Interview with John Mack

NOVA(1) interview with John Mack, Psychiatrist, Harvard University: From skepticism to belief
14 Sep 2009,

NOVA: Let’s talk about your own personal evolution from perhaps skepticism to belief …

MACK: When I first encountered this phenomenon, or particularly even before I had actually seen the people themselves, I had very little place in my mind to take this seriously. I, like most of us, were raised to believe that if we were going to discover other intelligence, we’d do it through radio waves or through signals or something of that kind.

The idea that we could be reached by some other kind of being, creature, intelligence that could actually enter our world and have physical effects as well as emotional effects, was simply not part of the world view that I had been raised in. So that I came very reluctantly to the conclusion that this was a true mystery. In other words, that I—I did everything I could to rule out other sources, or sexual abuse. Some of these people are abused. But they’re able to tell, distinguish clearly the abduction trauma from other forms of abuse. Some forms of psychosis or people making up stories—I could reject that on the basis that there was no gain in this for the vast majority of these people.

…. I’ve now worked with over a hundred experiencers intensively. Which involves an initial two-hour or so screening interview before I do anything else. And in case after case after case, I’ve been impressed with the consistency of the story, the sincerity with which people tell their stories, the power of feelings connected with this, the self-doubt—all the appropriate responses that these people have to their experiences.

NOVA: So tell us, please, how literally you intend people to take this? Are you suggesting people are really being snatched from their beds by aliens and experiments on board a spaceship?

MACK: Just how literally to take this, is one of the most interesting and complex aspects of this. And I want to walk through that as clearly as I can. There are aspects of this which I believe we are justified in taking quite literally. That is, UFOs are in fact observed, filmed on camera at the same time that people are having their abduction experiences.

People, in fact, have been observed to be missing at the time that they are reporting their abduction experiences. They return from their experiences with cuts, ulcers on their bodies, triangular lesions, which follow the distribution of the experiences that they recover, of what was done to them in the craft by the surgical-like activity of these beings. 

All of that has a literal physical aspect and is experienced and reported with appropriate feeling, by the abductees, with or without hypnosis or a relaxation exercise.

[Lucretia’s response] ~ I think this is really important to understand: THAT THIS IS HAPPENING IN PHYSICAL REALITY. Physical reality is not the whole of it– more on that below– but it is fundamental to understanding what is going on. Its not just psychological or even just metaphysical/ other dimensional/ faerie/ limbo/ astral/ [insert other reality here]. Its real in the sense of reality that everyone knows. Nuts and bolts reality, okay?

I had a friend who was looking into this offer up that perhaps it was natural mystical DMT trips. He suggested that many abduction experiences are similar, etc. Firstly, NO they aren’t that similar. Secondly, DMT trips don’t have actual missing persons, outside witnesses to “other” beings, leave scars consistent with memories of the encounter, leave landing traces, get photographed by video and photographic cameras, are recorded in sound, are sensed on radar systems, and so on and so forth. Only an actual physical reality could do all that. I tried to explain to my friend that IF he were totally conscious and a Grey walked into a room where he was, he would be able to see it, smell it, touch it. If he spread flour on the floor and it was walking (not floating, they do that sometimes) it would leave prints. The trick would be catching one while wide awake. But I’ve done it. So have scores of other people.

So like it or not, this cannot be easily explained away via mental constructs or woo-woo ephemeral psychic energy. (Not that there ISN’T woo-woo psychic energy…)

….There is a—I believe, a gradation of experiences and that go from the most literal physical kinds of hurts, wounds, person removed, spacecraft that can be photographed, to experiences which are more psychological, spiritual, involve the extension of consciousness. The difficulty for our society and for our mentality is, we have a kind of either/or mentality. It’s either, literally physical; or it’s in the spiritual other realm, the unseen realm. What we seem to have no place for—or we have lost the place for—are phenomena that can begin in the unseen realm, and cross over and manifest and show up in our literal physical world.

So the simple answer would be: Yes, it’s both. It’s both literally, physically happening to a degree; and it’s also some kind of psychological, spiritual experience occurring and originating perhaps in another dimension. And so the phenomenon stretches us, or it asks us to stretch to open to realities that are not simply the literal physical world, but to extend to the possibility that there are other unseen realities from which our consciousness, our, if you will, learning processes over the past several hundred years have closed us off.

~ There ARE psychic/astral/other-dimensional aspects of this. Its part of the whole package you get if you are an abductee. I’ve mentioned this before, but I suspect SOME of what is witnessed/experienced regarding other-reality intrusions is a SIDE EFFECT of a very advanced technology of these beings. They use gadgets to bend space and time, and even to create portals between places in one reality or even between realities– and it seems to leave its own sort of calling card. Shit bleeds through. You see animals and faerie-like (distorted) beings pop in for a few seconds and then they pop right back out. You get poltergeistic phenomena. Its a serious trip. And it happens to every single abductee I’ve ever met!! We’ve all had super weird encounters that were NOT “aliens”– but that the aliens may have unwittingly exposed us to during their routines.

NOVA: I wonder, if in that vein, you can speak to what you think this experience is about? 

MACK: ….There are several effects that these experiences have for those who undergo alien abduction encounters. First is the most familiar aspect or fit, which is a traumatic event in which a blue light or some kind of energy paralyzes the person, whether they’re in their home or they’re driving a car. They can’t move.

They feel themselves being removed from wherever they were. They floated through a wall or out a car, carried up on this beam of light into a craft and there subjected to a number of now familiar procedures which involve the beings staring at them; involves probing of their body, their body orifices; and a complex process whereby they sense in the case of men, sperm removed; in the women, eggs removed; some sort of hybrid offspring created which they’re brought back to see in later abductions. That’s the sort of literal experience.

~ Now read the next part VERY CAREFULLY:

Now, the effect of that is—or what seems to be going on there, in a number of abductees—not just people I see, but the ones Budd Hopkins and other people see—is to produce some kind of new species to bring us together. To produce a hybrid species which—the abductees are sometimes told—will populate the earth or will be there to carry evolution forward, after the human race has completed what it is now doing, namely the destruction of the earth as a living system. So it’s a kind of later form. It’s an awkward coming together of a less embodied species than we are, and us, for this evolutionary purpose. 

However, that might not be literally true. It might be that that this is a communication to us. That perhaps we need to change our ways. It may not be that these are literally our babies. It may be a kind of expression of images of babies; or it may be that these hybrids we’re told is what will have to be. It’s a kind of insurance policy if the earth continues to be subjected to the exploitation of its living environment to the point where it can’t sustain human and other life as it’s now occurring. But it may not be literally what is going to happen. So that’s one area. 

~ I cry bullshit. I’ve seen and touched the hybrids– they are OBVIOUSLY part-human and part-alien. Give me a break. Why waste all that effort to make so many of these “new humans” and then just dump the project? Nope. Don’t buy it. I call this wishful thinking on his part. People just don’t want to believe that modern humans are but a step on a long-term project.
Guess what? WE’RE NOT THE APEX.

Another area is the whole visual environmental and informational aspect of this in which people are shown on television screens a huge variety of scenes of environmental destruction of the earth polluted; of a kind of post-apocalyptic scene in which even the spirits have been routed from their environment because they live in the same physical and spiritual environment that we do; and canyons are shown with trees destroyed; pieces of the earth are seen as breaking away—portions of coastlines. 

~ Another repeating message. YOUR PLANET’S BIOSPHERE IS IN TROUBLE!! Not just from humans killing the life here. But also from weather systems, and the Earth itself (magnetic, geological) changing drastically. Our pressure upon life forms on top of some sort of cyclical shifting is equating big trouble and we’re just now starting to feel those effects. Much more is supposed to come.

According to the aliens, anyway. And I have been looking into this a long time and it seems plausible to me.

Meanwhile, the interviewer skipped a follow-up to this question to get back to that whole “hybrid” concept. Say what again?

NOVA: …..Alien hybrid. What does that mean?

MACK: Sometimes along the way, as you go deeper and deeper into the person’s consciousness, into their experience, they will discover….what is called a dual identity. In other words, that they are both human—in one dimension; but they also are themselves, have an alien identity. That they are participatory in this reproductive hybrid program, as if they were altogether part of it. And that they may, in fact, even experience themselves as aliens. 

One of the men in my book actually was an active participant in taking a woman from Texas up into the ship and being, and acting the reproductive function of the alien being, and felt he was himself alien. And often the abductees will feel that their job, developmentally, is to integrate these two dimensions or these two aspects of themselves: the human and the alien. And that the alien dimension is a part of ourselves, our souls, if you will even, from which we were or have been cut off over the centuries of human beings living on this earth in this densely embodied form.

~ AH! And I’ve just begun discussing this aspect of things in my posts about my experiences. Its strange– to have a part of you that remembers and is an active participant, and another part that just your everyday life self. I’m still trying to work all this out. However, like the hybrid thing and the “severe loss of life on future Earth” thing– this is something that almost all abductees find out along the way if they have conscious memories at all. Its very disquieting, to say the least.

NOVA: You and others have said that there is no other psychological explanation. But that there is some reality to it. What do you think of the work of people like Michael Persinger and Robert Baker who have these complicated theories about neurology or they charge that hypnogogic hallucinations being at the root of these perceived—these experiences?

MACK: These experiences often occur in literal consciousness. Not in a hypnogogic or dreamlike state. The person may be in their bedroom quite wide awake. The beings show up. And there they are and the experience begins. That they’re not occurring in any dreamlike state. Now sometimes they do occur when a person is dozing off or in a hypnogogic state. But very frequently not. 

~ Precisely. I’ve had things happen to me while wide awake, able to move, and so on. I’ve had this happen and be witnessed by neighbors who saw the Greys with me and CALLED THE POLICE!! (I will be discussing that experience in my series of posts later.) These things do not all happen in a dream-like state. The aliens prefer to sneak up on us when we’re sleeping for their own safety (we tend to hit first and ask questions later. I know I do!) but that doesn’t mean fully awake people don’t see them too. And sometimes we remember. They do their best to suppress our memories (so we can live “normal” lives???) but they don’t always succeed. They also allow us pieces of memories sometimes too– especially if we ask them specifically.

Also, any theory that is going to look upon this as a purely endogenous phenomenon, by which I mean generated purely from the psyche of the person themselves. Which is a kind of arrogance too, really. Because it means that we just can’t accept the notion there could be another intelligence at work here. Which is a much more economical explanation. 

~ Yeah, Occam’s Razor. Most “alternate” so-called “rational” explanations for alien abduction require embracing inconsistencies and ignoring huge data gaps. Sometimes things really ARE what they seem to be.

But if we must find a theory within ourselves, then we should keep in mind that any theory that’s going to even begin to address this, has to take into account five factors:

Number one, the extreme consistency of the stories from person after person. Which you would not get simply by stimulating the temporal lobes. You would get very variable idiosyncratic responses that would differ a great deal from person to person. 

Number two, you would have to deal with the fact that there is no ordinary experiential basis for this. In other words, there’s nothing in their life experience that could have given rise to this, other than what they say. In other words, there’s no mental condition that could explain it.

Third, you have to account for the physical aspects: the cuts and the other lesions on their bodies, which do not follow any psychodynamic distribution, like the stigmata associated with the identification with the agony of Christ.

Fourth, the tight association with UFOs, which are often observed in the community, by the media, independent of the person having the abduction experience, who may not have seen the UFO at all, but reads or sees on the television the next day that a UFO passed near where they were when they had an abduction experience. 

And finally, the phenomenon occurs in children as young as two, two and a half, three years old. 

And any theory that simply attributes this to the activity of the brain, does not take into account at least three of those five fundamental dimensions…

NOVA: Aren’t you really at risk of losing quite a bit, personally and professionally, because of …criticism?

MACK: I think that, in some ways, I’ve gained more than I’ve lost in terms of inviting people into this mystery, having a dialogue with all kinds of very wonderful, open, intelligent, brilliant people from many different fields. It’s been quite exciting. I mean I’ve been attacked, but the attacks have not been really nearly as serious to me as the openness that I’ve found among many people throughout the culture and internationally, who are saying: Yeah, I always suspected something like this was going on, and I’m glad you were willing to come forward and report about it.

……It’s often said that I’m a believer and sort of have gone and lost my objectivity. I really object to that. Because this is not about believing anything. I didn’t believe anything when I started, I don’t really believe anything now. I’m come to where I’ve come to clinically. In other words, I worked with people over hundred and hundreds of hours and have done as careful a job as I could to listen, to sift out, to consider alternative explanations. And none have come forward. No one has found an alternative explanation in a single abduction case.

NOVA: Many say that this is just really a function of cultural images.

MACK: …I have been looking at this phenomenon as it manifests in indigenous people, in Native Americans—the Cherokee, the Hopi, who know these beings as the star people. We’ve looked at this in South Africa, particularly in interviewing in depth a leading South African sangoma, or medicine man, who calls these beings “mandingdas”.

We’ve investigated it in Brazil with a farmer in—outside Belo Horizante who had identical abduction experiences to what have been reported in this country. I’m getting recent—I received a letter about abduction experiences from a person in Malaysia today. In other words, this is—as far as we can tell—a worldwide phenomenon. This is not restricted, as some people have thought, to Western or particularly American culture.

~ Even in cultures that have no access to television, movies, or book/magazines there are people reporting very similar, if not identical, experiences. So much for that theory.

So why don’t we find more people talking about their experiences like I do (although behind a veil of anonymity for the most part)?

....I found that the higher or the greater the stake that a person has in this society, in their position or their job, the more reluctant they are to admit that they’ve had abduction experiences……When abductees went on television with me during the spring of 1994, during my book tours, and wanted to communicate and educate about it, a number of them received threats to their jobs. Some of them lost them….we have one man in management consultation, lost an important contract. A woman that worked for the federal government, who was an abductee, was threatened with loss of her job. In other words, this is not something that is regarded as acceptable.

I’ve interviewed airline pilots who have had sighting—close up sightings of UFOs. They will not report it, because they will be removed from their work. Even if they’ve had abduction experience, they will not talk about it. And 25 to 30 percent of airline pilots, according to a survey that one of the people I’ve talked with did, have had close up sightings, but will not discuss it.

This simply is not something that is accepted as OK to talk about or—And that may be changing. I recently saw a Harvard Divinity School student, and I asked him these questions. I said: Do you talk about this among your fellow students? And he said: ‘Oh, yes.’ And it turned out several of them had also had abduction experiences. And even the ones that had not, were fascinated, interested, didn’t ridicule ‘em. So maybe the climate is changing.


(1) NOVΛ is an American popular science television series produced by WGBH Boston. It is broadcast on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the U.S., and in more than 100 other countries. The series has won many major television awards.



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