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UFO update: a Harvard psychiatrist says alien encounters, while traumatic, may be our gateway to God

For the past three decades, students of UFO abduction have hailed from outside the scientific community. Their ranks include an historian, a social worker, and an artists. Despite the diversity of their backgrounds, these researchers have all agreeds on one thing: The aliens, they say, are evil, inflicting on their human victims only misery and pain.

But now, Dr. John E. Mack, professor of psychiatry at Cambridge Hospital, an affiliate of the Harvard Medical School, and a Pulitzer Prize winner, has broken the mold. The first world-class scientist to jump on the abduction bandwagon, Mack agrees that alien abductions do, indeed, take place. But unlike other researchers, he says the abduction experience can be spiritually uplifting, a key to inner growth.

To back up his theories, Mack has recently published Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens (Scribner's), the chronicle of eight male and five female abductees whose stories have been elicited through hypnosis. The tales they tell, says Mack, who has worked with 80 abductees in all, "reveal many examples of great personal growth, a reexperiencing of past lives, and a deepening concern for the fate of the earth."

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Joe Noonan, for instance, is a 34-year-old psychotherapist who runs a professional development and training business. As quoted in Mack's book, Noonan says his alien abductors are "midwives" who help him stay connected to his divinity. "Unconditional him stay connected to his divinity. "Unconditional acceptance and understanding are always an integral part of my E.T. experiences," Noonan explains.

Eva, a mother of two, says that for her, abduction has been "a process of awakening." The aliens "Need us for their own reasons," she says, but they are also "helping us to evolve as a race."

But if aliens connect us with the cosmic realm, why do they cause so much pain? "It's possible," says Mack, "that the alien presence, however traumatic, may be part of a larger process bringing us back to our common source."

But most of Mack's fellow investigators put little stock in his ideas. "I haven't seen the positive spiritual components that John Mack reports," says David Jacobs, an historian at Temple University and author of the book Secret Life, a step-by-step examination of the abduction process. "Most abductees don't like this phenomenon, feel that it's a detriment to their lives, wish that it had never happened to begin with, and hope that it never happens again."

Many abductees also vehemently disagree with Mack's findings. According to Wendy, a food manufacturer who says she has been repeatedly abducted, "I've been forsaken by God, not enlightened by him. Why isn't he answering my prayers and stopping this?" Adds Sheila, a 32-year-old mother of three, "Saying I benefited spiritually from being abducted by aliens is like saying an Auschwitz survivor benefited spiritually from being treated like a laboratory animal."

And how do Mack's colleagues in psychiatry feel about his abduction research? John O'Brien, CEO of the Cambridge Hospital, has only praise. "John," he says, "is a nationally recognized clinician and researcher, and we encourage him to pursue his interests, whatever they are." As for the American Psychiatric Association, it does not endorse Mack's work. But Dr. Michael S. Aronoff, spokesperson for the New York county district branch says, "the Association generally views any responsible scientific research into human behavior as useful for the progress of information." -- ANITA BASKIN

ANCESTRAL PSI

While researching a group of German families who emigrated to New York in 1710, San Diego--based genealogist Henry Z. Jones, Jr., made a startling discovery. "I had no reason to think I was released to any of those 874 families," he recounts. "Totally at random, I picked one name, Dietrich Schneider, for my researcher in Germany to track down." Jones was shocked to learn he is a direct descendant of Schneider.

That was just the beginning of what Jones calls his trips into the "Twilight Zone" of genealogy. Frequent bizarre coincidences and feelings of deja vu have convinced him that psychic phenomena frequently help people trace family trees. In fact, after hearing colleagues mention similar tales, Jones contacted 300 genealogists, asking if they had experienced intuitive nudging while researching their family trees, ultimately using the material for his new book, Psychic Roots: Serendipity and Intuition in Genealogy (Genealogical Publishing Company).

For example, an Ontario man kept dreaming of a portrait of his grandfather--a painting no one believed had ever existed. Then, while sightseeing in an English castle, he was amazed to find the portrait of his dreams.

Another genealogist, searching in a library in vain for references to an eighteenth-century relative, was startled when a book fell from a shelf onto her head. Idly leafing through the tome, she quickly spotted Revolutionary War records documenting her ancestor's life.

But Cornell University psychologist Thomas Gilovich, who has studied seemingly meaningful coincidences, says that statistically these spooky genealogical tales aren't evidence of contact with the other side, but rather "completely in the realm of chance."

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