Wilhelm Reich: Myron Sharaf on the orgone motor and 1948 (from "Fury on Earth")

One of Reich's chief preoccupations during the summer of 1948 was the orgone energy motor.* (*Reich never published the design for the orgone energy motor and I no longer remember the details of the experimental set-up or its operation. I do recall that it involved the use of an accumulator attached to a wheel; concentrated orgone energy was triggered by a small amount of electricity, an amount insufficient to rotate the wheel without the accumulator. I also recall that when the wheel was rotated entirely by electricity, it had a steady grinding motion. When powered by the combination of orgonotic and electrical energy, it ran smoothly and quietly; but its speed varied depending upon the weather -- more rapidly on dry, clear days, more slowly when the humidity was high. During this summer, Reich was extremely excited about the motor and envisioned its industrial applications. He also expressed considerable concern that the "secret" of the motor might be stolen, which may have contributed to his reluctance to publish the details.) During the following summer, these fears were heightened when an assistant, William Washington, who had been working on the motor, did not appear at Orgonon as scheduled.

I had met Bill, who was black, in the fall of 1944 at the University of Chicago, where we were both freshmen. He was especially interested in mathematics and physics, but had a wide/ranging knowledge in many realms. Although he talked extremely little, he always followed with slight nonverbal motions very carefully what others said. He seemed to me extremely intelligent and I attributed his taciturnity to his being very short. He appeared to be enthusiastic about Reich's work when I introduced him to it.

In 1947, Reich was looking for an assistant to help him in mathematical and experimental work. Bill started working with him in the summer of that year, concentrating on mathematics. The following summer Bill did more laboratory work and had the particular responsibility of helping Reich develop the orgone energy motor. When he left Orgonon in the fall of 1948, he took the motor set/up with him in order to work on further refinements. He was supposed to return to Orgonon in early summer 1949, but he did not appear, nor was there any word from him. By August, Reich was extremely concerned about Bill and the motor.

During this time we checked out various stories Bill had told us about his previous employment, for example, that he had once worked at the National Argonne Laboratories *a division of the Atomic Energy Commission(. None of these stories proved true. Nobody ever discovered what happened to Washington or the motor, but Reich was able to speak with him on the telephone late in the summer of 1949. He sounded quite hesitant in his speech -- a hesitation Reich construed to mean that he was not free to speak. At one point, Reich asked if he was being coerced. Washington answered, "In a way," but did not elaborate. It was my impression that Washington was happy to grab at any straw to get him off the hook of being, for whatever personal reasons, unable to finish the assigned job. However, Reich did not choose that mundane explanation. He provided Washington with the suggestion that he was being externally coerced -- by the Atomic Energy Commission, the Communists, or someone. Washington's answer was just enough to keep Reich's idea alive, although he also entertained the possibility that Bill was simply sick or sociopathic.

Pages 354 and 355 of "Fury on Earth - a Biography of Wilhelm Reich" - written by Myron Sharaf. purchase this book! support! everything!