Wolfgang Pauli: „I carry both Kepler and Fludd within myself”

Based on his dreams and visions, Wolfgang Pauli, the co-founder of quantum physics and Nobel Prize laureate in 1945, believed that, symbolically speaking, he carried both Johannes Kepler, the founder of modern natural science, and Robert Fludd, the hermetic alchemist and magician, within himself. Moreover, he was convinced that it was his task to resolve the conflict between these two contradictory world views, natural science on the one hand, and the magical hermetic-alchemical one on the other[1].

Very early on in his correspondence with Carl Gustav Jung it becomes apparent that he wants to solve this task by orienting himself on the physical complementarity of Niels Bohr[2]. Bohr had shown that it depends on the observation instrument whether we see the phenomena of external nature as corpuscles or as waves. Analogously, the Nobel Prize winner postulated a complementarity between quantum physics and Jung’s depth psychology: if we look at the world from the outside, we will thus find, according to Pauli’s hypothesis, the postulates of quantum physics, and if we look at it from the inside, those of C.G. Jung’s depth psychology.

This endeavour was relativized by a dream in 1946, in which Pauli’s dream ego, with the help of the inner magician, wanted to replace the „objectification of rotation“, that is, the physical concept of spin created by Pauli, with a Daoist meditative exercise, the so-called circulation of the light[3]. The outer rotation was thus to be replaced by an inner rotation. In this dream, the tendency in Pauli to replace the physical process with a process in the psychophysical reality behind, or even beyond, the Cartesian split into an outside and an inside becomes visible for the first time. Instead of a complementarity, a reunification of events, an actual coniunctio (unification of opposites), as well as their observation in psychophysical reality is to be achieved. Since coniunctio is the main concern of hermetic alchemy, we can therefore say in symbolic language: „Fludd“ prevails over „Kepler“!

It is Pauli’s dream ego that proposes this solution to the inner magician. This is one of the few moments in which the hermetic-alchemical magician, who otherwise criticises the scientific results of the quantum physicist extremely vehemently[4], agrees with Pauli and even supports him in the insight that, with the help of the Daoist meditation exercise, he has found the first key to solving the problem of transforming spin into a rotation that can be experienced internally.

We know from depth psychology practice that in many cases the dream ego does not coincide with the conscious ego. In Pauli’s case, it is what I call the Eros consciousness, an „abaissement du niveau mental“ (Pierre Janet) usually devalued by psychiatry and psychotherapy, that corresponds to this complementary consciousness. In the meditative process, it consciously suppresses directed thinking and abandons itself to its inner images, feelings and vegetative bodily sensations[5]. I call the conscious experience of this procedure Body-Centred Imagination (BCI), or in the case of physical symptoms Symptom-Symbol transformation (SST)[6].

However, the quantum physicist, who was considered an intellectual prodigy by his colleagues, is afraid of using this procedure. The fear is that he believes he would fall into a psychosis[7] if he were to leave the Logos consciousness and enter the complementary Eros consciousness, which is absolutely necessary to reach this mystical state. A visit to the Swiss saint and mystic Nicholas von Flüe in the Ranft near Sachseln (Canton Obwalden, Switzerland)[8], where he learns about some of the saint’s visions, fascinates him extraordinarily on the one hand, but at the same time he believes that Nicholas’ life in the Eros state does not correspond to his destiny. It is the fear of letting go of the power attitude of the Logos, which also afflicts so many people today, that prevents him from experiencing a complementarity between the Logos dominated by thought and the Eros guided by feeling, instead of a complementarity between quantum physics and Jungian depth psychology. „Fludd“ should, but cannot, take the place of „Kepler“.

On the level of consciousness, then, the conflict between “Kepler” and “Fludd” in Pauli signifies the conflict between the life of the two complementary modes of consciousness. In an extremely large number of Pauli’s dreams, the overcoming of this conflict is depicted by the transition from oscillation to rotation.

Pauli is unconsciously overwhelmed by this problem without being able to see a solution. It is therefore very convenient for him that Jung had explained to him in one of their personal encounters[9] that in his opinion the rotation (and the mandala), the „inner spin“ so to speak, is a symbol of the expansion of consciousness that happens with the help of the method of Active Imagination discovered by the depth psychologist, and which he calls the individuation process. By this, the depth psychologist understands a dialectical procedure of the logos consciousness, a „confrontation with the unconscious“[10], which leads to the withdrawal of mostly negative projections into fellow human beings and thus to a „purification“ and expansion of the logos consciousness.

Pauli has thus found the complementarity he was looking for: for him, the quantum-physical spin corresponds to Jung’s individuation process, the process of expansion of the logos consciousness that takes place in it. „Kepler“ wins against „Fludd“!

The fascination of roundness and rotation, however, does not let Pauli go. The roundness of Nicholas von Flüe’s wheel image, which he had seen during his visit to the Ranft in Flüeli near Sachseln, triggers in him a further preoccupation with the complementarity between physics and depth psychology. He thinks that in making his discoveries Kepler was projecting an inner process of rotation into the outside world[11]. This view serves him to substantiate the complementarity between the outer rotation of the planets and the symbolic inner one of the expansion of consciousness through Active Imagination, Jung’s individuation process. However, it does not occur to him that in this view the spin he postulates could also correspond to such a projection.

In this complementary description of what happens in the world—physical spin versus symbolic „inner spin“ of becoming conscious—there is no place for the Daoist circulation of the light, an exercise that requires Eros consciousness to be carried out successfully. Active imagination does not lead to a unification of the (Eros-)ego with the universe or with psychophysical reality, but rather, through the withdrawal of projections in the process of confrontation with the unconscious, to an objective differentiation from one’s fellow human beings, individuation, and thus to a detachment from the unconscious „participation mystique“ (Claude Lévy-Bruhl) with them.

The visit to Nicholas von Flüe and the viewing of the wheel image also trigger a preoccupation in Pauli with the problem of the Trinity versus the double-Trinity. The latter occurs extraordinarily often in his dreams. He interprets the Trinity as the archetypal basis of the principle of causality, which Johannes Kepler had introduced into natural science. He also knows that the double-triadic image, the Seal of Solomon or Star of David, corresponds to a fundamental symbol of Hermetic alchemy. So „Kepler“, the causal natural scientist, and „Fludd“, the hermetic magician, come together again, but their relationship remains in irresolvable conflict.

Nor does „Fludd“, and thus hermetic alchemy, let go of Pauli. As he explains in detail in the Kepler/Fludd article[12], in the symbolic opus of hermetic alchemy the upper world, the „heaven“, or the „king“, descends into a middle sphere and becomes ever more subtle in the process. At the same time, the lower world, the „earth“, the „queen“, rises upwards, also into the middle sphere, and it also becomes subtle in the process. In this middle sphere the two unite. This process, as mentioned, is called the coniunctio (union of opposites) or Holy Wedding. As a result of this sexually conceived union, the infans solaris, the sun-moon child, is born. This „child“ in the subtle sphere of psychophysical reality, corresponds, among others, to the red tincture, the remedy for all diseases (medicina catholica) and the guarantor of eternal life in the afterlife (Paracelsus).

Pauli is able to grasp this event theoretically. He sees above all the difference[13] between neo-Platonic alchemy, the eternal cycle in which nothing new is created, and hermetic alchemy, the process of creating the sun-moon child and the red tincture, which, in contrast to the neo-Platonic procedure, also transforms the adept. But the quantum physicist cannot empirically perform the hermetic process of the coniunctio or Holy Wedding, since he lacks the conscious transition from Logos consciousness to Eros consciousness, hermetic-alchemically speaking, the transformation of the adept.

The sun-moon child also corresponds to the liberated world soul, the symbolic expression of the energetic principle of psychophysical reality. Other symbolic equivalents exist for this principle: the quintessence or homunculus, the artificially created human being, and the lapis, the „subtle stone“. Most important for our purposes is the rotundum, which begins to rotate spontaneously in the final phase of the hermetic process. This rotation naturally reminds us of the Daoist circulation of the light, which according to Pauli’s inner magician is supposed to replace spin. The circulation of the light is supposed to lead into a union of the ego with the universe or psychophysical reality. Thus, the Daoist imagination stands in stark contrast to Jung’s Active Imagination, which strives for a detachment of the ego from „participation mystique“ with the environment, i.e., the withdrawal of projections, and is thus supposed to lead into individuation.

In 1950, Pauli wrote to Jung that in his dreams Jung’s Self, which the depth psychologist understands as the inner image of God in every human being, is replaced by the radioactive nucleus, and that this radioactive core therefore corresponds to the lapis, the „subtle stone“, the final product of the alchemical opus. Further, we know that Pauli’s inner magician replaces Jung’s concept of synchronicity, a psychophysical concept, with radioactivity with penetrating persistence. Moreover, the quantum physicist shows that (physical) radioactivity and the (psychophysical) red tincture of hermeticism have very similar properties, especially the phenomenon of multiplicatio. This multiplicatio is shown in radioactivity by the destructive radiation that immediately contaminates the whole environment, in the red tincture by a supernatural radiation of the subtle body that has, however, a constructive and healing effect in the nearer and wider environment (therefore it is also called medicina catholica, the all-healing medicine).

We can conclude from this that the magician, the representative of hermetic alchemical magic, wants to bring radioactivity, which is actually physically defined, to the level of psychophysical reality. The psychophysical process of hermetic alchemy, the production of the red tincture with its magical radiance, the multiplicatio, the observation of which represents a profoundly inner occurrence, thereby replaces the purely physically defined radioactivity.

And the magician and Robert Fludd respectively continue to rumble in the depths of Pauli’s psyche in a further train of thought. The replacement of the physical concept of radioactivity by the psychophysical concept of the magical red tincture is complemented by another reflection of the quantum physicist. In his writing „Background Physics“[14], he is preoccupied with the phenomenon that the anomalous Zeeman effect is based on a physically inexplicable multiple splitting of the spectral lines (which eventually led him to the mathematical formulation of spin). Pauli compares this multiple splitting, which he interprets as multiplicatio, with the splitting of the yogin’s ego in the Daoist meditation of the circulation of the light, which ultimately leads to the creation of the subtle body. This „child“ of meditation is more enduring than the ego, can outlive it and express itself in hauntings and ghostly apparitions. Moreover, it has a physical existence in addition to the psychic one, the latter, however, in a very unclear way.

So in both cases, symbolically speaking, „Fludd“ has triumphed over „Kepler“; hermetic has prevailed over natural science. It cannot be overemphasised what a revolution this development triggered by the preconscious knowledge[15] of the unconscious means: The Nobel Prize winner in physics, whose sharp mind impressed all his contemporary colleagues, begins to search for phenomena that supplement or even want to overcome natural science with the help of hermetic alchemical and therefore magical procedures. By including psychophysical reality in the above considerations, he—consciously or unconsciously—expands materialistic physics into a hermetic alchemical worldview. To my knowledge, Pauli is the only quantum physicist who, forced by an inner urge, had to follow this process.

But now the natural scientist “Kepler” reasserts himself in Pauli’s consciousness. In 1949, he writes to Jung that the replacement of red tincture by radioactivity represents an „expression of an advance in our knowledge“[16]. He thus opposes the magician’s solution of replacing (physical) radioactivity with (psychophysical) red tincture in an expanded theory, as well as physical spin with the Daoist circulation of the light and their goal, the construction of the subtle body. In this regression into materialistic physics, it becomes apparent that in Pauli „Kepler“ had now definitely outdone „Fludd“—the inclusion of hermetic alchemy in the description of nature and its magical processes was definitively eliminated.

Instead of trying to include hermetic alchemy into our picture of the world, together with Heisenberg, Pauli tried to develop a (completely materialistic) unified field theory that he presented in New York on February 1st, 1958 to Niels Bohr, C.S. Wu, Oppenheimer, Abraham Pais, and others[17]. Pais describes the situation as follows: “I was present and vividly recall my reaction: this was not Pauli I had known for so many years. He spoke hesitantly. Afterward, a few people, including Niels Bohr and myself, gathered around him. Pauli said to Bohr: ‘You may well think that all this is crazy.’ To which Bohr replied: ‘Yes, but unfortunately it is not crazy enough’.”[18]

One month before his early death, in a letter from Nov 17, 1958[19] to C.S. Wu, he eventually wrote: I now completely agree with Bohr [that our theory] is not crazy enough. Something entirely new, in other words something very “crazy” is needed.

In my opinion, the “crazy theory” must include hermetic principles. In Return of the World Soul, Part 2—A Psychophysical Theory[20] I tried to formulate such a theory.


Jung, C.G., Erinnerungen, Träume, Gedanken, Chapter: Die Auseinandersetzung mit dem Unbewussten
Jung, C.G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections, chapter VI, Confrontation with the Unconscious
Meier, C.A., (ed.), Atom and Archetype, The Pauli/Jung Letters 1932-1958, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 2001; (abbreviated as AaA)
Meier, C.A., (ed.), Wolfgang Pauli und C.G. Jung, Ein Briefwechsel 1932-1958, Springer, Berlin, 1992; (abbreviated as PJB)
Pauli, W., Der Einfluss archetypischer Vorstellungen auf die Bildung naturwissenschaftlicher Theorien bei Kepler, in:Jung, C.G., Pauli, W., Naturerklärung und Psyche, 1952
Pauli, W., The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler, in: Writings in Physics and Philosophy, Springer, Berlin, 1994
Pauli, W., Wissenschaftlicher Briefwechsel mit Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, u.a, Band 4/I: 1950-1952, ed. Karl v. Meyenn, Springer, Berlin, 1996; (abbreviated as WB 4/I)
Pauli, W., Wissenschaftlicher Briefwechsel mit Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, u.a, Band 4/II: 1953-1954, ed. Karl v. Meyenn, Springer, Berlin, 1999; (abbreviated as WB 4/II)
Roth, R.F., Return of the World Soul, Part 1—The Battle of the Giants, Pari Publishing, Pari, Italy, 2011, Chapter 4
Roth, R.F., Return of the World Soul, Part 2—A Psychophysical Theory, Pari Publishing, Pari, Italy, 2012
Roth, R.F., The_Wheel_Image_of_Nicholas_von_Flue_as_Symbol_of_the_Subtle_Body, https://www.academia.edu/11710869/The_Wheel_Image_of_Nicholas_von_Flue_as_Symbol_of_the_Subtle_Body_Sketch_of_a_Twenty_Year_Research_Effort

[1] Pauli, Wolfgang, Wissenschaftlicher Briefwechsel mit Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, u.a, Band 4/I: 1950-1952, ed. Karl v. Meyenn, Springer, Berlin, 1996; abbreviated as WB 4/I, p. 226: “Ich glaube, dass ich sowohl den ‘Kepler’ wie den ‘Fludd’ in mir selber trage und dass es für mich eine Notwendigkeit ist, zu einer Synthese dieses Gegensatzpaares zu gelangen, so gut ich kann.” My translation: I believe that I carry both ‚Kepler‘ and ‚Fludd‘ within myself and that it is a necessity for me to arrive at a synthesis of this pair of opposites as best I can.

[2] See enclosure to Pauli’s letter [13P] to Jung from Oct, 2, 1935, in: Meier, C.A., (ed.), Wolfgang Pauli und C.G. Jung, Ein Briefwechsel 1932-1958, Springer, Berlin, 1992; (abbreviated as PJB), pp. 16-17 respectively Meier, C.A., (ed.), Atom and Archetype, The Pauli/Jung Letters 1932-1958, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 2001; (abbreviated as AaA), pp. 11-12

Unfortunately, the original German edition as well as the English translation Atom and Archetype is full of errors, which seem to be based on the transcription of the handwritten letters of Pauli and Jung by C.A. Meier. I found these errors by looking up these handwritten letters [Manuscript Hs 1056] in the library of the ETH (Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) and comparing them with the printed version. The reader is especially pointed to letter [29P], p. 26, in which a crucial mistake turns around the whole meaning of one of the most important statements of Pauli’s: He thought that ‘there is room left for a new type of law of nature,’ thus a third type of law of nature besides the causal laws of Newton’s and Einstein’s physics on the one hand and the statistical causal laws of quantum physics on the other. Meier writes exactly the contrary: ‘That there is no room left …’

[3] See PJB, letter [32] from Feb 25, 1946, pp. 34-35 respectively AaA, letter [32P], pp.30-31; see also Return of the World Soul, Part 2, section 6.16.1 „People who know what rotation is“

[4] See PJB, Pauli’s letter [44] from Nov 16, 1950 to Emma Jung, pp. 52-56, respectively AaA, letter [44P], pp. 49-53

[5] The Eros ego or Eros awareness is complementary to the Logos ego. In my definition it consists in introverted feeling, vegetative sensation and intuition. Thinking is its inferior function. The Eros ego becomes creative if it consciously accepts the inferiority of thinking. Then, in a state of half trance, it becomes able to perceive the preconscious knowledge of the unconscious (C.G. Jung) and can transform it into colloquial language of today. The Eros ego is also necessary for the processes of Synchronicity Quest, Body-Centred Imagination (BCI) and Symptom-Symbol Transformation (SST). The historical background of the Eros ego is the Logos spermatikos of the Stoa.

[6] Description see in Return 2, sections 6.13 und 6.14

[7] See PJB, footnote 5, p. 184, respectively AaA, footnote 5, p. 187, and especially letter [1625] to M.-L. von Franz from August 21, 1953, WB 4/II, p. 252

[8] See Pauli‘s letter [30] from Mai 24, 1934 (not 1939, as the editor C.A. Meier erroneously writes), in PJB, p. 32, respectively letter [30P] in AaA, p. 28. To Nicholas von Flüe see also Roth, R.F., The_Wheel_Image_of_Nicholas_von_Flue_as_Symbol_of_the_Subtle_Body, https://www.academia.edu/11710869/The_Wheel_Image_of_Nicholas_von_Flue_as_Symbol_of_the_Subtle_Body_Sketch_of_a_Twenty_Year_Research_Effort

[9] See Pauli, W., Der Einfluss archetypischer Vorstellungen auf die Bildung naturwissenschaftlicher Theorien bei Kepler, in:Jung, C.G., Pauli, W., Naturerklärung und Psyche, p. 132, footnote 5; respectively Pauli, W., The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler, in: Writings in Physics and Philosophy, p. 234; footnote 16

[10] See Jung, C.G., Erinnerungen, Träume, Gedanken, Kapitel: Die Auseinandersetzung mit dem Unbewussten, pp. 174, respectively Jung, C.G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections, chapter VI, Confrontation with the Unconscious, pp. 194

[11] Pauli, W., The Influence of Archetypal Ideas, in: Writings in Physics and Philosophy, p. 234; footnote 16

[12] Pauli, W., Der Einfluss archetypischer Vorstellungen auf die Bildung naturwissenschaftlicher Theorien bei Kepler, in:Jung, C.G., Pauli, W., Naturerklärung und Psyche, 1952; English translation in Pauli, W., The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler in Pauli, W., Writings on Physics and Philosophy, ed. Charles P. Enz and Karl von Meyenn, Springer, Berlin, 1994, pp. 244-247

[13] To Pauli’s distinction between neo-Platonic and hermetic alchemy see Roth, R.F., Return of the World Soul, Part 1, chapter 4

[14] AaA, p. 186, respectively PJB, pp. 182-183

[15] One of the most important attributes of the collective unconscious is its preconscious or absolute knowledge that shows in archetypal dreams and synchronicities. Jung discovered the preconscious knowledge in his big life crisis from 1913 to 1918. In it, two characters, Philemon and Elias showed him insights that he was not conscious of. Later, in India, he realized that the gurus are used to talk with their deceased teachers. That way, he began to understand that such preconscious knowledge exists.

[16] AaA, p. 41 respectively PJB, p. 44

[17] WB 4/IV, p. 871

[18] WB 4/IV, p. 898

[19] WB 4/IV, p. 1331

[20] Pari Publishing, Pari, Italy, 2012

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