Atlantis

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We got the story of Atlantis first from Plato, who got it from his ancestor, Solon, who got it from the Egyptians. Now mainstream historians and archaeologists don’t believe it existed. Joseph Campbell was quoted as saying there hadn’t been enough time for humans to develop a high civilization earlier than the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Indians, but that’s not accurate.

We’re now aware that our kind of human being has been around for at least 100,000 years, maybe 200,000, or even longer. Considering that the history we know much about (beginning mostly with writing) is only five to six thousand years, that leaves plenty of time for a high civilization to develop. Why don’t we see traces of these civilizations? Maybe we do. Graham Hancock has spent more than twenty years writing about the evidence for a previous high civilization, most recently in Magicians of the Gods. 

There are many megalithic monuments around the world. In most cases we have only vague ideas when they were built, and how is a complete mystery, though archaeologists (in some cases) think they know. The most obvious examples are the Great Pyramid and the Great Sphinx, though there are many more.

The above two are probably the most famous monuments in the world. We, with modern technology, might be able to duplicate the Sphinx, but it would take a major effort. as it’s 260 feet long and 65 feet high, and carved out of bedrock. Few people nowadays would be willing to make that kind of investment.

The Great Pyramid is not only immense, but mysterious. The first mystery is how it was built. It has well over a million stone blocks in it, most of them weighing at least a ton, some well over a ton. The ceiling of the King’s Chamber is roofed with slabs of about 70 tons apiece. How would you, first of all, cut the stones very precisely, then move them, and finally place them with extreme precision? Precision is one of the other mysteries of the pyramid, but far from the last.

The timeline of civilization says that agriculture began around 8,000 BC, and towns were necessarily built, since people would have to stay in one place to farm. That makes a place like Göbeckli Tepe particularly mysterious.

It’s a site in southern Turkey, the beginning of which has been dated to about 9600 BC, making it the oldest known megalithic monument in the world (with one possible exception). It seems to have been used for more than a thousand years, then covered up. That it was covered is convenient for archaeologists because it means that the organic material covered can be accurately dated. It must be from when each area was covered, rather than from when it was built, which means the structures could be much older, but these are certainly old enough.

And it’s IMMENSE! The archaeologist interviewed by Graham Hancock five years ago said that after eighteen years of continuous excavating much more is still buried than has been uncovered.

Making it even more mysterious, the builders seem to have been hunter-gatherers. How did they acquire the skills, when they had to spend most of their time acquiring food in order to survive? Besides, the best workmanship so far uncovered is also the oldest. What does that mean?

That’s a parallel with ancient Egypt, which had few pyramids built before the Great Pyramid, but nonetheless created it as a masterpiece of architecture; then, within a few hundred years, apparently forgot how pyramids are built. Those built in the late third millenium BC are ruins. For a monument 4500 years old, the Great Pyramid is in pretty good shape. Why would the oldest Egyptian monuments so exceed more recent ones? The obvious hypothesis is that they had learned from a predecessor civilization, rather than developing the necessary techniques themselves.

Even older is the Great Sphinx. About 25 years ago it was studied by geologist Robert Schoch, who determined the erosion of its body was from rain, and lots of it, not wind. It seems that the last time there was lots of rain in Egypt was about 5,000 BC, so Schoch decided it couldn’t have been built any later, which means it might have been built much earlier. But according to the commonly accepted historical timeline, there were no high civilizations that could have built anything like it or Göbekli Tepe anything like as early.

There are some four hundred legends of the Great Flood around the world, including in the Americas, where legends from the Middle East are unlikely to have reached. The Flood was universally believed to have occurred by Europeans until about two hundred years ago when Enlightenment thinkers reacted against the Bible and the idea of the supernatural. Ice ages were conceived of partly as a way to account for things like boulders found in geological areas they weren’t related to. But an ice age doesn’t preclude a Great Flood, or vice versa. The first could have led to the latter. And a supernatural cause isn’t necessary either.

But a Great Flood, or equivalent calamity could explain why we don’t know about civilizations predating Sumeria, India, and Egypt. Written documents from before the calamity haven’t survived–or haven’t been found yet, though one of the Assyrian kings claimed to have a library of books from before the flood, which he claimed to be able to read, which apparently since have been lost –so our information about it is only legendary.

But legends, especially widespread ones, usually have some truth to them. If such a catastrophe had happened, what would a high civilization do, especially if it saw it coming? It would probably try to preserve as much of its knowledge and wisdom as it could. How would it do that? One way would be to teach the skills of civilization to other humans. According to widespread legends, that’s precisely what happened.

One legend is about a being named Oannes who wore a fish suit, but had human feet and, after teaching skills of civilization all day to humans of what is now southern Iraq, retreated to the sea for the night.

Another group were the Seven Apkallus in the northern Middle East, who are depicted as looking like part men and part bird.

A third was Osiris, who taught the ancient Egyptians, then is said to have traveled around the rest of the world to teach others.

A fourth was Quetzelcoatl in Mexico, who arrived from the eastern sea with a group of other teachers, but ran into a hostile god who apparently objected to his trying to end human sacrifice in the region.

Yet another was Viracocha in the Andes in South America. Interestingly, both Viracocha and Quetzelcoatl are depicted as WHITE men with full beards, unlike the natives of both regions, who were and still are dark skinned. Their whiteness may help explain how the Spanish were so easily able to take over the Aztec and Incan empires: they looked like the revered legendary gods. By the time the natives found out they weren’t, it was too late.

Not only does this ancient culture seem to have sent out missionaries of a sort, but Hancock suggests that monuments like Göbekli Tepe and the Great Pyramid were built as time capsules to prevent antediluvian knowledge and wisdom from being lost. The catch is that a civilization must have attained a high level of knowledge to access what’s in these time capsules. We seem to only now be getting there.

Another way to preserve knowledge is orally. There are also numerous legends of spiritual teachers whose traditions go back thousands of years. Could these traditions have been begun by a civilization (or more than one)  both spiritually and technologically advanced?

Hancock notes that there are things about the statues found at Göbekli Tepe that remind him of ancient statuary he’s seen elsewhere in the world. These statues seem to be part human, part animal, with human arms extending across their bellies with fingers almost touching, and holding things that look like bags. Hancock remembers artwork in Mexico with similar figures, as well as in Easter Island. If this is accurate, they may have been products of a worldwide civilization.

Other mysterious sites are in western South America: around Cuzco, Tiahuanaco, Lake Titicaca, etc. Again, structures are built of unbelievably large stones precisely cut and set. When Hancock asks the archaeologist who, with his father, has been studying the area for over a hundred years, how the building was done, the archaeologist thinks there was lower gravitation (perhaps a device to make things lighter?) allowing stones to be put into place relatively easily. The archaeologist also thinks the stones were subjected to extreme heat to make it possible to shape them like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and fit them together. In this case too, the most ancient monuments are the most impressive. Later South American civilizations were also impressive, but couldn’t compete with their predecessors.

Even older than Göbekli Tepe, apparently, is Gunung Padung in Indonesia. Hancock points out that Indonesia is the remains of a fabled extension of the Indian subcontinent called Sundaland, which was destroyed by flooding, volcanoes and earthquakes, probably during the time the last Ice Age was ending. It was supposed to have been a large and fertile land with mountains and at least four river systems, and with schools of wisdom too. Gunung Padung, in the local language, means Mountain of Light or Enlightenment.

It was believed to be a natural hill until archaeologist Danny Natawidjaja and his team began using ground penetrating radar and other techniques to survey the area. Then they realized that it was a pyramid, and began using radiocarbon dating on organic material underlying the surface structures, then from tubular drills penetrating to much deeper levels.

The first results were dated between 500-1500 BC, but lower levels gave increasingly older dates. 3,000-5,000, 9600, 11,000, 15,000, then 20,000-22,000 and even earlier, which means they began to be built before the end of the last Ice Age.

The end of the last Ice Age was the beginning of a tremendously traumatic period in earth’s history, when many animals, and even a number of genera (related species) went extinct. The worst part of it seems to have been between 10,800 BC and 9600 BC, called the Younger Dryas, when temperatures, which had been getting warmer, suddenly got colder again. Before that time North America had been home not only to the Clovis people (who may have gotten there two or three thousand years before), but to mammoths, horses, camels, giant sloths and beavers, and saber-toothed tigers. None of these species were alive at the end of the period, and though the Younger Dryas was a worldwide phenomenon, North America (maybe the Americas in general) seems to have been hardest hit. What happened?

Some scientists now think that a large comet came very near to earth and parts of it separated, several chunks hitting the immense glaciation covering most of what is now Canada. Ice and ground vaporized, and were propelled into the upper atmosphere, blocking the sun, which caused the downturn in temperatures that lasted about 1200 years. It also started an immense flood from the melted glacier and a very large lake that then was located approximately on the US/Canada border. An area in eastern Oregon called the “scablands” seems to be the result of this flooding.

The scablands are a large area in which canyons were eroded, and some scientists now think, very quickly. The archaeologist Hancock interviewed said it wasn’t just water, but soil, boulders, and huge chunks of ice running very fast through the passage that became the scablands. There’s still very little topsoil in the area.

This seems to have been a very large but localized flood. The extreme erosion happened because the flood, immense as it was, was still confined to relatively small passages. That amplified the force of the liquid mixture in its ability to erode.

Whether there was actually a universal flood remains an open question. There were certainly local floods that surpassed any seen before, and there have been reported fossils of whales in mountains in Alabama and Ontario. Were these relatively recent fossils, from only about 10,000 years ago, or are they much older? Also reported have been a cave in England full of bones of hippopotami and a site where mangled bodies of polar and equatorial animals were mixed together. The latter case sounds like evidence of a universal flood. The former may be something else.

Fascinating as tracking down evidence of Atlantis or other ancient civilizations may be, it doesn’t really matter anymore, does it? Hancock gives some reasons to believe it does.

One is that the various legends of the Flood often include the idea it happened because of human wickedness. High as our civilization is, our behavior often isn’t admirable. Consider the way we treat each other and the world in which we live. Cruelty and exploitation characterize our behavior. If God is watching, it’s quite possible She is displeased.

But there are other indicators. One is a column in Göbeckli Tepe that draws attention to the winter solstice when our sun aligns with the center of the Milky Way galaxy when rising in the constellation of Sagittarius. That’s been where it rises since 1960, and will continue to be through 2040. The The Mayan calendar also predicted an age ending and one beginning in this period.

A precessional cycle; that is, the wobble in the earth’s rotation that causes constellations to seem to move slowly across the sky especially in relation to the equinoxes and solstices, is not quite 26,000 years. We are about half a precessional cycle from the time the asteroid some scientists tell us hit the earth and started the Younger Dryas period, that is, more than 12,000 years ago. There are meteor streams which come near us cyclically, and Hancock believes ancient astronomers in Göbekli Tepe, Egypt, and Mexico left us warnings that the cataclysm that destroyed their civilization may return to destroy ours. If an asteroid of, say, one mile in diameter were to hit the earth, it would destroy our civilization, and possibly the whole human race. Humans who could survive such a catastrophe would be those used to surviving on very little, the hunter-gatherer societies that remain today.

We have the science and technology to possibly be able to ward off such a collision, if we could detect the body coming soon enough. It would take quite an effort, but the potential is there. But will we make the effort? If the danger is now, we’d better start planning pretty soon.

I’m not very optimistic. Hancock says that when NASA became aware of the danger in the late 20th century, they were told to play it down. We’ve heard a lot about climate change, and while some accomplishments have been made, they haven’t been enough to make a substantial difference. If an asteroid collides with earth, climate change will be the least of our problems–it will probably occur too, but so will explosive destruction, fire, flood, earthquakes, volcanoes, as well as a possible new ice age.

If one wants to see such a collision as punishment for our collective sins, it would be ironic if it came after we had ALREADY made great progress in destroying ourselves and our civilization by refusing to change our destructive habits in terms of how we treat our habitat and our fellow humans.

I hope my pessimism is misplaced. Right now I see few signs that it is.

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Genesis as History

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I watched a movie last night expressing what I guess are current views of Creationism, some of which I can buy, some of which I can’t.Of course Creationism sees the Bible as being accurate historically. I don’t entirely disagree, but think there are contradictions.

The movie began with a rationale for believing in the Great Flood, something I tend to agree about. The geologist appearing in the movie calls the Grand Canyon convincing evidence for the Flood, seeing the geologic layers revealed in it as having been laid down suddenly and catastrophically, rather than gradually over millions of years, as mainstream science contends. I think that’s possible, whether it was a local flood or worldwide. There’s a less known site in this country, in eastern Oregon, which some scientists believe was similarly eroded by huge volumes of water moving very fast. They think that one was caused by an asteroid striking the ice pack then covering most of what is now Canada, vaporizing or melting large amounts of ice, and also releasing water from a large lake, just as the geologist believes about the Grand Canyon.

The viewpoint the movie cleverly takes is that of catastrophism, which was anathema in mainstream science for quite awhile.

There’s other possible evidence for a Great Flood too: that the Great Salt Lake in Utah and the Caspian Sea in Asia are saltier than they ought to be for their apparent ages. There are also two salt lakes in the Middle East at high altitudes, Lakes Van and Urmia. Lake Titicaca in South America is also at high altitude and is a salt lake, but it seems to have once been a seaport that got lifted up when the Andes mountains were formed.

So far I can agree with much of what the movie says. But part of its quarrel with the conventional dating of the Grand Canyon is, according to the geologist, that the various dating methods for ancient stone and fossils do not agree. That’s certainly a problem, but not enough of one to justify the belief that the world is only 6,000 or so years old. That figure has been a dogma among certain Christians since the 18th century, which makes it questionable in itself.

One of the examples used to justify that figure is a site in which there are fossils in many layers, and the geologist says that each layer shows its own ecosystem. He attributes this to the Great Flood washing over the world more than once. Were this true, it seems to me the fossils would be jumbled up together, as sites reported by other sources state.

The Creationists seem to be on firmer ground questioning natural selection as the evolutionary mechanism. Not that it doesn’t work in producing variations within species, but the idea that all life on earth has a common ancestor is hard to believe. For this to happen, one would have to expect new species being produced from other species. There are variants of many species (cats and dogs are two examples), but those are different breeds, not different species. We haven’t seen new species being created since human beings began to write about 5,000 years ago.

For another thing, it would take a very long time for life to begin from bacteria and differentiate into vegetables, marine life, amphibians, and mammals. Creationists have a point when they question if enough time could have passed. There’s a point in the fossil record (I think after the dinosaurs went extinct) that an explosion of new species occurred. How did that happen? If the asteroid strike which made the dinosaurs extinct was that destructive it’s hard to see how much of any kind of life could have survived, especially many species with no obvious ancestors.

But part of the reason for the question about time scales involved seems to be the Creationist desire to prove Genesis literal. Thus they talk about the process of creation described in Genesis as only taking literally six days. Why is that so important?

One question the movie didn’t address was that of Cain: if his parents were the first humans, as we who read the English translation of the Bible are supposed to believe, how did Cain, after leaving his family, find someone to marry? Let alone found a city? The sensible solution to this is that in the original Hebrew the Adam and the Eve were treated as generic human beings instead of individuals. The story of the Fall would refer to individuals at a later time.

But the movie sees dinosaurs as being part of the punishment of humans for the Flood, and representing the corruption and violence of the world after the Fall of Man. Then it has the dinosaurs dying in the flood, which must have taken place (according the their version of the age of the earth) not much more than 4500 years ago, or about 2500 BC. Again, the questioning of timelines by the movie’s makers doesn’t really provide evidence to suggest that the earth isn’t much older than that. It does suggest that tests to determine the ages of rocks, artifacts, fossils, etc, don’t agree with each other, which does call science’s view into question, but doesn’t give positive evidence.

Another question the movie doesn’t address is one that started people thinking about evolution in the first place: how did life survive the Great Flood in the Americas (where are there are flood legends, just as in Asia) when the animals couldn’t have possibly been taken to or picked up by Noah’s ark? And the thing that really began to make scientists think was the variation in animals and plants around the world. The New World had examples of both that the Old World didn’t, and species in isolated places (like solitary islands) developed in unique ways. The New World also DIDN’T have species found in the Old World, like horses and elephants, fossils of which were found later. But different species and variants within species were an example of evolution at work in isolation from other parts of the world, though not an example of new species being derived from old. It also doesn’t explain the evolution of humans from apes, though we do seem to be closely related to them.

I don’t object to Creationists questioning the findings of science if they do so in a rational way. Scientists can be biased and make mistakes too. What I DO object to is trying to rationalize taking the book of Genesis literally, as well as other Christian dogma, unless there’s very strong evidence for it.

Vampires

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A program shown on PBS tells of corpses found in Anglo-Saxon villages in England of about a thousand years ago which had been mutilated. Not many of them, but a few, had had their heads removed after death, and placed between their legs. Why? Apparently because they were suspected of vampirism.

The idea of vampires is a pretty old one, and seems to have been common to much of Europe. It died out in England, but not in other places, especially in eastern Europe. The documentary speaks to a peasant in Rumania who had helped unearth a recent corpse which had red around its mouth and a swollen belly, which he and the others had taken as evidence that the person was a vampire. They had opened the grave because a young woman said her uncle, who had recently died, had visited her and sucked her blood. The peasant said he had removed the corpse’s heart and burned it at the village crossroads, after which the young woman got better.

The idea of vampires is identified with Rumania, partly because of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, which is partly set in Transylvania; and partly because a fifteenth century monarch of Rumania, Vlad Tepes, was called Dracula, and is thought to have been a (or the) model for the literary character. Vlad Tepes was certainly not a pleasant man, having been notable for impaling people he didn’t like. That is, seating them on a wooden stake, pushing it up through their rectums into their bodies, then letting gravity slowly kill them. Probably rulers in that time, and maybe particularly in that place, had to be severe in order to survive, but Tepes seems to have been extreme even there and then.

The documentary says that Stoker based his novel on actual folk beliefs about vampires (it was unclear to me whether he added some powers to his character that weren’t part of common beliefs or not), but changed the image of the vampire from a problem found in rural Europe to a well-dressed cosmopolitan aristocrat. That’s the image that got popularized in plays and movies over the last hundred years. The question is, was there ever anything to the vampire myth, or was it simply misunderstanding?

Scientists and historians interviewed in the documentary argue that the idea of the vampire came from ignorance. Red around a corpse’s mouth and a swollen belly are the work of bacteria after death. The interviewees believe that the concept of vampires was used to explain illnesses the peasants were vulnerable to.

One historian notes that in the country away from the fireside the world is absolutely dark at night, except for a candle or torch that could be carried. It would be different in larger towns and cities, but villagers had to fear warriors sneaking up on them as well as storms and illnesses.

Some of the illnesses were pretty fearsome too, like leprosy, tuberculosis, and bubonic plague. We have to remember that nobody at that time had much idea where disease came from, and peasants would be more ignorant than most. If people began having horrible symptoms and dying, there was almost nothing anyone could do. How could they defend themselves against something they utterly failed to understand? In that situation, blaming illness on the dead was as reasonable as anything else. As one historian points out, the suspects usually were people most hadn’t liked when they were alive. The idea seems to have been common in much of the world, too. People living in the Himalayas seem occasionally to have been concerned about vampires as well. In Bulgaria and Italy too.

The hypothesis seems pretty plausible, but I wonder if there may anyway have been something to the old view. Vampires seem to resonate with a lot of people. Whether or not they literally drank blood, it doesn’t seem too strange to think of people who might drain in some manner people of vital energies, perhaps by doing something as simple as constantly demanding attention.

While vampirism as explanation for illness is probable enough, the documentarians didn’t look into the illness of the young woman in Rumania. Was it bacterial or viral? Or psychosomatic? Knowing that would go some distance toward deciding if the traditional idea of vampirism is totally invalid. It may seem totally stupid, but some of our ancient ancestors knew things we no longer know, as shown by some of the monuments we have no idea how to build. It’s not impossible that they knew more than we do in cases like this too.

 

Robert Anton Wilson’s Journey to Expanded Consciousness

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Robert Anton Wilson is a philosopher of sorts whose acquaintance I first made some forty years ago with the Illuminatus trilogy. Recently rereading it for the first time in decades, I found it wasn’t as compelling as back then, so I went on to his memoir, Cosmic Trigger, which was.

In that book he tells how he grew up in an Irish Roman Catholic home, jettisoning his Catholicism when it conflicted with his sex drive, and reached adulthood interested in lots of things. For one thing, he tried joining a lot of different groups (Ayn Rand and Trotskyite groups, for instance) which made him realize that there were a lot of different ways to see the world, and that different groups have different things they accept and reject. This means that virtually no one sees the world as it actually is: there’s always something being rejected or ignored which provides a different perspective on things. Wilson called these tunnel realities.

And humans tend to dislike different perspectives. Christianity in particular has dictated what people must and must not believe. A lot of people and organizations have imitated them. We’ve become very aware that people give us propaganda instead of truth, and resent it, even if we’re not good at telling the difference.

Wilson got caught up in the psychedelic experience of the early sixties before it became well-publicized. He took peyote first, then LSD when it became available. On one of his peyote trips he observed a green-skinned humanoid figure dancing. This was before Carlos Casteneda began publishing his books, when the green-skinned figure would become known as Mescalito, the spirit of the peyote. As the sixties progressed he met Timothy Leary to interview him, and they realized they had a lot of interests in common. Leary suggested he investigate Aleister Crowley, and Wilson did so, with increasing interest.

Crowley practiced magick (the spelling to distinguish it from Harry Houdini sleight of hand), and found it a rich source of unusual perspectives. Wilson had heard Crowley was a junkie, but also that he had climbed higher on Chogo Ri (a mountain in the Himalayas) than anyone else, which seemed unusual for a junkie. He began reading Crowley’s books, many of which suggest exercises to expand consciousness. Wilson began practicing a number of these, sometimes in conjunction with LSD or other psychedelics, sometimes without.

One such was to go a week without using the word “I” and punishing himself (Wilson bit his finger) whenever he slipped and said it. He found his state of mind changed pretty dramatically, and began to see his ego as an inconvenience.

Another practice was to invoke various gods or goddesses of the pagan past. He would decorate with colors and symbols associated with each, pray to them, and recite various invocations that Crowley had written. He found that these practices began changing his worldview too. Once he began getting results, he would start invoking a different god or goddess.

Wilson had also met William S. Burroughs (author of Naked Lunch most famously), who told him about strangeness associated with the number 23. Burroughs had discovered it when talking to an ferry boat sailor named Captain Clark, who told him he had sailed the ferry 23 years without an accident. That day Burroughs heard that Clark’s ferry had sunk, killing all aboard. Then he heard about an airplane crash, piloted by another Captain Clark. It was flight number 23. Wilson began looking for 23s, and began finding them synchronistically. Synchronicity is a pattern which doesn’t seem to have a cause, but appears too meaningful to be merely coincidence. The more Wilson looked for 23s, the more he found, and the more meaningful they were. He records numerous examples, one being that sperm and egg each contribute 23 chromosomes to what becomes a human fetus. There are many more.

He was also interested in UFOs, and their significance. Such incidents are often witnessed by lots of people, though not all agree on what they see. The incidents seem to contradict the laws of nature, and it’s uncertain what their cause is. They’re similar to reported incidents prior to the twentieth century which people used to attribute to encounters with angels, or with fairies. They can be pretty bizarre. My favorite was reported by a man living in Wisconsin, who said a UFO landed in his yard, an alien got out and handed him some pancakes. That seems a nice thing to do, but what was the significance? The pancakes, incidentally, turned out to be ordinary pancakes when analyzed. Wilson thinks such an incident (and many others) indicate that when we’re confronted with something completely unfamiliar, like a technology well in advance of our own, our consciousness tries to change it into familiar terms, however senseless (or hilarious) those terms turn out to be.

Besides the magickal practices and psychedelic drugs,  Wilson had been reading as many of Crowley’s books as he could obtain, and found that Crowley had been practicing Tantra, or sexual magick, which consisted of various ways to postpone orgasm which would make it extremely powerful and psychedelic. In the early 1970s in the midst of these practices Wilson began to believe he was receiving messages from the area of the star Sirius.

Sirius is the brightest star in our sky, and has a very interesting history. When he began to research it, Wilson found that the Dogon tribe in Africa had told people (Including Robert Temple, who wrote a book about it) a lot of information about Sirius no one would have expected them to know, including that it was a double star, and that the second star (invisible until the twentieth century to astronomers until they had telescopes powerful enough to see) was much smaller than the primary, which is the one easily visible. Sirius, known as the Dog Star, contributes heat to the “dog days” of summer, and would contribute much more if the universe weren’t expanding, and Sirius receding from us. When asked how they had found out these things, the Dogon said aliens from Sirius had told them.

When Robert Temple researched further he began to believe there had been contact with aliens in the Middle East about 4500 years ago, and that knowledge of this had traveled across Africa to the Dogon. If such a thing happened, and if his timeline was correct is difficult to say. Egypt already had a great deal of interest in Sirius well before 2500 BC. They identified it with the goddess Isis, and in building the Great Pyramid, constructed a shaft to the south through which they could observe the star. When Wilson looked into this further he found that a LOT of people claimed to have received messages from Sirius, including Crowley.

George Gurdjieff seems to have known about this too. When writing his most important book he realized that he had made some passages more plain than he intended, and said he needed to bury the dog deeper. When asked if he didn’t mean the bone, he said, No, the dog, and that the dog was Sirius. Sirius is also said to be the star portrayed on the card by that name in the Tarot deck. Some say the Tarot was put together by Sufis, and Sufis provided at least some of Gurdjieff’s education in the occult.

By the time all this was happening, Wilson had quit his job at Playboy, and was trying to earn his living by writing. He was having some difficulty. He and Robert Shea, who had also worked at Playboy, had written the Illuminatus trilogy, satirizing many conspiracy theories they came across while working at Playboy. The Illuminati were composed of people from the Freemasons who had achieved higher consciousness, but their organization located in Bavaria was outlawed in the 18th century. Some saw them as heroes, many saw them as villains, and the more the two authors researched the group the more probable it seemed that they had a long ancestry which may have extended back to ancient Egypt or even further. Learning about them fit well with Wilson’s desire to expand his own consciousness.

He and Shea had finished writing the novel, but were having trouble getting it published, so Wilson was poor. He and his family were living in San Francisco with poor people, since they couldn’t afford a great place to live. He was doing a Sufi exercise to open his heart, and was often horrified at things he saw poor people have to go through.

Such things touched his own family too. His youngest daughter, who was aware of his occult interests, and shared them, got beaten up by a gang of black kids, but understood that if she held a grudge against them, it would only continue the negative energy–so she forgave them, and never showed any fear or dislike of anyone black. Wilson was amazed that a girl in her early teens could be so wise.

By this time Timothy Leary had been busted for possession of pot and imprisoned. He managed to escape and spent some time overseas before being kidnapped in Afghanistan and brought back to the USA. Just why the authorities were so hysterical about the threat his advocacy of LSD posed may be clearer when one realizes that his interest in the drug was because of its ability to change what he called “imprints”, impressions that cause the mind to see things in certain ways. Governments prefer that people see things in ways they prescribe. Anything that allows them to see independently is threatening. Leary had incautiously advertised his intentions, trying (as Wilson sees it) to reserve the use of LSD to competent professionals who could use it as a tool to safely help people. That he publicized it so effectively helped to spread its use, and many used it less than safely. Of course the main effect of government prohibition was to drive LSD into the black market and prevent scientists from studying it. But before LSD became illegal Leary had used it in a project with prisoners that was very successful in preventing recidivism. With less public hysteria, and with good training, mental health could have been greatly improved.

When Leary was released from prison he no longer wanted to talk about drugs, but about immortality and space travel. He had theorized a model of various higher “circuits” that LSD, other drugs, and various practices can induce to begin operating in human beings. Four of these he said were the ones we use in our ordinary life on earth. There are, he said, four others which are rarely experienced, and which are for use in outer space. He wanted to become immortal and journey in a starship which need not go faster than light if its passengers were immortal. He expected science to discover a method (or methods) to attain immortality quickly (this was in the mid-1970s). This was where I began to part company with the ideas in the book.

For one thing, immortality would cause immense problems if people in general stopped dying. Nature, as experienced on this planet, is organized around death: each generation has to make way for the next. All living organisms reproduce, therefore all must die. Their deaths help provide, through decomposition, the food that will nourish all the organisms that support life on the whole planet, which is already overpopulated with humans. An order of magnitude more would even more rapidly deplete the natural resources which could provide for them. And not enough space ships could be built–at least until we can easily mine the asteroids or moon– to take more than a small percentage to other star systems. There’s also a possibility that the bulk of the human race has responsibilities here.

Leary and Wilson seem to have been confident that human science would rather quickly find a way to stop death and keep humans healthy and happy for hundreds, thousands, even billions of years. That was forty years ago. Why haven’t we heard anything about it since?

One reason is that immortality is something the powerful wouldn’t want ordinary people to have. If a method of immortality was discovered, powerful people would want to keep it for themselves. If such a thing has been discovered, I suggest that is exactly what has happened. Immortality would be a powerful tool to obtain even more power.

That section of the book seems almost insanely optimistic, reminding me of something Wilson says he learned about Crowley from someone who knew him well. Crowley, his acquaintance said, often believed that the illumination he had attained was shared by many of the people he met, causing him to trust wrong people. Israel Regardie, a biographer of Crowley, who has worked as his secretary in the 1920s stated that Crowley had unresolved issues which caused him to have blind spots. He was, in some respects, wiser than many, but he wasn’t perfectly wise. Regardie’s autobiography stops before 1914, by which time he had had and assimilated most of the visions which had so deepened his perceptions. He had written most of the works for which he is known, and had also lost all his money. He lived more than thirty more years, but Regardie didn’t find his later life inspiring.

Another example of the optimism Wilson shows is his view of the acceleration of knowledge. Human knowledge took a long time to increase in the past, especially knowledge shared with the largest part of humanity. With the beginning of science about 500 years ago, knowledge has been piling up at an ever increasing rate. Some were predicting forty years ago that by this time the human race would be entirely transformed, with many obstacles passed very quickly. This has obviously not happened. The human race remains stuck in sorrow and suffering.

But much of the book remains exciting, though I can’t agree with all of it. It’s a sort of detective novel in which the author tries to understand more and more of how the world operates, and goes further and deeper than usual understandings. That can be pretty thrilling.

Wilson ends the book by telling how his daughter was beaten to death by an unhappy man who couldn’t have understood what he was doing, and how he resisted allowing that to crush him. As terribly as he suffered from that, he found that many people loved him and his family, and wanted to help in any way they could. One psychologist made a point of visiting a couple of times a week to talk if anyone needed him. Wilson later called such kindness bewildering, and was grateful and amazed it should exist. I don’t know if one should see such a crushing death as some kind of punishment for Wilson or anyone else in his family, but if he had done wrong, he was certainly punished.

He ends the book by asking Timothy Leary what he did when he was overwhelmed by negativity. Leary replied, “Come back with all the positive energy you can.” This, said Wilson, was how he learned the final secret of the Illuminati.

 

Conservatives and the Environment

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Cal Thomas, a well-known columnist wrote about climate change in a recent column. He doesn’t believe the climate is changing, or that, if it were, human activities have anything to do with it. One reader of the local paper caught him lying about that.
He cited one source as saying the Earth hasn’t warmed in eighteen years. The source in fact said that the earth had been warming steadily in that time. The other two sources Thomas cited were run by like-minded conservatives, so we can probably assume they had no more interest in being impartial than he did. Conservatives dislike the whole idea, and like to dismiss it as a way liberals (and presumably a majority of scientists) have devised conspiratorially to dictate to everyone.
Why did Mr. Thomas get so emotionally involved as to lie? Why does anyone? We all have biases. But one reason might be that one’s complicity in an ongoing catastrophe may be hard to acknowledge, especially if your political faith is partly defined in denying it.
Whether or not you believe human activity is causing climate change (I’ve always thought it plausible), what should be apparent is that humans spread pollution all over the world, destroying many plant and animal species. Elephants, rhinos, and lions are merely some of the most visible.
It should also be clear that destroying plant life, especially deforestation, is detrimental to the ability of plants to change carbon dioxide into oxygen, which is more urgent when we pump tons of CO2 into the atmosphere yearly. That’s just one of the more obvious ways we destroy the environment we depend on for life ourselves. It’s an example of liberty become licence, in the name of profit.
Profiteering is one of the things conservatives accuse liberals of in connection to climate science. Is that really likely? Profits from clean energy are mostly potential at this point, while profits from the fossil fuel industry are well-established, so the profit motive is much more likely to be projection on the part of conservatives. It’s the fossil fuel industry that has for years been casting doubt on climate science. They want all our eggs in their basket, even though their basket is poisonous. Is propaganda to stop a new industry the way the free market is really supposed to work? Conservatives in this country are wedded to the idea of the free market, but it isn’t an unmixed blessing.
A good example of negative capitalism is illegal drug trafficking. This is capitalism without regulation, and we see how it operates. Torturing and killing are standard.
Are they capitalism unmasked? One would hate to think so, but there’s no doubt they are capitalists. They produce and deliver a product for which there’s a demand, and they’re ruthless in accomplishing that.
Is that essentially different from oil and coal companies hiring scientists to cast doubt on climate science? What they’re doing is a lot less overt than beheadings, kidnappings and murders, but is on a more massive scale, and arguably more damaging.
It’s interesting how bitter Thomas and other conservative commentators get on the subject of human activity causing climate change. They really want the whole world to agree with them, and may be bitter in part not just because of the disagreement, but because a sizable portion of the world considers them immoral.
They aren’t immoral just for their beliefs, nor are they they only ones who are immoral. Living in this country it’s very difficult not to be complicit in the massive pollution that interferes with the natural processes that keep all of us alive. Think of all the products we manufacture that don’t biodegrade. Probably millions of tons each year that leave piles of eternal trash littering the world. The one thing you can say in favor of this trash is that it’s convenient.
I contribute my share of trash too. When I give patients medications I use plastic med cups and plastic cups, and throw them away after one use. When I started working in a hospital almost fifty years ago it was somewhat different. A lot of the equipment was metal, and we sterilized it in an autoclave for repeated use. Now bedpans, urinals, and wash basins are all plastic. IV fluid containers used to be glass, now they’re plastic. IV tubing and oxygen tubing is all plastic. So are the lancets with which we stick the fingers of diabetics to check their blood sugars. Syringes are mostly plastic, and are only used once. The facility where I work generates a lot of plastic trash every day, and then you can multiply it by many other nursing homes in this area, two hospitals in the city where I live, and others nearby, plus doctor’s offices. That’s only one region, and includes only the medical industry. Consider how many other things are made largely of plastics, including computers, phones, CDs, DVDs, toys, etc. All these things are attractive, but are bad for the environment, since they don’t biodegrade. And I don’t see us trying to find alternatives to any of these things.
That means we still aren’t serious about the problem. My meditation teacher said that pollution would continue while people called each other names about it. The name-calling hasn’t stopped, and the pollution continues.
Our country can be great when we truly face our challenges. Right now most of us aren’t willing, and Cal Thomas lying about what our problems really are doesn’t help matters.

Wilhelm Reich Making a Life in America

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After Wilhelm Reich settled in America his view of psychiatric therapy became something more tangible than abstract analyses of dreams, resistance, etc. He saw health as the free flow of energy in the body, and unhealthiness as anything blocking that flow. This view is similar to that of Chinese medicine, and acupuncture in particular is supposed to facilitate energy flow. On superficial research, though, I don’t see anything as deep or as systematic in it as Reich’s view.
Reich saw chronic muscular spasms as blocking uncomfortable or unacceptable emotional energy, which would then remain trapped in the body, unable to be discharged, which would create sexual dysfunction to greater or lesser extent.
The greater the dysfunction, he thought, the more rigid the personality, and the more liable to cooperation with and submission to tyrannies. He saw people in general as being unable to accept freedom and responsibility, which made them easy to manipulate by master propagandists like Hitler. This is no less obvious today.
Myron Sharaf, his biographer, who had previously worked with him, says that he resented the system which made effective treatment available only to a small elite who could afford to pay for it. By this time he was less interested in therapy than in research, but had to continue treating patients to finance his research. He tried various educational initiatives, hoping that some other method would emerge that could treat people on a large scale, but was unable to find any.
His view of sexuality was threatening to many ordinary people, but especially to people in positions of power. The director of the hospital in which Dr. Elsworth Baker ( a student and associate of Reich’s) worked turned against him (though previously considering Baker a particularly fine psychotherapist) when he discovered Baker’s interest in Reich’s methods of treatment. Still, he managed to conduct some research in areas that he thought would help people.
One area of research was with children, instigated by the birth of his son, Peter. He loved to observe Peter’s behavior, and noted that his primary energetic area was his mouth: when it sucked on his mother’s nipple, and the nipple responded by becoming erect, he saw the excitement manifested by the nipple becoming a unit with the infant’s mouth. Obviously, from his perspective, this was a highly important source of contact for the infant in particular, but probably also for the mother.
He also saw the infant’s eyes as highly sensitive and charged. Infants, he said, preferred lively colors, and if able to watch their surroundings while riding in carriage or car, would do so avidly. They also liked eye-contact with their mothers, but if the mother’s eyes weren’t “alive” enough, this could cause a withdrawal.
His experience with Peter prompted him to start a program to study the interaction between mothers and infants. The program never got too large, and other efforts got in its way, but Reich gleaned some insights from it that were ahead of his time. He was a proponent of natural childbirth, though he also wanted the safety of birth in hospitals. He didn’t want the infant separated from the mother after birth, unless absolutely necessary. He wanted to be very careful about medicines and other substances ingested by the mother during pregnancy too.
He also noted a behavior in which Peter shook slightly, and his eyes rolled up in his head after nursing. He called this “oral orgasm”, and saw it as analogous to adult genital orgasm. Again, the stimulus would come from the mother’s nipple. This is another of his observations which has been scantily researched since, if at all.
Another of his projects was treatment of a young woman with schizophrenia. He saw schizophrenia as being much different in manifestation from neurosis, but stemming from similar causes. The main difference was a split between sensation and perception, he thought. He found the young woman almost embarrassingly honest, in contact with her deep experiences, but with distorted perceptions. Neurotics he found to be out of touch with their deep experiences, because of their muscular armor, and unwilling to talk about what sensations they had.
The young woman felt “both protected and persecuted by her ‘forces’, the nature of which she did not understand.” Reich began to see her “forces” as projections of her bodily sensations, and focused on helping her lose her fear of the streamings of energy in her body. He stressed the necessity of GRADUAL release of emotion and energy so that the patient would not be overwhelmed.
He was surprised to find that the patient identified her “forces” with the sun, suggesting she perceived them in her whole surrounding environment. Sharaf notes that a number of Reich’s former colleagues were saying HE was schizophrenic at this time, and indeed he was perceiving energy everywhere, just as his patient did. But although Reich could be self-destructive and paranoid, Sharaf doesn’t believe he ever really lost touch with reality. He continued to have deep insights the rest of his life, even during the stress of being persecuted because of his work.
His concern with such a patient was to avoid such crude treatments as electric shock, but to help the patient learn to tolerate intense sensations without “going off” in the eyes (rolling the eyeballs upwards to lessen the intensity).
Reich said this patient had endured verbal abuse from her mother for years, and had conceived a murderous hatred for her, wishing to strangle her. At one point she asked to squeeze Reich’s throat. He said he was a bit frightened, but told her to go ahead. He said she placed her hands very carefully around his throat, and squeezed very gently, after which she sat back in her chair, and he observed her breathing normally (one of the indicators of whether energy was blocked in the body).
Reich didn’t entirely cure this patient, but her condition did improve. Sharaf points out that schizophrenics sometimes improve from any kind of treatment or none, but that this is rare. She reached a level where she could function better, though not ideally, being more neurotic than psychotic.
Reich also became concerned about what he called the “emotional plague” character. Most neurotics he called “character” neurotics. They were unable to give, but usually minded their own business, and caused little damage. “Emotional plague” people were different in that they attacked, and persuaded others to attack people they disapproved of. He saw these “plague” people as having a lot of energy, but being so armored they were unable to use it positively, and were envious of anyone freer than they. Sharaf cites Martin Luther King’s persecution by J. Edgar Hoover as an example of this: Hoover threatened to expose King’s sex life (Hoover’s own was questionable by contemporary standards), a method that worked with most people Hoover dealt with. In this case, King refused to be intimidated.
Emotional plague characters are also very prominent today. It’s popular to discriminate against people with different sexual orientations than one’s own, against women seeking contraception or abortions, and against women’s rights in general. This was the sort of tactic Hitler used so ably, as a means of distracting people and directing their anger against scapegoats. These tactics are used today by people of equal sexual dysfunction, as pointed out in the sexual histories of three of the men most responsible for prosecuting President Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Two were also having affairs at around the same time, and one paid out a lot of money because he had molested a child.
When negative rumors started about Reich in the town of Rangeley, Maine, where he had his summer home, he tried to find out who had started the rumors and confront them directly. In one case, a local citizen called Reich and the people working with him Communists. Reich wrote to him, asking if he’d started the rumor, didn’t get an answer, but had his identity confirmed by others. Reich then wrote a letter, which the people working with him signed, talking about the dangers of slander and gossip, and how those using them as tools rely on people’s fears of being slandered themselves. Sharaf thinks he was successful in this case. But more serious problems had already begun.

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.