Robert Anton Wilson has written many excellent compositions, from his non-fiction ontological philosophy (Prometheus Rising, Quantum Psychology, Cosmic Trigger) to his experimental fiction (The Illuminatus Trilogy, Scrodinger's Cat) to a screenplay of revelatory proportions (Reality is What You Can Get Away With). What runs current through all these formats is a pursuit to reveal that which many think cannot be revealed. RAW declares war on doubt: his own, the aristocracy's, yours.
In Wilhelm Reich in Hell, Wilson examines his usual M.O. through the prism of a stage play. Upon the first reading, it is at times rather brilliant. But as a work of quality, as a work of art--it is lacking in comparison to not only RAW's collective output, but as a piece in itself. The dialogue is often clunky, the ideas and mores just the same as it always is in a Wilson book. But that's ok, I guess, because he's just trying to reach out to a larger audience.
The play: Wilhelm Reich, as many know was busted by the U.S. government for "shady" medical practices. He was sent to jail, for no reason other than he sold what he believed were orgone accumulators--devices that really would help humanity in healing. His work continues to this day without government funding, but at the time this was a terrible catastrophe. Whether his products and ideas were functional or not doesn't matter: for some it was, for others it was not. Who gives a shit? The government confiscated all of his materials. They burned his books. How many times do you hear about our so-called advanced democracy burning books? Non-fiction at that. So, Reich is sent to prison, and just before he gets out he has a convienent heart attack and dies.
This is where the play begins. Reich enters hell, a place that must exist in his own mind. According to his beliefs, hell should not exist, and therefore must be a construction from his sick mind. In this hell, Reich is forced to under go a court proceeding of absurd ilk: hell is literarly a three-ring circus, with Satan himself presiding as judge. The prosecuting attorney is the Marquis de Sade, dressed as a clown. Reich represents himself.
In a recent performance of this play that I participated in, I studied Reich's motivations: by defending himself as strongly as possible, he can convince his own mind and negate the existence of this imaginary world. de Sade has his own motivations: to defend his existence as a so-called "evil" human being, a word that Reich refutes as representing nothing:
SADE: And the things I did before I was brought here and cured? They were not Evil?
REICH: You enjoyed feeling Evil because it made you seem heroic. The humiliating truth, Marquis, is that you were merely ill.
SADE: And Hitler was merely ill?
REICH: That is the horror of the situation. We all know it by now, but we cannot remember. We repress it and go on blaming one another -- we forget what we know, because remembering it means remembering that we are robots, too -- that we have all been crippled in different ways by trying to live in the imaginary world of morals instead of the real world of nature.
At times frustrating, Wilhelm Reich in Hell is still a very thought-provoking piece. If one was not already familiar with Reich's tragedy and Wilson's writing, one could get a lot from a production of this play. Experiencing acting in it is something special too, becoming a version of Wilhelm Reich for a few moments can be enlightening: to believe what he believes, so strongly and yet to be constantly tricked and toyed with by a world that he can only assume to be of his own creation. But then again, that's life as much as it is hell. Still, we battle on.
This is published in book from by New Falcon Press, and includes several essays about Dr. Reich. An excerpt can be found on Robert Anton Wilson's website at http://www.rawilson.com.