With all the talk about stem cells, nanotechnology and private space travel, the line between ordinary, conventional science and good, old-fashioned mad science has been practically erased. Gone are the days of bubbling test tubes, giant throw switches and that electrical "bzzzzt" thing. Men toiling privately in their basement laboratories, it seems, have all been bought out with venture capital.
That's why we must remember men like Wilhelm Reich. Reich was an Austrian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who, at one time, socialized with the likes of Sigmund Freud before turning completely nutsoid. He pioneered the field of what he termed "orgonomy" in the 1950s, after he discovered a form of energy he called "orgone."
Orgone, according to Reich, was a "primordial cosmic energy" present in all things and which was the basis for life. (Think midi-chlorians from Star Wars.) From his Maine-based research facility called, of course, Orgonon, Reich determined that orgone could be harnessed and manipulated to affect a person's health, the weather and gravity, all conclusions reached through a series of experiments that would eventually culminate in a battle with extraterrestrials in the deserts of Arizona.
Much of Reich's early work centered on human sexuality. He's been credited with helping start the sexual revolution in America after publishing books like The Function of the Orgasm and Tension, Charge, Discharge, Relaxation. Plus, his theories regarding the connection between mental well-being and a healthy sex life greatly influence the field of psychology even today. Yet, in true fashion, his methodology often proved a little bizarre. For example, he claimed that he could measure the electrical "charge" of a man's "orgastic potency" during sexual arousal and his subsequent electrical "discharge."
Of course, the charge he referred to was, again, orgone, which Reich determined was a major influence in a person's sexual performance. As such, he believed orgone could be used to treat sexual dysfunction by seating a patient in an Orgone Accumulator, which was basically a phone-booth-size wooden box lined with metal. (Reich believed the apparatus was effective at collecting orgone energy because the temperature inside the box would rise higher than the temperature outside the box.)
Eventually, the Food and Drug Administration deemed such orgone therapy as quack medicine and banned its use, although, not surprisingly, you can still purchase orgone devices on the Internet.
Reich's focus on the usefulness of orgone, however, changed dramatically in 1954. That year, while working outside Orgonon, he saw two yellow-orange lights move across the sky. Further sightings followed and Reich quickly concluded they were spacecraft he inscrutably termed "Ea," a shortening of the more inscrutable "Enigma Alpha." After repeated sightings of these Ea, and having recently seen the movie War of the Worlds, which he referred to as "a rather realistic approach to the planetary emergency" of alien invasion, Reich soon convinced himself Earth was under attack. ... Continued on Page 2