Reich, Wilhelm


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Reich, Wilhelm

(vĭl`hĕlm rīkh), 1897–1957, Austrian psychiatrist and biophysicist. For many years a chief associate at Freud's Psychoanalytic Polyclinic in Vienna, he later broke with Freud and the psychoanalytic movement. Forced to leave Nazi Germany, he resettled in New York City in 1939 to continue independent research in biophysics. He taught (1939–41) at the New School for Social Research, and in 1942 he founded the Orgone Institute. According to Reich's theories the universe is permeated by a primal, mass-free phenomenon that he called orgone energy; in the human organism the lack of repeated total discharge of this energy through natural sexual release is considered the genesis not only of all individual neurosis but also of irrational social movements and collective neurotic disorder. Reich invented the orgone box, a device that he claimed would restore energy but that was declared a fraud by the Food and Drug Administration. In 1956 he was tried for contempt of court and violation of the Food and Drug Act and sentenced to two years in a federal penitentiary, where he died.

Bibliography

See his selected writings (1960); his autobiography, ed. by M. B. Higgins and R. Chester (tr. 1988); biographies by W. E. Mann and E. Hoffman (1983) and M. Saraf (1984); studies by C. Rycroft (1972), D. Boadella (1974), and C. Turner (2011).

Reich, Wilhelm

(1897–1957) psychiatrist, author; born in Vienna, Austria. He studied medicine in Vienna, and, becoming interested in Freud's theories of sexuality, he became associated with Freud's Psychoanalytic Polyclinic in Vienna. Reich developed his own theory that regular orgasms were essential to mental and emotional health, a view he set forth in The Function of the Orgasm (1927; English trans. 1942). He also sought to achieve a synthesis of psychoanalysis and Marxism, asserting that abolition of the bourgeois family would free people of sexual inhibitions; his stress on this led to a break with Freud by 1934. In 1939 he fled the Nazis and came to the U.S.A., where he taught in New York City at the New School for Social Research (1939–41) before setting up his own organization, the Orgone Institute (1942). This was to promote his own theories about the "orgone" energy that permeates the universe; he also invented the "orgone box" (about the size of a porto-toilet), which he claimed collected orgone particles and transmitted them to the person within the box to the alleged benefit of the user's sexuality and mental health. This was declared a fraud by the federal government, and after being found guilty of violating the Food and Drug law, he was sentenced to two years in 1956; he died while still in prison.
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