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Orgone Biophysics

Orgone biophysics is the name that Wilhelm Reich gave to the body of natural scientific work that he established within the broader field of orgonomy.


From 1934 on, Reich became increasingly engaged in laboratory science, which developed in tandem with his pioneering work in psychiatry, medicine and the social sciences. Together with orgonomic therapy, research in orgone biophysics has also been a central focus of the Institute for Orgonomic Science.

Electrophysiology of Pleasure and Anxiety:

Reich’s work in experimental natural science began at the Psychological Institute of the University of Oslo where he conducted pioneering studies of the electrophysiology of pleasure and anxiety in human subjects. Reich’s measurements demonstrated that human emotional life is pulsatory. He found that the subjective emotional experiences of his subjects corresponded to measurable changes in electrical potential at the skin surface. His findings, as described in his book The Bioelectrical Investigation of Sexuality and Anxiety indicate that anxiety is the subjective perception of a measurable energetic contraction, while pleasure is the perception of an energetic expansion.

The Bion Experiments:

Reich wondered how deeply this basic biological antithesis of expansion and contraction extended in the phylogeny of life. While planning electrophysiological experiments along these lines with protozoa, he began microscopic observations of the development of these organisms in hay infusions. Prolonged study in living preparations led him to doubt the standard account of their origin as developing solely from encysted organisms already present in the hay. He observed that the grass or moss tissue underwent a process of disintegration into microscopic vesicles, which he later termed “bions.” Under certain conditions, membranes were observed to form around heaps of these bions, and in some cases these membrane-enclosed heaps would develop into recognizable amoebae or ciliates. Using some of the most advanced light microscopy equipment of his time, he undertook extensive time-lapse cinemicrophotographic documentation of this developmental process, which he later termed the “natural organization” of protozoa.

By 1937 Reich was able to set up his own independent laboratory in Oslo to conduct his biological work. There he and his staff, in conjunction with foreign collaborators, undertook further studies of the formation and development of bions under sterile conditions in which both organic or inorganic materials, such as earth, coal, iron and later sand were allowed to swell in weak potassium chloride solutions. Reich observed the same process of bionous disintegration in these preparations, and that it was furthered by heating in an autoclave, and in the case of coal or sand, by heating to incandescence in a Bunsen burner. Microscopic studies of bions at high magnification demonstrated pulsatory movement, and an extensive series of experiments demonstrated that bions exhibiting a strong electrical charge could usually be successfully cultured on sterile media. Reich presented his findings on bions in his book, The Bion Experiments on the Origin of Life.

Bion Research and Cancer:

While still in Norway, as part of his bion research, Reich undertook extensive microscopic observations of living cancer tissue. He concluded that tumor formation involves a process of bionous tissue disintegration and reorganization into amoeboid cancer cells similar to the natural organization of protozoa he had previously observed in hay infusions. Reich was also able to isolate a specific pathogenic type of bion that he called the “t-bacillus” from cancer tissue.

Reich also integrated insights derived from his clinical work in his studies of cancer. In his own clinical work with cancer patients he frequently noted a characterological resignation and shallow breathing. In this context, he recognized the importance of Otto Warburg’s earlier findings of reduced aerobic respiration in cancer tissue.

Reich Blood and Tissue Tests:

During his medical research on cancer, Reich developed a series of blood and tissue tests that were employed both for early diagnosis and to follow the patient’s progress during treatment. The three Reich blood tests consist of 1) the microscope test, which measures the rate of bionous disintegration of erythrocytes (red blood cells) in physiological saline, and determines whether or not they disintegrate into blue PA bions or t-bacilli; 2) The autoclave test which assesses the cohesiveness of erythrocytes following sterilization in an autoclave; and 3) the blood culture test, in which an attempt is made to culture t-bacilli in bacteriological broth. Reich also employed the examination of unstained live specimens of sputum or vaginal secretions in order to detect precancerous or cancerous cells. Readers are referred to our bibliography on the subject for more information.

The Discovery of Orgone Energy:

In 1939, Reich found that bions prepared from ocean sand (SAPA bions) had unusual radiant energy properties, including luminescence in the dark, fogging of photographic plates and reddening of skin exposed through quartz glass. The finding that they could induce a charge on organic materials that would register on an electroscope led him to call this radiation “orgone energy.” In an effort to isolate this radiation, Reich enclosed the SAPA bion cultures in a modified Faraday cage, but was surprised to find that the radiant energy phenomena persisted without the cultures. After a series of observations and experiments, which continued in the United States, where Reich re-established his laboratory in late 1939, he came to the conclusion that the orgone energy was also present in the surrounding atmosphere, and could in fact be concentrated by an apparatus such as his modified Faraday cage, which consisted of a galvanized iron box surrounded by an organic material such as wool or fiberboard. This apparatus, the orgone energy accumulator, was then further modified to increase its effect and extensively employed by Reich in both physical and biological investigations.

Physical Measurements of Atmospheric Orgone Energy:

Reich made the remarkable discovery that a slight temperature difference (called To-T) existed between an orgone energy accumulator and a control cabinet lacking metal but with similar insulating properties, a difference which exhibited a diurnal variation, increased in fair weather, and decreased in rainy weather or high humidity. He also found that the discharge rate of charged electroscopes was much slower inside an orgone accumulator than in a control box or in the open air, and also that the electroscope discharge rate exhibited a diurnal variation and responded to changes in the weather similarly to To-T. Several studies replicating these original findings have been published, and the interested reader is referred to our bibliographies for more information.

Biological Effects of Orgone Energy:

In his early experiments with cancerous mice, Reich had found that injections of bions was able to increase their longevity to an average of 9.1 weeks in comparison to 3.9 weeks for untreated control animals. Subsequent experiments with orgone energy accumulator treatment produced an average lifespan of 11.1 weeks versus 3.9 weeks for controls.

Reich’s research on orgone biophysics through 1947, including his work on the bion experiments, cancer, the discovery of orgone energy, and the physical and biological effects and potential medical applications of the orgone energy accumulator are extensively described in his book The Cancer Biopathy which is the single best place to begin study of this field. In addition, a number of other controlled experimental studies have also been published since Reich’s time demonstrating significant biological effects of the orgone energy accumulator on wound healing and on cancer in mice, on plant growth, and on human physiology. Other physicians working with Reich or since his time have also documented their clinical observations of the effects of the accumulator on different medical conditions in a series of case reports. Again, the interested reader is referred to our bibliographies for these citations.

The Oranur Experiment:

Oranur is an acronym for “orgone against nuclear radiation.” At the height of the Korean War, and amid widespread concern about the possibility of global nuclear war, Reich prepared a series of experiments in his laboratory located near Rangeley, Maine. His initial plan was to conduct a series of controlled experiments with mice to study the effects of treatment with the orgone accumulator before or after exposure to radioactive isotopes, as a model of the potential application of the accumulator to prevent or treat radiation sickness.

However, another component of the experiment involved study of the physical effects of a powerful orgone accumulator on 1 mg of radium. The effects of this latter experiment were so powerful and extreme that they ended up confounding the biological experiment. Soon after introducing the radium to the accumulator, counts on the Geiger-Muller counter increased at much greater distances than would be expected for this quantity of radium. Large numbers of experimental mice in an adjacent building suddenly died, Reich and several of his co-workers became ill with different conditions. Reich also described a local “stillness and bleakness” in the atmosphere, and persistent black clouds hovering nearby. Reich regarded these phenomena, and a local pattern of tree death and blackening of rocks that developed at that time on his property as manifestations of DOR, his acronym for “deadly orgone energy.” This experiment is described in Reich’s book The Oranur Experiment, First Report (1947-1951).

The Cloudbuster and the Medical DOR-buster:

Reich developed the cloudbuster in a partially successful attempt to neutralize the DOR conditions around his laboratory. The cloudbuster consists of a series of hollow metal pipes mounted on a turret and connected via hollow flexible metal cables to a body of water. It functions to facilitate a flow of energy from the atmosphere to the water, based on the attraction of orgone energy to water.

Reich also found it could be used to influence the weather, by removing DOR from the atmosphere and also by promoting atmospheric circulation. Reich describes methods to use it both to dissipate clouds, and to cause them to grow. His work with it was described in the journal CORE (Cosmic Orgone Engineering) (1954-1955). Reich led an expedition to study its effects on prolonged drought and desert development in Arizona which is described in his book Contact with Space: Oranur Second Report (1951-1957).

Reich also developed an instrument for experimental medical use based on the cloudbuster called the medical DOR-buster. So far, there have been only a few clinical reports on its medical use, and a few experimental studies of its effects on plants and animals, which are listed in our bibliographies.

Research on Orgone Biophysics at the Institute for Orgonomic Science:

During the 1980’s the Institute for Orgonomic Science operated a laboratory and sponsored an intensive and rigorous program of experimental research in orgonomic biology and physics. Achievements of that research effort included the demonstration of statistically significant effects of the orgone energy accumulator and the medical DOR-buster on wound healing in mice, studies of the correlation of Reich blood test results with clinical condition in both mice and humans, studies of bion migration in an electric field, of the natural organization of protozoa, and of Reich’s Experiment XX, in which bionous structures formed when autoclaved filter-sterilized hot-water extracts of soil were frozen and thawed. Other studies involved measurements of thermal and electroscopic anomalies in the orgone energy accumulator, studies of effects of the accumulator on plant growth, and also included a partial replication of Reich’s bioelectric experiments. Reports of this research were published in back issues our journal The Annals of the Institute for Orgonomic Science.

Although our experimental research program has not been active in recent years, we hope to resume this work when the necessary funding, facilities and scientifically – trained staff are in place. We welcome the opportunity for collaboration with other qualified and knowledgeable individuals in this effort.