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[The specter of Wilhelm Reich]


Why - we have repeatedly been asked - would anyone attempting to develop an intelligent, unitarian physical theory of all energy manifestations refer its elaboration to a thinker who has been, notionally, "as thoroughly discredited" as Dr. Wilhelm Reich?

The notion that Reich has been 'discredited' and, at that, 'thoroughly', is itself a commonplace without any foundation. Reich's work opened a singular and innovative trail of thought and discovery, normally sequestered from the attention of human beings. And his experiments were never properly replicated, understood nor developed upon.

His caution was thrown to the wind, both by events in the late part of his life, and even more so, by the outrageous mysticisms of his followers - who later proceeded to amalgamate his work to a whole series of orientalisms inherited from 'hippie-isms'. Reich himself wrote at the end of Orgonotic Pulsation: "unless we proceed cautiously, there might well arise a few generations of mystics who conceive of the orgone metaphysically, divorced from non-living nature and who do not comprehend it from the standpoint of natural science. And it seems to me that we have more than enough mysticism as it is." Unfortunately, such has indeed come to pass.

This underlies the fact that neither Reich's detractors nor his followers - his supposed defenders - have actually understood and reproduced enough of the substance of his work to contend either that they thoroughly discredited or accredited it.

There are therefore several answers to the above question. First, let us say that in our view, one must always have a certain healthy distance from the notion of 'discredit', always formulating the question - who credits or discredits? who are the peers? Especially since it so happens that far too many of this sorry planet's greatest thinkers and thoughts have been so carelessly - or maliciously - discarded, and some to this very day have remained in that limbo. But without going in this direction, let us say that we are well aware that there is obviously a clear sociological constatation that 'real' scientists do not refer to Reich's work - that only those on the fringe do so; and that these fringe writers, researchers or thinkers are inevitably and typically imbued with folkloric mysticism. Regrettably, this latter observation is usually true. But the fact is that (despite a few disingenuous claims to the contrary) no biophysicist has ever bothered to seriously verify whether or not the troubling thermal and electroscopic anomalies described by Reich were real, even if Albert Einstein once noted that confirmation of one of these anomalies would be nothing short of a bombshell in Physics. Why then the deafening silence surrounding Reich's work? Why the drastic measures once taken to order the banning and burning of his work?

It is quite true that Reich did not articulate his theoretical interpretations in a completely satisfying manner. We do note however, that few scientists do. Had he done so, we would not have written Volume 1 of Experimental Aetherometry. Had he provided all those critical experiments and results required to unravel the mystery posed by those anomalies, it would not have become our work to assemble them. For example, he never contrasted the leakage to the seepage rate of electroscopic discharge - a critical undertaking - which, in turn, did not allow him to make any meaningful statements about the electrical or nonelectrical nature of the energetic interactions he was observing with the aid of the electroscope. Likewise, he did not confront the blackbody radiation arguments head-on - by comparing experiments done under stringent conditions using experimental devices exposed directly to the sun, and then proceeding to analyze the latter experiments in terms of blackbody spectra, their frequencies and their meaning in terms of the thermal anomaly in ORACs. This, we have now done.

Are the energy accumulators designed by Reich just being heated passively or is there, in fact, generation of sensible heat in contravention of the second law of thermodynamics? Reich did not prove the latter, even though he claimed he had. Certainly to our minds, and to the minds of most physicists, he did not. But the observation of those thermal anomalies - under stringent conditions and under direct solar exposure - is both valid and essential. Our extensive experimental protocols, carried out under the most stringent conditions possible, clearly demonstrate that there is an irreducible temperature difference which cannot be explained by any resort to an argument of passive absorption - and this is stark confirmation that Reich was correct and had discovered a fundamental anomaly that lay at the foundations of the science of the Aether. Furthermore, under conditions of direct exposure to the sun, there consistently is more heat generated than there should be by electromagnetic absorption. So there is no doubt that, whichever way you slice it, the thermal anomaly stubbornly remains. Heat is irrefutably being generated within and above the enclosures.

We introduce, in the course of the work documented in the first volume of Experimental Aetherometry, black vs white accumulators with inverse interiors, as well as numerous other new, systematic analytical methodologies; and we do likewise with electroscopes - not just measuring the leakage rates of negatively charged electroscopes, but also the seepage rates of positively charged ones; and not just inside the accumulators, but also outside of them. We also employ identical pairs of such electroscopes to study atmospheric conditions in order to isolate the heretofore unstudied and undocumented midday phenomenon that bring about the arrest of both leakage and seepage. Had Reich done all of this, then not only would he have discovered the anomalies which he did discover, but he would have made their case irrefutable. He would have been thereby able to extract from that case the basic foundations for a new physics - which is what we have done in volume 1 of Experimental Aetherometry.

Reich's work, of course, is not in any way exhausted by the discovery of the two ORAC anomalies. We could, just as well, address his work in mass-psychology, ethnology, libidinal economy, or instead, in cosmology, mathematical orgonomy, meteorology, capture of radiant energy, etc. And perhaps, not so long from now, we will do so, since we have written several texts on these and other pertinent matters as well. From where we stand, Reich is not a specter but a most necessary station in any process of biophysical investigation. In the same manner that it is not possible to argue about the value of history, or whether or not it is a science, without coming across the thoughts of Tocqueville, Marx or Nietzsche - or, in more recent times, of Debord - or that it is not possible to find an issue for analytical problems without confronting the thought of Freud, without contrasting it to Nietzsche's, without addressing the critique of Freud and Lacan enunciated by Deleuze and Guattari, and so on, it is not possible to disengage a science of the Aether without reference to Tesla, to Einstein, to Reich or to Aspden, or, for that matter, to speak of a physics of Time without studying Nietzsche, Bergson and Aspden. These different thoughts or these effects of subjectivity that carry various names forever mark the limits and horizons of entire epochs - far more than others whose names are affected to technological effects. And this is so, irrespective of whether these name-effects designated entire fields of thought that became officially accepted as the dominant reality - in science, medicine or philosophy - or whether they designated instead the flight of other possible realities that epochs refused to actualize and left in the domain of the virtual, in limbo.

Many of the critical experimental insights of Reich in his early period of the OR theory (1940-1951) came entirely from his study of Tesla, though Reich never accorded Tesla any credit for them. It is also curious how Reich, in February of 1944, still saw his work as the continuation of Marx's historical sociology and of Freud's analytical sexology, which he claimed to have integrated into a single scientific system, at once dialectical and analytical, defending Marx against the Marxists, and Freud against himself and the rest of the Psychoanalytical Association. And it is even more interesting to realize that he also saw himself as the legitimate defender of Einstein's field theory - in all of its essential features: that there is no static aether, that light consists of particle fields (Special Relativity), and that the Aether, if anything, is gravitational (General Relativity) - against Einstein himself, and despite Einstein himself:

"(...) It is exactly Einstein's theory of a 'field' and of the matter-energy relationship, which demands the existence of a basic cosmic energy that penetrates and guides all matter. Thus there will be a repetition of what has occurred in relation to the Marxist and Freudian system of knowledge: I will probably have to defend Einstein's theory against Einstein himself" (Letter to Dr. T. Wolffe, February 18, 1944).

We dispute, of course, that there is any scientific truth to Freudo-Marxism, even in its Reichian embodiment. From a philosophical viewpoint, Freudo-Marxism floundered when it reduced the questions posed by sexual economy to a mere suprastructural reflection of a politico- economic infrastructure, as if desire were forever condemned to follow behind the 'rational and objective logic' of biological and social needs, even and especially when the motor of desire was uncovered as an abstract essence - in the form of an energy specific to the living, libido or orgone. It is the same living essence, or the same energy, that is biopsychiatrically encoded as desire in sexual economy and sociopolitically encoded as labour in political economy. But from a different viewpoint - beyond the turning point, as Bergson was fond of saying - the decoded flux of libido merges with the decoded work of creativity, desire being no more reducible to sexuated needs than creation or work can be reduced to labour, to 'arbeit'.

More to the point of physical theory, however, we dispute that Reich needed to defend Einstein and Einstein's theory from Einstein himself. If anything, what Reich sorely needed was a complete deliverance from Einstein's theories, old and new. So, we find ourselves paradoxically having to defend Reich's theory from Reich himself and from Reichianism - such as it exists at present - in all of its dialectical, psychoanalytical, mystical and other dysfunctional variants, and from this notion that Reich's theory somehow needed Einstein's field theory. It didn't; and this is precisely one of the main demonstrations carried out by Aetherometry.

What is more, there is no such thing as Reich's theory, not per se, since Reich's living and thinking process constantly shifted with a consistency all its own, from the analytical and medical perspective to the historical and dialectical approaches, to a synthesis of the two in his rationalist duality of two economies, one political and the other libidinal. He did not freeze in Freudo-Marxism, nor in its dichotomies. Instead, he moved on to studies of bioelectricity - which led him to the investigation of biogenesis and to the discovery of orgone energy - at which point his entire thought acquired a new systematicity, a functional rather than a dialectical methodology. The theory of orgone itself would shift with respect to his characterization of massfree energy versus electricity and sensible heat, and eventually a major alteration took place with the discovery of 'deadly orgone' (DOR) energy. Then, even the original disagreement with Freud concerning whether or not the death instinct was biologically determined, would become recoloured by the disturbing discovery of DOR.

This simple overview of Reich's complex process suffices to indicate that there is a consistent line to Reich's theory, but not a single theory. Defending Reich against Reich and his many 'snake-oil-vendor'-type followers - whom he so abhorred and feared - is precisely a matter of making his discoveries stand on their own consistency without recourse to Reichian ideology. But the mistake responsible for the ideologies of his followers is to be found in Reich's theory of libidinal economy. He so much emphasized the reduction of libidinal economy to the role of mere ideological suprastructures in the context of his Marxist analysis of society, that his confused followers believe to this day that as soon as their ideology is made Reichian, this suffices for their sexual economy to thereby instantly become de-repressed, their desire liberated - as if desire did not require thought, and as if all thought were Reichian or Reich had a monopoly on thought! And here follows nothing short of the tried and true retreat back to religious mysticism - with the Reichians imitating the church-building techniques of Christians, Marxists, Freudians, etc. Still more amusing is the fact that most of the time these Reichians do not even know exactly what it is they think or believe in. In terms of sociological roles, they inherited the poverty of thought that formerly characterized 'spiritualist' movements and in our age characterizes all New Age-isms. What they irretrievably assured was that Reich's thought and his diverse theories and changes would be entirely expurgated of any scientific value. They sterilized and immobilized Reich's thought into caricatural interpretations, in order to better package it as a neat commodity that required no thought, and thus no desire. It is from this corpse or dead mummified image that Reich's lifeline must be defended, at all cost, if a science of the Aether and its biophysics is ever to move forward.

Unlike Reichianism, which has systematically glossed over the unfinished and dated aspects of orgonomic theory and refused to map its shifts, Aetherometry seeks precisely to find those gaps and explore their no- man's land with functional-scientific tools. And Aetherometry is at home with the specter of Reich because, understood in this way, it is the specter of science - of that joyful science which even facilitates error or its commission to learn from it, but refuses at all cost to deify or reify itself as an accomplished ideology. Science is not an ideology, nor a theistic fidelity. Science is a line in the process of the living, part and parcel of our desire to understand nature - because that understanding is the only tool which the living has in order to make intelligent decisions and select its path of action, and also because understanding is meaningless if one does not seek to find its errors in order to learn from them. A commitment to science is a commitment to thought in the service of Life, to action that benefits the living, to experimental determination as the ultimate decisive factor in the construction of knowledge - but in such a manner that this experimental determination is not immediately absconded by political institutions and, in the case of science, converted into peer-controlled official science, nor, even more importantly, immediately erased by perceptions that make a stubborn point of remaining as coarse as possible. It is a difficult path to follow, the path of science. For, what it demands is an ever increasing sharpness of perception, an intolerance of ignorance and of its attempts to tire thought, to slow it down and bring it to an artificial halt. Yet, at the very same time, science must abide by a criterion of simplicity without, precisely, falling into simplicism. The SI proclaimed the actual and practical death of art, and even wanted to actively contribute to it with inflationary, industrial and cybernetic tools - well, science is even more dead today than art or philosophy have ever been, and the inflation of the false is ever greater in the scientific discourse. It has now fallen prey to pure mathematical delusionism. Physicists are in love with the follies of mathematical theory, and try desperately to fit a reality they can no longer predict into fanciful multidimensional systems; but, after all, there is no language which cannot be perverted in a near-infinite series of ways. Physical reality has ceased exerting its bond upon mathematical theories - and the latter have gone berserk under the aegis of relativity, quantum electrodynamics and quantum chromodynamics. One might describe the status quo as a baroque experimentation with thought, but the fact remains that it exudes a stale odor of metaphysics precisely by its gratuitous complexity and the arbitrariness of its methods and 'solutions'. Fermi, and no less Gell-Mann and Feynman, were greatly responsible for this stagnation of physical theory, for its subservience to ready-made mathematical gimmicks, as they turned the Princeton Gnosis into a religion of the intellect. In this very sense, the specter of Reich provides a welcoming shade in which to proceed quietly with one's work - for the basic tools of micro- functionalism are to be found in the most incomprehensible part of his thought, as this thought brought rationalism to its zenith and reason to stand, for brief moments of lucidity, as but one more of the many senses of Life.

Science, as it exists, has fallen short of its objective of seizing the simple without falling into gratuitous complexity, as QED has, or into ridiculous simplicisms, as the popularizations of science and Reichianism do. These are the two resistances to the forward motion of science, as well as the two pitfalls: unnecessary complexification and infantilized simplicism. As for Reich, it is high time that his discoveries and contributions be recognized, as much as a systematic critique of his varied positions be undertaken. Deleuze and Guattari owed much to Reich, and chose precisely to employ his thought as one of the critical parameters for their voyage of analytical decoding. This is the path of an anti-Gnosis capable of synthesizing artistic, scientific and philosophic machines beyond any ideology or any specter of knowledge.