Interview with Morton Herskowitz
"Interview by Orgonomic Video Archiv"
This interview was recorded by John Joachim Trettin in Summer 1989 at the practice of Morton Herskowitz in Philadelphia.
This internetpage was created by Beate Freihold ©, Photo also Beate Freihold ©, all rights of the interview by John Joachim Trettin ©, see the permission of Morton Herskowitz for this internet page
|Dr. Morton Herskowitz lives in Philadelphia, USA. He is an osteopath and practices Orgone Therapy that was developed by Wilhelm Reich. He was the last therapist trained by Wilhelm Reich personally. He is the president of the Institute Orgonomic Science and author of the book "Emotional Armor - an introduction to psychiatric Orgone therapy" which appeared in the publishing house of the LIT. Dr. Morton Herskowitz spoke 1989 with us at his office of practice about Wilhelm Reich and Orgonomy. His book titled "Human Armoring" which was publised in German language,will be published in its original English language by its German publisher in the short future.|
As one gets older, one's memory gets less sharp. So the things that I tell you are things as I best remember them. If I quote Reich, it may not be an exact quotation, because over a long periode of time things get distorted. But I give you my best memories.
I'll tell you first how I came to orgonomy and how I got to Reich. A man who was a scholar in this city when I was in medical school, said to me - he knew I was interested in psychiatry - said to me: "I've read a book and I think you'd be interested in." And I said "What is is ?" And he said "Sexual Revolution by Wilhelm Reich" And I said: "Oh, that guy, he's a nut". And he said: "How do you know, he's a nut". I said: "Everybody knows, he's nuts". And he said: "Don't you think you might read a book before you call a man a nut?" So that was reasonable. So I read "Sexual Revolution".
And people who read "Sexual Revolution" in this day it is not as much a magnificent opening of the mind as it was when I read it which was probably in the very early fourties.
And at that time I was considering going into psychoanalysis and I had been shopping around for an analyst in the city. And I had taken courses and had gone to lectures and of the people who are psychoanalysts whom I knew I hadn't yet found one that I would'nt trust myself to. And when I read "Sexual Revolution" there were the answers to so many questions that I have raised in my coursework and hadn't got any reasonable and straigt forward answers for. So "Sexual Revolution" was a mind-opener to me and thereafter I read all of Reichs books that were available.
And by the time I had finished reading them I thought "This is the man to whom I want to go to therapy". So I called Reich and he was in Forest Hills at that time and we arranged an appointment. And I must tell you: of all the things that I've read the only thing that didn't suit to well of me was the concept of orgone energy. Because having been trained in classical science orgone energy was a wild concept. So I had planned to go see Reich an to keep any mention of orgone energy out of the conversation. Because the therapy I knew made sense and I wanted to get into therapy with him.
So I came to his office in Forest Hills at the appointed day. And my first sight of Reich - he came down from the second floor stairway. The feeling that one got was: "This man is powerful", just from the way he walked down the stairways. You had he feeling he was a powerhouse. So he first asked me: "How did you get to me, what have you read ?" And I told him, I've read all that was available at that time. And the second question was: "What do you think of orgone enery?" And I said: "Well, it seems very strange to me." And he said: "Of course it does." He said: "Because you've been trained in a way that's entirely differend from the way I think and the way orgone energy research is directed. And if you ever get that far you work in the laboratory, you do the experiments and you find out for yourself whether orgone energy exists or not."
And I thought that was a very reasonable response. Because somehow I had expected him to say: "You don't believe in orgone energy? Then get the hell out of here." But he was very reasonable about it.
So he started therapy. And one of his provisions of his therapy was: "You can quit any time you want or I can kick you out any time I want." Which I thought was reasonable also. So he started therapy. And it was immediately apparent to me, what a powerful technique this was. Noone who has not been in therapy can really fully appreciate the power of the therapy. You must have experienced it in order to really know what it does. And I can remember, most sessions at Forest Hills - each time that I left the therapeutic session and was walking towards the subway - I felt like I had never remembered feelings. I was flying. Therapy became much more important to me than I assumed that it would. Because so far as I knew I was not in bad shape emotionally. And the reason I was presuming therapy was mostly for training purposes. Because I believe that anyone who goes into phychiatry should have been in therapy. So I had a kind of academic approach to therapy. But being in orgone therapy, one's mind is quickly changed. Because things happen that you never had anticipated happening to you.
So in general it was a very electrifying experience. Half way through my therapy Reich moved to Orgonon in Maine. And he said: "I'm going to move to Maine, you want to go to another therapist down around here?" And I said: "Oh no, I'm going to Maine!" So about half way through my therapy I went every other week. I would drive up on friday night. That time the roads were nothing like the super highways that are now going up to maine. They were terrible roads. And I would ride all through the night on friday and get to Orgonon or the area at about six o'clock in the morning, sleep for about two hours and then go for a session on saturday morning and then go for another session on sunday morning and then drive home. And in the middle of wintertime when people from down here couldn't drive in the roads. - People from Maine could drive in that kind of snow - then I used to fly to Augusta and hitchhiked up to Orgonon because there were always lumber trucks going along, so you could always hitch a ride up to Orgonon. I always considered it as an adventure. I never looked forward with any kind of apprehension about like: "Oh now I have to go to Maine" I always looked forward to the weekend when I went up to Maine no matter what the weather.
And when one has a patient who lives 30 miles away who says: "The weather is too bad, no, I can't come today", I feel like: "You don't deserve therapy."
There is one interesting anecdote about driving to Maine. One day Reich said to me: "How long does it take you to drive from Philadelphia up to here?" And I said: "Oh a little more than twelve hours" And he said: "It takes twelve hours from New York." And I said "Yeah, but I drive pretty fast." So he said: "You have a right to risk your own life, but you don't have a right to risk other peoples lives. So unless it takes you twelve hours plus the time it takes from Philadelphia to New York, don't bother coming any more. So, after that I drove more slowly, it took me 14 hours to get to Maine instead of twelve hours.
Therapy with Reich as I said was exalerating, there were times that it was of course frightning, and there was only one time that I have ever entertained the thought of suicide - I knew I wouldn't do it. But for one brief periode the idea of suicide entered my head, which was after a session with Reich and that was a new experience to me having that kind of depressed feelings. Because generally I'm an up-person. I don't get depressed too easily.
In therapy the thing that was unique about Reich was how he always hit the nail on the head. He just had amazing sensitivity and amazing acumen. He knew exactly where the patient was and he knew exactly what to do in order to evoke what had to be evoked at that time. And when he did he often said: "You will never be this good." At times he said: "I'm the only orgonomist. Noone else can really do therapy." And compared to Reich it was true.
We had one session that's interesting to talk about: I had come for a series of sessions voicing some sinisism, I accused him of exaggerating a little disbelieve. And at that time there were lots of stories rappend that Reich was psychotic, which I reported to him as things I have heard. Not as if I believed them, but I was just reporting them to him. So I came up for a session and he had a rifle standing by the fireplace in the room where he treated me. And he picked up the rifle and he pointed it at my head and he said: "I'm psychotic!" And I burst out laughing because - what he wanted to see was did I believe these stories or was I merely reporting them - I burst out laughing because it struck me so funny the idea of a therapist putting a gun to a patients head. And that was what he needed. Like he laughed too, and he put the gun back. That's how Reich got at something. He didn't monkey around. He wanted to see whether you believed he was crazy. He gave you ample chance to prove that you thought he was crazy.
Another interesting thing was: You know there was a lot of talk about that Reich becomes psychotic towards the end of his life. And during one of my sessions an aeroplane flew over head. And he said: "Eisenhower is sending his aeroplanes over to watch over me." And I said: "I don't think so." I said: "This place is just in a flight pattern of an airliner that is flying over this place." And he said: "Maybe, simple see." Now, that is not the reaction of a psychotic. A psychotic if he says: "Eisenhower is sending a plane to watch over me" and I say: "No, sir, I think that's an ordinary airliner just on his way on his flight pattern", he doesn't say "maybe you're right." He sticks to his guns.
And the whole business of Reich's psychosis: and I do believe that many of the ideas that he expressed toward the end of his live were exaggerated, outlandish, not realistic, but I don't tribute that to psychosis. I tribute that to the kind of thinking that Reich did all his life. I think that Reich was truely one of the rear geniouses in this world and I think that those people think by exploring all kinds of ideas that never appeared to us, that they push ideas way beyond the limits that we hold ourselves to think in. And that because of that he came up of so many of his marvellous ideas, but that along with the marvellous ideas there were also these cuckey ideas, which those of us who use common sense and are always careful to be correct would never arrive that. But he arrived that in both in positive and in negative direction. And I think the idea of Eisenhower protecting him was an exaggerated idea in a negative direction. But it was his kind of thinking.
At seminars he was very hard on the positions. And he sometimes would get so angry - and it was an anger such as I have never beheld. Once I remember we were outside and he got so angry with us and a storm came up. And I can believe that there is a connection between the intensity of his anger and that storm. Because I had never seen that anger and the storm came up so fast I think he may have influence the atmosphere.
And he also could be very gentle, very symphatetic and particulally I remember once at the end of a seminar in orgonon that went on for probably about a week, we had a party and danced at the end. And I thought this is going to be interesting I have never seen Reich in this roll. And I remember one lady saying: "I'm so scared to go to this thing." She had never met Reich. And he was the essence of European gentlemanlyness. Like he did everything but kiss the women's hands. He was just gentle and considerate and just a perfect gentleman in that kind of situation. You know when I saw him in that situation and thought of some of the storms that I've seen in him. Not like saying to this women : "You should see him sometimes, he doesn't always act like this."
The essence of the therapy with Reich was truthfullness. One would never think of talking smalltalk with Reich. There was always an atmosphere of deep seriousness. I remember, I'm a tennis player, Reich apparently played tennis, too. And I had a feeling, I'd love to play with him, because I think I could beat him, and I would love to beat him. But he never invited me to play tennis with him, so I never got the opportunity.
Oh, I remember another incident. When you're in therapy, as a gegative transference starts operating you do all kinds of silly things. So I remember once before my session I was standing downstairs where Reich was in his dining room. And I heard him say to Peter, his son: "Shut up." So that was crisp for my mill. So when we had my session I said: "I heard you talking to Peter and I heard you say urgently to him 'shut up'. And I don't think that's how one should talk to children." So he gave me a lecture on how one talks to children. In fact 'shut up' was the most direct way of accomplishing what he wanted to accomplish with Peter in that time. And I kind of half knew what was doing it. But you do things you try to irritate them. Because he's gotten you. And you try go get back on him.
Another time I heard the sweetest discourse between him and Peter. And Peter wanted to know why you spell "knife" with a "k". He said it should be called "kneif" if you spell it with "k"! I don't remember the details, but Reich gave him the sweetest discourse on why is the "k" in front of the "n" in "knife". That kind of thing that was almost learned but it was also a kind of thing that a child could easily understand.
There was something more I thought of. Oh this tells something about Reich. I sat through his whole trial up in Maine. And at one of the session - it was a time of very great stress, every day of the trial was a great stress - and at one point, we were standing around and talking and he pointed to me and said: "Come over I want to see you." So I came over. I had written an article in one of the orgonomic journals. And he said: "The way you wrote such and such is not as well as you might have written it." And I thought "Jesus Christ. Here is this man in parry of his life and he is worrying how I put something in an article." And I thought that is really an indication of a man, that that moment was as importent to him as how his trial was going. In fact he was in parole, but he's worrying about how I was writing an article.
During the trial I was one of those who were in disagreement of the way he was conducting the trial. I thought he should have had a lawyer conducting his case instead of him conducting his own case. I think he should have used the legal arguments instead of the arguments that he used. Which is not the same that he was wrong, because he viewed himself as an historical figure and he was making an historical point. And to make that he had conducted the trial that way. If I have been in his shoes I would have wanted to escape jail, I would have wanted to be free etc. So I would have conducted the trial on a strictly legal basis because the lawyers had said "We can win this case for you. Their case is so week, so when you let us do our thing we can get you off." But he wouldn't do it. It was not what he was after. And since that time - I have been told by people that teach law - that that case was occasional brought up in the classrooms as a case in which the FDA-side was so weak and the case was presumed so purely from the legal standpoint that it's almost like a classical badly handled case. I never saw him after he went to jail. There were very few visitors, and the only people who visited him were those of his immediate family. So I had no contact with him after he went to jail.
From the interview of the American Tapes with Morton Herskowitz, 1989. The transcript is not complete.
Record of Joachim Trettin | Transcript of Thomas Klein | Photo of Beate Freihold
Copyright by John Joachim Trettin & Beate Freihold
Note: We, Beate Freihold and John Joachim Trettin, the owners of all rights have nobody give the permission for a copy of this page
Beate Freihold & Joachim Trettin
Wilhelm Reich Orgoninstitut Deutschland