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Vishwawalking

Reich - bust on tomb

The Wilhelm Reich Museum 

(Orgonon) 


Rangeley, Maine, U.S.A.


Whatever you think of Orgone energy and Wilhelm Reich’s psychology, politics and science, this museum and the trails running through the 175 acres are worth a visit. When I went there with my son Matt on November 3, 2008 (coincidentally, November 3, 1957, was when Reich died in a U.S. prison), the museum was closed, but the grounds were open. The entire complex is open between July and August and on Sundays on September. With two days notice, the operators will open the museum out of season for $100. The grounds are open year round. Reich observatory
Reich's observatory, which is now a museum.
November 3, 2008

 

  Reich - date on tomb

Inscription on Reich's tomb


Without a guide or any introduction, we were left to explore the grounds on our own.

reich - cloudbuster by tombEven if the museum is closed, if you are anywhere near the area, this is an adventure worth doing, especially if you are equipped with some basic information concerning Reich. The trails through the grounds are pleasant, and mostly on the wooded hillside that lead up to the observatory at the top of a hill, where Reich worked. A bird observatory is situated along a trail in the woods, as is Reich’s tomb. Beside the tomb is an energy “cloudbuster” that was meant to stimulate clouds to produce rain through the accumulation of bioenergy. A larger, older-looking cloudbuster sits outside the stone walls of the observatory. If you look closely, on this cloudbuster is pinned a rusted sign reading “workers only.” The backside of the sign may have read “on,” although we thought it might be an upside-down “no.”

Matt beside the energy cloudbuster.
November 3, 2008

An interesting short trail is called the “trail of thoughts.” All along the trail are plaques with pithy quotes that range from the banal to humourous to profound.

To back up: the first building you encounter on the grounds is the conference centre. Inside that building is the orgone accumulator room.

pete in orgone accumulator If there are folks around on the day you visit, they should allow you to visit the room. When we visited, we were shown the room, which is encased in sheet metal walls. Person-sized boxes (see photo) are made of sheet metal on the inside and wood on the outside, with glass and/or steel wool in between. We each sat in one for five minutes. It’s rather like meditating in a stuffy room.

If I look serious or out of it in the photo it's because I'm still getting over two days of hard slogging on the Appalachian trail. Could the orgone accumulator help me out here with a little surge of energy?

There's a bookshop on the grounds that sells Reich's works along with a number of CDs and the like.

Peter in the orgone accumulator
November 3, 2008

 The Orgone Institute controls the publication of Reich’s works. My copy of The Mass Psychology of Fascism, for example, is the third (approved) edition from 1942, which has been extensively revised by Reich. He has included more information on orgone theory into it as well as softening the original 1933 publication’s use of Marxist terminology. Reich felt that "vulgar Marxists" had helped destroy revolutionary forces. Therefore Marx needed to be reassessed and updated. That was the only way Marx could be useful and help the people “get to the root of things” as Marx wanted.

Reich was born on March 24, 1897. His original work in Germany involved character structure and sexuality. Of Jewish background (although he didn’t want to be known as such), he fled Germany in 1933 to move to Switzerland. In 1949, he moved to the United States.

In 1947, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigated Reich for his claims concerning orgoneenergy and the sale of orgone accumulators

orgone accumulator (closed). An injunction forbade Reich to sell anything related to his theories of orgone energy. Reich ignored the injunction and in 1956 was sentenced to two years in jail as a consequence. In fine fascist style, the FDA also burned tons of his work. In 1957, just over a year after going to jail and just before his expected parole, he died of heart failure.

Reich’s orgone energy is directly related to sexual energy, or what he called “orgiastic potency.” He developed his theories in a conservative country in which many people were outraged by such outright discussions of the place of sex in our lives, so it is not surprising that he ran into problems with government authorities and conservative groups.

For me, the crux of his work lies in his analysis of fascism.

The orgone accumulators November 3, 2008

Whatever one thinks of his orgone energy theories, his analysis of fascism should not be overlooked. It is fascinating reading, considering the present-day neo-fascist tendencies of recent leaders in the U.S. like George Bush or present leaders like Stephen Harper in Canada and the tendencies of democratic countries to support neo-fascist leaders. He felt left-wing thinkers were wrong to constantly analyze political failures as “mistakes.” On the contrary, working-class people often drift to the right in difficult times, and embrace ideologies that in fact oppress them.

A number of writers have been influenced one way or another by Reich. They include Jack Kerouac,  Paul Goodman, Saul Bellows, Norman Mailer, A.S. Neill, Robert Anton Wilson and William Burroughs. Philosopher Gilles Deleuze appreciated some of Reich’s political/psychological work. Reich worked with Freud early in his career, but later rejected much of Freud’s thinking. Einstein tested some of Reich’s machines and concluded they did not work, but encouraged Reich to be more scientifically rigorous in his approach.

 The museum’s literature indicates that there are lots of environmental and recreational programs offered s well as talks on Reich’s work.

Rating: walk dudewalk dudewalk dudewalk dude   Easy. Trails are short, many on a hillside.

How to get there 

The property is 115 kilometres (about 2 hours) east of Skowhegan by road. From Canada, it’s 180 kilometres (approximately 3.5 hours). Take the 212 out of Sherbrooke, connect to 27 in Maine, cut off southeast (turn right) on 16 to Rangeley and travel along 4/16 (it's both #4 and #16 in this stretch) for about 6 km. (about halfway between Rangeley and Oquossoc, and less than 10 minutes from Rangeley) until you reach Dodge Pond Road, heading to the north. Drive about a kilometre until you see the big Orgonon sign on your left.

Hours:

July and August, Wednesday to Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

September, Sundays only, 1 to 5 p.m.

The grounds are open year round from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (We phoned ahead and were told we could walk the grounds until 4 p.m., so a phone call would be wise.)

Cost: Adults, $6

Children 12 and under: free

The museum also rents two cottages on the shores of Dodge Pond. Call or see their website for more information.     

Address:
Wilhelm Reich Museum
Orgonon
Dodge Pond Road
P.O. Box 687
Rangeley

 Telephone: 207-864-3443

Web: Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust

Email: wreich@rangeley.org

Interesting related sites:

Karl Hans Welz offers various machines that purportedly generate “life energy” and lots of videos describe how to supercharge your body with energy. If you use the energy machines that Karl invented, he says you are "assured overall success" and "positive permanent change." Can't lose.

A very critical assessment of Reich’s work.

A more balanced overview of Reich and his work on Wikipedia.
 

Good old Wikipedia (again) overview of orgone energy and related issues.

 At the Tools for Wellness site you can buy yourself an "Experimental Life Energy Meter" for $380.00. An "Orgone blanket" is somewhat cheaper.

Or do like William Burroughs did: build your own for a few bucks. They are Reich's own, taken from the Public Orgonomic Research Exchange (PORE) pages, a site worth investigating if this stuff turns you on.

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Walked/visited: November 3, 2008
Page created: February 3, 2009
Updated: October 28, 2013