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Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) was an Austrian psychoanalyst whose writings on human sexuality have remained controversial. Reich received his MD from the University of Vienna in 1922 and later became the director of Sigmund Freud’s Vienna Ambulatorium. Reich’s work was largely based around his idea that neuroses were rooted in the following aspects of human experience:
- The physical body
- Sexual experiences
- Socioeconomic conditions
Wilhelm Reich at Freud’s clinic
During his tenure at Freud’s clinic, Reich began to see certain psychological constructs as the unconscious mind’s attempt to impose order on a chaotic world. He began offering sex-counseling, which he later called Sex-Pol, which stood for the German Society of Proletarian Sexual Politics. Reich soon began advocating for sexual permissiveness, combining Marxist thought with contraceptives.
Freud’s clinic and Orgone Energy
Starting in 1924, Reich began writing about what he called “orgastic potency.” Reich maintained that human beings could physically release emotions through uninhibited orgasm. It was this view that became increasingly controversial and unpopular in the scientific community and Reich’s work was greeted with ridicule. Moving to New York in 1939, Reich announced that he had discovered a cosmic energy, which he called orgone energy. Reich believed that disease could be cured through the concentration of ogones, and he devised special boxes called orgone accumulators in order to concentrate this theoretical force.