views updated May 23 2018


Primordial cosmic energy, claimed to have been discovered by Wilhelm Reich between 1936 and 1940. It is believed to be universally present and demonstrable visually (a blueness in the atmosphere), thermically, electrosopically, and by means of a Geiger-Müller counter. It manifest in living organisms as biological energy.

Reich invented what he termed an "orgone energy accumulator," a device to concentrate orgone energy in a box constructed from metallic material and covered by organic material. Reich found a temperature difference between the inside and outside of the accumulator and believed that the accumulated energy had a therapeutic effect on individuals. He performed experiments using the accumulator on cancer patients and reported substantial improvement in the health of patients. He authorized use of the accumulator for "therapeutic" purposes provided it was used in conjunction with "reputable" medical advice. As a result, he was the subject of court action instituted by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. The FDA argued the accumulator had no demonstrable scientific effect on the human body.

As physician and psychotherapist, Reich rejected the charges against him and the accumulator and denied the right of federal inspectors to arbitrate in matters of natural science, an argument not accepted by the court. His attack upon the court's authority caused his imprisonment for contempt of court. The court also ordered the destruction of his apparatus and the burning of his books. He died in prison. Many of his writings have been republished.

Currently, the idea of a static device accumulating some form of energy is being investigated; it has yet to be demonstrated scientifically. In the 1970s and 1980s, some people experimented with pyramid forms in an effort to claim this effect and sharpen old razor blades. Reich also claimed discovery of a motor force in orgone energy comparable with similar claims by John Ernst Worrell Keely and John Murray Spear.

Compared to Other Occult Concepts

Some have noticed the similarity of orgone energy to earlier ideas of "Od" and the occult concepts of vital force. The biological manifestation of orgone energy in humans as described by Reich is comparable to the kundalini energy of Hindu yoga science, but more closely resembles the idea of prana.

An account of the construction of an orgone accumulator was given in Vol. 2 of The Discovery of the Orgone by Wilhelm Reich or the booklet The Orgone Energy Accumulator. Observations on orgone energy were published in the journal Orgonomic Functionalism edited by Paul and Jean Ritter, published between 1954 and 1963 from Nottingham, England, and in Energy and Character; the Journal of Bioenergetic Research published from 1970 onwards by David Boadella (an associate of Paul Ritter) from Abbotsbury, Dorset, England. In June 1955, the official American Association for Medical Orgonomy began publishing Orgonomic Medicine (c/o Orgonomic Publications Inc., 515 E. 88 St., New York, N.Y. 10028).


Boadella, David. Wilhelm Reich: the Evolution of His Work. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1973.

Mann, William Edward. Orgone, Reich and Eros. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973.

Raknes, Ola. Wilhelm Reich and Orgonomy. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1970.

Reich, Wilhelm. The Discovery of the Orgone. 2 vols. New York: Orgone Institute Press, n.d.

. The Orgone Energy Accumulator. New York: Orgone Institute Press, n.d.

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

Schul, Bill, and Ed Pettit. The Secret Power of Pyramids. Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett, 1975.

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


views updated Jun 11 2018


The term orgone energy was coined by Wilhelm Reich to designate what he hypothesized to be the fundamental energy of a biological nature omnipresent in the cosmos. In addition to sounding scientific, the term orgone derived from Reich's views concerning orgasm, a pivotal concept in his theory of "sex economy." In the summer of 1939, while performing "bioelectrical" experiments, Reich believed that he isolated energy-filled microscopic vesicles that he called bions. He went on to formulate a specific hypothesis that "organismic orgone energy" is a vital, irreducible form of energy that manifests itself with special intensity in sexual activity. Reich came to believe that orgone energy is also present in etheric form in the atmosphere and active in certain kinds of precipitation such as storms and tornadoes; he believed it exists throughout the cosmos and played a role in formation of the universe. Reich's later writings are entirely taken up with aspects of orgonomy, as he called his theory and teachings. Clinically, he invented orgone therapy ; he called the research institute that he established in Maine (the present day Wilhelm Reich Museum) the Orgonon. Reich also defined an egglike geometric form as the orgonome, which he viewed as a basic biological shape. To capture atmospheric orgone and put it to clinical use, Reich built box-like devices he called orgone accumulators. His therapeutic claims for these led to an injunction by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1954. This resulted in a contempt citation that brought about Reich's imprisonment in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary, where he died three years later. In a famous act of censorship, the FDA ordered certain of Reich's pamphlets and publications concerning orgone energy to be banned and destroyed.

Roger Dadoun

See also: Character Analysis ; Character formation; Orgasm; Reich, Wilhelm.


Dadoun, Roger. (1975). Cent fleurs pour Wilhelm Reich. Paris: Payot.

Reich, Wilhelm. (1948). The cancer biopathy. New York: Orgone Institute Press.

. (1967). Reich speaks of Freud (Mary Higgins and Chester M. Raphael, Eds.; therese Pol, Trans.). New York: Farrar, Straus.

Sharaf, Myron. (1983). Fury on earth: A biography of Wilhelm Reich. New York: St. Martin's.