The Online-Magazine of the DATADIWAN
Issue Nr. 1 / March 1998 - ISSN 1435-1560
A description and analysis of Wilhelm Reich’s Orgone Energy Field Meter is presented. The article explains Reich´s misinterpretations concerning the principle of fluorescent light bulbs, the illumination of gas in an alternating electrical field. Unfamiliar with physics, he sees this as proof for orgone energy which he postulated. As a matter of fact, this experimental set-up is a strong source of electro-smog (electromagnetic pollution) generated smog. Ultimately, the question arose whether Reich really was as sensitive to the subtle energy phenomenon as he claimed.
Wilhelm Reich´s Orgone Energy Field Meter
In his book, „The Discovery of the Orgone, Volume 2: The Cancer Biopathy", the psychotherapist, Wilhelm Reich describes on pages 162 to 165 (in the German edition) his own measuring instrument and claimed that this instrument was able to produce and even measure the orgone energy fields, a theory postulated by Reich.
Reich´s instrument is made from a generator for high-frequency/high
voltage, and at its outlet, it is connected by wire to a metal sheet. This
sheet is connected by another wire and a light bulb to an electrically
conducting second metal sheet. These two sheets should be placed parallel
to each other, and each be insulated on the outside by an organic material.
Reich called this metal sheet/insulator an „Orgone Accumulator Plate".
Reich used an old diathermal device (for the warming of bodily tissues)
for a high-frequency generator.
|OF:||radiating orgone energy field|
|S:||scale set in centimeters|
|B:||40-60 Watt light bulb|
|Sketch of the electric circuitry by Wilhelm Reich.
(Cited from: Reich, Wilhelm: Die Entdeckung des Orgons II: Der Krebs.
Frankfurt/M.: Fischer, 1981.)
Reich´s Postulated Characteristics for Orgone Energy
In Reich´s Observations A through F, he described phenomena which he viewed as direct proof for the energy fields of living organisms.
In Observation A, Reich held a fluorescent lights in one hand and moved them towards the antenna. The lights flickered the closer it got to the antenna, but only as long as it was held in the hand. Reich termed the flickering of the lights "lumination" (in German "Erstrahlung").
In Observation B, D and E, he moved closer to the antenna with electrically charged and non-charged materials. He observed that with the electrically charged materials, such as metal or biological tissues (human, fish, branches), the bulbs illuminated. Here again, he called the illumination of the bulb"lumination".
From these observations, Reich presented four conclusions A to D. Conclusion B states: „The orgonotic lumination is the result of the contact between two orgone energy fields." („Der Kreb, pg. 165 <translated from German>) On the other hand, Reich described this "lumination" as "functionally identical" to the orgasm of lovers, for which he also used the terminology "lumination".
Can the Phenomena be Explained by a Known Physical Effect?
Fluorescent bulbs alight when a the gas filling is triggered to illuminate and electrical field, giving off a glow discharge. Under low relative humidity conditions, the rubbing of a fluorescent light bulb with a dry hide even can cause light emissions if the electrical field strengths, causing electrical charges through rubbing, are strong enough.
Additionally, the strong electromagnetic fields surrounding high-frequency machines or power lines can cause fluorescent lamps to illuminate. These stray fields are refered to as „electro-smog" (electromagnetic pollution). These fields can evoke unexpected reactions among both electronic and technical machines as well as effect biological organisms like the human body. The significance of biological effects of such electromagnetic fields has become a hot point of discussion in the past few years, and on the internet, this is well documented at www.datadiwan.de (Theme: E-Smog)
For a long period of time, it was believed that only such electromagnetic field strengths could damage humans if these produced thermal energy in the bodily tissues. Today, we know that already many weak electromagnetic fields can evoke non-thermal reactions in organisms.
Medically, the warming of bodily tissues is used for the procedure called diathermia or electromagnetically induced hyperthermia. For the orgone energy field meter, Reich used an antiquated diathermal device that was even powerful enough to generate a so-called thermal reaction. The orgone energy field meter is housed at the Wilhelm Reich Museum in Rangeley, Maine, USA. This machine originated from the series Victor, produced by General Electric X-Ray Corporation, and could convert 550 Watt of electrical power into electro-smog.
What Occurred in Reich´s Experimental Set-Up?
What happened when Reich, with a fluorescent bulb in his hand, moved close to the set-up made out of the diathermal device and metal sheets? While Reich was holding one end of the light in his hand, he was actually grounded by the electrical conductivity in his own body to the earth´s ground potential. The other end is exposed to the stray electrical fields of the experimental set-up. Between the two ends, such a high-frequency alternating electric field is produced that it illuminated the bulbs.
Anyone who wants to reproduce this experiment does not need a high-frequency generator. It suffices to stand under power lines holding a fluorescent light. Hold one end of the tube perpendicularly above you, and it will illuminate. But be careful: high voltage!
The alternating electrical field emitted from Reich's set-up was comparable in strength to that of the electro-smog directly below high-voltage power cables. This would explain Reich's Observation A, the illumination of fluorescent lights.
In observations B, D, and E, the light bulbs which illuminate are arranged in the electrical circuitry of the set-up between the two metal sheets. They alight when the electricity flowing through the circuitry is strong enough. This is the case when the emission from the „antenna" made out of metal sheets is in such a way shifted that more energy will be emitted from the second plate. That is, the plate which is furthest away from the source of energy. Hence, much more energy flows to the light bulb, and it glows. Such changes in the antenna and emission capacities always occur when the electrical conductors (fluorescent bulb, metal) or organisms (hand, fish, branch) come close to the end of the antenna.
You may even have experienced this: the antenna reception of the radio or television stations changes when a human moves towards the antenna, or when an electrical conductor is placed near it. Electrical conductors and grounded objects change the electrical fields and efficiency output of antennae.
Critical Points to Reich´s Interpretation of „Lumination"
The terminology „lumination" was used by Reich to describe the light from a gasous emission, the light from the electrical filament of a light bulb, and even the feeling of two lovers during orgasm. He obviously means the kind of stimulation or excitement that creates delight in the living and light in non-living, technical apparati. Hence, his notion for lumination is an interesting methaphor for excited conditions, be that of stimulated molecules in gas or metal or in the case of stimulated senses.
This notion, however, is nothing more than a metaphor, since no uniform description for living and non-living natural processes can be deduced from these simple, analogous conclusions, though Reich had hoped this to be the case. Reich over-estimated his favored faculty of reason (which he referred to as „energetic" or „orgonomic functionalism"). When analyzing the lumination of a fluorescent lamp, his Conclusion B was reached: „The orgonotic lumination is the result of contact between two orgone energy fields."
Even though here Reich identified electro-smog as orgone energy, other times (Contact with Space: The Oranur-Experiment – Second Report) he had warned not to use these fluorescent bulbs for lighting. He maintained that the light bulbs created such a chaos in his otherwise life-supporting orgone energy field that this energy suddenly could become life-threatening. He called this energy DOR (Deadly Orgone Radiation). In this theory, Reich assimilated the death instinct described by Sigmund Freud into the Orgone Theory.
The orgone energy field meter produced a powerful electro-smog field, the multiple of that needed to illuminate a fluorescent light. There are people who are over-sensitive to electro-smog and when in the vicinity of an alternating electrical field, for example a television, can have a reaction ranging from uncomfortable to allergic. This phenomenon of electro-sensibility is for those affected very troublesome, and its origins have been minimally researched and are suspected to be non-thermal effects of electromagnetic fields.
In respect to the above-mentioned experiment, Reich appeared not to have been equipped with such a sensitivity, for he would not have celebrated electro-smog as life energy. Instead, he would have recognized his orgone energy field meter as a powerful source for electro-smog. Subsequently, the question was raised if Reich was really so sensitive to the subtle energy phenomena as he purported.
The Reich-biography written by Myron Sharaf, a former student and patient of Reich, is seen as the most encompassing and honest representation of Reich´s life and works. Sharaf describes how Reich generally exhibited a high sensitivity among his patients, but he could become very insensitive when something opposed his standpoint. These filtered perceptions can be observed in his experimental protocols: observations which could support his theory, like the illumination of fluorscent bulbs when in close range to his set-up, would be declared as orgonomic truths, without even heeding causal physical background. On the other hand, Reich ignored all explanations from experts, who traced his observations back to known physical phenomena.
From this view point, it would be suggested to read both Reich´s experimental protocols as well as his descriptions of sublte energy phenomena soberly and critically.
|Berlin, February 8, 1998||