Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Wilhelm Reich

Austrian Psychoanalyst and Author

"Your life will be good and secure when aliveness will mean more to you than security; love more than money; your freedom more than partyline line or public opinion; when the mood of Beethoven or Bach will be the mood of your total existence; when the teachers of your children will be better paid than the politicians."

"A living creature develops a destructive impulse when it wants to destroy a source of danger. In this case, the destruction or killing of the object is the biologically purposeful goal. The original motive is not pleasure in destruction. Rather the destruction serves the “life instinct”…and is an attempt to avoid anxiety and to preserve the ego in its totality. I destroy in a dangerous situation because I want to live and do not want to have any anxiety. In short, the impulse to destroy serves a primary biological will to live."

""What right do you have to tell me things?" I can see this question in your apprehensive look. I hear this question from your impertinent mouth, Little Man. You are afraid to look at yourself, you are afraid of criticism, Little Man, just as you are afraid of the power they promise you. You would not know how to use this power. You dare not think that you ever might experience yourself differently: free instead of cowed; open instead of tactical; loving openly instead of like a thief in the night. You despise yourself Little Man. You say: "Who am I to have an opinion of my own, to determine my own life and to declare the world to be mine?" You are right: Who are you to make a claim to your life?"

"And the truth must finally lie in that which every oppressed individual feels within himself but hasn't the courage to express"

"Am I a space man? Do I belong to a new race on Earth, bred by men from outer space in embraces with Earth women? Are my children offspring of the first interplanetary race? Has the melting-pot of interplanetary society already been created on our planet, as the melting-pot of all Earth nations was established in the U.S. A. 190 years ago?"

"Because you have no memory for things that happened ten or twenty years ago, you're still mouthing the same nonsense as two thousand years ago. Worse, you cling with might and main to such absurdities as 'race,' 'class,' 'nation,' and the obligation to observe a religion and repress your love."

"Easy contact was made on that fateful day with what obviously turned out to be a heretofore unknown type of UFO. I had hesitated for weeks to turn my cloudbuster pipes toward a "star," as if I had known that some of the blinking lights hanging in the sky were not planets or fixed stars but SPACE machines. With the fading out of the two "stars," the cloudbuster had suddenly changed into a SPACEGUN. From then onward, too, our approach to the problem of space became positive, affirmative, confident in using our carefully screened data."

"Every muscular contraction contains the history and meaning of its origin."

"Every physician, shoemaker, mechanic or educator must know his shortcomings if he is to do his work and make his living. For some decades, you have begun to play a governing role on this earth. It is on your thinking and your actions that the future of humanity depends. But your teachers and masters do not tell you how you really think and are; nobody dares to voice the one criticism of you which could make you capable of governing your own fate. You are "free" only in one sense: free from education in governing your life yourself, free from self-criticism."

"Every seemingly arbitrary destructive action is a reaction of the organism to the frustration of a gratification of a vital need, especially of a sexual need."

"Family and school, from a political point of view, there are nothing but bourgeois social order workshops for the manufacture of discrete and obedient subjects. The father, according to the traditional image, is the representative of the bourgeois authorities and state power in the family. The authority of the state demands of adults the same attitude imposing obedient and submissive father... The limitation of freedom of psychic activity and criticism by sexual repression is one of the most important pillars of bourgeois sexual order. Bullying and sexual atrophy and children waking up in the fear of authority by their desires, thoughts and sexual acts, constitute the essence of the psychic apparatus by means of which the family enslaves youth capital"

"Follow the voice of your heart, even if it leads you off the path of timid souls. Do not become hard and embittered, even if life tortures you at times. There is only one thing that counts: to live one’s life well and happily."

"Because I'm a man who works, who knows what a human being is like inside, who knows that every human being has his worth, and who wants the world to be governed by work and not by opinions about work."

"Don't run. Have the courage to look at yourself!"

"Build your house on granite. By granite I mean your nature that you are torturing to death, the love in your child's body, your wife's dream of love, your own dream of life when you were sixteen. Exchange your illusions for a bit of truth. Throw out your politicians and diplomats! Take your destiny into your own hands and build your life on rock. Forget about your neighbor and look inside yourself! Your neighbor, too, will be grateful. Tell you're fellow workers all over the world that you're no longer willing to work for death but only for life. Instead of flocking to executions and shouting hurrah, hurrah, make a law for the protection of human life and its blessings. Such a law will be part of the granite foundation your house rests on. Protect your small children's love against the assaults of lascivious, frustrated men and women. Stop the mouth of the malignant old maid; expose her publicly or send her to a reform school instead of young people who are longing for love. Don;t try to outdo your exploiter in exploitation if you have a chance to become a boss. Throw away your swallowtails and top hat, and stop applying for a license to embrace your woman. Join forces with your kind in all countries; they are like you, for better or worse. Let your child grow up as nature (or 'God') intended. Don't try to improve on nature. Learn to understand it and protect it. Go to the library instead of the prize fight, go to foreign countries rather than to Coney Island. And first and foremost, think straight, trust the quiet inner voice inside you that tells you what to do. You hold your life in your hands, don't entrust it to anyone else, least of all to your chosen leaders. BE YOURSELF! Any number of great men have told you that."

"For a decade, the politics of the European dictators was unrivalled. In order to comprehend the essence of politics, one only has to remember that it was a Hitler who, for many years, was able to keep the world breathless. Hitler as a political genius was a magnificent unmasking of the essence of politics in general. With Hitler, politics reached the peak of its development. We know what were its fruits and what was the reaction of the world. In brief, I believe that the twentieth century, with its gigantic catastrophes, ushers in a new social era, an era free of politics. It remains to be seen what part politics will play in the eradication of the political emotional plague and what part the consciously organized functions of love, work and knowledge."

"For twenty-five years I've been speaking and writing in defense of your right to happiness in this world, condemning your inability to take what is your due, to secure what you won in bloody battles on the barricades of Paris and Vienna, in the American Civil War, in the Russian Revolution. Your Paris ended with Petain and Laval, your Vienna with Hitler, your Russia with Stalin, and your America may well end in the rule of the Ku Klux Klan! You've been more successful in winning your freedom than in securing it for yourself and others. This I knew long ago. What I did not understand was why time and again, after fighting your way out of a swamp, you sank into a worse one. Then groping and cautiously looking about me, I gradually found out what has enslaved you: YOUR SLAVE DRIVER IS YOU YOURSELF. No one is to blame for your slavery but you yourself. No one else, I say!"

"Full sexual consciousness and a natural regulation of sexual life mean the end of mystical feelings of any kind, that, in other words, natural sexuality is the deadly enemy of mystical religion. The church, by making the fight over sexuality the center of its dogmas and of its influence over the masses, confirms this concept."

"Gradually it became clear that it is a fundamental error to try to give the sexual act a psychological interpretation, to attribute to it a psychic meaning as if it were a neurotic symptom. But this is what the psychoanalysts did. On the contrary: any idea occurring in the course of the sexual act only has the effect of hindering one's absorption in the excitation. Furthermore, such psychological interpretations of genitality constitute a denial of genitality as a biological function. By composing it of non-genital excitations, one denies the existence of genitality. The function of the orgasm, however, had revealed the qualitative difference between genitality and pregenitality. Only the genital apparatus can provide orgasm and can discharge sexual energy completely. Pregenitality, on the other hand, can only increase vegetative tensions. One readily sees the deep rift which formed here in psychoanalytic concepts."

"He had a great capacity to arouse irrational hatred obviously, and that’s because his ideas were radical in the most extreme sense of the word “radical.” His ideas have something to offend everybody, and he ended up becoming the only heretic in American history whose books were literally burned by the government."

"Honest pioneer work in the field of science has always been, and will continue to be, life’s pilot. On all sides, life is surrounded by hostility. This puts us under an obligation."

"How, then,' I hear you ask, 'shall I attain my end, whether it be Christian love, socialism, or American democracy?' Your Christian love and your socialism and your American democracy are what you do each day, your manner of thinking each hour, of embracing your life companion and loving your child; they are your attitude of social responsibility towards your work, and your determination not to become like the crushers of life you so hate."

"I am well aware of the fact that the human race has known about the existence of a universal energy related to life for many ages. However, the basic task of natural science consisted of making this energy usable. This is the sole difference between my work and all preceding knowledge."

"I came to consider the instinct as nothing more than the motor aspect of pleasure."

"I can imagine no greater catastrophe than if I were mistaken, and the theory were correct that what I consider secondary instincts or drives are actually primary instincts! Because in that case the emotional plague would rest upon the support of a natural law while its archenemies, truth and sociality, would be relying upon unfounded ethics. Until now both lies and truth have taken recourse to ethics. But only lies have profited because they were able to appear under the guise of truth. Under these circumstances, egoism, theft, petty selfishness, slander, etc., would be the natural rule. (26.july.1943)"

"I consider it an error in scientific communication that, most of the time, merely the polished and flawless results of natural research are displayed, as in an art show. And exhibit of the finished product alone has many drawbacks and dangers for both its creator and its users. The creator of the product will be only too ready to demonstrate perfection and flawlessness while concealing gaps, uncertainties and discordant contradictions of his insight into nature. He thus belittles the meaning of the real process of natural research. The user of the product will not appreciate the rigorous demands made on the natural scientist when the latter has to reveal and describe the secrets of nature in a practical way. He will never learn to think for himself and to cope by himself. Very few drivers have an accurate idea of the sum of human efforts, of the complicated thought processes and operations needed for manufacturing an automobile. Our world would be better off is the beneficiaries of work knew more about the process of work and the existence of the workers, if they did not pluck so thoughtlessly the fruits of labor performed by others."

"I contend to be a fighter for pureness and truth. I hesitate, because I am afraid of you and your attitude towards truth. To say the truth about you is dangerous to life."

"I do not believe that to be religious in the best, authentic sense a man has to destroy his love life and mummify himself, body and soul."

"I had directed drawpipes, connected with the deep well, toward an ordinary star, and the start had faded out four times. There was no mistake about it. Three more people had seen it. There was only one conclusion: The thing we had drawn from was not a star. It was something else; a UFO."

"I have never heard you complain: "You promote me to be the future master of myself and the world, but you don't tell me how one is to be the master of oneself, and you don't tell me the mistakes in my thinking and my actions.""

"I know that what you call 'God' really exists, but not in the form you think; God is primal cosmic energy, the love in your body, your integrity, and your perception of the nature in you and outside of you."

"I observe to the letter all laws that make sense but combat those that are obsolete or absurd."

"I want you to stop being subhuman and become 'yourself'. 'Yourself,' I say. Not the newspaper you read, not your vicious neighbor's opinion, but 'yourself.' I know, and you don't, what you really are deep down. Deep down, you are what a deer, your God, your poet, or your philosopher is. But you think you're a member of the VFW, your bowling club, or the Ku Klux Klan, and because you think so, you behave as you do. This too was told you long ago, by Heinrich Mann in Germany, by Upton Sinclair and John Dos Passos in the United States. But you recognized neither Mann nor Sinclair. You recognize only the heavyweight champion and Al Capone. If given your choice between a library and a fight, you'll undoubtedly go to the fight."

"I was accused of being a utopian, of wanting to eliminate the displeasure of the world and defend just pleasure. However, I have stated clearly that the traditional education makes people unable to pleasure encouraçando them against unpleasure. Pleasure and joy of living are inconceivable without struggle, painful experiences and unpleasant encounters with himself. The psychic health is not characterized by the theory of nirvana of yogis and Buddhists, nor the hedonism of the Epicureans nor the monastic renunciation; characterized, rather, by alternating between fighting unpleasant and happiness, truth and error, the deviation and correction of the route, anger rational and rational love, in short, to be fully alive in all situations of life. The ability to withstand pain and displeasure without becoming embittered and without escaping the rigidity, goes hand in hand with the ability to accept and give love happiness."

"If "freedom" means, first of all, the responsibility of every individual for the rational determination of his own personal, professional and social existence, then there is no greater fear than that of the establishment of general freedom. Without a thoroughgoing solution of this problem there never will be a peace lasting longer than one or two generations. To solve this problem on a social scale, it will take more thinking, more honesty and decency, more conscientiousness, more economic, social and educational changes in social mass living than all the efforts made in previous and future wars and post-war reconstruction programs taken together."

"If one studies the history of sexual suppression one finds that it does not exist in the early stages of culture formation. Therefore, it cannot be the prerequisite of culture. Rather, it appears at a relatively late stage of culture, at the time of the development of authoritarian patriarchy and of class distinctions. At that stage, the sexual interests of all begin to serve the profit interests of a minority. This process has assumed a solid organizational form in the institutions of patriarchal marriage and patriarchal family. With the suppression of sexuality the emotions undergo a change: a sex-negating religion begins to develop which gradually builds up its own sex-political organization, the church in all its forms, which has no other goal than that of eradicating sexual pleasure. This has its sociological reason in the exploitation of human work which sets in at this stage."

"If the psychic energies of the average mass of people watching a football game or a musical comedy could be diverted into the rational channels of a freedom movement, they would be invincible."

"If you live in a dark cellar too long, you will hate the sunshine. You may even have lost the power of the eye to tolerate light. From this comes hatred toward sunlight."

"In its pure form, fascism is the sum total of all irrational reactions of the average human character. To the narrow-minded sociologist who lacks the courage to recognize the enormous role played by the irrational in human history, the fascist race theory appears as nothing but an imperialistic interest or even a mere “prejudice.” The violence and the ubiquity of these “race prejudices” show their origin from the irrational part of the human character. The race theory is not a creation of fascism. No: fascism is a creation of race hatred and its politically organized expression. Correspondingly, there is a German, Italian, Spanish, Anglo-Saxon, Jewish and Arabian fascism."

"In recent times, more and more human thinking has come to assume that the idea of a universal natural law and the idea of 'God' are pointing to one and the same reality."

"In the course of the history of natural science, it always happens that profound or true thoughts or true facts were always either distorted or flattened out. The danger, especially of distortion, is particularly great in the case of orgonomy. We must be scientific, we cannot be political in these matters. And I personally declare that I will be the first to fight with all my strength, with whatever I've got against such a distortion of our principles."

"In the course of thousands of years of mechanical development, the mechanistic concept, from generation to generation, has anchored itself deeply in man’s biological system. In so doing, it actually has altered human functioning in the sense of the machine-like. In the process of killing his genital function, man has become biologically rigid. He has armored himself against that which is natural and spontaneous within him, he has lost contact with the biological function of self-regulation and is filled with a strong fear of that which is alive and free."

"In the strictly Marxist sense, there is not even in Soviet Russia a state socialism but a state capitalism. According to Marx, the social condition "capitalism" does not consist in the existence of individual capitalists, but in the existence of the specific "capitalist mode of production", that is, in the production of exchange values instead of use values, in wage work of the masses and in the production of surplus value, which is appropriated by the state or the private owners, and not by the society of working people. In this strictly Marxist sense, the capitalistic system continues to exist in Russia. And it will continue to exist as long as the masses of people continue to lack responsibility and to crave authority."

"Inquiry in the realm of Basic Natural Law is outside the judicial domain of this or any other kind of social administration anywhere on this globe, in any land, nation, or region."

"It is an essential part of our social tragedy that people, like farmers, the industrial workers, the medical profession, etc., influence the social process not only by their work, but also — and even predominantly — by political ideologies. For political activity hampers objective, rational activity; it splits professional organizations into warring ideological groups; it disorganizes the industrial workers: it restricts the work of the physician and harms the patients, etc. In brief, political activity prevents precisely what it pretends to achieve: peace, work, security, international cooperation, objective expression of opinion, freedom of belief, etc."

"It is high time for the living to get tough, for toughness is indispensable in the struggle to safeguard and develop the life-force; this will not detract from their goodness, as long as they stand courageously by the truth. There is ground for hope in the fact that among millions of decent, hard-working people there are only a few plague-ridden individuals, who do untold harm by appealing to the dark, dangerous drives of the armored average man and mobilizing him for political murder. There is but one antidote to the average man's predisposition to plague: his own feelings for true life. The life force does not seek power but demands only to play its full and acknowledged part in human affairs. It manifests itself through love, work and knowledge."

"It is not beyond actual possibilities that men from outer space have landed (or will in the future land) on earth and have begun to breed here for whatever reason they may have had."

"It is obvious that the fascist mass pestilence, with its background of thousands of years, cannot be mastered with social measures corresponding to the past three hundred years. The discovery of the natural biological work democracy in international human intercourse is the answer to fascism. This will be no less true even if not one of the living sex-economists, orgone biophysicists or work democrats should live to see its general functioning and its victory over the irrationalism in social life."

"It is precisely this "simplicity" in human intercourse that is so incomprehensible to the armored organism. Everything natural and profound is simple. The simple, grand lines of emotional expression are known to characterize the great painter, musician, poet, novelist and scientist. But the simple is alien to the armored organism. Its impulses are so complicated in their form of expression, the manner of their utterance is so muddled and contradictory that it has no organ for the simple and unequivocal emotional expression. It even lacks a sense of simplicity. Its love is mixed with hatred and anxiety. The unarmored organism loves unequivocally in love situations, hates unequivocally where hatred is legitimate, and fears unequivocally where fear is rational. The armored organism hates where it should love, loves where it should hate, and is frightened where it should love or hate. Complexity is the specific life expression of the armored person He is trapped, as it were, in the multiple contradictions of his existence. Since he approaches all experiences with his complex character structure, his experiences become equally complicated. He is amazed at the accomplishments in the area of special talent barred to him. "Genius" become a kind of abnormal monster, because he cannot understand the great simplicity in the life expression of "genius." In the consistent stripping away of the layers of character, one discovers that complexity epitomizes the defensive mechanism in its purest form. The armored person is complicated because he has a mortal terror of everything simple, straightforward and direct. I say: mortal terror. This is no literary exaggeration. The word accurately describes the process: the simple, straightforward, direct expression inescapably leads periodically to orgastic plasma convulsions."

"It is said culture requires slaves. I say that no cultured society can be built with slaves. This terrible Twentieth Century has made all cultural theories from Plato down seem ridiculous. Little man, there has never been a human culture."