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People know about Freud and Masters and Johnson, but not Reich. Now is the time!

David E. Tolchinsky, Heal’s Creator

Pictured — Reich’s Orgonon Institute, in Rangeley, ME

From the Show’s Creator

I’m fascinated by how Reich saw himself like Einstein, with both of them trying to find a unified theory of the universe. So the figure of the over-reacher is something that fascinates me, and will fascinate my character Sullivan. How does a new theory go from being ludicrous to being accepted? Why did the FDA feel they had to burn Reich’s books? What was it about Reich that was so frightening? And should Reich’s theories be disregarded because of his supposed mental illness and his abusiveness? Or should we separate the personal life of the scientist from his work? I’ve also been thinking about cognitive dissonance, I (and Sullivan) wonder is it possible to believe in something and not believe in it at the same time?  So for me, Reich’s theories seem (at a glance) ludicrous but still there might be something there that can’t be ignored.  Reich became a cult leader and Sullivan may become a cult leader as well. What is about cults that continue to capture our imagination? And throughout, Sullivan struggles with: Which is more important -- self-fulfillment and trying to find some great truth about the universe or is the great truth right in front of him – his spouse who loves him, his children who need him. . . The large and the small, macro-physics and micro-physics. As an artist who can’t help but become lost in his writing, it’s a question that strikes close to home. . .  

For years, I’ve been wanting to write something about illnesses that are somewhere between the physical and psychological, that are not easily explainable, and, related to that terrain, Wilhelm Reich. I finally did, a play, An Attempt to heal in the Contemporary World, which had a successful run in NY this fall. But there’s more to say about Reich, and TV seems like an ideal medium to track someone who went from being a psychologist to a (self-proclaimed!) biological scientist to a cult leader.  Some say Reich went psychotic, others say we still value much of what Reich proposed (preventative medicine, the therapeutic value of sex), although we don’t connect it to Reich.  

As to why now – the rise of strange illnesses and the rise in an interest in cults, but mostly I can’t believe Reich has been ignored so long. His story is inherently funny, dramatic, investigates sex, raises relevant issues, and even toys with science fiction. People know about Freud and Masters and Johnson, but not Reich. . . now is the time!