Posted on30 January 2012.
A non-fiction title about sexual politics called Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America was published last year. Wilhelm Reich’s life and his theories are a prominent part of this book. Author, Christopher Turner is a writer for the Guardian newspaper. Farrar, Straus and Giroux published the book.
Turner borrowed the moniker “Orgasmatron” from 1973 Woody Allen film “Sleeper.” In that movie Woody Allen’s character, Miles Monroe, enters the hospital for a routine gallbladder surgery. After he expires on the operating table, his sister requests permission to cryogenically freeze him and after 200 years, Monroe is discovered by a group of scientists and awakens in a new society. Here, Monroe discovers, robots perform work, while people are devoid of feelings and behave as robots themselves. Everyone has a citizen’s record; everyone is computerized, cataloged, fingerprinted, photographed, and voice-printed. Sexual relations are conducted inside a cage of sorts called the Orgasmatron, where without physical contact each partner achieves sexual satisfaction. Meanwhile, outside in society, a revolution is going on and Monroe becomes involved in the revolutionary movement to overthrow the existing oppressive government.
Although this story contains many aspects related to Dr. Wilhelm Reich’s theories, such as dictatorial government ruling on people who are devoid of feelings, however, in Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America, Turner has chosen one particular aspect of the movie, the Orgasmatron, which in turn has only nominal resemblance to Wilhelm Reich’s invention of “orgone accumulator,” the device we know he developed between early 1939 and October of 1940 for scientific and medical research. Whether or not as a filmmaker, Allen and co-writer Marshall Brickman had been influenced by Dr. Reich is unclear. However, the function of orgone accumulator developed by Dr. Reich has no relation to the function of the “Orgasmatron” machine in the film.
The main focus of Turner’s Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America is Wilhelm Reich’s life and work. In Reichian circles and even prior to its publish date, rumors were circulated that Turner was suggesting negative connotations and inferences about Wilhelm Reich. There were trepidations about the negative effects of the book, which would be introducing Reich to many of the public. Reviews ranged from ambivalent, inconclusive, or negative connotation regarding Turner’s portrayal of Reich. Kevin Hinchey, director of Wilhelm Reich’s Infant Trust, sent the following comment to New York Times Book Review, in response to their review of September25:
“As an admirer of Christopher Hitchens, I was disappointed that his Sept. 25 review of Christopher Turner’s “Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America” regurgitates the author’s distortions about Wilhelm Reich’s orgone accumulator being a ”˜sex box.’
As documented in Reich’s publications, the orgone accumulator, developed between early 1939 and October 1940, was a modified Faraday cage for scientific and medical research. In the April 1950 Orgone Energy Bulletin, he wrote, ”˜The orgone accumulator, as has been clearly stated in the relevant publications . . . cannot provide orgastic potency’. Why, then, do Turner and Hitchens rely on the foolish interpretations and sexual expectations of Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and other ”˜intellectuals’ to misrepresent Reich’s actual uses for the orgone accumulator?”
Dr. Philipp Bennett, a member of I.O.S. and friend of Wilhelm Reich Museum who is a retired college professor, also wrote letters seeking to redress Turner’s depiction of Reich. In his letter he mentions that Turner had taken Reich’s words out of context, and found many inaccuracies in his work, stating: “Turner’s book is over 500 pages long, with over forty pages of endnotes, and published by a major house. This is all a sham: the book is one of the least scholarly, sloppiest books I’ve ever encountered.”
Dr. Morton Herskowitz, D.O., who himself was Wilhelm Reich’s student for many years and former president of I.O.S., was quoted extensively by Turner. Now, in a 27-page, unpublished critique, he responds to Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America.
“He has spent years researching Reich’s life. It is clear that he was successful in ingratiating himself to members of Reich’s family who imparted personal facts of Reich’s life that were unknown to many of us. For this we are thankful.
On the other hand, it is obvious that his overall intent was to draw a picture of a slow, gradual decline to a state of insanity. At each new discovery in Reich’s career, when a new opposition group formed to declare that now he has departed from reality, Turner does not agree with them overtly, but it is clear that he does not disagree. …
In the book Turner elaborates to the maximal extent on the stories of inappropriate behaviors of some of Reich’s early followers. These stories provide the juice for readers invited for titillation.
Indeed these tales should be divulged as part of history – they were inexcusable. But a historian with no axe to grind would also have written of the positive effects of Reich’s discoveries.”
Our conclusion, however, is not totally negative or positive. The Book is a hardcover book and is a pleasure to hold in the hand. The jacket of the book is a drawing of a female body emphasizing the breast and pelvic area with arrows toward the vulva. I found myself at times obscuring the cover of the Book by putting a paper or another chart on the top of the book to hide it from the eyes of the people who might have felt the picture titillating. However, we do not take this matter against Mr. Turner since marketing department of each publishing house has their gimmicks to make the book appealing for the customers.
The book is rich in interviews and names of different colorful personalities, analysts, psychotherapists, clinicians and letters, which is pleasure to read and enriches one’s knowledge of the history of psychoanalysis and psychology of Freud’s and Reich’s area. The book also is written in a way that the reader feels as if he is reading a story, it makes interesting to read the book and once one starts it, it is hard to put it down. However, it also has deductions and improvisations by the author that we did not find them always correct, and at times we felt it misleading, or at least looking from a different angle, the conclusions look completely different.
We think that readers have to be aware of this matter and read the book cautiously keeping in mind these warnings. In the following page we will try to elaborate on some of these deductions and improvisations, which we found misleading.
We also will touch upon some of the interesting points that the author has described. Throughout this article embolded letters will represent quotations from Mr. Turner’s book, unless specified.
We start with chapter 1. This chapter starts with Reich’s meeting with Freud in 1919 when he was 22-year-old medical student and it describes Freud’s influence on Reich.
“Reich, like most analysts came to assert that establishing genital primacy was the only goal of therapy, but he equated this achievement with the orgasm (of which his ex-patient, the impotent waiter, remained deprived). He asserted that genital disturbance was the most important symptoms of neurosis.”
“Some of the Freud’s colleagues, one of them Austrian doctor Otto Gross, took this idea to extreme, encouraging people to throw off what he considered to be the out of date moral prejudices that caused sickness: ”˜Repress Nothing!’…
Reich thought he noticed the same sex deprived weaknesses in his patients and like gross, celebrated sexual immorality as a cure.”
Inserting the word immorality in this sentence does a huge injustice to Reich’s work and is misleading to the reader. Reich’s enormous energy and tireless work, his discoveries and inventions all revolves around bringing cure to human distorted and sick structure. To use the word immorality in a loose and irresponsible way is unfortunate and needs clarification. We would like here to quote Reich from the book “Function of Orgasm,” which will clarify the meaning of morality from orgonomic point of view.
“The genital character (healthy mature character) appeared to function according to different hitherto unknown laws. I want to cite a few examples by the way of illustration.
Quite spontaneously the patients began to experience the moralistic attitudes of the world around them as something alien and peculiar. No matter how tenaciously they might defended pre marital chastity beforehand, now they experience this demand as grotesque.
Such demands no longer had any relevancy for them; They became indifferent to them. Their attitude to their work changed. If until then they had worked mechanically, had not demonstrated any real interest, had considered their work a necessary evil which one takes upon oneself without giving it much thought, now they became discriminating. If neurotic disturbance had previously prevented them from working, now they were stirred by a need to engage in some tactical work in which they could take a personal interest. If the work which they performed was such that it was capable of absorbing their interest, they blossomed. If, however, their work was of a mechanical nature, then it became an almost intolerable burden. The world was not attuned to the human aspect of work….
The change in sexual sphere was just as pronounced. Patients who had felt no qualms in going to prostitutes became incapable of going to them once they were orgastically potent. Wives who had patiently endured living with unloved husbands and who had submitted to sexual acts out of, “marital obligation” could no longer do so. They simply refused; they’d had enough. What could I say against such behavior? It was at variance with all socially dictated views, for instance the conventional arrangement whereby the wife must unquestionably fulfill her husband’s sexual demands as long as the marriage lasts, whether she wants or not, whether she loves him or not, whether she is sexually aroused or not. The ocean of lies in this world is deep! From the point of view of my official position it was embarrassing when a women correctly liberated from her neurotic mechanisms began to make claims upon life for the fulfillment of her sexual needs, not troubling herself about morality.
After a few timid attempts I no longer ventured to bring up these facts in the seminars or in the psychoanalytic associations. I feared the stupid objection that I was imposing my own views upon my patients. In this case, I would have had to retort that moralistic and authoritarian influencing by means of ideologies lay not on my side, but on the side of my opponent. I no longer had a clear conception of relation of the psychic structure to the existing social system. The change in the patient’s attitude with respect to this moralistic code was neither clearly negative nor clearly positive. New psychic structure appeared to follow laws which had nothing in common with the conventional demands and views of morality. It followed laws that were new to me of which I had no inkling prior to this.
The picture that these laws offered when taken all together corresponded to a different form of sociality; they embraced the best principles of official morality, e.g. that women must not be raped, and children must not be seduced. At the same time they contained moral modes of behavior, which though slightly at variance with conventional conception, was socially un-impeachable. One such attitude, for instance, was that it would be abase to live a chaste life due to external pressure, or to be faithful solely for the reason of marital obligation. The attitude that it is unsatisfying and repulsive to embrace a partner against his or her will appeared to be un-assailable, even from the strictest moralistic point of view.
Yet, it was incompatible with the legally protected demand of, “marital obligation.” This other form of morality was not governed by “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not,” and it developed spontaneously on the basis of demand of genital gratification. One refrained from an un-gratifying action not out of fear, but because one valued sexual happiness. These people abstained from sexual act even when they felt a desire for it, if the external or internal circumstances did not guarantee full gratification. It was as if moralistic injunctions had been wholly dispensed with and replaced by a better and more tenable guarantees against antisocial behavior. They were guarantees which were not incompatible with natural needs, indeed they were based precisely on principals which fostered the joy of life. The sharp contradiction between, “I want” and “I must not” was eliminated. It was replaced by something which might almost be called a vegetative consideration: “True, I would very much like to, but it would mean little to me; it would not make me happy.” This was an entirely different matter. Actions were carried out in accordance with self-regulating principles. This self-regulation in turn brought a certain amount of harmony because it eliminated and obviated the struggle against an instinct which, though inhibited, was constantly obtruding itself …..”
Looking into sexual behavior from this angle changes the concept of immorality, which is mentioned by the author of Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America, to its opposite meaning, a better and more tenable morality.
Turner’s book Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America continues with description of early years of Wilhelm Reich, his involvement in the psychoanalytic circles while in Europe. It is amazing to see the amount of energy and work that Reich spent during those years. Mr. Turner writes in an interesting way, rendering the events as if eye-witnessing the whole thing from a short distance. Time and again, Turner evoked my surprise with which he was able to describe events that occurred in the 1920s and 1930s. His description of Reich in Europe within psychoanalytic associations, his involvement in international psychoanalytic society, his fights and struggle for introducing his concepts and discoveries in such an uncompromising way with such a force gives a picture of Reich as “a shark in a small pond.”
The persecution and antagonism Reich encountered and endured from different directions is described, is sometimes heart-breaking and yet one cannot help but admire him for his persistence and insistence on what he believed was right and for the good of other people. There is a sense of urgency, a sense of a messenger who wants urgently to pass a message to the next generation. Mr. Turner does a good job in evoking such a picture in the reader’s mind. It is gratifying to read, learn and remember different names and different historical figures, which evokes the admiration of the reader for the extent of his research and his ability to reflect it with a spin of a fiction that makes the book more interesting. A bit further in Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America, Mr. Turner touches upon the differences of Freud and Reich, the fact that Reich insisted on Freud’s libido theory, sexual theory. The establishment of clinics as ambulatorium in Vienna is mentioned. Then, for several pages, The Theory of The Orgasm.
“Reich followed Freud in believing that a core of dammed-up sexual energy acted as a reservoir for neurosis to sprout up. Adopting Freud’s hydraulic notion of libido, he came to believe that a healthy sex life, full of orgasms, at least one a day if possible would deprive these symptoms of sustenance that they needed to grow by maintaining a healthy flow of orgone energy,”
For a reader unfamiliar to Reich’s theory of orgasm, above statement will be confusing. This resembles a person unfamiliar to microbiology or the concept of microorganisms to read a medical statement out of context indicating that boiling or pasteurizing the milk versus drinking it raw and fresh will prevent some illnesses. A person unfamiliar with the concept of microorganisms will not be able to understand such a relation because he is missing some crucial information. A person unfamiliar to the theory of function of orgasm, as structured by Reich, will similarly be baffled by this statement. However, learning the theory and scientific logic behind it will enable the lay person to see it from a different angle and to appreciate its significance. Some important points of the Orgasm theory follow:
Per the development of orgasm theory as described by Dr. Reich in The Function of The Orgasm, he writes:
“Of hundreds of cases, which I observed and treated in the course of several years of extensive and intensive work, there was not a single woman who did not have a vaginal orgiastic disturbance. 60 or 70% of the male patients had gross genital disturbances. Either they were incapable of having an erection during the act or they suffered from premature ejaculation. The disturbance of the ability to experience genital gratification, to experience, that is, the most natural of what is natural, proved to be a symptom, which was always present in women and seldom absent in men. At that time, I did not give any further thought to the 30 or 40% of the men who appeared to be genitally healthy but were otherwise neurotic. This negligence in clinical thinking was consistent with the psychoanalytic view that impotence or frigidity was ”˜merely one symptom among many.’”
He goes on:
“On November 28 of 1923 following three years of investigation, I read my first major paper: On Genitality, from the point of view of the Prognosis and Therapy. My contention that the genital disturbance was an important, perhaps the most important symptom of the neurosis was said to be erroneous. […] The objection that there are any numbers of genitally healthy neurotics prompted me to take a closer look at ”˜genital health’. As incredible as it may seem, it is nonetheless true that the precise analysis of genital behavior, which goes deeper than ”˜I slept with a woman’ or ”˜I slept with a man’ was strictly forbidden in psychoanalysis. It took me more than two years of experience to rid myself completely of this cultivated reserve and to realize that people confuse ”˜fucking’ with the ”˜loving embrace’.
The more precisely my patients describe their behavior and experiences in the sexual act, the more firm I became in my clinically substantiated conviction that all patients, without exception, are severely disturbed in their genital function. Most disturbed of all were those men who liked to boast and make a big show of their masculinity, men who possessed or concurred as many women as possible, who could ”˜do it’ again and again in one night. It became quite clear that though they were erectively very potent, such men experienced no or very little pleasure at the moment of ejaculation, or they experienced the exact opposite, disgust and unpleasure. The precise analysis of fantasies during the sexual act revealed that the men usually had sadistic or conceited attitude and that the women were afraid, inhibited, imagined themselves to be a man. For the ostensibly potent man sexual intercourse means the piercing, overpowering or concurring of the women. He merely wants to prove his potency or to be admired for his erective endurance. This ”˜potency’ can be easily undermined by uncovering its motive. Severe disturbances of erection and ejaculation are concealed in it. In none of these cases is there the slightest trace of involuntary behavior or loss of conscious activity in the act. … It took me a decade to gain a full understanding of this disturbance to describe and to learn the correct techniques for eliminating it. ”˜Orgastic potency is the capacity to surrender to the flow of biological energy, free of any inhibition, the capacity to discharge completely the dammed-up sexual excitation to involuntary pleasurable convulsions of the body.’”
From the above, we’ve provided just a narrow context for what Reich was referring to when developing orgasm theory. It should, hopefully, suffice to make the reader to realize its depth and significance. Looking to orgastic potency from this angle, changes Turner’s interpretation of the orgasm theory as : “healthy sex life full of orgasms-at least once a day if possible.”
Indeed, the comprehension of the Theory of Orgasm has a paramount importance in medicine and psychiatry, which unfortunately now after some 70 years since the publication of The Function of the Orgasm, neither medical disciplines nor psychiatry has given adequate importance to. Medical textbooks and medical physiology text books do not describe the function of the orgasm nor do they recognize its importance. Psychiatry also avoids even its investigation.
However, medical logic dictates that such a function must have psychological and physiological significance. The reader of this article, if he or she were to ask his or her personal physician about the importance of the function of orgasm, most probably will receive a smirk or laugh rather than a straight answer. If a student of psychiatry asks his professor what is the difference between a person who is able to achieve orgasm naturally in a loving embrace with a person who achieves orgasm with the help of strange fantasies, he will get no answer or at best a vague reply characteristic of the profession at large. The topic of orgastic potency reflects description of sickness and health, which while ignored by medical profession, is described fully and dealt with in Orgonomy. Reich, with characteristically deep vision, was able to comprehend the significance of this function and explained it in the theory of orgasm. Christopher Turner’s description of “good orgasm” or “everyday orgasm” does not do justice to the orgasm theory that Reich developed.
Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America also describes Reich’ development of character analytic technique. Turner quotes Reich:
“Human beings live emotionally on the surface, with their surface appearance. […] In order to get to the core where the natural, the normal, the healthy is, you have to go through the middle layer. And in the middle layer there is terror. There is severe terror. Not only that, there is murder there. All that Freud tried to subsume under the death instinct is in that middle layer. He thought it was biological. It wasn’t. It is an artifact of culture […] A bull is mad and destructive when it is frustrated. Humanity is that way, too. That means that before you can get to the real thing””to love, to life, to rationality””you must pass through hell.”
Turner continues to describe Reich’s struggle in psychoanalytic circles. He mentions Freud’s letter to Reich indicating that any personal differences between him and Federn would not influence his own high regard for Reich’s competence. Also, Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America describes Reich’s involvement in socio-political activities, his political activities against “brutal” police operation, his being disturbed by the violence by police who were “blindly on command without thinking;” much like the robots in the movie “Sleeper.”
Also described are social events that were happening in 1920s, and different political parties which were competing with each other, and also, Reich’s presence in the demonstrations among people who were desperate and hungry:
“Reich recalled that two hundred yards from where he was standing a phalanx of policemen started to advance, inching forward slowly with their gun barrels lowered. When they were fifty yards away their captain ordered them to shoot at the crowd. A few disobeyed and fired over the onlookers’ heads, but dozens in the crowd fell dead or wounded. The crowd was completely helpless. Reich dragged Annie behind a tree where they hid to avoid the bullets, while others fled down alleys.”
“Ernest Fisher, a journalist of the Arbeiter-Zeitung whose editorial had helped sparked event wrote that he would see one worker tear open his shirt and shout at the police: ”˜shoot if you have the guts’. He was shot in the chest, others screamed: ”˜worker killers! You are workers yourselves!’ and begged them to stop. The killing went on for three hours. Eighty-nine people were killed and about thousand wounded.”
“That evening Reich and Annie walked through the deserted streets to the house of a friend whose father and brother were important figures in the social democratic party, hoping to discuss what might be done in the wake of the violence. When they arrived the family was expecting dinner guests, and the table was laid. One is reminded reading Reich’s description of the scene from the film Dr. Zhivago in which a group of aristocrats sit down for a feast, oblivious to the revolution beyond the windows that will make it their last. Reich was underdressed, without a jacket or tie and shaken to the core by what he had seen:
”˜The gory events appeared not to have penetrated this room. In my agitated state of mind, I suddenly felt out of place and ludicrous in this cool, reserved atmosphere. I wanted to leave but was asked to stay. Then the guests arrived. A very intelligent conversation about the events of the day began in truly cultured Viennese fashion. It was obvious that no one knew what had really happened. They spoke of the bloodshed as they might ordinarily have spoken of Goethe. We said goodbye and took our leave. We had both remained polite. I would have liked, at the very least, to have overthrown their table, but I was sufficiently well-bred to discipline myself.”’
Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America mentions Reich’s involvement in social movements:
“Reich talked to Freud about the recent political events and concluded that Freud had completely failed to understand the true significance of uprising like the dinner guests who’d so upset him on that day.”[…]
“Freud had little confidence in the readiness of the masses for freedom. For him, the crowd was a ”˜primal horde’. On the streets Reich felt he had witnessed something different, a crowd nobly seeking justice and viciously suppressed,””” like the movie “Sleeper.”
All of these descriptions marvelously depict Reich’s involvement in social movements as he recognized that individual and society are related and social work is inseparable from the individual.
Moving along the book we come across statements like the following paragraph:
“If Reich thought that all neuroses were caused by sexual repression, he extended this idea when he thought of possible solutions to mass neurosis. It was sexual frustration, he now argued, that led to social disorder and that held people back from embracing revolutionary change.”
It is true that all along, since 1919, Reich was advocating and fighting for sexual freedom of individuals and masses. His enlistment in the communist party on those years was motivated by his impression and hope that the communist regime of Soviet Union would be more sympathetic to the sexual needs of individuals and will not be repressive of it, which in turn would not damage human structure starting from childhood. Damaged and distorted human structure becomes sadistic and destructive or masochistic and submissive, tolerant of abuse. This deduction is a result of Reich’s clinical work and recognition that extensive and prolonged sexual repression damages the human organism by causing emotional and physical armoring. An individual who represses his natural sexual impulses for a long period of time develops muscular and emotional rigidities that then distorts and changes his character to a pathologic character, an unhealthy and sick character. The walls that are erected against the sexual impulses after a while becomes permanent and constitutes the physical and emotional armor and operates both in psychological and physical realm. This armor although is not visible to an untrained eye but in fact distorts the structure of the human being. A person who could have been loving, considerate and kind turns to an inconsiderate and sadistic one. This in turn causes wars, massacres, genocides, destructions and so on. Reich’s struggle all along, reflected in Turner’s book, springs from his clinical work to prevent such distortion in the human organism. Reich also operated a van that doubled as a mobile clinic on the weekends, distributing sex education pamphlets and contraceptives door-to-door. As Turner describes it:
“It was perhaps the most radical, politically engaged psychoanalytic enterprise to date. Reich abandoned his doctor’s office to get to the ”˜sickbed of society on the streets, in the slums, among the unemployed and poverty-stricken’. It was new, Reich said, ”˜to attack the neurosis by prevention rather than treatment’ trying to stop the causes of illness rather than just treating the sick.”
The reader should be reminded that this was in 1920s and 1930s in the Germany and Austria. By revealing this type of information, Turner evokes admiration of the reader and brings attention to Reich’s devotion to protect the health of young, many of whom were headed toward sickness. With his ideas, Reich, was like essentially introducing the concept of vaccination to young population in order to protect them from illness. It came with the unpredicted cost of being demonized by reactionary and backward social norms and ruling class.
“Reich was not alone in thinking that if people jettisoned their sexual repressions all other authoritarian repressions would evaporate with them,” writes Turner. “He had the support of many of the younger analysts at the Ambulatorium. Reich’s old friend Lia Laski became his closest collaborator.” Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America is full of names and interviews and descriptions of different people of that area who collaborated with Reich. It also makes note of one Annie Reich’s pilgrimage to Moscow. “Already two months before the Wall Street crash there was a mass unemployment in Europe (between 1928 and 1932, after five years of relative prosperity an unemployment doubled in Austria).” The Book quotes Reich writing a letter to his comrade expressing his disappointment of his visit: “It was this way with me for a long time in my life. Something was very earnestly propagandized and I would take it seriously. Then time and again I discovered that I had taken it more seriously than the propagandized.” Turner quotes Lenin’s opinion about sexuality and also describes how in 1929 Stalin abolished the women’s department and eventually sex reforms were all reversed: “abortion was outlawed again, divorce was made more difficult, pornography banned, homosexuality recriminalized and sex education abolished.”
Describing these setbacks imposed by Stalin on sexual reforms, Turner squeezes in the phrase “pornography banned,” giving the impression that pornography was also part of sex reform that Reich was advocating for. This is misleading for the reader since Reich argued all along throughout his career that pornography grows on the repression of normal sexuality. When a child or adolescent grows up with proper nurturing and respect for his or her psychosexual needs, he or she grows up to be psychologically healthy with aversion to pornography.
Turner also mentions how Freud in 1930 published Civilization and its Discontents, in which he maintained that “civilization demands the sacrifice of our freedom. The intention that men should be happy is not in the plan of creation.” Turner also mentions Reich’s split from Freud: “It was not the character analytic technique, it was the sexual revolution that bothered him,” Reich said. Turner provides his own psychoanalysis of Reich, concluding, “Reich, not recognizing his own father complex with all of its attendant ambivalence, thought he was developing rather than diverging from Freud’s theories.”
In The Function of the Orgasm, Reich himself describes his relation with Freud and separation from him this way:
“I had been apprehensive in going to him””I went away cheerful and happy. From that day on, I spent fourteen years of intensive work in and for psychoanalysis. In the end, I was severely disappointed in Freud. Fortunately, this disappointment did not lead to hatred and rejection. Quite the contrary; today I can appreciate Freud’s achievement in a far better and deeper way than I could in those days of youthful enthusiasm. I am happy to have been his student for such a long time without having criticized him prematurely, and with complete devotion to his cause. Unreserved devotion to a cause is the loftiest precondition of intellectual independence. During the years of hard struggle for Freud’s theory, I saw any number of individuals appear on the stage and disappear again. Like comets, some of them rose to the top””promising much, accomplishing nothing. Others were like moles, laboriously working themselves through difficult problems of the unconscious without ever once savoring the comprehensive view which Freud offered. Then there were others who sought to compete with Freud, without having grasped the fact that Freud was set apart from conventional academic science by his adherence to the subject of ”˜sexuality’. And finally there were those who quickly seized a fragment of the theory and translated it into a profession. Objectively seen, however, it was not a matter of competing with Freud or of establishing a profession, but of advancing an enormous discovery. At issue was more than the elaboration of known material; essentially, it was a matter of discovering the biological basis of the libido theory through experimentation. It was necessary to bear responsibility for a piece of momentous knowledge, which presented a direct challenge to a world of superficiality and formalism.
It was necessary to be able to stand alone””which did not exactly foster popularity. It is clear today too many people working in this new, psychobiological branch of medicine that the character-analytic theory of structure is the legitimate continuation of the theory of unconscious psychic life. The opening of a new approach to biogenesis was the most important result of the consistent application of the libido concept.”
All along Reich has maintained that his work is based on Freud’s work. He maintained that if Freud did not discover Libido Theory, the sexual theory of neurosis, his theory could not have been developed because his theory is an extension of Freud’s theory.
Evolution of science is based on conflicts between old and new, between students furthering or refuting the theories of their teachers. Reich’s discoveries of orgasm theory, character armoring and muscular armoring, and vegetotherapy, etc., are all extension of Freud’s libido theory. Attributing this progression of science to “father and son conflict” rather than quest of knowledge, which is inherent in any healthy mind, from our point of view is irrelevant, otherwise every scientific discovery should be looked upon as motivated by “father son complex.”
If students always repeat what their teachers taught them””to avoid father and son conflict””then they can be expected at best be like their teachers. In Reich Speaks of Freud Reich says:
“I said to him, If your own theory says that the stasis, the libido stasis or energy stasis, is at the core of the neurosis, of the neurotic process, and if the Orgiastic potency, which you don’t deny (he never denied that), is a key to overcome that stasis, or, at least, to deal with it, then my theory of the prevention of the neurosis is correct. It’s your own theory. I just draw the consequences of it. But he didn’t want it. Here, he was the old gentleman, bound down by his family, bound down by his pupils, who were partially neurotic and partially bound down by their families.”
Mr. Turner goes on and describes how in mass psychology of fascism Reich indicated that Hitler’s use of German “clean blood” was also a hint and a metaphor against sexual fears of a dirty blood of syphilis. And Germans’ clean blood might have in an unconscious level appealed to people because it implied that it is free of syphilis, free of sexual illnesses or fears.
Then somehow, in a convoluted way he implies that Reich’s cancer theory was used by Nazis as metaphor for social ills, substituting Jew for cancer. This connection is far-fetched and inaccurate. Reich’s discovery of relation of cancer to stagnated psychosexual energy, or orgone energy in the body was the evolution of his scientific work and clinical observations. The metaphor of cancer as an ill of society had been used even before Hitler or Nazis came to power, and long before Reich’s time. Reich’s discovery of relation of stagnation of psycho-sexual energy in the body and its relation with development of cancer has nothing to do with any metaphor used by different cultures. The former is a pure evolution of scientific thinking, clinical experience and scientific logic.
For the last several decades many investigators and researchers have identified the relation between psychological illnesses and development of different physical illnesses. In fact, it is well known to the lay person that it is possible to “die of a broken heart.” Any reader who is interested in the development of the Reich’s cancer theory should read his book, The Cancer Biopathy.
Turner makes note of several names, including Ola Raknes, who became Reich’s disciple. He says Reich was already much talked about in Berlin with “a reputation of an outstanding clinician and teacher and of a remarkable, though somewhat wild theorist.” He also mentions Otto Fenichel’s cooperation with Reich for a period of time. He mentions other psychoanalysts, i.e.: Fritz Perls, who had praised Reich. Turner describes Reich’s move to Germany, describing the situation there and his activities in institutes in such a detail that the reader feels present. Reich’s social activities in organizing Sexualpolitik (German Association for Proletarian Sexual Politics) is described, which again reflects Reich’s tireless activities to effect society, to bring his knowledge to the masses and to promote psychological health:
“Reich so hoped to change society by freeing the working class of its sexual hang-ups that he told Kurt Eissler in 1951 that these public demonstrations were among the most profound experiences he ever had as a doctor. ”˜I shall never forget the warm, flushed faces, the glowing eyes, the tension, the contact. There is no doubt about it Dr. Eissler, this issue will win out everywhere. It will kill any dictator. There is no doubt about the social force in it. It is the force of the future. It is the sexual revolution.”
Reich`s photographs of Austrian workers` demonstrations
A bit further in the book Turner describes ban of the Sexualpolitik publication by the communist party after Moscow declared that “ideologically incorrect.” The literature became banned from party bookstore and the communist party started to disown Reich, preferring Lenin’s revolutionary regime of sport and sublimation for their young members. And similar machinations against Reich began in psychoanalytic inner circle precisely because he was a communist.
The Book deals with Hitler’s rise and his appointment as chancellor of a coalition government in January of 1933. It states: “as a psychoanalyst, communist and Jew, Reich was thrice marked in Nazi eyes. Reich told his American patient O. Spurgeon English that he was under surveillance by the Gestapo. He did not says this with bitterness or with a sense of persecution.[…] Two of Reich’s friends were murdered in the stormtroopers’ barracks. Reich escaped arrest by staying in hotels under false names after his apartment was ransacked.”
Psychoanalytic institute, including that of Freud, were typically annoyed by Reich’s political activities because they were afraid such activities would bring danger to pschoanalysis, all threatened by Hitler. “90% of analysts practicing in Germany and Austria had already fled by March 1938, when the Nazis marched into Vienna,” writes Turner. “Four of Freud’s five sisters died during this time .”
Turner also mentions two years after it was disowned by the communists, the Mass Psychology of Fascism was banned, then burned by the Nazis along with Reich’s other works. Turner describes Reich’s persecutions and torment in Denmark by Danish newspapers, and describes the encounter between Ernest Jones and Reich in London and Reich’s recollection of it: “Jones was cordial as usual, but always the gentleman’. In other words, no involvement at any cost.” And Jones’s report to Anna Freud was the following:
“Reich’s communism is not so much economic; it is essentially the belief that communism would give more chance of sexual reform, which is the central idea of his life. He has taken some of your father’s early teachings very literally and pursued them with a certain consistency […] It all sounds very plausible but the trouble with Reich altogether is that, with all his cleverness, he is really rather naÃ¯ve and simpleminded. At the same time he appears to be thoroughly honest and very much in earnest.”
Mr. Turner reports that by the time of the Lucerne conference, four months later in 1934, 24 of 36 members of German psychoanalytic society had been forced to flee their country. The “radical scientific wing knew’, Reich wrote, that ”˜psychoanalysis as a movement was not withstanding the test of time.”’
“The official story of Reich’s break with analysis is that he voluntarily left the group in 1934 because of irreconcilable differences with Freud. ”˜Reich’s politics led to both personal and scientific estrangement’, Jones writes in the third volume of his biography of Freud, published the year of Reich’s death, and so Reich resigned from International Psychoanalytic Association’. Nothing could have been further from truth-as, Lore shows, and of course Jones well knew.” Reich himself describes the events that happened in Lucerne in The Function of the Orgasm:
“When I arrived in Lucerne, I learned from the secretary of the German Psychoanalytic Society, of which I had been a member, that I had been expelled in 1933, following my relocation to Vienna. I had not been notified of this, and no one had found it necessary to inform me of the reasons for my expulsion. Finally I was told that my work on mass psychology, which was directed against the irrationalism of fascism, had placed me in a much too exposed position. Hence, my membership in the International Psychoanalytic Association was no longer tenable. Four years later, Freud had to flee Vienna for London, and the psychoanalytic groups were crushed by the fascists. By joining the Norwegian group, I could have been reinstated as a member of the International Psychoanalytic Association. In the interest of preserving my independence, I rejected this possibility. Subsequently, I avoided contact with my earlier colleagues. Their behavior was neither better nor worse than is usual in such cases. It was low and uninteresting. A good dose of banality is all that is needed to hush up a matter.”
Harald Sjelderup, Nic Hoel, and Wilhelm Reich, Lucerne, August 1934
REICH: “Did you know anything ?”
SJELDERUP: “No, I know nothing.”
Turner’s book includes photos from the 1934 Lucerne conference that offer an intriguing glimpse into the private dynamics of the group. Reich looking lean in a sharply creased flannel suit, his hair swept back, seems by far the most compelling member. In every photo he is shown locked in conversation.
Discussion at the Lucerne conference, August 1934: Erwin Stengel, Grete Bibring, Rudolph Lowenstein, and Wilhelm Reich
It was in this conference that Reich delivered his speech on “psychic contact and vegetative streaming” starting with the phrase “Having been a member of the international psychoanalysis for 14 years I am speaking to you for the first time as a guest of the congress, a guest in your own home.”
In chapter five, Turner touches the subject of Reich’s correspondence with Trotsky:
“Reich wrote a second letter to Trotsky a few months after Trotsky arrived to Norway, again hoping for a collaboration. Thought Trotsky remained sympathetic to psychoanalysis, (he had once hoped analysis could save his daughter Zina, who underwent several months of treatment before committing suicide in 1933), he wrote back to say that he had insufficient knowledge of psychology to be able to join forces with Reich.”
“After reading Trotsky’s polemic, Reich referred to Stalin as ”˜the new Hitler’ and the Stalinists as ”˜red fascists.’”
Dr. Herskowitz expressed to me, both during personal conversations and during a Reich conference at Rangeley, Maine, that Reich had once said: “Trotsky was a good man but he was not aware enough of the workings of emotional plague.
Further in the book, Christopher Turner hints on Reich’s development of political structure, called Work Democracy, which would be self-organizing. Mr. Turner also explains that Reich immersed himself in scientific experiments and discusses Reich’s discovery of Bion, with abundance of references to the biologists who disagreed with Reich and called the bionic movements as “fairytales,” and the like. However, at lectures recently given by Dr. James E. Strick, the biologist and science historian, Strick reflects that fair consideration has never been given to Reich’s idea.
Chapter 6 of Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America the Book describes Reich’s arrival to America:
“On a hot and humid day at the end of August 19, 1939. The SS Stavangerford arrived in New York. Walter Briehl and Theodore Wolfe came to meet it, and waited for Wilhelm Reich to walk down the gangplank.”
In this chapter, several pages are devoted to Kinsey who was influenced by Reich in his theories about marriage and sex. It also talks about Rockefeller family’s financing of Kinsey. The detailed and exhaustive assessments and data that Kinsey collected about sexual behavior of people is described in “a series of locked fireproof cabinets at the university of Indiana,” filled with “secret and carefully coded files that contained enough material that could ”˜blow up America.’”
Christopher Turner then talks about Freud’s death in London with Socratic dignity. He says:
“The wound on his jaw ”” or, as he put it, ”˜the dear old cancer’, with which he’d been sharing his body for the past 16 years–now emitted such a fetid odor that his own dog wouldn’t come near him. He summoned his doctor, Nax Schur, and asked him to administer an overdose of morphine as they had previously agreed. Life, he said, was ”˜only torture now’. Schur carried out their agreement.”
“With Freud gone, the 20-member group of his 106 trainees of the New York psychoanalytic institute immediately began to argue over his legacy.” Turner describes how the analysts, after Freud, tried to adapt their patients to the status quo, rather than change it. This was in expense of libido theory.
“Though influenced by character analysis, these self-described Neo-Freudians, felt that they had made improvement on Reich’s ideas, as one of their members, Clara Tompson, put it by ”˜abandoning the libido theory.’”
Reich has mentioned the departure of Freud’s followers from libido theory in different books and equated it with depriving Freud’s great discoveries from most essential part of it. In Reich Speaks of Freud he says:
“Now, I would like to preclude the possibility that you may think I’m telling all this about the students because I had that trouble with them, or because I’m jealous. I’m not. It has nothing to do with it. I have my own life. I don’t care a thing about it. What is important, however, is what they did””what analysts like Adler, Stekel and Jung did. They took his theory, broke off the most important thing, pulled it out, threw it away and went after fame. That’s what they did, really. And it was always the sexuality that they threw out. In the discussions I had with him, I can assure you that Freud never gave up the sexual theory, the Libido theory. Never!”
Turner describes Reich’s quest of Bion experiments and then his recognition of blue lights emitting from the Bion cultures and his discovery that the Faraday cage he had built also issued blue illumination. He says Reich wrote, “I have actually discovered life”
Christopher Turner also mentions Viktor Tausk, Freud’s student who committed suicide in 1919. Tausk recognized schizophrenic patients feelings as the reflection of their genital sensations in their body.
As he proceeds, Turner discusses Reich’s understanding and description of schizophrenia and schizophrenic process. He does a good job introducing the reader to Reich’s description of the sensation that schizophrenics feel in their body. However, his main focus soon shifts to finding signs or statements by Reich himself regarding his invention of orgone accumulator and the sensations that his patients experienced in the accumulator. In a convoluted way he is trying to relate that perhaps Reich’s understanding of schizophrenic process had something to do with Reich’s own “crossing the border” between genius and a kind of madness.
Reich’s description of schizophrenia and schizophrenic process is a masterpiece, unparalleled with any other description of schizophrenia in psychiatry. It makes a serious student of psychiatry and psychology consider Reich as a hero, like Einstein and Newton are regarded by a physics student, or Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev would be regarded by a student of chemistry. A hero who is able to break the lines and penetrate deeper into dark areas of undiscovered and uncharted territories, illuminating them, paves the road for the students who would follow. When Turner regards Reich’s discoveries and links them with his intention to find elements of his own psychosis in “crossing the border,” he comes across in the same way as someone might listen to one of Beethoven’s symphonies not to be marveled by it but to find elements reflecting Beethoven’s deafness.
In Reich Speaks of Freud, Reich asks the interviewier, Dr.Eissler “Now, this whole horrible thing burst out at the Lucerne Congress. Do you want to hear about that?” He continues:
“That I seduced all my patients. I was a psychopath. I was this. I was that. Then, finally, I had gone schizophrenic. That went on for years. You know that?
Dr. Eissler: No, I did not know that. …
Dr. Reich: All right, yes! Now listen! I can explain how they came to invent such a rumor, or to set such a rumor into motion about me. In 1929””I think it was then””I began to work in character analysis with physiological emotions, with physiological feelings in the patients. You are acquainted with character analysis?
Dr. Eissler: Yes.
Dr. Reich: You are. You know what I call preorgastic streamings? Orgonotic current?
Dr. Eissler: I know a little about that.
Dr. Reich: Well, in schizophrenics, the bio-energetic emotions or excitations break through into consciousness. In the so-called normal human beings, these excitations are more or less shut off. This is particularly the case in the affect-blocked compulsion neurotic. In investigating the difference between the typical neurotic and the schizophrenic, I learned that the neurotic recognizes the excitations which may break through spontaneously, or in the course of treatment, as biological, as arising from within. The schizophrenic fails to recognize these primary, biophysical sensations and plasmatic streamings as an inner process and, thus, comes to misinterpret and distort them. That is, he believes the excitations””the sensations, the crawlings, the stirrings in him””are due to outside influences, for example, to persecutors trying to electrocute him. He does perceive his bio-energetic emotion, but he misinterprets it. This explanation of the schizophrenic process was viewed as distorted and even delusional by psychoanalysts such as Jones, Federn, Fenichel. And out of such things grew the slander of calling me a paranoid schizophrenic. I want you to read that third edition.”
Equipped with the knowledge that Reich provides, a student of his work becomes capable of understanding schizophrenic patient and can relate to him. It is a great gift to the student who studies psychiatry. Reich’s lecture called “Problems of Integration in Infancy and Schizophrenia” is unparalleled in psychiatry literature; we highly recommend it to every student of psychiatry and psychology.
In Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America, Turner goes on to describe Reich’s arrest and imprisonment on December 12, 1941, one
day after Germany declared war on the United States. Reich was detained on Ellis Island
because of unfounded suspicions, then was given unconditional release. Turner notes that “it turned out that Reich had been a victim of extraordinary mix-up with another person by name of ”˜William Robert Reich’, who operated a communist-supporting bookstore.”
In chapter seven, Turner discusses the sociologist Paul Goodman, who went on to become one of Reich’s most vocal torch bearers. “In the summer of 1945,” writes Turner, “Goodman received a phone call from Wilhelm Reich, who asked him to come and visit him in Forest Hills. Goodman rang the doorbell of Reich’s Forest Hills home with fantasies that Reich would thank him for his propagandist effort or employ him on some intellectual collaboration. What Reich really wanted was to demand that Goodman stop linking his name with ”˜anarchist’ or ”˜libertarians.’” Reich, it seems, was “wary of nihilistic interpretations of his work.”
Goodman, according to the book, was stunned by Reich’s reaction replying, ”˜“really, Dr. Reich, what is it to you if we younger folk call you an anarchist or not?’[…] Reich lectured his admirer: ”˜As I once tried to formulate it, I am neither left nor right, but forward,’ adding, ”˜I am fighting a human disease, called emotional pestilence by me, which has ravaged human society for more than four thousand years […] I have been standing on the firing line for almost twenty years.”’
Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America goes on to relate Reich’s theories as they came to become an alternative for disillusioned Marxists and Stalinists. Turner makes this connection mostly by emphasizing the sexual appeal of Reich’s theories for those disillusioned groups “in creating morality out of pleasure.”
We already have discussed about Reich’s work and its independence and its logical and scientific evolution regardless of how it could have affected certain groups of people and how it may have been perceived. We also have already talked about the definition of morality according to Reich, which evolves spontaneously in a healthy human organisms in a self-regulated way. Now, how Reich’s work could have been perceived by ex-Stalinists and ex-Trotskyite, who were disillusioned, what had they had inferred from Reich’s theories; “embarking on open marriages and numerous affairs for apparently ”˜ideological reasons’; the nude cocktail parties and orgies in the dances” and so on, are unrelated and irrelevant to Reich and history of his work.
Turner writes, continuing his thesis, that “in celebrating the anarchy of orgasm, in trying to explode their sense of alienation with pleasure, the lefts was able to justify their retreat from traditional politeness. … After they lost the fate in communism, Reich was their next enthusiasm, the orgone boxes empty chamber reflected the political vacuum in which members of the radical left then found themselves.”
We described earlier that theory of orgasm is a crucial theory that deals with the health and sickness of people. Further, the depiction of an empty orgone accumlator chamber as a metaphor for a political vacuum, is certainly poetic, but not useful for scientists. Poets use metaphors, such as equating a shining moon to their beloved’s face, or an abandoned empty house to signify inner empty feelings, etc. Applying poetic metaphors to scientific work leads to a mishmash of understanding and general confusion.
Turner quotes a number of people who were living in an “ideological box” and say they were looking for anything that would enable them to break out, to break loose. Some were ready to try orgies, drugs, etc., which no doubt is true, but again, all of this is unrelated to Reich’s theories or teachings.
Turner even quotes Paul Robinson, who wrote in The Freudian Left (1969), “Reich seemed to fear his would-be admirers even more than his critics. He was haunted by the thought that men with dirty minds would misuse his authority to unleash ”˜a free-for-all fucking epidemic’. For all his rhetoric of orgasms, Reich was surprisingly puritanical he was against pornography and dirty jokes (which he thought would become obsolete after the sexual revolution). He abhorred homosexuality, and preferred that sex not be detached from love.”
The book goes onto relate an encounter with Alexander Lowen, one of Reich’s disciples in 2004. It’s interesting, and Turner introduces another character by name of Fritz Pearls who also was influenced by Reich and developed some of his offshoot therapies, namely Gestalt therapy, in 1951. Turner also finds an ex-Trotskyite named Bellow, who apparently got into Reichian treatment with Dr. Chester Raphael. Apparently Bellow did not like the treatment and espoused a negative account his experience with it. Turner introduces yet another man Rosenfield, through Bellow, mentioned because he died of a heart attack at young age. Again, Turner uses inference and metaphor, writing things such as he died “a prisoner in his cell, the orgone box.”
The book contains inferences about yet others who were either under some type of Reichian treatment by Reich’s students or by offshoots of orgonomy with some negative results. Turner relates the experiences of those who had used accumulator with different outcomes; some having magical expectations, some experiencing unmistakable results.Turner also mentions that in 1951, Perls, Paul Goodman and professor of psychology named Ralf Hefferline published an introduction to Gestalt therapy under the name of Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality. The book blends Reich’s ideas into their own.
Chapter 8 of Adventures in the Orgasmatron- How the Sexual Revolution Came to America introduces Mildred Edie Brady. Turner explores how Ms. Brady first came across Reich, how she made an appointment to see Reich with her opening statement that ”˜“she was bringing good and interesting news from friends on the West Cost’. “Although in retrospect this would seem to have been intentionally misleading, it was not entirely untrue.” Turner references Brady’s article “The New Cult of Sex and Anarchy,” which appeared in 1947 issue of Harpers, saying “it was the first time many Americans outside of handful of radicals on both coasts had heard of Reich, and they came to know him as Brady cast him: the eccentric and misguided inventor of an orgone box, and the intellectual inspiration for Nascent Youth movement in San Francisco Bay area that was led in Big Sur by the novelist Henry Miller.[…] These were people Reich had never met and places he had never been.”
The Book indicates that at this time, Reich was going to Maine for increasingly long period of the year and conducting experiments with orgone energy in the laboratory. “In 1943, Reich had only three trainees: Theodore Wolfe, Alexander Lowen, and an osteopath William Thorburn. The following year Reich met Elsworth Baker, a senior doctor suffering from depression who worked at Malboro State Hospital in New Jersey. Baker became Reich’s most faithful adherent and would help him attract many more followers.” The book quotes from Baker’s memoir: ”˜“He loomed large and powerful. It was downright frightening,’ Baker admitted. Reich ordered him to hit the couch and bite on a leather roll, and demanded that Baker try to hurt him by twisting the skin of his forearm with both hands. ”˜He tried to make me angry,’ Baker wrote, ”˜had me scream, and did succeed in making me sob as I had never before in my life.’”
In Baker, “Reich diagnosed low energy. If he hadn’t come to see him when he did, Reich said, Baker wouldn’t have lived more than five years. He prescribed to Baker an orgone energy accumulator to redress his bioenergetic imbalance and demanded that he sign an affidavit acknowledging that the device as experimental. When Baker said that that would not be necessary and that his word was enough, Reich said, ”˜Do you think you are a king or something?’ It took 6 weeks of daily radiation before Baker felt a warm tingling in the accumulator.”
Turner mentions that when American Association for Medical Orgonomy was founded in 1947 at Reich’s suggestion, the charter was drafted to safeguard the organization against “Medical orgone quacks.” “The implication was that rather than being a distortion, Reich’s science was itself subject to-and already the victim of-distortion [….] Furthermore, Association members ”˜must not be member of a church or a subversive political party’ it continued, or ”˜abuse the sexuality of patients.”’
We concur with Turner’s suggestion that implication of the charter was to safeguard the science of Orgonomy from distortions. However, his former statement “rather than being distortion itself” was definitely not Reich’s concern and is again the author’s own improvisation.
Turner then turns to Brady’s article in the New Republic. He states that a month after the Harper’s magazines article appeared, Brady published another article this time in the second magazine. The title of this article was “The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich.” In it, Brady ridicules Reich’s theories, especially the orgone accumulator and Reich’s cancer cure claims.
“Under the title ran the line ”˜The man who blames both neurosis and cancer on unsatisfactory sexual activities has been repudiated by only one scientific journal’. It was a much more devastating and direct attack on Reich then Brady’s Harper essay.” In discussion of this time, Turner mentions a letter that Reich had written to A.S. Neil before Brady dismissed him in the press as a fraud and a madman. Reich had written “I am looking calmly into the future and hopefully too. There is only one thing I fear. That is some crooked frame up, some abysmal germeinheit (dirty trick), which may still hit me in the back and destroy my work.”[…]
“Brady portrays Reich as a quack before mentioning, incredulously, he was listed in American Men of Science and his work was discussed in places like the Journal of American Medical Association and the American Journal of Psychiatry.” Other magazines had also carried enthusiastic accounts of his sexual theories. “Only one scientific journal had repudiated them: Psychosomatic Medicine, which characterized orgone theory as ”˜a surrealistic creation’ and dismissed The Function of the Orgasm as ”˜nuttier than fruitcake.”’ Later in the book, Turner mentions that Reich detected a Communist conspiracy behind Brady’s attack. “It was typically communist mudslinging propaganda under the guise factual objective portrayal,” he wrote, dismissing Brady as “an intelligent but obviously sex-hungry woman.” Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America even mentions a letter that Reich had written in 1952 to himself recalling Brady’s visit:
“Now I knew well why she said this when I recall her sitting there in front of me in the easy chair, with glowing eyes, glowing from genital frustration, with eyes as I have seen them many thousands of times in people of both sexes, of all ages and professions … who expected, I say, orgastic potency from me, expressing this yearning clearly in her eyes as she looks at me, and then smearing me up and down in public with that pornographic insinuation about the orgone accumulator which is supposed to provide orgastic potency. Thus she turned her normal, natural desire into mud, which she then throws in to my decent face.”
Later on Turner goes on describing “If Reich described the Brady as a ”˜communist sniper’, his suspicion seemed to be confirmed when his old friend, the psychologist Karl Frank (who had been a card-carrying communist in 1920s and 30s) told him that he’d met the Brady in California in 1936 and that they were definitely ”˜fellow travelers.’”
In “Wilhelm Reich, A Personal Biography” written by Reich’s third wife Ilse Ollendorff Reich, she mentions that she did not think that Brady’s article, which triggered the FDA investigation and eventually Reich’s imprisonment, was a communist-inspired plot and that she attributed this idea to Reich’s suspiciousness or paranoia.
Turner’s research, however, which goes on several pages reflects how the New Republic at the time had been all but infiltrated by Soviet agents, including Brady’s own husband. This information makes such a conspiracy plausible. When Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America describes the involvement of Food and Drug Administration, which came after Reich subsequent to the appearance of Brady’s work. Turner relates how Reich’s complained to his lawyer, Arthur Garfield Hays, who was a general counsel to American Civil Liberty Union:
“They should know with whom they are dealing. They seem to be disturbed by the insinuation in Miss Brady’s article that the orgone accumulator gives the patient orgastic potency. I wished it did, but it does not. But to the average human mind, used to smutty sex activities going on everywhere, the word orgastic potency has a different meaning.”
In the process of recounting the growing evidence leveled against Reich, Turner writes: “Though several people had discontinued using or dismantled their accumulators, none would declare themselves dissatisfied with the device. No one would admit that they had been suckered.”
Charles Wood, a Maine-based FDA inspector, was assigned to report to his Washington superiors, submitted that there were no dissatisfied users. In turn, Washington’s war on Reich became an obsession. ”˜“He was crazy about the Reich case and did not think of anything else during the whole time.’ Wood recalled. ”˜He built it way up out of proportion.”’
Chapter 9 turns to Alfred Kinsey, author of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, which was published in January of 1948 and the data and experiences that he collected and the persecution that he went through, which is unrelated to Wilhelm Reich.
The book also reflects the first international orgonomic convention that was held in Maine, in the summer of 1948:
“There were thirty-five participants at the convention, including representatives from Norway, Israel, Argentina, and Britain. A.S. Neil came over from Summerhill; before traveling on Maine he gave a lecture to a packed auditorium at the New School for Social Research, where his frequent references to Reich were greeted with thunderous applause. ”˜It was a wonderful, exciting time’, remembered the vegetotherapist Morton Herskowitz. ”˜There was a joie de vivre there. We felt like we were in the front ranks of people who were going to make a change.’”
The chapter includes an extensive quotation from Dr. Morton Herskowitz. Turner considers Herskowitz “Reich’s last trainee, who occupies a substantial brick town house in Philadelphia. ”˜In the spacious waiting room there is a large portrait of Reich against an agitated dark red, Van Gogh-like backdrop.’”
Turner’s description of Dr. Herskowitz’s first meeting of Reich goes on for many paragraphs:
Dr. Morton Herskowitz in his office in Philadelphia
“When Reich came down the stairs to greet him he was wearing a Lab coat. His large head and ”˜Leonine’ hair, which Reich wore spiky and electrically wild, reminded Herskowitz of Einstein. ”˜He was walking down the stairs, the first day I came to Forest Hills. He was like a tank, a battering ram, he was a force! You got the sense that he could not be subdued’. […] ”˜Therapy was a unique and electrifying experience for me’, Herskowitz said of Reich’s hands-on technique. ”˜I remember after each session I would come out with the vigor like I ”˜d never experienced. I knew something unique was happening’. He wrote in his memoir of his time with Reich. ”˜I left the therapeutic session and was walking toward the subway. I felt like I had never remembered feeling. I was flying.’”
Herskowitz, Turner explains, was inspired.“We were going to raise the next generation of kids who were going to be totally different from everyone else, and have patients who were going to affect their kids. People would grow up confident, energetic, they’d be their own persons. They’d be disciplined force for keeping on making things better.”
At this journal, we have several archived speeches made by Dr. Morton Herskowitz; readers can read them here. Also, speeches of Dr. Herskowitz can be heard and seen though our journal’s You Tube account.
“In a letter to Neil, Reich wrote ”˜you can’t make a crooked tree straight again. Therefore, let’s concentrate on the newborn children, and let’s divert human attention from evil politics towards the child.’” To achieve this goal Reich in early 1950 established Orgonomic Infant Research Center (OIRC) in Forest Hills. Turner discusses this experiment in Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America; it’s purpose being to protect children and to result in the prevention of armoring, from birth on.
Earlier on in the publication history of this journal, we published a personal report of Ms. Jean Rosenthal Harris, who was chosen to participate in this experiment. Her essay is called “How I Became a Case History for Dr. Wilhelm Reich.”
In Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America, Turner writes that “Reich moved permanently to Maine during in the spring of 1950, ”˜imagining himself now as a tinker above the fray.”’ No one can disagree that Reich was a deep thinker; numerous books written by him are a testament to that. So the word “imagining” in this context seems inappropriate, as one usually imagines things, which are not real.
But why did Reich move himself to Rangeley Maine, a small isolated town even today, in 1950? One reason could be that he wanted to be free of “the fray,” to be left alone in peace to do his work. From Reich Speaks of Freud:
“Dr. Reich: It is quite clear that people seduce you if you are a leader, if you have something to give. They seduce you by admiration so that you will give them as much as possible, and they can then thrive on you. Freud didn’t know that. He tended to identify with the leader. But there is no doubt that he should have stayed alone, completely alone. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve had quite a few experiences myself with this seductive admiration. I have had to destroy one organization after another in order to remain free. You get my point? Any questions now?
Dr. Eissler: Do you think there was a difficulty in his bearing aloneness?
Dr. Reich: He could not bear it. That’s right. That’s a good question, a very good question. It is terrifically painful to be alone and alive at the same time. That’s hell. I go through it myself. Do you know why I have removed myself, why I sit here, alone? I have to save my clean thoughts. I have to maintain a cleanliness, a purity. Freud didn’t succeed in that, and you can see it in his face.”
Turner also talks about different students of Reich who were around during this time in Maine, including Dr. Silvert, who was responsible for breaking the injunction. Some of the abusive and harmful behavior carried out by two of Reich’s students (including Silvert) was strongly reprimanded and the students were ordered not to treat children anymore. Turner quotes of the abused patient as saying, ”˜“I found out many, many years later that Silvert did tell Reich what he was doing, or I guess it came out in his therapy with Reich and Reich flipped out. It did redeem Reich in my mind a lot. I never thought he was responsible in a funny way’. Elsworth Baker wrote in his memoir that Reich had forbidden Silvert from treating women patients for a year starting in 1950, and that he was later suspended from practicing Orgonomy altogether for a year.”
Turner turns his attention to Reich’s relation with his children, Eva and Lore, and reports on his short interviews conducted with each of them. Turner writes: “Reich’s sister-in-law disapproved when Tony, a friend’s 4-year-old son and Eva undressed to take a nap Reich watched them through the keyhole, keen to see who made the first sexual advance (the pair just giggled and then fall asleep).”
The inference was made in this section of the Book quoting other sources and implying that Reich may have had a voyeuristic interest in watching his children. However, anyone who is familiar with Dr. Reich’s work and life, would also realize how different he was than an average person in observation of his surroundings. His observation of events; collecting datum and scientific conclusions, is evident in every stage and activity of his life. His ability to observe so deeply led directly to his discoveries. Ms. Jean Rosenthal, (whom we’ve published in this journal), describes that Dr. Reich assigned a social worker named Gretha Hoff to her case. Ms. Rosenthal reports “she followed me about with a pad in hand, recording every dream, twitch, thought, emotion, movement. I loved the attention. She took copious notes, which were sent on to Reich in Maine.”
His third wife, Ms. Ollendroff, reports that their life was running on stopwatch, everything had to be observed and recorded accurately and precisely. Such an observer and such a precise recorder will naturally also be interested in his own children’s behavior. Freud made discoveries by observing his own children and grandchildren. His discovery and description of Repetition-Compulsion is a fruit of his observation of his own children’s behavior; similarly Jean Piaget’s minute observation and detailed interpretations of his own three children led him to postulate his developmental theory of children. Therefore, by this knowledge one can deduce that Reich’s interest in observing his children’s behavior was a scientific quest rather than voyeuristic interest which is a projection of an average person’s distorted mind.
In chapter 10 of Adventures in the Orgasmatron- How the Sexual Revolution Came to AmericaI, Turner indicates how totalitarian techniques of McCarthy created an atmosphere of fear and intolerance that ultimately affected members of Reich’s circle.
“Reich’s books were barred from Rangeley public library because they advocated fostering children’s sexual impulses. The FBI files are full of handwritten letters from people living nearby informing the bureau of strange goings-on up at Organon. Unsubstantiated rumors were circulating in Rangeley that Reich was building an atomic bomb on his estate, that the Reichians were a ”˜Communist Outfit’ and that they used the box for ”˜Perverse Sexual Purposes’, one local store owner said that there was ”˜a lot of sexuality’ going on at Organon, ”˜they’re interested in nudism and lot of funny business.’”
“In October of 1949 the FBI dispatched an agent to investigate. The agent found no truth to any of the allegation,” Turner writes, adding “an FDA inspector who later visited the school was surprised to find that the children were fully clothed and the camp to be ”˜a rather high-class place’. In his report to the bureau, the agent concluded: ”˜Recent experience in Maine has indicated that the residents of rural area in that state are particularly concerned about the current international situation and inclined to regard all persons residing in or passing through the area, who are not lifelong residents with suspicion.’”
The rumors mentioned above were products of the imaginations of average people who projected their own distorted and unhealthy thoughts onto Reich. This is ironic because Reich was, in fact, fighting these same distortions that common man is entangled with. In Listen Little Man, Reich in detail talks about this matter.
Turner manages to produce material and unfounded suspicions and rumors regarding Rangeley, Organon and Reich. The stories are interesting, but also sad. One chapter describes Reich’s interest in interaction of orgone energy with nuclear energy and the experiment he performed to test the idea. Turner also mentions the tape, titled “Alone,” which Reich made on April 3,1952. In this short recording, Reich explains some of the reasons that he had to do this experiment and hoped that future generations will understand its value (the recording has been published by Wilhelm Reich Museum).
One section of Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America asserts that the FDA was under pressure from the American Medical Association to do something about the situation in Rangely. “Reich knew that the FDA continued to keep its eye on him because an accumulator user had written to him in the summer of 1951 to inform him that an official had visited his home, photographed his box and taken statements about how much he paid in rental and how he had first heard of Reich’s device.” Turner describes how FDA sent an undercover agent posing a patient with a diagnosis of cancer to Dr. Raphael.
In chapter 11, the book describes how McCarthy dealt with Kinsey and how McCarthy’s power began to fade. The era during which he reigned is characterized by “fear sickness.” By this time, however, the FDA was making moves against Reich. Turner writes:
“In 1953 the FDA, which had been unable to locate and tap into an anticipated reservoir of unhappy accumulator users, commissioned independent trial from several doctors and scientists. The accumulators that FDA inspectors had bought from Orgone Institutes were photographed, initiated and dated and then immediately sent into universities, laboratories and hospitals around the country so that the experts could test whether there was any energy emitting from them and if so whether it had any beneficial effect on health. Most of the FDA tests weren’t particularly thorough, as at the time pressed experts thought the whole exercise slightly ridiculous. Some test subjects were treated only a few times with orgone devices. (Furthermore, Reich’s supporters later claimed that tests were invalidated by close proximity to X-ray machines, which would have aggravated the orgone energy turning it into a therapeutically ineffective Deadly Orgone Radiation). One doctor, who was in charge of testing, had replied: ”˜It was very difficult for me to bring myself to take the time to prepare this report […] this quackery is of such a fantastic nature that it seems hardly worthwhile to refute the ridiculous claims of its creator.’”
If a scientist starts an experiment with such a bias attitude, its outcome also can be predicted from the start. Turner, for his part, also asks: “If the scientists thought the accumulator so absurd, why, one might ask, did the FDA consider it such a threat?”
He goes on to discuss how Reich’s theories progressed into the invention of the cloudbuster. He writes:
“In May of 1953 Baker, Dual and Rafael flew to Maine so that Reich could demonstrate his cloudbuster to them. The Book reports Baker’s statement in observing this operation: ”˜the gravitational pull around the cloudbuster and for some distance away seemed to increase markedly, making it actually difficult to pick up one’s feet from the ground. The atmosphere around the cloudbuster was highly charged, and, in a few minutes, our lips became blue and parched, our mouths dry. Soon our faces were blue, and we became dizzy and unsteady. We kept wet cloths on our faces. Smoke appeared to be gushing from the ends of the ten pipes. Reich said it looked like an anti-aircraft gun during firing. Whether the smoke-like material was being sucked into the pipes or being emitted from them I could not be sure. It was all very impressive and made us aware again of the tremendous forces at work, forces with which we had become familiar since the beginning of the Oranur experment. We who have been through this experiment know how real and actually terrifying it all was and how frustrating to meet scoffers who belittle Reich’s work and call him insane.”
Dr. Wilhelm Reich and two of his students operating the “CLOUDBUSTER”
Turner writes: “Reich assumed the mythic status of rainmaker and felt that he could not only redirect storms but also summon them up. He offered to break the drought for a local blueberry farmer for the sum of one hundred dollars. According to Peter Reich, it rained.”
Turner mentions the “Blueberry Farm” experiment. At this point, it’s worth digressing away from Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America to discuss the experiment and its significance. Here’s an article from Yankee magazine that ran in September 1989, called, “The Doctor Who Made It Rain”:
On Friday, July 3, 1953, MAINE was burning. A forest fire in Eliot, fanned by high winds, was the worst of 11 new blazes that were charring thousands of acres. Forest officials reported that most of the state was in class 3, or “hazardous,” condition, while the coastline was rated class 4, “very dangerous.” Memories of the terrible fires of 1947 were still fresh.
In Ellsworth, blueberry grower Osmon Merrill worried about his crop. “It was terribly dry,” he remembers now. “There was no rain at all. It would cloud up, but it wouldn’t rain. It went on day after day.” That Friday before the holiday, a man named Bill Moise, who lived in Hancock, came to see Merrill with a remarkable proposition. He told Merrill that he knew a man who could make it rain. The man was his father-in-law, Wilhelm Reich. [..]
By 1953 Reich was living in Rangeley, Maine, in a hilltop complex of laboratories and cabins he called Orgonon, overlooking Dodge Pond, near Mooselookmeguntic Lake. There he met Tom Ross and hired him as caretaker and general handyman.
A warm friendship sprang up between the Austrian scientist and the Maine handyman, although they always maintained a respectful distance. “He was a friendly man,” said Ross. “He didn’t act higher than you. You could talk to him, joke with him. Except when he was working. Then no interruptions.” Reich, in turn valued Ross for his honesty. Unlike many of the scientists and students whose admiration for Reich verged on worship, Ross was his own man. “I had nothing to lose,” Ross explained. “I didn’t have to tell him, ”˜I feel it,’ when ”˜I didn’t feel it’. I tried the accumulators, but I didn’t feel anything. The Doctor would ask me about it – ”˜you still don’t feel anything, Mr. Ross?’ – and I’d say, ”˜maybe it’s like Christian Science, you have to believe in it.’ Then he’d say, ”˜You don’t see us praying, do you?”
What struck Ross about Reich was his keen observation of nature. “The Doctor was quite a hand at looking at clouds. He used to go up on Eustice Ridge to look at clouds and to look at the different growth. He noticed things. Ross says a cloud-buster in operation made almost no noise, except for the clanking of the gears when it was turned. ”˜But I would watch the end of the tubes closely, and I could see something either coming in or going out. It looked like a blowtorch, only it wasn’t fire.”’
On this particular occasion, Reich left Ross to operate the cloud-buster while he busied himself with something else. Several hours later the scientist returned and was surprised to see Ross still drawing the pipes around. “He asked me how long I’d been doing it, and when I told him, he said, ”˜Mr. Ross, you don’t know what you’ve been doing! We’d better shut down!’” Ross recalled.
“That night it started raining. It rained all the next day, and it was really coming down. The Doctor said, ”˜You see what you’ve done, Mr. Ross?’ I said, ”˜I put out the fires.”[…]
Monday morning, July 6, 1953, dawned clear, hot, and dry, with no rain in sight. Tom Ross loaded a cloud-buster onto a truck and drove it to Ellsworth falls, about 140 miles to the east. Reich followed in his own car with his nine-year-old son, Peter. The cloudbuster was set up, and the cables lowered into the moving water near the Bangor hydroelectric dam. Merrill remembers Reich going down to the water and dipping his hands in it, washing his face. “He was very calm about it, just as if he did it every day.” Then Reich began to draw from east to west. Even now, after 36 years, what happened next causes Merrill’s voice to rise with excitement. “The clouds began to change! They were getting darker and coming around. It didn’t cloud over, but the clouds did change. You could see them changing, moving a little faster, taking a little different shape. Whether they would have anyway, I don’t know. But you could actually see them change, unbelievable as it was.
After about an hour, Reich stopped the operation, “He said, ”˜That’s it. You’ll get your rain,’” Merrill recollects. “And he picked up and went.”
Reich, Peter, and Tom Ross went to a cabin nearby. Ross asked Reich if he could drive over to Cadillac Mountain, not far away, as he had never been there before, and Reich assented.
Ross drove all the way to the top of the mountain, which overlooks Mount Desert Island and the Gulf of Maine. “It was a beautiful clear day, not a cloud in the sky,” he says. “I felt doubtful. I said to myself, ”˜If you get rain today, Doctor, you’ve got something.’”
Around midnight, it started to rain, and by dawn a quarter of an inch had fallen. Ross woke up and heard Reich outside the cabin, setting up rain gauges. “In the morning I said, ”˜Are we going to set it up again?’ And he said, ”˜no, the growers had called and said they’d had enough.”’
“I was out to our camp and I heard it on the roof,” says Osmon Merrill. “I was delighted. Of course, I wished it was more. The next day, Reich’s son-in-law called and said, ”˜what do you think?’ I said we’re grateful for that quarter of an inch. Wish it had been an inch. But our agreement was, if it rained, we’d pay you $1000. So we will. And he said, ”˜Dr. Reich says you’ll get more right off.’ And we did. In two days, we got more rain.”
According to a story that appeared later that month in the Bangor Daily News (“Has Maine Scientist The Answer to Rainmaking?”), rain fell again on Thursday, July 9, a day that forecasters had predicted would be clear and hot.
In Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America Turner interviews Peter Reich, who says, “Okay, I was on that operation when the blueberry grower paid Reich to make rain in ”˜54, and it started to rain. I just couldn’t believe it. Another time this hurricane was heading right toward us and all of a sudden it veered off. You know I participated in a lot of things that I think really happened. And I don’t know what to make of them. I remember in Arizona, he’d bought his telescope and he was seeing these flying saucers, and I remember looking through the telescopes and I did not see the thin cigar shape with the little windows,… but I made it rain, I made the wind come up. I don’t know, I just really don’t know.”
Though present day conventional science has not yet caught up with Dr. Reich, when we combine Dr. Baker’s statement, Tom Ross’ testimony, Peter Reich’s interview, and also Osmon Merrill’s observation, we are faced with a phenomena that could not be dismissed.
Adventures in the Orgasmatron- How the Sexual Revolution Came to America describes the 27-page FDA complaint and injunction filed against Wilhelm Reich and Ilse Ollendroff Reich, along with the Reich Foundation. “Eventually Reich consulted a local lawyer who suggested that he agree to stop selling orgone products, which he thought would then allow Reich to continue selling his literature. However, Reich refused to do this.” Reich said: “The moment we start to bargain we would stamp the accumulator as a fraud. It is not a fraud, therefore we cannot agree to any bargaining.”
Turner quotes Reich in 1949, instructing his physicians: “Don’t touch a patient as long as they are a patient. If you feel attracted to them, don’t accept them as a patient […] You will try of course, despite your own desire to get her to someone else.” Turner also mentions Reich’s invention of the DOR buster and how he applied it on Dr. Baker and Baker’s description of it. (Baker was given a private DOR busting session with Reich, which lasted 20 minutes). ”˜“It took twenty minutes before I felt anything’, he wrote, ”˜and then I began to feel a strong irresistible pulling on my lips, which was literally pulling out sobbing from the depth’. After third session Baker wrote ”˜I felt better than I ever had in my life. I felt warm, kindly toward everyone. And I surprised myself by including Silvert, whom I thought was leading Reich to disaster.’”
Turner writes in detail about Reich’s trial, which had been delayed until April 30th of 1956 when it got underway at the courthouse in Portland, presided over by Judge Sweeny. Observing the scene, Dr. Herskowitz recalls, ”˜“He was the most unusual human being I’d ever had contact with,’ Herskowitz says, ”˜but I always thought that I had more common sense than he did; I was aware of his political naivetÃ©, I was aware at the beginning of the trial that if he persisted in this he was going to lose. I was aware he had misguided opinions.’”
More on the courtroom: “The three day trial was well-covered in Portland papers. One local paper headline read as: Plot is lousy, Cast is great, paying tribute to the trials ”˜colorful personalities.’”
“The next witness was Paul Berman, an accumulator user from New York whom Sharaf described as ”˜the epitome of a deeply sick neurotic’. […] Reich asked him if the accumulator had helped him. Bermen said it had, but his answer was ordered struck from the record. Judge Sweeney ruled that questions about the efficacy of the device should have been the subject of the earlier trial, this one was solely to determine the narrower question as to whether Reich had broken the injunction.”
Turner’s book states that “the only real embarrassment inflicted on prosecution was when U.S. Attorney Mills was questioned by Reich about why he had crossed over from being Reich’s lawyer to prosecuting the case against him.”
The jury, which included an African-American for the first time in history of that court, deliberated for only 10 to 15 minutes before announcing their verdict: Guilty.
“Two weeks later Reich was sentenced to two years in prison and Silvert to one year and a day, with the Wilhelm Reich’s foundation was fined $10,000. All remaining accumulators and Reich’s paperback books that reflected the orgone energy were to be destroyed under FDA supervision.” Turner adds:
“Peter Reich was there on June 5, 1956 when the FDA agents Kanyon and Niss arrived at Organon to supervise the destruction of accumulator’s banned by the injunction […] “When they had finished Peter recalled: ”˜the pile was crumbled and broken and steel wool was hanging out of the panels all frothy and gray’. […] ”˜Well gentlemen, are you satisfied?’ Reich asked the inspectors sarcastically. ”˜We have gasoline! It would make a nice fire, no?’ He asked them if they wanted to destroy the rest of his scientific equipment or burn his books. As they left one of the officials, evidently embarrassed, said they were sorry that it had to come to this. Reich replied: ”˜Yes, you are sorry. Of course. Aren’t we all? Good-bye gentlemen, some day you will understand.”’
Dr. Sobey also recalled that Reich had said: “after 500 years you are going to come to my grave and say you are sorry and I am supposed to say, thank you!”
Adventures in the Orgasmatron- How the Sexual Revolution Came to America also states that “Dr. Reich told Niss that his books had also been burned by Nazis and that he could not believe that book burning could also happen in America.”
Turner makes note of Eisenhower’s speech in 1953, condemning these actions stating, ”˜“Don’t join the book burners’. He told the graduating class at Darmonth College. ”˜Do not think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book, any document as long as does not offend our own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship.”’
The book goes on describing that “ in August the FDA destroyed the literature that was warehoused at the orgone institute press in Greenich Village. Six tones of literature, valued $15,000 was taken to the New York City Sanitation Department Gansevoort Street incinerator. The American Civil Liberties Union protested the book burning in both a letter to the FDA and in a press release that was ignored by every major newspaper.”
Turner mentions the memories of Aurora Karrer, the fourth woman who was involved with Reich, and her memories about Reich after his arrest and sentencing.
There are entries of Karrer’s diary and letters. It reflects intensification of Reich’s irritability and suspicion. “Karrer was planning to write a biography of Reich, which to be called ”˜The Genius: Personal Life and Loves of Wilhelm Reich.’ One chapter was provisionally titled ”˜Living with Genius.’ The most developed bits of Karrer’s text relates to women who had preceded her in Reich’s life: Annie Pink, Elsa Linderberg, Ilsa Ollendroff and Gret Haff Sharaff.’[..] One time Karrer sought to defend Reich’s legacy and in the process assume a position of the ”˜Grand Dame of Orgonomy.’” After Reich’s death, as Ilse Ollendroff describes in her book, Karrer took charge of the funeral and upon her orders, the observatory was illuminated inside and outside all through the night before the funeral.
However, Christopher Turner’s book states that in the 1970s, Karrer changed her stance on Reich. She wrote these bullet points:
“Wilhelm Reich thought of himself as more superior. He was the most sensitive and insecure man I ever met””to the world had failed him.”
“He always blamed all his ills on the world. To him everyone was always against him-he never said he was in any way at fault-only everyone else.”
These negative “bullet points” go on for a couple of pages, and the fluctuations from one extreme to the other make both extremes unreliable.
From a section about Reich’s imprisonment:
Wilhelm Reich escorted to prison, March 1957
“Reich and Silvert were taken to federal penitentiary in Danbury Connecticut, on March 22, 1957 for psychiatric evaluation.” Myron Sharaf, who has written Reich’s biography, describes the following: “At Danbury Reich had had his first psychiatric examination carried out by Richard C. Hubbard, M.D., psychiatrist. Toward the end of Hubbard’s interview Reich asked him what the diagnosis was going to be? Hubbard apologetically explained that ”˜Given Hubbard’s background he could only conclude that there was a definite disturbance’. Reich’s response was a thoughtful nod, as if in agreement with Hubbard that within traditional realm (psychoanalysis, classical physics) many of his concepts and findings would have to be considered insane.”
Hubbard’s brief report on Reich was categorized with a diagnosis of “Paranoia, Manifested by Delusions of Grandiosity and Persecution.”
Ilse Ollendroff Reich, in the book mentioned before, adds: “I am not psychiatrically trained and have to rely on experts in such matters, but I believe that nothing is taken from the greatness of the man and his accomplishments if one recognizes that some of his ideas of the 1950s were paranoid.”
Reich, Ilse Ollendroff, and Peter, Summer 1944
Dr. Herskowitz, in an unpublished article, states: “With all the bricks that were thrown at him year after year, it was amazing that he continued to stand. Toward the end of his life it was evident that occasional delusion was intruding on reality. Writing that his father might have been an alien from another planet was delusional. His alcoholism and the consequent personality aberrations in the pre-prison days were evidence that he was ”˜losing it’. On the other hand there were no reports from prison acquaintances that he was anything but competent.”
We, in our turn, will chose to learn psychiatry from Reich who went delusional at the end of his life, any day and every day of the week, including Sundays, rather then from any chief of department of psychiatry, a well-adjusted politician, whose main concern is the financial reports on the desk of his administrator.
Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America describes that the dim prison scene: “Reich, who had been assigned to work in the library, where he shuffled around stacking shelves, stamped the books with a two weeks return date.”
Another inmate asked Reich what it felt like to be surrounded by literature, knowing his own books would never be among them. “It is not the end of the world,” Reich replied.
In the prison Reich was isolated. That other inmate wrote an unpublished memoir in prison under the title of “Cookeyboo” describing how Reich was introduced by inmates to the new inmates, which also reflects the extent of distortions prevailing among people whose thinking had been limited. Reich was trying so hard to change the word on their behalf.
“Hey, man, see that mother with the red nose?”
“What the hell is the Sex Box man?”
“Whatta you mean””you don’t know? Everyone knows about the Sex Box man. It was in all the papers. He kinda made a big wooden sex coffin, and a guy and a chick would crawl into it. They’d have to make love for an hour before he’d let them out. It was a big porno raid. Everyone read about it.”
The rest several pages of the book describes Reich’s death. On November 3, 1957 when Reich failed to appear for 6:30 a.m. roll call, his inmate friend remembered, there was confusion as prison wardens checked to see that convict hadn’t escaped; Reich was found at 7:04 a.m.
The final chapter discusses events after Reich’s death, mentioning Reich’s students, disciples and offshoots of Orgonomy that had developed since then. Some of these are actually in sharp contradiction with Reich’s teachings and the intelligent reader should be able to discern them from what has been discussed here of Reich’s work.
The last paragraph of Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America states the following:
“Aldous Huxley wrote in his 1946 preface to Brave New world (1932), a novel about a future dystopia in which sexual promiscuity becomes the law, ”˜As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator […] will do well to encourage that freedom […] It will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.’”
Sexual freedom, as described by Reich in his books, argues that in upbringing””meaning human infants from infancy onwards””if natural psychosexual needs are respected at every stage of their development, people are expected to grow physically and psychologically healthy. Decline of natural sexual needs of the children and adolescents causes armoring of their organisms and consequently makes them psychologically and physically crippled people. These armored people are more capable of sadism, war and destruction and many other sick behaviors , which we see around us abundantly on daily basis. They could have been the opposite: loving, capable of love, respecting others, kind, hopeful, industrious, respecting their own rights and intolerant of oppression. We do not have to resort to a fiction or a movie made to amuse and entertain the public, then draw a convoluted and wrong conclusion that perhaps sexual freedom is going to lead to dictatorship.
We can look around us right now and here and see that the most vicious dictatorial regimes, the most undemocratic regimes of our time now, in front of our eyes, are also the most anti-sexual and representative of sexually oppressive regimes. We don’t have to kid ourselves by resorting to such and such movie or fiction, to prove the opposite of what we are witnessing now and here in the front of our eyes. Every kindergarten-age child knows that one cannot love someone else by order or decree. By order and decree one can Fuck or Rape but cannot love, and plenty of it is going on right now in the countries that have strictest antisexual laws on their books This type of so-called sexual freedom, described by Mr. Turner in Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America, is contrary to all the writings of Dr. Reich. After being so well-read in Reichian theory, it is staggering to seemingly observe a writer, on the subject of so-called sexual freedom, confuse fucking and raping with what Reich meant by love and sexual embrace. Why would he make such a major blunder? This is, in one sense, like a master chess player who intentionally plays out a major mistake to lose to the game to a novice, while spectators watch, perplexed and jaw-dropped, asking “why did he do that?”
Even more phony is the conclusion that Turner draws in his final paragraphs. He writes:
“Sexual liberation, despite its apparent eventual successes, might be interpreted as the philosopher Michael Foucault suggested with reference to Reich, as having ushered in “a more devious and discreet form of power.”
Reading these last few lines inadvertently evokes the memories of trials of underground members opposing the Shah’s regime in Iran. They were caught and brought to trial, and after being interrogated, tortured and beaten, some resorted to a phony and convoluted logic, desperately trying to justify status quo to avoid heavy punishment, often by execution, arguing ultimately in favor of status quo and surrendering to the autocratic regime.
Adventures in the Orgasmatron: How the Sexual Revolution Came to America ends with surrender of Mr. Turner to status quo.
Thanks go to Farrar Straus and Giroux for publishing Reich’s books, and related books. We believe that they will enjoy this honor for years to come and for generations to come.