Bulletin N° 632
Subject: ON LEARING TO BE FREE WHILE LIVING IN A CAGE.
27 October 2014
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Wilhelm Reich died on 3 November 1957 in a Federal prison cell, at the age of sixty, following years of harassment by US federal government officials and colleagues at the International Psychoanalytic Association, to which he had belonged. Less than four years before his death, Reich reflected on his intellectual journey toward the field of bioenergy research. He wrote in 1954:
I left behind me an age which had finally got hold of a little corner of the Freudian thought system, but had completely thrown overboard Freud’s courage to stand alone, his adherence to some basic truth, his penetrating sense of what is right regardless –in other words, the complete abandonment of basic research of human emotions to petty little nuisance considerations such as career, easy recognition by institutions which owed their very existence to the evasion of the very facts of life they pretended, falsely, to disclose.(Reich Speaks of Freud, p.x)
In 1934, Reich exchanged letters with his Berlin colleague, Dr. Lotte Liebeck, who had remained in Berlin after Reich moved to the University in Oslo, Norway. He replied to one of Dr. Liebeck’s letter on 10 November 1934:
Your letter was a great pleasure. I might have many things to say, but will have to be brief because I have little time.
While my concept of masochism, in Character Analysis, wrests the problem from the metaphysical realm of the ‘death instinct,’ it is still far from complete. Nevertheless, it can be comprehended; one merely has to dig deep down into the analyses to reach the anxiety about the ‘bursting’ of the genitalia. I have now finished my Congress lecture, and was able to expand on the relation between masochism and orgasm. Should I eventually send a copy or galley proofs to the group, for critical comment? . . .
You have good reason to be shaken by reading Freud: he was a wonderful man. But I was even more shattered by the subsequent break in his work. This is tragic. I am curious to know if you will discern it before it becomes openly manifest. It goes back to the earliest writings (predominance of symbolic interpretation rather than questions of dynamics-economy, geniality, etc.). But this can only be discovered ex post facto. Enjoy yourself, then, and good luck in your work.
Wm. Reich (Reich Speaks of Freud, p.190)
Dr. Liebeck replied on 22 November, elaborating on her discoveries while studying Freud’s early work:
I would like to tell you briefly about the
views I have so far reached during these studies. I am really shaken.
Particularly since I have not found the first break (you know that, for the
time being, I’m reading only the purely theoretical writings, disregarding, for
example, the dream altogether). So one evening I pick up a paper dated 1896 on ‘The Role of Sexuality in the
Etiology …’ And that same night I read ‘My views on this role …’, 1906! And this
is the first break! The first work being lucid, courageous,
with a brilliant prediction about the tremendous significance of the path shown
and of the insights for mankind in general. The suggestion that it is up
to the coming century to build up further –and then, ten years later, a totally
different man, even in tone! What once was courage and clarity, combined with
the utmost caution and integrity of scientific thinking, is now replaced by
anxious vacillation and the fear of his own courage. How many disappointments
and personal blows there must have been in the intervening years! This
consideration is not important for judging the work per se, nor does it have a
place in objective criticism. But personally I’m inclined to believe that the
retreat was prepared by a good deal of therapeutic failure during this period.
Objectively, I note that he can be beaten with his own weapons. Throughout his
early works he disparaged the hereditary factor in favor of the accidental
element –only to smuggle in through the back door the same factor he had
previously thrown out! Sexual constitution organically determined! At one time
he thought that hereditary damage was incurable anyway; now it is for us to
tell him that ourselves! Constitutional damage –in that case we’ll have to
throw in the towel. But it is not so much the change of mind itself, and its
consequences, but whether this change is in the right direction. And here he
has convinced us too deeply and too eloquently for us to go along with him down
Another word about the consequences: we have allowed ourselves to be seduced –more or less, and over varying periods of time—into thinking of our work as an interesting scientific activity, with the main emphasis on scientific findings. Therefore everything progressed along scientific lines. The longer I work myself, and the more courageously I do so, the more I become aware of the vast explosive element it contains. I have always sensed this, but have gone out of my way to avoid it for fear of drawing the ultimate conclusion. Our profession ceases to be Gemütlich (trans. agreeably pleasant) if we have to rake up the deepest primeval emotions! And this we must inevitably do, or else we will get stuck just as inevitably halfway in between, or worse! And once we do this, we can no longer doubt the truth of the etiology anchored in the traumatic experiences of childhood. I believe more and more that we lean, quite without cause, on fantasies, and seriously neglect actual experience. Important as the discovery of fantasies is, I’m equally convinced by the eloquence of the experiences that I can now develop with my patients. Catharsis should not be belittled, either; it is vastly underestimated. Of course it should not be treated as an isolated phenomenon but rather as a fertile soil for continued work. In my opinion it is better to overemphasize it than to throw it out the window. I’m now capable of clearly expressing and explaining what I have intuitively felt long ago.
I deliberately take my cue from the works of 1896. From then on, the roads fork off. Here is how I see it: on the one hand, a continued development; on the other, a slow retreat. For some time both are in balance, and there are still many marvelous discoveries for us in subsequent writings, until the balance shifts more and more to the sterile side and leads to paths that deviate from the natural sciences. There is only one thing I don’t understand: why haven’t the others notices this? Or am I doing them an injustice out of my limited knowledge of literature? But perhaps it is an indispensable existential lie to have this blind spot. Because it does make you feel a little creepy, just thinking how much there still remains to be done. Current life problems with all their complexities, the raging storms of the early past, to treat all of this simultaneously is a big order!
But please don’t discuss this letter with anyone; I plan to expand it into a major paper, perhaps in a year or two. But I would like to have your opinion, and I do want to thank you because without you I would have never been able to do it! The intellectual bluffing is over and done with. . . . With many thanks and affectionate regards,
Signed, Lotte Liebeck (Reich Speaks of Freud, pp.191-193)
We can see the clearly ‘the expansions’ and ‘the contractions’ in Freud’s thinking as early as 1904, when in Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex he first identifies the role played by sexual energy in the life of the child.
That neurotic anxiety originates from the libido, representing a transformation product of the same . . . as vinegar is to wine, is one of the most significant results of psychoanalytic research. . . . The child behaves . . . like the adult , that is, it changes its libido into fear when it cannot bring it to gratification, and the grown-up who becomes neurotic on account of ungratified libido behaves in his anxiety like a child; he fears when he is alone, that is, without a person of whose love he believes himself sure and who can calm his fears by means of the most childish measures.( Three Contributions,1904, p.81) . . .
As we have already shown by different examples, every step on this long road of development may become a point of fixation, and every joint in this complicated structure may afford opportunity for a dissociation of the sexual impulse. It still remains for us to review the various inner and outer factors which disturb the development, and to mention the part of the mechanism affected by the disturbance emanating from them.(p.90)
Freud then went on to outline the ‘determining factors’ in early life which can produce ‘perversions’ and ‘neuroses,’ e.g. ‘repressed perversions’ : a) the sexual constitution and hereditary endowment that determine the unique disposition of an individual (which he labels as ‘degenerative’ or ‘hereditary deterioration’); b) the fate experienced by the sexual streams originating from individual sources create further elaboration of character formation; c) the repression that occurs when sexual excitations are produced as usual but are prevented from attaining their aim by psychic hindrances, and are driven off into many other paths until they express themselves in a symptom (‘The result can be an almost normal sexual life –usually a limited one—but supplemented by psychoneurotic disease.’); d) the process of sublimation which discharges and utilizes excitations from individual sources of sexuality in spheres other than genital satisfaction.(pp.92-94)
What we call the character of a person is built up to a great extent from the material of sexual excitations; it is composed of impulses fixed since infancy and won through sublimation, and of such constructions as are destined to suppress effectually those perverse feelings which are recognized as useless. … Certain character traits are known to stand in relationship to definite erogenous components. Thus obstinacy, stinginess, and orderliness are traceable to the anal eroticism. Ambition is determined through a marked urethral disposition.(p.94)
While it is not unreasonable, Freud believed, that ‘the final structure of the sexual life is, above all, the results of the congenital constitution,’ he insisted that,
‘no intelligent person … will dispute that in such a cooperation of factors there is also room for the modifying influences of occasional factors derived from experience in childhood and later on. It is not easy to estimate the effectiveness of the constitutional and of the occasional factors in their relation to each other. Theory is always inclined to over-estimate the first, while therapeutic practice renders prominent the significance of the latter. By no means should it be forgotten that between the two there exists a relation of cooperation and not of exclusion. The constitutional factor must wait for experiences which being it to the surface, while the occasional needs the support of the constitutional factor in order to become effective.’(p.95)
By way of conclusion, Freud adds a sort of disclaimer, stating that his findings are by no means universal to all human beings.
Owing to the oppositional relation existing between culture and the free development of sexuality, the results of which may be traced far into the formation of our life, the problem how the sexual life of the child evolves is of very little importance for the later life in the lower stages of culture and civilization, and of very great importance in the higher. . . .
A considerable number of the deviations from the normal sexual life observed later have been thus established in neurotics and perverts from the beginning through the impressions received during the alleged sexually free period of childhood. The causation is produced by the responsiveness of the constitution, the prematurity, the quality of heightened adhesion and the accidental excitement of the sexual impulse through outside influence.(pp.97-98)
In the same 1904 monograph, Freud warns that children who are unsuccessfully repressed in the early stages of sexual development, are permanently retarded intellectually.
We, moreover, verified from experience the belief that the external influences of seduction might produce premature breaches in the latency period [between the ages of 4 and 11 years] leading as far as the suppression of the same and that the sexual impulse of the child really shows itself to be polymorphous-perverse; furthermore, that every such premature sexual activity impairs the educability of the child.(p.90)
Until the end of his life, Reich continued to express a critical respect for his mentor; he held in particular esteem Freud’s early discoveries of the unconscious and sexual repression, which in his opinion were later compromised by Freud’s metaphysical inventions, such as ‘the death instinct,’ ‘penis envy,’ and the so-called ‘latency period’ in the sexual development of young children. Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex (1904) is a document that testifies to Freud’s will to compromise his early scientific findings. More than forty years later, Reich expressed this sentiment in his popular book, Listen, Little Man! (1948), which attacks the politics of character assassination and ressentiment, or ‘passive violence,’ that he had encountered throughout most of his professional life, while working in pedagogical institutions, as well as psychoanalytic associations, and is wide-spread in all types of religious cults. This ‘Plague’ would eventually kill him in 1957.
Follow me, Little Man, I want to show you some snapshots of yourself. Don’t run. It is ugly, but salutary, and not so terribly dangerous.
About a hundred years ago you learned to parrot the physicists who built machines and said there was no soul. Then came a great man and showed you your soul, only he did not know the connection between your soul and your body. You said: ‘Ridiculous! Psychoanalysis! Charlatanry! You can analyze urine, but you cannot analyze the psyche.’ You said this because in medicine you knew nothing but urine analysis.; The fight for your mind lasted some forty years. I know this hard fight, because I, too, fought it for you. One day you discovered that one can make a lot of money with the sick human mind. All one has to do is to let a patient come daily for an hour over a period of some years and have him pay a certain fee for every hour.
Then, and not until then, did you begin to believe in the existence of the mind. In the meantime, knowledge of your body has quietly grown. I found that your mind is a function of your life energy, that, in other words, there is a unity between body and mind. I followed this track, and I found that you reach out with your life energy when you feel well and loving, and that you retract it to the center of the body when you are afraid. For fifteen years you kept silent about these discoveries. But I continued on the same track and found that this life energy, which I termed ‘orgone,’ is also found in the atmosphere, outside of your body. I succeeded in seeing it in the dark and to devise apparatus which magnified it and made it light up. While you were playing at cards or were torturing your wife and ruining your child, I sat in a darkroom, many hours a day, over two long years, to make sure that I had discovered your life energy. Gradually, I learned to demonstrate it to other people, and I found that they saw the same thing I saw.(pp.93-94)
In 1953, Reich published another book, The Murder of Christ, The Emotional Plague of Mankind, in which he focused on his recent past and the emotional stress under which he had come to live in the United States as a result of his research on sexual energy and the etiology of neurosis. He dedicated this book ‘To THE CHILDREN OF THE FUTURE,’ and toward the end he submitted his views on social change.
Character structure cannot basically be changed, just as a tree grown crooked cannot be made straight again.
Accordingly, the orgonomist will never aspire to break the blockings of life energy in the mass of humanity. The attention will center consistently upon the newborn infants everywhere, upon the infants who are born unarmored, mobile to the fullest. To prevent the immobilization of human functioning, and with it the spitting, the sitting on the spot for ages, the resistance to any kind of motion or innovation . . . , becomes the basic task. It is the Emotional Plague of man, born from this very immobilization, which fights living, motile Life in the newborn infants and induces the armoring of the organism. The worry is, therefore, the emotional plague, and not the mobility of man.
This basic orientation precludes, naturally, any kind of political or ideological or merely psychological approach to human problems. Nothing can change as long as man is armored, since every misery stems from man’s armoring and immobility which creates the fear of living motile living. The orgonomic approach is neither political nor sociological alone; it is not psychological; it grew out of the criticism and correction of the psychological assumption of psychoanalysis of an absolute unconscious, of the unconscious being the ultimate giveness in man, etc., and out of the introduction of bio-psychiatry into socio-economic thinking. It is BIOLOGICAL and BIOSOCIAL, resting on the discovery of the Cosmic Energy.(The Murder of Christ, p.199)
… one of the main incentives of this book is to help develop a psychological language generally understandable and independent of ‘schools.’ . . . Yet collectives have had and will, I think, always have their place in scientific work. The group which was called the Psychological Institute of Berlin has been, I think, such a collective of friends, working together for may years, interested in all fields of psychology, and concerned as much with experiments as with theories. Whether it was valuable, history will show; but at least it was happy and lively. . . .
We know, since theory of relativity at least, that empirical sciences are to some degree free in defining dynamical concepts or even in assuming laws, and that only a system as a whole which includes concepts, coordinating definitions, and laws can be said to be either true or false, to be adequate or inadequate to empirical facts. This ‘freedom,’ however, is a somewhat doubtful gift. The manifold of possibilities implies uncertainty, and such uncertainty can become rather painful in a science as young as psychology, where nearly all concepts are open and unsettled. As psychology approaches the state of a logically sound science, definitions cease to be an arbitrary matter. They become far-reaching decisions which presuppose the mastering of the conceptual problems but which have to be guided entirely by the objective facts.
The main difficulty has not been the mastering of the mathematical problems as such, at least insofar as the topological problems are concerned. After several attempts to employ the more complicated concepts of topology, I found it both sufficient and more fruitful to refer to the most simple topological concepts only. . . . But the main difficulty was the dealing with problems which lie, so to say, between psychology and mathematics. . . .
Theoretical psychology in its present state must try to develop a system of concepts which shows all the characteristics of a ‘Gestalt,’ in which any part depends upon every other part. . . . there seems to be only one way open: to proceed slowly by tentative steps, to make decisions rather reluctantly, to keep in view always the whole field of psychology, and to stay in closest contact with the actual work of psychological research.(pp.vii-vii)
Lewin like Reich had witnessed the rise of the Fascist movement in Berlin, and the institutional takeovers of the Nazi Party under Hitler. Both scientists were motivated to create a new kind of society, constituting more creative human relationships and more fulfilling productive activities. The question was, would such change come from above, through a manipulation by elites, or from below, by ordinary people whose bodies had not been subjected to the brutal conditioning required by our so-called civilization, which is relentlessly serving capitalist interests?
The ‘Emotional Plague’ in Reich’s view had long ago given rise to the pathogenic character structures the carriers of which he called ‘Modju,’ and which in its contemporary form embodied personalities such as Stalin and Hitler, and the populations which created them. In the context of the rise of German fascism, Reich adopted a historical approach to the analysis of the social ills around him and developed a strategy necessary to realize ‘the New Man,’ free of the body armor that had ‘for the past 2,000 years’ produced pathological behavior. Kirt Lewin, on the other hand, developed an ahistorical approach to fee groups of people from pathological behavior by applying mathematical calculations designed to liberate them from their habitual behavior and allow them to more fully integrate into a collective consciousness.
In the post-Second World War Era of the United States, which saw the political formation of McCarthyism developing into a prolonged Cold War, neither of these approaches to ‘human liberation’ were warmly welcomed, but they nevertheless did survive, and came to fruition during the Anti-Vietnam War Era. The influence of Kurt Lewin is evident in Boston University Professor Howard Zinn’s book, The Southern Mystique, (1964) and Wilhelm Reich’s work during his Marxist period in Berlin is the subject of NYU Professor Bertell Ollman’s book, Social and Sexual Revolution: Essays on Marx and Reich (1979).
The 11 items below offer CEIMSA readers a look at contemporary events that will condition their lives, forcing them to live with repressive compromises and in a frequent state of acute alienation, unless they decide to do something about it….
Item A., from Information Clearing House, is a interview by George Galloway with Kurdish Activist Memed Aksoy.
Item B., from the Real News Network, is a report by Professor Michael Hudson, author of ‘The Bubble and Beyond’, and ‘Finance Capitalism and Its Discontents’ discussing the coming economic crash.
Item C., from Truth Out, is an article by Jessica Lee on US collaboration with Israeli colonialism in Palestine.
Item D., from Jim O’Brien of Historians Against War, is a series of recommended recent articles.
Item E., from Information Clearing House, is an article by Uri Avnery describing self-deception in Israel as it become more and more isolated.
Item F., from Democracy Now!, is the UN Speech by Noam Chomsky explaining Israeli tactics and strategies over the past 40 years and the growing resistance movement Israel that has provoked around the world.
Item G., from the Real News Network, is a report by Professor Michael Hudson, criticizing the recent work of French economist, Thomas Piketty.
Item H., from Information Clearing House, is a interview with University of Illinois Law Professor Francis A. Boyle, discussion the question: ‘Could the Ebola virus have escaped from US bio-warfare Labs in West Africa?’
Item I., from NYU Professor Mark Crispin Miller, founder of News from the Underground, is an article by Eckart Woertz analyzing the financial support of ISIS, who are ‘making out like robbers.’
Item J., from Information Clearing House, is an article by Noam Chomsky discussing the significance of a recent CIA review of ‘major terrorist operations run by the White House around the world.’
Item K., from UCSD Professor Fred Lonidier, is an article on the UC student walk-out over sexual assault on campus.
And finally, we invite CEIMSA readers to watch Serbian director Dušan Makavejev’s 1971 film which explores the relationship between communist politics and sexuality, as well as exploring the life and work of Wilhelm Reich.
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
George Galloway Interviews Kurdish Activist Memed Aksoy.
The Real News Network
A serious depression is pending as a result of austerity, says Professor Michael Hudson, author of The Bubble and Beyond, and Finance Capitalism and Its Discontents.
Why Are Stock Markets So Volatile?
Documents Show US Siding With Israel in Death of Its Own Citizen
Historians against War
HAW Notes 10/20/14, including links to recent articles of interest.
Note: In addition to the article links below, here are two links recommended by individuals active in HAW: (1) a petition for Columbus Day to be renamed Indigenous Peoples Day; announcement of a "One Book, Many Communities" initiative of Librarians and Archivists for Palestine, starting with discussions of Susan Abulhawa's novel Mornings in Jenin in January..
Links to Recent Articles of Interest
By Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy in Focus, posted October 17
A detailed article comparing Congressional resolutions and letters on the Gaza war with evidence provided by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other sources.
By James W. Loewen, History News Network, posted October 17
James Loewen is the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America, among other books.
By Peter Van Buren, TomDispatch.com, posted October 16
The author served with the State Department in Iraq and has written extensively about the experience
Interview with Andrew J. Bacevich, Aljazeera America, posted October 15
Andrew Bacevich is a professor of history emeritus at Boston University.
By William J. Astore, TomDispatch.com, posted October 14
The author is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who teaches history at the Pennsylvania College of Technology.
By Shireen T. Hunter, LobeLog, posted October 14
The author is a visiting professor in Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
By Juan Cole, History News Network, posted October 12
The author teaches history at the University of Michigan; the article contains much historical background on events in Yemen.
By William Loren Katz, CommonDreams.org, posted October 11
The author has written numerous popular books on U.S. history.
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, History News Network, posted October 10
The author's An Indigenous People's History of the United States was published by Beacon Press this month.
By Conn Hallinan, Portside.org, posted October 9
Traces the emergence of rival centers of power in global affairs
The above list was edited by Steve Gosch and Jim O'Brien, benefiting from suggestions by Rosalyn Baxandall, Mim Jackson, and an anonymous reader.
Israelis are quite unable to comprehend the turn of world public opinion.
The Real News Network
US economist Michael Hudson discusses the popularity of French economist Thomas Piketty's recent book and says his work fails to link the financialization of the economy to the ascent of the 1%.
Is Thomas Piketty Right About the Causes of Inequality?
USA have been using West Africa as an offshore to circumvent the Convention on Biological Weapons and do bio-warfare work. Could Ebola Have Escaped From US Bio-warfare Labs? American law professor Francis A. Boyle, answers questions for tvxs.gr and reveals that USA have been using West Africa as an offshore to circumvent the Convention on Biological Weapons and do bio-warfare work.
ISIS, Inc. (They're making out like bandits...)
“There’s no trade without war; there’s no war without trade,” the famous quip by Jan Pieterzoon Coen, a leading officer of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century, not only points to the dark beginnings of capitalism, it also spells out a basic fact: You need money to wage war, loads of it. So from where does the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gets its money and how stable are its finances?
How Long Will ISIS Last Economically?
by Eckart Woertz
In western political culture, it is taken to be entirely natural and appropriate that the Leader of the Free World should be a terrorist rogue state and should openly proclaim its eminence in such crimes.
Students at the California Institute of the Arts - CalArts, as it's more popularly known - are staging a walkout at 3 o'clock this afternoon in protest of the school's handling of sexual assault cases. The action, organized by a group of about 20 students, will be followed by a student-led community meeting in the school's Main Gallery to discuss the issue.