What Wolfgang Pauli Believed

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”.

Continuing to:

“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.”

Kabbalah and String Theory

 

According to string theory, all of reality exists in multiple dimensions. The number varies, but many versions say there are ten dimensions. These consist of the 4 dimensions we experience – 3 dimensions of space and 1 of time – together with others which are “curled up” so invisible to us. Now I’m not necessarily an advocate of string or superstring theory, which don’t seem to me to be testable even in principle…

However, it’s interesting perhaps that in Kabbalah…

“God emanated from His infinite light (through the process of tzimtzum–the “contraction” of  infinity) ten Divine lights or powers (sefirot) through which He created the universe. Each of these ten powers can be understood to be a  “dimension” of reality. All ten dimensions are seen to be contained within the “point-string”  (in the idiom of Chassidut, “a formed point” [in contrast to “an unformed point”], whose form resembles a tiny “string”)  of the letter yud = 10. The letter yud is the first letter of God’s essential Name Havayah. The full spelling of the letter yud is: yud (10), vav (6), dalet (4). The two additional letters, the vav (6) and the dalet (4)  themselves equal the original yud (10). The full spelling of the yud is thus to be understood as an equation: 10 = 6 plus 4. The 10 dimensions of reality divide into two categories, one of 6 and the other of 4.”

There appears to me to be a clear relationship. Of course it may be that the mathematicians and scientists behind string theory are influenced by conscious or unconscious knowledge of Kabbalah, or alternatively that science is revealing ancient knowledge differently expressed.

 

The Point

The dot was alone. He could only look inward, there was nothing else. Doing so he contracted. In the end he was pointless.

He awoke in time, which made him a line. A path with a here-to-from and a hereafter. For ever after. But where was time before he woke. Because he knew only himself, he called that Big Bang. Important. And there was only the path and his memory and expectation.

But other lines crossed, intersected, joined and diverged. Other became. What was he? Was he a he, or a she, or an it? He was IT, the path. THE path. Those others. The intersections weren’t real like he was. They appeared only as dots, waypoints on HIS path.

But the others, those intrusive arrogant, wrong and other others. Kept coming, twisting around and enfolding him. Was he a string, a super string, a rope or a braid?

Then it was plain. They, she – was a plane. A surface with infinite lines. She was afraid to lose her dottiness. Would she dissolve in the plain plane and cease to exist? She was granular surely. She didn’t want to be a solution.

Her nature had curled with the help of the free “we” into consciousness. She had begun to see the plain as a green field, then saw the blue sky. We were afraid because..

There was depth in us. But we learned to swim in this sea of possibility, to revel in being. Not drowning, but waving.

And the freedom came when we realised that we were all dotty. Pointless alone.  All in all together. Speaking volumes.

(and we’re looking forward to the mysteries of the 6 curled dimensions)