Jung and Pauli: “Deciphering the Cosmic Number”

( From The Sunday Times Literary Supplement)
The odd couple: Carl Jung, Wolfgang Pauli and mystic numbers
A strange marriage of science and psychology
September 2, 2009
Georgina Ferry


Soon after he arrived to take up a new post in Zurich in the early 1930s, exhausted and emerging from divorce and a breakdown, the physicist Wolfgang Pauli took the obvious course: he checked himself into the clinic of the local analytical psychologist Carl Jung for a course of therapy. So began one of the most extraordinary partnerships of the twentieth century.

Over the following twenty-five years, the two men worked together, not just on Pauli’s emotional problems but on a quest to unify the worlds of science and human psychology.

Pauli was a leading member of the group of theoretical physicists, including Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger, who transformed our understanding of the way matter behaves at the subatomic level. Apart from his own discovery of the “exclusion principle”, which underlies our understanding of electricity and magnetism and for which he won a Nobel Prize in 1945, Pauli received the grudging admiration of his colleagues for acting as their most trenchant critic.

Yet even at the height of his success he was not a happy man. Working as a junior professor in Hamburg, he spent his days in monk-like devotion to physics, and his nights drinking and roving the “Sankt Pauli” red light district looking for sex “without feeling, without love, indeed without humanity”. This pattern had been established for almost a decade by the time he turned up on Jung’s couch. (Full article)

Arthur I. Miller
The strange friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung
336pp. Norton.

Leave a reply