According to a widely discredited theory developed by the Austrian psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957), orgone is a universal life energy contained in particles called orgones. The term is derived from organism and orgasm, reflecting Reich’s idea that the key physiological function of the human orgasm is to regulate the balance of orgones in the body, thus ensuring good health.
After moving to the United States in 1939, Reich founded the Orgone Institute to further research into orgone energy, and went on to market what he called an orgone energy accumulator, or orgone box, which he claimed to be effective in the treatment of mental illness and other conditions. He argued that imbalances or constrictions in bodily orgone were the cause of many diseases,[a]Much as Sigmund Freud argued that imbalances or constrictions in the libido could produce neuroses. but his unsubstantiated claims of the therapeutic effects of his device came to the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Reich’s subsequent refusal to withdraw the orgone box from sale led to a term in prison, where he died in 1957.
Reich’s work was continued by his students after his death. The Institute for Orgonomic Science, founded in New York in 1982, continues with research into “the science of orgonomy”.