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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

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CONTENTS
OF THIS SECTION
Last updated
11/10/07

Biographical Introduction from  Reich (Modern masters) - Charles Rycroft
"Can we say of Reich, as Andre Gide did of Dostoevsky, that he "remains ever the man of whom there is no way to make use! He is of the stuff which displeases every party. Why? Because he never persuaded himself that less than the whole of his intelligence was necessary to the part he chose to play, or that for the sake of immediate issues he would be justified in forcing so delicate an instrument or upsetting its balance." Wilhelm Reich: Life Force Explorer - James Wyckoff

From Matter to Life to Mind:
An Unfolding Consciousness

Listen, Little Man 
Only you yourself can be your liberator!

Wilhelm Reich, 1948

"They call you 'Little Man', 'Common Man'; they say a new era has begun, the 'Era of the Common Man'. It isn't you who says so, Little Man. It is they, the Vice Presidents of great nations, promoted labour leaders, repentant sons of bourgeois families, statesman and philosophers. They give you your future but don't ask about your past....I have never heard you complain: "You promote me to be the future master of myself and the world, but you don't tell me how one is to be the master of oneself, and you don't tell me the mistakes in my thinking and my actions."

"Your liberators tell you that that your suppressors are Wilhelm, Nikolaus, Pope Gregory the Twenty Eighth, Morgan, Krupp or Ford. And your 'liberators' are called Mussolini, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin. I tell you: Only you yourself can be your liberator!" "This sentence makes me hesitate. I contend to be a fighter for pureness and truth. I hesitate, because I am afraid of you and your attitude towards truth... My intellect tells me: 'Tell the truth at any cost.' The Little Man in me says: 'It is stupid to expose oneself to the little man, to put oneself at his mercy. The Little Man does not want to hear the truth about himself. He does not want the great responsibility which is his. He wants to remain a Little Man...."

[See also Wilhelm Reich - Listen, Little Man!  at amazon.com]


Excerpts

Wilhelm Reich"They call you 'Little Man', 'Common Man'; they say a new era has begun, the 'Era of the Common Man'. It isn't you who says so, Little Man. It is they, the Vice Presidents of great nations, promoted labour leaders, repentant sons of bourgeois families, statesman and philosophers. They give you your future but don't ask about your past.

You are heir to a dreadful past. Your heritage is a burning diamond in your hand. that is what I tell you.

Every physician, shoemaker, mechanic or educator must know his shortcomings if he is to do his work and make his living. For some decades, you have begun to play a governing role on this earth. Iris on your thinking and your actions that the future of humanity depends. But your teachers and masters do not tell you how you really think and are; nobody dares to voice the one criticism of you which could make you capable of governing your own fate. You are 'free' only in one sense: free from education in governing your life yourself, free from self-criticism.

I have never heard you complain: 'You promote me to be the future master of myself and the world, but you don't tell me how one is to be the master of oneself, and you don't tell me the mistakes in my thinking and my actions.

You let men in power assume power 'for the Little Man'. But you yourself remain silent. You give men in power or impotent people with evil intentions the power to represent you. Only too late do you realize that again and again you are being defrauded...

See yourself as you really are. Listen to what none of your leaders and representatives dares tell you: You are a "little, common man." Understand the double meaning of these words: "little" and "common."

Don't run. Have the courage to look at yourself! 

"What right do you have to tell me things?" I can see this question in your apprehensive look. I hear this question from your impertinent mouth, Little Man. You are afraid to look at yourself, you are afraid of criticism, Little Man, just as you are afraid of the power they promise you. You would not know how to use this power. You dare not think that you ever might experience your self differently: free instead of cowed; open instead of tactical; loving openly instead of like a thief in the night. You despise yourself Little Man. You say: "Who am I to have an opinion of my own, to determine my own life and to declare the world to be mine?" You are right: Who are you to make a claim to your life? 

You are different from the really great man in only one thing: The great man, at one time, also was a very little man, but he developed one important ability: he learned to see where he was small in his thinking, and actions. Under the pressure of some task which was dear to him he learned better and better to sense the threat that comes from his smallness and pettiness. The great man, then, knows when and in what he is a little man.

 The Little Man does not know that he is little, and he is afraid of knowing it. He covers up his smallness and narrowness with illusions of strength and greatness, of others' strength and greatness. He is proud of his great generals but not proud of himself. He admires thought which he did not have and not the thought he did have. He believes in things all the more thoroughly the less he comprehends them, and does not believe in the correctness of those ideas which he comprehends most easily....

Your liberators tell you that that your suppressors are Wilhelm, Nikolaus, Pope Gregory the Twenty Eighth, Morgan, Krupp or Ford. And your 'liberators' are called Mussolini, Napolean, Hitler and Stalin. 

I tell you: Only you yourself can be your liberator!"

This sentence makes me hesitate. I contend to be a fighter for pureness and truth. I hesitate, because I am afraid of you and your attitude towards truth. To say the truth about you is dangerous to life. The truth is also life-saving, but it becomes the loot of every gang. If that were not so, you would not be what you are and where you are. 

My intellect tells me: 'Tell the truth at any cost.' The Little Man in me says: 'It is stupid to expose oneself to the little man, to put oneself at his mercy. The Little Man does not want to hear the truth about himself. He does not want the great responsibility which is his. He wants to remain a Little Man. He wants to remain a Little Man, or wants to become a little great man. He wants to become rich, or a party leader, or commander of a legion, or secretary of the society for the abolition of vice. But he does not want to assume responsibility for his work... 

I shall tell you who you are: 

You are afflicted with the emotional plague. You are sick, very sick, Little Man. It is not your fault. But it is your responsibility to rid yourself of this sickness.

You confuse the right to free speech and to criticism with irresponsible talk and poor jokes. He who has to protect the living against the emotional plague has to learn to use the right to free speech as we enjoy it in America at least as well for the good as the emotional plague misuses it for the bad. Granted equal right in the expression of opinion, the rational finally must win out.

What is important is not individual treatment but the prevention of mental disorders. You have locked up the crazy people, and the normal people manage this world. Who, then, is to blame for all the misery?

 You give impotent people with evil intentions the power to represent you. Only too late do you realize that again and again you are being defrauded. You must come to realize that you make your little men your own oppressors, and that you made martyrs out of your truly great men.

For you are afraid of life, Little Man, deadly afraid. You will murder it in the belief of doing it for the sake of "socialism," or "the state," or "national honor," or "the glory of God."

I recognized the deadly fear of the living in you, a fear which always makes you set out correctly and end wrongly. You had the happiness of humanity in your hands, and you have gambled it away. You had the world in your hands, and at the end you dropped your atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Through the centuries, you will shed blood where life should be protected, and will believe that you achieve freedom with the help of the hangman; thus you will find yourself again and again in the same morass.

You yourself create all your misery, hour after hour, day after day. You think the goal justifies the means. You are wrong: The goal is in the path on which you arrive at it. Every step of today is your life of tomorrow. You stand on your head and you believe yourself dancing into the realm of freedom.

You could have long since become the master of your existence, if only your thinking were in the direction of truth. You are cowardly in your thinking, Little Man, because real thinking is accompanied by bodily feelings, and you are afraid of your body. Many great men have told you: Go back to your origin - listen to your inner voice - follow your true feelings - cherish love.

...slowly and gropingly I found what makes you a slave: You are your own slave driver. Nobody else - nobody except yourself carries the responsibility for your slavery. . .  I have ceased to be willing to die for your freedom to be anybody's slave. I tell you: Only you yourself can be your liberator!

The truly great man takes your freedom deadly seriously. In order to establish it in a practical way, he has to surround himself with many little men, helpers and errand boys, because he cannot do the gigantic job by himself. Furthermore, you would not understand him, and would let him fall by the wayside, if he had not surrounded himself with little great persons. Surrounded by many little great persons, he conquers power for you, or a piece of the truth, or a new, better belief. 

He writes gospels, freedom laws, etc., and counts on your help and seriousness. He pulls you out of your social morass. In order to keep together the many little great persons, in order not to lose your confidence, the truly great man has to sacrifice piece after piece of his greatness, which he was able to attain only in the deepest intellectual loneliness, far from you and your everyday noise, and yet in close contact with your life. In order to be able to lead you he has to tolerate your transforming him into an inaccessible God. You would have no confidence in him if he had remained the simple man that he was. . . 

In this way, you yourself produce your new master. Promoted to the role of new master, the great man loses his greatness because this greatness consisted in his straightforwardness, simplicity, courage, and real contact with life....

...Those who are truly alive are kindly and unsuspecting in their human relationships and consequently endangered under present conditions. They assume that others think and act generously, kindly, and helpfully, in accordance with the laws of life. This natural attitude, fundamental to healthy children as well as to primitive man, inevitably represents a great danger in the struggle for a rational way of life as long as the emotional plague subsists, because the plague-ridden impute their own manner of thinking and acting to their fellow men. A kindly man believes that all men are kindly, while one infected with the plague believes that all men lie and cheat and are hungry for power.  In such a situation the living are at an obvious disadvantage. When they give to the plague-ridden, they are sucked dry, then ridiculed or betrayed...

...It is high time for the living to get tough, for toughness is indispensable in the struggle to safeguard and develop the life-force; this will not detract from their goodness, as long as they stand courageously by the truth. . . . Anyone who wants to safeguard the life-force from the emotional plague must learn to make at least as much use of the right of free speech that we enjoy in America for good ends as the emotional plague does for evil ones. Granted equal opportunity for expression, rationality is bound to win out in the end. That is our great hope...

The kindly individual believes that all people are kindly and act accordingly. The plague individual believes that all people lie, swindle, steal and crave power. Clearly, then, the living is at a disadvantage and in danger.

There is only one antidote to the germs of the emotional plague in the mass individual: his own feeling of living life. The living does not ask for power but for its proper role in human life. It is based on the three pillars of love, work and knowledge.

You beg for happiness in life, but security is more important to you, even if it costs you your spine or your life. Your life will be good and secure when aliveness will mean more to you than security; love more than money; your freedom more than party line or public opinion; when your thinking will be in harmony with your feelings; when the teachers of your children will be better paid than the politicians; when you will have more respect for the love between man and woman than for a marriage license.

You will no longer believe that you "don't count." You will know and advocate your knowledge that you are the bearer of human society. Don't run away. Don't be afraid. It is not so terrible to be the responsible bearer of human society. Inflated leaders would have no soldiers and no arms if you clearly knew, and stood up for your knowledge, that a field has to yield wheat and a factory furniture or shoes, and not arms. All you have to do is to continue what you have always done and always want to do: to do your work, to let your children grow up happily, to love your mate.

You are Great, Little Man, when you are not small and petty. You are great when you carry on your trade lovingly, when you enjoy carving and building and painting and decorating and sowing, when you enjoy the blue sky and the deer and the dew and music and dancing, your growing children and the beautiful body of your woman or your man, when you learn to understand and think about life. You are great when you hold your grandchildren on your knees and tell them about times long past, when you look into an uncertain future with their trusting childlike curiosity, when you lull your newborn to sleep, when you sing the good old folk songs.

Follow the voice of your heart, even if it leads you off the path of timid souls. Do not become hard and embittered, even if life tortures you at times. There is only one thing that counts: to live one's life well and happily..."


Biographical Introduction - from Reich (Modern masters) - Charles Rycroft

Although this is not a biography of Reich, some facts of his life have to be mentioned if we are to understand his ideas and place them correctly in history. Reich was born on March 24th, 1897, at Dobrzynica in Galicia but spent most of his childhood on a farm at Jujinetz in Bukowina. Both Galicia and Bukowina were outlying provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its collapse at the end of the First World War, and Reich was therefore an Austrian citizen (until he became a naturalized American in 1938), but one whose home country was abroad from 1919 onwards.

His family was of Jewish origin, but the Jewish religion and observances played no part in his upbringing. His father was a farmer and, according to Ilse Ollendorf,  Reich, the family was 'well-to-do, highly respected, somewhat stuck-up and put a very pronounced stress on German culture'. They must then, given the current distinction between master nations and subject peoples prevailing within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, have been representatives if not exactly of an occupying ruling class isolated among colonials, at least of a cultural elite which looked north and westwards to Berlin and Vienna for its inspirations. Again according to Ilse Ollendorf,  Reich, Reich was not allowed to associate with either the local Ukrainian-speaking peasantry or the few Yiddish-speaking Jewish families that lived near by. He seems to have had a lonely childhood, never even becoming intimate with his only brother, who was three years younger than himself.

However—and his followers make something of this —from his earliest years he was in intimate touch with nature, familiar with the details of the farmyard and cattle breeding, and he learnt young to ride and shoot. In this—and in his totally non-Jewish secular upbringing—his childhood was in striking contrast to that of the majority of the intellectuals who were drawn towards psychoanalysis in the 192os.

Although Reich, one gathers, always spoke nostalgically of the physical surroundings of his childhood and retained throughout his life a great affection and feeling for the countryside, he rarely mentioned his family or reminisced about his childhood, which is hardly surprising in view of the fact that the conjunction of private tragedy and political catastrophe led while he was in his teens to the complete disruption of the whole world he had been brought up in. In 1911, when he was fourteen, his mother committed suicide, apparently after he had revealed to his father that she was having an affair with his tutor. Then his father developed tuberculosis and died three years later.

Although Reich was still a schoolboy, he attempted to run the family farm until it became a battlefield. In 1916 he left home and joined the Austrian army, in which he became an officer and saw active service in Italy.

At the end of the War Reich arrived in Vienna, a twenty-one-year-old war veteran, both of his parents dead and his childhood home, which he never visited again, cut off from him by the new frontiers drawn by the politicians at Versailles. After a brief flirtation with the law he became a medical student and decided almost immediately to take up psychiatry. Within a year of arriving in Vienna he became a member of the Vienna Psycho Analytical Society and a practising psychoanalyst.

To anyone familiar with the contemporary psychoanalytical scene it seems almost incredible that a medical .dent still in his early twenties should have been al-wed to treat patients, or that Reich should have been de to write and get published four papers on psychoanalysis and sexology within three years of his first contact with psychoanalysis. But the psychoanalytical movement was very different then. It had yet to institutionalise training or to insist on a training analysis of  several years duration for all would-be analysts, and rich was far from being the only medically unqualified arson who had patients referred to him by Freud within few months of first coming into contact with psycho analysis.

It should be mentioned here that Reich contributed significantly to the developments in psychoanalysis which transformed it from what in retrospect appears as amateurish activity into a professional technique that in be taught formally. From 1924 to 1930 he was the [rector of the Seminar for Psychoanalytic Therapy, in which practical problems of treatment were thrashed at, and three of his papers on technique are included in volume called The Psychoanalytic Reader (ed. Robert Fliess) which is to this day recommended reading for students at psychoanalytical institutes.

And Vienna in the 1920s was very unlike the affluent societies in which contemporary psychoanalytical  organizations flourish and can exert considerable control over their students' activities. The former metropolis of a large polyglot empire had suddenly become the capital of a small and impoverished republic.

The glory and the tinsel had departed with the Hapsburgs; the hierarchical, largely Catholic, feudal structure of society had collapsed, leaving a void waiting to be filled. It is therefore not surprising that Reich became involved in politics, and he was indeed far from being the only analyst who sought to reconcile psychoanalysis and marxism. He seems however to have been the only one whose activities so antagonized both schools of thought that he was expelled from both the International Psychoanalytical Association and the Communist Party.

In view of the fact that the history of the psychoanalytical movement has excited more later curiosity than has that of the German and Austrian communist parties, and that Reich has left more of a mark on psychoanalysis and psychotherapy than on marxism, more explanations are current as to why Reich became unacceptable to the analysts—or broke with them—than of why he was expelled from the communist movement.

According to Reich himself, his expulsion was due to theoretical differences regarding the social implications of psychoanalysis, compounded by professional jealousies, but according to others the cause was more personal. Reich wished to be analysed by Freud; Freud refused, Reich took his refusal as a personal rejection, became depressed and tuberculous and even, according to his first wife (but his third wife disagrees), the victim of a 'deteriorating process', from which he never recovered.

If this second explanation is correct, developing a father-fixation on Freud with resulting therapeutic longings towards him must have been a serious occupational hazard of the early analysts. A decade earlier another analyst, Viktor Tausk, who like Reich was a non-practising Jew from an outlying province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was refused an analysis by Freud. According to Paul Roazen's study of Tausk (New York, 1969) this rejection by Freud initiated a reaction which ended in Tausk's suicide six months later. Incidentally, a paper by Tausk also appears in Fliess's Psychoanalytic Reader.

Whatever the inner story of Reich's break with Freud and psychoanalysis may be, the following appears to be the correct chronology :

1927. Reich seeks analysis with Freud, who refuses to treat him. The first version of Reich's The Function of the Orgasm is published by the International Psychoanalytic Publishing House. Reich spends some months in a Swiss sanatorium.

1928. Reich joins the Austrian Communist Party. With four other analysts and three obstetricians he founds the Socialist Society for Sex Consultation and Sexological Research.

1929. Reich visits Russia: His Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis is published in Moscow.

1930. Reich moves to Berlin. He founds the German Association for Proletarian Sexual Politics, whose aims include the abolition of laws against abortion and homo-sexuality and the dissemination of birth control information.

1933. Reich publishes The Mass Psychology of Fascism in Denmark. He is expelled from the German Communist Party. The first version of Reich's Character Analysis is printed by the International Psychoanalytical Publishing House, but without its imprint.

1934. Reich is expelled or rather 'dropped' or 'edged out' of the International Psychoanalytical Association—the details of this process are too complicated and obscure to be worth elucidating.

In retrospect, neither of these two expulsions seems intellectually justified, though in view of the political circumstances of the time they are perhaps forgivable. The psychoanalytical movement felt it had no chance of surviving the rise of fascism if it was associated with communism—the German Psychoanalytical Society several times asked Reich to resign for this reason but he always refused—while the Communist Party felt he was diverting into mental and sexual hygiene campaigns energies which were required for direct political action.

But in the event the psychoanalytical movement's hope of riding the storm of fascism by claiming to be a pure science and unpolitical proved illusory, and the defeat of the communist and socialist movements by fascism can hardly be laid at the door of Reich's diversions into sexology. Nor in retrospect do the psychoanalytical movement's objections to the first version of Reich's Character Analysis seem justifiable or comprehensible intellectually; almost all of it had already appeared previously in psychoanalytical journals and the decision to withhold official blessing seems to have been based solely on grounds of political expediency.

From now on Reich was on his own. He was a member of no established organization and his ideas had been rejected by two movements to which he had given himself wholly. From now on too, anyone who attempts to follow the development of his ideas is in serious difficulties. Either he continues to take Reich seriously, in which case he runs the risk of being converted to a way of thinking which would put him, in Reich's own words, `beyond the intellectual framework of present-day character structure and, with that, the civilization of the last 5,000 years', or he ceases to do so, in which case he runs the risk of falling into a methodological trap, that of using Reich's personality as an argument against his ideas.

Even Reich's greatest admirers admit that he was a difficult and autocratic man and it is not hard to point to aspects of his life and writings which call his sanity into question—the two possible psychiatric diagnoses are hypomania for his early years and paranoia for his later—but there are, it seems to me, several objections to using this all too easy way out.

First, if Reich was right and he really did 'step beyond the intellectual framework of present-day character structure', diagnostic labels which derive from this intellectual framework are inapplicable to him—or indeed to anyone else. Society's views on who is sane and who is mad obviously depend to a large extent on its criteria of normality, and as a result anyone who questions its norms runs the risk of being considered mad.

All prophets, world-shakers and dreamers of dreams are at 'risk in this way, and indeed a large number of them have been manhandled by psychiatrists and analysts foolish enough to rush in where angels fear to tread. Jesus Christ has been diagnosed schizophrenic, Beethoven paranoid, the Old Testament prophets (collectively) schizophrenoid,- Leonardo da Vinci schizoid-obsessional, etc., etc.

Although psychiatric excursions of this kind are not always without interest, they suffer from two grave limitations. They assume that contemporary psychoanalytical theory has achieved timeless objectivity, that the criteria by which we now assess human personality are independent of the historical processes that have led to the emergence of the Freudian conception of human nature; and they fail to escape from the reductionist tendencies built into psychoanalytical theories and therefore in effect if not in intention they tend to invalidate the ideas produced by the individuals subjected to this sort of treatment.

It seems to me that no amount of study of the origins of new ideas in the minds of those who first formulated them help one to make the crucial decision, whether these ideas are true or false. Both true and false prophets must have had their infantile traumata, their Oedipus complexes and their neuroses.

Fortunately Reich made one claim for his ideas which simplifies matters enormously for anyone attempting to assess them. He claimed to have discovered not only the truth about the nature of energy and of love, but also that these truths were demonstrable by the techniques of the natural sciences. His truths were not poetic or religious or artistic truths but scientific truths which could, he claimed, be confirmed by anyone who repeated his experiments.

Anyone who attempts to evaluate his ideas is therefore entitled to use as critical weapons the available evidence bearing on such questions as : (1) did Reich understand the nature of scientific method? (2) Did he have a good and thorough knowledge of biology and physics, the two sciences on which he leaned most heavily? (3) Did he construct his experiments with scientific rigour and with proper respect for the need for controls? (4) Have his ideas on physics and biology attracted sympathetic interest among those experts best qualified to understand and assess them ?

All these are legitimate questions since in one respect Reich certainly did not 'step beyond the intellectual framework of present-day human character structure'. Although he became increasingly interested in aspects of human nature which have traditionally been the domain of- the humanities and even of religious mysticism, he retained throughout his life the belief that rationalism and the natural sciences are the only avenue to the truth.

Although, or so it seems to me, the answers to the four questions I posed above must be 'no', this does not, I believe, dispose of Reich. He might after all have been wrong in supposing that all truths are natural-scientific truths and yet have arrived at insights of value. Even if he was wrong in believing that the methods of natural science are appropriate for the study of human nature, some at least of his ideas might be valid, even if misplaced and ill-based.

What I am suggesting here, and hope to substantiate later, is that Reich was barking up the wrong tree and that his allegiance to the natural sciences compelled him to deceive himself into believing that his ideas about energy, love and the cosmos were the result of his scientific researches when in fact they were the product of some inner process of development which led him to conclusions which a number of poets, mystics and theologians have reached by subjective and largely introspective routes. In so deceiving himself he developed to an absurdity a tendency which was also present in Freud, who consistently converted the insights into human nature which he gained through his self-analysis and from his professional association with neurotic patients into objective and impersonal sounding theories which were intended to satisfy the criteria of the natural sciences.

After this digression I must return to my summary account of Reich's life, though I must confess to a certain sense of unreality about doing so. This derives from two sources. First, Reich's career and ideas up to the mid-1930s are clearly related to time and place. His interest in psychoanalysis could only have developed and taken the form it did in Vienna in the 192os; and it constitutes a contribution to an intellectual movement which began before he entered it and which continues into the present.

Similarly his marxism and his political activities are inexplicable without references to the social tragedy by which he and all those close to him were overwhelmed. But after 1934 his ideas take a private course; he has followers who accept his ideas, usually after having been his patients, but no external influences seem to work on him, and as a result it seems irrelevant to know which of his ideas and therapeutic innovations date from his stay in Denmark, which first saw the light of day during the two years he spent in Norway, and which date from after 1938 when he settled in the U.S.A.

It is however important to know that in the U.S.A. his therapeutic practice was successful enough to provide him with funds to conduct his researches on an extensive scale, to found journals and to set up a foundation for the propagation of his ideas and a Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust Fund for their advancement after his death.

Finally, I must mention his trial and death in prison, since these are events which play an important part in the mythology which surrounds Reich. By the 195os Reich had persuaded himself that it was possible to isolate life energy in the form of vesicles, which he called bions, and to store it in accumulators known as orgone boxes. He also believed that it was possible to cure patients with cancer and other diseases by placing them inside these boxes. In 1954 the United States Food and Drug Administration placed an injunction against the distribution of orgone boxes on the ground that the claims made on their behalf were fraudulent.

Reich refused both to obey the injunction and to recognize the competence of the courts to adjudicate on matters of scientific fact. He was eventually charged with contempt of court and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. After imprisonment he was diagnosed paranoid and transferred to 'Lewisburg, which was the only penitentiary with psychiatric treatment facilities', where he was however declared 'legally sane and competent'. On November 3rd, 1957, he died of a heart disease.

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