Wilhelm Reich (March 24, 1897, Dobrzcynica, Austria-Hungary – November 3, 1957, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, USA) was an Austrian-American psychiatrist and Newager. The controversial concept of orgone energy originates from his late work. Due to his teachings, Reich became the theoretic founder of many sectarian psychoanalytic groups. Reich's writings "Mass Psychology of Fascism" and "The Sexual Revolution" took a great influence on the students' movement of the late 1960ies and early 1970ies. Wilhelm Reich and his friend A. S. Neill, founder of the anti-authoritarian Summerhill school, became idols of the 1968 movement. According to Wilhelm Reich's idea of sexual liberation, sexually uninhibited adults and children educated in this manner were to become the spearhead of a society free of domination.
His early work is explicitly different from his late work (approx. from 1940) which is characterised by increasingly irrational and esoteric thought, leading to the development of various dubious devices. In his opinion, some of these devices were adequate for cancer therapy, others were appropriate to manipulate the weather or to establish contacts to aliens. The terms Reich used were "Dor-Buster", "Oranur-Reaction", "deadly Dor-Energy", "Bion" or "Cloudbuster". His late work gave critics cause to conclude that he was suffering from a psychosis.
Until the age of 13, Wilhelm Reich was instructed at home. His parents were of Jewish denomination. In 1909, his mother Cecilia Reich committed suicide. Wilhelm apparently had revealed his mother's intimate relationship with one of his tutors to his father, and therefore played a role in his mother's suicide. His father died from tuberculosis in 1914. Having passed his university-entrance diploma, he went to the Italian front as a lieutenant in World War I. In 1914, Reich fled from the advancing Russian army. After World War I, he studied human medicine and became a psychiatrist. In Vienna he met Sigmund Freud in person and took an interested in Freudian psychoanalysis. In 1928, he became a member of the German Communist Party KPD, moved to Berlin in 1930 and founded the Sexpol publishing house and a magazine titled "Magazine for Political Psychology and Sexual Economy". In 1932, Reich was excluded from KPD for undue deviationism. During this time, he attempted to combine marxism and psychoanalysis. He organized the sexpol movement (sex education for workers and adolescents). In 1933, Reich published his masterpiece, "The Mass Psychology of Fascism".
Being a communist of Jewish descent, Reich fled Germany and went to Denmark in 1933, and further to Norway in 1934 where he began to develop his Bion concept. At the instigation of Sigmund Freud, Reich was excluded from the Psychoanalytic Society in the same year. In 1936, he dissociated himself from the Soviet Union. Reich moved to England in 1939 and finally to New York.
Life in the USA
In New York, Reich worked as a psychiatrist and obtained a teaching assignment at the New School for Social Research. He began his orgone research. Reich and his assistants developed the so-called orgone accumulator in 1940, a device meant to save positive atmospheric orgone energy. The orgone accumulator may be seen as a Faraday cage, built from alternate layers of conductive and non-conductive materials, with a person taking seat inside. The positive orgone energy is said to be concentrated by the special layering of the accumulator and load the organism with energy. Reich bought a mansion in the state of Maine (Rangeley) in 1944 which he called Orgonon. At these premises, he ran a research center and an Orgone Energy Clinic where he medicated patients according to his concept of Biopathy. Reich sold a few hundred orgone accumulators at 250 USD per piece for the purpose of healing a broad variety of diseases, including cancer. While conducting experiments with radium in his research center, whose radioactivity he meant to neutralize by orgone energy, Reich's assistants suffered radiation injuries and had to be taken to hospital. Reich attributed the failure of these experiments to an international conspiracy against him. Already in consequence of the failure of radium experiments, the US Food and Drug Administration had begun to investigate Reich's research centre Orgonon and finally obtained court orders requesting Reich to destroy all accumulators. In 1954, Reich was charged with malpractice, and materials were confiscated during a search of the centre. While Reich worked with the Cloud Buster in Arizona, his assistant Michael Silver transported several orgone accumulators in a truck from Rangeley/Maine to New York, crossing several state borders in the process. As a consequence, Reich was accused of violating court orders in July 1955. On May 26, 1956, Wilhelm Reich was sentenced to a two years' term of imprisonment for contempt of court, while Michael Silver was sentenced to one year in prison, and the Wilhelm Reich Foundation had to pay a fine of $ 10,000. He had been sent to prison, Reich concluded, for having „fought the demon of ignorance“ and „Modju“ wanted him punished for this. Modju is a term coined by Reich from the two names Mocenigo (after Giovanni Mocenigo, brother of a Venetian doge who delivered Giordano Bruno to the Inquisition) and Djugashvili (Stalin). Reich viewed Modju as an incarnation of an „emotional plague victim“. Reich died of heart failure on November 3, 1957 while incarcerated in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Reich continued his research while imprisoned and tried to draft an equation on negative gravity.
Wilhelm Reich's Research on Orgones and Life Energy
As a student of Sigmund Freud, Reich tried to describe the libido and the driving energy of mental functioning according to Sigmund Freud as a quantitatively measurable physical energy which he called orgone. He conducted a series of experiments which made him come to the conclusion that his theory of a specific life energy was proven valid. According to Reich, life energy research was opposed by a campaign led by communists, fascists, and capitalists. He saw a full blown delusional conspiracy against him in this context. He even accused Albert Einstein of participating in this conspiracy. Analysis of the experimental design and the use of modern measurement techniques, however, showed that all phenomena occuring may be explained by classical physical effects. An indication of a specific life energy could not be found. The investigation of Reich's original equipment in the Wilhelm Reich Museum in Rangeley, USA, revealed serious deficiencies in the measurement technique used and suggested that Reich did not achieve an adequate knowledge of basic concepts and methodology of experimental physics, and of measuring technique in particular, to interprete the effects observed by him in an appropriate manner. Measurement errors and experimentor effects on the part of Reich were revealed in several instances. However, this does not prevent supporters of his "life energy concept" to continue believing in its existence.
Reichian vegetotherapy is a so-called relaxation method as a continuation of his character analysis. It will relieve (chronic) muscular cramps (muscle armouring / armoured character) as an indicator of neurotic repression of needs through massaging the muscles. According to Reich, a noticeable chronic strain of the abdominal muscles was often to be noticed. There are also special breathing exercises.
Reich and his fight against UFOs
By his own account, Reich led a „cosmic war“ in the U.S. during the 1950ies, against alien flying saucers which came into fashion early in this decade. Reich called them "EAs" ("energy absorbers"). He believed that "EAs" deprived the planet Earth of its life energy, the Orgone, which the aliens needed for their engines. As soon as Reich sighted an "EA", he tried to deprive it of the orgone energy by using the cloud-breaker. Reich established an organization called "Cosmic Orgone Engineering" for his cosmic war, consisting of his son Peter and his son-in-law Bill Moise. In numerous letters, he reported his observations to President Eisenhower and the U.S. Air Force, and asked for support for his cosmic war. Finally, he put the blame on communists and gangsters in the United States government for not taking serious his alerts against the alien invaders.
Reich the Rainmaker
Wilhelm Reich is considered the inventor of the cloud-breaker Cloudbuster. The "EA" of flying saucers presumably contained deadly exhaust gases of the type "DOR" ("Deadly Orgone"). These were, in his opinion, cause of the "emotional plague" and the emergence of desert areas in America. Reich fought these DORs with the "cloud busters" constructed by him by casting the rain with orgone energy.
Love, work, and knowledge are the sources of our existence. They should also govern it.
Versions of this article in other languages
- Deutsch: Wilhelm Reich
- Franzen DE., American inquisition: the FDA's persecution of Wilhelm Reich, Reason. 1980;11(9):30-4
- Gardner M., "Reich the Rainmaker: the Orgone Obsession", Skeptical Inquirer, 13(1):26-30, 1988.
- http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich Wikipedia-Eintrag
- Prozessakten W. Reich