Wilhelm Reich was a physician and scientist whose investigation of energy functions in human emotions led to the discovery of an unknown, all energy which exists in all living matter and in the cosmos. He called this energy “Orgone,” derived from “orgasm” and “organism” – for a cosmic energy which he said others referred to as God. Born in 1897 in the Austrian province of Galicia, Wilhelm Reich, a student of Sigmund Freud, became one of the great Psychoanalytic Pioneers before his clinical studies led him into the laboratory and to investigations of the energy processes in nature.
He was hounded, marginalized, maligned and very probably murdered, dying the day before parole while in a US federal prison.
Literally tons of his research work was destroyed as well. Of course, his research led to the weaponization of Torsion field, but who’s looking.
While many methods have been proposed for weather control, few have been quite as peculiar as the Cloudbuster. This device manipulates Orgone Energy, a cosmic life force which also happens to hold clouds together. The cloudbuster is a set of hollow tubes pointing to the sky and “earthed” by a connection to water. It can supposedly form or disperse clouds and cause or prevent rain. Reich’s theories attracted considerable media attention. Reich also discovered a variation of orgone that was stagnant. He called this energy deadly orgone, or DOR (Deadly Orgone Radiation). He used cloud busters to remove clouds of DOR that are hostile to life.
From the 1930s onwards he became an increasingly controversial figure. 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.
Wilhelm Reich’s legal case against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a complex narrative spanning many years and comprising hundreds of pages of legal documents and correspondence. (The voluminous correspondence between Reich and his lawyers can be found in the Archives of the Orgone Institute at the Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard University.)
In the summer of 1947, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began its investigation of Wilhelm Reich, M.D., believing that his use, rental and sale of orgone energy accumulators constituted fraudulent activities. The FDA’s investigation was sparked by an article entitled “The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich” by Mildred Edie Brady which appeared in the May 26, 1947 edition of New Republic magazine.
Among Brady’s numerous inaccurate and misleading statements was her claim that “Reich was building accumulators of orgone energy which are rented out to patients who presumably derive ‘orgastic potency’ from it.” Implying that Reich was a danger to the public, Brady challenged the medical authorities to take action against him.
Two months later, in July 1947, her article was brought to the attention of the FDA. Several weeks later, in August, an FDA agent visited Reich at his laboratory at Orgonon in Rangeley, Maine. Six and a half years later, in February 1954, the FDA persuaded the United States Attorney for the District of Maine to sign a Complaint for Injunction against The Wilhelm Reich Foundation, Wilhelm Reich and Ilse Ollendorff (Reich’s wife).
This Complaint contained the following statement: “…the alleged orgone energy, as claimed to have been discovered and its existence proven by the said defendant Reich as stated in the labeling for said devices [orgone energy accumulators] is not a powerful energy, is non-existent…” The Complaint called for the defendants to be enjoined from the interstate shipment of orgone accumulators or any written materials promoting orgone accumulators.
This Complaint was signed by U.S. Attorney Peter Mills who, just three years earlier, had been the attorney for Wilhelm Reich and The Wilhelm Reich Foundation.
Reich was required to appear in the Federal Court in Portland, Maine, to respond to this Complaint for Injunction. After considerable thought and discussion of this matter, Reich responded with a lengthy letter to John D. Clifford, explaining that he could not appear in Court, since doing so would allow a Court of law to judge basic scientific research.
He wrote: “Scientific matters can only be clarified by prolonged, faithful bona fide observations in friendly exchange of opinion, never by litigation…Man’s right to know, to learn, to inquire, to make bona fide errors, to investigate human emotions must, by all means, be safe, if the word FREEDOM should ever be more than an empty political slogan.”
Furthermore, Reich said if his painstakingly elaborated and published findings “over a period of 30 years could not convince this administration, or will not be able to convince any other administration of the true nature of the discovery of the Life Energy, no litigation in any court anywhere will ever help to do so. I, therefore, submit, in the name of truth and justice that I shall not appear in court as the ‘defendant’ against a plaintiff who by his mere complaint already has shown his ignorance in matters of natural science.”
Judge Clifford did not accept Reich’s letter as a valid legal response, and on March 19, 1954, a Decree of Injunction was issued on default as if Reich had never responded at all. But the Injunction itself was even more excessive than the initial Complaint:
- it ordered orgone energy accumulators and their parts to be destroyed
- it ordered all materials containing instructions for the use of the accumulator to be destroyed
- it banned a list of Reich’s books containing statements about orgone energy, until such time that all references to orgone energy were deleted
After the initial shock, Reich continued his research, traveling to Arizona to experiment with the cloudbuster in the dry desert environment. While he was there, and without his knowledge, one of his students–Michael Silvert, M.D.–moved a truckload of accumulators and books from Rangeley, Maine to New York City, a direct violation of the Injunction. As a result, the FDA charged Reich and Silvert with criminal contempt of court.
Following a jury trial, both men were found guilty on May 7, 1956. Reich was sentenced to two years in federal prison, Silvert was sentenced to a year and a day. The Wilhelm Reich Foundation–founded in Maine in 1949 by students and friends to preserve Reich’s archives and to secure the future of his discovery of the Cosmic Life Energy–was fined $10,000 (which would be approximately $80,100 today).
While Reich appealed his sentence, the government carried out the destruction of Orgone Accumulator and literature. In Maine, several boxes of literature were burned, and accumulators and accumulator materials either destroyed or dismantled. In New York City, on August 23, 1956, the FDA supervised the burning of several tons of Reich’s publications in one of the city’s garbage incinerators, including titles that were only to have been banned.
It was an ironic ending to one of the most extraordinary scientific careers of the twentieth century, and to a strange, shameful chapter in American legal history and the bitter crusade waged against Reich by the FDA.
Wilhelm Reich unfortunately became one of the crushed-down victims of a deadly mid-20th Century medical-academic assault upon unorthodox scientific discovery. Significant social forces were at work, but not according to the usual “politically correct” narratives. In the decades since his death, many publications spread the misconception that Reich was destroyed by American conservatism, “right-wing McCarthy-ites” and such. Historical research has shown that to be untrue. Reich was persecuted and attacked by both Nazis and Stalinists in Europe. In the USA, however, he was brought down by a combination of Comintern (Communist International) Stalinist agents, pestilent journalists and MDs, and finally by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Scholarly books and articles are now available referencing newly-exposed Soviet files from long-closed archives, and internal FDA and FBI files using the Freedom of Information Act and other sources.
Interest in Reich’s works has gradually increased over the years, and many new experimental studies verifying his findings on the orgone energy and the accumulator have taken place, worldwide. College courses focusing upon Reich’s life and works now exist, and in some cases orgone energy experiments have been openly conducted within universities or medical clinics, yielding positive results in favor of Reich. He has also been the subject of many reviews, biographies, and short films. In spite of some mystical distortions and continued attacks by a few malicious “skeptics”, a new generation of scientists, health practitioners and ordinary concerned citizens are rediscovering the authentic Wilhelm Reich.
“I made the consideration of secure transmission to future generations of a vast empire of scientific accomplishments the guide in my last dispositions. To my mind, the foremost task to be fulfilled was to safeguard the truth about my life and work against distortion and slander after my death.” – Wilhelm Reich
His other significant work was 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.
Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust
The Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust was established in Reich’s Last Will & Testament, signed on March 8, 1957, just days before his imprisonment. In the will’s opening paragraphs, Reich says:
“I made the consideration of secure transmission to future generations of a vast empire of scientific accomplishments the guide in my last dispositions. To my mind, the foremost task to be fulfilled was to safeguard the truth about my life and work against distortion and slander after my death.”
To accomplish this, Reich established The Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust Fund (now known simply as The Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust) as the legal entity charged with administering his estate.
The Trust also disseminates and safeguards the truth about Reich’s life and legacy–and about the Trust’s activities–through its presentations at Orgonon’s summer conferences, at fundraising events, and at the invitation of other organizations.
The Wilhelm Reich Museum
In his Last Will & Testament, Reich stipulated that the Trust was “To operate and maintain the property at Orgonon under the name and style of the Wilhelm Reich Museum.” Reich went on to describe the significance of such a museum:
“I have collected here all the pertinent materials such as instruments which served the discovery of life energy, the documents which were witnesses to the labors of some 30 years and the library of a few thousand volumes, collected painstakingly over the same stretch of time and amply used in my researches and writings, the paintings, some 25 of them, small items which I loved and cherished during my lifetime…All of these things and similar things should remain where they are now in order to preserve some of the atmosphere in which the discovery of the life energy has taken place over the decades.”
The Orgone Energy Observatory, built in 1948-1949, was first opened to the public as the Wilhelm Reich Museum in 1960. But in a larger sense, the term “museum” refers to the entire 175-acre property of Orgonon. Its numerous buildings, meadows, forests, woodland trails and waterfront on Dodge Pond–all well maintained–also fulfill Reich’s wish “to preserve some of the atmosphere in which the discovery of life energy has taken place over the decades.”
The Archives of the Orgone Institute (Wilhelm Reich Archives)
Another stipulation in Reich’s Last Will & Testament referred to his archives. During Reich’s incarceration, his archives remained where he had stored them in the Orgone Energy Observatory: in a photographic darkroom located on the first floor; and in a large closet in his study and library on the second floor. Reich charged that:“…nothing whatsoever must be changed in any of these documents and that they should be put away and stored for 50 years to secure their safety from destruction and falsification by anyone interested in the falsification and destruction of historical truth.”
Today the Trust manages The Archives of the Orgone Institute which are located at the Center for the History of Medicine at Harvard University’s Countway Library of Medicine, one of the world’s premier medical libraries. These archives are kept in a temperature-controlled environment and comprise 98 cubic-feet of materials in well over 200 archive boxes. In November 2007–exactly 50 years after Reich’s death–these materials became accessible to scholars and researchers.