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John E. Mack – 2
exciting and powerfully transformative for many people, although it’s a kind of shock at first. The whole western scientific enterprise seems to be predicated on the notion that the material world is really all there is, and yet at some deep level that’s so profoundly unsatisfying. So I think this raises a question about the whole matter of what is reality, and what does exist. Where do we place phenomena that seem to come from some other dimension, but manifest in our reality, and how do we understand that?
The major religions focus on particular spiritual entities– like Jesus, Allah, God, the Holy Spirit, or angels– so here we have some other entities, but these entities seem to enter into our material world. What are the theological implications of the introduction of these strange beings into our universe? They seem to create a bridge from the unseen into the material world. I think it raises important philosophical questions.
David: Could you talk a little about your interaction with Thomas Kuhn, regarding your approach to researching the abduction phenomenon?
John: I knew Thomas Kuhn as a child because our parents were friends. I used to go there every Christmas for eggnog and liver pate`. When I started doing this work I went to see him, and he was interested. He cautioned me in various ways. He advised me to just collect data, to try to suspend judgment, and look out for the traps of language–like real/unreal, exists/doesn’t exist, happened/didn’t happen, intra-psychic/outside. He advised me to just report–to record what people were feeling and saying. And that’s what I’ve tried to do. The other thing that he said was don’t worry about science, because in this culture science has become a new kind of theology. What you’re really interested in, he said, is trying to learn something and gain knowledge, whether it’ll satisfy science or not. Science prefers to study primarily within the purely material world, he said, but don’t worry about that. Now the other thing he said was to just publish in scientific journals, and don’t write a book. This was because he had gotten so much intense interest and flack around his book that sometimes he was troubled about it. He’s kind of a shy man.
David: His book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions has became standard introductory reading in virtually every History of Science course in the world.
John: In some ways he seemed to lament the reception of his book. I don’t think that’s right that he did. His book– as with any popularization of any important and complex concept– is going to be misunderstood by a lot of people who are going to want to cloak themselves in his mantle. But I think that if you have something you want to say, it’s okay to do it in a book.
David: Why did you write Abduction?
John: I didn’t take his advice on that one, and I did write a book. First of all, I couldn’t get what I had to say down in an article, because it’s too complex, and the cases were too elaborate. I wanted to lay out a kind of map of the whole phenomenon as best I could from what I experienced. I thought it was important, regardless of whether these beings are to be taken literally as material entities, or whether they’re something more complex and subtle that crosses over from the unseen into the material world. Whatever it is–daimonic or material reality– it seemed to me important, and a big story that I wanted to report. So that’s what I did.
David: When I was reading through Abduction and Passport to the Cosmos I wondered how common the various aspects of the abduction phenomenon were in the sample of two hundred people that you worked with. For example, what percentage of abductees experienced floating through a solid object in a beam of light? What percentage experienced the alien-human/hybrid project? And cross-culturally, how do these figures differ? Is this information all available?
John: Yeah, Thomas Eddie Bullard did an exhaustive comparative study of abduction reports in 1987 called “UFO Abductions–The Measure of a Mystery”, which covered the phenomenology and what percentage of people have this or that symptom. That was before I was even in this field. It’s never been published as a book, but it’s available from The Fund for UFO Research (www.fufor.com).
David: You worked with over two hundred people. I would imagine that you’ve probably studied the largest number of people who have had this experience.
John: No, I think Budd Hopkins has more. I’ve seen a lot of people, but it doesn’t mean much, because what matters is how you work with them, and how intensely you work with them. I’ve seen more than two hundred people