UFO Conjectures

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Dr. John Mack explained alien abductions in 1970 but forgot he did so...

Copyright 2012, InterAmerica, Inc.

John E. Mack M.D. [Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Boston], who was killed by a drunk driver in London, September 27th, 2004, became entranced by alleged alien (extraterrestrial) abductions of human beings.
His works dealing with the topic include Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens (1994) and Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters (1999).

Shortly before his trip to London and his subsequent death, I received an e-mail from Dr. Mack, who contacted me to see if our MediaWatch group was the one that savaged his book or appearance on a panel about alien abductions.

I assured him that it wasn’t our MediaWatch group and we exchanged phone numbers to discuss the matter (media) and alien abductions.

Dr. Mack was, as he remained over they years, noncommittal about the reality of alien abductions, even though his friend and cohort, Will Bueche, a board member of the John E Mack Institute, had an abduction experience – one that I find hard to dismiss.

And while Dr. Mack was intrigued by and nonplussed, somewhat, by alien abductions, he provided the answer to the psychic-like phenomenon, years before, in his book, Nightmares and Human Conflict [Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1970].

Nightmares, later in life, are triggered by factors associated with earlier traumatic or traumatic-like events in childhood:

“Disturbing memories may exert a continuing influence, contributing to the production of nightmares long after the occurrence of the events with which they are associated.” [Nightmares….Page 44]

“The role of actual events that are perceived as threatening to the ego appear to play a particularly important role in…nightmares…Panic or overwhelming anxiety in nightmares…seems often to follow upon a single traumatic event….Losses of important persons, separations from love objects…moves to strange surroundings, hospitalization, a particularly important role in…nightmares…Panic or overwhelming anxiety in nightmares…seems often to follow upon a single traumatic event….Losses of important persons, separations from love objects…moves to strange surroundings, hospitalization, surgery or other bodily injury, and deaths of relatives or acquaintances -- all seem to be the most frequent disturbing events that overly burden the defensive capacities of the ego and give rise to nightmares. It seems possible that a threat to survival can be perceived in these events… [Ibid, Page 56 ff.]

“Threatening figures…incorporated into the personality from the time of earliest childhood, may confront the dreamer once again in nightmares, often decades later….[Ibid, Page 59]

And abductions, like dreams, mimic insanity:

“Similarities between dreams and certain forms of insanity have long been observed. Henry More, an English theologian and philosopher, noted in 1656 a “Melancholy Symptome, which Physitians call Extasie,” caused by natural sleep an the effect of which is “the deliration of the party after he awakes; for he takes his dreams for true Histories and real Transactions.” {Emphasis mine] Immanuel Kant believed that the mad person was a dreamer awake. The subject seems particularly to have fascinated nineteenth-century writers. Hughlings Jackson, for example, called dreams “the physiological insanity”…The famous nineteenth-century German psychiatrist, William Griesinger…regarded insanity “analogous” to dreaming, “especially to dreams in the half-waking state.” [Ibid, Page 158]

The dream or nightmare, which I’m equating with abduction phenomena, is related to psychotic behavior…

“An examination of the manifest features of a nightmare of and adult or child and of an acute schizophrenic psychosis or turmoil state readily yields several significant [Emphasis mine] points of similarity. [Ibid, Page 163].

But what about nightmares (or abductions) that occur outside of normal sleep periods?

“Any attempt to establish the time at which nightmares are most likely to occur in the sleep cycle meet familiar difficulties of definition and of the interpretations of findings….to confound the matter further, there is little agreement between laboratories about some stages of sleep. [Ibid, Page 189]

Nightmares and alien abductions are seen, superficially, as traumatic, but Dr. Mack writes this:

“…if the traumatic response is limited to to the sleep situation…does not invade waking consciousness, and is not accompanied by other symptoms, signs of ego regression, or developmental difficulties, it is reasonable to say either that this is a “successful” handling of the traumatic situation or that the traumatic experience has been well circumscribed.” [Ibid, Page 215]

Dr, Mack closes his book with this:

“…the nightmare may not only be made up of memories and other aspects of mental functioning that originated in early childhood, but may be linked with neurophysiological mechanisms subserving self-preservation and survival that are phylogenetically older than those that are the exclusive possession of the human species.” [Ibid, Page 241]

That Dr. Mack chose to set aside his 1970 observations about dreams, nightmares, and psychoses, and go off into new territory for an explanation of alien abductions is troublesome, for me.

The answer – the explanation – for alien abduction experiences can be found in Dr, Mack’s book and other books dealing with neurological psychoses I believe.

To persist in trying to “prove” or “disprove” the alien abduction experience from the extraterrestrial template is gilding the lily, as it were….gilding it with an overlay that is not needed, nor authentic.

Are all UFO reports and cases neurologically induced? No. Are all alien abduction scenarios neurologically or psychotically induced? Yes.

Dr. Mack knew this in 1970 but chose to forget his findings.



  • From my recent reviews of various psychiatric papers regarding dissociation disorders (this tends to parrot most abduction claims,IMO), childhood trauma seems to be contributing/exacerbating factor.

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Thursday, July 05, 2012  

  • Tim:

    The psychiatric literature coupled with neurological studies provides a ready explanation for the abduction phenomenon, but like the rest of UFO "research," it is ignored, since most UFO buffs (and the UFO old-guard) are loath to give up the ET aspect.

    But that's a matter for another time.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, July 05, 2012  

  • I do not think he forgot his own findings but rather doubt began to unravel them. It's what Gurdjieff likened to a game of musical chairs. The music stopped once he left his comfortable chair and Dr Mack had no chair, no philosophy, no science to replace his own doubt. He did have the courage to say so. However, he began to drift into "the theory of the day" where he began to contradict himself, by neglecting to preface himself with a perhaps or maybe. I think he lost all objectivity and the hunter became haunted, or the hunted. What was he thinking when the car struck him? At the end, I suppose this was of no consequence to his existence.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Thursday, July 05, 2012  

  • I may be dense but how does this theory explain multiple person "abductions"?

    By Blogger Dominick, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • Dominick...

    You're familiar with some psychiatric literature and some responses about multiple mental afflictions: folie a deux for one, or folie a cinq, et al.

    I know you're an ET advocate, which is okay with me -- I'm not eschewing the possibility -- but you have to take a serious look at the neurological studies and what is commonly accepted as valid in the field of psychology.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • There are most certainly hypnogogic, hypnopompic elements in abduction reports. The problem is that too many
    people are having the same nightmare, and it is doubtful, I believe, that they are all copying from one another.

    By Anonymous Pavel Chichikov, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • Pavel:

    One would have to examine each account to see what elements are similar or exactly alike.

    Psychological elements of a like kind are not extraordinary, as both Freud and Jung showed and present day psychologists and neurologists note.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • RR,

    Yes, there are common themes in our night visions, but I don't know if this is a conclusive comment on the nature of abduction experiences.

    It seems to me that at least some people are reporting real experiences as opposed to lying and hoaxing, but I have no idea how one would go about verifying a more-than-mental reality for them, whatever it might be.

    One could even explain some of them by positing that the dream nature of the experience is a projection into the psyche by some external agency.

    But how would one falsify or verify such an hypothesis?

    By having the experience one's self, I suppose.

    By Anonymous Pavel Chichikov, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • Pavel...

    The external agent has gotten and is getting lots of attention for such episodes, including UFO sightings too.

    Bruce Duensing sees such incidents, abductions, sightings, et cetera, as internally induced I think. (He'll clarify if I'm wrong about that.)

    Jose Caravaca expands on Vallee's Others.

    Nick Redfern sees an ulterior "thing" or force also I believe.

    But, for me, the abduction experience is a psychosis of some kind; a sojourn into a mental state where what is happening seems as real as actual reality.

    That's the schizophrenic's reality too.

    The matter isn't closed for me, but I lean toward the psychiatric and neurological view.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • RR,

    I would not group sightings together with abduction experiences, if only because sightings are so much more capable of being verified objectively by more than one observer, and even single observers are often eminently qualified.

    I don't believe in "ready explanations" for something so exotic as the abduction phenomenon. I wonder if every psychiatrist would be willing to diagnosis such an experience as schizoid in every case.

    There is a phenomenon. I have no idea what it represents, and for all anyone knows much of it may be delusional, but perhaps not all of it.

    It may very well be something beyond our understanding, over our heads, so to speak, but not necessarily in them.

    By Anonymous Pavel Chichikov, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • Pavel:

    We are not in disagreement.

    I'm merely psychologically predilected.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • Maybe Doctor Mack didn't disregard the idea - maybe the concept simply failed when confronted by examples that wouldn't easily be dismissed as nightmares or psychotic episodes viz Gribovski's creature.

    And when Bruce says Mack lost his way and contradicted himself maybe what really happened was he found himself confronted by a reality which he eventually came to realise was ultimately beyond any kind of conceptualisation.

    Or to paraphrase Idries Shah there's a whole universe of difference between i) a scientific text book describing an onion ii) a cookbook describing how to prepare an onion iii) dried onions iv)reconstituted dried onions v) fresh onions.

    Or to paraphrase Gurdjieff you only need to know a little to know everything but to know that little you first need to know a lot.

    Or to put it another way if you want to know about tigers wouldn't it be better to ask people who've actually had dealings with them than read papers by people whose knowledge is derived from libraries and interviews you almost certainly could do a better job of yourself eg folie a deux or mass hysteria aren't explanations - they're descriptions which if anything're suggestive of telepathy something you'll be even more able to credit if you've ever been a particpant in or witness to crowds or gangs spontaneously taking on a life and intelligence of their own or indeed spontaneously irrupting riots.

    By Blogger alanborky, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • When one talks with persons who say they've been abducted -- which I and others have -- one comes away with a palpable feeling that they've had a psychotic episode.

    Comparing abduction tales to the ramblings of schizophrenics makes for a valid, if not conclusive, opinion that abductees have had a mental disfigurement.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • I'm somewhat in sympathy with Alan.

    Maybe more than somewhat.

    I tend to favor the reducing valve metaphor in epistemology.

    By Anonymous Pavel Chichikov, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • Pavel:

    Then I suggest you read an earlier post here about collaborative foolishness, derived from a New Yorker piece about how people assume political stances just to belong to the group.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • I would think that the same nightmare occurring is the problem. If it's all natural and in the mind then why are so many having the same nightmare? And if so many are having the same nightmare, why is the nightmare not reported in the 1100s, 200BC, 1922? I've had sleep paralysis many times and I never saw a grey alien, night hag, demon, ufo, or had a medical procedure done on me. Guess I had a great childhood or I'm crazy some other way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • I think we'll have to provide the recurring elements in psychotic and/or schizophrenic bouts.

    The same "nightmare" or abduction aspects confirm an etiology with identical neurological proclivities.

    And the "nightmare" details have been noted or reported in the 1100s, 200 B.C. and 1922, among other dates as noted in a paragraph cited in the posting above.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, July 06, 2012  

  • RR,

    You extrapolate from "various psychiatric papers" to the subjects under discussion. Have these persons undergone pertinent and valid neurological exams?

    I can only say that your conclusion seems much too powerful, too unfalsifiable. It appears to rest on assuming as proven that which remains to to proven.

    You may still be correct, but IMO you present no strong evidence that you are correct.

    By Anonymous Pavel Chichikov, at Saturday, July 07, 2012  

  • Pavel:

    The problem lies in the fact that abductees have not been subject to neurological or psychiatric exams.

    My views are hypothetical opinion, which need verification and testing.

    No conclusions are being drawn here, just suggestive opinion.

    A matter or being correct or not is premature, in the absence of valid testing as you surmise.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, July 07, 2012  

  • Rich, you're right about how infrequently -- if at all -- abduction mongers cite Mack's dream book. It recently appeared before me at a very cheap price. Your post has helped me prioritise it in my hopelessly long reading queue.
    Considering how the Hill abduction report first appeared in a dream, of all things, it's amazing how proponents and skeptics avoid academic dream literature as if it were published by NAMBLA.

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Sunday, July 08, 2012  

  • Terry...

    That's one of the problems: we all have so little time and/or resources to read all that we should, to find what may pertain and what may not.

    But it would seem that those who want to understand the abduction scenario would seek information that borders on or impacts abduction accounts, such as dream theory and sleep studies.

    I also think someone should have asked, and have posted this a few times -- what foods or drugs (medicines and the recreational kind) have any alleged abductees ingested immediately before or close to their experience?

    And what, perhaps, significant or traumatic childhood event might be triggered by the mind to bring about an abduction episode?

    The experiences and witnesses have been treated shabbily pretty much.

    And using hypnosis to dredge up memories of the "events" is rather iffy, for all the reasons cited by skeptics and questioners.

    Try to skim, at least, the Mack book. There are passages which you'll find intriguing, surely.

    (How much did you pay for the book? (I love book bargains and the remainder bins at bookstores.)


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, July 08, 2012  

  • I got the paperback in perfect condition for 5.99. I found a lightly bashed "Abduction," revised edition, in a bargain bin for a buck. (That's where I find all the Whitley Streiber I own but hope never to read.)

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Sunday, July 08, 2012  

  • Hahahaha....Terry:

    We're on the same page when it comes to Strieber...or not on any of his pages it seems.

    (I don't think we have one Strieber book around here.)


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, July 08, 2012  

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