Reich – Cosmic Energy and the Death of Gurus

Dr. Wilhelm Reich offers us a very different approach to this world of experience. In the 1920’s Reich gradually felt his way from an orthodox use of Freudian psychoanalysis to a more biological, physiological or energetic point of view. Not that he lost sight of the human soul, but he realised how much body, energy and personality are unified. By working with body attitudes or postures he found he could help the patient melt tensions and emotional blocks. By relaxing muscular tensions, flows of energy, movement and feeling were unblocked. Perhaps more than any other clinical therapist or doctor of his time, he recognised that a spontaneous, self-regulating activity or energy was at work in all living organisms. He says of this energy, which he eventually called orgone:

Contrary to galvanic electricity – it would function on organic material which is a non-conductor for electricity, and on animal tissues. Its function would not be restricted to isolated nerve cells or cell groups, but would permeate and govern the total organism. It would have to explain in a simple way, the pulsating basic function of the living , contraction and expansion, as it is expressed in respiration and orgasm. It would express itself in the production of heat, a characteristic of most living organisms. It would definitely explain the sexual function, i.e. it would make sexual attraction understandable. It would explain what has been added to the chemically complicated protein in order to make it alive. It would, finally, have to show us the mechanism of the symmetry of form development in general.

Gradually Reich developed very definite techniques, working with respiration, muscular tension and character attitudes. He particularly explored the place of sexuality individual, social and political structures. He helped people release their own self-regulatory process and work with it toward health and wholeness. As people learned this they experienced spontaneous movement, trembling, changed feeling states and emotional and sexual release. The actual results, as compared with those already mentioned in this short history, were no different to those in Shaktipat or in Mesmer’s work.

Nevertheless Reich brought a new openness, a new technical understanding to the subject with his genius. Unlike Mesmer he did not rest until he had pinpointed clearly what released self-regulatory action into conscious operation. He did not stop, as Mesmer and the gurus did, in believing himself and certain other special men and women were the channels of a cosmic energy which healed. Reich made the tremendous step, while yet remaining a scientist and clinical therapist, of seeing an integral law of human nature at work, and active in individuals quite apart from his personal influence.

In this Reich helped people in the present to begin a link with their spontaneous energies which earlier peoples had known only in a religious context. The deeply religious, surrendered attitudes so prevalent in the past are seldom found today in the West. Certainly not in the way demonstrated by the original Christians who surrendered body and mind to a force they trusted. Looked at in this way, even the Godly in the West are frightened of God’s power. Jung makes the statement that people in the West cannot find God because none of us can bow low enough. Philip Zimbardo and Carol Laderman are more typical of the fear we have as Westerners of the unconscious. We see in it possible madness, loss of self, and possession by unnamed urges and forces. Being unable to form the trust out of our religious convictions, Reich enabled people to meet this vital part of themselves from a different more acceptable starting point. The new standpoint is that which includes our critical and analytical intellect. To deny it in an attempt to emulate the East in approaching their inner life uncritically, would be to do ourselves a great disservice. Reich proved that as Westerners we can still touch our deep spontaneous energies while retaining our new-found intellect.

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