Reich’s Development of Orgonomic Biology
Early in his clinical work Reich noted the antithesis between sexuality and anxiety. He wanted to investigate more deeply what moves out toward the world in sexuality and away from the world in anxiety. At first believing he was dealing with a known energy, electricity, he began a series of bioelectric experiments. Someone watching the deflection on an instrument in a separate room away from the subject could accurately predict the subjective experience of the subject (and vice versa). This observation bridged the gap between psychology and biology. For the first time a subjective impression could be made objective. Clearly there is a real “something” that moves in the body that is perceived as pleasure or displeasure.
Reich wanted to observe more directly what was moving and to observe what patients felt as “streamings of energy” and were reported by those who had overcome their neurotic armoring. Recalling his own observations of amoebas as a young student and being aware of Freud’s analogy of connections between people being like amoebas sending out arms of protoplasm called, “pseudopodia,” Reich decided to observe these protozoa directly.
Wanting to make his own preparations of amoebas rather than having to order them from the laboratory, he asked where they come from. He was told to put grass in water and wait a couple of weeks, and sure enough they appeared. Not satisfied with the explanation that they came from “air germs” he decided to make direct observations of the grass. He discovered that over time the grass in the water gradually disintegrated and heaps of vesicles spontaneously developed a membrane and organized into protozoa.
This observation was revolutionary in biology because by late in the 19th century accepted biological doctrine had thrown out the idea of the possibility of spontaneous generation and the doctrine of omne vivum ex ovo – “everything alive come from an egg” -- had taken hold.
A demonstration that protozoa form spontaneously out of dead matter went against all accepted biological doctrine.
Reich’s laboratory work continued in a logical progression from here. From some of these experiments he developed cultures of the vesicles, which he called “bions,” the elemental particle of life.
In 1939 he discovered radiation of a new form of energy he called orgone energy in some of these cultures. In 1940 Reich observed and “discovered” the orgone in the atmosphere. He was now working in the physical realm of a mass free cosmic energy.