Synchronicity

Another book recommendation on tap for today.  Lindorff’s Pauli and Jung: The Meeting of Two Great Minds found me at an interesting time in my life, and I am eternally (or perhaps as close as I can be to approaching infinitely is more apt) grateful to the author for giving voice to a  subject and a series of connections I think showcase the interplay of intuition and reason within the human condition quite well. I’ve particularly liked coming back to this passage from Chapter 5– The Alchemist, time and again over the years:

Early in December 1947, Jung invited Pauli to be a founding member of the new institute from the side of natural science.  Pauli responded enthusiastically (December 23), welcoming the founding of an institute that had as one of its purposes to further Jung’s research.  Pauli believed Jung’s ongoing investigation of alchemy’s relationship to psychology had the potential to merge psychology with the natural sciences: “Probably it entails a long journey, of which we are experiencing only the beginning, and which in particular will be connected with a continuously modified critique of the space-time concept.” In Pauli’s view, space-time was not only a problem for physics, it was also relevant to the psychology of the unconscious, in which temporal sequences can be synchronistically (and improbably) linked, independent of space and time. With the emergence of quantum physics, Pauli wondered whether the sharp distinction between physics and psychology would ultimately disappear, as in the case of physics and chemistry. He hoped that the newly formed institute would bring about a closer contact between these two fields.

A Psychological Club had previously been established as a meeting place for Jung’s students.  Pauli offered to present two lectures to the club concerning his ongoing work on Johannes Kepler.  The lectures, which were more extensive than what he had presented in Princeton, were delivered in February and March of 1948 under the title, “The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler.”  Pauli’s study of Kepler had a twofold focus: the archetypal connections between creative thought and the unconscious, and the perception that early scientific thought was a threat to the “world soul.”

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) is best known for his discovery of the three basic laws that govern the motion of the planets around the sun.  His monumental work provided Newton with the material he needed to develop his mechanics.  Pauli was fascinated by Kepler’s unique place in the history of science.  He had lived at a time when the mystical-symbolic perception of nature, as found in alchemy, was giving way to a scientific-quantitative mode of thinking. The astronomer-mathematician was caught in the crosscurrent of history, one foot firmly planted in the magical and the other in the rational perception of nature.  Kepler’s religiously motivated desire to prove that the earth was traversing a circular orbit with the sun at its center was consistent with his belief that a circular orbit approached the image of God:

When the all-wise Creator sought to make everything as good, beautiful, and excellent as possible.  He found nothing that could be better or more beautiful or more excellent than Himself.  Therefore when He conceived in His Mind the corporeal world He chose for it a form that was as similar as possible of Himself.

Kepler’s effort to understand the motion of the heavenly bodies was motivated by his conviction that the planetary orbits mirrored the Trinity, the sun’s rays being a part of the trinitarian model he sought to validate.  Kepler never wavered, however, in his insistence on finding a quantitative way of describing the orbits, even though this forced him to abandon his preconscious image of the earth’s circular motion.  He ultimately accepted the scientifically determined conclusion that a planetary orbit is elliptical with the sun at a focus of the ellipse.  Pauli’s recognition that Kepler was stimulated by an archetypal image tallied with his own experience that creative thought is not derived from the soulless intellect alone, but rather that “intuition and the direction of attention play a considerable role in the development of concepts and ideas.”

It is impressive to see how closely Kepler’s thoughts written over three centuries in the past, were in accord with those of Pauli.  Kepler wrote:

For to know is to compare that which is externally perceived with inner ideas and to judge that it agrees with them, a process which Proclus expressed very beautifully by the work ‘awakening’ as from sleep.  For, as the perceptible things which appear in the outside world make us remember what we knew before, so do sensory experiences, when consciously realized, call forth intellectual notions that were already present inwardly; so that which formerly was hidden in the soul, as under the veil of potentiality, now shines therein in actuality. How, then, did they [the intellectual notions] find ingress? I answer:  All ideas or formal concepts of the harmonies…lie in those beings that possess the faculty of rational cognition, and the are not at all  received within by discursive reasoning; rather they are derived from a natural instinct and are inborn in those beings as the number (an intellectual thing) of petals in a flower.

The close agreement between these ideas and Pauli’s modern view of epistemology offered Paulie confirmation of his thesis.  There is a significant distinction between the two, however: whereas Kepler attributed the archetypes to the Mind Divine, Pauli understood them to originate in the collective unconscious.

One of the topics that comes up inevitably in regards to donning that hermit’s cloak for the first time and beginning the process of turning inward is loneliness. Depending on the day and which side of the bed I suppose, one might be lonely but never alone or alone but never lonely.  That bi-polar creative orbit that takes you back and forth from the fringes of society to the wilderness and back again, but in truth I think when an idea begins to possess someone, in the process of canceling out noise, it drives you to forsake the exterior world in pursuit of an internal dialog that often features contributions from individuals you are separated from by time and space. It is a curious phenomenon when on that road to find out you discover kinship in the voice of an author from many centuries past or in the art of a painting or sculpture or architecture, or even that universal language of mathematics. The point is when you finally discover a like voice, like a soloist in the chorus of history, it is akin to a transcendental experience, an echo if you will.  It takes you to a timeless place where both you and others who have been possessed by the same idea exist in concert with one another, working to give definition to that which is unknown.  A brotherhood of sorts with each member trying to give form to the Great Work.

Pauli’s case reminds us however that even in the present, if we are lucky, we can find fellow pilgrims on the road to find out.  Don’t shut out the exterior world so much you miss the opportunity to find a Jung in waiting. Internal dialogues with the long dead can be intellectually stimulating of course but being able to have a stimulating dinner conversation with an actual person from time to time is not to be overlooked!

Hmm… that just gave me an idea, with the rise of how shall we say, recreational robots, Descartes’ manikin might finally come to complete fruition.  Imagine your own personal philosopher robot companion:

Tired of being met with blank stares from individuals who look like they’re willing to chew off a limb to get away from your rambling!  We have a solution! Try our Philosopher Robotic Companion today!  Comes preloaded with Socratic dinner mode, Kantian bedtime story mode, and Nietzschen insult mood when you’re in the mode for artificial verbal abuse.

I wonder if there is a market…

Theme Music: The Police – Synchronicity 1

 


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