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Carl Jung on the Symbol of the Self and Nuclear Reactions


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The formula presents a symbol of the self, for the self is not just a static quantity or constant form, but is also a dynamic process. In the same way, the ancients saw the imago Dei in man not as a mere imprint, as a sort of lifeless, stereotyped impression, but as an active force.

The four transformations represent a process of restoration or rejuvenation taking place, as it were, inside the self, and comparable to the carbon-nitrogen cycle in the sun, when a carbon nucleus captures four protons (two of which immediately become neutrons) and releases them at the end of the cycle in the form of an alpha particle.

The carbon nucleus itself comes out of the reaction unchanged, “like the Phoenix from the ashes.”

The secret of existence, i.e., the existence of the atom and its components, may well consist in a continually repeated process of rejuvenation, and one comes to similar conclusions in trying to account for the numinosity of the archetypes.

I am fully aware of the extremely hypothetical nature of this comparison, but I deem it appropriate to entertain such reflections even at the risk of being deceived by appearances.

Sooner or later nuclear physics and the psychology of the unconscious will draw closer together as both of them, independently of one another and from opposite directions, push forward into transcendental territory, the one with the concept of the atom, the other with that of the archetype.

The analogy with physics is not a digression since the symbolical schema itself represents the descent into matter and requires the identity of the outside with the inside.

Psyche cannot be totally different from matter, for how otherwise could it move matter? And matter cannot be alien to psyche, for how else could matter produce psyche?

Psyche and matter exist in one and the same world, and each partakes of the other, otherwise any reciprocal action would be impossible.

If research could only advance far enough, therefore, we should arrive at an ultimate agreement between physical and psychological concepts.

Our present attempts may be bold, but I believe they are on the right lines. Mathematics, for instance, has more than once proved that its purely logical constructions which transcend all experience subsequently coincided with the behavior of things.

This, like the events I call synchronistic, points to a profound harmony between all forms of existence. ~Carl Jung, Aion, The Structure and Dynamics of the Self, Paragraphs 411-413.