In April 2014, a 16-year-old Kylie Jenner shared an Instagram in which she holds a large crystal in the shape of a pyramid. It barely fits in the palm of her hand, and looks like it’s filled with Campbell’s Tomato Soup mixed with dirt and sparkles. She captioned the photograph “love.” The object isn’t a paper weight, or a niche beauty product. It’s an orgonite, a man-made crystal comprised of organic and inorganic materials allegedly imbued with healing and cleansing energies. The post also fueled a wild rumor that Jenner had joined a sex cult with her then-boyfriend Jaden Smith.
In another photo from that same spring, Jenner and Smith’s friends are huddled around a table with supplies (resin, crystal quartz, meta, muffin molds, goggles, and gloves) laid out in front of them as if they’re making typical arts and crafts rather than energy-wielding crystals. In yet another, Jenner and Smith are sitting on a floor in a crystal store, picking out jagged, colorful additions to their homemade orgonite collections. The couple and their privileged teenage crew were so into this hobby that they created a “secret” group called “A Secret Society Of Individuals Who Create And Place Orgonite To Balance Gaia’s Energies,” or “The Orgonite Society,” for short. They also shared social media posts about their crystal creations on another account, “MSFTS,” which Jenner and her best friend, Jordyn Woods, still follow today. (That Instagram account remains extremely active, although devoid of pyramids.) Around the same time, Jaden’s then-13-year-old sister Willow Smith shared a photo of herself reading a book by “Osho,” another name for the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh of Rajneeshpuram (yes, the same cult at the center of Netflix’s hit documentary, Wild, Wild Country). Members of the Rajneeshpuram cult also used the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich’s methods and ideas on cosmic energy in their own controversial spiritual practices. A sketchy figure himself, Reich also invented the term “orgone,” which is the foundation of thought upon which Jenner’s modern-day orgonites are based.
The connection between Kylie Jenner, orgonites, and a sex cult is a twisted one that you probably haven’t heard before.
There are hundreds of instructional YouTube videos with details on how to make your own orgonites, including the necessary supplies, and how they purportedly clean the impurities out of the air, out of your life, and out of you. Here’s a guy seated with an array of orgonites in a video titled, “Orgonite & Illuminati Mind Control” in which he talks about the benefits of orgonites. The comment section is full of praise for the orgonite pyramids and crystals: One person claims their orgonite has relieved them of headaches, and another writes, “The first time I saw these I was'nt [sic] sure whether to belive [sic] that they worked. I am now convinced they do and we all need to have a bunch!” The process of making magic pyramid crystals is more of a hobby than a cult practice. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a little suspect. Orgonites first became a “thing” in spiritual and alternative medicinal practices in 1992 thanks to Karl Hans Welz, an Austrian man inspired by the work of Reich.
Reich was a controversial Austrian psychotherapist and doctor eventually jailed for his thoughts and practices on psychotherapy using his own scientific creation. (More on Reich’s wild ideas in a bit.) According to “Orgoniseyourself.com” , the objects were “perfected” in the 2000s by Don and Carol Croft, an entrepreneurial couple that popularized orgonites as gifts, spreading love and light. Today, the couple also sells an array of other homemade devices and items, including “zappers” which they claim remove all parasites from the air.
It all started with an orgasm. Or, rather, the word orgasm.
It was 1939, and America was revving up to enter the second World War, high on patriotism and low on everything else. It was a time of uniformity and conformity. Then came drugs, societal rebellion, and Dr. Reich. The Austrian professor and author came to America after escaping Nazi Germany, bringing his revolutionary methods of therapy and medicine with him. Reich was a student of Sigmund Freud, and it showed in his obsession with the relationship between one’s physical health and one’s sexual urges. (In 1934, he was expelled from the International Psychoanalytical Association after Freud started finding flaws in his practices.) Specifically, Reich argued that if libido was strong, and orgasms were uninhibited, then a person could reach their physical and societal prime — they would just thrive. By fusing and riffing off the words orgasm and organism, he coined his own phrase, “orgones,” to refer to his work on the topic.
To achieve this state of maximum orgasm energy, a.k.a orgone, Reich constructed human-sized boxes made of organic and inorganic materials layered on top of one another, intended to rework a person’s cosmic energy. He claimed, for example, if a patient with cancer sat in one of his boxes, their tumors would shrink. Imagine a rectangle box/cabinet, sort of like a telephone booth. You would walk up to the box, sit in it, and then bask in its potent orgone energy. Oh, and you’re completely naked. The boxes were also called Orgone Energy Accumulators in reference to the supposed energy that the box attracted due to its materials (metal and wood, according to The Washington Post) each pushing and pulling in energy. “Bions,” Reich said, were released when one reached orgasm, and emitted a special type of healing radiation (read more on this teal blue Xanga-esque website here). His boxes, he claimed, emitted these bions and stimulated orgasmic energy. (The boxes also had a pop-culture presence in Jack Kerouac's On The Road, where they were sexualized as boxes to put you in the mood, and Woody Allen famously spoofed them in Sleeper, renaming them “Orgasmatron.” The beatnik author William Burroughs claims sitting in the box gave him spontaneous orgasms.)
Whether he was deranged or not, Reich was influential enough at one point to meet with Albert Einstein in 1941. He apparently remarked that people call him crazy, and Einstein agreed that he might be. (In the “maybe crazy” column: Reich once wrote that “God is the cosmic orgone” of the entire universe.)
After setting up his lab and boxes, Reich saw his work cut short when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration interfered with reports of a burgeoning sex cult, spurring from a 1947 Harper’s Magazine that called Reich the leader of “a new cult of sex and anarchy”. The FDA didn’t like that he was starting to sell his boxes in Rangeley, Maine, where he had set up a lab. (There’s a museum in his honor there today.) It also condemned his dubious claims that orgone boxes could shrink tumors and possibly cure cancer, especially since he wouldn’t let the FDA test the box themselves. According to a 1947 New Republic article about Dr. Reich and his “cult” of followers, he would manually relieve the tension on his patients (i.e. stimulate orgasm). Because Reich is only one person, he used the boxes to tide over his patients in between sessions. Seated inside the box, a participant would wait for the alleged cosmic energy to assist in an orgasmic release. After his work was shut down, and much of his research destroyed, Reich was sent to jail for two years for spreading medical misinformation. He died of heart failure on November 3, 1957, nine months into his sentence.
How did these sex boxes find their way to a cult in India (the origin and hub of the cult seen in Wild Wild Country)? The resourceful Osho followers, called “Oshoites” or “Rahjneeshes,” built one for themselves in the 1990s, in Pune, India, the hub of the Rahjneesh cult. One former member of the Oshoite recounts his experience reading about Reich’s studies, first in the 70s and then again in the 90s, when he eventually built his own “accumulator egg.” The “accumulator egg” was like an orgone box, except it was egg-shaped, It still used all organic materials and was derived from Reich’s writings, as recounted in 2013 on Osho News, a website dedicated to the cult. The blog recounts mandatory 40-minute “orgone showers” to cleanse participants before entering the egg. Those who really believed in the powers of the orgone box/egg also slept on pendulum beds under different colored lights (blue, green) in order to absorb extra stimulated energy. The blog post contained no mention of any sexual activity in the egg, or if there were any positive health benefits to their experiment. The egg was eventually destroyed.
That’s where the idea of orgones and orgonite energy came from, and how it ties into the Rahjneespuram’s wider web. But what about those pyramid-shaped crystals? Where does the rest of the Jenner and Smith’s secret club name, “A Secret Society Of Individuals Who Create And Place Orgonite To Balance Gaia’s Energies” come into play? That requires an etymology discussion.
Looking at the research, it becomes clear that orgones and orgonites of the 1950s and 1970s are not the same as those in 2018. The concept of a portable homemade crystal that eliminates bad energy and manifests positive energy is a lot less weird, and a lot less cult-y, than placing naked people in boxes to cure their ailments with orgasmic energy. Creating an orgonite is an Instagram-friendly DIY project akin to keeping a crystal at your desk.
Do we really think that Kylie Jenner did this research and connected all of these dots? Did she think the crystal wingding she was crafting in someone’s Silver Lake basement would drastically change her life, her health, or her prosperity? Was she in a cult? Was she creating a cult, The Orgonite Society? Almost definitely not. The children of the rich and famous – at least one future billionaire among them – were spending their spare time dabbling with orgonites, which just happen to have a slightly more fraught history than, say, fidget spinners or terrariums. This innocent dabbling could be why Jenner, Jaden and Willow’s did not respond to Refinery29’s request for comment on the current status of their secret society.
The MSFTS group is just a bunch of Gen Zers being Gen Zers — seeing something on the internet and running with it. Although, we have been wondering how the Kardashian-Jenner family generates so much wealth, success, and near world-domination. Maybe there is a spare box floating around Calabasas after all...
All summer long, Refinery29 will be examining cults from every angle: pop culture, fashion, food, beauty, and their controversial origins. Let’s dig into the fascination behind this fervor with "Cult Fridays."