Sunday, May 7, 2023

Consciousness Screwing with Us: Rice University’s 2023 Archives of the Impossible Conference


Dr. John E. Mack Image by Stuart Conway. John E. Mack Institute

Twenty seven years ago, rather urgently, I flew off to a UFO conference because Dr. John Mack was there. So was Whitley Strieber. Come hell or high water, I was going. That impulse was impossible to explain. Particularly to my engineer-y spouse. 'You’re going where?' " ( announces Rice University's 2023 Archives of the Impossible Conference, May 11 through May 13, with a short discussion about the importance of Rice's paranormal special collections.)

Consciousness Screwing with Us: Rice University’s 2023 Archives of the Impossible Conference

In Dr. John Mack’s assessment, to have the crap scared out of you by the perception of a UFO or an alien abduction might be an opportunity. The Pulitzer prize winning biographer and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about if UFOs and abductions were real. He cared instead about their effects. Mack likened them to Near Death experiences and apparitions of the Virgin Mary, events that seemed anchored in otherworldly invisible realms, yet crossed over into our physical world. He wondered if they were designed to shatter our materialist world view and open our consciousness to a larger view of reality. Expanded consciousness might reveal a multi-dimensional universe in which unfamiliar entities, energies and beings exist. In other words, a non-ordinary state of consciousness caused by a UFO screwing with us is potentially an opportunity to know our cosmic nature.

John Mack was tragically run over by a truck and killed in London in 2004, years before Dr. Jeffrey K. Kripal and his Rice University colleagues established the paranormal branch of Woodson Research Center’s special collections called Archives of the Impossible. I’m convinced that if Mack had lived, in fact I’d go to the bookie with it, Jeff Kripal would have sweet talked Mack into depositing some of his material into the archives precisely the way he roped in Dr. Jacques Vallée, Whitley Strieber and numerous others whose gifts made Archives of the Impossible one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. In the same vein, I’d bet my beer money that if Mack had lived, he would have spoken at Rice’s 2022 Archives of the Impossible Conference along with Jacques Vallée, Whitley Strieber, Dr. Diana Pasulka, Leslie Kean and numerous others who presented last year, many of whom donated their paranormal material to the Archives of the Impossible.

Next week, Thursday May 11 through Saturday May 13, Rice is hosting its 2023 Archives of the Impossible Conference. When I read the 2023 conference schedule, my mouth flew open. The John E. Mack Institute is making a gift to Rice’s Archives of the Impossible. During the conference Kripal and his gang will announce to attendees and remote viewers from around the world what that gift entails. I certainly don’t know the nature of the donation, but I hope it includes recordings or videos of some of the UFO witness and abductee interviews and hypnosis sessions that compelled Mack to risk his Harvard career and tenure by publishing what he learned about UFOs and the alien abduction phenomenon. Harvard conducted an "inquiry." Being ridiculed and doubted by his colleagues must have been painful. Ultimately the medical school reaffirmed Mack’s academic freedom to “study what he wishes and state his opinions without impediment.”

Twenty seven years ago, rather urgently, I flew off to a UFO conference because Dr. John Mack was there. So was Whitley Strieber. Come hell or high water, I was going. That impulse was impossible to explain. Particularly to my engineer-y spouse. “You’re going where?”

The way I see it, nothing could be more important than to try to understand UFOs and other paranormal experiences. Humans have had mystical experiences and brushed up against the paranormal since the beginning, across all eras and cultures. UFOs, NDEs, OBEs, apparitions, and clairvoyance are universal experiences. They are often interpreted in religious and mythological terms. Sometimes regrettably. We might fail miserably at getting to the bottom of these things. Particularly if our present level of evolutionary development makes it impossible to know, for instance, that which Jacques Vallée suspects is a non human form of consciousness beyond space time that manipulates our physical environment. Jeff Kripal wonders if the external world is an image or representation constructed by our brain because objective reality would overwhelm the shit out of us. Kripal suspects there is a hidden dimension of the self beyond space time that is primarily, fundamentally consciousness, that shows itself in dreams, visions, apparitions, intuition, altered states and weird erotic energies. He's talking about redefining the human in light of our cosmic immensity.

Clearly science alone won’t cut it. Science is totally inadequate for penetrating what Kripal called “the most obvious fact of our existence that does not seem to be physical at all, consciousness itself.” To make headway will take a multidisciplinary approach that includes quantum physics, engineering, biology, neuroscience, astronomy, anthropology, literary criticism, philosophy, history of religions and many, many other fields of study. Archives of the Impossible is rooted in this broader approach. I believe Rice’s multi-discipline approach to unraveling extended consciousness helped convince Jacques Vallée to donate his life’s work. When he spoke at the 2022 conference, Vallée commended Kripal and Rice’s Humanities department for its visionary grasp of “what the continuing UFO mystery means to our models of reality.”

Image of an Alien. Rice University's Archives of the Impossible

Kripal said in his 2022 Archives of the Impossible conference speech, “the project as a whole is based on the working hypothesis that it is all connected. From the UFO to the NDE, to the poltergeist, the medium and the afterlife, to the angel, the alien, the precognitive, the dream, the telepathic communication and the abduction. That is after all why all this material sits in the same archival collection, collecting is connecting. Collection is connection.” He believes serious researchers from all backgrounds are needed “to recognize as it were, cosmic content."

Kripal wrote on the Archives of the Impossible website that the paranormal appears in order to mock and shock us out of our present normal thinking. I talk to Jeff by email occasionally, and I’ve watched many of his video interviews and lectures, and read some of his gazillion books, so I think I know what he means by “mock and shock.” He means paranormal experiences are purposefully mind-blowingly absurd, to knock us on our butt, force us to pay attention. I phrased it slightly differently in a 2022 magazine article I wrote about the Archives of the Impossible, Cosmic Sex and UFOs: Rice University's Archives of the Impossible writing, “Philosophers use the words ontological shock for something so bat-shit crazy it shatters one’s worldview.”

Dr. Jeffrey J. Kripal is Rice University’s Associate Dean of the
Humanities and J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Philosophy
and Religious Thought

John Mack believed a notable benefit of ditching our materialist world view and developing a new understanding of the human is we would stop acting like jackasses. “What the abduction phenomenon has led me (I would now say inevitably) to see is that we participate in a universe or universes that are filled with intelligences from which we have cut ourselves off, having lost the senses by which we might know them. It has become clear to me also that our restricted worldview or paradigm lies behind most of the major destructive patterns...”

I find it extraordinary that Rice will make available videos of conference lectures and panel discussions soon after the conference ends. I find it even more extraordinary that nobodies like me are permitted to visit the Archives. You don’t have to be a scholar to access the material. You might not want to miss Dr. Colm Kelleher’s conference lecture “The UAP and Parapsychology: Lessons Learned From Managing a Pentagon Classified Study.”

Virginia's 2022 Intown mag Article "Cosmic Sex and UFOs:
Rice University's Archives of the Impossible

John Mack's book "Passport to the Cosmos"

(Selected Articles on

Garland Fielder Weighs In on Architectural Design and the Creative Process

Discovering S.P.Q.R. and Miraculous Oil at the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere

Visiting Azienda Agricola Casamonti in the Chianti Classico - Wine and Cinta Senese Pigs
Unraveling Mint Juleps, Pat O’Brien’s Patio, Julep Bar, Anvil Bar and Refuge

Eating Oysters at Topwater Grill in San Leon at Galveston Bay

A Talk with Food Guru George Graham about - Graham’s New Cookbook “Fresh From Louisiana: The Soul of Cajun and Creole Home Cooking” - Interview

Martha Stewart Visits Lucullus Antiques - Patrick Dunne - New Orleans

Avesta Persian Grill's Pomegranate and Walnut Stew, Cyrus the Great, Tajikistan


  1. Damn! I will be accessing those archives after the conference. Thank you!

  2. Heidi, last year the conference videos were on youtube shortly after the conference

  3. Fabulous article full of information I didn't know! I definitely want to but some of John Mack's books. Aso would love to hear some of the conference videos. What a fascinating theory. I often say to people that our distant ancestors had more "mental" tools available to them than present day man and that we underestimate their capabilities.

  4. Many thanks. Rice will be sharing the videos of conference lectures.