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John E. Mack – 2
Western scientific world view, and that other cultures have known of this phenomenon throughout time.
The reason that we don’t know about it has to do with, possibly, the way we structure perception, or what our world view allows us to perceive. I’m not sure. But as I spent more time with it–and had done so before writing Passport to the Cosmos–it became increasingly clear that the debate about “is it real?”, “is it not real?”, “can we prove it?”, “can we not prove it?” is a very narrow element, and restricts the conversation entirely to a purely materialist question, the literal physical reality of it or not. And although a lot of energy is spent inside and outside the UFO community on that question–which is certainly intriguing for a lot of people, and perhaps needs to be pursued–the more interesting question is, what is the impact of this on human beings, and on the culture?
Now this is not necessarily the majority view among people in the UFO field. But the literal reality about UFO’s–isn’t this the greatest story ever, and so forth–has become of less interest to me then the matter of what is the effect of this? What is the impact of this on human lives? And at first that may seem discouraging, cause, gosh–aren’t we going to try to explain it and understand it? You know, box it and put a ribbon on it. And find out what it is, where the aliens are coming from, who are they, what’s behind it all, and so forth–all legitimate questions, certainly. Yet there are elements of life which really don’t lend themselves to explanation.
For instance, take people who have had near-death experiences. Neal Grossman–a philosopher at University of Illinois in Chicago–has worked with many people who have had near-death experiences. And once these people have the experience, the question of “what is its literalness?” or “what is its physicality as reality?” is not important to them. What’s important is the experience itself. In other words, what it’s opening them to? The cosmic reality or dimension of being it opens them to is far more important to them. So this drone that we get from Carl Sagan on down, of “where’s the proof?”, “where’s the physical evidence?” is an attempt to move the conversation on to their rather narrow turf, and then battle it on that level. And I think that’s a useless exercise.
The fact of the matter is that the UFO encounter experiences, like other transpersonal experiences–such as near-death experiences, kundalini awakenings, spontaneous spiritual epiphanies, psychedelic experiences and others–crack this, I would say, meticulously constructed and somewhat artificial programming of the Western mind that’s gone on over several centuries to separate us from the divine, so we can declare arrogantly and confidently that God is dead. It strips away, and it opens people to this connection with the numinous, with the transcendent, higher consciousness, creative principal, God–whatever you want to call it. And that becomes a living reality for people who have this kind of trial-by-fire that the so-called alien abduction experience–or near-death experiences and similar overwhelming confrontations with these kind of forces–can do.
This is not to say that these experiences can’t be traumatic. They can be traumatic by the very intensity of them, or the seeming lack of consideration for human sensibilities that the so-called aliens may exhibit. So the traumas are very real. But I think to stay at that level, and not go on into the resource that these experiences represent for possibilities of transformation–for individuals, and from the worldview standpoint, for our whole culture–we’d be missing a great opportunity. So this transformation does occur in case after case. However if you don’t get beyond the point of the person who’s had this overwhelming experience, and they’re traumatized by it, they may stay stuck in a kind of victim place. This happens to many experiencers, so we become sympathetic healers.
David: What kinds of reactions have you gotten from your colleagues regarding your research interests?
John: Mixed. But I think that increasingly people–particularly mental health professionals–are seeing these cases, and once they see the cases, then they join me in a sense. But with purely Newtonian-Cartesian scientists, if something doesn’t operate according to the physical laws that they understand, or doesn’t fall within the materialist testable framework that they know how to work in, then they simply say it doesn’t exist. They deny it totally and don’t see that there’s a mystery there.
David: How common is the experience?
John: I don’t know. There haven’t been any really reliable polls, so I just can’t say. We continuously see cases, but the cases