A former patient and student of Reich’s, Sharaf, having been personally invested in Reich and passionate about Reich’s work since discovering The Function of the Orgasm in 1944, gives us a close look at the complex weave of events, people and ideas that made up Reich’s life. Sharaf provides a detailed account of the private and public conflict which Reich endured until his death in an American federal pen on November 3, 1957, ignored or ridiculed by the public at large. The book covers Reich’s childhood, his years as “Freud’s pet,” his breakup with the Communist party and his expulsion from Viennese psychoanalytic circles in 1934, as well as illustrating Reich’s theoretical innovations in psychology, sociology and science.
The book explains Reich’s theoretical development from genital-centered “orgastic potency” to his discovery of the “orgone” (life energy) in 1940. Reich wished to counteract the murderous form of atomic energy with the life-furthering functions of orgone; this branched into the realization of orgone energy accumulators and rain-making machines by the early 1950s.
Reich’s interest in the ideas of Henri Bergson and Friedrich Nietzsche helped push his ideas on “mental health” beyond “mental” phenomena; his work with low-income laborers in clinics led to many theories on how “exploiters” use sexual repression. Reich’s ideas, an inspiration to the work of people like Deleuze and Guattari, point out how neurosis goes from the personal to the social and back, the body and its sexual potential being the very thing which must be contained since capitalist economies use people as natural resources.
By the time Reich began researching life energy itself, in and around people, his ideas of a conspiracy in the U.S. to persecute and discredit him seemed not so far-fetched. Beginning in 1956, the U.S. Government and the FDA burned his accumulators and publications. He was in jail by the following year. This is an easy, thorough and inspirational read about a fascinating life and some of the most important ideas on humanity and its environment.
Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 550 pages