As we enter the world we are infinite. We have no boundary. We are also zero. At three months, or so, we begin to distinguish that there is an “other” – the breast as part object. By 6 months old the boundary between us and the other (usually mother) is clear; and often frightening. Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present. Our world is strait, though we do not know it. As we age and explore we push the boundary back; and back. If we are fortunate, and conquer our fear, we realise once more that there is no boundary. We are existence and all of existence is us. Death is an illusion. When we leave the world we can then fade to white and lose the loneliness and fear that haunts life, to experience all that is directly once more.
(I spoke and thus saved my soul)
Wolgang Pauli in a letter to a fellow physicist, on pressure to comply with the atheistic positivism of his god-father Max Born:
“Many physicists and historians have of course advised me to break the connection between my Kepler essay and C.G. Jung… I am indifferent to the astral cult of Jung’s circle, but that, i.e., this dream symbolism, makes an impact! The book itself is a fateful “synchronicity” and must remain one. I am sure that defiance would have unhappy consquences as far as I am concerned. Dixi et salvavi animam meam!”
Wolgang Pauli, Nobel prize for discovery of the exclusion principle, discoverer of the neutrino and father of supersymmetry.
Pauli was – with Bohr, Planck, Heinsenberg, Dirac et al – a pioneer of quantum mechanics and Nobel Prize winner for Physics for discovery of the exclusion principle. He could equally have won the prize for his discovery of the Neutrino or of PCT Symmetry.
He is less known for his work on the philosophy of knowledge and for his work with Carl Jung on the links between physics and the psyche. They wrote papers together (in some of which Einstein participated) , which were only discovered and published in the 1970’s and also co-authored the book “The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche”.
In 1955 he gave a lecture at the University of Hamburg, “Science and Western Thought”, which he later described in analysis to Jung and to Niels Bohr. His interest throughout his life was to reconcile the “rational-critical” (Western Science) with the “mystical-irrational” (Eastern thought), to try to create a single framework of the physical and psychical.
“it is precisely by these means, that the scientist can more or less consciously tread a path of inner salvation. Slowly then develop inner images, fantasies or ideas, compensatory to the external situation”.
His belief in complementarity was fundamental; not just in physics but in general. For him and Jung the conscious and unconscious are mirrors of each other, and an understanding built solely out of one or the other is necessarily incomplete. (What Pauli sometimes referred to – witheringly – as “not even wrong”). This extended to his views on wider existence. He had an abiding interest in the views of Kepler and Newton – scientists working out of the alchemy tradition – “as above, so below” whose physical discoveries were incidental (to them) in their pursuit of the truth of God.
Pauli, with many great creative scientists, was a polymath. His scientific credentials are impeccable. His god-father was Ernst Mach and he was mentored by Arnold Sommerfeld. Albert Einstein proposed him for his Nobel Prize. He was a lifelong friend and collaborator of Bohr, Heisenberg and Dirac. All of his inquiring brought him to a concrete sense of the motive force and nature that lies beyond the physical or material world. He had a strong sense of humanity and humour, dealing gently with those of other or non-belief. For instance in response to Paul Dirac (who famously could not tolerate the religions and their politics) he quipped – “Well, I’d say that also our friend Dirac has got a religion and the first commandment of this religion is ‘God does not exist and Paul Dirac is his prophet'”.
Here he is on the nature of knowledge itself:
“the natural laws are of such a kind that every bit of knowledge gained from a measurement must be paid for by the loss of other, complementary items of knowledge.. the process of knowing is connected with the religious experience of transmutation undergone by him who acquires knowledge. This connection can only be comprehended through symbols which both imaginatively express the emotional aspect of the experience and stand in vital relationship to the sum total of contemporary knowledge and the actual process of cognition. Just because in our times the possibility of such symbolism has become an alien idea, it may be considered especially interesting to examine another age to which the concepts of what is now called classical scientific mechanics were foreign but which permits us to prove the existence of a symbol that had, simultaneously, a religious and a scientific function.”
Walter Heisenberg wrote of Pauli’s beliefs (in his book – “Across the Frontiers”)
“Pauli.. points out that even Kepler’s conversion to the Copernican theory, which marks the beginning of modern natural science, was decisively affected by certain primeval images or archetypes. He cites this passage from Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum: “The image of the triune God is in the sphere, namely of the Father in the centre, of the Son in the outer surface and of the Holy Ghost in the uniformity of connection between point and intervening space or surroundings”.
“Pauli considers, moreover, that Kepler’s symbol illustrates quite generally the attitude from which contemporary science has arisen. “From an inner centre, the mind seems to move outward in a sort of extraversion into the physical world, in which all happenings are assumed to be automatic, so that the spirit serenely encompasses this physical world , as it were, with its Ideas.” Thus the natural science of the modern era involves a Christian elaboration of the “lucid mysticism” of Plato, in which the unitary ground of spirit and matter is sought in the primeval images, and in which understanding has found its place in its various degrees and kinds, even to knowledge of the word of God.”
… that the universe is really one and that we and everything in it is connected, a part of the same thing – and so a part of each other. The loneliness and insecurity that is the subtext of all of our living would be illusory. So, indeed would be death. We would be all, part of each other. The making love, the smile shared with a stranger, the sense of one-ness within a brilliant landscape, the tenderness and awe holding your baby… all intimations and pale imitations of what existence would be. If we removed our blinkers. And, this is what scientific discovery points toward. So indeed does our brother, Jesus. What did he actually say? Love thy neighbour (as thyself), by the fruits shall ye know them, forgive over and over and over again (70×7), rich men shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Christ would have been, in our modern world, a revolutionary – but not a divider of people against people. He would have been, and is, the true blueprint of a socialist radical.
Imagine, if the universe is really one and that we and everything in it is connected, a part of the same thing – and so a part of each other. After all its what the science points toward.
I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me
For those of us who believe that this is not the only life, whatever our persuasion, then we stand in a similar perspective to that unborn child. What comes next? We don’t know for certain and therefore we are full of fear – as is McNeice’s subject. At least though that baby – all unknowing of what will come in that next life – is assured of there is one.
The poem if applied to most of us, unborn in this life, would be a contemplation of the moment of birth/death rather than of what lies beyond. So many of us get stuck with the question “Is there life after death”, rather than contemplating what it is and beginning to live it now.
Indeed that we spend so much of our time avoiding the whole subject of death and the wider context of existence – is I suspect a significant driver behind the rise of materialism. (Consume to forget. Materialism – the opiate of the masses). My hunch is that the most virulent evangelical atheists are those who are most full of fear. Their need is to convert, because like any addict there is at least a temporary relief from their underlying hunger.
I am perhaps fortunate that I almost died as a toddler (meningitis), since they say that this experience in small children – if survived – gives them a glimpse of beyond this life and therefore a context for the living of it. I know someone well who had a different experience though – aged 7 or so their near death experience left them with a knowledge of the short span of this life – much earlier than most – but possibly with the fear of the unknown rather than the hope of life to come.
I will ask their permission to talk further of their experience and journey since (indeed I would like to understand it better).
However it does seem to me that life is better lived with the long view. The context of what lies beyond this transitory set of experiences. Indeed it is this landscape that gives meaning to existence. Ours, and the worlds.
Prayer Before Birth
I am not yet born; O hear me. Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the club-footed ghoul come near me.
I am not yet born, console me. I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me, with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me, on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.
I am not yet born; provide me With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light in the back of my mind to guide me.
I am not yet born; forgive me For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me, my treason engendered by traitors beyond me, my life when they murder by means of my hands, my death when they live me.
I am not yet born; rehearse me In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white waves call me to folly and the desert calls me to doom and the beggar refuses my gift and my children curse me.
I am not yet born; O hear me, Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God come near me.
I am not yet born; O fill me With strength against those who would freeze my humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton, would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with one face, a thing, and against all those who would dissipate my entirety, would blow me like thistledown hither and thither or hither and thither like water held in the hands would spill me.
Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me. Otherwise kill me.
Animus, Anima. Declension of nouns describing polarity, intending integration
Animare. A verb. To live lovingly. Already connected, in conversation. A dance. Conjugation to wholeness.
(I’m already there).