The Orgasm Formula: Tension → Charge → Discharge → Relaxation
The unknown “something” I was looking for could be nothing other than bioelectricity. This occurred to me one day when I tried to understand the physiology of the process of friction which takes place between the penis and the walls of the vaginal mucous membrane in the sexual act. Sexual friction is a fundamental biological process. It is found throughout the animal kingdom wherever reproduction takes place in the union of the two sexes. Two surfaces of the body rub against one another. In this process, biological excitation occurs, together with congestion, expansion, “erection.” On the basis of pioneer experiments, the Berlin internist Kraus ascertained that the body is governed by electrical processes. It is made up of countless “border surfaces” between membranes and electrolytic fluids, having various densities and compositions. According to a well-known law of physics, electrical tensions develop at the borders between conducting fluids and membranes. Since the concentrations and organization of membranes are not homogeneous, differences develop in the tensions at the border surfaces, and, simultaneously, differences in potential of varying intensity. These differences of potential may be likened to the energy differences of two bodies at different heights. The body having the higher elevation is capable of performing more work as it drops than the body having the lower elevation. A weight of one kilogram will drive a stake deeper into the earth when it is dropped from a height of three meters than when it is dropped from a height of one meter. The “potential energy of position” is higher, and, therefore, the “kinetic energy” which is generated will also be greater when this potential energy is released. The principle of “potential difference” can be easily applied to the difference in electrical tensions. If I attach a wire from a highly charged body to a less highly charged one, a current will flow from the first to the second. In this process, static electrical energy is converted into current energy. Moreover, an equalization takes place between the two charges, in the same way that the water level in two vessels becomes the same if I connect the two by means of a pipe. The equalization of energy presupposes a difference in potential energy. Our body consists of billions of such potential surfaces having various potential energies. Consequently, the energy in the body is in constant motion from places of higher to places of lower potential. The tiny particles of body fluids, the ions, are the transmitters
of the electrical charges in this continuous process of equalization. These are atoms which possess a fixed quantum of electrical charge, and, depending upon whether they are moving toward a negative or toward a positive role, are called cations or anions. What has all this to do with the problem of sexuality? A great deal.
Sexual tension is felt throughout the body, but it is experienced most strongly in the regions of the heart and the abdomen. The excitation gradually becomes concentrated in the sexual organs. They become congested with blood, and electrical charges reach the surface of the genitals. We know that the sexual excitation of one part of the body by a gentle touch will excite other parts of the body. The process of friction increases the tension or excitation until it reaches a climax, the orgasm, a condition characterized by involuntary convulsions of the musculature of the genitals and of the entire body. It is known that muscular contraction is accompanied by the discharge of electrical energy. This discharge can be measured and represented in the form of a graphic curve. Some physiologists are of the opinion that the nerves store up excitation, while the muscle contraction discharges it, for it is not the nerve but only the muscle which can contract and is capable of discharging energy. In the process of sexual friction, energy is at first stored up in both bodies and then discharged in the orgasm. The orgasm can be nothing other than an electrical discharge. The physical structure of the genital organs is most particularly suited for this: great vascularity, dense ganglia, capacity for erection, and a musculature which is especially capable of spontaneous contractions.
If the process is investigated more closely, it is observed that there are four stages to the course of excitation:
- The organs become filled with fluid: erection with mechanical tension.
- This produces a strong excitation which I assumed to be of an electrical nature: electrical charge.
- In the orgasm, the convulsion of the musculature discharges the sexual excitation: electrical discharge.
- This modulates into a relaxation of the genitals through a flowing back of the body fluid: mechanical relaxation.
I called this four-beat process the orgasm formula: MECHANICAL TENSION → ELECTRICAL CHARGE → ELECTRICAL DISCHARGE → MECHANICAL RELAXATION.
The process it describes can be depicted simply. This brings me back to the function of a filled elastic bladder which I had fantasized six years prior to the discovery of the orgasm formula.
Let us imagine two spheres: one is rigid, made of metal, the other elastic, something like a living organism, an amoeba, a starfish, a heart.
Diagram depicting inorganic and organic living spheres Inorganic
The metal sphere would be hollow, whereas the organic sphere would surround a complicated system of fluids and membranes of various densities having the ability to conduct electricity. The metal sphere would receive its electrical charge from the outside, e.g., from an electrostatic machine. But the organic sphere, e.g., a pig’s bladder, would have a charging apparatus which operates automatically in the center. Hence, it would charge itself spontaneously from the inside. In keeping with basic laws of physics, the electric charge of the metal sphere would be on the surface and only on the surface, evenly distributed. The filled elastic bladder would be electrically charged through and through. Owing to the differences in density and the nature of the fluids and membranes, the charge would be greater in some areas and less in others. In this ideally conceived organism, the electrical charges would be in constant movement from places of higher to places of lower potential. In general, however, one direction would predominate: from the center, the operative source of the electrical charge, toward the periphery. Consequently, the bladder would be found most frequently in the condition of expansion and extension. Now and then, like the ciliate, it would return to the form of the sphere, in which, given equal body content, the surface tension is lowest. If the inner production of energy becomes too great, the bladder can, by contracting a number of times, discharge the energy toward the outside, in short, can regulate its energy. This energy discharge would be extremely pleasurable because it liberates the organism from dammed-up tension. In the state of extension, the bladder would be able to carry out various rhythmic movements, e.g., produce a wave of alternating expansion and contraction, as in the movement of a worm or in intestinal peristalsis.
It could also describe a wavy, serpentine movement, using the entire body.
In these movements, the charged organic bladder would display a unity. If it were capable of self-perception, it would experience the rhythmic alternation of extension, expansion, and contraction in a pleasurable way. It would feel like a small child who hops around rhythmically because he is happy. In the course of these movements, bioelectrical energy would continually oscillate between tension-charge and discharge-relaxation. It would be able to convert itself into heat, into mechanical kinetic energy, or into work. Such a bladder would feel at one with its surroundings, just like a small child. There would be direct contact with other organic spheres, for they would identify with one another on the basis of the sensations of movement and rhythm. Contempt for natural movements would be foreign to them, just as they would have no comprehension of unnatural behavior. Development would be provided for and guaranteed through the continuous production of internal energy, as in the budding of flowers, or progressive cell division after the introduction of energy by fertilization. Moreover, there would be no end to the development. Achievement would be within the framework of general biological activity; it would not be at variance with it.
Longitudinal extension over longer periods of time would cause this shape to become fixed and thereby bring about the development of a supportive apparatus in the organism. While this fixed extension would preclude a return to the spherical form, pulsating by means of flexion and stretching would continue undisturbed. This would guarantee the metabolism of energy. To. be sure, a fixed supportive apparatus would already constitute one of the preconditions of being less protected against destructive inhibitions of motility. However, it would not be an inhibition itself. Such an inhibition could only be compared with the restricting of a snake at one point of its body. Held fast, a snake would immediately lose its rhythm and the unity of the organic wave movements in the remaining free part of its body.
The animal body is comparable to the above described organic bladder. To complete the picture, we would have to introduce an automatically operating pumping system, like a heart, which causes the fluid to flow in a continuously rhythmic cycle, from the center to the periphery and back again: the cardiovascular system. The animal, even at the very lowest stage of development, possesses an apparatus that generates electricity from the center. It is the so- called vegetative ganglion, a conglomeration of nerve cells which, arranged at regular intervals and connected with all organs and their parts by means of very fine strands, governs the involuntary life functions. They are the organs of vegetative feelings and sensations. They constitute a coherent unity, a so-called “syncytium,” which is divided into two antithetically functioning groups: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.
Our imagined bladder can expand and contract. It can expand to an extraordinary degree and then, with a few contractions, relax. It can be flaccid, tense, relaxed, or excited. It can concentrate the electrical charges, together with the fluids which transmit them from one place to another, with varying intensity. It can keep certain parts in a state of continuous tension and other parts in a state of continuous motion. If one were to squeeze it in one part, increased tension and charge would immediately appear in another part. If, indeed, one were to exert and maintain continuous pressure over the entire surface, i.e., prevent it from expanding ip spite of continuous inner production of energy, it would be in a perpetual state of anxiety; that is to say, it would feel constricted and confined. Were it able to speak, it would beg for “release” from this tormenting condition. The bladder would not care what happened
to it as long as movement and change were reintroduced into its rigid, compressed condition. Since it would not be able to bring about this change of its own accord, someone else would have to do it, e.g., by tossing it around in space (gymnastics); by kneading (massage); by stabbing, if need be (fantasy of being pricked open); by injury (masochistic beating fantasy, hara-kiri); and, if nothing else helps, by dissolving, perishing, disintegrating (Nirvana, sacrificial death). A society consisting of such bladders would create the most idealistic philosophies about the “condition of non-suffering.” Since any stretching out toward pleasure, or motivated by pleasure, could be experienced only as painful, the bladder would develop a fear of pleasurable excitation (pleasure anxiety) and create theories on the “wickedness,” “sinfulness,” and “destructiveness” of pleasure. In short, it would be a twentieth-century ascetic. Eventually, it would be afraid of any reminder of the possibility of the so ardently desired relaxation; then it would hate such a reminder, and finally it would prosecute and murder anyone who spoke about it. It would join together with similarly constituted, peculiarly stiff beings and concoct rigid rules of life. These rules would have the sole function of guaranteeing the smallest possible production of inner energy, i.e., of guaranteeing quietness, conformity, and the continuance of accustomed reactions. It would make inexpedient attempts to master surpluses of internal energy which could not be disposed of through natural pleasure or movement. For instance, it would introduce senseless sadistic actions or ceremonies which would be of an essentially automatic nature and have little purpose (compulsive religious behavior). Realistic goals are self-developing and, therefore, compel movement and restlessness in those who move toward them.
The bladder could be shaken by suddenly emerging convulsions, through which the dammed-up energy would be discharged. For instance, it might have hysterical or epileptic seizures. It might, on the other hand, become completely rigid and desolate, as in catatonic schizophrenia. In any event, this bladder would always be plagued by anxiety. Everything else follows inevitably from this anxiety, e.g.,
religious mysticism, belief in a Fiihrer, meaningless martyrdom. Since everything in nature moves, changes, develops, expands, and contracts, the armored bladder would have . an alien and hostile attitude toward nature. It would conceive of itself as “something very special,” belonging to a superior race because it is dressed in a stiff collar or uniform. It would represent that “culture” or that “race” which is incompatible with nature, and nature would be looked upon as “base,” “demonic,” “impulsive,” “uncontrolled,” “ignoble.” At the same time, however, the bladder, still feeling some last vestiges of nature in itself, would have to enthuse about it and to sentimentalize it, e.g., as “sublime love” or as the “surging of the blood.” To associate nature with bodily convulsions would be a blasphemy. Yet, it would create industries for pornography, without being aware of the contradiction.
The tension-charge function brought together ideas which had made an impression on me in my study of classical biology. It was necessary to re-examine its theoretical tenability. From the point of view of physiology, my theory was substantiated by the well-known fact that muscles contract spontaneously. The muscular contraction can be brought about by electrical stimuli. According to Galvani, however, the contraction can also be brought : about by injuring the muscle and connecting the end of ‘ the severed nerve to the muscle at the point of injury. The I contraction is accompanied by the measurable expression of the so-called electrical action current. In injured mus- • cles, there is also an ordinary current. It becomes manifest when the middle of the muscle surface is connected to the injured end by means of an electric conductor, e.g., copper wire.
The study of muscle contractions had been an important area of investigation in physiology for decades. I did not understand why muscle physiology did not find the connection with general animal electricity. If two nerve-muscle preparations are placed upon one another in such a way that the muscle of one touches the nerve of the other, and if, then, contractions are produced in the first muscle preparation by applying an electrical current to it, the second muscle preparation also contracts. The first muscle preparation contracts as a response to the electrical stimulus, and, in the process, itself develops a biological action current. This, in^tum, acts as an electrical stimulus upon the second muscle preparation, which responds with a contraction, thus producing a second biological action current. Since the muscles in the body are in contact with each other and are connected with the total organism by means of body fluid, every muscle action would have a stimulating influence on the total organism. Naturally, this influence varies, depending upon the location of the muscle, the initial stimulus and its strength; but it always affects the total organism. As the prototype of this influencing, we have the orgastic contraction of the genital musculature, which is so strong that it is conveyed to the entire organism. I found nothing about this in the available literature. Yet, it appeared to be of decisive importance.
Closer observation of the cardiac action curve confirmed my assumption that the tension-charge process also governs the cardiac function. It runs as an electrical wave from the auricle, via the cardiac arteries, to the apex of the heart. The precondition for the onset of this contraction is the filling of the auricle with blood. The result of the charge and discharge is the forcing of the blood through the aorta due to the contraction of the heart.
Bulk-producing medicines have a purgative effect on the intestines. The swelling acts on the muscles like an electrical stimulus. They contract and relax in rhythmic waves (“peristalsis”). These contractions and relaxations cause the intestines to be emptied. The same applies to the urinary bladder. If it is filled with fluid, it contracts, thus causing the contents to be emptied.
In this description, an extremely important but unobserved fact was revealed. It can be considered the basic model for the refutation of the absolute “teleological” thinking in the field of biology. The urinary bladder does not contract “in order to fulfill the function of micturition’ by virtue of divine will or supernatural biological powers. It contracts in response to a simple causal principle which is anything but divine. It contracts because its mechanical
filling induces a contraction. This principle can be applied c to any other function at will. One does not engage in sexual sn intercourse “in order to produce children,” but because a congestion of fluid bioelectrically charges the genital r organs and urges toward discharge. This, in turn, is accom- se panied by the discharge of sexual substances. Thus, sexu- « ality is not in the service of procreation; rather procreation is an incidental result of the tension-charge process in the genitals. This may be depressing to champions of eugenic i moral philosophy, but it is nonetheless true.
In 1933, I came upon an experimental work by the Berlin biologist Hartmann. In special experiments dealing with the sexuality of gametes, he demonstrated that the male and female functions in copulation are not fixed. A : weak male gamete can behave in a feminine way toward ( a stronger male gamete. Hartmann left open the question as to what determines the groupings of gametes of the same sex, their “mating,” if you like. He assumed the existence of “certain” still-uninvestigated “substances.” I understood that the groupings were determined by electrical processes. A few years later, I was able to confirm this by means of an electrical experiment on bions. That the grouping in the copulation of gametes takes place in one way and not another is determined by bioelectrical forces. Around this same time, I received a newspaper clipping that reported on experiments carried out in Moscow. A scientist (his name has slipped my memory) succeeded in demonstrating that egg and sperm cells produce male or female individuals, depending upon the nature of their electrical charge.
Thus, procreation is a function of sexuality, and not vice versa, as was hitherto believed. Freud had maintained the same thing with respect to psychosexuality, when he separated the concepts “sexual” and “genital.” But for a reason I was not able to understand, he later stated that “sexuality in puberty” is “in the service of procreation.” Hartmann provided proof in the field of biology that it is not sexuality which is a function of procreation, but the reverse: procreation is a function of sexuality. I was able to add to this a third argument, based on the experimental investigations of various biologists: the division of the egg, like cell – division in general, is an orgastic process. It is governed by the tension-charge function. The consequence of this 1 finding for the moralistic appraisal of sexuality is evident: sexuality can no longer be regarded as an unfortunate ‘ concomitant of the preservation of the species.
When the egg has been fertilized, when it has absorbed the energy of the sperm cell, it first becomes tense. It absorbs fluid; its membrane becomes taut. This means that i the surface tension and the inner pressure increase simultaneously. The greater the pressure of the content of the bladder, which here represents the egg, the more difficult it is for the surface to “hold” the system “together.” These are processes which are still definitely governed by the counteraction between inner pressure and surface tension. If stretched further, a purely physical bladder would burst. In the egg cell, the process now commences which is so characteristic of the living function: the stretching or expansion provokes a contraction. The growth of the egg cell is ascribable to the active absorption of fluid, which always proceeds only to a certain point. The nucleus of the cell begins to “radiate,” i.e., to produce energy. Gur- witsch called this phenomenon mitogenetic radiation. Mitosis means division of the nucleus of the cell. Later, I learned to observe and to assess the vitality of bion cultures on the basis of the degree of certain radiation phenomena inside the formation. The extreme filling of the cell, i.e., mechanical tension, is accompanied by an electrical charge. At a certain point, the membrane begins to contract. As a matter of fact, it begins to contract at that. point where the sphere has attained the greatest circumference and the greatest tension. This is always the equator or, if one prefers, a meridian of the sphere. This contraction is not, as one can observe, gradual and constant; it is a struggling, contradictory process. The tension of the membrane at the site of the contraction struggles against the internal pressure which has become stronger precisely owing to this contraction. It is quite clear that inner pressure and surface tension have a mutually intensifying effect upon one another, that they strengthen one another. This produces the visible vibrations, undulation and contraction.
The constriction (indentation) increases. The inner tension mounts. If the egg cell could speak, it would express anxiety. There is only one possibility of resolving this inner tension (apart from bursting): the “division” of the one big bladder with its taut surface into two smaller bladders, in which the same volume content is surrounded a much larger and therefore less taut membrane. The egg division corresponds to the resolution of a tension. The nucleus, in its spindle formation, goes through this process prior to the division of the cell as a whole. The spindle formation is regarded by many biologists as an electrically determined process. If it were possible for us to measure the electrical condition of the nucleus after the cell division, we would very likely ascertain that a discharge had occurred. That this process takes place is suggested by the “reduction division,” in which half of the chromosomes (whose number has been doubled through the spindle formation) are extruded. Each of the two daughter cells now contains the same number of chromosomes. Reproduction is completed.
Hence, cell division also follows the four-beat of the orgasm formula: tension → charge → discharge → relaxation. It is the most important process in the sphere of living functioning. The orgasm formula could also be called the “life formula.” I did not want to publish anything about this at that time. Rather, I confined myself to hints within the framework of clinical presentations, merely publishing a short work, Die als Funktion der Sexualitaet, 1935, based on the experiments carried out by Hartmann. The matter appeared so decisive that, until I had carried out special experiments to confirm or refute the hypothesis, I wanted to forgo publication. I was later able to demonstrate important connections between the vegetative currents, the contractions in protozoa, and the dynamic interplay between surface tension and inner pressure in the energy-charged, organic bladder.