Author Topic: The genius of Wilhelm Reich  (Read 649 times)


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Re: The genius of Wilhelm Reich
« on: April 06, 2015, 07:56:38 am »
Reception and legacy
According to psychologist Luis Cordon, Reich's slide from medical and scientific respectability concluded with the consensus inside and outside the psychoanalytic community that he was at best a crackpot, and at worst was suffering from a serious illness. The psychoanalyst Richard Sterba writes that Reich was a brilliant clinician during the 1920s, but he was viewed by other analysts, according to Sharaf, as paranoid and belligerent; there were rumours from the late 1920s that he was mentally ill and inaccurate accounts that he had been hospitalised. Paul Federn became Reich's second analyst in 1922; he later said he had detected "incipient schizophrenia" and called Reich a psychopath. Sandor Rado had Reich as an analysand in 1931 and later declared him schizophrenic "in the most serious way." Reich's daughter Lore, a psychiatrist, believed that he was bipolar.

Sharaf argued that psychoanalysts tended to dismiss as ill anyone from within the fold who had transgressed, and this was never done so relentlessly as with Reich. His work was split into the pre-psychotic "good" and the post-psychotic "bad," the date of the illness's onset depending on which parts of his work a speaker disliked. Psychoanalysts preferred to see him as sane in the 1920s because of his work on character, while political radicals regarded him as sane during the 1930s because of his Marxist-oriented research.

Despite Reich's precarious mental health, his work on character and the idea of muscular armouring contributed to the development of what is now known as ego psychology, gave rise to body psychotherapy, and helped shape the Gestalt therapy of Fritz Perls, the bioenergetic analysis of Reich's student, Alexander Lowen, and the primal therapy of Arthur Janov.

Humanities and popular culture
Reich's early psychoanalytic work, his writing about fascism, and his later writings about orgonomy influenced several generations of intellectuals, including the writers Saul Bellow, William Burroughs and Norman Mailer, and the founder of Summerhill School in England, A. S. Neill.

The French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote in 1976 that the impact of Reich's critique of sexual repression had been substantial. According to Sharaf, Paul Mathews and John M. Bell started teaching a course on Reich in 1968 at New York University through its Division of Continuing Study, and it was apparently still being taught at the time Sharaf was writing in 1983, making it the longest-running course ever taught in that division.

Reich's pursuit by the FDA arguably made him more popular than he would otherwise have been. The Austrian-American philosopher Paul Edwards said that the opposition to Reich intensified Edwards' attachment to him; he wrote in 1977 that for some years he and many of his friends regarded Reich as "something akin to a messiah."

Several well-known figures used orgone accumulators, including Orson Bean, Sean Connery, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Goodman, Jack Kerouac, Isaac Rosenfeld, J. D. Salinger, William Steig and Robert Anton Wilson. An accumulator made an appearance as the Orgasmatron in Woody Allen's film Sleeper (1973)

Mailer – who owned several orgone accumulators, including some in the shape of eggs – wrote about Reich enthusiastically in The Village Voice, as a result of which Orgonon became a place of pilgrimage and the orgasm a symbol of liberation.[162] He told Christopher Turner:

"Cloudbusting" (1985) by Kate Bush
The Function of the Orgasm was like a Pandora's box to me. It opened a great deal because to me personally, I'd been struck with an itch in my own orgasm. So much was good in it; so much was not good in it. And his notion that the orgasm in a certain sense was the essence of the character, gave me much food for thought over the years. So there were many, many years when I felt that to a degree when your orgasm was improving, so were you improving with it ... What was important to me was the force, and clarity, and power of [Reich's] early works, and the daring. And also the fact that I think in a basic sense that he was right.[163]
Reich continued to influence popular culture after his death. Yugoslavian director Dušan Makavejev made a film about him, W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971). Patti Smith's "Birdland" on her album Horses (1975) is based on Reich's life and Hawkwind's song "Orgone Accumulator" (1973) is based on his invention, as is Love Camp 7's "Orgone Box" (1997). In Bob Dylan's "Joey" from Desire (1975), the eponymous gangster spends his time in prison "reading Nietzsche and Wilhelm Reich." Reich is also a character in the opera Marilyn (1980) by Italian composer Lorenzo Ferrero.

Kate Bush's single "Cloudbusting" (1985) described Reich's arrest through the eyes of his son, Peter, who wrote his father's story in A Book of Dreams (1973); the video for the song features Donald Sutherland as Reich and Bush as Peter. Robert Anton Wilson's musical play, Wilhelm Reich in Hell (1987), is about Reich's confrontation with the American government. Four-beat Rhythm: The Writings of Wilhelm Reich (2013) is a compilation album on which Reich's writings are adapted to music.[167] The Australian designer Marc Newson has produced a range of orgone furniture, most famously his Orgone Chair (1993).

The mainstream scientific community dismissed Reich's orgone theory. Physicians and other researchers with an interest in Reich began in the 1960s to organize study groups. In 1967 one of his associates, Dr. Elsworth Baker, set up the bi-annual Journal of Orgonomy, which is still published, and in 1968 founded the American College of Orgonomy in Princeton, New Jersey, to train physicians in orgonomic therapy.

From 1961 the New York publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux began republishing all Reich's major works, leading to renewed interest in his research in the 1970s. The Orgone Biophysical Research Lab was founded in 1978 by Dr. James DeMeo, a geographer, and the Institute for Orgonomic Science in 1982 by Dr. Morton Herskowitz. Sharaf wrote in 1983 that contributors to the Journal of Orgonomy who worked in academia often used a pseudonym in case their careers suffered, leading to what he called the "self-fulfilling prophecy" that orgonomy was not a valid area of study because so few researchers had shown an interest in it. There was renewed interest in 2008, when the Reich archives at the Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard University were unsealed; Reich had left instructions that his unpublished papers be stored for 50 years after his death.