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Chester M. Raphael, Class of 1929

Reprinted from Psychiatric Orgone Therapy, April 5, 2010

On this occasion we also would like to remember Dr. Raphael (October 7th 1912 – March 25th, 2001) by posting an article that was written in the newsletter of the friends of Wilhelm Reich Museum in 1991 in his commemoration.
Dr. Raphael was a kind, sensitive man but this did not preclude a certain toughness, which was often associated with a deep concern he felt over the dearth of serious study and investigation Reich’s work has recieved since his death and its dilution and distortion at the hands of those blinded by ignorance and ambition. As an orgone therapist Dr. Raphal never lost sight of the totality and significance of Reich’s accomplishment or gave up his own sense of humility while functioning in one part of it. He was a clinician and a scholar for whom the demonstrable reality of orgone energy was basic. He was a teacher and a friend who will be sorely missed by those who were privileged to have known him. Following is an article written after Dr. Raphael’s death.

Chester M. Raphael was born in New York city and attended its public schools, graduating from Townsend Harris high school in 1929. He earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees at the University of Michigan, BS in 1933, and MD in 1937. Thereafter, he served his internship in psychiatry at Monmouth Memorial Hospital, Long Branch, New Jersey from 1937 to 1939. He was a resident physician at New Jersey state hospital in Marlborough, New Jersey from 1939 to 1942 when he joined the US army.

Upon his discharge in 1946 he returned to Marlborough where he first heard Wilhelm Reich and read the Function of the Orgasm. Excited by the book and discouraged by the state of psychiatry he contacted Reich and went to see him at his home in Forest Hills, New York. This was the beginning of a lifetime study and practice of orgone therapy, a treatment system based on knowledge of the unified functioning of the body energy system. ”For the first time”, said Raphael, “I felt I had a grasp on the physiology of emotional illness. I was learning a technique of treatment which did not depend on verbal communication, speculation, or intuition. It was something concrete and solid. Dr. Raphael was equally excited about the demonstrations of orgone energy in an accumulator which made it clear one was dealing with an objective, quantifiable phenomenon. Nonetheless, in addition to the objective evidence, Raphael felt the prickling of the skin when held close to the accumulators inner metal wall just as impressive. He found, personally and with patients and colleagues, that the accumulators exercised some of its most dramatic healing effects on burns, including severe sunburns. As part of his training with Reich, he also carried out experiments using the accumulator with cancer mice, and he worked with the Reich blood test, which determines the biological charge of an organism, its vigor or debility, as measured by the degree of orgone energy charge in the red blood cells. A report on this work based on a course given by Wilhelm Reich in 1950 was published as, “Orgonomic diagnosis of cancer biopathy” in the orgone energy bulletin, 1952.

Dr. Raphael was co director of the Orgone Energy Clinic in Forest Hills New York, and secretary of the Wilhelm Reich Foundation. He was active too in the Orgonomic Infant Reasearch Center initiated by Reich in 1949, and he wrote a pioneering article on the use of orgone therapeutic measures during labor to relieve pain and enable women to maintain contact with the birthing process. Other articles included a summary of Reichs findings on DOR-sickness (1954), and the use of Reich blood and other tests in the diagnosis of uterine cancer 1956.

When the FDA obtained an injunction against Reich in 1954 Dr. Raphael participated in the legal proceedings in which 15 medical orgonomists challanged the injunction on the grounds that it impeded their ability to practice a valid scientific system of medicine. The judge denied their right to intervene on the basis that it was an in personam injunction and they were not effected.

After Reich’s death Dr. Raphael became a major supporter of the Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust Fund, the entity Reich created in his will to inherit and protect his archives and develop the property of Organon as the Wilhelm Reich Museum. He often and earnestly encouarged others to join in that support, maintaining that Reich’s legacy needed protection and would only get it with the help, including concrete financial help of many people. In 1960 when New York publisher Farrar, Strauss & Giroux began to publish Reich’s work, Dr. Raphael joined with the fund’s trustee Mary Higgins as co-editor. In 1977, friends of the Wilhelm Reich’s Museum published, “Some Questions and Answers about Orgone Therapy” in which Dr. Raphael dialogued with an interviewer to bring out many common sense points about orgone therapy in a down to earth readable way.

Privously Dr. Raphael and two of Reichs students Philip Gold, M.D., and Charles I. Oller, M.D. had published, Wilhelm Reich, Mis-construed, Mis-esteemed. Dr. Raphael himself refused to write a biography of Reich or to publish most of his own work, including the lectures given each summer at Orgonon. He insisted that the best source from which to learn was Reich himself. ”Reich always used to tell us, over and over,” Raphael explained, ‘Keep your mouths shut! You don’t know what you’re talking about! Keep studying and working in the laboratory and with patients, then you will learn something. And then no authority will be able to frighten you into saying you did not see what you saw.”

In a similar vein, Dr. Raphael often said to me, “you are trying too hard to vindicate Reich. Rather, you should strive to validate his work.” And, once I heard him say, “there’s been far too much shouting in the dark since Reich’s death, and far too little serious work.” Raphael was often approached by young students and enthusiasts of Reich’s work, seeking a master to tell them what to do (usually in rather more subtle and half-realized words than that). He always replied: ”The situation is bad. We all have to find our own way and figure out what we as individuals can contribute that will make a lasting difference.” For me, that has come to mean: Be a good, contactful school teacher. Or nurse. Or carpenter. Or librarian. Watch out for anything that has too much glamour. Stay out of the public eye unless you really understand what you’re trying to defend. Study Reich as much as you can for as Dr. Raphael said, “The man was a giant”

“Rooting in work is crucial to any accomplishment. Rooting in mere enthusiasm will in the long run force illusory measures to keep the fires of empty enthusiasm going. And this makes politics and politicians.” – Wilhelm Reich. April 19, 1951.