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Orgone Biophysical Research Lab

Ashland, Oregon, USA

Open Critique of
Bernhard Harrer's Experiments
by James DeMeo, Ph.D.


Open Critique #1:
A Critical Review of Bernhard Harrer's Experiments

Orgone Biophysical Research Laboratory
A Non-Profit Science Research and Educational Foundation, Since 1978
Ashland, Oregon, USA

Note: In the years since this Open Critique was made public, I have been able to better confirm many of Dr. Reich's orgone accumulator experiments with a high level of statistical significance and in a manner which completely eliminates any doubt about the reality of the effects. A listing of my published research papers, some of which are available as PDF downloads, is given on my Academia.edu webpage:

Notably, I have been able to fully confirm the To-T experiment of Reich using electronic thermometers in a special thermal shelter at our new Greensprings Center facility in rural Oregon. Certain aspects of the Geiger-Muller reaction to concentrated orgone energy are also now firmly demonstrated. These are in addition to many other experimental confirmations, across the board, by others, citations for which are gathered into my online Bibliography on Orgonomy. Consequently, if I was to write this Open Critique article today, some of my ideas would be even more sharply critical, giving more specific references to these newer publications. For example, it took nearly two years of work at my laboratory on the To-T problem alone before the observed positive result were sufficiently controlled so as to take into account all known classical thermodynamic objections. A lot of time was invested to create thermally-balanced control and orgone-accumulator enclosures, and to create a thermal shelter with minimum thermal gradients from one side of the structure to the other. My experiments and results therefore do not resemble in any manner the too-quick, scientifically sub-standard and unprofessional efforts undertaken by Mr. Harrer. One could hardly imagine a university student devoting only a few weeks or months to experimental work on some critical classically-recognized phenomenon, such as the dark matter, neutrinos or precise gravimetric measurements, and then throwing up his hands and proclaiming that the phenomenon "did not exist" -- but somehow this is condsidered "acceptable conduct" with respect to Reich's controversial findings on the orgone energy. It is not acceptable, however. Mr. Harrer has since gone on to express his skepticism about Reich's work in public, on many occasions, fully based upon his flawed experiments. You can review Mr. Harrer's opinions here and here, and probably elsewhere on internet. Note that he provides no citations to my published books and articles presenting experimental verifications and replications of Reich's experiments, in spite of specifically targeting me in his revenge-attacks, apparently for my daring to have made this report public. Also see the Postscript materials at the end of this article.)

26 May 1994

From: James DeMeo
To: Wilhelm Reich Society

Several individuals in Germany asked me to comment on Bernhard Harrer's experimental critique of Reich, as recently presented at the Reich Society Annual Meeting, and published in the Society meeting Report. While I defend Harrer's right to undertake an experimental review of Reich's work, and the Reich Society's right, and perhaps even the obligation, to host the presentation of negative experimental results, I must say I view Harrer's findings as preliminary experimental explorations which lack significance. I emphatically disagree with his conclusions, which are not grounded in fact, and are unwarranted from any scientific perspective. Enclosed is my Open Critique of Harrer's experiments, which is based upon my having acted as silent observer to his work over the last several years. The points raised in my Critique explain why Harrer obtained such uniformly negative results, and why his conclusions are therefore invalidated.

As I discussed quite openly with several members of the Waldheilung Group, and previously with Harrer also, Harrer's experiments failed on a number of counts to precisely duplicate the original experimental conditions, and environmental conditions, described by Reich and known to be necessary prerequisites. These points were brought to Harrer's attention by me on several occasions over the last two years. Twice in 1993, Bernd Senf asked Harrer to invite me to attend his seminars at Freie Universitat, to act as constructive critical reviewer -- this form of constructive criticism is typical at classical scientific meetings, and is a great help for the genuine development of research -- but Harrer declined both invitations. More recently, in January 1994, Heiko Lassek invited me and Harrer to a private meeting, to "work out our differences". But the meeting served only to sharpen the differences. Harrer refused at that time to respond to my specific criticisms about his experimental techniques, saying I "did not know what I was talking about", but refusing to provide any clarifying details. Harrer apparently feels he has correctly and precisely duplicated the work of Reich, finding serious flaws. My observation, however, is that Harrer's experiments contain serious flaws in experimental design and procedure, and failed to follow the rules of eminent criticism. He has consistently refused my specific advices about how his experiments should be structured to better obtain a positive result, and has in more recent years avoided my public lectures addressing these same subjects. His public representations that Reich was "a poor scientist", that orgone "does not exist", etc., are unwarranted and without a valid scientific basis -- such irresponsible talk will do more harm in the long run to Harrer and the Reich Society than they will to Reich, in my view.

If Harrer's work is ever published, beyond the short abstract, I request the right to review an English language translation of it, and to revise my Open Critique for publication in Emotion . If he does not publish, then I will not waste additional time on the matter, beyond the private circulation of this letter and the Critique . There is too much important work to be done, and I do not like wearing the hat of "orgonomic policeman" -- but neither can I ignore my own role as observer, and former defender of Harrer. I am truly sorry he did not wish to openly work out these issues at the time when his research was underway, or later in a seminar room at Faccochoschule or Freie Universitat. That would have been the more rational and constructive place to work out our differences. In this regard, I am additionally disappointed that his classical physics mentors at Freie Universitat and Reich Society did not demand he seek out constructive criticism. There is a distressing tendency, in the USA and Germany both, for concrete and tangible research findings to be passed over in favor of "invisible forces", "hidden viruses", and "other-worldly/extra-dimensional" explanations, whose central tenets have never been demonstrated factually. Reich's findings on sex-economy and orgone energy provide only discomfort for the adherents of such theories. And nearly every researcher who insists upon the demonstration of central facts in a given theorem is today being isolated and attacked. It is a larger social problem affecting not merely orgonomy, but every branch of science and medicine.

Open Critique #1

A Review of Bernhard Harrer's Criticisms
of Wilhelm Reich's Research: Personal Observations.

James DeMeo, Ph.D.
Director of Research
Orgone Biophysical Research Lab
PO Box 1148, Ashland, Oregon 97520 USA

May 1994


Over the last several years, Mr. Bernhard Harrer, a student at the Berlin Freie Universitat, has undertaken a series of experiments purportedly designed to replicate the biophysical findings of the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich. This work was, as I understand it, undertaken as part of his graduate research program, and both funded and assisted in various ways by individual members of the Berlin Wilhelm Reich Society, and also by the Society itself. Public interest in Reich's biophysical work has grown in Germany during the 1980s and 1990s, attracting some interest in academic circles to the extent that such open experimentation was possible, or even encouraged. Sometime in 1993, close to or after the completion of his work, Harrer began making a series of public presentations claiming in general that:
  1. He had not been able to replicate what he considered to be Reich's most central biophysical experiments,
  2. Given his own negative results, Reich must have, in constructing his orgone energy experiments, made significant experimental errors or misinterpretations of known physical phenomenon, and
  3. He felt Reich should no longer be viewed as a serious natural scientist, but instead only as a "natural philosopher".

In May of 1994, Harrer presented his results to the Annual Meeting of the Berlin Reich Society, in a paper "Arbeitsergebnisse von 3 Jahren Projektgruppe Orgon-Biophysik", with a summary conclusion statement published in the Report of that meeting. That conclusion statement repeated the above three points, adding a few additional statements to the affect that:
  1. Orgone energy does not exist as a physical reality, but rather as a spiritual or philosophical concept which might influence physical reality indirectly
  2. Reich was not competent in physics
  3. Orgonomic functionalism is a poor and insufficient thinking method
  4. Every experiment of Reich has been proven to be wrong...easily explained as mistakes, etc.
  5. Quantum-electrodynamic theories requiring the existence of unseen and undemonstrated "other-dimensions of reality", such as those of B. Heim, were offered as alternatives to orgone energy for the functioning of Reich's accumulator and cloudbuster.

Informally, I have learned that a larger paper may be published by Harrer, or by the Reich Society, detailing this same work. It was these latter events, with the public presentation and plans for wider dissemination, which prompted the writing of this document. In this context, I should outline briefly how I came to know Mr. Harrer, and why my observations of his working procedures are relevant enough to warrant preparation of this document.

In 1989, I was contacted by Dr. Heiko Lassek and Prof. Dr. Bernd Senf of Berlin, both of whom had a long-time interest in Reich's works, and asked to lead a group whose focus would be directed towards the problem of forest death (waldsterben) in Germany. Since 1990, I have therefore traveled to Berlin approximately three times per year to direct concrete field experiments and studies of atmospheric problems, and additionally I held both public and private lectures and workshops on various aspects of sex-economy and orgone biophysics. A separate Waldheilung Grupe (forest-healing group) was established, completely independent of the Reich Society, but with many of the same members, plus others from Switzerland and Austria. This group was composed of clinicians, physicians, naturalists, and students of varying backgrounds, but everybody had some long-term background in the study of Reich's work. Mr. Harrer joined this group shortly after its conception, and contributed positively to the practical field work, in loaning of research equipment, acquiring of weather data, and in other ways. At the time, he was a student of Dr. Med. Dorothea and Manfred Fuckert, of Eberbach, Germany, who operate the Centrum fur Orgonomie, devoted to the development and promulgation of Reich's findings. Harrer eventually moved to Berlin for university studies, initiating a closer working relationship with individuals in Berlin. In this context, I sequentially observed the development of his experimental work over a period of years. Initially, I was actively consulted by Harrer, and he attended many of my lectures and workshops. By 1993, however, Harrer became clearly discomforted by my critiques of his experimental procedures, which I found to be lacking adequate control procedures and/or the environmental pre-conditions necessary for properly duplicating the sensitive orgone experiments of Reich. The problems in his working procedures were so severe that it came as no surprise when I subsequently learned of his negative results, to which I attributed no scientific significance whatsoever.

On a more personal note, I should state that I attempted on several occasions, in 1993 and early 1994, to approach Mr. Harrer with these critical points. He had been making public presentations on his negative findings at Freie Universitat, and this had created a controversy among others interested in Reich's work. However, nobody witness to the events appeared able to give a critique on the specific details of his experimental work -- a lot of angry criticism was flying back and forth, but nothing in the way of constructive critique. On two occasions, Prof. Bernd Senf requested that Harrer invite me to his student seminars, as a critical reviewer (this is routinely done at scientific meetings where papers are presented); Harrer declined both offers. On one occasion in 1993, Artz. Heiko Lassek invited me to attend a meeting of the Berlin Reich Society where Harrer presented the negative results on one of his experiments, the orgone accumulator temperature differential experiment (To-T); I gave a constructive criticism at that time, but the criticism appeared unwelcome. Later, in January 1994, at an invitation by Lassek to both Harrer and me, to "sit down and resolve our differences of opinion", I put questions to Harrer directly about the way his experiments were constructed. Harrer was then either unable or unwilling to respond, and in my view expressed a rather arrogant refusal to engage in discussions on the matter, simply telling me that I "did not know what I was talking about". However, his public criticisms of Reich have continued, and it now appears to me that my own silence on the matter may be misinterpreted, that I might not really have any rational basis to criticize Harrer, or that I might support what he is doing. This document was therefore prepared to defend the research record of Reich against what I consider to be an irrational attack.

Harrer must now either cease his public assault against Reich's experimental work, or factually address and rebut my criticisms. In the unlikely event that Harrer should respond by demonstrating he did take my criticisms into account, I would unhesitatingly issue a public apology to him -- but then he should ask himself why there has been such a consistent refusal to engage in a constructive dialog.

The Nature and Importance of Eminent Criticism

In science, effective criticism of a new phenomenon identified through experiment under unique observational conditions requires the precise replication of that experiment and conditions. The replication must be undertaken in a manner which is as close as possible to the original conditions as described in the published protocols. This becomes especially important for factors identified by the original discoverer as being uniquely important for the new phenomenon. The consideration of eminent criticism arises when a new body of theory has been essential in the discovery of new phenomenon. It requires that new phenomenon be criticized from within the framework of the new theory , while simultaneously taking into consideration the arguments of the old as well. Reich argued on these points at some length, using examples such as: "One cannot understand the electric light bulb from the theoretical standpoint of gas lanterns." or "One cannot understand the electric motor using the theory of steam engines", etc. This consideration will be elaborated upon below, in the specific critiques of Harrer's experiments and conclusions.

With respect to Harrer's experiments, there is the additional concern of how a working scientist is expected to responsibly proceed if they obtain a negative result on an important experiment described by somebody else. Self-criticism and critique of experimental method by other experienced scientists is the mandatory first step, before any conclusions are drawn, and especially when seeking out unusual natural phenomenon as subtle as the orgone. Seeking out, obtaining, and acting upon constructive critique is an honest and rational approach. Avoiding it is dishonest and irrational. If one rushes to conclusions without such critique, and particularly if one rushes to publish very preliminary findings misrepresented as "conclusive", it can be a disaster, as important observations and findings might be erroneously discarded, and entire groups of workers may be steered into unproductive, blind alleyways.

As will be shown here, Harrer's experiments failed on a number of counts, including the failure to be effectively and eminently critical. Reich's own protocols were often ignored, and he was criticized only from the viewpoint of classical physics, which does not anticipate or take into consideration those parameters necessary for successful replication of the orgone energy experiments.

The Necessity of an Energetically Clean, High Altitude,
Low Humidity Environment for Certain Orgone Experiments

I will begin with a general question which forced itself upon my first visit to Berlin in 1989: To what extent does the sometimes-heavy atmospheric dor conditions, and also, the often high-humidity and low altitude (c.30-40 m. elevation) environment of the Berlin metropolitan region affect sensitive orgone experiments carried out within the city? Clinicians and accumulator fabricators who have used the accumulator in Berlin observed no significant problem with human use of the device, but to my knowledge, none of those individuals had attempted the more detailed and sensitive orgone experiments. Harrer appears to be one of the first individuals in Berlin to do so (to my knowledge).

By contrast, most of Reich's orgone experiments were carried out at his Rangeley, Maine laboratory, located in a heavily forested, low-humidity region at higher elevation (c.450 m. elevation). Reich felt the high altitude was a necessary ingredient for these experiments to yield the observed results. The orgone energy was more active, moving and excited at higher altitudes, and stronger orgone charges were possible within accumulators, according to Reich. Atmospheric dor was also reduced as compared to lower elevations, as Rangeley was above the dor-layer most of the time. Reich has not been alone in his emphasis upon such factors for successful detection of a subtle and unusual energetic principle in nature. Giorgio Piccardi observed his accumulator-like metallic shielded enclosures yielded stronger results for his chemical tests when undertaken at higher altitudes and during high sunspot years. Dayton Miller's interferometer measured the dynamic aether in strongest form only after the instrument was moved to a mountain-top location. Even Louis Pasteur had to go high up on mountains to clarify certain aspects of his overall theory. And anyone wishing to precisely duplicate their works, or those of Reich, must do likewise. Similarly, John Ott and other experimentalists, including physicists looking for the elusive neutrino, had to go deep into the earth, in mines, to detect the phenomenon of interest. The experimental altitude and location is crucial, and one cannot ignore this important factor in the experimental set-up. Likewise the issue of energetic quality within forested regions like Rangeley, versus large cities like Berlin, cannot be simply dismissed or ignored. Even the baubiologie researchers insist that an "old barn in the woods" is the preferred and necessary model to duplicate, if you want to have a living environment clean of contaminating environmental influences, such as power line fields and other disturbing "geopathic" radiations.

Another prominent factor which might affect orgone experiments is the presence of an experimental nuclear reactor at Freie Universitat, or power reactors within 25 - 50 km distance from Berlin itself. Even if such reactors were shut down, if the nuclear fuel was stored on site, a disturbing orgonotic influence would be anticipated. Even from the perspective of classical physics, measurable neutrino or anti-neutrino flux would be expected from any nearby reactor (this could even be calculated). The classical works of Reichelt and Petkau, on the influence of low-level nuclear radiation upon forest death, also forecast powerful life-negative influences from nearby nuclear facilities.

Were these above factors taken into consideration regarding the site where Harrer's experiments would take place? I suspect not. I can sympathize with the fact that a student attending classes and completing a degree at the Freie Universitat might not have sufficient time or resources to constantly travel back and forth to the highland forested areas of southern Germany, to undertake such work in a more suitable environment -- but my impression is that Harrer considers none of these factors as possible explanations for his own failure to replicate. And this difficulty cannot be offered as an excuse. One cannot simply ignore these factors.

The Experiments

Following is a discussion of several major experiments undertaken by Mr. Harrer. In each section, I firstly give a short overview of Reich's findings, and how my own prior work qualifies me to make relevant criticisms:

The Bioelectrical Experiments

Reich's Observations and Techniques on Bioelectricity
Wilhelm Reich's original bioelectrical studies were carried out over several years in Norway in the 1930s, using a constructed vacuum-tube voltmeter, capable of measuring millivolts and possessing an input impedance (resistance) of at least 10 megohms. The apparatus was connected to a light-beam recording oscillograph, which allows for recording of very quick changes in the measurements. His focus of study was the bioelectrical correlates to clinically-observed differences in states of emotional and/or sexual excitation, pleasure versus anxiety, streaming sensations ("vegetative currents"), etc. Reich made a series of control experiments to rule out mechanical effects and artifacts. One basic parameter observed in his measurements was the existence of "wandering potentials" -- slow increases or decreases in net skin potential, upon which the human heartbeat or pulse was inscribed. Two electrodes were employed in Reich's work, so far as I can reconstruct from his publications. In later years, when referring to his bioelectrical work, Reich would cite the work of Northrop and Burr, two American researchers who also used high-impedance vacuum-tube millivoltmeters to measure human, animal, and environmental bioelectricity, in a manner somewhat analogous to Reich (but without any study of sexuality or emotion). After years of study, Burr concluded the existence of "electrodynamic fields" in nature which had characteristics similar to the orgone energy of Reich. Burr additionally measured environmental-electrical components which were only suggested by Reich's work, such as ubiquitous and unshieldable cosmic and meteorological effects. Burr explicitly recommended the Hewlett-Packard model HP-412-A vacuum tube millivoltmeter for making such studies.

My Observations on Bioelectricity
My own studies of bioelectrical phenomena were undertaken over several years in the early 1970s, using the HP-412-A recommended by Burr, with an attached servo-mechanical strip-chart recorder. The focus of my work was a general replication of some of Reich's and Burr's findings, and this eventually branched out to cover biological response to environmental factors, such as low-level electromagnetism. This work has never been published, but I have presented parts of my findings in lectures, particularly plant-leaf responses to oranur -- agitated, over-excited orgone -- created by fluorescent lights, televisions, computers, etc. During my studies, I found it was fairly simple to detect wandering potentials, changes in natural background energy levels, oranur excitation, and human physiological responses of various sorts. In particular, at one point I independently stumbled upon the bioelectrical component of cranio-sacral pulsation, though I did not know it at the time. I also made very general comparisons between the HP-412-A to different solid-state millivoltmeters (made with transistors instead of vacuum tubes) finding them insufficient to measure the full range of bioelectrical phenomenon.

Harrer's Observations and Techniques on Bioelectricity
Regarding Harrer's bioelectrical experiments, his equipment for undertaking this work met the basic specifications -- a millivolt meter capable of measuring down to 1 mV full scale with a minimum of 10 megohms. However, as I pointed out to him in 1992, his instrument was of a solid-state variety, quite different from the vacuum-tube instruments used by Reich and Burr. The differences between the two types of instruments have been noted by scientists other than Reich, Burr, and their followers. Engineers who are familiar with the differences between vacuum-tube and solid state instruments will often express, quite on their own, that the tube-type instruments yield "anomalies", or that the tube instruments "often go wild", or "take time to find" or "look for" the measured readings. Generally, the classical engineers view these fluctuations in measurement as problems to be overcome -- but I am convinced these are in fact expressions of life energy functions more readily picked up by the vacuum tube electronics. By contrast, a transistorized, solid-state millivoltmeter often yields electrical potential measurements which appear lifeless or dead. It may measure the same base potentials, but fluctuations or variations ("wandering"?) might be diminished or lost.

My November 1993 discussions with Dr. Philip Calahan, a top-notch electrical engineer (author of Tuning in to Nature, and discoverer of the infrared/microwave plant-insect communication system) confirmed that vacuum tube and solid state type devices were generally acknowledged by experienced engineers as yielding different measurements for the same general phenomenon. Other well-known facts: music lovers often state that solid state amplifiers yield different sound intonations and frequency responses than tube-type amplifiers -- for rock musicians, the older tube-type amplifiers are still the instruments of choice, given the fuller sound, described as "richer in harmonic overtones" by engineers, or simply put, as "having guts" or "balls" by the musicians. Military engineers also confess that tube-type electronics are more capable of withstanding electromagnetic shock, as compared to solid-state devices. In the context of orgone physics, one might interpret these varied observations as being due to orgone accumulation within the vacuum tubes, which by itself yields a greater excitation (resonance?) than solid-state transistors.

If Harrer obtained a negative result using a solid-state device, then a switch to a vacuum-tube variety, or some carefully-developed control experiments contrasting the two types of instrumentation would be absolutely necessary before drawing any conclusions about the significance of his results to Reich's experiments. The only thing he can properly conclude from a negative result in his own experimental work would be that he could not replicat Reich's bioelectrical experiments using a different kind of millivoltmeter

There were several other problems with Harrer's bioelectrical experiments, where he deviated from the original protocols of Reich. When I observed his bioelectrical set-up at the experimental room on Mullerstrasse, it appeared that multiple electrodes were employed -- this suggested to me a complicated diversion from Reich's original experiments, and was additionally intrusive to any human subject being monitored for subtle emotional factors. More importantly, Reich studied emotional reactions of people in states of sexual and emotional excitation, while Harrer's experiments, at least in part, settled upon the responses of subjects in meditative states. I also had the impression that the individual test subjects working with him were rather emotionally unexpressive people. These latter two factors alone, emphasis upon meditation by emotionally restrained individuals, could be anticipated to yield rather flat voltmeter tracings. And so it did not surprise me to hear that he could not replicate "Reich's bioelectrical work". In fact, it appears Harrer undertook experiments completely different from those of Reich, with only the most superficial similarities.

At the time when I visited Harrer's Mullerstrasse lab, according to my memory, he had not yet detected basic wandering potentials with heartbeat inscribed. This was, in my view, a problem of electrode placement, possibly also related to the failure to use vacuum-tube instrumentation, and to the emotional inexpressiveness or meditative emphasis of the test subjects. At that time, I made the following specific and concrete recommendations to him:
  1. Obtain a vacuum-tube millivoltmeter for comparative readings. I provided Harrer with the name and address of a used instrument company in the USA which sells the HP-412-A vacuum-tube millivoltmeter, reconditioned and calibrated, for around $400.
  2. Use only two electrodes, not multiple electrodes, following Reich's protocols more closely.
  3. Don't attempt to undertake any experiments regarding emotional/sexual excitation until firstly detecting a clear reading of wandering potential with heart-pulse inscribed; from there, next confirm better-known perturbations in the wandering potential, such as the slight rise in potential with exhalation, cranio-sacral pulsation, basic muscular effects upon readings, and diurnal variations. If these basic factors could not firstly be measured and understood, then he should not proceed to undertake the more difficult steps of measuring vegetative excitation.
  4. Don't confuse meditation, which works to intentionally still or quiet the emotional energy, with Reich's bioelectrical experiments, which involved the spontaneous element of emotional energy.
  5. Use emotionally fluid human subjects, preferably individuals who are selected by some objective criteria, and who don't know what the experiments are about. Harrer did express to me an interest to find emotionally fluid test subjects, possibly from the theater or music departments of the Freie Universitat, with the assumption that arts students would be more emotional than his test subjects, whom I recall were students of either science or psychology. That would have been, at least, a reasonable starting approach to the single issue of emotional fluidity in test subjects.
  6. Engage in a study of H.S. Burr's writings on the subject of bioelectricity, as well as the comparable findings of Robert Becker. Becker today uses bioelectrical methods to regenerate amputated limbs in small mammals, an incredible feat which implies that basic DNA chemistry is subordinate to weak DC electrical potentials (which have similarities to orgone).

To the best of my knowledge, Harrer completely ignored every one of the above constructive criticisms and did nothing in the way of making concrete or factual changes in his experimental approach or designs. Unless he can counter the above criticisms in an explicit manner, Harrer's observed results have no significance to the experimental work of Reich on bioelectricity, and his conclusions are invalidated. For his results to reach the level of significance he attributed to them -- that is, a general refutation of Reich's work on bioelectricity -- he would have to account for all , and not just some of the above considerations. Any one of the above criticisms might account for the failure to replicate the results observed by Reich.

The Orgone Accumulator Temperature Differential (To-T)

Reich's Observations and Techniques on To-T
The To-T experiment is one of the more difficult of Reich's experiments to replicate, relying as it does upon the capacity to measure a very slight temperature increase, or spontaneous warming effect, which occurs within the orgone accumulator. One must firstly construct a good orgone accumulator, capable of building up a charge sufficient to yield the warming effect, and then -- to satisfy the criticisms of classical thermodynamics -- create a control enclosure which has nearly identical thermal properties (thermal resistance, heat capacity, etc.) as the accumulator, but which excludes the metals which are said to produce the primary energetic excitation for the warming effect. Temperatures are then monitored over a series of days, on an hour-by-hour basis, to determine the differentials. The accumulator warming effect, or To-T (temperature inside the accumulator minus temperature inside the control) is predicted to rise to slightly higher levels, but only under specific environmental conditions.

The spontaneous heat-production effect would primarily express itself on cloud-free sunny days, when the orgone charge at the earth's surface and within the accumulator is stronger. Generally, this phenomenon is extinguished on overcast rainy days, with the lowering of orgone charge at the earth's surface and within the accumulator, when primary orgone charge shifts upward into clouds. Bright sparkling days would produce a stronger effect, while dorish and stagnant atmospheric conditions would either extinguish the phenomenon or produce a reversed effect (accumulator cooler than control). One must also maintain the experimental accumulator and control enclosures in an environment shielded from mechanical environmental thermal effects, as under a shaded porch or sufficiently covered roof surface.

The literature on this particular experiment is beyond the scope of review here, but we may review the major factors involved:

MINIMAL ACCUMULATOR APPROACH: In this approach, two insulated boxes are constructed of identical materials and sizes, with a single layer of aluminum foil introduced onto the bottom floor surface of one of the insulated enclosures, to produce an "accumulator". Temperature sensors are introduced into the upper portion of the interior of each enclosure, to measure temperature. Here, the assumption is that the aluminum foil is of such a minor quantity that mechanical thermal effects are not significantly affected. Therefore, any warming which occurs in the accumulator is produced only by orgone energy effects. Reich had one such device set up at his Rangeley laboratory, as a working demonstration model. However, his set-up was under what might be called ideal environmental conditions , as discussed above. My own general criticism of this approach is that, in attempt to control the experiment for mechanical thermal properties of materials, the experimenter must significantly reduce the amount of metal materials in the accumulator construction, and run the risk of eliminating the effects of orgone energy. This is called over-controlling the experiment , where the phenomenon of interest is eliminated from the experiment in one's attempt to objectively measure it.

MAXIMAL ACCUMULATOR APPROACH: This approach is more taxing for the experimenter, but potentially more fruitful. Here, one constructs a single-layered or multi-layered orgone accumulator out of materials known to yield a strong charge: wool and steel wool layers, with interior steel chamber (no aluminum). One starts by making a small but strong orgone accumulator. The control enclosure is then constructed with sufficient size and mass to give it mechanical thermal properties close to that of the accumulator -- this is determined empirically, by closely monitoring temperatures while simultaneously subjecting both control and accumulator to strong mechanical thermal influences (direct exposure to sunlight, or a heat lamp, followed shortly afterward by quick shading or immersion in an ice-water bath). One then adds or removes insulating material to the control (including some thin sheets of insulating material, to mimic the metal sheeting in the accumulator) until the mechanical thermal responses of the accumulator and control to thermal forcing are nearly identical.

ACCUMULATOR-CONTROL INTERACTION: Regarding the above techniques, both the accumulator and control must be separated by a certain distance, around 10 cm minimum, to prevent any kind of energetic interaction between the orgone accumulator and control. The accumulator and control must additionally not be enclosed within another structure with accumulating properties.

EXPERIMENTAL ENVIRONMENT: Both the accumulator and control enclosures must be situated in an environment satisfying both orgone-energetic and classical thermodynamic arguments. One wishes to allow the accumulator to respond to orgonotic influences, which are predicted to not significantly affect the control device. Likewise, one wishes to be certain that no mechanical thermal heating or environmental convection is taking place, which might cause either the accumulator or control to be preferentially warmed or cooled from external sources. Both enclosures must be shaded from direct sunlight, and also from indirect, reflected or diffuse sunlight in an equal manner, and likewise be sheltered from winds which might affect one enclosure over another. These possible environmental temperature changes are best monitored by taking separate thermal measurements of the air immediately surrounding the accumulator and control. Additionally, the location of the experiment must be free of disturbing oranur-producing electromagnetic fields, as from nearby power-lines, electrical wiring in a structure, or any computer-driven system for temperature measurement. Generally, this approach has been employed by running the experiment under broad outdoor roofed structures, where the accumulator and control devices were shielded from exterior diffuse or reflected light by insulating panels, or other structures resembling meteorological shelters which are additionally shielded in other ways. The local atmospheric environment must also be selected for the general absence of dorish tendencies . If dor predominates for too great a percentage of time, flat-line zero-difference data curves may be anticipated.

AMBIENT METEOROLOGY: The experiment must be run with ambient air temperature taken into account, as too-quick an environmental temperature rise or fall might overwhelm the accumulator warming influence. The To-T effect might, in the more carefully controlled experiments,be measurable only during certain times of day, when temperatures are more stable or changing only in a slow manner. Additionally, meteorological pendulation is observed and recorded, given that days of high percent cloud cover and/or rains will extinguish or dramatically reduce the measurement differences.

ELECTRONIC VERSUS MERCURY THERMOMETERS: Reich and most early experimenters used glass mercury thermometers for their measurements, calibrated to 1/10th degree C., but capable of interpretation to a slightly greater precision. Such thermometers are calibrated by mechanical glass-grinding machines, which are set according to the boiling point and freezing point of water. Later experimentalists attempted use of electronic thermistors , which were quite sensitive, but problematically also created a slight bit of heat themselves, acting to warm the enclosures into which they were placed. Electronic thermocouples have since been used, as these are also sensitive, but do not add any heat of their own to the experimental environment. When used with a digital computer or analog recording device, thermocouples also need to be individually calibrated in ice-water and boiling water baths.

My Observations on To-T
My personal experience with To-T measurements is limited to a variety of mercury thermometer and thermistor temperature differential experiments, undertaken over the last 20 years. Mostly, I did not have the necessary equipment or working environment to undertake an experiment which would fully satisfy all the above criteria. I have never published anything from my own To-T experiments. However, as discussed below, some of my observations are pertinent, raising new questions about how the To-T experiment is performed.

POSSIBLE NEW COMPLICATION IN To-T: What I observed, during lengthy controlled experiments in 1984-85 in Kansas, was: A sensitive electronic measuring device would spontaneously go out of calibration shortly after being inserted inside the accumulator/control arrangement. Upon removal from the accumulator, however, the calibration would appear to be quite normal. This paradoxical result, repeated many times, was determined by making simultaneous measurements with both mercury and electronic thermometers in the To-T set-up. Repeated calibrations were made in boiling water and ice-water baths, but the measurements between mercury and electronic thermometers would quickly deviate when both were simultaneously inserted into the To-T set-up. Readings from the electronic thermometer were displayed on a strip-chart recorder, and these readings were constantly cross-checked. The measurements between mercury and electronic thermometers would remain nearly identical, nearly indistinguishable, under all environmental conditions, except when placed inside the accumulator. The mercury thermometer produced a different base-line measurement than the electronic thermometer, though with a similar temperature trend. I should say, I never intended to publicly discuss this observation without further corroboration, as I consider it to be very preliminary, and in need of clarification and better objective measurement. As a criticism to myself, one cannot raise the possibility of an entirely new and unsubstantiated phenomena as a valid objection against other research. The new phenomenon must firstly be demonstrated. I therefore did not wish to raise an issue publicly which I could not independently prove, and which may still prove to be only an artifact of my own experimental error.

However, in 1993, I received an unexpected communication from Victor Milian, a Spanish physicist, expressing his frustration with this very same problem. He had communicated his results, expressed as a direct effect of orgone energy upon the wires of an electronic temperature recording device , to the American College of Orgonomy. However, nobody at the ACO quite understood what he was talking about, and they rejected his paper without further investigation. To me, however, the paper opened my eyes, as Milian appeared to describe the same observation I previously made, but had never quite convinced myself as to its reality. The next issue of Pulse of the Planet will carry his experimental report, which is now being redrafted for publication -- but I feel it necessary to point out this problem here, given its general relevance to the To-T experiment. Possibly, this new effect may be refuted as an experimental artifact. But these observations, made independently in Kansas and Spain, suggest that accumulator electronic temperature differentials should be even more carefully scrutinized, cross-checked and controlled with mercury thermometers. Perhaps it may become necessary to return to the use of only mercury thermometers.

To continue, once all the above factors are taken into account, any observed anomalous changes between the temperatures in the accumulator, as compared to the control (beyond a certain margin of error), are reviewed for significance. As one might imagine, it is a taxing, but nonetheless significant experiment when properly performed. The magnitude of significance of this experiment may be viewed against Albert Einstein's comment to Reich, that the To-T would be a "bomb in physics". We may also point to the incredible furor created by Pons and Fleishman, who observed a slight spontaneous temperature increase in their "cold fusion" experiments.

Harrer's Observations and Techniques on To-T
Regarding Harrer's experimental work on To-T, I base my criticisms upon a visit to his home laboratory several years ago, where he described his procedures to me. Also, in 1993 I was invited to a meeting of the Reich Society in Berlin, wherein Harrer presented his preliminary negative findings on the To-T measurements. It was clear to me then that his design was over-controlled: He took the above-described "minimal accumulator" approach, of constructing an accumulator which would closely match the control enclosure. Both at his home, and at the Berlin Reich Society presentation, I made a friendly and constructive critique, that he should switch to the more rigorous and difficult maximal accumulator approach. I specifically remember that meeting, wherein several members of the Reich Society spoke up in agreement with me about this point, that the orgone energy effect had been "controlled out" of his To-T experiment

Harrer's experimental design was novel in some respects, employing two accumulators and two controls within the same general proximity within a double-walled meteorological instrument shelter. The shelter was raised above the ground, and located within the shade of a grove of trees, within the Berlin city limits. Many of the classical thermodynamic requirements of the To-T appeared satisfied, but, in addition to the above-mentioned problems, several of the new elements might have introduced new errors. The use of multiple accumulators and controls within the same general confines were assumed to have no influence upon the outcome, which may or may not be the case. Early on, Harrer observed variations between the two separate control enclosures which were greater than the variations between control and accumulator readings. From this, he concluded that there was no accumulator influence upon temperature (and therefore, no orgone) -- but his results suggest other possibilities. Firstly, the effects of environmental dor might have been sufficient to suppress the accumulator temperature readings, resulting in a low or even slightly negative To-T. Secondly, the greater variability between two closely matched controls than between the controls and accumulators suggests a temperature-dampening influence of the accumulator -- why should there have been any difference, given the fact that the difference between the accumulators and controls was the presence of a small strip of metal foil at the bottom of the accumulator? The difference still needs to be explained. Third, his results suggested the experimental shelter was subject to mechanically-forced environmental temperature variations.

In my view, the most proper and responsible step for Harrer to have taken, after discovering this preliminary negative result would have been to re-arrange or move the experiment to some new location where temperature variations between the controls had been "quieted down". Only with the elimination of mechanically-forced variations in environmental temperature would his To-T readings gain significance. In particular, the shading of Harrer's apparatus -- a meteorological shelter located under a tree canopy in a residential area of Berlin -- might not have been sufficiently large. All successful To-T experiments have been undertaken under completely opaque shaded areas, such as the roofs of open-air porches or buildings, which are a significant distance (1-2 meters) above the accumulator and control devices, and the enclosure which might immediately surround them. Such roof areas may have a fundamentally different influence upon the experiment -- both thermally and orgonotically -- than a tree canopy.

An additional suggestion I made previously to Harrer, was to eliminate one of the two accumulators, or to significantly increase the distances between accumulators and controls and also the size of the sheltered enclosure, given the possibility of energetic interactions between the two accumulators. I referred him to the work of the biologist Frank Brown, who observed, in his sensitive biological clock experiments, that a dish of sprouting bean seeds could energetically influence the rate of growth of another nearby dish of sprouting seeds -- one gaining in size, the other diminishing in size -- when the two dishes were located in close proximity to each other. When the distance separating the dishes is increased to around 10 cm, the effect disappeared; closer than that, the effect appeared. Brown's observation suggested an orgonotic potential effect asserting itself through the energetic fields of the two dishes.

Another factor of major concern is the generally dorish atmosphere of Berlin, as discussed above. Did Harrer monitor wet/cloudy and sunny/dry days in seeking out the times when the accumulator would function best? Did he likewise monitor general atmospheric dor conditions during this experiment, using either general visibility as an indicator of atmospheric haze, or something similar to the Baker dor index? If not, then does he discount the influences of dor conditions, which in America at least have sometimes been correlated with either minimal or negative To-T measurements? This factor alone could also be a source of near-zero or negative To-T. Again: Reich's experiments took place in the high-altitude, relatively pristine environment of rural Maine, which is heavily forested and generally dor-free most of the year -- the atmosphere held even less dor at Reich's time than today, if we use atmospheric haze and visibility as a general indicator. By contrast, Berlin is a region of light-to-heavy dorish conditions for much of the year.

All the above criticisms, save for the problem with electronic versus mercury thermometers, were openly presented to Harrer in a friendly and constructive manner. However, my impression is that few were incorporated into his experimental designs for subsequent renewed measurement. Assuming I am correct here, then his To-T measurements are at best highly preliminary, on the order of a student's pilot study, and cannot be considered as serious or conclusive attempts to replicate this highly sensitive and difficult experimental procedure. Reich's results, and the results of others since Reich, have not been seriously challenged by Harrer's results.

The VACOR Tube Experiments

Reich's Observations and Techniques on VACOR
Reich's VACOR experiments are among the least replicated of all his findings, given the rather difficult-to-achieve preliminary environmental conditions necessary for the undertaking, as well as the unusual apparatus employed. The experiment has significance for the ionization theory of light-generation and particle flux within high vacuum tubes, and hence, for certain aspects of the basic particle theory of radioactivity. Here are the necessary ingredients for undertaking the VACOR experiments:
  1. A high-altitude, low-humidity laboratory location, above approximately 1000 meters, in a forested rural location.
  2. Orgone accumulators of a very high charge. Reich employed a large room-sized orgone accumulator, inside of which were additional human sized orgone accumulators of varying strengths, including several 20-ply chargers.
  3. Glass vacuum tubes, evacuated down to vacuum pressures of 0.5 micron or below. For the entire series of experiments, glass tubes with a variety of electrode configurations are necessary.
  4. Performance of the experiment during cosmic-solar conditions suggestive of maximal charge and excitation within both accumulators and tubes. Reich undertook his VACOR work during the mid 1950s, a period of maximal sunspot number (a factor also roughly correlated with solar flares and other excited solar/terrestrial conditions, such as higher aurora activity and geomagnetic variability).

My Observations on VACOR
My own experience with VACOR phenomenon is rather limited, but not for lack of interest. In 1978, I purchased around $500 worth of high vacuum tubes from the Electrotechnic company of Chicago, the same company which made the VACOR tubes for Reich. I never attempted to charge up these tubes, because at the time, I did not have access to a laboratory facility where points #1, #2 and #4, above could be satisfied. Any attempts to charge those tubes in environments which failed to meet those necessary requirements would be pointless. I subsequently spent a lot of time at the University of Kansas physical chemistry laboratory, where high-vacuum mercury-vapor pumps were in operation, and studied the general properties of high-vacuum first hand with several of the researchers there, observing and learning various technical points about the fabrication and sealing of glass tubes used in vacuum experiments. I was able, in later years, to charge a few neon tubes and glow-diodes, and replicated a few very simple lumination phenomenon, such as the spontaneous soft glowing of an orgone-charged neon tube when held in the hand -- this phenomenon was never constant, however, appearing only under high charge conditions, such as at the height of lunar cycle or solar flare conditions. I therefore know what the general requirements are to properly undertake the VACOR experiments, and was quite shocked to see Harrer take a sloppy approach to this experimental question.

Harrer's Observations and Techniques on VACOR
Harrer's experiments failed on points #1, #2, and #4, at least. His glass tubes were charged in relatively weak accumulators within the relatively high-humidity, often dorish atmosphere of Berlin, which lies along a river valley at a low altitude. Even with a 20-fold accumulator, the energetic charging of Harrer's vacuum tubes would not approach the strength or quality of charge obtained by Reich at his Rangeley laboratory. This aspect should be clear to anybody who has traveled to high mountain areas and personally experienced the high charge, which tends to expand one's vegetative system when simply walking around at such a location, even without the presence of an accumulator. Harrer additionally performed his experiment during dates (1992-1993) when relatively low sunspot numbers prevailed. Reich clearly felt this factor was at work in his VACOR results, and even a cursory study of sunspot phenomenon suggests the basic terrestrial response to an increased sunspot number is a greater overall storminess and turbulence, suggestive of a general increase in environmental energy levels.

Regarding Harrer's vacuum tubes, he informed me his tubes were constructed by a man whose procedures were "more rigorous" than those undertaken by Electrotechnic, which made them for Reich. Harrer has said that, because he could not replicate the effects described by Reich, that Reich's VACOR tubes must have been leaking air inside of themselves, and that this leaked air was the source of the effects observed by Reich. If Reich's tubes did leak, Harrer would be correct. But no evidence for such leakage has ever been presented. The technology for creating and permanently sealing high vacuum tubes has existed for years, and the industry for making vacuum tubes has not advanced so much over the last several decades. The specifications and materials used by Electrotechnic were top-notch, and Reich published an account of the great precision and care they used in the assembly, cleaning and sealing of their tubes. The craftsman who made vacuum tubes for Harrer also offered, in 1992 or 1993, to sell them to me for an exorbitant sum of money (over $1,000 each, as I recall). I wrote back to him, inquiring about his materials and procedures for evacuating, cleaning and sealing his tubes, but my letter went unanswered. This silence to important questions, and the apparently excessive price for the tubes leaves me with a suspicious feeling, and so I now additionally challenge Harrer to document and support his assertions about the claimed high-quality of his own vacuum tubes.

By contrast, Electrotechnic has been making high-vacuum tubes for many decades, selling them around the world, primarily to university physics professors for classroom demonstrations , and they are not made significantly different today than they were in Reich's time. According to Harrer, Reich's VACOR tubes must have been significantly leaking within the first year or two after Reich got them. If Electrotechnic had routinely made such incredibly "leaky tubes", they would have been out of business a long time ago. If Harrer wishes to criticize Reich's supplier of VACOR tubes, then he must be explicit, saying which materials used by Electrotechnic were faulty, and citing some evidence for faulty or leaky tubes. My impression is that Harrer raised this spurious criticism purely because he could not replicate Reich's positive results. This kind of criticism is clearly unwarranted and is not based upon any rational or demonstrable fact.

In summary, Harrer's experimental arrangement for the VACOR experiments in no way approaches the original conditions of Reich's experiments. They do not constitute a genuine replication.

Orgone Motor Experiments

It was amusing to hear Harrer's claim that he had "replicated the orgone motor effect", and in-so-doing "proved it did not work" or that it was an artifact of some known physical phenomenon. As is well known, the full details of the orgone motor have never been published, and Reich never revealed what he called the "Y" factor by which he claimed it functioned. Until the day comes when that factor is finally published or known, anybody who claims to have "replicated the orgone motor" can only prove this by demonstrating a working motor. To claim disproof of a poorly-described and generally unknown phenomenon by failure to demonstrate that phenomenon is illogical. A scientist can never rationally "prove" that something "does not exist" -- only that something does exist. Harrer's claim on the orgone motor, no matter how elegant the argument, is rather like "proving" the airplane cannot fly by constructing a model airplane without wings or a tail, and which always crashes to the ground. Until he obtains a full and complete schematic of the orgone motor from the Reich archives, and then constructs it, he cannot say whether or not Reich's motor actually worked or not. At any rate, this particular facet of Reich's work, the orgone motor, was never published like his other works, and does not qualify as an experiment by which one might demonstrate or refute the existence of orgone energy. Even if Reich were 100% wrong about the orgone motor, it would say little or nothing about the validity of his other experiments.

Summary and Discussion

Based upon my personal observations of Bernhard Harrer's work, it appears to me that he made a technically flawed and unsympathetic "attempt to replicate" a few of Reich's experiments. His technical knowledge was often sufficient from a classical physics point of view, but his approach to other crucial matters of experimental design and control was insufficient, expecially from the crucial and necessary perspective of orgone biophysics. He appears generally unfamiliar with the fine details of Reich's original experimental protocols, and additionally unfamiliar with research by other scientists, such as Burr, Piccardi, Miller, Brown, Reichelt, and Calahan, whose findings have a corroborating relevance to the question of orgone. Harrer's sweeping conclusions, that orgone energy "does not exist", etc. are as ill-founded and unsupportable as the 1950s opinion of the Food and Drug Administration, which burned Reich's books. Even if Harrer had obtained an unrefutable negative result on one or more of the above experiments, such as To-T, that result would say nothing about the other experimental proofs developed by Reich for objective demonstration of the orgone. Examples here are the bions, energy-field effects from bions and blood, subjective light phenomenon, orgone accumulator influences upon plants and animals, accumulator differentials in electroscopical discharge, humidity, water evaporation, Geiger-Muller effects, and radiometer threshold rotation, plus the more anomalous x-ray photos of "ghost" phenomenon in vacor tubes, the oranur experiment, cloudbuster influences, etc. I am amazed at how Harrer could so broadly condemn all of Reich's natural scientific work on the basis of just a few experiments, irrespective of his results.

Unless Harrer can explicitly rebut my above criticisms of his work, point by point, then his findings are not relevant to the experiments of Reich, and his negative conclusions are invalidated. The objective scientific work of Wilhelm Reich on orgone energy stands, untouched and unaffected.

Postscript, October 1995

In summer of 1994, I was invited to a joint lecture by Bernhard Harrer and Prof. Jurek Myszkowski, where Harrer was to have made some kind of presentation. He refused to make the presentation when he learned I was in the room. Later, in January 1995, at a working seminar organized by myself and devoted to the issue of forest-death, Harrer insisted to be heard, and demanded several hours of time to give his rebuttal. I refused his demand to present on the first day of the meeting, but invited him to present on the following day, and furthermore insisted the presentation be in English so I could know what he was saying. Unfortunately, with encouragement and assistance of several members of the Wilhelm Reich Gesellschaft, this meeting was forcibly taken over and my own schedule of topics for discussion were thrown out. Harrer's presentation was given at the start of the meeting, and destroyed the original schedule of topics for the two days. Harrer furthermore insisted to give his lecture in German, making it impossible for me to follow in detail. This was additional evidence of his viewing my criticisms as irrelevant or trivial. However, the following points were clarified by translations of the general topics, as provided on-the-spot by Bernd Senf and Marc Rackelmann:
  1. Harrer did not make any attempt to rebut any of the points given in my Open Critique. Instead, he made new critical allegations against Reich's biophysical work.
  2. He criticized Reich's interpretation of the electroscopical discharge experiments, for orgone tension. This was a new criticism.
  3. He alleged to have disproven orgone energy as the mechanism for the cloudbuster.
  4. He argued that the orgone energy accumulator and cloudbuster did not work on orgone energy, but rather were "parapsychological" devices of some sort.

Regarding point #3, above, questions were put to Harrer by myself and Prof. Senf, about how he conducted the cloudbuster experiments. Harrer bluntly refused to answer the critical questions, and had no response when asked additional questions about the points in my Open Critique of his work. Later in the meeting, he attempted to tape-record the reactions of varous persons in the room to his lecture, but the group collectively refused to allow this. There were friendly remarks from many persons in attendance who personally liked Mr. Harrer, but also pointed comments that he needed to go back to work, to address the criticisms which had been raised.

So far, Harrer has not answered a single one of the concerns raised in the Open Critique, but has continued to speak publicly against Reich, making assertions for which there are no facts to back them up, and making disparaging remarks attacking Reich's credibility and capacities as a natural scientist. As of October 1995, Mr. Harrer has not undertaken to write up, or otherwise describe in detail any of his findings, nor to make an effective rebuttal of any of the points given in this Open Critique.

Postscript 1998

In 1997, some of Mr. Harrer's negative conclusions, but no explicit experimental details or hard data, were published in: "Über Wilhelm Reichs Oranur-Experiment (I)" Bernard Harrer und Christian Rudolph, Verlag Zweitausendeins, 1997. Nothing contained in this book addressed or refuted the points given in Dr. DeMeo's Open Critique, and Mr. Harrer has so far not made any public disclosure of the crucial details of his experiments.

Postscript 2008

Since the time of this publication in 1994, a lot of new experimental work has been undertaken at OBRL, providing even more positive proof of Reich's experimental discoveries. A listing of my published research papers, some of which are available as PDF downloads, is given on my Academia.edu webpage:

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