Récréation : the wonderful story of Wolfgang Pauli, C.G. Jung and “the” woman…

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Hello, hello,  to all ! it appears that I made a mistake in my discussion with Don about the involvement of Wofgang Pauli with Marie-Louise von Franz, it was not  exactly quite purely as clinical as I thought.  To redeem myself, I would like to share with you the story  of a very rare encounter between three giants of the last century. And here is our first hero, Wolfgang Pauli, or simply Wolfi is you are Swiss and intimate… This guy barely needs any introduction if you are a scientist or a physics aficionado, but if not, let me introduce  him to you.

Wolfi is a kind of a Chevalier of Quantum Physics, one of the founding Father of Quantum mechanics, he is  very well known for the so called “exclusion principle” or “Pauli principle,’ bearing his name, which regents the interaction, the dance of a certain kind of quantum particles ( the fermions) when they turn around each other. He received the Nobel price in physics in 1945 for the prediction of the existence of the neutrino, in a completely different area.  He started as a young prodigy in maths and physics making a  widely acclaimed review of  still young General Relativity at  age 18. Since then Einstein has considered him as his  Spiritual Heir and Son, a situation very reminiscent of the one of Jung with Freud. Pauli  has been so influential in the physics field in the last century, that he received the nickname of “ Conscience of Physics” or  alternatively “the whip”. Namely, if you were going to talk with him, and  your theory was wrong,then the “whip” was entering into action and your theory was duly chastised…

Our second hero is CJ Jung. No need of an introduction if you are a spiritually inclined reader, or simply psychologically inclined, but maybe a need of introduction if you are an ( old fashioned, don’t take this personally) physicist, for example.  CJ Jung is one of the main figures of  modern  psychoanalysis, and is very well known to have brought to  the young analytic theory the notion of archetypes, complexes, animus and anima.  During his lifetime  Freud has also in-thronized  him as his successor, his Heir and Son…this giant had the goal to bring Spiritual  creative Forces into the Sexual  theory of Freud.

He is also well known for his work  relating Alchemy and  the subconscious, work done mainly in collaboration with his main student Marie-Louise von Franz.

And now  our story begins …What happened is that Pauli at some point isn his life got very depressed. He had reasons to. His mother had committed suicide and his first wife, a dancer, had left him for a good, but nothing special, chemist. Pauli was desperate, he used to say that he would have understood he she would have gone with a boxer, but he could absolutely not get that a “simple’ chemist got the preference. So he started to drink and things were going pretty badly even for his physics work when he decided to sort of look for help and ended up , one beautiful morning, in the office of a partitioner of the New Psychology : CG Jung. The meeting between those two giants remains  parts of the myth and part of the mystery of destiny. Great people somehow find a way towards each other… a very mysterious affair.  The official story says that, Jung didn’t take personally the case of Pauli, but gave to him one of his met inexperienced  woman student to make the analysis, Erna Rosenbaum, while supervising everything from behind. The analysis was successful, and lead to the meeting of Pauli with his second wife.

So where does Marie Louise von Franz ( MLVF) come into the picture. Well, well,    I let you judge from this interview, that one of the greatest lady of the last century gave at the very end of her life.   I let you enjoy the ride, and appreciate that this is coming from one of the most talented analyst of  all times… it says it all ! I let you free to  comment…

Pauli and Bohr looking at a top... two Big Boys...

Interview with Marie-Louise von Franz
dinsdag 13 juli 2010 07:46
Interviewer Hein Stufkens and film producer Philip Engelen went to Küsnacht to interview Marie-Louise von Franz in English about her former relationship with Wolfgang Pauli. Parts of the interview appeared in the documentary series Passions of the Soulwhich was broadcast by IKON for the first time in November 1991.WOLFGANG PAULI, THE FEMININE AND THE PERILS OF THE MODERN WORLDAn interview with Marie-Louise von Franz by Hein Stufkens and Philip Engelen, IKON-television, Küsnacht, November 1990.Herbet van Erkelens (EDITOR)From: Harvest. Journal for Jungian Studies, Vol. 48 No. 2, 2002.Hein Stufkens: I would like to talk with you about Wolfgang Pauli. You knew him very well. What kind of man was he?

Marie-Louise von Franz: Difficult to say. He had a very complicated nature. He was highly intelligent, very honest in his thinking, but otherwise a very immature big boy in his feelings. He was uncertain of himself, easily influenced. He had no certainty of feeling. You know, a woman reacts more to the nature of a man than just to his mind. This man, he struck me as a big boy.

H.S.: And you were his therapist? Was that your relation?

v.Fr.: One day he came to me and wanted to discuss his dreams with me, but he did not want therapy. So he wanted and he did not want to hear what I had to say. He wanted to keep a purely theoretical discussion, a mental ping-pong. But therapy goes a bit deeper than a mental ping-pong. I hoped he would see it didn’t work. That’s why slowly it led to a dead issue. Because he didn’t want to commit himself.

H.S.: So you were more or less disappointed?

v.Fr.: I was sceptical from the beginning. I tried to help him in spite of my scepsis. I just tried, because I saw that he was in great danger. I saw that he had lost the inner way. You don’t know what is going to happen, but something horrible is going to happen. Later it turned out to be cancer.

H.S.: Did you mean much to him, do you think?

v.Fr.: I don’t know. His feelings were very unclear.

H.S.: Pauli dedicated the Piano Lesson to you. How did you feel about that?

v.Fr.: I felt very sad, because the solution of the Piano Lesson is, in contrast to what Mr. van Erkelens has said, not a solution. Pauli returns to pure worldliness, the anima sadly plays a melody on the piano, left alone instead of in a relationship. The ring he is offering me there, so to speak, is suspended [in the air] and the master, whom we would call the Self, disappears. So the Piano Lesson ends very disappointingly. It makes me sad, like the whole thing makes me sad. If you want me to sum up the relationship: I tried to pull him out and didn’t succeed.

H.S.: But the feminine or the anima played a great part in his dreams.

v.Fr.: Yes. 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.

H.S.: Why do you think that Pauli at the beginning of 1954 quitted depth psychology and started to study biology and to discuss evolutionary theory with Max Delbrück who had left physics for biology. Why did he do that? Was it a kind of escape?

v.Fr.: In my view it was an escape. When it was getting hard, he walked out of it. You saw that already in the beginning. “I don’t want therapy,” were his first words when he offered to discuss his dreams. He always said that Jungians are stupid and therapy is not the meaning of Jungian psychology. It should be changed into philosophy or science. He always cut out the personal. I admit that therapy is a disagreeable part of psychology. You have to light up all the dark corners and all your inadequacies. And that corner Pauli didn’t like. In science you can be a great man and your personal inadequacies remain hidden under the carpet. They are whispered around by your colleagues, but they don’t exist officially. Well, in therapy these things come up.

H.S.: How did you feel about it now that he in fact ceased to continue the work he had begun, namely to bridge the gap between depth psychology and quantum physics?

v.Fr.: I’m not a missionary of Jungian psychology. So when I saw he left it, I thought, well that’s that. I began to get bored and thought: he can discuss his matters with Delbrück and other biologists. I got bored and felt my time was too precious.

H.S.: That sounds a little bit cynical to me? Is that right?

v.Fr.: Yes. One could call it that way. At that time I was naturally sad. Looking back I think I wasted my time.

H.S.: You invested much in him?

v.Fr.: At that time I took a lot of trouble. He was a very tiring discussion partner, because he was quick and profound and intense. We generally walked about two or three hours in the woods. And then I was exhausted. I made a real effort. When it doesn’t work you get annoyed. You think: he may go to hell.

H.S.: And then you continued the work of bridging the gap between psychology and physics?

v.Fr.: Then I followed my own interests. I tried to do it myself instead of trying to make others do it.

H.S.: In what way, do you think, should this work now be continued and who should do it?

v.Fr.: I don’t know the other hopeful young men who should continue it. They must exist, but I don’t know where they are. But I think the big breakthrough had really already been done by Jung when he created the concept of synchronicity. The work which has now to be done is to work that out. It is like a lightning intuition. But now we would have to work it out in detail, explore it empirically. This could occupy a lot of people in very good mind.

H.S.: There was a physicist who told me that in his view the work in fact is continued everywhere where two people really love each other in a personal relationship. Would you agree with that?

v.Fr.: Absolutely. Generally you cannot experience your own unconscious without a contrasexual love, because that constellates the unconscious. It is the most powerful constellation of the unconscious. Then you can explore it when it is constellated. When nothing happens in your life and you’re in your everyday boredom, that generally doesn’t create new ideas.

H.S.: What is the place of individuation in a love relationship?

v.Fr.: In a love relation, as Jung once put it, you risk everything. You put yourself on a table, you stop the power game and the trying to dominate or conquer the other person. If you succeed in really loving the other person, if you really relate, then all sorts of miracles happen. But in the beginning stages a general state of blindness possesses you, illusions or wrong expectations, disappointments, recriminations. You have to work through all that first. And that’s how you become more conscious. I didn’t say it is agreeable. So if you don’t love the other, you run away after a while.

H.S.: And that is what Pauli did?

v.Fr.: Yes, I sometimes made scenes, when I thought he was really on the wrong track. Then he just made joking remarks that I looked prettier the more I was angry. He didn’t take it seriously. I banged on the table and said: I mean it seriously. It is a dangerous point. But he just scoffed at it. He had a patriarchal outlook on women. Women were pleasant things to play with, but not something to take seriously. That really was one of the difficulties.

Pauli’s dream of the square dance:

‘On the eve of the dream he was amusing himself in arranging various schemata of his life. He depicted them in the form of double triangles (six-pointed stars) on whose points he inscribed the essential elements of his inner life. He then dreamt:

A Chinese woman (elevated to the rank of a “wisdom goddess”) is present with two men. [One is the master, the other one his “shadow” in the figure of a contemporary physicist. Editor’s note.] I am the fourth. She says to me: “You must allow us to play every conceivable combination of chess.”

In a subsequent half-waking fantasy a numinous voice announces to the dreamer: “In your drawings one element is perfectly correct and another transitory and false. It is correct that the lines number six, but it is false to draw six points. See here —”

and I saw a square with clearly marked off diagonals. “Can you see now finally the four and the six? Four spatial points and six lines or six pairs out of four points. They are the same six lines that exist in the I Ching. There the six, containing three as latent factor, are correct. Now observe the square more closely: four of the lines are of equal length, the other two are longer – they are “irrationally related.” There is no figure with four points and six equal lines. For this reason symmetry cannot be statically produced and a dance results. The coniunctio refers to the exchange of places during this dance. One can also speak of a game of rhythms and rotations. Therefore the three, already contained in a latent form in the square, must be dynamically expressed. (Franz, 1974, 108-109)

H.S.: But in his dreams he took the feminine seriously.

v.Fr.: 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.

H.S.: Did you talk with Jung about Pauli’s dreams?

v.Fr.: No. Pauli didn’t want me to do that. That was a funny thing. I don’t know why he said that. So I said, well, let’s drop it. I thought I would do it behind his back if I didn’t understand the dreams, but I did understand them. A little, at that time.

H.S.: What was the reason why Jung and Pauli didn’t communicate anymore?

v.Fr.: Pauli was afraid of Jung. He avoided him. He could have analysed with Jung. Jung would have done it. But he didn’t want it. It was also a little trick. Not too hot. Not in the hot seat.

H.S.: What frightened him?

v.Fr.: Pauli was afraid of the content of his dreams. It frightened him to draw conclusions from what his dreams said. They said for instance that he should stand up for Jungian psychology in public. And that he feared like hell. Which I understand. He moved in the higher circles in physics. They were very mocking and cynical and also jealous of him. If he had stood up for dreams and irrational things, there would have been a hellish laughter. And he hadn’t the guts to face it. So that was really tragic.

H.S.: They would have made a fool of him?

v.Fr.: They were jealous of him and his Nobel prize. So they would have laughed to make a fool of him. And he knew that. So he was afraid, understandably afraid. But that blocked the progress.

H.S.: I see. Thank you very much. Are there more questions?

Philip Engelen: You were speaking about the danger. Pauli did not recognize the danger he was in. What kind of danger you mean?

v.Fr.: The unconscious is a nature spirit in man. It is like the master which Pauli describes in his active imagination or Mercurius. He can lead you very easily down the garden path and then you end up in a wilderness or in trouble. It needs great skill to deal with the unconscious properly. So people are afraid of it…

[Here the recorder suddenly breaks down.]

P.E.: Maybe you can repeat your idea about the danger of today’s world.

v.Fr.: I can’t repeat, but I will say it differently. Well, Jung saw that the danger was imminent. But the danger you look in the face is not as bad as the danger you ignore. He always used a similarity. If you ignore the plague virus, it spreads like mad. If you look at it, you may do something against it. So he wanted mankind to face the danger. And that’s why he painted such a gloomy picture. He tried to give the audience a shock, because everybody talks about the danger and then takes a cup of tea and does nothing.

P.E.: Do you think that Jungian psychology does have an answer to the danger of today’s world?

v.Fr.: To my mind, yes. The only possible answer is a change of attitude. A radical change of attitude does not come about without a shock.

P.E.: What kind of change?

v.Fr.: Well, stop polluting, stop exaggerating technology and intellectualism. Take the moral problems more seriously. Science is nowadays completely immoral. And industry is completely immoral. Change our economic system, change our political view, find the way back to a religious attitude towards life, to a simpler life. And so on.

P.E.: What do you mean by a religious attitude?

v.Fr.: Knowing that you are a louse in an unknown universe and that you have to respect fully and venerate the forces which have created you and which are directing you from within.

P.E.: Does it also mean a revival of the church?

v.Fr.: Not necessarily. Religiousness is much wider than an institution. A primitive man who venerates a tree is not a member of a church, but he is religious.

P.E.: And the modern world is not religious?

v.Fr.: No, they think they can put everything in their pocket. And if something dangerous comes up, all they do is set up a committee to study it and then they put it in our pocket. They donate a few million dollars for a research project and that will deal with it. Never does.

P.E.: Thank you very much for this interview.

Herbert van Erkelens © 2010

Editor’s note:

This interview first appeared in the Yearbook of the Dutch Interdisciplinary Society for Analytical Psychology, 13 (1997) 67-75. Next in Harvest. Journal for Jungian Studies, Vol. 48 No. 2, 2002. At the time of the interview Marie-Louise von Franz was already seriously ill. Her voice was weak. So it was difficult to make a transcription from tape. Some improvements have been made as concerns grammar. But the idiomatic irregularities have been retained.


Erkelens, Herbert van, ‘Wolfgang Pauli’s dialogue with the spirit of matter’, Psychological Perspectives, Issue Twenty-Four, Spring/Summer 1991, 34-53.

Franz, Marie-Louise von, Number and Time. Reflections Leading toward a Unification of Depth Psychology and Physics, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 1974.



  1. Catherine,

    Marie-Louise is right in her assessment of our times. I am especially sensitive to the fact science and most professional classes operate without a moral imperative. I have often thought the same oath taken by a medical physician should also be taken by a physicist, an engineer, in fact by everyone the way Christ put it, “Don’t do unto others what you would not want done to yourself”. I have heard Einstein said that if he had to do it over again, he’ld be a plumber. This issue of irresponsible science has so alarmed me I wrote a 455 page novel. My intention was to alert the commoner that they have to step in and control the out-of-control people who will use science to harm people and aggrandize themselves at the expense of others.

    The ability of modern psychology to solve the worlds problems, I question. The problems of spirit are not in the preview of psychology that I can see. The only way to solve a karmic problem is with dharma. A karmic action is one will require a further action to rectify. A dharmic action is one that does not need any further retification. It is the action that does not need a reaction. Dharma actions are absolute. Karma actions relative. Evolution, creative evolution, is the search for dharma and the road map is wisdom.

  2. Liesbeth

    As always, I absolutely love your post. Thank you so much!

  3. Dear Don, I agree that scientists somehow shall open their worldview and , shall we say become much more “integral beings”. That’s why I like so much the picture of Pauli and Bohr with the top, it says it all; somehow for us scientists it is extremely difficult to grow up. Not al are like this, but it is the rule rather than the exception.

    What touches me in this story about MLvF and Pauli, is simply greatness meeting greatness, Greatness falling in love with Greatness. To me it is clear that Pauli was not at the level of what MLvF was offering to him, and still subconsciously he was aware of what was going on and what he was missing by his immaturity.

    The last piece of evidence comes from the WIKI on MLvF in which you can find the following statement :
    “Von Franz had also a meaningful exchange of letters with Nobel Prize winner Wolfgang Pauli. On Pauli’s death, his widow Franca deliberately destroyed all the letters Von Franz sent over time to her husband and which he was carefully keeping locked inside his writing desk.[7] The letters sent by Pauli to Ms. Von Franz were all saved and later made available to the researchers and published”

    Somehow usually when animus and anima meet, the man is the one who is guilty not to recognize what is going on. Jung was the fist guilty of this ( see the wonderful movie about his meeting with Sabina Spielrein who was the one at the origin of the concept of anima) apparently Pauli is guilty of the same sin with MLvF, that’s why she is so upset, even after all these years. To my knowledge , of all great men of this time only Steiner didn’t commit the fault, and married his Anima ( maybe one has more than one encounter with one’s Animus or Anima, I don’t know, but I would give to Jung that these are very strong Forces of Nature and men are scared by them) .

    I am really convinced that Evolution will go with the development of the human ability to meet and love Greatness in each other. It is to me the only non elitist hierarchy, the only natural one, the one which produces Love.

  4. Don ( not dog) and Cath ( not cat) , speak a bit like Wolfgang and Marie Louise.

    “Search for Cosmic Absolute and Control” ( Don: mind male) is speaking with the “Quest for ideal men and woman cosmic relationship” ( Cath: heart female).

    a long standing ( and probably never-ending ) “” animus anima”” dialogue, at its highest and?


  5. Alvaro

    I would like to add a comment about Pauli. Marie-Louise von Franz criticized him for not standing up in public in support of Jungian psychology. This is not a fair criticism in my view. Jung and Pauli published a book together,”The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche”. Besides that Pauli delivered several public lectures, including one in honour of Jung’s eightieth birthday, expressing his deep appreciation for Jung’s ground-breaking psychology works. Jung was very impressed by Pauli as well. He analysed over thirteen hundred of Pauli’s dreams. They are the base material of several of his books including “Psychology and Alchemy”, “Dreams” and others. The two men exchanged many letters starting from 1932, when Pauli begun his analysis with Rosebaum, under Jung’s supervision,up to 1957, one year before Pauli’s death.
    During the time of crisis in 1932 after the break-up of his first marriage Pauli came up with another great idea for physics, his proposal of a new particle, the neutrino. It is clear that this idea had a lot to do with Pauli’s many dreams of perfect symmetry at the time. The neutrino turned out to be very difficult to detect and the definite confirmation confirmation of its existence only happened in 1956. Pauli was, of course, very happy with the news. Six months after that analysing the data very carefully other experimentalists noticed that the newly found neutrino was left-handed! The news of this “parity (left-right) symmetry violation” was a shock for Pauli and most physicists at the time and they all ran to find new ways of restoring this broken symmetry somehow. Pauli and and independently, Lee and Yang, who one year before had predicted this parity violation, Salam and Landau found solutions for that. It was probably in the middle of all this scientific excitement that Pauli and Marie-Louise became more intimate with each other. Unfortunately in later in 1958 was diagnosed with cancer, medicine was not so advanced at the time and he died a few months after that.

    So much for now , I would also like to recommend Pauli’s essay “Science and Western Thought”, reproduced below, where he discusses some of his ideas about the exitent complementary between rational thinking and the unconcious which can be related to other issues raised here such as the uncertainties internal X external, the Bergson’s blog and other related stuff.


  6. Alvaro it is an excellent post, very informative, and very passionate ! thanks for writing, we need physicists around …!

  7. domphi

    agreed , was a really good and well documented/cultured post..great Alvaro.

    if you would have any personal thoughts , we will listen ..

    for eg any thoughts about the reality hiding behind the Pauli exclusion principle.

    Did Pauli “exclusive mind” ( not well appreciated by Marie Louise.) get some some deep (unconscious) understanding about an “exclusive process” going on, in the Universe?..

  8. Jeff Carreira

    thank you for this post, i know of Pauli and Jung but not this connection, nor of Marie Louise von Franz

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