How an Austrian Psychoanalyst Pissed Off Hitler and Became a Cult Hero to the Counterculture
Wilhelm Reich at his laboratory in Rangeley, Maine; circa 1950s.
*AP image courtesy of Reich family photograph.
“You differ from a great man in only one respect: the great man was once a very little man, but he developed one important quality: he recognized the smallness and narrowness of his thoughts and actions."
"Pseudo-science" is a term often utilised in the most patronising, belittling of manner by a cynical scientific community who, as an entity, live as paranoiacs on the edge of fear of being discovered as frauds or worse. The great irony is that while science embodies all, therefore accumulating all and nothing in the one timeframe, scientists, especially government employed scientists, are often the most narrow-minded and pig-headed of the human species. In reality, many are nothing but great pretenders.
To a certain degree the staunch cynicism, while not really believable, is totally understandable. Perhaps even justified. Consider this: You've spent a lifetime building up a belief system, encompassing elements either hereditarily or through independent learning. After spending decades so convinced that what you claim to know is not only correct, but that everyone else is wrong, and after spouting such beliefs and perceived knowledge to anyone that would listen, someone else then strolls in and all but disproves your entire life's work. That's science on an hour-by-hour basis. The mainstream scientific community have spent so many years attempting to either prove or disprove a particular theorem, that their defence mechanisms have grown so highly strung, so sensitive, that they are constantly at the ready to disprove anyone that crosses them by means of ridicule. It's the same with religion; no Christian ever wants to be told that God doesn't exist. That the entire concept is fraudulent. As with humanity, no person in their right mind ever wants to be proven wrong.
Back to pseudo-science. In a nutshell, this term exists in language only; it means nothing. A term fabricated by mainstream science to cover their own asses whenever independent thought and reason rears its ugly head. Especially when spirituality is concerned. This is where pseudo-science comes into play.
For the most part, mainstream science despises spirituality and spends an unnecessary portion of time attempting to quash all spiritual belief. History has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that when spirituality crosses the realm of science, there will be hell to pay. Essentially, so-called pseudo-scientists are debunked within a blink; either by ways of disproving or blatantly by out-and-out lying. Over the years, the term pseudo-science has gone a long way to discredit many a great mind to the masses simply at the mere mention of the word. But pseudo-science in itself cannot possibly exist. If science encompasses all, and all we are and everything we know is science, then how can any particular form of science be pseudo? Science is science, and whether the community likes it or not, spirituality is as big a part of science as any other element.
One scientist who was never afraid to stir the pot by inviting spirituality to the science party was an Austrian psychoanalyst named Wilhelm Reich. Reich was an integral part of the science movement known as the Second Generation. The bright minds that formed this "alt. science cell" were essentially followers of perhaps our most well-known analyst, Sigmund Freud and as such, many were mentored by the great man. In the mind's of members of the Second Generation movement, as Freud was a part of the "first generation of psychoanalysts", then they in turn must be the second.
Born in the late-nineteenth century in Dozbau, Austria -now a part of Ukraine- Wilhelm Reich as a young adult facing ultimate repression from the onslaught of the National Socialist German Worker's Party (Hitler's Nazi Party), caused a sensation in 1933 with the publication of one of his early books, 'The Mass Psychology of Fascism'. In the controversial publication, Reich continues Freud's early work exploring the theory as to how fascists come into power, and explains their rise, similarly as with the proletariat, as a symptom of sexual repression.
This statement alone clearly hit a nerve for young fascist in training Adolf Hitler, so much so that he held a vicious grudge for five of the bleakest years in European history. Reich, perhaps wisely, fled to Scandinavia.
In 1938 and with Hitler's enormous power on the rise, the Nazi Party managed to annex Austria. It was around this period where the fuhrer ordered Reich's death who on occasion had returned to his beloved Vienna. But it was during his exile in Scandinavia where Wilhelm Reich discovered what would see him skyrocket to notoriety and become wedged at the forefront of many a paranoid government's mind. Orgone energy.
With Reich and many people associated with the outcast under threat from a rampant Hitler, his ex-wife and two children fled to the United States in fear of their lives. Reich himself, a devout Marxist, sensed that by early 1939, immediately prior to the official commencement of WWII, that he must also flee to the Americas.
"The wretchedness of his material and sexual situation is so overshadowed by the exalting idea of belonging to a master race and having a brilliant führer that, as time goes on, he ceases to realize how completely he has sunk to a position of insignificant, blind allegiance."
Wilhelm Reich on Hitler - 'The Mass Psychology of Fascism'
THE ORGONE ACCUMULATOR
What is orgone energy? Well, it's kinda complex, so let's break it down:
The cynics of the scientific community that we spoke of earlier have labelled orgone energy a pseudo-science. In the eyes of many, the energy simply does not exist. It's a spiritual or esoteric energy. Formally, for the purposes of diplomacy, orgone energy is considered a "hypothetical universal life force".
The idea of orgone was conceived essentially as an anti-science principle. This means that as with all entropic energy in a thermodynamic situation -the dominant energy in that particular universe- the energies are organised, resolute and are the overbearing principle. Orgone is the polar opposite; chaotic and unpredictable. On the surface, it is already clear as to why mainstream science attempted to debunk the orgone theory from its very inception. Anything other than what is clear and apparent, to many scientists at least, is either too far beyond the realm of basic physics, or just too much of a headfuck to warrant considering.
To this day, orgone is seen as a massless, omnipresent substance - essentially an intangible, like a higher power. But even in the mainstream it is considered to be more closely associated with living energy than with inert matter (inactive, no inherent power).
"...deficits or constrictions in bodily orgone are at the root of many diseases"
To those on the correct side of free and independent thought, those who operate without restriction, bias or paranoia, orgone is everywhere and usually manifests in the colour blue. These days, a wide-spread theory states that "the sky is blue not because molecules in the atmosphere scatter blue light better than red light, but because it’s positively saturated with orgone energy." Reich elaborates on this is his early work by stating, “the color of luminating, decaying wood is blue as are the luminating tail ends of glowworms, St. Elmo’s fire, and the aurora borealis."
But here's the great part!
Once firmly entrenched in everyday American society, Reich designed a beast of a contraption called the orgone accumulator - a device that collects and stores orgone energy from the environment with the goal of improving health, libido and may even be used for weather control. You can see where this is going can't you? This didn't sit well with the U.S. government which at the time was serving under Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Ultimately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -the ultimate puppet master in American everyday life, dictating what foods can be eaten and what drugs can be consumed without fear of reprisal or consequence (read more here) obtained a federal injunction barring the interstate distribution of orgone-related materials, on the grounds that Reich and his associates were making false and misleading claims. In 1957, the FDA jailed Reich and destroyed all orgone-related materials at his own Orgone Institute after Reich refused to publicly claim that orgone energy doesn't actually exist. Eventually, Reich rescinded the claim that his accumulator could provide orgastic potency -the ability to reach orgasm without, y'know, jacking- but this was not enough to stop the action. All of his experiments, theorem and collected data dating back to his years in Scandinavia were destroyed.
Wilhelm Reich died of congestive heart failure in his cell in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania at the age of 60 in 1957. His official cause of death is still absorbed with much skepticism today.
The orgone accumulator itself is a remarkably basic contraption and stands as a contradiction to Reich's complex theory of orgone energy itself. Anyone with a degree of manual dexterity can build one. Whether it works is only determined by one's craftsmanship. The device's construction is simple and is made up of six panels -four walls, a floor and ceiling- that consist of an inner surface of iron and an outer non-metallic layer which enclose a braced wood frame and alternate layers of glass wool and steel wool. Theoretically, if constructed appropriately, the accumulator will collect orgone energy by ways of a particular arrangement of organic and metallic material. To allow this, organic material must be placed on the outside of all metallic materials. The reverse will disrupt the flow.
Many believe that regular use of the accumulator -recommended is three one-hour sittings per week- holds many benefits including a vigorous improvement of health and energy, a deterioration of pain, a natural clearing of cholesterol and a ravenous libido (many have claimed that orgastic potency is most certainly achievable within a properly executed orgone accumulator). No wonder the FDA has some issues with all of this.
WILHELM REICH AND THE COUNTERCULTURE
"We did the red energy dome, which was useful as an icon. But also, orgone energy goes out the top of your head and dissipates out the top, but if you wear an energy dome it recycles that energy. It comes back down and showers back down on you and, among other things, you remain manly, shall we say, for maybe another 150 years of your life, probably."
-Mark Mothersbaugh - Devo
By the late 1950s/early 1960s, the rising counterculture movement sweeping America as an opposition to growing tyranny, oppression and censorship from an increasingly paranoid U.S. government, had firmly landed in the corner of the deceased Wilhelm Reich. Thanks to revolutionary writers like William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, Reich and his mysterious orgone accumulator fell into the consciousness of the underground; beat poets, musicians and artists alike. Burroughs in particular spent a great part of his later life conducting sexual experiments with an orgone accumulator in an effort to achieve orgastic potency -not in the least bit surprising if you know even the most minutes of Burroughs' detail- and Jack Kerouac himself included a passage paying homage to the accumulator in his most famous book, 'On the Road'.
"Suddenly [Old Bull] grew tired and quiet and went in the house and disappeared in the bathroom for his pre-lunch fix. He came out glassy-eyed, and calm, and sat down under his burning lamp. The sunlight poked feebly behind the drawn shade. “Say, why don’t you fellows try my orgone accumulator? Put some juice in your bones. I always rush up and take off ninety miles an hour for the nearest whorehouse, hor-hor-hor!” This was his ‘laugh’ laugh—when he wasn’t really laughing. The orgone accumulator is an ordinary box big enough for a man to sit inside on a chair: a layer of wood, a layer of metal, and another layer of wood gather in orgones from the atmosphere and hold them captive long enough for the human body to absorb more than a usual share. According to Reich, orgones are vibratory atmospheric atoms of the life-principle. People get cancer because they run out of orgones. Old Bull thought his accumulator would be improved if the wood he used was as organic as possible, so he tied bush bayou leaves and twigs to his mystical outhouse. It stood there in the hot, flat yard, an exfoliate machine clustered and bedecked with maniacal contrivances. Old Bull slipped off his clothes and went in to sit and moon over his navel."
By the late 1960s/early 1970s, Wilhelm Reich had become a god of sorts to an increasingly disillusioned counterculture. As one Haight-Ashbury interviewee put it, "Wilhelm Reich represents all that is right with the world. The fact that he had our government running scared displays just that."
As the psychedelic movement swept the U.S. and Britain, a stream of new and experimental musicians also took to Reich's theories, especially embracing the positive benefits of the orgone accumulator. Many claim that the accumulator functions successfully and many have written a song about the device.
Many musical acts, be it underground or mainstream, promoted Wilhelm Reich as a hero, not a menace, and many sung the praises of his most well-known device, including Steely Dan -who actually took their name from an over-sized dildo in Burrough's book 'The Naked Luch'- Hawkwind, Patti Smith, Paul McCartney, Devo, Cabaret Voltaire, The Klaxons, Joy Division's Ian Curtis, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan... the list goes on. Obviously, many, myself included, owe their discovery of the importance of orgone energy to the late twentieth century Wilhelm Reich champion, William S. Burroughs.
In recent times, it's not only the counterculture that staunchly supports Wilhelm Reich and his theorem, many in the world of sports have also picked up on the benefits of orgone energy over recent decades. Most notable is Peter Brock, an Australian race car champion who reached the pinnacle of what's been claimed to be the toughest endurance event in motor racing nine times. The Bathurst 1,000 is a touring car race spanning 1,000 kilometres over a six to seven hour period, often in exhausting conditions and has tested the mentality and fragility of many a great race driver in the past. But it's Peter Brock, dubbed 'King of the Mountain', who has professed to owe much of his success to Wilhelm Reich and his ability to capture orgone energy. So much so, that the champion insisted his Holden Dealer Team install an energy polariser, essentially a device installed above the headrest that converts negative energies into positive orgone energies. The Holden icon eventually split from the manufacturer and racing team in 2006 due to his controversial insistence on implementing the Reich technique into their cars. Peter Brock died during a rally event later that year.
In a slightly more open and exposed twenty-first century, thanks largely to fingertip accessibility via the internet, orgone is no longer an energy that is mass-debunked as a pseudo-science or merely just a matter for the spiritual. It's a science. Plain and true. If a worldwide industry as scientific and precise as the sport of motor racing can embrace it -in recent years both formula-1 and Nascar drivers have claimed the benefits of orgone energy-, then surely a stubborn yet influential few in the field of science can do the same. Surely, in the honour of Wilhelm Reich and the many who have been criticised, hailed as outcasts or imprisoned due to their unconditional support of his theorem, as an entity can clear him name, have his criminal records exonerated and in doing so, perhaps alter the current fate of mankind which so fragilely rest in the palms of these very same greedy, egotistical and to an effect, contra-science hands.