Monday, August 1, 2011

Cloudbusting

Reich firing up the Cloudbuster.
July has slipped into August and the blue sky, usually so welcome, has become a reproach.  We are being deprived of rain and I miss it; every living thing here misses it.  I get a little desperate, eyeing the perfect, puffy white clouds that now and again linger overhead, somehow neither providing rain nor sheltering us from the heat of the sun.  Thoughts turn to cloud seeding, rain-dancing, cloudbusting.

Years ago while living in Cambridge, MA, I became interested in Wilhelm Reich, solely because of a song by Kate Bush called Cloudbusting.  The song is from the point of view of Reich’s son, Peter, and there’s actually a lot of information about Reich packed into that 5:08 song.  I found the book shelved on one of the dark basement stacks of Widener Library at Harvard, rarely checked out, all but forgotten.

Reich was an Austrian psychoanalyst, psychiatrist and scientist who emigrated to the United States in 1939.  He practiced some controversial methods involving touch therapy and having his patients strip down to their underwear during sessions (it gets more interesting than that, but I'd like to avoid an NC-17 rating).  Reich was big into something he called orgone – a cosmic energy – which he believed was responsible for everything from the formation of galaxies and cancer cells to the biological expressions of sexuality.  Powerful stuff.  This belief led to the invention of the orgone accumulator; he built some large enough for his patients to sit inside.  But he also invented something called a Cloudbuster, a machine that he claimed could form clouds out of blue sky and make them release rain.  The Cloudbuster was believed by Maine farmers to be responsible for saving their 1953 blueberry crop from a potentially devastating drought.

Fortunes started to take a downward turn for Reich in the late 40s with the FDA taking a closer look at his practice – in particular the orgone accumulator.  Kate Bush sings of black cars coming for Reich and a radioactive yo-yo buried in the ground.  In real life, he was accused of violating an FDA injunction and his books and papers were burned and the orgone accumulators destroyed.  He died in prison in 1957 only a few days prior to his release.

I don’t have a brain built for psychiatry or meteorology, let alone the esoteric study of orgonomy.  But I wouldn’t mind Dr. Reich paying a visit to Oklahoma, climbing up behind the wheel of his Cloudbuster and pulling some rain from the blue skies. 

Another truly fascinating character from history - you can't make this stuff up - is Wilhelm ReichFor a more personal perspective, read Peter Wilhelm's book, A Book of DreamsThe video for Cloudbusting is vintage Kate Bush kookiness with Kate playing the part of Peter and Donald Sutherland as Wilhelm Reich.

3 comments:

  1. Well, I'll be damned. Who knew? Thanks for the great little history lesson!

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  2. very interesting - I've read references to orgone before, but never really paid attention to it - I just now skimmed through the wikipedia entry on him, but will have to go back for a more thorough reading when I have time - sounds like it will be difficult to sift through which of his conclusions were sound and which fantasy... seems like he had some legitimate ideas, but also had a tendency to carry them in unsubstantiated directions that damaged his credibility... attributing the blueness of the sky to the existence of orgone for instance seems like a tough sell. nevertheless, the wikipedia article lists an impressive group of people who have been influenced by him - so that's something.

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  3. Experiments with the weather are interesting. I did one this past week. We are having some good results in Texas. Earlier we had a good result with Tropical Storm Emily as it threatened Haiti. It's fun. I don't take it too seriously. But if we could figure out a way to do these things it would be very helpful. http://wp.me/p62qY-3Iv

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