Atom and Archetype: The Pauli/Jung Letters, 1932-1958 Edited by C. A. Meier


Atom and Archetype:
The Pauli/Jung Letters, 1932-1958
Edited by C. A. Meier
With a new preface by Beverley Zabriskie
Translated by David Roscoe


In his physics, Pauli sought a unified field. But his personal life was one of fragmentation and dissociation. Within one year, his mother poisoned herself in reaction to his father’s involvement in an affair, and Pauli plunged into a brief marriage with a cabaret performer. At thirty, he turned to Jung for help.

Jung, in his 1935 lectures at the Tavistock, offered the following example of dreams effecting change:

I had a case, a university man, a very one-sided intellectual. His unconscious had become troubled and activated; so it projected itself into other men who appeared to be his enemies, and he felt terribly lonely because everybody seemed to be against him. Then he began to drink in order to forget his troubles, but he got exceedingly irritable and in these moods he began to quarrel with other men. . . and once he was thrown out of a restaurant and got beaten up.16

Jung saw that “he was chock-full of archaic material, and I said to myself: ‘Now I am going to make an interesting experiment to get that material absolutely pure, without any influence from myself, and therefore I won’t touch it.'” He referred Pauli to Dr. Erna Rosenbaum, “who was then just a beginner . . . I was absolutely sure she would not tamper.” Pauli applied the same passionate brilliance to his unconscious as to his physics. In a five-month Jungian analysis, Pauli recorded and spontaneously illustrated hundreds of his dreams. “He even invented active imagination for himself He worked out the problem of the perpetuum mobile, not in a crazy way but in a symbolic way. He worked on all the problems which medieval philosophy was so keen on.”17 For three months, “he was doing the work all by himself, . . . for about two months, he had a number of interviews with me . . . I did not have to explain much.” Jung believed Pauli “became a perfectly normal and reasonable person. He did not drink any more, he became completely adapted and in every respect normal . . . He had a new center of interest.” Jung had thirteen hundred of Pauli’s dreams as the basis for his research into alchemical symbolism in a modern psyche. “At the end of the year I am going to publish a selection from his first four hundred dreams, where I show the development of one motif only.”18
The physicist F. David Peat believes Jung’s assessment of Pauli’s state after his termination with Dr. Rosenbaum was too positive. Pauli’s new “reasonableness” didn’t last, and later he again drank excessively.
While Pauli’s work aimed toward a “psychophysical monism,” his intense inner tensions seemed to manifest physically in the so-called Pauli Effect, when his mere presence caused laboratory equipment to explode or fall apart.19 His internal “monotheism” and his sharp critical acumen and tongue earned him the titles “scourge of God,” “the whip of God,” and “the terrible Pauli.” Even in the midst of personal disarray, Pauli kept his stance as a scientist of such rigor that he was called “the conscience of physics.” Asked whether he thought a particular physics paper was wrong, he replied that was too kind–the paper was “not even wrong.”20 Heisenberg’s account of a 1927 conversation reveals that, in his youth, Pauli was concerned about the distinctions between knowledge and faith.21 Heisenberg saw that behind Pauli’s
outward display of criticism and skepticism lay concealed a deep philosophical interest, even in those dark areas of reality or the human soul which elude the grasp of reason. And while the power of fascination emanating from Pauli’s analyses of physical problems was due in some measure to the clarity of his formulations, the rest was derived from a constant contact with the field of the creative and spiritual processes for which no rational formulation as yet exists.22 For Pauli, the creativity of science included considerations of the psyche. In science, he subscribed to the quantum uncertainty theory that the position and presence of the observer changes the perception and reality of what is observed. To that thesis–that one cannot measure the wave and the particle at the same time–he added a psychological dimension, observing that insofar as the scientist must opt to know “which aspect of nature we want to make visible . . . we simultaneously make a sacrifice, . . . [a] coupling of choice and sacrifice.”23 Pauli demonstrated the value of intuition to science’s empiricism. As Weinberg recounted,

physicists in the early 1930’swere worried about an apparent violation of the law of conservation of energy when a radioactive nucleus undergoes the process known as beta decay. In 1932 Wolfgang, . . . Pauli proposed the existence of a convenient particle he called the neutrino, in order to account for the energy that was observed to be lost in this process. The elusive neutrino was eventually discovered experimentally over two decades later. Proposing the existence of something that has not yet been observed is a risky business, but it sometimes works.24

In a metaphysical leap, Pauli referred as well to “forms belonging to the unconscious region of the human soul” and stated that “the relation between a sense perception and Idea remains a consequence of the fact that both the soul and what is known in perception are subject to an order objectively conceived.”25 He acknowledged that he had realized in a dream that the quantum-mechanical conception of nature lacked the second dimension, which he found provided by the archetypes of the unconscious.
It seems, however, that he could not find his way to the uncertainty, the “choice and sacrifice” that allows for reparation within analysis. While Pauli knew “that a truly unified view must include the feeling function, since without feeling there is no meaning or value in life, and no proper acknowledgment of the phenomenon of synchronicity,” M.-L. von Franz said that he later sought only a “philosophical discussion of dreams”:

He wrote to me . . . [and] made it clear that he did not want analysis; there was to be no payment. I saw that he was in despair, so I said we could try. The difficulties began when I asked him for the associations which referred to physics. He said, “Do you think I’m going to give you unpaid lessons in physics?” . . . He wanted something, but he didn’t want to commit himself. He was split.26

Van Erkelens speculates that Pauli would have had to submit to a transference and to a deeper Eros than “his inner urge to develop a unified view of matter and spirit.” For whatever reasons, von Franz and Pauli were not able to achieve the relational bond that holds and contains explosive emotional material and so allows surrender to one’s unconscious and to a suffered analytic relationship.
Jung and Pauli corresponded and later met, not for analysis but for a comparison of ideas–Pauli pursuing Jung’s synchronicity thesis and Jung fostering Pauli’s understanding of the archetypal and collective factors in the psyche. Through their contact, William James’s two fields, to which both Jung and Bohr had been attracted, come together again. Von Franz writes that the

notion of complementarity introduced by Niels Bohr to provide a better explanation for the paradoxical relationship between waves and particles in nuclear physics can also be applied to the relationship of conscious and unconscious states of a psychic content. This fact was discovered by Jung, but it was particularly elaborated by Wolfgang Pauli.27

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