John Edward Mack, M.D. (born October 4, 1929), professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, considered to be a leading authority on the spiritual or transformational affects of alleged alien encounter experiences.
Mack received his medical degree from the Harvard Medical School (Cum Laude, 1955) after undergraduate study at Oberlin (Phi Beta Kappa, 1951). He is a graduate of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and is Board certified in child and adult psychoanalysis.
The dominant theme of his life's work has been the exploration of how one's perceptions of the world affect one's relationships. He addressed this issue of "worldview" on the individual level in his early clinical explorations of dreams, nightmares and teen suicide, and in his biographical study of the life of British officer T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in biography in 1977.
Mack advocated that Western culture required a shift away from a purely materialist worldview (which he felt was responsible for the Cold War, the global ecological crisis, ethnonationalism and regional conflict) towards a transpersonal worldview which embraced certain elements of Eastern spiritual and philosophical traditions.
Mack's interest in the spiritual aspect of human experience has been compared by the New York Times to that of fellow Harvard alum William James, and like James, Mack became a controversial figure for his efforts to bridge spirituality and psychiatry.
This theme was taken to a controversial extreme in the early 1990s when Mack commenced his decade-plus study of 200 men and women who claimed that recurrent alien encounter experiences had affected the way they regarded the world, including a heightened sense of spirituality and environmental concern. Mack's interest in the spiritual or transformational aspects of people's alien encounters, and his suggestion that the experience of alien contact itself may be more spiritual than physical in nature - yet nonetheless real - set him apart from many of his contemporaries such as Budd Hopkins, who advocated the physical reality of aliens.
In 1994 the Dean of Harvard Medical School appointed a committee of peers to review Mack's clinical care and clinical investigation of the people who had shared their alien encounters with him (some of their cases were written of in Mack's 1994 book Abduction). After fourteen months of inquiry and amid growing questions from the academic community (including Harvard Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz) regarding the validity of Harvard's investigation of a tenured professor, Harvard issued a statement stating that the Dean had "reaffirmed Dr. Mack's academic freedom to study what he wishes and to state his opinions without impediment," concluding "Dr. Mack remains a member in good standing of the Harvard Faculty of Medicine."
Mack's explorations later broadened into the general consideration of the merits of an expanded notion of reality, one which allows for experiences that may not fit the Western materialist paradigm, yet deeply affect people's lives. His second (and final) book on the alien encounter experience, Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters (1999), was as much the culmination of his work with the "experiencers" of alien encounters (to whom the book is dedicated) as it was a philosophical treatise connecting the themes of spirituality and modern worldviews.