Alternate Perceptions Magazine, February 2019
An Interview with the late Dr. Berthold Eric Schwarz, M.D. (1924-2010) UFOs, the Paranormal, and the Perspective of a Psychiatrist who investigated the Unexplained
by: Brent Raynes
Dr. Berthold E. Schwarz was a graduate of Dartmouth College and New York University School of Medicine. He was a Diplomat of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
Back in 1991, I was writing articles for a publication called Recovery Times, which my good friend Dr. Gregory L. Little was then affiliated with. I did a number of free-lance features - everything from AIDS to various therapeutic programs like juvenile treatment, shock incarceration in the prison system, residential homes for the mentally challenged, a grief recovery program, and an interview I did with one Ali Alheshimi, whose homeland was Kuwait, on human rights violations and the horrors of war. Naturally, I decided to write about support programs being created for “alien abductees,” a subject that is naturally of special interest to me. I recently came across a series of interview questions that I had prepared for my friend Dr. Berthold Eric Schwarz, an imminent psychiatrist who was also very interested in UFOs and the paranormal, and authored such books as UFO Dynamics (1983) and Psychic-Nexus (1980). I only used a small portion of what he had provided me for that article, and since I have long regretted that we never got around to doing an interview for Alternate Perceptions (though he did write a slew of articles for us and was always putting me in touch with other awesome persons to interview) when I recently came across his interview responses I realized it gave me an opportunity to post this one. It was pretty revealing and informative and provided a good deal of insight into how Dr. Schwarz approached and processed the complex and perplexing UFO phenomenon.
Brent Raynes: Previously we've discussed Whitley Strieber's Communion and the many people coming forward now describing similar experiences, and the difficulty with separating the wheat from the chaff and discerning objective from what is subjective and the possible meanings behind such descriptions. There is quite a bit of interest lately in temporal lobe epilepsy and how that might play a role in some of these accounts. Then, of course, there have always been things talked about like “mass hysteria,” a term that gets tossed around from time to time in the UFO field, and you mentioned as an example the historic Devils of Loudon.
Berthold Schwarz: The Strieber and Hopkins material is replete for subjective accounts that are interesting to the uninitiated but perhaps to those who have lived longer they are short on solid data. Claims and hints, but as far as I know there are no publications on the supposed implants in reputable journals where the evidence is dutifully cited. However, to be fair, perhaps that is in the works. Otherwise, much of the sensational stuff that is written is in a great measure a recycling of what has been said or recorded, perhaps in different vestments, time after time through past ages. But, others, chiefly John Keel, have said this better than I and those who persist should never be discouraged from their quests but they should be encouraged to always act responsively and responsibly. The overlap with psychopathology is always a factor to be reckoned with. As far as the temporal lobe epilepsy aspect I have written about that, as you know, long ago in the EEG studies of Stella Lansing and others. Nevertheless, there is always the challenge and the need for critically examining new data or reexamining old material in the light of new evidence, techniques, etc.
Brent Raynes: Of course, on several occasions (if not many) I've obtained your views on hypnosis, and even quoted you in my newsletter several years back. So that's covered, but you might care to add a current footnote on any aspect you're seeing now with regard to the present groups and regressions. I don't think that much has probably changed there.
Dr. Berthold Schwarz: What has been said in the past about hypnosis still holds. A useful ancillary investigative method that is most meaningful when taken in its fullest context by those familiar with the vagaries of psychopathology and unfortunately in many instances with clinical psychiatry. It is no royal road to truth or breakthroughs. Like most things it can be abused (consciously or unconsciously) and the effects can be unhealthy: more dissociation, psychosis, psychosomatics exacerbations, etc.
Brent Raynes: You've talked about the psychic aspect, hypersuggestible personalities, and the phenomenon of “resistance.” Care to elaborate further on what one can expect in the encounter group setting, the “ins and outs” of it? Is there a potential danger in settings like Communion groups headed up by witnesses only? Does this approach sometimes compound problems? Should there be some further guidance and screening?
Dr. Berthold Schwarz: Unless you “know” who is in your group you have all the potentials for the above plus various psychosocial complications. For example, formerly when practicing in New Jersey it was not uncommon to come upon dissolved marriages, sexual acting out, parent child conflicts inflammed by or coming from amateur “group” situations; ironically, in some cases, under church auspices. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. What happens to a person or how he presents himself is also in microcosm a history of his/her selfhood. It must be looked upon as a series of defenses or modes of coping with stress and various life situations. If there is a shift it can act for the better or for the worse. In many of the so-called UFO group situations we have no controlled studies or long-term follow-ups. For example, what actually happened, how was it handled and how was it contained over the long haul? Yes, problems can be compounded or in some cases cans of worms can become opened. Primum non nocere (First do no Harm: Hippocrates).
Brent Raynes: To date, how many UFO close encounter witnesses have you interviewed? In how many states?
I can see where you might scratch your head over that one for awhile, but if it's perhaps near the top of your head somewhere that information might interest the readers. Otherwise, just a rough estimate will be fine.
Dr. Berthold Schwarz: I have lost count of the many I have interviewed to varying depths in several states. To what extent constitutes an interview? A brief cursory encounter to serial studies over years: face to face, through correspondence, telephone, etc. The long-term aspects can never be stressed enough.
Brent Raynes: Although I can't put my finger on it right now, I recall you complaining once about the great many “half baked” cases that are offered and how if routine methods were employed as they are for people suffering depressions and other common conditions then we would be far advanced of where we are now. Care to add a fresh comment or two on this?
Dr. Berthold Schwarz: Separation of the wheat from the chaff is becoming a more noticeable problem with the increased attention from the movies and TV, plus popular books. It is not a question, most frequently, of whether there is contamination or not but to try and appraise the degree and in what areas. Always a difficult question but since being in Florida, and perhaps due to the above mentioned factors in the public sector, I have come across more cases on the psychopathology part of the spectrum than those with apparent nuclei of genuine experiences worthy of further study. The paranormal interphase is still shamefully neglected and the experimental aspects are almost non-existent. However, I stick by my guns and believe that that is a potentially most productive and practical area to explore. The almost interchangeability of the terms paragnost and contactee (or abductee) is a striking feature in many cases that I have studied.
Brent Raynes: Care to relate anything about the difficulties you have come across in adequately investigating this situation? I specifically recall you mentioning “distrust of strangers (or psychiatrists from the TV Hollywood experience); overawed by the uniqueness of the contacts.”
Dr. Berthold Schwarz: After all these years it is a shame that so few psychiatrists have become sufficiently involved to publish their findings so that the above opinions can be negated, modified or confirmed. Facts are needed. Field work is vital. There have been many armchair theorists but all too few who venture out into society, visit the homes and families in situ. On the whole most whom I have interviewed have been cooperative, and genuinely curious and seeking some explanation, no matter how tenous; and then there are those who seek therapeutic relief from what happened to themselves. Again whether due to UFOs or now-a-days perhaps a mixed picture with predominant elements of dissociation, depression, etc.
Brent Raynes: Regarding hypnosis you have said its “a good tool” in UFO studies but “does not guarantee the truth” and that “better information” might well be obtained using “different interview techniques.” Care to comment further?
Cognitive interview approach? Naturally, the clinical psycho-analytic approach another?
Dr. Berthold Schwarz: Clinical psychiatric (psychodynamic) interviewing techniques yield no dearth of information. The question is: how is it to be synthesized and formulated? Then there is the core fragment of mystery like your inscrutable David Stephens abduction case in Maine and all the follow-up aspects and unanswered questions. People still call or write about that. Therefore, the need for long-term tactful follow-ups could become critical factors.