Wilhelm Reich (24 March 1897 – 3 November 1957) was an Austrian psychoanalyst. Author of several influential books – most notably Character Analysis (1933), The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933) and The Sexual Revolution (1936) – Reich became known as one of the most radical practitioners of psychiatry.
Reich’s idea of “muscular armour” – the expression of the personality in the way the body moves – influenced innovations such as body psychotherapy, Gestalt therapy, bioenergetic analysis and primal therapy. His writing influenced generations of intellectuals; he invented the phrase “the sexual revolution”. During the 1968 student uprisings in Paris and Berlin, students scrawled his name on walls and threw copies of The Mass Psychology of Fascism at police.
It was soon after he arrived in New York in 1939 that Reich first said he had discovered a biological or cosmic energy, an extension of Freud’s idea of the libido. He termed it “orgone energy” or “orgone radiation,” and the study of it “orgonomy.” Reich said he had seen orgone when he injected his mice with bions and in the sky at night through an “organoscope,” a special telescope. He argued that it is in the soil and air (indeed, is omnipresent), is blue or blue-grey, and that humanity had divided its knowledge of it in two: aether for the physical aspect and God for the spiritual. The colour of the sky, the northern lights, St Elmo’s Fire, and the blue of sexually excited frogs are manifestations of orgone, he wrote. He also argued that protozoa, red corpuscles, cancer cells and the chlorophyll of plants are charged with it.