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 3 of 3)

Reich theorized that the cosmic rays from the atmosphere’s life-sustaining “Orgone envelope” could be harnessed through daily irradiation inside the Orgone container to cure the sources of the “cancer biopathy.” And the magic didn’t stop there: “Where’s the Truth” includes letters describing UFO sightings and diagrams showing how to build an Orgone cloud cannon that would make the southwest deserts bloom.

The Food and Drug Administration (whose jurisdiction over the Orgone energy of the universe Reich denied vigorously, and whose agents he rails against throughout the book as HIG’s “hoodlums in government” and “savage hounds out to kill”) saw him as a “charlatan of the highest order” and pursued him in what was indeed a merciless fashion. Not that Reich made things easy on himself. The book’s plaintive title comes from one of his many primordial rants on the veracity and honor of the trial against him. In typically self-righteous fashion, Reich refused to believe that the outcome of his court case depended on such mundane details as having a good lawyer.

Refusing the services of a lawyer to defend himself and subsequently refusing to attend the trial, he was sentenced to two years of prison for contempt of court. The last diary entry found among the prison scraps before a heart attack felled the formerly vigorous man at the age of 60 was an undated “premonition” expressing his final hopes: “to finally have understood what the human race had embodied in the idea of God, to have lived it and yet not to have fallen prey to its unrealities will add to the great consolation…. unknown, yet close to one’s blood is the infinity of future possibilities, reborn in every child in every forlorn hut. Once no more feared but caressingly protected, this infinity will make Man gather himself into that great effort, the great beginning, from which small souls at present are still shrinking away, drowning in foggy lostness.”

Denounced as a bipolar madman and a schizophrenic by many, including his analysts, his work was instrumental in the formation of myriad analytic movements, ranging from ego psychology and body psychotherapy to bioenergetic therapy and the primal screaming popularized by Arthur Janov. He retains his mythical cult status within certain sectors of the profession. No one has ever suggested that a genius, even a genius within this particular profession, need be a psychologically simple creature.

Vladislav Davidzon is a writer,critic and translator. He is currently attending the European Union’s Human Rights Master’s program in Venice.


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!
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • 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.