects of life.

Therefore a central theme in our educational efforts is to convey that opportunities for personal and societal growth can result from life experiences which challenge our worldviews.

We engage the philosophical question of how worldviews evolve as knowledge expands, and how cultures adapt in the face of new information.

We enter this discussion with an unparalleled body of clinical knowledge detailing the traumatic and transformational elements of this process (gathered from our clinical sessions with over 200 experiencers who have undergone this transformation in their own lives), which we can expect to see occur in the culture at large as new worldviews vie replace old ones.


Current Status of PEER

The Program for Extraordinary Research (PEER) is no longer an active research project, however the knowledge amassed over the course of its existence continues to inform our efforts; elements of PEER’s work may be found within many of our initiatives.

The decision to formally conclude the PEER project was due in part to our belief that through our explorations we have reached an informed understanding of the phenomenon of alien encounters – or, to be more precise, we believe we reached as informed an understanding as our culture may presently be capable of appreciating.

We feel that if we are to make significant new discoveries about the nature of the reported alien contact, we must first learn more about human contact – our connections to one another and to the world. Our efforts in this area have therefore shifted to promoting expanded awareness of human experience on the part of the greater culture, so that understanding of alien encounters (and other extraordinary experiences) and the context within which they occur may continue to be refined. We also remain dedicated to advancing responsible inquiry into this subject; we continue to discuss what we know of this phenomenon when appropriate.


History of PEER

The Program for Extraordinary Experience Research (PEER) was founded in 1993 by Harvard professor of psychiatry and Pulitzer Prize-winning author John E. Mack, M.D.

Dr. Mack’s earlier studies in transpersonal psychology laid the groundwork for him to consider the merits of an expanded notion of reality, one which allows for experiences that do not fit the Western materialist paradigm.

Among the most complex experiences in contemporary society that seem to defy this paradigm are so-called “alien encounters,” because they involve the perception of beings or intelligences that interact with people in ways which seem physical, yet do not leave behind any physical record of their presence that can later be validated by the tools of material science.

Listen to Dr. John Mack expressing the need for a more expansive concept of reality (mp3)

Intruiged by the apparent cross-over of these seemingly “mystical” experiences into the physical realm, Dr. Mack devoted twelve years to clinical investigation of more than 200 individuals who reported repeated experiences. The portrait that emerged shows narrative consistency, a close association with UFO sightings, and experiences that are shared by two or more people, for which no convincing clinical explanation exists.

In his two books on the subject of alien encounters, Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens (1994) and Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters (1999), Dr. Mack suggests that our culture has much to learn from these and other extraordinary experiences that shape our lives, regardless of their ontological status. Dr. Mack in essence asks for an expanded definition of reality, one that does not discount or dismiss experiences that fall outside our present framework of understanding.

This suggestion met with a spectrum of response. In addition to widespread support, the suggestion also encountered vocal opposition. PEER’s exploration of the “human dimension” of extraordinary experiences presents unique challenges to our organization, owing to the disregard with which Western culture treats experiences that seem to defy our understanding of the world.

The Opposition …and the Opportunity

Much of the opposition has been orchestrated by the ironically-named Center for Inquiry, which directs 11 million dollars annually into two related efforts: CSICOP (since renamed CSI), dedicated to maintaining a scientific orthodoxy; and the Council for Secular Humanism, which endeavors to prevent acceptance of ideas and theories which could lend indirect support to theological constructs — such as the popular idea that theoretical physicists and spirituality may be overlapping, or that they may be attempts of different eras to describe other parts of the natural world that, although real, cannot be measured with Newtonian principles.

Even absent the organized opposition – which to us seems like an unhelpful relic from the ages when science and religion were at odds – the extraordinary nature of the experiences should prompt a questioning attitude from any reasonable observer, and it is to this population that our efforts have been directed.

It has become clear that, in order to foster the collaboration that is needed on this complex subject, such explorations must be accompanied by consistent cultivation of an environment of conscious listening.

Advancing this goal has been possible thanks to the the financial and moral support of thousands of members of the public, including philanthropist and visionary Laurence Rockefeller.

PEER Forms a Bridge

It is difficult in our culture to credit and trust extraordinary experiences. A person attempting to speak about an experience for which we have no language cannot help but feel isolated. In turn, the listener attempting to comprehend what is being communicated may find it easier to dismiss the experience and the experiencer as irrational. PEER forms a bridge between speakers and listeners, between subjectivity and science. Working in the tension between direct human experience and larger scientific and philosophical questions, PEER does not seek to prove or disprove the existence of “aliens,” but to develop a framework for communication about such controversial topics.

The PEER community collaborates with individuals reporting anomalous experiences as well as with researchers, educators, therapists, and members of the interested public in order to expand the language of human experience to include extraordinary experiences, so that we might come to a deeper understanding of our identity and the larger world.


Case Statement for PEER

John E. Mack, M.D.

January 19, 1999

We all know more than we allow ourselves to know because of a certain cowardice in face of the inexpressible, and fear of accepting its effect on us as guide to the nature of its reality.
–Laurens van der Post, 1975, p. 2

In a letter to me, sent before we began our work together, Karin wrote, “Such a profound and beautiful world we live in, and how much more wondrous to truly know that not only are we not alone, we’re really not alone” (August 14, 1996). From her experiences Karin knows that she is not alone, but the words of this young person, who has done so much to express to others the power and meaning of her abduction experiences, also point to the central agony of our era, the absence of the experience of connection with any principle in the cosmos beyond ourselves, the loss of a sense of the sacred and the divine.

The assumption of aloneness and separateness has had tragic consequences for humankind and for many of the planet’s other living forms. In the place of a connection with a numinous intelligence, we have sought to quiet our spiritual longings with superficial satisfactions of power and domination and by ever more consumption of material goods at a pace that is destroying the earth’s capacity to sustain life.

The purpose of PEER’s work, in collaboration with others, is to examine and challenge the prevailing western worldview that assumes this isolation and underlies the destruction, what philosopher Michael Zimmerman calls anthropocentric humanism. We have been doing this by exploring and teaching others about the experiences of a courageous group of people, who have come forth to share with us the extraordinary encounters that they have had with beings or entities that appear to come from somewhere else in the cosmos, from another, unknown, realm.

These experiences can be traumatic or transcendent, depending upon how they are addressed. The abduction encounters seem to be unique in the dramatic speed of their potentially transformative power. Well-known writer and abduction experiencer Whitley Strieber said that when his Gurdjieff teacher [asked] about his experiencers with the beings which had, initially, been intensely terrifying, the teacher said, “Fifteen seconds with those people; fifteen years of meditation. You’re very lucky.”

The encounters are filled with images and information about the state of the earth’s environment and our responsibility for it. They also have the capacity to open consciousness and to bring the experiencers into direct connection with what they variously call the Source, Home, the One or God. As a result of this process a powerful commitment to the planet and its fate develops among the experiencers, those who work with them and whoever takes in the power of what they have to report.

At PEER we have studied not only the content, meaning and power of the so-called abduction experiences in our and in other cultures. In addition, we have been seeking to discover the appropriate methods of investigating a phenomenon such as this, which manifests in the physical world as we know it, but appears to derive from another, unseen, realm.

It is important to us at PEER to note that the western, scientific culture that has developed over the past several hundred years is perhaps unique in its focus on empirical/rational ways of knowing. This epistemology, which has brought us many of the great discoveries of science, has developed at the expense of the direct, experiential knowing by which other peoples throughout human history, and in most places on the planet to this day, have derived their understanding of the natural and unseen worlds. One of the great tasks for research in the future will be to find ways of integrating the methods of traditional science and the use of consciousness that has grown out of our work with experiencers to explore realities that do not yield their secrets to one method or approach alone.

We are also interested at PEER in understanding the resistance to accepting the very existence of other beings or intelligences beyond what can be discovered using the five senses and the instruments that may augment their range. Again, it is the restriction of perception that has accompanied the achievements of science, the inability to trust the knowledge of experience, that appears to be at the root of our reluctance to accept the testimony of abduction experiencers. Furthermore, the odd form taken by the alien beings, and the seeming mockery that their apparently superior technology makes of our technological achievements, provides a potentially devastating blow to our sense of ourselves as the preeminent intelligence in the universe.

PEER’s future work will focus on:

1) Further development of ways of exploring realities, or other dimensions of existence, that may not be fully revealed by the methods of traditional science.

2) Documenting with these methods, derived largely from the intersubjective ways of knowing of clinical, psychospiritual and shamanic traditions, the phenomena and entities that populate the cosmos.

3) To explore the nature of these other intelligences, and learn what they have to say to us.

4) Identify, and begin to explore in collaboration with others, additional phenomena, such as out of body and near death experiences, that also point to domains of reality that cannot be understood through the use of traditional methods of knowing.

5) Work collaboratively with other researchers from a variety of relevant disciplines to discover and refine methodologies that are appropriate for the study of phenomena like alien abductions, that seem to bridge the seen and the unseen worlds.

  • John E. Mack, M.D. was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
© 1999 John E. Mack, M.D.
Statement prepared Jan 19, 1999 for use by the PEER staff, “to be translated into funding requirements for specific research and public education projects and other organizational needs”.

 


PEER’s Accomplishments

During its years of active service, accomplishments of the program included:

 

Multidisciplinary Study Group on Anomalous Experiences

A panel of experts from a wide variety of fields were convened at Harvard to explore anomalous experiences in a multidisciplinary manner.

From Dr. Mack’s summary of the event:

Held at the Harvard Divinity School, April 10 and 11, 1999, the group was composed of twenty-three academicians and clinicians inside and outside of Harvard. In addition to several psychiatrists and psychologists the group included historians of science and psychology, a neurophysiologist, an astrophysicist, an optical physicist, an anthropologist, an ethologist, a philosopher, a theologian and a psychiatric resident with degrees in medicine and religious studies. In addition, six experiencers attended portions of the meeting.

The following basic themes were considered in the group’s discussions:

  1. Ontology and worldviews and how these might affect perception, understanding and study of the abduction phenomenon and other anomalies of human expedrience;
  2. Why the alien abduction phenomenon stirs such strong reactions and is resisted so strongly;
  3. How do we study such matters? Toward a science of human experience;
  4. The margins of science and spirituality: scientific and religious ways of knowing;
  5. Implications for psychology, psychotherapy and the mental health field;
  6. General recommendations, future directions and specific studies.

The meeting, funded by the Fetzer Institute, grew out of a recommendation made by a special committee of the Harvard Medical School which urged Dr. Mack (in a 1995 report) to involve more colleagues in this work. Dr. Joseph Coyle, Chairman (Head of the Consolidated Department of Psychiatry), suggested that one way to do this would be to form a multidisciplinary working group to study the matter. Although Dr. Mack had already done so in 1992, having co-chaired the Abduction Study Conference at MIT (a fact overlooked by the special committee), this group was different in that it included academicians who were relatively unfamiliar with the alien abduction phenomenon, its phenomenology, and the short and long term impact of these experiences on the abductees or experiencers. The participation of some novices kept the questions and discussion from being derivative.

From the conclusion of Dr. Mack’s summary of the event:
Although understandably the meeting ended with more questions to consider than were noted at the beginning, several valuable ideas seemed to emerge from the discussion that might provide starting points for future meetings. Most noteworthy from this participant’s perspective were the following:

  • The multidisciplinary approach appears to be of particular value in trying to understand the alien abduction phenomenon and related anomalies, as these do not fall into the province of any single discipline.
  • The alien abduction phenomenon is particularly challenging to our dominant scientific worldview, as it seems to manifest, however elusively, in the physical world but not to be entirely contained by it.
  • Worldviews enable individuals and a society to orient themselves in the universe, and thus provide an essential structure that organizes or holds together the psyche itself, individually and collectively. It is for this reason that a phenomenon like the alien abduction phenomenon may be resisted so intensely.
  • New methods of study appropriate to an anomaly of this nature need to be developed. In particular this will require ways of establishing the authenticity of reported experiences, however much they may challenge our worldviews. Greater attention needs to be paid to language in examining reports of anomalous experiences, realizing that any description in words will be little more than a bare approximation of the actual experience.
  • In the absence of physical evidence short of proof, and the virtual impossiblity of experimental replication, there is a need to develop a “science of human experience,” which would include further development of phenomenological detail, rigorous ways of evaluating the individual reports, looking for evidence of consistency of reports, and developing greater clarity and refinement in our ways of determining whether an individual is being truthful in reporting his or her experiences.
  • The traditional measurements of psychology, or the emphasis on psychopathology, are not particularly useful in understanding a phenomenon like this. There is a great need to develop a psychology of transformation, transcendence or self-realization to supplant the current focus on categorization, normality and psychopathology. Clinical approaches that rely more on intuitive, body-based or holistic ways of knowing need to be further developed, as well as methods of assessing reports of special healing powers, psychic ability or the tendency experiencers seem to have of disturbing the function of electronic devices in their vicinity.
  • Although it may still be important to ascertain the degree to which abduction accounts or the reports of other anomalies are occurring literally, i.e. in the physical world as we know it, there should be more attention to discovering the transformative power or meaning of experiences like these for the experiencers, our society and our understanding of the universe.
  • Studies which link autobiographical information provided by experiencers with physiological markers or “signatures,” such as the Moura and Don EEG study (Don and Moura 1997), might be especially valuable in distinguishing the abductees from other traumatized populations or anomalous experiencers.
  • The abduction experiencers may represent an underutilized source of information about the cosmos, and possibly about the human future. The powerful messages that abductees bring us about the condition of the planet and our responsibility for it might be more carefully heeded (although this would involve a greater crediting of the source, i.e. the legimization of the experiencers as valuable witnesses, a problem that was not discussed in much detail during the meeting).
  • The abduction phenomenon does indeed skirt the margins of the worlds of science and spirit, or scientific and religious ways of knowing.

 

Multiple Witness Study

Pairs and groups of individuals reporting shared “alien encounter” experiences were studied in an effort to discern the external and subjective dimensions of the phenomenon;

From the 2001 Phase IV report of the Multiple Witness Study:Summary and Conclusions
The original purpose of this multiple witness study was to see if the objective reality of the so-called alien abduction or encounter phenomenon could be corroborated. It is fair to say that the interpretation of our results led us to a mixed response to this question. On the one hand there is information from the secondary witnesses that confirms that some sort of event occurred. Each of the witnesses experienced a bright light at the beginning of the encounter, including [redacted]… What our data did not provide were parallel abduction experiences with the sort of cross-correlating details that John Carpenter has found (1996). Whether this is due to our selection of cases, or the way we collected our data, is not clear. This does not mean that cases of simultaneous cross-validating abductions do not exist; simply that ours were not of this nature. The pattern in our cases was of a different sort. With the possible exception of [redacted], there seemed to be a clear primary witness. The companion, or secondary witness [only recalls a light]. What this points to, and which might be worth further systematic study, are the dynamics of memory in relation to the abduction phenomenon…

 

Personality Study

With Human Subject Committee approval from The Cambridge Hospital, the staff of PEER designed and implemented a study of individuals describing alien encounter experiences. The study failed to reveal any distinguishing personality traits in the experiencer group that might offer a prosaic explanation for the phenomenon, though two characteristics related to altered states were noted as being higher than average, which raised tantalizing questions:

From the results of PEER’s Personality Study, 2002 draft:

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. We think that experiencers may show moderate dissociative capacities (lower than pathological norms) and high absorption.”

Similar results were obtained several years later by Prof. Chris French at Goldsmith in the UK (published in 2005). That French is a skeptic of alien encounters provided confirmation that PEER’s results were unbiased. Though the findings were similar, PEER did not use these findings to suggests that alien encounters are illusory; rather, it added to the experiential evidence that PEER has collected which suggests that alien contact may occur in a world that is partially removed from the world of everyday consciousness — a reality which may be undetectable to most people at most times.

Prior to PEER’s confirmation of these personality characteristics, Dr. John Mack had, through his own clinical expertise, recognized these traits in the people he was interviewing, and he offered this statement regarding the association between alien encounters and visionary states of consciousness at a talk at Oberlin College in 2001:

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)

 

Therapist Referral Directory and Consultation Network

At it’s peak, more than 100 licensed clinicians participated in this network designed to assist individuals seeking counseling related to anomalous experiences. (We now simply encourage people to seek out open-minded therapists in their own communities.)

 

Publication of PEER Perspectives

PEER Perspectives, a newsletter (predating the ubiquity of the internet), distributed to nearly 10,000 interested scientists, researchers, experiencers, academics, clinicians, medical professionals and business people and the public in the U.S. and 44 other countries.

Read an issue of PEER Perspectives:


Extraordinary Experience Survey

In order to explore the range of extraordinary experiences and the characteristics of individuals who report them, in 1995 PEER sent out approximately 400 surveys to individuals who agreed to participate in research on the subject. We asked them about their life, their work, and their memories of extraordinary experiences including alien encounters, unusual dreams, and psychic phenomena.
Read the results from the first 200 surveys:

 

Public Education

Lectures and media appearances in the U.S. and abroad, and a range of essays and papers.

Media Assistance

We provide accurate information about the human dimension of alien encounters to members of the media; our statements have appeared in newspapers across the country, from the New York Times on down. With PEER’s assistance, articles that defended experiencers, such as the following, were made possible – hopefully to good effect. PEER endeavors to be a resource that can be trusted to provide a reasonable and sensitive assessment of the extraordinary experiences known as “alien encounters”.

Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster

This project has been completed

An independent initiative in affiliation with JEMI
Directed by Peggy Huddleston, MTS

A mind-body technique which has been demonstrated to speed post-surgical recovery and reduce hospital costs.

Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster is a pre-surgical method developed by Peggy Huddleston. The method helps patients break through the perception that healing is strictly the realm of the physical and understand what they can do emotionally and spiritually to prepare for surgery.

“It offers the patient the ability to turn raw fear into profound peacefulness,” Peggy Huddleston, MTS, the project director, says of the program.

While patients use the program to overcome fears and cope with the stress of surgery, it often leads them to discover a deep peace within their being that is life changing. The program has been shown to reduce the use of pain medication by 23 to 50 percent, lessen post-surgical complications and speed recovery.

Since 1996, more than 200,000 people have benefited from this program, which is used in leading hospitals across the U.S., including NYU Medical Center and several Kaiser Permanente hospitals in northern California.

“I recommend this to all who require surgery and want to recover faster.”
-Dr. Andrew Weil

Clinical studies are currently underway at the New England Baptist Hospital, a Tufts and Harvard Medical School teaching hospital in Boston, Hartford Hospital in Connecticut and Kaiser Permanente’s Redwood City Medical Center in California.

Using five steps to prepare for surgery, patients learn how to become partners in their recovery by transforming fears into a profound peacefulness that boosts the immune system and enhances healing.

Elements of the program include:

  • Use of a relaxation audio tape to calm pre-operative jitters.
  • Visualization to turn worries into positive healing imagery.
  • Creating a support group of family and friends who mentally wrap the patient in a “blanket of love” prior to surgery.
  • Use of “Healing Statements,” words spoken by a doctor or nurse during surgery that reduce the use of pain medication by 23 to 50 percent;
  • Establishment of supportive doctor-patient relationships.

Peggy Huddleston, MTS, the project director, is a pioneer in mind-body medicine and the author of Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster: A Guide of Mind-Body Techniques. A psychotherapist and researcher, she has been featured nationally on the PBS television program Body & Soul and in a recent book, Healing Spirits. She holds a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. For more information visit Healfaster.com.

Spirituality & Global Affairs

This project has been completed

Directed by Nancy Roof, Ph.D..

An independent initiative in affiliation with JEMI

The mission of Spirituality & Global Affairs is to inform and inspire participation in shaping our emerging global civilization through an integral approach that is based on the interdependence of all life. We encourage and support a comprehensive approach global challenges which includes body, mind, soul and spirit, in self, culture, nature and organizational systems.

Background

There are few institutions that play a more central role in shaping prevailing worldview than the United Nations. The John E. Mack Institute’s United Nations NGO representative, Nancy Roof, Ph.D., founded Spirituality & Reality (see complete bio below) to bring spiritual values to this influential body and the international community as a whole.

We are the first generation called to the task of building a global civilization. True globalization creates the need for whole system changes and new ways of thinking about complexity and diversity. Our Spirituality & Global Affairs Associates have joined together to explore the emergence of a new spirituality for this new time and integral approaches to comprehend the global complexity.
— Nancy Roof, Ph.D.

Fostering “an integral approach to global awakening” is the mission of Dr Roof and her associates. Through their activities and their Kosmos Journal, the distinguished members seek to 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.

In a sunny garden in Manhattan close to the United Nations, a small group met to share a common commitment to enhance the quality of life and the humanization of global relations. Among those present were Reverend Chung OK Lee, Head Minister of the Manhattan Won-Buddhist Temple and Co-President of World Conference on Religions and Peace and Nancy Roof, Co-Founder of the Values Caucus at the United Nations and later the Spiritual Caucus. We asked: What is the most pressing need of the world as we enter the 21st century? We were preparing to speak at the NGO conference in Korea that fall. Later we spent many more days together in the beauty of the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts to write and edit Visions for a New Civilization: Spiritual and Ethical Values for the New Millennium. We called ourselves Friends for the New Civilization. Later we presented the First Ethics Conference at the United Nations.

Gradually we found other colleagues with a similar concern for the welfare of our world: Patricia Mische, founder of Global Education Associates, and Alfredo Sfeir-Younis, of the World Bank. We were surprised to discover that our group represented a distinguished group of professionals in a variety of fields, including politics, economics, development, education, psychology and religion; that we were from different continents and civilizations — Europe, Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and North America; and that our religious backgrounds were diverse — Catholic and Protestant Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and the Perennial Philosophy. It was evident that race, nationality, religion and different fields of expertise presented no barriers to our coming together in common concern.

Four of us participated in a conference at Antioch College where we combined our various perspectives on international affairs with spiritual values to a resoundingly enthusiastic crowd. Later Abdul Aziz Said from the American University joined with us as we founded the Journal, Spirituality & Reality: New Perspectives on Global Issues. Nancy Roof has continued to expand the work of the Journal and its circulation as Editor in Chief since 2000 while others have contributed quality articles expressing the mission and goals of the work.

We are now at the beginning of a new chapter in our journey with a new Advisory Board, a new name, and an expanded mission. We welcome our new Advisory Board members: Don Beck, Richard Falk, Gayatri Naraine, and Danny Schechter. The publication and distribution of our journal remains the centerpiece of our work.


Nancy B. Roof, Ph.D., is the founding director of Spirituality & Global Affairs (SGA) and the founding editor of the Kosmos Journal.

Visit the Spirituality & Global Affairs website at www.kosmosjournal.org

Roof represented the John E Mack Institute (formerly the Center for Psychology & Social Change) in consultative status with the United Nations for more than 15 years working on the global agenda. During this time she has co-founded the Values Caucus[1], and is a co-founding Convener of the Spiritual Caucus[2] and Advisor to Spiritual Dimensions in Global Public Policy lecture series in New York and Geneva. Author of The Impact of War on Service Providers, she designed and directed the first training programs on secondary traumatic stress in a war zone during the Bosnian War [3]. She was invited to give evidence to Congress on Improving the United Nations by including the human dimension in its policies. Published in several books, she speaks internationally on Spirituality for a Global Age, Integral Approaches.

References

[1] The UN Values Caucus – Formed in the early 1990’s, this grouping was co-founded by Dr Roof in the face of a prohibition of the use of language of religion and values in UN debate. In 1994, she was invited to address representatives of 189 governments on the need for values in public policy.

[2] The UN Spiritual Caucus – A natural outgrowth of the Values Caucus, this grouping, co-convened by Dr Roof, is dedicated to raising the level of spiritual discourse at the world body. It uses meditative techniques and intuition to explore and find solutions to global challenges.

[3] The Balkans Trauma Project – Organized and implemented by the Center for Psychology and Social Change (now named the John E Mack Institute), this pioneering project trained representatives of 78 organizations to help relief workers in the Balkans deal with the stresses of operating in war ravaged regions with traumatized populations. Funding agencies included the International Rescue Committee and USAID.

Ecopsychology Institute

This project has been completed

Directed by Sarah A. Conn, Ph.D.

Mission Statement: The Ecopsychology Institute’s mission is to explore the connection between human health and the health of the Earth, focusing on the development of mutually sustaining relationships within and among humans and the environment.

The Ecopsychology Institute has been working since 1987 to promote ecological consciousness and identity among professionals in a variety of diverse fields.

Ecopsychology is a field which recognizes that human sanity must include sustainable and mutually­-enhancing relations with the natural world as well as within the human community. Ecopsychology attempts to bridge psychology and ecology, to learn again to see the needs of the person and the needs of the earth as interrelated and interdependent.

“There is no such thing as ‘individual’ health separate from the systems within which the individual exists,” explains Sarah A. Conn, Ph.D., founder and director of the Ecopsychology Institute. (Pioneers of ecopsychology theory include David Abram, Sarah Conn, James Hillman, Joanna Macy, Bill Plotkin, Rosemary Randall, Laura Sewell, and Paul Shepard.)

One of the longest-standing programs of the organization, it began as semester course at Harvard for health care and related professionals. That course continues to this day, exploring health care theory and practice in the larger context, based on the notion that human health and the health of the Earth are inseparable – viewing “symptoms” as cultural and ecological “signals” and potential invitations to transform worldview and identity.

The work has grown to include training programs for professionals in other fields, including educators, architects, writers, environmental engineers and artists.

At a pilot training held at the Boston Society of Architects building in downtown Boston in June 2001, more than a dozen architects met for a day-long session during which the Institute trainers introduced the basic principles of ecopsychology and the levels of ecological intelligence. The participants then worked on synthesizing what they had learned and applying it to a case example. The basic teaching was summarized by one participant as, “learning to be part of the Earth that is being built upon, to learn to honor the land, to ask permission to modify it, to tune into its messages.”

“All of these professionals have been drawn to our work because of their concern for the Earth and their intuition that transformation of the human psyche is necessary for sustainable living in the future,” explains Dr. Conn.

“In the world we are facing today, with the degradation of both human and non-human natural systems, all professions are called to be oriented to health care, to include the health of the Earth in their work.”