The first installment of this three-part series dealt with my involvement in the 1970’s with Dr. Richard Blasband, a follower of the late misfortunate Neo-Freudian psychiatrist Dr. Wilhelm Reich, who claimed to have discovered “orgone energy” in the 1930’s, a primordial substance that explained… everything! Except why Reich was such a narcissist, comparing his heavy-handed prosecution by the FDA to the cruxifixction of Christ, for instance. Got it?
The third part will deal with the analysis of the photos taken at the cloud busting training session.
This installment is taken directly from my journal That Ol’ Tripe-Face Boogie, a spiral-bound notebook dated beginning January 1974. Dr. Blasband’s cloud-busting training session occurred on September 28, 1974, a Saturday. Sections in italics are my editorial clarifications of things that need to be explained in context.
…So we come to today (actually the previous day, as this was written at 3:30 a.m.). Hugh (my brother Hugh R. Brenner, R.N., then receiving orgone therapy himself) and I set off for Blasband’s early but he took a long time showering at Rena’s so we got there 20 minutes late – not that it mattered much. Blasband was in the middle of a very detailed lecture to a group of about a dozen ergonomists and others – (M.D. Charles R.) Konia, Sally L****’s orgonomist, was there, looking very strange – Gypsy-ish, with swarthy skin and heavily lidded eyes.
After about an hour’s lecture we removed to the field with the CB (cloud buster in Reichian jargon) in it. It was a beautiful day but unfortunately no clouds. The air was very clear but not quite sparkling. I was filming with the Beaulieu (Blasband’s movie camera, a very expensive French Super-8 mm. with an excellent Angenieux zoom lens) and trying hard to remember all the controls – I think it’s not well-human engineered but I think I did everything right. Blasband put the (cloudbuster’s flexible metal) tubes in the water (a pond) and pointed it W. Within 5 minutes a strong breeze had sprung up. The breezes had been fairly random all day, more or less from the east, but this was constant and from the W. I couldn’t see the discharges on the tubes too well – only a slight purplish flame – but we noticed that the W –> E shimmer of the atmosphere OR (orgone energy or “heat waves”) stopped and went straight up. I tried to film it but the 66 mm. telephoto (on the Beaulieu) wasn’t quite long enough. 100 mm. would be good.
I had Blasband’s Beseler Topcon (a 1960’s Japanese 35mm. camera equivalent to the Nikon-F) full of EK IR (Ektachrome Infrared, a unique Kodak color slide film that recorded red and infrared light in false colors) rated at 100 ASA (now ISO) thru deep red filter and took a lot of photos (with a Topcon RE 35mm. f2.8 lens) at 1/125 @ f5.6 and f16, for bracketing. 5.6 was the meter reading off the grass. I was getting pretty close to the tubes & began to feel dizzy and slightly sick. Blasband had pointed out a kind of patchy blackening of the horizon of a hill to the W. Now the blackening was swirling in a cyclonic fashion! I had never seen anything like it before! It looked like Cecil B. DeMille special effects. I could just barely perceive it. How do we record it on film? It reminded me of a passage in (Arthur C. Clarke’s science-fiction novel) Childhood’s End where Clarke describes the Overmind manifesting itself.
I tried shooting the pipes in innumerable different ways. My spaghetti-legs tripod didn’t help. Finally I felt I had enough. I was so highly charged I felt like I was tripping. B. then swung the CB to the north. Within a minute, the wind had changed direction! That was eerie. I felt like an observer at a magic ritual – things unseen, powers almost beyond control surging around me. I shot the tubes both in normal speed and at 4 fps. at f22, shutter closed to 1/2, 1 stop underexposed. We went back – I’d shot 2-1/2 rolls, or about 7 minutes worth – good tie-in for the footage we already have.
I just threw up twice in the bathroom. 5:20 a.m. This could have any one of 4 causes: 1) The Sherman’s cigarettes I’ve been smoking. As of now I stop smoking cigarettes forever. 2) The dinner – although it wasn’t all that bad; ham, sweet potatoes, string beans. 3) The wine and beer I had at Rena’s (our stepmother). 4) Overcharge from the CB, or 5) all of the above. Sometimes I do abuse my system a little… (writing about sister’s birthday party). …In retrospect, even tho’ there were no clouds to bust, the demonstration was very impressive.
(Historical note: I came to my senses quite suddenly one afternoon, while talking with a customer over a joint in the back of my Seattle photolab, Superposter. When I told him about having had orgone therapy, he said “Huh! You went through that shit?”)
(I’d never heard anyone refer to Reich’s work like that, but his words seem to coalesce several suspicious, subversive thoughts about Reich’s work, the objectivity of his science, the reality of “orgone energy,” his self-appointed reputation as a Great Man, his “UFO experiences,” his closeness to the Great Cosmic Orgone, whether the USAF was REALLY watching over him as he believed, his “murder” in a federal penitentiary, how crazy the people who followed him were, etc., and from that point on I found myself falling out of love with Herr Doktor Reich. His feet of clay had left tracks all over my life.)
(But, at the time this was written, I was still amenable to explaining everything in orgonomic terms, hence the comments about the “purplish flame on the tubes” (retinal rhodopsin fatigue, when you gaze steadily at any object) and the swirling cyclonic formation — I was obviously seeing something, but I don’t attribute it to the demonstration of the cloud buster any more. I am absolutely certain that “orgone energy” as Reich described it, a bio-field or life-energy that apparently extends into the Universe at large, and moves everything, doesn’t exist, and Reich’s headlong plunge into self-delusion about it only shows how increasingly narcissistic and crazy he became toward the end of his life.)