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Crisis years

In 1928-29 a number of dramatic events took place, resulting in a deep psychological crisis. Pauli has always been a strong drinker, which did not seem to hamper his scientific genius. His marriage with a bar singer-dancer became a complete disaster within one year. His mother committed suicide. Despite his Jewish origins Pauli was baptised catholic. Now Pauli turned his back to the catholic church. His drinking came to the edge of violence and on advice of his father Pauli met with Jung, whom he consulted regularly till 1934. Especially Pauli's dreams, which were full of symbolism from alchemy, were extensively discussed. Jung's later publication Psychology and Alchemy3 would be based heavily on these dreams.

To a certain degree Pauli definitely had what we now would call psychic powers. His colleagues called it “the Pauli effect,” meaning that when Pauli entered a laboratory regularly some experimental equipment would break down in an inexplicable manner. Despite their friendship the experimental physicist Otto Stern even banned Pauli from entering his laboratory.

Quantum Physics

Until the end of the nineteenth century the world view was governed by classical physics and Newton's laws, in which the world was like a clockwork, wound up by the Creator, and winding down in a determined manner. With the age of quantum physics came concepts like Bohr’s complementarity principle– the wave-particle complementarity – and indeterminism and Heisenberg’s uncertainty relations. These uncertainties, as well as the concept of chance, are fundamental concepts of the theory, which is therefore incomplete. For this reason Einstein never really accepted quantum physics. Pauli, one of the architects of quantum physics and one of the few who really pondered its consequences, has struggled his whole life with this incompleteness.

Quantum physics is difficult to truly understand. Bohr has once said: “If quantum mechanics hasn't profoundly shocked you, you haven't understood it yet.” There are many practical applications of quantum mechanics like the transistor, nuclear power, laser, micro-chips, television etc., which are so successful that nowadays often an attitude of “shut up and calculate” is taken, ignoring and avoiding the questions of the deeper meaning – which still are far from understood.

Pauli and Jung

Pauli and Jung became fascinated by the same thought: that there exists a deeper reality behind quantum physics, which has the character of the unconscious. If this were true, then physics and depth psychology should be able to meet each other somewhere and hence penetrate deeper into the secrets of matter. Jung wrote: “Sooner or later nuclear physics and the psychology of the unconscious will approach each other when both, independent of each other and from opposite directions, proceed into the realm of the extrasensory.”

In a year long correspondence Jung and Pauli mutually inspired each other. Pauli was interested in a new language, called “neutral language,” which would encompass phenomena from physics as well as images from archetypes. But he did not overcome the barrier of scientific establishment although he did publish a book on the work of Kepler and Fludd4. On the other hand Jung, also hesitating a long time to publish his concept of synchronicity, was stimulated by the scientific approach of Pauli.

Coming from two totally different fields of research Pauli and Jung found each other in the concept of an “Einheitliches Sein,” a “Unus Mundus,” which Jung defined as a transcendent unity beyond concepts of time and space. In Jungian terminology synchronicities, coincidences in an inner world and an outer world, find their basis in a psycho-physical reality. Pauli's life was full of synchronicities, and Pauli saw it as his major task to work on a new description of reality. Pauli saw links with synchronicity in the a-causal nature of quantum physics: on the quantum level cause and effect, even time and space, lose their classical meaning.


W. Pauli, The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler, 1955, Routledge &
Kegan Paul, London. Originally: Naturerklärung und Psyche, 1952, Rascher Verlag, Zürich.
C. G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, 1944, 2nd ed. 1968 Collected Works Vol. 12 ISBN 0-691-1831-
6. London, Routledge.