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Orgone energy is a term coined by physician and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich for the "universal life energy" that he claimed to have discovered in published experiments in the late 1930s. Reich said that orgone energy filled all space, was blue in color, and that certain forms of illness were the consequence of depletion or blockages of the energy within the body. These claims are regarded as "nonsense" and pseudoscience by most members of the scientific community familiar with them, but this is not uniformly the case. Reich was hotly attacked by his critics, and, following a court case, his books and scientific journals on the subject were collected and burned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (in 1956 and 1960).
Concepts similar to orgone are life force, élan vital, Prana, ch'i or qi, subtle body, etheric body, odic force, and animal magnetism. Many adherents of New Age movements believe that these energies can be harnessed and used for healing and other beneficial effects.
Scientific basis[edit | edit source]
Psychotherapists and Medical practitioners both within and outside the United States sometimes use Reich's emotion-release methods, and even his orgone accumulator as part of their therapy. [How to reference and link to summary or text] Reich claimed that life was founded upon bioenergetic phenomenon, and characterized by the pulsation of bioenergy, as with heart-beat, respiration, and bladder functions. Emotions and sexuality, he argued, also followed a basic bioenergetic pulsation, and optimal health necessitated open emotional expression and periodic sexual release of accumulated bio-energy. He claimed to have measured emotional-sexual energy as a specific "bio-electric" life-energy, using sensitive millivoltmeters, which he interpreted to be an expression of something more fundamental than merely the millivolts of electricity. He later observed and developed objective measures to identify energetic fields around humans and other living forms, including microbes, and claimed the same bio-energy also charged non-living matter, and existed in a free form in the atmosphere. He argued the orgone bore a similarity to the older concept of cosmological ether. The orgone accumulator was developed as a means to objectivly capture this energy from the atmosphere, and later was found to have both anomalous biological and physical effects. He experimentally evaluated the clinical effects of the orgone accumulator, on people and lab animals, often observing powerful healing effects, and he developed new experiments to objectively document the anomalies. Reich also designed a device called the "cloudbuster", which he claimed could disperse clouds and produce rain. His scientific work spread across many disciplines. [How to reference and link to summary or text] For most of his life, even while attracting groups of professional supporters and publishing a great number of experimental and clinical reports, he was attacked and hounded for his work.
Reich's orgone theory is frequently noted as a typical example of pseudoscience in discussions of that subject and has been roundly dismissed by mainstream science. Some of his advocates counter that it should be regarded as a protoscience rather than a pseudoscience, and assert that Reich's experiments followed the scientific method. That the experiments followed scientific protocol may be so, but how the results of the experiments were interpreted is also crucial. Others advocates are outright insistent that Reich made solid and important scientific discoveries, which have been unfairly maligned by non-scientific attackers in the popular press. Some of his critics, meanwhile, insist that Reich's many experiments were seriously flawed in design; that his results have proved unrepeatable when the experiments are properly designed; and that his conclusions were, therefore, untenable. What are the facts?
An unbiased review [How to reference and link to summary or text] indicates that Reich's work was, in fact, repeatedly validated by scientists and clinicians working both in private institutes and universities, often holding the top academic degrees, and applying scientific methods in either clinical case-studies or controlled experiments. However, it is likely that these studies were undertaken by Orgone-advocates, as the National Institutes of Health database PubMed, and the Web of Science database contain only 4 or 5 scientific papers published since 1968 dealing with orgone therapy. Orgone-advocate James DeMeo's on-line "Bibliography on Orgonomy" lists well over 1000 of the original published books and journal articles of Wilhelm Reich and his associates, for both the European and American periods of his work. An equal number of additional citations are given as carried out in the years after Reich's death in 1957. While most of those citations focus upon Reich's psychotherapy methods, approximately half of them address experimentally the biophysical aspects of his claims, such as the microscopical bions, the orgone energy accumulator (studies on lab animals, plant and human clinical studies), various aspects of orgone physics (such as the controversial thermal anomaly in the orgone accumulator), and even documented field experiments with the cloudbuster. A separate listing is also provided of only Dissertations and Theses focused upon Reich's ideas, as undertaken at American and European universities. His larger findings on the microscopical bions (which resemble various protocells or micro-vesicular forms widely discussed by biogenesis researchers), on cancer research, and even on the possibility of a human energy field (considered "bio-electromagnetic" by some biologists and physicians [How to reference and link to summary or text]) go to the core of unanswered questions still being thrashed out today by classical biology and medicine.
Aside from the many published studies by scientists and physicians in journals friendly to, or at least tolerant of Reich, there have also been a growing number of articles appearing in more mainstream venues. Open research on Reich's bioenergetic research became a taboo subject within the academic world, while medical societies and the powerful FDA did their best to suppress application of his methods by health practitioners. [How to reference and link to summary or text] By the 1960s, however, even the more "outlandish" of Reich's claims came under scientific study within mainstream universities. The unpublished Master's thesis of James DeMeo at the University of Kansas, "Preliminary Analysis of Changes in Kansas Weather Coincidental to Experimental Operations of the Reich Cloudbuster"  made a thorough-going field testing of one of Reich's most controversial claims, regarding the cloudbuster. His results demonstrated systematic changes in Kansas weather when it was used according to the original protocols of Reich. DeMeo later made an unpublished systematic global cross-cultural study of social-behavioral responses to climate and severe desert conditions, which also validated Reich's theories. In addition to the many controlled studies evaluating the effects of the orgone energy accumulator on cancer mice and plant growth, as found in the above-noted "Bibliography", two double-blind controlled studies of the orgone energy accumulator have also been undertaken on human subjects. One of these, a 1986 unpublished thesis at the University of Marburg by Dr. Stefan Muschenich and Rainer Gebauer, "The Psycho-Physiological Effects of the Reich Orgone Accumulator" confirmed the basic biological stimulus of the orgone accumulator on test subjects in keeping with Reich's original descriptions -- slight increase in body core temperature, lowering of blood pressure, increased pulse, greater peripheral blood flow, etc. -- while a control "dummy box" showed no such effects. A follow-up 1995 confirmation study, also double-blinded and controlled of similar design was undertaken at the University of Vienna, by Guenter Hebenstreit, also in an unpublished thesis with similar positive results in favor of Reich's claims. While many published clinical reports exist of tumor disintegration, wound-healing and other biophysiological effects upon test animals and human subjects, no systematically-undertaken controlled studies have yet been undertaken regarding the claimed healing effects.
DeMeo accuses "Skeptical Inquirer" magazine of spreading malicious disinformation about Reich over decades, regarding the role of several of its central founding members in the "ban and burn" order of Reich's books and journals by the US Food and Drug Administration, and his subsequent death in prison [How to reference and link to summary or text]. The second set of detractors are the unprofessional mystics, who make very large and unsupportable claims about Reich's findings, adopting his terms as sales gimicks for their devices which are widely sold on internet. Reich's claims on the orgone energy clearly stand at odds with much of modern scientific theory, and certainly there is a need for more and better scientific studies on the questions. But Reich's orgonomy has always claimed to be empirically- and experimentally-based, and therefore continues to attract interest from both scientist and layperson.
References and bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Steven Lower, PhD. H20 dot con.
- DECREE OF INJUNCTION ORDER (MARCH 19, 1954)
- DeMeo, James: "Preliminary Analysis of Changes in Kansas Weather Coincidental to Experimental Operations with a Reich Cloudbuster", University of Kansas, Geography-Meteorology Dept., Thesis, 1979, Master's Abstracts, 18(1), 1980 (University Microfilms No.1313336)
- DeMeo, James: "On the Origins and Diffusion of Patrism: The Saharasian Connection", University of Kansas, Geography Dept., Dissertation, 1986, Dissertation Abstracts International, #48, August 1987, pp.457-458A. Also see: "Saharasia: The 4000 BCE Origins of Child-Abuse, Sex-Repression, Warfare and Social Violence, In the Deserts of the Old World", Natural Energy, 1989.
- Müschenich, S. & Gebauer, R.: "Die (Psycho-) Physiologischen Wirkungen des Reich'schen Orgonakkumulators auf den Menschlichen Organismus [The (Psycho) Physiological Effects of the Reich Orgone Accumulator]", University of Marburg (W. Germany), Department of Psychology, Dissertation, 1986. Also see: Müschenich, Stefan: Der Gesundheitsbegriff im Werk des Arztes Wilhelm Reich (The Concept of Health in the Works of Dr. Wilhelm Reich), Doktorarbeit am Fachbereich Humanmedizin der Philipps-Universitat Marburg (published by Verlag Gorich & Weiershauser, Marburg) 1995.
- Hebenstreit, Günter: "Der Orgonakkumulator Nach Wilhelm Reich. Eine Experimentelle Untersuchung zur Spannungs-Ladungs-Formel", Diplomarbeit zur Erlangung des Magistergrades der Philosophie an der Grung- und Integrativ-wissenschaftlichen Fakultat der Universitat Wien, 1995.
- See J. DeMeo: "Response to Martin Gardner's Attack on Reich and Orgone Research"
Reich's own works[edit | edit source]
- The Bioelectrical Investigation of Sexuality and Anxiety
- The Bion Experiments: On the Origins of Life
- Function of the Orgasm|Function of the Orgasm (Discovery of the Orgone, Vol.1)
- Contact With Space: Oranur Second Report
- Cosmic Superimposition: Man's Orgonotic Roots in Nature
- Ether, God and Devil
- The Orgone Energy Accumulator, Its Scientific and Medical Use
- The Sexual Revolution
Critical[edit | edit source]
- Gardner, Martin: Fads and Fallacies in the name of Science, Dover, 1952
Supportive[edit | edit source]
- Bean, Orson: Me and the Orgone – The True Story of One Man's Sexual Awakening, Fawcett Crest Greenwich, CT, 1972
- Boadella, David: Wilhelm Reich, The Evolution Of His Work, Henry Regnery, Chicago, 1973.
- DeMeo, James: The Orgone Accumulator Handbook: Construction Plans, Experimental Use and Protection Against Toxic Energy, Natural Energy Works, Ashland, Oregon 1989.
- DeMeo, James (Ed.): On Wilhelm Reich And Orgonomy (Pulse of the Planet #4), Natural Energy Works, Ashland, Oregon 1993.
- DeMeo, James (Ed.): Heretic's Notebook: Emotions, Protocells, Ether-Drift and Cosmic Life Energy, With New Research Supporting Wilhelm Reich", Natural Energy Works, Ashland, Oregon 2002.
- Eden, Jerome: Orgone Energy, The Answer To Atomic Suicide, Exposition, NY, 1972.
- Eden, Jerome: Animal Magnetism And The Life Energy, Exposition, NY, 1974.
- Mann, Edward: Orgone, Reich And Eros: Wilhelm Reich's Theory Of The Life Energy, Simon & Schuster, NY, 1973.
- Moise, William S.: A Taste Of Color, A Touch Of Love, Hancock, Maine, 1970.
- Overly, Richard: Gentle Bio-Energetics: Tools for Everyone, Gentle Bioenergetics Press, Asheville, NC, 1998.
- Raknes, Ola: Wilhelm Reich And Orgonomy, St. Martin's Press, NY, 1970; Penguin, Baltimore, 1970.
- Sharaf, Myron: "Fury on Earth: A Biography of Wilhelm Reich", St.Martin's/Marek, NY 1979.
- Wyckoff, James: Wilhelm Reich: Life Force Explorer, Fawcett, Greenwich, CT, 1973.
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Advocates[edit | edit source]
- Site explaining orgone
- Bibliography on Orgonomy, a full listing of scholarly works on Wilhelm Reich
- Orgone Biophysical Research Laboratory
- The American College of Orgonomy
- Orgonomic Publications by Others A bibliography of orgone research
Critical[edit | edit source]
- Skeptic's Dictionary: orgone energy
- Quackwatch article
- Regulating Cosmetics, Devices, and Veterinary Medicine After 1938 Picture of banned orgone devices, on the US Food and Drug Administration site.
- A Skeptical Scrutiny of the Works and Theories of Wilhelm Reich as related to The Orgone Energy Hypotheses
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