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Dr. Victor M. Sobey


In the past we have published videos and transcribed a seminar lecture given in 1993 by the late Dr. Victor M. Sobey, M.D., a student of Wilhelm Reich. The Institute for the Study of the Work of Wilhelm Reich coordinated these seminars, which the orgonomist Dr. Harry Lewis moderated. David Silver, a dedicated supporter of Wilhelm Reich’s work, recorded the videos. In consideration of Dr. Sobey’s significant contribution to orgonomy we felt compelled to present his biography.  Lewis, who was a long-time student, has composed and offered the following biography of Sobey, who died in 1995 of lymphoma.

— Stephan Simonian, MD.

 

Victor M. Sobey, M.D. came to the field of neuropsychiatry through serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Second World War. During the years of 1943 to 1946, Sobey practiced neurology and psychiatry at several military hospitals including Walter Reed. He had made the rank of Captain by the time he was honorably discharged from the army in 1946. It was during the following year, in 1947, that Sobey first encountered the work of the psychiatrist, scientist and revolutionary researcher in psychosomatic medicine and human sciences, Dr. Wilhelm Reich. Sobey worked closely with Reich from 1947 until Reich’s death in 1957.

In the years following the death of Dr. Reich and the destruction of the institutions and publications Reich had established and defended, Dr. Sobey maintained an independent private practice in Orgone Therapy. With Sidney Handelman, M.D., Dr. Sobey also established scientific laboratory to research the Reich Blood Test. Throughout the remainder of his career, Sobey trained a group of clinicians in the clinical practice and science of orgonomy.

Victor M. Sobey was born and raised in a working class, rural background. He grew up in Solvay, an upstate New York suburb, and worked his way through college at Syracuse University and then at The Chicago Medical School. His down-to-earth manner was suited to the work of Dr. Reich because of its inherent simplicity. “It just made sense,” he was known to say, of Orgone Therapy. He liked that it could be studied and tested and it was shown to be effective and based in the fundamental functions of nature. Sobey stayed close to Dr. Reich throughout the legal proceedings which lead to Reich’s imprisonment.  He was also witness to the subsequent incineration, in 1956, of all of Dr. Reich’s books and articles. It was Dr. Sobey’s painful job to be present while the U.S. Marshals confiscated all printed material that was later burned an the incinerator at Gansevoort and Hudson Streets in Manhattan. He never forgot that experience. “I felt like people who, when they are to be executed, are made to dig their own graves first and are then shot and thrown in,” he later recalled. He had fought against the Nazis in the war, only to find himself present at a book burning, allow to happen in his own hometown, in America.

Dr Sobey described this entire experience in a letter.

“(We) felt like people who, when they are to be executed, are made to dig their own graves first and are then shot and thrown in.  We carried box after box of the literature.  No accurate check was taken of the amount, but it filled the truck….After loading was completed, the truck went to the Gansevoort Incinerator at Gansevoort and Hudson Streets.  It dumped its load of books into the fire, and it was done.”  Dr. Sobey added at the end of his report, “….the burning of these books is not the whole issue but is only one aspect in the murder of the truth.”


Dr. Sobey was first and foremost a clinician and teacher. He never felt comfortable writing and did not particularly like to lecture formally. He was most at ease with conversational and casual interactions, where there could be active and to discuss ideas. The breadth of his knowledge and experience was always found in his response to questions or problems with which he was presented. In the few hours of taped seminars that are available to proponents of Reich, Sobey is most natural when he is responding to direct questions where he is able to talk about his direct experiences; both in practice and in a historical context.

Victor M. Sobey died on June 5, 1995 of heart failure while undergoing treatment for lymphoma. Today his work is carried on by a small group of students, who have continued to practice and study. He felt that it would take many years before Dr. Reich’s work would be openly and fairly evaluated. While always keeping in mind his experience as a witness to Reich’s persecution, Victor M. Sobey passed on his knowledge; “so that the record would be kept straight,” and for the few who might care.

 

Dr. Harry Lewis.

Institute for the Study of the Work of Wilhelm Reich

March, 20ll — New York City.

 

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A HYBRID IN-PERSON/ONLINE CONFERENCE – AUGUST 2 TO 5, 2022

The Living Body: Wilhelm Reich’s Influence on Contemporary Psychotherapies

 

In pursuing the development of psychosomatic medicine and an energetic model of health which respected the importance of psyche and soma equally, Wilhelm Reich created the foundation for what ultimately came to be known as the fields of Body Psychotherapy, Somatic Psychology and others.

Building upon the conference we presented in the summer of 2021, Wilhelm Reich and Psychoanalysis, the goal of this conference is to map the field of body-centered therapy today. Speakers from the Americas, Europe and Australia, representing Reich’s Orgone Therapy as well as a variety of schools which are heirs to Reich such as Radix, Bioenergetics, Biodynamic Therapy, Biosynthesis, Gestalt, Navarro, Core Energetics and other modalities based in important ways on his approach, will present and describe their respective theories, training processes and therapeutic methods.

Historians will present an overview of Reich’s evolution from psychoanalysis to character analysis, to the more body-centered character analytic vegetotherapy, and beyond.

By exploring this field through the common denominator, the theories and techniques developed by Wilhelm Reich, we hope to generate interaction and exchanges and highlight the similarities, differences and relationships between traditions.

With so many schools of therapy represented, there are bound to be some differences of opinion about theory and practice. By bringing them together, we hope to give participants a comprehensive overview of the field and build bridges between individuals and groups who have much in common and might benefit from direct, respectful interaction with one another.

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Wilhelm Reich – Founder of Orgone Therapy

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