Wilhelm Reich Archives
Biography of Wilhelm Reich
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2008 Summer Conference:
Archive Workshop at Orgonon
For three days in July, eleven people—scholars, researchers, and Trust board members and advisors—convened in the Conference Building (formerly Reich's Student Laboratory) to peruse what we consider the most sensitive and proprietary materials in The Archives of the Orgone Institute: Reich's orgone motor research, the Y factor, and orgonometric equations, including Reich's gravitational equations.
As we mentioned in earlier Updates, after the Trust's busy schedule in 2007 we opted not to have a regular summer conference at Orgonon in 2008. This is the first time since the beginning of our conferences in the 1970s that we haven't hosted such an event. We made this decision so that we could catch up on a variety of Trust and Museum projects, while simultaneously taking on new responsibilities and activities:
- Preparing a manuscript for the sequel to American Odyssey – Letters and Journals 1940-1947
- Developing a script for a full-length documentary film about Reich
- Continuing our archival work to constantly improve and refine the current Index of the Archives
- Studying materials in the Archives for future publications
- Processing applications by scholars and researchers for access to the Archives
Consequently we fully intended on having a quieter than usual summer, with our activities in the Conference Building limited to a few of our customary community-oriented events: lectures by Maine authors and an annual fundraising auction.
By January 2008, however, it became apparent that the demands and challenges of our major responsibilities and activities (listed above) began to overlap with one another. In response to these overlapping demands and challenges, we were compelled to think in terms of new solutions, strategies, and models. And from this need to respond innovatively came the idea for an Archive Workshop.
ORIGINS OF THE ARCHIVE WORKSHOP
For several years the Trust has been reading and studying hundreds and hundreds of pages from dozens of individual Archive files, specifically for preparation of the new manuscript. This follow-up to American Odyssey – Letters and Journals 1940-1947 will bring together a selection of Reich's diary and journal entries and correspondence from 1948 to his imprisonment in 1957.
More recently, since December 2007, the Trust's archival reading and studying have broadened, specifically for researching and writing a full-length documentary film script, for planning future publications of Reich's unpublished materials, and for refining and improving the current Archive Index for scholars and researchers.
The archival documents involved in these collective efforts comprise Reich's diaries and journals, his laboratory workbooks and protocols, portions of his voluminous correspondence, numerous unpublished manuscripts as well as revisions of published works, and many other categories of materials.
Since March 2008 the Trust has also been listening to the dozens of audio-recordings of Reich contained in the Archives. We have three principal purposes for doing this:
- to catalogue these recordings for the Index of the Archives
- to select audio clips of Reich for inclusion in the documentary film
- to identify source material for future conferences, presentations, educational materials, and new CDs to sell in our bookstore
Furthermore, since November 2007 the Trust's Archive Committee has been processing applications from scholars and researchers, some of whom have requested files containing what we consider the most "sensitive" materials in the Archives, i.e. Reich's orgone motor research, the Y factor, and Reich's orgonometric and gravitational equations.
As we've repeatedly stated in Updates, speeches, and presentations, Reich's Archives (a total of 98 cubic feet of materials) contain thousands upon thousands of handwritten and typed pages—some in German, some in English—which no one, with the presumable exception of Reich, has read in their entirety.
When the Archive Committee began receiving requests for files about the orgone motor, the Y factor, and the orgonometric and gravitational equations, the Trust itself was not yet familiar with all of the contents of these files. But it was precisely these materials that led to one of our major reasons for opting for more, rather than less restrictive access to the Archives (Item #1 – Access Policies & Procedures):
"To safeguard the factual truth, authorship, and future uses of what is a significant collection of unpublished scientific work."
Therefore we were uncomfortable allowing access to sensitive unpublished scientific documents that we hadn't yet sufficiently read, studied, and evaluated. The challenge, then, was how to reconcile our concerns and responsibilities regarding these materials with the interests of bona fide scholars and researchers.
Our initial solution to this challenge appeared in the January 2008 Update, in our remarks about "Access to Sensitive Materials":
"...when it comes to particularly sensitive materials specific to the Archives' vast collection of unpublished scientific work, the Trust will be making arrangements to jointly study these materials with scholars and researchers at Orgonon. We feel that this context will be mutually beneficial and will promote a healthy, intellectually honest exchange of ideas and understanding."
Over the next few months we refined this rather general approach into a formal first-time Archive Workshop to be held at Orgonon during what would've been our conference week.
To this workshop we invited scholars and researchers who had specifically requested these materials or had informed us that they planned to do so in the near future. We also invited several individuals who were working with the Trust on specific projects involving unpublished archival documents.
SELECTING ARCHIVAL MATERIALS FOR THE WORKSHOP
Once the Archive Workshop was scheduled for July, we turned to the Index of the Archives of the Orgone Institute to identify all of the files that we knew or assumed contained materials about Reich's orgone motor research, the Y factor, and Reich's orgonometric equations, including his gravitational equations.
Some of these materials we had already looked at for our own projects. Other files had been requested by scholars and researchers, but with specific contents that we had not yet read and studied. And there were still other files not yet read or requested, but with titles indicating substantial content appropriate to this workshop.
These efforts resulted in the selection and copying of approximately 1000 pages of archival materials for the workshop.
Additionally, the time we were spending listening to dozens of Reich's audio-recordings yielded some significant discoveries: several hours of audio documentation of Reich's orgone motor research, as well as Reich's explanations of orgonometric equations, including his key gravitational equation. We added the relevant audio-recordings to our other workshop materials.
LIST OF ARCHIVAL MATERIALS FOR THE WORKSHOP
Reich's Archives at the Countway Library of Medicine are organized into 12 individual categories. These categories, alphabetically, are:
- AUDIOTAPES (not yet fully catalogued or available for listening)
- CONSPIRACY (29 boxes)
- CORRESPONDENCE (39 boxes)
- FILMS (not yet available for viewing)
- MANUSCRIPTS (17 boxes)
- ORGANIZATIONS (49 boxes)
- ORGONE INSTITUTE (45 boxes)
- ORGONE INSTITUTE PHOTOGRAPHIC SLIDES (116 items)
- ORGONE INSTITUTE PRESS (36 boxes)
- PERSONAL FILES (24 boxes)
- PHOTOGRAPHS (6 boxes)
- PUBLISHED WORK & UNPUBLISHED TRANSLATIONS (13 boxes)
All of the approximately 1000 pages of materials for the Archive Workshop were from files in the ORGONE INSTITUTE category. Here is the list of files for the workshop:
From Box 13:
From Box 17:
- Orgon Biophysik – Protokoll, July 18, 1947—Sept. 25, 1950
- Notebook 1948: "Zu Erledigen" [i.e. "To do"]
From Box 18 – Composition Notebooks:
May 6, 1947—January 13, 1948
- Orgonometrie – l³t-²
August 8, 1947—Feb. 2, 1948
- Orgonometry – ƒ equations
January 16, 1948—January 27, 1949
From Box 19:
- Miscellaneous orgonometric material
- Equations given to Dr. Silvert for safekeeping (includes "Elimination of Mass Attraction g" 1955)
- Notes given to William Steig for safekeeping
- Orgonometry (typed, possibly part of volume on orgonomic functionalism, includes symbols used in orgonometric equations)
- Orgonometric Cole. – Gravitation (cont'd) – January 16, 1950—1954
- Notebook: Org-Metric equations – 1947, 1950, 1955 (spiral notebook)
From Box 31:
- Confirmations/Affidavits 1936-53
- WR – legal affidavits re. discoveries
- orgone energy
- motor force
- vacor phenomenon
- basic orgonometric functional equations
From Box 43 – Indexes:
- A-VII (contains orgonometric equations)
And from the Archives' AUDIOTAPES, here is a list of recordings used in the workshop:
- #78 - Reich conducting Geiger-Müller experiments in the Student Laboratory - August 30-31, 1947
- #79 - Reich conducting Geiger-Müller experiments in the Student Laboratory - August 31, 1947 (cont'd)
- #80 - Reich conducting Geiger-Müller experiments in Forest Hills, New York - November, 1947
- #81 - Reich reading affidavit about a motor force in orgone energy; conducting Geiger-Müller experiments in the Student Laboratory - September 1947
- #82 - Reich conducting experiments with Geiger-Müller counter, vacor tubes, and organismic orgone energy in Student Laboratory - June 19, 1948
- #84 - Reich explaining what he considers his three most important orgonometric equations - June, 1947
A final note here to diffuse any speculation or suspicions: Audiotape #83, which we did not include in the workshop, contains no information about orgone motor research.
After listening to audiotape #82—which documents Reich's laboratory research just five days before the orgone motor became operational on June 24, 1948—we naturally assumed we were on our way to discovering audio documentation of the day when the orgone motor began working for the first time. Thus far we have not found any such documentation.
(Audiotape #83, incidentally, contains a discussion between Reich and his physicians about the numerous examples of how he and his work have been distorted and attacked. Terrific material for our documentary film, but not germane to the workshop.)
HOW TO PRESENT ARCHIVAL DOCUMENTS
When we first decided to hold an Archival Workshop, we assumed we'd be dealing with a few hundred of pages of materials at most. Which meant we could conceivably make several copies of each page and distribute them to groups of two or three people for all of us to collectively examine at the workshop. However, after selecting all pertinent files—with a total of approximately 1000 pages—we decided that this approach was unworkable. The only practical way to collectively peruse such an enormous amount of material was to project these pages onto a screen for everyone to view together. To do this, we contacted Headlight Audio Visual, Inc. in Portland, Maine and arranged for the rental of a state-of-the-art document presenter—i.e. Elmo Visual Presenter HV5000XG and NEC LT-155 LCD Projector.
This equipment would enable high-resolution screening of documents, with scrolling, zooming, and automatic-focus capabilities for more versatile onscreen viewing and examination of these pages. Without this type of technology, this workshop would not have been possible.
PRELIMINARY PERUSAL OF MATERIALS
To prepare for the Archive Workshop, we set aside several days during May and June for a cursory look at these 1000 pages of materials. We manually leafed through the pages of all the files we had selected.
- to get a general idea of the size, content, and highlights of each file
- to determine the order in which to present each file at the workshop
- and to identify possible "proprietary information" in these files pertaining to orgone motor research, the Y factor, and orgonometric equations.
Because of our busy schedule and the sheer volume of content contained in 1000 typed and handwritten pages—some in German, some in English—it was impossible to read, study, and digest all of these documents.
But we were able to identify several pages of what we consider "proprietary information," i.e. particularly sensitive unpublished intellectual property which will require discussions and legal advice about copyrights, patents, and other legal protection of this material. In this case, the proprietary information comprises several diagrams pertaining to the physical set-up of the orgone motor.
We also listened again to the six audiotapes—Numbers 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 84—that we had selected for the workshop.
- to review the general content, highlights, and length of specific segments
- to cue up specific audio segments for the workshop and determine the order in which to play them
- and to identify possible "proprietary information" pertaining to orgone motor research, the Y factor, and orgonometric equations.
We determined that audiotape #84—Reich's explanation of what he considered his three most important equations, including a key gravitational equation—was proprietary, and might well constitute the basis for a new manuscript from the Trust.
Nevertheless we decided we would present these proprietary pages and audio segments at the workshop, with the provision that these would be the only archival materials about which the participants would not be allowed to take notes.
EXPECTATIONS & GOALS OF THE ARCHIVE WORKSHOP
Surveying these materials in May and June also helped us to define realistic expectations and goals for the workshop, and impart them to the participants. To summarize:
- It was never the purpose of this first-time Archive Workshop to solve, at long last, major questions about the set-up of the orgone motor, the identity of the Y factor, and the much anticipated gravitational equations. Given the amount of relevant archival material, the time constraints of the workshop, and the intellectual property issues involved, these would have been premature and unrealistic goals for a first-time workshop.
- It was our intention, rather, to familiarize all participants with the magnitude and general content of these files, as well as the many challenges of studying and evaluating these sensitive unpublished pages.
- In terms of challenges, we specifically wanted to familiarize all participants with the difficulties of reading hundreds and hundreds of pages of Reich's handwriting, whether he's writing in German or English.
- This applies not just to the files chosen for this workshop, but to the thousands of additional handwritten pages in Reich's Archives.
- We also wanted to familiarize all participants with the formidable task of translating vast amounts of material from German to English…and often when one doesn't expect it: Reich commonly wrote in both German and English on the same page, sometimes in the same paragraph!
- Finally, vis-à-vis the sensitive and proprietary nature of these workshop materials, we wanted to familiarize all participants with the Trust's concerns and challenges regarding issues of intellectual property, copyrights, patents, and other protections.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WORKSHOP
Orgone Motor Workshop attendees examine notes from Reich's journals via an opaque projectorThe Archive Workshop took place on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (July 14,15,16) with eleven participants convening in the Conference Building for approximately seven hours each day: a morning session, lunch break, and afternoon session. Participants were encouraged to take notes throughout the workshop. They were also advised that they would not be allowed to take notes during the playing of one of six audio-recordings and the viewing of several pages of documents, due to proprietary information in those materials.
The first few hours of the workshop were devoted to listening to audio segments from recordings 78, 79, 80, 81, 82. Throughout the workshop we remained flexible to the needs and responses of the participants. For example, recordings were frequently paused for discussion. And specific audio segments were often re-wound and re-played for clarification. Audio sequences were played in the following sequence:
- #81 – From September 1, 1947: Reich reading into the record an affidavit (notarized on August 11, 1947) about the discovery of a motor force in orgone energy. Workshop participants followed along with the published affidavit from the Orgone Energy Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 1 – January 1949.
- #78 – From August 30, 1947 (nineteen days after discovering a motor force in orgone energy): Reich experimenting in the Student laboratory with a new Geiger-Müller counter (CMB-3A) that he had ordered just a few days earlier.
- #79 – From August 31, 1947: Reich experimenting in the Student Laboratory with the new Geiger-Müller counter, and getting higher counts outside the Orgone Room than inside it. In another audio segment, Reich summarizes and offers preliminary conclusions about this series of experiments in which he is constantly experimenting with different voltages to see how they affect the orgone radiation impulses per minute.
- #81 – From September 1947: Reich experimenting in the Student Laboratory with the new Geiger-Müller counter and unexpectedly getting higher orgone radiation counts during rainy weather. At the end of this series of experiments, Reich summarizes his findings, including the statement: "There's hard work ahead to eliminate as much transmission devices as possible to increase the strength of accumulation in the counter tubes, and of building a device which will easily turn."
- #80 – From November 9, 1947: Reich summarizes in great detail the results of the past two days of Geiger-Müller experiments in his laboratory in Forest Hills, New York. His begins his remarks with the words, "The most amazing facts have been discovered..."
- #82 – From June 19, 1948 (five days before the orgone motor becomes operational): Reich narrating the results of his current experiments with VACOR tubes and a Geiger-Müller counter without voltage.
After listening and discussing these archival audio resources, we began projecting onto a screen the first of our approximately 1000 pages of archival documents. Here again we proceeded with wide latitude and flexibility in terms of the needs and responses of the workshop participants. At times we moved briskly through pages. And at other times we lingered over specific contents for closer scrutiny and group discussion.
The group quickly came to appreciate the routine difficulties of deciphering Reich's handwriting, as well as the challenges of so much German material. And frequently while viewing handwritten pages in German, two participants who were born in Germany were instrumental in deciphering not only Reich's handwriting, but also in translating the subtle shades of meaning of certain words and phrases. Also helpful throughout was the document projection technology whose scrolling, zooming, and auto-focus capabilities allowed us to rapidly enhance images of paragraphs, sentences, words, equations, scientific and numeric symbols, drawings, and diagrams for closer, concentrated group study.
As we perused the contents of one file after another, what also became apparent to the group was Reich's habit of documenting a single day's laboratory research and personal thoughts in multiple records: journals, laboratory workbooks, composition notebooks, pocket note pads, etc. Consequently, his daily thoughts and experimental results relevant to orgone motor research and orgonometry comprise hundreds of pages which require considerable cross-referencing.
We also paused from reading several orgonometry files to play our final audio-recording: #84 from June 1947 in which Reich explains in detail what he considered his three most significant equations. Because this material is proprietary and the basis for a possible future manuscript, participants were not allowed to take notes.
The first equation Reich discussed is:
l = 100t²
––which appears in Contact With Space on page 101. As Reich talked through this equation and a second equation, participants listened and perused pages 101 through 109, which occasionally contained variations of what Reich was verbally explaining. Reich's explanations on the recording, however, were far clearer and more concise than anything on these published pages.
Reich's third equation on the recording was specifically a gravitational equation. While symbols and values in this equation appeared in early variations in Contact With Space, Reich's recorded explanation is succinct, well organized, and easy to follow.
A few final observations and impressions about the workshop:
- The Orgone Motor
As a group, we spent considerable time reading through hundreds of pages of experimental research leading up to the day when the orgone motor began working. We also studied the voluminous documentation of experiments with the working motor. Participants were asked not to take notes only while we looked through the handful of pages containing diagrams relevant to the specific set-up of the motor.
But it was the general consensus that the actual set-up of the motor was still not self-evident. Which does not preclude the possibility of a future, more rigorous and focused study of these materials yielding further answers and practical experimental research.
- The Y Factor
We looked through literally hundreds of pages of equations and observed many recurring symbols, values, calculations, and functions. While the letter Y does appear, it does not appear as frequently as other letters and symbols. And there was little in these materials to link the letter Y specifically with the orgone motor. Again, a more rigorous, focused study of specific materials might yield further results.
- Orgonometric Equations
By the final hours of the workshop on Wednesday, the effect of viewing so many pages of equations was numbing. Which was part of the point of the workshop: to impress upon everyone the staggering amount of archival content.
Reich was obviously looking to express Copernican theories, functions, and equations in orgonometric or functional terms. It also became clear that his concept of "The Swing" pertained to planets orbiting a sun which itself was moving in a spiral motion. And because there were a handful of pages where Reich lists the meaning of symbols and values in his equations, these lists might well function as a preliminary "Rosetta Stone" with which to revisit some of these materials for more rigorous scrutiny.
- Workshop Participants
From the beginning of the workshop on Monday morning, the group began to take on a rhythm of its own, with considerable interaction and discussion of the archival materials. Throughout the three days a healthy and productive sense of teamwork was evident as together we discussed, debated, and deciphered words, symbols, and meanings.
The complementary skills, knowledge, and backgrounds of all of the participants meshed wonderfully in the true sense of "Work Democracy" for this first time Archive Workshop.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, COPYRIGHTS, PATENTS
Based on our new knowledge of these sensitive and proprietary materials, the Trust is now in discussions with attorneys regarding issues of intellectual property, copyrights, patents, and other protections specific to these materials.
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