He discovered all pervading energy, which he called "orgone", and described as "a mass-free primordial power that operates throughout the universe as the basic life force" and "the scientific reality of what most people call God".
He developed instruments aimed at detecting and redeploying it for healing and environental purposes. He was constantly persecuted in his research endeavour with charges which today would be laughed out of any court. His publications were burned or heavily censored, and his life controversially came to an end in an American Federal prison where he was serving a two-year term for distributing his "orgone energy accumulator".
He particularly studied sexual energy and the function of the orgasm, trying to measure the different stages of climax and its underlying energy (the orgone). In his views unexpressed sexual energy was the major cause of grievances and the result of consensus reality conditionings.
His psychoanalytic healing method involved the use of touch accompanied by talking. He would also feel his patients' chests to check their breathing or relocate their bodies, at times requiring them to remove their clothes, which caused some controversies in the psychoanalytic environment. His book, The Sexual Revolution, supported free contraception, abortion, and wide sex education.
Reich also conducted extensive researches on the origins of life, and built boxes to accumulate orgone energy in the atmosphere, which he regarded as a negatively-entropic force in nature responsible for concentrating and organizing matter. He believed that sitting inside the box might provide treatment for cancer and other ailments, yet the popular press describes these as sex boxes aimed at causing long erections.
He was also involved with the study of multidimensional vehicles claiming that orgone energy was used to propel UFOs. In his work Contact with Space he also spoke openly about connection with extraterrestrial intelligences. "It is not beyond actual possibilities that men from outer space have landed (or will in the future land) on earth and have begun to breed here for whatever reason they may have had." "Am I a Spaceman? Do I belong to a new race on earth, bred by men from outer space in embraces with earth women? Are my children offspring of the first interplanetary race? Has the melting-pot of interplanetary society already been created on our own planet, as the melting-pot of all earth nations was established in the U.S.A. 190 years ago?"
He argued that illness was primarily due to blockages of the orgone energy within the body, and conducted several scientific tests to prove his theory. Most of his findings were confirmed by Einstein with whom Reich had a controversial connection.
|from: Listen, Little Man|
Reich was the basic pioneer of body-oriented and emotions-based psychotherapies, and a major influence in Fritz Perls' Gestalt therapy, Arthur Janov's primal therapy and Alexander Lowen’s bioenergetic analysis. He also provided relevant inspirations to artists and musicians such as Patti Smith, Kate Bush, Frank Zappa and Suzanne Vega.
One of his works (Listen, Little Man!) left a most significant mark on human awareness. This very small book, written in 1946, is a penetrating dissection of the consensus reality man, who Reich calls the “little man”. As the author puts it the book "reflects the inner turmoil of a scientist and physician who had observed the little man for many years and seen, first with astonishment, then with horror, what he does to himself; how he suffers, rebels, honors his enemies and murders his friends; how, wherever he acquires power 'in the name of the people,' he misuses it and transforms it into something more cruel than the tyranny he had previously suffered at the hands of upper-class sadists."
A film about his teachings called W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism was made in 1971 by Yugoslavian director Dušan Makavejev.
“The pleasure of living and the pleasure of the orgasm are identical. Extreme orgasm anxiety forms the basis of the general fear of life.”
“You have no sense of your true duty, which is to be a man and preserve humanity. You imitate wise men so badly and bandits so well. Your movies and radio programs are full of murder.”
“You don't believe that your friend could ever do anything great. You despise yourself in secret, even – no, especially – when you stand on your dignity; and since you despise yourself, you are unable to respect your friend. You can't bring yourself to believe that anyone you have sat at table with, or shared a house with, is capable of great achievement. That is why all great men have been solitary. It is hard to think in your company, little man. One can only think 'about' you, or 'for your benefit', not 'with' you, for you stifle all big, generous ideas.”
“I want you to stop being subhuman and become 'yourself'. 'Yourself,' I say. Not the newspaper you read, not your vicious neighbor's opinion, but 'yourself.' I know, and you don't, what you really are deep down. Deep down, you are what a deer, your God, your poet, or your philosopher is..”