Categorized | Sociology

On Reich’s Social and Political Development: Treatment, Cure, and the Patriarchal Family

Article by Phillip W. Bennett PhD

On Reich’s Social and Political Development: Treatment, Cure, and the Patriarchal Family

Contribution to the conference: Wilhelm Reich and the Science of Life Energy: "Orgonomy" November 9, 2019

On the 12th of December 1929 Wilhelm Reich gave a lecture to the inner circle of the Vienna psychoanalytic association on the prevention of neurosis.

"I gave my talk on the prophylaxis of neuroses to Freud’s inner circle on December 12, 1929. These monthly meetings in Freud’s house were open only to the officers of the Psychoanalytic Society. Everyone knew that words of far-reaching importance were spoken here and that important decisions were made." The Function of the Orgasm

Psychoanalytic treatment at best could only have impact on a distinct minority of the population. Freud and his colleagues knew this, and attempted to broaden the population of those who benefitted from psychoanalysis by starting a free clinic, the Ambulatorium.

See: Elizabeth Danto: Freud’s Free Clinics: Psychoanalysis and Social Justice, 1918-1938. Columbia University Press, 2005.

At the clinic analysts would donate at least an hour every week giving free therapy to members of the working class. Given his own personal experiences with abject poverty as a medical student – Reich and his younger brother lived in an single unheated room–it is not surprising that he was drawn to the Free Clinic, and before long Reich became an assistant director of it.

But still, even free therapy to the working classes was a very small drop in the bucket over and against the deeply entrenched social, political and religious values of Catholic Austria. In the east revolution was in the air. With the Russian Revolution of 1917 came the promise of an economic revolution that would address widespread poverty, but also a social revolution that would eliminate religious domination and traditional authoritarian patriarchy.

Reich lived in Vienna for twelve years. Politically it was dominated by the Austrian Social Democrats. They were Marxist in ideology, but strongly anti-Communist. Vienna was known as Red Vienna, and the city was clearly the most socialist in Europe outside the Soviet Union.

Reich, like many psychoanalysts, was a member of the Social Democratic Party. In July 1927, following a scandalous acquittal of some Christian Socials…  that was the dominant conservative political party… some Christian Socials had shot and killed some Social Democrats and got off scot free. Riots spread in Vienna, the Palace of Justice was set afire, and Reich watched first hand as the local police shot into the crowds. Over eighty people were killed and a thousand wounded. Social Democratic police shooting Social Democratic workers in the streets. Furious with the passivity of the Social Democratic leaders and their tendency to attempt compromise with the right-wing Christian Socials, Reich secretly joined the Communist Party.

Active political parties in Austria during the 1920s:
Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Austria Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs
Christian Social Party Christlichsoziale Partei
Communist Party of Austria Kommunistische Partei Österreichs

(You can read all of this in his political autobiography, People in Trouble.)

Wilhelm Reich: People in Trouble, Volume Two of The Emotional Plague of Mankind.
Orgone Institute Press, 1953; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976.

Back to 1929 and Reich’s presentation on prophylaxis, on prevention rather than treatment. In the beginning of that year, together with Communist physician Marie Frischauf, Reich founded the Socialist Society for Sex Counseling and Research (Sozialistische Gesellschaft für Sexualberatung und Sexualforschung), a small group of physicians, educators and lawyers, who gave lectures and provided their own free clinics.

In August of that year Reich spent a month living in Moscow. He lectured, and visited schools and factories. Whatever reservations Reich had–by this time Stalin was well entrenched enough to banish Trotsky, the former head of the Red Army–Reich wrote a very positive account of his study tour, given orally in November, and later published in The Psychoanalytic Movement.

"Die Stellung der Psychoanalyse in der Sowjetunion. Notizen einer Studienreise in Rußland" (The Position of Psychoanalysis in the Soviet Union: Notes from a Study Tour in Russia) was published in  Die Psychoanalytische Bewegung (The Psychoanalytic Movement), Nov/Dec. 1929. In Wilhelm Reich: Sex-Pol Essays: 1929-1934. (New York: Vintage, 1972 and Verso, 2012).

A key feature of this study tour centered on Reich’s optimistic hope that the social revolution would begin the demise of the patriarchal family and with it the end of the engine of neuroses, the Oedipus Complex.

In the notes about his tour he refers to his speech before the Communist Academy, where he attacked the psychoanalytic dogma of universality of the Oedipus Complex:

"Even the Oedipus relationship is not a biological but a social phenomenon, determined by the patriarchal structure of the family."

Reich wrote very much the same thing in his essay from, once again, from 1929, "Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis."

("Dialektischer Materialismus und Psychoanalyse" Unter dem Banner des Marxismus  October 1929. "Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis." Studies on the Left,  1966.)

In that article he cited for the first time the work of Malinowski, whose 1927 Sex and Repression in Savage Society includes an explicit critique of the oedipus complex. Rather than a timeless universal principle of human psychology, Reich asserts that "the Oedipus complex must disappear in a socialist society because its social basis–the patriarchal family–will itself disappear…."

(Bronislaw Malinowski: Sex and Repression in Savage Society. (New York: Meridan Books, 1964; first published in 1927) Part III: Psycho-Analysis and Anthropology)

The patriarchal family structure, the key, the linchpin, the focal point of human misery, and the source of all fascist ideology. Or so Reich firmly believed.

If it were possible to change social conditions, to eliminate the authoritarian role of the father in the family; to eliminate the subservient role of women in the family unit and in society at large; for women and men to be on equal economic footing, equal pay for equal work; if abortion were legal so that parents would be in a better position to plan their families; if children would have equal status whether or not they were conceived within a married unit or outside of marriage–eliminating of so-called illegitimacy; if divorce were as easy as ripping up a piece of paper; if sexuality were embraced for all regardless of age or orientation… there would be no oedipal conflict and no mass neuroses. It was precisely this vision that drew Reich to the Communists, since all of these social ideals were legalized initially after the Russian Revolution.

Abortion: legal; homosexuality: decriminalized; economic parity across gender; marriage: no church weddings–no churches!, instead marriage as simple to signing a card which could later be destroyed.

Sadly, after Lenin’s demise and Stalin’s solidification of his hold on the Communist Party, things changed, dramatically, and by 1936 these socially enlightened policies were whittled away and to a great extent destroyed.

Back to 1929: an important and exciting year in Reich’s deepening social and political vision. As I mentioned, in the very beginning of the year Reich organized his Socialist Society for Sex Counseling and Research.

In that same year he published his Sexual Excitation and Sexual Satisfaction. (Sexualerregung und Sexualbefriedigung. 1929, 66 pp.)

It is the most widely circulated writing by Reich during his life-time; well over 10,000 were distributed. The English version is not yet in print, though there is a fine translation thanks to Dr. Jonathan Koblenzer. I will briefly say something about it, mainly because it gives you a taste of the kind of revolutionary thinking Reich was promoting at the time. The booklet begins with the claim that Sexual misery cannot be alleviated by social programs as long as they remain within the confines of "bourgeois social policy." Sexual distress can only be ended by a successful proletarian revolution–the economic and the sexual go hand in hand:

A consistent analysis of the causes of sexual misery leads in a straight line to a devastating, revolutionary, critique of the social order; the same is true of a consistent analysis of the causes of economic misery. Bourgeois social policy is incapable of addressing poverty, because, objectively speaking, it cannot touch its root origin; indeed,  on the contrary, it disguises the true situation. Similarly, bourgeois sexual reform and so-called "sexual enlightenment" only signify a hopeless attempt to master the constantly growing crisis.

While capitalism is at the heart of sexual misery, the more immediate cause is the bourgeois conception of marriage, legally institutionalized and enforced, with its demands that sexual contact occur only within the marital unit, and where pre-marital and extramarital sexual contact is strictly verboten:

[M]arriage is not a natural phenomenon, but only emerges after the development of private property has advanced to the point that even the sexual connection between two humans can be treated as a commodity. The history of marriage begins with pillage and exchange: women were stolen, bought and sold. Women were the property of men—as they still are in bourgeois society

Here Reich is following Frederick Engels’ The Origins of the Family, which Reich later cites extensively in his 1932 book, The Invasion of Compulsory Sexual Morality.

(Friedrich Engels: Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, 1884; Der Einbruch der Sexualmoral. Zur Geschichte der sexuellen Ökonomie, Berlin, Leipzig, Wien: Verlag für Sexualpolitik, 1932: The Invasion of Compulsory Sexual Morality, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971).)

The bourgeois family, understood to be patriarchal, is not only the source of sexual misery, the oppression of women, and the sexual double standard, it is also the prototype for the fascist state, the place where young people are trained to be "good citizens," to obey those in authority. For Reich, marriage has a political function, as well as an economic and social one, and it is the political function that is

the least acknowledged but certainly not the least important: it is the backbone of the bourgeois family, whose structure becomes the model for the bourgeois state. From an early age, the child absorbs bourgeois ideology. In this ideological factory, the child learns early to cower before the authority of the father, who is the model for all later authority. A dependent youth, crushed by the bonds of the family, becomes the well-behaved bourgeois citizen.

You can find that same phrase, "the ideological factory," in the opening chapter of the original 1933 Mass Psychology of Fascism.

The role of the patriarchal family as the crucible out of which are forged obedient followers of authoritarian government leaders, is one of the key elements of Reich’s analysis of fascism.

I wish we had more time to go into Sexual Excitation and Sexual Satisfaction  in detail, but I do want to quote from the very final paragraphs, in which Reich lays out his demands:

that the young be completely scientifically enlightened about everything about sexual life;
that contraception be distributed free of charge through health insurance;
that the sexual life of unmarried youth be considered in housing allocations;
that the laws against abortion be completely rescinded;
that marriage be able to be dissolved when a partner no longer wants to remain married;
that there be no distinction between the married and unmarried.

"that the young be completely scientifically enlightened about everything about sexual life": Reich tried to do this in both the 1932: The Sexual Struggle of Youth. And the pamphlet The Club of the Chalk Triangle Investigates the Secrets of Grown-Ups. There is a translation by Prof Strick and a German colleague, Manfred Fuckert. What the Sexual Struggle is for adolescents the Chalk Triangle is for prepubescent children. I hope that it too will be published before long.

"that contraception be distributed free of charge through health insurance":
Do I need to point out that this remains a global challenge as well as in the United States of America? The Affordable Care act covers contraception, but now the Trump Administration has asked the Supreme Court to review this aspect of Obamacare in the hope of overturning it. Given the make-up of the Court, it is certainly possible, maybe likely, to have this overturned.

"that the sexual life of unmarried youth be considered in housing allocations":
According to Malinowski Trobriand Islanders maintain common spaces within their villages where teenagers can have privacy for their love making. Do dormitories in college campuses play that role?

"that the laws against abortion be completely rescinded":
The same supreme court that might abolish the affordable care act with reference to contraception is the same Catholic dominated court that, many suspect, will overturn Roe v Wade.

I don’t need to point out just how radical these demands were then and remain today.

Sexual Excitation and Sexual Satisfaction was first published in 1929. It came through four editions, and in 1930 was banned successfully in Germany. This will not be the last of Reich’s books to be banned.

The lecture on prophylaxis was given on 12 December 1929. The very next night, Friday the 13th, Reich spoke before the organizing meeting of the Revolutionary Social Democrats, a left-opposition to the Social Democratic Party. The meeting was attended in a large hall; Reich wrote that two thousand people attended. The police report put it at 1500. Yes, all public events of a political sort in Vienna where carefully monitored by the police, and their logs actually help historians to get a fuller picture of what was happening.

At some point the meeting degenerated into a riot.

You can read about this in People in Trouble,  pp. 116-117.

Two weeks later Reich was expelled from the Social Democratic Party, the first time he was expelled from an organization. There will be others.

The following year, 1930, Reich wrote Sexual Maturity, Abstinence and Marital Morality, which is now available as Part One of The Sexual Revolution. (The Fiasco of Compulsory Sexual Morality)

Once in Berlin–he moved there at the end of 1930–Reich continued his political activism. He gave public speeches, taught classes at the MASCH, The Marxists Workers School, and continued to write books challenging the social status quo. In addition to the book just mentioned he published The Sexual Struggle of Youth, and The Invasion of Compulsory Sexual Morality.

Working along with members of the Communist Party he drafted a pamphlet, Forbidden Love. This widely circulated pamphlet (over 100,000 copies were distributed) was the organizing tool of a Communist front organization, Unified Association for Proletarian Sex-reform and Protection of Motherhood. Einheitsverband für proletarische Sexualreform und Mutterschutz

This is the organization that Reich refers to as his "sexual political organization" in People in Trouble. It was "his" in the sense that the ideology of this organization was drawn from Reich’s writings, but it was not "his" in the sense that he was not its explicit leader. Fortunately for him, but tragically for others, the leaders of the sexpol group were liquidated by the Nazis once Hitler was given "extraordinary powers" following the burning of the Reichstag in February 1933. Reich narrowly escaped that fate.

Returning back to the tension between prevention and treatment, it is worth considering the preface for the first edition of Character Analysis, dated by Reich as January 1933, Berlin. As a reminder, Hitler was made chancellor at the end of that month. In the Preface Reich imagines a serious challenge to his entire enterprise. Character Analysis’s original subtitle was Technique and Fundamentals for Studying and Practicing Analysts.

The challenge:

In a city the size of Berlin, there are millions of neurotic people, people whose psychic structure and capacity for work and pleasure have been severely impaired; every hour of every day fresh thousands of neuroses are produced by family education and social conditions. In view of the present lack of interest in such matters, is there any point in printing detailed material on individual analytic technique, relations between various psychic structures, character dynamics, and similar matters?

Reich’s reply to this challenge:

From a social point of view, the position of individual psychotherapy is a hopeless one…. I have endeavored to demonstrate that neuroses are the results of a home atmosphere that is patriarchal and sexually suppressive; that, moreover, the only prophylaxis worthy of serious consideration is one for the practical implementation of which the present social system lacks every prerequisite; that it is only a thorough turnover of social institutions and ideologies, a turnover that will be dependent upon the outcome of the political struggles of our century, which will create the preconditions for an extensive prophylaxis of neuroses. Hence, it is clear that a prophylaxis of neuroses is out of the question unless it is prepared theoretically; in short, that the study of the dynamic and economic conditions of human structures is its most important prerequisite…. To make a study of human structures in a way that would have relevance for the prophylaxis of neuroses, it is first necessary to perfect our analytic technique…. Hence, the chief concern of psychotherapy, insofar as it wants to prepare itself for the future tasks of the prevention of neuroses, must be to derive a theory of technique and therapy based on the dynamic and economic processes of the psychic mechanism…. Thus, we are concerned with the technique of individual analysis not because we have such a high regard for individual therapy, but because, without a good technique, we cannot gain the insights which we need for the more comprehensive goal of research on the human structure.

When I read these passages, I see a difference from the earlier assessments in the 1929 passages from Sexual Excitation and Sexual Satisfaction I quoted earlier. There I see an assumption that it in short order the kinds of changes that occurred after the 1917 Revolution are at hand. But by 1933 Reich is clearly thinking that this kind of reform is not about to happen anytime soon. The rapid rise of the National Socialist Workers Party, i.e., the Nazis made that clear.

By this time, in 1933, Reich was finished with the Communist party, but he still toyed with the idea of finding a different political party, one committed to a truly liberatory socialism. In October, while living in Copenhagen, he turned to Trotsky. Through letters he introduced himself, sketched out his sexual political work in Germany and the difficulties he had with the German Communist Party. He noted that he was still a member of the Party, but anticipated his expulsion, which in fact came in November 1933. Since "the Communist Party cannot perform the sexual-political work," and since "without the support of a political party it cannot develop to its fullest potential," Reich solicited Trotsky’s interest in collaboration. (He had already sent Trotsky a copy of Mass Psychology.) "I’m asking for your opinion, and, in case of your fundamental agreement, for your political and organizing help…." Voicing doubt about any future possible unification of the various factions of the Communist Party, he confessed that he could not "yet form a clear opinion about the founding of a new party." Though Reich was about to separate from the Communist Party proper, he was still looking for a political home, a longing that would continue for some time.

At one point in People in Trouble (204) Reich offers an explanation as to why he stayed with the Communist Party long after he came to see the rigidity of its leadership and the problems with its policies. "Against my better judgment, I myself clung fast to the organization to which I had belonged and for which I had fought. The party became my second home…"

Trotsky did not propose that Reich and he form a new party and Reich did not go on to join any other political party. The closest he came was to the circle of those who identified with his sex-pol work, and followed his publication, the Journal of Political Psychology and Sex-economy and its offshoot, a privately circulated Bulletin.

(Zeitschrift für Politische Psychologie und Sexualökonomie, 1934-1938. Mitteilungsblatt der Sexpol, 1936-1938.)

In 1935 he published anonymously The Masses and the State (Masse und Staat. Zur Frage der Rolle der Massenstruktur in der sozialistischen Bewegung) which is an open attack on Stalinism and, in 1936 he wrote, Sexuality in the Cultural Struggle. On the Socialist Restructuring of Humanity. The original title was "Family and Sexuality in the Cultural Struggle," and when this book was translated into English in 1945, its new title was The Sexual Revolution: Toward a Self-Governing Character Structure. Note the change from a "Socialist Restructuring" to a "Self-governing character structure."

Back in 1935, once Reich was lecturing at Oslo University in Norway, he began his first direct laboratory experiments summarized in the article, "Experimental Results on the Electrical Function of Sexuality and Anxiety." You can find the article in this book.

(The Bioelectrical Investigation of Sexuality and Anxiety, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982.)

This led to his biological investigations which gave rise to his discovery of the orgone, all of which I defer to Prof James Struck who will share about this and much more after lunch.

At the end of 1936, Reich wrote of the tension he felt between his longing to make a difference on the political realm and his new and exciting scientific empirical research. In a diary entry dated 14 December 1946 Reich wrote,

"I am confronted with the question: Can the real sexual-political task at hand be combined with my scientific work on a long-term basis? It is obvious that my [scientific] work is more important" (Reich, Beyond, 1994, 84).

A number of factors led Reich to this dilemma. By this point he had cultured bions–again I leave that to Prof Strick. Also, he had acquired a state-of-the-art microscope that permitted the high magnification necessary for observing the inner motility of bions. At the same time we was in conflict with his partner/wife, Elsa Lindenberg, concerning his political work. At one point Elsa "flew into a rage over ‘filthy Sexpol.’" The following day, he told Elsa that sexpol would be the "end of all politicizing." That diary entry ends:."The death crisis for Sexpol has begun."

Reich’s final diary entry for the year, dated 26 December, reads:

The temptation to put an end to all of this filthy politics is too great. But then what was the purpose of these fifteen years?

To me it sounds reminiscent of the earlier passage about his clinging to the Communist Party well after he saw it to be hopeless.

With the new year, 1937, Reich gave up editing his journal for political psychology and sexeconomy, turning over the editorial duties to Sigurd Hoel.

That year Reich wrote an addition to the 1932 Sexual Struggle of Youth. It was printed as a loose leaf insert to copies of the booklet and printed in his Zeitschrift. In it he completely disassociates himself with the word "Communism." Not Marxism, but Communism.

And in 1938, again in his journal, he announced a new version of the Sexual Struggle of Youth to be called "The Sexual Rights of Youth." You can read it in the volume The Children of the Future.

(The Children of the Future: On the Prevention of Sexual Pathology, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983.)

The Sexual Rights of Youth is a much shorter version of what you might call the "Soviet version" of The Sexual Struggle of Youth, but the new Sexual Rights of Youth still includes the following passage:

This sexual suppression of the children by their parents, to which is added the intellectual suppression by the school, the spiritual stultification by the Church, and finally the material suppression and exploitation by employer of employee, is the primary source of youth people’s emotional and sexual misery.

215, Children of the Future.

With its reference to economic "material suppression and exploitation" some of the old Marxist ideas remain. And those Marxist concepts, with a twist, get full blown in The Natural Organization of Work in Work Democracy published the following year.

(Die natürliche Organisation der Arbeit in der Arbeitsdemokratie. Oslo: Sexpol-Verlag, (Jan.) 1939, 83 pp

This pamphlet, the first part of which can now be read in Orgonomic Functionalism #7, includes a new concept of democracy as well as a new version of fascism. Previously, in the 1933  Mass Psychology of Fascism, Reich refers to fascism as the ideology of particular groups, like the National Socialists, i.e., the Nazis, or the original Fascist Party in Italy.

But in The Natural Organization of Work, fascism is seen as a characterlogical feature rather than a political movement: "It exists in our very being."

In man’s fear of happiness, which turns into romantic dreams; in his helplessness and irresponsibility; in the education of life by irrational feelings and actions; in the art of lying, fraud and circumvention, whose peak is reached in diplomacy and politics. Fascism is the abomination of human structure in the form of revolutionary ecstasy, a compromise between the most sacred yearning and brutality formed in millenniums of human oppression…. Fascist mentality and sentimentality manifests themselves … in the pedagogical arrogance of helpless and … authoritarian teachers and parents

That way of seeing fascism, as a characterological structure rather than a political ideology, calls into question the efficacy, the viability, of any political activity. It is in the Natural Organization of Work that Reich’s banner phrase, which you can still see in the conference center at Orgonon, Work, not Politics! occurs.  In the Natural Organization he writes:

The most essential demand of the new movement will be: Make an end, finally make an end to all politics! Let’s start real work for our social life!!

And shortly thereafter::

The conception of socialism has altered; for it no longer means a party – "conviction" but practical, real, and honest work for the tasks of life.

We started with preventing neuroses by a radical change aligned with revolutionary left politics on the family but now, with the end of politics, how are we going to change the roots of what Reich soon after came to call the emotional plague? It is not as if patriarchal authority has faded away. Sadly it is all too prevalent. Do I dare I offer you a few reminders about the family?

According to the national coalition against domestic violence, In the United States, an average of 20 people experience intimate partner physical violence every minute. This equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually.

According to the Brookings Institute, More than 70% of Americans agreed in 2012 that, "it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking."

Spousal abuse, child abuse, both are evident, and if we widened our scope, not from the US or Europe but globally, all this is clear, sadly clear.  I would suggest that part of the ideology behind this is conservative religions, with the spare the rod poisonous pedagogy and the demand that males "protect their women" by ruling the roost. And on top of that all, every dominant religious systems  continue to sow confusion about sexuality.

In the original 1933 Mass Psychology of Fascism, roughly half of the text was devoted to the harmful role of religion. Chapter Six in the original is entitled "The Church as the International Sex-political Arm of Capitalism." Following Marx, Reich argues that religion serves to divert attention away from one’s present-day misery with its promise of eternal reward, but he goes further, maintaining that psychoanalysis has proven that religious experiences have the same effect on the autonomic system as do drugs:

This is in accord with Marx’s statement that religion acts on the masses like opium. This is not a mere simile. Psychoanalysis [in his later version he replaced psychoanalysis with vegetotherapy: p. 130]

demonstrated that the religious experience in fact sets in motion the same processes in the autonomic life apparatus as an opiate. They are processes of excitation in the sexual apparatus which cause conditions similar to intoxication and which call for orgastic gratification.

Opiate of the masses confirmed!   

As for patriarchy, in this same section of Mass Psychology of Fascism Reich writes:

Both patriarchal family attitudes and mystical attitudes are the basic mass-psychological elements of fascist and imperialist nationalism. Thus the fact that mystical education prepares the soil for fascism is demonstrated on a mass-psychological scale when a social crisis sets the masses in motion.

A social crisis: in the later translation crisis is replaced by catastrophe. The crisis, the catastrophe facing us today: Science is irrelevant in the face of religious dogmatism.

Over a third of evangelical Christians say there is "no solid evidence" that climate change is happening. Others acknowledge the reality of a warming planet but see it as part of God’s plan, who is now showing us signs that the end-times are upon us. If the apocalypse is around the corner or already has begun, why bother?

If we are to have any hope of addressing the climate crisis, the catastrophe, we need all of our intelligence and scientific acumen. But here, in the 21st century, we are still having to fight on behalf of evolutionary theory over and against creationist religious dogma.

According to the National Law Review:

The Trump administration, the most notoriously anti-science administration in modern memory, has only added fuel to the creationist fire. With multiple high-ranking cabinet members being outspoken creationists, state legislatures and individual teachers have been reinvigorated in their efforts to push forward religious legislation that denies accepted evolutionary science. However, this surge of anti-evolution and pro-creationist sentiment has the potential to have an enormous negative impact on students and the American educational system as a whole.

Reich warned of this in the Mass Psychology of Fascism. There he wrote of the conflict between religion and science, and the quote "withholding of scientific findings from the masses of the population," using evolution as a case in point. He refers to the Scopes "monkey" trial in the U.S. an example–the trial occurred in 1925.  Reich wrote that the lack of a proper scientific education encourages "humility, lack of criticism, renunciation and hope for happiness in a hereafter, belief in authority, recognition of the holiness of asceticism, and the inviolability of the authoritarian family" (Reich, Mass, 1946, 147). He reports that during his Moscow visit in 1929 he was told that "the only organized counter-revolutionary groups were the religious sects" (Reich, Mass, 1946, 151).

How can one best counteract religious mysticism? You cannot argue with it, since it isn’t based on reason. The only way to loosen the grip of mysticism in an individual is to get that person to develop "sexual consciousness," an awareness of the contradictions between the yoke of religiously enforced conventional morality and one’s deepest desires. He reports, based on his own therapeutic practice, that as patients becomes aware of their inhibiting unconscious beliefs and fears, the hold of mysticism lessens. "The strengthening of the personality dissolves the God-fixation which is a continuation of the father-fixation" (Reich, Mass, 1946, 155).

But now we are back to individual therapy, and it just doesn’t seem enough. When I first began orgone therapy as an undergraduate, my therapist, Dr. Sobey, would say, shaking his head,  that I was a freedom peddler and that I needed to let go trying to save humanity. More than once he said, quoting Reich himself, "weed your own garden."

All fine and good: I do. I live a good life. I take care of my actual garden, my environment.

But I still long for ways to help myself and others: selfishly, I do have grandchildren who will have to deal with the problems we have left before them. Would their reading Reich and understanding Grandpa Philip’s way of thinking help them? I don’t know, but I kind of doubt it. Maybe you’ll have some thoughts as to how to make the world better through work and not politics. Thanks for listening.

This post was written by:

- who has written 11 posts on The Journal of Psychiatric Orgone Therapy.

Philip W. Bennett earned a PhD from New York University in the early 1970s and was a professor of philosophy for many years after. He is now retired from academic life. Bennett has spoken on aspects of Reich's work both nationally and internationally, and has published numerous articles. He is now finishing a book on Reich's social and political work entitled From Communism to Work Democracy.

3 Responses to “On Reich’s Social and Political Development: Treatment, Cure, and the Patriarchal Family”

  1. Salomon Melikian says:

    A thought provoking article. Good analysis and informative read.

  2. Francesco Zito says:

    I.ll do only short observations…
    – With the passage from..political solution to work solution…we have the..definitely end..for people in orgonomy..to act in conservative or liberal mode..in republican (party) or democratic (party) mode..Socialist..communist..progressist.. leftist…belong to mechanicist thought..with mystical feeling when become extremist….and emotional plague when become..red fascism.

    Conservative..reactionary..belong to mystical thought
    With…emotional plague..in his transition… toward black fascism.
    The guide for people in orgonomy is not more Marx..is the knowledge of the armor…is the only tool available to apply.. functional thought..on the social scene.
    Another observation is on ..how to coltivate our garden…and in the same time..working on the social scene. First…for our garden..in my feeling..is to be’ sincere..with our..function of orgasm .. in our intimate life…second…to create small ..protected communities..where children can enjoy genital level.

    Some actual observations on people in Orgonomy and theyr actual capacity to go behind.. theyr leftist or rightist belonging.Appear clear that there is a group who remain inside…the old leftist paradigm…and this is a serious problem…because..push them to accept..level of confusion in theyr acceptance of different identities of sexual gender (lgbtq mouvement).
    Exist another group..who is accused to be’ conservative…pro Trump…This is the old political mode to use Orgonomy. How we can go toward the children of the future…if also orgonomistes..use political solutions…and not…the knowledge of the armor?
    Last observations on myself..i grow in the authoritarian are…and live my adolescence in the…antiauthoritarian age. My personal therapy with Dr. Cammarella was..very helpful..to look inside my armor and to search to management.. my liberal syndrome. I have no problem to accept the work of Baker on sociopolitical characters…and I appreciate the development of Konia. My valutation come from..the knowledge of my armor…without this..we cannot stop to ..fight..like old political parties. People in orgonomy…are pulsating energy..not political group.

  3. Marco says:

    Thank you for this most interesting article with some new excerpts from Reich’s writings that I knew nothing about , especially:

    “This sexual suppression of the children by their parents, to which is added the intellectual suppression by the school, the spiritual stultification by the Church, and finally the material suppression and exploitation by employer of employee, is the primary source of youth people’s emotional and sexual misery”.

    That pretty well describes the environment I was born into, whose suppression I did not feel while a child, all of it unconscious. I started to feel it while an adolescent, and as Reich wrote: “revolted against my taskmaskers”… my Italian fascist mother first and foremost, some teachers, and many employers.It always makes me laugh when I hear people talk so simplisticly about “getting an education” so you can get a good “job”, and all the rest of their mindless nonsense. Yes, but : WHAT KIND OF AN EDUCATION? and then working how, in what frame of mind, for whom, under what conditions? All around me I see people going through the motions, like zombies sometimes: alienated work in an alienated society . This vast impersonal soulless mechanism called “civilisation”. MOLOCH, Allen Ginsberg called it. And all this stupid virtuous talk about “HARD WORK” everywhere.

    Anyways.. I also appreciated the references to the Marxist intuition of religion as the opium of the people. Reich put that intuition on a sound scientific basis, it seems to me. And so did Artur Janov in his last book “Beyond Belief”, which explores the the source of all irrational beliefs, ideas as literally opiates:

    BEYOND BELIEF by Arthur Janov

    This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.

    “Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways�and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.

    Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”

    One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”

    Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”

    Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

    Marco Ermacora

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