Saturday, July 23, 2011

From character analysis to orgasm batteries

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.


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