A Skeptical Scrutiny of the Works and Theories of WILHELM REICH

As related to

Orgone Radiation

By Roger M. Wilcox

Last modified 24-July-2000

Orgone radiation was the name Reich gave to the "blue" radiation given off by SAPA bions and which Reich, later, concluded was omnipresent.  It had many traits in common with ultraviolet light.

In this critique, I am making a distinction Reich himself did not make.  I am divesting the observed phenomenon of Orgone Radiation from the hypothesis of Orgone Energy.  Orgone Radiation describes the radiation effects and the alleged glow observed in SAPA bion cultures and, supposedly, in the rooms in which they were housed.  Orgone Energy was the theory Reich came up with to explain the existence of Orgone Radiation.  Reich seemed somewhat ignorant of the fact that a scientific "theory" is a falsifyable underlying explanation, rather than merely something that has not been demonstrated yet, as Myron Sharaf inadvertently pointed out:

"During my stay in Chicago, I had read Korzybski's Science and Sanity, a book on general semantics that was causing quite a stir at the time, though one no longer hears much about it today.  I told Reich I thought there were many similarities between his 'theories' and Korzybsky's.  His reply came succinctly: 'This isn't a "theory."  The orgone is burning in the air and in the soil.'  He illustrated the 'burning' by rubbing his fingers together and gestured toward his laboratory instruments to indicate the concreteness of his work.  (I was later to become familiar with Reich's rubbing his fingers together whenever he wished to demonstrate something quite realistic as opposed to 'words' or 'theories' unsupported by facts.)"
    — Myron Sharaf, Fury on Earth: A Biography of Wilhelm Reich, chapter 2, page 17.
In any event, in 1939 Reich discovered that SAPA bions emitted some kind of radiation which killed neighboring bacteria, made his eyes smart when he looked at it, and could even give him a suntan.  He then claimed to notice this radiation and its odd effects coming not merely from the SAPA cultures themselves, but from the entire room where he kept the SAPA cultures.  His first inklings of this were from rather indirect sources:
    "As time went by, it struck me that the air in the room where the cultures were kept was becoming very 'heavy' and causing headaches whenever we closed the windows, if only for an hour.
    "One day, during the course of an experimental procedure, I noticed that all metal objects, such as scissors, pincers, needles, etc., had become highly magnetic.  This phenomenon, so obvious today, was incomprehensible to me.  I had never before observed it and was not prepared for it.  But since the electroscope of the Oslo physicist had shown no reaction, I was prepared for surprises."
    — The Cancer Biopathy, ch. III, sec. 2 (p. 84, 1973 trans.)
The electroscope to which Reich referred in the last sentence was the one Dr. Moxnes, a radium physicist, used for detecting radium radiation emissions (alpha particles), as I've described in my critique of SAPA bions.  The magnetization of "all metal objects" (by which Reich probably meant all iron-based metal objects) could have been caused by anything.  Perhaps they were magnetic long before Reich's SAPA bion experiments, and Reich simply hadn't noticed before.  Perhaps Reich's autoclaving machines had electric motors in them, which contain permanent magnets, and the metal objects had been lying next to these magnets for so long that they had gotten magnetized.  There are many possible causes for this magnetization besides his SAPA bions' radiation.  Nevertheless, Reich felt the two were connected.  His next step was to see if this radiation could be photographed:
"I experimented with photographic plates in various ways: In a dark room I placed culture preparations on uncovered plates, on plates in plateholders, on plates wholly or partially covered with lead, and, in addition, for control purposes, I put some plates without cultures in the same room.  To my amazement, all the plates became fogged.  On some plates, there was a blackening corresponding to the glued cracks in the wooden plateholders; on others, I saw marked blackening where the plate had not been directly affected by the culture but where the lead covering was pervious.  To my surprise, the control plates in the same room were also fogged."
    — The Cancer Biopathy, ch. III, sec. 2 (pp. 84-85, 1973 trans.) [emphasis in original]
Now, this is a very unusual result.  Reich set up the experiment under an expectation that either none of the photographic plates would be affected, or that the plates with cultures on them would be affected but the control plates were not.  Instead, all of the photographic plates, including the controls, were affected — a result Reich had not planned for.  If Reich were truly the scientist that his followers claim he was, what should his first reaction have been?

His first reaction should have been to repeat the experiment under tighter controls.

Any number of things could have caused those control plates to fog.  There could indeed have been some kind of ambient light in the room.  Or maybe there were some light leaks in the darkroom where Reich developed his film.  Or perhaps the whole batch of film had been previously exposed to light without Reich's knowledge, or was otherwise a "bad batch."  Or maybe Reich didn't apply the right amount of fixer solution at the end of the development process.  We'll never know.  A radiation-like effect from SAPA cultures that could affect photographic plates nowhere near it would indeed be an important discovery — one that could overturn much of established biology, chemistry, and physics.  And it is precisely because such an effect would fly in the face of decades (if not centuries) of accumulated evidence to the contrary, that any experiment demonstrating it had better be done with the strictest, most careful controls possible.  Reich's controls were anything but careful.

In fact, even Reich himself seemed somewhat aware of his own sloppiness:

"I could not understand it.  It seemed as if the energy was active not just around the edges of the plateholder and through its joints, the radiation seemed to be omnipresentHowever, it was also possible that there had been some experimental oversight."
    — The Cancer Biopathy, ch. III, sec. 2 (p. 85, 1973 trans.) [bolding mine, italics in original]
Reich also didn't mention what kind of photographic emulsion he used.  The human eye reacts only to frequencies of light in a very narrow band, called (originally enough) the Visible Spectrum.  The visible spectrum runs from red, at the low-frequency end, up the rainbow to violet at the high-frequency end.  Human eyesight responds poorly to red light, best to yellow light (in the middle of the visible spectrum), and poorly again to violet light.  It is because our eyes are most sensitive to yellow light that yellow looks like a "lighter" color than the others.  Light below red ("infra-red"), and above violet ("ultra-violet") is invisible to the human eye.  This is important because raw, untreated photographic plates respond to various frequencies of light in a manner that's nothing like the way the human eye responds.  Untreated photographic emulsions are more and more sensitive the higher the frequency of light they're hit with, which is why they're used for X-ray film (X-rays are higher in frequency than even ultra-violet light).  Pictures taken with untreated film in "normal" light look nothing like real life.  In order to make photographic film react like the human eye and produce lifelike pictures, it has to be specially treated so that the higher frequencies of light are reduced before they hit the emulsion.  This would make a difference in how the fogging on Reich's plates should be interpreted.  Given the description of how the plates "blackened" where exposed to cracks in their containers, it's reasonable to assume that Reich was using normal (treated) visible-light black-and-white photography film, which produces a negative image (i.e. unexposed film is white, but the more light a spot on the film receives, the blacker it becomes when developed).

It is worthy of note, when discussing fogged film, that frequencies of light higher than those in the visible spectrum (such as ultraviolet and X-rays) tend to be more easily scattered when they travel through air.  After travelling a certain minimum distance, high frequency light will no longer pass cleanly through the air but will illuminate the air itself with a dull haze.  The higher the frequency of the light, the shorter the distance it can travel before it's completely scattered.  Soft X-rays, the kind used for taking medical X-ray photographs, can only travel a few inches before being scattered, which is why the emitters on X-ray machines are always placed right up next to the area being X-rayed.  Depending on its frequency, ultraviolet light can travel anywhere from a few feet to a fraction of a mile before scattering.  (Even the high-end frequencies of visible light are not immune to atmospheric scattering; this is why the sky appears blue during the daytime.)  Thus, if Reich's SAPA bions were emitting ultraviolet light, it could explain why the photographic plates nowhere near his SAPA cultures were fogged.  As with the skin exposure to SAPA bions through quartz that produced a sunburn-like effect, and as we shall see later, this wasn't the only thing Reich's newly-discovered radiation had in common with ultraviolet light.

Reich decided to watch his radiation in the dark:

"I transferred my cultures to dark basement rooms and continued my observations there.  To intensify the effect, I prepared dozens of cultures.  The observations made in the dark had something uncanny about them.  Once my eyes had become accustomed to the darkness, the room appeared not black but grayish blue.  I saw fog-like vapors, streaks of blue light, and dots darting about.  Light of a deep violet color seemed to come from the walls and the objects around the room.  Looked at through a magnifying glass, these light impressions intensified and the individual streaks and dots grew larger.  Dark glasses weakened the impressions.  But when I closed my eyes, the impressions continued."
    — The Cancer Biopathy, ch. III, sec. 2 (p. 85, 1973 trans.) [emphasis in original]
Firstly, note that Reich did not try to look for any of the same phenomena in a dark room without SAPA cultures in it — his eyes could have merely been playing tricks on him.  Secondly, note that Reich did not mention seeing any unusual lights from the SAPA bions themselves, only from the walls and the various objects in the room.  Thirdly, note that Reich did not say how bright or dim the light impressions were when he closed his eyes — they could have been as bright as when he was wearing dark glasses, or even as bright as when he wasn't wearing dark glasses.  The logical thing to do, then, was to repeat the experiment with subjects who were not told what to expect.

And this is exactly what Reich did:

"I had our friend Dr. Havrevold participate in the dark-room observations.  Though completely uninformed, he confirmed the majority of my observations.  Over the next month I subjected one person after another to the skin test and to the observation in the dark.  The descriptions provided by the subjects were so completely in agreement that no possible doubt could remain about the existence of the radiation."
    — The Cancer Biopathy, ch. III, sec. 2 (p. 86, 1973 trans.) [emphasis in original]
No possible doubt?  How about the possibility that the subjects would have seen the same things in a room without SAPA cultures?  It's not often a person is asked to describe what he or she sees in the dark.  Most of us don't pay much attention to our eyes once the lights have gone out.  I know that when I close my eyes, I can sometimes see little dim streaks darting past, little dots floating about, or large wispy forms of vauge color dominating my field of view from time to time.  Some of these are caused by very old afterimages, some by blood cells floating around on my retinae, and a few due simply to occasional misfirings of my optic nerves or visual cortex (nobody's neurons are perfect).  To eliminate these normal optical illusions, Reich should have split his observers into two groups, put one in the room with the SAPA cultures, and put the other in a room without SAPA cultures but told them it contained SAPA cultures.  This would eliminate any placebo effect; since both sets of observers would expect to see something something unusual, only the widespread, repeated differences between their observations would be significant, and all extraneous imagined or illusory observations could be eliminated.

Reich, though, continued the above-quoted paragraph with his own, more questionable, ideas as to how to eliminate observer errors:

"The most difficult task was that of isolating the objective phenomena in the room from the subjective sensations in the eye.  As the investigations proceeded, however, a variety of techniques for making this distinction evolved.  For instance, I had subjects reach for luminous objects in the dark or determine where my arm was at any given time.  I had them turn their eyes away from the light impression until its after-image had disappeared, then try to find the light impression again."
    — The Cancer Biopathy, ch. III, sec. 2 (p. 86, 1973 trans.) [emphasis in original]
What the results were of these attempts to reach for luminous objects in the dark or re-locating a light impression, Reich didn't say.  But I personally feel like giving him the benefit of the doubt here.  It is entirely possible that many of the objects in his laboratory, including his arm, were mildly fluorescent.  Reich also described seeing the palm of his hand, his shirtsleeve and his own hair glow a ghostly bluish-gray.  Anyone who's been inside a cheesy discotheque can tell you that white cotton clothing glows a bright, eerie purple color under ultraviolet light.  Hair of the correct color would probably fluoresce too, as would a pale palm or arm.  I see these faintly luminous objects in the dark not as evidence of self-induced hallucination on the part of Reich or his subjects, but as another piece of evidence that Reich's SAPA radiation was plain, ordinary ultraviolet light.

Reich later put on a a pair of rubber gloves, which had been sitting near some SAPA cultures, and noticed that they affected an electroscope as though they carried a static-electric charge:

"When I brought my hands near the electroscope, there was a strong deflection of the leaf.  It curled upward, shifted sideways toward the glass wall of the electroscope, and stuck to it.  I knew of course that insulators can be 'charged.'  What was really astounding was the sideways deflection of the leaf and its tenacious adhesion to the glass wall, i.e., the fact that non-magnetic aluminum was sticking to glass, which was an insulator and had not been subjected to friction.  I had not rubbed the insulator gloves."
    — The Cancer Biopathy, ch. III, sec. 2 (pp. 87-88, 1973 trans.) [emphasis in original]
Firstly, it is not true that he did not rub the insulator gloves.  He put them on his hands.  It is impossible to put on gloves without rubbing them at least a little bit.  Secondly, it seems strange that Reich would even mention that aluminum is non-magnetic, since the glass that the aluminum leaf stuck to was also of course non-magnetic.  Thirdly, although the glass wasn't subjected to friction, it still could have been carrying its own static-electric charge before Reich got anywhere near it — and more likely, it picked up some of the electric charge from the rubber gloves.

The sticking of the electroscope's leaf to the glass wall wasn't actually that unusual, assuming a charged item was in the vicinity; however, the fact that the gloves were charged at all was more significant.  Reich wanted to be certain that the SAPA bions had charged the gloves:

"I placed one rubber glove in a shaded place in the open air and the other in a metal box containing bion cultures.  Then I exchanged and tested them at various intervals.  The rubber glove that had been exposed to the open air for about fifteen minutes did not influence the electroscope; whereas the previously neutral glove, placed for half an hour with the cultures, did in fact show a strong electroscopic reaction.  The same result was achieved on several consecutive evenings."
So it would appear that SAPA radiation does, indeed, electrically charge rubber gloves.  And this, too, makes sense if SAPA radiation consists of ultraviolet light.  High-frequency light sources can cause what is known as the photoelectric effect.  Negatively-charged electrons are knocked loose from their atoms by photons of sufficiently high frequency, leaving behind positively-charged ions.  Ultraviolet light is certainly of a high enough frequency to cause a mild photoelectric/ionizing effect in most ordinary substances.  There's even a common experiment performed in undergraduate physics courses to demonstrate the photoelectric effect, which uses an ultraviolet light source and an electroscope.  If Reich's gloves were positively charged, it would be completely in keeping with the premise that SAPA radiation's main effects are those of plain old ultraviolet light.  Unfortunately, Reich did not mention whether the electric charge on the gloves was positive or negative.

At this point, though, Reich started to get a little wonky:

    "The situation became more complex when I acquired a new pair of gloves and found that they, too, caused a reaction of the electroscope, without having been exposed to the cultures or previously rubbed.  It was therefore clear that the energy not only was in the cultures but also was present 'elsewhere'!
[I guess Reich had never unwrapped anything packaged in cellophane, which comes complete with its own static cling right from the factory.]
This discovery spoiled the unequivocal nature of the culture reaction, but seemed important.  Again, I had the feeling that I had had during the experiments on the photographic plates: the radiation is present everywhere.
    "It was then that I remembered the statement of my experimental subject: 'I feel as if I've been staring into the sun for a long time.'  The radiation must be related to solar energy.  If the radiation is present everywhere, it can only come from the sun.
[I swear I am not making this quote up.  Reich actually wrote this.]
I placed a pair of uncharged gloves in the bright sunlight: After an exposure of from five to fifteen minutes to sunlight, without prior friction, the rubber gloves elicited a strong reaction from the aluminum leaf of the electroscope.  I now had double proof of the solar origin of the energy — first, because the heating experiment had released solar energy from the sand;
[I mention this wild claim in my critique of SAPA bions.  Reich thought sand was solidified solar energy.]
second, because solar radiation had charged the insulators.  Protracted irradiation of the insulators with an ultraviolet lamp produced the same effect."
    — The Cancer Biopathy, ch. III, sec. 2 (pp. 88-89, 1973 trans.) [bolding mine, italics in original]
Poor Reich!  He had the answer right there in front of him, and he chose to ignore it.  He was convinced that SAPA bions were emitting some kind of completely mysterious, heretofore entirely unknown radiation.  He figured that, since SAPA cultures fit under his broad definition of "bions," that the radiation must therefore be biological in nature.  (After all, it caused reddening of the skin and made ones eye hurt, right?  Those are biological reactions.  So, darn it, the radiation must be intrinsically biological itself.)  He convinced himself of the biological nature of this radiation by putting rubber gloves on his patients' abdominal skin for a few minutes, to see if this, too, would charge the gloves.  It always did.  Reich even claimed that his "vegetatively sluggish" patients didn't charge the glove as strongly, although this might have been due to a small sample size or Reich taking greater pains not to accidentally rub the gloves with those patients whom he "believed" would charge the gloves less.

He dubbed this new radiation "orgone," both because it charged substances of organic origin, and because he had discovered it through bions, which he had discovered indirectly because of his desire to investigate bioelectricity at a microscopic level, which he in turn had experimented with on humans because of his interest in the biolelectrical nature of the orgasm.

Just about every property Reich described for his orgone radiation also fits the bill for ultraviolet light:

Stripped of all of Reich's convoluted trappings, and assuming that the only thing Reich was seeing was plain, ordinary ultraviolet light, the phenomenon of SAPA radiation is still somewhat remarkable.  Take hot beach sand, put it in a mixture of beef broth and KCl solution, inoculate this preparation onto egg medium and agar, and you get something that gives off ultraviolet light.  This is pretty unusual; not many chemical reactions give off light above the infrared range, let alone for extended periods of hours or days.  But a few chemical reactions do produce ultraviolet light: burning some metals (e.g. aluminum, magnesium, sodium, etc.) in air will produce a bright bluish-white light that carries with it a substantial amount of ultraviolet radiation.  And a few chemical reactions are very slow, such as acids etching away at metals.  I am not a photochemist, and I don't know if there are any reactions that emit ultraviolet light and are very slow.  Perhaps Reich stumbled on the first slow UV reaction ever discovered by man.  But even if he did, we can't know what substances were involved in that reaction, because we don't know what trace minerals were present in Reich's beach sand.  Reich never did any rigorous chemical analysis.  In this regard, his sloppy, haphazard research method, and his complete refusal to seek advice from experts in any of the fields he had little experience with, once again kept Reich from making real, lasting contributions to human knowledge and led him down the path of his own delusions.

Two last details

Despite all the similarities between orgone radiation and ultraviolet light, there were two other effects Reich claimed that orgone radiation had which do not correspond to any known properties of ultraviolet light: (1) It invigorated him, and (2) it caused luminous effects in the middle of the air, where there were no objects to fluoresce off of.

With respect to orgone radiation's invigorating properties, Reich wrote that after one or two months of working with SAPA cultures, he "felt extremely vigorous, as 'strong as a bear,' and vegetatively alive in every aspect." (The Cancer Biopathy, 1973 trans., p. 87.)  This was after he had worried that the radiation might make him ill, and Dr. Bon recommended he take precautions to protect himself from it.  His observations about feeling invigorated probably had more to do with assuaging his fear that the radiation might be dangerous than with any health-bolstering aspects of the radiation.  It is also significant that Reich was in the middle of making what he considered to be a new discovery, which would have been exciting enough in its own right to invigorate him without any outside help.

With respect to orgone radiation's visible, luminous manifestations, separate and distinct from those effects that can be explained by ultraviolet fluorescence, things are more complicated.  On page 85 of The Cancer Biopathy (1973 trans.), he wrote that he "saw fog-like vapors, streaks of blue light, and dots darting about. ... Looked at through a magnifying glass, these light impressions intensified and the individual streaks and dots grew larger.  Dark glasses weakened the impressions."

And that's only the tip of the iceberg.  Reich also built himself a box to observe the visible effects of orgone radiation:

"It was necessary to study the radiation of SAPA bions by the least complicated means.  For this purpose, an enclosed space had to be constructed that would contain and isolate the radiation emanating from the bions and prevent its rapid diffusion into the surroundings.  Organic matter could not be used because it absorbs radiation.
[This is not entirely accurate.  Organic matter absorbs particulate "radiation" such as the neutron emissions from a nuclear reactor.  It does not necessarily absorb purely electromagnetic radiation, such as ultraviolet light.  Whether a given piece of organic material absorbs a particular frequency of light, ultraviolet or otherwise, is a function of its reflectivity — in other words, how shiny the surface is.  Reich did not seem to understand that light is radiation.]
However, on the basis of my observations, I was certain that metal would reflect the radiation and hold it within the enclosed space.  But the radiation could also penetrate the metal and disperse outward.  To prevent this, the apparatus had to be walled with metal on the inside and with organic matter on the outside.  The radiation generated by the cultures on the inside would be reflected by the inner walls, while the outer surface of organic matter (cotton and wood) would prevent, or at least reduce, the transmitting of the radiation by the metal to the outside.  The front wall of the apparatus was to have an opening fitted with an eyepiece to enable the radiation to be observed from the outside."
    — The Cancer Biopathy, ch. III, sec. 3 (pp. 90-91, 1973 trans.) [emphasis in original]
Reich did not say what kind of metal he used, or how shiny it was.  The result when he placed SAPA cultures in the box and looked through the peep-hole?
"I was able to distinctly observe blue moving vapors and bright, yellow-white streaks and dots of light.  The phenomena were confirmed by several persons who served as subjects in repetitions of the experiment."
Reich even put one of those movie-film magnifying gizmos over the peep-hole, which projected the images from inside the box onto a small cellulose disk.  Reich didn't come out and say so, but his account implied that the vapors, streaks, and dots were visible on this disk as well as to the unaided eye looking into the dark box.  This would mean that Reich and his test subjects weren't just seeing illusions in the dark, but real light phenomena.

There was a chance, though, that even the projections on the cellulose disk were imaginary.  The discoverers of N-rays thought they were seeing flashes of light on a phosphorescent thread, when in fact they saw no such thing.

However, the N-ray people also convinced themselves that they saw no flashes of light when they thought there weren't any N-rays present.  This is called experimenter bias.  Reich may have suffered from experimenter bias in some of his other observations (such as T-Bacilli), but at least in the case of his light observations in the orgone radiation viewing box, Reich did not fall into the trap of conveniently failing to see something where he didn't expect it.  I say this because he then performed a control experiment by looking into his orgone radiation viewing box without SAPA cultures in it.  He wrote:

"I was astonished when I saw the same rays, blue vapors, and bright streaks of light, in the empty box.  I took it apart completely, dipped the metal plates into water, replaced the cotton, ventilated for several days, and then repeated the experiment.  I was assuming that the covering material had absorbed radiation from the cultures and was now producing after-effects during the control experiment.  But I was wrong.  I simply could not remove the radiation phenomena from the empty box, and I was at a loss to explain why.  What was the origin of the radiation in the box if it contained no cultures?  To be sure, the light phenomena were not so intense as when the cultures were present, but they were there nevertheless."
    — The Cancer Biopathy, ch. III, sec. 3 (p. 91, 1973 trans.) [emphasis in original]
Reich built a brand new box with no organic coverings, and he still saw the light effects.  He did not say whether the lights were any brighter or fainter in the metal-only box than they were in the metal-and-organic-material box.  Finally, one summer night in 1940 during a vacation in Maine, he was able to see the same light phenomena in the open sky through a hollow tube.  A magnifying glass enlarged the rays.  From this, he concluded that orgone radiation came from the atmosphere.  (He later built a more sophisticated apparatus, the orgonoscope, to better scrutinize this visible manifestation of what he believed was orgone radiation.)

It is instructive to note the extreme northern latitudes at which Reich made all of these observations.  Maine is far enough north that it is possible to see the Aurora Borealis (the northern lights) from there.  His observations of the SAPA cultures and of the empty boxes were made in Oslo, Norway, which is less than 500 miles south of the Arctic Circle.  Cosmic rays — charged particles travelling through space at very high speeds — are captured by the Earth's magnetic field and finally slam into the Earth near its north and south magnetic poles.  When one of these cosmic rays hits one of the nuclei within an air molecule, the air molecule emits a flash or streak of light.  This is, in fact, what causes the Aurora Borealis and its southern counterpart, the Aurora Australis.

The light effects Reich was seeing at those high northern latitudes could very well have been cosmic rays interacting with the atmosphere.  Cosmic rays are also known to penetrate very deeply through solid matter before interacting with anything, due to the long "mean free path" between nuclei in even the most densely packed solid objects, and thus could have also explained the light flashes within the dark observation boxes back in Oslo.  Reich, however, vehemently denies this possibility:

"What I saw that night could not have been 'cosmic rays.'  No one had yet seen cosmic rays with the naked eye.  Moreover, physicists contend that 'cosmic rays' come to the earth from outer space; i.e., they do not have their origin on our planet.  It is true that recently there have been objections and challenges to this hypothesis.  But even if the cosmic rays of the physicists should be of planetary origin, they would merely be identical with orgone rays.  The so-called great power of penetration of the 'cosmic rays' would then simply be explained by the fact that orgone energy is present everywhere."
    — The Cancer Biopathy, ch. III, sec. 3 (p. 94, 1973 trans.) [emphasis in original]
At the time Reich wrote this, no one may have had as yet seen cosmic rays with the naked eye and been 100% sure they were, in fact, cosmic rays; but all sorts of people had sure as heck seen the Aurora Borealis with the naked eye.  Reich's reasons why these light phenomena could not have been cosmic rays are specious.

If the flashes of light Reich saw in the dark box in Norway really were caused by cosmic rays, then the only question that remains is why the light phenomena appeared less intense when the box was empty than when he had some SAPA cultures in it.  The SAPA cultures obviously weren't emitting any visible light; if they were, Reich and/or the subjects of his experiments would have reported seeing the cultures themselves glow, in addition to the "blue vapors" and light streaks he saw in the other areas of the box.  Could the SAPA cultures have been emitting something besides ultraviolet light, something akin to cosmic rays perhaps, which would supplement the other flashes of light?  And if so, why had Dr. Moxnes failed to detect any alpha particles emanating from the SAPA culture Reich gave him?

A better explanation, here as in some other places in Reich's work, is that Reich was expecting the light effects to be dimmer without SAPA cultures in the box, and so he made himself see the light effects as being dimmer.  Perhaps Reich didn't let his eyes adjust to the dark for as long a time before looking into the empty box, as he did before looking into the box with cultures in it.  We can't tell without readings from a sensitive light-meter, which Reich did not use.  To this day, I don't know of one Orgonomist, one single solitary follower-on of Reich, who has used any light-sensing instruments other than his own eyes to gauge the brightness of orgone radiation.  Nor do I know of an Orgonomist who has used a light meter sensitive to ultraviolet light on a SAPA culture.  Or one who has placed a SAPA culture behind a quartz prism and obtained an ultraviolet spectrogram, or even used an ordinary glass prism to obtain a visible-light spectrum.  These are obvious experiments any undergraduate physics student could perform, particularly if one is convinced that orgone radiation is actually a visible phenomenon.  Yet no Orgonomist has attempted them.  And given the nearly religious fervor of most Orgonomists, who tend to believe all of Reich's claims without question, I doubt any one of them will want to try any such experiments, either because they've already convinced themselves of the rightness of Reich's theories and refuse to bow to the demands for evidence by "emotional plague ridden skeptics," or out of a distrust of "mechanistic" light-sensing devices.

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