Orgone  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Orgone energy is a term coined by physician and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich for the "universal life energy" that he claimed to have discovered in published experiments in the late 1930s. Reich claimed that orgone energy was a "life energy" which filled all space, was blue in color, and that certain forms of illness were the consequence of depletion or blockages of the energy within the body. These claims were and are regarded as "nonsense" and pseudoscience by scientists, journalists and non-scientists during and after Reich's lifetime.

Contents

In popular culture

Orgone was used in the writings of several prominent beat generation authors, who were fascinated by both its purported curative and sexual aspects. To that extent, it is heavily associated with the 1950s counterculture movement, though it did not carry over into the more extensive movements of the 1960s.

William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs was a major proponent of orgone research, who often included it as part of the surreal imagery in his novels. Orgone interested Burroughs particularly because he believed that it could be used to ease or alleviate "junk sickness"—a popular term for heroin withdrawal. This fitted well in the context of his novels, which were usually narrative recreations of his own experiences with narcotics and the Beat life.

Burroughs explicitly compares "kicking the habit" to cancer in the novel Junky, and ties it to the use of orgone accumulators. He writes:

Cancer is rot of tissue in a living organism. In junk sickness the junk dependent cells die and are replaced. Cancer is a premature death process. The cancer patient shrinks. A junkie shrinks—I have lost up to fifteen pounds in three days. So I figure if the accumulator is a therapy for cancer, it should be therapy for the after-effects of junk sickness.

At the time that Burroughs was writing, orgone accumulators were only available from Reich's Orgone Institute in New York, offered for a ten dollar per month donation. Burroughs built his own instead, substituting rock wool for the sheet iron, but believed it still achieved the desired effect. Burroughs writes about what occurred once he started using the accumulator:

Constant use of junk of the years has given me the habit of directing attention inward. When I went into the accumulator and sat down I noticed a special silence that you sometimes feel in deep woods, sometimes on a city street, a hum that is more rhythmic vibration than a sound. My skin prickled and I experienced an aphrodisiac effect similar to good strong weed. No doubt about it, orgones are as definite a force as electricity. After using the accumulator for several days my energy came back to normal. I began to eat and could not sleep more than eight hours. I was out of the post cure drag.

Jack Kerouac

In Jack Kerouac's popular novel On the Road, the orgone accumulator was treated more as another type of drug than as a medical device: primarily a stimulant, with strong sexual overtones. When Sal Paradise visits Old Bull Lee in the novel (characters representing Kerouac and Burroughs, respectively), Lee's orgone accumulator is described as follows:

Say, why don’t you fellows try my orgone accumulator? Put some juice in your bones. I always rush up and take off ninety miles an hour for the nearest whorehouse, hor-hor-hor!' said Bull Lee… The orgone accumulator is an ordinary box big enough for a man to sit inside on a chair: a layer of wood, a layer of metal, and another layer of wood gather in orgones from the atmosphere and hold them captive long enough for a human to absorb more than a usual share. According to Reich, orgones are vibratory atmospheric atoms of the life-principle. People get cancer because they run out of orgones. Old Bull thought his orgone accumulator would be improved if the wood he used was as organic as possible, so he tied bushy bayou leaves and twigs to his mystical outhouse. It stood there in the hot, flat yard, an exfoliate machine clustered and bedecked with maniacal contrivances. Old Bull slipped off his clothes and went to sit and moon over his navel.

The 2012 film of Kerouac's novel includes the scene described above, but adds a small window in the accumulator and a funnel to breathe through.

J.D. Salinger

According to his daughter, J.D. Salinger would sometimes use an orgone accumulator, among an assortment of other alternative health regimens.

Orson Bean

Noted American actor and raconteur Orson Bean was once a proponent of orgone therapy and published a well-received book about it entitled Me and the Orgone.

Dušan Makavejev

Dušan Makavejev opened his 1971 satirical film W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism with documentary coverage of Reich and his development of orgone accumulators, combining this with other imagery and a fictional sub-plot in a collage mocking sexual and political authorities. Scenes include one of only "ten or fifteen orgone boxes left in the country" at that time.

Hawkwind

British space rockers Hawkwind released the track "Orgone Accumulator" as the first track on side three of the 1972 live album, Space Ritual.

I've got an Orgone Accumulator
And it makes me feel greater
I'll see you sometime later
When I'm through with my Accumulator

It's no social integrator
It's a one man isolator
It's a back brain stimulator
It's a cerebral vibrator

...But an Orgone Accumulator
Is a superman creator}}

Woody Allen

Woody Allen's 1973 comedy science fiction movie Sleeper features an orgasmatron—a cylinder big enough to hold one or two people, containing some future technology that rapidly induces orgasms. This is required as almost all people in the movie's universe are impotent or frigid, although males of Italian descent are considered the least impotent of all groups. It has been suggested that the orgasmatron was a parody of Reich's orgone accumulator.

Kate Bush

The song "Cloudbusting" by British singer Kate Bush describes Reich's arrest and incarceration through the eyes of his son, Peter. The 1985 video, in which Donald Sutherland plays Wilhelm Reich during his research and subsequent arrest, features a Foucault pendulum as an alternative method of demonstrating the rotational motion of the earth to prove the heretical view that the Earth was not the centre of the Universe. The Foucault pendulum in this video simultaneously connects and contrasts the disgraced Wilhelm Reich to both of the respected Foucaults, the scientist, Jean Bernard Léon Foucault and the philosopher, Michel Foucault, who had died one year prior to the video in 1984.

Peter Brock

Peter Brock was one of Australia's best-known and most successful motor racing drivers. He publicly supported and fit all Holden Dealer Team specials with a device called the "Energy Polariser" which it was claimed improved the performance and handling of vehicles through "aligning the molecules" using orgone energy.


Devo

The new wave '80s band Devo claimed that their iconic energy dome design was used to recycle the wasted orgone energy that flows from a person's head. Devo cofounder Mark Mothersbaugh has said:

We did the red energy dome, which was useful—besides being an icon -- it was a useful icon. You probably know this very well, but your orgone energy goes out the top of your head and it dissipates out the top, but if you wear an energy dome it recycles that energy. It comes back down and showers back down on you and, among other things, you remain manly, shall we say, for maybe another 150 years of your life, probably. I think that's a safe prediction to say that energy domes -- if you wore them constantly, night and day -- which I don't do, but there are people out there who do, not too many of them but there are some. We get e-mails from them, so we know they're out there, those people will probably live about an extra 150 years because of all that orgone energy that they're saving and not wasting away.

Evelyn Waugh

An orgone accumulator plays an important role in the semi-autobiographical Evelyn Waugh novel The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. A neighbour to Mr. Pinfold owns a box, and with it he experiments on Mr Pinfold's wife. Later, in a hallucinatory state, Mr Pinfold imagines that his problems have originated from that box.

Warren Leight

Warren Leight's play, Side Man, contains a scene where Gene and Terry receive an orgone box that Gene's friend's wife made him get rid of.

Hal Duncan

In Hal Duncan's book Ink (The Book of All Hours 2), one of alternative realities is orgone-based, i.e. orgone ("sexual energy") is used as primary energy source.

Peep Show

In the Channel 4 comedy series Peep Show episode "Mark's Women", Jeremy and Super Hans join a cult, Spiritual Wellness, which defines Orgones as "the invisible molecules of universal life energy which govern our moods and our actions", with negative Orgones being the sources of all the problems in the world. Mark is concerned that Jeremy has joined a cult, and tries to explain that this is an over simplistic view of the world.

Lupin the Third

In episode 11 of the Lupin III television specials, the enemy wants the secrets of the Columbus Files and the Columbus Egg, which involve the mysterious Orgone energy.

Redline

Orgone energy features prominently in the science-fiction world of video game Redline, released in 1999.

Captain Earth

In the anime series Captain Earth, Orgone energy is the source of power and sustenance for the invading aliens, the Kill-T-Gang, who plan to harvest it from the libidos of all humanity. It is also the power behind the Livlaster guns used by the protagonists.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Orgone" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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