Sigmund Freud's Best Pupil and His Descent Into Madness

Diaries of Wilhelm Reich Show Devolution of a Great Mind

Madman Or Prophet: Klaus Maria Brandauer stars in a forthcoming biopic about Wilhelm Reich.
Wikimedia Commons
Madman Or Prophet: Klaus Maria Brandauer stars in a forthcoming biopic about Wilhelm Reich.

By Vladislav Davidzon

Published February 13, 2013, issue of February 15, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Reich was cast out from the International Psychoanalytical Association at the 1934 conference in Lucerne through what he considered deceitful intrigues. He performed body massages as part of his therapeutic practice, and he probably never had a female patient with whom he did not become involved. Engulfed by events throughout both World War II and the Cold War, he was hounded by the American authorities as a communist after immigrating from Norway.

Reich’s degeneration into the paranoid megalomania that this book chronicles was, in retrospect, over determined. In a previous volume of the journals, “Beyond Psychology,” Reich wrote bitterly on his 40th birthday that “removing unnecessary suffering from this world cannot be the task of one man alone.”

The enormity of that task was already apparent to Reich when he was a young man categorizing personality types according to their physiological malformations in his classic mainstream work, “Character Analysis.” From his insight that “every Neurotic structure has a genital disturbance in one form or another which causes sexual stasis and thus provides the neurosis with its source of power,” he extrapolated the individual’s need to be cured of his internal sexual clotting before society could be cleansed of fascism. All his later books represented attempts to save man from himself.

Reich was kicked out of the communist parties of multiple European countries. Pursued across Europe as a Jew by the malevolent forces of fascism, he believed that he had pinpointed the cause of the pathology of the human condition. The symptoms were our endemic stupidity, casual cruelty, paralyzing fears, bouts of self-destructive rage; these constituted “the emotional plague” within all of us.

Being a technically adroit sort of mystic, he claimed a biological and materialist determinism for the problems of the soul. Given that sexuality was the source and expression of all life energy, Reich thought that he had discovered the force that powered the Organism and the Orgasm, and he named it “Orgone energy.” This Orgone energy was to be the creative yang to the destructive ying of Einstein’s nuclear physics. Cosmology was thus bracketed with science and metaphysics through the archetypally mystical idea that we literally inhabit our energies.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.