WHO WAS WILHELM REICH?
Wilhelm Reich born in 1897, was an Austrian doctor of medicine as well as a psychoanalyst. He was a part of the second generation of psychoanalysts after Sigmund Freud. He authored several books on psychoanalysis and was a prominent and radical figure in this field. However, these works got overshadowed when he got involved in the sexual politics movement and by ‘orgonomy’, a pseudoscientific method conceived by him. Orgone is an important part of his theory of orgonomy. He became a controversial figure from the 1930s because of his strange theories and his violation of the key taboos of psychoanalysis. Thus, he moved to New York and soon came up with the theory of Orgone, which he claimed was a biological energy. He also added that Orgone energy was synonymous with God.
He invented the Orgone energy accumulator which looked like a wooden cupboard, lined with metal and insulated with steel wool. He claimed that this device would improve the psychological as well as physical health of the users.
REICH’S THEORY OF ORGONE
Reich claimed that this device was able to trap the orgone energy that was present in the environment including the sun, sand, coal, and other such objects. According to him, this orgone energy was capable of treating cancer and other ailments caused by radiation if used in a concentrated form. The orgone accumulator’s metallic part absorbed the orgone and the linning acted like an insulator by stopping the orgone from escaping. This system was like the greenhouse effect and was thought to result in a rise in temperature inside the box. He did research which led him to treat people suffering from cancer with the orgone boxes. This eventually got him in trouble.
AFTERMATH OF THE ORGONE THEORY
Wilhelm Reich started to rent out these orgone boxes to people, promising them that it would cure them of incurable diseases. He soon came up with a publishing outlet christened, The Orgone Press, solely for the purpose of publishing his books and research articles. He published his research on orgone in1939 and soon after that he was accused of scientific charlatanism. He fled from the states only to return there and continue his research after a few years. He soon came into the attention of the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after he started commercialization of the Orgone boxes and in 1954 FDA was successful in filing an injunction to stop the interstate shipment of his publications and equipment. He even insisted on his own defense which included sending copies of his work to the judges. Two years after that he was convicted for violating the injunction and thus was sentenced to two years in federal prison. He died in the prison of cardiac arrest the following year. In the next few years, the FDA carried out an operation to destroy all his works and equipment related to the orgone theory.
‘The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich’, a feature film directed by Antonin Svoboda was made on him. There are a lot of other references for his orgone theory in popular media.