Audio Recording of Dr. Morton Herskowtiz, September, 1997.

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Audio Recording of Dr. Morton Herskowtiz, September, 1997.

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Transcription:

Introduction:

Professor emeritus in psychiatry in osteopathic medicine.   He is the last of Wilhelm Reich’s patients and students.  He has been in orgonomic practice for more than 45 years.

 

 

Dr. Herskowitz.

 

Thank you. I’m going to start with a series of caveats.  Caveat number 1 concerns the trickiness of memory.  For example, I for many years, had a very clear memory of lying on Reich’s couch in therapy, with my head at this end, my feet at this end, the fireplace here, and it was very clear, this is how things were.  Until after Reich’s death, when I visited Organon, and it wasn’t that way. If I were lying with my head here, and my feet here, the fireplace would be here, and a  window is here. And the most cockeyed thing about it is, that although my cerebral cortex now knows that the fireplace was here, my subconscious keeps repeating the fact that the fireplace is here.  So memory can be faulty.

The second caveat is that there was a very delimiting relationship between Reich and me.  I know him as a therapist, and I knew him as a patient, and as a teacher but that was the limit of my knowledge, and Reich kept very clear borders on those relationships.  We all addressed him as Dr. Reich, and he addressed us as Dr. so and so ,and it interfered to some extent in his existence.  I know, because once I remember he said to me, there used to be square dances every saturday night in a neighboring village, and all of us would go to those square dances when we were up at organon, and Reich once said, “Don’t you think I would like to go to those square dances? but I can’t.”  And the implication was that that would break the boundary. And on another occasion, I occasionally played tennis with Mickey Sharif when I was up at Organon, and Mickey was a pretty good player, and he told me that Reich played tennis, and that he wasn’t such a hot player.  And when Mickey told Reich that I played tennis, Reich said, “maybe someday we’ll play tennis” and Mickey told him apparently that I was not a bad tennis player, and we never played tennis.  And anybody who plays tennis knows that poorer tennis players long playing tennis with better tennis players, so he had to forgo that too because of borders.  And I have read that in the old days, everybody called him Willie. That would have been unthinkable for us, to address him as Willie.

 

The third caveat is, that sometimes the things that people say and that are quoted as them having said, I think may be distortions of what is actually happening in the moment. Let me be more explicit, In Elsa Olandorf’s book, she quotes his reaction to her asking about a male homosexual patient, and he said, “I want nothing to do with that filth”, and in the book she takes that as him having a problem with dealing with male homosexual patients.  And even that some information that perhaps there was some latent homosexuality. I remember that once I asked Reich, “What is your treatment of homosexuals and how  successful are you at treating homosexuals”, and he said “I have case histories that show we can be very effective”.  Now, you must remember that in those days the goal in treating homosexuality was not what it is today. Usually it meant changing someone from his homosexual orientation to heterosexuality, now I don’t know wether that’s what Reich meant or not, today our goals are quite different, but at least there was no emotional reaction, there was no fuss about it. He just told me that he did well treating homosexual patients.  And I had a thought about that when I watched a TV program with US presidential aids. And they said, sometimes they’d be called in and the president would inquire about some misadventure of one of the underlings on their staff, and they would try to apologize and the president would say

“fire that guy”, and when they came in to see him the next day, he would say, “tell so and so to do such a thing” and they would say, “but Mr. president, you told me to fire him”, and if they would indeed fire him, they’d get hell, so you can’t always take a man at his instant word.

 

Okay, given that preamble, I’m going to tell you how I got to Reich, and also, like Peter Chris started at age of 16,  I was far behind where Peter was.  At age 16, a group of us adolescents and young twenties met in Fairmont park near where I lived at the time and we would meet maybe once a week and we would discuss all of the important question of life, what’s the nature of God, what’s the meaning of life,etc, and in one of those discussions, the guy that was the oldest of us and the brightest and most knowledgeable, said to me, you don’t even know who Sigmund Freud is. Which was true. So that summer I worked as a bus boy in Atlantic City and,  determined to find out who Sigmund Freud was, and the Atlantic City library had one book by Sigmund Freud. It was Freud’s study on hysteria, which I took out, I understood maybe one eight of it, and it was fascinating, and that’s how I got interested in psychiatry. Later after medical school, I was pretty clear that I was going to go into psychoanalysis, and I had been taking courses at a branch of the University of Pensilvania, didactic courses  in analysis with probably the most respected analyst in our area.  And in that course I would occasionally ask a question and at least for my likes, got double talk as an answer and I said to myself,  well that’s the state of the art currently. There are clearly many wonderful things about this field, but they don’t’ know all the answers, and at the same time I was looking for an analyst to go into therapy with and, finding a fatal flaw in each one of them. The one that was most appealing to me personally happened to be a guy who was afraid to drive, and his wife had to drive him around town. And at this time, the father of a girl who I was courting, said to me, you know, I read a book that I think you would be interested in, and I said, “yeah, what is it?”, and he said, “sexual revolution by Wilhelm Reich”, and I said, oh that guy, he’s nuts,and he said, how do you know, I said everyone knows he’s a nut.   And he prevailed upon my decency to at least read the book to find out weather I was misjudging this man.

 

So to please him, I read Sexual Revolution , and there I found the answers to the questions I asked my psychoanalytic teacher, and it was clear, he was correct and direct and there was no pussy-footing, and the answer was apparent.  And I thought, this is an unusual guy, so I read all of Reich’s books that were available at the time.  And then I said, this is the man that I want to be my therapist.  But I was put off by all of the orgone energy talk, that seemed very weird to me. I called Reich, he was in Forest Hills at the time, and we arranged an appointment and I was determined that we were not going to talk about orgone energy. So the time of the appointment came, in order to get there, I had to walk past the Forest Hills tennis courts, which enhanced the meaning of that first visit, it was just such a glorious place, and came to Reich’s house which was a  nice substantial house. I met Miss Ollendorf  and she said, Reich will soon be down, have a seat so I sat down and then Reich descended the staircase  and my first impression was , this guy is a battering ram, he was a force, my second impression was, he’s wearing a lab coat this is the big orgone energy man, but then when we got close my deepest impression was that he had the softest, maybe saddest eyes that I had seen. His eyes reflected Weltschmerz and, they were feeling eyes, and you knew that you were in a presence.

 

Another thing about him, Reich had one of, or gave the impression of having one of the biggest heads that you ever saw, now there were three people in my direct experience who had that.  I don’t know if they actually had big heads or the energy fields made them look big, but there were three people that  I’ve been in direct contact with who had that, one was Einstein, one was the composer of Villa Lobos  and then there was Reich.  All three of them had this big head, and we started to talk, he asked me about my history, my training, what I had read of his works, and then he said, what do you think about Orgone energy.   and I thought this is where I get kicked out, and I said, well it seems very strange to me. It’s very unusual to read about what you’ve written about,  and surprising to me,  He said, of course it does, the way you’ve been trained, the things you’ve been taught, it must be strange, and , and if I take you on, maybe eventually, you’ll work in the laboratory, and you’ll do the experiments that I’ve described and you’ll see for yourself whether they exist or no t,  which I thought was a wonderfully reasonable solution to the problem, so he said, I’ll take you on as a patient, you must remember that ,  you’re only a patient, you’re not a student, you are not a physician, you are no different than any other patient, I thought that was reasonable, and he said you must sign a paper saying that if I think you must be admitted to a hospital, that you will not argue with me.  And I thought, Already I really I trusted him, so I thought, if he really does think that I need to be committed to a hospital,  so be it. Which reminds me of something my wife said, she said if he changes you significantly, I’m going to kill him.

 

So, another of the agreements was that he could kick me out of therapy anytime he wanted and I could quit any time I wanted which seemed fair. So we started therapy. Now, Reich as a therapist: one thing that you knew before you went into any session,  was that you had to in a sense emotionally cleanse yourself.. Reich never talked chatter, everything that one said or thought was always significant, like you went to the depth of yourself when you walked into that room.  Now occasionally in therapy, Reich would sit, especially in the latter parts of my therapy and he’d be smoking his cigarette,  and I could see that his eyes were not on what was going on with me,  he was somewhere else, but I never dared interrupting him because  I thought, I may be interrupting some huge scientific progress, so I just let him smoke and live out in the heavens for that time.

 

The thing that was unique about therapy with Reich, was the contact that he had, I think that I had never known such tenderness in some very particular moments.  he never got angry with me but he sure diagnosed whatever was cockeyed in me and not always in lovely ways.  For example, I had a habit when I started to hide emotionally, I would go um um, and he would imitate me,  and he would imitate in such a  way you felt like killing him. he had a tremendous capacity to imitate in the most annoying way that existed.  And another time in therapy, we were doing paranoid looks, and I was looking at him in a paranoid fashion, and he was looking at me in a paranoid fashion. But he did it better much better than I and we just kept looking at each other in a paranoid manner  until I thought, one or both of us is going to go crazy here, and I said, that’s enough, and he stopped.  Reich had a way of keeping one off balance in therapy, on one occasion, after I had been in therapy for a while.  The fee had been 50$. and in this particular session,  Reich said the fee will now be $100. And I  said okay, and I went down and paid Miss Ollendorf. $100, after the next session I went down and paid Ms. Olandorf $100 and she said, no Dr. Reich said it will be $50 again…And the whole maneuver was to see whether I thought he was worth $100. As a matter of fact I would have paid $200. but he wanted to see, did I value him enough to pay $100 a session.

On another occasion, I think I’ll skip that occasion.  I will tell you a fascinating thing about Reich’s contact. Dr. Oller  once told me that he once went into a session.. and he was having a personal problem which he had determined not to to talk to Reich about, and he lay down on the couch and Reich said, what have you decided not to tell me.   NOw there were some times when, there was one particular time, when I thought that his judgment of a situation was incorrect and it involved Dr. Silvert.  Before my session , I had been talking with Dr. Silvert outside, and Silvert said to me .. “ Do you ever give electroshock to your patients?”  And I said, “yes occasionally, if nothing else avails, if I’ve tried everything else and nothing can help that patient, I give electroshock”, And he started yelling at me and he said, you’re not an orgonomist, He said, I wouldn’t treat any patient who can’t be treated with orgone therapy, they’re just not worth it,.. and I was outraged,  and I went into my session, I was half off my noodle. And I told Reich about this, yelling all the time, and I said, “he’s a communist, he’s a cultist”, not a political communist, but an orgonomic cultist.  And Reich said, we can also use our communists..  which I disagreed with then and I disagree with now, and I think that circumstances prove that one can not use ones communists in a holy cause.

On another occasion, and this leads to Reich’s use of metaphors, that’s always knocked me out.  Reich had written a book, I forget which one now, and it was a fine book and I loved it, And I went into my session and he said, did you read such and such, and I said, yes, and he said,   What did you think of it , and I said “Oh it’s a very good book, I really enjoyed it,  but your english leaves a great deal to be desired, there are clumsy sentences and the meaning isn’t clear.”  And I took off on his English. And he said, “I’ve taken you up for a ride in my airplane and I’ve shown you vistas that you would have no chance of seeing, and you’re riding around in my airplane and you’re looking at these vistas, and you’re telling me, hey you know there’s something wrong with the way you put in your floor boards, and I think that Reich’s, immaculate metaphors are a function of the contact that he had that with what he was talking about. For example, his description of how the trauma that one experiences early in life, affect one, and what happens in therapy as sequelae of that. What he said was, it’s as if the tree started to grow and the trunk got.bent, then the therapist comes along and he tries to straighten the tree out, and if the therapy is successful, the tree trunk straightens out, and if you’re flying over head, you may even think it’s a straight tree, but when a strong wind blows the the bent trunk is going to go blow down before the others. And another metaphor from therapy is, you the therapist do not drive the locomotive, you take away the impediments on the track.  The locomotive goes on it’s own power.  He said “you don’t go down, the down comes up to you.”   And his metaphor about why there is so much sexual talk and sexual sickness in society, (this isn’t from one of the books). He said that society is like a factory that runs on steam power, and when the steam power is flowing  along normally and healthily, everybody is at work, nobody is even aware of steam power, they just use it.  But when the broiler blows up, people are thrown out of work and everybody talks about steam power, and that’s why everybody talks about sex all the time.

Now in therapy, occasionally, my little man would come out. And some instances of that are,  on one occasion, I said to him, how come you have a pot belly.  And the question of course is why don’t you keep yourself in better shape.  And he said I don’t have a pot belly, but he did. On another occasion, I had read a book Casper Houser which is a story of a wolf boy, a feral child.   A true story, written in Germany and it was a book that very few americans ever read or heard of.  and I thought in my little man way, this is a chance to impress Wilhelm Reich so I went in and started talking about Casper Howser, and  as I talked, he just gave me a look and  the look said,s top bullshitting me, and we never talked about anything like Casper Houser after that.   So Reich was not an easy man to fool.

Now Reich as teacher was different  from Reich  at least as my therapist.. because even though he never got angry with me in therapy when a group of us was assembled, he had an anger such as I had never witnessed  As a matter of fact,.. one day he was so angry, and clouds came overhead, and I wondered whether he caused the appearance of those clouds … and when we were assembled as a group … he was often very particular  about our functioning and our clarity.  I remember once, one of the biologists presented , I forget the presentation now, but I remember he  came in with charts and graphs, and clearly he had been working on this presentation for a long time and went through his thing, and … Reich said, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you presented us with figures, facts and graphs, but you don’t understand what you’re doing and I thought  “this poor guy after all this work.” And Reich was correct of course.  It reminded me of, I once had a conversation with an internationally famous physicist and we were talking about examination of graduate students and he said, I always give my graduate students one thing to do in their oral exam, I say I am a layman, tell me what you do so that I will understand what you’re doing, and that’s essentially what …  And that was what Reich was doing to.  Stop barricading your lack of knowledge with all of this stuff that you’re presenting.

Reich treated each of us differently when we were assembled. There were some people that he was very quick to put down. There was one particular therapist, that Reich could barely tolerate and neither could I and neither could most of us. and there were others, who would give answers and he would patiently bring us along to the correct answers like we were little chicks,  Unfortunately I supposed in any group it would be the same case, but, with a person of Reich’s stature, the distance the discrepancy between how he functioned and how we functioned was pretty great.

Reich would often call for a 5 day conference, and we would go up to Orgonon for 5 days. On the first day, we would go home inspired, couldn’t wait to get there the next day.  On the second day, after about an hour, someone would say, can we have a coffee break. and we would have a coffee break, and an hour later, someone else would say, can we have a coffee break, and we’d have a coffee break, On the third day, people had headaches, they were itchy, they had 1/2 hour coffee breaks and .  Reich would say, “You’ve had enough of me, Right?  And we would say, “Right”. and the reason was that for us, there was a too muchness about him, just as for him, there was a too littleness about us.  I think I never remember any conference announced  for 5 days, lasting 5 days. the other 2 days we would spend up at Rangely enjoying ourselves.

Reich couldn’t tolerate two kinds of answers to his questions, he couldn’t tolerate mechanistic answers and he couldn’t tolerate psychoanalytic answers, and he’d yell, that’s psychoanalysis, and you knew you didn’t give him the right answer.

One other thing that tells you about Reich, I started out my therapy in Forest Hills, half way through my therapy, Reich moved to Maine.   so he suggested several local therapists with whom  I could continue my therapy, and I said, No, I’ll come up to Maine.  And I’m sure that was another testing procedure because It’s pretty clear to me that He enjoyed the fact that I was willing to drive up to Maine to see him a s a therapist. Now in those days, the roads were nothing like how they are today. The road, once you got past Boston, were two lane highways, and there was an occasional third lane where hills were concerned, and you drove up in the third lane hopefully on the correct side, there was a legal side,   hoping that nobody else would be coming up  in that lane from the opposite direction.  I forget the exact time but    I think the trip from NY to Rangely took me about 12 hours.  An one day  Reich said, how long did it take you to get here from Philadelphia.  And I each week would try to break my speed record. So On that occasion I said, it takes about 12 hours. and he said, it takes 12 hours from NY, and isn’t Philadelphia farther than that, and he said.. you have a right to risk your  own life, but you don’t have a right to risk the lives of other people on the road, so unless it takes you 12 hours, plus the 2 hours from Philadelphia to NY, don’t bother coming, so from then on.. my trips took 2 hours longer than they had.

Now there’s a lot of confused talk about what went on at the time of the.. FDA inquisition of the trial. The fact is, Reich had determined to pursue an historic scientific defense.  That the government had no right to interfere with the work of a dedicated scientist. Upon the injunction, he acted uncordially to the government men who came to the property.  To make a long story short, the injunction was issued. The trial was about the injunction, had Reich obeyed or disobeyed the injunction. To answer the question, Reich sent all of his books to the judge. Implying that if the judge read the books he would see the falsity of the complaint and throw everything out of the court, actually the FDA complaint clearly was a very careless one,  and very clearly, they thought that Reich was selling snake oil, that he was committing fraud and they didn’t have to prepare a careful case, and they didn’t. For example, all of the cases that are sited  in cancer biopathy, by the FDA, in which FDA claimed  that reich claimed to cure cancer, they actually sited those cases, but all of those patients died in the book, so they didn’t even bother to read the end of the story, and  Reich hired a lawyer, we hired a lawyer,    the lawyers were very clear. They said. the FDA has prepared a very poor case, lets take this into court and ….. and destroy their complaint.  And Reich didn’t want to do that. He wanted to pursue the basic issue of did government having the right to interfere with the work of a scientist, and so he didn’t listen to the advice of his lawyers, and the physicians had been accused of not contributing their opinions, that’s not true he questioned each of us, and wanted to know how we would pursue and then he went on and proceeded exactly how he was going to proceed before he questioned us but he did question us and we did tell him. ,  and what happened was that he forgot a very basic principal. from olden times, which is, you render onto caesars things which are Ceasar.   In a court of law, you proceed legally, and he proceeded according to some ideal formulation and got beaten.

One of the wild things that happened in court, one day when I was in court and he had had a terrible morning, he had gotten beaten over the head the whole morning long, and I thought, I don’t see how he can stand this, he’s  Just getting such a bad experience here how can he stand it.  And he walked over to me,  I had written an article in the journal, dealing with someone who had criticized one of Reich’s recent books, a very bad criticism and I had written an answer to that criticism.

And after the beating that he took that morning,  he walked over to me and said, “He hits us over the head with a club and you slap  him on the wrist.”  And I thought, my god, how can he be thinking in these terms after this morning, I would have gone and put my head between my knees and cried after that morning session, but what was on his mind was my weak reply to the critical article that this guy had written.

Now the business about craziness, Once when I was with him, an airplane flew over head   and he said, that’s Eisenhower and he’s sending over planes to protect me. And I said how do you know that’s not a normal flight pattern

or some airplane that’s carrying tourists. And he said, maybe, we’ll see. Which is not the way that a psychotic would have dealt with my answer.  The fact is, I think that Reich was a genuine article, a real genius.   And that he thought in ways that most of the rest of us do not think, I think that   His brain took imaginative leaps that are beyond most of us.. and I think sometimes those leaps landed him in places, plateaus, higher than the ones that we live in. .. and I think sometimes those leaps landed him in a muddy puddle,  and I think that happens to all geniuses.  as one goes through the collection of his papers put out by the Rangely group, it’s clear that Reich thought he made  a discovery from time to time, abandoned it, thought he made other discoveries, abandoned them, and there were times when he made leaps that didn’t turn out, but for all the leaps that didn’t turn out, the ones that have turned out have taken us to a place that we couldn’t have gotten to without him.

Story has often been told, that whenever Reich left any group  he became ‘crazy’ to that group, so when he left the communists, the communists called him crazy, when he left psychoanalysis, they called him crazy, and in some little way, each time he took a step that was beyond  us, our trust wavered. There was a time in one of my sessions when I came in and reported that a psychiatric colleague of mine had criticized him for such and such and that he had said this is crazy, and Reich took off on that.  and he said, “it’s crazy, I’m crazy, You think I’m crazy, he went over to the fireplace, picked up the rifle and put the rifle to my head, and he said “I’m crazy, I’m crazy”.  And I pictured a New yorker cartoon, with a psychiatrist with a rifle to his patients head, and I started laughing and I couldn’t stop. Then he put the riffle down, and he said “don’t you ever do that to your patients”  and I said, “don’t worry”.  So the issue of craziness followed him for a long time, wherever he went.  When I started therapy, one of my close friends who was a professor of opthamology, at one of the best medical schools in the city said, what do other psychiatrist think of Reich, and I said, I think they think he’s crazy, and he said, no,  I mean the academic ones, the responsible ones, I said I think they all think he’s crazy. and he said, I can’t believe that.

So I said, “Joe, go to those guys at the department in your school, and see what they say”  so he was kind of a compulsive guy, and he did.  And each one he approached said, Reich, he’s in a mental institution  and he said, are you sure, and they said yes.  He said, well I know someone who goes to Forest Hills and is seeing him  as a patient, and each of them was amazed, because they all knew that Reich was in a mental institution.  and that’s a tough thing to live with year after year after year. So about Reich’s craziness,  I think that if this world were composed of such crazy people to a much larger extent, it wouldn’t be the world we live in.

There’s one thing I wanted to ratify with you. In my experience, Reich did not have a tremendous sense of humor, I never heard him belly laugh. But he was very witty and one of the wittiest things I ever heard, You asked, Once I was standing at laboratory and  his son Peter asked why is knife spelled with a K… and Reich gave a speech that was so clever, so witty that I thought what a privilege to grow up with a man like that!

Thank you.

This post was written by:

- who has written 36 posts on The Journal of Psychiatric Orgone Therapy.


One Response to “Audio Recording of Dr. Morton Herskowtiz, September, 1997.”

  1. I am in my 60s and have developed a desire to seek out Wilhelm Reich’s character. I just finished Peter Reich’s A Book of Dreams, doing some wading through Reich’s Character Analysis book and have shifted through materials on The Trust Fund website.

    Dr. Herskowitz’s 1997 audio has given me more grist for the mill. His total openness (as much as being human)about Reich is a pure delight. Maybe there is something about looking a person straight in the eye and get a better feel for that person, then 100 conversations we’ll have, or read a dozen books he’ll have written Thank you, Larry Lemasters

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