Archive for December, 2010

I’m surprised no one has blogged about this line before (though the book I am about to cite was published in 1975), so I’ll simply copy a few passages (hope that’s okay for copyright!). What follows is from Unfinished Animal by Theodore Roszak, in a section where he examines how what is sacred and holy has become commercialized and diminished in its expression. He has been writing about Wilhelm Reich and his discovery of Orgone, which Reich claimed was “the greatest discovery in centuries”:

To play any role in life–whether that of logician or poet, operations analyst or saint–requires the use of a whole, functioning brain.

Now I [Roszak] would not myself dispute the existence of the universal life force Reich felt he had discovered. Mana, the wakan-tanka, the anima mundi–called by a thousand names, that vibrant energy is among the most archetypal of human experiences. It flashes through the art and poetry of every culture; it is the fire that sets alight rhapsodic utterance and ecstatic ritual. Reich only became preposterous in his mystic seizures when he claimed he had done a better job of illuminating the nature of the life energy than the innumerable artists, seers, and sages who have celebrated its awesome presence. For what was it, at last, that Reich, as engineer rather than artist, had accomplished with Orgone? He had captured it in a box and taken its temperature! He had “proved” its existence by virtue of the thermometer. One recalls Goethe’s wry criticism of Newton’s experiments with light. Why lock your self away in a dark room to study what fills all the heavens around us? The more so in Reich’s case. Why bother with light boxes and thermometers to experience what rolls through the universe massively and magnificently? Unless, of course, one has not the capacity to experience on that scale.

Anyone who has read Reich’s account of the orgone accumulator (especially the embarrassing attempt in 1941 to enlist Einstein’s support for Orgonomy) cannot help but blush for the sheer silliness of the episode. It is an example of shabby science and worse religiosity. As tactfully as Einstein tried to persuade Reich that his so-called experiments were a folly, Reich could only believe that nefarious conspirators had poisoned the physicist’s mind against him. But what is even more pathetic than Reich’s role in the matter has been the continuing effort by his sympathizers and disciples to vindicate the unfortunate man’s ‘research’ and refurbish the orgone theory’s scientific credentials. Do those who pursue the task not realize the galling disparity between the classic proclamations of the life force–the yin and yang, Blake’s mythical Luvah-Orc, the landscapes of Van Gogh–and Reich’s measly thermometer readings?

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