History

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

Founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John E. Mack and psychiatrist / historian Dr. Robert J. Lifton, the organization grew out of the activities of a group of physicians, academics and educators who were studying “the psychological, historical and political complexities that maintain and perpetuate nuclear weapons as instruments of policy.” 

At the time of its inception, it was an affiliate of the Harvard Medical School, and the work took the form of research projects and conferences. After a brief flirtation with being known as the “Center for the Study of Human Continuity”, it became the more perfunctory-titled “Nuclear Psychology Program”.

As its activities expanded it became, in 1986, an independent 501c3 organization, renamed the Center for Psychological Studies in the Nuclear Age. 

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.

The next 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. Since the conclusion of the PEER program in 2002, the Center has continued to focus on the examination of human experience and the ways in which perceptions and beliefs about reality shape the global condition.

The Center is now doing business as the John E. Mack Institute.

The mission of the John E. Mack Institute is to explore the frontiers of human experience, to serve the transformation of individual consciousness, and to further the evolution of the paradigms by which we understand human identity.

Summaries of selected past projects and current projects are available from the menu.


Read a detailed history by James Dunk, Historian at the University of Sydney:

An early brochure:


Back Issues of the organization’s newsletter (in PDF format):