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.”

Max Planck, the Constant Believer

 

“As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

Max Planck was the originator of Quantum Mechanics, and gives his name to the Planck Constant, relating energy to frequency and to the Planck Length – the smallest measure of length, below which nothing is knowable. He was a committed Lutheran; like many great scientists, one who questioned the nature of God’s knowability – but not God’s existence. “I am a deeply religious man, but that does not necessarily mean that I believe in a Christian God or even a personal God”.

He took issue with Pauli, Heisenberg and Bohr on their “Copenhagen Interpretation” of the results of quantum mechanical experiments – holding that eventually all matter would be found simply to be wave form. Odd, of course – given that it was his work that showed that photons behave as packets or quanta (it had much earlier been shown that light behaves as a wave). He eventually was proved wrong and the duality of existence at the fundamental level – both material and immaterial has now been proved.

He held that science was capable of answering only so much:

“Religion belongs to that realm that is inviolable before the law of causation and, therefore closed to science”.

And again:

“We might naturally assume that one of the achievements of science would have been to restrict belief in miracle. But it does not seem to do so.”

He most certainly would not have tolerated the current lazy assumption that in some way science and religion are incompatible or opposed to each other:

“There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls”.

And:

“the movement of atheists, which declares religion to be just a deliberate illusion, … eagerly makes use of progressive scientific knowledge. It is the steady, ongoing, never-slackening fight against scepticism and dogmatism, which religion and science wage together . The directing watchword in this struggle runs from the remotest past to the distant future: ‘On to God’”.

Einstein and Religion

“Scientists are likely to be atheists.”

This is a new-age myth that materialists attempt to foster. It is not based in truth. Indeed many surveys have shown that a greater proportion of scientists believe in God, personal or otherwise, than do the general population.

I want to work through the writings on the subject of some real scientific heros – Neils Bohr, Max Planck, Erwin Schroedinger, Werner Heisenberg and the man who got me started – with his work with Karl Jung – Wolfgang Pauli.

But, to start. What did Albert Einstein really think? (Apart from “God doesn’t play dice”).

He spoke often about the relation – and complementarity – of religion and science. His view was, of course, often canvassed. He set down his thoughts most extensively in “Ideas and Opinions” (1954) and ” The World As I See It” (1949).

Einstein was most definitely not a materialist, and considered  “true” science and “true” religion to be complementary.

“The interpretation of religion, as here advanced, implies a dependence of science on the religious attitude, a relation which, in our predominantly materialistic age, is only too easily overlooked. While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to who we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge”.

He did not adhere to any one religion. In his earlier writing he categorises his view of a kind of “progression” of religious thought from a “religion of fear” through to “moral religions” and finally a “cosmic religious feeling” – which he finds in:

“many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learnt from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer especially, contains a much stronger element of it. The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image”

 

He also admired particularly the writing and thinking of Francis of Assisi and Spinoza, together with the “Jewish-Christian” tradition.

“The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations”

Einstein did not think of religion and science as being in conflict – except where one sought to make statements related to the sphere of the other. This, applies both ways. He identified that each validly approached a different question.

“the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capable, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet it is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be..Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievement of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source.. mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends”.

Einstein did not in the end believe in an anthropomorphic God – made in man’s image, but he certainly believed in something beyond the material and knowable.

“A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in the alone, I am a deeply religious man”.