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The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack (2021) [audiobook+ebook]

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The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack
Written by: Ralph Blumenthal
Narrated by: Phil Thron
Length: 12 hrs and 20 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 2021-07-13
Language: English
Publisher: Tantor Audio

The Believer is the weird and chilling true story of Dr. John Mack. This eminent Harvard psychiatrist and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer risked his career to investigate the phenomenon of human encounters with aliens and to give credibility to the stupefying tales shared by people who were utterly convinced they had happened.

Nothing in Mack's four decades of psychiatry had prepared him for the otherworldly accounts of a cross section of humanity, including young children who reported being taken against their wills by alien beings. Over the course of his career, his interest in alien abduction grew from curiosity to wonder, ultimately developing into a limitless, unwavering passion.

Based on exclusive access to Mack's archives, journals, and psychiatric notes and interviews with his family and closest associates, The Believer reveals the life and work of a man who explored the deepest of scientific conundrums and further leads us to the hidden dimensions and alternate realities that captivated Mack until the end of his life.

Comments

Sounds so fascinating...thanks for sharing!

This book came up recently in a comment to 1Martian and I noticed there was an audiobook version available as well, so thought I would share here.

I am fairly certain Mack was a proponent of LSD psychotherapy with some of his patients and took the shamanic worldview of alternate realities in higher states of consciousness.

Thanks to TheCorsair00 for his earlier reference to this book, which I was able to snag from the source he mentioned in a thread attached to the Gaia video series "Disclosure" (based on interviews with Dr Steven Greer) he uploaded recently - https://concen.org/content/disclosure-dr-steven-greer-2021-season-1 ). That thread was quite lively and worthwhile. I hope TheCorsair00 saw my latest response there regarding the parapsychology subject, wherein I mentioned a book and a couple of videos about the work of a psychiatrist exploring that topic who I think to be at least sympathetic to topics of the sort we've been considering along the lines of what Dr Greer and Dr John Mack are well known for investigating and writing about.

Yes, thanks for mentioning the work of Dr. Diane - I had not heard of her before and I will definitely be checking out the links you provided. Parapsychology seems to be a large part of this UFO and alien abduction phenomenon. I guess the problem with Dr. Greer and others is that they bring their own lingo/language and understanding to the issue, which might confuse people - but they all seem to have a common thread, which is consciousness.

I think that getting some idea of what consciousness is (which may not be possible, except in some descriptive form, along the lines of what a biology teacher in my past said about life: Life is what life does) seems like an important starting point in any investigation of peculiar phenomena of the type we're considering here. I have a copy of Dr Diane's book, which I'm working my way through slowly, here beside me. She spends a lot of time considering the nature of consciousness and its relationship to the brain (what philosophers like to call the hard problem). In her consideration of what used to be called idiot savants, she looks at cases wherein, like that of Kim Peek (inspiration for the film Rain Man), who had severe congenital brain disorders, and yet had a "photographic" memory and was able to read two books simultaneously -- one with each eye, remarkable abilities, such as these, are exhibited! Such examples would seem to be strong arguments for the idea that consciousness is not produced by the brain, but is mediated by it, in some way that present-day neurology and philosophy have not begun to comprehend.

Dr Diane also talks about how brains appear to produce a certain inhibitory effect on thought, perception and other mental functions, which would seem to provide a good basis for thinking about phenomena like what's called "acquired savant syndrome," which is well described in story form in a 2016 episode of the Hidden Brain radio show - https://www.npr.org/transcripts/467680296 (both written text and audio are available via that link).

I'm still puzzling through a specific connection between new and/or unconventional understandings of consciousness and phenomena like UFOs and "abductions." Some of what the late Karla Turner, Ph.D. described in her own experiences of being abducted and having unusual perceptual experiences presents a possible example. Another point of contact might be the report that many of those who feel themselves to have been in the presence of "aliens" talk about "telepathic" communication they have either/both witnessed or/and experienced.

But maybe there are even more profound connections between what human consciousness is and can produce and what is being experienced as encounters of various sorts with what presents as non-human beings and technology. Maybe the work of Rupert Sheldrake, involving ideas like what he calls "morphic resonance" is somehow involved ("morphogenetic fields" certainly provide what could turn out to be an important alternative view of consciousness and memory, among other phenomena exhibited by biological systems). And then, of course, there's the work of people like Stanislav Grov, M.D., Ph.D., who has long been interested in the use of psychoactive drugs as a means of exploring what human consciousness can experience and produce. (Dr Grof (now 90 years old) suffered a stroke a few years ago, and is now experiencing some memory problems, but I think he's slowly recovering, under the care of his relatively new wife, Brigitte ( https://youtu.be/kORTIfsIPLo ), who he met several decades ago while working at the Esalen Institute in California (he a teacher and she a student) after his previous wife, Christina, died. Stan and Christina co-authored a few books and they worked together to produce the "holotropic breathwork" techniques that replaced the use of drugs like LSD that had previously been employed to produce the "non-ordinary" (as Dr Grof calls them) states of consciousness that are essential for his therapeutic work after legal barriers preventing the use of those substances were put in place. One model of how such drugs work is that they cause a change the composition of the liquid electrolyte in the brain that exists between the axons and dendrites of the brain's neural network, improving the ability of electrical signals to bridge the gap between these adjacent neurological components -- again releasing an inhibitory mechanism, perhaps like what happens in the case of brain injuries (like that of Derek Amato, who is described in the Hidden Brain episode mentioned earlier, who gained remarkable musical abilities following his severe head injury).

Well, that's enough rambly ruminating for now! :-)

In any case, I think it's quite exciting to ponder and explore these topics and to try to identify what associations and relationships we can.

P.S. I've just discovered Dr Diane's name listed among those featured in Ancient Aliens, S09E09 ( https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4562134/ ), which is about possible alien involvement in the U.S. Civil War. Since this is a TV show I don't watch (due primarily to what I consider to be its sensationalistic tone and what seems to me like wild speculation in many places), I hadn't seen this feature. Having just downloaded and checked this episode, I can pass on that Dr Diane features for just a few seconds, talking about a medium who conducted seances that President Abraham Lincoln, urged by his wife, apparently attended. According to what this medium, Nettie Colburn Maynard, wrote in her autobiography, "other-worldly beings" used her during seances to pass on messages to President Lincoln. There is also some evidence that such messages persuaded him about the importance of The Emancipation Proclamation, which was intended to abolish slavery. I have found no evidence thus far that Dr Diane has had anything to do specifically with supporting the speculation talked about in this episode concerning extraterrestrial influence on the conduct or outcome of the Civil War.

There is (pp. 75-76) mention in Dr Diane's book, The ESP Enigma, concerning a precognitive dream about his assassination three days prior to the actual event that President Lincoln reported to his wife and a few friends. In that dream, Lincoln saw a body laid out in the East Room of the White House, guarded by soldiers. Though in his dream, Lincoln was unable to identify the person who lay in state, since the face was covered, he was told when he asked that the body was that of the president.

1martian wrote:

Dr Diane also talks about how brains appear to produce a certain inhibitory effect on thought, perception and other mental functions...

Stan and Christina co-authored a few books and they worked together to produce the "holotropic breathwork" techniques that replaced the use of drugs like LSD that had previously been employed to produce the "non-ordinary"...One model of how such drugs work is that they cause a change the composition of the liquid electrolyte in the brain that exists between the axons and dendrites of the brain's neural network, improving the ability of electrical signals to bridge the gap between these adjacent neurological components -- again releasing an inhibitory mechanism.

It's a beautiful and compelling vision: it is not that we are using 10% or 5% or even just 1% of our brain; rather it is more likely that 1% of our brain is designed and/or conditioned to block the rest. It is not what we see that is revelatory; it is what we do not see or notice that, when it finally "breaks through" into our perception, then it takes on new meaning. Yet it was there all the time, and we were just blocking it. [It was invisible to us; wearing a cloak of "unimportant"]

I have often thought that narrative and thinking itself (how we organize our perceptions) is related to this: how we think is how we block.

Hence, "...if you want to see truth, hold no opinion..."

a kind of neural-neutral way of perception...

what would that look like, I wonder? (~_^)

Thanks for sharing

euxalot wrote:

"...if you want to see truth, hold no opinion..."

It might be useful to know the context of this utterance, which can be found at http://mountainman.com.au/hsinhsin.html . Several decades ago, I encountered another snippet of what is found in a later verse of this work of Zen wisdom, Do not search for the truth; only cease to cherish opinions. At the possibly paradoxical risk of at least flirting with an opinion, I willl state that I've found greatest value in considering those lines outside the context of the verse in which they occur. Thus have I attached my own meaning to it, which involves questioning the concept of "truth" itself (as we might ordinarily understand the idea), for at least a few reasons.

The first reason I am not particularly interested in seeking "truth" is that I question the value of the concept itself, and must wonder how it can be known when it is possessed, assuming that such a thing is even possible. A second reason is that any "knowing" is inevitably relative to factors like the mental faculties of the knower and all the bias that comes from things like culture and prior personal experience. A third reason has to do with how what one might choose to call "truth" cannot generally in any reliable fashion be transmitted to someone else, and that, except, perhaps, in limited conditional circumstances, in such a transmission, there will inevitably be distortions that can easily render an original insight to be partial, or even dangerous. So much violence and bloodshed have occurred due to clashes between those whose "truths" about important matters appear to differ from one another, as people become locked into belief systems concerning "truths" which they feel they must defend.

Perhaps my quibble is largely a matter of semantics. However, I must feel that we would do well to consider carefully what this "truth" idea really means to us, both individually and collectively, along with the "belief" that generally accompanies it. For my part, I'd be content to wage an ongoing struggle with what evidence can be collected, and with understandings that I am forever resigned to know can be only partial and relative.

First, please allow me to say how truly nice it is to have you share your thoughts with us, Dr Martian! I, for one, certainly appreciate it!!

1martian wrote:

The first reason I am not particularly interested in seeking "truth" is that I question the value of the concept itself, and must wonder how it can be known when it is possessed, assuming that such a thing is even possible.

Agreed. I shared the quote tongue-in-cheek as much I did in earnest knowing, as I do, what a mischievous Gordian-knot it is to try to untie! I love it just because it is challenging on so many levels, but I am in full agreement that whatever we may think of as "truth" there are just as many ways to view it as "untruth" or, at least, "partial truths". Such is the nature of perspective and vantage point, and there is no egoless eye from which anybody can view anything if one still wants to be considered an "eye".

This is something Nietzsche wrote about long before most others:

How far the perspective character of existence extends or indeed whether existence has any other character than this; whether existence without interpretation, without "sense," does not become "nonsense"; whether, on the other hand, all existence is not essentially actively engaged in interpretation-—that cannot be decided even by the most industrious and most scrupulously conscientious analysis and self-examination of the intellect; for in the course of this analysis the human intellect cannot avoid seeing itself in its own perspectives, and only in these. We cannot look around our own corner: it is a hopeless curiosity that wants to know what other kinds of intellects and perspectives there might be; for example, whether some beings might be able to experience time backward, or alternately forward and backward (which would involve another direction of life and another concept of cause and effect) . But I should think that today we are at least far from the ridiculous immodesty that would be involved in decreeing from our corner that perspectives are permitted only from this corner. (Nietzsche, The Gay Science)

And also:

Let us guard against such contradictory concepts...for these demand that ‘we should think of an eye that is completely unthinkable, an eye turned in no particular direction…these always demand of the eye an absurdity and a nonsense. There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective ‘knowing’. (Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morality)

1martian wrote:

A second reason is that any "knowing" is inevitably relative to factors like the mental faculties of the knower and all the bias that comes from things like culture and prior personal experience.

Agreed, for reasons shared above.

1martian wrote:

A third reason has to do with how what one might choose to call "truth" cannot generally in any reliable fashion be transmitted to someone else, and that, except, perhaps, in limited conditional circumstances, in such a transmission, there will inevitably be distortions that can easily render an original insight to be partial, or even dangerous.

This is a really interesting notion. While I cannot disagree that truth cannot be transmitted, nevertheless this has never stopped anybody from trying :)
Witness pretty much all mythology, all collective belief, and pretty much all tradition. It seems to me that all of that consensus comes down to funneling specific concepts that are perceived (better: pre-conceived) to be "truth". That is the non-fiction voice in all our heads when, in reality, we all of us share in a whole bunch of fictions every moment of every single day.

1martian wrote:

So much violence and bloodshed have occurred due to clashes between those whose "truths" about important matters appear to differ from one another, as people become locked into belief systems concerning "truths" which they feel they must defend.

Nietzsche again:

Dying for the "truth"--We should not let ourselves be burnt for our opinions: We are not that sure of them. But perhaps for this: that we may have and change our opinions. (Nietzsche, The Wanderer and his Shadow)

1martian wrote:

Perhaps my quibble is largely a matter of semantics. However, I must feel that we would do well to consider carefully what this "truth" idea really means to us, both individually and collectively, along with the "belief" that generally accompanies it. For my part, I'd be content to wage an ongoing struggle with what evidence can be collected, and with understandings that I am forever resigned to know can be only partial and relative.

Well said! And from what little I know of you, I would say you are doing a good job of it, my friend :)

cheerio