"This Petty Reasoning Mind": Pauli, Jung, and Psychic Fission in the Physicists

By Roberts, Ian F. | PSYART, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

"This Petty Reasoning Mind": Pauli, Jung, and Psychic Fission in the Physicists


Roberts, Ian F., PSYART


While set in a sanatorium and figuring a psychologist who corresponds with Jung as a major character, Dürrenmatt's The Physicists has surprisingly never been methodically examined from a Jungian perspective. This paper explores the previously unrecognized significance of Gustav Jung's analysis of physicist Wolfgang Pauli to the play. I show that Pauli's experience as a patient of Jung served as a major inspiration for the play, and that a Jungian interpretation of the work makes the most sense of its symbolism and themes. Not only is the figure of Mobius shown to be modeled after Wolfgang Pauli, but the character's visions of King Solomon represent his repressed shadow. Moreover, musical and historical references are shown to symbolize Mobius' psychic imbalance and his need for integration of the shadow archetype.

keywords: Jungian interpretation, archetypes, shadow, unconscious, physics, literature and science.

url: http://κ.clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/journal/2007_roberts01.shtml

It has been widely acknowledged by critics that Robert Jungk's work on the development of the atom bomb, Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, was a source of inspiration for The Physicists. Tiusanen, for example, calls Jungk's book an "impulse to activate" Dürrenmatt's mind (267-268). What has not been recognized is that there was another and far more significant inspiration for, and influence on, the ideas and symbolism of the play. I argue that the Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli's relationship with the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung was the real-life source for Dürrenmatt's play. During Pauli's lengthy analysis and extensive correspondence with Jung, both men developed an outlook that stressed the "complementarity" of consciousness and reason with the unconscious and irrational. This philosophy forms the basis of Dürrenmatt's play. Moreover, Pauli was the model for the character of Mobius. Pauli, a scientist who suffered from an overdevelopment of the logical side of his mind and a correspondingly impoverished emotional and spiritual life, suffered a nervous breakdown necessitating treatment by Jung. Pauli, like Mobius, also had visions of a man whom he interpreted as personifying the wisdom and understanding currently lacking from rationalistic science. Examination of this previously overlooked influence of Pauli and Jung on The Physicists helps shed new light on the psychological significance of King Solomon and symbolic references to the unconscious.

The outlines of Pauli's relationship with Jung can be quickly sketched. Atmanspacher and Primas state that "The rational onesidedness of the young Pauli received a strong blow in his early thirties, a crisis he later described as his 'big neurosis'" (113). Moreover: "Together with stern strokes of fate (1927 suicide of his mother, 1930 divorce from his first wife), it was basically his excessively rational attitude which brought Pauli into serious inner conflicts which he could not master intellectually. Following the advice of his father he asked the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung for help" (113). David Lindorff also describes Pauli as "a one-sided intellectual" ("One Thousand" 555), and explains that after his nervous breakdown while working as a professor in Zurich, Jung placed Pauli in the care of one of his pupils for fear of influencing the initial analysis of Pauli's dreams. Jung followed Pauli's case and took over his treatment after ten months (557). In 1935, Jung wrote a paper on dream symbols which included 74 of the 1,000 dreams Pauli had shared in analysis. This paper grew to become Psychology and Alchemy in 1968 (558).

Though Jung did not identify the patient whose dreams he analyzed in these works, it nonetheless appears that Pauli's identity quickly became an open secret. Lindorff reports that, in 1936,

Jung sent Pauli a copy of the completed article based on a selection of his dreams. Jung wished to show that there was no suggestion in the paper that the dreamer was a physicist. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"This Petty Reasoning Mind": Pauli, Jung, and Psychic Fission in the Physicists
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.