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Homer Lane and Wilhelm Reich - A. S. Neill a note about the Title


^ Homer Lane and Wilhelm Reich


Though American by birth, Homer Lane is much more widely known in England. After working in that well-known Amer­ican reform school, the George Junior Republic, he was invited by a few well-known social reformers—the Earl of Sandwich and Lord Lytton among them—to open a home for delinquent children in Dorset: the Little Commonwealth. It was that re­markable experiment I had tried unsuccessfully to join after leaving the army. Lane never wrote about it, but after his death in 1925, pupils who had taken notes at his lectures allowed an editor to make a book of them: Talks to Parents and Teachers. The man who did most of the work was John Layard. Three years ago, Schocken published an American edition in paper­back, for which I wrote the preface. W. David Wills wrote Lane’s biography, and the matron of the home also published a book called The Little Commonwealth. Lane could not write, for he was not an “educated” man. His correspondence, written on post-cards, abounds in misspellings.
Without describing Lane’s philosophy of education here, I would like to explain what he did for me, for he exerted the greatest influence on my life. After the Commonwealth had been closed, Lane set up in London as an analyst. In the early twenties, I knew nothing about analysis, and had hardly heard of Freud. So, naturally, I had no thought of being analyzed myself until Lane told me that every teacher should be. He offered to take me on for free daily sessions. It was not a Freudian style of analysis, and I did not He on a couch; we just sat and talked. Like my later analysis by Stekel, it did not touch my emotions, and I wonder if I got anything positive from it. Indeed, I feel certain now that Lane’s chief contribu­tion to my life lay outside the field of analysis altogether—in his treatment of children. His immortal phrase was: “You must be on the side of the child.”
Lane told me of his charges, the toughest he could get from the juvenile courts. The whole thing was incredible—thieves and robbers cured by freedom and self-government—no, surely not. When finally I mixed with the youths, I knew that Lane had not exaggerated a bit.
Lane was a wonderful personality; I do not want to cail him a genius because the word is too often abused. Lane had great gifts; he had an uncanny instinct for seeing in a flash the motive behind some unusual behavior.
If Lane did not cure my complexes, he managed to give me a new one. Interpreting a dream one day, he said: “This shows a fear of heights.”
I laughed. “Good heavens, Lane, in my student days I used to climb a tower and sit with my legs dangling over the side while I read a book.”
“Dreams don’t lie,” he countered.
“Okay, Lane, I’ll prove you are wrong,” I said, and next day climbed the Wren Monument, which stands two hundred feet high. Looking down, I was terrified. The usual explanation of a height phobia is an unconscious wish to jump—and that may be—but what puzzled me then was the fact that I could easily look down a deep well. Once also, on the top of a moun­tain in Bavaria, I had a sudden attack of fear. Yet there was no temptation to jump, for it was a gradual slope downward. The real import of Lane’s role lay in his dealing with wayward children, not with neurotic adults.
Lane’s humor pleased me. I recall how he once took up a word from one of my dreams—lime.
“Lime, the stuff that binds,” said Lane. “I am the lime. I am helping you to rebuild yourself—lime-Lane—see the con­nection?”
“But, Lane, I dreamed about a line, a railway line.”
He roared with laughter. Dream analysis seemed just a game to him, a sort of crossword puzzle.
Lane was charming, always immaculately dressed, genial— and a dreadful romancer. He told us stories of his youth: how he had run away to the Indians, how he had knocked out a gang leader and taken his place as foreman on the job. His biographer David Wills discovered that he had done neither.
Lane was a great admirer of Barrie and hated Shaw. He loved ^ Peter Pan and Dear Brutus. Like Barrie, he never really grew up; and all the stupid things he did in his life were in­fantile things.
Yet it was this Peter Panism that made Lane the creator of a new treatment for sick people. Once he built a wall along with his Commonwealth boys. When they saw that his struc­ture looked perfect while theirs was bad, the boys began to knock it all down. And Lane joined in. He rationalized this by saying that he had to show them that children were more important than bricks; but I have an idea that he enjoyed the destruction because he also was a mischievous little boy. Every Sunday night, while Lane was “analyzing” me, I supped with his family—his wife, children, and a few ex-delinquents from the Commonwealth, Often he was the merry soul of this quiet group; often he sat silent in deep gloom.
Lane’s influence was limited. Since his death in 1925, the state institutions for problem children have not been changed in favor of freedom and understanding. They treat young de­linquents with all the evils that made them so—punishment strict requirements of obedience, hard discipline, moral talks. I wonder how many teachers in Britain today have heard of Lane.
I recall my first visit to the Little Commonwealth, arriv­ing in the middle of a stormy self-government meeting. Lane and I sat up into the wee hours talking—no, he talked while 1 listened. I had never heard of child psychology, or dynamic psychology of any sort, for that matter. I had written two books before meeting Lane—books groping for freedom. Lane showed me the way, and I have always acknowledged it. To me, he was a revelation.
I don’t think I am being smug when I say that many who have been influenced by Summerhill have not acknowledged it in books and articles- This is always so. Recently an English doctor published an article on the connection between neurosis and the stiffening of the muscles—Reich’s discovery—but the article did not mention Reich. I grant that such things do not matter in the long run, but I believe that honest)’ should admit sources.
We, his disciples, accepted Lane as the oracle. We never queried his dicta. When he would say something like “every footballer has a castration complex,” we nodded our heads in agreement. We never questioned how he came to that conclu­sion, and we were not all young fools; his group included Lord Lytton (already mentioned), later Viceroy of India; Dr. David, the Rugby headmaster who became Bishop of Liverpool; doc­tors, teachers, and students. David Wills, in his biography of Lane, says that of all his disciples Neill was the only one who could view him objectively later on. That may be because I am a hardheaded Scot, or more likely, that my transference was not so strong that time could not break it.
I had a quarrel with Lane in the middle of my analysis. He accused me of misrepresenting his ideas when I went lec­turing. We had a proper set-to, and I stopped going to his sessions. For a few months, I went to Maurice Nicoll, a London doctor who was the leading Jungian there, but again I got no reaction emotionally. I cannot recall anything about the anal­ysis save that when I dreamed of a black dog, the analyst said it represented free, floating libido—whatever that meant. One Sunday night in Lane’s home, he asked how my London anal­ysis was going and I told him. “You come back to me,” he said, and back I went again to listen to his elaborate breakdown of my dreams.
In perspective, I can see he was not a good analyst. He was brilliant in interpreting the symbolism in dreams, but what he said never touched my emotions.
I’ve said that on my discharge from the army I wired Lane coming, neill. and got a reply from London saying the Common­wealth had been closed by the Home Office. The story was that a delinquent girl had stolen money, and had run away. Caught by the police, she said that Lane had tried to seduce her. The Home Office sent down an unsympathetic K.C. to investigate. He had to report that there was no evidence against Lane, but the Home Office nevertheless ordered the Committee to appoint another superintendent, The Committee, of which the Earl of Sandwich, Lord Lytton, and Lady Betty Balfour were members, refused to remove Lane, saying they would rather close the Commonwealth.
I have never had any doubts about Lane’s innocence. His taste in women was too aesthetic to allow him to seduce a problem girl. Every man who has dealt with difficult adolescent girls knows how far their dreams will carry them. I myself have dealt with them for years, but never have any accusations been made against me. This was partly due to the fact that at the first sign of a dangerous fantasy, I would at once get in touch with the doctor or teacher who had sent the girl to me.
In 1925, Lane was tried on a technicality—for being an alien who had not registered with the police. In reality, he was being tried for the same misdemeanor he had previously been accused of; in this instance, for seducing a woman patient. He was deported, went to Paris, caught pneumonia and died.
I don’t know whether these accusations were justified, but I have never thought that it mattered if he did sleep with a patient. After Lane’s death, the late Lord Lytton was much upset; he seemed to be lost. When he invited me to sup with him at his club, I had the feeling that Lytton was endeavor­ing to find a substitute for Lane. If he were, he must have found me sadly lacking.
I said to him: “Lytton, suppose you had complete proof that Lane had been guilty of sleeping with a patient, how would you feel about it?”
The question seemed to shock him for the moment. “I don’t think,” he said slowly, “that it would alter in any way my love and admiration for the man.”
Lane, by the way, had an unpleasant habit of telling one patient all about the one who had just left the room, an un­pardonable habit in any therapist.
I never believed the stories of Lane’s seducing delinquent girls in the Commonwealth. Later, when the law accused him of seducing patients on the analytical couch, I had some doubts, but even then, never once had any shock about it. Maybe some of his female patients got more out of seduction than I got out of dream analysis. Professionally, of course, it is wrong, for when a woman becomes the analyst’s lover, the analysis stops dead. Professor Jack Flugel, an old friend and well-known Freudian, once quoted a New York analyst to me: “Flugel, I am not one of those analysts who fuck every patient.” Jack was one of the few analysts I met who could laugh at himself and others. The tragedy of Lane’s life was his being associated with social scandal, rather than being renowned for the great work he did with problem children. Scandal cannot kill a man’s work forever, but it can ruin his life.
I have called Lane a romancer, and took with a pinch of salt his story of a dinner party where he sat next to Barrie. “When I asked Barrie if he knew the symbolism of Peter Pan, he gave me a look of alarm. ‘Good God, no,’ he said, and then turned to the lady on his other hand, and never spoke to me again.”
When I read of Lane’s death in the papers, I found my­self smiling. At first, this seemed like hardheartedness, but later I got the true explanation: I was free at last. Up to then, I had relied entirely on him—what would Homer say? Now I had to stand on my own feet.
Later, in Vienna, I became a patient of Dr. Wilhelm Stekel, a member of the Freudian school who broke away, like Jung and Adler. I had reviewed a book of Stekel’s that claimed that analysis was too expensive and too long. He said that an analysis should not take longer than three months, a statement that appealed to my Scottish thrift. Stekel was a brilliant sym­bolist. He hardly ever asked for an association to a dream. “Ach, Neill, this dream shows that you are still in lof with your sister.” His words touched my head but never my emo­tions. I don’t think I got a transference to him, maybe because he was so boyish in some ways.
“Neill, your dream shows that you are in lof with my wife.”
“Stekel, I like your wife, but she has no sexual attraction for me.”
He flared up angrily.
“Vot, you do not admire my vife? That is to her an insult. She is admired by many men.”
Another time I asked him if I could use his W.C. When I returned, he looked at me in an arch fashion and pointed a finger. “Ach so! Der Neill wants to be Wilhelm Stekel, the king; he vants to sit on his throne! Naughty Neill.”
He brushed aside with a laugh my explanation that I had diarrhea. One of his favorite sayings regarding Freud was: “A dwarf sitting on a tall man’s shoulder sees farther than he does”—a doubtful assertion.
I have no intention of describing Reich’s work, but sim­ply his effect and influence on me. We first met in 1937, when I was lecturing at Oslo University. After my lecture, the chair­man said, “You had a distinguished man in your audience tonight—Wilhelm Reich.”
“Good God,” I replied, “I was reading his ^ Mass Psychol­ogy of Fascism on the ship coming over.”
I phoned Reich, and he invited me to dinner. “We sat talking till late. I was fascinated.
“Reich,” I said, “you are the man for whom I have been searching for years, the man to link the soma with the psyche. Can I come and study under you?”
So for two years, I went to Oslo for the length of my three yearly vacations. He said I could learn only by under­going his Vegetotherapy, which meant lying naked on a sofa while he attacked my stiff muscles. He refused to touch dreams. It was a hard therapy, and often a painful one, but I got more emotional release in a few weeks than I had ever had with Lane, Nicoll, or Stekel. It seemed to me then the best kind of therapy, and I still think so, even after seeing that some Reichian patients apparently remain neurotic following their treatment.
Reich often said: “Bend the tree when it is a twig, and it will be bent when it is fully grown.” But I doubt if any therapy ever gets down to the roots of neurosis. In the early twenties, we were all searching for the famous trauma that caused the sickness. We never found it because there was no trauma, only a plethora of traumatic experiences from the mo­ment of birth. Reich came to realize that only prophylaxis was the real answer, rather than therapy, but kept up his practice mainly to raise money for scientific studies.
When war came in 1939, I trembled about Reich’s fate, for he was a Jew on the Nazi destruction list. An American patient, Dr. Theodore Wolfe, who later became the translator of his books, managed to get him into the United States. His history there is well known up to his death in prison. His widow Use’s book, Wilhelm Reich: A Personal Biography, is a brave and sincere description of a brilliant and complicated man.
Reich, as Use points out, was deficient in humor, and my friendship with him was marred by the fact that we could not laugh at the same things. No one would have dared to tell a sex story in his presence. The word fuck infuriated him: “The sick sex—the aggressive male—fucks; but women do not fuck. The word is embrace.”
He had no liking for ordinary conversation about cars or books. Gossip was anathema to him. His talk was always about work; later, in the U.S., he relaxed when he made his weekly visit to the movies in Rangeley, Maine, near the locale of his school and clinic. He was completely uncritical of films. Once, when I described a film as kitsch, he was angry with me. “I enjoyed every minute of it,” he said.
I stood in a special relation to Reich. Around him were all his disciples, his doctor trainees, and all was formal. I ap­peared to be the only one who addressed him as Reich. True, I had also been his patient, his trainee, but maybe owing to my age, I was in a category by myself, along with Dr. Ola Raknes from Oslo. We had seminars. Reich filled the black­board with hieroglyphics, equations that meant nothing to me, and I doubt if they meant anything to the others present. His orgone theory was Greek to me. Reich said orgone energy was visible, but I had a blind eye to it. Reich had a small motor which was charged by a small orgone accumulator. It ran slowly; but when gingered tip by volts from a battery, it seemed to re­volve at great speed. Reich was in ecstasies. “The motive force of the future!” He exclaimed. I never heard of its being de­veloped.
Reich was jailed because of his failure to answer the accusation of a U. S. Gov’t. bureau that he had been fraudulently advertising his orgone box. This bureau believed that alleged claims that the accumulator might cure certain ailments were unfounded; Reich, while unable scientifically lo prove his representations in court, refused to withdraw his box from circulation.’
I do not know enough about his “rainmaking” to form an opinion. What one might call psychic orgone energy cannot be used in any way I can imagine. But here I admit my ignorance of science of any kind; I was never interested in Reich’s later work. To me he was the great man of The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Sexual Revolution, Character Analysis and ‘The Func­tion of the Orgasm. I still think The Mass Psychology of Fascism is a masterpiece of crowd analysis.
I wish our conversations in Maine could have been taped. We talked and talked, and consumed a lot of Scotch and rye, but oddly enough, had no hangovers. Though Reich scarcely relaxed, as I have said, his lower jaw was so loose that it worked as a well-oiled joint, on a machine. His muscles could relax, but his brain never did.
Often he tried to persuade me to bring Summerhill to Maine. “No, Reich,” I would reply. “I once had my school in a foreign country, and would never do it again. I don’t know the customs or the habits of the U.S.A.; and anyway, my school would come to be regarded as a Reich school, and that I could never have.”
Reich was an all-or-nothing man, impossible to work with: any dissenter had to go his way, or out on his neck he went. I knew I could never work with him.
He was not a fearful man—not for himself anyway—but when being driven in a car, he sat on edge, just as I do if the driver is not good. He was anxious for others. When Use drove their small son Peter to school, it was always: “Be careful, Use. Don’t drive fast.” When he was having his observatory built, I climbed a high ladder to get a view from the top. (What had happened to my height phobia then?) He stood at the bottom with much concern. “Be careful, Neill. Look out. Come down.”
Reich and I loved each other. In 1948, when we parted in Maine for the last time, he threw his arms around me. “Neill, I wish you could stay. You are the only one I can talk to. The others are all patients or disciples.” Then I knew how lonely he was.
Once I said to him: “Why are you so formal? Why do you address Wolfe as Dr. Wolfe? Why aren’t you just Reich to them all?”
“Because they would use the familiarity to destroy me, as they did in Norway when I was Willy to them all.”
“But, Reich, I am Neill to my staff, pupils, domestics, and no one ever takes advantage of the familiarity.”
“Yes, but you aren’t dealing with dynamite as I am,” was his cryptic answer.
Reich had no effect on my school. I had been running it for twenty-six years before I met him. But he had a strong ef­fect on me personally. He widened my perspective, my knowl­edge of self; he uprooted remnants of my Scots Calvinism about sex matters, showing that my approval of children’s sex play had been intellectual, not emotional.
It is obvious from Use’s biography that Reich lost his reason in the end. That never worried me. Many great men have gone mad—Swift, Nietzsche, Schumann, Ruskin, lots of others. And the fact that I haven’t gone mad is proof perhaps that I am not a genius. It is an odd world indeed, in which a Reich is mad while a Reagan, a Nixon, a Wallace are sane.
Use has told about Reich’s jealousies, his tempers. I saw the tempers often when he would fly off the handle about seeming trifles. One morning at the breakfast table when he had been raging at Use, he turned tome. “Neilie, why do I do it?”
“Because of the reconciliation,” I said. “You want a sec­ond honeymoon.” And he burst into laughter, crying out: “That is a profound and true explanation.”
I wish I could recall his sayings. One I do remember: “The trouble with psychoanalysis is that it deals with words, while all the damage is done to a child before it can speak,”
From the time Reich went to America until he went to prison, we corresponded. Use tells of the only time he rejected me, when he was being tried. I was in Oslo then, and Ola Raknes and a few of his old friends sent him a telegram of sympathy. The reply came back: don’t trust neill.
I knew why. His boy Peter had visited me in Summer-hill; and when American planes flew over, he said that they had been sent to protect him. I knew he was quoting his father. I told him this was nonsense, and when he went home, he must have told Reich. But we made up after that, and no break occurred in our friendship.
Reich gave me the German manuscript of ^ Listen, Little Man to read, and asked my opinion about publishing it in Eng­lish. “No, Reich,” I wrote, “It will make your enemies attack you as a conceited fellow who sees all others as inferior or sick.” He agreed with me, but shortly afterward, when a woman wrote a poisonous article about him, he rushed the book into print as a counterblast. I often told him he was a fool to react to every ignorant or spiteful journalist. “Ignore them as I do,” I said. But no, he had to fight.
Like other men, Reich had the qualities of a little man; but unlike most men, he was conscious of the fact. Not that he had humor enough to laugh at himself;’ but I am sure he was aware of his extreme jealousies and suspicions. Yet, as Use said, he had no Menschenkentnis—knowledge of people. More than once, I saw him taken in by people I suspected as phonies. He trusted people, and when they turned out to be fakes, his fury was terrible. But it generally subsided as quickly as it arose.
Unconsciously, he was seeking martyrdom, I am sure. The ^ Murder of Christ is almost autobiographical. Again and again, I heard him say: “They will kill me.” He had been a martyr before I met him. When fleeing Hitler, he was thrown out of Denmark and Sweden; and his enemies were scheming to have him thrown out of Norway, a plot killed by the war.
Use tells of a shattering thing that happened to Reich when he was a boy. He found his mother in bed with his tu­tor, and told his father. His mother killed herself. This inci­dent accounts for his life-long jealousy, his distrust of all his womenfolk—his suspicion that they would betray him.
I felt his death more acutely than I felt the death of Lane. A bright light had gone out; a great man had died in vile captivity. I think that Reich will not come into his own as a genius until at least three generations from now. I was most lucky to know him, and learn from him, and love him.
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