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Wilhelm Reich

Wilhelm Reich (March 24, 1897 - November 3, 1957) was an Austrian psychologist trained by Sigmund Freud.

He is known for three things:

  • Freud regarded all his theories as unscientific.
  • He tried to join Marxism and psychoanalysis in studies of fascism, producing a very popular book, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, on the subject.
  • His creation of the mystic pseudoscience of "Reichian Therapy", based on the concept of orgone energy, and persecution by the US government of himself and his theories until his death

Table of contents

Reich's early career

Reich was born in Austria: he received an M.D. degree from the University of Vienna in 1922. Reich had been a member of the Austrian Socialist Party, but on moving to Berlin in 1930, he joined the Communists. Even at this time, eccentric political and sexual theories began to emerge in his writings, which did not fit well with orthodox Marxism, and Reich eventually left the Communist party. His theories also became increasingly unpalatable to the Freudians, and the International Psychological association expelled him from membership in 1934. His 1933 publication of The Mass Psychology of Fascism, which categorised the fascists as sexually-repressed neurotics, was not calculated to make many friends amongst the Nazis, and the book was banned when they came to power: Reich realised that he was in an extremely dangerous situation, and he hurriedly left Germany. He spent a couple of years in Norway, before his eventual arrival in the USA in 1939.

Reich's development of his orgone theories

During Reich's exile in USA he developed a mystic pseudoscience of "Reichian Therapy", where Freud's concept of the libido has been transformed into orgone, a form of universal power (an "energy field", similar to qi or other semi-mystical energy concepts). Orgone was an unproven form of energy first described by Reich in the late 1930s. Reich characterized orgone as a type of primordal cosmic energy, blue in colour, which is omnipresent and responsible for such things as:

  • weather,
  • the color of the sky,
  • gravity,
  • the formation of galaxies,
  • and good orgasms (the sense of well-being felt after orgasm was supposed by Reich to be due to the orgasm optimising the flow of orgone energy throughout the body.
Reich even speculated that this energy might be used for propulsion of UFOs.

As a consequence of his theory, illness was primarily due to depletion or imbalance in the orgone energy of the body. Reich devised devices known as orgone accumulators, which he claimed could concentrate and store orgone energy. Published descriptions of orgone accumulators depict a box made of alternating layers of metal and non-metallic material, with the metal on the interior. The outer, non metallic layer attarcted orgone energy, and the metal inner layer trapped it and reflected it within the box: multiple layers amplified the effect. The patient would sit within the accumulator, and absorb the concentrated orgone energy. Reich also devised smaller, more portable accumulators of the same layered construction, for application to parts of the body to promote healing.

At one point Reich claimed the existence of a second form of energy, oranur or DOR (for "deadly orgone radiation"). DOR seems to be the antithesis of orgone.

Reich designed orgone "guns" called cloudbusters to suck DOR from the sky. It has been claimed that they can be used to manipulate the weather and to create rainstorms in a process called weather engineering. According to some accounts, the government of Eritrea financed several such projects in the 1980s and 1990s in order to change the weather in the region.

Reich's later years

His later years were spent in a fight with the U.S. government. According to his FBI file:

This German immigrant described himself as the Associate Professor of Medical Psychology, Director of the Orgone Institute, President and research physician of the Wilhelm Reich Foundation, and discoverer of biological or life energy. A 1940 security investigation was begun to determine the extent of Reich's communist commitments. In 1947, a security investigation concluded that neither the Orgone Project nor any of its staff were engaged in subversive activities or were in violation of any statue within the jurisdiction of the FBI.

However, although he had been cleared of any suspicion of politically subversive activities, his claims for the benefits of orgone therapy - including the treatment of cancer, a field notoriously rife with quack treatments - led him into conflict with the Food and Drug Administration, which regarded the Institute as peddling an unproven and untested medical procedure. In 1954 the U.S. Attorney General filed a complaint seeking permanent injunction to prevent interstate shipment of devices and literature put out by Dr. Reich's group. That same year, Dr. Reich was arrested for contempt of court for violation of the Attorney General's injunction.

Status of Reich's Books Reich's earlier books, in particular his book The Mass Psychology of Fascism, is regarded as somewhat scientifically valuable. However, during his later career, Reich subsequently revised his older books to include the orgone concepts. As these are generally regarded unscientific, scholars of psychology and sociology prefer to refer to earlier, German, editions of his works. Any attempts to reprint old editions of his books are blocked by the foundation which owns the rights to Reich's works, which is why they are scarce and hard to find.

Part of the FDA's injunction against Reich's orgone accumulators included any documentation of the accumulators, as well as withholding any of his existing books from publication until mention of orgone energy was expunged from them. This has caused many to levy charges against the United States government of censorship of Reich's ideas. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Reich's ideas enjoyed a revival and most of his books were reprinted and read by the loosely defined "New Left". As of 2003, the majority of the scientific community dismisses Reich's claims as pseudoscientific. Many people view Reich's theories as a system of magic.

The orgone accumulator and the cloudbusters are now mostly remembered for the songs of the same name by Hawkwind, Pop Will Eat Itself[?] and Kate Bush.

All his books will enter the public domain in 2028.


By Reich

  • Der triebhafte Charakter : eine psychoanalytische Studie zur Pathologie des Ich, 1925
  • Die Funktion des Orgasmus : zur Psychopathologie und zur Soziologie des Geschlechtslebens, 1927
  • Über den Ödipuskomplex : drei psychoanalytische Studien with Felix Boehm[?] and Otto Fenichel[?], 1931
  • Character analysis or in the original: Charakteranalyse : Technik und Grundlagen für studierende und praktizierende Analytiker, 1933
  • The Mass Psychology of Fascism - even the 1946 USA edition is regarded as bogus in scientific contexts, what should be referred to is the German 1933 edition of Massenpsychologie des Faschismus : zur Sexual Sexualökonomie der politischen Reaktion und zur proletarischen Sexualpolitik which was banned in Nazi Germany.

About Reich

  • Fury on Earth Myron Sharaf
  • Reich for Beginners David Zane Mairowitz

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