2000 Summer Conference:
The Orgone Energy Accumulator
Wilhelm Reich's discovery that the layering of metallic and non-metallic materials can attract and concentrate orgone energy played a significant role in his research and in the development of the practical applications of orgone energy. The orgone energy accumulator also became the focus of ridicule and the subject of a relentless attack by the Food and Drug Administration that culminated in Reich's imprisonment and death.
The accumulator's pivotal importance in the evolution of Reich's work made it a fitting subject for a Conference to celebrate the Wilhelm Reich Museum's 40th Anniversary.
Monday July 17
Introduction to Orgone Energy and the Accumulator
In this opening presentation, science historian James Strick, Ph.D., described the sequence of clinical and experimental work that led Reich to the discovery of orgone energy, focusing specifically on observations that compelled Reich to conclude that orgone was fundamentally different from electromagnetism. Most essential was the fact that orgone can charge organic matter. Dr. Strick noted that this crucial property of orgone energy has often been misunderstood or overlooked in previous accounts of Reich's discovery.
Another key observation by Reich contributed to the creation of the orgone accumulator: a small ball of non-metallic material suspended next to a charged sphere would be attracted by and stick tenaciously to the sphere; in contrast, a metallic ball would be attracted by the sphere, but then immediately repelled.
From this Reich concluded that organic and non-metallic materials absorb orgone energy and hold it, whereas metallic materials attract the energy and then quickly repel it. On the basis of these observations, Reich designed structures with alternate layers of organic and metallic materials, with the innermost layer being metallic. This created an enclosure in which orgone energy from the atmosphere could be concentrated and made available for study and practical use.
Dr. Strick explained that from the time Reich first observed orgone radiation in microscopic cultures of ocean sand (Oslo, 1939), he experimented to determine the full range of the orgone's biological and physical effects. Experiments included the treatment of cancer mice with accumulators; the results were so promising that large accumulators were constructed (Forest Hills, N.Y., 1940) for the experimental treatment of terminal cancer patients.
These experiments can only be fully appreciated by reading the accounts of them in The Cancer Biopathy, published by Reich in 1948. At the end of this book, Reich proposed a simple but dramatic large-scale experiment which had the potential to demonstrate conclusively whether regular use of the orgone accumulator in a large population could lead to decreased cancer incidence and/or mortality over a period of several years.
"The plan may appear fantastic to many readers," Reich wrote, "but I would say to them that if it is possible to mobilize the populations of an entire planet for purposes of war, then it must be possible to mobilize a district of 10,000 inhabitants for the purpose of a crucial experiment. I am well aware of all the circumstances that will create difficulties, but the execution of the plan is possible. It must not be left undone."
To date, it has been left undone.
Tuesday July 18
Temperature Difference Experiments
One of Reich's crucial experiments demonstrates the difference between the temperature inside an orgone energy accumulator and in the surrounding air. In his opening remarks on his experience with this experiment, Canadian biologist Bernard Grad, Ph.D.--a student of Reich's--said, "You've got to have a feel for this."
He noted that these experiments need to be conducted with sensitivity and knowledge: "The experiments are a way for the experimenter to grow. When Reich hit a wall, he expanded. He worked in an area where there were no guidelines. He had to expand to solve these problems."
Dr. Grad discussed his experiments using a small orgone accumulator. For him, there is a conventional interpretation for the results and a functional interpretation. But only one of them can be correct. The determining factor lies in the experimenter who applies the tools used in these investigations.
In a series of three temperature difference experiments (1950-51) and one 22-month experiment (1968-69), Grad used both heated and non-heated accumulator arrangements. The heated plate enabled him to measure his temperature differences in degrees, not in tenths of a degree. In all of his experimental set-ups Dr. Grad was more interested in the relationship between the temperatures at the accumulator and the control arrangement ("
how they rose and fell together") than in the purely numerical temperatures measured at each set-up.
Grad's supplemented his descriptions of these experiments with illustrations of graphs and charts that showed statistically significant differences in the temperatures of the experimental set ups. Grad felt there was no possibility that chance played a role in the results he obtained; a physical energy was clearly responsible for them. "If I did not know there was life energy," he said, "I would've had to invent it. It's the only explanation. Without the energy, there is no explanation."
Experiences with the Orgone Energy Accumulator and Leukemia
In his experiments with the orgone energy accumulator and mice, Dr. Grad worked with a strain of mice that spontaneously developed leukemia. These mice, and many others, were developed at the Jackson Memorial Laboratory in Bar Harbor Maine. In addition, Grad and his colleagues bred some of their mice with the leukemia mice. His work with the accumulator and mice lasted for four years.
The research involved 140 control mice and 119 mice that were treated with a three-fold accumulator (built especially for mice) for 10-30 minutes a day, five days a week. All the mice were studied for the duration of their natural life; they were not killed prematurely. Four generations of mice were evaluated. The first generation of mice were two to four weeks old at the time treatment began. The second, third, and fourth generations of mice began to receive treatment in utero.
Grad and his co-workers left the newborn mice with their mothers, undisturbed for four days following birth before including them in the experiment. All the control and treated mice were handled in the same way. All were well cared for, and stress did not diminish their health. On autopsy, the researchers had no difficulty identifying leukemia as the cause of death. And the orgone accumulator was never brought into the room where the mice were located, so that it would not affect the control mice-- the accumulator was kept fifty feet away in another room.
Normal mice lived from 24-30 months, and the leukemia mice survived on average for 11 months. The results of the experiment showed the overall survival rate for both groups was the same. However, although the orgone treated mice died at approximately the same time as the cancer mice, they did not die from leukemia. Many died from other causes. In Grad's view, while the orgone treatment prevented the onset of leukemia, it could not overcome the deleterious systemic health consequences that fifty generations of inbreeding had on the cancer mice.
In contrast, Grad explained, Reich did not use inbred mice. He used female mice obtained from a breeding colony. About 10% of these mice developed a spontaneous mammary tumor. The mice in the control group survived for 3.9 weeks, while the orgone treated mice lived for 11.1 weeks.
Significant results were obtained in Grad's study:
- a reduction in incidence of leukemia in the orgone-treated mice
- fewer deaths from leukemia in treated mice, even though they had been irradiated with orgone energy in utero and for only two to three months after that
Grad recommended that future researchers use mice from breeding programs that develop cancers spontaneously, rather than mice bred for cancer or mice that have developed cancer because of transplantation. In this way researchers will be better able to discern the effects of orgone irradiation.
Dr. Grad also emphasized another important point: "You have to have a feeling for the organism. The less the animal is disturbed, the better it is. All my mice were given a gentle massage. All were introduced to the small cage so they could get used to it. The mice were relaxed. When I tried to speed things up, I got no results."
Wednesday - July 19
Experimenting with the Accumulator and Plant Growth
In 1973, while still in high school, Joseph Heckman built his first orgone accumulator and performed a number of simple experiments exposing seeds and plants to orgone energy. Now a professional agronomist with a Ph.D., he has been experimenting with the accumulator with increasing sophistication for many years. Dr. Heckman reported to the Conference on the results of a number of his experiments and on his preliminary interpretation of the data.
Heckman has investigated the response of plants to orgone exposure and explored the potential application of orgone energy to agronomic and horticultural crop production. He said he prefers working with seeds because they're easy to handle, and he favors single harvest plants.
In 1976, he exposed tomato seeds to orgone energy and found that the irradiated seeds produced a greater number of fruits and flowers than did the control group of seeds. Heckman went on to conduct further experiments in 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986. In 1981, the exposed seeds produced fewer but larger potatoes. In 1983, using a five-fold accumulator, he achieved a 50% increase in yield from seeds exposed to orgone energy for one hour. However to his surprise, he discovered that seeds irradiated for 10 hours produced only a 23% increase in yield.
In a number of early experiments, the vines of the plants seemed to be strongly affected by seed exposure to orgone energy. They lived longer on average, and some never died. In 1986, orgone irradiation led to a reduced yield from treated seeds. Heckman wondered if an Oranur effect from the Chernobyl disaster that year may have played a role in these results.
At the time of the Conference, Dr. Heckman was working on a double-blind plant study in which he did not know which seeds were irradiated and which were the control group. According to Heckman, there are few very double-blind studies conducted with plants. However, he believes that when orgone energy is involved, double-blind protocols are more valuable than other types of studies.
As he became a more experienced agronomist over the years, Heckman began to try many different approaches and to work with a variety of plant materials. He also started keeping more comprehensive records, including data on weather conditions, temperature, light, humidity, gas exchange, water supply, and other significant factors could help him better understand his results and interpret the data. In addition, he kept information on orgone treatment variables such as the type of materials used in the accumulator; the season and time of exposure; the amount of exposure to sunlight; whether irradiation was continuous or at intervals; the stage of the lunar cycle; and the life cycle of the organism.
Although he achieved mixed results in his studies, Dr. Heckman maintained that the orgone accumulator may have a number of promising applications in agriculture:
- charging seeds before planting
- treating seedlings prior to transplanting
- irradiating cuttings for reproduction
- healing graft wounds
- charging irrigation water
- charging potting soil
- increasing the longevity of stored seeds
- post harvest seed storage
He noted that while environmental conditions were crucial for plant growth, more research into the use of orgone accumulators in agriculture could lead to valuable results.
Wednesday Evening July 19
Reich's Experiment XX involved the organization of plasmatic matter from mass-free orgone energy. In The Cancer Biopathy he wrote, "We had discovered a process by which orgone energy existing freely in water, i.e. not bound up in bionous matter, can organize itself into plasmatic, living substance exhibiting all the criteria of life".
Experiment XX was an advance on past bion research and represented new and compelling proof of the life-specific nature of orgone energy. Among the seven general conclusions that Reich reached are two that would startle and challenge those who today are studying the origin of life:
- matter develops from concentrated, mass free energy
- the development of living plasma on earth preceded the organization of coal substance and carbohydrates
Reich hypothesized that biochemical molecules did not exist before plasmatic substance. Rather, they were one of the mechanical constituents in the process of plasmatic organization.
Dr. Grad delivered a fascinating, enlivening talk on his exploration of Experiment XX after Reich's death. (Justice cannot be done in this brief summary to the profound and complex matters he discussed) As a young scientist he had repeated Experiment XX and, at first, obtained the same microscopic forms that Reich did. But then he began to see other forms with central areas that looked much like nuclei. He also saw "budding" forms and cell structures under the microscope, some of which were cleaving in two. Later, when he repeated the experiment, Grad found no forms at all. However, he continued with the work despite his failures.
With continued experimentation using bion water in conjunction with ammonia and carbon dioxide, Grad discovered granules which grew into bions, and then into what he called primordial forms. He considered these structures lifelike, but not alive. They were on the path to life.
At first Grad didn't understand Reich's insight that Experiment XX had revealed living forms. However, he later realized that these forms were the beginning of life. Some of the slides that Grad showed demonstrated how much his forms resembled the most ancient fossils of life, including the fossils discovered on a meteorite from Mars. He felt that the reactions in his experiments take us to the place where biology and chemistry meet. In addition, Grad said he has become convinced that the Life Energy itself gave an orderly manner to the basic structures he observed.
In his text, and in the slides he showed, Dr. Grad touched on many intricate issues of biology and chemistry that deal with the origin of life billions of years ago, and the ceaseless ongoing process of the creation of life today. For anyone approaching the study of Experiment XX, Grad advised, "You have to adopt a soft approach. With a hard approach, you will kill it." In his view, Reich was successful with Experiment XX and with his other scientific work because "Reich was a natural, and so he could follow natural processes."
Thursday July 20
Making an Orgone Accumulator Blanket
No amount of teaching can match "learning by doing." And artist-builder Josh Dayton created a workshop at which all who attended were taught how to make an orgone blanket. Some had made blankets previously, others had not. But Mr. Dayton showed the group how to construct an accumulator blanket the way Reich had done decades ago.
The morning was extremely productive, and at its conclusion each person had an orgone blanket to take home and use. In the process of constructing all those blankets, with so much metallic and non-metallic material within the confined space of the building, everyone reported feeling the orgone energy radiation that had been discussed at the Conference.
Friday July 21
Reich Audio Recording: "Hostile Reactions to the Orgone Energy Accumulator"
On Monday, August 24, 1953, at 5:00 p.m., Wilhelm Reich met with five students to discuss the hostility they were experiencing because of their involvement with him and with the orgone accumulator. In a recording that sounded as if it had been made today, and not nearly 50 years ago, Reich, Walter Hoppe M.D. Simeon Tropp M.D., Chester M. Raphael M.D., Elsworth Baker M.D., Eva Reich M.D., and Ola Raknes Ph.D. talked about problems in science, society, and medicine that plague us still today.
Dr. Raphael described how he had been called before the Board of Censors of the Queens County Medical Society regarding his affiliation with the Wilhelm Reich Foundation. He had received a registered letter asking him to appear to discuss questions of ethics. Subsequent events revealed that no ethical matters were involved; the Board of Censors was only interested in the orgone accumulator and Dr. Raphael's association with Reich.
Dr. Eva Reich spoke about the influence of the drug industry in medicine, and told how her practice in rural Maine was being hampered by the chemical-pharmaceutical industry that worked with the AMA to control American medicine. She said that at one point even her consultations with a local osteopath were considered unethical by the AMA.
The recording provided a unique view into a period of American history and the experiences of pioneering men and men that offer us insight and valuable lessons today. In addition, the recording led to a vigorous discussion moderated by Mary Higgins, Director of the Museum and The Wilhelm Reich Infant trust. The role of the FDA in medicine, then and now, was discussed. And at the end of the morning session, Ms. Higgins spoke with great clarity about Reich's response to the Complaint of Injunction that was brought against him by the FDA--a response that, she says, succeeded in protecting his work.