Wilhelm Reich and the Orgone Accumulator

Prisoner in orange jumpsuit holding bars of cell

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"Warning: misuse of the Orgone Accumulator may lead to symptoms of orgone overdose. Leave the vicinity of the accumulator and call the 'Doctor' immediately!"

That would be the controversial Doctor Wilhelm Reich, father of orgone energy (also known as chi or ​life energy) and the science of ​orgonomy. Wilhelm Reich developed a metal-lined device named the Orgone Accumulator, believing that the box trapped orgone energy that he could harness in groundbreaking approaches towards psychiatry, medicine, the social sciences, biology and weather research.

Discovery of Orgone Energy

Wilhelm Reich's discovery of orgone began with his research of a physical bio-energy basis for Sigmund Freud's theories of neurosis in humans. Wilhelm Reich believed that traumatic experiences blocked the natural flow of life-energy in the body, leading to physical and mental disease. Wilhelm Reich concluded that the libidinal-energy that Freud discussed was the primordial-energy of life itself, connected to more than just sexuality. Orgone was everywhere and Reich measured this energy-in-motion over the surface of the earth. He even determined that its motion affected weather formation.

Orgone Accumulator

In 1940, Wilhelm Reich constructed the first device to accumulate orgone energy: a six-sided box constructed of alternating layers of organic materials (to attract the energy) and metallic materials (to radiate the energy toward the center of the box). Patients would sit inside the accumulator and absorb orgone energy through their skin and lungs. The accumulator had a healthy effect on blood and body tissue by improving the flow of life-energy and by releasing energy-blocks.

The New Cult of Sex and Anarchy

Not everyone liked the theories Wilhelm Reich suggested. Wilhelm Reich's work with cancer patients and the Orgone Accumulators received two very negative press articles. Journalist Mildred Brandy wrote both "The New Cult of Sex and Anarchy" and "The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich". Soon after their publication, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) sent agent Charles Wood to investigate Wilhelm Reich and Reich's research center, Orgonon.

Troubles with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

In 1954, the FDA issued a complaint about an injunction against Reich, charging that he had violated the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by delivering misbranded and adulterated devices in interstate commerce and by making false and misleading claims. The FDA called the accumulators a sham and orgone-energy nonexistent. A judge issued an injunction that ordered all accumulators rented or owned by Reich and those working with him destroyed and all labeling referring to orgone-energy destroyed. Reich did not appear in person at the court proceedings, defending himself by letter.

Two years later, Wilhelm Reich was in jail for contempt of the injunction, the conviction based on the actions of an associate who did not obey the injunction and still possessed an accumulator.


On November 3, 1957, Wilhelm Reich died in his jail cell of heart failure. In his last will and testament, Wilhelm Reich ordered that his works be sealed for fifty years, in hopes that the world would someday be a place better to accept his wondrous machines.

FBI Opinion

Yes, the FBI does have a whole section on their website dedicated to Wilhelm Reich. This is what they had to say:

This German immigrant described himself as the Associate Professor of Medical Psychology, Director of the Orgone Institute, President and research physician of the Wilhelm Reich Foundation, and discoverer of biological or life energy. A 1940 security investigation was begun to determine the extent of Reich's communist commitments. In 1947, a security investigation concluded that neither the Orgone Project nor any of its staff were engaged in subversive activities or were in violation of any statue within the jurisdiction of the FBI. In 1954 the U.S. Attorney General filed a complaint seeking permanent injunction to prevent interstate shipment of devices and literature distributed by Dr. Reich's group. That same year, Dr. Reich was arrested for a Contempt of Court for violation of the Attorney General's injunction.
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Bellis, Mary. "Wilhelm Reich and the Orgone Accumulator." ThoughtCo, Sep. 9, 2021, thoughtco.com/wilhelm-reich-and-orgone-accumulator-1992351. Bellis, Mary. (2021, September 9). Wilhelm Reich and the Orgone Accumulator. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/wilhelm-reich-and-orgone-accumulator-1992351 Bellis, Mary. "Wilhelm Reich and the Orgone Accumulator." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/wilhelm-reich-and-orgone-accumulator-1992351 (accessed March 21, 2023).