VIVIENNE SIMON: In your first
book, Abduction, you tried to get a handle on what you saw
happening, through the presentation of case studies. In your new
Passport to the Cosmos - Human Transformation and Alien Encounters, you present the principal themes
that have surfaced over the ten years of your investigation. For
people who haven't read either book, would you explain “the
alien abduction phenomenon”?
JOHN MACK: When I talk about the abduction phenomenon,
I'm describing a profound experience or experiences, that many
people have had in this country, and now, apparently, in
countries around the world, which, as far as I can tell, cannot
be explained simply by people's understanding of the psyches of
The basic experience is that the person will
be wherever they are, often indoors, but not always: could be
someone in a car, children in a school yard, wherever. They will
see a very bright light, or hear a humming sound of some sort,
and they feel a “presence.” To their surprise and shock, they
are rendered unable to move.
They may see one or more humanoid
beings in their immediate environment related to this light.
They are then floated - that's the word they most often use -
down a corridor through a house, and through a window or a wall,
and taken through [the air] into some sort of enclosure, where
there are more of these humanoid beings - sometimes,
specifically the gray beings with the big dark eyes that have
become almost a cliché in the culture now, but certainly, when I
started, I didn't know anything of that, and it was not in the
public mind when I started this ten years ago. In that enclosure
there is often high-tech looking equipment, and the beings are
The individual is then subjected to a variety of
intrusive procedures which involve poking with odd instruments
into the orifices of their bodies, and the removal, apparently,
of sperm from the men through some sort of stimulation to
ejaculation, and eggs from the women. They are often told that
this is important.
If the person objects and says,
“You have no
right to do this,” the beings, if they respond at all, say,
“Well, we do it.”
Until the last few years, people who took the trouble to look
into this phenomenon in some depth discovered exactly what I'm
In subsequent experiences, the so-called
abductees - or experiencers as we prefer to call them - are
taken to see what appear to be hybrid children in the craft.
They may or may not see an actual spaceship. They are urged to
hold that child as if the beings understood that some nurturance
is necessary for a child that has human components. That's
poignantly disturbing to the mothers, and sometimes fathers, who
meet these children.
One of the things that gives the experience
a palpable reality is how deep and profound and genuine their
emotion is related to that aspect: being asked to hold and
nurture these children, when they know they will never have any
control over when they might ever see that child again. The
terror is genuine.
Then some of what it involves is not terror,
it's something else, which we can talk about.
All this came to light through the discoveries of Budd Hopkins,
an artist, and David Jacobs, an historian, and others who have
been investigating this phenomenon. That was considered to be
the fundamental abduction story. Now, that's all well and good.
But where it gets more interesting, in my view, is when you
enter into it the issues of scientific methodology and
philosophy, because, I believe, one must take on the question of
how are we to look upon this? Are we to regard this as literally
physically happening, just the way people say they experience
Certainly, it's a physical experience, and people end up,
apparently, with marks on their bodies where they've been
probed. But no one has ever seen a hybrid in a photograph.
is no evidence that would satisfy the methods of the Western
scientific culture to establish the literal physical reality of
all of the things I've said. It seems that if this were simply
in our physical world there would be some greater degree of
evidence of the beings, or of these hybrids. Unless, of course,
one argues that the aliens are so furtive and so technically
able so as not to be discovered, literally, that they make it
I think other explanations are probably more likely,
but I don't know that.
VS: You just covered a great breadth of material, so
let's break it down and go through some of the things you've
touched on. Let's start with the hybrid program. In the early
days of abduction investigations the creation of hybrid children
was thought to be the driving force behind why contact was
becoming so widely pervasive in this culture at this time.
over the course of your work these past ten years your thinking
has switched and you now see the central meaning of the
abduction phenomenon being more related to the accelerated
degradation of the planet. Can you talk a little bit about how
that shift happened?
JM: Yes. I came to see the hybrid program, as it's called, in
the context of the accelerating destruction of the Earth, as a
living organism, as a place where life can evolve.
emerged to my great surprise, as somebody raised in the secular
philosophy of this society which says there is no concrete objectifiable intelligence in the universe. And to my shock.
Apparently what we're doing to the planet has not gone
Credo Mutwa, one of the shamans that I wrote about in
the book, says that in African mythology the Earth is one of
only twenty-five mother planets in the entire cosmos that can
bring new life and where life can prosper - a womb planet is
what they call it.
This one species, the human species, seems to
have set as it's principal project the destruction of other
living species on this planet for its own purposes; something
like a cancer spreading throughout the planet. That is a crime,
evidently, of cosmic proportions.
This is not something that I feel. I might feel that, but that's
irrelevant. It's something that apparently we're being shown.
Because in addition to the hybrid project, the experiencers,
so-called, are also given information that comes through these
large eyes of the beings, through telepathic communication. And
it comes through scenes shown on television-like monitors in the
craft, and they create a consistent picture.
information they're given - they also may be given a certain
understanding of science, or skills, or artistic abilities - but
the central theme is about what is happening on the planet. Just
to make it dramatic sometimes, they are shown scenes of the
incredible magnificence of the planet.
Then, next to that,
they're shown actual scenes of the way it really is, of
devastation through pollution, through overpopulation, through
clear-cutting of the forests, through killing off of other
species, of the habitats of those species.
And the impact of this on the experiencers is as profound as
anything that surrounds the hybrid program. What's more, the
hybrid program, they are told again, I don't know any of this, I
only know what I have learned from the people who have had the
experiences - they are told that this hybrid program is being
done to preserve some dimension of human life, possibly along
with some necessity the beings have to preserve some element of
their own, through this coming together.
So that, as the earth
becomes uninhabitable, or as the human species in its present
form extinguishes itself along with all of these other species,
there will be some continuity of life. Something will survive of
us. That's why I place the hybrid story in the context of the
deterioration of the environment. This isn't just because it
looks like that, experiencers are actually told this, and often.
The reason, too, that I have taken this so seriously, is that
the impact of this information about the Earth is extraordinary
for the experiencers. They become literally, viscerally,
devastated by it. They will weep about it. They will become
aware, as Carlos Diaz is - a Mexican experiencer I wrote about
of the virtually infinite delicate relationship between various
They will literally weep over what is happening. So
they are not just liberal environmentalists; they experience
this through the core of their being. Many of them become active
on behalf of the planet, teach about it, talk about it if they
find people who will listen.
So it isn't that the hybrid program isn't continuing, although I
don't hear about it as much anymore. And that may be because of
my own evolution. This is an odd thing here. It's also a
selective thing. Experiencers choose people to work with - who
have written or have spoken on TV, or whatever - along lines
that seem right for their particular experiences.
So there is a
self-selecting process of who writes to me, or to David Jacobs
or Budd Hopkins or John Carpenter. So I may get the people that
are more drawn to this eco-cosmic perspective, whereas others
are staying with the kind of hurt, victimized, exploited feeling
that other investigators focus on.
Now is a good time to pick up
what I said earlier about the philosophical questions that have
to be addressed.
VS: That's perfect, because that's my next question. When you
talk about people being drawn to different people who can assist
them in understanding their experiences, one of the really
marked differences between you and say Budd Hopkins or David
Jacobs, is you have embraced a world view that is closer to, or
at least deeply informed by, Eastern religious beliefs and
indigenous cultural perspectives.
Throughout the book you
explore the differing world views that underlie Western cultures
on the one hand, and Eastern religious and indigenous cultures
on the other. In particular, your book focuses on beliefs
relating to the unity or separation of spirit and matter, and
the acceptance or rejection of the presence of spirits, aliens,
and other residents sharing our universe.
You emphasize the
importance of these differences in assessing the abduction
phenomenon. Can you summarize why that is so central?
JM: I think the tendency to focus on the pain and victimization,
which has been dominant for many investigators, comes from the
fact that these reports are so powerful.
The experiencers create
such intense emotion that they often report while recalling
“every cell in my body is vibrating.”
tendency is to take this to mean that all that they experienced
happened, particularly if there is no room for any other
alternative or interpretation for the people hearing these
It either happened or it didn't happen. It's
physically, literally real, or it's nothing. But there are, in
other cultures, many other dimensions of reality. There are a
whole range of layers of subtle body in Eastern spirituality, of
astral, radial body, causal body. All kinds of dimensions of the
self, the physical self, which are not material, and yet we can
experience them powerfully.
I knew nothing about any of this when I started. Something of
that perception needs to be incorporated in this research,
because it just doesn't work to look upon this as purely literal
physical matter in the physical universe as we understand it. I
mean, great effort has been made to somehow figure out how the
body could pass through a wall, and so forth. Holographic
universe, and all of that.
And I think there is going to be
something to that search that will prove useful. But it is also
possible that there are simply forms of self or body that are
not just materially real, and yet are powerfully experiential.
Something like that gains support from the fact that researchers
have simply been unable - researchers in this field - to pin
much of this down physically.
Not the aliens, not the hybrids,
not the passage of people through walls. None of this.
And that doesn't bother me anymore. Because if you go more
deeply into these spiritual Eastern and indigenous traditions
that you mention, all of these gradations of possible realities
are commonplace. It's only in the West that we have narrowed
reality to the physical, concrete world we know, and the
spiritual and psychological have no physical element.
radical separation is all we officially have in this culture, so
we really have no place to put this kind of experience, the way
other cultures have. There is more. Take the fact, for instance,
that these beings emerge, from somewhere.
The assumption is, in
the Western, literalist point of view, that they could only have
gotten here from another star, or planet, or whatever. Well, if
that literal approach is taken, there are virtually
insurmountable problems of transport if this is going to be
looked at simply as an engineering feat.
On the other hand, if one can have a
multi-dimensional notion of
the universe, then perhaps this is a crossing from some unseen
dimension into this reality. To theorize about this is not to
say we know. It's simply to try to understand, using ideas and
points of view that can embrace the complexities of this
phenomenon, that are quite familiar to many others on this
I'm not sure that this answers the problem of it, but it
seems to me that the phenomenon calls for a widening of the
ontological - that really is the right word - the ontological
understanding of what exists, of what is possible in the
[Note from this website: the printed version of this interview
used the word “logical” in the sentence above, however we
believe that was a transcription error and that Dr Mack was in
fact saying “ontological”]
VS: You write in depth about three shamans, each from different
traditions, and the ways in which they and their communities
What have you learned about the
phenomenon from their stories?
JM: I wrote about three men:
Now, it's interesting that each of
these men has had more-than-average contact with Western
culture, so they are all eager to communicate about their
experiences to the West.
Two of them are, themselves, hybrids in
a way; Bernardo and Sequoyah each has a Western/Caucasian
parent, along with their other indigenous parent, so they are
Credo was raised in a Catholic school, even
though he's a Zulu leader. They all have the advantage of being
steeped in native traditions and understanding, and are also
able to counter pose that to Western psychology and Western
science. So together, we have wrestled with how to understand
None of them have any problem with the notion that there can be
beings, ancestors, spirits, creatures, entities, animal spirits
- you name it - that can manifest, materially, in this world.
That's something the Western mind has no place for. It can't be
“proven,” therefore it doesn't exist. Well, for them this
phenomenon is not remarkable from that point of view. I've
learned from them, that the phenomenon widely exists.
their understanding of it underscores the possibility of this
being an interdimensional occurrence of some sort. Take for
example, Sequoyah. He has had numerous experiences of spirits
showing up in totally visible form. And light beams - kind of
like the light beams that other Americans have talked about -
which have been guides for him.
Only once has he had an actual
experience in which he recalls being taken up into a craft with
the grays involved, but even that's no big deal.
And it hasn't
been a big deal for any of the other
shamans in this country,
and I've talked with quite a few. It is such a big deal for this
culture, this emergence from an unseen world into the physical
world, this sort of crossing over.
But that is not a remarkable
matter to any of the indigenous people that I have talked with.
In fact, the material world as we know it, and the unseen world,
the world of spirit, are all one to them. They don't get all
excited about the question of “are these spirit beings, or are
these literally physical beings?”
That's a big story for us, but
they see the gradations and subtleties of that as just
commonplace, part of the way they think. Credo is interesting
from this point of view, because he talks about these beings,
and all sorts of other beings, how they come here and how they
cohabitate with humans. And they've known this for years and
They rather resent them, but he doesn't fuss over whether
anybody can prove that they're literally physically real. Of
course they're real, and they happen and it's part of their
In fact, along these tines, he kept urging me:
get those Western scientists to stop quibbling about whether
this is real or not. It IS real. Whether it is literally
physically real, or it is some other way real, it is real. It's
important. They're warning us. They're telling us that the
planet is in danger, but it's like we quibble while the planet
VS: In your work you repeatedly see experiencers work through
the initial traumas they experience in their contact with
aliens, and then, after that, open up to an expanded
consciousness which enables them to embrace a larger,
multi-dimensional reality, one that is similar to that which you
describe as an indigenous people's outlook.
Do you think human
evolution is coming full circle?
JM: You said that very well. [Laughter]
VS: And could you also talk a bit about what you mean when you
say “an expanded consciousness.”
JM: Well, we have to go back to who is doing the work with these
individuals. Because what you immediately encounter when you
expose yourself as an investigator to people who have had these
experiences, is the re-living of something - we don't know, of
course, exactly what - which is held very powerfully in the
body, in the tissues.
So much so that people may literally
vibrate through the intensity, and weep, scream. It is such a
powerful expression of something that has happened to them, and
enormous energies seem to be involved here. We don't really
know, exactly, what they mean by that, but certainly we can use
the term “energy.”
Now, people who are investigating these
experiences are not generally trained to deal with these kinds
of energies with people.
Those that are best trained to do that,
I believe, are the people that have had transpersonal training,
People, for example, who have had training like that done by
Stanislav Grof, with his holotropic breath-work approach. Someone
who has had experiences themselves with multi-dimensional
realities and with entering non-ordinary states of
That would enable you, for example, to tolerate extraordinary
energies and vibrations, and still be able continue to provide a
holding context for people as you work with them. This is
necessary in order to go beyond the literal “these bad aliens
are doing these bad things and exploiting us.”
Because if you
do, you enter that energetic world with the person as they
retell and relive their experience - and it is very difficult to
do. It has nothing to do with hypnosis; this is simply about entering that world with them.
Hypnosis, or relaxation
exercises, may help you and them enter that world, but they can
enter it with or without hypnosis. And in that holding
environment, for some reason, the experience seems to eventually
transform. People become less afraid. They often begin to
realize that they have a profound emotional bond with one or
more of these alien beings and that they have even been involved
with parenting these hybrid children with these beings. They
also open up to a new whole-Earth consciousness, which is part
of this expanded consciousness.
They become sensitive to what's
occurring on the planet.
Not infrequently, they pass through this terror, or “dark night
of the soul,” similar to the kind of initiatory passage through
terror to a new level of consciousness that is familiar in
almost every spiritual tradition. It's kind of like that. They
move through what might be called an expanded awareness, an
awakening. Spiritual traditions use the word “enlightened,” but
I would never use that word here, because we're working with a
much more Western way of thinking.
That expanded consciousness involves a number of things. It's
certainly the awakening to what's happening to the planet; an
awareness of the interconnectedness with all of life. The beings
themselves have come to be seen as emissaries from a deeper
source, from the divine. Whether or not they actually are isn't
The experiencers come to feel connected with the
divine - or source as they call it, or home, where we come from
- they feel connected with that, and become poignantly troubled
by the degree to which they realize that they are separated. So
the deeper anguish is no longer about these little beings doing
The deeper anguish becomes an awareness of what people
used to call God. That's their home - perhaps all of our homes -
but they actually experience that, and then they are separate
from it. That experience becomes the deepest one, and once they
get these glimpses of this transcendent reality they almost
inevitably come to resent having to be here on Earth and having
to live here.
They realize that they've made some sort of
agreement, or a deal at some point back - they don't know when -
that they would do a job here. And that they can't just abandon
that, that they have been put here for some purpose, like the
state of the Earth.
And they begrudgingly pursue that.
VS: One of the things that weaves throughout your book is the
limitation of Western scientific methodology for the
investigation of extraordinary experiences - those occurrences
that bring the unseen realms into the material world.
these you include not just the abduction phenomenon, but also
near-death experiences, parapsychology, and other kinds of
crossover experiences. You put out a plea for the importance of
a new methodology which honors the primacy of experience and
subjectivity in the collection of data, and the analysis of it.
And, of course, your own work has been heavily steeped in this
Why is this so important, and whore are we with the
development of such tools?
JM: There is a tradition, even in Western philosophy -
represented particularly by
Wittgenstein, one of our greatest
philosophers - which recognizes that the most important
realities have the deepest knowledge; that which most matters
cannot be apprehended by the purely material methods, the five
senses methods of Western science.
In fact, Wittgenstein himself
became deeply troubled about the exaggerated focus on physical
science, and saw some of the worst tragedies of the 20th century
as emerging from the restriction of consciousness that that
That isn't to say that science hasn't given
us all kinds of wonderful discoveries, and helped prolong life.
It has and we see it all around us. It's the limitation of
consciousness to that reality that has become problematic.
Now in terms of the abduction phenomenon, you cannot create the
beginning conditions that Western science requires: you cannot,
measure very much and you can't record much physically. And you
certainly can't create an experiment by which you can replicate
the event, which is what Western science will do with the
Furthermore, the pure separation of subject and object, subject
being investigator, object being the person you're working with
- not that that pure separation works anywhere in science, but
it certainly doesn't work here - because you won't get anywhere
and you won't team anything, if you take that approach.
way you can team anything is by entering into this other
person's world. You can say, “Well, that contaminates the
field.” Well, every time we talk to someone we're
contaminating something. We're relating. So it's a relational investigation.
Now, there has to be a caution about that.
Science, at least,
has criteria for how you decide something: peer review, can you
experiment, do the numbers come out right? Here, you can't do
that. So how do you decide what you're going to pay attention
to? What's serious, and what's not? That's a real dilemma, and
we're just beginning to look at that.
We began to look at that at a meeting funded by the Fetzer
Foundation, held at Harvard Divinity School back in April
First of all, the
Fetzer method, you need to enter into
the person's world to learn from them. It's a kind of holistic,
intuitive, body-based kind of way of knowing. Now, how do you
deal with the fact that it feels like you're leading them,
you're contaminating them in the field? Well, it's hard to
respond to that.
You try your best not to say anything that
hasn't already been said. You just ask questions, and you enter
their world. But there has to be some sense that the person is
trusting you, that they're connecting. Well, that's called intersubjective knowing, and actually, in all of dynamic
psychiatry and psychoanalysis, that is the basic method.
whole field has been criticized as nonscientific for that
reason, but in this case the stakes are very high, because this
is a challenge to our entire way of life. As such, it has come
under much more scrutiny, methodologically, because something is
afoot here that isn't supposed to be, according to the Western
philosophy, the Cartesian/Newtonian world view.
So what do you do?
Well, you go by the consistency of the
stories among people who don't know each other. You have
clinical criteria for truthfulness, which is a very intuitive
matter sometimes. Does the person seem to be telling the truth?
That isn't going to satisfy Western science, but is it
authentic? How do you decide what's authentic? Well, you get
other witnesses, beside yourself, who can talk about the person.
You also get relatives in, and friends and ask,
“You know this
person. Does this person tend to make stuff up?”
“No, no, she's
very critical of what goes on.”
The experiencers, themselves,
are very skeptical in this instance. So, appropriate skepticism
and doubt on the part of the individual tends to support the
authenticity, because they're not as you often see portrayed in
the popular press - trying to prove this to you, or claim
anything here, or argue that this is true. In fact they, like
us, are shocked by this.
They don't readily accept that there is
any reality to it.
VS: Based on what you've just said then, it makes sense that
this phenomenon would emerge through a psychiatrist, rather
than, say, a social scientist, or a physical scientist.
JM: Absolutely. I mean, when
Budd Hopkins and
David Jacobs work
with these people, they're doing clinical work. And there has
been a big debate as to whether artists and historians should be
doing clinical work. I happen to believe that the best clinical
work is not necessarily done by mental health professionals, so
I don't get into that argument. But the fact is, you're right.
The main method is a very clinical approach to people.
That's how you learn. Now, there may be additional things, such
as marks on the bodies. They do a UFO study when UFO's are
around. Has a UFO been observed where somebody had an abduction
But those physical dimensions - which many
researchers in the UFO field want to put a lot of emphasis on
because they want to nail this down physically so they can prove
it by the means of Western science - I don't think it's going to
lend itself to that. I think it's fine to get that material,
though I don't think it will ever he more than corroborative.
That's my opinion.
I believe - whatever this phenomenon is - that the kind of
profundity that it represents will not yield its secrets to a
purely physicalist, material approach. That's my sense. These
kinds of realities like you mentioned: near-death experience,
crop formations that are showing up in incredibly intricate
detail in England particularly, but also in other places - and
it's wrong when people say these are man-made, because I don't
believe the most intricate ones could possibly be man-made.
of these phenomenon bespeak something extraordinary of the
connection between us and that unseen so-called spirit world,
where the gulf, the barrier that we've set up in the West
between those worlds, seems to be permeated in some undeniable
Now, Jung has this idea of the trickster archetype.
VS: This work is replete with archetypes.
JM: Absolutely, and I've written quite a bit about that. That's
why experiencers are often drawn to Native American cultures and
tribal understandings, because those archetypes are part of
their everyday way of thinking, and of life. But the trickster
archetype is kind of the profound humor of the cosmos, which
comes from home, or source.
In a certain sense, this whole
phenomenon could be looked upon as a mockery of the exaggerated,
techno-scientific culture. Beings that can do all of these
medical surgical things. Imagine probing someone's brain, and
then they're pretty much okay the next morning!
Does that really
happen? Or, are there UFO's that can run circles around our
space vehicles? Flip on and off the radar screen? Travel with
grace and take right angle turns with no skids, and defy our
laws of gravity?
It makes a joke of our technological arrogance.
I have thought about this. That may be another one of the
lessons that could be going on here, if we paid attention.
Here's the last thing and this is very important. What these
people have to say, what this phenomena has to say, is of utmost
importance. If we listen to them, if we pay attention, much
could change. But the problem is, the culture does not
legitimize them or the people that work with them, as witnesses
of anything important.
This culture is so focused on,
really happening” and that's not what is important.
happening experientially, and it's profoundly important, but
this culture is focused on quibbling over,
“Is this physically
real or not?” and misses the whole point.
So unless it can be
proven “All of this is real,” then these experiencers are not
going to be seen as legitimate witnesses. Therefore, part of my
job is to legitimize the whole witnessing process by discovering
the science of human experience, if you will, or by holding my
ground if clinically this cannot be explained by any of the
The silliest things get thrown about. Sleep paralysis is given
as an explanation. That's absurd. First of all, people are often
not asleep and they're not always paralyzed. And there is all of
this complex narrative that has nothing to do with sleep
paralysis. But the phenomenon is so disturbing ontologically in
terms of the culture and its basic assumptions about reality,
that there is what I call the “anything but” phenomenon.
as anybody, anywhere, comes up with an idea - even if it's only
related tangentially to a tiny fragment of the experience - then
the papers, The New York Times or whatever, say,
“The whole thing
is now explained; there is some conventional physical way to
Rather than entering into the mystery of it, which
is a profound mystery.
So that's an edge for me. I need help
The culture depends on witnesses. Society can't function if you
don't believe witnesses. Apparently, though, there are invalid
Even the Catholic Monsignor
Corrado Balducci, a
senior Vatican spokesperson, now retired but still wearing the
cassock, says he takes this phenomenon very seriously because
there are thousands of apparent witnesses that seem reliable.
The church's whole history is that there are witnesses. So we
team, witnesses and witnessing is the very fabric which holds
the society together. What parents tell children for instance.
What if children didn't trust their parents at all as witnesses
of reality, what would happen? Or teachers? Or court rooms?
Every dimension of society depends on the legitimacy of
witnesses from the standpoint of the person that the witness is
But with these individuals - both the experiencers and those who
try to translate their experiences into the larger culture -
because this phenomena is so disturbing and violating of our
fundamental Western materialistic assumptions, there is a
tendency to discredit them. I've certainly been through that
So that's kind of the edge that I'm on, thinking a lot
about how to be more effective in that dilemma of legitimization
of these people as important witnesses.
VS: As a closing question them, why don't you talk for a minute
about The Program for Extraordinary Experience Research and
where the cutting edge of your research is now.
JM: The Program for Extraordinary Experience Research,
began in the early 1990's as a project of the Center for
Psychology & Social Change, in large part because you thought it
belonged there. [Laughter]
At the time this came up you were the
director of the Center, and we talked about it. Because of your
familiarity with the phenomenon and its possible importance for
social change, you felt it was appropriate to include this in
the Center. I can imagine that most executive directors at that
point would not have thought this belonged in a Center of
Psychology and Social Behavior, but you understood that. It has
since become somewhat of the tail wagging the dog; it is by far
the largest program in the Center.
PEER started out almost exclusively looking at the
Gradually, though, I and others who have worked in
this area, began to see the connection to other extraordinary
experiences, which was the title of the program. Actually, you
came up with the title, the “Program for Extraordinary
Experience [Research]” and that sort of prepared us to grow into
it because it created a wider context for this work.
we've specialized in this one particular phenomenon, we're
becoming more interested in many of what might be called
cross-over experiences - when something that seems to come from
somewhere else, from the mystery of creation - manifests in some
way in the experiential, physical, emotional life of people, and
there doesn't seem to be any physical reason for it.
expanding theme then becomes, in a sense, the expansion of
possibility, the expansion of experiences that don't fit within
the current thinking, with an eye towards the awakening of
awareness, an eye towards opening the psyche of individuals
communally, to a larger sense of ourselves.
We are working now to try to develop some kind of taxonomy of
the unusual - or phenomenal experiences as we're calling them -
to see what they have in common, and if there is an aggregate
within to evolve a whole field of human experiences which has
been largely ignored.
At this recent meeting that I mentioned
earlier at the Divinity School, one of the psychologists talked
of a change taking place from psychology of the self, focused on
behavior and cognition, to a psychology of self-utilization,
transformation, and transcendence. Now, psychologists like that
look upon these extraordinary experiences very differently.
would not try to prove them physically, or in the material
world. They look at self-utilization to the extent it might have
an expanding acknowledgement of who we are in this universe.
That's an edge. Since I'm in the mental health profession, I am
very interested in this. But that seems to be the prerogative of
the mental health profession, because it's the experiences,
rather than the physical realities, that are at the core of that
So we want to look at how all of the disciplines can
contribute to, and ultimately develop, a field of human endeavor
that is going to be able to learn from experiences that don't
fit the material world view, and see where that takes us in
terms of our overall understanding of ourselves in the universe.
That is, in a sense, where I think we're going.