New Wings for Daedalus

New Wings for DaedalusWilhelm Reich, His Theory and Techniques

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Pages:312 pages


Though Francis Israel Regardie (1907–1985) is best known for his writings on the Western magical/mystical system known as the Golden Dawn, that is not how he made his living. He was a Doctor of Chiropractic under which license he practiced the psychotherapeutic methods of Wilhelm Reich, M.D. (1897–1957).

Reichian Therapy was a revolutionary approach to dealing with psychological issues. Reich, who had once been an associate of Sigmund Freud, had developed important extensions to psychological theory and the therapy methods of the day. But in a clinical setting he and others were continually faced with the intractability of many patients against the therapeutic methods then in use. He came to believe that this "armoring" was not simply a "head issue," but was elaborated in actual physical armoring of the musculature. In time he developed a novel, and highly successful, approach to psychotherapy: rather than just talk with his patients, he manipulated and attacked the muscular armor directly. But today we see almost nothing of his methods except in Christopher Hyatt's Radical Undoing and Alexander Lowen's "Bioenergetics".

First written in the 1950s and updated through the 1970s, this never-before-published tour de force provides a masterful description of both Reich’s theory and clinical practice. It is an indispensable tool for anyone interested in one of the most effective psychotherapeutic methods ever devised.

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From Chapter I


"Rebellion is…the instinct that, by participating in all the activities of the organism, is the vehicle of evolution."

— Robert Lindner

Every present-day form of psychotherapy has evolved from the parent stock of psychoanalysis. That is to say one of the earliest colloquialisms given to Freud’s method was "the talking cure." So it has remained to this day. Psychoanalysis and its derivatives are conceptualistic approaches to emotional problems and neurotic conflicts. The few advances made in recent years remain fixated by-and-large on the same level. And this despite Freud’s optimistic speculation of a time when a biological route to the treatment of the neuroses could be developed.

Though this hope for a biological approach has not yet been fulfilled, voices are being raised testifying to the frustrating impasse that has arisen in the field of psychotherapy. Many critics have expressed the belief that a verbal psychotherapy for the neuroses has fallen far short of what was expected of it. In the severe obsessional and compulsive neuroses, no matter how much intellectual insight the patient achieves, neither the anticipated improvement nor the emotional release occurs. The term "affect-lame" has been justly used with regard to such neurotically blocked patients. No verbalistic therapy appears to alter the clinical course of their malady.

Psychoanalysis has had a leavening effect on almost every phase of our cultural life. In one way or another, the world has become different because of Freud's dynamic contributions to our understanding of personality and motivation. Medicine, history, anthropology, philosophy and all the social sciences have been profoundly impressed. Despite this, current professional criticism is that psychoanalysis leaves much more to be desired in the treatment of some of the neuroses.

A tempest has been stirred up by these criticisms, but nearly everyone has overlooked a dynamic non-verbal therapy which is a step in the direction of Freud’s anticipation of a biologically oriented therapy. It was developed in the 1930’s by Wilhelm Reich. His contribution has almost been relegated to the dust heap of oblivion for a variety of dubious motives which need to be exposed as inadequate and unworthy of the scientific world. A small number of contemporaries gifted with sharp perception have recognized our indebtedness to Reich. Prejudice and fear have darkened their counsel however and hampered their efforts to enrich our thinking.

In this thesis, I propose to give a brief history of Reich in order to place his work in the proper perspective of psychiatric endeavor and to indicate the possible motives for his ostracism and repudiation by modern psychoanalysts. Fuller biographical data may be explored in Wilhelm Reich by David Boadella (Vision Press, England, 1973), a fine introduction to the man and his work. Also I suggest reading The Quest for Wilhelm Reich by Colin Wilson (Anchor Press/Doubleday, New York, 1981), a critical and revealing portrait of Reich and a challenging re-assessment of his ideas and his life work.

It will be necessary to review some of his theories concerning character, personality and neurotic development, and to describe at length the specific nature of the unique psychotherapy he evolved for the treatment of severe and chronic neuroses. I propose further to replace his debatable theory about "orgone energy", which has encountered opposition from medicine, with a neurophysiological interpretation. The latter should prove a more satisfactory frame of reference for the clinical phenomena encountered in the application of Reich’s methods. This interpretation could lead in time to come to as many innovations in therapy and the social sciences as did the psychoanalytical contributions of the early part of this century.

One hundred years ago Braid separated hypnotism from the unacceptable terms of "animal magnetism" and so paved the way for the evolution of psychoanalysis. In 1950 Dollard and Miller of the Yale Institute of Human Relations attempted a reinterpretation of Freud’s techniques in terms of the learning theories derived from experimental psychology. They contended that this step permitted establishment of psychotherapy on a more sound scientific footing, permitting new developments in precision technique and prediction of results. What was once attempted with hypnosis, and more recently with psychoanalysis I now wish to do with Reich’s concept of the character-muscular armor and his technique of vegeto-therapy. Since the clinical facts are valid and experimentally verifiable, the proposed re-evaluation should disclose scientific possibilities that were inconceivable or improbable with the former theory.

Reich has presented a body of principles and reliable techniques which in many ways meet current scientific requirements. They are of special value in the severe obsessional and compulsive neuroses producing personality reorganization where everything else has previously failed. Psychoanalytically oriented, since it has evolved out of the work of a former Freudian, vegeto-therapy is essentially a biological rather than a conceptual approach to therapy. Its use yields data which may shed new light on hosts of social problems, history, anthropology, comparative religion and human behavior as a whole.

What are the reasons for development of a non-verbal psychotherapy? When employing conventional psychotherapy, one often encounters situations where a severe affect-lameness has impeded the successful course of therapy. To dismiss such problem situations as being due to "resistance" is merely dodging the basic issue.

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About the Author

Israel Regardie

Israel Regardie (1907-1985) was considered by many to be the last living Adept of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. At an early age, Regardie worked as Aleister Crowley's personal secretary. In addition to his extensive writings, Regardie practiced as a chiropractor and as a neo-Reichian therapist. He taught psychiatry at the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic and contributed articles to many psychology magazines.