The Personal Equation of the Human Observer in the Work of Wolfgang Pauli
Physicist Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958) won the Nobel Prize in 1945 for his formulation of the exclusion principle that helped to explain the complex ordering of the elements on the periodic table.
Interestingly, Pauli also collaborated with Carl Jung between 1932 and 1958 in conceptualizing the unconscious as the psychological analogy of the field concept in quantum physics. During this collaboration, Pauli noted that, since the sixteenth century science with its notions of a totally objective detached human observer, strict mechanistic determinism, and absolute causality, had so totally exorcised “spirit” and metaphysics from its investigations into the empirical laws of nature that it had succumbed to a one-sided development. In other words, science had become unbalanced, lacking the wholeness which would be restored if the consciousness or personal equation of the observer were to be integrated into the understanding of nature. The term “personal equation” was coined in the collaboration between Jung and Pauli. According to Pauli and as noted by the late high energy physicist Kalervo Laurikainen
. . . the most important lesson that quantum mechanics has given us is that we must always include the observer in our picture of the world. This was the original spirit in the Copenhagen philosophy and, exactly in this point Pauli represents this philosophy in the most consistent way.19
The myth of the detached observer is a relic of classical, Newtonian mechanics prior to the quantum revolution. Paradoxically, no science would exist in the absence of the consciousness of the human observer nor would mathematics, which is itself a psychological process “describing relationships organizing matter,” as noted by Karl Pribram!20 Pribram, a neuroscientist best known for his work on the holographic brain, also rejects the notion that consciousness is an epiphenomenal by-product of brain processes remarking that “conscious attention shapes subsequent behavior.”21
Classical physics and a Newtonian mechanistic (or “clockwork”) universe had no room for the human observer or for the mind that nevertheless devised experiments and deduced elegant mathematical laws from them in pursuit of scientific understanding of the origins and future destiny of the universe. In fact, neither classicalphysics nor Darwin’s theory of evolution could explain the anomaly of mind or consciousness with the consequence that mental (psychic) qualities were either squeezed out of existence or marginalized as mere epiphenomenal by-products of brain processes.
Pauli regarded this anomaly as troublesome particularly because scientific theories were “products of the psyche” with a great deal of unconscious preparation. Pauli noted in his correspondence that in quantum experiments the consciousness of the observer could no longer be ignored and, probably due to his collaboration with Carl Jung, he concluded that repression of the psyche after the seventeenth century had been one-sided and dangerous, creating “a materialistic culture in which the influence of religion has continuously diminished and of which a very strict separation between science and religion is characteristic.”22
Pauli, together with Jung wanted spirit to be acknowledged as a basic element of the world along with matter so that the universe would be perceived as an organism rather than as a clock, a vision of cosmogenesis similar to that of Teilhard’s noogenesis that implies evolving “towards a divine focus of mind.”23 Pauli and Jung were both mystically inclined with a sense of psychic and physical codes implicit in cosmology and evolution. They had concluded that a relationship of complementarity exists between mind and matter that is analogous to the wave particle duality. This was the epistemological model of a dual-aspect monism having metaphysical implications. One observer described the nature of these connotations saying: “Metaphysics taken seriously in the sense of Pauli and Jung refers to a kind of reality more substantial, more material as it were than everything that physics and psychology would characterize as real.”24 This form of extra-physical reality was designated by a mode of cognition expressed through abstract symbols. In a letter to physicist Marcus Fierz, Pauli states:
What I have in mind concerning such a new idea of reality is— in provisional terms—the idea of the reality of the symbol. On the one hand a symbol is a product of human effort, on the otherhand it indicates an objective order in the cosmos of which humans are only part.25
Thus, Pauli regarded the Jungian unconscious archetypes as verifiable in the external phenomenal world and in the internal world of the psyche. He represented the unconscious as establishing relationships that were not trivial or superficial. For example, he wrote in a letter:
Regarding the psychological analogy of the physical field concept, it seems to me to lie in the notion of the unconscious. The latter emerged more or less synchronously with the former… For the unconscious also posits a reality like the physical field. This is (in an everyday sense) an invisible reality mediating a connection between spatially (and maybe also temporally) distant visible phenomena. This seems to me to express a deeper similarity rather than only a superficial analogy.26
Furthermore, in a letter to Jung, Pauli wrote, “like all ideas, the unconscious is simultaneously in man and in nature; the ideas have no location, even not in heaven. Consciousness, on the other hand, was supposed to be only a late-born offspring of the unconscious soul.”27 Thus like Pauli’s unconscious, the Jungian unconscious with its numinous archetypes of the Self and God image is not spatiotemporally bound but transcends space-time. As already suggested, these physicists were exploring an epistemologically dual-aspect monism to conceptualize mind in a way which would be analogous to the wave-particle duality in quantum physics.
Pauli had evolved a profound interest in the structure of Jungian theory that he hoped to enrich with insights from quantum physics, especially a concept of the unconscious as co-extensive with the cosmos. For him, psyche and physics like science and religion exist in a relationship of complementarity rather than being irreconcilable opposites or mutually antagonistic.
One archetype that was particularly meaningful to Pauli was the coniunctio oppositorum, the union of opposites or wholeness reflectedin non-local effects, interconnectedness, and holism associated with both the quantum situation and the unconscious psyche.28 Pauli’s cosmic ordering principles or archetypes were not spatiotemporally bound or confined. They were as universal and timeless or eternal as those which, like the archetypes of God and the Self, belonged to Jung’s collective unconscious, particularly when identified with the external universe or the so-called cosmos within.
Such notions seem to be in a direct line of descent from Teilhard’s concepts of complexity-consciousness, noosphere, and Omega point as the culmination of humanization and cultural evolution. Teilhard wrote,
In Omega we have in the first place the principle we needed to explain the persistent march of things towards greater consciousness. . . . By its radial nucleus it finds its shape and its natural consistency in gravitating against the tide of improbability towards a divine focus of mind which draws it onward.29
Regarding the birth of thought, Teilhard wrote, “We saw geogenesis promoted to biogenesis which turned out in the end to be nothing else than psychogenesis. . . . Psychogenesis has led to man.”30
In addition to his contribution to understanding the psychophysical problem, Pauli was particularly interested in biological evolution while being skeptical that the evolution of life and emergent consciousness could be explained only through the natural selection of random mutations. Pauli wrote the following to Niels Bohr:
In discussions with biologists I met with difficulties when they apply the concept of natural selection in a rather wide field without being able to estimate the probability of the occurrence in an empirically given time, of just those events which have been important for biological evolution. Treating the empirical time scale of the evolution theoretically as infinity, they have an easy game to avoid the concept of purposiveness while they pretend to stay in this way completely scientific and rational.31
Empirical research entails estimating the probability of events within finite and theoretically explicit timeframes to permit the formulation of predictions. In neo-Darwinian theory, an implicitly infinite timeframe facilitates a virtually miraculous function for the chance or random variations that become available for natural selection while avoiding any Lamarckian, adaptive, or purposive mechanisms in the evolution of species.
Aside from the transcendence of biological by psychosocial evolution, the phenomena of mind and emergent consciousness, non-random or directed mutations,32 and the existence of finality (purpose) in evolution would imply the failure of strict neoDarwinism as an explanatory framework. Such phenomena would be consistent with the existence of an unconscious “God” principle implicit in the evolutionary process, while constituting a challenge to dogmatic neo-Darwinism with its reliance on the natural selection of random variations operating during prodigious time epochs. In the Jung/Pauli collaboration the unconscious psyche or U-field is the psychological analogy of the field concept in physics while not being spatiotemporally bound. Teilhard’s work on the emergence of the noosphere from cosmogenesis, I believe, does represent a challenge to strict neo-Darwinism as Julian Huxley’s exegesis of The Phenomenon of Man implies. How an unconscious God principle or archetype becomes conscious through incarnation in humanity is a question addressed in the contributions of Pauli and Bohm as well as Jung’s treatment of religion in his Collected Works.33 Pauli’s archetypes are analogous to Bohm’s active information in providing a bridge between mind and matter that permits a relationship of complementarity between physis and psyche, science and religion.
The Emergence of Numinous Self Relection
Some of the statements of Pauli, Jung, and Bohm suggest a tendency to identify Mind in its unconscious aspects with an archetypal source of numinous experience and with a God immanent in matter itself. Teilhard expresses an analogous idea when he writes,
Psychogenesis has led to man. Now it effaces itself, relieved or absorbed by another and a higher function—the engendering and subsequent development of all the stages of the mind in one word noogenesis . . . outside and above the biosphere is the noosphere. . . . With hominisation, in spite of the insignificance of the anatomical leap. . . . [t]he earth “gets a new skin.” Better still, it finds its soul.34
Jung quite specifically writes of the evolution of God according to the archetype of the coniunctio oppositorum or wholeness.35 He seems to be treating God (and Christianity) as a patient in analysis for whom consciousness needs to be brought into His unconscious darkness in a self-transformative process, one of individuating and becoming whole. As noted in the work of Bohm and Pauli, rudimentary mind-like qualities are present even at the quantum level, prior to the emergence of reflective consciousness. Consciousness is the mirror that the universe has evolved to reflect upon itself and in which its very existence is revealed.
However, it is precisely this expanded and higher consciousness which Jung believes God acquires through incarnation in humankind. In this sense too, Jung believes that God needs humankind to become both whole and complete. The implication is that God and humanity are in an entangled state and that the individuation of each is inextricably bound with the other. In other words, the evolution of God and the evolution of humanity cannot be separated. Christ is a symbol of the Self and of the coniunctio, since Christ in Jung’s thought reconciles opposites. Jung writes,
One should make it clear to oneself what it means when God becomes man. It means nothing less than a world-shaking transformation of God. It means more or less what creation meant in the beginning, namely an objectivation of God. At the time of creation he revealed himself in nature; now he wants to be more specific and become man.36
Jung refers to the human as well as the divine nature of Christ, alluding to the
. . . despairing cry from the cross, “My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me?” Here, his human nature acquires divinity; at that moment God experiences what it means to be a mortal man and drinks to the dregs what he has made his faithful servant Job suffer. Here is given the answer to Job and clearly this moment is as divine as it is human, as eschatological as it is psychological.37
Such transformations in the God archetype are very close to the noogenesis and Christogenesis of Teilhard de Chardin as seems clear in Jung’s further amplification of the significance of God becoming human as the word made flesh and the Light referred to in the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel. Finally Jung envisions an evolution of the imago Dei through historic time:
The future indwelling of the Holy Ghost in man amounts to a continuing incarnation of God. Christ as the begotten son of God and pre-existing mediator is a first born and a divine paradigm which will be followed by further incarnations of the Holy Ghost in the empirical man.38
Through ongoing incarnation in humanity, God becomes conscious and is completed by humankind in directed evolution. It is as an archetypal and cosmic reality rather than a purely theological concept that the idea of an evolving God seems to be most compatible with those notions of rudimentary mind mentioned above in the contributions from quantum physics such as those ofPauli and Bohm as well as the noogenesis of Teilhard de Chardin culminating in his divine focus of Mind and the God-Omega point.
Concerning a transcendent order in cosmogenesis and the culmination of a continuing process of incarnation Teilhard wrote, “The mystical Christ has not yet reached the peak of his growth . . . and it is in the continuation of this engendering that there lies the ultimate driving force behind all created activity. . . . Christ is the fulfilment of even the natural evolution of beings.”39 Teilhard saw the differentiation of his thought from that of such collective human movements as Marxism or secular humanism, stripped of a numinous dimension more succinctly or poetically. God incarnate in the cosmic Christ is the fulfillment of the natural evolution of beings to which Teilhard refers in the passage quoted above. This is similar to Jung’s notion of Christ as embodying the archetypes of the Self and the coniunctio.
Eminent physicists and biologists as well as depth psychologists have commented upon the role of reflectively conscious human beings in directing the future of cultural and cosmic evolution. Rather than being mere spectators human beings are actors, participants, and co-creators in the evolutionary process that resulted in the species following a number of pre-hominid ancestors. According to the traditional neo-Darwinian paradigm, the doctrine of natural selection by chance (random) variations still prevails in spite of the incommensurable evidence and anomalies to which I have referred in this article. However with the acknowledgement of such phenomena as global warming with an undeniable anthropogenic contribution as well as the prevalence of pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, humankind may need to embrace Teilhard’s noosphere culminating in God-Omega and to respond collectively as a species to such challenges to survival. Metaphysical materialism and consumerism may represent a menaceto an earth which has lost its soul and its sense of the numinous dimension of evolution.
Furthermore, humankind confronts the transcendence implicit in the cosmic history of the universe and apparently manifest in an eternal Mind as well. And yet, paradoxically, in the experience of an apparently eternal now, the majestic, awesome, and glorious task in which humanity is participating is nothing less than that of completing the incarnation of God in historic time. Teilhard proposes a vision of the future of humanity actively and industriously creating a noosphere or envelope of consciousness and meaning around the closed curvature of Earth. His evolutionary theology brought God down from the figurative heavens and into such close intimacy and identification with spirit/matter and with humanity that God’s omnipotent and omniscient qualities and the transcendence of creation depicted in Genesis and enshrined in dogma are called into question.
Teilhard, I suspect, saw with remarkable clarity what the theologians of his time missed, even though it hovered above them in the Sistine Chapel: the mature and empowered stature of the primordial Adam in relation to the generative archetypal father-God. However removed from the traditional, interventionist stance in dogmatic theology, the incarnation of God in cosmic evolution implies that God becomes fully conscious and whole through and is completed by humankind in a unio mystica of perhaps unsuspected significance. As Teilhard reiterates at the conclusion of The Future of Man, “Erit in omnibus omnia Deus,”40 which means that God may become all in and through all. Alternatively, humankind could evolve in such a way as to fulfill the divine potential of completing the incarnation of God. This is nothing less than a holistic vision, itself mystical, of the interconnectedness and sacredness of all beings in an ecosystem that embraces all forms of life.
It is to the achievement of such unanimity and holism that religion, despite the ridicule of skeptics, has so much to offer, these being the fruits of ecumenism in Christianity and interreligious dialogue, restoring to a secular world, which has placed its faith in materialism, a collective consciousness of the sacredness of all people and of Earth itself.
Bohm’s notion of a Mind extending indefinitely beyond humanity as a whole, his implicate order, and the Jungian unconscious with its archetypal symbols imply the existence of dimensions of the mind and of the Self which are not spatiotemporally bound. Pauli defined his U-field as the psychological analogue of the field concept in quantum physics and believed that the reality of archetypal symbols was metaphysical and stood for a reality more substantial than concepts in either physics or psychology. The God archetype (imago Dei), for instance, could not be reduced to the status of a mere psychological concept. Pauli and Jung referred to the common ontological foundation from which both mind and matter emerge in a dual-aspect monist concept of reality as the unus mundus. This primordial reality of the collective unconscious and the archetypes transcending space and time is analogous to Bohm’s implicate order. The supernaturalness of humanity which Jungian analyst Michael Fordham posited41 lies in the emergent reflective consciousness through which the numinous dimension implicit in Teilhard’s evolutionary process is revealed and consummates itself at point Omega. This transformation in consciousness is, I believe, the divinization or re-sacralization of the world of which Jung, Pauli, Bohm, and Teilhard de Chardin were intuitive prophets.42
19 Kalervo V. Laurikainen, Beyond the Atom: The Philosophical Thought of Wolfgang Pauli (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1988), 163.
20 Karl R. Pribram, “Consciousness Reassessed,” Mind and Matter 2, 1 (2004), 14.
21 Ibid. 27.
22 Laurikainen, Beyond the Atom, xv.
23 Teilhard de Chardin, Phenomenon of Man, 271.
24 H. Atmanspacher, “Editorial,” Mind and Matter 9, 1 (2011): 4.
25 Quoted in Ibid.
26 Quoted in K. von Meyenn, “Dreams and fantasies of a quantum physicist,” Mind & Matter 9, 1 (2011): 11.
28 Peter B. Todd, The Individuation of God: Integrating Science and Religion (Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publications, 2012).
29 Teilhard de Chardin, Phenomenon of Man, 271.
30 Ibid., 181.
31 Quoted in H. Atmanspacher and H. Primas, “Pauli’s Ideas on Mind and Matter in the Context of Contemporary Science,” Journal of Consciousness Studies 13, 3 (2006): 27-28.
32 Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili, “A Quantum Mechanical Model of Adaptive Mutation,” Biosystems 50, 3 (1999): 203-211.
33 K. von Meyenn, “Dreams and fantasies of a quantum physicist,” Mind & Matter 9, 1 (2011):11.
34 Teilhard de Chardin, Phenomenon of Man, 181-83.
35 C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (London: Fontana Books, 1995); C. G. Jung, Answer to Job, vol. 11 of The Collected Works of C. G. Jung (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1952).
36 Jung, Answer to Job, 401.
37 Ibid., 408.
38 Ibid., 432.
39 Teilhard de Chardin, Future of Man, 305.
40 Ibid., 308.
41 Michael Fordham, Explorations into the Self (London: Karnac Books, 1985), 193.