From the book The Bioelectrical Investigation fo Sexuality and Anxiety, by Wilhelm Reich, M.D., FS&G, New York, 1982.

The Bioelectrical1 Function of Sexuality and Anxiety2

Basic Summary of the Clinical Approach

Up to this point, I have attempted to summarize those sexual-clinical processes which cannot be understood except in terms of a bioelectrical theory of sexuality. According to this theory, the process of sexual excitation is to be understood as an electrical charging of the erogenous zones at the surface of the organism, and the orgasm as a discharge of the potential accumulated during forepleasure.

Furthermore, on the basis of the vegetative excitation processes observed in the treatment of emotionally disturbed people, a theory evolved according to which sexuality and anxiety are seen as two excitations or “currents” of the biological organism, which stem from the same source but move in opposite directions. Sexuality would be the essence of everything that is associated with excitation, flowing, surface tension, and expansion toward the periphery. Its essential internal psychic characteristic is the sensation of pleasure. In contrast, anxiety would comprise everything having to do with current and excitation directed toward the center, away from the world. Its result would be central vegetative tension and its essential characteristic would be any sensation that can be described by the words tightness, constriction, anxiety, internal pressure, etc.

These theoretical assumptions resulted from clinical observations and sex-economic considerations. The theory endured and was fully confirmed in psychotherapeutic practice after years of testing. It was clear from the beginning that its full significance, extending beyond neurosis and character pathology, would be revealed only if it proved possible to confirm the basis of the clinical phenomena experimentally. Only after experimental testing of the theory would we know whether we had indeed hit upon an essential question of the life process, as seemed to be clearly the case, judging by clinical experience. For if sexuality and anxiety are the antithetical basic functions of living matter, then we should also be able to confirm and reproduce them experimentally.

Let me repeat the formula of orgastic excitation. The first stage of sexual excitation is increased turgor in the tissues; i.e., an increase of mechanical tension as a result of engorgement. The second stage is an increase in electrical charge at the surface (rising to climax). The third stage is the discharge of the accumulated potential through involuntary muscle contraction. The fourth stage is the mechanical relaxation following the decline of hyperemia. The “tension charge discharge relaxation formula” of the orgasm required experimental testing, precisely because it seemed that fundamental life phenomena were concentrated in it. Orgasm is a basic manifestation of living substance and the tension-charge formula cannot be applied to non-living nature. After undertaking an admittedly incomplete review of the literature and making inquiries of physiologists and physicists, I concluded that there is no process in inorganic nature by which mechanical tension is converted into electrical charge, nor is there any mechanical relaxation which follows upon an electrical discharge.

After the very first examination of the clinical facts, the question posed itself whether this specifically functional connection between mechanics and electricity constitutes the essence of biological activity. The importance of this question is obvious. The tension-charge formula, however, was only a hypothesis derived from clinical facts and concepts. If it was to lead to a useful theory and practical application, experiments would have to be carried out.

Above all else, we had to discover experimentally the nature of “vegetative current,” which is so important for sex-economic clinical practice and which is at the root of sexual excitation.

Review of the literature

In the available physiological literature there is no indication of the facts revealed experimentally in connection with the tension-charge formula and the primary vegetative antithesis of sexuality and anxiety. However, test results have been reported by authors who deal with the electrical function of the skin.

The first reports about the skin as the seat of electromotive forces are found in the correspondence between C. Ludwig and Du Bois-Reymond (Akademische Verlags-gesellschaft, 1927). A distinction is made there between studies dealing with the skin as a conductor of electricity (change in resistance) and those in which the skin is treated as the generator of current and the seat of electromotive forces. H. Rein discovered that even directly adjacent areas of the skin can have quite different electrical properties. The fact that the differences in potential disappear when skin is destroyed under both electrodes was regarded by him as proof of the membrane property of skin (Zeitschrift fur Biologie, 1926, pages 85, 195). Philip Keller discovered that the potentials of the skin are constantly changing (Klinische Wochenschrift 2, 1929, page 1081). C.P. Richter examined the influence of the time of year and time of day on the resistance of the skin and found that normal people have less resistance in the morning than at other hours of the day. It is clear from the various studies that no standard values can be given for the direct-current resistance of human skin, because the values vary greatly from person to person, depending on age and sex, site of the skin area tested, and the time of the day or year, etc. (Rein, Handbuch). Philip Keller, on the other hand, notes that there are no typical differences as regards age or sex, given ideal experimental conditions. A clear-cut negativity of the palm of the hand compared with the rest of the body was striking (56 versus 20-30 mv). Keller further notes that even gentle touching of human skin brings about a positive potential in stimulated skin zones, which is completely reversible. He postulates a relationship between skin reaction and the reaction of the sweat glands.

The above investigations into the electrical function of skin neglect to consider its erogenous function, nor do they relate skin sensitivity to this erogeneity or to the affects of sexuality and anxiety. They also ignore the differences of the specifically sexual surfaces of the organism compared with the rest of the skin. In the theoretical evaluation of the available findings, the explanation of the phenomena is sought in localized changes of the respective skin areas. Processes in the sweat glands, for example, are held responsible for generating a positive potential. Here we find that the means used by a function are confused with the function itself. In this way, the function of one skin area is delimited and cut off or isolated from the functional context of the whole organism. When, for example, the palm of the hand responds to a fright stimulus by producing a negative potential, as actually happens, and when one tries to relate this to a change in the glandular function of the palm, that is not wrong; but it conceals the fundamental fact that in a state of fright the whole organism reacts and in this case the palm is only one detail of the whole function.

In order to understand the following results, it is important to note that thus far (1) the electromotive function of the skin has been established beyond doubt; (2) the skin possesses the characteristics of a membrane; (3) the skin potentials cannot be standardized.

The theoretical summary of my experimental findings is based on the view that the electrical skin function is not localized or delimited but rather can be understood only in connection with the overall bioelectrical function of the organism; and also on the view that the skin as a membrane is only a special case, since the entire biological organism is composed of a complicated salt-electrolyte or colloid-electrolyte system, plus a membrane system. I have already described the pertinent literature, in particular the basic experimental results of Kraus, Zondek, et al., in Section 2, Sexuality and Anxiety: The Basic Antithesis of Vegetative Life.

Tarchanoff and Veraguth had found that skin responds to psychic stimuli with changes in potential. Tarchanoff comprehended this as a “psychogalvanic phenomenon.” Not only the electrical reaction of the skin to affective stimuli, but also the nature of the functional relationship between the type of affect and the type of electrical reaction, is significant for psychopathological clinical experience. The literature dealing with the relationships between vegetative excitation and affect is so rich that we cannot give a critical detailed synopsis of it here. What is important for this present study is that in the literature about the relationships between affectivity and the vegetative apparatus there is no mention of a functional identity and simultaneous antithesis. Either the physiological phenomena are taken as “accompanying phenomena” of the affect, or the affect is considered the “consequence” of a vegetative excitation. In the first case, the affect would be taken to have no biophysiological material basis, for physiological phenomena would be merely “accompanying phenomena.” In the second case, we have a mechanistic view, according to which affect would be the product of a vegetative excitation, in a similar way that so-called brain mythology considered psychic achievements to be a secretion of the brain. If we assume that affect and vegetative excitation are an inseparable and indivisible functional unit, that the one cannot be thought of without the other, several important perspectives open up for the investigations of the psycho-physiological boundary area.

The present study includes genital pleasure in its experimental research. This fact needs to be strongly emphasized, because of the still prevailing timidity in scientific circles about studying sexual pleasure.


Apart from the fundamental concept of a primary antithesis of vegetative life, a special hypothesis was needed at each step in the experiments; this hypothesis was based on a well-known clinical fact. In order to avoid mistakes, I had to conduct and control every experiment in such a way that it was guided by clinical theory yet was entirely unprejudiced. In the course of my work, there were many occasions when clinical theory was inadequate or took on a new aspect. Our fundamental task was to test the accuracy of the assumptions made in the tension-charge formula, or “orgasm formula,” as it may also be called.

The biological resting potential

The first condition needed for the electrical function of sexuality is that the undamaged skin and mucous membrane surfaces must possess a resting potential, or basic electrical charge.

If one damages any area of a subject’s skin by scratching the epidermis, and if one then applies an (“indifferent”) electrode to this area, while the other (“differential”) electrode is applied without pressure to various undamaged skin areas, then, when the subject is connected into the electrical circuit of an oscillograph, the light beam deviates from the absolute, otherwise motionless zero line. The beam jumps rapidly to a different position. This is because the electrical surface charge of the undamaged skin area has disrupted—i.e., either strengthened or weakened—the grid voltage of the apparatus, which corresponds to the absolute zero line. It is easy to prove that it is actually the undamaged skin area which causes this interference. For if one measures two abraded skin areas simultaneously, the absolute zero point does not move; the beam of light stays where it is.

Physical requirements

To help understand the experimental results,3 we must give an idea, even if only simplified, of the physical principle behind the apparatus which produced them.

The fundamental principle is as follows: a steady electrical current is disrupted by connecting the human body into the electrical circuit. The interference is manifested as a fluctuation in the otherwise steady light beam. The light beam is generated by the reflection of light rays on a small mirror attached to the electromagnetically influenced, moving element of the oscillograph.

Bioelectrical ENG 001

It is important to understand the relationship between the electrical potential of the human body and that of the apparatus. For this purpose, it is necessary to give some information about the physical functioning of the amplifier tube to which the body is attached.

We must understand why a strong charge at the body surface generates a positive potential and a weak charge a negative potential in the apparatus. The reason is to be sought in the function of the “amplifier tube,” whose current is disrupted.

The amplifier tube consists of an evacuated glass envelope containing a glowing cathode, heated by a “filament current,” and a “cold” anode. Between the two is located the grid, which is made of wire mesh. The anode is connected to the positive pole of a battery (anode battery), the cathode to the negative pole. The anode current flows as a positive current from the anode to the cathode. From the glowing cathode, electrons—i.e., negatively charged particles producing a negative current—are hurled toward the grid and the anode. The anode is positively charged and attracts the negative particles coming from the cathode, because opposite electrical charges attract one another. A voltage, the “anode voltage,” exists between the anode and the cathode.

A voltage also exists between the grid and the cathode, which are connected to one another by an electrical conductor to produce a secondary circuit. The grid is negatively charged by the negative electrons that come from the cathode. Since the negative electrons impinge upon the negative grid, they are partially deflected from it, while the anode, which is positively charged, attracts the rest. The principle follows from this that the more strongly negative or the more weakly positive the charge of the grid, the more electrons it will deflect back to the cathode, the fewer electrons will get through to the anode, the weaker the resting current from the cathode to the anode will become, and the weaker also will be the grid voltage between grid and cathode. The more weakly negative or the more strongly positive the grid charge, the more electrons can get through to the anode and the stronger will be the current. In the first case, we have a “negative potential”; in the second, a “positive potential.”

Now, let us connect A and B, two arbitrary spots on the human body, to the cathode and grid. If we close the circuit between the two, the light beam may stay where it is, or it may oscillate either to the left or to the right. In the first case, if it does not move, it means that the resting current of the apparatus, or the grid voltage, has not been disrupted. This can be due to two things: Both points on the body may have the same charge, so that there is no difference in charge which might show up as a voltage gradient. This is the result that is obtained if one connects two abraded places on the skin with the apparatus. If we abrade only one point, however, and leave the other untouched, then we get a voltage gradient between the undamaged and the abraded point on the skin. The voltage generated in this way interferes with the grid voltage, which we see as the absolute zero line when the body is not connected with the apparatus. The apparatus is built in such a way that this zero line does not move when the body is not connected; i.e., when the current in the apparatus, or the grid voltage, is constant. The zero line is arbitrarily determined by the design of the apparatus. Thus, a different apparatus can provide different absolute results from our own.

If the two skin areas have different charges, or if one is abraded, the light beam deviates from the zero line. If it moves to the left (with a given arrangement of the oscillograph), then the skin area directly connected to the grid has a higher charge than the grid voltage. A gradient in potential is formed from the skin area to the grid, and this charges the grid positively. As a result, as we have already said, more electrons can pass from the cathode to the anode; the current in the apparatus is increased, and a higher grid voltage is obtained. The oscillograph beam moves to the left. Conversely, the grid voltage is lowered when the skin area connected to the grid has a lower charge than the grid.

In this case the electrons build up a stronger negative charge in the grid, and the current inevitably becomes weaker, since the more negative grid lets fewer electrons through to the anode.

Thus a negative-tending grid voltage indicates a decrease in the charge and a positive-tending grid voltage indicates an increase in the charge.

The choice of the direction “up” or “left” and “down” or “right” is therefore arbitrary; but it must remain the same throughout the entire experiment. If one turns on the oscillograph in reverse, or if the point to be measured on the body is connected to the cathode instead of to the grid, then some relationships reverse themselves, as is easy to see and to deduce logically. If we want to record positive charges in the top part of the curve (leftward deviation of the light beam) and negative charges in the lower part, we must attach the positive part of the body to the positive pole of the instrument in order to get deviations to the left and up.

As regards the question whether polarization of the metallic electrodes has anything to do with the phenomena, it is important to note that a resistance of approximately two million ohms between body and tube was built into our apparatus, so that practically no current flowed; only the voltage itself was indicated. Where no current flows, there is also no polarization. The current strength, which may be transmitted from the body to the apparatus, amounts to only about 10-6 milliampere, according to information from the manufacturer of the apparatus.

Under the conditions of the described experimental arrangement, we thus obtain the potential of the skin area to be measured in relationship to the grid voltage of the apparatus. Series of experiments have shown that once the apparatus has been set up, all the skin areas, except for the easily stimulated “ticklish” “erogenous” ones, have a resting potential of approximately 10 to 40 millivolts. Repeated connecting and disconnecting of the test subject always produce the same result, except for oscillations amounting to 1 to 5 millivolts. The potential of ordinary skin is the same both to the right and to the left—i.e., symmetrical—apart from certain exceptions, which will be discussed elsewhere.

Electrophoto 1 copy

I. Resting potential of average skin

In all electrophotos, O = base line or ground potential (g.p.).
V.P. = Versuchsperson (experimental subject). It is probable that initials such as BJ, X, Le, etc., identify these persons.
↑ indicates that the indifferent electrode is placed on the subject’s right arm;
↓ indicates its site on the left arm.
The bracketed number at the end of each legend refers to the relevant page in the text.

The first electrophoto (I) shows the resting potential (RP) of a female subject (a hysteric). On the outside of the axilla to the right and left, the potential is the same; i.e., approximately -18 mv, as repeated checks confirm. As with all non-erogenous skin areas, it forms a “horizontal” line. The electrocardiographic tracing (EKG) is clearly visible and recognizable by its regularity in all the photographs. The direction of the heart spikes depends on whether one uses the right () or the left () arm as the site of the indifferent electrode. The reason is still unclear. The zero line of the apparatus does not change.

Horizontal regularity of the potential curve is characteristic of the biological resting potential of the undamaged surface of the organism. It indicates that the surface carries a uniform electric charge, originating from within the organism, which rarely fluctuates in the resting state.

The resting potential of the sexually excitable zones

Certain areas of the skin surface stand out from those which have no particular erogeneity. I am referring to those areas which are especially sensitive and responsive to stimuli during sexual activity i.e., the penis, vaginal mucosa, tongue, lips, anal mucosa, nipples, palms, earlobes, and, strangely enough, in some intellectually oriented subjects, the forehead. The electrical function of the sexual zones is different from that of the rest of the skin. They have the special characteristic of exhibiting either a much higher or a much lower resting potential than ordinary skin. On the latter I have not so far been able to determine potentials of more than 0 and less than about -40 mv. However, in numerous studies of the sexual areas, I observed oscillograph deflections of up to +200 mv; i.e., a fifth of a volt. There are various indications that the upper limit of the chargeability of the sexual zones is difficult to determine.

At this point we encounter something that will become the crux of the overall problem: From clinical experience with emotionally disturbed patients, we know that the skin areas of sexual zones possess an intensity of sensation and excitability which far surpasses that of the rest of the skin. If these functions are intact, people experience them subjectively as a sensation of current, itching, flowing, pleasant feeling of warmth, etc. The non-erogenous skin areas possess these characteristics either to a much lesser degree or not at all. Can we then say that the excitation intensity of a sexual zone corresponds to its electrical charge? To answer this question, we must point out a number of other facts.

The erogenous zones may (1) be charged electrically within the range of fluctuation of ordinary skin; or (2) their charge may greatly surpass the upper limit of the general surface charge.

A second fundamental phenomenon on the oscillograph explains one aspect of this peculiarity: the light beam wanders; i.e., there is a gradual, continuous increase or decrease in potential.

“Wandering” of the potential

The next electrophotograph (II) shows the electrical charge of a semi-erect penis during the course of half an hour. The apparatus is calibrated in such a way that a vertical difference in height of 1 cm corresponds to a difference of 10 millivolts. In the first measurement we see a value of approximately +35 mv, and in the second about twice that much, in relation to the grid voltage or to the damaged skin area. Checking of the zero line reveals only a minimal shift of about 3-4 mv, which can be ignored. The third measurement again is around +40 mv, and the control measurement on the nipple is approximately +20 mv; the last measurement on the penis is about +70 mv. The EKG tracing is clear. The zero line is stable at the end.

Electrophoto 2 copy
II. Potentials of a semi-erect penis

The areas marked with two crosses indicate a downward deviation toward the minus zone, and they are the result of a control carried out by pressing the electrode onto the penis. I will return to this later.

We must now consider certain basic facts which are essential for understanding the overall function:

1. Potential does not increase unless an erotic flowing sensation accompanies the engorgement of the organ. The penis can thus become erect without an increase in potential taking place. The increase in potential is always linked with a psychically pleasurable sensation, and vice versa, as will be seen later in further studies. The original assumption that erection per se is linked with a higher charge proved to be false. But this very result confirmed a mechano-electrical hypothesis. For, apparently, in addition to mechanical engorgement, there must be a higher surface charge in order to produce the feeling of sexual tension, which is experienced as pleasurable.

2. The change in the level of potential does not usually happen suddenly, but gradually. Figuratively speaking, the potential “wanders” at a faster or slower speed up or down. Repeated control tests on inorganic material revealed that this slow organic wandering has a specific character, which is easy to recognize after some practice. It is marked by a particular constancy. Inner-psychic observation of the change in the excitational sensation of current, which is linked to this constancy, reveals a striking degree of parallelism between the quantity of excitation and the intensity of sensation. (More will be said about the control experiments on inorganic matter later.)

Electrophoto 3 copy
III. “Wandering” of potential on palm of a hand (experienced subjectively as “streaming” of vegetative current) 
b = resting potential ceases; c = wandering of light beam

Electrophotograph III shows a weak wandering on the left palm of a female hysteric. The potential increases, with the electrode at rest, from about +15 to +30 mv. The EKG is included in the curve. This section represents only one half of the total film record; 2.3 mm of film corresponds to about one second of elapsed time. Thus, the wandering corresponds to a change in potential over a period of about 25 seconds. (In the beginning, no attempt was made to achieve exact standardization of the results.)

Electrophoto 4 copy
IV. Steeper wandering on the same palm

In the next electrophotograph (IV), we see a wandering of the potential recorded on the same palm a few days later. When the apparatus is switched on, the potential starts at about +35 mv. It increases much more steeply; i.e., there is a much greater increase in excitation per unit time than on the first photograph. This corresponded fully to the psychic state. On the day of the second photograph, the patient was significantly more cheerful than on the first occasion.

3. The increase in potential must be seen as the organ’s response to the stimulus of gentle touching with the electrode. The amount of excitation does not correspond to the intensity of the stimulus but to the organ’s state of excitation, or its readiness to be excited.

Electrophoto 5 copy
V. Anal mucous membrane of a woman in a state of excitation
Electrophoto 6 copy
VI. The same in a state of depression (premenstrual)

The next two photographs, taken on different days, show the reaction of the anal mucous membrane in a female subject when touched with the KCl electrode. In photo V we see the wandering of the potential starting from about +25 mv. The subject was very happy and cheerful, and showed great interest in the level of the charge in the organ. Photo VI shows a slight fall in potential, which at first amounts to -15 mv and remains “horizontal.”4 On this day, the subject was suffering from premenstrual depression. The nature and level of the potential thus indicate the psychic mood. What is the relationship between these factors?

4. The wandering corresponds to a preorgastic, flowing excitation or charge, which varies in one and the same person with changes in mood.

5. Preorgastic potential (POP) in the same erogenous area varies from person to person. Resting potential in the non-erogenous zones, however, is approximately the same. Preorgastic potential rises from the resting potential like a mountain slope from a plain. It indicates heightened biological activity at the periphery of the organism.

In order to test the relationship between the intensity of the psychic sensations and the quantity of the electrical charge, we had to develop the experimental procedures and control experiments further.

Tickling and pressure phenomena

Until now, we have discussed only those phenomena which, without the application of external stimuli, come about from time to time at various places on the skin, thus indicating the peripheral electrical charge of the organism. The existence of an electrical charge of the type and configuration described is the primary precondition for the electrical function of sexuality. But this is not the entire explanation of this function.

Muscular motor activity in general and rhythmic friction, the rubbing together of pleasurably excitable body surfaces, are the fundamental biological phenomena of sexuality. From direct experience we know that they are accompanied by a sensation of sensual pleasure. But until now we have not known what constitutes the objective nature of this sensation which accompanies friction. If the electrical theory of sexuality is confirmed, then it ought to be possible to demonstrate beyond doubt that both phenomena depend on electrical changes at the site of the voluptuous sensations.

The simplest form in which sexual pleasure or voluptuousness is experienced is the sensation of itching or tickling. It automatically triggers the impulse to scratch or rub, both of which actions are related to sexual friction. At the very least, these phenomena hold true for the animal kingdom of metazoa in general.

From psychotherapeutic practice we know that a pleasurable sensation cannot be “commanded”; the more one tries to force it, the less likely it is to come about. Thus, in order to observe the phenomenon at all, it was essential to begin by creating suitable experimental conditions. The next electrogram (photo VII) shows the excitation of the tongue of a male subject, first with the electrode immobile, then being gently rubbed by the electrode, and finally with pressure being exerted three times.

Electrophoto 7 copy
VII. Mucous membrane of tongue using KCl electrode
o = electrocardiographic tracing; a = wandering; b = tickling; D = pressure

In this case the experimental conditions were as follows: the indifferent electrode was applied to the left lower leg; the differential electrode, which is connected to the grid of the apparatus, was applied to the tongue without pressure. We see that when the circuit is closed, a fundamental potential of approximately +20 mv is immediately established, and it increases in the course of about 12 seconds by another 10-12 mv. The fundamental potential increases slowly, while simultaneously gentle rubbing is carried out with the electrode. Now oscillations of the potential occur around the base line; these are sometimes regular, or they sometimes deviate more into the positive or into the negative range.5

We discovered the “tickling phenomenon” all over the surface of the organism. As repeated control experiments showed, there is no such phenomenon when the electrode is rubbed on inorganic matter (cf. below). We will return to the nature of the tickling phenomenon later. For the time being, we need only remember that the arm of the curve rising into the positive region is usually steep, while the arm descending into the negative region is usually more gently sloping and somewhat shorter than the rising ones. This will be important later. The EKG follows exactly all deviations in potential.

At D (= pressure), the electrode is pressed firmly, but without too much effort, into the tongue tissue. The potential falls immediately and quite steeply, by about 15-20 mv, and then rises again slowly to the previous level as soon as the pressure is released. Further, it is shown that when the potential returns, it continues its original wandering immediately, despite the interruption. The same result is obtained when the pressure is repeated three times. The pressure phenomenon is also evident in non-sexual zones, but here there is no wandering.

Electrophoto 8 copy
VIII. Inside of lip, using KCl electrode. K to * = tickling

The next electrophotograph (VIII) shows the tickling phenomenon on the inside surface of the lower lip of a girl (KCl electrode). A negative potential formed during tickling, because the electrode pressure was unintentionally too strong. The sudden increase at K indicates the onset of strong itching. After the tickling stimulus stops, the potential falls somewhat and gradually continues wandering into the positive region.

The magnitude (size of increase) of the tickling phenomenon depends on: (1) the intensity of the pressure, in an inverse sense: the gentler the pressure, the steeper the increase; (2) the excitability of the stimulated area (direct relationship); (3) the psychic readiness (direct relationship).

We cannot speak of a proportional relationship, as long as the intensity of the sensation cannot be standardized. But everything indicates that we will find the standard we are seeking in the degree of fluctuation of potential. According to present knowledge, the fluctuation of the potential around the basic potential is itself independent both of the excitability of the organ and also of the psychic disposition, and can therefore be obtained anywhere. We have not as yet been able to detect a sharp increase in the basic potential that is not accompanied by a simultaneous itching sensation. The next electrophotograph (IX) shows how large this sudden increase in the potential can be, given appropriate psychic excitability. The charge of the palm of the hand yields a resting potential of about +20 mv. When the tickling stimulus is first applied, the charge suddenly jumps to about +55 mv, then falls around 10 mv, probably as a consequence of excessive pressure, then increases again to +70 mv when the second tickling stimulus is applied. It can be clearly seen that the EKG spikes as well as the friction oscillations are superimposed on the rapid increase in the basic potential. Thus, we must distinguish clearly between: (1) the increase in the basic potential and (2) the friction oscillation around the basic potential.

Electrophoto 9 copy
IX. Strong tickling reaction on the palm of a hand
a = circuit closed; R.P. = resting potential; K = tickling reaction;
b = reaction to second tickling stimulus
Electrophoto 10 copy
X. The same palm one minute later
O1 = circuit open; a1 = circuit closed again; W = wandering; K = tickling; a2 = tickling again; b1 = no tickling; c1 = pressure exerted three times; D = pressure

The next electrophotograph shows the electrical state of the same palm after a pause of about one minute (X). The basic potential does not begin at +20 mv, as previously, but at +60 mv; it wanders slightly, then jumps to +85 mv when the tickling stimulus is applied; during the tickling it wanders, with clear friction phenomena, to +95 mv; when the tickling stops, it falls slowly to about 5 mv in the course of about 12 seconds. Applying pressure three times with the electrode produces a decrease in potential, a drop of about 25 mv. The line resulting when one joins the points at which the basic potential is restored after pressure has stopped shows the direct continuation of the gradual fall in the basic potential.

Following the observations and control experiments which have been carried out, we can state that such regularity in the electrical charge process cannot be obtained with inorganic matter, and that it is therefore unique to organic matter. We will return later to the general significance of this fact in connection with other experiments.

The results can be summarized as follows:

  1. Tickling stimuli, which trigger pleasurable or itching sensations, increase the electrical charge of the surface.
  2. Pressure stimuli regularly decrease the surface charge.

Does this conformity with a certain set of rules have a more general significance?

On another day, the same patient, in a neutral mood, produced approximately the same charge symmetrically on both the right and the left palm. In both cases, and in a control test, the basic potential remained almost steady. There was minimal wandering (photo XI).

Electrophoto 11 copy
XI. Resting potentials of a right and left palm are symmetrical

Taking the many control experiments into consideration, we can conclude that the excitation state —i.e., the condition of electrical charge—of a sexual organ is different at different times.

Tickling near the electrode

When explaining the tickling phenomena, it was inevitable that the objection would be raised that they may be due to the difference in potential between the rubbing material and the skin. For that reason, the tickling phenomenon was elicited in such a way that the electrode was allowed to rest on the respective skin area while the skin adjacent to the electrode was stroked gently with dry (nonconducting) cotton wool or a feather. The tickling phenomenon appeared in the same way as if one had stroked the skin with the electrode itself (photo XII).

Electrophoto 12 copy
XII. Tickling reaction on the palm of a hand: electrode allowed to rest on skin while adajcent skin area is tickled with cotton wool or a feather

To determine the functional identity of the objective fluctuation in potential and the subjective sensations of tickling, the following experiment was conducted:

A control person observes the apparatus, while the subject, in a neighboring room, is connected to it with long wires. The subject, who must be skilled in self-observation, announces whether the light beam is steady, moving, or indicating a rise or fall in potential, etc. The subject does not announce this on the basis of the sensation of touch, but on the basis of the tickling sensation. The more correctly the subject is able to observe himself and the more gentle the tickling—i.e., the less contact that is made between the tickling instrument and skin—the more precise is the result. It indicates to us that the objectively visible change in potential quantitatively reflects the intensity of the pleasure sensation with “photographic fidelity.” The greater the intensity of the streaming pleasure sensation, the more precisely it is reflected.

This experiment can also be carried out in reverse, with the control person announcing the reading on the apparatus and the subject checking it by assessing his pleasure sensations. Of course, this second method is not as precise and correct as the first.

Electrophoto 13 copy
XIII. Pleasure reaction (* to *) of an excited nipple.
Subject experienced strong itching at beginning and end

The next electrophotograph (XIII) shows the result of such an experiment. We see the potential of a woman’s nipple, over the period of about a minute. The differential electrode rested on the nipple and the subject tickled the areola with a dry cotton swab. The asterisk indicates when the tickling began. Until then we see a horizontal—i.e., resting—potential of about +20 mv. At the first tickling it almost shoots up, continues to increase slowly, and then increases rapidly once again before the end to about +45 mv; then it falls again as the tickling has stopped. The subject announced that she had twice felt a strong sensation of pleasure, “immediately at the start and approximately at the end.” From the experiment room it was announced that the two strong readings had been recorded (this was noted down immediately). When the second increase in pleasurable sensation occurred, she had even imagined that a child was suckling her. She knew nothing of what had been going on in the meanwhile on the apparatus and said in astonishment when she saw the photograph, “That’s absolutely amazing.”

Since the quantity of the objective potential corresponds to the intensity of the pleasurable sensation, we can draw the conclusion that the vegetative currents of pleasurable sensation can be photographed in the form of fluctuations in the electrical charge of the erogenous surface. I will give more details later.

(The width of the beam is due to an interference from the light circuit in the building, which had not been turned off during this experiment.)

In this experimental setup it must be remembered that the control and reporting of sensations divert a person’s attention, thus inhibiting the development of vegetative current. We must assume, therefore, that the quantities (or intensities) are significantly greater during spontaneous and undisturbed sexual streaming.

The same experiment was also conducted on a penis; it produced the same result. The photographic record of uniform friction next to the electrode produces an almost regular undulation. The next photograph in this experiment was taken with the apparatus set at the lowest possible sensitivity—one tenth (photo XIV).

Electrophoto 14 copy
XIV. Friction-induced fluctuations of potential at glans penis
(The deflections are in the range of about 15-20 mv.)

If friction is not accompanied by feelings of pleasure, the apparatus never shows an increase in potential. In order to conduct this experiment, it is essential that the subject be able to distinguish streaming sensations of pleasure from sensations of touch and heat.


Current literature about the “psychogalvanic phenomenon” does not indicate whether there are any differences between pleasure and anxiety, or unpleasure. The physiologists whom I consulted felt that there was no difference; a decrease in potential would always occur. My view of the antithesis of pleasure and anxiety, which was formed on the basis of clinical observations, led me to doubt this. If psychic excitation is functionally identical to fluctuations in vegetative excitation, and the latter can be understood as fluctuations in electrical potential, then the physiologists’ view cannot be correct. For pleasure and anxiety are such opposite sensations (although identical in their inception) that we can reasonably expect that their electrical directions will also be opposed. The difficulty was that, up until now, as far as I know, no distinction was made in the physiology of the skin and nerves between the directions of electrical excitation with regard to organ excitation. This distinction had to be worked out in the course of the experiments.

So far, we have had to distinguish between the absolute magnitude of a potential in its relationship to the grid voltage of the apparatus, which is arbitrarily taken as the zero line. We also determined the relative magnitude of the potential of one area of skin in comparison to another. The magnitude is relative, because both potentials are variable. We now have to determine more precisely than before a third factor; namely, the directions of fluctuation in potential.

Up to this point, we have called a potential positive if it lies above the absolute, unchangeable zero line; i.e., the grid voltage. We called it negative if it was below this zero line (e.g., +15 mv, -40 mv). We also distinguished between directions in the fluctuation of potential by speaking of the “rising” and “falling” of the potential, which can be read directly from the milliammeter of the apparatus.

We must now note the fact that any rise in potential represents a trend toward positive values, whether or not it occurs above or below the absolute zero line. Likewise, any fall in potential is a negative trend, independent of the arbitrarily determined zero line. It is no longer the absolute or relative magnitudes of the fluctuations in potential, but simply the direction in which they move, that is important. Thus, for example, a wandering from -40 to -20 mv is just as much a positive trend as one from +5 to +30 or from -10 to +10 mv. And, conversely, any potential is negative-trending when it wanders on the milliammeter from a higher reading to a lower one, or on the paper strip from left to right, or on the photograph from top to bottom.

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Lowering of surface potential in anxiety and unpleasure

Stimuli which are linked with the flowing sensation of pleasure increase the electric charge of the body surface. This is expressed in the increase in potential or the positive charging of the grid. The light beam wanders to the left, the milliammeter gives higher readings, on the electrophotograph the line climbs.

Electrophoto 15 copy
XV. Reaction of vaginal mucous membrane when subject is annoyed

The next electrophotograph (XV) shows us the curve of the movement in potential during annoyance. The experimental organ in this case was the entrance to the vagina of a woman with hysterical character traits (the same woman whose anal potential was measured). The following measurement was made on the same day on which the premenstrual anal potential (cf. VI) was measured.

The basic potential begins at about -15 mv and falls rapidly to about -25 mv. We should not forget that the patient’s mood was depressed and she protested and grumbled about the procedure. She was alone in the neighboring room and was connected to the apparatus with long wires. The indifferent electrode was attached to the lower part of the leg. Both the differential and indifferent electrodes were KCl electrodes. The subject had been asked simply to apply the electrode to the labia majora. We observed the gradual drop in potential, which suddenly turned into a steep and rapid decrease. At the same moment we heard loud shouts of annoyance from the next room; a drop of KCl had fallen and irritated the sensitive mucous membrane. A cross marks this point on the photograph.

The second cross indicates the point where the subject again expressed strong annoyance; the potential fell rapidly by about 20 mv.

Annoyance, then, is accompanied by a decrease in electrical charge in the sexually sensitive zones. It is now clear that sexual excitability decreases so markedly when a person is annoyed because the electrical excitation of the body moves in the opposite direction to that of sexual excitation; i.e., the periphery becomes discharged instead of charged.

Electrophoto 16 copy
XVI. Reaction of tongue to tickling (K) and fright (E).
Subject reported having twice felt strong itching with tickling

The next photograph (XVI) shows us the same experiment carried out on a male subject’s tongue. The basic potential starts from a resting value of about +2 mv. At point K the intentional tickling with the electrode begins; the basic potential increases gradually. At E the subject was frightened by being suddenly shouted at; the potential falls by about 20 mv. When the subject was frightened a second time, the potential dropped once more, but much less than the first time (the process was no longer photographed). On the third occasion there was no reaction at all. We see that the tickling phenomenon follows the falling basic potential without change, as does the EKG. The subject, a psychology student, drew for us the curve of the sensations on his tongue before he saw the actually recorded curve. There was an astonishing similarity between his drawing and the fundamental curve of the potential; only the tickling phenomena were lacking.

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It is easier to elicit anxiety reactions than pleasure reactions. I generally burst an air-filled paper bag or, without warning, I strike loud and hard on a gong. On one occasion, the electrical reaction did not occur. The subject informed me that at the moment when the stimulus was applied, she had become enraged. This raised the problem of how rage is related to the electrically negative-trending reactions of annoyance and anxiety.From sex-economic clinical experience we are familiar with a remarkable phenomenon. Patients sometimes report that they experience something akin to an electrical shock on the tongue when they are frightened. Thus, in a state of anxiety or fright, the electrical charge of the surface is decreased. This is more marked in the sexual zones than on ordinary skin. A shrinking penis, which is a typical sign of annoyance or anxiety, also regularly exhibits a low potential.

Experiments have thus confirmed the sex-economic concept of the biological primary antithesis of pleasure and anxiety; they are opposite directions of electrical flow. In pleasure, the surface becomes charged positively in relation to the center of the organism, and in unpleasure, annoyance, or anxiety, it becomes charged negatively.

After the functional identity of pleasure with peripherally directed flow of current and that of anxiety with centrally directed flow had been established, the serious objection was raised that there is such a phenomenon as the so-called “cold erection”; i.e., the pleasureless erection of the penis. Experiment actually revealed that mechanical engorgement alone is not enough to produce a sensation of pleasure; if one prevents blood from draining from the male sex organ by compressing the root of the penis, the potential does not change. Thus, in addition to blood flow, another factor must determine excitation. The essential component of the assumed “flow” during pleasurable excitation is thus the mechanical engorgement plus an electrical surface charge, for a flowing sensation of pleasure occurs only when there is an increase in electrical potential, and vice versa. From this we further concluded that, in concrete functional terms, the biopsychic direction “toward the world” and the opposite direction “away from the world, into oneself” are antithetical directions of flow of the body’s bioelectrical charge. It is as if the living organism were stretching out toward the world in the form of the bioelectrical surface charge; or as if the charging of the periphery that is associated with the pleasure process had taken over the “stretching out” function of the pseudopodium in a unicellular organism, or of a snail’s feelers. And conversely, it is as if the discharging of the periphery—i.e., the lowering of its potential—were the direct expression of the “retreat into oneself.” That is reason enough to examine the problem in animal experiments. But we need additional experimental proof.

Bioelectrical ENG 007



The sugar-salt experiment

Although flowing sensations of pleasure can be produced in the tickling experiment, these sensations are not distinct nor do they indicate the scale of possible flow intensity. In our experiment, the surface of the organism is not charged artificially from the outside, but rather biologically from within; that is, from the “vegetative center.” For this to occur, the test subject must be free of inhibitions, and there must be no external disturbance. All previous experiments suffered because the pleasure sensation was artificially provoked, so that it did not flow spontaneously. The result was that excitation behaved like a cautious snail, not daring to venture outside its shell. To obtain a spontaneous reaction, the following experiment was conducted with several people.

The cathode electrode was laid in a container with a 0.9 (normal) NaCl solution. The grid electrode was wrapped in a wad of cotton wool soaked in NaCl solution. One end of the long wad was laid on a dish containing concentrated sugar solution. The other end was also soaked in a solution of sugar or salt. The subject sucked on this end of the cotton wool while he or she put one finger into the container with the cathode electrode, in order to complete the circuit. The technical and physical correctness of this procedure will be discussed later.

Electrophoto 17 copy
XVII. Reaction of tongue to sugar. Indirect measurement.
Indifferent electrode on left arm

A female subject, who was known to be oral-erotic, was first given sugar without her knowledge. As can be seen in the next electrophotograph (XVII) there is no curve in the first section, because the light beam was deflected too far to the left; i.e., so far in the positive direction that it is off the scale. When the circuit was completed a second time, the subject had apparently to some extent grown accustomed to the stimulus. In the third section of the graph, we find an increasingly positive curve, which clearly represents the sucking movement. The pattern is similar to that produced by friction: a sharp rise followed by a more gentle fall in the curve and an increase in the ground potential. To be on the safe side, the zero line was offset to the right, into the negative range, when the circuit was closed a second time. The curve starts from at least +70 mv and increases by approximately another 20 mv. With a second subject (male), who was not so obviously oral-erotic, we observed an initial potential of about +10 mv and a further increase of about 30 mv.

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When the same experiment was repeated using a concentrated salt solution, exactly the opposite phenomenon, with a different-shaped curve, was obtained, as follows (XVIII):

Electrophoto 18 copy
XVIII. Reaction of same tongue to salt. Indirect measurement.
Indifferent electrode on left arm

The ground potential begins at about -55 mv, and this time does not fluctuate up and down as in the sugar experiment, but falls almost in a straight line.

If one applies salt to the mouth quite without warning, then a deflection into the negative range, beyond the right-hand edge of the paper strip, is obtained, and it is as large as the deflection obtained in the opposite direction when sugar is applied.

The biological energy of the mouth quickly reaches out toward the pleasurable stimulus and retreats from the unpleasant stimulus. The antithesis of pleasure and unpleasure can thus be experimentally tested and photographed. It exists objectively, independent of our ideas of it. The basic antithesis of vegetative life is manifested as pleasure—electrical flow directed toward the periphery— and as anxiety or unpleasure—electrical flow directed toward the center.

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The form of excitation

Up to this point, we have considered only the magnitude and direction of the excitation curve. But when we compare the sugar and salt reactions, we notice a third factor. The excitation curve in the case of the sugar reaction is very “lively.” On the next photograph (XIX) we can see clearly that the potential not only increases in the positive direction (i.e., forward toward the world); it also swings far into the negative range before swinging back again strongly to the positive side. The result is deep “valleys” and steep “peaks” in the curve. If the subject sucks honey, we obtain a similar pattern with only slight changes: each increase in excitation is preceded by a decrease. This phenomenon is, however, absent in the salt reaction. Here (photo XX) we find only a less uniform “quiet” retreat, after the basic potential has dropped steeply; i.e., “retreated.” In other subjects, even the minor fluctuations in excitation (here about 2 to 3 mv) are lacking; the excitation falls steadily.

Electrophoto 19 copy
XIX. Sugar reaction of tongue. Indirect measurement.
Indifferent electrode on right arm
Electrophoto 20 copy
XX. Salt reaction of same tongue. Indifferent electrode on right arm

Disappointment reaction

If one administers first sugar and then salt, the reaction occurs in the manner described, though in varying degrees. We also observed the effect of habituation; namely, that repeated doses administered in the same sequence reduce the sugar reaction. The increase in potential becomes less each time, and the salt reaction no longer elicits as intense a swing in a negative direction as the first time, when the stimulus was unexpected. However, if one first administers salt and then sugar, the full negative salt reaction will be obtained, but the positive sugar reaction does not occur; the sugar, too, will elicit a strong negative reaction.

This finding speaks clearly for the biological nature of these reactions. After salt has been administered, the tongue behaves as if it has become cautious, and will no longer allow itself to be enticed. It now reacts with anxiety to sugar as well. Repeated experiments showed that when sugar is administered, an increase in the electrical charge of the tongue is not obtained until about half an hour to a whole hour later. Even then, the rapid surge of charge, such as occurred when sugar was first administered, was lacking, as were the lively reactions of the kind illustrated in photo XIX. The friction potentials, which were supposed to correspond to sucking, fluctuated only very slightly and “sluggishly,” as it were.

Aside from direction and intensity, we can distinguish various degrees of liveliness in the character of motor activity in all bioelectrical excitation phenomena. In the same organ, the same stimulus can produce lively and rapid responses in one affect state, and in another affect state slow and indistinct responses, as if the organ were “sluggish.” From these facts we can draw the following conclusions:

  1. The biophysical reaction of sexual organs does not correspond to the stimulus, but instead depends on the state of readiness of the organism.
  2. A “disappointed” organ reacts sluggishly and “cautiously.”
  3. When an organ is “accustomed” to the stimulus, the positive or negative potential decreases; the positive and negative reactions are closer to the zero line.

These experiments confirm some well-known aspects of erotic relationships.

The reaction to a sexual partner is not always, or only occasionally, directly correlated with the attractiveness of that person. It is essentially dependent on the state of sexual readiness.

We know that disappointment reactions of the genitals occur in sexual activity. When serious genital anxiety or unpleasure has been or is being experienced, genital excitation is difficult to achieve, or it happens sluggishly, if at all. Instead of erection or vaginal secretion, the respective organs shrink or dry up, or vaginismus occurs. The organ is governed by the urge to withdraw; therefore, the opposite reaction—erection, “striving toward the world”—is impossible to achieve. Thus, in cases of impotence and frigidity, it is not so much a matter of whether a genital threat was actually experienced, but whether the genital organ responded with a biologically negative anxiety reaction, and this has become fixed. The psychic experience of genital anxiety is effective only when it becomes structured in the negative biophysical reaction. I will return later to the topic of pleasure anxiety.6


The findings reported here can be verified only if one familiarizes oneself with the special characteristics of peripheral bioelectrical charge inhibition, which we have referred to as “caution.” The charge “does not dare to come forward” when third parties are present, when a disruption is possible, or when attention cannot be diverted completely from the outside world. For this reason, a series of complicated measures was necessary to obtain incontestable results.

It is not so much the increase in charge as the magnitude of the fluctuations in potential which seems to be crucial for the full biophysical excitation of the periphery. We see in the sugar reactions that the peaks in the charge are separated by deep “valleys,” which correspond to strong withdrawal of charge. From clinical experience we know that the voluptuousness of a sex act is all the more intense the greater the waves of excitation that are produced with each friction. If excitation increases steadily, the act is not experienced with such intense pleasure, even if in the end the same level of potential is reached. Thus, the important thing seems to be the alternation of rest and activity, the replacement of a deep discharge by the maximum possible renewed charge.

The curve representing any tickling phenomenon consists of two parts, one directed upward and one pointed downward. The former corresponds to a buildup of charge, the latter to a decrease in charge. We cannot arbitrarily call this a discharge. If we use an analogy taken from the motor behavior of animals that suckle, we can understand this a little better. We can compare the electrical charge of the sugar-licking tongue with a suckling calf, which retreats from the mother’s teat only to thrust forward again even more energetically. What we see here is probably a continual renewal of motor activity, an advance to new pleasure. One thinks instinctively of a tiger crouching before the leap: contraction before maximum stretching (expansion). Since the contraction in this case does not express relaxation, but instead extreme inner tension, and since also the peripheral charge corresponds to a tension which is directly perceived, two different kinds of tension must be involved. At the beginning of the leap, the tension is centrally located in the organism; peripheral motor activity of the organism increases in direct proportion to the intensity of the central tension. The withdrawal of charge from the periphery must necessarily lead to an increase in the central tension. The excitation shoots from the center to the periphery. This central tension can be perceived directly if, for example, during coitus, one interrupts particularly pleasurable friction and remains still. Then an impulse from the center sparks renewed friction, which builds up peripheral charge. We will be able to observe this back and forth of excitation in detail further below.

Accordingly, we must distinguish carefully between four types of negative electrical reaction at the periphery:

  1. Central tension resulting from peripheral charge
  2. Peripheral orgastic discharge
  3. Anxiety reaction
  4. Extinction of the source of tension—death, following biopathic shrinking

In all four types, the surface potential falls. In the first, a recharge occurs, and the result is pleasure. In the second, the charge drops below the resting potential and returns to the zero state; this is the process of orgastic discharge. In the third, the tension remains central: anxiety. The fourth type of negative electrical reaction corresponds to death. According to present experimental findings, dying tissue takes on a negative charge; the central source of charge is extinguished and the organism gradually shrivels.

If we distinguish between the different functions of the same negative direction of biophysical excitation, we will be better able to bring some order into the wealth of phenomena.


Inadequacies of direct measurement

From the start of our experimental work, our goal was to accomplish the main experiment; i.e., to record on film the electrical excitation occurring during the sexual act. But the experimental arrangement in the first experiments, in which we attached the electrode directly to the place on the surface where the measurement was to be carried out, made it improbable that the intended goal could ever be attained. Direct measurement of the electrical charge of the genitals during coitus is impossible. The manipulation alone would suppress any excitation. Also, direct measurement is not totally free from mechanically induced fluctuations in the values obtained; e.g., disruptions may be caused by a broken contact. Finally, there was one other concern which had to be eliminated. Although the control experiments showed that rubbing the electrode or its rubber-covered end against glass or an electrolyte-moistened cloth produced no fluctuations, it was nevertheless necessary to ensure that the results were not affected by mechanical processes at the electrode. At first there was no answer, because I could see no other way but measuring excitation directly. At this state of the investigations, we obtained the next photograph of excitation during ejaculation (XXI).

Electrophoto 21 copy
XXI. Excitation during masturbation. Deliberate interference just before ejaculation.

The subject’s orgasm was disturbed (masturbation had to be stopped just before ejaculation). During ejaculation, the electrode (KCl) rested on the glans penis. At the start of the climax, a positive trend in the basic potential occurs; then, at regular intervals corresponding to uniform periods of time, the potential rises in steep peaks of about 10 mv each. We cannot say with certainty whether the second large positive trend with its two separate peaks represents, like the first three-peaked excursion, bursts of ejaculation. Since 2.3 mm on the photograph corresponds to a time of one second, as can be clearly seen on the EKG, probably only the first three-peaked positive movement corresponds to the ejaculation, while the other peaks correspond to the post-ejaculatory contractions of the penis. The regular spacing and also the more or less regular (although slightly decreasing) height is indicative of the biological character of the phenomena. The basic potential also decreases after an initial rise.

There are uncertainties, both because of the technical difficulties and because of the demands of the psychic situation. But the basic characteristics of the phenomenon cannot be doubted. The form of electrical excitation, of the rise and fall in potential, corresponds to what one would expect, based on clinical experience. The drop in orgastic excitation must in principle (independent of the magnitude) be equal to the rise; it does not have the gradient of the rise. After ejaculation has taken place, the basic potential remains steady; i.e., in the horizontal plane in the photograph at -25 mv. We must point out here that the orgastic excitation curve in this instance does not exhibit the deep negative plunges of the pre-orgastic friction curve; instead, it rises above the basic potential in the positive direction only.

The technique of indirect measurement

In order to carry out the main experiment in such a way that psychic disruptions were eliminated as completely as possible, we had to find a way to measure excitation indirectly. For this purpose, we had to determine whether the potential of two surfaces rubbing rhythmically together could be detected when two fingertips are used as the measurement sites. The experiment could only give correct results if (1) the potential indicated corresponded in form to the excitation of the sites being tested; (2) the direct measurement sites, the fingertips, were held still; (3) the basic potential of two skin surfaces touching together remained the same, independent of the size of the contact surfaces.

In the following three electrophotographs we see:

  1. The resting potential of two hand surfaces touching each other (XXII)
  2. The pressure phenomenon elicited by pressing one of the fingertips against the glass bottom of a container (XXIII)
  3. The rise in potential which results when two people touch their palms gently together (XXIV)
Electrophoto 22-23 copy
XXII. (Left) Contact potential of two fingertips. XXIII. (Right) As before, followed by rubbing of fingertip on glass bottom of a container.
Electrophoto 24 copy
XXIV. Gentle stroking of palms by two people; one with electrode on right arm, the other on left arm (* .… *). Every firm touch produces a negative trend; every light touch a positive trend
The measurement is carried out in the following way:

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In the first photograph we see the EKGs of both subjects superimposed on the tracing. The resting potential appears at its familiar setting of about -20 mv. When at rest, the basic potential is horizontal. On the second photograph, we see some negative spikes, which correspond to vigorous rubbing of one fingertip on the glass bottom of the electrolyte container. On the third photograph, we see strong positive-trending spikes up to +20 mv, thus amounting to about 40 mv elicited by gentle stroking. Direct observation showed that any harder contact changed the positive trend into a negative trend; i.e., a fall in potential. After the stroking stopped, the basic potential dropped gently again to the previous resting potential.

Electrophoto 25 copy
XXV. Stroking of hand alternating with firm handshake.
Indirect measurement. Subjects of same sex.

The next photograph (XXV) impressively illustrates the antithesis of pleasure and pressure. It shows pressure applied in a handshake, alternating with the palms being gently rubbed together. The results were directly observed. Each rise in potential corresponds exactly to a feeling of well-being; each negative excursion corresponds to strong pressure. Overall, there is a slight increase in the basic potential. The subjects were two women.

The results of these experiments remind us of our clinical experience that gentle friction during intercourse increases pleasure and strong friction decreases it.

Electrophoto 26 copy
XXVI. Contact potential of various skin surfaces

We will now add a report about the main control experiment. In the next photograph (XXVI), we see the respective potentials obtained when various skin surfaces were touched:

Two fingertips                                                          about -10 mv
Two finger surfaces                                                 about -20 mv
Two palms                                                                 about -10 mv
Two forearms (outer surfaces)                              about -20 mv
Two forearms (inner surfaces)                              about -20 mv

Encouraged by these incontestable results, I photographed the following kiss exchanged by a happy couple (XXVII). We see the already familiar frictional excitations; i.e., steep peaks, separated by deep valleys.

Electrophoto 27 copy
XXVII. Excitation during a kiss

The next electrophotograph (XXVIII) shows the frictional excitation in “slow motion” and greatly magnified. One centimeter horizontally equals one second; vertically, one centimeter equals about 3.33 mv.

Electrophoto 28 copy
XXVIII. Same, magnified and in slow motion

Overall, the basic potential increases. We see that each excitation peak is essentially similar in shape. But the details remained uninvestigated.

Electrophoto 29 copy
XXIX. Unpleasurable kiss. * = annoyance

The next photograph (XXIX) shows us the course of excitation when a kiss exchanged by the same couple becomes unpleasurable. The woman very soon expressed strong displeasure; the basic potential declines and the fluctuations due to friction likewise grow smaller. Finally, we see an abrupt drop toward negative values, denoting annoyance. This picture was taken with the film running fast through the camera—1 cm equals 1 second—as in slow-motion photography. (As control tests on inorganic matter revealed, the fluctuations around the base line correspond to oscillations of the oscillograph itself.) From this, we conclude that the magnitude of the potential (except for negligible differences) is independent of the size of the area of the two skin surfaces touching each other without moving, when they are unexcited.

On the basis of these experiments and the controls that were carried out, we now recorded, by means of indirect measurement, a naked embracing couple, when the man was kissing the woman’s breast (XXX).

Electrophoto 30 copy
XXX. Naked, embracing couple, with man kissing the woman’s breast.
Indirect measurement

The basic potential is at about +100 mv; the frictional fluctuations of the kiss are about 10 mv each, as usual. We see the two EKG’s. The bodies were resting together. The total excitation was greatly impaired by the conditions of the experiment, but nevertheless it reached +100 mv. From this, we were entitled to draw conclusions about the level of full sexual excitation that can be achieved during undisturbed coitus. The question now was no longer whether there was an electrical charge and discharge during coitus, but rather whether, due to the magnitude of the charge, it could be recorded at all from a photographable zero line.


The electrical phenomena at the erogenous zones would have no far-reaching importance if they did not correspond to specifically biological excitation processes; that is, if they could be duplicated on inorganic matter. We have already referred to the control experiments on inorganic matter. I will now present a summary of them.

Errors due to poor insulation

If the leads or the electrodes are poorly insulated, spikes can appear on the oscillograph which do not originate from the place on the body being measured. For example, if a third person or the person in charge of the experiment touches the subject who is connected to the apparatus, the light beam is rapidly deflected from its resting position toward negative values. The degree of the negative deflection varies according to the individual doing the touching. This source of error is easily recognized, because the original level of the potential is soon regained. The deflections disappear if the touching is repeated frequently. We note that the effect is negative and thus is not a source of error for positive potential effects.

Poorly insulated electrodes produce spikes on the oscillograph, but they are always negative­trending; i.e., current-reducing. The leads to the electrodes must be firmly connected; when the machine is switched on, mechanical vibration of the wires results in oscillations which cannot be controlled. If one does not use a Faraday cage, all light circuits must be turned off; otherwise, disruptive oscillations are recorded on the apparatus. Potentials can still be measured, but the light beam will be blurred.

Can the phenomena we have described be due to extraneous effects occurring at the electrodes?

Non-polarizable electrodes of 0.1 N potassium chloride solution were used for the direct measurements. Handled correctly, the electrodes never give readings that deviate by more than a maximum of 0.5 mv from each other. The hand-held electrodes are insulated with glass and rubber and protected by metal casings. Neither rubbing the end of the electrode against the bottom of the glass container nor warming the KCl solution causes the beam to deviate. No fluctuations in the readings were caused when the leads to these KCl electrodes were touched at various places.

In the case of indirect measurement, silver electrodes were used. If one immerses two electrodes of pure silver in a KCl solution and closes the circuit, rapid negative deviations of varying magnitude occur. But if one wraps the ends of the silver electrodes in cotton wool saturated in KCl solution, and then lays these ends on two pieces of cotton wool saturated in KCl which hang down into the KCl container, no deviations worth mentioning are recorded.

Can the concentration of the electrolyte be a source of error?

At first, only KCl electrodes were used. Since this solution had a disruptive effect when measurements were carried out on a mucosal surface, 0.9 N NaCl solution was later used. In order to test whether the different ions and concentrations could be the source of error, the following controls were repeatedly performed:

  1. Silver electrodes connected with cotton wool soaked in 0.1 KCl usually produce no fluctuation; only rarely do deviations of up to about -5 mv occur.
  2. Similarly, silver electrodes connected by cotton wool soaked in a 0.9 N NaCl solution give steady readings.
  3. If one concentrates the salt solution, the position of the zero line does not change.
  4. If one uses a concentrated sugar solution, deviations of up to 10 mv are observed.
  5. If one pours a concentrated NaCl solution over the cotton wool soaked in 0.1 N KCl, fluctuations between -5 and -10 mv are seen.

If one does not connect the silver electrodes directly, but allows a strip of cotton wool soaked in 0.9 N NaCl to hang down from each electrode and dip into different solutions, the following observations are made:

There is no deviation in the NaCl solution.

Deviations of up to about -10 mv occur in concentrated sugar solution.

Deviations of up to about -10 mv also occur in concentrated sugar solution mixed with concentrated salt solution.

The probable reason why the concentration plays such an insignificant role is that a 2 million ohms resistor is connected between the tube and the electrodes, and this does not permit current to flow, but only indicates voltage. Thus, the phenomena in the sugar-salt experiment are not obscured by the effects of concentration, even if we ignore the unmistakable biological phenomena.

Can the tickling, pressure, and stroking phenomena which we have described be obtained in inorganic matter?

If one connects the two electrodes via a piece of cloth soaked in KCl or NaCl, the oscillograph reading deviates by about 20-40 mv into the negative range when the circuit is closed. But no manipulation of the cloth with insulated material produces any fluctuation in the reading. However, if one rubs or presses the cloth with a finger, the typical wanderings, etc., appear at once. Thus, if we are too critical about the findings made on organic matter, and if we are not guided by the same critical spirit in the control studies—if, for example, we press the silver electrodes into the cloth with our finger—we can easily believe that “the cloth, too, is alive” (XXXI).

Electrophoto 31 copy
XXXI. Control experiment using KCl-soaked towel
3 = pressure; 4 = rubbing, tickling

If the distance between the measurement sites on the cloth is increased, thereby raising the resistance, the result is just as negative.

When testing new findings, it is easy to be careless, simply in order to disprove something. I owe the discovery of a new problem, whose solution has not yet been found, to just such a “disproving” experiment. A catatonic was connected to the apparatus; the differential electrode was laid on the back of his hand, and next to it he was tickled with dry cotton wool. We observed the familiar tickling phenomena. In order to verify the results, the cloth on which the hand was lying was soaked in KCl and stroked with cotton wool; the same fluctuations resulted. The situation seemed hopeless. Only on the following day did it occur to me that during the control experiment the indifferent electrode had not been removed from the catatonic’s leg. Thus, a circuit existed: leg-body-hand-soaked cloth. True, the control experiment was invalidated, but the big question remained: why had the tickling phenomena still appeared, as if the ability of organic tissue to produce tickling phenomena had been transferred to the soaked cloth? At present we cannot understand this fluctuation produced on “living cloth.”7

With one exception, no increase in potential can be obtained on inorganic matter under the same test conditions, but the restriction must be added that this is true only as far as present research goes. If one touches two connected electric plugs, there is no fluctuation in potential; if one immerses them in a solution, the potential declines considerably and at a fast rate.

One can obtain fluctuations by rubbing the electrodes on metallic material; however, the deviations are toward negative values only, they cannot be reproduced, and they are completely arhythmical.

If electrodes are rubbed on an electric flashlight, positive deviations are also obtained. But it is clear at once that they do not have the rhythm of organic wandering (XXXII). The increases are arhythmical or mechanical and angular. The surface of the flashlight is charged electrically from the inside and thus acts like a living body. But the fluctuations are different.

Electrophoto 32 copy
XXXII. Control experiment: rubbing of electrodes on metal surface of flashlight

The control experiments we have described reveal that the excitation phenomena cannot be produced on inorganic matter.

On some photographs, the spikes of the EKG point upward and on others downward. The direction of the cardiac spikes is independent of the direction of the sexual excitation phenomena. The positive direction during tickling remains the same (upward) whether or not the cardiac spike points upward or downward. As special control tests reveal, a positive cardiac spike is obtained when the left fingertip is laid on the cathode and the right fingertip on the grid. The spike points downward when, conversely, any of the right fingertips is laid on the cathode and a left fingertip on the grid. At the present time there is no explanation for this phenomenon. It probably has something to do with the direction of the heart-muscle action current, which is determined by the contraction of the heart. It undoubtedly reflects the fluctuation of potential on the skin, which originates from the heart. Inner perception shows us that every heartbeat is linked with a pulse of sensation, which we localize in the cardiac region. This phenomenon is nothing other than the incipient stage of a sensation of the kind which is fully developed in pleasure or anxiety. The details are still not clear.

If we connect up with a simple radio, instead of with an oscillograph, the fluctuations in potential are converted into sound instead of light. The constant muted hum of the radio disappears completely when the two electrodes are connected by cotton wool which has been soaked in electrolyte. This corresponds to the negative deflection of the light beam. When indirect measurements are taken from palms that are touching together, rhythmical stroking produces rhythmical sound phenomena. With gentle stroking, the intensity of the sound is increased; with pressure, it is decreased. This corresponds fully to the fluctuations of the light beam in the oscillograph.


Experimental investigations of skin potentials during pleasure and anxiety confirmed the assumption that there are two opposite directions of bioenergy flow during excitation: toward the periphery and toward the center. We now understand clearly the nature of the flow. During pleasure excitation or anxiety excitation, it is not the blood flow alone that determines the sensation of streaming, but rather the transportation of quanta of electrical charge by the blood and lymph flow.8 We have known for a long time that ions are transported in the blood. Now the skin, as a vegetative periphery, proves to be the site of the peripheral concentration of or reduction in the quantities of electrical charge. The direction “toward the world,” on which we were forced to base the sex-economic theory of drive, is clearly confirmed. Less clear until now was the nature of the direction “away from the world, into the self.” Where does the bioelectrical flow go in the case of anxiety? This question concerns the localization of the vegetative center.

Where in the body should we look for the areas from which biological energy springs and to which it retreats? Our initially hypothetical answer is that the areas in question are the ganglia plexuses of the vegetative nervous system, and above all the plexus coeliacus, plexus hypogastricus, and Frankental’s genital plexus. In the near future I will provide clinical proof of this assumption. The vegetative nervous system represents the generator; i.e., the producer of bioelectrical energy in the human body. The experimental studies presented in the first part of this work fully support this hypothesis. Let us now test how far this assumption takes account of the clinical facts and is able to render comprehensible those phenomena of neurosis pathology and affect pathology which have hitherto eluded interpretation.

In the process, we must free ourselves from a prejudice which tends to dominate neurological and medical thought in general. The term “center” has up to now been used to mean the “cerebrum” and the most closely linked switching stations of neural excitation in the medulla oblongata. The time has not yet come to discuss in detail the justification for this term. Instinctively, the cerebrum is seen as the actual center and the origin of all impulses, which are then transmitted to the rest of the body. The cerebrum would thus, so to speak, control what men do. True, neuropathology in recent years (I refer especially to the work of Goldstein) has attempted to introduce an entirely new way of thinking, which seems to take away the supreme function so far attributed to the cerebrum. All branches of medicine have shifted their interest to research on the vegetative functions, in particular those of the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems. In addition, zealous attempts are being made to analyze the essential characteristics of this apparatus and its relationship to psychic life. My view of the function of the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems—i.e., of the basic antithesis of vegetative life—is in total harmony with this new direction and in many points it refutes the mechanical physiology of the cerebrum. It would be premature to enter into this discussion now, but it was necessary to mention this in order to make it clear that the expression “vegetative center” means not only the center of the vegetative neural apparatus but the center of all biophysiological and character-affect functions. Expressed cautiously, the cerebrum, according to this hypothesis, would be merely a specially designed apparatus for implementing and inhibiting the general vegetative bodily functions. The irrefutable fact that life can function biologically long before a cerebrum is developed is proof of this assumption. The affects with which we have been so concerned—namely, pleasure, anxiety, and rage—are in no way linked to the existence of the cerebrum. The vegetative function is phylogenetically older than the cerebral function. The expression “vegetative center” is thus more comprehensive than it would seem at first glance. It is necessary to assume that the functions of the cerebrum also depend on the general vegetative functions.

If a grid electrode is placed above the navel, approximately halfway between it and the lower end of the costal cartilages, the abdominal skin has the usual potential of about -20 to -40 mv. If one then presses a finger into the abdomen next to the electrode, the potential falls steadily by about 10-20 mv. The same thing happens when the patient is asked to press as when in defecating, or to inhale deeply. The objection that the fall in potential occurs as a result of pressure on the skin is disproved by the fact that the potential decreases in the same way when the subject inhales deeply. When the subject exhales, the potential increases slowly again to its original level. In patients who have a rigid diaphragm and are unable to exhale fully, the fluctuation in potential when they inhale and exhale is not as clear or as extensive as that in subjects who are able to breathe freely.

This symptom is worth thorough consideration. When a person inhales, the diaphragm descends and presses on the organs located below it. The abdominal cavity contracts while the thorax expands. Conversely, when a person exhales, the thorax contracts while the abdominal cavity expands. A second phenomenon points in the same direction. If a subject inhales deeply, any vegetative streaming sensation that might exist in the epigastric region disappears. However, if the subject exhales deeply, a sensation similar to anxiety or pleasure is experienced in the epigastric region and in the lower section of the thorax.

An anatomical view of the organs in the abdominal cavity, together with the experimental results, explains the facts described. We can see how two important organs situated below the arch of the diaphragm are influenced mechanically by the displacement of the diaphragm. These organs are the stomach, and behind it the solar plexus, which is the largest plexus of the vegetative nervous system. From previous experiments, we have learned that pressure reduces electrical-charge activity. We had to make the further assumption that the skin is continuously supplied with a bioelectrical resting current from an “as yet unidentified center.” The charge of the skin decreases in the case of pressure and anxiety. In pleasure, the biological energy of the body stretches toward the world; it withdraws in anxiety. Let us picture now the situation of the organs which encircle the abdominal plexus and pelvic plexus in a state of fright. (1) The breath is drawn in deeply and the shoulders are hunched; (2) the abdominal muscles are tightly tensed; and (3) the pelvic floor is raised rapidly.

In anxiety, therefore, the abdomen behaves like a living being with something to protect. The walls close more tightly around its contents. Without doubt, it is the highly sensitive system of ganglia in the abdomen and pelvis which is being protected. The only possible interpretation that can be put on the drop in potential of the skin of the abdomen when a person strains his bowels or pulls in his stomach is that pressure is being exerted on the plexus, thereby impeding its bioenergetic activity. This observation will be further corroborated in a later presentation of clinical facts.9

Contractility of the vegetative nervous system

My previous description of the vegetative function might easily have led to an error. The parasympathetic and sympathetic systems are two branches from one and the same stem but producing opposite effects. One branch is associated with the pleasure function, and the other with the anxiety function. Certain aspects of vegetative behavior tell us that this view is inadequate for understanding the total vitality of the vegetative function. It would be justifiable to object that the directions “out of the self” and “into the self” alternate during orgasm or in muscular movement. Can one then claim that only the parasympathetic system is involved in the experience of sexual pleasure, and only the sympathetic system in the case of anxiety? Surely there is such a thing as anxiety-induced diarrhea, which is influenced by the parasympathetic system! The objection is well-founded and forces us to examine much more accurately the antithetical character of the vegetative function. The schematic contrasting of parasympathetic and sympathetic system is in fact incorrect. Physiological anatomy does not claim that the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems are two totally separate anatomical systems; it merely identifies the paths of neural excitation. It is probably closer to reality to assume that we are dealing here with a functionally and morphologically uniform system which can function in two opposite directions. Thus, the functions of stretching and contracting would be executed by one and the same organ, and this vegetative apparatus can assume three different positions: (1) the middle position of equilibrium between peripherally directed and centrally directed excitation; (2) the position of extreme contraction (state of fright, hypersympatheticotonia); (3) the position of extreme expansion (sexual excitation, hypervagotonia).

I have assumed instinctively that the vegetative nervous system is contractile; i.e., it not only conducts excitation but also behaves like a mass of plasma which expands and contracts. This assumption is indispensable. I would like to present some arguments which explain why it is necessary:

  1. Studies with the oscillograph reveal that pleasure and anxiety are identical with the increase or decrease of the bioenergetic charge at the periphery. The intensity of sensation reflects the quantity of charge. From this, we can conclude that vegetative sensations directly reflect the state of vegetative excitation.
  2. Physical sensations directly mirror the process of stretching and contraction. We must regard the vegetative sensations as a reflection of real bodily processes. The abdominal cavity and pelvis are the seat not only of the most intense vegetative sensations but also of the densest vegetative nerve plexuses.
  3. The process of the filling and emptying of blood vessels directly parallels expansion and contraction.
  4. We can see the function of the contraction and expansion of vegetative substance in molluscs, worms, snails, as well as in the plasma of amoebae. The swelling of the substance, which leads to expansion, is accompanied by a buildup of charge; the relaxation occurring with contraction is accompanied by a decrease in charge.
  5. The vegetative nervous system is a uniform plexus, running through all the organs of the body, right down to the smallest parts. It is a uniform network of plasma. The vegetative involuntary “innervation” can be nothing other than the process of charge and discharge itself, which occurs together with the swelling and shrinking of the tissue.

Therefore, the concept that the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are separate from and opposed to each other, with first the one (pleasure) and then the other (anxiety) functioning, can now be corrected as follows: the vegetative nervous system has the ability to contract and expand. From the middle position of vegetative equilibrium, it is able to move in the direction toward the world (i.e., to stretch), or to retreat into itself (i.e., to contract). It can also swing from one direction to the other or remain fixed in either of the extreme states. Putting it in somewhat simplified terms, the state of vegetative equilibrium is one where neither expansion positions nor contraction positions have become established. Vagotonia would correspond to a fixed state of expansion, and sympatheticotonia to a fixed state of contraction. Muscular armor implies a biopathic state of equilibrium whose function it is to avoid the anxiety of contraction as well as the pleasure of expansion and orgastic convulsion.

The vegetative nervous system is thus a contractile plasma system, a contractile organ running through the entire organism. It represents the “amoeba in the multi-cellular organism.” This is the explanation and basis of the uniformity of the total body function. The “animal in man,” the “devil in the flesh,” actually exists as the most primitive element of nature; it unites the human animal and the motile mass of plasma.


In the following, the conclusions drawn from the experimental verification of the orgasm theory will be briefly presented.

  1. Sexual excitation is functionally identical to bioenergetic charge of the erogenous zones. Anxiety excitation goes together with a decrease in the surface charge. The concept of “libido” as a yardstick of “psychic energy” is no longer a mere metaphor, but applies to energetic processes. Thus, the sexual function is one of the general electrical10 processes that occur in nature.
  2. The skin and mucous membranes possess a resting potential (RP) which varies within certain limits in one and the same individual and corresponds to the unexcited state. The resting potential corresponds to the permanent, uniform bioelectrical charge of the surface of the organism.
  3. The vegetative ganglia apparatus (“vegetative center”), together with the total biological electrolyte and membrane system, is the source of the surface charge. The erogenous zones are capable of registering extremely intense sensation and of generating high bioelectrical11 As surface zones, which are more easily and intensely excitable than the rest of the skin, they not only have a higher resting potential in general, but also their potential fluctuates over a wider range, in keeping with their state of excitation. A higher electrical potential also corresponds to a more intense state of excitation, which is experienced subjectively as a more intense sensation of excitation or current. Likewise, a decline in excitation is matched by a decline in potential. Specific sensations of pleasure or unpleasure are different from the simple sensations of pressure or touch which are not associated with pleasure or unpleasure. Clinical experience has also shown that the states of sexual excitation or of anxiety differ both in the intensity and in the way in which they are experienced from all other sensations. Therefore, in experiments, too, they can be clearly distinguished from all other processes.
  4. The simplest form in which erogenous excitation occurs is the sensation of itching or tickling. The potential of an erogenous zone differs, depending on whether an itching or a tickling sensation is present or not. What our patients in the end stages of character-analytic treatment describe as a new “streaming” or “sweet sensation” or “shudder of pleasure,” etc., is to be understood as a state of preorgastic excitation or a preorgastic increase in potential. Depending on the gradient of the intensity of the sensation, this preorgastic excitation is matched by an equivalent gradient in the rise in electrical12 potential in the zone in question.
  5. The passive mechanical congestion of an erogenous organ does not bring about a rise in charge above the resting potential. In contrast, the vascular congestion or tissue turgor which follows erogenous stimulation and which is connected with pleasurable sensations produces a clearly visible increase above the resting potential. Thus, the mechanically produced engorgement must be joined by an electrical charge of the surface in order to produce an erotic sensation; i.e., in order to be “sexual.” The positive results of these experiments prove the correctness of the assumption that the leap from mechanical tumescence to electrical13 charge is a specifically sexual-biological process. The first part of the orgasm formula is confirmed.
  6. Sexual friction is a biological activity which is governed by the alternation of charge and discharge. Discharge is always pleasurable; charge is always pleasurable, provided it is followed by discharge.
  7. From his or her subjective feelings in the course of excitation, a psychically undisturbed subject who is capable of both orgastic and preorgastic sensations is able to indicate the readings being obtained by the recording apparatus (rise, fall, etc.). The intensity of the pleasurable sensation corresponds to the quantity of electrical surface charge, and vice versa.
  8. These experimental results are very important for the theory of the body-soul relationship. If preorgastic and orgastic potential does indeed exist, and if the corresponding sensations are exact reflections of the objectively verifiable excitation process, then the functional identity and antithesis of the bodily processes and the pleasure-unpleasure sensation is proved. The quantity of surface potential and the intensity of the erogenous or vegetative sensations are functionally identical. It remains to be explained why non-erogenous sensations, such as sensations of touch and pressure, do not produce a rise in potential.
  9. Since only vegetative sensations of pleasure are accompanied by an increase in peripheral charge, and since unpleasure, anxiety, annoyance, pressure, etc., cause a shift toward negative potentials, we are justified in assuming that erogenous excitation represents the specifically productive process of the living organism. It ought to be possible to verify this in other biological processes, such as cell division, where, concurrent with the biologically productive activity of division, the cell ought also to develop a higher surface charge. The sexual process, then, is the biological-productive energy process per se. Anxiety is the opposite fundamental biological direction, which is congruent with that of dying, without being identical to it.
  10. If the assumption that the orgasm is a fundamental life phenomenon is correct, then the corresponding formula of tension — charge — discharge — relaxation must be the general formula of living functions and it ought not to apply to inorganic matter. Heart, intestines, lungs, bladder, as well as cell division, function in this biological rhythm.
  11. The way in which the sexual (pleasure, biological energy) household is regulated, and the sex- economic relations between individuals, all assume a greater significance than in the past as regards the pathology of organs, and especially as regards the understanding of all diseases, which must be viewed as disorders of vegetative equilibrium; i.e., as biopathies.

Now that we have arrived at the end of these far-reaching and serious conclusions, we must heed the equally serious warning not to allow ourselves to be misled by the interplay of theoretical perspectives into substituting mere mental constructs for reliable clinical empiricism supported by experimental investigation. No less justified is the converse warning that we should put forward correct hypotheses and amend ingrained beliefs in the light of new theories, in order to prevent clinical treatment and experiments from stagnating.


  1. The Bioelectrical Function of Sexuality and Anxiety
  2. [1945] In reality, the processes involved are orgonotic and not electrical in nature. This fact could not be anticipated in 1936, when this treatise was written. Orgonotic excitation of the organism can be measured in hundreds of volts on the orgone-energy field meter. These hundreds of volts of orgonotic excitation show up on the oscillograph only as electrical millivolts. It is immediately apparent that measurements in the range of hundreds of volts and more are much more appropriate to the amount of excitation in a living organism than the millivolts of oscillographic measurements.
  3. First published in German, in unrevised form, by Sex-Pol Verlag, Copenhagen, 1937.
  4. See electrophotographic data.
  5. This refutes the possible objection that the wandering might be the result of phenomena at the electrode. Electrode phenomena would have to appear each time. (See also “Results of the control experiments”.)
  6. The results presented here fit in well with phenomena already known to experimental physics. When two different substances come into contact with each other, “electrical fields” develop between the surfaces in contact or within the boundary layer. Two different bodies—e.g., a hand and hair—are each connected by a wire to an ammeter. When hand and hair gently make contact, both bodies are the molecular distance of 10-8 cm apart. According to the physical interpretation, the one body (e.g., the hand) gives up electrons to the other body (the hair), and the latter accumulates (“adsorbs”) them somehow on its surface. In this way, an electrical field with very short lines of force is created in the boundary layer. The field is called a “double layer,” and its voltage is known as the “contact voltage,” the magnitude of which is in the neighborhood of approximately 0.001 to 1 volt, as in our own results. If the hand strokes over the hair, the lines of force are drawn out. The voltage between hand and hair increases to high values, and the condenser formed by the two is discharged through the ammeter. The latter indicates a surge of current by a sudden deflection of the needle. As the physical experiment shows, this experiment can be conducted on any type of body. Both can be insulators, or one of them can also be a metal. But the bodies should not both be conductors (according to R. W. Pohl, “Elektrizitatslehre,” 1935, p. 196). But these physical findings and interpretations tell us nothing about the origin of the increased charge of an erogenous surface.
  7. [1945] The biophysical disappointment reaction leads to resignation, shrinking of the organs, and even to a loss of substance, as in the case of the carcinomatous shrinking biopathy. Cf. “The Carcinomatous Shrinking Biopathy” and “Results of Experimental Orgone Therapy in Humans with Cancer” [chapters V and VIII in The Cancer Biopathy.—Ed.].
  8. [1945] In the meantime we have come to understand this phenomenon: the orgone field of the hand behaves in a biological way on damp cloth.
  9. [1945] Correction: transportation of orgone charges.
  10. [1945] In the following ten years, this physiological fact became the basis of vegetotherapy, the new technique in the treatment of biopathies. Cf. The Function of the Orgasm.
  11. [1945] Orgonotic.
  12. [1945] Orgonotic.
  13. [1945] Orgonotic.
  14. [1945] Orgonotic