Archetypes / C.G.Jung / Dreams / History / Science

C.G. Jung, Kepler and Pauli – The Synchronicity Triangle

 The psychoanalytic C.G.Jung and the famous astronomer Kepler were both intuitive thinkers and empiric scientists with strong mystic tendencies. Pauli was a famous particle physicist, who collaborated with C.G. Jung on the concept synchronicity. When I studied Kepler’s work, I found a similarity of C.G. Jung’s and Kepler’s view on astrology and to my surprise, that Kepler even used the term archetype just in the way C.G. Jung did. This is touched in Pauli’s essay on Kepler. Kepler, Pauli and Jung were trailblazers in their own disciplines as well as in the realm of collaboration across disciplines. Their similar approach as scientist or physician and the concept of synchronicity and archetype form a triangle.


C.G.Jung valued astrology as one of the intuitive methods he used like the I Ching. For him astrology is based upon the synchronicity principle, i.e. meaningful coincidence: “Astrology is a naively projected psychology in which the different attitudes and temperaments of man are represented as gods and identified with planets and zodiacal constellations”.

Kepler is recognized as one of the founders of modern science. He was a devout Christian with mystical tendencies (obvious in his book Harmonices Mundi) working as astrologer of General Albrecht von Wallenstein, a successful soldier of fortune for Rudolph II. Keplers (two) horoscopes of Wallenstein are studied and books written about them until today. Kepler lived during turbulent times, the 30 Year’s War, in “Germany”. This war, by no means only a religious war, decimated half of its population. Kepler was not only working as astrologer in order to make ends meet (he got never paid for his job as court astronomer and adviser of the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II). Although Kepler was deeply dissatisfied with the way some astrology was practised, he strove to improve the predictive capability by strengthen the theoretical underpinnings of astrology with both mathematical and philosophical models and his superior ephemeris (his Rudolphine Tables). He used carefully selected methods (sun arc directions – and secondary directions – one ephemeris day equals one year of life –  but not for planets but  axis, which is actually a primary direction degree on the Zodiac equals one year of life).  For Kepler the sun/earth relation is paramount..He also compared astrological predictions correcting assumed birth time and was able to use “true time” that is actual pace of the Sun not the mean time.  

Kepler strongly believed that ‘The world of nature, the world of man, the world of God—all three fit together.In particular, Kepler reasoned that because the universe was designed by an intelligent Creator, it should function according to some logical pattern.Kepler converted to the Copernican heliocentric universe early in his career but was also strongly influenced by neo-Platonic philosophy, which saw the divine in the regularity of geometry (“God always geometrizes”, Plato). It is no exaggeration to say that Kepler was one of the most outstanding and dramatic figures under all his contemporaries and a scientist who repeatedly attacked dogmas of astronomy or astrology. He not only ensured that the Copernican theory became widely recognized, but actually gave it the needed physical and mathematical underpinnings. Before Kepler’s Laws, the basic Copernican model was neither more reliable, nor physical more accurate or mathematical less complicated than the old Ptolemaic model: All astronomers assumed (wrongly) uniform circular motion. When Kepler worked in the Prague period on the “Astronomia nova“, he discovered the famous second law of planetary motion (“planets moved in elliptical orbits, in which a focal point the Sun is”) with the millennia-old paradigm. This needed intellectual courage of Kepler, because it was a break with the tradition of all great astronomers from Ptolemy and Copernicus and the concept of the perfect form – the circle. Nonetheless, after numerous calculations and double-checks Kepler regretfully accepted, basically apologizing to god in his foreword. Kepler also calculated without wavering the birth date of Jesus Christ new. In his work “About the date of birth of God’s true Jesus Christ” Kepler identified the star of Bethlehem with the great conjunction of Saturn and the Jupiter and calculated that this event on the third year CE.

Pauli, a “Wunderkind” may be called a pioneer of quantum physics and leading member of the group of theoretical physicists, including Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger. The group transformed our understanding of the way matter behaves at the subatomic level encountering a new world where Einstein’s theories (and Newtons Laws) do not apply. Exploration of the Pauli-Jung collaboration is particularly interesting because of the holistic view of his major scientific work, which won him the Nobel prize.The Pauli exclusion principle explains how matters form and a variety of astrophysic effects. 

On the psychic side, the Pauli effect was named after the anecdotal bizarre ability of his to break experiments simply by being in the vicinity and his sarcastic remarks toward colleagues. Pauli has always been a strong drinker, which did not seem to hamper his scientific genius. His marriage with a bar singer-dancer became a complete disaster within one year. His mother committed suicide. Despite his Jewish origins Pauli was baptised catholic. Pauli met with Jung, whom he consulted regularly till 1934 in a deep psychological crisis. Especially Pauli’s dreams, which were full of symbolism from alchemy, were extensively discussed.

Pauli himself had written an article called “The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler” which appeared later in a volume with an essay of Jung’s on synchronicity. The Pauli-Jung collaboration aimed at explication of a unifying or connecting principle bridging the gap between mind and matter or (quantum) physics with psychoanalysis. Jung’s theory of synchronicity stipulated that certain events-often called coincidences-actually reveal the operation of an non-causal connection between mental and physical events through meaning. The history of Jung’s reception by the scientific and scholarly communities is cautious – they largely discredited theories of Freud are considered scientific, but although many Jung’s concepts are widely used his overall work is labeled often as unscientific.  Synchronicity has been the prime target for criticism of Jung, but is for me a natural extension of Jung’s view of the intuitive function.


Jung coined the word to describe what he called “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events” or  “meaningful coincidence” and “acausal parallelism in which archetypes and the collective unconscious are governing a dynamic that underlies the whole of human experience and history — social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.  

 Synchronicity does not admit causality in the analogy between terrestrial events and astrological constellations … What astrology can establish are the analogous events, but not that either series is the cause or the effect of the other. (For instance, the same constellation may at one time signify a catastrophe and at another time, in the same case, a cold in the head.) … In any case, astrology occupies a unique and special position among the intuitive methods… I have observed many cases where a well-defined psychological phase, or an analogous event, was accompanied by a transit (particularly when Saturn and Uranus were affected). – Carl G. Jung

Jung’s paradigmatic example of a synchronicity occurred during a therapy session, and the connecting meaning in a synchronistic event is subjective, related to the individual’s psychological maturation, or individuation. Jung and Pauli believed, events like this occur too often enough to be only meaningless coincidence. Jung noted taking as usual phenomenological stance, while it would be “absurd” to consider the conjunction of dream material and life events to be causal, “it is wise to consider the fact that [these coincidences] do happen…The East…considers coincidences as the reliable basis of the world rather than causality. Synchronism is the prejudice of the East; causality is the modern prejudice of the West.”

Jung mentioned the concept again in his commentary to Wilhelm’s translation of “The Secret of the Golden Flower”. He concluded that “the causality principle” cannot explain “psychic parallelisms” that must somehow be connected but are not causally related and equated synchronicity with the Chinese Tao. Jung would write about this concept again, and when he did, his focus would shift from the empirical and phenomenological aspects of synchronistic phenomena to the ontological and archetypal nature of such events. Pauli thought that the probabilistic nature of quantum theory and the Uncertainty Principle offered the possibility of discovering something beyond the mind-matter gap which transformed Jung’s understanding of synchronicity. As a result of his interaction with Pauli, Jung gradually came to see this non-causal connecting principle as an explanatory theory must be seen in combination with causality to lead to a better understanding reality, rather than having only a subjective meaning.

 Astrology and Alchemy

 C.G.Jung saw alchemy as continuation of Gnostic thoughts and wrote: “The starry vault of heaven is in truth the open book of cosmic projection, in which are reflected the mythologies, i.e., the archetypes. In this vision astrology and alchemy, the two classical functionaries of the psychology of the collective unconscious, join hands”.

 In his book “Psychology and Alchemy” of C.G. Jung contains Pauli’s early dreams which provided Jung with a rich resource for theoretical exploration, and his own interpretations played a role in Jung’s theories. Pauli clearly believed that this effort was scientific; he said that “even the most modern physics also lends itself to the symbolic representation of psychic processes, even down to the last detail.” In his final version of the synchronicity essay (The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche Part 2), Jung wrote that the “archetype represents psychic probability”. Pauli wrote in his Kepler essay (published there as part one), that “pure logic” is not capable of establishing a “bridge between the sense perceptions and the concepts.” Kepler himself thought that scientific ideas discerned by humanity exist eternally as archetypes in the mind of God, and Jung’s theories understand archetypes similar “as ordering operators and image-formers” in the symbolic. “It would be most satisfactory” said Pauli, “if physics and psyche could be seen as complementary aspects of the same reality.”

Kepler expressed also original ideas in relation to astrology almost like something the physical resonance theory like: the celestial bodies themselves exert no influence on the human fate, but fixed the angle between the rays toward the heavenly bodies the soul at the moment of human birth and later responds specifically to them. He used actually the term archetypes in his astrological work and not only his Wallenstein horoscope legendary. Kepler ideas, as Wolfgang Pauli observed, identify important intermediate stage between archaic, logical symbolic, and new, quantitative and mathematical description of nature. Much of what was later separated in scientific and non-scientific knowledge was at that time merged inseparably. Similar to representatives of scholastic science, Kepler relied on accuracy, allegory, speculative ideas, and mysticism, but unlike the Scholastics he tested constantly each theory and carefully compared the results with the rich observations of Tyco Brahe and calculations. C.G. Jung derived lekewise many of his insights from observation he made treating his patients.

 Ancient wisdom in a global world

Our modern science begins with astronomy. Instead of saying that man was led by psychological motives, they formerly said he was led by his stars. … The puzzling thing is that there is really a curious coincidence between astrological and psychological facts, so that one can isolate time from the characteristics of an individual, and also, one can deduce characteristics from a certain time. Therefore we have to conclude that what we call psychological motives are in a way identical with star positions. Since we cannot demonstrate this, we must form a peculiar hypothesis. This hypothesis says that the dynamics of our psyche is not just identical with the position of the stars, nor has it to do with vibrations – that is an illegitimate hypothesis. It is better to assume that it is a phenomenon of time. … The stars are simply used by man to serve as indicators of time… – Carl G. Jung in 1929

 The arrogance of today’s scholarstoward medieval age and traditional knowledge is incomprehensible and the humiliating assessments of Kepler activity, which can be found in the “history of Western philosophy” by Bertrand Russell who described Kepler is “an example of what can achieve mediocrity through hard work”. But Kepler, not Galileo came up for the mathematical proof and physical correct model of the heliocentric model. Kepler is particularly suitable for tracking the various sides and peculiarities of the epistemological concepts, problems of scientific paradigm change and the relations between the empirical and theoretical knowledge. Kepler himself speaks of primary images as being “archetypal” [archetypalis], and Pauli develops a detailed correspondence with Jung’s archetypes. Pauli writes: “the view of the universe was not as yet split into a religious one and a scientific one.” Indeed subjects of physics, religion, mathematics and astrology are all found in one single book of Kepler. His astrological and religious themes have been neglected and Jung’s broader view of psychoanalysis has until very recently been marginalized. The tide is slowly turning, though, and at least Jung may yet have his day. Physicists with a psychological or spiritual inclination have taken note of synchronicity and written of its validity for exploring the connection between quantum and classical physics. Others scientists have begun to explore theories of human cognition that rely on constructs very much like Kepler’s and Jung’s archetypes and his evolutionary understanding of human experience so useful in a globalized world, where I cross many cultural boundaries on a given day.To me Kepler’s astrology is not only superstition but contains some psychological facts (like theosophy) which are of considerable importance. Kepler never predicted the future but in possible (character) dispositions. His astrology connects at least culturally and historically the religion and psychology of antiquity with physics and astronomy of today.

 Jung, C. G., Pauli, W. (1952): Naturerklärung und Psyche. Zürich: Rascher (Download)

C.G. Jung (1955) Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle

Wolfgang Pauli. Verzeichnis der Manuskripte und Korrespondenzen im Archiv der ETH Zürich

Wolfgang Pauli und die moderne Physik. Virtuelle Ausstellung der ETH-Bibliothek

Pauli Archives, CERN, Nachlassverzeichnis

W. Pauli, The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler

Kepler, Harmonices mundi, Harmony of the Worlds, 1619

2 thoughts on “C.G. Jung, Kepler and Pauli – The Synchronicity Triangle

  1. Pingback: C.G. Jung, Kepler and Pauli – The Synchronicity Triangle | Image of the World |

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