The Online-Magazine of the DATADIWAN
Issue Nr. 1 / March 1998 - ISSN 1435-1560
Forty years after his death, Wilhelm Reich‘s orgone theory is being discussed more than ever in medical circles. In the years from 1990 to 1994, a research project at Free University Berlin analyzed and reproduced nearly all of Reich‘s biophysical experiments. In personal notes, the director of this project introduces some of the findings and describes some actual discussions around Reich‘s orgone energy hypothesis.
The Orgone Theory According to Wilhelm Reich - and what has become
1997 marked the year of celebration for all those interested in the works of Wilhelm Reich: 100 years ago, W. Reich was born in Austria – and forty years ago, he died in the USA. A student of Sigmund Freund, he dedicated his life to the investigation of life processes, especially the meaning of sexuality. Expanding on Freud’s libido concept (the energy of the driving force of the psyche), Reich postulated a life energy that not only influences the biological and psychic region but also is an all-around creative energy. Deriving from the ideas of orgasm and organism, Reich called this energy "Orgone". He attributed to it explicit physical characteristics and published approximately 20 measurement techniques from which he tried to corroborate his theory.
More precisely, the attempt to find a physical measurability for life energy, was what personally fascinated me the most about Reich’s work.
The text at hand, along with the other texts, are based upon my experiences from 1990 to 1994, which I amassed during my meteorological studies at the Free University Berlin (FU-Berlin), when I was both initiator and director of the study group, "Orgone Biophysics". During this time period, almost all of Reich’s experiments were reproduced in a controlled atmosphere and analyzed using modern measuring techniques. A part of the work was conducted at the FU-Berlin, University Clinic Benjamin Franklin (Steglitz), Department for Naturopathy under the auspices of the two-year tutorium titled "Orgone Biophysics: A Critical Approach to the Biophysical Works of Wilhelm Reich", under the guidance of Professor Dr. Joachim Hornung , who is a critical supporter of unconventional ideas, and who I have learned to greatly respect. I would like to take this chance to sincerely thank him for his support. The financing for the measuring techniques and machines was realized not only through the FU-Berlin, but also through generous donations from interested parties and through grants from the "Wilhelm Reich Gesellschaft zur Erforschung lebensenergetischer Prozesse e.V." (Wilhelm Reich Society for the Study of Life Energy Processes), which, at that time, I was member of. I would like to sincerely thank all of these parties.
Since 1992, the results of this research have been made public in many lectures. These results can been found as comments and excursions to Reich’s ORANUR experiments in further publications stated below and are presented also in written form in the Diwan Magazine. In this manner, these results fulfill Reich’s standards of systematic critic, because they are founded upon an intense analysis of Reich’s physical works, but also other works which did not rely upon natural scientific thought processes and research methods.
Still today, Wilhelm Reich enjoys a meaningful influence upon certain trends in field of psychotherapy. However, he himself saw the concept of a physically understandable life energy as his life’s work.
In the following pages, these two approaches will be illustrated, where
my main points will pertain to the natural scientific point of view.
In Berlin for approximately ten years, Reich’s body-oriented psychotherapy (Orgone Therapy, Vegeto-Therapy) has been viewed as avantgard. According to it advocates it is a very effective therapy, because it releases strong emotional and physical reactions. Albeit, it has not been thoroughly studied in order to prove any apparent health benefits. In any event, the promise of "organic potency" suggested in Reich’s therapeutic model has touched many people’s longing for liveliness or for satisfying sexuality. However, the question is asked, how can his definition of health via the orgasm reflex justify the current holistic approach towards people, considering that Reich always dismissed the spiritual element of a person’s life as mystical confusion. (Reich: Äther, Gott und Teufel.)
The Accumulation of Life Energy in the Orgone Accumulator
In order to make life energy both medically and technically useful, Reich constructed different machines, the orgone accumulator being the most well-known. The orgone accumulator is a small box made from galvanized sheet metals, which are isolated on the outside and through a small opening allows a minimal exchange of air in the immediate environment. One enters the box generally naked, and then one sits in an upright position.
How come people experience a specific feeling of warmth? Two university studies (Gebauer/Müschenich 1987 und Hebenstreit 1995) demonstrate significant differences between an orgone accumulator and a control box, though they never really understood how these differences actually could occur. The actual body temperature in a relaxed position is 140 watts (approximately two light bulbs) raises the temperature inside the box, and also the humidity is raised as a direct result of the dampness of the skin and in the breath. Due to the narrowness of the closed box, the circulation is almost zero. The orginal body temperature radiated is directed back to body, because the infrared waves are largely reflected back via the sheet metal. Together these four aspects, temperature, humidity, air circulation, and thermal radiation, define the meteorological term for sultriness (humidity). After a period of time in the orgone accumulator, the climate inside is comparable to the humidity which one would normally find in the tropics. In order for the body to balance out this heat, it activate some internal regulation mechanisms. The blood vessels in the skin expand in order to give off the increased heat. Subsequently, an apparent feeling of warmth occurs; however, this does not necessarily mean one must cite this as an the explanation of a life energy.
Picture 1 shows, that the air temperature and the thermal reflection are equally important for the person’s feeling of warmth. A orgone accumulator, in which there is an air temperature of 25° C and the person has a skin temperature, for example, of 32° C, would have to radiate warmth back to the body. The temperature of the walls in the accumulator corresponds to nearly 30° C. Picture 1 illustrates that this situation is generally found to be too warm. Moreover, the hightened humidity and minimal air circulation further enhance this perception.
The Physical Duplication of Reich’s Experiments
Under the auspices of the study group, Orgone Biophysics, we duplicated and theoretically analyzed almost all of the experiments orginally conducted by Wilhelm Reich. His orgone energy field meter is presented more thoroughly in this issue of the Diwan Magazine. Additionally, an experiment for reproducing pictures of orgone energy on photographic paper is described, and the postulate of the Reich-supporter, Dr. James DeMeo, that wood branches are biological indicators for life energy also has been experimentally proven.
Further experiments of Reich as well as their duplications are presented in the 1997 study guide to Wilhelm Reich’s book, "The ORANUR-Experiment, First Report" . This study guide was written by myself in collaboration with the doctor, Christian Rudolf, and is published by Zweitausendeins (available only in German). In this guide, Reich’s approach to physical measuring techniques and to radioactivity are expanded upon and analyzed. In his work "ORANUR-Experiment", Reich reported on a series of physical experiments, which he had been conducting since 1938 with the purpose of proving his thesis for a specific life energy by means of physical measuring techniques. In this study guide, we have tried to depict these experiments based on the physical and technical laws, and we attempt to make how these measurement results were achieved, which Reich interpretted as the orgone energy phenomenon, and hope that this understandable for all non-physicists.
In the appendix of our study guide, we analyzed Reich’s temperature
difference experiments, his experiments with electrostatics and the electroscope,
his work on the vacuum tubes, and his trials with the Geiger-Müller
counter and radioactivity. In addition, we describe how I was able to build
the famed Orgone Motor, with which Reich transformed life energy in to
a motorized power source.
The Result after five Years of Researching the Topic Orgone Energy
Through the duplication if the experiments, we could actually observe the same phenomena which Reich observed. The analysis of the experimental design and the usage of modern electronic measuring devices showed, however, that apparent phenomena could be explained by classical, physical effects. No reference to a specific life energy was found. The investigation of Reich’s original machines, housed at the museum in Rangeley, Maine (USA), showed grave faults in the experimental techniques he used and, subsequently, lead to the presumtion that Reich had not been sufficiently versed in the foundations and methodology of experimental physics, especially pertaining to measurement techniques in order to interpret in his own way the observed effects. Many examples could be made that Reich continuously had measurement flaws and had personally slipped into the experiment. Consequently, his experiments and the resulting theories appear to be indefensible. This insight is confirmed by analyzing all of Reich’s pertaining texts. If there does indeed exist a measurable life energy, Reich’s evidence unfortunately does not establish this fact.
Orgone Energy in this Zeitgeist
The actual trends pertaining to orgone apprear to have little to do with new insights into life energy research, rather seem to try and link Reich’s concept with the modern zeitgeist. Currently, the term, orgone therapy, is interchanged with body-oriented psychotherapy, with the situating of oneself in the orgone accumulator, and with the use of radionic machines and amulets:
After many years of scientific pursuit with the main focus on life energy, I personally believe that Reich’s orgone theory is antiquated. In this theory, I see a dead end which one can easily drive into if there does not exist enough precision in the scientific research and the ability to criticize.
I hope that this material presents a realistic contemplation of Reich’s
life’s work, beyond painting something just black or white, for just like
every other person, Reich also had a light and dark side.