Wilhelm Reich & Plato’s Gorgias Part 2: I Callicles

Wilhelm Reich & Plato’s Gorgias Part 1: Polus

Remembrance

The dialogue is called Gorgias, but that famous doctor of rhetoric was deflated after only a brief exchange. I guess he never got the chance to discover the glaring inconsistency in his weltanschauung because he was too busy teaching others how to be like him. For shame! One such unfortunate was Polus, who was present at the discussion. He was activated when the hot water was turned off, embarrassed himself, and then shut up like his master. Callicles was also listening – no conversation ever so delighted him – but he thought that it was modesty, not conviction, which silenced Gorgias and his disciple.

Almost two years ago, we paused right before Polus redeemed himself somewhat by assenting to Socrates’s immortal claim: it is better to suffer injustice than to commit injustice. To Callicles, no sentiment ever sounded so absurd. He asks Socrates if it’s all an elaborate joke. Doubtlessly, the Philosopher could already sense that their faculties of taste operated according to vastly different mechanisms. Therefore, he saw fit to use a commonality as a point of departure. They are both “lovers,” despite their contrasts. Notwithstanding the young men they sleep with, Socrates is lover to Philosophy while Callicles loves the demus or Athenian citizenry. Furthermore, both men are at the mercy of their respective loves and their persons are merely vessels for these antithetical wills. Socrates lightheartedly warns Callicles that he’ll never be one with himself if he is unable to refute Philosophy’s assertion!

In part one, I showed that the dichotomy between suffering and committing injustice corresponds to that existing between the genital character and the neurotic character. Again, genitality and neurosis are terms that refer to healthy and pathological libido-metabolic modes of being, respectively. Now the same antithesis appears between the two irreconcilable motivations: primary, biological drives (Philosophy) and secondary, derived drives which result from internal inhibitions imparted by a constipated, life-negating culture (the demus).

Secondary drives are easy to discern because their associated expressions never afford substantial catharsis. However, their principal characteristic, that which makes them secondary, is that they conceal the existence of more basic, repressed drives. The behaviors associated with secondary drives partially exhaust the energy reserves which would otherwise fuel more cathartic, more instinctual, more gratifying expressions. With a fraction of the energy squandered in the repressive maneuver, the somatically preferred, more cathartic expression can no longer take place completely. This is like a driver taking a convoluted route and then finding that his car cannot accomplish its maximum range because the gasoline was wasted. According to orgonomy, primary drives are those which inspire the genital character’s behaviors. Though attempts to discern what exactly these are have entailed considering people’s opinions on primitive or matriarchal societies, I believe that only analysis guided by the principles of libidinal economy can find the answer. The ensuing dialogue will give us plenty of opportunities to explore the dichotomy between primary and secondary drives.


Callicles begins by accusing Socrates of appealing to social convention when convenient, but then to Natural Law in order to corner and humiliate his opponents, and all this at the expense of finding the truth. Although he just heard the whole argument laid out (the conclusion follows from the fact that evading punishment leads to personal deterioration), Callicles insists it is merely an appeal to the weak multitude. In his estimation, Natural Law mandates that the strong exercise their powers to the utmost degree and horde resources. The weak, he says, became fed up with this and, being greater in number, deemed suffering injustice a virtue and satisfying impulses a sin. If I were one of these weaklings, I would certainly devise all kinds of rationalizations in order to prevent myself from discovering my own inferiority. Therefore, I will refrain from choosing a side and only endeavor to elucidate the mystery of primary human motivation.

Probably thousands of times, Wilhelm Reich guided people through the process which Callicles could only fantasize about:

But if there were a man who had sufficient force, he would shake off and break through, and escape from all this; he would trample under foot all our formulas and spells and charms, and all our laws which are against nature.

As far as I know, Dr. Reich (1897-1957) believed everyone was potentially capable of undertaking this Great Work with the assistance of a trained, orgastically potent orgone therapist. The details of the process are described at length in his writings and are touched upon in Part 1. Let us instead focus on its fruits and see if the assertion Callicles makes about instinct holds water.

Once the technique of character analysis, orgone therapy’s antecedent, was refined enough to generate predictable results, a very strange phenomenon began to appear at the culmination of every case. When patients gained the capacity to experience orgastic gratification, they began to operate according to a hitherto unknown morality! It seemed to preserve the best parts of the prevailing cultural morality but shunned whatever was antithetical to a mysterious but virtuous spontaneous behavioral mechanism now emerging from the fog of history. Where virtues such as love, kindness and industry had been mechanically aped out of duty, to elicit reciprocation, or to conceal antisocial impulses, they now were exhibited spontaneously, viz. without apparent effort (1). There is a way to be sure.

Reich reports two amazing exceptions that aren’t really exceptions. One concerns women who “had been previously capable of spreading their legs at the drop of a hat simply because they did not experience any gratification” showing monogamous tendencies upon the dissolution of sexual inhibition. While these became moral according to standards of interbellum Germany, many women who underwent the very same therapy found themselves unable to remain with their sexually disturbed husbands (2). How strange! The other exception concerns workers who engaged in what the Marxists used to call alienating labor. Their performance plummeted when genital function was restored because they could no longer stultify themselves in the factories and foundries. Meanwhile, neurotics who had been unable to work felt compelled to engage in practical, gratifying tasks, while those who already enjoyed their jobs to a degree generally became more enthusiastic and efficient (3).

These results were put forth as evidence for the idea that instinctual drives like love and work can, in fact, accord with social convention. Bearing in mind personal experience, I find this very convincing and wonder if our dysfunctional mores are not arbitrary, as many claim, but are really misguided attempts to approximate, in vain, the true Human State existing beneath all this.

Of greater moment is the final refutation of the primacy of antisocial behavior. These audits of libidinal economy reveal that the brutishness which Callicles attributes to Nature actually arises from the frustration of the instincts. Greed, violence and perversion, are distortions of the primary functions longing, self-defense and love, respectively. Reich tells us that “every seemingly arbitrary destructive action is a reaction of the organism to the frustration of the gratification of a vital need, especially of a sexual need” (4). Furthermore, these needs issue forth from a “decent core” found at the bottom of every character structure (5). I intend to see for myself if I still have one and if I am wrong, let me be locked up or destroyed, if possible.

Projection

Socrates already knows these things but asks Callicles to clarify his statement concerning the traits which those possessing the natural right to rule embody; does ‘superior’ mean ‘stronger?’ Callicles avers but is angered when Socrates shows it follows from this concession that the multitude is stronger and their esteeming of suffering over committing injustice is therefore another example of convention and Nature agreeing.

He points out that Callicles was wrong to accuse him of arguing in bad faith. Actually, inconstantly wavering between different points of view is exactly what Callicles is guilty of himself. Clearly, this is an instance of projection, a phenomenon for which orgonomy offers the most comprehensive explanation; our entire society is based on it. Though I cannot recall Reich using the word ‘projection,’ a favorite of social workers and dime-a-dozen psychologists who “just want to help people,” the idea appears in orgonomy’s conceptions of the parent-child conflict, the emotional plague, and the irrational hostility which many develop when exposed to its tenets. It can be defined as the ascription of one’s own traits to another, especially when one senses these traits within while perceiving another, but refuses to consciously acknowledge them.

The quintessential instance of this pathology is the parents’ unconscious projection of their own repressed complexes onto their children, this ultimately leading to their generational transmission. It begins with the natural motility and spontaneity of infants and children disturbing the armored parents, who unconsciously destroy such motility in themselves by chronically contracting their muscles (armoring) and working. The principal objective of orgone therapy is the restoration of this motility (6) and this is accomplished by disrupting the contractions until the affects they repress are viscerally expressed and psychically integrated by the patient’s person (7). As everyone used to know, sexual conjugation is also preceded by the relaxation of these defense mechanisms. Since neurotics continually struggle to withhold their pressurized sexual impulses by investing the energies thereof in muscle contraction and other defense mechanisms, they associate children’s motility with their own repressed perversions.

Just as a neurotic’s own potential motility, when contraction is ceased, forces repressed complexes into the conscious mind and viscerally liberates the related affects in a clinical setting, so the natural movements of children threaten to uncover these complexes in the family setting. The only problem is that the parents universally pretend they don’t harbor this hidden filth. Bizarrely, they unconsciously conclude it originates with their children and snap like the good Paggliacio, aggressing against them until they are as armored as the parents are. I might add that these aggressions contribute to the formation of the Oedipus complex (8), which the dime-a-dozen psychologists have “debunked,” forever indebting us! But don’t worry; as long as the sons and daughters depend on the idea of their parents’ love, the riddle of the Sphinx remains unsolved.

Since Dr. Reich was preoccupied with the problems of armoring and orgone energy, I have taken the liberty of applying his technique of functionalism to the mystery of reproduction. Observing that the intelligence of creatures is correlated with the durations of gestation and childhood, and with the amount of effort and love devoted to the offspring, I wonder if so-called sexual maturity actually represents a failure of the organism. Functionally, reproduction or starting anew seems to be a biological admission of the incapacity to fulfil something, or carry it out to completion. Though it seems impossible to determine what exactly this something is before we tire of our superb orgasms, I will report a few more observations for anyone who can make use of them. Controversial as it may be, reproduction is naturally coupled to sexual intercourse, the latter being an effective way to metabolize libidinal energy. In children, this metabolism instead manifests as growth, the integration of functions (learning), and various spontaneous expressions: the so-called polymorphous perversions. To the armored parents, which are certainly failed organisms, witnessing such natural expression evokes intolerable bodily excitations that call to mind whichever libido-metabolic mechanisms are proper to their offices in the universe. If it was my place to do so, I would even speculate on whether the sense of urgency accompanying powerful sexual excitations indicates an unbearable truth lurking that must be denied at all costs through orgastic dissolution, to which, embarrassingly, I am quite prone.

Ultimately the projection phenomenon can be attributed to the intolerance of orgonity, the quality of being enlivened with orgone energy, but even without radiation or the perturbation of a physical field, the neurotic’s visual perception of unarmored movement alone is sufficient to disequilibrate libidinal economy by its saturation of the nervous system. Whatever the case, there seems to be a resonance between the observed motility and the neurotic’s sepulchered motility existing as potentiality. Perception imparts or liberates a quantity of unwanted excitation (a cathexis) which inspires the neurotic to involuntary divulge his opinions on love and Life, either to himself or, if personal realization is precluded by vanity, to everyone else. As the indicator of perversion par excellence, orgonomy has suffered the same attacks as our children but it remains unscathed because no detractor has ever truly engaged with it.

It is always bitterly amusing when people think they have license to act in a nasty way toward the person who has preserved a degree of sensitivity. They say with their eyes, “you’re being bad so now I get to be bad to you with impunity!” Certainly, these are some of the worst and most infirm people in the world. Similarly, when a frigid hag unconsciously suspects a young man isn’t muscularly crucifying his genitals (as do the men which Life has deemed her worthy of meeting), she says the most pornographic things she can get away, attempting to excite him, the design of this being to either repel him or bring him to a state of libidinal constipation that even surpasses hers. The intended outcome is the disappearance of orgonity, with or without the man, such that there is nothing left to remind her of the atrocities she’s committed against her body. Maybe orgonity is just what these hags should be deprived of until the libido investments that transform Life’s most benign and precious excitations into such hideous malice have sufficiently atrophied. Anyway, these are prime examples of both projection and making contradictory appeals to Nature and convention for the sake of obfuscating the truth.

Again we find ourselves contemplating a previous topic from the dialogue: punishment as medicine for the soul. Neurotic parents, mirror people (as I call them), frigid hags &c., can only profit from acknowledging their waywardness, yet they interpret anything which makes it apparent as a hostility. They have forgotten who they are and where their skins end. As much as I would like to get along with everyone in this post-war paradise, I find myself increasingly unable to stand by while Oedipus accuses Tiresias of regicide. In the spirit of Christian Mercy and Greek Philosophy, I have resolved to show them unequivocally that it is they who are the murderers. I will participate in this great contest, this apocalyptic trial by orgone, always endeavoring to welcome such indication as the medicine I know it to be and perpetually bearing in mind that I may just be the most foolish person in the world, unlike you.

In our case, it is Socrates’s exposition of an infallible Natural Law doctrine that inspires Callicles to express his inner twistedness. Perhaps this is why Socrates thinks he’s found in Callicles the “touchstone” by which he can test the purity of his soul – though I personally don’t see how Callicles could be of much help here. It certainly explains why Callicles thinks Philosophy is a fine pursuit for youths, but that a man should abandon it before it consumes his mind and renders him unable to manage other people in the state. He even alleges that Socrates is unable to understand his sentiments because studying Philosophy has made his speech too precise. Socrates just doesn’t get it!

Then please to begin again, and tell me who the better are, if they are not the stronger; and I will ask you, great Sir, to be a little milder in your instructions, or I shall have to run away from you.”

– Socrates

The Parables of the Vessels

As the perfect foil, Callicles seems entirely apocryphal until we remember that true Philosophers make of men foils which mere writers could never contrive. After a hilarious exchange about physicians, weavers and cobblers, Callicles tries out the belief that the “wise and courageous administrators of the state” should rule, and that “justice consists in their having more than their subjects.” This is a very good idea since he intends to become such an administrator by learning rhetoric from Gorgias. But before he can become another cog in the Athenian economy, he has to get the herrenmoral out of his system with Socrates, whom he will shortly accuse of being a “mob orator.” What else are Philosophers for? This inspires Socrates to ask if these administrators should rule both others and themselves (since everyone is quite obviously his own ruler), or only others. Callicles enthusiastically declares that administrators should use the resources, power and authority entrusted to them by the demus to indulge every bacchanalian whim without a hint of restraint. I would further suggest that if they could get the demus to believe these whims were statecraft, they’d have a good shot at becoming the new gods!

It is this sentiment which makes Socrates question whether “life be not death and death life.” How could he dissuade his friend from utter ruin? The Philosopher employs two enigmatic metaphors, claiming they originate with “some ingenious person, probably a Sicilian or an Italian,” as there is much to accomplish before his execution. The following interpretation is one fruit of an almost eight-year philosophical inquiry which I undertook in order to survive, deservedly, an atrocious crime committed against me. I hope people find it helpful.

The first metaphor concerns two vessels, one solid and the other perforated, as well as their capacities to store liquid. The solid and perforated vessels are symbolic of genital and neurotic libidinal economies, respectively. The liquid represents excitation. Any liquid poured into the perforated vessel (colander) flows out as quickly as it enters. This represents the neurotic’s intolerance of excitation, which I described above in relation to the parent-child conflict. To reiterate, any excess excitation must immediately be discharged in some expression, which always divulges characterological information. The holes represent the many pathological libido investments. These continually siphon energy away from the would-be cathexis that, if allowed to coalesce, would animate the organism in the accomplishment of its repressed, true will. Complementarily, if the expression affording the greatest possible catharsis is to be censored, its cathexis must be divided and the energetic fractions must be reinvested or employed in less cathartic metabolic modes, which, again, are represented by the holes in the vessel. Among these modes are the symptoms of neurosis, muscle armoring and disease, as well as nearly all economic and social production, much of speech, all managing of sexually disturbed people, all profiting off their ignorance of these things, and all obfuscation of the truth in general – and I will leave it at that because one catches more flies with honey. We will never make progress in this science if we fail to understand that cathexis (libidinal investment), as it typically is thought of, is accomplished through chronic dilute expression such as the aforementioned metabolic modes, while catharsis (divestment) is accomplished through acute, complete expression: what we normally think of as expression.

Thus the libido-economic function of leaking – the function of the neurotic character structure – is to repress authentic impulses by dividing their energy cathexes over and over again (9). Orgone therapy aims to do exactly the opposite: plug the holes, thereby unifying the energies in ever more integral libido cathexes (10), and then discharging these cathexes in cathartic expressions which are often visceral. This process is inseparable from working through the repressed complexes, recalling repressed memories, re-experiencing repressed affects in more or less the order in which they were entombed, and integrating all this into the ego (11). The process, which is not perfectly linear, imparts a deep understanding of one’s life as well as orgastic potency, the capacity to experience the orgasm reflex. Do not, however, in your confusion interpret Socrates to be implying that these cathartic and revelatory outward expressions correspond to the liquid leaking out from the holes because, rather, they are signified by the holes being plugged. Unfortunately, this symbol can be turned almost completely on its head and many will try to do this in order to remain ignorant of who they are and what they’ve done to themselves. There is, however, at least one way to be certain; the revelatory expressions are made a finite number of times and make us more beautiful and healthier while the true leaking or recursive dissociation of cathexes destroys the body, and their proliferation continues unto death if nourished by deception.

The solid vessel represents the genital or normal libidinal economy. Though many may erroneously assume its solidity is indicative of repression, it is precisely libidinal continence and tolerance of excitation which facilitates the greatest release and indicates the most hygienic (least neurotic) libidinal economy. Because the inside of this vessel is clean, the outside is clean as well. This Philosophic vessel, if you are so inclined, which was undoubtedly possessed by Socrates, can occasionally be overturned, so to speak, either in delightful orgastic convulsions, or in meaningful, involving labor. It is the holes which prevent the colander from ever containing its maximum volume. Similarly, the libidinal leakage characterizing neurosis ensures that excitation never reaches the threshold necessary to induce the orgastic convulsions, wherein alternating flexions of the upper and lower spine suggests electric currents flowing down the spinal cord, depolarizing the grey matter.

As I said before, in order to tolerate increasing degrees of excitation, ever deeper layers of character must be exposed, increasingly more authentic affects must be liberated, ever more remote memories must be recalled, and an increasingly comprehensive understanding of one’s self and, by extension, living must be developed. The Platonists call this “[knowing] thyself.” As I also said while discussing that small facet of the parent-child conflict, and while describing the general mechanism of orgone therapy, a quantity of excitation resulting from perception can aggravate repressed cathexes. Such degrees are necessarily approached and surpassed as excitation accumulates before the orgasm reflex. Anyone who has not sufficiently worked through their repressed complexes will have to, upon that excitation’s energization of the body, either express the repressed impulse (which is often very nasty) or divert and invest the excitation into the animation of some other maneuver. These investments often take the form of projection or, often as an alternative, chronic muscle contractions which physically restrain the body and prevent its accomplishment of its repressed will and ultimately the wave-like orgastic convulsions. Having said the same thing seven or eight times, let us describe the second metaphor.

This one involves two sets of vessels. One set has solid vessels which can, with great effort, be filled by small, infrequent streams, but only need to be filled once. The other set has perforated vessels which constantly leak and receive the same kind of streams as the former, but can never be filled on account of the holes, and if the person tasked with tending to them pauses in his collecting the liquid, “he is in an agony of pain.” Now it may be troubling for the orgonomist to hear that the solid vessels need not be emptied, but I see nothing wrong with this. Just as wolves do not feel the impetus to procreate when they perceive that food is scarce, Nature likely inhibits the desires of men and women who know their children would be cannibalized by this society of sexual frauds; as I implied while treating on projection, it seems only the genital character can tolerate witnessing the extent of their children’s natural motility without consciously or unconsciously abusing them. Whoever realizes this can perhaps endeavor to rectify the situation here on Earth instead of creating more neurotics. The leaking vessels represent the neurotic libidinal economy in this metaphor as well. Regarding the agony, the neurotic can’t live with or without excitation.

In both cases, Callicles says he would prefer leaking to the ways of “stones and dead men.” Socrates intended to clarify with further argument from the beginning. As always, the problem is the transvaluation of pleasure and anxiety. We shall see that Callicles fails to understand that cathexis is an inordinately prolonged catharsis of low intensity. This misconception inspires him to claim that pleasure and the good are the same, and that unpleasure and evil are the same. This is perfectly true; pleasure, the good, Life, God, truth and knowledge are all the same, but Callicles doesn’t actually mean what he is saying. By pleasure, he means preserving his pathological libido investments, which is pleasurable only in comparison to the discovery of his sickness. This, in turn, would ultimately lead to true pleasure, though to do so is painful at first.

“There is a noble freedom, Callicles, in your way of approaching the argument; for what you say is what the rest of the world think, but do not like to say. And I must beg you to persevere, that the true rule of human life may become manifest.”

Although I used to consider libido cathexes (investments) to be fixed, rigid, durable structures, these properties are not intrinsic to the phenomenon. In their most general form, cathexes are spontaneously divested from, liquidated or exhausted in expression. Only when they are divided as described above do they embody fixity and chronicity. In such instances, the rate at which the expression or divestment takes place is so slow that it gives the impression of being a solid thing. The most clear example of this is muscle armoring, the often life-long contraction of those skeletal muscles which would otherwise participate in the accomplishment of the expression their contraction represses. Though this contraction is technically an expression – one of fear, having been injured, self-censorship, and many other qualities that vary with specific bodily location – it is also a chronic investment of libido and a repressive defense mechanism. In short, chronicity and fixity are not intrinsic to investment and immediacy is not intrinsic to catharsis despite the fact that we often make these associations and expect others to understand what we mean when using these terms. We would not, for instance, let someone believe a chronic investment is cathartic in order to bind their energies and congest their sex-economy so we could rule over them. We would want them to attain power and wondrous sexual vigor so they don’t kill us or steal from us.

Since his priority is convincing his friend to disavow the way of the leaky vessel, Socrates will argue on his inexact terms, setting good and evil as two opposite polarities that cannot exist simultaneously. We are all familiar with the perilous orientation problem which Nietzsche so lovingly gave his life trying to reconcile for us. Any approximation in the Philosopher’s argument is offset by sincerity and love, and his heroic life proves that he abided by his claim that rhetoric is only useful for accusing oneself. The science of libidinal economy can finally burn away the ambiguity; Socrates is explaining the identity or unity shared by the energetic quantity constituting a cathexis and the expression it inspires, viz. the antithetical functional identity of cathexis and catharsis, orgonomically speaking.

To do this, he employs the example of thirsting and drinking. Callicles agrees that thirsting is painful while drinking is pleasurable. Moreover, since one drinks when one thirsts, ‘when’ meaning ‘at the same time as,’ drinking and thirsting take place at the same time – a perfect example of the cathexis in its general form being discharged instantly, seamlessly and instinctually. Therefore, according to the agreed upon definitions of the terms, pain and pleasure can take place in the same instant. They already agreed that good and evil are incapable of such coexistence so it follows that, by their conceptions of the words, pleasure is not necessarily good and pain is not necessarily evil.

Sex-economically, thirsting signifies a libido cathexis or inner tension (representing, interestingly, a superabundance of excitation) which ultimately inspires the cathartic expression of drinking. As with all cathexes, if the corresponding most cathartic expression is precluded, its energy must be invested in other expressions: clenching the jaw, trying to think about something else, &c. – but you should never be ashamed of proclaiming “I thirst,” especially at your all-time low. Drinking, thirsting, and any expressions which mask thirsting are therefore expressions of the same excitation or pain, as Socrates would say, and the prevalence or lack of beverages determines which particular one manifests. In all cases, the excitation is discharged seamlessly in expressions which only differ in rate. In the words of that Great Philosopher who disappeared almost a hundred years ago, Fulcanelli, a person of such extraordinary talent, forced by rhetoricians to study the lives of metals in the twentieth century: “Truly it is a strange place, this forest of Mort-Roi (Dead King), and how like it is to the fabulous and wonderful Garden of the Hesperides (12)!”

You will have to take Dr. Reich’s word for it when he says that satisfaction correlates to the intensity of excitation and the steepness or rate of its dissipation (13). Therefore, the most pleasurable thing must be Philosophy, to wit, the discovery of the repressed complexes and the final expression of the associated affects – you can worry about the orgasm reflex later. The so-called pleasures esteemed by Callicles all prevent the coalescence of that cathexis which would ultimately animate him in his most primordial impulse. They inspire little excitation and afford little catharsis – itching and scratching – and only impart satisfaction as long as the partaker inhabits just the most superficial layers of his character structure. Let us elect to say they are objectively unpleasurable and evil, and do not think we can exclude almost everything people do nowadays from this impoverishment. But Callicles is getting more and more reasonable. Now he asks, “do you really suppose that I or any other human being denies that some pleasures are good and others bad?”

And yet I thought at first that you were my friend, and would not have deceived me if you could have helped. But I see that I was mistaken; and now I suppose that I must make the best of a bad business, as they said of old, and take what I can get out of you.”

– Socrates

To be continued…

(1) Reich, Wilhelm – The Function of the Orgasm, Volume 1 of the Discovery of the Orgone – Chapter V. The Development of the Character-analytic Technique – 5. The Genital Character and the Neurotic Character. The Principle of Self-regulation pg. 174-178

(2) Ibid – pg. 176-178

(3) Ibid – pg. 176-177

(4) Reich – The Function of the Orgasm, Volume 1 of the Discovery of the Orgone – Chapter V. The Development of the Character-analytic Technique – 4. Destruction, Aggression, and Sadism pg. 154

(5) Reich – The Function of the Orgasm, Volume 1 of the Discovery of the Orgone – Chapter V. The Development of the Character-analytic Technique – 5. The Genital Character and the Neurotic Character. The Principle of Self-regulation pg. 174

(6) Reich – Character Analysis – Chapter XIV. The Expressive Language of the Living – 2. Plasmatic Expressive Movement and Emotional Expression pg. 365

(7) Reich– The Function of the Orgasm, Volume 1 of the Discovery of the Orgone – Chapter VIII. The Orgasm Reflex and the Technique of Character-Analytic Vegetotherapy – 1 . Muscular Attitude and Body Expression pg. 299-301

(8) Reich– The Function of the Orgasm, Volume 1 of the Discovery of the Orgone – Chapter V. The Development of the Character-analytic Technique – 3. Character Armor and the Dynamic Stratification of the Defense Mechanisms pg. 143-144

(9) Reich – Character Analysis – Chapter XIII. Psychic Contact and Vegetative Current– 3. The Change of Function of the Impulse pg. 296-305

(10) Reich – Character Analysis – Chapter VI. On the Handling of the Transference – 1. The Distillation of the Genital-Object Libido pg. 135-136

(11) Reich– The Function of the Orgasm, Volume 1 of the Discovery of the Orgone – Chapter VIII. The Orgasm Reflex and the Technique of Character-Analytic Vegetotherapy – 1 . Muscular Attitude and Body Expression pg. 313-315

(12) Fulcanelli, Master Alchemist – Le Mystère des Cathédrales (translated from the French by Mary Sworder) – Bourges – 1 – pg. 143
Note: This utterance was inspired by a “group sculptured on a bracket” (Plate XL.) in the house of wealthy Renaissance-era merchant Jacques Coeur, said to depict the meeting of Tristan and Isolde.

(13) Reich – The Function of the Orgasm, Volume 1 of the Discovery of the Orgone – Chapter IV. The Development of the Orgasm Theory – 3. Orgastic Potency pg. 102

PAGLIACCI

When it became so obvious that even they noticed, many were forced to concluded we live in “clown world.” Apparently this has been the case since at least 1892 and the archaeological record suggests the comedy has been going on far longer. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s two act opera Pagliacci (Clowns) has the ability to draw people unwittingly into its action. It transcends the opera house entirely, fusing seamlessly with the world and the progression of time. With Pagliacci, we don’t know when “the comedy is finished!”

Canio, the master of a traveling commedia dell’arte company, utters the work’s immortal, final line at the dramatic climax. As Pagliaccio the clown, he proclaims so after stabbing his wife and her paramour during a performance. Until just a few moments prior, the comedy’s audience thinks the clown’s wrath is purely theatrical. Leoncavallo has them recoil at Canio’s passion but if I were director, they’d applaud until the curtain fell, thinking the murders were part of the play. The tragedy’s audience would then have to choose between sympathizing with the insensitive masses just depicted on stage and withholding their adoration from the singers. As inartistic as that would be, it’s almost necessary at this point.

From a score published by the Broude Brothers, New York


Time and again the villagers had seen Pagliaccio jealously interrogate the adulterous Columbina, who plans to elope with the smooth-talking Arlecchino. It turns out the clowns cannot keep their work and lives separate. Nedda, who plays Columbina, plans to elope with a villager named Silvio whom her husband Canio also murders. The comedy performed by the clowns in the final scene, then, is an almost perfect reproduction of their extra-theatrical lives as realized in act one.

Even the murder itself is a performance – a double performance – and appropriately, it takes place on a stage which rests on another stage for emphasis. One is struck by Canio’s appeals to “the right to act like every other man.” Even this crime of passion needs a justification. For Nedda, the show must go on; she tries to remind him of just who he is. Before the audience, which marvels at how moved it is, he replies “no, I am not Pagliaccio!” Rather, he’s the one who took the orphaned Nedda in from the streets. We learn that he generously became her husband, giving her the incredible life a clown. The viewers notify each other of their weeping. Canio doesn’t even ask that his tremendous affection be reciprocated: only that he be the sole proprietor of Nedda’s vagina. Is that really too much to ask? Now he will destroy her. “Bravo!” Being a clown, he is able to discern the true cause of this betrayal. By deduction, Nedda must be a “base harlot.” … the apparent spontaneity has not withstood our scrutiny and we have ruled out love as a motivating force. A genuine murder mystery!

* * *

But what would this ancient right be if it were not ordained by heaven? The name of the Creator is on Canio’s lips while he talks about slitting Nedda’s throat at the end of act one. Informed by the jealous clown Tonio, he surprised her with Silvio, the latter having escaped into the night before he could be identified. Canio invokes the Madonna or Virgin, demanding Nedda divulge her lover’s name. Nedda could not in good conscience say she’d just been entwined with the God of Isaac and Jacob.

While the clowns occupy the stage, the villagers, like us, are offstage – at church. It’s Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The wheat and tares worship in the House of God under the symbols of the Philosophic Work. The Gospel, realized by all its characters, indicates the secret violence we commit against ourselves, compelling us either to acknowledge it or become even more corrupt. Still, religion fails to satisfy man’s spiritual needs. Commedia dell’arte and opera, the secular arts, are evidently necessary. Clowns, singers and the orchestra meet the clergy half way, providing a fully booked program with simply no time to descend into hell.

Like Pagliacci, the Gospel transcends its medium. Perhaps no one has fully understood it yet. Despite their great clamor, the audience hardly appreciates its artistry and profundity. With the Christ problem dealt with and His one-and-done salvation in the bag, sacred means Caiaphas remains Caiaphas, Pilate remains Pilate, and the people choose Barabbas every chance they get while playing the rôle of true believer. The clergymen were the pharisees in costume all along and that’s just one more inversion than the exhausted good can wrap their heads around. Therefore, it was necessary to write Pagilacci. The maestro supplants the senile, spiritually lukewarm bishop, incapacitated by a heavily redacted dialogue with his fold. It’s Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and we are at the opera house. The walls have crumbled. Not one stone is left standing on another. Our Redeemer’s holy blood has poured into the world, permanently conjoining heaven and earth, sacred and profane, the alter and the stage!

* * *

Something ominous hangs over Pagliacci. An unseen force drives every character’s actions. From the ceaseless, hollow chattering of the villagers, to the empty dialogue between Nedda and Silvio, to Canio’s double-murder, everything is done with a foreboding urgency. Even the intermezzo, the opera’s sole moment of respite, is spent getting ready for the performance. Following this, Tonio, dressed as Taddeo the servant-clown, beats a drum and ushers the audience into his comedy. As the show is about to begin, we hear a dramatic, fortississimo, late Romantic perfect cadence with blatting trombones, screaming trumpets, rolling timpani and villagers shouting “Silence!” as loud as they can.

Nedda would rather be in act one at this point, in Silvio’s arms. Only minutes ago were they singing “let us forget everything,” and “kiss me!” in a masterfully composed duet. But how could these two kiss while remembering anything about themselves at all? or without those swelling strings! Nedda forgets she’s a clown when she’s with Silvio. She forgets she’s a clown when he woos her as the lute-playing Arlecchino woos Columbina, captivated by the pigments applied to her face. Whatever negates the clownishness of this double clown surely originates with Silvio, who is merely a clown of the first order. Their farce could not succeed without the suspension of disbelief, that is, forcing oneself to accept the unreality of a drama in order to experience catharsis. By this point, our intuitions are confirmed and we understand what energizes Pagliacci’s driving action. There can never be a still moment lest a character realize just how sexually disturbed he or she is.

While Canio is at the tavern, Silvio begs Nedda to abandon her clown marriage and clown life. So great is his love for this clown, he doesn’t know what will become of him when she leaves for the next village. Nedda’s “flaming kiss … kindled such a fire in [his] blood!” It must be a torturous, despised condition, this burning. What is to be done? He knows Nedda’s fragmented person will yield to such stimuli if the magnitude of excitation can outweigh the reality of her clownhood plus her fear of Canio. Then this unbearable, lamentable fire of his can be quenched at last. Mention of flaming blood is a little more than Nedda can handle. The character she played only minutes ago, she who just said “quiet, Silvio. This is madness,” has been obliterated. So much work went into getting her to do what she really wanted! The clown is his. She says, “To you I give myself and you I take. You alone rule me: I am wholly yours.” But this is just another operatic line, actually; Canio will have them both.

Before Silvio arrives, Tonio must make his own advances on our prima donna, the only woman in the company. These are gluttonous like Silvio’s, albeit better formulated and more poetic. Nedda tells him to confess his love for her on the stage as Taddeo. Perhaps she couldn’t be kind to him without giving away everything. Now she’s insulted that this hideous creature would even attempt to have her. The very presence of a woman as great as her, biologically speaking, should invoke deep shame in this human tumor, this degenerate son of corruption. Why isn’t it working? Enraged, Tonio starts towards her but she lashes him with a whip and berates him.

“Snake that you are, go! Now that you have shown
what you are
! Tonio the half-wit! Your soul is like
your body, filthy and deformed!”

He swears revenge by the Holy Virgin of the Assumption and exits as Silvio enters. What was considered an assault in one instant is, in the next, employed to inflate Nedda’s delusion of womanhood before her paramour. In this, she betrays her rottenness and her contempt for Silvio and all men. Silvio doesn’t notice.

Meanwhile, the half-wit is watching from the shadows. The clown must do something with his tremendous adoration so he goes to the tavern and alerts Canio to her infidelity. Silvio’s raging fire all but evaporates when Canio returns. As Silvio flees into the blackness, Nedda calls out after him, “until tonight, and I’ll be yours forever!” But first, she must play Columbina one last time. The comedy continues. Arlecchino comes with his lute while Pagliaccio is away and she gives a signal to indicate his absence. Then comes the despised Taddeo, scorn of all the villagers, his enormous pants bulging with lust. He comically exclaims, “if I should reveal my love to this shrew, this love mightier than mountains!” and begins his work. When Arlecchino returns and ousts him, he instantly accepts their love as legitimate and agrees to keep watch for them in a striking incongruence. It’s too good to be true; enter Pagliaccio the clown! As Arlecchino escapes through the window, Columbina calls out into the audience “until tonight, and I’ll be yours forever!” She probably thought that was clever. The repetition of this phrase is what pushes Canio over the edge.

At the end of the first act, Canio resolved to perform the comedy anyway in his tragic aria Vesti la Giubba (Put on the Costume). To the gut-wrenching melody, he addresses his character saying, “laugh, Pagliaccio, at your shattered love and the sorrow that has rent your heart.” He fails to realize, however, that his heart was rent long ago and his love was shattered years before. The only thing rent this time was the veil of his ignorance and the only thing shattered, the illusion he constructed to repress these facts. Staring into the mirror, he applies the white pigment to his face and weeps. In a 1994 Metropolitan Opera rendition, Luciano Pavarotti’s eyes widen at this point, as if to express revelation. Nedda’s repetition may be the comedic parallel of this reflection, but perhaps due to other imbalances, such as Tonio’s transcending the rigid correspondence or the fact that Arlecchino is played by Beppe instead of Silvio, it has the effect of fusing Canio with Pagliaccio.

Pavarotti as Canio


Again the double clown interrogates his wife, demanding to know the name of her lover. Having tasted relief, Nedda capitalizes on this rare instance in which her performance and intention actually align. Even still, everything is falling apart. “His name!” A childish but mysterious melody can be heard. Noticing the audience is alarmed, she pathetically says it was only their Arlecchino. It would be unheard of for Columbina to say such a thing in commedia dell’arte. “Or your life!” In an all-too-theatrical manner, Nedda now proclaims her love is stronger than Canio’s rage and that she will never reveal her lover’s name. Maestro Levine has Tonio place a stiletto in Canio’s hand, which clutches its hilt.

That morning, when the company first arrived, a villager made a lighthearted joke about Tonio forgoing the tavern to be alone with Nedda. This comment inspired Canio to state that life and the stage are two different things with uncharacteristic seriousness. When Pagliaccio discovers Columbina’s adultery, he said, comedic antics ensue, but if he, Canio, were to find Nedda with a lover, the story would end differently. To retain his honor, distinguish himself from Pagliaccio, and demarcate life and the stage, he must kill this “woman without shame” who knows “no law but of [her] senses.” No longer able to abet Canio in his delusion, she has outlived her purpose. But it is ironic that his crime can only consecrate the theater’s union with reality. Only finishing the comedy in character could preserve the partition!

He seizes Nedda and stabs her crying, “in your death spasm you’ll tell me!” Nedda calls for Silvio, who’s been fighting his way through the crowd. According to the libretto, Canio “turns like a beast, leaps on Silvio and stabs him.” His lifeless body slumps next to Nedda’s and the villagers shout “Gesummaria!” which is “Jesus and Mary!” Accompanied only by a soft timpani roll, a horrified Canio declares “the comedy is finished!” The orchestra recapitulates the descending melody from his aria while Tonio laughs with delight. Maestro Levine has Pavarotti carry Stratas back to the stage, which they left. He places her on the steps. It’s as though he’s offering a virgin to the Sphinx on the road to Thebes – the Sphinx which devours anyone who fails to solve her riddle. The curtain falls. The singers bask in our applause and bow.

* * *

In the prologue, Tonio told the audience Leoncavallo had ancient theater on his mind when he sent him forth as an ambassador to reality. Dressed as Taddeo, he tells us his purpose is not to reassure us of the falsity of what follows, as was apparently the custom in antiquity. Rather, he bids us continually remember that the actors are as human as we are. The composer’s only maxim: “the artist is a man, and he must write for men.”

“Mark well, therefore, our souls,
rather than the poor players’ garb
we wear, for we are men
of flesh and bone, like you, breathing
the same air of this orphan world!
This, then, is our design. Now give heed
to its unfolding.

(shouting towards the stage)
On with the show! Begin!”

Tonio is truly a mysterious character. While all others are constrained by tragic fate, only he can transcend the theater. He alone can directly communicate with the audience and deviate from his comedic rôle. While Canio and Silvio depend on Nedda to buttress their flimsy illusions of manhood, Tonio is free from this reliance. And what he destroyed was so infirm, his work cannot properly be called destruction. All he did was reveal the truth.

As Taddeo, his compliance with Columbina and Arlecchino is wholly absurd. Only in the comedy does his immense hatred disappear without a trace. In the tragedy, then, Tonio’s resources can be put toward his own agenda while others are exhausted from maintaining illusions. Though he’s the one pulling the strings, Nedda, Silvio and Canio are too consumed by their own affairs to realize it. Like the birds that inspired Nedda’s hysterical rant, they “obey only the secret force that drives them on and on.” Tonio also obeys this force, but with less resistance. His equally gluttonous intentions aren’t veiled by hesitant questioning as Silvio’s are. He expresses his hatred for Nedda authentically whereas Silvio and Canio, initially, must conceal it. By his design, pretensions are shed and stored energies are released. In a cosmic bargain which everyone refuses to understand, truth vests in him the power to destroy all those who are even more contorted and dishonest than he is.

Like king Laius, whose attempt to defy fate guarantees the fulfillment of the oracular prophecy, Canio is pulled ever deeper into clownhood by his struggle to escape the stage. His delusions concerning love and honor further estrange his wife, realizing their comedy. They also deprive him of the deep, biological spontaneity which is antithetical to costumes, scripts, tropes and all performances. Only by accepting his inauthenticity, his clownhood, that he is Pagliaccio, could he begin to reverse his path of degeneration. Only the truth could have prevented him from becoming a beast. This is the tragic or consoling message of Pagliacci: there’s one world, our lives are our work and every single thing counts.

Why is it so easy to destroy? Because nothing yet has been built. Only on sand and in floodplains have we built thus far. We abhor bedrock, firm ground and the head of the corner. Far from the tragic drama of counterfeit love, there is a country of verdant hills and bubbling springs in whose water the essence of life is diffused. And there is a force that vanquishes all corruption. It vanquishes the corruption Tonio represents as easily as he ruins Nedda’s farce. Our homeland lies far to the east. Between it and us stands Tonio. To the west, there is only desolation.

You said well, clown. You are the prologue. And if we’ve seen, as you said we would, “men love as in real life they love,” Tonio the half-wit, then we would forswear our own species and denounce them as clowns. Men and women, I’ve been forced to conclude, have not been allowed to exist on earth yet. The clowns kill them while they are still small children. They kill in the name of anything and everything, but most of all, to avoid realizing what they are. And clowns, I promise you we will discover every last subhuman game you play: your antics, which we could never invent ourselves – those which I’ve detected so late in my life, having always given you the benefit of the doubt. Religion and art endeavored to expose your perversion. You swallowed them and were immunized – for a price. Now comes Science whereby we can at last unveil your clownish secret, and if like Oedipus our inquiry leads us to an intolerable truth, and we perish of it, then the gods will sanctify our graves. I say this to Tonio but in part to all clowns – to Il Dottore, Pantalone, the innamorati, and the zanni – to Pagliaccio, Arlecchino and Columbina: your comedy is nearly over. Now comes Science, which is protected and controlled by the Sphinx.

* * *

It was a great pain to digest this magistery, clownish as I am. Having seen it, I could not rest until I finished this. Ruggero Leoncavallo must have possessed the finest sensibilities, profound insight concerning the living organism, and above all, the hatred of falsehood and hypocrisy. I don’t know what horrible incident he bore witness to, but I extend my deepest gratitude to him. He revisited his suffering and created this masterpiece which must have saved so many from tragedy. Needless to say, he was also a virtuostic composer and librettist. Of his eleven operas, ten operettas and two symphonic poems, only Pagliacci is widely performed today.

Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857 – 1919)

Core Concepts Series: XII. The Change of Function of the Impulse

Note: Impulse is synonymous with pulsion, striving and drive.

The change of function of the impulse may be the most important concept in orgonomy. The term refers to an organism’s modification of its own expression under the influence of an external stimulus through the reallocation of some fraction of the inspiring energy cathexis. The division of this object-libidinal cathexis is called the dissociation of the unitary striving and the investment of a fraction of its energy in a narcissistic countercathexis is called reaction formation. The phrase ‘reaction formation’ can refer to both the narcissistic countercathexis itself and the process of its formation. The dissociation of the unitary striving can never occur independently of reaction formation and vice versa.

The unitary striving is a hypothetical drive which, like all drives, arises from a certain libido-economic disequilibrium. It is inspired by some cathexis of libido, a quantity of energy that can be exhausted by a certain expression such that a subjective feeling of satisfaction results. By default, the organism acts in the most cathartic way, preferring to discharge the entire cathexis by making the expression which releases the greatest quantity of libidinal energy – whatever that means. In the unitary striving, all the organism’s energetic resources, directly or indirectly, are employed in making the most cathartic expression, to wit, the original goal of the drive. That particular expression can only manifest if the entire cathexis is discharged in its actualization because a different expression would result if less energy was employed. Furthermore, the unitary striving corresponds to a unique, time-varied physiological state characterized by certain movements, a specific time-varied muscular tonus and body fluid distribution, a specific pattern of nervous excitation, a certain subjective experience, &c. If the expression that would discharge the entire cathexis is made, libidinal economy will exist at equilibrium, meaning the object-libidinal and narcissistic psychic currents will be of equal magnitude such that no drive demands subsequent expression.

The dissociation of the unitary striving occurs when some fraction of the inspiring cathexis is prevented from being discharged in the aforementioned most cathartic expression. Before the unitary striving is dissociated, the cathexis animates the organism as it is seamlessly discharged in the optimal expression. In other words, both the unitary striving and the associated energy cathexis are extinguished by expression in the absence of dissociation. Under the influence of an external, unpleasurable stimulus, however, the unitary striving is dissociated. A stimulus’s unpleasurable quality may even stem from the fact that it inspires the organism’s interruption of its own unitary striving. Regardless, if during the unitary striving the organism encounters such a stimulus, the original cathexis (or whatever remains of it) is divided and the organism instantaneously and unconsciously invests a portion of its energy in a narcissistic countercathexis (א). This quantity of energy in turn animates the organism in a narcissistic withdrawal. Since the entirety of the initial cathexis no longer animates the expression that gratifies the unitary striving, the organism is no longer capable of making that same expression. This is the mechanism of all repression.

The narcissistic countercathexis formed during the dissociation is called a reaction formation and the process whereby it is formed is also called reaction formation. Reaction formation can never take place independently of the unitary striving’s dissociation because, if the initial cathexis of object-libido is not divided, an expression which employs the entire cathexis must be made and there can be no energy left to invest in a countercathexis. Just as the initial cathexis of object-libido is seamlessly discharged in the unitary striving when dissociation doesn’t occur, the new countercathexis or reaction formation is seamlessly discharged in the narcissistic withdrawal. A reaction formation should only exist for an infinitesimal duration (ב) because, as a cathexis, it is spontaneously discharged or divested from, specifically in the withdrawal gesture. Furthermore, the reaction formation inspires a behavior which distances the organism from the unpleasurable stimulus, thereby making itself unnecessary. The original function of the impulse – or more correctly, the expression – was to discharge the entire cathexis of object-libido. After the unitary striving is dissociated, the function is to discharge the narcissistic countercathexis in withdrawal. That’s why it’s called the change of function of the impulse.

Before the pulsion to withdraw can be expressed in the act of withdrawing, the organism’s libidinal economy is disequilibrated, just as it was before the organism began its initial object-libidinal endeavor. When the organism has withdrawn and discharged the countercathexis, libidinal economy seems to attain an equilibrium. However, since a narcissistic retraction can never, it seems, be as cathartic as the original goal of the drive, a fraction of the original cathexis of object-libido remains. In the words of Wilhelm Reich, “the original object of the drive is not relinquished but merely repressed” (1). This energetic remnant seems to be involved in the organism’s further association of the unitary striving with harm so long as it is never discharged, but it also may play a role in learning and memory. A libido-economic equilibrium can only be said to result insofar as the remnant is repressed or excluded from subjectivity. The organism can choose to experience cheap simulacra of the benefits afforded by true libido-economic equilibrium (satisfaction, peace, genital function &c.) by renouncing the original goal of the drive. This is pathological, does nothing to relieve the cathexis and incurs many consequences which will be discussed in future installments.

A peculiar recursive recapitulation often arises when the function of the impulse is changed. If during the narcissistic withdrawal another unpleasurable stimulus is encountered, the narcissistic pulsion can be dissociated in the same way the unitary striving was. If this happens, a fraction of the countercathexis must be invested in an even more narcissistic countercathexis which inspires a retraction within a retraction, ad infinitum. Any one of these narcissistic retractions can be conceptualized as a kind of unitary striving with respect to the subsequent retraction since a pathological equilibrium was attained through repression. However, the total quantity of libido at the organism’s disposal becomes smaller and smaller as does the amount bound in the subsequent cathexes which proliferate in number. In historic civilization, all children undergo a process of successive, recursive dissociations: the formation of the layers of character or the ego.

(א) If the analyst continually brings the patient’s attention back to his own retracted condition and elucidates its function of warding off a deeper, repressed expression or disposition, and does so without reference to the nature thereof, that expression or disposition will break through and the retracted condition will eventually be surrendered. For this reason, it is thought that the narcissistic libido invested in the more superficial, retracted condition was originally object-libido proper to a deeper, repressed pulsion.

(ב) This may seem to contradict Reich’s claim that “the reaction formation is not a process that takes place once, but is a continuous one and, as well shall presently see, one which spreads (2).” There is no contradiction here because Reich is describing chronic reaction formations that have become crystallized into the structure of personality due to subsequent dissociations of the narcissistic pulsions. In such cases, the countercathexes are preserved because the withdrawal maneuver is not allowed to take place fully. Such cases belong to the larger category of reaction formations, and it can be said that the central endeavor of Reichian therapy is to restore the instantaneous quality to such chronic reaction formations such that the energies they bind can be liberated and reunited in the aforementioned original cathexis of object-libido. However, in its purest form, I maintain that the reaction formation, like all cathexes, is spontaneously divested from, specifically in the expression of narcissistic retraction.

(1) Reich, Wilhelm – Character Analysis – Chapter VIII. The Genital Character and the Neurotic Character – 3. Sublimation, Reaction Formation, and Neurotic Reaction Basis pg. 189

(2) Ibid pg. 189

As I continue to distill the genital object-libido, email alerts will no longer be sent out manually. If you wish to receive email alerts, do so through WordPress. Ask me any questions in the Contact page. I will explain any concept.

I’m Too Indie for the “Indiethinkers”

In June or July 2019, my research partner José Silvestri and I traveled to St. Augustine, Florida to meet Justin and Arya Murphy, Luke Ford, and some other young men gathered at Barnes & Noble for an “Other Life meet-up.” Seeing that I was itching to treat on what I research, Dr. Murphy invited me to give a short talk on Wilhelm Reich, his psychoanalytic ideas, the orgasm theory, and, briefly, orgone energy. When I concluded, he informed me that he had secretly recorded the whole thing, claiming he did so in secret so I would speak more naturally, or something to that effect. I would later discover that the recording of my rather mundane and purely informative speech, a combination of regurgitation and synthesis, was cut short at exactly thirty-three minutes and archived.

At the time I did not know what an “other life” was. My one and only life, that which I put toward the world for worldly interactions is the same entity as the libidinal economist who publishes here. It turns out not everyone can easily inform someone who happens to be a beautiful woman, for instance, about orgastic potency in a purely scientific way. I have always assumed everyone is like me though I also understood I was different in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. Could this have something to do with why people are still so reluctant to spread the good news?

Months later I found myself on forum.indiethinkers.org, a well-organized, forum style website with easy access to past posts and tools for sorting them. It was one of the nodes enclosed in a loose conglomeration of independent intellectuals all connected through Justin. Justin had left his post as a professor at some college in the midst of being investigated for calling someone a “retard” on the internet. Indiethinkers promised to be an online safe harbor for all those weary of the university and its silly antics, mainly its censorship. I was “grandfathered” into the program at ten dollars a month in exchange for factoids about maximizing reach and getting views, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Recapitulating the general trend in user interface layout exemplified by the descent of Windows 10 and IOS, indiethinkers would later migrate to an opaque facebook style feed complete with liking and @-ing features. Keep in mind I can only remark on the parts of the site I had access to. As to what frat house rites went on above, it’s anybody’s guess.

I was very enthusiastic about sharing what I found in the only books to have been burned by the U.S. federal government on domestic soil. Imagine my excitement. Tyranny, violence and poverty resulted from epidemic sexual dysfunction. The entire economy existed at the expense of everyone’s sexual fulfilment and, even more interesting, people entered disadvantageous relationships – economic, political and sexual – because of universal but unacknowledged traumatic experiences! But wait; it gets even better! People had no recourse to exit these relations because, as soon as they did, intolerable but unconscious bodily excitations seized them as they teetered precariously between exercising their true wills and falling back into subservience! Furthermore, Dr. Reich discovered that, in a therapeutic setting, every such hurdle could be overcome by visceral expression, that each hurdle concealed an older, more repressed hurdle, and that once they were all finally done away with, a specific orgasm reflex appeared at the height of sexual excitation!!! I call it the lost reflex. With a few exceptions, all this fell on deaf ears. Sex-economy was just my version of their own unique projects.

When I posted Medicine Should Be Abolished, Justin said in a nicer way that no one would read a ten page blog post from a nobody and that every paragraph should be broken down into its own article centered around one idea. In other words, he suggested that I create several scattered premises leading nowhere instead of an argument with premises and a conclusion that follows. This would have allowed me to make the most impressions as they’re called, maximizing the odds of accumulating a following that I could extract money from. This didn’t sit well with me but such comments inspired me to write the Core Concepts Series so people could at least know what the terms meant. Justin was generous enough to include the first, Libido, in his Signs of Life newsletter. Without bothering to ask me what the purpose of my series was, he sent an email to hundreds stating that it was

[a] “core concepts’ series on Reichian psychoanalysis. These are intended as short and useful explainers for specific topics in Wilhelm Reich’s philosophy.

Justin Murphy, December 2, 2019

When I told him it was on my philosophy, not Dr. Reich’s, he seemed irritated and said, in a nicer way, that no one would care about what I had to say so we have to pull a bait and switch. This made me feel as though I was reduced to a mere deterritorialized flow of desire – no longer human, a string of text to be channeled into a monetization hopper, a set of capacitor states to be employed in the illusion that, with enough views, likes and retweets, the stinking corpse of humanity can be galvanically reanimated like a severed frog leg, the illusion that the internet is anything more than drunken escape from the reality of mass sexual dysfunction, its advocates bent on turning every social relation into parasitism and wiping out the last vestige of genitality which, by its otherworldly power, continues to gnaw at their hearts and induces them to depict their putrid interiors in their work for all to see … need I go on?

The devastating article How To Have Mind-Blowing Orgasms, which not even I am Hyperborean enough to keep on my blog, was also met with crickets chirping on indiethinkers for the most part. I guess everyone already knows how to have mind-blowing orgasms – but then again, even the most superficial orgonomic survey of “society” suggests otherwise. In an effort to avoid redundancy, the self-explanatory title was submitted as a hyperlink. I also included an excerpt from the paragraph which related reactions to George Floyd’s murder with unconscious, muscular suffocation of the genitals (armoring) and proclaimed the futility of diverting energies naturally concerned with orgastic convalescence into substitute actions. One person, according to the WordPress data, presumably of the female sex, circumnavigated to the article by entering the title in a search engine instead of clicking the link directly. Rest assured, Justin will never know she had any interest in such base things – or that she wasn’t already an orgasm expert.

Dr. Murphy was caught off guard! Evidently he was excited and curious but couldn’t risk upsetting the balance of whatever he thought our relationship was. Like Mime, the disgusting dwarf from Siegfried, he only needed to know one thing. But instead of asking forthrightly, he was compelled to plot and connive. He knew this was a delicate situation; he had garnered undeserved respect. Sincerity and authenticity had to be excluded from the calculations lest they ruin everything again … but there wasn’t enough to bite! There was nothing for him to beat down with that negative cathexis his unreciprocated labor as a scholar endowed him with. Yes, I’m talking about that. Like a typical “doctor of philosophy,” he had to get me to spell it out for him so he could deflect my outward enterprise and secure another dopamine ejaculation for his mesolimbic pathway, his disgusting food, while I was to hobble off and seek another path to acceptance. I tell you he’d need, generously, a hundred thousand indie thinkers to do what we do here in solitude and with the whole world despising us: positive science.

Thrice it was yours to ask questions,
thrice I stood at your behest:
but empty knowledge you sought;
the want that lies at your door,
your own need you know not;
now when I find it, your wits are dazed;
hear, you fallen dwarf:
Only he who has never known fear
can forge Nothung anew!

The Wanderer, Siegfried Act I

Exposed to the infallible cipher of orgonotic expression, he was forced to divulge that, to him, there’s no way an article called How To Have Mind-Blowing Orgasms could actually be about having mind-blowing orgasms. Judging only the title, he condemned as “humorous” and “click-baity” my solemn work on an issue which will soon require the world’s life. Then he cunningly demanded a description that also conveniently appealed to his band for their precious time. Sensing the ruse, I commented something to the effect of: “I didn’t want anyone who couldn’t handle it to see it.”

As if I just needed to get the insolence out of my system so we can all go on pretending, he deleted the comment from his website. Maybe he thought that since he couldn’t keep his composure entertaining such ideas, no one could. Maybe he thought it wasn’t me but my “other life” commenting and that I wouldn’t remember. I only have one life. Regardless, it took less than a year for indiethinkers to embody the very narrow-mindedness, censorship and mean-spirited games it was allegedly a reaction against – unless you think this one doesn’t count. You can’t just sweep things under the rug because you have a doctorate and a smartphone. I immediately reinstated the comment, pointed to the fact that it disappeared, and drove home the point he’s a “doctor of philosophy.” Philosophy? get real. Then I assaulted the page with my mouse and found that the areas I clicked later disappeared like my deleted comment.

Unwilling to tolerate such gas-lighting, I absconded and deprived them of my work. What the hell was I doing there? learning these things, I suppose. To be fair, indiethinkers is what you make out of it. But I think it should be called the indie-but-not-too-indiethinkers. I wish Justin the best, but his endeavor – not the one he talks about – will fall flat on its face because he forgot one very important thing. If you don’t know what that is, ask your “other life.” As for me, I think I’ll have no problem getting by in the real world.

Propositional Logic and the Nervous System

The nervous system is inherently logical, exhibiting properties that correlate to logical functions. Many somatic reflex arcs seem to operate according to logical principles. We find negations, conjunctions, sequences of cause-and-effect events that mirror conditional statements and Modus Ponens arguments, feedback loops that can be modeled by the rules of implication as well as structures possessing the properties of exclusive disjunctions which are thought to help us to ignore superfluous signals.

A Modus Ponens argument is one of the form “If P then Q. P. Therefore, Q.” This argument is replicated in the withdrawal reflex which protects a vertebrate from harm. It depends on a reflex arc, at least three neurons in series whose structure can be said to recapitulate the conditional statement “if P then Q.” For instance a specialized nerve ending (a nociceptor) in the finger may connect to a neuron whose cell body is located in the spinal cord’s grey matter. From this point, a motor fiber may innervate the biceps brachii, the main flexor involved in a total retraction of the arm (1). The physio-logical structure is akin to the first premise of the Modus Ponens argument, the conditional statement.

The second premise P, then, is akin to a painful stimulus. When the nociceptor is electrically depolarized by a stimulus which damages tissue, an impulse is sent to the central nervous system causing a secretion of chemical messengers in the spinal cord’s grey matter. The conclusion Q is the retraction of the arm. As a result of the spine’s reception of the signal P, one or more interneurons is depolarized, ultimately resulting in increased excitation of the motor neurons innervating the flexor. The striated muscle cells are depolarized and the sliding protein filaments begin to shorten. The forearm is pulled about the elbow whose angle decreases, moving the finger away from the painful stimulus. The whole argument can be summarized as follows: If the nociceptor is excited then the flexor will withdraw the limb. The nociceptor was excited. Therefore the flexor withdrew the limb.” A Modus Tollens argument arises if it is the case that there is no painful stimulus ( ¬P). Then the conclusion is ¬Q; there is no withdrawal of the arm. It is interesting to note that the nociceptor’s ending is structurally undifferentiated and basically identical to those of interneurons populating the spinal cord and the brain (2).

The crossed extensor reflex can also be illustrated with propositional logic. It consists of a withdrawal reflex as well as the contraction of the opposite limb’s extensor (3). The unmodified withdrawal reflex was a Modus Ponens argument but now our conditional is adapted to be “if P then Q and R” where R is the extension of the opposite limb which does not receive a painful stimulus. The painful stimulus P must now be applied to the toe. We will also have to change our conclusion to “therefore Q and R.”

P → (Q ˄ R)

P

∴ (Q ˄ R)

Now our argument can be summarized in the following way: “If the toe is hurt, the flexors which bend the knee will contract, retracting the leg, and the extensors in the opposite leg (quadriceps) will extend. The toe was hurt. Therefore, the afflicted leg was flexed and the other leg was extended.” The crossed extensor reflex prepares the other leg to bear the weight of the body. The remarkable thing is all this happens without the brain. I believe many people would be more logical if they lost their heads.

The stretch reflex, that mechanism whereby skeletal muscles autonomically limit the degree to which they are stretched, can be modeled with the rules of implication. When a muscle’s length is increased, certain nerves called muscle spindle fibers begin to fire. The frequency at which they fire is correlated with the length of the muscle. These signals go to the spine where they effect excitation of the motor neurons which contract that same muscle, shortening it and restoring its length (4). Now let P be the signal of the spindle fibers and Q be the excitation (depolarization) of the motor neurons which contract the muscle being stretched, helping to restore its original length. Let ¬Q be the inhibition (hyperpolarization) of the motor neurons.

( P → Q ) ↔ ¬( P ˄ ¬Q)

This is to say “Only if it is not the case that the spindle fibers are excited and the motor neurons are inhibited is it true that if the spindle fibers fire, the motor neurons are excited.” In other words, “It is the case that if the spindle fibers fire then the motor neurons are excited if and only if it is not the case that the spindle fibers are excited and the motor neurons are inhibited.” If the spindle fiber signal inhibited the motor neurons which contract the muscle in which the spindle is housed, the muscle may be stretched to a dangerous degree and, not to mention, the biconditional would be invalidated.

Whereas the spindle fibers prevent a muscle from being stretched too much, the Golgi tendon organs prevent it from developing too much force – from contracting too much. These structures are located in the tendons which connect skeletal muscles to bones and they send nerve fibers into the spine. Increased tendon tension mechanically deforms their neurons, generating a signal which relates force to frequency. When the Golgi tendon organs send signals to the spine, the motor neurons innervating the muscles between the tendons in which they are housed receive a hyperpolarizing, inhibitory signal (5). This in turn effects a decrease in tension. With this opposite effect, we can let P be the signal from the Golgi tendon organ while ¬Q continues to represent the inhibitory effect of the signal on the motor neuron: the consequent. Then we must rearrange our conditional to state “if P then not Q,” which is to say that the motor neuron is inhibited if a signal from the Golgi tendon organ is received. The following is a slightly modified rule of implication statement.

( P → ¬Q ) ↔ ( ¬P ˅ ¬Q)

This is to say that “only if it is the case that the Golgi tendon organs do not signal or the motor neuron is inhibited is it true that it is the case that if the Golgi tendon organs signal then the motor neuron innervating the muscle is inhibited.” It can also be said that “it is the case that if the Golgi tendon organs signal, the motor neuron is inhibited if and only if it is the case that the tendon organs don’t signal or the motor neuron is inhibited.” The validity of the whole statement, which we may equate to normal function of the Golgi tendon organ reflex arc, depends on the two halves of the biconditional being either both true or both false. For the inclusive disjunction to be true, either the tendon organs must reduce their activity (¬P), the motor neuron must receive inhibitory input (¬Q), or both. A true disjunction therefore suggests a reduction in the muscle’s developed tension. With a true disjunction, validity demands a true conditional as well and we appropriately see a negated Q denoting inhibition of the motor neuron, the proper consequence of neuronal input from the Golgi tendon organs.

However, for a false disjunction, it must be the case that both elements ¬P and ¬Q are false, to wit, that P and Q are both true. This would mean that the Golgi tendon organ is sending a signal (there is force developed in the muscle) and that the motor neuron is being excited. The Golgi tendon organ is very sensitive (6) so if the muscle developed even a slight force, a signal which would inhibit the motor neuron would normally be sent. Moreover, the muscle only develops force if it is excited by a motor neuron. As expected, we see that, given a false disjunction, the entire biconditional statement can only be true if the conditional is also false. To determine when the conditional (P → ¬Q) is false, we construct the following truth table:

P¬Q( P → ¬Q )
TrueTrueTrue
FalseTrueTrue
TrueFalseFalse
FalseFalseTrue
If the Golgi tendon organ signals, the motor neuron is inhibited.

This means our conditional is only false if P is true and ¬Q is false (and Q is true). It is not the case that a signal from the Golgi tendon organ causes excitation of the motor neuron but, restricting our investigation to the conditional, all other cases are physiologically viable. If it were the case that the disjunction (P ˅ Q) is true, it could not be the case that signals from the Golgi tendon organ inhibit the motor neuron – assuming the tissues are otherwise functioning properly – because this reflex arc is a negative feedback loop. The Golgi tendon organ’s signal causes inhibition of the motor neuron.

Nervous function which mirrors propositional logic is not limited to the motor neurons which innervate skeletal muscle. It is also found in those neurons responsible for tactile sensation. When a stimulus affecting an area of skin is received, lateral inhibition allows us to sense where exactly we have been touched. Just under the surface of the skin are the receptive fields of nerve fibers concerned with detecting touch. These fields consist of heavily bifurcated nerve endings which, when mechanically deformed, depolarize and relay information about mechanical contact to the central nervous system. Like trees in a forest, their branches overlap greatly but we can still discern the location of contact with a high precision by virtue of lateral inhibition, it is thought. The neurons whose receptive fields receive the highest pressure, presumably those in the center of the area affected by the stimulus, send the highest frequency signals. These signals are not merely destined for the central nervous system. They arrive at the local, surrounding sensory neurons and secrete inhibitory chemicals which have a hyperpolarizing effect. These inhibited neurons also receive the mechanical stimulus but, since they are on the periphery of the affected area, fire at a slower rate which is further retarded by inhibitory signals from the neurons in the center of the affected area. Responding to the mechanical pressure, the less stimulated peripheral neurons send inhibitory signals to the more stimulated central neuron as well but their low frequency signal is not sufficient to inhibit the central neuron (7).

Lateral inhibition is very similar to exclusive disjunction. In a true exclusive disjunction of the form (A ˅ B) ˄ ¬(A ˄ B), the two elements A and B can never both be true because of the negated conjunction. For all other cases, the exclusive disjunction is true. If we let A and B represent the signals from two neurons whose receptive fields are just below the surface of a mechanically stimulated area of the skin, parallels between lateral inhibition and exclusive disjunction can be drawn. Because the more stimulated neuron will inhibit the surrounding neurons, acting as a high-pass filter, the conjunction (A ˄ B) is negated. Only one signal will predominate: either A or B (and not A and B).

Ascending the clades we see spinal cords, an aggregation of neurons towards the mouth and light-sensitive organs, encephalization and, in the animals we consider to be the smartest, evermore developed cerebrums. The human brain has between ten billion and one hundred billion neurons. One neuron may receive inputs from between one thousand and one hundred thousand other neurons (8). In addition to those described above, inherently logical reflex arcs responsible for the function of many organs incorporate fibers going to and from the brain (9). The cerebral cortex is associated with sapience. language, intelligence and reason and it may be that some of its structures, on whatever scale, recapitulate the functions of propositional logic as well. It may be possible that thought is facilitated in part by such structural arrangements. By that token, it also may be that such structures, through chronic ignorance, self deceit and excitation of descending fibers, can be conscripted to counter these inherently logical reflex arcs at every level.

(1) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 10: Control of Body Movement – Local Control of Motor Neurons pg. 319-320

(2) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 7: Sensory Physiology – Specific Sensory Systems pg. 219

(3) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 10: Control of Body Movement – Local Control of Motor Neurons pg. 320

(4) McMahon, Thomas A. – Muscles, Reflexes and LocomotionChapter 6: Reflexes and Motor Control pg. 147-148

(5) Ibid. pg. 146-152

(6) Ibid. pg. 149

(7) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 7: Sensory Physiology – General Principles pg. 211-213

(8) Malmivuo, Jaakko and Plonsey, Robert – BioelectromagnetismChapter 5: Synapses, Receptor Cells, and Brain5.4.2 Brain Anatomy pg. 114

(9) Malmivuo, Jaakko and Plonsey, Robert – BioelectromagnetismChapter 5: Synapses, Receptor Cells, and Brain5.2.3 Reflex Arc. 109

This was written as the final paper for an informal logic class.

Core Concepts Series: XI. The Basic Libidinal Conflict: Instinct vs. Outer World – Part 2

Elaboration and Foray into Desiring-production

In the absence of external prohibitions or internal narcissistic inhibition, the organism will discharge inner tension through expression. If our formulation equating libido with potential energy in bodily tissue is correct, the organism can potentially experience an infinite variety of pulsions, each one corresponding to an optimal expression that affords the greatest possible catharsis. The expression that completely discharges one cathexis would be useless for another. Though more potential energy is probably consumed in a set of pull-ups than in the orgasm reflex, for instance, the former is inferior when it comes to sexual catharsis. We are also familiar with expressions that require very little movement but subjectively seem to relieve intense psychic burdens. On top of all this, we find that inner tensions can be resolved by ceasing to dispense with our energies (rest) and adding more energy to our bodies (eating). What can we make of these apparent contradictions? Investigating how a pulsion becomes disconnected from the expression it would optimally manifest as may be useful in solving this riddle.

But what does this mean, without inhibition? Previously we gave the example of the amoeba and its aquatic habitat, claiming that external water functions as narcissistic inhibition because it offers resistance to the object-libidinal expression of reaching. But by this logic, the amoeba’s membrane and organelles are co-conspirators in repression, for our protozoan would have the lowest potential energy if it was shredded into the smallest possible pieces and diffused evenly in the water. Not even the free-flowing amoeba is comfortable with that kind of catharsis! Now we are entering the realm of – I’ve always wanted to use this word – Deleuzoguattarian desiring-production. The organism’s morphology has intrinsic inhibitory properties that obstruct immediate dissipation of potential energy, energy we claim is libidinal (1).

The animation of the organism in expression, to wit, the conversion of this energy into work, is itself mediated by these inhibitory, structural properties. For instance, the same chemical energy from food inspires different functions in different tissues because of structural differences. Compare the high energy food metabolite ATP’s role in the contraction of skeletal muscle with its role in the establishment of electric potential across a neuron’s membrane. Here, different types of fixed structures operating mechanically mediate the dissipation of potential energy according to their mechanical and chemical properties. This results in the performance of specific, characteristic functions (contraction, membrane charging &c.), energy-dissipative (א) processes which we consider to be expressive. Any one of these processes is characterized by countervailing forces whose dynamics recapitulate the psychic currents governing the organism’s total expression. Complementarily, an unfathomable number of these microcosmic events contribute to the organism’s total expression, be it predominantly object oriented or narcissistic, wherein the common theme, structural modification of energy dissipation, is preserved and recapitulated on a large scale by the organs. This is analogous to an engine, whose mechanical structure gradually extracts work from burning gas in a controlled way rather than letting it all explode in one ecstatic fireball.

Now that we have filed Nothung down to splinters, so to speak, we are better equipped to speculate about which expressions are optimal when it comes to relieving a libidinal cathexis, that is, which are sex-economically preferable to the organism, affording the most complete catharsis. Since we have become labyrinthine and hideous enough to understand – and, God forbid, produce – the above paragraphs, it would behoove us to observe infants. We are justified in doing so because, experience has shown, experiences further convolute the pathways of object-libido and inspire chronic narcissistic inhibition or libidinal investment. It is also useful at this point to distinguish between the morphological components of narcissistic inhibition and the narcissistic gestures we intuitively make or understand without reference to the sciences. As a side-benefit, we will be able to assess what the sum of scientific knowledge actually represents.

Initially, infants act in an uninhibited way according to what are commonly called the instincts, behaviors that aren’t “learned.” Over the course of their development, however, we find children adopt chronic inhibitions which obstruct the more direct manifestations of object-libido as outward expression. Analysis of neurotics’ repressed complexes has shown that this is accomplished by converting a quantity of object-libido into narcissistic libido. The conversion is concomitant with renouncing the original goal of the drive, viz. the expression which would completely discharge the inspiring energy cathexis and, not to mention, require the entire cathexis in order to manifest. A portion of the energy that would otherwise animate the organism in the optimal expression is employed to resist that same expression, preserving some fraction of the cathexis. Again, this only occurs when endeavors to contact the outside world are met with sufficient unpleasure, unpleasure which creates subjective tension (excitation) exceeding that due to the cathexis which initially inspired the pulsion to make contact with the world.

These learned inhibitions, resolutions to the conflicts between instinct and outer world, eventually crystallize into a kind of parasitic homunculus foreign to the organism. Freud called this the ego (das Ich, the I) a word borrowed from Nietzsche through the physician Georg Groddeck (2). This psychic structure can be said to contain a set of narcissistic libido investments that, like the steel cylinders of an engine, conscript the explosive forces of expression to its own end: self-preservation (or more correctly, relief from the tension arising from intolerable perceptions). Its somatic manifestation is a system of chronically held muscle contractions. We also see a subjective identification with the processes of inhibition and ignorance of the repressed object-libidinal strivings. In orgonomy, these investments are considered pathological insofar as they prevent authentic emotional expressions such as the orgasm reflex. In the next article, we will discuss in detail how a pulsion’s function is changed under the influence of an external pressure and how the organism internalizes this change through libidinal investment, a concept Wilhelm Reich calls change of function of the impulse.

(א) Though these may dissipate energy in one respect, they are certainly capable of creating potential energy in other areas.

(1) Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix – Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia – 1. The Desiring Machines – 4. A Materialist Psychiatry pg. 26-27

(2) Nietzsche, Friedrich – Thus Spoke Zarathustra – Translator’s (Kaufmann) notes for Part 1, Discourse 4, On the Despisers of the Body pg. 5

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Core Concepts Series: X. The Basic Libidinal Conflict: Instinct vs. Outer World – Part 1

Overview

Previously we stated that the pulsion or impulse is nothing more than the force exerted by the organism on the world or on itself in the conversion of biological energy into work. We also stated that the pulsion’s existence denotes a libidinal tension or pressure – a quantity of potential energy in terms of biophysics – that an expression can discharge. The forces preventing the potential energy from being discharged in expression we have termed narcissistic. It follows that the pulsion and expression are continuous without narcissistic inhibition, as is seen with infants. In other words, an action and the pulsion with which we associate it are artificially separated components of a single identity, initially. The presence of narcissistic inhibition determines if a pulsion is disconnected from the expression which would relieve its tension.

The most primordial drive, then, is the drive to divest from cathexes of libido, viz. the drive to relieve inner tension and feel pleasure. If our formulation equating libido with potential energy is correct, catharsis is impossible without transferring energy into the environment, usually through relating to objects. However, the environment does not always permit object-libidinal expression and there are a finite number of ways the organism can relate to the environment such that libido-economic equilibrium results.

Limitations imposed by the outer world regulate the organism’s power. In the example of the amoeba, we saw that the water it inhabits has the same function as the narcissistic current, offering resistance to the object-libidinal expression of reaching. Though higher organisms face similar challenges, their narcissistic inhibition often arises from intolerable bodily excitation.

Like the energy which inspires the organism to contact the outer world, such intolerable excitations constitute inner tensions. However, they inspire hostility, fear or anxiety. Their intolerable quality is probably related to a high frequency of signals in the nervous pathways involved in sensation and perception. These cathexes can be relieved by destroying, fleeing or withdrawing from the stimulus, actions which both expend energy and interrupt the organism’s continued perception thereof. Like the pulsion to relate to the outer world, the narcissistic retraction is also a pulsion whose tension is relieved by movement, though it be directed inwardly. We believe that all this is mediated by differences in the magnitudes of opposing forces, mechanical and electric, contending in the tissues of life.

“If we assume that Hartmann’s theory is correct (certain aspects of which were supplemented by the investigations of Kraus and Zondek), psychic energy must derive from simple physiological and mechanical surface tensions, grounded in the chemistry of cells … the disturbance of the physio-chemical equilibrium which is brought about by these tensions turns out to be the motor force of action – in the final analysis, most likely also the motor force of thinking (1).”

Wilhelm Reich, 1933

Based on the results of the therapy character analysis and critical inquiry into masochism and the quantitative problem of libido, Wilhelm Reich concluded that Freud was correct in his original conception of the basic libidinal conflict: “frustration issues from the outer world (2).” That is to say the organism endeavors to relate to objects in the most cathartic, pleasurable way by default. Renunciation of this drive arises from external limitations and frustrations, not, as Freud would later claim, a countervailing death drive equally innate to the organism. As we shall later see, the phenomena attributed thereto are conditional and dependent on the preservation of cathexes which can, in fact, be divested from. In the coming articles, we will describe how interactions with external frustrations divide the object-libidinal current against itself giving rise to secondary drives and describe a hierarchy of preferred emotional functions and transformations which is based on cathartic magnitude and whether frustrating conditions prevail.

(1) Reich, Wilhelm – Character Analysis – Chapter XII: Some Observations On the Basic Conflict Between Need and Outer World pg. 271-272

(2) Ibid pg. 280-281

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Core Concepts Series IX: The Pulsion

If libido is the energy that animates an organism in expression, and if adequate expression results in a libido-economic equilibrium, then the pulsion or drive itself can best be conceptualized as a force in the Newtonian sense of the word. As a body in mechanical equilibrium is acted upon by equal and opposite forces, so a libidinal economy in equilibrium is characterized by equal magnitudes of the object-libidinal and narcissistic psychic currents. Thus if the narcissistic current cannot oppose the object-libidinal current, an outward expression must take place. In the same way, an overpowering narcissistic current results in inhibition. Of course we can only conceive of these quantities ordinally for now, but they are quantities nonetheless.

In microbial life, the libidinal currents have a very direct relationship to Newtonian forces. For instance, in the amoeba’s production of a pseudopodium – an object-libidinal expression – the cytoskeletal filaments must overcome the pressure of the water in which it lives, else the organism will be unable to relate to objects such as prey. The production of force is ultimately accomplished by the conversion of chemical energy into work. This same conversion takes place in the animal’s object-libidinal expression. These depend on electric and chemical potential energy being released in the skeletal muscles and the nerve fibers that trigger their depolarization. However, the libidinal currents in an animal have a more convoluted relationship to force.

The skeletal muscles, those organs ultimately responsible for the expression, develop tremendous force and expend a tremendous amount of potential energy as mechanical work. Contrastingly, the nerves that trigger them lose a comparatively minute amount of potential energy in the propagation of a signal. Furthermore, the signals that ultimately arrive at the skeletal muscles must originate, physiologists maintain, in the sensorimotor cortex of the brain (1). Here, the neurons have a very small volume and therefore require less work – less energy – to polarize (א) than do the long fibers innervating the skeletal muscles. On top of all that, their signal can be modified or altogether stopped at very many intermediate synapses. And as the total expression is thought to depend on the difference in magnitude between the object-libidinal and narcissistic currents, whether any one of these neurons will contact the next in the signaling cascade depends solely on the magnitude of the electric current flowing into the initial segment exceeding that of the electric current flowing out (2). I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the excitation of nerve and muscle tissue recapitulates object-libidinal expression and that their stored potential energy is similar to the narcissistic reservoir of libido. Perhaps these stores constitute the narcissistic reservoir.

As I stated previously, object-libidinal expressions of a sexual nature are characterized by the flow of fluid toward the organism’s periphery. During these we see a reduction of tension (dilation) in the peripheral blood vessels but a great increase in the pressure (ב) exerted by the blood in the genitals in turgescence. Force (muscle tone) is developed by genital muscles such as the ischocavernosus and bulbocavernosus (3). A strong electric potential (4) denoting potential energy develops on the penis and vagina mucosa (in orgastically potent characters). If these phenomena indicating sexual excitation are to appear, the object-libidinal current must overcome the narcissistic current and whatever forces are responsible for their appearance cannot be cancelled by forces acting in the opposite direction.

There is also a muscular mechanism that can inhibit the object-libidinal pulsion. In the expression of rage, for instance, the arms may apply force to and do work on an object, e.g. in punching. In extension, the triceps brachii contracts and pulls the forearm about the elbow which acts as a fulcrum. Were the biceps brachii to simultaneously develop an equivalent tension (force), the arm would be in mechanical equilibrium and unable to accelerate toward the object. This inhibition, like the expression it represses requires – as far as we are concerned – another input from the “voluntary” nervous system. One should also keep in mind that afferent fibers communicate information concerning the amount of force developed in a skeletal muscle to the brain.

In analysis, the word pulsion often is followed by “to …,” e.g., the pulsion to murder the father. The formulation we just introduced implies that, in order for such a pulsion to exist, there must be some libidinal pressure, a quantity of potential energy that would be released were it not for some preventive mechanism. Recall that this quantity of energy constitutes a cathexis and its expenditure is a cathartic event. Wilhelm Reich discovered that the real world action which psychoanalysts linguistically attach to an energy cathexis is largely independent from the actual, physical energy thereof, and that these cathexes can be completely divested from, practically speaking, without performing the action, e.g. murdering one’s father. That is to say, the preservation of the cathexis is not, as psychoanalysis implies, the only way to prevent the action from taking place.

(א) Potential energy in metabolic products from food is converted into work used to separate electrically charged particles that exert attractive forces on each other. During the excitation of a neuron, these charges are allowed to come back together. An amount of energy must be consumed resetting – repolarizing or recharging if you will – the cell membrane. The electric work done to charge a capacitor is proportional to the surface area, so the smaller the neuron, the less work it takes to polarize.

(ב) Pressure is force applied over an area ( P = F/A ) and is measured in units of force per unit of area, e.g. pounds per square inch.

(1) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 10 – Control of Body Movement – The Brain Motor Centers and Descending Pathways they Control pg. 320

(2) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 6 – Neuronal Signaling and the Structure of the Nervous System – Section C: Synapses – Synaptic Integration pg. 179

(3) Reich, Wilhelm – The Bioelectric Investigation of Sexuality and Anxiety – 1. The Orgasm as an Electrophysiological Discharge pg. 9-10

(4) Reich – The Function of the Orgasm – Chapter IX – From Psychoanalysis to Biogenesis, Part 1. The Bioelectric Function of Pleasure and Anxiety pg. 370

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Core Concepts Series: VIII. The Basic Antithesis of Vegetative Life

The two psychic currents described by psychoanalysis, namely the object-libidinal and narcissistic currents, are manifested materially as flows of bodily fluid toward or away from the periphery of the organism respectively. This concept is best encapsulated by Weber’s (א) conclusion as summarized by Reich: “sensations of Unlust [unpleasure] go with a centripetal flow of blood, while sensations of pleasure go with a centrifugal flow of blood” (1).

During an object-libidinal expression, we may observe any the following phenomena: increased salivation; skin turning pink or light red; genital turgescence, electric charging and secretion; subjective feelings of expansiveness and attraction; streaming and melting sensations; tendency of the body to assume an elongated form; and movement toward “desired” objects. The physiological components suggest hydration of the peripheral tissues.

During a narcissistic withdrawal, we may observe the following: dry mouth; pallor; genital detumescence and electric neutrality; vaginal drying; subjective feelings of collapsing or withdrawing; fear or sadness; a tendency of the body to assume a “fetal position;” and anxiety (2). Also, there may be a movement away from a noxious stimulus or, in the case of a drive’s renunciation, a movement away from the “desired” object. The physiological phenomena accompanying narcissistic withdrawal conversely suggest the flow of fluid away from the periphery. This can be experimentally confirmed. For instance, a large slug crawled by my doorstep the other day. I found that whichever part of his periphery I tickled with a leaf retracted inwardly towards his longitudinal plane. The narcissistic psychic current was directly observable as a material current of body fluid and tissue.

These two functions are associated with the two wings of the autonomic or vegetative nervous system, as it was formerly referred to. In general, the object-libidinal expression coincides with the excitation of the parasympathetic nervous system while the narcissistic retraction coincides with the excitation of the sympathetic nervous system. The former is characterized by a the relaxation of cardiac muscle, dilation of the peripheral blood vessels and glandular secretion. The latter is characterized by cardiac and, in general, peripheral blood vessel constriction (3). Like the two psychic currents, the two autonomic nervous systems are known to inhibit each other in general. The location of autonomic neural activity, which is electric, also suggests an antithesis between center and periphery. The sympathetic ganglia are located near the spinal chord while the parasympathetic ganglia are very close to the organs they innervate. Thus in the object-libidinal expression, the nervous excitation is closer to the periphery of the organism – where the fluid has accumulated. In the narcissistic retraction, the more central ganglia experience the excitation while the fluid also is forced inward by peripheral vascular constriction. Two distinct modes of being corresponding to the two psychic currents are also exhibited by lower organisms without nervous tissue.

We do not at all wish to imply that we have a complete picture of the relationship between the libidinal currents and the material soma. There are many unsolved mysteries and unreconciled contradictions. What is the role of chronic skeletal muscle contraction in the inhibition of an object-libidinal pulsion? To what extent does libidinal energy correspond with the energies with which physics is concerned and is it necessary to posit a distinct orgone energy? What is the role of the central nervous system? Also, we must also be cognizant of exceptions to the generalizations made about autonomic function, like the fact that sympathetic fibers induce dilatation of the bronchial tubes and of the blood vessels that supply the skeletal muscles (4).

Thus the antithesis between object libido and narcissistic libido, toward or away from the world, is recapitulated by two diametrically opposed currents of fluid in the body. From an analytic standpoint, this means that in order to resist the object-libidinal impulse of the so-called id, the so-called ego must act physically. Reich discovered that the primary mechanism for this is a chronic, unconscious contraction of skeletal muscle, this requiring inputs by the “voluntary” or, as it used to be called, “animal” nervous system. When it comes to resolving neuroses with analysis, the functions of the two psychic currents and their corresponding fluid flows can best be conceptualized as an antithesis between sexuality and anxiety.

(א) This probably refers to Ernst Heinrich Weber, 19th century physiologist who wrote on the hydrodynamics of bodily fluid.


(1) Reich, Wilhelm – Character Analysis – Chapter XII: Some Observations On the Basic Conflict Between Need and Outer World pg. 275

(2) Reich, Wilhelm – The Bioelectrical Investigation of Sexuality and Anxiety – 2. Sexuality and Anxiety: The Basic Antithesis of Vegetative Life –pg. 29-48

(3) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 12 – Cardiovascular Physiology – Section C: The Vascular System – Arterioles – Extrinsic Controls – Sympathetic Nerves pg. 408

(4) Wikipedia – Sympathetic Nervous System – Function

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Core Concepts Series: VII. Object Libido and Narcissistic Libido

Libido is invested in two opposing directions: toward the world and away from the world. The energy that inspires an impulse concerned with contacting the external world is called object libido. Before gratification, such impulses coincide with a subjective feeling of tension. Union with the “desired” object relieves tension, as plainly evidenced by the relaxation which occurs when striving is ceased. In psychoanalysis, this is called catharsis and is said to coincide with a return of the libido to the “narcissistic reservoir.” When the libido is withdrawn from the external interest or doesn’t come out in the first place, it is called narcissistic libido (1). Note that this concept describes a phenomenon much more general and fundamental than the tangentially related phenomenon called narcissism by modern psychology. A narcissistic retraction is not always cathartic or satisfying. Often they result from frustration and do nothing to relieve the tension arising from the inability to reach the drive’s original goal. The only tension relieved by this retraction is usually that which signifies overpowering fear. In Character Analysis, Wilhelm Reich calls narcissistic withdrawals of libido flights of the “energy cathexis” toward the center (interior) of the organism (2).

An antithesis is formed by these two functions: towards (object libido) and away from (narcissistic libido) the world. Hunger and sexuality are object-libidinal, to wit, orientated toward the world. Both of these relieve inner tension. When the organism reaches out into the world to make contact with an object, and this endeavor is successful, unsuccessful or results in injury or a perception of danger, the energy is narcissistically withdrawn. To use a classical example, the genital attraction of a boy in the oedipal situation to his mother is an object-libidinal pulsion consisting of a quantity of moving energy and a corresponding expression: that energy’s animation of the body. If the consequence of this expression is the mother becoming enraged, the libido is narcissistically withdrawn for the purpose of self-preservation. This is evidenced by the fact that here, the body (whose movement requires energy) is not animated in outward expression. We will talk about how this is accomplished biophysically and what must be done with this energy in future installments. Similarly, when a squirrel endeavors to cross a street but sees an oncoming car, he must prevent his body from accomplishing the drive’s original goal through narcissistic retraction.

Although these two functions are in one sense antithetical, it is important to remember that they stem from a common substance, general biological energy. They only differ in flow direction and direction of investment. In orgonomy, such a relationship is called an antithetical functional identity; two seemingly opposing functions share a common identity. Investigation from the sex-economic standpoint reveals that we are dealing with definite, conserved quantities of libido. Further these can be divided and set against each other in order to create ever more complicated inhibitions. In such cases, object-oriented and narcissistic energies exert libidinal pressures on each other, leading to ambivalence and many other strange behavioral phenomena (3).

Finally, the oscillation of libidinal investment between these poles is identical to the orgastic function. The first half of the function, characterized by tension and charge, is in its purest form an object-libidinal endeavor. The end phase, characterized by discharge and relaxation, is a narcissistic retraction. In the coming articles, we will use this formulation to show that object libido and narcissistic libido compel the organism to make objective physical movements. We will also describe the relationship these energies have to sexuality, anxiety and the function of the autonomic nervous system.

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(1) Reich, Wilhelm – The Bioelectric Investigation of Sexuality and Anxiety – 2. Sexuality and Anxiety: The Basic Antithesis of Vegetative Life pg. 36

(2) Reich – Character Analysis – Chapter XII – Some Observations on the Basic Conflict Between Need and Outer World pg. 276

(3) Reich – Character Analysis – Chapter XIII – Psychic Contact and Vegetative Current – The Change Of Function of the Impulse pg. 296-308