Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian psychoanalyst around the 1920’s, one of the group of second generation psychoanalysts that came after Freud. He was also one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry and one that was vilified for the most part although he was, and still is, way ahead of his time. His book Listen, Little Man! is mainly about two subjects, how Reich was attacked for his discoveries and his work, and how the individual has the ability and the right to be free. He came to an understanding of what was healthy and unhealthy about human beings. Without creating divisions or neat categories, he saw that each one of us is a whole.
About a hundred years ago you learned to parrot the physicists who build machines and said there was no soul. Then came a great man and showed you your soul, only he did not know the connection between your soul and your body. You said: ‘Ridiculous: “Psychoanalysis!” Charlantanry! You can analyse urine, but you cannot analyse the psyche.’ You said this because in medicine you knew nothing but urine analysis. The fight for your mind lasted some forty years. I know this hard fight, because I, too, fought it for you. One day you discovered that one can make a lot of money with the sick human mind. All one has to do is to let a patient come daily for an hour over a period of some years and have him pay a certain fee for every hour.
The inclusion of the mind in medicine started to occur after Freud and his successors, the inclusion of the soul in medicine is really only starting to be explored. For soul is much more than just mind, but in Reich’s time they were both used to describe the hidden, interior world only accessible by observation and subjective knowing. It is important that Reich saw how these two facets of a person were both propelled by a life energy. So we have four elements at play in any moment that we look at the human as a whole being, the body, the mind, the soul and the life force which he called orgone.
Then, and not until then, did you begin to believe in the existence of the mind. In the meantime, knowledge of your body has quietly grown. I found that your mind is a function of your life energy, that, in other words, there is a unity between body and mind. I followed this track, and I found that you reach out with your life energy when you feel well and loving, and that you retract it to the centre of the body when you are afraid. For fifteen years you kept silent about these discoveries. But I continued on the same track and found that this life energy, which I termed ‘orgone,’ is also found in the atmosphere, outside of your body.
As Reich gives many derogatory statements about what man can be and has been in his observation, I admit I only pulled out the text from his book that spoke of what he was hoping to achieve by his work. I think what he was saying was not possible in 1930 or 1940 or even 1990. In 2015, part of what he describes is actually happening. We have been given a way to have a voice, an opinion, that is what blogs are all about, what social media does, what the Internet is. I think we are still unsure of what that really means though, and how being an individual is the most powerful tool we have to avoid further tyranny and unnecessary suffering.
A GLANCE IN THE FUTURE. I cannot tell you what your future will look like. I cannot know whether you will reach the moon or Mars with the cosmic orgone I discovered. Nor can I know how your space ships will fly or land; or whether you will use sunlight to light your houses at night. But I can tell you that you are NO LONGER going to do, 500 or 1000 or 5000 years hence.
The first of all things that you are no longer going to do is to feel yourself to be the little man who has no opinion of his own and who says, ‘Who am I anyhow…’ You do have your own opinion, and in the future you will consider it a great shame not to know it, not to advocate it and not to express it.
‘But what will the public opinion say about my opinion? I am going to be squashed like a worm if I express my own opinion!’
What you call ‘public opinion,’ Little Man is the sum total of all the opinions of all the little men and women. Every little man and every little woman has a correct opinion and a wrong opinion. The wrong opinions they have because they are afraid of the wrong opinions of other little men and women. This is why the correct opinions don’t come out. For example, you will no longer believe that you ‘don’t count.’ You will know and advocate your knowledge that you are the bearer of human society. Don’t run away. Don’t be so afraid. It is not so terrible to be the responsible bearer of human society.
‘What do I have to do to be the bearer of human society?’
You don’t have to do anything special or new. All you have to do is to continue what you are doing: ploughing your fields, wield your hammer, examine your patients, take your children to school or to the playground, report on the events of the day, penetrate ever more deeply into the secrets of nature. All these things you do already. But you think that all this is unimportant, and that what is important is only what Marshal Decoratus or Prince Inflatus, the Knight in shining armour, are doing.
Spiritual thinkers have said many times over, that one has to accept that they are small, just an ordinary person doing ordinary things. And within ordinary life and work one can be great. Instead we delegate greatness to those who are not deserving, who do the very things that cause harm, suffering and disease around the world. To be great means being smaller than what causes division, what is in us that is beyond race, sex, class, culture or country.
If you were not such a microscopically small man, you greatest scientist of the twentieth century, you would have developed a world consciousness instead of a national consciousness and would have found the means of preventing the atom bomb from breaking into this world; or, if that had been impossible, you would have exercised your influence, in unmistakable words, to put it out of function.
Reich does not have all the answers and the world we have is complex, yet he does see what we could aspire to! Where we could put our precious time and attention in order to give back, after all that the great men of the past have laboured and spent in order to discover for us what it could be to be better human beings.
Your life will be good and secure when aliveness will mean more to you than security; love more than money; your freedom more than party line or public opinion; when the mood of Beethoven or Bach will be the mood of your total existence (you have it in you; Little Man, buried deeply in a corner of your existence); when your thinking will be in harmony, and no longer at variance, with your feelings; when you will be able to comprehend your gifts in time and to recognize your ageing in time; when you will live the thoughts of great men instead of the misdeeds of great warriors; when the teachers of your children will be better paid than the politicians; when you will have more respect for the love between a man and woman than for a marriage licence; when you will recognize your errors in thinking in time, and not too late, as today; when you will feel elevation in hearing truths, and feel horror of formalities; when you will have communication with your work comrades directly, not through diplomats; when your adolescent daughter’s happiness in love will delight instead of enrage you; when you will only shake your head at times rather than punish little children for touching themselves; when human faces on the street will express freedom, animation and joy and no longer sadness and misery; when people no longer will walk on this earth with a retracted and rigid pelvis and deadened sexual organs.
To have a voice and to trust that voice is also our burning diamond. It is always there, waiting for us, we have only forgotten how it feels, the warmth and brightness of it as it lies in our clasped hands. We have not lost it for we can never lose what is part of us, part of a whole.
“There is only one thing that counts; to live one’s life well and happily. Follow the voices of your heart, even if it leads you off the path of timid souls. Do not become hard and embittered, even if life tortures you at times.”