Wilhelm Reich is a wildly interesting figure on many different levels. Nor Nazi Germany neither post War World II America were ready for his ideas and both ended up persecuting him, which leads me to think he must have been right on many of his theories. As the saying goes, there is no left or right, there is only tyranny or freedom.
He was born on March 24, 1897 in Galicia, in the easternmost part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Ukraine. He grew up in the Bukovina on a large farm operated by his father. His first language was German, and until 1938 he was an Austrian citizen.
Reich worked with Sigmund Freud in the 1920s and was a respected analyst for much of his life, focusing on character structure rather than on individual neurotic symptoms. He tried to reconcile Marxism and psychoanalysis, arguing that neurosis is rooted in the physical, sexual, economic, and social conditions of the patient, and promoted adolescent sexuality, the availability of contraceptives, abortion, and divorce, and the importance for women of economic independence. Just to be clear, my personal opinion regarding Marxism and communism goes along the lines of a previous post about John Henry Mackay if you care to read it.
His work influenced a generation of intellectuals, including Saul Bellow, William S. Burroughs, Paul Edwards, Norman Mailer, and A. S. Neill, and shaped innovations such as Fritz Perls’s Gestalt therapy, Alexander Lowen’s bioenergetic analysis, and Arthur Janov’s primal therapy.
Reich was living in Germany when Adolf Hitler came to power in January 1933. On March 2 that year the Nazi newspaper,Völkischer Beobachter, published an attack on one of Reich’s pamphlets, The Sexual Struggle of Youth. He left immediately for Vienna, then Scandinavia, moving to the United States in 1939. In 1947, following a series of articles about orgone in The New Republic and Harper’s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) obtained an injunction against the interstate sale of orgone accumulators. Charged with contempt for violating it, he was sentenced to two years in prison.
In the case of the United States of America vs. Whilhen Reich, the US district court ruled that his published works be destroyed. The Discovery of the Orgone Vol. 1, The Functioning of the Orgasm Vol. 2, Cancer Biopathy, Ether, God and Devil, Cosmic Superimposition, Listen Little Man, The Muder of Chhrist, People in Trouble. These books were burned in the public incinerator at the corner of Hudson and Gansevoort St. in New York city under the supervision of Federal Food and Drugs administration agents. This occurred on August 10, 1956 and again on march 17, 1960. Fahrenheit 451 comes to mind, not to mention how ironic it is to have escaped Nazi Germany to have his books burned in America.
Here is a very interesting documentary named Who is Afraid of Wilhelm, that is a very good introduction to get to know more about him.