Basic Orgonomy

Basic Orgonomy

Originally published on July 6, 2007 at

I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing this post about the basics of orgonomy. Originally, part of the problem was that I was finding conflicting reports about how orgone was discovered, and I needed to sort through them to find the most authoritative sources and establish the correct time-line of events. Unfortunately, from there, I found another problem: orgone wasn’t discovered as a single event, it was discovered in stages along a line of exploration that led from psychoanalysis to biology to (apparent) bio-genesis to finally discovering and working with the orgone energy itself.

The discoverer of orgone, Wilhelm Reich, started out as a psychoanalyst, a student of Sigmund Freud. A particularly brilliant one, as he was one of the first people to realize that the human body stores repressed emotional energy in the form of muscular tension, what Reich referred to as a process of “armoring”. This is something that is quite commonly acknowledged in massage and other forms of bodywork in the current day. He was also one of the first people to realize that one can psychoanalyze a person’s entire character, rather than just outward symptoms, and that many people showed signs of this emotional armoring even if they had not yet reached the point where it was being expressed as an aberrant behavior pattern. At a certain point in his studies, he became convinced that the human orgasm serves the biological function of releasing this energy, like a built in safety valve, and that people with better sex lives showed a corresponding decrease in neurosis. This prompted his research into biology, literally looking for the biological origins of neurosis.

As his research progressed, he came to believe that this energy (possibly the Freudian libido, though more a literal energy than the Freudian metaphor) was distinct from electricity in the human body. He found that the free flow of this energy was associated with life and growth. His researches finally led him to wanting to locate and study the same energy in paramecium. He tried to obtain a culture of them, and was informed that nobody kept cultured specimens of them since they can easily be cultured from moss or grass. He tried to do this, but without formal training in the procedures of the day went about it a bit oddly. He ended up observing at very high magnification particles breaking off of the decaying grass, forming into blue “vessicles” which displayed the properties of life, and these vessicles eventually forming into paramecium. He named the vessicles “bions” and believed they were the smallest units of life and explained the origins of life. Due to various problems with his experimental set-up, it is *extremely* likely that he didn’t see what he thought he saw. (Light microscopes are not especially accurate at the magnifications he was using, and he did not have knowledge of proper laboratory sterilization procedures.)

But the story doesn’t quite end there… he ended up culturing batches of bions from beach sand that had been heated to incandescence, and found something very strange: these samples gave off a sort of energy. Metal objects in the room were magnetized. Human skin was irritated and reddened if held near the sample jars too long. Working long hours in a windowless laboratory in winter with them, Reich himself developed a deep tan. Whether the “bions” themselves were the answer or not, clearly some form of energy was being emitted by the samples. From observation, Reich noted that it was attracted to metal, but then reflected again rapidly. It dissipated quickly in the open air, but was apparently absorbed by organic material. So he built a metal-lined box to store it and study it. And then he found something really interesting: even with the bions removed from the box, the energy was still there. It couldn’t be removed, actually. Something about the box itself seemed to accumulate the same energy from the surrounding air. Increasing the number of layers of metal and wood increased the effect. And that was the beginning of the orgone accumulator, and the real beginning of Reich’s researches into the properties and uses of this energy, which he named orgone, and came to believe was the same energy he had found in the human body and had first referred to as “vegetative current”.

The exact properties of orgone I will leave to another time, but one interesting little fact I will note: Reich’s device with alternating layers of metal and organic insulators has certain similarities to a faraday cage, but it also has properties in common with another electrical device: a Leyden jar. Food for thought?

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