As Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School, John Mack had the highest possible academic credentials. He was also a Pulitzer Prize-winning author for his biography of T. E. Lawrence, ‘A Prince of our Disorder.'
‘Passport to the Cosmos' (PTTC) was Mack's second and final book on the alien abduction issue, before his death in September 2004. It's a thoughtful, coherent and readable essay; a more absorbing narrative than his earlier 1994 book “Abductions: Human Encounters with Aliens”. Whereas the earlier book episodically recounted the experiences of 13 different abductees in their own words but seemed reluctant to draw conclusions – beyond the obvious fact that the phenomenon was not psychiatric but (in some way) external to the experiencer and physically real – “PTTC” explores what it all might mean in terms of human consciousness and why our accepted “ontological notions of consensus reality” need to be expanded to accommodate this subversive intrusion into our world.
The author writes in Chapter One:
“…marshalling evidence that might conceivably satisfy the physical sciences `on their own turf' has proved to be an elusive task. I will document experiencers' reports with physical evidence where applicable, but my principal interest is in their pattern, meaning and potential implications for our understanding of reality and knowledge of ourselves in the universe.”
There you have John's fundamental attitude and the thesis of the book, in a nutshell.
All researchers into this phenomenon uncover common narratives and themes: the physical body passing through walls, ceilings, car roofs and solid structures; the duration of the abduction usually of 1-2 hours leaving a period of seamless missing time; the quasi-medical procedures on identically-described examination tables; the workmanlike attitudes of the abductors; what the abductors look like; the telepathic communication; the genetic/breeding-focussed tasks, sperm and ova harvesting; interactions with hybrid children; mind-scanning; explorative “staging” procedures; a preoccupation with planetary environmental issues; the repeat-nature of the process; the fact that the abducting entities seem to focus on specific family bloodlines and the children of abductees are themselves usually abducted. John was no different in that he uncovered the same narratives, memories and reports as everyone else. Whether these narratives are recalled from normal conscious memory or assisted by hypnosis makes no difference: the stories are generally the same down to small, quirky and eccentric details.
So the data is universal, ubiquitous, global. Where researchers differ is in their emphasis, and in the interpretation of this common data. Tellingly, on p13 the author writes:
“The orientation and ideology of the investigator, and the questions he or she asks or does not ask, will determine to some degree what data can be enabled or allowed to come forth and will affect profoundly the interpretation of the experiences.”
Mack was trained as a therapist, and his approach is less critical than that of a researcher with a more investigative academic mind-set. John's engagement with the issue focussed on two areas. First, from his clinical training he focussed on assisting the 200 or so different abductees with whom he personally worked over the years to come to terms with their experiences, to see the whole thing in a “positive” and “transformative” way. Second, he worked to convince his peer-academic community of the empirical reality of this phenomenon and to consider current clinical consensus-paradigms might be insufficient to contain or understand it.
The title PTTC is an oblique reference to Jacques Vallee's classic 1970 book “Passport to Magonia”, in which Vallee argued that modern abduction accounts have echoes in traditional folklore through the ages and episodes of missing time, being abducted to “another realm” to assist in the interbreeding of mixed-species children and then returned to normal life was nothing new, but an old and persistent human experience. In the third section of PTTC, the “Magonia” theme is explored as Mack transcribes personal interviews he conducted with three acknowledged living shamans: Bernardo Peixoto, Sequoyah Trueblood and Vusumazulu Credo Mutwa, who explain that in their various preserved indigenous cultures, shamanic interaction with the “visitors” is taken for granted and understood, and it is the western scientific paradigm which has moved us modern folks away from such knowledge. This is classic Mack territory.
Where PTTC falls short is in its failure to confront the phenomenon head-on and draw conclusions about what might be going on against the available data. A large quantity of mutually corroborating evidence exists which demands answers to these questions: Who exactly are these abducting entities, what are they doing and why? This looks like a sustained program of interbreeding – but what for? Where is it going and what is the objective? These hard questions are more effectively addressed by other researchers, contemporaries and friends of John, and his ‘it's-consciousness-expanding-and-potentially-beneficial-and-transformative' mind-set somehow persuaded him to skirt around the core issue.
The reader would be well advised to investigate the field widely: PTTC is best read not in isolation but together with the instructive and scholarly works of Budd Hopkins, Dr. David Jacobs, Raymond Fowler and other eminent researchers into this subject. Other writers uncover the same data (the sure sign of a real empirical phenomenon, not a fantasy or cultural artefact) but emphasise different faces of the prism.
John Mack was a fine writer, with a great mind. However his writing style does not always make for easy reading, and his perspective proves too vague and new-agey for many, so PTTC is read less often than some works by other researchers on the abduction subject. It is however one of the better-written books on the issue and definitely worth reading. It's a pity John felt unable to place his cards on the table and conclude what the objectives of the abducting entities might be: the astute reader will see that the data he uncovered leads inevitably in only one direction, and that the works of other academics more clearly demonstrate the obvious but not altogether comforting conclusions about this phenomenon which John refused to face.