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By Scott Sullivan


Outside the Box

You don’t see orgone accumulators a lot these days. I blame science. They were all the rage in the 1950s, when every luminary from William S. Burroughs to Orson Bean sat in coffin-shaped boxes designed to capture energy-charged forces from the atmosphere and pump them into their bodies.

Orgones, psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich claimed, healed diseases and unleashed libido (life force, per his predecessor, Sigmund Freud), leading to orgasm after orgasm. Where can I get mine?

Enter spoilsports who couldn’t wait to debunk Reich’s claims as based on sham science. Their efforts climaxed when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tossed the Potency Prophet in jail for violating an injunction to cease distribution of orgone-related products. He died in that box of a heart attack two years later.

That’s science for you. All it does is question. No sooner do you state a theory or hypothesis than peers question and debunk it. Never answers. At age 64 I am running out of time and patience.

Pascal’s Wager holds a rational person should live as if God exists, because if He doesn’t you’ll forego only minor, short-term things (pleasures, luxuries …) whereas if He does you reap infinite gains — eternity in heaven instead of hell. With orgone accumulators, potential rewards exceed risks as well.

Take the literary lion Burroughs: a sodomy scion and drug addict jailed after killing his second wife in what he described as “a William Tell incident.” His influence has been, of course, enduring. He continued to champion orgone accumulators till he went to that big sinkhole in the sky. What was the author of “Junkie” seeing that we aren’t seeing?

Reich saw — OK, maybe theorized — orgones being blue, the color of bright-sky energy, St. Elmo’s fire, that frogs turn during mating season and Viagra. What is it about the blues that makes people less sad, if not ecstatic?

The world is a lesser place without these fake boxes. But take heart. What goes around comes around, what science has debunked will itself be debunked and even pet rocks will be resurrected.

In these DYI times you’ll of course want to build your own. You can find instructions online — nothing dies there, however worthy. But Reich’s basic tenets — an outhouse-like box made of alternating metal and nonmetal layers — will attract so many orgones you may not know what to do with them.

Women have that complaint about me too, but it’s not the orgones they whine about. “Too much what?” I ask.

“Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth …”

“All seven deadly sins?”

“Your lust could use work. On the follow-up.”

Has your lust lost its luster too? Take heart: in addition to the blue pill, New Age science — assuming that isn’t an oxymoron — says if orgone boxes don’t do it, pyramids will. Look how they worked for Amway.

Science will soon enough kill that too. So in search of answers I turned to Hawkwind. The proto-punk/space rock band begat later acts ranging from Pink Floyd to the Sex Pistols. If you can remember their songs, you must have detoxed during the past 50 years or so. One, “Orgone Accumulator,” went:


I’ve got an orgone accumulator,

It makes me feel greater,

I’ll see you sometime later,

It’s no social integrator,

It’s a one-man isolator …


On and on the rhymes went till you made up and added your own:


It’s an auto-stimulator,

If they keep this up I’ll crater …


After I Googled these lyrics, another modern-science marvel happened: Amazon sent me an email listing old Hawkwind CDs for sale.

Sorry, Jeff Bezos. As much as you need my bucks, I remember enough from those days not to be nostalgic. They were fun while they lasted, but much better now they’re over.

The same will apply to Amazon, Google and so on soon enough. We marvel at what creators with tech make possible at this point because our knowledge bases and comfort zones are the past. But it’s the human thing, not tech du jour, that makes them creators.

History needn’t be just an anchor; why not a launch pad? When new tools — electricity, Freud’s theories, atomic and cyber ages … — become refined into obsolescence, we can still look ahead and dream.