October 22, 2016

Preserving or Improving on Wilhelm Reich's Work?

I was recently asked by a prospective student of orgone therapy if the Institute of Orgonomic Science (IOS) has as its mission to preserve Wilhelm Reich’s work or to build upon it. For those who are not aware, the IOS was founded in the early 1980s and I've been an honorary member of this organization for some years.

This is such an important issue for any organization dedicated to the study of Wilhelm Reich’s findings, and especially for those that train orgone therapists.

Orgonomy is the study of what Reich termed "orgone energy"—the life energy he scientifically proved to exist. He found it first in living things, then later in the atmosphere, and finally theorized that it extended through the cosmos. Reich felt his discovery of orgone energy was his principal finding and all his other work flowed from this.

An analogy can be made to Max Planck, the father of quantum theory, whose work led to the development of the laser, transistor, MRI, and so much more. Just as the field of quantum mechanics has grown and developed over time, and will continue to do so, its foundation, quantum theory, remains essentially unchanged.

Here is where the question of whether an organization is—or should be—preserving Reich's work or building upon it has relevancy. The theory governing the practice of orgone therapy needs no modification. The central element of treatment is the removal of the body’s chronic muscular contractions that Reich called “armor.” This process re-establishes the free flow of the body’s energy and moves patients forward to living a more natural, satisfying life.

Methods to make orgone therapy more effective are welcomed, and certainly needed, but they should only be in the service of advancing the therapy more quickly to its goal and end point as outlined by Reich.

There is a line between preserving and furthering Reich’s work—and distorting it. This is the challenge. It's been my experience that those groups that will preserve and further his findings have as their focus a rigorous study of the body of his work. This includes the scientific experiments that test the validity of his observations and his assertion that the effects of orgone energy are real and measurable.

May 10, 2016

Fundraising Continues for Film on Wilhelm Reich

In November of 2014, I alerted blog followers to a documentary film that is in the works about the life and work of Wilhelm Reich. More than $180,000 was raised on Kickstarter and production went forward. The film is now ready to go into the editing and post-production phase and another fundraiser is underway. Please consider supporting this groundbreaking film

March 12, 2016

Summer Conference on Wilhelm Reich's Research

The Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust will sponsor a very valuable course on Reich’s origin of life and cancer research. Lectures and hands-on laboratory work will allow students to gain an understanding of some Reich’s most important discoveries. 

The conference will be held at Orgonon in Rangeley, Maine July 11-15, 2016.  Early registration is advised. 

For more information visit WilhelmReichTrust.Org

September 8, 2015

New Book on Wilhelm Reich Could Be The Game-Changer

Wilhelm Reich, Biologist (Harvard University Press, 2015) by James E. Strick is an extremely important book because it has the potential to overturn a number of fundamental beliefs in science. One of these, that is set in stone and if refuted will prove a bombshell, is that life must develop from preexisting life. Reich certainly appears to have proved this age-old maxim false. Exactly how he conducted his groundbreaking experiments—almost 80 years ago—can now be found in this book.

Drawing upon archival material never before available, Strick has provided documentation that confirms Reich was a serious scientist. Material taken from unpublished laboratory notebooks and published reports show his research was conducted with meticulous care. 

Working with living matter rather than with dead preparations that had been fixed and stained, Reich was able to produce microscopic vesicles that were non-living, yet capable of replication in culture media. This, according to classical scientific theory, is impossible. If these experiments can be duplicated—and this should not be too difficult as Reich’s methods are clearly set forth in Professor Strick’s book—the implications are staggering! 

These “bions” as Reich called them were not just transitional life forms. More importantly, they appeared to be involved in health and disease. This finding has opened the way to an entirely new understanding of why people become ill, or remain well. 

Later, taking it even a step further, Reich was able to record with time-lapse filming that dying autumnal moss could lead to the natural organization of life as protozoa. Life from non-life! From this he hypothesized that cancer cells might form in a like manner from dying animal tissue that had disintegrated into bions. 

Wilhelm Reich, Biologist calls into question other accepted tenets of biology and medicine, too many to cite here. We can only hope this new publication will interest researchers worldwide and stimulate their curiosity. What remarkable benefits might come from examining health and illness from this different perspective remains to be seen. Now, those wishing to test Reich’s findings need only familiarize themselves with his concepts and then exactly follow the straightforward steps outlined for each experiment.

James Strick has done a masterful job in presenting the development of Reich’s research in a most engaging way. He has deftly interwoven science with history and set both against a backdrop of what Reich was to experience all his life—the reactions of the established “experts” who refused to examine findings they “knew” to be wrong. 

Wilhelm Reich, Biologist is so well written that readers may not realize they are absorbed in a scholarly book about a scientific revolution. Rather, to their surprise and enjoyment, they may think they are involved in a fascinating mystery novel, and are eager to find out how the plot unfolds.

For more information, visit the book's website

August 26, 2015

Annals of the Institute for Orgonomic Science

Volume 12, No. 1, (2014)

The latest issue this valuable journal is now available. It is dedicated to the science of orgonomy and the work of Wilhelm Reich, M.D. Since 1984 it has been providing information to the public on topics related to all aspects of the science of orgonomy.

This volume of the Annals of the Institute for Orgonomic Science is reasonably priced and available online.

This issue includes the following five articles and one major book review:


•  Toward a Scientific Study of the Healthy Child: The Orgonomic Infant Research Center (1948-1951)

Philip W. Bennett, Ph.D. reviews the background,   development, promise, and achievements of this   research project on infant and child development that   was initiated by Reich and his professional colleagues.   He also describes the factors that ultimately led to the   project’s demise.

  The Relevance of Wilhelm Reich’s The Mass Psychology of Fascism to the Struggle Against Fascism, a Project Shared by Herbert Marcuse

David Brahinsky, Ph.D. describes significant parallels between the social visions of both men, while also detailing the potential significance of Reich’s later discoveries for achieving these goals; discoveries which were, however, dismissed by Marcuse.
   • Orgone Therapy: Functional Method, Creative Art, and Open Questions

Dorothea Fuckert, M.D. describes marked changes in the nature of armoring and character structure in her patient population in recent decades, and the modifications of therapeutic technique that she has introduced to address the needs of her patients.
  •  Emotional First Aid: Applications of Orgone Therapy in a General Medical Practice

Drawing on clinical vignettes from her medical training and from her long-term private medical practice in rural Maine, Eva Reich, M.D. movingly describes her therapeutic use of expression of repressed emotion in patients presenting with acute somatic symptoms.
  •  Addressing Disturbances in Contact in the Beginning Phases of Orgone Therapy

Daniel J. Schiff, Ph.D. employs a case study to illustrate the essential role of contact in the early phases of therapeutic process, describing a pivotal session in which the client was encouraged to maintain contact with emerging emotion in his eyes by means of focused awareness and direct expression of feelings toward a distinct object.
   •  Adventures in Defamation

Morton Herskowitz, D.O. provides a detailed review of journalist Christopher Turner’s recent book Adventures in the Orgasmatron, and its historical antecedents in the distortion and misrepresentation of Wilhelm Reich and his work.
     In Memoriam

Memorial tributes to two late founders of the Institute for Orgonomic Science, Courtney F. Baker, M.D and Louisa Lance, M.D.

Communications and Notes:
Recent lectures and publications by members of the Institute

Announcements of forthcoming conferences and educational programs involving members of the Institute

Listings and / or brief descriptions of recent orgonomy – related books

An announcement of the Training Program in Orgonomic Therapy offered by the Institute

Manuscript preparation instructions for papers submitted to the Annals

March 6, 2015

Upcoming Orgonomy Conference: University of Pennsylvania

On Saturday, April 11, 2015, a one day conference titled "Science, Love, and Society: An Introduction to Orgonomy, the Work of Wilhelm Reich" will be held at the University of Pennsylvania. 

The conference is being sponsored by the Institute of Orgonomic Science (IOS). These conferences for the public are rare, and it's an excellent opportunity to learn more about Wilhelm Reich and his legacy. I will be attending the conference and look forward to meeting friends old and new.


249 S 36th St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104 – Claudia Cohen Hall, room G17


$40, students $15. No one will be turned away due to financial hardship. Early registrants receive a discount. For more information, map to the location, pre-payment option, etc., click here


9:30 AM – 10:00 AM: Registration

10:00 AM – 10:30 AM: Welcoming: An introduction to the IOS, the speakers, the format of the day.

10:30 AM – 11:30 AM: Who was Wilhelm Reich and what is Orgonomy? An Overview.

(Presenter: Harry Lewis, Ed.D, LCSW)

11:30 AM – 12:30 PM: What is Psychiatric Orgone Therapy?

(Presenter: Hugh Brenner, MSN, CRNP)

12:30 AM – 1:30 PM: Lunch Break (on own)

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM: Wilhelm Reich’s Social and Political Insights.

(Presenter: Philip W. Bennett, PhD)

2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Orgone Energy: Theoretical and Practical Implications.

(Presenter: Kevin Hinchey, MFA)

3:30 PM – 3:45 PM: Break

3:45 PM – 4:15 PM: Round table discussion with presenters: Current and past misrepresentations of Reich’s life and work and its influence on the current teaching of orgonomy.
4:15 PM – 4:30 PM: Closing


Philip W. Bennett, PhD: Philip W. Bennett has a PhD in philosophy from New York University. He has published a number of articles about aspects of Reich’s life, including recent ones in The International Journal of Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalysis and History. He has lectured about Reich here in Philadelphia, in New York City, at the Reich Museum center in Maine, and in Germany, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Mexico, and most recently in Finland. When not traveling and lecturing, he continues to work on his book, From Communism to Work Democracy: the Development of Wilhelm Reich’s Social and Political Thought.

Hugh Brenner, MSN, CRNP: Hugh Brenner was born into the Orgonomic Infant Research Center. He started Nursing School in 1980 and spent over 15 years working in various psychiatric settings. In 1994 he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing with a MSN in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing and soon started a private practice, combining traditional psychiatric modalities with psychiatric orgone therapy. In 2010 he graduated from Rutgers University with a post-graduate certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner. He holds three Board Certifications. He has been involved in The Institute for Orgonomic Science for 15 years and is the current President.

Morton Herskowitz, DO: Dr. Morton Herskowitz, DO, graduated Temple University in with a BA in 1938. He attained his D.O. from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1943. After his internship at Harbor Hospital in Brooklyn, NY he worked as a General Practitioner for 3 years. In 1945 he began formal supervision in psychiatry. He began his personal therapy and training with Wilhelm Reich, MD in 1947, continuing until Dr. Reich imprisonment. Board Certified in Psychiatry, Dr. Herskowitz has been practicing psychiatric orgone therapy for more than 60 years. Currently he has a practice consistent with his age and energy. He is the author of the book Emotional Armoring: An Introduction to Psychiatric Orgone Therapy.

Kevin Hinchey, MFA: Since 2002, Kevin Hinchey has been one of the directors of the Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust which administers Reich’s archives at the Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard University; works with New York publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux to publish Reich’s books; and operates the Wilhelm Reich Museum in Rangeley, Maine. He has an M.F.A. in Film from the New York University Graduate Film School and over the past ten years has been a film professor in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Mr. Hinchey is now involved in the production of a full-length documentary on the life and work of Wilhelm Reich with location filming and on-camera interviews in the United States and Europe.

Harry Lewis, Ed.D, LCSW: Harry Lewis is an orgone therapist in private practice and the co-director of The Institute for the Study of the Work of Wilhelm Reich. He has been a member of the faculty at the New School for Social Research for the past twenty-six years.

November 27, 2014

A Discussion of Children, Circumcision and Trauma

The following interview was conducted after my presentation at the 13th International Symposium on Genital Autonomy and Children’s Rights, held at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, Colorado July 24-26, 2014. James Loewen, the filmmaker, has been documenting intactivist issues since 1993.

November 2, 2014

Wilhelm Reich Film Project

A documentary film on the life and work of Wilhelm Reich is planned for production under the auspices of the Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust Fund. Kevin Hinchey, who is its co-director, has written the storyline and will head up the project.

Mr. Hinchey may be the only person who has had full access to Reich’s closely held archives that are stored in the medical school library at Harvard University. Because of this the film will present facts, not theories about Reich and his scientific work. It will also set the record straight by dispelling the many myths that have been repeated through the years—the falsehoods that have painted Reich and his work in a bad light. 
Should this film become a reality and have wide distribution, it will go far to make people aware of a remarkable man who for too long has been an unappreciated genius whose discoveries could benefit all humankind. It would also be a stimulus for scientists worldwide to undertake a fair examination of Reich’s work.

A Kickstarter campaign is underway to fund the production of the film. As of this writing, there are 19 days left to fund the project. Below is the Kickstarter video. The full campaign can be accessed by clicking the "K" on the upper left corner of the video box. 

September 5, 2014

Exploring the Emotions Behind Genital Cutting

62 years ago, in 1952, Wilhelm Reich said, “Take that poor penis. Take a knife—right? And start cutting. And everybody says, “It doesn’t hurt.” Everybody says, “No, it doesn’t hurt.” Get it? That’s an excuse, of course, a subterfuge. They say that the sheaths of the nerve are not yet developed. Therefore, the sensation in the nerves is not yet developed. Therefore, the child doesn’t feel a thing. Now, that’s murder! Circumcision is one of the worst treatments of children. And what happens to them? You just look at them. They can’t talk to you. They just cry. What they do is shrink. They contract, get away into the inside, away from that ugly world.”
Reich lived from 1897 to 1957. He was an Austrian physician who was a pioneering psychoanalyst and considered one of Freud’s best students. However, over time, he became disappointed with the results that could be achieved with Freud’s method of free association. This prompted him to develop a very different framework for understanding people and emotions.
I am a board-certified psychiatrist and for more than 40 years have been using the unique and very effective treatment that Reich created. I also train psychologists and other psychiatrists to practice this therapy. It’s very different from any other treatment for emotional disorders that you may have heard of.  And even if you have heard of Wilhelm Reich, or have some knowledge of the therapy that he pioneered, his method of treatment is often misunderstood and, unfortunately, misrepresented. It makes use of a verbal interchange that’s different from other methods of psychotherapy. It seeks to make the patient aware of the particular manner in which they approach the world. Reich called it “character analysis.” The treatment also allows the release emotions, primarily sadness and anger, in a controlled way, in the safety of the therapist’s office.
Reich discovered that emotional traumas are not forgotten, even when they occur very early in life and remain out of conscious awareness. Physical pain is traumatic for everyone, but for an infant or young child, the shock to their system can be terrible. This is the reason why Reich, although Jewish, spoke out so vehemently against circumcision.
Just how it is that events from the distant past can be locked away somewhere in the body remains a mystery. Nevertheless, the traumas of childhood, if severe enough, are never forgotten. They stay stuck in us—in our “armor” as Reich called it—and exert their damaging effect throughout life. This fact, that the past is not forgotten, is virtually unknown. Early childhood traumas, not chemical imbalances, are the root cause of lifelong dissatisfaction and unhappiness, as well as many severe emotional disorders, including schizophrenia.
Now what is very interesting and remarkable (and in fact this still amazes me, as it did Reich) is, in the course of this therapy, patients may actually re-experience their earliest traumas. I have seen men re-live their circumcision, with all the pain and terror they suffered. In a few minutes I am going to play a clip of one of my patients speaking about his experience when he re-lived his circumcision during therapy. I had him filmed for this conference.  
But first, I am going to show you a clip of him on the therapy couch during the course of a typical session. This clip comes from a documentary film that was made some years ago. What you are going to see may be a bit shocking, but please know that Bob has always left every session much relieved and in fine shape.

As this clip showed, the past remains alive. Now as for circumcision, it is so extremely harmful because it occurs so early in life. The younger the child, the less are the defense mechanisms to deal with pain. As an adult, or even an older child, we have the sum of our intellect and our experiences to put shocking events in some context and perspective.
The next clip I am going to play shows Bob telling about re-living his circumcision. This was just filmed.

So now I want to turn to a different subject, and the topic of my talk, which is the unconscious cruelty that drives humans to circumcise newborns and children.
All of us here today understand that cutting the genitals of children is not just unnecessary—-but barbaric—-and there’s not a single, rational argument to support it. However, because there are so many sides to the issue, people can’t see circumcision for what it really is. They are confused because of the social and cultural factors, the demands of religion, the medical justifications—and so on. But I’d like to touch on one aspect that is almost never considered— the forces that drive people and institutions to support this practice.
Can any sense be made of what it is that impels people to brutally cut the genitals of defenseless newborns and young children, male and female alike? For the answer to this question I again look to the work of Wilhelm Reich. One of his most important contributions is his exposition of what he termed the “emotional plague.” It’s a very complex subject and I will try to do it a bit of justice in the next few minutes. But if any audience can grasp this concept, I think this one will.
Reich maintained that within our society, and in fact in all patriarchal societies, there are certain individuals that he called emotional plague characters. These people have very specific characteristics and ways of behaving. They are intelligent, extremely competent, aggressive, and endowed with a high energy level. And they are very good at getting themselves into positions of authority and power so they can tell others what to do for their own good.
Emotional plague characters, big and small, have existed throughout history. They are not just the Hitlers and Stalins, but also the petty tyrant school teachers who terrorizes the children in their class; the religious leaders, who mandate right and proper behavior; the supervisors everywhere that keep those under them in constant fear; the heads of organizations that put into effect policies that restrict personal freedom, and so on.
The emotional plague is not just confined to individuals but also becomes institutionalized. This can be seen in many of our law-making bodies that, more and more, dictate how we should live, again, for our own good.
The reasons behind this behavior are too complex to go into here, but what can be said is that plague characters, because of the particular way they were raised, are disturbed and very angry people. But they are unaware of their anger. They are not like the average neurotic who suffers quietly to themselves. In fact, they don’t suffer much at all because they act out their anger, which is unconscious, on the social scene. This is not something they choose to do. They are driven to act this way. And they really believe they are doing the right thing.
Seeing others who are lively, happy, and enjoying themselves creates in them not pleasure, as it would with a healthy person, but jealousy and resentment. These feelings are so intense that the only way they can stop them is by going out into the world and stopping people from having pleasure. This is what makes these individuals feel better.
What makes the emotional plague so effective, and so dangerous, is that their arguments are extremely well rationalized and always “partly right.” We can see with regard to circumcision how this “partly right” confuses: Maybe my boy should look like the other boys. Maybe, as a Jew, I should have my son circumcised. Maybe the doctors are right that my boy could get infections. It’s the partly right that confuses, and prevents us from seeing what’s right in front of our eyes.
Because the emotional plague hates pleasure in others, and seeks to stamp it out, children, who by their very nature are lively, happy people are a prime target. So is natural sexuality. Circumcision targets both children and natural sexuality.
So what can be done? Reich said the only way to combat the emotional plague is to expose it. This doesn’t mean pointing fingers and calling people “plague characters.” It means exposing the work of the plague to the truth. Consistently making people aware of the lies that allow this practice to continue.
Also, to keep our focus on educating the public and the upcoming generation of doctors and others who will re-shape existing policies. We have truth on our side, and the children of the future will be the beneficiaries of our efforts.

This lecture was presented at the 13th International Symposium on Genital Autonomy and Children’s Rights, held at the University of Colorado in Boulder on July 24-26, 2014. The conference provided a forum for discussion about the genital alteration of infants and children from religious, medical, human rights, and other perspectives. Speakers from around the world reported on the approaches they have taken, and the progress that has been made, for protecting male, female, and intersex children from medically unnecessary genital alteration.

July 7, 2014

International Symposium on Genital Autonomy and Children’s Rights

The 13th International Symposium on Genital Autonomy and Children’s Rights will be held on July 24-26, 2014 at the University of Colorado in Boulder Colorado, USA.

The conference is being presented by the U.S. groups NoCirc and Intact America, as well as several other European groups. 

With respect to infant circumcision in the U.S. and Israel, what has been an accepted procedure is now being questioned, and the movement against it is now worldwide and growing.

I will lecture on Unconscious cruelty: Exploring the emotions behind genital cutting. The central themes will be Reich’s discovery of the lifelong effects of early infant trauma and the central role the emotional plague plays in continuing this brutal practice. A video will be shown of a patient in a typical orgone therapy session and another of him describing what he experienced when he relived his circumcision in treatment.

My daughter, Rebecca Wald, is a pioneer in the movement to question Jewish circumcision. Her topic, An unlikely activist’s journey Beyond the Bris, will discuss her website, which provides timely news and opinion articles on this topic.  

In a second lecture she and her co-author will talk about their forthcoming book, Celebrating Brit Shalom. The book provides the information needed to enable families to welcome their infant boys into the Jewish religion—without circumcision. There is an active Kickstarter campaign to help fund and promote the completion of the book

August 22, 2013

Conspiracy Theory: Fact or Fiction

August 23, 2013

The role Frederick Wertham and Mildred Edie Brady played in the FDA’s investigation that led to Wilhelm Reich’s imprisonment (see previous post) has more than historical interest. Reich claimed the communists were behind the New Republic’s attack on him and that both Brady and Henry Wallace, the magazine’s editor, were communists. Reich said she was a “communist sniper” and wrote “Wallace-Stalinist” in his diary. These assertions of a plot against him by Soviet intelligence have been repeatedly cited as evidence Reich was paranoid.

Branding Reich as crazy has, to no small extent, prevented further investigation of his findings. No one in the established scientific community considers examining the work of the deranged. The result is that many of Reich’s scientific claims, which could be proved valid, remain dismissed as nonsense.

But what if Reich wasn’t paranoid regarding Brady and Wallace? What if this often repeated “fact” isn’t true and there was a communist conspiracy within the New Republic? If this was the case, at least this piece of “proof” that Reich was delusional could be called into question.

1. Biographers with an Agenda

Is there no end to self-appointed experts on Reich? There have been more than a dozen biographies of the man and all but two have asserted he was mentally ill.¹ The authors of two relatively recent supposedly “authoritative” biographies have variously diagnosed Reich as having: a severe clinical depression; having borderline traits; a decentered ego; of suffering from psychic inflation; hypomania; megalomania; delusions of grandeur; and paranoid schizophrenia.²

Both of these accounts of Reich and his work are written with a patronizing tone and unconcealed contempt. Again Reich has been portrayed as a delusional crackpot scientist, someone to be ridiculed.³ However this perception of the man and his work might change, at least in the minds of some, with an examination of some well established facts and new information that has come to light since Reich’s death.

2. Connections with Communism

Frederick Wertham and Mildred Edie Brady were recruited by the New Republic to write about Reich. Wertham’s connection to the Soviet-American friendship league, his defense of the Rosenberg communist spies, and his plans to write a book that would make Freud’s findings compatible with Marxism leave little doubt about his feelings toward Stalin’s Russia. His scathing review of Reich’s The Mass Psychology of Fascism in the magazine was followed just a few months later by Brady’s article, The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich.

It has been established Brady and her husband were known to be well connected in communist circles, but now there is information linking her to the Soviet intelligence and the FDA. The executive officers of the New Republic also had connections to the communist party. Henry Wallace, the magazine’s editor, was clearly sympathetic toward communism and was even believed to be a KGB agent. As to Michael Straight, the publisher of the magazine, he had been recruited by Soviet intelligence in the 1930‘s. All of this does not prove there was a communist conspiracy whose aim was to destroy Reich. But as Thoreau said, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”

3. Was Reich That Important?

Was Reich really so important that communists would see him as a significant threat to their goal of world dominance? We probably will never know but they might have been, given the considerable impression Reich was having on highly influential individuals here and abroad. Wikipedia states: “His early psychoanalytic work, his writing about fascism, and his later writings about orgonomy influenced several generations of intellectuals, including the writers Saul Bellow (1915–2005), William Burroughs (1914–1997), Norman Mailer (1923–2007), and the founder of Summerhill School in England, A. S. Neill.” Wikipedia also says that Reich influenced, among others, Orson Bean, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, J. D. Salinger, as well as Alexander Lowen (Bioenergetics) and Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapy). Both of Lowen and Perls were patients of Reich.

4. Involvement with Communism

Reich had joined the Party in 1928 for two principal reasons: the belief it would counteract German fascism and to further self-determination for its people. When in the Party he was the spokesman for free contraceptives, birth control, abortion on demand, and sex education in schools. He believed with these in place sexual self-regulation could gain ground and help relieve the people’s misery. But as Reich was soon to see these programs were not implemented when they came to power, and neither were other reforms pledged by its leaders. Quite the opposite was true. A dictatorial regime took absolute control of the lives of its people.

The direction they had taken brought Reich into sharp conflict with its leaders and he was expelled from the communist party in 1933. The Sexual Revolution appeared in 1935. In it he denounced red fascism, showing it for what it was--a betrayal of all that was promised by the Russian revolutionists when they came to power in 1917.

Reich’s book had a large readership in Europe and, in 1945 after he had emigrated to America, it was translated into English. It was enormously popular here and widely read by the intelligensia, many of whom were then sympathetic to Soviet communism. It was just two years later, in 1947, that Brady’s article appeared in the New Republic.

Taking into account what is now known about Wertham, Brady, Wallace and Straight and the wide influence Reich’s book was having, as well as the impressive results orgone therapy was producing for so many influential people, it’s not so far-fetched that Soviet intelligence could have indeed targeted Reich.

5. Conclusion

No claim is made here there definitely was a Soviet conspiracy to discredit Reich. Only an opening of the records still held in Russia could confirm this speculation. As to Reich’s mental state, here too it would be presumptuous for me to pass any judgement. However, standing in contrast to those who never met the man, there are the opinions of psychiatrists Elsworth F. Baker, M.D. and Morton Herskowitz, D.O. Both were treated and trained by Reich and they have said they thought him perfectly sane. They are two of the most rational, clearheaded individuals I have had the good fortune to know and, given their long and intimate association with Reich, I value their thinking.

6. References

  1. These two are: Wilhelm Reich and Orgonomy by Ola Raknes and Wilhelm Reich: Life force Explorer by James Wyckoff.

  2. Wilhelm Reich by Robert Corrington and Adventures in the Orgasmatron by Christopher Turner.

  3. The assertion Reich was schizophrenic began in Europe and when he came to the United States, in 1939, a rumor was circulated he had been institutionalized at the Utica State Mental Hospital.

  4. In 1999 there appeared “New evidence Brady was a Stalinist agent with deep influence within the FDA.” This information is presented in John Wilder’s valuable report on “CSICOP, Time Magazine, and Wilhelm Reich” (http://librelivre.net/read/1ptuv) where he referenced as his source Jim Martin’s treatise, Wilhelm Reich and the Cold War, published by Flatland Books in Mendocino, California

  5. It was Wallace’s pro-Soviet speech at the Madison Square Garden in 1946 that led President Truman to remove him as a cabinet member.

  6. “Michael Straight, the last of five Cold War spies recruited by the Soviets...” by Richard K. Brunner, as it appeared in February 2004 (http://articles.mcall.com/2004-02-08/opinion/3524576_1_soviet-spy-blunt-burgess-and-maclean)

  7. Reich had a growing reputation as a remarkably effective therapist by 1947 when Brady’s article appeared. He and the psychiatrists he was training here in the United States were seeing large numbers of patients.

May 6, 2013

Bonfires of the Humanities

Fredric Wertham, M.D., Wilhelm Reich, M.D., and American Book Burnings

By Stephen Wahrhaftig

May, 6, 2013

On an August day in 1956 the US Food and Drug Administration sent a dump truck to a warehouse in Greenwich Village. It picked up six tons of literature comprised of thousands of books and scientific journals. Proceeding to the Gansevoort Street incinerator, decades of Wilhelm Reich's printed work were burned to ashes.

Students of Reich are familiar with the popular articles of the late 1940's written by Mildred Edie Brady for Harper’s Magazine and The New Republic. Brady, a model-turned-leftist journalist, wrote The New Cult of Sex and Anarchy for Harper’s, discrediting the West Coast intellectuals who were extolling literary and sexual freedom, and said Reich was influencing a generation of hedonists. The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich appeared a month later in the NR, and both articles contained fabricated tales about Reich. In this piece she portrayed him as a crackpot scientist with crazy theories about sexuality. She ended her article saying appropriate laws were needed to protect the public, and if this was done people like Reich could be stopped from practicing any therapy not approved by the American Psychoanalytic Association.

Mildred Brady was a sensationalist writer and her work, by itself, might have been largely disregarded--if it did not have the support of someone not so easy to dismiss. This was Dr. Fredric Wertham, a New York psychiatrist. Born Fredric Wertheimer in Munich, he came to the USA and taught at John Hopkins, and eventually headed a psychiatric clinic that treated criminals.

Crime Explained

In the late 40's and early 50's one of America's two unique art forms, comics books (the other being jazz), was at its peak of popularity. The monthly titles of the comics often sold millions of copies and Dr. Wertham’s criminal patients sometimes read comic books. Looking over the panels of flying superheroes, machine gun-toting mobsters, and bikini-clad jungle princesses shocked his Bavarian sensibilities. Since his patients read comic books, he put two and two together and a saw tremendous career opportunity opening before him. Criminals read comics. Comics caused criminal behavior.

Wertham wrote articles promoting this idea. But here is where his line of work took a strange turn. He had built his reputation upon protecting young, innocent readers from stories of imaginary ghosts and monsters. Yet Wertham now was paying his bills by writing books like Show of Violence. Based on his experience of working with the mentally ill, he wrote lurid accounts of people who murdered their children, each story more terrible than the last. Every chapter of Show of Violence is told in graphic, prurient detail. Wertham saw no conflict between what he was writng and what he condemned in comic books. This ability to rationalize his thinking and do what best served his own interests--combined with his skill in presenting pseudo-scientific evidence--came in handy when building a case against Wilhelm Reich.

Wertham first wrote about Reich via a paid commission from (no coincidence) The New Republic. This influential magazine was far to the political left and, because Reich had become increasingly critical of communism, his position was at odds with its editor, Henry Wallace. NR wanted to bash Reich and needed a prominent figure to do their bidding. They chose Paul Goodman, a best-selling writer and critic, to review Reich’s The Sexual Revolution and The Mass Psychology of Fascism. They had expected a hatchet job, but to NR's tremendous disappointment Goodman enthusiastically endorsed both of Reich’s books. Now NR was in a bit of a fix. Infuriated, they refused to publish Goodman’s positive review and were in need of someone sympathetic to their agenda. Wertham, as a member of the American-Soviet Friendship League, and as a qualified psychiatrist with suppressive theories, was made for the job.

Wertham’s Influence

Reich’s ideas of promoting freedom, personal accountability, and work democracy as presented in The Mass Psychology of Fascism agitated Wertham in the same way Rulah of the Jungle did, her bare legs and long hair exposed seductively as she swung on jungle vines. In his 1946 New Republic review of the book he viciously attacked Reich's theories, saying Reich had “utter contempt for the masses” and was a “neo-fascist.” He ended his scathing write-up by urging all progressive intellectuals to take action against Reich and his “psycho-fascism.” This set the stage for Brady's destructive follow-ups.

It was only six months after Wertham’s review that Brady’s first attack, titled The New Cult of Sex and Anarchy, appeared in Harper's magazine. And a month after that, in May 1947, The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich was published in the New Republic.

Wertham’s influence on the media continued unabated for, in a 1948 Collier’s Magazine article, there appeared a piece, Horrors in the Nursery, written by a Judith Crist. She sited Wertham's “findings about the evils of comic books.” Her wide assertions about how crime and horror comics led directly to juvenile delinquency and worse, fully supported Wertham’s ideas. However, throughout the article no actual science or studies were cited, and Wertham’s conclusions were accepted as fact even though they were baseless. He simply felt comics were bad for people and the media believed him. Regarding the inconvenient question of press freedom, Crist quotes Wertham, "...the publishers will raise a howl about Freedom of Speech and of the Press...nonsense. The time has come to legislate these books off the news stands and out of the candy stores."

In 1954, Wertham’s book, Seduction of the Innocent was published. He claimed it to be the result of “seven years of scientific investigation.” Yet, like his other publications, the book contains no scientific investigations. Instead, it is full of assertions based on what he believed to be true, and little else. Research done in 2010 by Carol Tilley on Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications That Helped Condemn Comics has confirmed that, “Wertham manipulated, overstated, compromised, and fabricated evidence—especially that evidence he attributed to personal clinical research with young people—for rhetorical gain.”

Comic Books and Bonfires

Wertham's 1940's articles, and his 1954 book, led to a massive witch-hunt by the government and other authorities, culminating in a senate subcommittee hearing to investigate the terrible scourge of American comic books. Even more disturbing was the action taken around the country by local activist groups.

As early as 1950, the mayor of Rumson, NJ, along with a local cub master and others herded forty Cub Scouts (not Boy Scouts) into a commandeered fire truck. For two days, they drove the engine through the borough with the siren blaring, collecting comic books for destruction.

In Missouri, a Girl Scout troop and St. Mary's Church created a massive bonfire of comics. Children were seen crying among the gathered crowds. One child of a poor rural family recalled being made to participate in the book burnings, even though he had never read a comic book. "The thing about it is that I didn't give the comic books much thought until that time, and when we started that bonfire, I started to think something really just wasn't right about it. I thought they were trying to use us, and I didn't think that was right. It got me pretty mad. I never did think about teachers in the same way after that."

In the end, the government concluded that they had no legal reason for banning comics. It was a simple matter of free speech. But the damage had already been done. In just two years, half of the comic books published in the US disappeared. Hundreds of artists and writers lost their jobs. Stan Lee, of the Timely/Marvel group, had to fire his staff in a day, one at a time. People who had created memorable stories in a uniquely American art form found jobs bagging groceries and as security guards. The most creative company, EC comics survived by changing one of their comic book publications to something called Mad Magazine. Every other title was canceled.

In 1953, Ray Bradbury wrote his classic, Fahrenheit 451, a cautionary tale of an authoritarian future where government “firemen” sought books hidden in citizen's homes, and torched them in bonfires. It was only a few years since the Nazis had consigned thousands of books to the flames (including Reich’s), and not many years before we here in the United States burned comics and then Wilhelm Reich's books.

The part Dr. Fredric Wertham played was not directly involved in the court’s decision to burn Dr. Reich's books, and there Is no evidence he intended for schoolyards across America to host bonfires of comics. But his attempt to protect the public led, inexorably, to these acts of extreme censorship. The urge Wertham had to clamp down and extinguish ideas and expression of freedom not consistent with his thinking took possesion of him. It drove him, as it did religious leaders, and authoritarian parents and teachers, to use the power they had to enforce their beliefs.

As we reflect on Dr. Wertham's legacy, we can console ourselves with the fact that these book burnings took place in a different America, one that disappeared more than half a century ago. Except that this is not entirely true. In 2001 book burnings in New Mexico and Pennsylvania reduced Harry Potter novels to ashes. Reverend George Bender, of The Harvest Assembly of God Church commented, "We got some people mad at us, but it's good to have publicity.”

It is generally believed that Mildred Edie Brady, who was granted an interview by Reich by posing as one enthusiastic about his work, was the single person responsible for the US government’s campaign against Reich. It is true her article in the NR did lead, just two months later, to the FDA investigation. But Wertham’s book review in the same publication, six months earlier, may well have set the stage for Brady.

There is no hard evidence that Brady decided to visit Reich because of Wertham’s review of The Mass Psychology of Fascism. However, it’s not a far reach to question if she would have, or could have, written The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich had it not been for Dr. Frederick Wertham. If this is so, Reich’s books might not have been burned and he sent to prison where he died.


Stephen Wahrhaftig writes from West Chester Pa. His site, www.stevewdesign.com, covers design and marketing.

Psychiatric Orgone Therapy

One of Wilhelm Reich’s most important and lasting contributions is a unique treatment for emotional disorders called psychiatric orgone therapy. Reich began as a psychoanalyst and was a member of Freud’s inner circle, but moved away from Freud’s method of free association when he developed a more effective verbal approach he called character analysis. Later he came to recognize the existence of a specific biologic energy in living organisms that he called “orgone,” which was coined from the word “organism.” With this discovery Reich was able to combine his verbal method with a technique that could normalize a person’s energy. The result was an entirely new approach to treating emotional disorders that he named orgone therapy.

Reich’s work with patients convinced him the disturbance in an individual’s energy state is caused by contractions in the body, especially in the musculature. He called these contractions “armor,” and established that they begin to develop in infancy as a way to block out emotionally painful events.

Past traumatic experiences are locked in the body--and they remain throughout life. How this happens is not fully understood, but there is no question that anxiety, anger and sadness, as well as the other upsetting feelings and emotions from childhood are not forgotten. Armor not only holds the disturbing past, causing it to remain alive but out of consciousness awareness, but it also affects how one feels and functions. Because living a natural healthy life depends upon whether a person’s energy flows freely or is blocked, the aim of psychiatric orgone therapy is to free up energy by breaking down armor. As these areas of holding dissolve, patients release their long buried feelings and emotions in the safety of the therapist’s office. They most usually surface spontaneously with the specific method Reich innovated, without the need of urging or any intervention on the part of the treating psychiatrist. However, occasionally, pressure needs to be applied to spastic muscles, or other techniques used to normalize the body. Because this treatment combines a verbal approach with a physical technique, it addresses both the mind and the body to bring about profound changes in how one thinks, feels and functions.

Today almost all people seeking treatment from a psychiatrist are given medications to reduce their symptoms. However, with psychiatric orgone therapy it is usual that patients, over time, find themselves able to wean themselves off medication and function without pharmacologic treatment. Reich’s therapy is unique in that it not only relieves distressing symptoms, but also does much more. It enables individuals to expand and feel pleasure, and better enjoy the many satisfactions life has to offer.

There are people who claim to practice some form of “Reichian” or “orgone” therapy, even though they have had no formal training in medicine or psychology. Often the techniques used by these self-proclaimed therapists have little or nothing to do with the very specific methods Reich developed and taught. The value of such therapies is questionable and may even harm those who get involved in them.

Qualified psychiatric orgone therapists have extensive training. They are physicians who have gone on to specialize in psychiatry and then in the very unique subspecialty of orgone therapy. They practice in much the same way as Reich did more than a half century ago. Ph.D. Psychologists who have had proper training can practice a form of orgone therapy safely and effectively. However, it is crucial they have supervision by a qualified psychiatric orgone therapist.