Remo F. Roth

Dr. oec. publ., Ph.D.

dipl. analyt. Psychologe (M.-L. v. Franz)




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With many thanks to Gregory Sova, Ph.D. (LA, CA) and Phyllis Luthi (CA) for the help with the translation

Further information about the collaboration between Wolfgang Pauli and Carl G. Jung see in The Return of the World Soul - Wolfgang Pauli, Carl G. Jung and the Challenge of the Unified Psychophysical Reality


Wolfgang Pauli and Parapsychology

(Part 1)

(Extended English version of the German article)



1. Pauli's change of mind in reference to parapsychology in the 30's:

Up to the publication of the first half of his latter letters from 1950 to 1954 in the years 1996 and 1999 people knew the physicist and Nobel laureate Wolfgang Pauli (1900 - 1958) for the most part as the prominent co-founder of Quantum physics. With the postulation of the Pauli principle, named after him, the spin of the electron and the "phantom particle" neutrino (that really is the antineutrino), he had certainly and quite essentially contributed to the basic premises of quantum physics.

Therefore, it seems very astonishing, that as Pauli aged, he became more and more interested in parapsychology and in this respect dealt a lot with a synchronistic understanding of biology and the theory of evolution.

In 1934 he made a disparaging assessment about parapsychology in a letter to Jung. He indicated:

"As far as the ‘parapsychological’ phenomena in particular are concerned, I certainly do not know of any factual material (and even if I did, God knows whether I would believe any of it)."

However he wrote this sentence - for physicists the usual devaluation of the irrational - in context with his wasp phobia, with dreams full of oscillation symbols (light and dark stripes, rhythms) that had pursued him throughout his life, and with the possibility of a "non-spatial, non-temporal form of being of the psyche."

In this letter Pauli referred to certain revolutionary ideas that Jung had published in his article The Soul and Death in 1934. These ideas set forth doubts toward the general dependency of the psyche on the brain, because parapsychological facts, especially the "spatial and temporal telepathic phenomena," show the opposite. Jung then continues:

"The limitation of consciousness in space and time is such an overwhelming reality that every occasion when this fundamental truth is broken must rank as an event of the highest theoretical significance, for it would prove that the space-time barrier can be annulled. The annulling factor would then be the psyche, since space-time would attach to it at most as a relative and conditioned quality. Under certain conditions it [the psyche; RFR] could even break through the barriers of space and time precisely because of a quality essential to it, that is, its relatively trans-spatial and trans-temporal nature. This possible transcendence of space-time, for which it seems to me there is a good deal of evidence, is of such incalculable import that it should spur the spirit of research to the greatest effort. Our present development of consciousness is, however, so backward that in general we still lack the scientific and intellectual equipment for adequately evaluating the facts of telepathy so far as they have bearing on the nature of the psyche. I have referred to this group of phenomena merely in order to point out that the psyche’s attachment to the brain, i.e., its space-time limitation, is no longer as self-evident and incontrovertible as we have hitherto been led to believe." [emphasis mine]

In his letters to Jung - Pauli always indicates his intent to let the unconscious participate. This is why we can conclude hypothetically that the parapsychological phenomena constellated in him - known today in the realm of physics as the so-called Pauli effect (see Wolfgang Pauli und die Wiederkehr der Weltseele) - has on the one hand something to do with these symbols of oscillation, frequency and rhythm, that persecuted him in his dreams till the end of his life, but also may belong to the relativity of space and time in altered states of consciousness, where the influence of the collective psyche is increased. We will see, that it is exactly this Eros consciousness that psychology calls in a devaluating manner the "abaissement du niveau mental" (Pierre Janet), which can deal with these deepest levels of the collective psyche, with its "relatively trans-spatial and trans-temporal nature."

More or less one year after his disparaging remarks it seems that Pauli's disapproval of parapsychology was reduced. Pauli sent Jung a letter on June 22, 1935 and the attachment contained a series of dreams and imaginations from this time period. He writes:

"You will find that it contains, on the one hand, indications of all sort of ideological conflicts - and those I shall have to sort out by myself as far as I can - and on the other hand there are close links with those controversial and so-called parapsychological areas that are not easily accessible. The fantasies often assumed their own peculiar character by using physical terminology very familiar to me (such as "isotope separation," "fine structure," "reciprocity between self-induced rotation and orbit," „resonant bodies," "radioactive nucleus," etc.), to express analogies with psychic facts that I can only vaguely surmise."

It is obvious that Pauli was very astonished about the strong relationship his "products of the fantasy" developed with parapsychology in this time. Unfortunately, these dreams are not yet published, but we do know that at exactly that time (1934) Paul also dreamed a dream that forced him to take into consideration that there is yet a hidden dimension of reality behind quantum physics:

"A man resembling Einstein is drawing the following figure on a board:

... It showed me quantum mechanics and so-called official physics in general as a one-dimensional section of a two-dimensional, more meaningful world, the second dimension of which could be only the unconscious and the archetypes" [emphasis mine]

Albert Einstein never accepted quantum mechanics because he was convinced that it must - because of its acausal character - be imperfect. He looked for "hidden variables" on a deeper physical level to correct this supposed deficiency.

On the contrary, Wolfgang Pauli was of the opinion that the inclusion of this further dimension could not consist in Einstein's "regressive idea" to postulate a new causal and purely physical world behind the acausality of quantum physics by finding the "hidden variables". He began to figure out at about this time that the "Einstein" of his dream represented a shadow figure in himself, who wanted to bring together this hidden dimension with depth psychology and parapsychology. Almost twenty years later (in 1953) he writes to Jung:

"I remarked to Bohr ... that Einstein was regarding as an imperfection of wave mechanics [RFR: quantum physics] within physics what in fact was an imperfection of physics within life."

The problem of the imperfection of quantum physics seems to be a pseudo problem (Scheinproblem): The hidden dimension behind quantum physics is not a physical one, but one of life itself, and to explore this world of wholeness we must overcome our one-sided causal view and include depth psychology as well as parapsychology.

In the course of the next 18 years this change of attitude concerning parapsychology succeeded in Pauli and culminated in his demand of a reunion of physics with parapsychology! Therefore the question then must be asked, what circumstances had motivated the Nobel laureate to quit his refusal of parapsychology and to get seriously down to the problem of the unification of it with physics.

Before we deal with this, let's go back to the early 1930's. During his greatest life crisis when Pauli was about 30 he came into contact with Carl Gustav Jung's psychology, and it never let go of him. From that point on he began to dream intensively and these dreams accompanied him until his early death at the age of 58.

Pauli always wondered about the fact that these dreams did not utilize Jung's psychological terminology, but rather spoke the rational language of physics, but expanded it more and more in a symbolic terminology, not at all understandable in the foreground. So for example one of these dreams wanted to convince him with hard-nosed regularity that the physical term "radioactivity" has a similar meaning as the depth psychological term "synchronicity," introduced by Carl Gustav Jung (see Radioactivity and Synchronicity in the Pauli/Jung Letters). If one argues on a purely rational basis, one has to establish that this equivalence represents a complete nonsense, because except the common property of acausality there are, to my knowledge, no further points of reference between the two. Moreover, Pauli was himself conscious about these common roots of both phenomena. Under these circumstances no dreams with such a content should appear, as Jungian theory and experience shows.

According to this theory, dreams are actually "pure nature". Therein the "Mutterlauge", Jung's collective psyche, represents a self-regulating system. Therefore it is the job of dreams to compensate the one-sidedness of consciousness with the help of the "preconscious knowledge" (not to be confused with the Freudian meaning) hidden in it (the collective psyche). In this way this instance of wisdom presents, in a symbolic form, a yet hidden compensatory deeper truth to the prejudiced consciousness. It is then the challenge of the ego, to integrate these symbolic pictures by transforming them into a rational language. By this procedure old prejudices are eradicated and conscious knowledge is extended. Exactly this process was constellated in Wolfgang Pauli, but we will see, that - even he spent an incredible amount of time seeking for the solution of this problem - he couldn't see the solution of the problem to its conclusion.

Nevertheless, we can conclude with certainty, that Wolfgang Pauli's change of opinion in reference to parapsychology can be traced back to such "physical-symbolic dreams" (Pauli). He himself pointed out in the above-mentioned letter to Jung, that "the fantasies assumed their own peculiar character" [emphasis mine] "by using physical terminology very familiar to me," "to express analogies with psychic facts that I can only vaguely surmise."

Pauli talks here of a unique technique, the so-called Active Imagination of Carl Gustav Jung he learned between the years 1931 and 1934. In Jung's own words - taken from the handwritten material of his lecture in 1938 - this technique serves to let the contents of dreams and fantasies develop themselves, instead of consciously asking for the context, as in dream analysis. As a result of this conscious decrease of the discriminating Logos the Eros consciousness can increase. The latter is much more connected to the collective psyche and its contents. This is why Pauli's "fantasies assumed their own peculiar character," which means that the "preconscious knowledge" (Jung) of the collective psyche showed him more complete and deeper processes in nature, much more on an psychophysical (or psychoid; see below) than on a physical level. Like this, Active Imagination helped Pauli considerably to expand his physically limited point of view. But because of his dogmatic defense of the conservation law of energy (see Radioactivity and Synchronicity...) he was not able to come to the end of the process, which was constellated in him. This is why we must continue his work at the beginning of the 21st century.

 part 2

proofread by GJS, 12/24/2003

 See also further articles about Wolfgang Pauli in

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