Growing up alien

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Growing up alien

One the set of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Photo courtesy Columbia/Sony Pictures

John Mack was a Harvard scientist who took extra-terrestrial abduction seriously. Is he the reason I like misfits?

Alexa Clay is a writer who is still confused about whether aliens exist. Her first book, The Misfit Economy, co-authored with Kyra Maya Phillips, will be published by Simon & Schuster this year. She lives in Berlin.

2700 2,700 words
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My younger brother and I called him ‘the old lizard’ (on account of his reptilian resemblance — and to irk our mother, his partner at the time). To his enemies, he was a crackpot, fraud, and a cheat. And to his patients, and many of his friends, he was a source of support, an open listener, a sage and protector.

Dr John E Mack was many things to many people. A Harvard-trained psychiatrist, tenured professor, and one of the founders of the Cambridge Hospital Department of Psychiatry (a teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard University), John held an impressive command and was respected in his field. After an early career spent working on issues of child development and identity formation, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for his psychoanalytic biography of Lawrence of Arabia, entitled A Prince of Our Disorder (1976). Then, in the late 1980s, John put his reputation on the line when he started investigating the phenomenon of alien abduction.

It all started innocently enough. He began holding sessions with patients or ‘experiencers’ (as they’re called) who believed they’d been abducted. He ran hypnotic regressions from our home, and he gradually came to furnish enough evidence for a book, Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens (1994). This was followed in 1999 by Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters. His standard line with the outside world was (as given to the BBC): ‘I would never say, yes, there are aliens taking people. [But] I would say there is a compelling powerful phenomenon here that I can’t account for in any other way, that’s mysterious… I can’t know what it is but it seems to me that it invites a deeper, further inquiry.’

In the privacy of our home, where he was a regular presence, John was bolder in his claims. Aliens were real — it was just that their existence threatened the dominant logic of our worldview. John attributed society’s failure to account for the abduction experience as a cultural failing. Alien abductees weren’t deranged or mentally ill — we just didn’t have a way of interpreting and understanding what they’d been through. Rather than label these peoples’ experiences as a new disorder or syndrome, John argued that we had to probe into and change our perception of reality to account for this phenomena. The subtext: we had to allow for the existence of aliens.

For more than a decade, from the time I was eight until I was of legal age, I was witness to these debates and to the politics surrounding John’s ‘coming out’ in support of abduction phenomena. My mother, an anthropologist by training, was John’s primary research assistant. They bought a house together in Cambridge, Massachusetts and my brother and I visited them once a month and during school holidays. The rest of the time we lived with my father and stepmother in Arlington, Virginia.

Like many of his colleagues, I viewed John with a mixture of scepticism and intrigue. Part of my scepticism can be put down to the fact that he was dating my mom; but a good fraction of it owed to my sense of reality being overturned by the postulation of ‘greys’ — a particular manifestation of extraterrestrials, known for their large heads, huge almond eyes, and shortened, pretty much featureless bodies.

The late John E. Mack – a Harvard psychiatrist who put his professional reputation on the line. Photo © John E Mack Archives LLC. Courtesy of Mack family The late John E. Mack – a Harvard psychiatrist who put his professional reputation on the line. Photo © John E Mack Archives LLC. Courtesy of Mack family

At eight, and still learning to distinguish between fantasy and reality, the imposition of adults who believed in aliens was confusing and anxiety-provoking, but adventurous and thrilling too. I was fairly sure that Santa Claus wasn't real. But I wouldn’t have bet my life on it. My stuffed animals and toys had only just lost that animistic quality — becoming mere playthings, instruments of the imagination, as opposed to real creatures with essences all their own. As for aliens, I couldn’t be sure. Flying on airplanes between my parents’ houses I'd sometimes be on the lookout for a hovering metallic orb.

It was 1992 when John entered our lives. Bill Clinton was president, and Kurt Cobain dominated the airwaves. It was the end of the Cold War stand-off, and the political scientist Francis Fukuyama had just published his book The End of History and the Last Man, where he wishfully predicted that human evolution had come to an end with the triumph of Western liberal democracy. Everything was smooth sailing. We no longer had the threat of communists, but we didn’t yet have the threat of terrorists. In need of a symbolic enemy, aliens personified an important ‘other’ — a dystopian warning to our Western culture’s all too eager triumphalism.

On television, the paranormal soon paraded around on shows such as Roswell and The X-Files, which explored extraterrestrial phenomena in the shadow of government cover-ups and conspiracy. Flip channels and you might have caught Arthur C Clarke’s equally other-worldly 26-part series Mysterious Universe . It’s no wonder that the 1990s saw a rush of alien appearances in the popular imagination. The impending millennium brought with it the arrival of a future that had always been distant. As the political scientist Jodi Dean, author of Aliens in America (1998), articulated at the time, the appearance of aliens corresponds to our ‘anxieties over technological development and our growing consciousness of ourselves as a planet and our fears for the future at the millennium’.

There is some truth here. When I asked my mom and John growing up what the aliens intended (subtext: ‘Do they come in peace or should I be really scared?’), they said that many experience’s felt that aliens communicated an environmental message about the urgency of saving the planet.

At the same time, many of the abductees that John interviewed attested to the technological superiority of the alien race. I was told stories about patients who experienced aliens that could pass through walls, were able to communicate with extrasensory perception (ESP) and mind-reading, and perform medical experiments on humans without invasive surgery. In this light, aliens provided an outlet for all our fears of technological domination. To have an experience of aliens was to realise that the human race might not represent the pinnacle of evolution, that we were perhaps inferior to extraterrestrial life.

In daylight, I was sceptical (the good little rationalist), but night-time brought with it a tide of magical thinking

But as a kid largely ignorant of grander sociological forces, aliens were only one thing: scary. They had large black eyes and androgynous forms. And they were real — like ghosts and witches and monsters. In daylight, I was sceptical (the good little rationalist), but night-time brought with it a tide of magical thinking. I used to lie in bed and worry that maybe I would be abducted. I would even make supplicating promises of better behaviour in the hope of bartering with these outsiders — ‘I’ll be good, just leave me alone.’ In my secular progressive household, aliens offered a moral disciplining authority, an invisible spectator to police my actions.

After many years elapsed without any sign of extraterrestrial visitation, I began to feel ignored. My fears turned to pangs of dejection: ‘Wasn’t I special?’ ‘Shouldn’t I be a chosen ambassador for the human race?’ Or even: ‘If the aliens were really out to create a master race (as I overheard), didn’t they want my DNA?’

John had many of the same laments. They weren’t the ego bruises of a child in pursuit of some fantastical ambassadorial calling, but they were in the same genre. He felt passed over. He longed for an encounter. He was the public face of this movement and yet he had only secondary experience of the abduction phenomena. Having spent more than 15 years listening to other people’s encounters with these mythical beings, he wanted some evidence beyond the testimonials he gathered from his patients. He wanted to be visited. We all did.

Just as important, a visitation would have answered the growing chorus of critics lining up on the ‘respectable’ side of John’s working life. Many of his colleagues thought he’d gone crazy. He, in turn, felt betrayed by those academic collaborators who failed to support his work. John's biggest critics called into question his use of hypnosis. In keeping with Freud’s theory of ‘repression’ — which held that the mind can banish traumatic memories to prevent us from experiencing anxiety — much of John’s research invoked the idea of recovered memory, whereby, through hypnosis, you could get a patient to go back into repressed traumas and recall their abduction experiences.

I remember one summer evening in a beach house on Martha’s Vineyard when I was about 11, we all watched as John regressed my aunt back into a past life. She lay on the couch recalling an incident in which she was a forest ranger who witnessed the death of a few people during some kind of avalanche. My aunt later told me that she was fully conscious of the experience, but couldn’t control what she was saying. It was like she was watching herself tell a story. John later tried to hypnotise my brother so that he wouldn’t be afraid of spiders.

Ultimately, the question that plagued memory excavators like John was whether these repressed memories, divulged under hypnosis, were mere ‘artefacts’ of the mind, or else legitimately true recollections. John’s tendency towards a more literal interpretation of his patients’ experiences with aliens was controversial.

John described the investigation as ‘Kafkaesque’. He never quite knew the status of it or the nature of the committee’s complaints

In 1994, the dean of Harvard Medical School called a committee of peers to investigate John’s scholarship. This was the first time a tenured professor had ever been subject to an investigation. It was, effectively, an inquisition that some likened to a ‘witch hunt’, and it left John feeling persecuted and misunderstood. John described the investigation as ‘Kafkaesque’. He never quite knew the status of it or the nature of the committee’s complaints. Unable to accuse John of any ethical violation or professional misconduct, its aim was to ask, as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz put it, ‘whether a Harvard Medical School professor ought to be lending his credibility to stories of space alien abductions’. To Dershowitz, this was a dubious goal. ‘No great university should be in the business of investigating the ideas of its faculty,’ he wrote in the university magazine, in 1995. In the end, the dean reaffirmed John’s academic freedom to study what he wished and to state his opinions without impediment. But the damage had already been done.

As his professional credibility faltered, John’s anxiety and anger began to rise. John cared about his reputation. It was not easy to become persona non grata in the very institutions he had helped to build. He was used to working within established professional systems, and when those very institutions called his integrity into question, he sought out allies in other like-minded people. He grew an entourage of support among shamans, experiencers, and celebrities.

Our household became a living altar to an esoteric band of misfits who were regular houseguests and interlopers. One morning, when I went to get some orange juice from the kitchen, the actor Woody Harrelson was there, drinking coffee with John at the table. It was normal. Normal was also being offered a peace pipe by Sequoia, a Native American shaman who blew tobacco in our youthful faces and challenged us to seek out greater visionary experience.

By 13, however, I was ready to move on. John and my mother were headed to the Australian outback for a year to speak with Aboriginal people about their experiences with aliens. My brother and I were invited to go along: our formal education would be satisfied by distance learning packets, while our real education, as I understood it at the time, was to be some combination of didgeridoo and Aboriginal creation myths. But something inside me desired stability and order. I longed to be absorbed into an antiseptic American culture where lacrosse, school dances and flared blue jeans were ends in themselves; where ordinary reality wasn’t usurped by the fantastical.

My brother and I ultimately opted to stay behind. We stayed living with my father and stepmother, and succumbed to a deliciously comfortable white picket-fence existence (literally, the fence was painted white). We became absorbed in teenage politics and concerns. And the only flying saucers we encountered were Frisbees.

Later on, at college at Brown University, I gave myself licence once again to explore the magical thoughts of my youth, not least the idea that reality was merely a construction. As an adult, it was a less threatening prospect. Rather than induce existential panic, it furnished reputational accolades. I ended up writing a thesis about 17th-century astrology and the fashioning of scientific boundaries. It was an ode to John in some ways. I wanted to understand how ‘science’ became ‘science’. Many of the astrologers of the time were booted out of the emerging scientific establishment — some were even put on trial for instigating civil disorder. It was not unlike John’s own experience, when his psychiatric methods were called into question by the scientific establishment.

Before my thesis was published, John was hit by a drunk driver and killed, in London. It was 2004. Immediately after his death, my mother began receiving phone calls from clairvoyants who claimed to have communicated with John, ‘on the other side’. Before he died, John had begun outlining a manuscript on the power of love, based on the stories of those who had been able to communicate with loved ones after death. It was a surreal experience for my mother to be experiencing such intense grief, while at the same time receiving phone calls from people who had reportedly been in conversation with John after the accident.

After John died, aliens seemed to vanish from household discussion almost entirely. It felt like the public’s interest had also waned. When I asked my mother why the phenomenon had seemed to die down, I was told that the aliens were placing less emphasis on the Western world; that they were more interested in China. And that’s where we left it.

But if I reflect on the impact of my childhood experience, I think it left me with a profound openness, and a generous ear. John taught me the power of listening; really hearing people out and having the courage and resilience to question established orthodoxies. I still remain entirely agnostic about the existence of aliens. I have a commitment to preserving unknowns, and I thrive on ambiguity and complexity in my work and my relationships. John’s legacy has also left me with a certain reverence for misfits, for outliers and challengers of the status quo: for the type of person who walks the line between delusion and insight.

John, too, remains immortalised in my mind as someone with great courage and empathy. I associate him with a period of my childhood wrought with big questions. Bearing witness to the craziness that surrounded those ten years of cosmological exploration left me with a shaky groundwork in which reality was never quite what it seemed, but it also furnished me with a profound sense of awe and wonder about the world.

I feel incredibly grateful for the experience. To be exposed at such a young age to a zeitgeisty obsession with deprogramming, where Western culture was perceived as an enemy of consciousness and truth, was an education that left me with a residual feeling of always being on the outside of mainstream culture. There is a part of me that also looks back with nostalgia for a time when the primary conversation was a probing of the cosmological – when we weren’t all busy on our laptops, stressed about finances, or waiting with bated breath for the next season of Homeland; but were concerned, rather, with ancient and meta-questions about our role in the universe and the existence of life elsewhere.

Read more essays on childhood & adolescence, family life and values & beliefs


  • Asaf

    very moving and a great article. a nice tribute for late Dr' Mack. thank you

  • Nicholas

    Thank you for this interesting article about an interesting man.

  • cuzzin

    thanks, a nice tribute to what sounds like a very open man. i was wondering ... is his manuscript outline or any of the stories therein available anywhere ? i would be very interested in reading them ! regards.

    • Alexa Clay

      John's manuscript outline for communicating after death exists. i know it hasn't been made public. but I can ask John's family and my mother if there are intentions to share it with the wider public.

      • Bill

        He was enormously influential as I recall his work. He lent credence to the legitimacy of the experience of ultra-terrestrials - whether they were from the stars or somewhere else is still subject to investigation I think. Jacques Valle had some of the same ideas and convictions. UT's have been around for a long time - at least as long as the written word.

  • Nina

    The loss of Dr. Mack was a real blow for open-minded inquiry. There should be no subject that is off-limits to research.The mockery and ostracism encountered by those who venture into the poorly understood shortchanges us all. Dr. Mack had the courage to stand up for what he stood up for, a rare and precious quality.

  • drokhole

    While not about the abduction phenomenon (though a worthwhile account that comes to mind is the "Pascagoula abduction" - particularly the police tape of the two "experiencers" when the cops left them alone to try to catch them in a lie), this is a well-measured and worthwhile book (in the spirit of Dr. Mack) on UFO encounters:

    UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record

  • Steve

    Many people do not believe ET/ED or that other life exist in the
    universe. I tell people look up at the sky what do you see? I don't know
    to count to a Million, or Billion never done it before, what I do see,
    Billions of planets in the universe. It would be naive or ignorant to
    believe the earth, is the only planet in the universe that is capable of
    supporting complex life.

  • dafirestar

    The exploration of the unknown is essential to our understanding of reality. I think it's very obvious that Western Civilizations understanding of reality is incomplete, with UFO's, alien abductions, and sightings of creatures such as big foot it's safe to say that our understanding of our world in incomplete. There is a fairly common theme of communication through clairvoyance that is often spoke about along with messages of protecting the planet from these beings. Time travelers may hold a key to some of these sightings, who knows these beings may be us, it would explain the fact that they can't be compromised in a way that could possibly alter the past, or quite possibly altering the past may be an unknown for time traveling and avoiding it at all costs is the rule. It seems to explain that they are so elusive seen only by a few. I also have a feeling time which we have only experienced and understood as a linear straight line from past to present to future could possibly be altered through wormholes where there are ways to move back and forth upon the time line. My idea of our reality is in constant flux. Men like Dr Mack have courage that is beyond belief to be at such a conservative institution as Harvard and study such a fringe science. Dr Mack though didn't seem to advocate or take any position other than research and had not himself formulated anything concrete, I think it's safe to say the plethora of data he saw could not be all explained the way many Scientists would like to explain things so there common understanding of reality was not shook after all there is only so much "swamp gas" to go around.

  • Jane

    How fortunate to have had Dr. Mack in your life and the experiences shared in your household. He was a courageous man who inspired many searching out the truth of the growing accounts of people worldwide as mental illness when they came forward with their experiences. He was a voice of reason and research that so many welcomed in a time when there was no one with credible qualifications willing to step forward. I, like many others followed Dr. Mack's revelations and having never known him personally had great respect for him and was saddened and pained at his accidental death. Maybe his legacy will continue through the writer's experiences and the mentorship of Dr. Mack. Thank you for sharing a wonderful side of the man so greatly appreciated and admired.

  • Adam Evenson

    This article stirs grounds for some really deep thought. I love deep thought, even of the crazy, the insane and the maniacal kind. I've spoken one on one with said three categories of folks, for hours on end, turning into days, weeks, months and years and I learned so much from each of them that I am the richest man on earth for it. This John guy, about whom the article wrote, must have been one of the very few educated human beings that are true researchers on this planet. There are so few true researchers...

  • elderlyfox

    Maybe open and get up to date? This refers to a humanoid race with whom many share common ancestry. Before ou sceam fraud, note that Meier, the Swiss contactee, published data on our Solar System sometimes years ahead of nasa's discoveries, that from et or from his personal observation from on board et craft.
    In any case, for the millions familiar with this, the main point is the message, not whether they/ufos exist or not.

  • Denise David Williams

    Alexa, thank you for your wonderful firsthand account of John Mack. I am the producer, along with Robert Redford's company, of a major motion picture on the life and work of John Mack. It is time that John's story is acknowledged in the mainstream. In doing so, perhaps it will spark a serious and respectful conversation on the subject of the alien phenomenon.

    • Alexa Clay

      Thanks Denise. So good to hear from you and excited for the film!

      • Denise David Williams


  • alanborky

    Alexa I go by the eyes an' in the pic you've provided I see kindness curiosity awe love.

    I also go by the words an' readin' this I also find kindness curiosity awe love.

  • Dina Strange

    It takes real courage to put your "established" career on the line and question things that many consider a joke.

  • Erica Stratton

    Articles like this are why I love Aeon.

    "I used to lie in bed and worry that maybe I would be abducted. I would
    even make supplicating promises of better behaviour in the hope of
    bartering with these outsiders — ‘I’ll be good, just leave me alone.’ In
    my secular progressive household, aliens offered a moral disciplining
    authority, an invisible spectator to police my actions."

    This took me back to a whole period in the 90s when me and my friends thought of ourselves as amateur UFO hunters (I was in elementary school). I'm from WV--where Mothman and the Flatwoods monster come from--and I was alternately fascinated with and terrified of these stories. We never saw an alien, though some of my friends claimed they'd sighted weird things in the sky that I was sure were just planes.

  • G

    One doesn't have to agree that contactee experiences are evidence of objective ET phenomena, in order to recognize that Dr. Mack brought a high degree of empathy and sensitivity to his work, and courage in the face of institutional prejudices and taboos.

    Clearly the ancient human experience of encounter with archetypal beings during nonordinary states of consciousness, continues in new forms in modern times. There is an enormous field of potential research to be done in this area.

    As well, there's a lesson or two for people engaged in any kind of human subject research into personally-sensitive experiences. Very often one sees, on sceptical blogs, comments indicating a lack of any degree of consideration for individuals who have unusual experiences. That attitude has the predictable result of driving those individuals into subcultures where any kind of critical thinking is rejected. This produces self-fulfilling prophesies on both sides of the issue.

    What's needed is the kind of sensitivity that Dr. Mack brought to this, in combination with the kind of detachment that is more characteristic of conventional scientific approaches. The new outlook entails a type and degree of training that I don't think exists in the academic world at this time. But if we persist in developing this kind of synthesis, it could make as much of a contribution to our knowledge as any of its component elements have done on their own.

  • Michael Hanlon

    There are two questions here: are humans being contacted and temporarily kidnapped by large-headed wide-eyed aliens, on a regular basis, often to have unspeakable things done to their bottoms? No, probably not.
    And so, the second question: why do so many persist in thinking that they are? It is right that we do not dismiss these people as mad or liars; clearly many 'abductees' are neither. But humans are terribly susceptible to mass-hysteria. A few years ago India was rife with reports of a violent 'monkey man' that was entering homes and attacking people with sharp claws and teeth. There were dozens, then hundreds and finally thousands of people who swore blind they had seen the Monkeyman. There was, of course, no Monkeyman. Something similar happened in Mexico with a strange goat-like creature.
    You are most likely to believe you have been abducted by aliens if you live in a place where lots of people believe they have been abducted by aliens and where this phenomenon receives a lot of media coverage. I do not know for sure, but I doubt whether many people in the jungles of the Congo or grasslands of Mongolia believe themselves to have been troubled by the 'greys'.
    Since the 1960s the biggest single factor influencing the sighting of UFOs and similar phenomena has been the frequency of dramas shown on TV and in the cinema depicting UFOs. Abductee and UFO 'phenomena' peaked, in the US, right about the time 'The X Files' was on the telly. There was an earlier peak corresponding with 'Close Encounters'.

    • G

      "Mass hysteria" stigmatises the whole thing as if it's some kind of disease.

      Humans have been having experiences of encounters with archetypal beings in all cultures throughout history. In other times and places, the archetypes were angels or spirits. Today they are as likely to be ETs.

      If I had to speculate about a mechanism, it would have something to do with personification of (projection of personhood onto) a cluster of beliefs and attributes, associated with emotions that vary from one person to the next but could be anywhere in the spectrum from fear to awe to love, and the creation of an inner narrative in a manner similar to dreaming. It may also turn out that many of these experiences occur in a state associated with sleep, such as the hypnagogic state (entering sleep) or the hypnopompic state (early phase of waking up), or in a waking trance state induced more or less accidentally.

      The question of adverse impact on mental health, objectively, only arises when an experience is traumatic or disruptive to a person's life. That is, you can't say someone is crazy merely because they had an unusual experience or developed unusual beliefs.

      Near-death experiences (NDEs) typically have positive effects on mental health, wherein individuals overcome their fear of death and become more focused on values such as compassion toward others. I'm not sufficiently familiar with the literature on alien abductions to know of any generalization about aftereffects, but from what little I know, they seem to range from traumatic to beneficial. Clearly, clinical psychology should develop methods for counselling and treating those who have had traumatic experiences of whatever kind, even if wholly subjective in the manner of terrifying nightmares. But in any case there is clearly fertile ground for research here, that might ultimately shed light on how archetypes are formed, how personification helps establish meaning, and so on.

      • Michael Hanlon

        Agree totally that 'abductees' should not be stigmatised in any way. The term 'mass-hysteria' is perhaps unfortunate as it suggests a great number of people suddenly taking leave of their senses and running around like loons, which is not really what happens (although there may be an element of this). It seems likely that seeing 'aliens' is a form of dream-like delusion, whose content is dictated by a popular narrative (the aliens of current science fiction and the popularity of shows like the X-Files and conspiracy theories).

  • oilapmai

    faked death, wackos, part of the fuzzy world he describes between delusion and insight. Perpetual creators of endless myth.

  • Nick

    This is a very interesting thread. I only met Dr. Mack once when he gave a talk on his work and his book in the very early 1990's well prior to the Harvard Medical School inquiry. At that period of time Harvard and Harvard Medical School were clients of mine but I did not perceive any business risk from attending his talk. My main reason for attending beyond curiosity was that I vividly remembered a shocking encounter with a small being with an oversize head and very large slightly slanted eyes in my bedroom when I was 3 yeas old. This creature frightened the heck out of me when I first saw it and I called to my mother but she didn't come. The creature silently walked or glided to my bed with its hypnotic eyes surrounding my eyes. That was the extent of my memory. This encounter happened in 1943 long before ETs were popularized in the media and long before TV and sci-fi movies.

    Other than my mother and father back at that time I didn't speak about this experience to anyone over the intervening nearly 50 years to Dr. Mack's talk. I have to credit his talk and his work for helping me realize that there was no stigma in pursuing research into my buried memories of the encounter. I then underwent 2 years of regression psychoanalysis in the greater Boston area. Under hypnosis I learned that the visitations from this being occurred nightly from my age of 3 until I was past puberty and included numerous visits to this beings ship.

    I agreed to be further regressed under hypnosis and to my great skepticism we went back lifetime after lifetime to 500,000 BCE before calling it quits.

  • t’mara

    what a shame to have missed a year on Australia traveling and experiencing. what a wasted opportunity. to think of the stories, the experiences the people you would have met...sacrificed for suburbia...

    • JenJen10

      She did what she needed to do for herself.

  • Tychy

    I'm not sure if I'm convinced by John Mack, but this is a fascinating & beautifully-written article.

    • DAN

      The recent series of documentaries and investigations on National G. and Discovery regarding aliens made me think that they might be there . Regarding regression as an investigation method, there is a problem with false memories so you can never be sure...

  • jomalley

    Yes, Alexa, there are aliens. Dr. Mack was a stabilizer for me after experiencing an abduction. No, kidding! I joke about it now, but, after this happened, I was reading everything I could get my hands on about "alien abduction" and John Mack's books helped me get back on track. A sad loss of a great humanitarian.

  • Ingolf Stern

    Wow. Such a foreshortened perspective, and written out as if it encompassed - something. Why did you write this? To say - "Hey, I knew John Mack."? Because, that's all you've done. Surely we are full-up with the pedestrian, the ordinary, the banal. We needed some reinforcement of that? Sad.

    • JenJen10

      This was a journey of self-awareness. Surely you can see that.

  • JenJen10

    The impact John Mack had on your life is similar to what I had growing up from my grandmother, not concerning extraterrestrials, but in the sense that my life included a grandmother who was mystical & always talking about supernatural things. She was religious, she focused totally on the Bible & Heaven & Hell & believed every word of the Bible literally; I got the feeling that she felt it her duty to find out as much as possible how she could 'do God's work on earth' while she was waiting to be taken to Heaven. It was a very eye-opening experience that, like you, I eventually longed to get away from. My father was very down-to-earth practical, he was very different from her, and they had a lot of arguments. I was the bystander, like you, and like you it had a very deep impact on my outlook.

    You say you "associate him with a period of my childhood wrought with big questions. Bearing witness to the craziness that surrounded those ten years of cosmological exploration left me with a shaky groundwork in which reality was never quite what it seemed, but it also furnished me with a profound sense of awe and wonder about the world.", and that it left you with "always feeling outside of mainstream culture". I think the same happened to me because of grandmother. I don't think it matters exactly what your otherworldly belief is, but it affects everyone around you. Grandmother was a very divisive figure in my life, and in the lives of everyone around her. Her very practical family practically disowned her, they considered her a nut (like Harvard did John Mack). You were lucky in that your 'nut' didn't try to demand that everyone believe the way he did, grandmother made it impossible to be happy around her unless you wanted to believe like her. She was only happy when she felt she was 'doing God's work'. She would've been a good nun, but she wasn't Catholic.

    It's good you had a different lifestyle you could go to in your father's house, I too had a period of down-to-earthness when we visited my father's parents. And later my father got grandmother out of our house & peace & quiet descended on us, it was very calming.

    She was a very strong & powerful presence in my life, and because of her I stand outside looking in. Even if you don't believe, it changes your outlook to grow up with a mystic.