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.
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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.
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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.


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