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Max Knoll  on UFOs.


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

Max Knoll’s Letter to Wolfgang Pauli on UFOs.

M. Knoll to Pauli

Dear Mr. Pauli,

Technische Hochschule Miinchen Institute for Technological Electronics [Munich] . u. 57

[Typewritten carbon copy]

Please excuse our delay in replying, which was due to the start of the new semester and the fact that Ursula had a severe bout of Ru.

Despite that, we were able to have long discussions about the really interesting-albeit far from simple-problems in your letter.

Your first question about the nature of the radar system is easy to answer.

A ground-based radar system for observing aeroplanes consists, for example, of a beamed, rapidly pulsed wave, shaped like a fan which, within one minute of time, scans the whole horizon (360°) in polar coordinates, with the fan beam rising up to 45° above the horizon.

The beaming of this fan and its scanning movement occur through a rotating mirror.

The electromagnetic wave impulses reflected by aeroplanes are detected by a nearby receiver and amplified, their arrival time being dependent on the distance of the reflecting aeroplane.

They then control the grid of a cathode-ray tube, with the ray moving synchronously in polar coordinates; the sky zone being scanned will be projected concentrically onto the screen of the cathode-ray tubes so that the reflecting aeroplanes will appear as light objects against a black background and the observation point corresponds to the center of the screen.

The circuit is so arranged that the objects appearing on the periphery of the screen correspond to the desired maximum distance of observation.

Objects closer to the center of the screen correspond to shorter transit times of the wave impulses and correspondingly shorter distances from the observation point.

Similar radar systems are used for observation from an aeroplane, and they usually just scan one quadrant of the sky or less .

You later ask who persuaded Jung to believe in UFOs.

I do not know, either; you are probably correct when you assume that his American patients are responsible.

Incidentally, in the U.S. Air Force there are not only several pilots but also quite a few senior officers who believe in UFOs.

In fact, 3 years ago one of them gave a lecture on the subject in Princeton (which I did not attend).

It is crucial to bear in mind that the observation of radar images in general is no greater guarantee for the objectivity of the “sighting” of UFO than direct visual sighting; in fact, it is less so, since radar images almost always show a series of “virtual” objects as well as the ones being scanned-e.g., unwanted reflections and the level of the electronic noise of the equipment, with the result that it is very easy to project something onto the screen pattern.

This means that the interpretation of radar images, in the case of objects lying at the limit of measurability, is often very uncertain and more like a Rorschach test, where the structure of the screen pattern is also a “random” one.

Radar images would only be convincing if they were photographed or filmed, so that a number of experts could form an objective opinion as to what are real objects and what are subjective interpretations.

But so far this has not happened.

When we visited Jung at the beginning of this year, he also told us about the so-called confirmation by radar of the existence of UFOs.

I then proceeded to raise the objections cited above.

He listened attentively but then seems to have forgotten what I said.

In the course of our visit on 15 June of this year, he brought up the subject of UFOs again, but this time in relation to their psychological significance for the individuation process, and here (like your) I agree with him.

He then went on to relate that he had seen UFOs on a Nuremberg engraving from the 16th century: ‘ A cylindrical mother ship is releasing disk-shaped daughter ships from a glass tube, like pills from a pillbox.”

In summary, I would like to say that once again Jung must be made to understand that the UFOs seen on radar screens are no more “real” than those sighted directly, and that no definite conclusions can be drawn bout their actual existence except by rear photographs or radar films (examined by experts), and no such material has been published.

Based on the observations that have been made so far, Jung would actually be in a position “to give a convincing denial of the objective existence of UFOs.”

In addition to that, there is no ruling out the possibility-as Ursula points out-that they are American or Russian secret rocket-propelled aircraft.

But even this would not detract from the Jungian concept, since they are clearly defined synchronistic causal chains, probably with psychological processes, perhaps the most remarkable fact being that the disk shape constellated by the unconscious is actually the mot favorable one from the aerodynamic point of view.

I have read reports in illustrated magazines about test models with such disk-shaped, rocket-propelled aircraft (in Canada and France, I believe).

Of course, they are not UFOs.

On the whole, Jung’s basic idea that individuation symbolism is te reason why the UFO myth is so widespread strikes me as quite plausible, although in my opinion, the problem of their “reality without as causal chain” does not exist since there are no reliable sightings.

For the same reason For the same reason. lung’s comparison of a “reality without a causal chain” with the physical system of symmetry (page 2 of his letter [Letter 77, par. 4]) does not seem
to fit, whereas the analogy between the individuation process and the physical problem of symmetry (page 3 [ibid.])

I find good, also because of the way in which the characteristic of “orderedness” emerges more clearly in the “wholeness symbols.”

The conclusions you drew from your impressions of the international Physics Congress were very convincing for us; it is a pity that we were not able to talk in November, but we had to postpone our visit to Zurich because of Ursula’s long and difficult illness (she sends best wishes to you both).

We hope we shall soon be able to come in the new year.

With kind regards, also to Franka,

Yours, MAX KNOLL ~Max Knoll to Wolfgang Pauli, Atom and Archetype, Pages 200-202