Aftermath of the meetings between A. Einstein and W. Reich
S - And you heard about this fall-out [between A. Einstein and W. Reich] at that time, in late 1943?
W - Yes, it circulated, you know. From Einstein's coterie or Reich's, unpleasant things were whispered and leaked. Reich's threat to publish their correspondence was not taken lightly in many circles. We were still at war, and who knew what manner of secrets would come out?
S - Yes, but in a letter from March '44 that appears to never have been forwarded, Reich informs Einstein that he has instructed Dr. [T.] Wolf[e] not to publish their exchanges for the time being, in deference to Einstein's request (1). There is also a private memo to his lawyer, Pete[r] Mills (2), where he [Reich] explains why he had complied with Einstein's request. He explains this was because Einstein had assured him that he hadn't put any untoward rumors about Reich, into circulation.
W - What does that tell you? Get this, the entire process surrounding their communications was notarized by Mills, who kept the full archive. Judging by how he later turned on his own client, I'd wager that he was one such source of rumors. I believe that it's in that same letter [to Einstein] that Reich repeatedly asserts how he's puzzled by the fact that Einstein had found no time to respond to Reich's rebuttal of the control results (3).
S - Yes, Reich is convinced that the responsibility for the 'unpleasant situation' that has arisen between them is Einstein's.
W - He says to Wolf[e], I think, that he will wait until he's able to understand the motives behind Einstein's 'strange behavior' before making the matter public. Back to my point - which is: ever since that time, many people have come to believe this 'affair' of Einstein with Reich was all about the orgone accumulator business. It wasn't.
S - ...but it started that way, no?
W - I'm not really convinced that it did. In another letter to Wolf[e] (4), Reich explains that he sought Einstein out because he had discovered a basic form of cosmic energy that was responsible for the gravitational field that Einstein's unified field theory claims must exist as a local distortion of the curvature of spacetime. This energy, what Reich called the orgone, was massfree and not electromagnetic. In his Ether and Relativity lecture (5), Einstein had plainly stated that space is endowed with physical properties, and that - if I can remember verbatim - "consequently there exists an ether". He put it in simple terms - that this new ether is a necessary consequence of the general theory of relativity. He says that the ether of general relativity is not the ether of Newton, Fresnel or even Lorentz, that it is not an electromagnetic ether.
S - That's where the break with the fixed ether models occurs - ?
W - Yes, he calls it plainly enough, a "gravitational ether" and describes its properties. It sets the metric qualities of any spacetime continuum. It sets the structure of gravitational fields and the molecular configurations of matter. He suspects that it might be involved in the structure of elementary charges and particles of matter, but confesses [this] is something that remains unknown. Do you see now the importance of that meeting between Reich and Einstein? Reich thought that he could provide Einstein's Gedanken [thought-]model of a gravitational ether with concrete physical evidence, with his own experimental discovery of orgone energy. Orgone and the 'gravitational ether' would be one and the same thing. The ether that Einstein was talking about, would be composed of massfree energy.
J - I see, yes, Reich thought that he was providing the physical basis for Einstein's 'gravitational ether'.
W - Little wonder that he was upset that something of so much importance and with so many implications would be neglected...
J - ...and of all people, by Einstein! --
W - There you go. There were all sorts of implications, not just scientific ones.
J - So he couldn't understand Einstein's silence, and was rather fearful of the consequences of rumors...?
W - We'll get to that in a minute. Talk about consequences! It was the equivalent of an earthquake in Reich's life! He oscillated in his feelings for years after the events. It went from being one of the most fruitful and important meetings of his scientific life, to a relationship that was hurting his own credibility and making him feel incredibly alone, to a realization that he did not need Einstein, nor could rely on him - and had to do his own hard work in basic physics. It is a complex relationship! Somewhere, Reich comments that Einstein failed to understand the possibility of free energy in atmosphere.
J - ... and in '44, where was he at?
W - He still wanted Einstein to give him serious consideration, but he was coming to realize that this would never happen. To placate Einstein's indignation, Reich dotted the i's - he wrote that he hadn't accused Einstein of spreading rumors, and only wanted to draw his attention to the fact that others were spreading rumors, and how this was hurting his own work, and even Einstein's antifascist cause. As a precaution, and to try to preserve a record of what happened between them, Reich deposited in New York and in Palestine sealed copies of all the notarized documents of the affair. Reich later referred to Einstein's behavior as 'the riddle'. Einstein had built his special theory of relativity on the basis that a fixed ether does not exist. His work led him to search for the unifying principle between gravitation, on the one hand, and electricity and magnetism, on the other. But this was a doomed effort. Aside from the new topological descriptions of the gravitational field, there was little else that he could say about the gravitational ether or how it related to the internal structure of matter. The effort appeared to have been self-defeating...
J - What could Reich have contributed here? Anything?
W - He claimed to have discovered how orgone energy at once generated and maintained gravitational fields and the structure of matter.
J - And did he?
W - If he did, he took it to the grave. At any rate, he thought that he did. So he was mystified by Einstein's reaction. Within Reich's circle of collaborators, the debate was whether Einstein was aware of the implications of Reich's experimental discovery of the gravitational ether, or whether Einstein had been so embarrassed by Infeld's criticisms that he disregarded the entire discovery - that he didn't really understand it. But Reich wouldn't admit that Einstein had failed to understand what he'd told him, or its implications, in light of all the perceptive remarks that Einstein had made during their face-to-face meetings. This suggested to him that Einstein harbored some ill intent against him. This perception was intensified because some of the 'leaks' could be traced back to Infeld. Rumors had travelled all the way to the Soviet Union and back, because Infeld, as you know, was a Stalinist informer. And he never paid for it.
J - ...and Einstein didn't know that at the time?
W - So it seems. What Einstein couldn't avoid was finding out that, against his own wishes, Infeld had made the whole affair known to people from the Navy, the Army and the scientific community. In low whispers, the 'Professor' - and not just Reich - had become the butt of ridicule. And that's really how the American stigma that Reich would bear to the end of his life was born, you know? There was considerable pressure, soon after their meetings [in 1941], for Einstein to dissociate himself from Reich.
J - What kind of pressure?
W - Look, before Reich was issued a passport in 1940, he was investigated by the FBI for his past communist affiliations - that's what the FOIA files show.
J - Uh-huh--
W - But then, a year later, a few weeks after Reich and Einstein's first meeting, a planted denunciation is made to the State Department by the American Consul in Oslo, Norway. This leads none other than J. Edgar Hoover himself to take a personal interest in the matter, in March of '41. The first internal response of the Bureau is that it's old hat and it had already been investigated, but Hoover himself comes back and orders the investigation re-opened at the end of April. So, over the exact span of time that involves the meetings and main correspondence between Einstein and Reich, Reich is being re-investigated under Hoover's direct supervision. An informer (6) conveniently pops up, with the bogus allegation that Reich is a member of the American Communist Party, and by May the FBI concludes that he poses a dangerous potential threat to American national security! Custodial detention is prepared but, for some reason, the FBI doesn't appear to want to act on it. Then in July, Hoover decides that Reich should be considered for detention in case of a national emergency, as war is already being anticipated. During this period, Reich wrote three more letters to Einstein, the last as late as September, all of which go curiously unanswered. On the very day following Pearl Harbor, Hoover asks the Special Defense Unit [SDU] to look into the case and on December 12, at 2 in the morning, Reich is picked up and transferred directly to Ellis Island, where he stayed until his eventual release on January 27, 1942 - some five weeks later (7). There were, however, a few twists - all of which seem studiously contrived. One twist is that Reich had filed a patent application in early '41, in between his two meetings with Einstein - and which he thought was important in case Einstein sanctioned his work, as he expected.
J - What was the patent for?
W - I never saw it stated what it was for, but it seems certain that it was for the orgonoscope and likely also for the orgone accumulator and the orgone field meter. The Patent Office requested a demonstration of the devices by December 15, and a meeting was scheduled I believe for that same Friday, December 12 - the very day of Reich's arrest. Another twist is that Reich was suspected not just of being a communist but also a fascist! Hoover himself suspected Reich of fascist tendencies!
J - Wild!
W - Hoover says this when he orders yet another investigation, after he's informed that Reich had been released from Ellis Island! The last twist is the matter of a William Robert Reich who does belong to the American Communist Party and is repeatedly - and deliberately it would seem from reading the files - confused with Wilhelm Reich. This keeps happening all during the re-opened FBI investigations, in '42 and again in '43.
J - Despite the national war emergency, it seems a bit peculiar. It would have been enough for the appropriate channel to inform Einstein that Reich was under FBI investigation, for Einstein to want to keep well away from him --
W - ...and if the warning suggested that he could be a Nazi agent, this would have been sufficient to deter Einstein from pursuing any further contact with Reich or from answering his letters.
J - Did Reich overlook this possibility?
W - He suspected the rumors had been planted by Stalinists and he knew that, during their meetings, Einstein had shown genuine comprehension and considerable interest in his work. He might have suspected that Infeld had embarrassed Einstein, I don't know. When he found out, during his interrogation at Ellis, that he was also suspected of being a fascist - he was livid. Yes, from the Ellis Island nightmare he might have wondered what else was being sold to Einstein - that he was a charlatan working for the Nazis and trying to gain access to Einstein's papers on military secrets?
J - Atomic secrets?
W - Who knows?
J - So, one would have to say that there would have been something severely wrong with Reich if he didn't show any symptoms of paranoia after such malicious persecutions! But what you're also saying is that interfering with his attempts to remain in contact with Einstein was one of the reasons why he was placed on that custodial list for possible detention prior to Pearl Harbor. It seems, though, that you're suggesting that his work, and his patent application, were also significant factors in timing exactly when he was to be rounded up!? Shouldn't the intelligence powers have waited for his demonstration before arresting him in that Gestapo fashion?
W - We'll never know what would have happened to his patent application had Pearl Harbor not occurred. But it is likely that when his case was reviewed by the SDU at the express request of Hoover, a G-2 flag would have popped up - especially after Pearl! So, one way of explaining that 2am arrest, is precisely because of G-2 involvement - if not after word got out that Reich had met with Einstein, or after he filed a patent application, then, for sure, on the heels of Pearl, and Hoover's request the morning after.
J - Why G-2 - that's Army intelligence?
W - What you might not know is that Army General George Strong was not just head of G2, but also, at the time, the head of the patent office. There is a way in which all these matters are intimately connected: the contacts with Einstein, the patent application for the orgone accumulator, the field meter and the orgonoscope - including the one that Reich loaned to Einstein and which Einstein didn't, by the way, want to return - and the evidence for a massfree gravitational ether. Just as there is a link between Reich's contacts with Einstein, the FBI's insidious allegations that Reich was either a communist or a fascist, the G-2 and the patent office. When Reich first contacted Einstein, America was not yet at war. The Commissioner of Patents was Strong, a personal friend of Vannevar Bush and Nelson Rockefeller, and the chief of G-2 intelligence in charge of projects ULTRA and MAGIC. [Vannevar] Bush was then the Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development [OSRD], the most powerful office in the land. As Bush described in his book Pieces of the Action, there was a crucial military need to control scientific information and patent applications. Patents were considered essential assets because they could potentially tip off enemy intelligence on sensitive technology, or on technologies prematurely or inadvertently ignored by US interests. The OSRD had a special committee dedicated to reviewing all submitted patents that related to atomic energy and to any other technology suspected of being sensitive. By order of the President, all government patent rights arising from any invention and potentially relevant to war developments were to be placed in the custody of the Director of the OSRD. The current patent office [USPTO, United States Patent and Trademark Office] policy of not publishing patent applications unless patents are granted was introduced back then, you know, as a protective measure to ensure the secrecy of sensitive applications or of patents denied for sensitive political, economic or military reasons. The contents of Reich's patent applications will therefore never be known. What one knows for sure is that, had his patent been granted during Strong's mandate, Reich could never have been later prosecuted by the FDA, under the fabricated contention that his orgone accumulators did not function the way he claimed they did. And he would not have ended up in the FDA Museum of Quacks.
J - Likewise, had Einstein confirmed the temperature difference and not succumbed to the trivial explanation supplied by Infeld, the patent office would have felt constrained to accept Reich's application and issue a patent, no?
W - Yes, now you can imagine the pressure that was brought to bear on Einstein - when he was still wondering about the positive thermal difference, still reviewing Reich's long rebuttal letter (8), still interested in the observations he was making with the orgonoscope. There was a convergence of interests - before Einstein could make the "mistake" of helping Reich by behaving as an honorable scientist, Bush, Strong and Hoover all got to him with their respective crazed suspicions. Infeld, with his own Stalinist agenda was only too happy to help, for it was he who first drew everybody else's attention to the meetings.
J - And as you said, Reich repeatedly referred to Einstein's strange behavior - the silence in response to his letters, the multiple delays and misunderstandings in returning the orgonoscope, Einstein's written denial that he had initiated rumors that were prejudicial to Reich, etc - as 'the riddle'. He seemed to think that once he approached Einstein, and once Einstein understood that the discovery of the orgone would substantiate the notion of a unified field responsible for both gravitation and electromagnetism - he would undoubtedly have his undivided attention.
W - Yes, but his later explanation suggested that Einstein did not see matters in this light. One way of interpreting Einstein's expression that Reich's discovery of the orgone was 'a bombshell in physics' is to follow Reich's reading of it at the time - that this discovery might provide the solution to the unified field which Einstein had predicted that it existed, but had failed to provide (9). Another way of interpreting it is that Einstein had sensed something that threatened his attempts - and Infeld's! - to provide that unified field solution.
J - But Einstein was already afraid for the future of relativity and the loss of his efforts to discover a unified theory, well before Reich showed up at his door!
W - Yes, but maybe during that crucial meeting with Reich he sensed that Reich's work was pointing towards an entirely new cosmogony. This is what Reich himself intimates in that short text entitled precisely The Riddle. But then, in his own handwriting he added a note, sometime later, that concludes that he had been wrong in thinking that his discovery of orgone energy was compatible with relativity after all, let alone that it could have been construed as a verification of Einstein's field theory.
J - Hmmm...
W - Read the man - that's what he says!
J - So, he concluded that he had been wrong in having approached Einstein to begin with - not because Einstein wouldn't have understood what he told him, but because Einstein would have understood enough to sense that it was a possible threat to his own and Infeld's efforts?
W - Yes, that's how Reich eventually solved his own riddle, I think. He came to the conclusion that his theory really wasn't compatible with Einstein's and that Einstein must have felt threatened.
J - I never fully understood how Reich could have thought it was compatible with relativity, to begin with...
W - Well, the special theory assumed there was no fixed luminiferous ether - an assumption that was compatible with the negative result of the Michelson-Morley experiment - but compatible also with Reich's view of a non-electromagnetic massfree ether that he found to be in permanent motion and capable of driving the precise movement of celestial bodies. Likewise, Einstein's equivalence of mass to energy was compatible with Reich's framework, and so was - back then, that is - the notion that photons were likely massless particles. Einstein's topology still appeared as the geometry of light. His notion of a gravitational ether could be made to coincide with the gravitational properties that Reich claimed for orgone energy...
J - ...and, I guess, the notion of a unified field - the unified field wasn't electromagnetic, but surely had to be gravitational and involve some fundamental form of spin...
W - Yes, uh, not quite - it needed to be able to give rise to gravitational fields, but somehow interact with electromagnetic fields, so the more pressing problems facing the unified field hypothesis concerned the high-frequency interaction of electromagnetic fields with matter. Reich claimed this interaction was not really electromagnetic, but an orgone- mediated interaction - which is the old problem of Tesla waves revisited...