Our Reichian Roots

Written by Erica Kelley

The clouds seemed to be expanding in a most unexpected fashion over the woods and hills near Rangeley Lake in Maine. “I’ve withdrawn the orgone energy from them; now they will dissipate,” said Wilhelm Reich. Those clouds did indeed lose their clear boundaries, disintegrate, evaporate into the air and disappear from the sky. “We can destroy clouds in the same way that we eliminate symptoms in Orgone Therapy. We withdraw the orgone energy from the symptom and the symptom disappears. That’s just what I’ve done with those clouds. I’ve withdrawn their orgone energy and so the clouds have disappeared. It’s very simple.” Thus spoke Wilhelm Reich to Charles Kelley when he visited Reich as a student in the fall of 1951.

“It’s very simple,” he had said and yet, by pointing “a bunch of pipes” at the sky, generations of established scientific beliefs about the weather were crumbling before his humble but knowledgeable student’s eyes.

Now imagine Reich giving a session of Orgone Therapy. Unlike his teacher, Freud, he is sitting beside and in reach of the patient, rather than out of sight above the couch. He is looking into the patient’s eyes, noticing if they look away from him as significant material emerges. He observes the breathing – is it slowing down, or is it racing? He notices the tone of voice, the agitation or stillness of the body as the patient recounts emotional events. He notices when tears break through, or when they are blocked from expression. When his patient is silent, the body expresses the truth. The fists may clench, eyes open wide, breath stop. He is identifying specific tensions, and he is more interested in the process than he is in the content. He is becoming the first body-oriented psychologist. The scene will sound very familiar to clients and practitioners of Radix growth work.

Reich recognized Freud’s libido as the life force, Reich’s orgone energy, and went on to develop systematic associations between physical and emotional holding, bodily and characterological rigidities, and their relationship to the pulsation of the life force. He was a major pioneer of sex education, research and therapy. The primary goal of his therapy was to establish “orgastic potency” or a “genital character structure,” which to Reich was the epitome of emotional health. Notwithstanding Kelley’s criticism of the genital character concept, the capacity to surrender to orgasm involving the whole body indicates a capacity for aliveness and integration of the head, heart and genitals. This capacity for aliveness and integration of all levels of functioning lie at the heart of Radix work.

Fast-forward forty years from the last scene. Imagine Charles (Chuck) Kelley giving a Radix bodywork session. He is kneeling beside a mat on which lies a man who is stiff, blocked and remote. Chuck suggests to him a sequence of voluntary exercises – with the breath, arm and legs movements, sounds -- that help him to contact his blocked feelings and to soften his barriers to their expression. During their thirty minutes together, the feelings develop, intensify, and overflow in a strong involuntary expression of anger, fear, crying, or pleasurable emotion – whatever is there. Afterwards there is relief and relaxation and, beyond that, a greater acceptance of his own feelings.

Alternatively, picture Chuck standing in a lake in the Berkshires of Massachusetts wearing swimming trunks and cotton gloves. He is holding a movable assemblage of hollow parallel metal tubes, a Reichian cloudbuster, that he directs, as if he is pointing a large telescope. He points it first to one section of sky, then another, lingering longer here, more briefly there. After a few minutes he swings up and stays several minutes on a carefully chosen setting near the zenith. While he works, the sky changes, the wind shifts, a new pattern of clouds begins to form. A different weather process has developed. He puts the equipment away. – In two days there is unpredicted large-scale rain in the whole region.

Kelley has said that knowledge and practice in an area like Radix bodywork seems to most people to be something entirely different from the knowledge and practice of Radix weather modification. Kelley-Radix work is with life force processes in a living universe, just as Reich’s was. Skill in working with these processes can be developed and used in the context of enhancing the lives of people, and can also be used in the context of radix atmospheric research, perhaps to modify climatic processes. Formations of cyclonic storms and hurricanes follow similar patterns to human matings as two life force systems interweave. Reich and Kelley called this “superimposition.” It is discussed more fully in the article on Radix Science.

Thus the foundation of Kelley-Radix was laid by two of Wilhelm Reich’s major discoveries: the existence of the life force in the body and in all of nature, and the muscular armor, the patterns of chronic tension in the body that block the flow of the life force and hence the expression of feeling and the full sexual experience.

Reich’s legacy lives on in a multitude of disciplines in the mind/body arena, now in the second and third generations since his death in 1957. Radix was blessed with the first-generation experience of its Founder, Charles Kelley, just as Bioenergetics was founded by a first-generation student of Reich’s, Alexander Lowen, and Gestalt Therapy by Fritz Perls. The Human Potential Movement of the 1970’s produced pioneers and disciplines that moved from classic “medical/psychiatric-model” orientation to mainstream “growth” models, and made the work of Reich, among others, accessible to countless numbers of people who were not “sick” but wanted to deeply change and enrich their lives. Kelley has written extensively about why he dissociated from Reich’s medical model with its focus on “sickness” and “cure,” just as he has explained his separation from Orgonomy, which freed him to develop Radix Education’s concepts and programs.

After Reich’s untimely death in prison in 1957, the Reichian movement fell into shock and confusion, and it was several years before a semblance of continuity emerged among his followers. As we honor the man to whom we are so indebted in this 50th Anniversary year of his death, we celebrate the resurgence of his work worldwide, the 1,950,000 results from a Google search for him, and the programs of the American College of Orgonomy and the Wilhelm Reich Museum. Above all, we are proud of our own role in applying his work to help people and the planet. Our enduring gratitude to you, Dr. Reich.



Boadella, David, 1973, WILHELM REICH: The Evolution of his Work. Chicago, IL: Henry Regnery Co.

DeMeo, James, 1998, SAHARASIA: The Revolutionary Discovery of a Geographic Basis to Human Behavior. Greensprings, OR. www.orgonelab.org.

Kelley, Charles R., 1991, Personal Growth and Psychotherapy in Radix Work. Reprinted in THE RADIX 1992

_______________, 1977, Reich, Radix, and the Enhancement of Sexuality. Reprinted in THE RADIX 1992.

_______________, 1965, Orgonomy Since the Death of Reich, The Creative Process Vol. V.

_______________, 1963, The Life and Death of Wilhelm Reich, in The Creative Process, Vol. III No. 1.

Sharaf, Myron, 1983, FURY ON EARTH. New York: St. Martin’s Press/Marek.

Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust and the Wilhelm Reich Museum, P.O. Box 687, Rangeley, Maine. www.wilhelmreichmuseum.org.