Wolfgang Pauli and the light-dark stranger II

In July 1954 Pauli starts to study Jung’s essay ‘Transformation Symbolism in the Mass.’ He is now really interested in the psychology of sacrifice. His relationship with von Franz improves. They are now on familiar terms with each other and on August 24 he gets a dream about a new ETH. The dream points to phase D in the symbol of the Self. Instead of a stone a new house can just as well mark a phase of realization of unconscious contents in our three-dimensional reality. The difficulty is not to dream, but to arrive at a new standpoint. Pauli’s dream of a new ETH clearly demonstrates what he has to do for his own rebirth.

The dream reads as follows: ‘I am riding on tram #5 to a large new house; it is the ETH in new premises. From the tram stop, I take a footpath that winds slowly up a hill and finally leads into the house. In the house, I find my office and on a table there are two letters. In one of the letters, signed Pallman, it says: “Ferry dues settlement.” The bill is very long, with lots of + and – additions. The final total is 568 Swiss francs, which I have to pay. The second letter is an envelope, on which it says: “Philosophical choral society.” I open it and find beautiful red cherries, some of which I eat.’ (Meier, 2001, 177)

In this case we have the commentary by both Pauli and Jung. Pallman is the president of the ETH at that time, but stands here for the master figure, the stranger. Pauli has to pay an amount of money to Pallman. According to Jung the total of digits of 568 equals 19 which reduces numerically to 10 and hence to 1. Pauli has to pay with the number 1, with the whole person, ‘the microcosmos corresponding to the macrocosmos.’ The cherries ‘are definitely concrete eroticism, sublimated in the “philosophical choral society.”’ Jung notes with satisfaction the expression “philosophical choral society” and remarks: ‘It is typical of you to choose to convert the envelope with the red cherries into music, whereas I am afraid that it is meant in specific terms.’ Basically a change of attitude is required: ‘The task can only be solved by the fact that the One, which is also the Whole, has been attained.’(Meier, 2001, 155) Pauli concludes that the synthesis of the two letters has not yet been achieved, since the ferry dues have not yet been paid. About the eating of the cherries he remarks that he actually is doing the wrong thing in the dream. It should have been music: ‘However amusing the philosophical choral society was, eating the red cherries had serious consequences, as can be seen from the next two dreams, which I shall comment on.’

The first dream is of September 2. A voice says: ‘At the place where Wallenstein atoned for his sins with his death, a new religion shall arise.’ The second dream is of September 6 and uses background physics: ‘A major war is being waged. “Political” news that I wish to send to people is censored. Then my mathematics colleague A. appears, with his wife (I know both of them from the old days in Hamburg). A. says: “Cathedrals should be built for isomorphy.” Then, from Mrs. A., come more words that I cannot understand and written texts that I cannot read. (I wake up in great excitement).’ (Meier, 2001, 139)

The first dream mentions a man from the Thirty Years War, who through the sacrifice of his life paves the way to a new religion. Pauli is looking at the time for an attitude which heals the split between science and religion and he regards the new house as the symbolic place of their coniunctio. On January 27, 1956 he would write to the physicist Markus Fierz: ‘I know that for me the “motivating forces” of both scientific understanding and religious feeling are the same. (…) Expressed in Jungian fashion the “motivating force” is the dynamis or power of the archetype, and the “constellated” archetype is the “coniunctio”! This takes place in the “new house”, in the “church”.’ (Laurikainen, 1988, 223)

In the dream of September 6, the mathematician Emil Artin knows that such a new house should be built ‘for isomorphy.’ Pauli notes: ‘With the word “isomorphy” (identity of form, reproduction of the same form), which is taken from mathematics, I am in a good position as a translator [of background physics into psychological terminology]. For soon after I had learned the word from dream language, C.G. Jung’s book Aion appeared (…). In the dream with the commentary, it is the secret of the multiple forms of appearance of the archetypes, the multiplication with the coniunctio known to the alchemists. Here we find the very dangers I have just described. The mathematician A. (who knows what isomorphy is) thus advises me in the dream to ritually capture the multiplicatio in cathedrals, so that there will not be a pointless and aimless, psychotic or catastrophic repetition from the coniunctio, but rather _a new form with inner isomorphy _(automorphy), as illustrated, for example, in Aion in the place quoted [par. 410]. Cathedrals, incidentally, are themselves a multiplicatio of the original and unique new house.’ (Meier, 2001, 142)

Pauli is still busy to build a new house, a new viewpoint in reality, but he senses the danger of an aimless, psychotic and catastrophic repetition. Soon he will start to comment on the contents of his dreams without taking notice of their message. A small detail can lead to a lengthy exercise, in the same way as I succeeded to solve the riddle of the square dance by reducing it to a mathematical exercise. Pauli succeeds to circumvent the meaning of his dreams by pointless repetitions in his argumentation. He seems to stand before the new house, but is unable to discern its meaning. Marie-Louise von Franz has found an interesting fragment by the alchemist Alphidius in which the philosophers’ stone is compared to a treasure-house ‘in which are treasured up all the sublime things of science or wisdom or the glorious things which cannot be possessed.’ The house has four doors, since there are four elements. Hence there are four keys which can be compared to the four different psychological functions of sensation, thinking, intuition and feeling. The treasure-house is closed with four doors and they are locked with four keys. Each door has its own key. One can try to enter the house using one key and one door, but that will lead one astray: ‘Know therefore, my son, that he who knows one key and knows not the rest shall open the doors of the house with his key, but he shall not see the things that are in the house, for the house has a surface which stretches far out of sight. Therefore each door must be opened with its own key, until the whole house is filled with light. Then anyone may enter and take of the treasure.’ (Franz, 1966, 314/15)

Since von Franz makes use of Jung’s symbol of the Self in Aion to explain this statement by Alphidius, it was not difficult for me to find it. She remarks: ‘Each of the four operations leads to the lapis, but only the combination of all four can reveal its true essence.’ (Franz, 1966, 315) Von Franz relates these operations to the four psychological functions, but she remarks that this is only one aspect of the process. As can be concluded from Aion, the four keys themselves belong to a structure within the Self. Hence it is not only opening a house with different keys. There is a dynamic process of transformation going on within the Self which generates certain symbols in linear time, but at the same time the corresponding keys to unlock these symbols. This observation is in particular relevant for the stage of the fixatio in alchemy. This is a crystallization process symbolized in the Aurora Consurgens by the building of the treasure-house of Wisdom. Pauli has come to the point in his inner development that he should stand for his mission to bridge the gap between modern physics and dept psychology. He has accumulated a lot of material through his dreams and the discussions with Jung and von Franz. But for some reason he seems to be lost on the way to realization. The dream and vision of the square dance gave him the advice to dance with his inner world. The dream of the new ETH contained the advice to sacrifice the domination of his intellect for the attainment of wholeness and to express his feeling side more concretely, no longer hidden in musical philosophy. But there is no progress in the process of fixation and in a following dream Artin has to warn him that he should build cathedrals for the isomorphy that he fears. The last dream in the correspondence between Pauli and von Franz then advises him to make a move towards a wider understanding. The dream is of October 1, 1954:

‘[Niels] Bohr appears and explains to me that the difference between v and w corresponds to the difference between Danish and English. He says I should not just stick with Danish but should move on to English. He then invites me to a big party in his institute, which has been newly refurbished (new house). More people appear, some of them strangers, some of them known to me, and they are all going to the party. In the background, I can now hear Italian voices. An elderly Dane whom I do not know is there with his wife, and also my colleague Jost from Zürich (extraordinarius professor of theoretical physics and a close fellow worker). I can see that the party is an important event. I wake up excited and the word vindue [‘window’ in English] immediately comes into my mind, so that I count it as part of the dream.’ (Meier, 2001, 143)

Pauli immediately starts to write ‘a philological postlude’ in which he clearly demonstrates that many words in Danish start with a v, while the corresponding words in English begin with a w. He notes that the w probably comes from the doubling of v, but he never arrives at a psychological interpretation of this process of doubling. On December 26, 1955, he dreams about the visit of a king who talks to him with great authority, saying: ‘Professor Pauli, you have an apparatus that enables you to see both Danish and English.’ (Meier, 2001, 152) The unconscious must remind him of his own capabilities! In October 1954 he prefers to impress von Franz with his linguistic investigation of the difference between Danish and English. He takes the content of his dream literally and does not make any convincing attempt to understand the dream symbolically. As a consequence von Franz gets disappointed and Pauli angry. The short period of familiarity comes quickly to an end. Pauli sends his dreams later to Jung, in October 1956, at a moment he no longer tries to realize the content of them. Jung takes the effort the interpret the dream psychologically and comes to interesting conclusions:

‘I would like to add that V is the Roman 5 and that in German the double V = W = 2 x 5 = 10, and 10 = 1, so that here the W (double V) is probably the One and the Whole. –Incidentally, I was most impressed by your forays into linguistics (…) The important thing about the dream of 26 December 1955 is the double vision. This is a distinctive characteristic of the human being who is at one with himself. He sees the inner and outer oppositeness, not just V = 5, which is a symbol of the natural person who, with consciousness based on perception, becomes ensnared in the world of sense perception and its vividness. W (double V), by way of contrast, is the One, the whole person who, although himself not split, nevertheless perceives both the external sensory aspect of the world and also its hidden meaning.’ (Meier, 2001, 156/57)

It is quite remarkable to see a man with such wonderful dreams miss the point of them. But that is what the correspondence between Pauli and Jung finally shows. The new house remains a dream content and Pauli does not allow it to enter three-dimensional space and one-dimensional time. He does not foster his relationship to the anima well enough in order to bring about a birth or rebirth of the Self. In an interview for the Dutch television Marie-Louise von Franz remarks in November 1990: ‘He always scoffed at the feminine in his personal relationships, in his feeling. Like many intellectuals. So in contrast the feminine was very overwhelmingly present in his dreams.’ Interviewer: ‘In his dreams he took the feminine seriously.’ Von Franz: ‘The anima figure, the Chinese Sophia figure. He took her seriously. That was a compensatory figure for him who tried to impress on him the feminine. But even then he did not take enough notice of her. For instance I published in Number and Time the dream where the Chinese woman says that not the six-pointed star, but the square dance is a real symbol of the Self. He never worked on that further. He didn’t pick up those suggestions or work on them as Jung trained us to do. If I had had such a dream, I would have followed up that idea right through for weeks and weeks.’ (Erkelens (ed.), 2002, 146)

Divination tray with the face of Eshu.


The world of divination

What von Franz did after the disappointing relationship with Pauli was to follow her own dreams and her own interests. She got interested in the world view of the medicine men from Dahomey (now Benin). She consulted a book by Bernard Maupoil entitled _La Géomancie à l’ancienne Côte des Esclaves _(Paris, 1943). She tells in On Divination and Synchronicity about two deities which personify the world of chance. For some reason she missed Eshu and talks only about Fa, the god of divination for the Fon, and his wife Gba’adu which she describes as a terrible voodoo. It is easy to discover that Fa is known as Ifa in Western Nigeria. It took me some time to understand that Gba’adu probably corresponds with the Igba Odu in the language of the Yoruba. The Igba Odu is the calabash of Odu, the great witch. Ifa is the famous oracle which helps to orient its clients in a world of forces comparable with the archetypes recognized in Jungian psychology. The god of divination is Orunmila, but he is often named after the oracle Ifa. The verses of Ifa constitute a vast body of Yoruba traditional oral literature of great importance. The sections of this literature are called the Odu of Ifa. Ifa is the principle of order and Eshu seems to be the element of unpredictable chance that works in the world. The anthropologist McClelland notes:

‘The dualism is that of a balancing operation between order and chaos. Just as Ifa is revered as the divine instructor who enlightens man about the will of Olorun (the heavenly Creator) and helps him in its performance, so Eshu, “heaven’s bailiff” as he is called, is feared for the reverse process. He also knows what has been divined and bends all his energies to discover any act that will disqualify a suppliant and reduce him to despair. Any dishonesty, inadequateness, carelessness or greed that is revealed in the ritual surrounding sacrifice, in festival, in everyday life, in trading and markets, results in swift and vengeful punishment. He delights in such exposures and frequently acts as _agent provocateur. _He exhibits a terrifying sense of timing. He stirs up mischief, creates a situation which will produce strife and then arranges that the evil which results recoils on the head of the doer.’ (McClelland, 1982, 15/16)

When I once consulted a babalawo (priest of Ifa), named Awo Fa’Lokun Fatunmbi, it turned out that Eshu was my personal deity, my personal orisha. The babalawo was also trained in Jungian psychology and he figured out that the anima in my case was connected with Oya, the West African goddess of the wind. (Gleason, 1992) Eshu and Oya together would normally produce an enormous whirlwind in my life and the babalawo advised me to stay as much as possible in the center. I once experienced Eshu during a thunder storm and know that his deeper mission is to bring light. Chaos theory brings nowadays a picture of the world that is much more truthful to the world of chance than that part of classical physics which describes heavenly order. Fractal geometry teaches us that the repetitions so feared by Pauli can produce the most fantastic images when understood as iterations in the complex plane. Any endeavor to bridge the gap between modern physics and depth psychology can make use of the progress physics has made thanks to the computer. But if we take the worldview of the Yoruba seriously, we know that the central point both in Pauli’s mathematical dreams and in the actions of Eshu is sacrifice. Only sacrifice is helpful in directing chaotic energies in a favorable direction. Sacrifice is needed for the transformation of wild and chaotic energies into meaningful patterns. Divination is one way to discover the right action to take. And that is why Ifa is revered among the Yoruba as the principle that can cool any situation in life that has become hot. Von Franz has found a number of names for Fa or Ifa which clearly demonstrate that he is the principle of truth in a world of chaos: ‘Perhaps one of the most beautiful is “The sun rises and the walls get red.” And there the bokono (medicine man of the Fon) added this explanation: “You see, when you see the truth everything becomes clear like the sunrise.” And then ultimately, and that is interesting: “The hole which calls us into eternity.” There again is the fenestra aeternitatis, the window into eternity which the Africans literally call Fa.’ (Franz, 1980, 114)

Von Franz describes the fetish of Gba’adu as two calabash, two bowls lying upon each other. The two bowls create a secret chamber and no one who is not an initiate is allowed to look into it. According to Maupoil Gba’adu kills and can kill at any minute. Gba’adu wants blood and is the strongest voodoo of Fa. Von Franz is quite fascinated by it: ‘And now listen to how they define it. Gba’adu represents the highest possible knowledge of oneself a man can reach. So he is the deepest insight into the Self (we would say), which is a terrible secret and so dangerous that one cannot go near it. Only Gba’adu has the secret of death and only in death can one touch this highest possible realization of oneself. Gba’adu is the secret behind Fa. Fa is the god of truth, who can accompany an individual in this life on earth, but in the moment of death one comes a step nearer to the highest self-knowledge, which is represented by Gba’adu.’ (Franz, 1980, 114/15)

If we read Gba’adu as the calabash of Odu, we discover that the two calabash are a kind of resurrection body of the great witch Odu. The content reveals a wonderful symbol of the Self, a true reflection of the equilibrium between the various cosmic forces in our life. The Igba Odu contains four small vessels with different substances that represent the four principal powers in the world of the Yoruba. Before Odu died, she made an alliance with either of them. The substance in the middle represents Odu herself. The anthropologist Hans Witte concludes in Ifa and Eshu: ‘After her departure (…) Odu is able to grant through her calabash not only the wishes that the babalawo addresses to herself, but also the prayers addressed to the four deities that have incorporated their sacred substances in her calabash. “The four corners of the world are in these calabashes”, making this most powerful central symbol of the Ifa cult the image of the cosmos.’ (Witte, 1984, 10)

Herbert van Erkelens © 2013


Erkelens, Herbert van (ed.). ‘Wolfgang Pauli, the Feminine and the Perils of the Modern World. An interview with Marie-Louise von Franz by Hein Stufkens and Philip Engelen, IKON-television, Küsnacht, November 1990,’ Harvest. Journal for Jungian Studies, Vol. 48, No. 2, 2002.


Franz, Marie-Louise von. Aurora Consurgens, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966.


Gleason, Judith. Oya. In Praise of an African Goddess. San Francisco: Harper,  1992.


Laurikainen, Kalervo V. Beyond the Atom. The Philosophical Thought of Wolfgang Pauli. New York/Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 1988.


McClelland, E.M. The Cult of Ifa among the Yoruba, Volume 1: Folk Practice and the Art. London: Ethnografica, 1982.


Meier, C.A. (ed.). Atom and Archetype, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001.


Witte, Hans. Ifa and Eshu, Iconography of order and disorder. Soest, Kunsthandel Luttik, 1984.


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