Atom and Archetype: The Pauli/Jung Letters, 1932-1958

Frau Professor Emma Jung:

I have studies both your works on the Grail legend and am now in a position to reply to your very instructive letter.

I should like to stress straightaway that I not only totally agree with your own interpretations of the Grail legend but that I am happy to see the general nature of a certain group of my dreams and, to a certain extent, even my fascination with the Grail legend as a confirmation of your views.

The following points are of crucial importance to me: the connection between the Grail and the quaternity
(Part I conclusion, and Part II, p. 51f., although the solution in Wolfram’s version emerges as the more psychological one, whereas in the French versions the story ends tragically with the disappearance of the Grail; the reflection motif Christ-Judas or the seat of Christ-siege perilleux, representing the contrast between the upper and lower region; the interpretation of the Grail legend as an expression of the reception of Christianity
(assimilation processes) by the unconscious.

It can certainly be said that in this process the archetypes of the lower region (also the “lower Trinity”) are
the ones that met with a good response initially, but later there was an attempt to eliminate this “lower” aspect by means of allegories along the lines of traditional Christianity.

I paid special attention to the fair-dark form of Merlin.

You yourself point out his “dual layer” – namely, “half Christian-human,” “half devilish-pagan” (II, p. 76 [1960 edn., pp. 365-66/ 1tr., pp. 355-56])-and you go on to emphasize his need for redemption (II, p. 95 [1960 edn, p. 404/tr, p. 392].

It was also most useful to me to hear of Geofroy’s alternative depiction of Merlin as more of a natural creature.

In connection with this general interpretation of yours of the Grail legend, I would like to come back to the special question of the 3 spindles and matters directly connected with them.

You were kind enough to deal with this question in your letter, and we pursued the subject in our last brief conversation.

I think we are in full agreement that the “fusedux” do not necessarily have anything to do with spinning (and hence with the Fates), but that as prima materia processed by humans, and thanks to their connection
With the feminine (Solomon’s wife), they do belong to the lower region.

I now feel I must tell you about the earlier dream of mine, the one that actually led me to write to you about the 3 spindles in Boulanger this summer, I immediately felt myself transported back into the mood of the dream.

The river in the dream evidently corresponds to the mother’s lap, and in this an archetype has for me acquired what is so far a definitive form, namely, the fair-dark “dual-layers” one.

Incidentally, it has already appeared previously with wood, and on one occasion it brought me a circular piece of wood.

It is always the wood that has been treated by human beings that has a “magic” effect in my dreams, in contrast to the natural state of the prima materia.

This, together with the other dream experience described below, makes it seem likely that this is not just an external analogy between my dreams and the Grail myth but is a more far reaching identification of the relation of the archetype to consciousness, despite all the differences due to any problems arising from the time factor.

Just as a dream can be interpreted by being compared to a myth, a myth can equally well be understood by resorting to dreams.

The direction one chooses seems to depend on whichever of the two happens to be more familiar at the time.

It is with all this in mind that I should now like to attempt to describe to you the figure of the “stranger” (who in the dream under discussion emerged from the river but had already been there in another form); I shall do so as if it were a character from a story, although I shall be bringing in material not just from recent dreams but from dreams going back to 1946.

It is evidently the archetype of the “mana personality” or the “magician” (the only reason I do not call him the “wise old man” is that my figure is not old but is actually younger than myself).

Everything that Prof. Jung says about the “spirit Mercurius” fits him perfectly.

While reading your work, however, I saw that there is also an important analogy between this figure and Merlin (especially in Robert de Boron’s version).

My dream figure is also “dual-layered”; on the one hand, he is a spiritual-light figure with superior knowledge, and on the other hand, he is a chthonic natural spirit.

But his knowledge repeatedly takes him back to nature, and his chthonic origins are also the source of his knowledge, so that ultimately both aspects turn out to be facets of the same “personality.”

He is the one who prepares the way for the quaternity, which is always pursuing him.

His actions are always effective, his words definitive, albeit oftern incomprehensible.
Women and children follow him happily, and he frequently tries to instruct them,

In fact, he regards everyone around him (especially me) as completely ignorant and uneducated compared with himself.

He does not reject the ancient writings on magic but simply regards them as a popular preliminary stage for people with not education (e.g. myself).

But now comes the really odd bit, namely, the analogy to the “Antichrist”: He is not an antichrist, but in a certain sense an “Antichrist,” “science” here meaning especially the scientific approach, particularly as it is taught in universities today.

This he sees as a sort of Zwinguri, as the place and symbol of his oppression, which (in my dreams) he occasionally sets fire to.

If he feels he is being disregarded, he does everything in his power to draw attention to himself, for example by means of synchronistic phenomena (which he calls “radioactivity”) or through moods of depression or incomprehensible affects.

Your observation (II, p. 86) “that … the factor which brings on sickness or has any other unfavorable effect occurs when contents that are ready for consciousness and not taken over “literally hits the nail on the head.”

The “stranger’s” attitude toward science is very similar to that of Ahasuerus toward Christianity: This
“stranger” is something that did not accept the scientific world picture about 300 years ago and is now running around autonomously in the collective unconscious like a loose cannon; in doing so it is becoming more and
more loaded with “mana” (especially when “up above,” my branch of science, physics, has got somewhat bogged down).

The same thing can be said in a different way: When rational methods in science reach a dead end, a new lease of life is given to those contents that were pushed out of time consciousness in the 17th century and sank into the unconscious.

With the passage of time, they take possession of the ever-present original of the “mana personality” there, and this “mana personality” is ultimately so powerfully enveloped by these contents that its physiognomy is determined by that loose fragment that was rejected by the conscious back in the 17th century.

And yet, when all comes to all, the relationship of the “stranger” to science is not a destructive one, which is also true of Merlin’s relationship to Christianity: He happily uses the terminology of modem science (radioactivity,
spin) and mathematics (prime numbers) but does so in an unconventional manner.

Inasmuch as he ultimately wishes to be understood but has yet to find his place in our contemporary culture, he is, like Merlin, in need of redemption.

It seems to me that for him the “bonfire” of liberation

will only bum in a form of culture that will be effectively expressed by the quaternity.

As far as I can see, it has not yet been determined in detail just when and how this will come about.

But it is probably such expectations that will for us replace that of the “Third Kingdom· by Gioacchino e Fiore [Joachim of Floris] 1 (II, p. 41 [1960 edn., pp. 325-26/tr., pp. 317-18]).

I hope that these remarks will have made clear the conformity of the situation of the archetypes to consciousness in the Grail legend, on the one hand, and in my dreams, on the other; if this is the case, my next “adventure”
with your letter will not be quite so unexpected.

I was at once both fascinated and excited by the description in your letter of the arrangement of the “fuseaux”l quoted from the texts.

There was an affective relationship and an emotional situation.

I began to consider the fact that it was really odd that the “spindles’ were not rotating, even if they had nothing to do with spinning.

The whole thing struck me as a mechanism to prevent the spindles from rotating; the rotation was reserved much
more for the island than for the original form of the prima materia, which had emerged from the four elements and had remained untouched by human beings.

I discussed your letter-and this question in particular with C. A Meier, and he hit on the idea of looking up the role played by spindles in folklore.

What he found out was that sometimes a harmful “magic’ influence is attributed to the rotating of the spindles, which is why it was forbidden on certain occasions (for example, when bringing in the harvest).

For me, this gave rise to the association “Rotating spindles-magic or sympathetic effect: A couple of nights later, I had the dream that you will find on the enclosed sheet; in it, surprisingly, the arrangement of the
“fuseaux” described on your letter is transformed into a pair of scales.

The meaning of the dream certainly has a lot to do with the problems discussed by Prof. lung in his latest treatise on synchronicity.

However, I would like to emphasize once again that it is impossible for the dream to have been influenced
by Prof. lung’s new writings, which I have only just received.

The dream occurred quite a while earlier and is thus to be interpreted as a consequence of reading your letter.

Let me make it quite clear that I am not sending you the dreams because I expect you to interpret them.

Actually, [ am quite skeptical about “interpretations” of dreams of this nature.

What has worked best for me has been on the one hand “shedding as broad a light” as possible onto the context,
and reflecting on the general problems to be found in this context, and on the other hand observing the dreams over periods of several years.

This brings about a certain familiarity with the “point of view” of the unconscious and at the same time the long-lasting and gradual shifting of the point view of the unconscious.

But I actually wanted to inform you about the real reasons for my interest in the Grail legend, and as well the response you have triggered.

(I leave it to you to decide whether or not you wish to show Prof. Jung these two dreams.)

Once again, many thanks for your fine work (which I should like to hold on to for a while).

Best wishes to you and to Prof. Jung (to whom I shall write as soon as I have studied his latest work on synchronicity).

Yours, [W. Pauli] ~Wolfgang Pauli, Atom and Archetypes, Pages 49-53.