Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Wilhelm Reich

Austrian Psychoanalyst and Author

"The observations in the dark were somehow weird. After the eyes adapted to the darkness, the room did not appear black but grey blue. There were fog like formations and bluish dots and lines of light, violet light phenomena seemed to emanate from the walls as well as from the various objects in the room."

"The pleasure of living and the pleasure of the orgasm are identical. Extreme orgasm anxiety forms the basis of the general fear of life."

"The present critical state of international human affairs requires security and safety from nuisance interferences with efforts toward full, honest, determined clarification of man’s relationship to nature within and without himself; in other words, his relationship to the Law of Nature. It is not permissible, either morally, legally, or factually, to force a natural scientist to expose his scientific results and methods of basic research in court. This point is accentuated in a world crisis where biopathic men hold in their hands power over ruined, destitute multitudes."

"The question of how and why the encrustations and rigidifications of human emotional life are brought about led directly into the realm of vegetative life."

"The stiff, dead, retracted pelvis is one of man's most frequent vegetative disturbances. It is responsible for lumbago as well as for hemorrhoidal disturbances. Elsewhere, we shall demonstrate an important connection between these disturbances and genital cancer in women, which is so common."

"The suppression of natural sexual gratification leads to various kinds of substitute gratifications. Natural aggression, for example, becomes brutal sadism which then is an essential mass-psychological factor in imperialistic wars. To take another example: the mass-psychological effect of militarism is essentially libidinous. The sexual effect of a uniform and of rhythmically perfect parades, of military exhibitionism in general, are obvious to the average servant girl, even though they may not be obvious to learned political scientists. Political reaction, however, makes conscious use of these sexual interests. Not only does it create peacock-like uniforms for the men, it uses attractive women in its recruiting campaigns. One only has to remember the recruiting posters with texts like this, "If you want to see the world, join the Royal Navy." The far-away world is represented by exotic women. Why are such posters effective? Because our youth, as a result of sexual suppression, is sex-starved."

"The unity and congruity of culture and nature, work and love, morality and sexuality, longed for from time immemorial, will remain a dream as long as man continues to condemn the biological demand for natural (orgastic) sexual gratification."

"The vital energies regulate themselves naturally without compulsive duty or compulsive morality — both of which are sure signs of existing antisocial impulses."

"They call you "Little Man", "Common Man"; they say a new era has begun, the "Era of the Common Man". It isn't you who says so, Little Man. It is they, the Vice Presidents of great nations, promoted labor leaders, repentant sons of bourgeois families, statesman and philosophers. They give you your future but don't ask about your past."

"Those who are truly alive are kindly and unsuspecting in their human relationships and consequently endangered under present conditions. They assume that others think and act generously, kindly and helpfully, in accordance with the laws of life. This natural attitude, fundamental to healthy children as well as primitive man, inevitably represents a great danger in the struggle for a rational way of life as long as the emotional plague subsists, because the plague-ridden impute their own manner of thinking and acting to their fellow men. A kindly man believes that all men are kindly, while one infected with the plague believes that all men lie and cheat and are hungry for power. In such a situation, the living are at an obvious disadvantage. When they give to the plague-ridden they are sucked dry, then ridiculed or betrayed."

"Timothy Leary spent five years in prison for unorthodox scientific ideas. Ezra Pound spent 13 years in a nuthouse for unorthodox political and economic ideas. Their books were not burned."

"Under the influence of politicians, masses of people tend to ascribe the responsibility for wars to those who wield power at any given time. In World War I it was the munitions industrialists; in World War II it was the psychopathic generals who were said to be guilty. This is passing the buck. The responsibility for war falls solely upon the shoulders of these same masses of people, for they have all the necessary means to avert war in their own hands. In part by their apathy, in part by their passivity, and in part actively, these masses of people make possible the catastrophes under which they themselves suffer more than anybody else. To stress this guilt on the part of masses of people, to hold them solely responsible, means to take them seriously. On the other hand, to commiserate masses of people as victims, means to treat them as small, helpless children. The former is the attitude held by genuine freedom-fighters; the latter the attitude held by the power-thirsty politicians."

"Under the influence of politicos, the masses blame the powers that be for wars. In the first world war it was the munition magnates, in the second the Psychopath General. This is shifting the responsibility. The blame for the war belongs only and alone to the same masses of people who have all the means of preventing wars. The same masses of people who — partly through indolent passivity, partly through their active behavior — make possible the catastrophes from which they themselves suffer most horribly. To emphasize this fault of the masses, to give them the full responsibility, means taking them seriously. On the other hand, to pity the masses as a poor victim means treating them like a helpless child. The first is the attitude of the genuine fighter for freedom, the latter is the attitude of the politico."

"Unless we proceed cautiously, there might well arise a few generations of mystics who conceive of the orgone metaphysically, divorced from non-living nature and who do not comprehend it from the standpoint of natural science. And it seems to me that we have more than enough mysticism as it is."

"We are biological energy systems, absorbing and producing energy from the environment in the form of air and food. This energy is fuels our life process and its movement and expression is experienced as sensation - love, anger, desire fear, longing. Surplus energy is discharged in work, play, thought and particularly sexually. If there are no permanent blocks to discharge we remain healthy, our vital life functions maintain themselves without disturbance. If our primary needs as children have not satisfied, we form armoring to cut off the awareness of the pain and distress caused by this frustration."

"We live in a community of people not so that we can suppress and dominate eachother or make each other miserable but so that we can better and more reliably satisfy all life's healthy needs."

"What is new in work democracy is: that for the first time in the history of sociology a possible future order of human society is deduced not from ideologies or from conditions yet to be created, but from processes which are naturally given and which have always been in operation. What is new in it is the renunciation and rejection of any kind of politics and demagogy. New is that, instead of the working masses of people being relieved of social responsibility, they are being burdened with it. Further, that the work democrats have no political ambitions nor are allowed to develop any. Further, that it consciously develops formal democracy — which means merely the voting for ideological representatives without any further responsibility on the part of the voter — into genuine, factual and practical democracy on an international scale; a democracy which is borne, in progressive organic development, by the functions of love, work and knowledge."

"What would you think of an engineer who expounded the art of flying without revealing the secrets of the engine and propeller? That's what you do, you engineer of the human soul. Just that. You're a coward. You want the raisins out of my cake but you don't want the thorns of my roses. Haven't you too, little psychiatrist, been cracking silly jokes about me? Haven't you ridiculed me as the prophet of bigger and better orgasms? Have you never heard the whimpering of a young wife whose body has been desecrated by an impotent husband? Or the anguished cry of an adolescent bursting with unfulfilled love? Does your security still mean more to you than your patient? How long will you go on valuing your respectability above your medical mission? How long will you refuse to see that your pussyfooting procrastination is costing millions their lives?"

"When I started studying Reich’s works, I went through a period of enthusiasm, followed by a period of skepticism, followed by a period of just continued interest, but I think a lot of his ideas probably were sound. A lot probably were unsound. And, I’m not a Reichian in the sense of somebody who thinks he was the greatest scientist who ever lived and discovered the basic secrets of psychology, physics and everything else, all in one lifetime. But I think he has enough sound ideas that his unpopular ideas deserve further investigation. - View Quote Details on He had a great capacity to arouse irrational hatred obviously… 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."

"With this the [genuine] leader will cause many to turn against him. He will have robbed these many of an object to hold on to, like a bean stalk would feel robbed of comfort if you took away the supporting stick of wood."

"Work democracy does not wish to prevent or prohibit anything. Its only intention is the fulfilment of the biological life functions, of love, work and knowledge."

"Work democracy introduces into liberal thinking a decisive new insight: the working masses who carry the burden of social existence are not conscious of their social responsibility. Nor are they — as the result of thousands of years of suppression of rational thinking, of the natural love function and of the scientific comprehension of living functioning — capable of the responsibility for their own freedom. Another insight contributed by work democracy is the finding that politics is in itself and of necessity unscientific: it is an expression of human helplessness, impoverishment and suppression."

"Work-democracy adds a decisive piece of knowledge to the scope of ideas related to freedom. The masses of people who work and bear the burden of social existence on their shoulders neither are conscious of their social responsibility nor are they capable of assuming the responsibility for their own freedom. This is the result of the century-long suppression of rational thinking, the natural functions of love, and scientific comprehension of the living. Everything related to the emotional plague in social life can be traced back to this incapacity and lack of consciousness. It is work-democracy’s contention that, by its very nature, politics is and has to be unscientific, i.e., that it is an expression of human helplessness, poverty, and suppression."

"You are afraid of life, Little Man, deadly afraid. You will murder it in the belief of doing it for the sake of "socialism," or "the state," or "national honor," or "the glory of God.""

"You are different from the really great man in only one thing: The great man, at one time, also was a very little man, but he developed one important ability: he learned to see where he was small in his thinking, and actions. Under the pressure of some task which was dear to him he learned better and better to sense the threat that comes from his smallness and pettiness. The great man, then, knows when and in what he is a little man."

"You are Great, Little Man, when you are not small and petty. You are great when you carry on your trade lovingly, when you enjoy carving and building and painting and decorating and sowing, when you enjoy the blue sky and the deer and the dew and music and dancing, your growing children and the beautiful body of your woman or your man, when you learn to understand and think about life."

"You beg for happiness in life, but security is more important to you, even if it costs you your spine or your life. Your life will be good and secure when aliveness will mean more to you than security; love more than money; your freedom more than party line or public opinion; when your thinking will be in harmony with your feelings; when the teachers of your children will be better paid than the politicians; when you will have more respect for the love between man and woman than for a marriage license."

"You differ from a great man in only one respect: the great man was once a very little man, but he developed one important quality: he recognized the smallness and narrowness of his thoughts and actions. Under the pressure of some task that meant a great deal to him, he learned to see how his smallness, his pettiness endangered his happiness. In other words, a great man knows when and in what way he is a little man. A little man does not know he is little and is afraid to know. He hides his pettiness and narrowness behind illusions of strength and greatness, someone else's strength and greatness. He's proud of his great generals but not of himself. He admires an idea he has not had, not one he has had. The less he understands something, the more firmly he believes in it. And the better he understands an idea, the less he believes in it."

"You don't believe that your friend could ever do anything great. You despise yourself in secret, even – no, especially – when you stand on your dignity; and since you despise yourself, you are unable to respect your friend. You can't bring yourself to believe that anyone you have sat at table with, or shared a house with, is capable of great achievement. That is why all great men have been solitary. It is hard to think in your company, little man. One can only think 'about' you, or 'for your benefit', not 'with' you, for you stifle all big, generous ideas."

"You have no sense of your true duty, which is to be a man and preserve humanity. You imitate wise men so badly and bandits so well. Your movies and radio programs are full of murder."

"You let men in power assume power "for the Little Man". But you yourself remain silent. You give men in power or impotent people with evil intentions the power to represent you. Only too late do you realize that again and again you are being defrauded."

"You think the end justifies the means, however vile. I tell you: the end is the means by which you achieve it. Today's step is tomorrow's life. Great ends cannot be attained by base means. You've proved that in all your social upheavals. The meanness and inhumanity of the means make you mean and inhuman and make the end unattainable."

"You will no longer believe that you "don't count." You will know and advocate your knowledge that you are the bearer of human society. Don't run away. Don't be afraid. It is not so terrible to be the responsible bearer of human society. Inflated leaders would have no soldiers and no arms if you clearly knew, and stood up for your knowledge, that a field has to yield wheat and a factory furniture or shoes, and not arms."

"You'll have a good, secure life when being alive means more to you than security, love more than money, your freedom more than public or partisan opinion, when the mood of Beethoven's or Bach's music becomes the mood of your whole life … when your thinking is in harmony, and no longer in conflict, with your feelings … when you let yourself be guided by the thoughts of great sages and no longer by the crimes of great warriors … when you pay the men and women who teach your children better than the politicians; when truths inspire you and empty formulas repel you; when you communicate with your fellow workers in foreign countries directly, and no longer through diplomats..."

"Your liberators tell you that that your suppressors are Wilhelm, Nikolaus, Pope Gregory the Twenty Eighth, Morgan, Krupp or Ford. And your "liberators" are called Mussolini, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin. I tell you: "Only you yourself can be your liberator!""