For refusing to obey a U.S. Pure Food and Drug Administration injunction to cease experimentation with cosmic “orgone” energy and UFOs, Wilhelm Reich was sentenced to prison, where, eight months later, he died.
The discoveries, harassment, trial, and final silencing of Wilhelm Reich stretched over some three decades. Many of Reich's scientific writings, including books that are considered classics in medicine, psychoanalysis, sociology, and natural science, were condemned by the Pure Food and Drug Administration.
Reich was born March 24, 1897, in imperial Austria. In 1918 he entered the University of Vienna, where he completed the six-year course for a medical degree in four years, graduating in 1922. While still in medical school he attained membership in the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society under Professor Sigmund Freud.
Reich was acknowledged as a brilliant new light on the psychoanalytic horizon. From 1924 to 1930 he was the director of the Seminar for Psychoanalytic Therapy and first clinical assistant at Freud's Psychoanalytic Polyclinic in Vienna. In his early thirties, in addition to doing research into the social causation of neuroses, Reich founded and directed mental hygiene consultation centers in various districts in Vienna and Berlin. From 1934 to 1939 he lectured on biophysics at the Psychological Institute of the University of Oslo, Norway, and did research on his discovery of the biological and cosmic energy that he named “orgone” energy.
In August 1939 Reich transferred his laboratory to Forest Hills, New York, and moved to the United States. From 1939 to 1941 he was associate professor of medical psychology at the New School for Social Research, New York City. In 1942 he founded the Orgone Institute on a 280-acre estate in Rangeley, Maine. The home for the new science of orgonomy was appropriately named “Orgonon.” Reich's students and friends established the Wilhelm Reich Foundation in Maine in 1949 to preserve his work and safeguard his discovery of the primordial, mass-free, cosmic orgone energy—the same energy Reich later claimed propels the UFOs that are visiting our planet.
As a young psychoanalyst, Reich searched for the energy (Freud called it “libido”) behind the neurotic behavior of his patients. What is it, he asked, that moves a patient to feel and to express emotion? Through experimentation Reich discovered a bioelectrical charge at the skin surface of a human being during periods of pleasure, and he noted a diminution or absence of this charge during anxiety. Later experimentation convinced him that this energy is not electrical, but rather a specific biological, organismic energy (hence the name “orgone”) that is the life energy per se.
Through years of careful investigation, Reich was able to demonstrate the existence of orgone energy in many ways and to concentrate the energy in his invention, the orgone-energy accumulator (1940). Reich demonstrated the existence of the cosmic orgone energy visually, thermically, electroscopically, by way of his “field meter,” and with a Geiger counter. During the period of his greatest productivity, more than a score of topranking medical doctors and scientists in the United States and abroad published verification of his discoveries in scientific bulletins and journals. Even the great physicist Albert Einstein confirmed Reich's basic temperature experiment, objectifying the existence of the orgone energy in a letter to Reich dated February 7, 1941.
In 1950, with the advent of the Korean War, Reich prepared his laboratory to help in the war effort. At that time he worked out his famous Oranur Experiment, in which he investigated the possible antinuclear effects orgone energy might have on nuclear energy. The Oranur Experiment led Reich to the discovery of certain noxious “DOR” clouds (clouds containing “Deadly Orgone” energy), which he believed to be responsible for widespread planetary drought and desertification. Reich also concluded that UFOs were responsible for the “cosmic offal” contained in the typically black and nauseating DOR clouds, and that, in addition to planetary drought, DOR was causing worldwide disease epidemics.
Reich's search for a means to rid the skies over Orgonon of DOR clouds led to the invention of his “cloud-buster,” with which he succeeded in producing and stopping rain. Subsequently, the cloud-buster became the “space gun” used on the fateful night when contact was made with extraterrestrial craft hovering over his laboratory.
According to Reich and his associates, this contact with luminous objects in the sky first took place on May 12, 1954, between 9:40 and 10:45 P.M. During this period, Reich contended, men on Earth saw, for the first time in history, two “Stars” to the west fade out several times when cosmic energy was drawn from them by means of the cloud-buster. The shock of this experience on Reich and his staff was so great that they did not attempt to repeat such action until October 10, 1954. The reason for their hesitation was fear that they might precipitate an interplanetary war by their experimentation.
In an injunction dated March 19, 1954, and signed by John D. Clifford Jr., federal district judge for the District of Maine, the rure Food and Drug Administration claimed that orgone energy did not exist. In brief, the FDA injunction implied that Reich was little more than a quack, that he claimed he could cure all kinds of diseases, from cancer to the common cold, and that the public should be protected from his nefarious schemes. Among the many publications by Reich listed in the injunction as dealing with the “care, mitigation, prevention or treatment of disease conditions” were The Mass Psychology of Fascism; The Sexual Revolution; Character Analysis; and The Murder of Christ. Reich's defenders pointed out that none of these books claims to cure anything.
From the first, Reich's position was that of an eminent and responsible scientific researcher who believed that matters of science belong in a laboratory, not a courtroom. At no time, either before, during, or after the trial, did the FDA provide any scientific evidence to contradict the findings of either Reich or his associates. The agency persisted, however, and finally won the case by default when Reich refused to appear in court as a “defendant” in matters about which, he claimed, the FDA knew nothing.
Reich refused to obey the FDA injunction, which he termed unlawful and which he considered to have been obtained by fraud and deceit. He asserted that his research was too important to be stopped by procedures that had no basis in truth and fact. In his response to the injunction he wrote: “Scientific matters cannot possibly ever be decided upon in court. They can only be clarified by prolonged, faithful, bona-fide observations in friendly exchange of opinion, never by litigation. The sole purpose of the complainant is to entangle ergonomic basic research in endless costly legal procedures.” Reich refused FDA agents access—ordered under the injunction—to his research files and notes, nor would he reveal his antigravity equations. Brought into court in chains, Reich then determined “to get the total infamy on the Court Records.”
A very unusual aspect of the case against Reich was the fact that Peter Mills, the prosecuting attorney for the FDA, had been the attorney from 1949 to 1952 for the Wilhelm Reich Foundation, for the Orgone Institute, and for Reich personally. Mills was Reich's attorney at the time the Reich Foundation was incorporated, and it was Mills who drew up the incorporation papers. Mills had also notarized the papers attesting to the motive force of orgone energy, which Reich had hooked up to run a motor. As the incorporating counsel for the Wilhelm Reich Foundation, Mills had direct knowledge of and access to many of the foundation's confidential documents. In 1952 Mills severed his affiliation with the foundation and accepted employment as an attorney for the FDA.
Reich fought the charges as far as the law would permit. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, refused to review the case.
Reich believed that our planet is in deep trouble. It was this belief that drove him to fight to protect his life-positive discoveries and to get his ideas into the trial record. He told the court that humankind was facing an emergency that challenged the human species and the very principle of life on Earth. He warned that the planet was undergoing a process of deep and crucial change on biological, physical, emotional and cosmic levels, and he urged a stop to the petty quibbling that prevented scientists from fully examining the oncoming crisis.
The courts refused to take Reich's warnings seriously. Despite the fact that Reich informed the court that he had a severe heart condition and would surely die if imprisoned, he was found guilty and sent to jail, where he died eight months later. Thus humankind was left with Reich's legacy of discovery and with his grim warning regarding the advent of UFOs in our atmosphere.
The fiftieth anniversary of Reich's death was celebrated on November 15, 2007, with a major exhibit of the controversial scientist's work at the Jewish Museum in Vienna, the city where he began his work and studied under Sigmund Freud. In New Jersey, the American College of Orgonomy, which provides training for those physicians interested in Reich's legacy, scheduled a conference and a banquet. Later that month, nearly 300 boxes of Reich's unpublished manuscripts and papers were made available for the first time for examination at the Countway Library at Harvard Medical School. The release of these documents honored Reich's request that his scientific papers be opened fifty years after his death.
The formerly discredited scientist is now described by the American Psychoanalytic Association as the first therapist to emphasize character analysis rather than neurotic symptoms. Reich was also a pioneer in linking a healthy sex life, which he defined as “orgiastic potency,” to emotional well-being. The scientist who died in prison damned as a fraud was now hailed as “one of the most brilliant, creative, and controversial of the pioneering analysts.”
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