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Wilhelm Reich--brilliantly insightful psychoanalyst or crackpot scientist? Perhaps both, though belying his reputation as a crackpot is the persistence with which adherents to his orgone theory still tout its application to everything from rainmaking to cancer. Clearly, though, he was a sensitive and deeply caring person who came to the U.S. from a war-torn Europe fully expecting to be welcomed as a man of science. American Odyssey: Letters and Journals 1940-1947 details his most intimate thoughts and communications with family, friends, colleagues, and, inevitably, harassers. His life was filled with high drama, his ego was suitably large for a man whose ideas (he felt) could save the world from itself, and his future was cloudy, but his spirit of perseverance shines throughout.
Despite brief incarceration as an "enemy alien," foreshadowing his eventual defeat at the hands of the FDA and the AMA, he became a loyal, patriotic American, seeing this country as a bulwark against the fascism and communism he knew all too well. The excitement he felt about his work speaks to us through his articulate journal entries, as does his paranoia, though, as the wise say, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. Unable to de-escalate the mounting struggle over orgone therapy, in 1947 Reich came under the first of many investigations that would finally put him in jail for the rest of his life. His fitting, closing words: "Once again man has killed a warming soul, stabbed a heart burning for him. Once again they gave power to their little sergeants." --Rob Lightner [via]