Wilhelm Reich was an esteemed psychoanalyst who studied with Freud in the 1920s. He influenced many writers, such as Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer, as well as the famed psychotherapist Fritz Perls in Perls’ development of Gestalt therapy. Reich’s biggest impact on psychoanalysis may have been that he focused on overall character structure, rather than on small neurotic tendencies.
However, after fleeing Germany in 1933, Reich became further and further removed from respected academia. He began experiments into the origins of life, which many scientists dismissed as nonsense. Then, in the earl 1940s, he began pursuing “orgone” which he claimed was a human energy. What Freud described as the libido, Reich took a step further and claimed it was a physical element, that effected the weather and biological patterns, among other phenomena. Reich built a laboratory in Maine to analyze orgone where he built “cloudbusters’ and “orgone accumulators.”
When Reich began marketing his accumulators as a device for medical relief, the FDA stepped in. Due to the court order, many of his writings were burned by the government, and he was sentenced to two years in prison. In 1957, he died of heart failure while incarcerated. Following his death, the laboratory in Maine was turned into a museum, as per his will. The museum is operated by the William Reich Infant Trust.
Every summer, they host conferences to discuss the impact and continued application of Reich’s work. They also present natural science programs every weekend throughout the summer.