Jung, Wolfgang Pauli and "the dissociation of sensibility"

November 20, 2009

Tags: Jung, Wolfgang Pauli & "the dissociation of sensibility"

DECIPHERING THE COSMIC NUMBER by Arthur I. Miller is the most illuminating theoretical book to be published in recent years. It centers on the mental and personal battles of the Nobel prize-winning physicist, Wolfgang Pauli. Working together with Jung, he surmises there is an almost manichean war in the cosmos and in human psychology between the numbers 3 and 4. As Pauli put it:
"Modern quantum physics has come closer to the quaternary point of view, which was so violently opposed to the natural science that was germinating in the 17th century." Miller comments -"the archetype of the wholeness of man - depicted with the symbol of fourness, the quaternity - is the emotional dynamic that drives all of science."

It was the result of Pauli`s intuitive adherence to the quaternal that enabled him to conclude that each electron in an atom required 4 not 3 quantum numbers, and that no two electrons in an atom could have the same 4 quantum numbers. It was this so-called Exclusion Principle that was to earn Pauli the Nobel prize over two decades later in 1945. This discovery sidelined Bohr`s mini-solar system picture of the momentum of the electron around the core of the atom. And indeed it was a significant advance in the history of ideas for "it was a step into the unknown, into a world without visual images."

Miller speculates that Pauli had tapped into something beyond science, something touching on one of Niels Bohr`s favorite quotations from Schiller:
"Only fullness leads to clarity
And truth lies in the abyss."
There was no Dantesque pilgrim to lead the scientists who undertook this journey of discovery which effectively confronted, in the abstractions of physics, the dissociation of sensibility as T.S. Eliot termed the 17th century crisis of fractured thinking. So Pauli believed that in the interests of maintaining his own equilibrium he must continue to nurture elements of scientist and mystic within himself:
"that I carry `Kepler` as well as `Fludd` in myself and that it is for me a necessity to arrive at a synthesis of this pair of opposites, as best I can." [Robert Fludd it was, who railing against Kepler`s trinity had exclaimed "you force me to defend the dignity of the quaternity."]

From his intellectual exchanges with Pauli, Jung was able to draw out of the abyss this dramatic insight:
How could the quaternity arise in the unconscious? There must be something in the psyche adhering to a fourfold world of individual realization. This he saw as the source of "the existence of an archetypal God-image" in the human mind.
The re-association of sensibility, the achievment of true balance in the individual, can only be accomplished through the continuous battle to fuse science and the arts.

See also Home

Science and the Humanities
Science and the humanities
"In this volume, Spooner makes use of the most recent data from science to strike out in an interesting direction by returning to one of the great unresolved mysteries: how to fuse science and the great works of imagination without doing violence to one or the other of these great human enterprises."
Poetry and Entomology
A consideration of poets from Darío to Rueda and Lorca; Cernuda and Aleixandre to Valente.

Quick Links

Find Authors