Wilhelm Reich: Using Orgone Energy

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In his bioenergetic experiments Wilhelm Reich had noticed particles he called “bions”, which he thought were transitional forms between nonliving and living matter. There were three in particular: red, lancet-shaped particles he called T-bacilli, and two different blue particles he called PA and SAPA bions.
The latter two first immobilized then killed the T-bacilli, especially the SAPA bions, which he had derived from ocean sand. The latter also seemed to emit some kind of radiation, which left marks on his skin when exposed to it, and also gave him severe conjunctivitis so that he had to take a break from microscopy.
In order to isolate this radiation to study it he built a box of metal on the inside and organic material on the outside. He had noticed that metal reflected the energy (though the energy could also penetrate the metal), while organic matter seemed to absorb it. These boxes he later called orgone energy accumulators (he coined the word orgone from a combination of orgasm and organism) and he would use them therapeutically, but his biographer emphasizes that this wasn’t originally what they were for.
These accumulators seemed fishy to many people, as if Reich were some sort of charismatic quack. Myron Sharaf, his biographer, takes pains in his biography to show how Reich arrived at his ideas and techniques through a development of his basic ideas by observation of himself, of patients in therapy, and scientific experimentation.
Reich was by no means perfect. He managed to antagonize many people, including his first wife and many former friends, by demanding they be as interested and committed to his concerns as he was, and that they help him with what he did. But he also antagonized people who didn’t understand what he was trying to do. Studying sexuality seemed suspicious to many, as did his later therapeutic techniques of having both male and female patients mostly undressed (men in shorts, women in shorts and bra) so he could observe changes in skin color, warmth and coolness, patient’s breathing, etc. He also physically manipulated patients, using his thumb or palm to loosen muscular segments in chronic spasm. This often elicited strong emotional outbursts of rage or sobbing (he called sobbing “the great softener” of the musculature).
Sharaf says that Reich thought this a more direct way of discovering the origin of neuroses than analysis of dreams or resistance, in which he was less interested anyway. Not because he was unable to analyze in these ways, but because he preferred the tangible, and biology was obviously more tangible than psychology, though not necessarily easier to understand. But when people heard of this sort of therapy they envisioned sexual orgies, and Reich’s frank sexual attitudes contributed to that misunderstanding.
Reich found what he often felt was willful ignorance difficult to bear, especially from people close to him, and especially if he had alienated them. One man, about Reich’s age, who had befriended him and introduced him to psychoanalysis, must, says Sharaf, have found it most difficult to be in Reich’s shadow and have Reich demand his support besides. As insightful as Reich could be, he couldn’t always see why people refused to let him take over their whole lives, or that they could disagree with him without having sinister motives. Even people who generally agreed that his work was important could resent the demands he made on them to support him.
When he put SAPA cultures in his orgone accumulator (as he would later call it) he saw flickers of light. This he had expected. After he took the cultures out of the box, he observed the interior of the box again to compare what he saw. Flickers of light were still visible in the box. He reasoned that there must be traces of the culture still in the box, so he cleaned it thoroughly, but STILL saw flashes. Slowly and reluctantly he concluded that the energy wasn’t just in the cultures, but in the atmosphere too.
He questioned that conclusion: if the energy was omnipresent, why had no one else noticed it? But he became more convinced of his conclusion when he saw the same kind of flashing in the night sky.
He saw this without the use of any equipment. He saw it in the sky opposite the moon, which he though made little sense. If flickering in the sky was caused by light diffusion, it should be greater or at least equal around the moon, but it was greater in areas between the stars. The flickering was the same as he had observed in the box. His eventual conclusion was that that the energy was in the atmosphere, not just in the SAPA cultures, and thus was virtually everywhere.
Few other people accepted what Reich thought he’d discovered. He approached Einstein, who was initially fascinated, but then explained the phenomenon away. Other scientists thought the flickering entirely subjective, after-images of the sort children love to play games with, eyes closed.
Reich, says Sharaf, always kept in mind how our attitudes to our own sensations can affect our reactions to orgone energy: from orgastic potency to bions to energy in the atmosphere. Were Reich’s observations objective? Reich liked to quote Goethe: “Is it then so great a secret, what God and mankind and the world are? No! But none like to hear it, so it rests concealed.”
This is a perspective we can’t exclude. Fear is merely the most obvious thing that prevents us from seeing things as they are. Religious and scientific people are as prone to this fear, or to the preference for the paradigm they’re used to, as anyone.
Reich was able to break out of (after initially building on) previous paradigms and follow where his research led him. That’s what scientists are supposed to do, but often don’t manage, at least in part for reasons they can’t control, or can control only with difficulty.
Such reasons include sexual anxiety, which most of us have. Religious and scientific people are not necessarily exempt from it. Another reason is the investment most people have in their preferred paradigm. Religious people who see their religion as necessarily rejecting science won’t be persuaded by scientific argument, at least about the subjects causing them anxiety. Scientists are invested in their careers and the mainstream conceptions which they have to accept to greater or lesser degree if they want to continue to get funding for research. Being a maverick, as Reich was, largely shuts down outside funding. Sharaf quotes Max Planck as saying that new ideas don’t become accepted because their originators are so persuasive (some exceptions obviously apply), but because those opposing the ideas die off, and younger scientists, who have lived longer with the ideas, are more inclined to accept them. This resistance to the acceptance of new ideas obviously protects various scientific fields from going off in all kinds of wild, REALLY crackpot directions. But it also prevents fruitful ideas from being accepted as quickly as they might be. An example of that is Alfred Wegener, who proposed in 1912 that the continents moved, and got ridiculed for it until the 1960s, when the theory of continental drift was accepted. In the case of Reich, this resistance has helped prevent his work being objectively analyzed, although people who agreed with his thesis also were usually not trained scientists, and didn’t take the trouble to acquire this training.
At first, Reich thought the T-bacilli mentioned earlier were specific cancer causing agents, but then found them in perfectly healthy people and animals. That caused him to think of how organisms succeeded or failed in resisting illness, a concept that was, again, ahead of its time. Cancer, he found rarely developed in a young healthy host, but usually in an older, biologically damaged one. In healthy people red blood cells broke down into particles of relatively equal size. In unhealthy people they broke into a variety of sizes. He found this aspect of blood an accurate predictor of the production of cancer tumors. These were found at high magnifications that others studying cancer didn’t use.
From 1941-43 he saw 15 cancer patients, and found that cancer was only one symptom of an underlying process. One of these cases was a woman with breast cancer who was thought hopeless. He found that her sexual life had not been satisfactory: she had been married, but her husband died after two years. After that, she never became sexually involved again, and her desires turned into anxiety states. When he saw her, he found that her musculature was extremely rigid, and that she was unable to breathe deeply. He also found that cancer patients in general were emotionally mild and resigned, which he thought related to loss of energy in the organism, even at the cellular level.
He had tried treating cancer with injections of SAPA bions, but found this inconvenient. He had decided that the SAPA bions were the same as the orgone energy he saw in the atmosphere, so decided to try putting the mice he’d been experimenting on into the orgone accumulator.
He found the results dramatic: the mice quickly got healthier. The orgone energy positively affected the organism. Reich and his students began using the accumulator themselves, and noticed that their vitality increased.
So Reich tried using the accumulator to treat human patients. His cancer patient, he found, had her hemoglobin level rise, her pain recede, and she was able to sleep without use of morphine. Her breast tumor shrank, she was able to get out of bed, and resume housework. But other problems surfaced.
With the increase in her energy level, she became anxious and depressed. She seemed to experience acutely the unsatisfactory nature of her life, and asked if the accumulator could cure her neurosis too. Reich had to tell her it could not. He saw her as a psychiatric patient, and she made some progress, but then broke her leg, declined rapidly, and died. Reich’s treatment hadn’t been completely successful; it had prolonged the patient’s life for ten months, and had kept her tumor-free and pain-free for much of that time.
Sharaf points out that Reich didn’t treat her with a narrowly specific means, but treated her physically first, then psychiatrically, as that became appropriate. This was an example of his having a broad enough knowledge base to be able to more or less see the whole phenomenon she was experiencing, and be able to treat each aspect of it. It’s also an indictment of overspecialized science which can miss crucial aspects of something for lack of sufficiently unspecialized knowledge.
Reich was also cautious in his claims about the accumulator, and willing to admit there were things he didn’t know. Another cancer patient, with whom Reich worked on other projects, built his own accumulator and used it as he thought appropriate, being in a sense his own doctor. Reich encouraged him to do this saying that they didn’t know the simplest things about the accumulator and the energy it used, and had to find out. Other scientists attacked Reich because he said that the orgone energy penetrated metal, but he didn’t know why. One would think such a frank admission would be preferable to claiming more knowledge than he had, but it wasn’t.
With all his imperfections, this period of his life (possibly more than others) shows Reich pioneering on a broad front, rather than finding specialized knowledge about a narrow subject. He must have felt that once he opened up an area of investigation, more specific research could follow. But few in the mainstream of science were interested in following where Reich had gone. By the time Sharaf’s biography was published (1982) some of Reich’s concepts were being used in various forms of treatment (Bioenergetics was a direct descendent of Reichian therapy, practiced by Alexander Lowen, a student of Reich’s), but little basic research had been done on many of his various findings. From the time he lived in Norway in the second half of the 1930s (if not before), there were people in mainstream science who seemed determined to prove him a fraud, hardly an objective stance.
Sharaf quotes Dr. Courtney Baker, son of Dr. Elsworth Baker (one of Reich’s students, and practitioner of his form of therapy), who performed one of Reich’s experiments and didn’t get the same results. Dr. Baker objected to the idea that someone who generally agreed with Reich’s concepts couldn’t be objective and report experimental data that didn’t agree with Reich’s predictions. Scientists predisposed to disagree with Reich were certainly no more likely to be objective.
Whatever one thinks of Reich’s ideas, one ought to be appalled at the way Reich found himself the object of a witch hunt, eventually went to prison for fraud (which had not been clearly proved), and had his books burned, something that’s not supposed to happen in this country. That will be a subject for a later post.

Wilhelm Reich: Transition from psychoanalysis to natural science

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In the mid-1930s Wilhelm Reich had reached a transition point. He was still interested in neurosis and other mental health problems, but becoming more interested in the physical mechanisms underlying them. He had burned his bridges with the psychoanalytic community in Vienna and elsewhere, with the Communist parties of Germany and Denmark (at least), and several countries thought his treatments were invalid. Norway became his refuge, but he had problems there too, some of which had to do with his new interest in experiments meant to quantify sexual pleasure.
He used skin potential experiments because he thought this a way to determine pleasure at various parts of the body. This was because positive and negative charges could be measured, and positive charges he correlated with pleasure. Pleasure represented the organism expanding towards the world through the parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is the part of our nervous system outside our conscious control, which controls the heart, function of the organs, release of hormones, etc. It is far more sophisticated than the “consciousness” that we tend to think is all of us. The sympathetic division is responsible for the fight or flight response, which means moving away from the world, or contracting. Here he had a formula for the orgasm, which he saw in electrical terms:

“(1) Mechanical tension (filling of the organs with fluid; tumescence, with increased turgor of tissues generally).
“(2) The mechanical tension associated with an increase of bio-electrical charge.
“(3) Discharge of the accumulated bio-electrical charge through spontaneous muscular contractions.
“(4) Flowing back of the body fluids: detumescence (mechanical relaxation).”

(Quoted from Fury on Earth, by Myron Sharaf).

This was the hypothesis he hoped to prove through work in the laboratory, a confirmation of the intuition Freud had had that mental and emotional illness had a neurological and physical basis, though Freud had been unable to discover it. Sharaf comments that he gave much space to Reich’s experiments to emphasize that he didn’t suddenly leap from theories about sexuality into orgone energy, but gradually evolved into what he considered important discoveries through the research he did in the lab based on his view of sexuality, which was based on personal experience and on experience with his patients in therapy.
So he placed the “experimental” electrode on an intact skin site, and the “reference” electrode on a scratched area that the charge beneath the skin would measure. Sharaf says the same principle is used in such research now. Nonerogenous zones he found to have a pretty stable charge, but the erogenous zones varied more. When pleasure was felt positive charge increased. With fear or anxiety, the potential became more negative. Other somewhat predictable reactions were found too, but all these depended on the patient being able to experience pleasure. That meant the patient had to be emotionally healthy enough not to block pleasurable sensations. Lack of emotional health would lead to chronic muscle spasms to defend against disturbing feelings, including sexual feelings. Other researchers didn’t take this into account.
Researchers in particular didn’t understand why Reich designed his experiments the way he did, which often diverged from common practice in the areas he worked in. One Norwegian scientist in 1935 tried the experiments and didn’t get the same results as Reich. Reich, however, criticized in turn the other scientist’s methodology. The scientist focused on attaching the electrodes securely, not understanding that the securely attached electrodes interfered with the patient’s pleasure, which was what Reich was trying to measure. This was probably a misunderstanding frequently repeated.
Making the problem even worse in the public eye was the idea that Reich wanted to study intercourse between mental patients, which was a conflation of two separate things: he did want to study mental patients, but not sex between them; and he did want to study sexual intercourse to determine the electrical nature of it, but because of where the electrodes would have to be placed, was unable to do so. The confusion of the two made him sound like a sex maniac. This made him unpopular in Norway among people uncomfortable with sexuality to begin with (not that Norway is or was different from other countries in that respect). What he in fact wanted was scientifically verifiable information about the nature of sex. That in itself many people found threatening.
At that point he made another discovery that seemed crazy to many people.
At the same time as his bioelectric experiments, Reich decided to study simpler forms of life. Sharaf suggests it was because he was tiring of the psychological complexity of humanity. He says Reich’s critics think his motive was a sort of megalomania–he had to achieve more and more, especially since there was no validity to what he claimed to be discovering. Reich’s defenders said, on the contrary, that he was following the logic of his previous researches. He could rarely observe the human orgasm; behavior of protozoa he could observe any time.
His critics seem also to have been suspicious because he refused to specialize in one field, as has been the general pattern of human work, at least since the Industrial Revolution. Most people are content to be either psychoanalysts, sociologists, or natural scientists, without traveling from one area of study to another. Such division of labor is efficient in the industrial sense, but leads to missed observations in the scientific sense. Too narrow a focus obscures the subject.
But when he went to the Botanical Institute in Oslo to get cultures of amoebae, the assistant there told him all he had to do was put blades of grass in water and examine them in 10-14 days. Reich asked how the protozoa got into the infusion. “From the air, of course,” the assistant replied, and looked astonished. Reich asked how protozoa got into the air. The assistant didn’t know. Reich took the assistant’s attitude as a sign the question he asked was an important one. He did indeed find protozoa after 10-14 days, but wondered how they got there, so began watching the infusion of grass stems in water as constantly as possible. Other scientists criticized him for watching at higher magnification than they thought appropriate, but Rich pointed out that he was more interested in “developmental” processes along the edge of the grass blade than in the structure of the vesicles. He stated this repeatedly, but made no impression on his critics.
He watched continuously through a high-powered microscope (eventually arranging for time-lapse photography, unusual at that time) to keep the infusion under observation), and saw the cells at the edge disintegrate into vesicles (“small bladders, cavities, sacs, cysts, bubbles or hollow structures”). These might collect together without any defined borders.
Louis Pasteur had taken nonliving matter, put it in sterilized water, and sterilized the surrounding air too, proving to the satisfaction of most scientists that spontaneous generation didn’t occur. Reich was now resurrecting the possibility that it DID. His method of continuous observation was thus important. Pasteur’s experiments had been done in the mid-19th century, and no one since had investigated the ground he had covered.
Reich was especially interested in motile organisms of several types. Those with spontaneous inner movement he called “bions”, and thought them transitional forms between living and nonliving.
Sharaf sees this as an analogy with Reich’s loosening of rigid character traits and muscular spasms in his patients, allowing spontaneous life of strong sensations and emotions to emerge.
Reich faced a number of criticisms of his experiments. One was that his cultures were contaminated by spores from the air, or were in his materials in a dormant state. He therefore sterilized the substance to be placed in the solution, and the solution too. Sharaf says, not only did the vesicular behavior still occur, it happened more rapidly. He tried the same thing with coal particles after heating them to 1500 degrees. Vesicular behavior still happened. If the experiment was correctly designed, this sounds very much like the spontaneous generation Pasteur had supposedly disproved.
Another repeated point was his interest in pulsations within the vesicles. Critics dismissed these as “Brownian movement”, which was also mistaken. Brownian movement is the movement of small organisms or particles from place to place, believed to be caused by bombardment from molecules. This could not explain pulsations taking place WITHIN an organism.
These are two examples of mainstream scientists apparently more anxious to dismiss Reich’s findings than to dispassionately analyze what he was looking for and what the results of his efforts really indicated. That, in itself, doesn’t prove him right, but proves at least some of his critics wrong. Reich believed he had discovered a transitional phase between nonliving and living matter. Whether or not he was right, at least some of his critics refused to look at his hypothesis and experimental evidence, apparently because it contradicted their worldviews.
Unfortunately, this isn’t unprecedented in the world of science. Mainstream Egyptologists seem unable to recognize that the monuments they’re working around are IMPOSSIBLE. They believe that the stones cut to build these monuments, ranging from large to immense, were cut with copper tools (disproven by a group in the 1970s), placed with extreme precision by human muscle power (including slabs weighing some 70 tons in the Great Pyramid, and over 100 tons in the temple facing the Great Sphinx), and intricately carved either by copper tools or knocking stones together. Their narrative doesn’t include a high technology (of which we know nothing) that makes far better sense of the evidence of the monuments.
The resistance increases when someone like Reich takes a controversial view of human sexuality. Sigmund Freud had also to take heated criticism for his own views, and Reich went further than Freud.
Later, during his stay in Norway, his critics demanded he be deported because they thought his research worthless, and were expecting many refugees from the Nazis. One of Reich’s friends provided what Sharaf calls “a satirical defense.”
He said there were a ‘”few very odd things about the controversy. All of a sudden it is claimed that Dr. Reich must be expelled from the country. When did it become a crime to perform some biological experiments, even if they should prove to be amateurish? When did it become a reason for deportation that one looked in a microscope when one was not a trained biologist?”‘
Reich provoked such extreme reactions. To be fair, not all of them were because of the revolutionary nature of his researches, but often because of his own behavior. He wanted everyone close to him to be as interested in his latest ideas as he was, which was not realistic. He entered into a romantic relationship with a patient (who apparently had wanted this even before therapy began), which was unprofessional, and was fortunate not to have bad consequences from. He took out his anger on various patients, also unprofessional, though it indicates just how frustrated he was by scientific criticism that seemed to deliberately misunderstand. Nonetheless, his discoveries DO seem to me to be revolutionary (though as a nonscientist I can’t properly evaluate them).
Sharaf says that even Reich’s critics agree that some of his work was highly original and useful, usually the work done in the 1920s. His later work is considered mistaken at best, fraudulent at worst, but, Sharaf notes, no one can agree where and when he went wrong. It’s not a given that all his work was accurate (Sharaf says he told students, “Prove me wrong”), but to say that all of it was wrong and/or fraudulent seems extreme.
As the 1930s ended his researches were far from over, and it was these later ideas that many thought drastically wrong, if not crazy.

Wilhelm Reich: Sexuality and Freedom

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Wilhelm Reich, in my opinion, was one of the great minds of the 20th century, but great minds aren’t always appreciated. And after a tragedy in his teenage years it’s surprising he was able to function as well as he did.
He was educated by tutors, and in his early teens realized one tutor was having an affair with his mother. Just how it happened is unclear, but his father became aware through Reich, and confronted his mother, who took poison and died. This was an earthquake within the family, not least for the father, who set the tragedy in motion with jealous behavior toward his wife. About two years later he too committed suicide, leaving Reich and his younger brother destitute.
Just at that time World War I began. After fighting in it, Reich obtained his education in Vienna, where he was introduced to psychoanalysis, which became the foundation of his career. Myron Sharaf, his biographer, who worked with him much later, says Reich was extremely ambitious, and felt it necessary to live like a hero to make up for his part in the family tragedy. In a number of ways he was heroic, though he was also a flawed person who could be very destructive when experiencing stress.
Reich favorably impressed the psychoanalytic community with his theoretical work on character armor. This was a term for the resistance analysts found in patients who were reluctant to talk about painful subjects. Reich expanded the definition, including not only reluctance to talk, but also talking about things that were beside the point. He included transference, in which the patient transfers feelings he’s had about important figures like parents to his therapist. Reich pointed out that these feelings weren’t only inappropriate feelings of love, but also feelings of anger. One of his aims was always to get patients to express their feelings with emotion. He felt doing so would open their emotional blockages.
Reich had the intelligence to understand his patients in therapy according to previous psychoanalytic theory, but to also see what was happening without preconception. His perceptions were subtle,and Sharaf emphasizes a certain naivete inherent in lack of ideology. He was able to use criticism to reexamine issues and refine his perception and explanation of them. Not everyone liked his explanations, and he alienated some of his colleagues because he wanted all his friends to be as enthusiastic as he about the subjects that fascinated him, and many were not.
In 1927 he witnessed a riot in Vienna in which police fired into a crowd, killing 89 people. He was struck by capitalists not struggling with their employees directly, but that naivete probably allowed him to experience the riot more deeply than others. The other thing that impressed him was the mechanical nature of the police. This was similar to the behaviors of the patients he was analyzing, and he realized that there was a catastrophic number of people with sexual troubles, which enabled the Nazis, among others, to manipulate ordinary people.
Reich joined both the Socialists and Communists in an effort to combat Hitler’s masterful propaganda, realizing that criticizing Hitler’s inconsistencies was beside the point. It was his very inconsistencies that attracted people. Promising that men would dominate women, that the family would be protected from women obtaining contraception and abortion, and that the German nation (portrayed as a larger family) would be protected from alien groups by punishing Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, etc. This deflected anger from the powerful groups actually causing many people unhappiness. The Communists, third largest party in Germany had no idea how to appeal to people in language they could understand. Hitler promised both excitement and security. The Communists delivered boring analyses of government policies.
Progressives make essentially the same mistake today in criticizing conservatives today. Radical conservatives follow the same gameplan as the Nazis: tell the big lie often enough, and many people will believe it. Their politicians promise to sadistically punish anyone with darker skin, of the wrong gender, or with the wrong opinions. These are the scapegoats who are “responsible” for ordinary people being unhappy.
Reich found similar patterns in Europe in the years before the Nazis took over power in Germany. Hitler’s propaganda was essentially distorted sexuality to manipulate frightened people. Reich tried to counter this propaganda by counseling people (especially young people) who had questions about sexuality. He didn’t have enough people or resources to match what the Nazis were doing, and when the Communists (through whom he was working) found out his message they were appalled, and expelled him from the party. Just as now, knowledge about sexuality was seen as “dirty”, as something negative, though Reich attracted many young people in particular who wanted to achieve healthy sexuality. He didn’t have an effective way to combat Hitler’s propaganda, but he felt bound to try, hoping that an effective technique would emerge to help large numbers of people. He later commented that at least when people with sexual problems met in groups they didn’t feel alone, and might gain some benefit from that by itself. He realized, though, that much of the trouble of the world was caused by the average person’s fear of freedom, as a result of dysfunctional sex lives allowing them to be manipulated. Making a large enough effort to free people sexually scared a lot of people (who tended to see sexuality as worse than violence) besides being logistically impossible.
As Reich continued to improve his psychotherapeutic skills, he came to see sex as a bioelectric phenomenon, in which the organism builds up an electric charge, then discharges it in the orgasm. Reich was able to correlate electrically the buildup of electricity with increasing pleasure. Pleasure he correlated with the parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system, which oversees the organism’s expansion in pleasure. The sympathetic division controls the fight or flight reflexes, and comes into play when pain (or anticipated pain) causes the organism to contract. Reich was also concerned about the QUALITY of orgasm, since it was possible for the male to attain erection without experiencing pleasure. It was also possible for the male to have an orgasm without entirely discharging the built-up energy, which could remain static and cause neurotic symptoms. He didn’t see better sex as “curing” neurosis, but of taking away the energy on which neurosis feeds. When energy flows freely throughout the body, people are generally happier. At this point Reich had begun physically loosening some of the areas of the body in his patients whose muscles were in chronic spasm as sexual repression manifested not only as emotional neurosis, but as physical “armoring” against threatening feelings.
Such feelings are generated in a culture that feels generally negative about sex. Thus some groups are more concerned about people’s sexual behavior than anything else. They dislike big government everywhere but in other people’s bedrooms.
As Reich put it:
“Suppression of the natural sexuality of the child, particularly of its genital sexuality, makes the child apprehensive, shy, obedient, afraid of authority, good and adjusted in the authoritarian sense; it paralyzes the rebellious forces because any rebellion is laden with anxiety; it produces, by inhibiting sexual curiosity and sexual thinking in the child, a general inhibition of thinking and of critical faculties. In brief, the goal of sexual suppression is that of producing an individual who is adjusted to the authoritarian order and who will submit to it in spite of all misery and degradation. At first the child has to submit to the structure of the authoritarian miniature state, the family; that makes it capable of later subordination to the general authoritarian system. The formation of the authoritarian structure take place through the anchoring of sexual inhibition and sexual anxiety.” (Quoted from Myron Sharaf’s Fury on Earth.)

The above explains why people in Hitler’s time, just as people today, vote against what many of us think is their best interest. They don’t see it that way because their natural feelings have become distorted.

So in the 1930s Reich was burning bridges with the psychoanalytic community (in which he thought he’d found a second home) who didn’t like his political allegiance and disagreed with his view of sexuality, though it echoed what his mentor, Sigmund Freud, had once thought. The Communist parties in Germany and Denmark feared that his views on sexuality would alienate their constituents, and Germany, Denmark, and Norway (where he settled for several years before immigrating to the USA) saw him as being a con man. People take sexuality very personally, and find it a difficult subject to be rational about.
At that point, in the mid 1930s Reich’s interest began to change from psychoanalysis to natural science. He was still interested in mental illness and its manifestations in general, but had become more interested in its physical expression in terms of electricity and the nervous system.

A Pattern of Legislation

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George Will, well-known conservative columnist, wrote recently about states dependent on a tobacco tax considering regulation of e-cigarettes because use of traditional cigarettes has fallen. That’s the anti-government narrative Will and other conservatives like. The interesting point about this one is its similarity to other more notable legislation past and present.
One is Prohibition. Like taxation of cigarettes, the legislation came about because of the damage alcohol was doing to many citizens. A large number of people liked it, but the people that didn’t like it REALLY didn’t like it. That prompted smuggling (as has cigarette taxes), which the Mafia took advantage of to bring us organized crime. And Prohibition only lasted thirteen years. Once it was repealed government interest in organized crime waned to the point that J. Edgar Hoover denied it existed, though he actually knew better.
The other legislation this resembles is the War on Drugs, which has now been continuing for some thirty years longer than Prohibition did. Why do you suppose this is?
According to Michael Ruppert, in Crossing the Rubicon, it has lasted because many people benefit from it. First, of course, are the illegal drug dealers, making huge profits from people’s addictions, but they don’t exist in a vacuum. They need banks in which to launder their money, and Ruppert said that many American banks have let themselves be used this way. These banks profit, of course, because they can charge high fees for their services. Their other customers benefit because they can receive lower interest rates for commercial loans, for instance. And so does government, at least in the form of donations to individual legislators, who make legislation acceptable to their donors. All this raises the question (assuming the above scenario is accurate) of whether the legislators who passed the laws establishing the Drug Enforcement Agency were actually sincere in wanting to keep American citizens from using illegal drugs, or whether they just wanted a way to make their clients huge profits. If they were sincere, they were too unsophisticated to find an effective way to actually control drugs.
I found the level of corruption described breathtaking. Is what Ruppert described true? I don’t know for certain, but it does sound plausible. More than forty years of this “war” hasn’t eradicated illegal use of drugs from the country, nor even reduced the quality of the drugs sold. Does that mean the government is incompetent? According to Ruppert, it’s less about incompetence, and more about an illegal form of capitalism, from which representatives of government want their share too. He traces American governmental involvement in the drug trade back to World War II when, he says, the OSS (predecessor to the CIA) financed some of its operations with drugs. Great Britain’s governmental involvement he traces back to the late 17th or early 18th century, when he says they began smuggling opium from India to China.
If you want to connect other dots, consider that places where illegal drug use is most often found tends to be areas of poverty, like the Appalachian states. Conservatives often like to blame poor people for their poverty, while turning a blind eye to businesses that move away from areas where they have to pay employees decent wages. This may be especially true in the Appalachians, where there’s a long history of the coal companies in particular taking advantage of the residents of the area.
An American business man told an audience that capitalism in its triumph is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. He describes capitalism as being a great engine for building wealth, but not so great as a moral arbiter. Whether accidentally or not, a workable formula was arrived at during the Great Depression: capital would be taxed, and not be allowed to win all its battles. Labor would be allowed to win some, but not all. That formula (with some additions) pulled this country out of the Depression, and created a middle class that made us the richest country in the world. We’re still richest financially, but a lot less rich socially.
It ought to be obvious that investment in the country as a whole pays better (assuming you care about the country as a whole) than allowing only the rich to profit. As the business man points out, Karl Marx wasn’t a great clinician, but was a great diagnostician. He was able to see the future problems of capitalism, but his proposed remedies haven’t worked very well. The remedy found in the Depression did, but putting a similar program in place will take a lot of agreement between estranged parties. It’s unlikely to happen before we have terrible dislocations, the more terrible because of the unsustainability of so many of our industrial practices. We seem to have an interesting future in store.
Mr. Will’s view of government isn’t inaccurate as far as it goes, but reality is more complex than the single villain narrative of ideology. Government doesn’t look good in Mr. Will’s example, and in a number of other examples as well, but government isn’t the only villain in the world. Oversimplifying merely makes the problems harder to solve.