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

Dear Mr. Pauli, [Zurich] 4 May 1953

I found your lengthy account of your relationship with Mach most interesting.

Please accept my sincere thanks.

It goes without saying that one can never be content with the ascertainable alone, for then, as you rightly point
out, one would not understand anything at all.

What is more, the greatest challenge to our thinking comes from the nonascertainable, and the same is true of our scientific curiosity and sense of adventure.

The real life of knowledge and understanding is played out on the borderline between the ascertainable and the nonascertainable.

It is just that under these circumstances it is rather difficult to see where I should be “positivist” and consequently “eliminate thought processes.”

Seeing that I describe physics as a science of ideas with a material label, the material place of origin of these ideas is no more denied than is the place of origin of “intellectual” ideas.

All that is meant by this observation is an epistemological definition, not a practical one.

There will continue to be speculation and intuition about the realm of the nonascertainable, and ascertainable elements will continue to plucked from it as before.

But it should always be borne in mind that the area between the perceived and what is not ascertainable hic et nunc is the area of the psyche.

The fact that I as a psychologist am more preoccupied with archetypes is just as natural as the physicist’s preoccupation with atoms.

I do not extend the concept of the psychic to include the nonascertainable, for here I use the speculative concept of the psychoid, which represents an approach to neutral language in that it suggests the presence of a nonpsychic essence.

It is a matter of choice whether one fills up this “essence” with the term “matter.”

From the point of view of logic, one can understand Plato’s idea of a neutral concept, for which I use the term · psyche”; yet 1 would assign to the psyche a mediatory third position, more or less on the lines of how-in another sense-the alchemists mists viewed the anima as ligammtum corporis et spiritus.

For the psyche is the medium” (i.e., the “Third”), in which ideas of corporeal or intellectual origin occur.

The Platonic concepts of the Same and the Other have nothing to do with his psyche, which is a metaphysical concept, which is a metaphysical concept, which is also why he he had no occasion to identify the “Greek word”, with the psyche.

For us, however, [Greek words] are psychological matters.

And the psyche is not a metaphysical concept but an empirical one.

So if we want to solve this dilemma of the “Third,” we have to realize that matter and spirit are two different
concepts that indicate opposites and-as ideas of different origins-are psychic.

But their intention is to depict the nonpsychic.

Insofar as the psyche introduces the two metaphysical-i.e., not immediately ascertainable—essences as concepts, it unites the two opposing essences by endowing them both with a psychical form of existence and thereby raising them to a conscious level.

In this way, one can metaphorically depict the psyche as “Greek Word” and that is what I originally meant.

But if we now take the actual Platonic concept of this thing, then it is a metaphysical matter, one dealt with by the demiurge.

In view of this situation, the psychological explanation must relate the statement of the Timaeus to a background process in which the demiurge represents the “consciousness maker” and the four characteristics to be mixed represent a distinctive quaternio necessary for the development of consciousness.

The consciousness maker can be understood vaguely as a tendency toward the development of consciousness and the quatemio as four functional aspects.

This ascertainment is of necessity vague because we are talking here about metaphysical dimensions or postulates.

In this way they are specifically neither transformed into something psychic nor robbed of their metaphysical existence.

This explanation does justice to the actual concept of the “Greek Word.”

The metaphorical conception of the Third mentioned initially corresponds to what you wish to distinguish from the general concepts as the experiencing of the individual.

The latter corresponds to the metaphysical conception of the Third.

You are perfectly correct when you say that my remark concerning the material nature of the psyche is a metaphysical judgment.

It was, of course, not meant as such and is not to be taken literally.

The remark is simply intended to point out that the nature of the psyche is involved in both hypothetical conceptions, spirit and material, and, like them, is not ascertainable.

The aim of the remark is to indicate that whenever something material exists, the psyche is also partially involved.

When it comes to the overall judgment, the following sentence needs to be added:

Wherever the spiritual exists, the psyche has its part to play.

This participation is ascertainable in that there are conceptions that are labeled partly as spiritual and partly as of material origin.

But just what form this participation actually takes cannot be ascertained because material, psyche and spirit are in themselves of an unknown nature and thus are metaphysical or postulated.

Thus I fully agree when you say “that psyche and matter are governed by common, neutral etc. ordering principles.”

(I would simply add “spirit” as well.)

Under these circumstances, I simply fail to see—with the best will in the world—how psychology can be “overburdened” with me, or what form an expansionist tendency of my concept of the psyche is supposed to take.

We can say of an object that it is psychic when it is ascertainable only as a concept.

But if it has features that indicate its nonpsychic autonomous existence, we naturally tend to accept it as nonpsychic.

This we do with all our sensory perceptions, unless they are “purely” psychic—for example, in the form of illusion.

As you point out, this applies to numbers and to the archetypes in general.

They are not just psychic, otherwise, they would be fabrications.

But in actual fact they are “in themselves being” (or psychoid) existences whose autonomous existence corresponds to that of the material object.

All these statements concerning the material or spiritual aspect of the psyche or the autonomous existence of the objects are of great heuristic significance, which I by no means underestimate.

The psyche is certainly our only instrument of cognition and is thus indispensable for any statement or perception.

But the objects of its perception are only very slightly psychic.

It is true that all objects are conceived in and through the medium of the psyche, but they are not integrated into its substance, thus forfeiting their existence.

So far, I believe, we are basically in agreement.

When you bring up the subject of overburdened psychology and take as your starting point the non psychological tendency of your dreams, then it must be pointed out that this is a subjective situation that can be explained in many different ways.

I . Your dreams are physical because this is your natural language, on the principle canis panem somniat, piscator pisces, but in fact the dream means something different.

  1. The unconscious has the tendency to confine you to physics or keep you away from psychology, because psychology, for whatever reason, is not appropriate.

I never have dreams related to physics; they are usually related to mythology; in other words they are also un-psychological.

Just as your dreams contain symbolic physics, mine contain symbolic mythology, i.e. Jungian individual

What this means, on closer observation, is archetypal theology or metaphysics.

But this only becomes clear when I make the effort to find out what the archetypal symbols are referring to.

In this case, what I do is to translate the dream figure into the language of consciousness, thus reducing the dream meaning to my subjective situation.

But as a meta-physician I could also examine the dream statement for its objective meaning-in other words, not psychologically-which would tab me into the sphere of what one might call the spirit or the mind, and from there it might be possible for me to have a sense of archetypal physics.

It is true that the unconscious produces psychology, but the more it does so, the more it is against it, which is the case with both you and myself.

Psychological tendencies in the unconscious are found only where psychological insights are urgently necessary.

The process of developing consciousness is a very demanding one and is by no means a popular matter in nature.

This is why physics or metaphysics is usually preferred, although in both cases the fascinosum consists of the constellated archetypes.

These archetypes more or less free us from psychology in the sense that psychology is “relieved of its burden.”

However important and interesting it may be to deal with the nonpsychic–especially with its archetypal stage-there is nevertheless the risk that one may lose oneself in the notion itself.

But then the creative tension disappears, for it comes into being only when the acknowledgement of the
non-psychic is brought into relation with the observer.

What I mean by that is, for example, that the product is studied critically, not just from the point of view of its objective associations but also its subjective ones.

In physics this means the determination of the role played by the observer or the psychological prerequisites of a theory.

What does it mean if Einstein establishes a world formula but does not know which reality it corresponds to?

Hence, it would have been better if C.A. Meier had asked what the psychological significance was of the myth and cult of Asclepios-i.e., what psychic reality do they correspond to?

With the perception of the archetypal prerequisites in Kepler’s astronomy and the comparison with Fludd’s philosophy, you have taken two steps, and now you seem to be at the third one-namely, the question of what Pauli say about it.

If the formulation of the question is a partial one, as is the case with Asclepios, then the self-reflection of the doctor is an adequate reply.

But if the formulation of the question concerns the principles of the physical explanation of nature and hence is a cosmic and universal one (as is the case with Einstein) then this is a challenge to the microcosm in the person answering the question, i.e., the natural wholeness of the individual.

This is why the problem of the dark anima within you presents itself to you on the other side of the Zurichberg, and it is also why “master” figures appear in your dreams.

As a consequence of my professional work with psychology, I am more frequently confronted with the mythological aspect of nature, i.e., with what one might call the “spirit” (or the mind).

Consequently, I have the impressive dreams about animals (elephants, bulls, camels, etc.) that do not wish to be observed, and when I intervene they lead me to having a tachycardia attack.

(The connection between my heart disturbance and synchronicity is an indirect one.

It is a nonspecific form of exhaustion.

That is why there are lots of other causes—of attacks—e.g., the interchange of continental air masses with maritime ones, digitalis medicaments, mental effort, etc.)

I am actually supposed to make the animals conscious and integrate them, which, of course, is impossible, animals being unconscious and not capable of consciousness.

According to my dreams, these animals seem to be building a road through the primeval forest and do not wish to be disturbed.

So I have to dispense with psychology and wait to see whether the unconscious itself produces something.

Your Sommefeld dream (p. 7ff. of your letter) is also a good illustration of what I mean.

What the dream ascertains in the physical sense (a) is short and to the point.

The “theological-metaphysical” conception (b) is somewhat more thorough, and the psychological one (c) sums everything up in general terms.

“And yet,’ as you write, you are ·of the opinion that this is not yet the ultimate truth.’

Certainly not, for it contains only that which can be conceived of and represented in psychic terms.

When compared with the whole truth, the psychic picture is also as incomplete as is the ego compared with the Self, but it is the conception of truth that we have.

As I have said, it is clear that there are potential realities that lie beyond our conception, for experience has shown that our world-picture seems to be capable of unlimited expansion, and natural science consists, so to speak, of an abundance of evidence that our conception corresponds commensurately to the thing-in-itself.

But nowhere can we arrive at a more complete truth than that very picture which is conceived.

That is why I say that we are virtually sealed off in the psyche, even though it is within our power to extend our prison to the big, wide world outside.

It was this thought that gave Leibniz the idea of the windowless monads.

I must say that I do not agree with the idea of “windowlessness’ but believe that the psyche does have windows and that from these windows we can perceive ever broader realistic backdrops.

For these reasons, I am of the view that the psychic aspect of reality is to all intents and purposes the most important one.

Once again we are obviously dealing with a classical quaternia:

Reality = Material I spiritual
i.e., as usual 3 + 1, with the fourth one determining the unity and the whole.

Your explanation of the consciousness quaternio is interesting and I would say. correct.

This is also where the “origin” and “primordial home” of the number is probably to be found.

At any rate. this is where it begins to make its presence felt.

The world of discrete things begin with the four [Greek word] elements.

Inasmuch as the number is an archetype, it can be safely assumed that it: (1) bas substance. (2) has an individual form, (3) has meaning. and (4) has relationship connections to other archetypes.

About a year ago. I actually started examining the characteristics of the cardinal numbers in various ways. but my work ground to a halt. (Is there actually no systematic compilation of the mathematical properties of the numbers 1-9)

The mythological formulations are interesting but unfortunately call for a great deal of work in comparative-symbolism research. and I cannot afford to get involved in that.

Appropriately enough. you recall Lessing’s play “Nathan den Wei.,” [Nathan the Wise].

But it seems to me that you did not have three but only two rings in your hand: physics and psychology (see p. 10 of your letter [Letter 60. pars. ‘5-.6]).

The third ring is the spirit that is responsible for theological-metaphysical explanations.

In the spirit of Lessing. you see in the fourth ring the human connection that. being the fourth. establishes the
unity with the Three.

On the psychological level. this is certainly correct as the solution to all problems through the agape or caritas christiana (albeit free from the insidious influences of the Christian denominations!).

But the synthesis of the Many through carita. is basically a reflection of transcendental unity. a harmonious praestabilita, the materialization of which in our sublunary world is a challenge to all Christian virtues and hence is slightly beyond the scope of moral powers.

What it calls for above all is individuation and thus the acknowledgment of the shadow, the releasing of the anima from the projection, the coming to terms with this and so on.

This is a task that we cannot take on without psychological strain and stress, for the stream always flows from psychology into the opposites, but this provides relief only for the first moment.

In this way. psychology will be “relieved of its burden” in a completely natural manner.

Nor would it detract from it in any way if it were taken up in the framework of physics and biology.

The world-picture is always and everywhere a conception-i.e., psychic.

What is often a great stumbling block when it comes to the notion of thinking is that the opposition is not physis versus psyche. but physis versus pneuma, with psyche the medium between the two.

In recent history, the spirit has been brought into the psyche and been identified with the function of the intellect.

In this way. the spirit has virtually disappeared from our field of vision and been replaced by the psyche; we find it difficult to attribute to the spirit an autonomy and reality that we ascribe to matter without a moment’s hesitation.

I do not know whether my inclination to symmetrical points of view is pure prejudice, but it seems to me essential to think in a complementary way: to matter belongs nonmatter, to above below, to continuity discontinuity, and so on.

The one is a condition of the other.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

C.G. Jung ~Carl Jung, Atom and Archetype, Pages 111-117