Biopathies

The excerpt is from the book “The Cancer Biopathy”, by Wilhelm Reich, M.D.; Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1973.

Definition of Biopathies

The cancer tumor is merely a visible symptom of the disease we call “cancer.” Localized treatment of the cancer tumor by surgery or irradiation with radium or X-ray therefore constitutes treatment of a symptom only, not of the disease itself. In this regard, death from cancer is not the result of the presence of one or more tumors. It is rather the final result of the systemic biological disease “cancer,” which is caused by a disintegrative process in the total organism. Medical literature gives no information about the nature of this systemic disease. So-called cancer disposition indicates merely that deadly processes, uninvestigated up to now, are at work behind the cancer tumor. The typical cancer cachexia, the last stage of the disease, should be regarded only as the ultimate, visible phase of the unknown systemic process “cancer.”

The term “cancer disposition” is meaningless. We would therefore like to replace it with the term carcinomatous biopathy, or cancer biopathy. The purpose of the following chapter is to demonstrate the process that is at the basis of the cancer biopathy.

The term biopathies refers to all disease processes caused by a basic dysfunction in the autonomic life apparatus. Once started, this dysfunction can manifest itself in a variety of symptomatic disease patterns. A biopathy can result in a carcinoma (carcinomatous biopathy), but it can just as easily lead to angina pectoris, asthma, cardiovascular hypertension, epilepsy, catatonic or paranoid schizophrenia, anxiety neurosis, multiple sclerosis, chorea, chronic alcoholism, etc. We are still ignorant of the factors that determine the direction in which a biopathy will develop. Of prime importance to us, however, is the common denominator of all these diseases: a disturbance in the natural function of pulsation in the total organism. Fractures, local abscesses, pneumonia, yellow fever, rheumatic pericarditis, acute alcoholic poisoning, infectious peritonitis, syphilis, etc., are, accordingly, not biopathies. They do not develop from disturbances in the autonomic pulsation of the total life apparatus; they are circumscribed and can only secondarily bring about a disturbance of the biological pulsation. The results of recent orgone-biophysical research, however, have raised questions about the exclusion of pneumonia and some heart diseases from the realm of biopathies. Further investigation will prove or disprove my assumption that the disposition to pneumonia, or to valvular heart diseases caused by “rheumatic fever,” may be due to a chronic extension of the bony chest structure, resulting from the typical inspiratory fixation of the chest. For the present, however, we will use the term “biopathy” only where it is definite that the disease process begins with a disturbance of pulsation, no matter what secondary disease pattern results. Consequently, we can distinguish a schizophrenic biopathy from a cardiovascular biopathy, and these from an epileptic or carcinomatous biopathy, etc.

This addition to medical terminology is justified by the fact that we cannot understand any of the many specific diseases of the autonomic life apparatus unless:

  1. We distinguish them from typical infectious and traumatic surgical diseases.
  2. We look for and discover their common mechanism, the disturbance of biological pulsation.
  3. We learn to understand their differentiations into the various disease patterns.

Cancer is particularly well suited to a study of the fundamental mechanisms of biopathies, because it manifests many of the disturbances treated in everyday general medical practice. It reveals pathological cell growth; it has as one of its essential characteristics bacterial intoxication and putrefaction; it develops from chemical as well as bio-electric disturbances of the organism; it is related to emotional and sexual disturbances; it generates a number of secondary processes, such as anemia, which otherwise develop as independent diseases; it is a disease decisively influenced by our “civilized” mode of living; it is of as much concern to the nutritionist as to the endocrinologist or the virus researcher.

The many manifestations of cancer, like the multiplicities of neuroses and psychoses, conceal a single common denominator: sexual stasis. This leads us directly to our thesis: Sexual stasis represents a fundamental disturbance of biological pulsation. Sexual excitation is a primal function of the living plasma system. The sexual function is demonstrably the productive life function per se.1 A chronic disturbance of this function must of necessity coincide with a biopathy.

The stasis of biosexual excitation is manifested in two ways principally: indirectly, as emotional disturbance of the psychic apparatus, i.e., as a neurosis or psychosis; or directly, as a functional disturbance of the organs, in which case it appears as an organic disease. According to our present knowledge, it cannot actually generate infectious diseases.

The central mechanism of a biopathy is a disturbance in the discharge of biosexual excitation. This statement requires the most detailed substantiation. But it should come as no surprise that physical and chemical processes as well as emotional factors are at work in biopathies. The psychosomatic harmony of the total biological system is most clearly evident in biosexual emotion. It is only logical, therefore, that disturbances in the discharge of biosexual energy, wherever they appear, form the basis for disturbances of biological functioning, that is, a biopathy.