History

The John E. Mack Institute began in 1982 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

After a brief flirtation with being known as the “Center for the Study of Human Continuity”, and then over-correcting for a couple of years as the more perfunctory “Nuclear Psychology Program”, it became the Center for Psychological Studies in the Nuclear Age. 

Founded by Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author and Harvard Psychiatrist Dr. John E. Mack and renowned psychiatrist/historian Dr. Robert J. Lifton, the Center grew out of the activities of a group of physicians, academics and educators who were studying the psychological aspects of the arms race.

Its original mission was to “study the psychological, historical and political complexities that maintain and perpetuate nuclear weapons as instruments of policy.” 

The Center was, at the time of its inception, an affiliate of the Harvard Medical School, and the work took the form of research projects and conferences.

As its activities expanded it became, in 1986, an independent 501c3 organization.

A statement of purpose written in 1985 declared, “As sociologists, social psychologists, mental health professionals, and anthropologists the distinct contribution we can make is the development of insights and methods for bringing about shifts in awareness that can result in individual and group behaviors which are life preserving rather than life threatening.”

The Center began working in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECSOC) in 1988. There, the Center’s representative Nancy Roof, Ph.D., created the UN Values Caucus to bring discussion of spiritual values to global issues. It sensitively challenged restrictions on the use of the language of religion and values in UN debate, and led to the formation of the UN Spiritual Caucus. Since their inception, these caucuses have raised the level of spiritual discourse and helped the UN honor the cultural values of people who are affected by its policies and actions. (Dr. Roof’s efforts have since become an independent 501c3 organization; click to visit their website).

In 1992, in a rebranding that reflected the end of the Cold War, the Center for Psychological Studies in the Nuclear Age became the Center for Psychology and Social Change.

That same year, with funding from Laurence Rockefeller, the Center formed the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research (PEER) to explore how people’s worldviews were affected by reported “alien encounters”. The “reality” of alien beings was secondary to PEER’s primary interest in how such experiences may lead to a sense of identification with the world as a whole rather than with a particular nation or group.

The findings of PEER underscored the organization’s belief that personal and societal growth result from life experiences that challenge our worldviews and, at the conclusion of the PEER program in 2002, the Center continued to focus on helping individuals expand their understanding of the human experience in order to benefit all life. 

The organization is now known as the John E. Mack Institute.

[Summaries of selected past projects and all current projects are available from the menu]