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Who was this man who has been compared with Einstein?
The weeklong international conference was devoted to presentations on theoretical physics, the field in which Pauli had earned his stellar reputation. As the last speaker, I addressed Paulis interest in metaphysics and his association with the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. To my surprise, the auditorium remained filled to capacity; I had underestimated the reach of his metaphysical thought.
A luncheon reception was held later in the Kronenhalle Restaurant, where Pauli had often dined. There his spirit came to life as "old timers" spontaneously shared their experiences with this mercurial figure. Some recalled his idiosyncratic behavior, while others described their encounters with the notorious "Pauli Effect," in which Paulis presence seemed mysteriously to affect the physical environment.
Although this gathering honored Pauli for his unique standing among the physicists of the twentieth century, my mind turned to Paulis philosophical outlook, which reached beyond the scope of traditional science. Among other concerns, he addressed the moral dilemma that physics faced in the aftermath of the development of the atomic bomb. But for Pauli this was symptomatic of a broader concern, that physics (and science in general) needed to expand its compass beyond the realm of rationally understood phenomena.
I was initially intrigued by Paulis early dreams, which Jung had published, and which are presented in chapter 2. When I learned that the dreamer was the renowned physicist, my curiosity deepened. And when I discovered that Pauli and Jung had been engaged in a correspondence for over two decades, I was hooked.
Although Jung was twenty-five years Paulis senior, the two men developed a profound relationship, based primarily on their mutual interest in the interaction of psyche and matterJung from the side of psychology, Pauli from the side of physics. Jung described this interaction as a synchronicity, a meaningful relationship between psyche and matter in which the archetypes are said to extend into the realm where psyche and matter interact. For Pauli it was the psychophysical problem, the need to merge physics with the psychology of the unconscious. Pauli recognized that the rationalistic perspective of physics had fostered a dangerous "will to power." If physics were opened to a consideration of psychic phenomena, he maintained, scientists would be exposed to a holistic vision with a humanistic dimension.
Inspired by his dreams, Pauli came to realize that matter and psyche have a common metaphysical foundation. Like a modern-day alchemist, Pauli believed that an awareness of the metaphysical connection between psyche and matter would enrich the scientific mind with far-reaching consequences, not the least of which would be an encounter with the unconscious. The irrational realities in quantum physics, he maintained, would help make this accessible to consciousness. For Pauli, the parallel discoveries in physics and psychology early in the twentieth century were meaningful coincidences. In 1900, Plancks discovery of the quantum showed that at the subatomic level, the rational physics of Newton no longer applied. Jung in turn discovered the collective unconscious, a psychic realm that functioned independently of the conscious mind. In both cases the rational law of causality was violated. This and other similarities offered tantalizing hints that matter and psyche were interrelated in a dimension of reality whose essence was the concern of Jung and Pauli alike, but from their very different fields of expertise.
Nobody viewed Wolfgang Pauli with ambivalence. Those who knew him best valued his unusual qualities; others resented his sharp tongue and harsh judgments. A few were able to distinguish the worldly Pauli from the "eternal" Pauli and perceive the whole man. This book is intended to reflect that wholeness.
Most people would have trouble thinking of two academic disciplines more diverse than physics and psychology. Read morePublished on September 26, 2010 by Charles H. Stade
I wasn't expecting the author to have the expertise in physics and psychology to do a decent job of writing about these two men. Read morePublished on February 19, 2009 by Donald McLeod