Now, before you roll your eyes, give this idea a chance. “Be curious, not judgmental,” as Walt Whitman said. As a culture, we exist primarily on assumptions. We assume that UFOs are hokum, that ghosts don’t exist, that because meat is so nicely packaged it must mean the animal was nicely raised, that what they tell you on the news is “true,” and that diets work.
But you know, there are some days when I sit back and think to myself, “Why am I so against considering this a possibility?” It’s like I’m automatically a skeptic. However, on the other hand, I really like to believe in wacky stuff. I want to believe that Ata is an alien, that the Patterson-Gimlin film is authentic, and that real people dig for and find buried treasure ALL THE TIME.
The trick is approaching weird stuff by releasing your skepticism, but also releasing your want to believe. It’s not about objectivity (I hate that word–it never meant anything, did it?). It’s just about being open. And even if you’re the most curmudgeonly skeptic out there, there’s one thing in your brain that is really good at remaining open. Your imagination.
And that is how I’m approaching the subject of Willhelm Reich’s Orgone Energy–as a curious and open guy giving orgone a chance.
Dr. Wilhelm Reich
Dr. Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian psychoanalyst who trained with Sigmund Freud. He believed that the atmosphere was full of a life energy that he called “Orgone.” That energy, he claimed, controlled everything from the weather to your emotions to the way your body moves to the health of your sexual relationships. The Nazis really hated Wilhelm Reich, and he fled to Norway and finally the United States, where his ideas were embraced by the counterculture and called “perverted” by the “pure.”
In the United States, Reich purchased a farm in Maine and turned it into a research center her called “Orgonon,” where he experimented with orgone and weather.
Reich with a “cloudbuster.”
He invented orgone accumulators–boxes that concentrated and conducted orgone to a sitting patient inside. He claimed that these accumulators could regenerate essential life energy, cure and prevent some cancer, and break down “body armor” that caused unhealthy energy flows in our bodies, which were directly connected to our emotional, sexual and psychological health. Reich believed that every neurosis and emotional state had a somatic connection. Reich’s research became quite popular in the 1940s, and even caught the attention of Albert Einstein, who conducted his own experiments with orgone accumulators. The problem was that a small group of vocal skeptics falsely believed that Reich was creating and experimenting with “sex boxes.”
Before long, the FDA was after him.
Following two critical articles about him in The New Republic and Harper’s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration obtained an injunction against the interstate shipment of orgone accumulators and associated literature, believing they were dealing with a “fraud of the first magnitude.” Charged with contempt in 1956 for having violated the injunction, Reich was sentenced to two years in prison, and in June and August that year over six tons of his publications were burned by order of the court, one of the most notable examples of censorship in the history of the United States. He died in jail of heart failure just over a year later, days before he was due to apply for parole.
It was a sad end to a revolutionary figure who survived Nazis, Puritans, and serious haters. And while his research caught on again as the closed-minded thinking of the fifties blossomed into a more curious sixties and seventies, eventually Reich was forgotten by the mainstream.
Over the last couple years, I’ve researched Orgone, Reich, and accumulators. I’ve read Reich’s remaining books, and The Orgone Accumulator Handbook. by James DeMeo’s, PhD. Of course, I don’t claim to be an expert about any of it. Admittedly, there is an element of aesthetic kitsch in all of this for me. Then again, the deeper I’ve gotten into Reich and orgone energy, the more I respect his ideas, research, experiments, and rigor. While I like to indulge in weird stuff, I don’t always like the way that indulgence can nullify the importance of thinking “outside the box.”
And so, I call all this my experiments thinking inside the box. I decided it was time to build an accumulator of my own. What follows is how I went about constructing the accumulator, based primarily off the instruction and plans in James DeMeo’s handbook.
I started with the materials, which included compressed lightweight firing strips, luan, formaldehyde-free fiberglass, steel wool, galvanized sheets…
I constructed lightweight wall frames.
Then came the bottom frame, which needed more support, the top frame, and the door.
To conduct orgone, the frames are filled with alternating layers of fiberglass (orgone absorbent) and steel wool (conductor). I had to order a 20 pound reel of steel wool.
Alternating layers in the floor frame:
Next, I attached the galvanized metal to the interior walls.
As you can see, the orgone box fits together by wood dowels. I can take the entire thing apart in seconds. To secure the box, I installed latches.
I used shellac to finish the exterior. Shellac is an all-natural resin finish, derived from the secretions of the female lac bug (no, I didn’t make this up).
Finished product–easy assembly.
Folks, let the orgone accumulation begin.
Right now, I have the orgone accumulator in our backyard. But in a couple weeks, we’ll be packing it up on top of the Jeep and taking it to Burning Man with our Scamp, which looks like some kind of orgone accumulator itself. In fact, I often call the Scamp “Into the Orgone.”
Keep in touch to see how experiments in orgone go.
Finally, rest in peace, Wilhelm Reich. Or actually… don’t.
Dr. Wilhelm Reich