Critical Evaluation of the Life Energy Research of Wilhelm Reich (Orgone Theory)
Author: Harrer, Bernhard 
Subject: Life Energy, Wilhelm Reich, Orgone Energy, Evaluation, Analysis, Biophysical Experiments 
Abstract: see below
Copyright: Bernhard Harrer, Berlin 1997 
Info Jockey's  
This is the lecture abstract about Wilhelm Reich's Orgone Energy, which was held for the first time in June 1993 at the Technical College of Economics in Berlin. Some of the physical experiments mentioned are published in the German booklet, "Über Wilhelm Reichs Oranur-Experiment (I)", by Bernhard Harrer and Christian Rudolf, published by Zweitausendeins, Frankfurt am Main, 1997. The booklet is available from the address: Zweitausendeins, Postfach, D-60381 Frankfurt am Main, ISBN 3-86150-161-9 [IJBH]
29. Apr. 1997


The year 1997 marks both the 40th anniversary and 100th birthday of the doctor and psychotherapist, Dr. Wilhelm Reich. A former student of Sigmund Freund, Dr. Reich attempted to isolate the libido, the driving force of the psychological process, as a quanitative, measurable physical energy. This energy he named "Orgone". Dr. Reich carried out a series of physical experiments to source this energy. He subsequently claimed that as a result of these experiments, a specific life energy was demonstrated. Even though there had never been a scientific follow-up study conducted on Dr. Reich's findings, in the past few years the Orgone theory has received intense interest from doctors, alternative health practioners as well as patients.


Under the auspices of Professor Dr. Joachim Hornung from the Free University/Berlin (Department for Natural Medicine), a research project was carried out (1991-1994) by Bernhard Harrer entitled "Orgone Biophysics: A critical approach to the biophysical works of Wilhelm Reich". The goal of the project was a benevolent, albeit critical, systematically inherent examination of Reich's life energy postulate as well as an investigation into the actual discussion of the life energy as a scientific term among researchers. To achieve an accurate analysis, the original (more than 20) biological and physical experiments of Dr. Reich were conducted and evaluated using modern-day measuring devices. Additionally, Dr. Reich's original experiemental equipment as well as publications were thoroughly analyzed and his conclusions were reviewed.


When duplicating the original experiments, the team at the FU actually was able to observe similar phenomena that had been observed by Dr. Reich. However, the analysis of Reich's original experimental equipment as well as the results deriving from the modern measuring devices proved that all resulting phenomena are explainable by classical Physics. No sign of any specific life energy could be found. A study of the original apparati at the Wilhelm Reich Museum in Rangley (USA) concluded that there must have existed grave measurement inaccuracies. Furthermore, it was concluded that Dr. Reich was not sufficiently versed in basic methodology of experiemental physics, especially that of such measuring devices, and hence lacked competent instruction to responsibly interpret the resulting physical effects. In more than a few places in his original papers, meauring flaws and experimenter effects clearly could be observed. Thus, it appears that Dr. Reich's conclusions of the life energy can not hold scientific ground. Additionally, this impression has been confirmed by the analysis of all works about Orgone biophysics published by Dr. Reich and others.


Due to the growing interest from doctors, alternative health practictioners as well as patients it has become necessary to have a critical, scientific evaluation of the Reichian postulate. The above discussed research project of the Free University/Berlin discovered acute flaws in both the experiemental and theoretical findings of Dr. Reich's life energy terminology. No verified implications of a specific life energy could be detected in the biophysical findings of Dr. Wilhelm Reich.
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