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Monday, 2 June 2014

"Compulsive contactless sociability." Wilhelm Reich versus social media.

John Alexandra, author of Journey Beyond 'God' applies the insights of Reich to our increasingly antisocial media and fragmented lives.

'Compulsive contactless sociability.' It’s the phrase that life energy researcher, Wilhelm Reich, used to describe mundane relations between people—the evasive deluge of meaningless words that we routinely accept as human contact. Interesting that he coined the phrase in the age of typewriters and telegrams.

Since childhood, we have been conditioned to disguise our intentions with half-truths. Now, the internet age has amplified that fake sociability, and the ego's frazzled determination to strut its imagined significance has spawned a global avalanche of drivel.

Are Facebook, Twitter, UTube and the Blogosphere benign?

Clearly not. Tech companies make a buck by data-mining your mindset—by exploiting your hubris and lack of restraint. And the more you descend into the quagmire, the more vulnerable you become. Sadder and wiser? No. Just sadder and more stressed with the benefits of anonymity trampled in the rush. It will revert, of course. You can see the beginning of this now.

Show me a person's friends and I'll tell you what he is.

If you use Facebook with maximum security settings to exchange your family photos—fine. But if you expect acclaim, commercial benefit, fame, you are likely to be disappointed. Facebook is mostly used as a selling platform for the self. You wish your ridiculously burnished self to be believed and admired. You want 'friends'—numbers on a server less familiar to you than statistics. You expect them to appreciate and extol your self-serving self-description. But this hardly ever happens. Because your 'friends' are mere click-backs who want you to do the same for them. So a billion egos shout in a vacuum.

Behind this churning is fear. The fear, of never being recognised, of being left behind, ignored, of not 'making it' and a thousand other dreads. Ultimately, the fear of death. Not actual death but the death of your precious personality. The thing you prop up on every possible occasion. The thing you layer with make-up and stare at in mirrors. The fiction you have been conditioned to call you.

'Tell me, sir,' said Krishnamurti to one egotistical enquirer, 'Can you be content just to be nothing?'

We can't. The prospect appals us. To be attentive to our lives requires inner effort and we prefer the security of our inertia.

Now back to Reich's insight:

Reich, who studied with Freud, had another early influence—the anthropologist Malinowski whose study of South Seas traditional societies prompted his masterwork, The Sexual Life of Savages. Reich decided that the cause of neurosis was sexual suppression imposed by a patriarchal society and parasitic political system.

Reich, a man with great inner or vital energy, saw the body as the container of the life force. He discovered that sexual energy went far deeper than genital expression or release. He considered that the pain of blocked or held energy—which he called the armouring of the body—was the reason for our dull, surrogate existences—that it was the root cause of neurosis and anxiety. He said that these blockages demonstrate that we fear life far more than death.

He said that we never face life with the whole of ourselves and function primarily from our secondary drives. In other words, that normal biological expression is diverted to psychosis.

The political question.

Reich considered this diversion to be the cause of fascism—the expediency of the parasitic, self-perpetuating politician. He said that true selves are negated from an early age by an authoritative patriarchal structure and so we are increasingly governed by psychopaths.

He explained that the problem lies with our lack of contact with our essential nature—our lack of attention or inner sleep. That, estranged from our essential and supportive inner balance, we externalise ourselves in daydreams, desires, violence and paranoia.  And that the sexual drive can then become subverted by secondary or psychological aberrations such as the destructive rage of the sadist.

Root cause of The Age of Entitlement.

This lack of contact also manifests as contempt for work and as general disaffection—the entitlement mentality prepared to contribute nothing. The dignity of work as craft, work for work's sake, or for something higher as with the medieval master mason—the satisfaction of skillful accomplishment—has been lost.

As Reich's thought developed he studied everything from the energy in inert substances to cancer and weather patterns. The cause of cancer, he said, was not the tumour. The tumour was the symptom that appeared when an area was starved of inner energy flow. His implications parallel the work of Mesmer and echo the early religious practice called 'laying on of hands'.

From the secular to the spiritual.

Toward the end of his life, Reich examined tempo. His aim? To align the organism with the cosmos. His research so far had been primarily scientific and secular. But he was now convinced that real knowledge was a function of our level of awareness and energy—that, at a higher vibration or intensity—life energy is revelatory. 

He now regarded man as the microcosm and was approaching the reconciliation of science with religion. He said that truth cannot be a commodity although the entire world mindset denies this. No wonder that his infuriated peers called him deranged. He told them that asylums are full of people unable to tolerate the insanity of the world and that the inwardly healthy person is now classified as abnormal. Why, he asked, was Christ murdered?

Reich investigated something that cannot physically be proved and the social system he affronted defended itself by destroying him. His books were burned and he was imprisoned.

Today, of course, helped by the popularity of Gestalt, acupuncture meridian theory and so on, Reich is more respectable. But is this simply another evasion?  Is this acceptance just another way to sideline his challenging discovery?


Where are we in all this? There are no easy ways to inner health. And posturing on social media is no solace. We need to face up to what is essential in ourselves. Blake declared that energy is delight. That the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. Is there something we are missing here? 

So will we embrace the sick society—this bazaar we call our world—each person yelling for recognition and touting his mediocre wares? Staring down at our little devices, compulsively contacting each other to no purpose?

Or is there another way. A way that has nothing to do with celebrity, the lust for self-promotion or the distraction of social media. That has nothing to do with riots, protests, corruption, crusades, vendettas.  And certainly nothing to do with dubious virtues such as charity, self-sacrifice, being 'good', evangelism, piety, resignation. Most of them, of course, based on egotistical need.

Is there a direction on an entirely different level to anything we find around us?

Reich provides a clue to this. He explains that the energy or opening we lack does not come through the head but through the body.
As a wise man once said, the way out is in.
Reich was no hero or martyr. He was far more sensible than that. What did he really discover? It's worth asking.

John's ebook Journey Beyond God , a synthesis of esoteric teachings, is listed on Buzzword books for $4.99


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