A Quantum Physicist's Dreams

J. Gary Sparks

Jungian analyst

"There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement," observed the Scottish scientist Lord Kelvin in 1900. Indeed, at that time the laws of Newton seemed accurately to predict the movements of the planets known to us. Except for one little detail. The position of the planet Mercury at one point in its orbit was not quite where it was supposed to be, according to Newtonian calculations. A tiny error, but one within the accuracy of measuring instruments to confirm.

It was a discrepancy that would change everything. It took Albert Einstein to recognize that the planet's orbit is influenced by factors not discernable in the Newtonian universe—namely the understanding of gravity he described in his Theory of General Relativity (1915). All this followed on that little "misstep" of Mercury's orbit. In a similar spirit of reevaluation, Quantum Mechanics was born in Copenhagen in 1927.

Wolgang Pauli was a key contributor to the new quantum physics. One of the revolutionary twists of Quantum Mechanics is that determinative causality, a keystone in Newton's universe, does not hold.

Having relocated to Zürich after Copenhagen and out of a personal crisis, Pauli made the acquaintance of Carl Jung in 1932. With his feet back on the ground thanks to analytic consultations in the Jungian framework, Pauli maintained an ongoing professional friendship with Jung. From his own experience, Pauli recognized the phenomena that Jung dubbed synchronistic do indeed exist. Moreover Pauli acutely realized synchronicities are another place where causality is useless as an explanatory tool. The link between the two pioneers was thus cemented. The correspondence between these two men is rich with their discussions.

As Nazi troops amassed at Schaffhausen, just about a 40 minute drive north from Zürich, Pauli, who was half Jewish, was forced to flee to the United States—otherwise had the Germans invaded Switzerland he would have been a gonner in their pogrom against his heritage. He spent the war years at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, with an office down the hall from Einstein. Though the atom bombs were built from the theories of quantum physics Pauli had helped uncover, he refused to participate in building the weapons that decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Dissolute after the end of the war, he returned to Zürich, depressed and despairing at the horrific powers his science had contributed to the stock of civilization's arsenal of death. He again consulted Jung, this time examining his dreams from this often-dark period. He had asked his dreams, "What has gone wrong?" and from his return to Switzerland until his death in 1958, he assiduously attended to his dreams to examine how they might answer his questioning.

What did he dream of? Precisely the spiritual power of matter that we first met in the phenomena of synchronicity and also found relevant to certain processes of the body. Apparently the answer to his questions, "What has gone wrong?" has to do with the recognition of the spiritual function and power of matter that has been our subject here.

Marie-Louise von Franz mentions in a 1982 interview:

Jung had at first pushed this theme aside. He said, "I focus my attention on the soul, I observe psychic processes, and leave the question of how they relate to matter, and to the processes of the brain, open. I make no judgment." But towards the end of his life he was struck more and more by the fact that atomic physics and what he had discovered about the collective unconscious both brought about remarkably similar conceptual changes, something that one could not ignore.

In the pages that make up this website, I've presented a slice of the discussion between the psychologist Jung and the physicist Pauli. Starting with the awareness of synchronicity and the symbolic role of the material world, to the larger implication of these recognitions that the dialogue between Jung and Pauli uncover, I personally feel we are on the cusp of a major paradigm shift for our times. Pauli's dreams and his discussions with Jung open up considerations of the spiritual power of matter to vast vistas. Hopefully the extent of this broadening has surfaced to you in your time with the information presented here.

Just as the position of the planet Mercury, the little detail that "didn't fit," witnessed a revolutionary paradigm shift in the scientific world, so I expect that synchronicity and the spiritual power of matter, recognized by a psychologist and confirmed by a Quantum Physicist, another little detail that "doesn't fit," is going to be instrumental in our reevaluating many of our cherished assumptions; and, if we honor the message of Pauli's dreams, this reevaluation will be in the service of a more sane and humane world.

I hope you've been enriched by your visit!