Hippocrates v Hypocrite  




In the last chapter of his last book Wilson expounds on an experiment that he had visited and revisited several times throughout his writing career:

‘In 1958, Irvin Rubenstein and Jay Boyd Best, two zoologists working at the Walter Reed Army Institute in Washington, were conducting experiments involving the learning capacity of a simple organism called the planarian worm. Planaria are incredibly simple creatures – no brain, no nervous system – so they make excellent subjects for experiments in the lab. The two zoologists were trying to study how they could learn without a brain. They put some planaria into a closed tube containing water – which planaria need to live. They then turned a tap which drained the water out of the tube. In a state of alarm, the planaria rushed along the tube looking for water. Soon they encountered a fork; one branch was lighted, and led to water; the other branch was unlighted, and didn’t. Soon, ninety per cent of the planaria had learned the trick of choosing, and when the water was drained off, they rushed along the tube and chose the lighted alleyway, whether it was the right or left fork.

‘But now a strange thing happened. As Rubenstein and Best repeated the experiment over and over again (with the same worms), the planaria began choosing the wrong fork. That baffled them.

‘One of them suggested that perhaps they were bored with doing the same thing, and the wrong choice was the expression of the kind of irrational activity – like vandalism – that springs from boredom. The other asked, how could they be bored when they had no brain or nervous system? But a few more experiments seemed to indicate that the boredom hypothesis was correct. As the experiments continued, the planaria would just lie there, refusing to move, as if saying: ‘Oh God, not again!’ They preferred to die rather than go looking for water.

‘It seemed so absurd that Rubenstein and Best devised another experiment to test the boredom hypothesis. This time they took two tubes, and a new lot of planaria. In one tube, which had a rough inner surface, the water was down the lighted alleyway. In the other, which was smooth, it was down the dark alleyway. This was a far more complex experiment, and only a small percentage of the planaria learned which alleyway to choose. But that small percentage never regressed. They could do the experiment a thousand times and not get bored. Because they had been forced to put twice as much effort into the initial learning process, they achieved a higher level of imprinting – that is, of purpose – and maintained it forever.’

Wilson explains the significance to him of this experiment thus:

‘The relevance of this experiment to Schopenhauer and Beckett should be obvious. If someone fails to put sufficient energy into the learning process, they become subject to boredom, and might even prefer to lie down and die rather than make an effort. I had in my teens stumbled on the observation that of how often major writers, artists and musicians have had difficult beginnings, while those who have perhaps as much talent but an easier start in life seem to find it harder to rise above the second rank. Dickens, Shaw, Wells, Beethoven, Brahms, are examples of the first, Beckett and Schopenhauer of the second. They would do it a million times without getting bored, so they were getting bored the first time.’ (1)

The planaria worms experiment that Wilson alluded to so many times in his career is of first relevance when looking at Wilson’s fascination with Wilhelm Reich.

Reich, in his seminal book The Function of the Orgasm, and its sequel The Cancer Biopathy, identifies the life process as being demonstrated at the most basic somatic level in the act of orgasm.

And this he defines as a process of contraction and expansion no different from the act of peristalsis that is most clearly illustrated in the way in which simple organisms such as worms move, digest and excrete.

Throughout the history of mankind and the world’s different mythologies the worm in the form of the serpent has played a critical part. It is the serpent that lures Eve to eat of the apples that grow on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil. In The Occult Wilson writes about a sect of Gnostics called the Ophites (from the Greek ophis – serpent) who believed ‘that the snake in the Garden of Eden was an agent of divine goodness who gave Man forbidden knowledge so that he could set out on the long road to saving his soul’.(2)

It is the serpent or snake with its tail in its mouth that forms the ancient symbol of the uroborus or ouroborus. The term derives from Ancient Greek: οὐροβόρος, from οὐρά (oura), "tail" + βορά (bora), "food", from βιβρώσκω (bibrōskō), "I eat".

The earliest representation we have of the uroborus was discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun dating back to the 13th century BC. It features in almost all of the world’s myths. In Indian Tantra it is associated with the Kundalini serpent that lies at the base of the spine and is the life force itself. The symbol crops up repeatedly in the interrelated traditions of Gnosticism, Hermeticism and Mediaeval Alchemy. It symbolizes the creative force of introspection and the eternal return or cyclicality of life, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself. It recurs and recurs as a cultural symbol – Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence and Jungian mandalas are only the most obvious instances. It is also a symbol of completeness, of the All in One of all the great mystics. It was adopted by the Theosophists as part of their official seal.

Early alchemical uroboros illustration with the words ἓντὸ πᾶν ("The All is One") from the work of Cleopatra the Alchemist (c. third century, Egypt).

One of the best descriptions of its significance as an image of the self-sufficiency and perfection of the created cosmos occurs in the first part of Plato’s Timaeus:

‘The living being had no need of eyes because there was nothing outside of him to be seen; nor of ears because there was nothing to be heard; and there was no surrounding atmosphere to be breathed; nor would there have been any use of organs by the help of which he might receive his food or get rid of what he had already digested, since there was nothing which went from him or came into him: for there was nothing beside him. Of design he created thus; his own waste providing his own food, and all that he did or suffered taking place in and by himself. For the Creator conceived that a being which was self-sufficient would be far more excellent than one which lacked anything; and, as he had no need to take anything or defend himself against any one, the Creator did not think it necessary to bestow upon him hands: nor had he any need of feet, nor of the whole apparatus of walking; but the movement suited to his spherical form which was designed by him, being of all the seven that which is most appropriate to mind and intelligence; and he was made to move in the same manner and on the same spot, within his own limits revolving in a circle. All the other six motions were taken away from him, and he was made not to partake of their deviations. And as this circular movement required no feet, the universe was created without legs and without feet.’ (3)

Just as this describes the first living being so does it describe the cosmos....

Clearly if this model had ever been adopted it would not be conducive to the process of evolution and was superceded by a more dynamic model in which each creature, and the cosmos itself, is in a constant process of ingesting both food and experience and excreting its accompanying waste.

But the fact remains at its most elemental the human being is merely a pipe of flesh....no different from a worm. In Lawrence Durrell's Justine, Balthazar, the cabalistic physician, comments, "After all the work of philosophers on his soul and the doctors on his body, what can we say we really know about man? That he is, when all is said and done, just a passage for liquids and solids, A PIPE OF FLESH.’(4)

But this pipe of flesh in Plato’s analogy is seen as part of and a reflection of the entire cosmos – not just metaphorically but physically. And it was the genius of Wilhelm Reich that he instinctively understood this basic indivisibility and indissolubility of all life.

The remarkable Sayer Ji opens an article entitled How Raw Honey Could Save Your Microbiome (and Travel Back In Time) on his GreenMed Info blog with the question:

Did you know that there are billions of years of biological information encoded within your cells, and that depending on what you do or do not eat, the information is activated or remains latent?

He proceeds to explain:

‘It is a biological fact that the distant past is embedded within the present. No one could have described this more aptly and tangibly than Thich Nhat Han, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet and peace activist when he said:

‘’If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people."

In fact, each cell in your body, along with all the cells in all living creatures on the planet today, derive from a last universal common ancestor (LUCA) estimated to have lived some 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago in the primordial ocean. While this may strike the reader as an unusual concept, even Charles Darwin acknowledged this phenomenon in Origin of Species (1859):

"Therefore I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed."

The germline cells within our bodies (sperm and ovum) represent a quasi-immortal and unbroken biological thread tying us all back, through an almost infinite number of cell replications, to LUCA. These germline cells represent, against all odds, the resilience of biological systems to persist through incalculably vast stretches of time and innumerable vectors of adversity. They are "deathless" relative to somatic cells in that their biological information has been passed down from generation to generation for billions of years without interruption, and that will continue to be passed forward within the successfully conceived progeny of all the species inhabiting this planet today. (5)

Endemic in our way of thinking about Life is the notion of evolution leading from extreme simplicity or uniformity to ever increasing complexification and diversification.

My contention is that this process of complexification and diversification reached a critical impasse with the emergence of rationality (‘In the Beginning was the Word’) and the human capacity to reflect upon existence; and most pertinently the capacity to separate out qualities and characteristics in the environment one from the other that has resulted both in our remarkable capacity for taking control of the world in which we live, but also is responsible for our alienation from it.

If it is the case that ‘the germline cells within our bodies (sperm and ovum) represent a quasi-immortal and unbroken biological thread tying us all back, through an almost infinite number of cell replications, to LUCA’ then it makes some sort of sense that Reich’s starting point was his study of human sexuality and in particular the function of the orgasm. For our biological origins – the infinite number of cell replications stretching back to LUCA – precede by aeons our capacity to self reflect, precede our intellectuality.

How did Reich arrive at his intuition concerning the function of orgasm as being indicative of a solution to all physical as well as psychological difficulties? His most straightforward statement answering this question is to be found in the opening chapter of The Cancer Biopathy:

‘It has long been a known fact in sex-economy that the orgasm is a fundamental biological phenomenon; “fundamental” because the orgastic discharge of energy occurs at the very root of biological functioning. This discharge appears in the form of an involuntary convulsion of the entire plasma system. Like respiration, it is a basic function of every animal system. Biophysically it is not possible to make a distinction between the total contraction of an amoeba and the orgastic contraction of a multicellular organism. The most salient characteristics are intense biological excitation, repeated expansion and contraction, ejaculation of body fluids, and rapid subsidence of the biological excitation.....

‘The function of the orgasm thus reveals itself as a four-beat rhythm: mechanical tension → bio-energetic charge → bio-energetic discharge → mechanical relaxation. We shall call it the function of tension and charge or, in brief, the TC-function.

‘Earlier investigations have demonstrated that the TC-function not only is characteristic of the orgasm but also applies to all functions of the autonomic life system. The heart, the intestines, the urinary bladder, the lungs all function according to this rhythm. Even the division of cells follows this four-beat pattern. The same is true of the movement of protozoa and metazoa of all kinds. Worms and snakes, in the movements of their individual parts as well as of their total organism, clearly display the rhythmic functioning designated by the TC-formula. There seems to exist one basic law that governs the total organism, in addition to governing its autonomic organs. With our basic biological formula, we encompass the very essence of living functions. The orgasm formula thus emerges as the life formula itself. This corresponds exactly to our earlier formulation that the sexual process is the productive biological process per se, in procreation, work, joyful living, intellectual productivity, etc. (6)

This last sentence is particularly important for an understanding of Reich’s work. For Reich an understanding of the TC-function – synonymous with the orgasm function - is critical to an understanding of the entire life process and of all manifestations of the human organism, not just sex. Life is about flux, and the constant interplay of opposing forces.

However much emphasis Reich may have placed on the sexual component of his theory he never lost sight of the fact that the fundamental mechanism is applicable to all aspects of human existence and experience.

Interestingly this TC function of Reich’s is equivalent to a concept that played a central role in Wilson’s philosophy, namely the St Neot Margin. Wilson recounts in many of his books how he came to coin the term when hitchhiking a lift in a lorry that happened to be passing through St Neots in Huntingdonshire when the lorry suddenly developed a malfunction and for a short while it looked as though he might be dumped on the side of the road again; but then the driver discovered that if he drove slowly he could keep going until they got to their destination. The ‘margin’ refers to the overwhelming sense of relief that Wilson experienced when he realised he still had a lift.

Another occasion when Wilson had a similar experience was when he thought his girlfriend Joy was pregnant when they were on holiday in Cornwall. Wilson was feeling extremely depressed at the prospect of being shackled with another child and all the attendant responsibilities. When he learned that in fact it was a false alarm he found that suddenly the surrounding landscape was transformed and seemed incredibly beauty. He comments in the Autobiography:

‘What struck me so clearly was that what I was seeing – this immense depth of mystery, beauty, magic that seemed to be exhaled from the sea and Exmouth peninsular beyond it – was quite objective. It was really there, all the time. Meaning is an objective datum, as if Nature is actually telling you something. The mechanism of tension and relief had merely pulled aside the veil as the curtains of a theatre part to reveal the opening scene.’ (my italics)

And Wilson continues:

‘But if that was so, then man should be able to induce mystical ecstasy by simply learning to see things as they are. How? By somehow learning to reproduce the mental process that had just removed the blinkers from my own eyes.’

And he concludes the passage: ‘Is this not the secret of all poetry? Is this not why Shelley was so exalted by the sheer power of the west wind?’ (7)

What Reich is saying with his TC function is that this oscillation of tension and charge, is physically encoded in us, something that Wilson never seemed to appreciate. However once we acknowledge this it is not too difficult to make the leap and say that potentially the capacity for ecstasy – the sort of ecstasy Wilson writes about in his autobiography – is therefore also physically encoded in us......

From an evolutionary perspective the nervous system that characterizes the vast majority of living species (exceptions only include sponges and other simple unicellular creatures) originate in primitive wormlike organisms about 550 to 600 million years ago.

The significance of the planaria experiment seems to me to lie, not just in the importance of imprinting that Wilson draws attention to in the passage from Superconsciousness, but in the question posed by one of the researchers working on the planaria experiment namely: How could they be bored when they had no brain or nervous system? To which nobody has an answer.

The only answer surely can be that the need for purpose is physically encoded at a level that relies neither on a brain nor a nervous system. This is something scientific orthodoxy may not wish to discuss but is strongly suggested both by Sayer Ji’s speculations concerning epigenetics and Reich’s TC theory outlined above.

If this were proven to be the case Nietzsche never said a truer word than when he wrote: ‘Ye have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is still worm......’ (8)

Perhaps Nietzsche might not have succumbed to insanity had he reconnected with the worm in his nature – though to any Nietzschean this may sound heretical; because was not Nietzsche’s whole endeavour to surmount the merely human in the same way that we surmounted being a worm and supposedly (in his view) surmounted being an ape.....?

But it is this hierarchical thinking that is at fault. Because we have surmounted the level of the worm and the ape does not mean that we do not still contain them within us, and most importantly do not partially function in precisely the same way as they do. Reich stated this unequivocally in the chapter entitled ‘The Expressive Language of the Living’ in his book Character Analysis where, having discussed at length how through his therapeutic work and biological studies he has found evidence for the same basic principles of plasma functioning in human beings as are to be found in the worm and the jellyfish, he concludes:

‘We shall have to learn to accept the idea that we are not dealing here with atavistic remnants of our phylogenetic past but with contemporary, bio-energetically important functions in the highly developed organism. The most primitive and the most advanced plasmatic functions exist side by side and function as if they were connected to one another.’ (9) (my italics)

This chapter in Reich’s Character Analysis is one of the clearest explications I have come across of how he arrived at his conclusions concerning the functioning of the human organism, and is also highly relevant to the thesis underpinning this book.

Whatever map of the brain you choose to subscribe to, and Wilson examined many different paradigms throughout his career – Sperry’s Left/Right axis (Frankenstein’s Castle), Stan Gooch’s equation of the old brain with the cerebellum, Mavromatis’ subcortical structures (see Beyond the Occult for both Gooch &Mavromatis) among others - the principle remains the same, namely that the human brain includes multiple ways of perceiving and experiencing the world that have evolved over millennia.

A common denominator of all these maps is that all mystical experience can in some way be related to the hypnagogic state, and that this always seems to entail stilling the activity of the rational tip of the brain and entering into a state of quiescence whereby the older layers of the brain can express themselves. This state is not only responsible for mystical but also for all creative and paranormal powers.

An awareness of the TC function is actually endemic throughout the literature of esoteric mysticism. For instance in an article entitled Daoism and the Origins of Qigong published on the website ‘Abode of the Eternal Dao’ Lidia Kohn writes on the nature of the eternal Dao:

‘This Dao, although the ground and inherent power of the human being, is entirely beyond ordinary perception. It is so vague and obscure, so subtle and so potent, that it is beyond all knowing and analysis; we cannot grasp it however hard we try. The human body, senses, and intellect are simply not equipped to deal with this Dao. The only way a person can ever get in touch with it is by forgetting and transcending ordinary human faculties, by becoming subtler and finer and more potent, more like the Dao itself.

The Dao at the periphery, on the other hand, is characterized as the give and take of various pairs of complementary opposites, as the natural ebb and flow of things as they rise and fall, come and go, grow and decline, emerge and die. The Book of the Dao and Its Virtue says:

To contract, there must first be expansion.

To weaken, there must first be strengthening.

To destroy, there must first be promotion.

To grasp, there must first be giving.

This is called the subtle pattern.

Things develop in alternating movements as long as they live. It is the nature of life to be in constant motion. It is the nature of things to always move in one direction or the other, up or down, toward lightness or heaviness, brightness or darkness. Nature is a continuous flow of becoming, whether latent or manifest, described as the alternation of complementary characteristics and directions that cannot exist without each other. This becoming can be rhythmic and circular or it can move back toward the source of life in the ineffable Dao, which at the same time is a forward movement toward a new level of cosmic oneness.’(10)

So whereas the true nature of the Dao lies beyond the conflict of opposites, beyond the world of manifestation the human race, being located at the periphery, can only encounter the Dao via the world of manifestation in which we have our being, and there cannot be any manifestation without this interplay of opposites – without in other words the TC function, which in itself of course is an assertion of duality – the prerequisite for manifestation.

Later in the same chapter of his book The Cancer Biopathy, already quoted from, Reich writes:

‘...the sprouting of every plant, the development of every embryo, the spontaneous movement of muscles, and the productivity of every biological organism demonstrate the existence of incalculable energies governing the work of living substance. Energy is the capacity to work.’(11)

And he goes on to make what is surely the most revolutionary assertion – and correspondingly the most difficult to comprehend – when he says: ‘The energy accomplishing this work must have its origin in non-living matter....’

And in that one sentence he turns one of our most indelible assumptions about life on its head – namely that life propagates life and that life is something radically different from mere matter.

We have already seen in the previous chapter how Reich arrived at this conclusion. What he is asserting is that the same energy, which he termed ‘orgone energy’, permeates the entire universe. The orgone energy contained in a grain of sand is not different qualitatively but only quantitavely from the orgone energy contained in a human being like Leonardo or Einstein. The difference between the two is therefore more the distinction between a Duracell battery and a nuclear reactor - one can fuel a pocket torch while the other can fuel an entire city.

And what makes the energy to fuel the human being as opposed to the energy required to hold the atoms of a rock together, what distinguishes the two, is the sexual impulse which drives the human being; this is what determines the human being’s ‘orgonotic’ charging, which can be seen in Reich’s thinking to be synonymous with the capacity for work – which in turn is the symptom of a healthy functioning human organism. Reich continues in the same chapter already quoted from:

’The repression of human instinctual life is not a natural but rather a pathological result of the suppression of natural instincts, in particular, of genital sexuality. An organism that uses most of its energy to keep the natural life process imprisoned within itself cannot comprehend life outside itself. The central manifestation of life is expressed in the genital sexual function, to which life owes its existence and continuation. A society of human beings that has excluded the most essential manifestations of this function and made them unconscious is not capable of living rationally; indeed, everything it says appears distorted and pornographic.’(12)

And with astounding penetration into his own predicament he concludes:

‘Only the mystics, far removed from scientific insight, have preserved contact with the living process’....

For it might appear that Reich was one of their number – a mystic attempting to explain his insights into the life process in scientific terms. But Reich would have vehemently rejected such a designation, for as becomes clear in his book Ether God and Devil mysticism was for Reich as much a symptom of the dysfunction of Mankind as was the dreary materialism of scientific orthodoxy. For he could see clearly that the tendency of all mystics was to disavow the instincts and intuitions that moved within them and attribute what were in fact natural phenomena, orgonomic phenomena, to some abstract deity or force outside and beyond functional life. And it was the essence of Reich’s orgonomy that there should be no such bifurcation. (13)

Thus mystical experience, mystical insight was for Reich a natural phenomenon and should be experienced and embraced as such. It should not, indeed could not, be separated out from the somatic life of the individual. The origins of all human experience, however we might choose to characterise it – emotional, intellectual or mystical - could only ever be somatic....

Effectively Reich was giving scientific justification to Nietzsche’s observation: ‘But the awakened one, the knowing one, saith: "Body am I entirely and nothing more; and soul is only the name of something in the body."

What Reich was arguing for was a new way of doing science. In his view in order to be truly scientific it was necessary to take into account not just the orgonotic charge of the object of inspection but the orgonotic charge of the observer, and this accords with the observations of Marcel Vogel when experimenting with plants that we reviewed in the previous chapter.

In The Bion Experiments on the Origin of Life Reich wrote:

‘Admittedly, measurements and replicate experiments still have the last word in science. But when I see an amoeba stretching and the protoplasm flowing in it, I react to this observation with my entire organism. The identity of my vegetative physical sensation with the objectively visible plasma flow of the amoeba is directly evident to me.

I feel it as something that cannot be denied. It would be wrong to derive scientific theory from this alone, but it is essential for productive research that confidence and strength for strict experimental work be derived from such involuntary, vegetative acts of perception.’ (14)(15)

The whole thesis underlying this book is that the New Existentialism can only be understood from the perspective of a unitary universe. Reich understood this better than any other thinker we shall refer to in this book. (16)

Reich’s message was the same as that of William Blake and DH Lawrence. The sexual function is the life function – and if it is compromised so is life.

Whether we like to admit it or not we have to accept that the genitals, the gonads that contain in the words of Sayer Ji ‘’the germline cells within our bodies (sperm and ovum)..... a quasi-immortal and unbroken biological thread tying us all back, through an almost infinite number of cell replications, to LUCA’’ are the engine house for the human organism, where we get the energy that enables us to function in the world. And the engine needs to be serviced on a regular basis like any other engine.

There have been studies that have proven that people who masturbate frequently have much greater self confidence and appetite for life than people who don’t, and this attitude has entered into common medical orthodoxy – something which would have been unheard of 50 years ago. The online Healthline cites:

‘It is increasingly recognized among mental health professionals that masturbation can relieve depression and lead to a higher sense of self worth’. (17)

And in the context of Reich’s thinking this makes total sense. If we accept the premise of a universe suffused with orgone energy then we as human beings are some of the most highly developed and complex receptacles for that energy, and we need to learn how to generate that energy and utilize it to the optimum…..and allow it to flow through us. Ultimately this is the definition of health; and what becomes clear is that any guilt or depression associated with masturbation, or any other sexual activity for that matter, has nothing to do with the act itself but is always associated with the stigma related to cultural and social mores.

Somewhere in The Function of the Orgasm Reich says humankind cannot come into its full estate until the concepts of God and Nature are understood to be synonymous. (18) In Chapter 8 we’ll examine a mystical tradition that maintains that sexual energy represents the immanence of God, the life force, the Christic – call it what you will – in each one of us and how this tradition encourages the raising and disciplining of this energy in precisely the same way as Colin Wilson portrayed in his novel The God of the Labyrinth.

It was A.N. Whitehead who maintained that what every organism aims at is ‘a certain absoluteness of self enjoyment’. And when this absoluteness is achieved you have a successful happy and ‘orgonotically charged’ – in Reich’s parlance – individual.

We all know when we meet somebody who is ‘orgonotically charged’. We want to be with them. They give off sparks of vitality, because they are, apparently at any rate, complete in themselves; they are not self-divided, they are not neurotic, they do not have a problem with their own existence. Perhaps the best experience that most of us have of being ‘orgonotically charged’ is that of being in love, a condition which is of course intimately connected with being erotically stimulated.

In this state all our senses are heightened. We are physically enlivened. We cannot sleep. Life without the beloved seems to be inconceivable and incomprehensible. We have only one ambition and one aim and that is to be with the Other. Suddenly we want to be alive as we have never wanted to be alive before. Suddenly life is interesting like it’s never been before. Suddenly we’re excited at the prospect of a new day like we’ve never been before.

This is what it is, in Reich’s parlance to be ‘orgonotically charged’; because to be in love and to be loved is to be accredited, is to be confirmed in one’s sense of self, is to be alive to one’s own possibilities in a way that one never has been before.

One of the best descriptions of what it is to be in love comes from GK Chesterton’s little book on St Francis of Assisi where Chesterton writes in his introduction how he seeks to explicate:

‘....why the saint who was so gentle with his Brother the Wolf was so harsh to his Brother the Ass (as he nicknamed his own body), of why the troubadour who said that love set his heart on fire separated himself from women, of why the singer who rejoiced in the strength and gaiety of the fire deliberately rolled himself in the snow, of why the very song which cries with all the passion of a pagan ‘Praised be god for our Sister, Mother Earth, which brings forth varied fruits and grass and glowing flowers, ends almost with the words ‘Praised be God for our sister, the death of the body’……’And for the modern reader the clue to the asceticism and all the rest can best be found in the stories of lovers when they seemed to be rather like lunatics’ (19)

Chesterton avers that this behaviour, these extremes of devotion and rejection would only be comprehensible in one who was in love, and that indeed Francis was in love, he was in love with God:

‘Most commentators think of religion as some sort of philosophy, a thing impersonal. For someone like St Francis it was an intensely personal passion…...A man will not roll in the snow for a stream of tendency by which all things fulfil the law of their being. He will not go without food in the name of something, not ourselves that makes for righteousness. He will do things like this, or pretty nearly like this, under quite a different impulse. He will do these things when he is in love. The first fact to realise about St Francis is involved with the first fact with which his story starts; that when he said from the first that he was a Troubadour, and said later that he was a Troubadour of a newer and nobler romance, he was not using a mere metaphor, but understood himself much better than the scholars understand him. He was, to the last agonies of asceticism, a Troubadour. He was a Lover. He was a lover of God and he was really and truly a lover of men; possibly a much rarer mystical vocation’ (20)

What Chesterton is groping towards in his study of St Francis is an understanding of the way in which Francis’ life exhibits in its turn a groping towards a Nietzschean transvaluation of values. It has to do with what Blake was reaching towards, what all the great poets and mystics have reached towards; it has to do with that which makes the human being unique and that is the single-most challenge of our existence, namely the bringing together of all the different facets of our existence, all the antinomies, and holding them all in one crucible, and allowing whatever will to emerge from that crucible. One gets the impression Francis would have approved Rupert Brooke’s declaration: ‘I suppose my occupation is being in love with the universe’.

We have seen how the power of music lies in the fact that not only does it speak to the emotions and the intellect but it also speaks to and activates the lower levels of our being at a purely somatic level and that these lower levels should not be viewed as inferior to the so called higher levels and how we make a mistake if we separate them out as such. (See Chapter 3)

The danger of over emphasising the intellectual, rational capacity of the human brain is that the lower layers of the brain; the layers that function purely somatically become subordinated. Of course we have an advantage, in that we can take control of our emotional and sexual lives in a way not open to the rest of creation. But this advantage should not lead us to relegate the physical and emotional because, as both Blake and Reich appreciated, it is from our physical and emotional lives comes the energy with which to work intellectually and be creative. Therefore the challenge is not to surmount these lower levels but harness the raw energy they make available to us - and this is fundamentally what Yogic and Tantric disciplines aim to do, as we shall see in Chapter 8.

Wilson struggled to accept the centrality in Reich’s thinking ascribed to the orgasm and yet in The God of the Labyrinth (and indeed throughout his life’s work) he explores in depth the notion of sexual functioning, and specifically the orgasm, as being a legitimate means of connecting with Source.

The reason Reich latched on to the physical orgasm is it is the most intense manifestation of a process that he perceived to be at the root of all biological functioning, namely the orgonotic pulsation at a deep cellular level which is responsible for all sensation – sensation being what differentiates living creatures from solid (so called ‘dead’) matter; but this differentiation is only a question of degree.

All matter is characterised by vibration – as we now know from the revelations of quantum physics. The degrees to which this vibration may be experienced by the individual organism are dictated by the degree of complexification that has taken place in the evolutionary journey of the individual species. But what cannot be denied is that the basic function is the same throughout the whole of Creation.

The true significance of the experiment with planaria that Wilson so often alludes to is that it would seem to suggest that intentionality, as developed and discussed by all the great philosophers and codified by Edmund Husserl at the end of the 19th century, is not just an intellectual acquisition (i.e. something that we have to acquire) but is already encoded in our genes at the cellular level.

And when Wilson said in Introduction to the New Existentialism that intentionality can best be experienced and explored through sex and the aesthetic he was tacitly acknowledging this fact, and acknowledging at the same time that intentionality cannot be experienced solely through the intellect. And more than that: mind and consciousness are not reliant solely upon brain – they are only processed by the brain.

This is of course something no materialist will accept; but there is plentiful scientific evidence to support the assertion – not least the incidences of human beings who have functioned perfectly well, have shown all the normal evidences of intelligence, and have been found to have virtually no brain at all. (21)

There has also been significant research into humans who have died with all the signs of suffering from acute Alzheimers, who have yet functioned perfectly well till their dying day without manifesting any symptoms of the disease they would appear to be harbouring:

‘While Sister Mary was alive, she was the gold standard for successful cognitive aging in the Nun Study. After her death, the neuropathologic evaluation revealed a surprising finding: Her brain contained abundant neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques, the classic neuropathologic lesions of Alzheimer's disease. Although extrapolation of findings from Sister Mary and her fellow sisters may be difficult, the lives of these extraordinary women may provide unique clues to the etiology of aging and Alzheimer's disease, exemplify to others what is possible in old age, and show how the clinical expression of some diseases may be averted.’ (22)

We make a grave mistake if we associate all evidence of cognitive function as being entirely dependent upon physical disintegration.

The recent science of holography posits the notion that we live in a holographic universe, namely that the entire universe may be contained in any little bit of it – just as the 3D image of the hologram can be created out of any small particle of the original negative. This infers that all distinctiveness, all separation is only apparent , and takes us straight back to the early alchemical uroboros illustration (above)with the words ἓντὸ πᾶν ("The All is One") from the work of Cleopatra the Alchemist (c. third century, Egypt), and also of course the Hermetic doctrine of As Above So Below.

Apart from its ramifications for our view of the universe this theory infers that function is not anything like as limited as we might think; that the cells of our bodies are interchangeable and that every cell in some way contains sufficient information to fulfil any given function.

Is not the all pervasiveness in world mythology of the uroborus trying to tell us something – namely that This Is Life? The riddle of the Sphinx is contained in this image of a primal worm with its tail in its mouth; this is an illustration of the self sufficiency and self generating capacity of every cell in the manifest universe, and by deduction ditto each individual organism; and, if we are prepared to listen to Reich, that all of life, intelligence and consciousness, can be traced back to the peristaltic contractions that are the only apparent evidence of life in the amoeba, let alone the lowly worm, and that reflect the primal spasm that created the whole universe at the outset (Spanda in Kashmiri Shaivism), and has been responsible for every manifestation of life since.

Wilson uses the example of the planaria worm experiment as evidence of the basic purposefulness of all life, but he seems to overlook the crucial fact that that purposefulness is physically encoded; it is not something that can be learned from a book.

Indeed the danger of learning from a book – and the whole tendency of human beings to vaunt themselves above the rest of creation as being the ‘evolutionary spearhead’ (Julian Huxley’s term) is that we become divorced from the primal nature of our purpose which, as the planaria experiment would seem to indicate, is contained in our cells at the most elementary level.

Reich’s importance lies in the fact that he proved through scientific, clinical and laboratory research that not only psychological but physical health, the two being inseparable, were entirely dependent upon re-connecting with the sense of purpose encoded at the most elementary somatic level; and that disease and dysfunction emanate from the human organism being separated – or having separated itself - from the very source of its own power. Reich identified that only by reconnecting with this primal source can the human being feel the necessity of his or her own existence.

And this is where Wilson struggled – because he was so intent on proving that human beings needed to think more rather than feel more , he was so obsessively intellectual himself, that he found it difficult to accept that actually we have to remain connected to the lowly worm at the root of our being.

The importance of this is something the ancient Hindus intuited when they formulated their concept of Kundalini, the cosmic serpent that resides within us all, and we’ll be reviewing this seminal concept later in this book.

Wilson was right when he supported Julian Huxley’s thesis that man is the evolutionary spearhead but wrong when he condemned the primacy of the physical universe in which Mankind still has its roots – and thus dismissed the importance of Reich’s findings re the Orgasm and the Orgone.

And yet he intuitively recognised that Reich was on to something. He intuitively knew that his own obsessive head consciousness was not the sole solution. When he wrote in The Occult, “The poet, the mystic, and the magician have this in common: the desire to develop their powers ‘downward’ rather than ‘upward’. To reconnect with their deepest nature’’, he was acknowledging not just the limitations of head consciousness, but the importance of reconnecting with our life springs at the most elementary level. In the ensuing sentence he writes: ‘In this way ‘Faculty X’ also unites the two halves of man’s mind, conscious and subconscious.’ He might have been better advised to write ‘the two halves of Man’s being’ which would then include the physical and the spiritual, the biological and the mental – indeed all the antinomies. (23)

So why was Wilson so ambivalent to Reich? In all his writings it is clear that for Wilson sex was a great evolutionary force attempting always to move Mankind on from his narrow minded entrapment in the present moment – moving him from ‘worm’s eye consciousness’ to ‘birds eye consciousness’.

In his study The Quest for Wilhelm Reich Wilson gives the impression that Reich saw the attainment of physical orgasm as an end in itself. This was not the case. Reich saw the capacity for orgasm as symptomatic of a healthy functioning organism that was therefore able to engage with life in all its manifestations in the way it was originally intended, rather than as a slave to cultural and societal proscriptions.

The fact is Wilson could not accept that neurosis and mental illness generally might have a somatic origin; and I think he never truly appreciated the all inclusive nature of Reich’s concept of ‘orgonotic charging’, which was nothing less than the life function at its most elementary and its most exalted at one and the same time.

What Wilson did not seem to appreciate was the fact that with the discovery of the Orgone, Reich’s work took a quantum leap into a realm that left Freud trailing in the distance. Wilson’s preoccupation with the nature of intentionality and Husserl’s transcendental ego meant that he inevitably ended up perpetuating the bifurcation at the root of Western culture, namely that between mechanistic science on the one hand and esoteric mysticism on the other hand, that Reich had explored – and deplored - in Ether, God and Devil. The theory of the Orgone effectively obliterated the need for this bifurcation.

But Reich was not thereby denying the importance of intentionality. He was merely observing that a true intentionality could only be found in an orgonotically charged organism. This is what he meant when he said: ‘The orgasm formula thus emerges as the life formula itself. This corresponds exactly to our earlier formulation that the sexual process is the productive biological process per se, in procreation, work, joyful living, intellectual productivity, etc.’ (24)

Which is surely little different than what Wilson was saying in Origins of the Sexual Impulse.

I believe Reich made an indispensable contribution to our understanding of human functioning, principally through elucidating the way in which the human psyche cannot be separated from its embodiment, and that the body is minded as much as the mind is embodied – the two cannot be separated; and this awareness from his psychiatric practise and development of the theory of character armour was only confirmed by his biological experiments.

This whole subject of the embodiment of great artists and how they express their bodies through their art needs to be examined. In The Misfits Wilson himself made a study that drew direct equation between many great artists and philosophers and their sexuality – also see the excised chapters concerning Foucault and Barthes in The Devil’s Party (to be found in the collection of essays Below the Iceberg).

But the study could be extended indefinitely: for instance how does digestion affect the operation of the mind...? We live in an age when ‘You are what you eat’ has become a byword for anybody remotely health conscious. The article quoted above from Sayer Ji is principally concerned with how consuming raw honey is a means of connecting directly with our evolutionary ancestors through the activating of our intrinsic microbiome. At the very least we are forced to acknowledge that the very fact that states of consciousness can be radically altered by what we ingest indicates that we separate out mind and body at our peril.

I’m aware this might sound like I’m proposing a radically materialist position that is the total reverse of Wilson’s philosophy - but that is not the case. What I am proposing is that we cannot ignore the role the body plays in all instances of spiritual enlightenment – no different from the role it plays in depression, schizophrenia and psychosis.

Wilson approached the problem from the top down – that is he was chiefly concerned with the capacity of humans for taking control of their lives through the power of the mind. And this is an incontrovertible tenet of the New Existentialism. But it cannot be understood without reference to the myriad ways in which the mind and body intersect; and this is something that Reich intuited and made the basis of his life’s work.

I was recently watching a Star Wars film with my kids and was very struck by the concept of the 'midi-chlorians'. It has to be said I'm not a Star Wars aficionado - so it was all quite new to me, though I remember being very struck by the concept of The Force in the early films. In an interview Gorge Lucas explained: "midi-chlorians are a loose depiction of mitochondria, [organelles] which are necessary components for cells to divide" and that without them "there wouldn't be any life."

The passage that struck me in the film I was watching - The Phantom Menace... went like this:

QUI-GON: Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life form that resides in all living cells.

ANAKIN: They live inside me?

QUI-GON: Inside your cells, yes. And we are symbionts with them.

ANAKIN: Symbionts?

QUI-GON: Life forms living together for mutual advantage. Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you'll hear them speaking to you.

This passage gave a whole new meaning to the notion that Heaven/God/Truth is within you and seemed to provide an illustration of what I've been trying to say concerning the planaria experiment - namely that purpose is physically encoded, and it is only our capacity for rational analysis that alienates us from it.

When I went on line to find out more I realised that the whole concept of midi-chlorians was deeply antipathetical to hard line Star Wars fans - the reason being that they felt the Force should be solely a spiritual force beyond the individual and that identifying it with mitochondria was in some way trivialising it and thereby denigrating it..... (25)

And this made me reflect that we human beings have a major problem with not separating out the physical from the spiritual; in other words we find it almost impossible to experience ourselves as a gestalt. And I believe that in spite of appearances Wilson in the New Existentialism was fundamentally arguing for a holistic approach that refuses to separate out our experience into its constituent parts.

The problem arises when we define the distinctively human as being our capacity to conceptualise from which arises the notion that we represent the 'spearhead' of evolution’; this capacity we have to separate out from our biological origins - to divide and conceptualise our experience of life.

And I am fast coming to the conclusion that this is where it all goes wrong! And that somehow we have to find a way of embracing the fact that the only reason we have these capacities for willing, intending, conceptualising, separating out etc is in order to take control of our lives and environment - they are tools which we need to employ in order to make the best of our lives - but they are only tools and not the defining feature per se. They allow us to intersect - and interject - and reflect and meditate and cogitate and join up the dots - or not - in quite spectacular fashion; but they can also be responsible for alienating us from ourselves and our environment, and from God/Life/the Force - whatever you want to call it.

It is a commonplace of all mystical literature that the only way to achieve Samadhi is to quell the chattering of the rational brain - this is the aim of all meditation chakra work etc. And this is the conclusion we have arrived at so far in this book, namely that Reality lies always beyond the inevitable duality of rational discourse. Rational thought is rooted in language which is always predicated on the either/or of linguistic semantics and the peak experience always arises from a moment when we manage to transcend the chronic dualism of rational thought - hence the power of music. This is something Wilhelm Reich addresses head on in the chapter from Character Analysis already referred to, when he writes:

‘Music is wordless and wants to remain that way. Yet music gives expression to the inner movement of the living organism, and listening to it evokes the “sensation” of some “inner stirring”. The wordlessness of music is usually described in one of two ways: (1) as a mark of mystical spirituality, or (2) as the deepest expression of feelings incapable of being put into words. The natural scientific point of view subscribes to the interpretation that musical expression is related to the depths of the living organism. Accordingly, what is regarded as the “spirituality” of great music is merely another way of saying that deep feeling is identical with having contact with the living organism beyond the limitations of language.’ (26)

Of all the mystics and geniuses Wilson engaged with throughout his career it seems to me Reich was the one closest to providing a scientific explanation for Wilson’s intuitions about life, albeit Wilson clearly struggled to embrace the fact.

Chapter 5 Reich and Wilson footnotes

1 Colin Wilson Superconsciousness Watkins Publishing 2009 page 191-193

2 Colin Wilson The Occult Granada Publishing 1978 page 260

3 Plato, Timaeus, Part 1 Jowett, Benjamin, trans, Hermetic

4 Lawrence Durrell The Alexandria Quartet Faber & Faber 1962 page 79 5 See http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/could-eating-honey-be-form-microbial-time-travel-1

© October 21st 2018 GreenMedInfo LLC. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of GreenMedInfo LLC. Want to learn more from GreenMedInfo? Sign up for the newsletter here: www.greenmedinfo.com/greenmed/newsletter

6 Wilhelm Reich The Cancer Biopathy Chapter 1 page 5 Farrar Straus and Giroux 1973

7 Colin Wilson Dreaming To Some Purpose Century 2004 page 111

8 F Nietzsche: Thus Spake Zarathustra, Introduction 3 Trans Thomas Common 1909

9 Wilhelm Reich Character Analysis (Third Enlarged Edition) Trans Vincent R Carfagno Simon & Schuster 1972 page 359

I am extremely grateful to Dr James E. Strick, of Franklin & Marshall college, Pennsylvania, for drawing my attention to this chapter, as indeed to many other references in this and the preceding two chapters that have assisted my understanding of the full range of Reich’s contribution.

10 See https://abodetao.com/daoism-and-the-origins-of-qigong/

11 Wilhelm Reich The Cancer Biopathy Chapter 1 page 11 Farrar Straus and Giroux 1973

12 Ibid page 11

13 Reich, Wilhelm. Ether, God & Devil & Cosmic Superimposition Farrar, Straus and Giroux. See pages 88-91

14 Reich, Wilhelm. The Bion Experiments on the Origins of Life . Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition. Chapter 9 Location 1903

15 See also James E.Strick: Wilhelm Reich, Biologist, Harvard University Press 2015, the only careful study of the bion experiments by a professional historian and the only study yet to examine Reich’s own laboratory notebooks and full correspondence in the research.

16 Aside perhaps from Gurdjieff. We have seen already in Chapter 3 how important Gurdjieff was to Wilson’s thinking. For a brilliant exposition of how Gurdjieff’s thinking intersects with the findings of Wilhelm Reich, a correlation which underscores the thesis of this book see: Reich and Gurdjieff: Sexuality and the Evolution of Consciousness by David M Brahinsky Xlibris Corporation 2011

17 See https://www.healthline.com/health/masturbation-and-depression#depression-and-sex-drive

18 Wilhelm Reich The Function of the Orgasm Sovereign Press 1999 page 17: ‘Only if God and the law of nature are identical is an understanding possible between science and religion.’ See also Wilhelm Reich: Ether, God & Devil Fararr Straus and Giroux Chapter 4 for a full discussion of this principle.

19 GK Chesterton St Francis of Assisi Hodder and Stoughton 1960 page 13-14

20 Ibid page 16-17

21 See The Lancet Volume 370, No. 9583, p262, 21 July 2007

22 See ‘’Aging and Alzheimer's Disease: Lessons From the Nun Study’’ by David A. Snowdon, PhD2 Copyright 1997 by The Gerontological Society of America The Gerontologist Vol. 37, No. 2,150-156

23 Colin Wilson The Occult Granada Publishing 1978 page 31

24 Wilhelm Reich The Cancer Biopathy Chapter 1 page 5 Farrar Straus and Giroux 1973

25 See https://www.shmoop.com/phantom-menace/midi-chlorians-symbol.html

26 Wilhelm Reich Character Analysis (Third Enlarged Edition) Trans Vincent R Carfagno Simon & Schuster 1972 page 359