An article titled “Some Mechanisms of the Emotional Plague,” written by Wilhelm Reich, M.D., which appeared in the International Journal of Sex-Economy and Orgone Research, Vol. 4, No 1, April 1945, Orgone Institute Press, 1945.
Some mechanisms of the Emotional Plague
The term “emotional plague” has no defamatory connotation. It does not refer to conscious malice, moral or biological degeneration, immorality, etc. An organism which, from birth, is constantly impeded in its natural way of locomotion develops artificial forms of locomotion. It limps or moves on crutches. Similarly, an individual moves through life by the means of the emotional plague if, from birth, his natural, self-regulatory life manifestations have been suppressed. The individual afflicted with the emotional plague limps, characterologically speaking. The emotional plague is a chronic biopathy of the organism. It made its appearance with the first suppression of genital love life on a mass scale; it became an epidemic which has tortured the peoples of the earth for thousands of years. There are no grounds for the assumption that it passes, in a hereditary manner, from mother to child. Rather, it is implanted in the child from his first day of life on. It is an epidemic disease, like schizophrenia or cancer, with this important difference: it manifests itself essentially in social living. Schizophrenia and cancer are biopathies resulting from the emotional plague in social life. The effects of the emotional plague are to be seen in the organism as well as in social living. Periodically, like any other plague, such as bubonic plague or cholera, the emotional plague takes on the dimensions of a pandemic, in the form of a gigantic breakthrough of sadism and criminality, such as the Catholic inquisition of the middle ages or the international fascism of the present century.
If we did not consider the emotional plague a disease m the strict sense of the word we would be in danger of mobilizing the policeman s club against it instead of medicine and education, it is characteristic of the emotional plague that it necessitates the policeman’s club and thus reproduces itself. Nevertheless, in spite of the threat to life which the emotional plague represents, it will never be mastered by means of the club.
Nobody will feel offended when he is called nervous or a cardiac patient. Nobody can feel offended when he is told that he suffers from an “acute attack of the emotional plague.” A sex-economist is apt to say of himself: “I’m no good today, I have the plague.” In our circles, such attacks of the emotional plague, if slight, are handled by one’s withdrawing for a while until the attack of irrationalism subsides. In serious cases, where rational thinking and friendly counsel are not enough, one clears up the situation vegetotherapeutically. One finds regularly that such acute attacks are caused by a disturbance in love life, and that they subside when the disturbance is eliminated. To me and the close co-workers, the acute attack of the emotional plague is such a familiar phenomenon that we take it with calm and master it objectively. It is one of the most important requirements in the training of vegetotherapists that they learn to perceive acute attacks of the emotional plague in themselves in time, not to get lost in them, not to let them take any effect in the social environment to master them by assuming an objective attitude toward them. In this manner, possible harm to common work can be reduced to a minimum. It happens, of course, that such an attack of the emotional plague is not mastered, that the individual afflicted with it does more or less harm or that he withdraws from the work. We take such accidents in the same manner as one takes a serious physical disease or the death of an esteemed co-worker.
The emotional plague is more closely allied to the character neurosis than to organic heart disease, but in the long run it may lead to cardiac disease or cancer. Like the character neurosis, it is maintained by secondary drives. It differs from physical defects in being a function of the character and, as such, being strongly defended. Unlike, say, a hysterical attack, it is not experienced as ego-alien and pathological. As we know, characterneurotic behavior is usually highly rationalized. In the emotional plague reaction, this is the case even to a far higher degree: the lack of insight is far greater. One may ask what makes it possible to recognize a plague reaction and to distinguish it from a rational reaction. The answer is the same as in the case of distinguishing a character-neurotic reaction from a rational reaction: As soon as one touches upon the motives of the plague reaction, anxiety or anger inevitably appears. This we shall discuss in some detail:
An orgastically potent individual, essentially free of the emotional plague, will not develop anxiety but, on the contrary, vivid interest when a physician discusses, say, the dynamics of natural life processes. The individual suffering from the emotional plague, on the other hand, will become restless or angry when the mechanisms of the emotional plague are discussed. Not every orgastic impotence leads to the emotional plague, but everyone afflicted with it is either lastingly impotent, orgastically, or becomes s0 shortly before the attack. This makes it possible easily to distinguish plague reactions from rational reactions.
Further: A natural, healthy behavior cannot be disturbed or eliminated by any influences of genuine therapy. For example, there is no rational means of “curing,” of disturbing, a happy love relationship. On the other hand, a neurotic symptom can be eliminated; similarly, a plague reaction is accessible to genuine character analytic therapy and can be eliminated by it. Thus, one may be able to cure greediness for money, a typical character trait of the emotional plague, but one cannot cure generosity in money matters. One can cure clever under handedness, but not openness and honesty. The emotional plague reaction may be likened to impotence, which can be eliminated, that is, cured. Genital potency, on the other hand, is “incurable.”
It is an essential characteristic of the emotional plague reaction that action and the reason given for it are never congruent. The read motive is always covered up and replaced by a seeming motive. In the natural reaction of the healthy character, motive, action and goal form an organic unity. Nothing is hidden here; the reaction is immediately understandable. For example: “The healthy individual has no other reason for his sexual behavior than his natural need for love and its goal of gratification. The ascetic plague individual, on the other hand, justifies his sexual weakness secondarily with ethical demands. This justification has nothing to do with the way of living. The attitude of life-negating asceticism is present before the justification. The healthy individual will not try to impose his way of living on anybody else; but he will give help, therapeutic or otherwise, if he is asked for help and has the means of helping. In no case will a healthy individual decree that all people “must be healthy.” To begin with, such a decree would not be rational, for health cannot be commandeered. Further, the healthy individual has no impulse whatsoever to impose his way of living on other people, for the motives for his way of living have to do with his own way of life and not that of others. The emotional plague individual differs from the healthy individual in that he makes his life demands not only on himself, but and above all on his environment. Where the healthy individual advises and helps, where he, with his experiences, simply lives ahead of others and leaves it to them whether they want to follow his example or not, the plague individual imposes his way of living on others by force. Plague individuals do not tolerate views which threaten their armorings or which disclose their irrational motives. The healthy individual experiences only pleasure when his motives are discussed; the plague individual becomes furious. The healthy individual, where other views of life disturb his life and work, fights in a rational manner for the preservation of his way of living. The plague individual fights against other ways of living even where they do not touch him at all. The motive of his fight is the provocation which other ways of living represent by their mere existence.
The energy which nourishes the emotional plague reactions regularly derives from sexual frustration, no matter whether we are dealing with sadistic war or with the defamation of friends. His stasis of sexual energy is what the plague individual has in common with all other biopathies. As to the differences, I shall soon come to that. The biopathic nature of the emotional plague is seen in the fact that, like any other biopathy, it can be cured by the establishment of the natural capacity for love.
The disposition to the emotional plague is general. There is no such thing as individuals completely free of the emotional plague on the one hand and emotional plague individuals on the other. Just as every individual, somewhere in the depth, has a tendency toward cancer, schizophrenia or alcoholism, so every individual, be it the most healthy and alive, has a tendency to irrational plague reactions in himself.
To distinguish the emotional plague from the genital character structure is easier than to distinguish it from the simple character neuroses. True, the emotional plague is a character neurosis or a biopathy in the strict sense of the word, but it is more than that, and it is this “more” which distinguishes it from the biopathy and the character neurosis: emotional plague is that human behavior which, on the basis of a biopathic character structure, makes itself felt in interpersonal, that is, social relationships and which becomes organized in corresponding institutions. The sphere of the emotional plague is as large as that of the character biopathy. That is, wherever there are character biopathies, there is at least the possibility of a chronic effect or an acute epidemic outbreak of the emotional plague. In defining some typical fields in which this takes place we shall see immediately that it is precisely the most important sectors of life in which the emotional plague is active: mysticism in its most destructive form; passive and active striving for authority; moralism; biopathies of the autonomic life system; party politics; the familial plague which I termed “familitis”; sadistic methods of upbringing; masochistic toleration of such methods or criminal rebellion against them; gossip and defamation; authoritarian bureaucracy; imperialistic war ideology; everything which is subsumed under “racket”; criminal antisociality; pornography; usury; and race hatred.
We see that the realm of the emotional plague is about the same as that of all the social evils which any social freedom movement has fought against since time immemorial. It would not be incorrect to equate the realm of the emotional plague with that of the “political reaction” or even with the principle of politics in general. In order to do this in a correct manner, one must apply the basic principle of all politics, to wit, greed for power and advantage, to the various spheres of life where one does not speak of politics in the ordinary sense of the word. A mother, for example, who uses the methods of politics in an attempt to estrange her child from her husband, would fall under this wider concept of political emotional plague; so would a career-minded scientist who attains a high social position not by factual achievement but by methods of intrigue, a position which in no way corresponds to his achievements.
We have already mentioned biological sexual stasis as the biophysical core which all forms of emotional plague have in common. As far as our experience goes, a genital character is incapable of using the methods of the emotional plague. This constitutes a great disadvantage in a social life which, to such a high degree, is dominated by the institutions of the emotional plague. There is a second common denominator of all forms of emotional plague: The lack of the ability to experience natural sexual gratification regularly leads to the development of secondary impulses, in particular, of sadistic impulses. This is a clinical fact established beyond any doubt. It is not surprising, then, that the biopsychic energy which nourishes the emotional plague reactions has always the character of the energy of secondary drives. In full-blown cases, sadism, this specifically human drive, is never absent.
We understand now why honesty and straightforwardness are such rare human character traits; more than that, why such behavior, when it occasionally prevails, regularly evokes amazement and admiration. From the standpoint of “cultural” ideals, one would expect that honesty and straightforwardness would be everyday and matter-of-course attitudes. The fact that they are not, but, on the contrary, evoke amazement; that truthful and straightforward people are regarded as somehow queer; that, furthermore, to be honest and straightforward so often involves social danger to life; all this cannot be understood in any way on the basis of the governing cultural ideology, but only with a knowledge of the organized emotional plague. Only this knowledge will make understandable the fact that, century after century, the forces of any freedom movement, truthfulness and objectivity, failed to prevail. We must assume, then, that no freedom movement has any chance of success unless it opposes the organized emotional plague with truthfulness, and does it clearly and vigorously.
The fact that the nature of the emotional plague has remained unrecognized has been, up until now, its best safeguard. Consequently, the exact investigation of its nature and of the ways in which it works will tear down this protection. The bearers of the emotional plague, rightly, will interpret this as a fatal threat to their existence. The reaction of the bearers and spreaders of the plague to the factual presentations which are to follow will prove this inexorably. The reactions to come will make it possible, and mandatory, clearly to separate those who wish to help in the fight against the emotional plague from those others who wish to maintain its institutions. It has been shown again and again that the emotional plague—willy-nilly—discloses its irrational nature when one probes it. This cannot be otherwise, because the emotional plague cannot react but irrationally. It has to give way when confronted, clearly and uncompromisingly, with rational thinking and with the natural feeling for life. It is not at all necessary to attack it directly or to fight it. It will, automatically and inevitably, react with furor if one does no more than give a factual and truthful description of the natural living functions. There is nothing that the emotional plague hates more than precisely this.
The differences between the genital character, the neurotic character, and emotional plague reactions
In the genital character, thinking takes its orientation from objective facts and processes; it differentiates between what is essential and non-essential or less essential; it attempts to detect and eliminate irrational, emotional disturbances; it is in its nature functional, not mechanistic and not mystical; judgment is the result of a thought process; rational thinking is accessible to factual arguments for it functions poorly without factual counterarguments.
In the neurotic character, true, the thinking also tries to take its orientation from objective processes and facts. Since, however, in the back of rational thinking, and interlaced with it, chronic sexual stasis is at work, it takes its orientation, at the same time, from the principle of avoiding unpleasure. That is, processes the thinking through of which would cause unpleasure or are at variance with the thought system, say, of a compulsion neurotic, such processes are avoided in various ways, or they are thought through in such a manner that the rational goal becomes unattainable. To exemplify: Everybody longs for peace. Since, however, the thinking takes place in largely neurotic character structures, since, consequently, there is at the same time fear of freedom and fear of responsibility (pleasure anxiety), peace and freedom are discussed in a formalistic, and not in a factual, manner; the simples and most self-evident facts of life which obviously represent the natural foundations of peace and freedom are avoided as if intentionally; important connections are overlooked; thus, for example, the well-known facts that politics is ruinous and that humanity is sick in the psychiatric sense are in no way connected with the conscious demand for a usable democratic order. Thus, two more or less well-known and generally valid facts coexist, side by side, without any connection. The reason for this is the following: A connecting of these facts would immediately call for practical changes in everyday living. These changes, the neurotic character is ready to affirm ideologically but he is afraid of them practically; his character armor does not allow of a change in his way of living which has become a rut; thus he will agree with the criticism of irrationality in society and science, but will change, in a practical way, neither himself nor society according to this criticism; consequently, he will not form a social center of necessary reform. More than that, it happens very often that the very character who agrees ideologically turns practically into a violent opponent if somebody else actually brings about a change. At this point, the boundaries between the neurotic character and the plague individual become blurred.
The individual afflicted with the emotional plague does not content himself with a passive attitude; he is distinguished from the neurotic character by a more or less life-destructive social activity. His thinking is completely blurred by irrational concepts and essentially determined by irrational emotions. True, as in the genital character, his thinking is fully in accord with his actions (as distinguished from the neurotic character, where thinking and acting are dissociated); but, in
the emotional plague, the conclusion is always there ready-made before the thinking process; the thinking does not serve, as in the rational realm, to arrive at a correct conclusion; rather, it serves to confirm an already existing irrational conclusion and to rationalize it. This is generally called “prejudice”; what is overlooked is that this prejudice has social consequences of considerable magnitude, that it is very widespread and practically synonymous with what is called “tradition’’; it is intolerant, that is, it does not tolerate the rational thinking which might do away with it; consequently, the thinking of the emotional plague is inaccessible to arguments; it has its own technique within its own realm, its own “logicality,” as it were; for this reason, it gives the impression of rationality without being actually rational.
A strict authoritarian educator, for example, points, quite logically and correctly, to the existing unmanageableness of the children. In this narrow framework his conclusion seems to be correct. If, now, the rational thinking explains that this unmanageableness to which the irrational thinking points is itself a social result of precisely this irrational thinking in education, then one meets, typically, a block in thinking; it is precisely at this point that the irrational character of the plague thinking becomes evident.
Another example; Moralistic sexual repression creates the secondary drives, and the secondary drives make moralistic suppression necessary. Every conclusion here is in itself logical. If, now, one proposes to the one who advocates the necessity of repression the elimination of the secondary drives through the liberation of natural gratification, one has, it is true, broken through the thought system of the plague individual, but to that he reacts, in a typical manner, not with insight and correction, but with irrational arguments, with silence or even with hatred. That is, it is emotionally important to him that repression at well as secondary drives continue to exist. As paradoxical as this may seem, the reason is simple: He is afraid of the natural impulses. This fear is the irrational motor power behind his whole system of thought, logical as it may be in itself; it is this fear which drives him to dangerous actions if one seriously endangers his social system.
In the genital character, motive, goal and action are in harmony; motives and goals have a rational, i.e., social goal. Motives and goals, on the basis of then primary biological nature, strive for an improvement of the living conditions of one’s self and of others; it is what we call “social achievement.”
In the neurotic character, the capacity for action is regularly reduced, because the motives are devoid of affect or are contradictory. Since the neurotic character usually has well repressed his irrationality, he has to fight it constantly. This, precisely, makes the reduction of his ability to act. He is afraid to let himself go in any activity because he never can be sure whether sadistic or other pathological impulses might not break through also. As a rule, he suffers under the insight into the fact that he is inhibited in his vital functioning, without, however, developing envy of healthy individuals. His attitude is: “I have had bad luck in life, and my children should have a better life.” This attitude makes him a sympathetic though sterile spectator of progress. He does not impede progress.
In the individual afflicted with the emotional plague, things are different. Here, the motive of an action is always an assumed one; the given motive is never the actual motive, no matter whether the actual motive is conscious or unconscious. Nor are the given and the real goal identical. In German fascism, for example, the alleged goal was that of the “preservation of a peaceful German nation”; the real goal—based on character structure—was the imperialist war, the subjugation of the world, and nothing but that. It is a basic characteristic of the plague-ridden individual that he believes, seriously and honestly, in the alleged goal and motive. I should like to emphasize the fact that one cannot understand the character structure of the plague-ridden individual if one does not take seriously the following facts: The plague-ridden individual acts under a structural compulsion; no matter how well-meaning he may be, he cannot act but in the manner of the emotional plague; acting in this manner is as much of his essence as the need for love or the truth is of the essence of the genital character; but the plague-ridden individual, protected by his subjective conviction, does not suffer under the insight into the harmfulness of his actions. A man may demand the custody of his child because he hates his wife who, say, was unfaithful to him; in doing so, he honestly believes to be acting “in the interest of the child”; he will be unable to correct this attitude when the child suffers under the separation from the mother and may even fall ill. The plague-ridden father will, secondarily, elaborate all kinds of rationalizations enabling him to maintain his conviction that he is acting “solely for the good of the child” when he keeps the child from the mother; he cannot be convinced that the real motive is that of a sadistic punishment for the mother. The plague-ridden individual—in contrast to the neurotic character—regularly develops an intense envy which goes with a deadly hatred for anything healthy. A character- neurotic spinster lives in resignation and does not interfere in the love life of other girls. A plague-ridden spinster, on the other hand, does not tolerate happiness in love in other girls; if she is an educator she will do everything in her power to make the girls in her charge incapable of experiencing happiness in love. This applies to all life situations. The plague character will, under all circumstances and by all means, try to change his environment in such a manner that his way of living and thinking is not interfered with. He experiences everything which contradicts his ways as provocation and consequently hates and fights it. This is particularly evident in ascetics. The ascetic attitude is basically the following: “Others should not be any happier than I was; they should suffer the way I did.” This basic attitude, in every case, is so well camouflaged by an ideology or theory of life which is in itself quite logical that it takes a great deal of experience and thought to discover it. It must be said that European education, as recently at the early part of this century, followed this pattern.
In the genital character, the sexual lift is essentially determined by the basic natural laws of the biological energy. To the genital character, joy in witnessing happiness in love in others is a matter of course, as is indifference toward perversions and repulsion toward pornography. The genital character is easily recognized by the good contact he has with healthy infants. To his structure, it is a matter of course that the interests of children and adolescents are largely sexual ones, and that the demands resulting from that biological facts should be fulfilled; this attitude is spontaneous, no matter whether there is, in addition, a corresponding knowledge. In the social life of today it is precisely such fathers and mothers—unless, by chance, they live in a favorable milieu which supports them—who are exposed to the great danger of being regarded and treated as criminals by the authoritarian institutions. They deserve the exact opposite, the maximum social protection. They form centers in society from which one day will come the rationally acting educators and physicians; the basis of their lives and their actions is the happiness in love which they experience. Yet today, parents who would let children live completely according to healthy, natural laws would be in danger of being pulled into court by any ascetic with influence, and of losing their children.
The neurotic character lives in sexual resignation or engages secretly in perverse activities. His orgastic impotence goes with longing for happiness in love. He is indifferent toward other people’s happiness in love. He reacts with anxiety rather than with hatred when he comes in contact with the sexual problem. His armoring refers only to his own sexuality, not to that of others. His orgastic longing is often elaborated into cultural or religious ideals which do little harm or good to the health of the community. He usually is active in circles or groups with little social influence. Many of these group have doubtless cultural value, but they cannot contribute anything to the problem of mass mental hygiene because the masses have a much more direct and immediate attitude toward the question of a natural love life than they have.
The basic attitude just described, of the sexually harmless neurotic character, may, given certain external conditions, take on the form of the emotional plague at any tune. What happens is usually this: the secondary drives which were held in check by the cultural and religious ideals, break through. The sexuality of the plague-ridden individual is always sadistic and pornographic. It is characterized by the simultaneous existence of sexual lasciviousness (because of incapacity for sexual gratification) and sadistic moralism. This fact is given in his structure; he could not change it even if he had insight and knowledge; on the basis of his structure, he cannot be any different than pornographically lascivious and sadistically moralistic at one and the same time.
This is the core of the character structure of the emotional plague. It develop violent hatred against any process which provokes orgastic longing and, with that, orgasm anxiety. The demand for asceticism is directed not only against the self, hut even more so, and in a sadistic manned, against the natural love life of other people. Plague-ridden individuals have a strong tendency to form social circles. Such circles become centers of public opinion, which is characterized by a violent intolerance in questions of natural love life. These centers are everywhere and well known. They persecute severely any manifestation of natural love life under the guise of “culture” and “morals.” In the course of time, they have developed a special technique of defamation; more about this later.
Clinical investigation leaves no doubt that to these circles of plague-ridden individuals, sexual gossip and defamation represent a kind of perverse sexual gratification. It is a matter of gaining sexual pleasure with exclusion of the natural genital function. Homosexuality, sexual intercourse with animals, and other perversions, are particularly often met with in these circles. The sadistic condemnation is directed against the natural, and not against the perverse, sexuality of others. It is directed, furthermore, in a particularly violent manner, against the natural sexuality of children and adolescents. At the same time, it is as if blind toward any kind of perverse sexual activity. These people, who sit in secret court over the natural sexuality of others, as it were, have many human lives on their conscience.
The genital character follows the development of a work process in an active manner. The work process is left to take its own course. The interest is essentially directed toward the work process itself; the result of the work comes about without any special effort, since it results spontaneously from the work process. The product resulting from the course of the work process is an essential characteristic of biological joy in work. These facts and considerations lead to a sharp criticism of all present methods of early upbringing in which the activity of the child is determined by an anticipated, ready-made work product. The anticipation of the product and the rigid determination of the work process chokes off the child’s own imagination, that is, his productivity. Biological joy in work goes with the ability to develop enthusiasm. Compulsive moralism does not tolerate genuine enthusiasm, it tolerates only mystical ecstasy. A child which must build an already given house with given blocks in a given manner cannot utilize his imagination and therefore cannot develop any enthusiasm. It is not difficult to understand that this basic trait of authoritarian education owes its existence to the pleasure anxiety of the adults; it always strangles the child’s joy in work. The genital character guides the work achievement of others by his example, and not by dictating the product and the work methods. This presupposes vegetative motility and the ability to let oneself go.
The neurotic character is more or less restricted in his work. His biological energy is essentially used up in the defense against perverse phantasies. The neurotic disturbance of work is due to the misuse of biological energy. For this reason, the work of the neurotic character is typically automatic, mechanical and devoid of joy. Since the neurotic character is incapable of genuine enthusiasm, he experiences children’s capacity for enthusiasm as “improper”; just the same, he presumes, in a compulsion-neurotic manner, to determine the work of others.
The plague-ridden individual hates work, for he experiences it as a burden. He flees any responsibility and particularly any work which involves patient persistence. He may dream of writing as important book, of doing an extraordinary painting, of working a farm; but since he is incapable of working, he avoids the step-by-step organic development inherent in any work process. This makes him inclined to become an ideologist, mystic or politician, in other words, to engage in activities which require no patience and no organic development; he may equally well become a non-working vagrant as a dictator in this or that realm of life. He has erected in himself a ready-made picture of life woven of neurotic phantasies; since he himself is incapable of working, he wants to force others to work on the production of this pathological picture of life. What Americans call “boss” in the bad sense of the word is a product of this constellation. The genital character, who guides a collective work process, spontaneously sets an example: he works more than the others. The plague-ridden individual, on the other hand, always wants to work less than the others; the less his work capacity, the less, as a result, his self-confidence, the more he presumes to tell others how to work.
The above differentiation is of necessity schematic. In living reality, every genital character also has his character neurotic inhibitions and his plague reactions; similarly, every plague-ridden individual has in himself the possibilities of the genital character. Vegetotherapeutic experience leaves no doubt that such individuals afflicted with the emotional plague as fall under the psychiatric concept of “moral insanity” are not only curable in principle, but are capable of developing extraordinary capacities as regards intellect, work and sexuality. This again emphasizes the fact that the concept of “emotional plague” does not imply any deprecation. In the course of almost 25 years of psychiatric work I have come to the conclusion that the tendency to fall victim to the emotional plague is a sign that the individual in question is endowed with particularly high quantities of biological energy. It is precisely the high tension of his biological energy which makes the individual fall victim to the emotional plague if, as the result of a rigid muscular and character armor, he cannot develop in a natural manner. The plague-ridden individual is a product of authoritarian compulsive education; he rebels against it, due to his greater capacities which remain unfulfilled, much more successfully than does the quiet and resigned neurotic character. He is distinguished from the genital character in that his rebellion is aimless socially and cannot bring about any rational changes in the direction of social betterment. He is distinguished from the neurotic character in that he does not resign.
The genital character masters his own emotional plague reactions in two ways: First, on the basis of his essentially rational character structure, he experiences his own plague reaction as alien and senseless. Second, he is rooted in rational processes to such an extent that he immediately senses the dangers to his life process as they might arise from his irrational tendencies. This enables him to control himself in a rational manner. The plague-ridden individual, on the other hand, derives so much secondary, sadistic pleasure from his behavior that he is inaccessible to any correction. The actions of the healthy individual derive, in an immediate manner, from the reservoir of biological energy. The actions of the plague-ridden individual, it is true, derive from the same reservoir, but with each action the energies have to break through the characterological and the muscular armor; as a result of this, the best motives turn into antisocial and irrational actions. In passing through the character armor, the actions change their function: The impulse begins with a rational intention; the armoring makes a natural and organic development of the impulse impossible; this, the plague-ridden individual experiences as an intolerable inhibition; in order to express itself at all, the impulse first has to break through the armor; in this process, the original intention and the rational goal get lost. The result of the action contains very little of the original, rational intention; it reflects the destructiveness which had to be mobilized for the breakthrough through the armor. The brutality of the plague-ridden individual, then, corresponds to the failure to break the muscular and character armor. A dissolution of the armor is impossible, because a plague action does neither provide the orgastic discharge of energy nor does it convey a rational self-confidence. In this manner, many contradictions in the structure of plague-ridden individuals can be understood. Such an individual may long for love and may find a woman whom he thinks he can love. When he proves incapable of love, he is driven to sadistic fury against himself or against the beloved woman, a fury which not infrequently ends in murder.
What characterizes the plague individual basically, then, is the contradiction between intense longing for life and the inability to find a corresponding fulfilment in life, resulting from the armor. The careful observer could notice that the political irrationalism in Europe was characterized precisely by this contradiction: the best intentions, with the logic of a compulsion, led to destructive results.
We shall now try to illustrate the above differentiations by way of everyday examples:
As the first example we take the fight for the child as it typically occurs in divorce cases. We have to expect one of three different reactions: the rational, the character-neurotically inhibited, and the plague reaction.
Father and mother fight for the healthy development of the child on rational grounds and with rational means. They may agree on principles in which case things are simple, or they may be of widely divergent opinions. In either case, they will, in the interest of the child, avoid the use of underhanded methods. They will talk frankly with the child and will let the child decide. They will not let themselves be influenced by their own personal interest in the possession of the child but will be guided by the inclination of the child. If one or the other marital partner is alcoholic or psychotic, the child will have to be made to understand this fact in a considerate manner as a misfortune which has to be borne. The motive is that of avoiding damage to the child. The attitude is determined by a relinquishing of personal interests.
The fight for the child is hemmed in by all kinds of irrelevant considerations such as fear of public opinion. It is determined not by the interest of the child but by adaptation to public opinion. Character-neurotic parents adjust to the current views in such things, such as the tenet that the child, under all circumstances, should remain with the mother, or they leave the decision to some authority such as a court. If one or the other marital partner is an alcoholic or is psychotic, the tendency is that of sacrifice, of hushing up the facts, with the result that the child as well as the other marital partner suffer and are endangered: divorce is avoided. The motive of this behavior is the motto: “Let’s not make ourselves conspicuous.” The attitude is determined by resignation.
1. Emotional plague:
The interest of the child is regularly a pretended, and, as the result shows, as unfulfilled motive. The true motive is revenge on the partner through robbing him or her of the pleasure in the child. The fight for the child, therefore, makes use of the technique of defaming the partner, regardless of whether the partner is healthy or sick. The lack of any consideration of the child is expressed in the fact that the child’s love for the other partner is not taken into account. In order to alienate the child from the partner, it is told that the partner is an alcoholic or psychotic, without there being any truth to such statements. The result is damage to the child, the motive is destructive revenge on the partner and domination over the child, but not love for the child.
This example allows of infinite variations, but in its basic traits it is typical and of general social significance. A rational jurisdiction would have to give primary consideration to such distinctions in passing judgment. It is safe to assume that divorces will increase considerably in numbers, and it is also safe to say that only the correctly trained psychiatrist and therapeutic pedagogue can estimate the extent of damage done by such reactions of the emotional plague in divorces.
Let us take another example in which the emotional plague rages far and wide: the infidelity of a love partner.
In the case of threatening or actual “infidelity” of the love partner, the healthy individual reacts, in principle, in one of three ways: i. with factual separation from the partner; 2. with competition and an attempt to regain the love partner; or, 3. with toleration, if the new relationship is not too serious and is of a transitory character. In this situation, the healthy individual does not take flight into neurosis; he does not make any demands of possession; and he shows anger only if what is happening takes on forms which are not decent.
The infidelity is either suffered masochistically, or the armor prevents its cognizance. There is severe fear of separation. Very often, there is flight into neurotic illness, into alcoholism or hysterical attacks, or resignation.
Emotional plague reaction:
Infidelity, as a rule, is not the result of falling in love with another partner, but is motivated by weariness of the partner or revenge on the partner. On the part of the wronged partner, there are attempts of various kinds to hold him in the house, to break him down by hysterical attacks, to dominate him by scenes of the most abominable kind, or even to have him watched by detectives. Often, there is flight into alcoholism in order to facilitate the brutalization of the partner. The motive is not love for the partner, but lust of power possession.
The tragedies of jealousy constitute a large sector of the activity of the emotional plague. There are at present neither medical or social nor legal views and measures that would take this vast and desperate realm of life into account.
We shall now consider a particularly impressive and typical mode of reaction of the emotional plague, a reaction which call the SPECIFIC PLAGUE REACTION.
The specific plague reaction likes to make use of sexual, that is, moral, defamation. It functions in a way similar to the mechanism of projection in delusions of persecution: In this case, a perverse impulse which has broken through the armor is displaced to persons or objects of the outer world. What in reality is an inner impulse is misinterpreted as a threat from the outside. The same is true of sensations arising from vegetative plasma currents: what to the healthy individual is part of his joyful experiencing of life becomes to the schizophrenic—as a result of his character armor—a mysterious machine which allegedly is used by some enemy to destroy the patient’s body by means of electric currents. These delusional mechanisms of projection are well known in psychiatry. The mistake which psychiatry made was that of restricting such mechanisms of projection to psychotic patients. It overlooked the fact that precisely the same mechanism of projection is at large in social life in the form of the specific plague reaction in allegedly normal people. This is what we shall go into now.
The biopsychic mechanism is the following: Compulsive moralism in education and in life creates sexual lasciviousness. This has nothing in common with the natural need for love; it represents a true secondary impulse, like, say, sadism or masochism. Since vegetative aliveness in the natural experience of pleasure no longer exists, lasciviousness and sexual gossiping take its place, as a secondary, compulsive drive. Now, just as the schizophrenic projects his vegetative currents and his perverse impulses to other people, and experiences them as a threat emanating from them, so does the plague-ridden individual project his own lasciviousness and perversity to other people. In contradistinction to the psychotic individual, he experiences his own impulses which he projects to other people not in a masochistic way as a threat. Rather, he uses gossip and defamation in a sadistic way, ascribing to others what he does not dare to take cognisance of in himself. This is true of natural genitality as well as of the secondary, perverse impulse. The way of living of the genitally healthy individual reminds the plague-ridden individual painfully of his own genital weakness and thus represents a threat to his neurotic equilibrium.
All that remains for him to do is to drag into the dirt the other fellow’s natural genitality, according to the principle of the sour grapes. Since, furthermore, he is not able completely to hide his lasciviousness behind the appearance of ethical moralism, he ascribes his lasciviousness to the victim of his gossiping. In every case of this kind of plague reaction, one will find that precisely those characteristics are being ascribed to the healthy individual against which the plague-ridden individual fights in himself in vain, or which, with a bad conscience, he is living out.
We shall now illustrate the specific plague reactions with a few examples from everyday life:
There is a type of “intellectual” who always talks of “cultural values.” Such people keep referring to the classics without ever having understood or experienced the serious problems portrayed by, say, a Goethe or a Nietzsche. At the same time, they are cynical and consider themselves modern and liberal, untrammelled by convention. Incapable of a serious experience, they consider sexual love a kind of game about which one makes clever jokes, intimating how often one played the “game” the previous night, etc. The serious listener to such talk, who knows the abysmal sexual misery of the masses of people and the destructive role played by the lack of sexual seriousness, knows this lasciviousness to stem from sex hunger as it results from orgastic impotence.
Such “cultured” individuals are apt to consider sex-economy, which—against the greatest obstacles—seriously fights the emotional plague in the masses of people, as the product of a distorted mind. They keep talking of “cultural values” which have to be upheld, but they become furious when somebody translates this talk of the cultural values into social practice on a mass scale. Such an individual happened to meet a woman who intended to come to study with me. The subject of my work came up, and he warned her, saying he would not send his worst enemy to me, since, as he said, I was the “director of a brothel, without license.” He immediately covered up this statement by saying that I was an excellent clinician. This defamation—which bears all the earmarks of the specific plague reaction—made, of course, the rounds. The woman came to study sex-economic pedagogy with me just the same and soon understood what we call the emotional plague.
In such situations, it is difficult to remain objective and correct. One cannot give in to one’s understandable impulse to beat up such an individual, for one wishes to keep one’s hands clean. To ignore such a happening means doing precisely what the plague-ridden individual counts on so that he can continue his social mischief. There remains the possibility of a libel suit. That would mean, however, fighting the emotional plague not medically, but by descending to its own level. One becomes inclined, then, to let matters take their course, at the risk that similar plague-ridden individuals take hold of the matter and that among them is some “scientific historian” who writes one down in history as a secret brothel keeper. The matter is important because the emotional plague has succeeded again and again in smashing honest and important achievements by such rumors. This makes the fight against the emotional plague a social necessity, for it is more destructive than thousands of guns. One only has to read in Lange’s Geschichte des Materialismus what defamations were suffered by De la Mettrie, the 17th century pioneer in natural science. He had not only correctly comprehended the essential connections between perception and physiological stimulus, but had even correctly described the connection between the mind-body problem and the biological sexual process. That was too much for the Philistines whose number is ever so much greater than that of honest and courageous searchers. They began to spread the rumor that De la Mettrie could develop such concepts only because he was a “libertine.” In this manner has come down to us the rumor that he died from eating a pie with which he gorged himself in the typical manner of the voluptuary. Not only is this nonsense, medically speaking. It is a typical example of plague-ridden rumor-mongering, which, taken over by human organisms incapable of pleasure, comes down to posterity, defiling a decent name without any rhyme or reason. It is easy to see what catastrophic role such plague reactions play in social life.
I shall cite another example, one in which the projection mechanism of the emotional plague, in the form of a defamation, is even more clearly evident. Back in Norway, I heard that a rumor was going around to the effect that I had developed schizophrenia and had spent some time in a mental institution. When I came to the United States in 1939, I found that this rumor had become widespread in this country, even more so than in Europe, where my work was better known. It soon became evident that the rumor emanated from the same European source, a person who had since moved to America. The situation did not lack a certain irony: This person, shortly after my break with the Psychoanalytic Association, had suffered a nervous breakdown and had to spend some weeks in a mental institution. This I learned from a University professor who was fully informed. The accident of the nervous breakdown apparently gave the later rumor-monger quite a shock. At that time, he found himself in a difficult conflict: On the one hand, he realized the correctness of my scientific development; on the other hand, he was incapable of breaking with an organization which had come into sharp conflict with my develop- ment. As is apt to happen in such cases, he grasped the opportunity of diverting attention from himself to me, who at that time was in the center of dangerous polemics. He was convinced that I was hopelessly lost, and the temptation to give me an additional push was too great. His reaction was a projection according to the specific pattern of the emotional plague. I had never been psychotic or in a mental institution. Rather, I have carried the heaviest burden to this day without disturbances of my capacity for work and for love. After all, a mental disease is not in itself a disgrace. Like any decent psychiatrist, I have deep sympathy for mental patients and often even admiration for their conflicts. A mental patient is much more serious, much closer to living functioning, than a Babbitt or a socially dangerous plague-ridden individual. This defamation was intended to ruin me and my work. It led to some dangerous and difficult situations. For example, in many students I now had the additional task of convincing them that I was not psychotic. In certain phases of vegetotherapy, a specific mechanism of the emotional plague makes its appearance in a typical manner: As soon as the patient or student comes in contact with his plasmatic currents, he develops severe orgasm anxiety. In this phase, the vegetotherapist is considered a “dirty, sexual swine” or as “crazy.” I emphasize the fact that this reaction occurs in all cases. Now, most of the students had heard of the rumor in question. The theory of sex-economy is in many ways so revolutionary that it is very easy to call it “crazy.” It must he said that, as a result of this rumor, complicated situations became such as to be a danger to life. Such consequences of a plague reaction should be made impossible by all available legal means. I owe it only to my clinical experience that I was able to master the dangers resulting from this rumor.
When, a few years later, it was talked about that my scientific work was incompatible with the diagnosis of schizophrenia, our rumor-monger altered his statement in an almost humorous manner. Now he said that I had “recovered” from my schizophrenic disease.
The specific reactions of the emotional plague are seen with particular frequency in political life. In recent history, we have seen again and again how imperialistic dictatorships, with every new act of aggression, ascribe to their victim the very intention which they had themselves and which they proceeded to put into action. Thus, Poland was accused of secretly planning to attack the Reich, that one had to anticipate such an action and thus was justified in attacking Poland, etc.
If we go back only a few decades in the history of politics we find the famous Dreyfus case: High members of the French General Staff had sold plans to the Germans; in order to cover themselves, they accused Dreyfus, an innocent and decent captain, of their very crime, and succeeded in having him banned to a far island. Without the courageous action of Zola, this specific plague reaction would not even have been uncovered. If politics were not governed to such a far-reaching extent by the laws of the emotional plague, it would be a matter of course that such catastrophes could not happen at all. But since the emotional plague governs the formation of public opinion, it succeeds again and again in presenting its misdeeds as a regrettable miscarriage of justice, only to be able to continue its mischief.
If one takes the trouble of really studying the working of the emotional plague in high politics, one is hard put to it to believe in history. Is it possible, one must ask oneself, that the clericalism of a political dictator, or a love affair of a king, should be able to influence the weal and woe of several generations, of millions of people? Does irrationalism in social life really go that far? Is it really possible that millions of adult, industrious people do not know this, or even refuse to acknowledge it?
These questions seem peculiar only because the effects of the emotional plague are too fantastic to be felt really to exist. Human reasoning apparently refuses to admit that such nonsensically should be prevailing. It is precisely the gigantic illogicality of such social conditions which safeguard their continued existence. I would like to ask the reader to take this contradiction between the immensity and the incredibility of the emotional plague as seriously as it deserves to be taken. I am deeply convinced that not one social evil of any dimension can be effaced from the earth as long as public consciousness refuses to accept the fact that this nonsensicality actually exists and that it is actually so gigantic that it is not seen. Compared with the immensity of the social nonsense which is constantly nourished by the well-rooted emotional plague, the basic social functions which govern the life process, love, work and knowledge, appear dwarfish; more than that, they appear socially ridiculous. This is not difficult to see:
We know from extensive medical experience that the problem of adolescent sexuality, unsolved as it is, has a much more far-reaching effect on social life and moral ideologies than say, a tariff law. Let us imagine a parliamentarian, who happened to be a physician, suggesting to his government an extensive presentation and parliamentary discussion of the problem of puberty. Let us imagine, further, that this parliamentarian, after his suggestion was turned down, would use the method of filibuster. This illustration shows clearly the basic contradiction between everyday human life and the form of administration which governs it. If we consider the matter calmly and factually, we find that there would really be nothing extraordinary in a parliamentary discussion of the problem of puberty. Everyone, including every parliamentarian, has gone through the hell of the sexual puberty neurosis. Nothing in life can compare in severity and significance with this conflict. It is a problem of general social interest. A rational solution of the puberty problem would, at one stroke, eliminate a number of social evils, such as adolescent criminality, the misery attending divorces, the misery governing early upbringing, etc. Thus, we will have to consider the demand of our hypothetical parliamentarian as completely rational and useful. But at the same time we will feel ourselves shrink from it. Something in us recoils from a public, parliamentary discussion of the puberty problem. This “something” is precisely the intention and the effect of the social emotional plague which strives constantly to preserve itself and its institutions. It has divided social life in a private and an official life. Private life is excluded from the public stage. Official life is asexual toward the outside, and pornographic or perverse inside. It would immediately be identical with the private life, and would correctly represent everyday life in large social forms if this chasm did not exist. This unification of life as it is lived and of social institutions would be simple and uncomplicated. But then that sector in the social structure would automatically disappear which not only does not contribute anything to the continuation of social life but which, periodically, and again and again, brings it to the verge of disaster. This sector is what is called “high politics,” in all its aspects.
The maintenance of the chasm between the actual life of a social organism and its official facade is a violently defended intention of the emotional plague. This is why the emotional plague regularly becomes destructive when this chasm is approached in a factual and rational manner. Again and again, it was representatives of high politics who proceeded against a spreading of the sex-economic realization of the connection between the biological organism of the animal, man, and its state. This procedure, in its mildest form, is somewhat like this: “These ‘sex philosophers’ are immoral sores of the body social which continue to break open from time to time. Unfortunately, it is true that the animal, man, has a sexuality; it is a deplorable fact. For the rest, sexuality is not everything in life. There are other, more important questions, such as economics and politics. Sex-economy exaggerates. We would be much better off without it.”
This argument is regularly met in the individual treatment of a biopathy or the training of a student. It is an unequivocal fact that this argument stems from orgasm anxiety and is made in an attempt to avoid having the resignation disturbed. Confronted with this same argument in a public meeting, say, one on mental hygiene, one cannot disarm the representative of cultural and other “values” by pointing to his personal armoring and pleasure anxiety. The sex-economist who did that would find that the meeting was against him, for its members have these character traits, and the irrational argument stemming from them, in common with the adversary. This is the point in the dispute at which many a physician or teacher has suffered shipwreck. But there is an irrefutable, purely logical argument which, according to our experience, is successful:
We agree with the adversary: It is perfectly true that sexuality is not everything in life. We can even add the further fact that in healthy individuals, sexuality is not a subject for talk and not in the center of thinking. Why, then, we must ask, does sexuality—in spite of these facts— assume the central spot in the life and the thinking of people? Let us illustrate by an example:
It goes without saying that the circulation of the steam in a factory is the prerequisite of its functioning. Yet, the workers in this factory never give a thought to the circulation of the steam; they are completely concentrated on the manufacture of their product. The steam energy is indeed not “everything”; there are other, more important interests, such as the making of machines, etc. But let us assume that suddenly some valves in the circulation system get stuck: the circulation of the energy ceases, the machines stop, and with that, the work. Now, the workers’ attention becomes centered exclusively on the disturbance of energy circulation, and on how it could be remedied. But what if some workers were to argue as follows: “This silly heat theory exaggerates the role of the steam. Yes, it is true that the steam is necessary, but, by golly, that is not everything. Don’t you see that we have other interests, that there are economic factors to be considered?” In this case, these “wise guys” would simply be laughed at and one would first try to eliminate the disturbance in steam circulation before one would “think of other things.”
In such a situation is the sexual problem in our society. The flow of biological energy, of sexual energy, is disturbed in the overwhelming majority of people. This is the reason why the biosocial mechanism of society does not function properly or does not function at all. This is why there is irrational politics, irresponsibility of the masses of people, biopathies, murder and manslaughter, in brief, the emotional plague. If all people were able to fulfil their natural sexual needs without disturbance, there would be no talk about the sexual problem. Then one would be justified in saying that “there are other interests.”
The tremendous effort of sex-economy consists precisely in trying to help these so-called “other” things get their proper due. That today everything revolves around sexuality is the surest indication of a severe disturbance in the flow of sexual energy in man, and with that in his biosocial functioning. Sex-economy strives to unlock the valves of the biological energy flow so that, as a result, “other” important things, such as clear thinking, natural decency, and joyful work, can function, so that, in other words, sexuality, in its prevailing pornographic form, ceases to comprise all thinking as it does today.
The disturbance of energy flow, as just described, acts deep down as the basis of biosocial functioning and thus governs all functions of man. I doubt that the basically biological character of this disturbance has been comprehended even by some sex-economists in its full measure and depth. Let us study this depth, and the relationship of sex-economy to other natural sciences, by way of the following example:
Let us compare the natural sciences who leave out of consideration the basic biological disturbance which we just described to a group of railroad construction engineers: These engineers write thousands of books, all of them most exact, about the size and material of doors and windows, seats, etc.; about the chemical constitution of the steel and wood, the strength of the brakes, about speeds, arrangement of stations, etc. Let us assume that, in a typical manner, they regularly leave out one definite thing: they leave out the steam energy and its functioning. The natural sciences do not know the functional exploration of living functioning. They can be compared, therefore, to these engineers. The sex-economist cannot do his work unless he comprehends fully that he is the engineer of the life apparatus. It is not of our doing that, as engineers of the life apparatus, we have to deal first and all with biosexual energy. Nor is there any reason why this fact should make us feel inferior. On the contrary: we have every reason to be proud of our hard work.
One will ask how it was possible that the raging of such a plague could be overlooked so thoroughly and for such a long time. The point is that this obscurity is part of the essence of the emotional plague. The impossibility of seeing it and seeing through it is the intention and success of the plague. As I have said before, the immensity of the pandemic was too obvious to be remarkable (Hitler: “The bigger the lie, the more readily is it believed”). Before the development of character-analysis, there was no scientific method for the discovery and understanding of the emotional plague. Politics not only appeared to have its own kind of reason; not only did nobody have an inkling of the irrational character of the political plague; the plague even had at its disposal the most important social means of preventing a recognition of its nature.
In every case of treating a biopathy or of changing the character structure of a physician or teacher we run into the emotional plague in the form of characterological resistance reactions. In this way, we learn to know it clinically. Clinical experience fully justifies our contention that there is no human being which the emotional plague has left undamaged.
Another way in which we become acquainted with the emotional plague is the reaction to the scientific discoveries of sex-economy. The bearers of the emotional plague may not be at all affected directly by the effects of our scientific work; they may be quite unacquainted with it; yet, they have sensed the disclosure of the emotional plague as it took place in the studies of the character-analysts, and felt it to be a threat. To this, they reacted with the means of defamation and the specific plague reaction, long before any of the sex-economists were aware of the fact that they were entering upon the hardest struggle in which physicians and teachers had ever engaged. By well-disguised and rationalized actions, the plague knew how to prevent its unmasking. It behaved like a criminal in dinner dress whose mask is torn from his face. For more than a decade, it was successful; it almost succeeded in securing its continued existence for centuries more. It would have succeeded if it had not made its appearance, in an all too disastrous and often revealing manner, in the form of dictatorships and mass infections. It stirred up a war of undreamed-of proportions, adding it to chronic, everyday murder. It tried to hide behind the “interests of the state,” behind “New Orders,” and the “demands of the race.” For years, a psychically sick world gave it credence. But it betrayed itself too thoroughly. It has come in conflict with the natural feeling for life in all people; for there is no family or profession which it left untouched. That which the character-analytic vegetotherapist had learned to comprehend and to master in his study suddenly converged into one with the manifestations of the world catastrophe. The basic traits were the same on the large scale as on the small one. In this manner, the emotional plague itself came to the aid of natural science, of a few psychiatrists and educators. The world began to ask about the nature of the emotional plague and expects an answer. It will be given to our best knowledge. Every conscientious person will discover the emotional plague in himself and thus will begin to understand what it is that again and again brings the world to the verge of disaster. The “New Order,” as always, has to begin in one’s own house.
The disclosure of these hidden activities and mechanisms of a distorted life has two aims: First, the fulfilment of a duty toward society; if, in the case of a fire, the water supply fails and there is someone who knows the location of the trouble, it is his duty to name it. Second, the future of sex-economy and orgone biophysics has to be protected against the emotional plague. One is almost inclined to feel grateful to those who, in 1930 in Austria, in 1932 and 1933 in Germany, in 1933 in Denmark, in 1934 in Luzern, in 1934 and 1935 in Denmark and Sweden, and in 1937 and 1938 in Norway, ganged up on honest but guileless work on the human structure; grateful for having done away with such guilelessness and having opened one’s eyes for a socially dangerous, though pathological, system of defamation and persecution. If a burglar goes too far and becomes careless, he risks being caught and put out of commission. About 10 years ago, the bearers and spreaders of the emotional plague still felt secure. They were sure of their victory and, in fact, it looked for years as if they were going to succeed. Only great perseverance, deep roots in natural-scientific work, and independence of public opinion, prevented their success. The emotional plague has never rested until it had annihilated great achievements, the fruits of human industry and search for truth. I do not think that it has succeeded this time, or that it will succeed. It is the first time that the emotional plague has met not merely with decent sentiments but with the necessary knowledge of life processes, processes which, to an increasing degree, prove their superior strength. It was the strength and the consistency of sex-economic natural science which made it possible for me to recover from the heavy and dangerous blows from the emotional plague. If that was possible, then the greatest difficulty-seems overcome.
With regard to my person and my work, I would like to ask the reader to consider a simple fact: Neurotic psychoanalysts call me schizophrenic; fascist Communists fight me as a Trotskyite; sexually lascivious persons accuse me of keeping a brothel; the German secret police pursued me as a Bolshevik, the American secret police as a Nazi spy; domineering mothers want me to be known as a seducer of children; charlatans in psychiatry call me a charlatan; future saviors of the world call me a new Jesus or Lenin. All this may be flattering or not. In addition, as I have shown, I am engaged in other work which takes up all available time and strength: the work on the irrational human structure and on the study of the cosmic life energy discovered a few years ago, in brief, my work in sex-economy and orgone biophysics.
Great writers and poets have described and fought the emotional plague ever since it has been raging. However, these great literary achievements have remained, on the whole, without social effects. They were neither organized nor have social administrations made them the basis for life-furthering institutions. True, monuments were erected for these masters of literature, but it looks all too often as if the emotional plague had succeeded in building a gigantic museum in which all achievements were locked up, disguised by false admiration; achievements which, each by itself, had been sufficient to build a reasonable world if they had been taken seriously in a practical manner. Thus, I am far from being the first who tried to comprehend and fight the emotional plague. I only believe myself to be the first worker in natural science who, by the discovery of the orgone, provided a solid scientific basis on which the emotional plague can be understood and mastered.
Today, five, eight, ten and fourteen years after different unexpected and incomprehensible catastrophes, my standpoint is the following: Just as the bacteriologist sees his lifework in the elimination of infectious diseases, so is it the task of the sex-economist to disclose the nature of the emotional plague and to fight it as a ubiquitous disease. The world will become accustomed to this new field of medical work. One will learn to comprehend the emotional plague in oneself and outside one, and will appeal to scientific centers instead of the police, the district attorney or the party leader. The police and the district attorneys too, and even saviors, have an interest in mastering the emotional plague in themselves and outside of themselves. For the police and the district attorney deal with biopathic criminality, and the savior with the helplessness and the mass biopathies of humanity. From now on we shall consider it a crucial criterion whether somebody in his discussion with us uses the means of the police and of political persecution, or whether he uses the means of scientific discussion. This will show who is plague-ridden and who is not. It may be said at the outset that we shall not enter into political discussion. On the other hand, we are always ready for scientific discussion; more than that, we are waiting for it.
I believe the time has come when the helplessness in the face of the emotional plague begins to pass. Up until now, one experienced its attacks as one experiences the falling of a tree or the falling of a stone from a roof: such things, one says, happen; either one is lucky and does not get hit, or one is unlucky and gets killed or maimed. From now on we know that the tree does not fall by accident and the stone does not fall harmlessly. We know that in either case some disturbed human, keeping himself hidden, causes the falling of the tree or the stone. From that, everything else follows by itself.
We cannot believe in a satisfactory human existence as long as biology, psychiatry and pedagogy do not come to grips with the universal emotional plague and fight it as ruthlessly as one fights plague-transmitting rats. Extensive, painstaking and conscientious clinical investigation makes unequivocally clear the fact that one thing alone, the re-establishment of the natural love life of children, adolescents and adults can eliminate from the world the character neuroses, and with the character neuroses the emotional plague in its various forms. If, then, some physician causes a suit to be brought against some sex-economist because of this or that “illegal activity”; if a politician reports a sex-economist to the police because of “income tax fraud,” or “seduction of children,” or “espionage,” or “Trotskyism”; if we hear rumors that this or that sex-economist is psychotic, that he seduces his patients, that he keeps a brothel, etc., then we know that we are dealing with political and not with scientific discussion. The by-laws of the Orgone Institute, with its training requirements, and the demands of our daily work are a guarantee to the community that it is precisely we who wage a vigorous fight against these basic traits of the emotional plague.
 First published in Journal of Sex-Economy and Orgone Research, Vol. 4, No 1, April 1945. The translation was done from an unpublished German manuscript (1940-1942). Translated by Theodore P. Wolf
 Translator’s note: On my return from Oslo in 1939, I spent a few days in Zurich where I told a former psychiatric colleague that I had been working with Reich. Much surprised, he said: “But So-and-So said Reich had become schizophrenic.” “So-and-So” was the person in question. Soon after my return to the States, I learned from an acquaintance that his analyst had told him the same thing: “So and-So [again the same person] told me Reich was schizophrenic.”—T.P.W. [Webpage note: According to Myron Sharaf’s biography of Reich, Fury on Earth (pp. 193-194), psychoanalyst Sandor Rado, was the first to say that Reich was suffering from “insidious psychotic process.”]