Reich, Wilhelm (1897–1957)

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Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian psychiatrist and social critic. After serving in the Austrian army during World War I, Reich became a medical student. He obtained his M.D. from the University of Vienna in 1922 and worked for some time as assistant to Julius Wagner-Jauregg at the latter's psychiatric clinic. Even before his graduation Reich began practice as a psychoanalyst and soon came to occupy an influential position in the psychoanalytic movement. From 1924 to 1930 he conducted what came to be known as the Vienna Seminar for Psychoanalytic Therapy, the first organized attempt to devise a systematic and effective analytic technique.

Reich also founded and directed sex hygiene clinics among the industrial workers of Vienna and later, on a much larger scale, in Berlin and other German cities. During his years in Germany, Reich was a member of the Communist Party, and he attempted to integrate his work as a sex counselor within the broader revolutionary movement. Adolf Hitler's assumption of power forced Reich to flee to Denmark. His activities had always been viewed with suspicion by the leaders of the Communist Party, and Reich was finally expelled from the party after the publication of Die Massenpsychologie des Faschismus (Copenhagen, 1933), in which he repudiated the official communist theory about the nature of fascism and the factors leading to its victory in Germany. Also, by 1933 Reich's psychiatric views were so far removed from those of orthodox psychoanalysis that the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag handled and printed but did not "publish" (that is, refused its imprint to) the first edition of Reich's Charakteranalyse. The break with the psychoanalytic organization became official at the Lucerne conference of the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1934.

Attacks by orthodox psychiatrists made it necessary for Reich to leave Denmark for Sweden, but in Sweden too there was official hostility and suspicion. Reich therefore gladly accepted an invitation by the Norwegian psychologist and philosopher Harald Schjelderup to teach at the University of Oslo, where he also hoped to undertake various physiological experiments. Reich worked in Norway from 1934 to 1939. Among his students and patients at that time were the English educational reformer A. S. Neill, the American psychiatrist and pioneer in psychosomatic research T. B. Wolfe, and leading figures in Norwegian psychiatry, including Nic Hoel (Waal), Ola Raknes, and Odd Havrevold. The distinguished Norwegian novelist Sigurd Hoel was also closely associated with Reich at this timein fact, he succeeded Reich as editor of the journal Zeitschrift für politische Psychologie und Sexualökonomie. In 1937 Reich became the victim of a campaign in sections of the Norwegian press. Although he had a number of influential defenders and the government renewed his permit to stay in the country, he decided to move to New York City, where he resumed his psychiatric practice and trained numerous psychiatrists in the new technique that he had worked out during his stay in Scandinavia. Reich also lectured at the New School for Social Research from 1939 to 1941.

In the last years of his life Reich showed little interest in psychiatry, devoting all his energies to what he took to be his great discoveries in physics. In 1956 he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for disobeying a government injunction. He died in Lewisburg Penitentiary in 1957. A brief account of the main events leading to Reich's imprisonment will be found in the last section of the present entry.

It will be convenient to distinguish three phases in Reich's career: (1) his work within the psychoanalytic movement, marked, however, by some significant departures from orthodox psychoanalysisthe rejection of symptom analysis in favor of what Reich called "character analysis," the orgasm theory, and the attempt to understand the social function of sexual repression and neurosis; (2) Reich's efforts to relate neurotic attitudes to their somatic foundation and the development of what he called "character-analytic vegetotherapy"a technique that constituted a drastic departure from all that preceded it; and (3) his theories about orgone energyReich's claim to have discovered a form of energy that is found in the atmosphere and also in the living organism and which can be concentrated in various ways, including the "orgone accumulator." What Reich claimed during the third period is of no philosophical interest. If any of the assertions in question were true, they would be of great scientific interest; but, in fact, most professional physicists who have heard of the orgone theory have dismissed it as nonsense. In fairness to Reich it should be added that a really unbiased investigation of his physical theories remains to be undertaken.

We shall here be exclusively concerned with certain of the ideas advanced by Reich during the first two periods. Of interest to philosophers are Reich's views concerning the origin of religious and metaphysical needs, the relation between the individual and society and the possibility of social progress, and, above all, the implications of his psychiatry for certain aspects of the mind-body problem. It is regrettable that, partly because Reich's books and articles were not easily accessible and partly because the wild claims of his last years created widespread distrust of his entire work, the remarkable achievements of his second phase are relatively little-known. To those who are put off by the recent metaphysical and pro-religious trends in psychiatry, as exhibited in the vogue of existentialist psychoanalysis and in the metapsychological speculations of Carl Jung and various Freudian analysts, Reich's concentration on the somatic basis of neurotic disturbances and the sexual problems and longings of human beings will come as a pleasant and refreshing change.

Therapeutic Innovations

The philosophically most interesting part of Reich's work is unquestionably what he called "the breakthrough into the vegetative realm," that is, his attempt to determine the physiological basis of neurotic phenomena. However, first we should briefly describe Reich's earlier psychiatric work. In the early 1920s Freudian psychiatrists practiced what in retrospect came to be known as "symptom analysis." Neurotic symptoms were regarded as foreign bodies in an otherwise psychologically healthy organism; they are expressions of a repressed infantile drive that has reappeared in a disguised form. The task of therapy is to eliminate the repression: The symptom is removed by bringing the repressed part of the personality into harmony with the rest of the ego. By his own account, Reich soon became dissatisfied with this approach. The traumatic experiences leading to repression and the repressed drives were to be elucidated by means of free association and dream interpretation, but in fact only very few patients were capable of giving their associations free rein. Furthermore, Reich was critical of the superficial criteria of "cure" current at that time. Patients were considered "cured" upon the disappearance or alleviation of the symptom of which they had complained. However, Reich believed that the elimination of symptoms is quite compatible with the continuation of a character disturbance. Also, he questioned the existence of "monosymptomatic neuroses"neuroses with only one serious symptom. "There are no neurotic symptoms," he later observed, "without a disturbance of the total character. Neurotic symptoms are, as it were, nothing but peaks of a mountain chain representing the neurotic character" (The Function of the Orgasm, p. 16). It was Reich's contention that, unless the characterological basis of a symptom has been eliminated, it or some equally troublesome symptom is likely to reappear.

On the few occasions on which either Reich or his associates at the Vienna Seminar appeared to achieve impressive and lasting improvements, this was invariably the result of the release of powerful dammed-up emotions like rage and hatred. Some years earlier, while working in Wagner-Jauregg's clinic, Reich had been struck by a catatonic who suddenly abandoned his stupor. "It was one great discharge of rage and aggression," Reich writes. "After the seizure had subsided he was clear and accessible. He assured me that his explosion had been a pleasurable experience, a state of happiness. He did not remember the previous stuporous phase. It was very impressive, and could not be explained on the basis of the psychoanalytic theory of catatonia" (The Function of the Orgasm, pp. 4344). Neurotics, too, showed noticeable improvement only when, instead of merely achieving an intellectual recognition of a repression, the impulse or emotion in question could actually be experienced. Such "liberations" were, however, infrequent and, what is more, they occurred more or less accidentally. An effective therapy would have to bring them about in a controlled fashion.

the "character armor."

Something should be said at this stage about Reich's concept of the "character armor" that came to play a central role in the technique of character analysis with which he gradually replaced the technique of symptom analysis. This concept was originally introduced in connection with certain cases of compulsion neurosis. Sigmund Freud had shown that compulsion symptoms always bind anxiety. If such a symptom is disturbed, the anxiety frequently appears. It does not, however, always appearanxiety cannot usually be released in this way either in compulsion neuroses of long standing or in cases of chronic depression. Such patients appeared quite inaccessible. "Emotionally blocked compulsive characters gave associations in great numbers freely, but there never was a trace of affect. All therapeutic efforts bounced back, as it were, from a thick, hard wall" (The Function of the Orgasm, p. 114). These patients were "armored" against any attack. Over the years they had developed a set of attitudes whose function was to protect the individual against external injury (such as being hurt or rejected by other human beings) and to protect him against feeling his own repressed emotions, especially (though not exclusively) various kinds of destructiveness.

Reich introduced the term character armor to refer to the totality of the typical or chronic attitudes of this kind characterizing a given individual. It is, writes Reich, "as if the affective personality put on an armor, a rigid shell on which the knocks from the outer world as well as the inner demands rebound. This armor makes the individual less sensitive to unpleasure, but it also reduces his libidinal and aggressive motility and, with that, his capacity for pleasure and achievement" (Character Analysis, p. 310). Patients who do not suffer from a severe compulsion neurosis (and indeed most people growing up in a repressive environment) also have a character armor, but in their cases it can usually be attacked or broken down more easily.

The technique used to attack the character armor emphasizes the so-called negative transference. According to Reich, every patient has a deep mistrust of the treatment and feels strong hostility to the psychiatrist. Although patients wish to be cured, they also resent any attempt to disturb their "neurotic equilibrium." It is tempting for the analyst to shy away from these negative reactions, since it takes a great deal of strength and composure to bear the often furious hatred that is released when the armor begins to "crack." Nevertheless, it is precisely this negative reaction that can and must be used as the foundation of the treatment. The patient must feel free to criticize the analyst, and any attitudes that mask his hostility have to be broken down. Reference to the case of a "passive-feminine young man with hysterical symptoms" may give some idea of what this technique is like. The patient was excessively polite and, because of his fears, extremely sly. He always yielded and produced abundant material, but without any inner conviction. "Instead of discussing this material," Reich reports,

I only kept pointing out his politeness as a defense against me and any really affective insight. As time went on, his hidden aggression appeared increasingly in his dreams. As the politeness decreased, he became offensive. In other words, the politeness had been warding off the hatred. I let the hatred come out fully by destroying every defense mechanism against it. The hatred up to that time had been unconscious. Hatred and politeness were antitheses, and at the same time the over-politeness was a disguised manifestation of hatred. (The Function of the Orgasm, p. 117)

If in this way repressed emotions are released and the patient actually experiences them, it is unnecessary to persuade him that he "really," "unconsciously" feels this or that. "The patient no longer talked about his hatred, he felt it; he could not escape it as long as his armor was being correctly taken apart" (p. 146).

The armor, according to Reich, varies from patient to patient, depending on his individual history, and the technique of destroying it has to be fitted to the individual case. The armor may be viewed as consisting of several layers. These layers, in Reich's words, "may be compared to geological or archaeological strata which, similarly, are solidified history. A conflict which has been active at a certain period of life always leaves its trace in the character, in the form of a rigidity" (pp. 121122). The neurosis of each patient has a specific structure that corresponds to its historical development, but in reverse order: "that which had been repressed latest in childhood was found to lie nearest the surface" (p. 121).

Anger and hate are not the only emotions bound by the character armor. Although destructiveness has to be emphasized and liberated in the early stages of the treatment, eventually genuine love and tenderness that had to be suppressed will also be released. The destructiveness, in the last resort, is "nothing but anger about frustration in general and denial of sexual gratification in particular" (p. 124). Destructive tendencies are most frequently "reactions to disappointment in love or to loss of love." An organism that has been freed of its dammed-up destructiveness becomes once again capable of love. Reich referred to persons who are unarmored and who possess the capacity for love in the fullest sense as "genital characters"; and the goal of therapy is to change the patient's neurotic character into a genital structure. According to Reich, the "energy" that nourishes neurotic symptoms and various destructive attitudes can be adequately discharged only in fully satisfactory sexual intercourse. A person with a genital character, unlike the neurotic, possesses "orgastic potency." This Reich defined as "the capacity for surrender to the flow of energy in the orgasm without any inhibitions; the capacity for complete discharge of all dammed-up sexual excitation through involuntary pleasurable contractions free of anxiety and unpleasure and unaccompanied by phantasies" (The Function of the Orgasm, p. 79).

An individual with a genital character has undisturbed contact with his own drives and with his environment and, as a consequence, he has no need for any of the endless variety of substitute contacts and substitute gratifications of the neurotic individual. He, too, may not succeed in achieving a happy existence, since this depends on a great many factors, not all of which are within his control, but he will at least not be hampered in his struggle for happiness by irrational and destructive emotions or by excessive respect for the institutions of a life-denying society.

Reich vigorously repudiated the suggestion that, either in his therapy or in his social philosophy, his goal was a world "containing nothing but pleasure." The function of the armor, he observed, is to protect against pain, and in breaking it down, Reich's therapy aimed at reestablishing the capacity to feel pain as well as pleasure. "Pleasure and joie de vivre are inconceivable without fight, without painful experiences and without unpleasurable struggling with oneself" (p. 173). The goal is not a positive "hedonic balance" that, for all one can prove to the contrary, might be more effectively achieved by a life of monasticism but "full vitality in all possible situations of life." The capacity to take happiness and to give love goes hand in hand with "the capacity of tolerating unpleasure and pain without fleeing disillusioned into a state of rigidity."

repressions and chronic muscular rigidities

Reich was led to his study of what he calls the "physiological anchoring" of neurotic conflicts and traumatic experiences partly as a result of his fundamentally materialistic orientation and partly because of the special attention paid in his technique of character analysis to the manner in which patients talked and acted. It is a mistake, he said, to regard rage and love (or any other emotion) as events "in the mind." They are physiological processes, and if an emotion is repressed, there must be some physiological mechanism by whose means the energy in question is "bound." Furthermore, Reich was convinced that if an adult's neurotic character attitude is the result of childhood experiences, this can be so only if the person's organism has in some way been chronically altered. The employment of "theoretical" terms such as "Id" and "unconscious" can easily lead to pseudoexplanations in this context. To say, for example, that a repressed childhood conflict exerts its influence "from the unconscious" may call attention to a suspected causal relation between the childhood experience and the present difficulties of the individual, but beyond that it simply amounts to admitting that one does not know how the influence in question is exerted. On occasions, it is true, Freud himself said as much and expressed his hope that some day explanations in terms of unconscious conflicts would be given a physiological meaning. At other times, however, Freud treated his theoretical terms as if they designated real and eternally inaccessible entities; and many of Freud's followers, according to Reich, became metaphysicians whose theorizing was euphemistically labeled "metapsychology."

Perhaps of greater influence than these general reflections was Reich's interest in the "how" of the patient's communications. The infantile structure, Reich observes in one place, is "conserved" in what an individual does as well as in the way in which he acts, talks, and thinks (Character Analysis, p. 188). Elsewhere Reich explains that he made himself independent of the so-called fundamental psychoanalytic rule ("to say everything that comes to mind"), since it was impracticable with most patients, and that instead he took as "point of attack not only what the patient said, but everything he presented, particularly the manner of his communications or of his silence. Patients who kept silent were also communicating, were expressing something that gradually could be understood and handled" (The Function of the Orgasm, p. 145). It became increasingly evident to him, Reich adds, that "the form of behavior and communications, was much more essential than what the patient related. Words can lie. The mode of expression never lies."

Special attention to the "how" of a patient's behavior very naturally led to close observation of the changes in his organism during and after the release of repressed emotions. Reich's earlier clinical reports already contained remarks about the awkwardness and the rigid movements of certain types of patients. However, it was not until the early 1930s that he began to elucidate the precise role played by muscular rigidities in the binding of impulses and emotions that had to be suppressed. The following extracts describing the beginning of a treatment in 1933 will perhaps convey better than any definition what Reich meant by the "physiological anchoring" of affects:

In Copenhagen in 1933, I treated a man who put up especially strong resistances against the uncovering of his passive-homosexual phantasies. This resistance was manifested in an extreme attitude of stiffness of the neck. After an energetic attack upon his resistance he suddenly gave in, but in a rather alarming manner. For three days, he presented severe manifestations of vegetative shock. The color of his face kept changing rapidly from white to yellow or blue; the skin was mottled and of various tints; he had severe pains in the neck and the occiput; the heartbeat was rapid; he had diarrhea, felt worn out, and seemed to have lost hold. Affects had broken through somatically after the patient had yielded in a psychic defense attitude. The stiff neck, expressing an attitude of tense masculinity, apparently had bound vegetative energies which now broke loose in an uncontrolled and disordered fashion. It was the musculature that served this inhibitory function. When the muscles of the neck relaxed, powerful impulses broke through, as if propelled by a spring. (The Function of the Orgasm, pp. 239240)

This and other cases led Reich to a systematic study of chronic muscular rigidities and their relation to neurotic character attitudes. He reached the conclusion that "every neurotic is muscularly dystonic and every cure is directly reflected in a change of muscular habitus" (Character Analysis, pp. 311312). Chronic muscular rigidities or spasms are found all over the bodies of the patients: in the forehead, around the mouth and in the chin, in the throat, the shoulders, the chest, the abdomen, the pelvis and thighs, and many other places. The rigid expression in the eyes of many patients, their chronic "stare," is the result of a chronic rigidity in the lid muscles. The breathing of neurotic individuals is disturbed in comparison with the natural and free respiration of emotionally healthy people. Reich referred to the totality of these chronic muscular rigidities that an individual develops as the "muscular armor."

Reich emphasized that it is muscle groups rather than individual muscles that become spasticmuscle groups which jointly serve a certain function, for example, to suppress the impulse to cry. Not only do the lower lips become tense in this event but also "the whole musculature of the mouth, the jaw and the throat; that is, all the muscles which, as a functional unit, become active in the process of crying" (The Function of the Orgasm, p. 269). In discussing the spasms frequently found in the mouth, chin, and neck, Reich enlarges on the tensions set up by the stifling of impulses to cry:

Many people have a mask-like facial expression. The chin is pushed forward and looks broad; the neck below the chin is "lifeless." The lateral neck muscles which go to the breastbone stand out as thick cords; the muscles under the chin are tense. Such patients often suffer from nausea. Their voice is usually low, monotonous, "thin." (The Function of the Orgasm, p. 271)

This is not the place to discuss in detail other of the typical rigidities that make up the muscular armor. The interested reader will find these described in various of the publications devoted to the new technique.

Upon discovering the muscular spasms and their relation to suppressed impulses and emotions, Reich devised various ways of attacking or "dissolving" them directly. In working on tensions in and around the eyes, for example, it is frequently possible to release a great deal of anxiety; in loosening up and encouraging the movement of certain muscles around the mouth, suppressed feelings of disgust can be liberated; by suitable work on the chin, it is possible, in Reich's words, "to set free an unbelievable amount of anger." Reich writes that he had previously been able to bring about the release of repressed impulses and emotions by way of dissolving purely characterological inhibitions and attitudes. Now, however, "the break-through of biological energy was more complete, more forceful, more thoroughly experienced, and it occurred more rapidly. Also, it was accompanied in many patients by a spontaneous dissolution of the characterological inhibitions" (p. 241). Reich warns, however, that it is not possible to dispense with work on character attitudes. "Everyday practise soon teaches one," he writes, "that it is not permissible to exclude one form of work at the expense of the other" (p. 293). With some patients work on the muscular rigidities will predominate from the beginning; with others, work on the character attitudes; but in all cases work on the muscular armor becomes more important in the later stages of the treatment.

mind-body problem

The facts he discovered about chronic muscular rigidities and their relation to character attitudes and repressed emotions, Reich maintained, required the abandonment of the dualistic theories about body and mind tacitly or explicitly accepted by many psychologists and most psychoanalysts. It is a mistake to regard the muscular rigidity as a mere accompaniment or as an effect of the corresponding character attitude: It is "its somatic side and the basis for its continued existence" (The Function of the Orgasm, p. 269). The rigidity of a muscle group and the corresponding attitude serve the same function, namely, that of holding back a repressed emotion. The muscular armor and the character armor may therefore be said to be "functionally" identical. The only tenable answer to the body-mind problem, according to Reich (who quotes Julien Offray de La Mettrie as anticipating his position), is a materialistic form of the identity theory.

Reich's identity theory is materialistic, not in the sense that introspection is regarded as illusory or as devoid of scientific value but in holding that a change in a person's character, or indeed any change in a human being, cannot come about without appropriate physiological changes. The notion, writes Reich, that "the psychic apparatus functions by itself and influences the somatic apparatus is not in keeping with the facts" (ibid., p. 313). Even an idea such as that of going to sleep will not "exert a somatic influence unless it is already the expression of a vegetative impulse" (ibid.). This conclusion, Reich insists, is not contradicted by the observation that a patient (or anybody) feels relieved when a previously repressed idea or impulse is allowed to become conscious. "We used to say," writes Reich, "that it is a matter of a discharge of psychic energy which previously was bound" (Character Analysis, p. 311).

Closer examination will show in such a case that both the tension and the relaxation are clearly observable somatic processes. What is introspectively felt as tension and as relief are in fact certain fairly typical rigidities and relaxations of musclesin the forehead, in the eyes, and elsewhere in the body. Both Reich and his translator, T. P. Wolfe, insist that the issue between dualism and the identity theory is not merely a question of alternative languages but makes a difference to therapeutic practice and further research. Wolfe in particular claims that only a theory of "psychosomatic identity" makes sense of the vast array of facts that had accumulated in psychosomatic studies by 1940 and that only such a theory can provide a fruitful method of research (The Function of the Orgasm, pp. x and xiii).

There are two very different questions that may be raised about all of this. One may ask whether, granting that Reich has hit upon something interesting and important in connection with muscular rigidities, their origin, and their possible dissolution, an identity theory is the only philosophical position that can accommodate these facts. More fundamentally, one may raise the question of whether Reich's empirical claims about the muscular armor are true in the first place.

As to the first of these questions, it should be pointed out that when Reich speaks of the "functional identity" of the character and the muscular armor, he does not seem to mean by "identity" anything as strong as has been claimed by philosophical defenders of the identity theory. To say that a certain character attitude and a certain muscular rigidity have the same function, for example, that of binding anxiety or anger, is not anything that a dualist is required to deny. It is certainly compatible with, but it does not by itself imply, the claim that the character attitude and the muscular rigidity are two aspects of the same phenomenon. It might be argued that Reich's work on the connection between muscular rigidities and character attitudes, rather than proving any traditional version of the identity theory, shows the inadequacy of interactionistic forms of dualism. Interactionism, in allowing only for causal relations between physical and psychological phenomena, could not do justice to the intimate relations between muscular rigidities and character attitudes to which Reich has called attention. There is no reason to suppose, however, that a more open-minded form of dualism, which would not restrict the relations between body and mind to one simple type, could not accommodate the facts in question.

In the present entry we cannot attempt to answer the second of our two questionswhether Reich's empirical claims about the muscular armor can in fact be sustained. Perhaps, however, it is permissible to remark, especially since this part of Reich's work has received so much less publicity than his orgone theory, that psychiatrists and others who have some firsthand knowledge of it have generally been enthusiastic. This includes persons who have observed and treated children in the light of Reich's account of the muscular armor. Since the process of repression as well as the process of cure would, on almost any theory, be most readily observable in children, confirmations (or disconfirmations) here would seem to be of special significance.

Culture, Society, and Character Structure

culture, morality, and the death instinct

On the basis of both his clinical observations and his very extensive social work, Reich maintained that there is nothing more deadly than to be subjected to the moralistic and authoritarian upbringing which is or which was until very recently the lot of the great majority of children all over the world. The preaching and the antisexual moralism of the religious home and the authoritarian character of the conventional school stifle every vital impulse in the child. Insofar as traditional education is successful, it produces human beings with a craving for authority, a fear of responsibility, mystical longings, impotent rebelliousness, and pathological drives of all kinds. The "morals" fostered by religious mysticism and slavishly followed by many who no longer believe in religion "create the very perverted sexual life which it presumes to regulate moralistically; and the elimination of these 'morals' is the prerequisite for an elimination of that immorality which it tries in vain to fight" (The Mass Psychology of Fascism, p. 156).

There is nevertheless an important element of truth in the contention of conservative ideology that if one were to "eliminate morals," the "animal instincts" would gain the upper hand, and that this would lead to social chaos. What is true in this contention is that the average person in our culture carries within himself an "unconscious inferno," and while his perverse and destructive impulses are not in most cases adequately controlled by moral inhibitions, they would presumably dominate personal and social life to an even greater extent in the absence of moral regulations. This fact makes it clear that any transition from an authoritarian to a rational self-governing society must be gradual and cannot be accomplished by simply telling people, as they now are, to live according to their impulses. It does not, however, provide a justification for an ascetic morality or for the usual conservative theory that maintains that culture is based on sexual repression.

The conservative theorist errs in assuming that the antisocial impulses are "absolute and biologically given" (The Sexual Revolution, p. 20). This view is advocated not only in the writings of religious moralists and others to whom Reich contemptuously referred as "uplifters" or "guardians of the higher values" but also in many of the later writings of Freud and those of Freud's followers who accepted the theory of the death instinct. Accordingly, Reich devoted much effort to a very detailed attack on the theory of the death instinct, especially as it is applied to human society and culture in Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents.

On Freud's view, Thanatos, or the striving for peace and extinction, is just as much biologically given as Eros, or the sexual strivings. Although the death instinct itself cannot be perceived, it manifests itself in a great many waysin various forms of aggression, in self-destructiveness, and in the masochistic "need for punishment." It also accounts for the resistances put up by patients against getting well. According to Reich, however, both clinical experience and observation of children show that the phenomena which supposedly prove the death instinct are "secondary formations," the products of the neurosis, and not "primary" and "biological" like the sexual instinct or the need for food. Investigation reveals that suicide is either an unconscious revenge upon another person or a way of escaping the pressure of a situation that has become overwhelming. The neurotic fear of and concern with death that is frequently found in quite young people can in every case be reduced to a fear of catastrophe, and this, in turn, to genital anxiety. As for aggressiveness, Reich claimed that the proponents of the death instinct did not sufficiently distinguish between perfectly healthy forms and those which are sadistic and destructive. The former are intimately connected with life-affirming tendencies, and the latter are always reactions of the organism to the denial of the gratification of a vital need.

Reich equally denied that there is any evidence whatsoever for the theory of "primary masochism." All clinical observations support Freud's earlier theory that patients "had come to grief as a result of their fear of punishment for sexual behavior and not as a result of any desire to be punished for it" (The Function of the Orgasm, pp. 103104). The theory of the death instinct, furthermore, is therapeutically sterile and offers an excellent excuse for one's inability to handle a difficult resistance. In addition to providing an alibi for therapeutic failures, it serves the same function as the discredited biologistic theory of congenital criminality or the view of Magnus Hirschfeld that exhibitionism is due to special "exhibitionistic hormones": All such views shift problems from the social to the biological realm, where nothing canand needbe done about them.

Conservative theorists who maintain that there is an antithesis between sexuality and work fail to distinguish between "compulsive-unpleasurable" work, which is indeed regarded as a burdensome duty, and "natural joyful work," which frequently requires discipline but which is nevertheless a pleasurable gratification of a need. Reich regards as especially significant his observations on patients who achieved sexual happiness. He reports that those who, because of neurotic disturbances, had not been working, began to feel a strong need for some vital work. Those who had been engaged in work that was intrinsically interesting now blossomed and gave full rein to their talents. In some cases, however, there was a complete breakdown of work. This at first seemed to confirm the view of the antisexual moralists, but closer inspection showed that these people had previously been driven by a compulsive sense of duty and that what they rebelled against was empty and mechanical work, and not work as such. Their aversion was to pleasureless work, and their impulses were by no means antisocial. Just as society rewards some highly antisocial activities with fame and honor, Reich remarks, so "there are highly valuable, even culturally important traits and impulses which have to be repressed for considerations of material survival" (The Function of the Orgasm, p. 150). If there were more human beings with a genital character, this would not result in the end of "civilization," but it would in all probability lead to radical changes in the ways in which the world's work is done.

Reich concluded that civilization and culture do not depend on instinctual repression. If authoritarian education were abolished and if children grew up in a sex-affirmative environment, people would be more, and not less, peaceful and cooperative. Some types of work, namely, those in which only a person with a compulsive character can take any interest, would indeed suffer, but the arts and sciences would in all likelihood flourish as never before. Reich was not an irrationalist in any sense of the word, and like Freud he favored "the primacy of the intellect," adding, however, that the full utilization of a person's intellectual capacities presupposes "an orderly libido economy." "Genital and intellectual primacy have the same mutual relationship as have sexual stasis and neurosis, guilt feelings and religion, hysteria and superstition" (Character Analysis, p. 170).

society and character structure

Freudian social theory, insofar as it existed at all when Reich began his elaborate critique of what he called "authoritarian" society, was vitiated by its "biologism" as well as its "psychological atomism," or, as Reich also called it, a "feudal individualistic psychology." By "biologism" Reich meant the tendency to treat as universal and biologically inevitable attitudes and impulses that were determined by cultural conditions. When he spoke of Freud's "psychological atomism," Reich referred to the tendency to treat individual patients and their families in isolation from the social environment that had in fact a great deal to do with their tribulations.

Rejecting Freud's biologism and accepting the early Freudian view that neurosis is basically the result of the conflict between instinctual needs and the reality which frustrates them, Reich naturally asked whether and how this frustrating reality could be significantly altered. His work at the sex hygiene clinics, furthermore, had convinced him that neuroses were by no means the fads of middle-class women who did not know what to do with their time but were emotionally crippling illnesses of almost epidemic proportions. Contrary to the assertions of the more doctrinaire and narrow-minded Marxists, there could be no doubt in Reich's view that "sexual repression, biological rigidity, moralism and puritanism are ubiquitous" and not confined to certain classes or groups of the population (The Function of the Orgasm, p. xxiii). The vast majority of people suffering from psychological disturbances cannot, however, be reached by individual therapy, disregarding here all the difficulties and limitations of such therapy when it is available.

If one is to do anything about this deplorable state of affairs, one must first achieve an understanding of the precise relations between society and the individual and, more specifically, between social institutions and neurotic disturbances. "Society," Reich writes, "is not the result of a certain psychic structure, but the reverse is true: character structure is the result of a certain society" ("Character and Society," p. 254). The ideology of a given society can anchor itself only in a certain character structure, and the institutions of the society serve the function of producing this character structure. If, as in all authoritarian societies, a minority holds economic and political power, it also has the power to form ideology and structure. As a consequence, in authoritarian society, the thinking and the structure of the majority of people "corresponds to the interests of the political and economic rulers" (The Sexual Revolution, p. xx). The majority of human beings (Reich is writing in 1936) are "suppressed and exploited and spend most of their working hours doing monotonous and mechanical labor which they cannot help regarding as a loathsome duty." How is it possible that "people can bear it, that they are unable to change it, that they seem to endure in silence the suffering it imposes on them?" ("Character and Society," p. 252). They can bear their fate because the ruling economic system is "anchored in the psychic structure of the very people who are suppressed" (People in Trouble, p. 100).

The most important structure-forming institutions in authoritarian society are the authoritarian family, the authoritarian school, and religion. "From infancy on," writes Reich, "people are trained to be falsely modest, self-effacing and mechanically obedient, trained to suppress their natural instinctual energies" ("Character and Society," p. 252). In this way children become subservient to their parents and people in general "subservient to the authoritarian state power and capitalistic exploitation" (People in Trouble, p. 99). The most powerful instrument in achieving this mass structure is sexual repression, which is fostered in the home, in the school, and above all through the influence of religious moralism. The major mechanisms of sexual suppression in Christian countries are the prohibition of infantile masturbation, the prevention of sexual gratification in adolescence, and the institution of compulsorily lifelong monogamy, accompanied by the belief that the function of sexuality is procreation rather than pleasure. The parents who punish children for masturbating and who do their best to prevent adolescents from having a full sex life are unwittingly carrying out the purpose of the ruling powers.

There is something plausible about Reich's contention that an atomistic psychology, no matter how correctly it may determine the causes of mental health and illness, will not by itself explain why various institutions that are plainly inimical to life and happiness nevertheless flourish and receive the support of all the major official and unofficial agencies of society. However, it is not entirely clear what he means by his claim that character structure is the result of social structure and, more specifically, that the "function" of sex-denying institutions is to make the masses helpless and dependent. Although he occasionally uses the word purpose, Reich is presumably asserting the existence of a "latent" rather than a "manifest" function, to use the terminology introduced by R. K. Merton. While it may be plausibly argued that some rulers, like Joseph Stalin and certain church figures, have been aware of the connection between sexual suppression and such "desirable" traits as obedience and uncritical acceptance of the status quo, it would be farfetched to hold that either in capitalistic or in other societies the ruling circles deliberately support sex-denying institutions in order to perpetuate their power and privileges. But if the rulers are not conscious of the causal connection between sexual suppression and the submissive traits it produces, in what sense is a reference to their interest an explanation of the institutions in question? It is tempting to speak here of an "unconscious knowledge" or "unconscious realization" that sexual suppression produces submissiveness, but it is far from clear what these expressions would mean.

Reich's views about the relation between the ideology that prevails in a society and the interests of the holders of power has obvious affinities with Marxism, and in fact a number of Marxist writers of the late 1920s and early 1930s hailed his account of the social function of sexual repression as a valuable supplement to historical materialism. However, the most influential Marxist ideologists, socialist as well as communist, rejected Reich's account and also strongly opposed his work in his sex hygiene clinics. In his turn, Reich repudiated what he called the "economism" of Marxist theory as emphatically as he attacked the atomism of psychoanalysis. "Marxists again and again argued," he recalls, "that the sexual etiology of the neuroses was a bourgeois fancy idea, that only 'material want' caused neuroses as if the sexual want were not a 'material' one: It was not the 'material want' in the sense of the Marxian theorists that caused the neuroses, but the neuroses of these people robbed them of their ability to do anything sensible about their needs, actually to do something constructive about their situation, to stand the competition on the labor market, to get together with others in similar social circumstances, to keep a cool head to think things out." (The Function of the Orgasm, pp. 5657).

Moreover, just as it is wrong to think that neuroses are (except very indirectly) caused by economic hardships, so it is a mistake to suppose that the social and political actions of the working classes can be predicted on the basis of their economic interests alone. Factors such as mystical and sexual longings and perverse sadistic fantasies may exert very powerful influences, as Hitler, unlike the communist, socialist, and liberal politicians, understood only too well. Fascism, to take but one example, is very incompletely characterized as a movement engineered by capitalists to prevent the establishment of socialism. At least the German variety of fascism differed from other reactionary movements in that it was "supported and championed by masses of people" (The Mass Psychology of Fascism, p. ix). Marxist theory, which assumes that with few exceptions the underprivileged will be guided by their rational economic interests, is incapable of accounting for such a phenomenon.

The Struggle against Religion

mystical feelings and sexual inhibitions

According to Reich, both Karl Marx and Freud made significant contributions to our understanding of religion. Patriarchal religions are always politically reactionary, and Marxists are perfectly right in pointing out that "in every class society they are in the service of the powers that be" (p. 124). Freud, too, was correct in his view that the idea of God derives from the idea of the father and, more generally, that "the psychic contents of religion stem from the infantile family situation" (ibid.). Granting all of this, there remains a question that is not answered by the Marxist or the Freudian account, or by any of the great eighteenth-century critics of religion. Indeed, it is a question that most of these writers did not even raise but which must be asked and answered if one is to have an adequate comprehension of religion. How are we to account for the fact that "religious ideas are invested with such intense feelings"? What explains the "enormous emotional power of mysticism" (p. 122)? Or, using Reich's favorite terminology, what is the "energy" that enables religions to gain such a firm hold on people? What is it that compels human beings not only to accept the idea of a pleasure-prohibiting, all-seeing God and the ideologies of sin and punishment, and "not to feel them as a burden but, on the contrary, to uphold and fervently defend them, at the sacrifice of their most primitive life interests?" (The Mass Psychology of Facism, p. 124).

Reich is strongly opposed to the tendency of "emancipated" unbelievers to dismiss religions as nothing more than the fancies of silly and ignorant people. He insists that a study of religious peopleof the content of their emotions and beliefs, of the ways in which these are implanted, and of the function that they fulfill in their psychological economyis highly rewarding. It sheds light on many other phenomena, including, for example, the psychological basis of fascism and of reactionary political movements. Such a study also explains why, by and large, free-thought propaganda is so unsuccessful in spite of the fact that from a purely rational point of view the positions defended by freethinkers are vastly superior to the religious claimssomething that is not altogether unknown among believers. Above all, a happy life for the majority of humankind is impossible unless the power of religion is broken, unless one can prevent "the mystical infestation of the masses" (p. 161).

However, in order to be effective in "the relentless fight against mysticism," one must have a full comprehension of its origin and its psychological sources of strength so that one can meet its "artful apparatus with adequate counter-measures" (p. 152). To suppose that mystical attitudes become anchored in human beings simply as a result of intellectual indoctrination is a naive and dangerous mistake. It should be noted that Reich sharply distinguishes mysticism from primitive animism. The latter is best regarded as bad science. Reich does not offer an explicit definition of "mysticism," but it seems clear from his various writings on the subject that mysticism in the "strict and wider sense" is characterized by the belief (or feeling) that the ordinary world of physical objects and human emotions is not enough and the related view that there are some grand truths which human beings can come to know by nonscientific or superscientific means. Various nontheological systems of metaphysics and ontology, as well as the standpoint of those who deny that psychology can properly be a natural science (Reich is specially scathing in his comments about Ludwig Klages and Karl Jaspers), are treated by him as forms of mysticism.

The most basic feature of what Reich variously calls "religious excitations" or "mystical feelings" is that they are "at one and the same time anti -sexual and a substitute for sexuality" (p. 125). Reich claims that this conclusion is borne out by the close observation of genuinely religious people (as contrasted with those who merely pretend belief for purposes of personal gain and advancement); by character-analytic treatment of religious individuals and patients having mystical feelings of any kind; by observation of children, especially those suffering from prayer compulsions; by the writings of the mystics themselves; and also by what is known about the changes that occurred when social organization passed from matriarchy to patriarchy and class society.

Biologically, the religious individual is subject to states of sexual tension like any other living being. However, as a consequence of his sex-negating upbringing and especially his fear of punishment, he has lost the capacity for normal sexual stimulation and gratification. The result of this is that he suffers from a chronic state of excessive somatic excitation. The more thorough his religious education has been, the more it appears to him that happiness is not attainable for him in this world and, in the long run, it does not even seem desirable any more. However, he remains a biological organism and hence cannot completely renounce the goals of "happiness, relaxation and satisfaction." In these circumstances all he can do is seek "the illusory happiness provided by the religious forepleasure excitations" (The Mass Psychology of Fascism, p. 126).

The "somatic suffering" of the religious person creates in him the need for consolation and help from outside himself, particularly in his fight against what he terms the "evil instincts," which in turn are identified with the "evils of the flesh." His religious ideas enable him to attain a state of "vegetative excitation which resembles gratification but does not, in reality, bring about somatic relaxation" (p. 127). Not even religious ecstasies bring about anything comparable to the orgastic relief of a satisfying sexual experience. What the religious person calls his longing for "delivery from sin" is in fact a longing for relief from sexual tension. To people who cannot achieve sexual gratification, sexual excitation gradually and inevitably becomes something "torturing and destructive." In this way the religious conception of sex as evil and debasing has its foundation in real somatic processes. People who feel a disgust for their body quite naturally develop obsessive concepts of "purity" and "perfection" (p. 144).

It would lead too far afield to discuss here the various ways in which, according to Reich, the "mystical idea of God" becomes anchored in people. These mechanisms may vary in detail, but they all involve the implanting of sexual anxieties; and Reich concludes that from the point of view of energy, mystical feelings are "sexual excitations which have changed their content and goal." The energy of these emotions is the energy of natural sexuality that has become transformed and attached to mystical, psychic contents. Religious patients, upon establishing a fully satisfying sex life, invariably lose their God-fixation.

Once one comprehends the nature of "religious excitations," it becomes clear why the free-thought movement "cannot make itself felt as a counter-force" (p. 147). Aside from the fact that in many countries the churches enjoy the support of the state and that generally the mass information media are grossly biased in favor of religion and religious morality, the impact of free-thought propaganda is limited because it relies almost exclusively on intellectual arguments. These are not, indeed, a negligible factor, but they are no match for the "most powerful emotion" on which the mass-psychological influence of religious institutions is based: sexual anxiety and sexual repression. People with a religious upbringing who, as a result of the study of science and philosophy, have turned into unbelievers very frequently retain religious longings and emotions. Some of them even continue to pray compulsively. This does not prove, as some advocates of religion argue, that religious needs are "eternal and ineradicable." It does, however, show that "while the religious feeling is opposed by the power of the intellect, its sources have not been touched" (p. 152).

The fight against religion is nevertheless far from hopeless. Mysticism can be eradicated if, in addition to depriving the churches of their "evil right of preparing the children's minds for the reception of reactionary ideologies" (p. 148), one is guided in the struggle by one's knowledge that mysticism stems from inhibited sexuality. From this insight it follows incontrovertibly that "full sexual consciousness and a natural regulation of sexual life mean the end of mystical feelings of any kind, that, in other words, natural sexuality is the deadly enemy of mystical religion" (p. 152). Any social efforts that are directed toward making people affirm their sexual rights will ipso facto weaken the forces of mysticism. The most good can be done with children and adolescents. Reich gives numerous instances from his experience in Germany of the "burning interest" of children in sexual questions that made even the most enlightened adults ashamed of their prudishness and hesitation. "Once children and adolescents are reached on a mass basis through their sexual interests," there will be a "powerful counter-weight against the reactionary forces" (p. 169). As for those people who are too old to have their structure basically altered, it is still all to the good to bring "silent suffering to the surface." They might then be less likely to become instruments in the process of maiming their own children, and they will not continue to support sex-repressive laws.

the great cultural revolution

Reich never abandoned the conviction he had reached during his Marxist phase that individual therapy is socially insignificant and that "alteration of the social structure is a prerequisite for an alteration of the psychic structure on a mass scale" ("Character and Society," p. 255). However, after his separation from organized Marxism, he gradually came to the conclusion that political action was of little consequence and that it was a grave error to judge social developments primarily in terms of a rigid, clear-cut class war. If one is not blinded by the political slogans of an earlier age, one cannot help noticing that we are in the midst of a "deep-reaching revolution of cultural living" (The Sexual Revolution, p. xiv).

It is a revolution "without parades, uniforms, drum or cannon salutes," but, unlike the Russian Revolution of 1917, which was merely "politico-ideological," it is a "genuine social revolution" (The Mass Psychology of Fascism, p. 201). It is not a revolution by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, and it remains to be seen what major economic changes will accompany it. What is happening is that "the senses of the animal, man, for his natural life functions are awakening from a sleep of thousands of years" (p. xiv). Ever since the beginning of the century, numerous social factors have been operating in the direction of freedom and health. These factors include the creation of huge industrial plants with vast armies of workers of both sexes and the gradual undermining of the authoritarian parental home. There has been a "thorough disintegration of the moralistic ascetic forms of living," and this "objective loosening of the reactionary fetters on sexuality cannot be undone" (p. 164), regardless of how vociferously the churches and their conscious or unconscious allies continue to preach the old morality.

This "great cultural revolution" is bound to be chaotic and to give rise to all kinds of grotesque developments. The disintegration of the old moralistic institutions and customs expresses itself at first as a rebellion that takes pathological forms, but it is not difficult to see that healthy forces are trying to break through in these pathological manifestations. At one time Reich envisaged a "powerful international organization" that would create an atmosphere of sex-affirmation and thus help to "guide the rebellion into rational channels" (The Mass Psychology of Fascism, p. 121). However, regardless of whether any organizations are brought into being which could accelerate the process and make it less painful, there is no reason to "fear for the final outcome." As yet, human beings, "moved by obscure, 'oceanic' feelings, dream instead of mastering their existence; and they perish from these dreams" (Character Analysis, p. 324). But when once they master their existence, when they become capable of giving and receiving love and when work will be a source of pleasure and not a burden, this will mean "the death-knell of all transcendental mysticism, of the 'absolute objective spirit,'" and of all the metaphysical and irrationalist philosophies that are "subsumed under mysticism in the wider sense." An individual "who is sexually happy does not need an inhibiting 'morality' or a supernatural 'religious experience.' Basically, life is as simple as that. It becomes complicated only by the human structure which is characterized by the fear of life" (The Sexual Revolution, p. 269).

Reich's Last Years

It is not surprising that the ideas sketched in the preceding sections of this entry should have appealed to many who were dissatisfied with the conservative developments of psychoanalysis as well as to those who, disillusioned with the results of communism in Russia, nevertheless strongly believed in social progress. During his early years in the United States, Reich did in fact count among his followers or sympathizers a number of remarkably talented men, from the most varied walks of life, who saw the dawn of a new enlightenment in his psychiatry and in the implications of his theories for education and for the proper direction of social reform. It would be difficult to convey to anybody who was not actually living in New York at that time the enthusiasm that was felt for Reich personally and for what were regarded as his liberating insights. As was to be expected, communists and psychiatrists of other schools were violently hostile, but this only served to heighten people's admiration for Reich's independence and for his uncompromising integrity.

It was mentioned previously that Reich himself became less and less interested in psychiatry. He also gradually lost most of his concern to guide into rational channels the "great cultural revolution" that he had diagnosed in his writings. The publications of his last years do indeed contain numerous discussions of social topics, but, at least in the opinion of the present writer, most of what Reich now had to say was flat and trivial. He became increasingly obsessed with the evil conspiracies of "red fascism" (some of Reich's remarks during this period could be quoted with approval by members of the John Birch Society) and with the menace of the "emotional plague." This term was originally introduced to refer to the harmful activities of individuals who take out their sexual sickness and frustrations on the rest of humankind, usually under the pretense of promoting some worthy cause.

Reich's earlier description of emotional plague reactions and motives had been extremely perceptive, but now anybody who was in any way opposed to any of his ideas became automatically classified as an agent of the emotional plague. The writings of the last years are also filled, in a manner reminiscent of Friedrich Nietzsche's Ecce Homo, with hymns of self-praise (sometimes in the third person), and there is much evidence of extreme bitterness toward a world that did not accept or even pay attention to his theories. From the available accounts it appears that Reich had always been impatient and somewhat autocratic, but he had also been singularly compassionate and generous. Dr. Nic Waal, in her sketch of Reich, describes him as "enormously stimulating and lovable" but adds that in his last years he "became less and less patient, less loving and finally pathologically suspicious" (Wilhelm ReichA Memorial Volume, p. 37).

If Reich became increasingly bitter, this was not without a good deal of justification. Right from the beginning, even while he was a psychoanalyst "in good standing," Reich was the victim of an extraordinary amount of spite and slander. Any study of the records will make it clear that he was treated outrageously by the officials of the Psychoanalytic Association both before and at the Lucerne Conference. We have already mentioned Reich's troubles in Scandinavia. In New York, he was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in December 1941 and held at Ellis Island for three weeks. The reasons for the arrest were never divulged. In 1947 an exceptionally vicious campaign was initiated in the New Republic, by the journalist Mildred E. Brady. There was not a paragraph in her article that did not contain a major distortion, but it was nevertheless quoted and reprinted all over America.

In an article ten years earlier, the German poet Stephan Lackner had expressed his indignation at the treatment that Reich had received and continued to receive from leading figures among the psychoanalysts and the left-wing parties. "It was not enough," wrote Lackner, "to expel Reich from their organizations"; in the struggle against this man and his disturbing ideas, "every kind of slander and distortion is a permissible weapon" (Das neue Tagebuch, February 1937, p. 140). This last remark applies, word for word, to the campaign instigated by Brady and her associates. In March 1954, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration obtained an injunction against Reich and his foundation, ordering the destruction of all orgone accumulators, all of Reich's journals, and some of his books; the books that were not destroyed were to be impounded. Among the works proscribed on the ground that they constituted "labeling" of the orgone accumulator were such books as The Function of the Orgasm and Character Analysis, in which the accumulator is not so much as mentioned.

Nobody except fanatical partisans of Reich can dispute the right of the Food and Drug Administration to intervene. When on the defensive, Reich denied that he had ever claimed any curative powers for the orgone accumulator, but the truth is that the literature is full of such claims. However, granting that the Food and Drug Administration had evidence to show the accumulator medically worthless (no such evidence has ever been published), the injunction is nevertheless a startling document constituting a blanket attack on Reich's character and his entire work.

Reich had two weeks in which to appeal, but to everybody's consternation he refused to appear in court. Instead, he wrote a letter to the judge in the case, declaring that a court of law was not the appropriate place for adjudicating scientific questions. For some months Reich obeyed the injunction, but in October 1954 he notified the authorities that he was about to resume all the activities of his institute, including the sale of books and periodicals. This led to a trial in 1956, at which Reich was given the maximum sentence of two years in a federal penitentiary. Reich died of a heart attack eight months after he had started serving his sentence. All journals published by Reich's institute that were seized by government agents were burned in two separate actions in 1956 and 1960, and his books were impounded until they began to be republished by a commercial house in 1960.

There is no doubt in the mind of the present writer that during his last years Reich was mentally ill. Some of those who were close to him deny this, and the prison psychiatrist who examined Reich certified him as sane. Nevertheless, if one reads the records of the trial or the brief that Reich filed in his appeal, one can hardly resist drawing the conclusion that a great man had broken down. Reich finally "went to pieces," observed Dr. Waal, "partly on his ownbut mostly due to other people," adding that "a human being cannot bear cruelty and loneliness in the long run" (Wilhelm ReichA Memorial Volume, pp. 3839). It is worth recalling the words of Josef Popper-Lynkeus, whose ideas bear little resemblance to Reich's but who was also described as "mad" during the better part of his life. "I assure you," he told his biographer, "[that] of all experiences none is more painful than that of finding oneself described as mad as a consequence of having discovered something that is good and true: of all martyrdoms, this is perhaps the most terrible" (A. Gelber, Josef Popper-Lynkeus, p. 101).

See also Functionalism in Sociology.


The following abbreviations are used throughout; ZPS for Zeitschrift für politische Psychologie und Sexualökonomie and IJSO for International Journal for Sex-Economy and Orgone Research.

Several biographies of Reich have been announced, but none had been published by the time this entry went to press. The only published sketches of Reich are A. S. Neill's "The Man Reich" and Nic Waal's "On Wilhelm Reich," both in Wilhelm ReichA Memorial Volume, edited by Paul Ritter (London, 1958). There is a good deal of autobiographical material, especially on his relations with Freud, in Reich's The Function of the Orgasm, translated from the German manuscript by T. P. Wolfe (New York: Orgone Institute Press, 1942; paperback reprint, 1961). This book is a good introduction to all of Reich's theories discussed in the present entry. The reader should be warned, however, that in the 1961 reprint the very valuable introduction by Dr. Wolfe has been deleted. People in Trouble (Rangeley, ME: Orgone Institute Press, 1953) contains an account of Reich's work at his sex hygiene clinics and of his difficulties with communist functionaries in Germany and Denmark. Reich's attempt to organize an international movement in support of a sex-affirmative culture is described by him in two articles: "Zur Geschichte der Sexpol Bewegung," in ZPS 1 (1934): 259269, and "Geschichte der deutschen Sexpol-Bewegung," in ZPS 2 (1935): 6470. The only published account of Reich's troubles in Norway is Gunnar Leistikow, "The Fascist Newspaper Campaign in Norway," in IJSO 1 (1942): 266273. This article also discusses Reich's troubles in Denmark. Its title is misleading in that many of Reich's opponents were not fascists. Reich's Listen Little Man!, translated from the German manuscript by T. P. Wolfe, with illustrations by William Steig (New York: Orgone Institute Press, 1948), is a moving outburst against the various people who harassed and defamed him.

The fullest published account of Reich's technique of vegetotherapy is Orgasmusreflex, Muskelhaltung und Körperausdruck (Copenhagen: Sexpol, 1937), parts of which are translated in Chapter 8 of The Function of the Orgasm and Chapter 15 of the third edition of Character Analysis (New York: Orgone Institute Press, 1949). Various aspects of Reich's new technique are also discussed in the following articles: Odd Havrevold, "Vegetotherapy," in IJSO 1 (1942): 6587, written under the pseudonym Walter Frank; Ola Raknes, "The Treatment of a Depression," in IJSO 1 (1942): 163170, and "Sex-Economy," in IJSO 3 (1944): 1737, written under the pseudonym Carl Arnold. (These pseudonyms were necessary during the Nazi occupation of Norway.)

Child therapy is discussed in Felicia Saxe, "A Case History," in IJSO 4 (1945): 5971, and "Armored Human Beings versus the Healthy Child," in Annals of the Orgone Institute 1 (1947): 3572; and in Nic Waal, "A Case of Anxiety Neurosis in a Small Child," in Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic 12 (1948), and "A Special Technique of Psychotherapy with an Autistic Child," in Emotional Problems of Early Childhood, edited by G. Caplan (New York: Basic, 1955).

The fullest statement of Reich's views on religion is found in Chapters 6 and 7 of Massenpsychologie des Faschismus (Copenhagen: Verlag für Sexualpolitik, 1933), third edition translated by T. P. Wolfe as The Mass Psychology of Fascism (New York: Orgone Institute Press, 1946). Discussions of religion strongly influenced by Reich are J. H. Leunbach, "Religion und Sexualität," in ZPS 1 (1934): 7072; Karl Teschitz, "Grundlagen der Religion," in ZPS 2 (1935): 103129, and "Religiöse Ekstase als Ersatz der sexuellen Auslösung," in ZPS 4 (1937): 2334; and Theodor Hartwig, "Religion und Sexualität," in Der Freidenker (Bern, April 1936), and "Der Sinn der 'religiös-sittlichen Erziehung,'" in ZPS 4 (1937): 203205. Of philosophical interest are Reich's articles "Zur Anwendung der Psychoanalyse in der Geschichtsforschung," in ZPS 1 (1934): 416, and "Die Funktion der 'objektiven Wertwelt,'" in ZPS 2 (1935): 3243. For some years Reich considered himself a dialectical materialist. His attempt to give empirical meaning to the so-called dialectical laws can be found in Dialektischer Materialismus und Psychoanalyse (Berlin, 1929; 2nd ed., Copenhagen, 1934).

Reich's views concerning the relation between society and character structure are stated succinctly in "Charakter und Gesellschaft," in ZPS 3 (1936), translated by T. P. Wolfe as "Character and Society," in IJSO 1 (1942): 247256, and much more fully in The Mass Psychology of Fascism and in Die Sexualität im Kulturkampf (Copenhagen, 1936), translated by T. P. Wolfe as The Sexual Revolution (New York: Orgone Institute Press, 1945). Reich's claims about the "function" of sexual suppression are partly based on his anthropological theories, which are an extension of the work of Malinowski. The fullest statement of these theories is found in Der Einbuch der Sexualmoral (Berlin: Verlag für Sexualpolitik, 1932). There is a critical discussion of Reich's anthropology in a review of this book by Erich Fromm, in Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 2 (1933): 119122.

Critical discussions of Reich's character-analytic technique are found in Carl M. Herold, "A Controversy about Technique," in Psychoanalytic Quarterly 8 (1939): 219243; and in Richard Sterba, "Clinical and Therapeutic Aspects of Character Resistance," in Psychoanalytic Quarterly 22 (1953): 120. The dispute over the existence of "primary masochism" is surveyed in C. C. Flugel, Man, Morals and Society (London: Duckworth, 1945). Flugel, after some hesitation, sides with Theodor Reik and Franz Alexander against Reich. Even sympathetic commentators have frequently expressed doubts about what they take to be the excessively simple and "Rousseauist" view concerning the "natural" man that is implicit in many of Reich's discussions. Reich's view on this subject is condemned as "a stale left-over of the eighteenth-century imagination" in Philip Rieff, "The World of Wilhelm Reich," in Commentary 38 (September 1964): 5058. There are replies to Rieff in Commentary 39 (February 1965): 1922. Perhaps the best-known attack on Reich is found in Chapter 21 of Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (New York, 1952; 2nd ed., New York: Dover, 1957). In the opinion of the present writer, Gardner gives an extremely distorted picture of Reich's significance, concentrating on the wild claims of his last years and doing scant justice to the ideas discussed in the present entry.

Various of Reich's theories are sympathetically discussed in Max Hodann, A History of Modern Morals (London: Heinemann, 1937); Stephan Lackner, "Ein moderner Ketzer," in Das neue Tagebuch (Paris) 5 (1937): 140141; Harald K. Schjelderup, Nervose Og Opdragelse (Oslo, 1937); Neil McInnes, "An Examination of the Work of Wilhelm Reich," in Hermes 48 (1946): 2629; Paul Goodman, "The Political Meaning of Some Recent Revisions of Freud," in Politics 2 (1945): 197203, and "Dr. Reich's Banned Books," in Kulchur (1960), reprinted in Goodman's Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals (New York: Vintage, 1964), C. Berg, Psychotherapy (New York, 1948); Rudolf Brun, General Theory of Neuroses, translated by B. Miall (New York, 1951); and R. A. Wilson, "Wilhelm Reich and the Book Burners," in Minority of One 3 (February 1961): 67. There are constant references to Reich's therapy and to his social theories in the books written by A. S. Neill from 1939 on, such as The Problem Teacher (London: Jenkins, 1939), Hearts Not Heads in the School (London: Jenkins, 1945), and The Problem Family (New York: Hermitage Press, 1949).

The Orgone Energy Bulletin 5 (1953): 1137, contains a very extensive bibliography of writings by and about Reich up to 1952. Unfortunately all issues of this periodical, as well as all issues of IJSO, are among the publications that were burned by the U.S. government.

other recommended works

Cohen, Ira H. Ideology and Unconsciousness: Reich, Freud, and Marx. New York: New York University Press, 1982.

Grunberger, Béla, and Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel. Freud or Reich?: Psychoanalysis and Illusion. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986.

Mann, W. E. Orgone, Reich, and Eros: Wilhelm Reich's Theory of Life Energy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973.

Mann, W. E., and Edward Hoffman. The Man Who Dreamed of Tomorrow: A Conceptual Biography of Wilhelm Reich. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.

Reich, Ilse Ollendorff. Wilhelm Reich: A Personal Biography. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1969.

Reich, Wilhelm. American Odyssey: Letters and Journals, 19401947: Beyond Psychology. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.

Reich, Wilhelm. Beyond Psychology: Letters and Journals, 19341939, edited by Mary Higgins. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994.

Reich, Wilhelm. Character Analysis. 3rd ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972.

Reich, Wilhelm. Early Writings. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975.

Reich, Wilhelm. Passion of Youth: An Autobiography, 18971922, edited by Mary Higgins and Chester M. Raphael. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1988.

Reich, Wilhelm. Reich Speaks of Freud: Wilhelm Reich Discusses His Work and His Relationship with Sigmund Freud. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1967.

Reich, Wilhelm. Selected Writings: An Introduction to Orgonomy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973.

Robinson, Paul A. The Freudian Left: Wilhelm Reich, Geza Roheim, Herbert Marcuse. New York: Harper & Row, 1969.

Sharaf, Myron R. Fury on Earth: A Biography of Wilhelm Reich. New York: St Martin's Press/Marek, 1983.

Paul Edwards (1967)

Bibliography updated by Michael J. Farmer (2005)

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Reich, Wilhelm (1897–1957)

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