Dr John Mack did not believe that alien abductions were simply hoaxes, delusions and hallucinations. Based on his work counselling abductees, Mack arrived at the astounding conclusion that this was a phenomenon which was 'real', but which didn't so much have its basis in the physical universe as Henry Corbin's "imaginal realms", accessible only through a widening of conscious perception. This hypothesis is in stark opposition to the current scientific paradigm, which is based on the mechanistic assumption that consciousness is a by-product of a physical brain.
Needless to say, such opposition to orthodoxy comes with its price. Mack, who had previously won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of T.E. Lawrence and was a respected Harvard psychiatrist, was lambasted by his colleagues and even investigated by Harvard. This despite his eloquent and detailed explanation of his hypothesis that the abduction phenomenon displayed clear patterns indicating some objective 'reality', and was worthy of further research. Mack's crime was that he challenged the dogma of physicalism. Not that he would have had it any other way, for he believed that it was important that we began to reclaim a science of the soul:
in the focus on the material realm to the exclusion of the subtle realms, we have virtually rid the cosmos of nature, rid nature of spirit and, in a sense, denied the existence of all life other than that which is physically observable here on earth...the Western world view, what Tulane philosopher Michael Zimmerman calls anthropomorphic humanism, has reduced reality largely to the manifest or physical world and puts the human mind or the human being at the top of the cosmic intellectual hierarchy, eliminating not only God but virtually all spirit from the cosmos. The phenomena that really shake up that world view are those that seem to cross over from the unseen world and manifest in the physical world.
Mack didn't jump to this conclusion lightly. The hypothesis formed itself over several years of counselling abductees, perhaps part of the reason why he didn't seem ready for the orthodox onslaught against him - he was, as he puts it, a frog that died in gradually heating water, never noticing the impending danger. He also admits that the proposal of his extraordinary hypothesis took a great deal of challenging of my his own materialist scientific and clinical upbringing.
I don't know whether John Mack was right. But I appreciate his contribution to shaking us out of our narrow-minded, anthropomorphic thinking once in a while. John Mack was a scientist and skeptic in the true definition of those words, and his ability to challenge his own epistemological ideas shames all those who attacked him for his work on alien abductions. Indeed, he even welcomed the input of those challenging his hypothesis...
For then if we can embrace the questions and polarities that the critiques represent, perhaps we can go to a deeper level of understanding instead of finding ourselves, as we tend to, in opposition to the people that will not take in what we are trying to communicate.
The greatest tribute we can give to John Mack is to continue investigating his ideas with an open mind, in order that his legacy lives on. One of the few to challenge the mainstream scientific paradigm openly and with eloquence, others must fill the breach in his absence. Dr John Mack was a fine man and a true scientist - he will be sorely missed.
Those interested in Dr Mack's research are encouraged to visit the website for Passport to the Cosmos, which features a large number of essays, lectures and interviews. Further information can be found at the website of the John E. Mack Institute.