From character analysis to orgasm batteries

Slate has a brilliant article on one of the most troubled and yet fascinating people in the history of psychology – William Reich – inventor of the orgasmotron.

Reich was one of Freud’s inner circle but decided to propose his own ideas rather than follow the Freudian orthodoxy, something which got him promptly kicked out of the chosen few.

The point of contention was that Reich favoured analysing the personality as a whole, rather than individual symptoms, using a system he developed call ‘character analysis’.

His system had a massive impact on psychoanalysis but as time went on he became more and more radical to the point of seeming to have lost his marbles.

Merging abandoned versions of Freudianism and Marxism, Reich saw repression and neurosis as causes and results of bourgeois property ownership and patriarchy. He established free sex clinics and roved the city in a van from which he proselytized for Communism and orgasm. The open expression of libido, beginning with free love between adolescents, would raise the proletarian political consciousness. Soon, Reich was drummed out of the analytic movement and the Communist Party.

This, you may be surprised to hear, was not Reich at his most left-field.

He also began to believe that the power of orgasm, called orgone, could be stored in batteries and could be absorbed from the sky by the use of a special machine called a cloudbuster.

If the name of the machine seems familiar, it’s probably because it ‘Cloudbusting’ was the title of a song and video by Kate Bush which told the story of Reich’s machine and his downfall.

He eventually died in prison after being arrested by the FBI for illegally distributing his ‘orgone energy accumulator’ leaving a chaotic legacy that stretches from the profound to the ridiculous.

Link to Slate article on Willhelm Reich.

4 thoughts on “From character analysis to orgasm batteries”

  1. Most of the information on Reich is based on pure ignorance, as is the mention that he is the “inventor of the orgasmotron” (I’m hoping you were joking there). That was a fictional device from a Woody Allen movie, having nothing whatsoever to do with Reich and his scientific work.

    The article on SLATE was OK, based on the review of the book that was another in the long line of misunderstanding and slandering Reich and his far-reaching work.

    If you’re really interested in understanding his work, than it’s very simple – read his books, they are all available on amazon.

  2. Let’s get some facts straight. Orgone is not the power of the orgasm, it is what Reich termed the life-force, or the energy from which life spontaneously emerges (I’m not defending the idea mind you.) He never stated it could be stored in batteries, but he did claim that the orgone accumulator could focus it in order to provide health benefits. The cloud-busting was another attempt at manipulating the orgone on a much larger scale, but again, it had nothing to do with orgasms.

    Although he did seemingly loose his mind toward the end of his life, believing that Eisenhower was sending UFO’s to watch over him for instance, it wasn’t necessarily unwarranted. He had been hounded for years for his idea that repressed sexuality was a scourge of mankind. Talking about healthy orgasms in the 40s and 50s wasn’t exactly encouraged, mind you. These ideas made people uncomfortable, which lead to the outright banning of all of his books and a summary order to burn everything he had ever written. Reich was jailed for not merrily complying with the destruction of his life’s work. He died in prison shortly thereafter.

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