Orgonomy as a science

The question of the title has generated two diametrically opposed answers, one from the fervent supporters of Wilhelm Reich’s theories, who consider him an insightful and brilliant, radical and pioneering scientist, and the second from his critics who have assigned him to the ward of the mentally and psychically disturbed quacks.

Although the nature of the answers the two groups have presented is obvious, it would be useful to examine the historic, social and scientific data, coming both from Reich’s era and modern age, so that we can understand and justify adequately the reasons and the motives that led to these two contradictory perspectives. Such a thing, however, is definitely out of the scope of the question we posed in the beginning and perhaps we will deal with it in some other context. In order to take a documented side on the issue, one first must have a clear and comprehensive concept of what is “orgonomy,” as well as what we call “science” today. At this point it is necessary to include in our investigation the modern debate among philosophers of science and epistemologists regarding the distinction between original, genuine science and “pseudo-science.”

 

Orgonomy

Reich called Orgonomy the experimental and theoretical investigation of orgone and its functions. The tool of his theoretical research was the technique of Orgonomic functionalism, as he called his thought method, which was ought to be fully harmonized with and reflect the way nature works. He thought of “orgone” as an immaterial, cosmic, primary and primordial “substratum” of energic nature, from which originate, he believed, matter and all known and secondary forms of energy described by modern physics. The term “orgone” comes from the common root of the words “orgasm” and “organism,” as he arrived to the proof of its existence based on his studies of the nature and importance of the orgasm for the functioning of the human organism. He assumed that Freud’s libido was not a mere theoretical idea but a real biological energy which could be measured and that the function of the orgasm played a decisive role as an energetic regulator of its equilibrium (see Reich’s biography: Reich, Freud and the libido – 1918-1934). Reich stated that his most important discovery was the function of the orgasm and that all the rest was a logical consequence of that single discovery.

In his effort to prove his contentions he recorded experimentally the subjective feelings of anxiety and pleasure and proved that there is a functional identity between them and the flow of biological energy in the organism. He thus proved the biophysical origin of sensations and feelings and their connection with the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which, through the orgasm, controls and balances the amounts of biological energy in the organism (bioenergy) and its functioning. (See Reich’s Biography: Bioelectrical experiments, bions, discovery of the orgone – 1934-1939.) He conceived sexual energy as a “specific” expression of the organism’s bioenergy and when, finally, he observed the radiation of the bions, which immobilize bacteria and cancer cells, and a little later (1940) the presence of energy in the atmosphere, he reasoned that all were manifestations of the same energy (orgone) which permeates and surrounds both non-living and living matter and governs its functions.

The unique thing about Reich’s approach was the fact that in the field of orgone research (both experimental and theoretical) he insisted that a necessary prerequisite is the healthy (unarmored) functioning of the sensory-perceptive biosystem of the person doing the experimental and theoretical thinking. Furthermore, he considered his participation in and responsiveness to the experimental process as an integral and organic part of it, a concept which by itself was a new field of research. For instance, the mutual excitement of two interacting energy systems (and the experimenter can be considered as one) creates new conditions of energy equilibrium or instability between them, and these new conditions, in turn, affect qualitatively the reaction of the systems as well as determine the further development of their interaction. Science, which uses mathematics as its theoretical foundation and bases its pragmatic conclusions on the indications of instruments, obviously rejects this concept from the start as extremely unscientific. Reich, however, realizing the logic of this thinking, tried and succeeded in proving that the subjective sensory perception, while differing from person to person and depending on one’s level of biopsychical health, is not arbitrary and independent of reality but corresponds to specific bioelectrical processes that lend objectivity to the subjectiveness and their evaluation allows for objective appreciation of the perceptive mechanism. In this way he upgraded the role of the experimenter and from a simple observer and recorder of scientific instrument measurements Reich transformed him into an active subject influencing and being influenced by the experiment in progress, without in the process cancelling its scientific validity.[1] For example, the sensory perceptions inside the ORAC are not rejected right away as scientifically non acceptable and unusable because they are “subjective,” but are considered indications of his biological influence, exactly because they can be confirmed both experimentally (eg. with the Reich Blood Test[2]) and clinically by recording the organism’s vital functions (number of pulses, breathing rhythm, temperature) inside the ORAC.[3]

From the aforementioned example, one sees that the experimental subject’s healthy functioning is a factor by which we can evaluate the validity of one’s observations as well as how “scientific” one’s judgements and decisions are. Obviously, we have here a subtle and critical issue and questions whether Orgonomy belongs to the sciences and whether orgone exists as such or it is a false and deceptive, pseudoscientific invention, depend on it. How can one confirm the existence of orgone if—because of one’s armoring—one does not feel its flow in one’s body? Is it enough to read the indications of scientific instruments which record it, or to interpret mathematical equations which demonstrate its reality that everyone accepts? Then again, are the limits of armoring and man’s terror of the living and its undisturbed functioning able to thwart the correct decoding of the experimental experience? Finally, will the limited bioplasmic motility of the armored human deprive him of the ability to design simple and intelligent experiments and to use experimental instruments, which will allow him to “conceive” of the orgone?

 

Science and philosophy of science

Before we attempt to determine what is considered science today, we should pause for a moment and distinguish between natural and humanistic sciences, focusing on their qualitative differences. We define natural science as the documented and systematic knowledge of the natural world, where the validity of this knowledge is attained by and tested with the selective control of the limits of both its sources and its criteria. However, some philosophers question the limits of human knowledge, since that knowledge is limited by human experience. Others, like Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Descart, Hegel thought that it was possible to attain full, safe and valid knowledge either through logos (Plato, Descart) or through reason (Parmenides), or through ideas (Plato), or, finally, through science (Aristotle).

Science, according to Aristotle, is based on principles which determine its method. The question is how to conceive of these principles (or axioms). According to Popper, initially these principles are conceived of through insight as assumptions and in the process they are tested on whether they are true or false by deduction, but not exclusively. Knowledge is rational and therefore scientific, claims Popper, only when it can be tested subjectively and experimentally. The ability to test it in a discerning way guarantees the possibility of its refutation, and so every genuine or true scientific statement could be changed in the future and replaced by a new and more complete one, which in turn at some point will have the same fate as the one it replaced (the falsification principle). And so, the falsification of scientific knowledge becomes the criterion of its rationality and objectivity, and what separates it from pseudoscience and metaphysics. Scientific theories, Popper continues, should always remain ypotheses, because there are not enough reasons in empirical science to convince that the proofs we have, confirm unequivocally the truthfulness of a theory. What we definitely have is its refutations, and when these are not present, the theory is not scientific. Scientific research is forced to proceed with trials and false convictions, with speculative hypotheses and, mainly, with repeated disclaimers and, therefore, falsification should replace the verification as a true criterion of valid scientific knowledge. So, today, we end up considering science more a method of everlasting quest for objective knowledge than a definitive body of knowledge. In other words, we have in essence returned to the beginnings of Greek philosophy, the Ionian thought of 6th century B.C. and the pre-Socratic philosophical thinking.

Xenophanes (around 565 B.C.) claimed that knowledge cannot be obtained with revelation, neither with insight but is the result of persistent and patient research which, with the passage of time, will lead man to something “better”, but will always be incomplete and fragmented in relation to the “unitary, undifferentiated and infinite divine” which he identified with the tonality of the physical world. Only gods can have definitive knowledge and man is restricted to the deceptive image of things, to the investigation of the semblance, as opposed to the reality, which will always elude him. Likewise, Heraclitus believed that the knowledge of the wisest of men is nothing but opinions. Both philosophers recognize that the same is true for their own philosophical positions, that they too are nothing but beliefs. This approach, Popper adds, does not question the essence of science’s rationality but changes our certainty that man as a rational being has the potential to acquire the absolute and definitive knowledge of reality, into a illusion. Our trust is transposed towards our uninterrupted and dynamic progress in knowledge, through the research and critical use of rational thinking.

It would be useful here to summarize the scientific methodology which has been consolidated since the 16th and 17th centuries (and was first introduced by Aristotle in the 4th century B.C., with his “Logic”), and which is applied when a scientific theory attempts to explain a physical phenomenon that is the result of natural cause, with the latter being the target of the investigation. We have two ways of proving, one after the fact (a posteriori) and one before the fact (a priori). The first begins with the result, that is with the pragmatical evidence (a posteriori) and works its way backwards (analytically – by induction) by initially stating its possible causes and by excluding every theory but one suggests a new, logically constructed theory, which supports it, based on undisputed theories. The second way takes for granted (a priori) that there is a cause and, based on this, proceeds (synthetically – productively) and explains why the effects of this cause should happen by necessity. Schematically this can be rendered as follows:

The first way, which is mainly followed by scientific research and tries from the observed particular, composite, partial to grasp the general, simply guarantees the logical existence of the general principle that is being proven, and not its necessity. Consequently, this methodological way of proving scientific theories is only partially reliable and in no way guarantees the timeless and universal validity of the theory.

 

The Humanities

It is prevalent today to consider as Humanities those sciences that include fields of the human spirit which, unlike what happens in natural science, do not employ experimental research methods but thinking systems and theoretical propositions which are not provable with the experimental methodology of sciences. Namely, the disciplines of philosophy, philology, history, literature etc. In this regard, Orgonomic functionalism, as a tool of the thinking process that tries to understand and explain the modus operandi of the physical world, belongs equally to philosophy and the natural sciences. It belongs to the philosophy of science whose mission, by definition, is to investigate the methods used by sciences in order to extract the most secure conclusions possible. Bacon, for example, considered induction to be the most appropriate method, while Popper used the hypothetical-productive method (namely, the investigation of a hypothesis until it is falsified and replaced by a more accurate one). The point always at the center of the philosophy of science was the kind of scientific explanation and its cognitive borders; e.g., is it teleological or causative? What is the character of scientific propositions and theories? Are they falsifiable or verifiable? How do the laws of nature work and how do they affect the evolution of events? Are these phenomena causative, relativistic or speculative obeying the principles of quantum physics and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle?

According to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (Dx·Dp≥ħ/2, where Dx and Dp are the standard deviation of momentum and standard deviation of position respectively and ħ is Planck’s constant) our attempt to determine with a degree of certainty the momentum of a particle will result in greater uncertainty as regards to the determination of its position; whereas, conversely, our attempt to determine with a degree of certainty its position will result in greater uncertainty as regards to the determination of its momentum. The important here is not so much the uncertainty of measurement, the product of which always has a mathematical minimum, but that it is independent of the precision of our instruments and the experimental setup we choose, thus demonstrating the cognitive boundaries of human perception, its tools and the relativity of its observations. The observer and the observed, the experimenter and the experiment, the signifier and the signified, are functionally connected and constitute a unified and undividable organic whole that determines its context and frame of reference. In other words, if we try to approach philosophically the essence of this principle, we find that the mathematical formulation (Dx·Dp≥ ħ/2) of the unity of the interconnected measurements ((Dx, Dp) determines the frame of reference and the boundaries within which they move (≥ħ/2), refuting—always in a subatomical level—the stern universality of causality.

 

Is Orgonomy a science or a pseudoscience?

Until now, we have only done a brief, definitely selective, very concise and definitely incomplete review, on the one hand of what we consider science today and on the other, what are the basic issues that preoccupy the philosophy of science. We have, also, determined, briefly, what is and which is the content of Orgonomy, as well as the unique in Reich’s thought and the novelties he introduced, in the way he studied the phenomena he was interested in. Let us now attempt to answer the question we have here, namely, if the theory of orgone in particular and Orgonomy in general can be justifiably characterized as a genuine science or should we assign them in the realm of pseudoscience as a scientific sounding but untrue proposition, that does not fill the criteria of bona fide science.

We can see that today—more than half a century since Reich’s death—we are still far from proving the correctness and universal validity of his claims as well as the validity of his theory as a whole, and far from when all this will become accepted by the scientific community. Of course, this cannot be considered by any free and inquisitive spirit, as well as any scholar studying the history of scientific ideas, as a necessary and sufficient criterion to prove or disprove the scientific validity of a given theory. The history of science is full of cases of pioneer scientists and thinkers whose theories were initially rejected and disdained, while they themselves were accused of charlatanism or paranoia and heresy (Plato, Aristotle, Galileo, Giordano Bruno etc., the list is long), and then their work and genius were recognized—even long after their death—and incorporated in the body of scientific knowledge. On the other hand, of course, this last argument does not necessarily lead—on its own—to the logical conclusion that all those theories that initially received the same treatment with the ones mentioned above were finally proven scientific.

Reich himself never stopped emphasizing that he does not hold all the answers to the questions which emerged during the course of his research. In his scientific path, not few were the times he felt incapable of giving “logical” explanations to issues that would come up repeatedly in his pioneering work, when his findings did not agree with the prevalent scientific ideas. The void left by these questions he tried to close by proposing a radical theory, a hypothesis—we would say today according to Popper—of which he only knew its general characteristics—as he himself often realized and emphasized—while at the same time admitted that it is still long before the theory is completed. He often likened his work and the theory of orgone with a building of which he only laid the groundwork, and that is very far away from declaring the construction completed and inhabitable. But Reich was not afraid to pose questions, neither had the need to align himself with the prevalent ideas or oppose them in order to prove something and, in the end, and perhaps the most important in his work, he was never afraid to admit his lack of knowledge on issues he did not understand.

When we only have few pieces of a puzzle and even fewer of them are placed correctly, this does not mean the puzzle does not show an image or, even more, it does not exist as a separate object. In the worst case scenario, the image that will be found in the end, when we have all the pieces and have placed them correctly, it might be very different from what we had initially expected. The same is true for scientific theories, the same for Reich’s work. Some of his ideas and proposed explanations might prove to be of limited use or incomplete, in other words they might explain only part of the reality he was trying to approach, or they could even prove erroneous attempts to understand the way things work in nature; but that does not necessarily mean the whole body of his work is unscientific and therefore should be discarded. Or, taking it one step further, what he was trying to determine quantitatively and qualitatively (the orgone)—even if we acknowledge or it turns out he did it in an erroneous way—does not exist as a natural entity.

Reich’s main contribution to the evolution of ideas in natural science is his perceptive and, at the same time, his insightful grasp of the existence of a universal, primal and immaterial substance, whose secondary differentiations generate and govern all manifestations of natural reality, both living and non-living, and his attempts to demonstrate its existence in a scientific way. His observations and experimental findings, according to him, proved its existence. Therefore, we have on one hand the issue of how true this hypothesis is, and on the other the experimental tools used, the credibility of his findings and the scientific validity of his thought process, which he used to evaluate them. Let’s examine them separately.

Firstly, the hypothesis of the existence of the orgone should easily regarded as scientific, if we accept Popper’s falsification principle as a safe criterion of scientific validity of a given theory, for the obvious reason that the orgone theory contains innately the possibility of its disclaimer. Okhasa’s arguments (see article) do not overturn, in my opinion, Popper’s proposition that the falsification principle is a safe criterion for a genuine science. Popper does not contend that scientific theories, when not disproven or are not refuted neither furthered by new findings, are necessarily pseudoscience, but he maintains that they cannot be considered genuine if they do not allow critical control which can, even theoretically, lead to their refutation. In other words, a scientific theory can be considered genuine even if in the future it can be refuted, precisely because it innately contains the possibility of its refutation. Conversely, a pseudoscience does not allow any refutation of its “scientificality”. Furthermore, Popper does not consider it “pseudoscience” when a scientist insists on a theory which seems to shake because of experience or is overturned by it. The issue he raises is the dogmatic adherence to a “theory” which does not allow for any control and a priori rejects any attempt to its refutation.

Reich was not the first person to formulate a theory regarding the universal presence of a primordial “substance” with the characteristics of orgone. In the dawn of western civilization, from the beginning of the 6th century B.C., Ionian philosophers, in their attempt to escape the lure of the myth and explain empirically and critically the environment around them, formulated similar theories regarding the creative force of the universe, which are really very close to what Reich claimed. We will mention only the teachings of Anaximandros (around the middle of the 6th century B.C.) who thought that in the beginning of creation of the universe there is a primary substance of unspecified nature, the infinity, whose transformations create all the elements of the universe. The analogy between Reich’s orgone and Anaximandros’s infinity is more than obvious.

The list is long (oriental philosophies, Reichenbach etc.) and a full report escapes the confines of this paper. What is important here, is that Reich, in contrast to the other cases, offered or at least tried to offer, scientific proof to substantiate his theory. For the cautious and sceptic, the findings Reich quotes are questionable as to their validity or constitute mere clues that need further and undisputed scientific confirmation and substantiation. They ought to satisfy the falsification principle (that is obtaining the same results in every repetition of the experiment, if the conditions remain the same) and, finally, to conform to the general principles of Orgonomic theory. As already mentioned, though, the possibility of non-confirmation of the scientific findings, which is innate in every experimental set up that Reich designed, contains the possibility of refutation of the orgone theory and therefore, according to Popper, gives the theory scientific status. Another important issue, which as far as I know has never been raised, is whether the theory—if Reich’s experimental findings stand—is the only explanation of his findings or whether they can be explained by the formal science of physics (classical and modern), which is not based on the existence of the orgone.

 

Science and the “pseudoscience of the analysis of the unconscious”

As far as the explanation and analysis of the unconscious is concerned, Popper’s stated reservations regarding the scientific validity of psycho-analysis appear plausible but they are not true because they simply ignore a person’s subjectiveness which dramatically determines the quality of the explanation. What determines the quality of one’s acts and dreams and their interpretation as well, is the personality of the analyzed, the character according to Orgonomy, and not vice versa. The same event is perceived and processed differently by different people, because as different beings they react to external stimuli depending on their past and definitely differentiated experiences (traumatic or not) in a way that often transcends their rational and conscious intent. The fact that such a thing is true does not prove the inadequacy or pseudoscience of Orgonomy and of Character Analysis, but the failure of a universal approach for the interpretation of the modus operandi of different subjects.

Finally, the criterion of falsification is always incorporated as a possibility in Orgonomic research and it can lead potentially to the refutation of the theory, but possibly not in its universal rejection. For instance, the investigation of the confirmation of the temperature difference between an orgone accumulator and a control of same dimensions might not confirm Reich’s initial measurements, therefore his theory is either refuted or needs to be redone, but that does not consist a necessary and sufficient condition to characterize the theory unscientific in its entirety, and the same might apply to other experimental observations and theoretical propositions in his work. But the opposite happens. The positive way the theory of the orgone has been formulated contains innately the possibility of its refutation, precisely because it is based on experimental data (temperature difference, potential measurements, changes in the Reich Blood Test after charging the blood in the accumulator, oscillographic evidence in bioelectrical experiments…). Very recently it was confirmed in principle that the Higgs particle exists, the God particle as it was called in the mass media, which for the theoretic physicists it is the carrier which gives the quality of mass to sub-atomic particles. In other words, it is accepted that immaterial energy constitutes the generator of mass, something Reich conceived insightfully and claimed about forty years ago (see his book “Cosmic Superimposition”). Already in the beginning of the 20th century, Max Planck conceived of photon as a particle with zero inert mass but definite energy (Dirak).[4]

 

Epilogue

The problem, according to the author, is not the pseudoscience behind the theory of the orgone, but the pseudoscientists supporting it. There are people who, for obvious reasons, are seeking their personal psychological assurance by defending universal theories, as is the case of Orgonomy. They try to fortify their insecure Ego, while at the same time are terrified by the prospect of proving their obsessively and rigidly defended structure as false. The identification and adherence of armored man to a body of knowledge that determines the terms of his existence, and contains a universality that allows for the interpretation of or sets the foundation and presuppositions for interpreting his inner and outer environment, justifiably fascinates him, while he feels terrorized by the possibility of its collapse. This is especially true for those who have associated themselves with Orgonomy as self-proclaimed defenders and fanatic “keepers of the faith” and deal with it singularly, monolithically and from a position of power, arbitrarily recognizing only themselves as the sole righteous commanders of orgonomy’s cognitive context. Such modus operandi easily reminds us of papal authority and unfortunately is not absent from Orgonomy. These pseudoscientists are terrified at the prospect of the theory’s rejection or even its mere refutation; such a thing would automatically mean loss of power in their field. Those kinds of pseudoscientists impede real research and offer bad service to any scientific field.

[1] An unexpected confirmation of Reich’s scientific reasoning regarding the influence the experimenter exerts on the process of experimental research, comes from the field of modern theoretical physics. The experimental research of subatomic particles demonstrated that a change in the way we observe them alters their behavior and determines whether they will express themselves as particles or as waves. See video: http:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwXQjRBLwsQ.

[2] At the “Heraclitus” Microscopic Research Laboratory we observed that the bionous disintegration of blood (as recorded during the Reich Blood Test — RBT), placed in an experimental 3-ply accumulator (measuring 35X35X35 cm) for 15 minutes, differs significantly from the RBT of the blood of the same person and from the same blood drawing which was put at the same time, also for 15 minutes, inside a control box of the same dimensions, made up of wood and glasswool. The bionous breakdown of the blood placed inside the accumulator was delayed and when finally it started, it had all the characteristics of a B-reaction showing large, energetic bions, with wide fields and intense blue lumination. Instead, the blood of the control, after 15 minutes had already started decomposing during the time of examination, while the developing bions were small, dull, had narrow fields and did not show blue lumination. It is more than obvious that the effect of the accumulator was at least different than that of the control and there was a clear rise of the energetic charge of the blood. The above mentioned observations confirm many microscopic tests done on several people, which were repeated 3 times in each one of them. The differences in the RBT were less marked on clear and sunny days, while a subject on whose blood, to our great surprise, we did not note any difference between the two samples, later stated that before the test he always used the accumulator.

[3] An excerpt from the book Cancer Therapies from Antiquity to the Present Day, by Marios Demopoulos, Evandros publishing, Athens 2004, pp. 411-412.

“We would like to mention in passing the confirmation of Reich’s theories by the experimental research conducted during 1986 at the University of Marburg, in Germany, by scientists Stephan Müssenich, Dipl.-Psych. and Reiner Gebauer, Dipl.-Psych.  The goal of the two scientists was to investigate the physiological results attributed to sittings inside and orgone accumulator (ORAC). Reich claimed that during sitting in an ORAC there appeared a rise in body temperature as well as a general activation of the parasympathetic system.  With this in mind, the scientists decided to explore the changes in body temperature, in skin temperature and in the rhythm of the heart. For this purpose they conducted a long study with 15 volunteers, each of whom clocked 20 experimental hours. These subjects had ten sessions of 30 minutes each inside and orgone accumulator and ten more sessions of 30 minutes each in an almost identical control box. The whole experiment run like a double blind test, which means neither the volunteering subjects nor the people issuing directions and recording the experiment new anything about the experiment in which they participated. These experiments totally confirmed Reich’s claims. None of the phenomena Reich claims exist and are observed in the accumulator, were observed at the control box (that is in a box looking exactly like the accumulator but which the subjects did not know it was not an ORAC). So there is no placebo effect. What do those who reject Reich’s contentions have to say about this? (For more information, please see the thesis of the aforementioned scientists which is titled: “De Reichsche Orgonakkumulator, Naturwissenschattliche Diskussion, Praktische Anwendung, Expoerimentelle Unstersuchung”, Nexus Press, Fichardstr. 38, 6000 Frankfurt, Germany.)

[4] It is important here to mention Dirak’s theory regarding the vacuum. Dirak believed that “vacuum” is full of non-observable electrons, because they are in a state of negative energy. This makes us think of the theory of ether, because it ascribes to the empty space qualities that are not observable. (A. Mazis, “Physics”, 3rd Volume, “Magnetism, Electricity, Atomic and Nuclear Physics”, Vivliopolio Estias Publications, Athens, 1972, pp. 504-506.)