The dialogue between religion and science takes place not only as an open debate between two disciplines. It is also a movement towards wholeness in an individual who seeks to reconcile inner and outer, subjective and objective, theory and experience. In considering this relationship between science and religion it is useful to turn to the life of Wolfgang Pauli, one of the most important physicists of the twentieth century.
Pauli was born in 1900 in Vienna and published his first scientific paper within two months of leaving high school. By the age of twenty he had written a 200-page article on the theory of relativity that was praised by Einstein in the following words, “no one studying this mature, grandly conceived work could believe the author is a man of 21(sic). One wonders what to admire most…the psychological understanding of the development of ideas, sureness of mathematical deduction, profound physical insight, capacity of presentation.”
Pauli’s conversations with Heisenberg paved the way for the quantum theory and, within months of Heisenberg’s discovery, Pauli had applied the new theory to calculate the spectrum of the hydrogen atom. His later discussions with Bohr helped to formulate the interpretation of that theory. His famous Exclusion Principle explains why there is structure in the universe. Electrons, protons and other particles called fermions are governed by a principle of antisymmetry, which means that they cannot all be in the same quantum state. This restriction gives rise to the differentiation of the material world into the various chemical elements. On the other hand, boson particles are governed by principles of symmetry which allows them to congregate into a single coherent state, as is the case with lasers, superconductors and superfluids. Pauli’s vision of overarching symmetry in nature also led him to predict the neutrino, twenty-five years before it was discovered experimentally.
For his part, Max Born, believed Pauli to be a greater scientist than Einstein. Yet Pauli’s name has never been well known to the general public as the other scientific giants of the last three hundred years. The reason is that Pauli preferred to work behind the scenes proposing new ideas and providing critical comments in conversations, lectures and letters.
In his personality Pauli was something of a paradox. While some refered to Pauli as “the conscience of physics” others nicknamed him “the frightful Pauli” and “the whip of God” because of his brutal and scathing comments during seminars. Referring to a colleague’s paper, for example, he said, “This isn’t right. This isn’t even wrong.”
Pauli was deeply attached to his mother who committed suicide in 1927 on discovering her husband was having an affair. From this point on Pauli’s life went to pieces. His marriage to a nightclub singer lasted only a few weeks. Increasingly he turned to drink and became aggressive in bars to the point where he was thrown out. Finally in his thirtieth year he consulted Carl Jung who found him, “a very one-sided individual whose unconscious had become troubled and activated; so it projected itself onto other men who appeared to be his enemies…he became terrible lonely….he began to drink…quarrel…got beaten up” In Jungian typology, Pauli was a thinking type whose feeling function had been so repressed and unacknowledged that it now threatened to burst out and overwhelm him.
Jung also found Pauli so “chock full of archaic material” that, not wishing to influence or “contaminate” this material in any way, he referred him to a colleague, Erna Rosenbaum, for dream analysis. Rosenbaum had only just qualified so Jung knew she would not “tamper” with her patient. And indeed over the five months of analysis Pauli reported hundreds of remarkable dreams. He had opened up a dialogue with the very deepest levels of his unconscious mind and, in turn, it had begun to teach him. Pauli’s encounter with the unconscious culminated in a vision of such sublime harmony – the World Clock – that it produced something akin to a religious conversion in the physicist. This dream expressed the mysterious harmony of the cosmos and in its symbolism united two worlds – represented by rotating discs. This theme of unification of two worlds would occur again and again in Pauli’s waking and dreaming life.
Thanks to these messages from the unconscious Pauli began to have insights into his own nature and sensed the danger of his personality in oscillating from one extreme to another. He realized that he had been cold, cynical, atheist and intellectual. He could swing, he wrote, from the thug and criminal to a nonintellectual hermit who had outbursts of ecstasy and visions.
Around 1935 Pauli dreamed that Einstein came to him and told him that quantum theory was one-dimensional but reality was two-dimensional. Pauli must accept a new dimension to reality and he believed that the missing dimension was the unconscious and its archetypes. Jung had proposed the archetypes as structuring principles of the unconscious mind but Pauli now argued that they were also the underlying principles for structures and processes in the physical world. To this end he embarked on a research program to develop what he termed a “neutral language”, one that would apply equally well to physics as to psychology. He collaborated with Jung on the latter’s work on synchronicity ( Jung’s “acausal connecting principle” or “meaningful connection”). Independently he began to study the way the archetype of the Trinity had influenced Kepler in his formulation of the laws of planetary motion.