This weird energy has fascinated me some time now and here is a small briefing what is it about:
This term orgonite derives from ‘orgone’, the term provided by Wilhelm Reich for essential energy discovered everywhere throughout nature. Also known as “Chi”, “Prana”, “Ether”, “Élan Vital”, or “fifth element”, this vital energy exists in an organic way within a variety of types. It may be neutral (OR), positive (POR) or damaging (DOR = deadly orgone energy). When positive, it enables living microorganisms to be found in a healthy condition. Reich did a great deal of research and research on the attributes as well as behaviors surrounding this subtle energy.
Reich constructed a powerful orgone accumulator from alternate levels of metal as well as organic material. He built a fabulous cloudbuster with which he could cause it to rain, and he witnessed how orgone radiation was capable of counteract nuclear radiation. He died during his jail, after experiencing his laboratory and much of his written work incinerated by the government bodies, who feared what knowledge of this energy could possibly reveal.
Reich’s ‘Cloud Buster’, constructed from a collection of aluminum pipes/tubes of different lengths which were sat on a spinning base. From the actual tubes was an earthing cable which was submerged in running water. When pointed at the heavens, he could create clouds as well as cause it to rain as well as dissolve clouds and establishing a very clear blue sky.
It is essential to realize what DOR is. DOR (Deadly Orgone Energy) is POR, (Postive Orgone Energy) but “armored” as Reich called it. “Armoring” means that the living energy doesn’t circulate freely any further, but has been compromised into a rigid form. Whenever a knight wears his armor, he cannot move that freely any further. The same is applicable with energy when “armored”. Take a look at mother nature. When water flows freely, it’s full of vitality and living in it flourishes. When water turns stagnant, it develops into a stinking pool, and life in it is dissipated. DOR is negative, that is, it suffocates life types.
It generates disease, plus ultimately it will contribute to death. DOR energy is principally human made, simply by technology, such as equipment and microwave transmitters, chemical substance pollution, actual physical break down of the landscape, but also simply by human emotions. A location where a violent death happened, for instance, will retain this DOR imprint on that place for some time. A residence where the inhabitants have a lot of negative emotionally charged reactions will also be filled with DOR. The human body itself can likewise be armored, that is, by long term psychologically and mental complications, man’s creative expression may be blocked or dammed up, leading to contraction of his / her energy, quickly or slowly resulting in disease.
As people we are open to energy systems. This means that we can’t shield ourselves entirely coming from our environment. We are continually subjected to the actual energies in our environment. They affect us whether we’re conscious of this or even not. Therefore it is important to transform any DOR that surrounds us all into positive POR.
Wilhelm Reich Reich in Vienna in his mid-20s
Born 24 March 1897 Place of birth Dobzau, Austria-Hungary (present-day Ukraine) Died 3 November 1957 (aged 60) Place of death United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania Cause of death Heart failure Resting place Orgonon, Rangeley, Maine
Nationality Austrian Education M.D. (1922)
University of Vienna
Known for Freudo-Marxism, character analysis, muscular armour, vegetotherapy, orgastic potency, body psychotherapy, neo-Reichian massage, orgone Notable works Character Analysis (1933)
The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933)
The Sexual Revolution (1936)
Parents and sibling Leon Reich and Cecilia Roniger, Robert Reich (brother) Partners Annie Pink (m. 1922–1933)
Elsa Lindenberg (1932–1939)
Ilse Ollendorf (m. 1946–1951)
Aurora Karrer (1955–1957)
Children Eva (1924–2008), Lore (b. 1928), Peter (b. 1944) Website Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust
Wilhelm Reich (24 March 1897 – 3 November 1957) was an Austrian psychoanalyst, a member of the second generation of psychoanalysts after Sigmund Freud, and one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry. He was the author of several influential books and essays, most notably Character Analysis (1933), The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933), and The Sexual Revolution (1936). His work on character contributed to the development of Anna Freud‘s The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence (1936), and his idea of muscular armour – the expression of the personality in the way the body moves – shaped innovations such as body psychotherapy, Fritz Perls‘s Gestalt therapy, Alexander Lowen‘s bioenergetic analysis, and Arthur Janov‘s primal therapy. His writing influenced generations of intellectuals: during the 1968 student uprisings in Paris and Berlin, students scrawled his name on walls and threw copies of The Mass Psychology of Fascism at the police.
After graduating in medicine from the University of Vienna in 1922, Reich studied neuropsychiatry under Julius Wagner-Jauregg and became deputy director of the Vienna Ambulatorium, Freud’s psychoanalytic outpatient clinic. Described by Elizabeth Danto as a large man with a cantankerous style who managed to look scruffy and elegant at the same time, he tried to reconcile psychoanalysis with Marxism, arguing that neurosis is rooted in physical, sexual and socio-economic conditions, and in particular in a lack of what he called “orgastic potency.” He visited patients in their homes to see how they lived, and took to the streets in a mobile clinic, promoting adolescent sexuality and the availability of contraceptives, abortion and divorce, a provocative message in Catholic Austria. He said he wanted to “attack the neurosis by its prevention rather than treatment.”
From the 1930s onwards he became an increasingly controversial figure; from 1932 until four years after his death no publisher other than his own published his work. His promotion of sexual permissiveness disturbed the psychoanalytic community and his associates on the political left, and his vegetotherapy, in which he massaged his disrobed patients to dissolve their muscular armour, violated the key taboos of psychoanalysis. He moved to New York in 1939, in part to escape the Nazis, and shortly after arriving there coined the term “orgone” – derived from “orgasm” and “organism” – for a cosmic energy he said he had discovered, which he said others referred to as God. In 1940 he started building orgone accumulators, devices that his patients sat inside to harness the reputed health benefits, leading to newspaper stories about sex boxes that cured cancer.
Following two critical articles about him in The New Republic and Harper’s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration obtained an injunction against the interstate shipment of orgone accumulators and associated literature, believing they were dealing with a “fraud of the first magnitude.” Charged with contempt in 1956 for having violated the injunction, Reich was sentenced to two years in prison, and in June and August that year over six tons of his publications were burned by order of the court, one of the most notable examples of censorship in the history of the United States. He died in jail of heart failure just over a year later, days before he was due to apply for parole.
Reich was born the first of two sons to Leon Reich, a farmer, and his wife Cäcilie (née Roninger) in Dobzau, Galicia, then part of Austria-Hungary, now in Ukraine. There was a sister too, born one year after Reich, but she died in infancy. His father was by all accounts a cold and jealous man. Both parents were Jewish, but decided against raising the boys as Jews. Reich and his brother, Robert, were brought up to speak only German, were punished for using Yiddish expressions, and were forbidden from playing with the local Yiddish-speaking children.
Shortly after his birth the family moved to Jujinetz, a village in Bukovina, where his father took control of a cattle farm leased by his mother’s uncle, Josef Blum. As an adult, Reich wrote extensively in his diary of his sexual precocity. He maintained that his first sexual experience was at the age of four when he tried to have sex with the family maid (with whom he shared a bed), that he would regularly watch the animals have sex, that he used a whip handle sexually on the horses while masturbating, and that he had almost daily sexual intercourse from the age of 11 with another of the servants. He wrote of regular visits to brothels, the first of which took place when he was 15, and said he was visiting them daily from the age of around 17. He also developed sexual fantasies about his mother, writing when he was 22 that he masturbated while thinking about her.
It is impossible to judge the truth of these diary entries, but Reich’s second daughter, psychiatrist Lore Reich Rubin, told Christopher Turner that she believed Reich had been a victim of child sexual abuse, and that this explained his lifelong interest in sex and childhood sexuality.
Death of parents
He was taught at home until he was 12, when his mother was discovered having an affair with his live-in tutor. Reich wrote about it in 1920 in his first published paper, “Ueber einen Fall von Durchbruch der Inzestschranke” (“About a Case of Breaching the Incest Taboo”), presented in the third person as though about a patient. He wrote that he would follow his mother when she went to the tutor’s bedroom at night, feeling ashamed and jealous, and wondering if they would kill him if they found out that he knew. He briefly thought of forcing her to have sex with him too, on pain of threatening to tell his father. In the end he did tell his father, and after a protracted period of beatings she committed suicide in 1910, for which Reich blamed himself.
With the tutor ordered out of the house, Reich was sent to an all-male gymnasium in Czernowitz. It was during this period that a skin condition first appeared, diagnosed as psoriasis, that plagued him for the rest of his life, leading several commentators to remark on his ruddy complexion. It was also during this time that his visits to brothels increased; he wrote in his diary of his professed feelings of disgust for the women, despite the daily visits. His father died of tuberculosis in 1914, and because of rampant inflation the father’s insurance policy was worthless, so no money was forthcoming for the brothers. Reich managed the farm and continued with his studies, graduating in 1915 mit Stimmeneinhelligkeit (unanimous approval). The Russians invaded Bukovina that summer and the Reich brothers fled, losing everything. Reich wrote in his diary: “I never saw either my homeland or my possessions again. Of a well-to-do past, nothing was left.”
It was in New York in 1939 that Reich first said he had discovered a life force, or cosmic energy, an extension of Freud’s idea of the libido. He said he had seen traces of it when he injected his mice with bions and had seen it in the sky at night through a special telescope he called an “organoscope.” He called it “orgone energy” or “orgone radiation,” and the study of it “orgonomy.” He argued that it is in the soil and in the air (and indeed is omnipresent), is blue or blue-grey, and that humankind had split its knowledge of it in two: “ether” for the physical aspect and “God” for the spiritual. The colour of the sky, the northern lights, St Elmo’s Fire, and the blue of sexually excited frogs are manifestations of orgone, he wrote. He also argued that protozoa, red corpuscles, cancer cells and the chlorophyll of plants are charged with it.
In 1940 he began to build insulated Faraday cages that he said would concentrate the orgone, and called them “orgone accumulators.” The earliest boxes were for lab animals. He built his first human-sized, five-foot-tall box in December 1940, and set it up in the basement of his house. Turner writes that it was made of plywood lined with rock wool and sheet iron, and had a chair inside and a small window. The boxes had multiple layers of these materials so that they were, in effect, boxes within boxes; this caused the orgone concentration inside the box to be three to five times stronger than in the air, Reich said. Patients were expected to sit inside them naked.
The accumulators were tested on mice with cancer, and on plant growth. He wrote to his supporters in July 1941 that orgone is “definitely able to destroy cancerous growth. This is proved by the fact that tumors in all parts of the body are disappearing or diminishing. No other remedy in the world can claim such a thing.” Although not licensed to practise medicine in the United States, he began to test the boxes on human beings suffering from cancer and schizophrenia. In one case the test had to be stopped prematurely because the subject, who had cancer, heard a rumour that Reich was insane; there were stories, which were false, that he had been hospitalized in the Utica State Mental Hospital. In another case the father of an eight-year-old girl with cancer approached him for help, then complained to the American Medical Association that he was practising without a licence. He asked his supporters to stick with him through the criticism, believing that he had developed a grand unified theory of physical and mental health.
Experiment with Einstein
In December 1940 Reich wrote to Albert Einstein (1879–1955) saying he had a scientific discovery he wanted to discuss, and in January 1941 visited Einstein at his home in Princeton, where they talked for nearly five hours. He told Einstein that he had discovered a “specific biologically effective energy which behaves in many respects differently to all that is known about electromagnetic energy.” He said it could be used against disease, and as a weapon “in the fight against the Fascist pestilence.” (Einstein had signed a letter to President Roosevelt in August 1939 to warn of the danger of Nazi Germany building an atom bomb, and had urged the United States to set up its own research project.) Einstein agreed that if an object’s temperature could be raised without an apparent heating source, as Reich was suggesting, it would be “a bomb.”
Reich was much encouraged by the meeting and hoped he would be invited to join Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study. During their next meeting he gave Einstein a small accumulator, and over the next 10 days Einstein performed experiments with it in his basement, which involved taking the temperature above, inside and near the device, and stripping it down to its Faraday cage to compare temperatures. He observed a rise in temperature, which Reich argued was caused by orgone. One of Einstein’s assistants pointed out that the temperature was lower on the floor than on the ceiling. Einstein concluded that the effect was simply due to the temperature gradient inside the room. “Through these experiments I regard the matter as completely solved,” he wrote to Reich on 7 February 1941.
Reich responded with a 25-page letter in which he tried to change Einstein’s mind. To rule out the influence of convection he told Einstein he had introduced a horizontal plate above the accumulator, wrapped it in a blanket, suspended it freely in the room, buried it underground and placed it outside. He wrote that in all these circumstances the temperature difference remained, and was in fact more marked in the open air. Einstein did not respond to this or to Reich’s future correspondence – Reich would write regularly reporting the results of his experiments – until Reich threatened three years later to publish their previous exchange. Einstein replied that he could not devote any further time to the matter and asked that his name not be misused for advertising purposes. Reich believed that Einstein’s change of heart was part of a conspiracy of some kind, perhaps related to the communists, or prompted by the rumours that Reich was ill. Reich published the correspondence in 1953 as The Einstein Affair.
Arrested by the FBI
Reich lost his position at the New School in May 1941 after writing to its director, Alvin Johnson (1874–1971), to say he had saved several lives in secret experiments with the accumulator; Johnson was aware of Reich’s claims that he could cure cancer, and told him the New School was not an appropriate institution for the work. Reich was also evicted from Kessel Street after his neighbours complained about the animal experiments. His supporters, including Walter Briehl, gave him $14,000 to buy a house, and he settled into 9906 69th Avenue.
On 12 December 1941, five days after Pearl Harbor and the day after Germany declared it was at war with the United States, Reich was arrested in his home at 2 a.m. by the FBI and taken to Ellis Island, where he was held for over three weeks. He identified himself at the time as the Associate Professor of Medical Psychology, Director of the Orgone Institute. He was at first left to sleep on the floor in a large hall, surrounded by members of the fascist German American Bund, who Reich feared might kill him, but when his psoriasis returned he was transferred to the hospital ward. He was questioned about several books the FBI found when they searched his home, including Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Trotsky‘s My Life, a biography of Lenin, and a Russian alphabet book for children. After threatening to go on hunger strike he was released, on 5 January, but his name remained on the “key figures list” of the Enemy Alien Control Unit, which meant he was placed under surveillance.
Turner writes that it seems Reich was the victim of mistaken identity; there was a William Reich who ran a bookstore in New Jersey, which was used to distribute Communist material. The FBI acknowledged the mistake in November 1943 and closed Reich’s file. In 2000 it released 789 pages of the file, which said:
This German immigrant described himself as the Associate Professor of Medical Psychology, Director of the Orgone Institute, President and research physician of the Wilhelm Reich Foundation and discoverer of biological or life energy. A 1940 security investigation was begun to determine the extent of Reich’s communist commitments. A board of Alien Enemy Hearing judged that Dr. Reich was not a threat to the security of the U.S. In 1947, a security investigation concluded that neither the Orgone Project nor any of its staff were engaged in subversive activities or were in violation of any statute within the jurisdiction of the FBI. …
Brady articles and the FDA
Until 1947 Reich enjoyed a largely uncritical press in the United States. One journal, Psychosomatic Medicine, had called orgone a “surrealist creation,” but his psychoanalytic work had been discussed in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Psychiatry, The Nation had given his writing positive reviews, and he was listed in American Men of Science.
His reputation took a sudden downturn in April and May 1947, when articles by journalist Mildred Edie Brady (1906–1965) appeared in Harper’s and The New Republic, the latter entitled “The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich”, with the subhead, “The man who blames both neuroses and cancer on unsatisfactory sexual activities has been repudiated by only one scientific journal.” Brady’s ultimate target was not Reich but psychoanalysis, which Turner writes she regarded as akin to astrology. Of Reich she wrote: “Orgone, named after the sexual orgasm, is, according to Reich, a cosmic energy. It is, in fact, the cosmic energy. Reich has not only discovered it; he has seen it, demonstrated it and named a town – Orgonon, Maine – after it. Here he builds accumulators of it, which are rented out to patients, who presumably derive ‘orgastic potency’ from it.” Brady argued that the “growing Reich cult” had to be dealt with.
At the top of his copy of the New Republic article, Reich wrote the words “THE SMEAR.” Turner writes that Reich sent out a press release correcting some of Brady’s points, but no one published it, though other publications reproduced her story.
In July 1947 Dr. J.J. Durrett, director of the Medical Advisory Division of the Federal Trade Commission, wrote to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking them to look into Reich’s claims about the health benefits of orgone. The FDA assigned an investigator to the case, who learned that Reich had built 250 accumulators. The FDA concluded that they were dealing with a “fraud of the first magnitude.” Sharaf writes that the FDA suspected a sexual racket of some kind; questions were asked about the women associated with orgonomy and “what was done with them.” From that point on, Reich’s work came increasingly to the attention of the authorities.
Orgonomic Infant Research Center
Reich set up the Orgonomic Infant Research Center (OIRC) in 1950, with the aim of preventing muscular “armouring” in children from birth. Meetings were held in the basement of Reich’s house in Forest Hills. Christopher Turner writes that several children who were treated by OIRC therapists later said they had been sexually abused by them, though not by Reich. One woman said she was assaulted by one of Reich’s associates when she was five years old. Children were asked to stand naked in front of Reich and a group of 30 therapists in his basement, while Reich described the children’s “blockages.” Reich’s daughter, Lore Reich Rubin, told Turner that she believed her father was an abuser, though she did not say she had been abused by him and acknowledged that she had no evidence. She believed that Reich himself had been a victim of it as a child, which is why he developed such a keen interest in sex and childhood sexuality.
The sexual allegations apart, several people discussed how the vegetotherapy sessions had hurt them physically as children, as therapists pressed hard on certain parts of the body to loosen body armour. Reich’s son, Peter, wrote in his autobiography, Book of Dreams (1973) about the pain this had caused him. Susanna Steig, the daughter of William Steig, the New Yorker cartoonist, wrote about being pressed so hard during Reichian therapy sessions that she had difficulty breathing, and said that a woman therapist had sexually assaulted her. Turner writes that in 1952 a nurse from New Jersey complained to the New York Medical Society that an OIRC therapist had taught her five-year-old son how to masturbate. The therapist was arrested, but the case was dropped when Reich agreed to close the OIRC.
Reich and Ollendorff divorced in September 1951, ostensibly because he thought she had had an affair, though she continued to work with him for another three years. Even after the divorce he continued to suspect her of having affairs, and persuaded her to sign confessions about her feelings of fear and hatred toward him, which he locked away in the archives of his Orgone Institute. He also wrote several documents denouncing her. He was himself having an affair at the time with Lois Wyvell (d. 2005), who ran the Orgone Institute Press.
Also in 1951 Reich said he had discovered another energy that he called Deadly Orgone Radiation (DOR). He wrote that accumulations of DOR played a role in desertification, and he designed a “cloudbuster,” two rows of 15-foot aluminium pipes mounted on a mobile platform, connected to cables that were inserted into water. He believed that it acted to unblock orgone energy in the atmosphere, and said that it could cause rain. Turner describes it as an “orgone box turned inside out.”
He conducted dozens of experiments with the cloudbuster, calling his research “Cosmic Orgone Engineering.” During a drought in 1953, two farmers in Maine offered to pay him if he could make it rain to save their blueberry crop. Reich used the cloudbuster on the morning of 6 July, and according to Bangor’s Daily News – based on an eyewitness account that was probably from Peter Reich – rain began to fall that evening. The crop survived, the farmers declared themselves satisfied, and Reich received his fee.
Over the years the FDA interviewed physicians, Reich’s students and his patients, asking about his use of orgone accumulators. On 29 July 1952 three FDA inspectors arrived at Orgonon unannounced. Sharaf writes that Reich detested unannounced visitors; he had once chased some people away with a gun just for looking at an adjacent property. He told the inspectors they had to read his work before he would interact with them, and ordered them to leave.
The attention of the FDA triggered belligerent responses from Reich, who called them “HIGS” (hoodlums in government) and the tools of red fascists. He developed a delusion that he had powerful friends in government, including President Eisenhower, who he believed would protect him, and that the U.S. Air Force was flying over Orgonon to make sure that he was all right. In February 1954 the United States Attorney for the District of Maine filed a complaint seeking a permanent injunction under Sections 301 and 302 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, to prevent interstate shipment of orgone accumulators and to ban promotional literature. Reich refused to appear in court, arguing that no court was in a position to evaluate his work. In a long letter to Judge Clifford, he wrote:
My factual position in the case as well as in the world of science of today does not permit me to enter the case against the Food and Drug Administration, since such action would, in my mind, imply admission of the authority of this special branch of the government to pass judgment on primordial, pre-atomic cosmic orgone energy. I, therefore, rest the case in full confidence in your hands.
The injunction was granted by default on 19 March 1954. The judge ordered that all accumulators, their parts and instructions be destroyed, and that books mentioning orgone be withheld.
Turner writes that the injunction triggered a further deterioration in Reich’s mental health. From at least early 1954, he came to believe that Earth was being attacked by UFOs, or “energy alphas,” as he called them. He said he often saw them flying over Orgonon – shaped like thin cigars with windows – leaving streams of black Deadly Orgone Radiation in their wake, which he believed the aliens were scattering in order to destroy the planet. He and his son would spend their nights searching for UFOs through telescopes and binoculars, and when they believed they had found one would roll out the cloudbuster to suck the energy out of it. Reich claimed he had shot several of them down. Armed with two cloudbusters, they had fought what Reich called a “full-scale interplanetary battle” in Arizona, where Reich had rented a house as a base station while he cleaned up the desert with a cloudbuster. He also wrote in Contact with Space that in March 1956 the “very remote possibility” occurred to him that his own father had been from outer space.
In late 1954 he began an affair with Grethe Hoff, a former patient who was married to an associate of Reich’s, the psychologist Myron Sharaf (1927–1997), who in 1983 published one of the key biographies of Reich. The couple had had their first child a year before Hoff left him for Reich. The affair had ended by June 1955, but the marriage was not repaired. In August 1955 Reich began a relationship with Aurora Karrer, a medical researcher, and in November moved out of Orgonon to an apartment in Alban Towers, Washington, D.C., to live with her, using the pseudonym Dr. Walter Roner.
Conviction and sentencing
While Reich was in Arizona in May 1956, one of his associates sent an accumulator part through the mail to another state in violation of the injunction, after an FDA inspector posing as a customer requested it. Reich and another associate, Dr. Michael Silvert (1906–1958), were charged with contempt of court; Silvert had been looking after the inventory in Reich’s absence. Reich at first refused to attend court, and was arrested and held for two days until a supporter posted bail of $30,000. Representing himself during the hearing, he admitted the violation but nevertheless pleaded not guilty and hinted at dark conspiracies; during a recess the judge apparently suggested a psychiatric evaluation to Reich’s ex-wife, Ilse Ollendorff, but this was not communicated to Reich. The jury found him guilty on 7 May 1956 and he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Silvert was sentenced to a year and a day, the Wilhelm Reich Foundation was fined $10,000, and the accumulators and associated literature were to be destroyed.
On 5 June 1956 two FDA officials traveled to Orgonon to supervise the destruction of the accumulators. Most of them had been sold at that point, and another 50 were with Silvert in New York. Only three were at Orgonon. The FDA agents were not allowed to destroy them, only to supervise the destruction, so Reich’s friends and his son Peter chopped them up with axes as the agents watched. Once they were destroyed, Reich placed an American flag on top of them.
On 26 June the agents returned to supervise the destruction of the promotional material, including 251 copies of his books. The American Civil Liberties Union issued a press release criticizing the book burning, although coverage of the release was poor, and Reich ended up asking them not to help because he was annoyed that they had failed to criticize the destruction of the accumulators. In England A.S. Neill and the poet Herbert Read (1893–1968) signed a letter of protest, but it was never published. On 23 July the remaining accumulators in New York were destroyed by S.A. Collins and Sons, who had built them.
On 23 August six tons of his books, journals, and papers were burned in the 25th Street public incinerator in New York, the Gansevoort incinerator. The burned material included copies of several of his books, including The Sexual Revolution, Character Analysis and The Mass Psychology of Fascism. Though these had been published in German before Reich ever discussed orgone, he had added mention of it to the English editions, so they were caught by the injunction. As with the accumulators, the FDA was supposed only to observe the destruction. The psychiatrist Victor Sobey (d. 1995), an associate of Reich’s, wrote: “All the expenses and labor had to be provided by the [Orgone Institute] Press. A huge truck with three to help was hired. I felt like people who, when they are to be executed, are made to dig their own graves first and are then shot and thrown in. We carried box after box of the literature.” It has been cited as one of the worst examples of censorship in U.S. history.
Reich appealed the lower court’s decision in October 1956, but the Court of Appeals upheld it on 11 December. He wrote several times to J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, requesting a meeting. He appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided on 25 February 1957 not to review the case. On 12 March Reich and Silvert were sent to Danbury Federal Prison. (Silvert committed suicide in May 1958, five months after his release.) Richard C. Hubbard, a psychiatrist who admired Reich, examined him on admission, recording paranoia manifested by delusions of grandiosity, persecution, and ideas of reference:
The patient feels that he has made outstanding discoveries. Gradually over a period of many years he has explained the failure of his ideas in becoming universally accepted by the elaboration of psychotic thinking. “The Rockerfellows (sic) are against me.” (Delusion of grandiosity.) “The airplanes flying over prison are sent by the Air Force to encourage me.” (Ideas of reference and grandiosity.)
On 19 March Reich was transferred to the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary and examined again. This time it was decided that he was mentally competent and that his personality appeared intact, though he might become psychotic under stress. A few days later, on his 60th birthday, he wrote to his son, Peter, then 13:
I am in Lewisburg. I am calm, certain in my thoughts, and doing mathematics most of the time. I am kind of “above things,” fully aware of what is up. Do not worry too much about me, though anything might happen. I know, Pete, that you are strong and decent. At first I thought that you should not visit me here. I do not know. With the world in turmoil I now feel that a boy your age should experience what is coming his way—fully digest it without getting a “belly ache,” so to speak, nor getting off the right track of truth, fact, honesty, fair play, and being above board—never a sneak… .
He applied for a presidential pardon in May, to no avail. Peter visited him in jail several times, where one prisoner said Reich was known as the “flying saucer guy” and the “Sex Box man.” Reich told Peter that he cried a lot, and wanted Peter to let himself cry too, believing that tears are the “great softener.” His last letter to his son was on 22 October 1957, when he said he was looking forward to being released on 10 November, having served one third of his sentence. A parole hearing had been scheduled for a few days before that date. He wrote that he and Peter had a date for a meal at the Howard Johnson restaurant near Peter’s school.
Reich failed to appear for morning roll call on 3 November and was found at 7 a.m. dead in his bed, fully clothed but for his shoes. The prison doctor said he had died during the night of “myocardial insufficiency with sudden heart failure.” He was buried in a vault at Orgonon that he had asked his caretaker to dig in 1955. He had left instructions that there was to be no religious ceremony, but that a record should be played of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” sung by Marian Anderson, and that his granite headstone should read simply: “Wilhelm Reich, Born March 24, 1897, Died …” None of the academic journals carried an obituary. Time magazine wrote on 18 November 1957:
Died. Wilhelm Reich, 60, once-famed psychoanalyst, associate and follower of Sigmund Freud, founder of the Wilhelm Reich Foundation, lately better known for unorthodox sex and energy theories; of a heart attack; in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary, Pa; where he was serving a two-year term for distributing his invention, the “orgone energy accumulator” (in violation of the Food and Drug Act), a telephone-booth-size device that supposedly gathered energy from the atmosphere, and could cure, while the patient sat inside, common colds, cancer, and impotence.
“Treat kindly every miserable truth that knocks begging at your door, otherwise you will some day fail to recognize Truth Himself when He comes in rags.”
AUSTIN O’MALLEY, Keystones of Thought