Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian physician and psychoanalyst. He was born March 27, 1897, in Dobrzcynica, a part of Galicia belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now a part of Poland. He died November 3, 1957, at the Lewisburg penitentiary in Connecticut. Reich's parents were assimilated middle-class Jews, who had emigrated after his birth to Jujinetz, in the Ukrainian region of Austria-Hungary. His father owned an extensive tract of land, on which he raised cattle. Two teachers were responsible for the young Reich's education. At the age of fourteen he entered the local high school in Czernowitz. He was an officer in the Austrian army during the war and began his medical studies upon his return to Vienna.
In 1919 he was admitted to the local psychoanalytic society. In 1921 he married Annie Pink, a brilliant student who became a famous psychoanalyst. Reich had important responsibilities as a teacher and in clinical psychoanalysis, and in 1924 ran a seminar on psychoanalytic technique. At the same time he was working with Austrian socialists. In 1927 he published The Function of the Orgasm, which established the existence of a sexual economy focused on the power of the orgasm and genitality. He enrolled in the communist party in 1928 and, the following year, created the Socialist Society of Sexual Advice and Sexual Research. In 1929 he traveled to the USSR, where he familiarized himself with the work of Vera Schmidt, a Russian teacher who made use of psychoanalysis in her school for children.
In 1930 he left Vienna for Berlin, where he continued working to promote communism and psychoanalysis. In 1931 he founded the German Association for a Proletarian Sexual Policy, known as SEXPOL for short, which at one point had several thousand members. In a 1931 brochure, The Sexual Struggle of the Young, he promoted a radical liberation of individual behavior. In 1932 he published The Invasion of Compulsory Sexual Morality, a sociological study based on the work of the ethnologist Bronislaw Malinowski. Reich lived with Elsa Lindenberg, a dancer who was active in the same cell as he.
In 1933 Hitler was in power and Reich was thrown out of the German communist party. He fled to Denmark, where he published two of his most important works, Character Analysis and The Mass Psychology of Fascism. In 1934 he settled in Malmö, Sweden, and founded the Review of Political Psychology and Sexual Economy. At the Lucerne Congress a decision was made to exclude Reich from the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA). He took refuge in Oslo, Norway, where he continued to train psychoanalysts and conducted research on organic electricity. A campaign of defamatione was referred to as a "Jewish pornographer"ed by a man named Quisling, led Reich to accept the invitation of Theodore Wolfe to move to the United States to teach "character-analytic vegetotherapy."
He arrived in New York in 1939, rented a cabin in Maine and had several buildings constructed, which he called the "Orgonon." Here he conducted research, taught, and performed clinical work. It was a period of intense creative activity for Reich. In politics he denounced the "emotional plague," the source of fascism, and developed the principles for a "democracy of work." He also became interested in newborns following the birth of his son Peter to his third wife Ilse Ollendorff in 1944. He investigated the problem of cancer and, at the same time, struggled to determine orgone formations in the atmosphere and the cosmos. He successfully practiced vegetotherapy. Preoccupied by the problems of the environment, he explored the Arizona desert ("operation Orop Desert"). He continued to publish and republish at a steady rate: in 1948 The Function of the Orgasm, an autobiographical work, and the Biopathy of Cancer, The Sexual Revolution, and Listen, Little Man; in 1951 Ether, God, and Devil, and Cosmic Superimposition; in 1953 The Murder of Christ and People in Trouble, published by the Orgone Institute Press.
A campaign of lies and vilification in the tabloid press resulted in Reich being called in for questioning by the police. After refusing to cooperate with the court he was convicted and sent to prison, where he died. A year earlier, as a result of a court decision, nearly all of Reich's books were burned at the Gansevoort Street incinerator in Manhattan (New York City).
See also: Allgemeineztliche Gesellschaft fürPsychotherapie; Berliner Psychoanalytisches Institut; Character; Denmark; Lehrinstitut der Wiener psychoanalytischen Vereinigung; Marxism and psychoanalysis; Norway; Orgasm; Politics and psychoanalysis; Psychic causality; Reich, Annie; Sociology and psychoanalysis/sociopsychoanalysis; Wiener psychoanalytische Vereinigung.
Dadoun, Roger. (1975). Cent Fleurs pour Wilhelm Reich. Paris: Payot.
De Marchi, Luigi. (1973). Wilhelm Reich, biographie d'une idée. Paris: Fayard.
Reich, Wilhelm. (1933). Character-analysis; principles and technique for psychoanalysts in practice and in training (Theodore P. Wolfe, Trans.). New York: Orgone Institute Press.
. (1933). The mass psychology of fascism (Theodore P. Wolfe, Trans.). New York: Orgone Institute Press, 1946.
. (1940). The function of the orgasm: Sex-economic problems of biological energy (Theodore P. Wolfe, Trans.). London: Panther, 1968.
. (1948). The cancer biopathy. New York: Orgone Institute Press.
. (1988). Passion of youth: An autobiography 1897-1922. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Sharaf, Myron. (1983). Fury on Earth: A biography of Wilhelm Reich. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Sinelnikoff, Constantin. (1970). L'vre de Wilhelm Reich. Paris: Maspero.
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