In October 1957, agents of the U.S. government went to the Orgone Institute Press in New York City; they seized all the books; they loaded the books into a comandeered garbage truck; they drove to the Vandivoort Street incinerator; they burned the books.Cloudbusting:So, you want to build a cloudbuster? James DeMeo, Ph.D.Polish DIY instructions, videos and texts in EnglishInstructions and some photo reports in English.Brief general theoretical information in English, subject links to instructions Orgone Biophysical Research LabSingapore, the operator here, the biolog Robert McCullough, was Reich's personal assistant.Announcement of the call of rain in Imperial London College
, the page of the author of the experiment....more cloudbusters...
This was not "back in the dark ages”; it was only a few yeas ago. It did not happen in a fascist or Marxist dictatorship but in a nation whose constitution specifically forbids that pyromaniac way of disposing of unpopular ideas. And it was not instigated by religious fanatics but by those "scientific" fanatics whom J.B. Priestly dubbed the Citadel.
The books were by Dr. Wilhelm Reich, a former student of Freud and a political radical. Dr. Reich had been a Communist briefly and a Socialist for a while and eventually developed his own Ideology, called Work Democracy, which can be briefly described as more-or-less similar to the Guild Socialism of Chesterton, the Anarchism of Kropotkin and the Libertarian Marxism currently fashionable among rebels against orthodox Marxism. Dr. Reich also believed that ail Ideologies, including his own, were unworkable until a Sexual Revolution of psychological (not political) nature occurred and people were no longer ashamed of their bodily functions.
Dr. Reich annoyed the American Medical Association by taking extreme "psychosomatic" position, holding that almost all illness was caused by repression, in both the Freudian and political senses – i.e. that domesticated primates had been trained to a kind of masochistic submissiveness that literally made them sick, both “physically” and “mentally.” Reich also annoyed the powerful American Psychoanalytical Association by claiming that Freudian therapy did not cure anything in itself and needed to be supplemented by what is now called “body work”–various techniques to relax the muscles and normalize the breathing. Worst of all, he mortally offended the Citadel by insisting that all nuclear energy (even in “peaceful” industry) was unhealthy for humans, and, to ensure his unpopularity, he directly challenged the New Fundamentalism by alleging the existence of a new energy characteristic of living beings, which he called orgone, which was suspiciously like the “vital force” posited by anti-materialists such as Bergson and Bernard Shaw.
The propaganda war against Reich had been led by Martin Gardner, a Scientific Fundamentalist whom we shall meet many times in these pages. Mr. Gardner has an infallible method of recognizing real science and of recognizing pseudo-science. Real science is what agrees with his Idol and pseudo-science is what challenges that Idol Colin Wilson has written “I wish I could be as sure of anything as Martin Gardner is of everything.” Not all the Popes of the 20th Century collectively have dared to issue as many absolute dogmas as Mr. Gardner; no man has had such superb faith in his own utter correctness since Oliver Cromwell.
Mr. Gardner's papal bulls against the Reichian heresy are very interesting, and very typical of fundamentalism when enraged, in that one finds a strong, very strong implication that Dr. Reich was insane and hallucinating, although this is never stated directly and unambiguously. It is even possible for a defender of Mr. Gardner to claim that that sentence is unfair, because Gardner never explicitly said Reich was as crazy as a dancing mouse – he merely says, e.g. that Reich'a books sound “like comic opera.” Nonetheless, the suggestion of mental unbalance is heavily present in everything Gardner wrote about Dr. Reich. This suggestion is almost always implied in fundamentalist diatribes against those who do not accept their Idol. One might say that they are not sure you must be crazy to disagree with them but they strongly suspect it.
To the best of my knowledge, having followed the literature of the Reich controversy for nearly 30 years, there is no place in Gardner writings where he claims that he repeated Dr. Reich's experiments and obtained results contrary to Reich's claims. As an agnostic, I suppose it is possible that Mr. Gardner did make this assertion somewhere, but if he did so, he must have so asserted in a very obscure periodical, with a very low circulation, and the reports of his experiments have not been reprinted in any publication findable by me. It appears, from available sources, that Mr. Gardner did not conduct any experiments to test Dr. Reich's claims. It appears that Mr. Gardner had or thought he had, the same kind of knowledge as Prof. Munge – he knew what was possible and what was impossible, so he did not have to investigate.
While Mr. Gardner, and several others, denounced Dr. Reich in the media, members of the American Medical Association and American Psychoanalytical Association pressured the government to prosecute Reich as a crank or a “charlatan.” Dr. Reich, either out of delusions of grandeur or out of principled commitment to libertarian ideals – take your choice – refused to admit that the government had any right to pass judgment on scientific theories, and as a result was convicted only of contempt of court. Nonetheless, the government followed this with the book-burning, and with the destruction by ax of equipment in Dr. Reich's, research laboratory, and then threw him in prison, where he died of a heart attack after a few months. Reich's co-worker Dr. Michael Silvert, subsequently committed suicide.
It would be comforting to think Reich was a nut, a raving cuckoo, as Gardner implies. That is the sane, conservative attitude to take. It is a bit unnerving to think that books that get burned in democratic nations might have something valuable in them, like the books that get burned in undemocratic nations.
Still – burning books is a bit thick. It leaves a bad smell, to those of us raised on Burke and Jefferson and Mill.
And Reich was not the only victim of the New Inquisition. There have been others. We will meet them as we go along.
The New Idol might be as blind and savage as the old?
Oh, no: I admitted that was only melodramatic rhetoric.
Just suppose Dr. Reich was even partly or occasionally right- After all even a stopped clock is right twice a day. But the Citadel burned all of his books, all. Thirty years of scientific research dumped into a flaming garbage incinerator, a burnt offering to the Moloch of orthodoxy. The books included The Impulsive Personality, The Function of the Orgasm, Character Analysis, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, The Sexual Revolution, People in Trouble, The Murder of Christ, The Cancer Biopathy, and others. Thirty and years of reports on psychotherapeutic practise; sociological observations of Nazi and Communist party members and their work situations and family relations; laboratory research on bio-electrical charge and discharge in orgasm; clinical studies of the psychology of cancer and asthma patients; dozens of alleged experiments with the alleged “orgone” energy. All of it burned, consumed.
I have no idea how much of that 30-some years of work was sound, how much unsound. I know that the Reich orgasm formula of four stages of physiological excitation and relaxation has been confirmed by Masters and Johnson, and that his analysis of the fascist personality has been widely accepted by other psychologists, and that many of the therapeutic techniques he pioneered are widely in use in the United States – such as teaching the patient to scream and weep and strike out with the fists. I do not, from that, deduce that all of Reich's ideas were correct. I think it might take perhaps two decades of work, by several independent scientific groups, to sort out how much of the “orgone” theory is sound and how much it is perhaps as loony as Gardner and the fundamentalist materialists claim. I see only one certitude in this whole tragedy of book-burning and independent intellect caged in a prison:
Thou shalt not blaspheme the new Idol.
I must emphasize that neither Mr. Gardner nor any of the other Fundamentalists who write diatribes against Dr. Reich were responsible for the book-burning, which was entirely the responsibility of the scientists and bureaucrats working for the U.S. government itself – the muscle of the Citadel, as it were. Nonetheless, the Citadel as a whole looked on, unmoved. Only 18 psychiatrists in the whole country signed a protest against the book burning.
Mr. Gardner himself, in the revised edition of one of his books – Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, Dover, New York, 1957 – expresses repugnance at the burning of Reich's works.
Nonetheless, the New Inquisition rolled along. None of Dr. Reich's books could legally be printed in the U.S. until 1967. Those who would have liked to have formed an independent opinion of the scientific issues were legally unable to see or touch or even smell the verboten pages.
And the inquisitorial spirit continues today. While many psychologists admit some soundness in some of Reich's ideas, he is not “respectable” to the Citadel in general, and biologists and physicists never mention his alleged “orgone,” except to sneer at it. This attitude survives despite that fact that nobody has yet published, in a major scientific journal – or any small journal known to me – experiments that refute or contradict Reich's claims. The Citadel feels no need to test Reich's ideas, it seems. The intuitive certainty of Gardner and Prof. Munge appears to be widespread, almost omnipresent, in the Citadel. Everybody there “knows” Dr. Reich was wrong, so nobody bothers to investigate the matter.
There have been a few heretics, of course, but they have been ignored.
In 1962 appeared A New Method of Weather Control by Charles Kelley, privately printed. Kelley had been working for the U.S. Weather Bureau when Dr. Reich, just before his imprisonment, wrote to them that he would produce a rain storm in Maine to demonstrate the existence of his officially non-existent “orgone” energy.
The rain storm happened.
We have already explained that, of course – even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Besides, it was only coincidence. (Remember that phrase. It is the self-hypnotic chant by which the New Inquisition banishes all evidence it does not like. We will hear it often.)From the book "New Inquisition" by Robert Anton Wilson
But Kelley was intrigued by the man who made a storm with non-existent energy. He repeated Dr. Reich's weather-control experiments. His book has photos of his alleged results. The photos that conclusively prove that Dr. Reich's experiments work, or else Kelley is good at faking photos – as all photos that challenge the dogmas of the New Inquisition are by definition fakes, of course –
Still – the impulse to sin and heresy is in all of us – well, except for such stalwarts of Faith as Gardner and Munge – and some will dare to wonder: suppose Kelley did not fake those photos?
That’s the way the powers of darkness seduce us. The path to hell is easy. You think a thought like that and the next thing – you are wondering about UFOs or “ESP” or even, God help you, astrology. You might end up meditating and eating vegetables.
The Reich controversy is not dead, even though the books were burned and the man was buried. Every few years a new book comes out by somebody, some spawn of the devil, who claims that, like Kelley, he repeated Dr. Reich's experiments and got positive results. In Orgone, Reich and Eros, sociologist Erik Mann describes his experiments with an orgone blanket that worked, or seemed to. In Love and Orgasm, Alexander Lowen, M.D. cautionsly uses the vague expression “bio-energy” instead of the verboten “orgone,” but says his work with patients confirms Reich's claims. In Orgone and Me, actor Orson Bean says he could see the damned “orgone” after being treated by an orgonomic physician, Dr. Baker. In The Cosmic Pulse of Life, retired Naval officer Trevor Constable has photos that either confirm Reich or show that Constable, like Kelley, knows how to fake photos.
They're all hallucinating, of course, except the ones with photos, who are frauds. Of course; of course. Knowing that, by definition, we don't have to go to the trouble of checking their claims.
Still – few may have growing doubts at this point.
I don't know. I am not particularly interested, here, in how much of Reich was right or wrong. I present the Reich case as one illustration of how the current Idol, the orthodoxy of biological materialism, maintains itself. It does so all the way all orthodoxies and Idols have always maintained themselves. We will see more of this when we come to the case of Dr. Sheldrake, the English biologist who rediscovered the damned “orgone”, or something a lot like it, and called it the “morphogenetic field.”
(warning, censured pirate links: one
- please never use it)Wilhelm Reich MuseumContinuing Orgone Research Community