The man who invented free love

From The Guardian:

Women-dancing-naked-in-a--007 When Wilhelm Reich, the most brilliant of the second generation of psychoanalysts who had been Freud's pupils, arrived in New York in August 1939, only a few days before the outbreak of war, he was optimistic that his ideas fusing sex and politics would be better received there than they had been in fascist Europe. Despite its veneer of puritanism, America was a country already much preoccupied with sex – as Alfred Kinsey's renowned investigations, which he had begun the year before, were to show. However, it was only after the second world war that the idea of sexual liberation would permeate the culture at large. Reich could be said to have invented this “sexual revolution”; a Marxist analyst, he coined the phrase in the 1930s in order to illustrate his belief that a true political revolution would be possible only once sexual repression was overthrown. That was the one obstacle Reich felt had scuppered the efforts of the Bolsheviks. “A sexual revolution is in progress,” he declared, “and no power on earth will stop it.”

…Soon after he arrived in the United States – by which time his former psychoanalytic colleagues were questioning his sanity – Reich invented the Orgone Energy Accumulator, a wooden cupboard about the size of a telephone booth, lined with metal and insulated with steel wool. It was a box in which, it might be said, his ideas about sex came almost prepackaged. Reich considered his orgone accumulator an almost magical device that could improve its users' “orgastic potency” and, by extension, their general, and above all mental, health. He claimed that it could charge up the body with the life force that circulated in the atmosphere and which he christened “orgone energy”; in concentrated form, these mysterious currents could not only help dissolve repressions but treat cancer, radiation sickness and a host of minor ailments. As he saw it, the box's organic material absorbed orgone energy, and the metal lining stopped it from escaping, acting as a “greenhouse” and, supposedly, causing a noticeable rise in temperature in the box. The charismatic Reich persuaded Albert Einstein to investigate the machine, whose workings seemed to contradict all known principles of physics. After two weeks of tests Einstein refuted Reich's claims. However, the orgone box became fashionable in America in the 1940s and 50s, and Reich grew increasingly notorious as the leader of the new sexual movement that seemed to be sweeping the country. The accumulator was used by such countercultural figureheads as Norman Mailer, JD Salinger, Saul Bellow, Paul Goodman, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Dwight Macdonald and William S Burroughs. In the 1970s Burroughs wrote an article for Oui magazine entitled “All the Accumulators I Have Owned”. In it, he boasted: “Your intrepid reporter, at age 37, achieved spontaneous orgasm, no hands, in an orgone accumulator built in an orange grove in Pharr, Texas.” At the height of his James Bond fame, Sean Connery swore by the device, and Woody Allen parodied it in Sleeper (1973), giving it the immortal nickname the “Orgasmatron”.

More here.

Like what you're reading? Don't keep it to yourself!
Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Share on Reddit
Reddit
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin
Email this to someone
email