Subjects (abstracts): Sex; Mass Psychology; Religion; Freethinkers (Heretics, etc.); Robert Ingersoll; Wilhelm Reich:
from: The Encyclopedia of Unbelief, Gordon Stein, Editor, Volume Two, Prometheus, 1985. ["Reich, Wilhelm", by Paul Edwards].
"REICH, WILHELM (1897—1957), Austrian psychiatrist with enormous influence on current therapeutic techniques, second perhaps only to that of SIGMUND FREUD and one of the most outspoken opponents of religion, especially its harmful effects on character and mental health. As a psychological rather than a philosophical critic of religion, Reich continued the work of FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE and Freud, developing this critique more systematically and in greater detail than his predecessors." .
'Intellectual arguments are no match for the "most powerful emotion" on which the mass-psychological influence of religious institutions is based: sexual anxiety and sexual repression. People who no longer believe in God and the various doctrines of the churches are frequently subject to mystical feelings. If they are intellectuals, they will be attracted to a metaphysical philosophy like that of G.W.F. Hegel or Martin Heidegger; if they are not intellectuals they are liable to be attracted by one of the many political pseudoreligions and direct their worship to the worthless leaders of these movements.' .
'"Mysticism having dominated humanity for thousands of years," Reich writes, "it can expect of us beginners that we do not underestimate it, that we comprehend it correctly and show ourselves better informed . . . than its representatives." Whatever temporary setbacks there may be, the power of religious mysticism will be broken; and this will happen not as the result of the admirable and logically compelling criticisms of religious doctrines by philosophers and scientists, BUT BECAUSE OF SOCIAL CHANGES THAT HAVE BECOME IRREVERSIBLE.' .
"In this article nothing has been said about any of Reich's publications after 1950, because they do not add anything of substance to the topics discussed. Moreover, during this period Reich began to believe all kinds of absurd things and to see Communist conspiracies everywhere. On the basis of no credible evidence he asserted the existence of UFOs, which were said to be driven by orgone motors. He even toyed with the idea that he himself was the son of a spaceman. These are just a few samples. Those eager to dismiss him as nothing but a crank were quick to seize on these wild notions. It cannot therefore be sufficiently emphasized that the importance of Reich's psychiatric discoveries and the profundity of his insights into the causes of human misery are in no way affected by the nonsense he came to believe during his last years." [Bibliography follows] .]
• • •
from: The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Wilhelm Reich, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1970 (1946) (1933 Denmark).
"1. How do the idea of God, the ideology of sin, and the ideology of punishment—which are PRODUCED BY SOCIETY AND REPRODUCED IN THE FAMILY—become embedded in the individual? In other words: Why is it that man does not feel these basic conceptions of religion as a burden? What is it that compels him not only to accept them but to affirm them fervently, indeed, compels him to defend and preserve them at the sacrifice of his most fundamental interests of life?
2. When do these religious conceptions become embedded in man?
3. What energy is used to accomplish this?
It is clear that until these three questions are answered, it may indeed be possible to give a sociological and psychological interpretation of religion, but it will not be possible to effect a real change in man's structure. For if religious feelings are not imposed on man, but are embedded and retained in his structure [see #7, 192-196 (The Selfish Gene)], opposed as they are to his own vital interests, then what is needed is an energetic change in man's structure.
The basic religious idea of all patriarchal religions is the negation of sexual need." .
"In talking with religious people it is often found that they have a very good understanding of their own condition. As everyone else, their personalities are divided into a public and a private side. Officially, they regard sexuality as a sin; privately, they know only too well that they cannot exist without their substitute gratifications....If one does not reject them as human beings and succeeds in winning their confidence, one finds they understand very well that that which they describe as union with God is the feeling of relatedness to the process of nature as a whole, that their selfhood is a part of nature. As all human beings, they too feel themselves to be a microcosm in a macrocosm." [149-150].
"Healthy adolescent sexuality would not necessarily have to stifle a veneration for the Jesus legend. The Old and the New Testament can be appreciated as stupendous achievements of the human mind, but this appreciation should not be used to suppress sexuality. My medical experience has taught me that adolescents who are sexually sick have an unhealthy appreciation of the legend of Jesus." .
[See: #3, 41-104 (Jesus); etc.].
"Whereas the resources of the freethinkers are confined to intellectual arguments, the church enjoys the help of the state power-apparatus and plays upon the strongest emotional forces in the psychology of the masses, sexual anxiety, and sexual repression. This great power in the emotional sphere is not countered by a commensurate emotional force. Insofar as the freethinkers employ sex policies at all, they are either INTELLECTUALIZED or confined to questions of population politics. At best they include the demand for economic equality for women. This, however, cannot have any mass effect on the powers of mysticism, for in most women the will to economic independence is unconsciously checked by the fear of sexual responsibility, which goes hand in hand with economic independence." [172-173].
• • •
from: The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Paul Edwards, Editor in Chief, Volume Seven, Macmillan, 1967. ["Reich, Wilhelm", by Paul Edwards (see Bibliography)].
'How are we to account for the fact that "religious ideas are invested with such intense feelings"? What explains the "enormous emotional power of mysticism" ([The Mass Psychology of Fascism (edition?)] ibid., p. 122)? Or, using Reich's favorite terminology, what is the "energy" which enables religions to gain such a firm hold on people? What is it that compels human beings not only to accept the idea of a pleasure-prohibiting, all-seeing God and the ideologies of sin and punishment, and "not to feel them as a burden but, on the contrary, to uphold and fervently defend them, at the sacrifice of their most primitive life interests?" (ibid., p. 124).
Reich is strongly opposed to the tendency of "emancipated" unbelievers to dismiss religions as nothing more than the fancies of silly and ignorant people. He insists that a study of religious people—of the content of their emotions and beliefs, of the ways in which these are implanted, and of the function which they fulfill in their psychological economy—is highly rewarding. It sheds light on many other phenomena, including, for example, the psychological basis of fascism and of reactionary political movements. Such a study also explains why, by and large, free-thought propaganda is so unsuccessful in spite of the fact that from a purely rational point of view the positions defended by freethinkers are vastly superior to the religious claims—something that is not altogether unknown among believers. Above all, a happy life for the majority of mankind is impossible unless the power of religion is broken, unless one can prevent "the mystical infestation of the masses" (ibid., p. 161). However, in order to be effective in "the relentless fight against mysticism," one must have a full comprehension of its origin and its psychological sources of strength so that one can meet its "artful apparatus . . . with adequate counter-measures" (ibid., p. 152). To suppose that mystical attitudes become anchored in human beings simply as a result of intellectual indoctrination is a naive and dangerous mistake.' .
'It would lead too far afield to discuss here the various ways in which, according to Reich, the "mystical idea of God" becomes anchored in people. These mechanisms may vary in detail, but they all involve the implanting of sexual anxieties; and Reich concludes that from the point of view of energy, mystical feelings are "sexual excitations which have changed their content and goal." The energy of these emotions is the energy of natural sexuality which has become transformed and attached to mystical, psychic contents. Religious patients, upon establishing a fully satisfying sex life, invariably lose their God-fixation.
Once one comprehends the nature of "religious excitations," it becomes clear why the free-thought movement "cannot make itself as a counter-force" (ibid., p. 147). Aside from the fact that in many countries the churches enjoy the support of the state and that generally the mass information media are grossly biased in favor of religion and religious morality, the impact of free-thought propaganda is limited because it relies almost exclusively on intellectual arguments. These are not, indeed, a negligible factor, but they are no match for the "most powerful emotion" on which the mass-psychological influence of religious institutions is based: sexual anxiety and sexual repression. People with a religious upbringing who, as a result of the study of science and philosophy, have turned into unbelievers very frequently retain religious longings and emotions. Some of them even continue to pray compulsively. This does not prove, as some advocates of religion argue, that religious needs are "eternal and ineradicable." It does, however, show that "while the religious feeling is opposed by the power of the intellect, its sources have not been touched (ibid., p. 152)."' .
'it follows incontrovertibly that "full sexual consciousness and a natural regulation of sexual life mean the end of mystical feelings of any kind, that, in other words, natural sexuality is the deadly enemy of mystical religion" (ibid., p. 152). Any social efforts which are directed toward making people affirm their sexual rights will ipso facto weaken the forces of mysticism.' .
'As for those people who are too old to have their structure basically altered, it is still all to the good to bring "silent suffering to the surface." They might then be less likely to become instruments in the process of maiming their own children, and they will not continue to support sex-repressive laws.' .
'An individual "who is sexually happy does not need an inhibiting 'morality' or a supernatural 'religious experience.' Basically, life is as simple as that. It becomes complicated only by the human structure which is characterized by the fear of life" (The Sexual Revolution, p. 269).' .
"In March 1954, the Food and Drug Administration obtained an injunction against Reich and his foundation, ordering the destruction of all orgone accumulators, all of Reich's journals, and some of his books....For some months Reich obeyed the injunction, but in October 1954 he notified the authorities that he was about to resume all the activities of his institute, including the sale of books and periodicals. This led to a trial in 1956, at which Reich was given the maximum sentence of two years in a federal penitentiary. Reich died of a heart attack eight months after he had started serving his sentence. All journals published by Reich's institute that were seized by government agents were burned in two separate actions in 1956 and 1960, and his books were impounded until they began to be republished by a commercial house in 1960." [113-114].
[from the Bibliography] "The Orgone Energy Bulletin, Vol. 5 (1953), 1 - 137, contains a very extensive bibliography of writings by and about Reich up to 1952. Unfortunately all issues of this periodical, as well as all issues of IJSO [International Journal for Sex-Economy and Orgone Research], are among the publications that were burned by the United States government [see #2, 27-28 (Book Burning)].
Paul Edwards" [End of article] .
• • •
from: The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations, Charles Bufe, Editor, See Sharp Press ["Phone/Fax: 520-628-8720"], 1995 (1988). [received, and first seen, 12/2/96]. [a "Must See" book!].
[from Wilhelm Reich: The Mass Psychology of Fascism] "Clinical experience shows incontestably that religious sentiments result from inhibited sexuality, that the source of mystical excitation is to be sought in inhibited sexual excitation. The inescapable conclusion of all this is that a clear sexual consciousness and a natural regulation of sexual life must foredoom every form of mysticism; that, in other words, NATURAL SEXUALITY IS THE ARCH ENEMY OF MYSTICAL RELIGION. By carrying on an anti-sexual fight wherever it can, making it the core of its dogmas and putting it in the foreground of its mass propaganda, the church only attests to the correctness
of this interpretation." . [See: #3, 80-82 (Laughter)].
[Robert Ingersoll (1833 - 1899)] "Who at the present day can imagine the courage, the devotion to principle, the intellectual and moral grandeur it once required to be an infidel, to brave the Church, her racks, her fagots, her dungeons, her tongues of fire—to defy and scorn her heaven and her hell—her devil and her God?" .
• • •
from: Liberty and the Great Libertarians, An Anthology on Liberty A Hand-book of Freedom, Edited and compiled, with preface, introduction, and index, by Charles T. Sprading, Arno Press & The New York Times, 1972 (1913).
[this reference, thanks to The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations].
[Robert Ingersoll] "Don't you know that if people could bottle the air, they would? Don't you know that there would be an American Air-bottling Association? And don't you know that they would allow thousands and millions to die for want of breath, if they could not pay for air?" .
[quoted in The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations, 100].
[Robert Ingersoll] 'The king ruled by force, the priest by fear, and both by both.
The king said to the people: "God made you peasants, and He made me king; He made you to labor and me to enjoy; He made rags and hovels for you, robes and palaces for me. He made you to obey and me to command. Such is the justice of God."
And the priest said: "God made you ignorant and vile; He made me holy and wise; you are the sheep, I am the shepherd; your fleeces belong to me. If you do not obey me here, God will punish you now and torment you forever in another world. Such is the mercy of God."
"You must not reason. Reason is a rebel. You must not contradict—contradiction is born of egotism; you must believe. He that hath ears to hear let him hear." Heaven was a question of ears.
Fortunately for us, there have been traitors and there have been heretics, blasphemers, thinkers, investigators, lovers of liberty, men of genius who have given their lives to better the condition of their fellowmen.' .
• • •
Note: I thank Jesse Bailey, Birmingham, Alabama, for sending much information, including the See Sharp Press catalog, which led me to: The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations, the excerpts included in this article, etc.
I also thank Jesse Bailey for his courageous public writings related to themes of this article, and for his great appreciation of Thomas Paine, Robert Ingersoll, Friedrich Nietzsche, Wilhelm Reich, Paul Edwards, and others.