Wilhelm Reich (b. March 24, 1897) advocated sexual liberation. As such he is one of the fathers of the sexual revolution that flared in the 1960s and 1970s. Reich believed that sexual repression was at the root of many illnesses, physical and psychological. In 1971 the filmmaker Dusan Makavejev released his homage to Reich, called WR: Mysteries of the Organism. Like the details of Reich's life itself, Makavejev's film is a blend of fact and fantasy.
Reich's life and his work were controversial. If the fact that he died in jail, a prisoner of the United States government, makes his story sound romantic, it should not. But it is a fact. If the fact that the government felt it necessary to burn his books makes you skeptical, it should not. Reich's books were burned in the 1950s. That a scientist who advocates sexual liberation in a time of cultural repression should be persecuted, will surprise no one.
Reich has a notable distinction for having his books banned by both the United States and Nazi Germany. His scientific research extended beyond the sexual to include research into UFOs, orgone energy, and cloud busting. Orgone energy, is a cosmic or bio-energy that Reich discovered in the 1930s.
The burning of Reich's books has given legitimacy and created a mythology that enhances the work beyond the bounds of scientific certitude and proof. Entities such as bions which Reich and his followers claimed to have discovered have not been generally accepted into the scientific canon that describes things that really are.
Nevertheless and regardless of the validity of his work, why did the government think it necessary to violate constitutional rights in an attempt to discredit Dr. Reich's research?
In February 1954 the United States government in the form of the Federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) filed a "Complaint for Injunction" to prevent Reich and his company from distributing Orgone Accumulators and other additional items that claimed to cure diseases. In effect the government was accusing Reich of being a quack, just like the patent medicine salesman of the 19th century. Reich's entourage was nothing more than another incarnation of the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company.
In 1956 Reich was held in contempt of court for violating the 1954 injunction. He was sentenced to two years in jail. In March, 1957 after losing his appeal, Reich was ordered to jail. On November 3, 1957 Reich died in his cell in the Lewisburg Federal Prison in Pennsylvania. A prison doctor reported that Reich died of a heart attack.
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