"The life force can become the central concept in human knowledge. It sits astride the great divisions in knowledge that split mind and body in the individual, self and other in relationships, religion and science in human society. Knowing the nature and properties of the life force makes it possible to reconcile these divisions."
- from Life Force, Charles R. Kelley, 2004
Tributes to Chuck
These tributes are reflections about Chuck as perceived by people (most but not all from the psychosomatic community) whose paths crossed his at different times, in different circles and in different places. They are but a few of the many beautiful and thoughtful comments that flowed in to me after Chuck’s death on April 30th 2005.
-- Erica Kelley
It’s impossible for me to think of Chuck with any great remorse; sadness that he’s gone – yes – and yet he was so much larger than that that it feels to me more a jubilation of his life. He was much more than a man who walked the road, his imprint was deep and indelible. I remember so well my Ojai sessions, my training and all the marathons I co-led with him. His impact on my life has been so important and extensive. My guess is that he’s somewhere doing a Rajneesh dance with all the others who were so prominent and of service to the world.
I knew Charles Kelley for 44 years, more than half of his life. I admired him for his admirable combination of scientific discipline and common sense, and for his life’s search for the common root beneath matter and mind. Chuck was a keen observer of nature: when he first read of Reich’s weather experiments, he was skeptical, but he did not hesitate to repeat them, and found that his research data in the field confirmed Reich’s conclusions, and even extended them.
In his therapeutic work he emphasized the cathartic discharge which was central to Radix therapy, but counterbalanced this with his emphasis on “purpose,” which is related to ego-building and structure, or what in our work we call “containment.”
We had many rich conversations, in Nottingham and Abbotsbury in England, at his Institute in Santa Monica, in Mexico, and Vienna. He contributed fine articles to Energy and Character. It is perhaps no coincidence that a strong focus of interest in his work was on eye contact, for Chuck was a man concerned not only with outer vision, but with inner vision.
As a tribute to his life’s work we are publishing some sections of his last book, THE LIFE FORCE, in the next issue of Energy and Character.
Chuck’s therapeutic work was related to what Reich called disarmouring, or the loosening of rigid character patterns and family tendencies. In his own family there was a tradition he feared and wished to break, of chronic lingering illness, with loss of faculty, and helplessness of functions. Chuck died after completing his most important book and related course materials suddenly, of an embolism: his wife Erica said that he would have been proud of this rapid passing, which broke with the family illness tendency.
Chuck saw the source, or radix as he called it, as a creative flow into the material universe and out of it. He seemed not to be afraid of death, the final discharge back into the endless creative source. His courage and clarity will be an inspiration for many others.
Chuck Kelley was one of the most decent human beings I ever had the pleasure to know. In the years of our friendship we spent endless hours talking about psychology, philosophy, and (somehow) sex. We gave to each other in immensely enjoyable ways. For example, I wanted to learn more about the kind of body work Chuck practiced, and he wanted to learn about the kind of psychotherapy I practiced, so we became each other's client. I went to his office for Radix work, he came to mine for "Branden" work. I can still remember with gratitude his gentle strength in helping me release blocks from long ago. There are those who would claim this way of working could not be productive, that two persons could not engage in mutual healing. Our experience told us differently. We learned and grew together. If we broke a few rules -- well, neither of us was overly impressed by rules.
Chuck Kelley was a great healer. Those who spent any time with him will never forget him.
I have precious memories of Chuck’s presence from my training with the Kelleys in Ojai in 1981. His enquiring mind led him to explore deeply the uniqueness and expression of every individual, despite appearances. Several Canadians were glad of the opportunity to experience this special gift during Chuck’s Radix training workshop in Quebec in 1985.
It was my good fortune to attend the Conference of the US Association of Body Psychotherapy in Tucson in June of 2005. To pay tribute to Chuck Kelley, who had died on April 30th, a gathering was arranged on Saturday morning of the attendees at the Conference who had been trained in Radix either while Chuck was Director of the Institute or after his retirement from it. Also there was Alice Ladas, who had been a friend and colleague of Chuck’s since his Reichian years in New York in the fifties. Mark Ludwig began a sharing circle where everyone had some memory, some experience or anecdote from Radix Trainings or elsewhere with Chuck, or some positive comment on the impact of his teaching. Near the conclusion, Joel Isaacs led us as a group in the expression of gratitude to Chuck. Others present were John May, Ellen Brazer, Melissa Lindsay, Aneesha L. Dillon, Bill Cornell, Becky Bosch, Joan Leshner, Ann Isaacs, Sandy Ebrahimi, Pam Morgan, Narelle McKenzie, and Katy Swafford . I am always amazed by how tightly held in my heart each of these people are, -- those from the past who own their roots in Radix as well as those of us who still practice.
While we had our differences, as a man he was of exceptional strong character, and I could always depend upon his straightforward honesty….
Anyone who devoted most of his life to building upon the work of genius started by Wilhelm Reich has my utmost admiration.
Reverend Mark Gallagher
Chuck Kelley was a defining character of this Unitarian Universalist congregation. Every Sunday, there would Chuck be with Erica, looking dignified and sharp in his suit. During Congregational Response after the sermon, especially if the subject had a political or cultural focus, Chuck would often rise to comment. He was seldom at a loss for words. Because his views on society diverged from my own and those of many in the congregation, and because he was so outspoken, consistent, and even-tempered in expressing those views, he occupied a unique and important place in our community. He was a sort of foil for me personally, with his libertarian philosophy of radical individualism and his infernal blaming of liberals because in the 1930’s American socialists supported Stalin and Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler. (I hope it’s ok to tease him now that he is not here to come back at me.)
We would go to lunch together fairly regularly and I always enjoyed our conversations immensely. In some fundamental ways we thought a lot alike. We both start with a focus on living experience – that is the elemental fact and the center of our concern. And of course his value on the autonomy and integrity of the individual is one I strongly share, differing only in degree and nuance. I don’t know whether radix is the source of all being and explains the accelerating universe. If Chuck turns out to be right about that he could, in time, be hailed as one of the giants of scientific advancement: Darwin, Einstein, Heisenburg, Kelley.
In the end, Chuck was blessed with exquisite timing. As the life force ceased to flow through his body, he found a graceful end to an audacious life. I will miss him, a unique and authentic human being.
It was my privilege to meet Chuck Kelley at a formative time of my life in 1976. First meeting Chuck at a Radix workshop, I was moved by his dynamic presence, his gentle unpretentious manner, his soft yet intense blue eyes, his ready resonant laugh and his passionate connection to the ideas he dedicated his life to. Though terrified of him, I knew this man had something profound to teach me. Indeed my training with Chuck has given me a theoretical grounding that is ever-present in my therapeutic work. Over the 29 years I knew him, I grew up enough to also know him as a man, imperfect, vulnerable, stubborn, kind. I am grateful to my mentor and friend for so much of his influence on my life. Today as I remember him I am most grateful for the myriad of ways his work taught me joy and taught me love. In training, there would be discussions about whether it was Radix work or a deep loving sexual relationship that could most open someone. Chuck would contend that it is a love relationship that is most transformative. In my own life, it was the work with Chuck and other brilliant Radix teachers that brought me to the profound experience of my life force and challenged me to develop the emotional courage I have needed in order to allow myself to be transformed by love.
Natan and Norma HarPaz
A Circle of Five Trees has been planted in Israel in loving memory of Charles Kelley.
I feel such sadness and a heaviness in my heart to hear Chuck has died. And then I feel a warmth in my chest and a smile upon my face for all the wonderful memories that fill me when I think of the times I spent in your home in Ojai. Chuck was the person that started me on my way to the best part of my life. Without Radix work, I would probably be a depressed housewife, who knows, maybe even desperate. The basic premises of life contained in the Radix model influence me every day.
Chuck and I first met when he came to New York City to study with Reich in the fifties. We were introduced by my almost Mother-in-law with whom Chuck had been studying the Bates Method to teach vision improvement in Hawaii. I believe June hoped we would become a couple. While that never happened, we did become life-long friends and colleagues, including in sex research. I was amazed when Chuck was able to publish in Reich’s Orgone Energy Bulletin although he was not an MD. I greatly admired his intelligence and knowledge.
When he was married to Bobbie and living on a lake in Connecticut, we had a wonderful non-professional connection. It was Easter and I, with my 3-year old daughter, had been raising two ducklings in a bathtub in our apartment. There came a time when those ducks became too big. We put them on leashes, brought them downstairs and drove them to Chuck’s Connecticut pond.
My next experience on that pond was watching Chuck work with the cloudbuster. Once you have seen the response of the clouds, it becomes very difficult to deny that something significant is going on. Chuck had to abandon that work because some of the same problems were arising on his property and with his family that forced Reich to abandon the ORANUR project.
From Santa Monica to Ojai, I continued to take workshops with Chuck, to admire his educational model and to read his voluminous writings. Graciously invited to join Radix and leave Bioenergetics, I never quite made that break. His fascination with Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden and later Reuven Bar-Levav led me to read their works. My last contact with Chuck, spanning so many decades, was a note from him signed “with love,” written on the day of his death, inviting me to join his newest seminar.
It was my psychoanalyst and mentor, Dr.Conrad Sommer, head of the St. Louis Psychoanalytic Foundation, who pushed me through my fear into training with Dr. Charles Kelley. If it were not for Chuck, and the assistance of Erica and Elaine Warburton, I might not be alive today let alone have had the opportunity to be creative by giving Radix sessions nearly ever week of the year since I graduated in 1978. No matter how I view myself, Chuck always made me feel I have something to offer.
I would cherish listening to Chuck lecture for hours at a time. His deep voice and tall body, his clear and brilliant explanation of difficult concepts and facts, his intense thoughtfulness as he talked, combined with a profound sensibility about pain, made powerful impact upon all of us. I believe he was in the genius realm of questioning.
What is to happen now that Chuck does not greet the clouds daily from his life with Erica? What am I supposed to do with all that he and his associates have taught me? How do I make sense of the phenomenon of life and death without them? -- I have a feeling Chuck’s faith in people pushing past their own ‘interior’ obstacles will continue to give us strength to not succumb to the irreplaceable losses each of us have experienced. I continue my work as an architect and as a Radix Teacher with amazement, gratefulness, and ever-continuing expansiveness.
Chuck, you [Erica], and Radix certainly played a major role in my life. I'm glad I was able to have dinner with him when I returned from Denmark one time when he was in LA in 1997. We were able to set some old conflicts to rest and just enjoy reminiscing.
Mostly I remember your eyes and my fear.
Fear and hurt so big and then I saw your eyes.
Blue – deep, piercing, gentle blue. How could it be?
I knew that you knew – that you had seen and been yourself to the places where I lived.
And I remember my surprise and, of all things, relief.
So we went – you led and I followed.
You never knew your gift to me. Another door opened by a strong, gentle man who saw.
I will miss you, my friend. May God hold you as you have held so many.
Jacqui Showell and Narelle McKenzie
During a weekend workshop, the Australian Radix Teachers held a beautiful little ceremony rich with feelings and thanks for Chuck’s work, ideas and inspiration, even from those who had known him only through training tapes and materials. We shared special moments with Chuck, both from our work together and from daily life. A favorite memory of Jacqui’s was when he stayed in her old rental house in Adelaide and the plumbing blocked up. So Chuck (Director of Radix, mentor, supervisor etc. from the US which we in Australia see as superior) was there at 10 pm unblocking the kitchen sink. Quite unfazed by it all and even enjoying the challenge!
There was sadness of course but something else -- almost joy -- amongst those present, that he went in the way he wanted to, “with his boots on.” We read his words about death and immortality, and his story about the sand and the piglets. It was a special time. It inspired all of us to think more about our own mortality, and how much we want to share before we die; how to learn from Chuck too about his way of dealing with his old age, ill health and death.
Chuck was the greatest teacher I ever had, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have many. …With his tutorage, I became not only a certified Radix teacher but a researcher in orgone physics, one of Chuck’s great loves. I’ll always have memories both meaningful and humorous – he was such a stickler for conducting a Radix session properly, but one time he left me in a full wall-sit while he spent a minute or so looking around the room for a second flashlight. … He was a good man, an innovative genius in his time.
I was a soul mate of Chuck’s ever since I had both the pleasure and the honor to work with him in the sixties at Dunlap and Associates, a pioneering human engineering firm in Connecticut. He was an experimental psychologist, I was an archeologist, and together we worked on designs for crew space layout for space flight vehicles both manned and unmanned, including the Mercury and Gemini capsules. One day he made a comment which I shall always treasure: “Bob, the really important discoveries are lying hidden, out there beyond the borders of academic acceptability!” Chuck walked calmly and without fear beyond “the world’s rim,” to borrow from Beowulf. This single comment, and his personal example, have inspired me throughout forty years of my professional life to follow my instincts into those uncharted areas, whenever necessary, despite the inevitable consequences. The effort was not in vain.
Last time we parted, Chuck said to me with a broad grin, “Bob, we’re going to die with our boots on!” He did, and I hope that statement to me will also be prophetic.
Chuck leaves a gap that cannot be filled, but his essence remains with us all.