The FBI and the Why of the Blue Sky

FBI building

The biggest censorship case in modern history is that of the brilliant Austrian-American psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), who worked closely with Sigmund Freud. On August 23, 1956, the FBI burned 6 tonnes, 5443 kilograms, of Reich’s books and research. Reich died in prison a few months after his arrest in 1957.

His research focused on ‘orgone energy’, which he described as a universal force behind life’s healing energy, the weather and the reason why the sky and water appear to our eyes as blue.

Many if not most books and articles on Reich published after his death are suprisingly suggestive and subjective, lacking academic standards, for instance, Colin Wilson’s ‘The Quest for Wilhelm Reich’ from 1981. The number of defamatory assumptions made about Reich raise questions about the motives of these publications.

In 1922, as a 25-year-old, Reich was already one of Europe’s prominent psychoanalysts, witnessing and treating lots of psychological suffering. He developed the well-known Reichian Five Character Structures, which links childhood trauma to defense mechanisms.

Later, Reich’s work gradually expanded in the direction of physics. He claimed that libido blockages and deprivation of life’s orgone energy were primary causes of illnesses and neuroses. He built a healing cabin, the ‘orgone accumulator’, in which a person’s body temperature rose without any outside influence, a scientific fact confirmed by Albert Einstein that remains unexplained –yet vehemently ridiculed– until this day.

Reich’s letters and diaries show that he proactively informed the American local and federal authorities about his scientific progress and discoveries. He had hoped to cooperate with the government. This attitude eventually backfired and marked the beginning of the surveilling, sabotaging, criminalizing, confiscating and finally the burning of his work.

After his move to the US in 1940, Reich’s life became increasingly stressful, including a wrongful imprisonment for which the US government later acknowledged its mistake. He was fired from his university position but was able to continue his research with a small group of scientists in Maine, upholding financial independence.

The team worked on unprecedented, high-stakes research. Einstein visited Reich to talk for five hours, but he eventually declined to contribute or cooperate. Ever since the start of his career, Reich often accused his colleagues of lacking courage.

Reich’s writings became increasingly emotional during the final years of his life. He had felt an overpowering drive to ameliorate needless human suffering. Forensic psychologists would likely affirm by reading his diaries that Reich’s drive was, at its core, moral and authentic. That drive was continuously sabotaged by the world and the forces around him during his lifetime.

The historical image of Reich is tragically flawed due to subjective interpretations, assumptions, speculations, judicial interests, defamatory efforts and more. Despite the fact that his integrity and intelligence can’t easily be disputed, the circumstances accomodated historians and others to paint the dominant image of Reich as an egotistical, frustrated, paranoid and lonely man.

The information on this topic is so tough to verify that my research is now paused. Reich’s own family trust and The Reich Museum charge relatively high prices for downloads and books, which is peculiar given Reich’s desire and struggle to get his research out to a wide audience.

Whenever the sky strikes me as powerful blue, I think about fiery Wilhelm Reich and his orgone energy. As long as so many details remain hidden, the biggest censorship case in modern history deserves to be respectfully revisited.

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