Large photo

Home | Index of articles


Santa Ana, California: Inside the Orgone Box

Thomas A. Aguirre 148 Oakwood Circle Santa Ana, CA 92705

In the classic confessional memoir “The God That Failed,” Arthur Koestler describes some of the characters who made up the constituency of his Communist Party group in Berlin in the early 1930s:

“Among other members of our cell, I remember Dr. Wilhelm Reich. He . . . had just published a book called ‘The Function of the Orgasm,’ in which he had expounded the theory that the sexual frustration of the proletariat caused a thwarting of its political consciousness; only through a full, uninhibited release of the sexual urge could the working class realize its revolutionary potentialities and historic mission; the whole thing was less cockeyed than it sounds.”

Pausing briefly to ask oneself how the word “cockeyed” translates into Berlin vernacular, one next inquires how the theory could have been more preposterous than at first appeared. Apart from his life of tireless and sensational debauchery, Koestler himself was famous for hitching his wagon to various movements of the paranormal and the extrasensory; he might have been expected to give Reich’s oddball theories a try even as both men spun off from the dying planet of Soviet Communism. But what is extraordinary is the number of apparently level and careful people who, in pursuit of the better and bigger orgasm, were prepared to lower themselves into Reich’s jerry-built “orgone box” and await blissful developments. One is not so surprised to read of the enthusiasm of try-anything-once artists like Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, William Burroughs and Norman Mailer. But how must Albert Einstein have felt, while engaged on his two weeks of study of orgone properties? (He did at least conclude that the “box” was an insult to the laws of physics.) Did Saul Bellow not succumb to the queasy feeling that he might be looking like a sap?

Is it too easy to simply speculate that men will make fools of themselves for the sake of sex? As Christopher Turner notices in his very amusing and intelligent book, “Adventures in the Orgasmatron,” George Orwell, not usually associated with promiscuity of any kind, included central elements of the Reichian theory and program almost uncritically in the pages of “1984.” The terrifying inquisitor O’Brien tells the cowering Winston Smith: “The sex instinct will be eradicated. . . . We shall abolish orgasm.” And Winston’s intensely promiscuous girlfriend, Julia, explains why the Party needs sexual repression:

“When you make love you’re using up energy. And afterward you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering is simply sex gone sour. If you’re happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and Three Year Plans and all the rest of that bollocks?”

Orwell’s relationship with the libidinous was, as we know, a generally distraught one. Did his private resentment on this score inhibit him from seeing that a really clever ruling class would saturate its subjects with all sorts of treats, from the erotic to the narcotic, and enlist them in their own soft slavery by means of hedonism? (Toward the end of his life, this suggestive point was actually put to him in a letter from his old French teacher at Eton, who enclosed a copy of his own latest novel, “Brave New World.”)

An alternative explanation for the temporary success of Reich, especially among American intellectuals both of the Marxisant stripe and of the do-it-yourself “organic community” sort, is that he was able to propose an essentially mechanical and “scientific” solution to a psychological problem, yet a mechanical solution that could be easily assembled and employed at home. Arriving in the United States in 1939 as one of the many dissident Freudians and heterodox Marxists to have escaped Hitler (and in his own case, also Stalin), Reich was quick to announce the invention of the “orgone energy accumulator.” This device or contraption took the form of a wooden cupboard lined with metal and insulated with steel wool. It was about the size of a telephone booth. In his movie “Sleeper,” Woody Allen satirically referred to the humble resulting structure as “the Orgasmatron”: a ridiculous name deftly annexed by Turner. But the real terms used by Reich to promote the cupboard of ecstasy — “orgastic potency”; “orgone energy” — were hardly less hyperbolic.

Turner, an editor at Cabinet magazine, is clearly right to connect the Reich movement to the early stirrings of the postwar sexual revolution: a development that might have occurred naturally and that could well have been apolitical. However, a series of hysterically comic figures on the American right (and one or two rather sinister ones as well, like Senator Joseph McCarthy) claimed to see the figure of Alfred Kinsey, say, as a frontman for a wider conspiracy to sap American morals. It wasn’t long before agents from the F.B.I. and the Immigration and Naturalization Service were calling on Reich, either to ask him about subversive characters he might know, or about his own political past and affiliations. In a way, he made the perfect boogeyman for J. Edgar Hoover, who managed to amass a file of hundreds of pages on a man who must have seemed the perfect fusion of Red menace and sexual pervert. (One wishes that Reich had had time to do a psychosexual profile of Hoover.) What the investigators actually found, however, was a man whose breach with his Communist past was complete: stating firmly (this was in late 1953) that he favored the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg even though he might “not have wanted to be the executioner.” This may have owed something to a need to overcompensate, and even to impress authority, but we know from other sources that in many ways Reich was quite conservative. According to Paul Robinson in “The Freudian Left”: “Reich seemed to fear his would-be admirers even more than his critics. He was haunted by the thought that men with dirty minds would misuse his authority.” He not only disliked pornography but — in what must count as a startling departure from Viennese theory and practice — was opposed to dirty jokes, believing that sexual emancipation would make them obsolete. In addition, he “abhorred” homosexuality.

“Adventures in the Orgasmatron” has many fine and engaging passages, but I think my favorite must be this one, in which Alfred Kazin describes the pathetic trust in Reich shown by the writer Isaac Rosenfeld. Has there ever been a better description of the baffled naïveté of so many “New York intellectuals”?:

“Isaac’s orgone box stood up in the midst of an enormous confusion of bedclothes, review copies, manuscripts, children and the many people who went in and out of the room as if it were the bathroom. Belligerently sitting inside his orgone box, daring philistines to laugh, Isaac nevertheless looked lost, as if he were waiting in his telephone booth for a call that was not coming through.” This book will change the way in which we employ that increasingly lazy phrase about “thinking outside the box.”


Large photo


Functional properties and retrogradation behaviour of native and chemically modified starch of mucuna bean (Mucuna pruriens)

Mucuna bean (mucuna pruriens) starch was isolated and subjected to chemical modification by oxidation and acetylation. The proximate analysis of the non-starch components of the native starch on a dry weight basis was 92 g kg−1 moisture, 5 g kg−1 ash, 2 g kg−1 fat, 7 g kg−1 crude fibre and 19 g kg−1 protein. Chemical modification reduced the values for all the non-starch components except the moisture level. For all the samples, swelling power and solubility increased as the temperature increased in the range 50–90 °C. The swelling power of mucuna native starch (MNS) and mucuna acetylated starch (MAS) increased with increasing acidity and alkalinity, while that of mucuna oxidised starch (MOS) only increased with increasing pH in the acidic range. The maximal solubility of all the starches was observed at pH 12. All the starch samples absorbed more oil than water. The lowest gelation concentration followed the trend MAS < MNS < MOS. Chemical modification reduced the gelatinisation temperature (Tp), while peak viscosity (Pv), hot paste viscosity (Hv) and cold paste viscosity (Cv) decreased after oxidation but increased following acetylation. The setback tendency of the native starch was reduced significantly after chemical modification. However, the breakdown value of MNS, 65 BU (Brabender units), was lower than that of MOS (78 BU) but higher than that of MAS (40 BU). Differential scanning calorimetry studies of gelatinisation and retrogradation revealed that chemical modification reduced the onset temperature (To), peak temperature (Tp) and conclusion temperature (Tc). Oxidation and acetylation reduced the gelatinisation and retrogradation enthalpies of the native starch. The enthalpy of retrogradation of the starches increased as the length of storage increased.


Large photo


Beaumont, Texas: The Jessica Lunsford Case

Alexander B. Griffin 2277 Brookview Drive Beaumont, TX 77701

Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford disappeared from her bedroom at her grandparents' home in the middle of the night Feb. 23, 2005. A massive search was launched for the missing girl that drew the attention of national television networks over the following three weeks.

Police found the body of Jessica Lunsford buried in a shallow grave under the back porch of a mobile home less than 150 yards from her home on March 18, 2005, a day after a convicted sex offender told authorities that he had killed the nine-year-old.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS Jessica Lunsford's Killer Dies in Prison Sept. 30, 2009 The man who kidnapped, raped and murdered 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford and buried her alive behind his sister's trailer, has died on death row of natural causes. John Evander Couey died at a Jacksonville hospital after a lengthy illness.

PREVIOUS DEVELOPMENTS John Evander Couey Gets Death Penalty Aug. 24, 2007 A repeat sex offender whose crimes against nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford led to new, tougher laws across the nation, was sentenced to death today in a Florida court. Judge: John Evander Couey Not Retarded Aug. 7, 2007 John Evander Couey is not retarded and is eligible for the death penalty, a Florida judge has ruled. Official sentencing is scheduled for Friday for the 48-year-old repeat sex offender.

Couey Sentencing Delayed Again July 17, 2007 John Evander Couey will not know until August 10 if he will face the death penalty or life in prison, as a Florida judge decides if Couey is mentally retarded or not.

John Evander Couey Still Not Sentenced June 22, 2007 Three months after a jury recommended the death sentence, John EvanderCouey has yet to be sentenced and is not scheduled back in court for a hearing until July 17.

Jury Recommends Death for John Evander Couey Mar. 14, 2007 A jury of his peers took less than one hour today to recommend a death sentence for John Evander Couey for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jessica Marie Lunsford.

Justice for Jessica: Couey Found Guilty Mar. 7, 2007 A jury in Miami deliberated for almost four hours today before returning guilty verdicts in all charges against John Evander Couey in the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jessica Lunsford.

Closing Arguments Set in Lunsford Trial Mar. 6, 2007 Closing arguments are scheduled in the murder trial of John Evander Couey after the defense suddenly rested its case after calling only one witness.

Jury Selection Winds Down in Couey Trial Feb. 23, 2007 The first round of jury selection in the Miami murder trial of John Evander Couey ended last week with 71 potential jurors of 288 advancing to the second round of questioning, expected to last only two days.

Jury Selection Begins Feb. 12, 2007 Almost two years after nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped, raped, murdered and buried alive, jury selection is scheduled to begin today.

Judge Tosses More Evidence Jan. 8, 2007 A Florida judge has thrown out more statements made to law enforcement officer by John Evander Couey while being questioned about an unrelated Orlando case.

Jessica Lunsford Trial Moved to Miami Sept. 14, 2006 Florida will try again to find an impartial jury for the trial of John Evander Couey, this time in Miami.

Judge Halts Couey Jury Selection June 13, 2006 After three days of questioning potential jurors in the murder trial of John Evander Couey, a Florida judge halted the procedure and dismissed the remaining jurors, because he said an impartial panel could not be found in Lake County.

Jury Selection Begins July 10, 2006 Most of the potential jurors questioned during the first day of jury selection in the trial of John Evander Coueysaid they had heard of the case, but knew few details about Couey and why he came to be charged.

Confession Tossed in Jessica Lunsford Case July 2, 2006 A Florida judge has ruled that John Evander Couey's confession to investigators cannot be used as evidence in his trial, but the discovery of her body and a later jailhouse confession can be used.

John Evander Couey Wants Confession Tossed May 19, 2006 Attorneys for John Evander Couey filed motions to suppress his confession because they said he was denied access to a lawyer.

Judge Grants Change of Venue for Couey Trial Apr. 21, 2006 A Florida judge has granted the request from John Evander Couey's attorneys to move to another county his trial for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jessica Lunsford. Prosecutors did not contest the motion.

Cops Came Close to Finding Jessica Lunsford June 23, 2005 The confession of John Evander Couey revealed that Jessica Lunsford was still alive in a closet when police came to the door to question her Homosassa, Florida neighbors about her disappearance.

Jessica Lunsford Was Raped, Buried Alive April 20, 2005 Documents released by state prosecutors show that nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford was raped and buried alive in two plastic garbage bags with her hands tied with speaker wire.

John Evander Couey Charged in Jessica's Death March 23, 2005 A convicted sex offender apparently kidnapped Jessica Lunsford from her bedroom and held her bound and gagged for at least two days 100 yards from her home while police, search dogs and volunteers swarm