The Jungians have had a fascination with quantum physics ever since CG Jung collaborated with physicist Wolfgang Pauli (and Albert Einstein) in developing his concept of synchronicity. It seems, in principle, that the idea or theory of synchronicity is an essential underpinning to the article presented below, so here is a more in-depth conceptualization of synchronicity from Wikipedia:
Synchronistic events reveal an underlying pattern, a conceptual framework that encompasses, but is larger than, any of the systems that display the synchronicity. The suggestion of a larger framework is essential to satisfy the definition of synchronicity as originally developed by Carl Gustav Jung.Here is a diagram of that model as Jung envisioned it:
Jung coined the word to describe what he called "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events." Jung variously described synchronicity as an "acausal connecting principle", "meaningful coincidence" and "acausal parallelism". Jung introduced the concept as early as the 1920s, but gave a full statement of it only in 1951 in an Eranos lecture and in 1952, published a paper, Synchronizität als ein Prinzip akausaler Zusammenhänge (Synchronicity – An Acausal Connecting Principle), in a volume with a related study by the physicist (and Nobel laureate) Wolfgang Pauli.
It was a principle that Jung felt gave conclusive evidence for his concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious, in that it was descriptive of a governing dynamic that underlies the whole of human experience and history – social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Concurrent events that first appear to be coincidental but later turn out to be causally related are termed incoincident.
Jung believed that many experiences that are coincidences due to chance in terms of causality suggested the manifestation of parallel events or circumstances in terms of meaning, reflecting this governing dynamic.
Even at Jung's presentation of his work on synchronicity in 1951 at an Eranos lecture, his ideas on synchronicity were evolving. Following discussions with both Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli, Jung believed that there were parallels between synchronicity and aspects of relativity theory and quantum mechanics. Jung was transfixed by the idea that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order, which he and Pauli referred to as Unus mundus. This deeper order led to the insights that a person was both embedded in an orderly framework and was the focus of that orderly framework and that the realisation of this was more than just an intellectual exercise, but also having elements of a spiritual awakening. From the religious perspective, synchronicity shares similar characteristics of an "intervention of grace". Jung also believed that in a person's life, synchronicity served a role similar to that of dreams, with the purpose of shifting a person's egocentric conscious thinking to greater wholeness. A close associate of Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz, stated towards the end of her life that the concept of synchronicity must now be worked on by a new generation of researchers. For example, in the years since the publication of Jung’s work on synchronicity, some writers largely sympathetic to Jung's approach have taken issue with certain aspects of his theory, including the question of how frequently synchronicity occurs. For example, in "The Waking Dream: Unlocking the Symbolic Language of Our Lives", Ray Grasse suggests that instead of being a "rare" phenomenon, as Jung suggested, synchronicity is more likely all-pervasive, and that the occasional dramatic coincidence is only the tip of a larger iceberg of meaning that underlies our lives. Grasse places the discussion of synchronicity in the context of what he calls the "symbolist" world view, a traditional way of perceiving the universe that regards all phenomena as interwoven by linked analogies or "correspondences." Though omnipresent, these correspondences tend to become obvious to us only in the case of the most startling coincidences.
Ponte, DV, Schäfer, L. (2013, Nov 13). "Carl Gustav Jung, Quantum Physics and the Spiritual Mind: A Mystical Vision of the Twenty-First Century." Behav. Sci. 3, no. 4: 601-618.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Analytical Psychology: Theory and Practice)
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1. Associação AVC (Cerebral Vascular Diseases), 4750-175 Barcelos, Portugal
2. Physical Chemistry, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA
We describe similarities in the ontology of quantum physics and of Carl Gustav Jung’s psychology. In spite of the fact that physics and psychology are usually considered as unrelated, in the last century, both of these disciplines have led at the same time to revolutionary changes in the Western understanding of the cosmic order, discovering a non-empirical realm of the universe that doesn’t consist of material things but of forms. These forms are real, even though they are invisible, because they have the potential to appear in the empirical world and act in it. We present arguments that force us to believe, that the empirical world is an emanation out of a cosmic realm of potentiality, whose forms can appear as physical structures in the external world and as archetypal concepts in our mind. Accordingly, the evolution of life now appears no longer as a process of the adaptation of species to their environment, but as the adaptation of minds to increasingly complex forms that exist in the cosmic potentiality. The cosmic connection means that the human mind is a mystical mind.
When René Descartes declared that the world consisted of two kinds of material, i.e., thinking substance and extended substance, and when Isaac Newton (, p. 400) declared that “God in the beginning formed Matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable Particles...so very hard, as never to wear or break in pieces”, Western Science then became a form of materialism, and anything that wasn’t matter didn’t matter. When Darwin introduced Newton’s materialism into biology, having-or-not-having stuff became the essence of life, and greed and aggression became the natural virtues of our society, segregating one individual from the next, one country from another, and one species from the next. In this way, the classical world was a segregative world, and all aspects of life were affected: The physical sciences had nothing to do with ethics, philosophy had nothing to do with the arts, and the order of the universe had nothing to do with the way in which we should live. As Jacques Monod described it: “Man must at last wake out of his millenary dream and discover his total solitude, his fundamental isolation. He must realize that, like a gypsy, he lives on the boundary of an alien world; a world that is deaf to his music, and as indifferent to his hopes as it is to his suffering or his crimes” (, p. 160).
In this totalitarian materialistic environment, Carl Gustav Jung had the courage to propose that our mind is guided by a system of forms, the archetypes, which are powerful, even though they don’t carry any mass or energy, and which are real, even though they are invisible. The archetypes exist, as Jung (, pp. 43–44) described, in a “psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature”. Out of this system, the invisible forms can appear in our mind and guide “our imagination, perception, and thinking”.
As it turns out, Carl Gustav Jung’s revolutionary views of the human mind are in perfect agreement with the discoveries of Quantum Physics, which, during the last century, also came as a shock, because they revealed the fundamental errors of Classical Physics and led to a radical change in the Western view of the world. The quantum phenomena now force us to think that the basis of the material world is non-material, and that there is a realm of the world that we can’t see, because it doesn’t consist of material things, but of non-material forms. These forms are real, even though they are invisible, because they have the potential to appear in the empirical world and to act on us. They form a realm of potentiality in the physical reality, and all empirical things are emanations out of this realm. There are indications that the forms in the cosmic potentiality are patterns of information, thought-like, and that they are hanging together like the thoughts in our mind. Accordingly, the world now appears to us as an undivided wholeness, in which all things and people are interconnected and consciousness is a cosmic property.
In this essay, we will describe the similarities between Carl Gustav Jung’s psychology and Quantum ontology. Our description will show that Jung’s teaching is more than psychology: it is a form of spirituality. By “spirituality”, we mean a view of the world that accepts the numinous at the foundation of the cosmic order. In the same way, Quantum Physics is more than physics: it is a new form of mysticism, which suggests the interconnectedness of all things and beings and the connection of our minds with a cosmic mind.
2. Quantum Physics and the Spiritual Foundation of the Empirical World
If we want to characterize Carl-Gustav Jung’s psychology in one sentence, we can say that Analytical Psychology, embodied in the archetype structure, leads us to the view that there is a part of the world that we can’t see, a realm of reality that doesn’t consist of material things but of non-material forms. These forms are real even though they are invisible, because they have the potential to appear in our mind and act in it. In the following sections, we will show that this view of the world is identical with the ontology of Quantum Physics. Our description is necessarily short, but the interested reader will find many details and references in our previous works [4–22]; particularly, in a recent book, “Infinite Potential. What Quantum Physics Reveals About How We Should Live” .
3. The Basis of the Material World is Non-Material
The first aspect of the quantum world that we have to consider concerns the fact that the basis of material things is not material. This view is in complete contrast to our experience of the world, but it follows from Schrödinger’s quantum mechanics, which is currently the only theory that allows us to understand the properties of atoms and molecules. In this theory, the electrons in atoms and molecules aren’t tiny material particles, little balls of matter, but standing waves or forms.
All atoms consist of a positively charged nucleus, which contains most of the mass of an atom, and of electrons, which are somehow arranged in the space surrounding the nucleus. Electrons are tiny elementary particles: they have a definite mass and, whenever we see one, it appears as a tiny dot: for example, as a flash on a TV screen or a little mark on a photographic film.
In contrast to their appearances, the electrons in atoms and molecules aren’t tiny material particles or little balls, which run around atomic the atomic nuclei like planets around the sun, but they are standing waves: when an electron enters an atom, it ceases to be a material particle and becomes a wave. We owe Max Born for the discovery that the nature of these waves is that of probability waves. That is, the electrons in atoms are probability fields.
When this aspect of electrons first became known was unclear. What are probabilities? Probabilities are dimensionless numbers, ratios of numbers. Probability waves are empty and carry no mass or energy, just information on numerical relations. Nevertheless, the visible order of the world is determined by the interference of these waves. The interferences of atomic wave patterns, for example, determine what kind of molecules can form. In addition, the interferences of molecular wave forms determine how molecules interact. The molecules in your body, for example, interact in such a way that they keep you alive.
In view of these properties of the elementary units of matter, we have to conclude that the order of the visible world is based on phenomena, which transcend the materialism of classical physics. If one pursues the nature of matter to its roots, at the level of atoms and molecules all of a sudden one finds oneself in a realm of mathematical forms and numbers, where all matter is lost: Thus, one is led to the view that the basis of reality is nonmaterial.
In modern science, this finding was unexpected, and many scientists still don’t accept it, but the idea isn’t new. For example, in the sixth century B.C.E. Pythagoras (, p. 54) was already teaching that “all things are numbers” and that “the entire cosmos is harmony and number.” In Plato’s philosophy, atoms are mathematical forms. St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions: “The older I got, the more despicable became the emptiness of my thought, because I could think of no entity in any other way than as bodily visible”. Moreover, Nicolas da Cusa, a fifteenth century German theologian, is credited with the statement: “Number was the first model of things in the mind of the Creator.”
At this point, the reader may already note the importance of the quantum world for Carl Gustav Jung’s psychology: The discovery of a realm of non-material forms, which exist in the physical reality as the basis of the visible world, makes it possible to accept the view that the archetypes are truly existing, real forms, which can appear in our mind out of a cosmic realm, in which they are stored. Thus, we can confirm here on the basis of the quantum phenomena Jung’s view that “it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing” (, para. 418).
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6. Quantum Physics Is the Psychology of the Universe
An important concept in quantum chemistry is the concept of virtual states: virtual states are the empty states of atoms and molecules. (For a more detailed description of the concept of virtuality in chemistry, with additional examples, see “Infinite Potential” ).
All atoms and molecules exist in quantum states. You can think of a molecule like of a mountain range with countless hills and valleys. Each valley is an energy hole, which contains an energy ladder. The steps of these ladders represent fixed, or quantized, amounts of energy: they are the quantum states of a molecule. Each molecule must occupy one of its states—it must stand on one of the steps of its ladders—so that a large number of states are empty. Quantum chemists call the empty states of things their virtual states. Virtual states are mathematical forms or patterns of information. They have the forms of waves, but these waves are invisible, because they are empty: there is nothing there to see. But they are real and they truly exist, even though we can’t see them, because a molecule can jump into such a state and make it a visible state. You can think of virtual states as the logical structure of a system, which contains its future empirical possibilities: All that a molecule can do is to jump from an occupied state into a virtual state.
In an empirical science the appearance of entities, which have no matter, no energy and are invisible, is an embarrassment. You can very well compare the situation to Jung’s thesis that behind our conscious thinking there is a realm of unconscious forms. If you have to describe the world by referring to an invisible, numinous realm of reality, you are leaving the realm of empirical science. Thus, many of the pioneers of quantum physics tried to explain the virtual states away as mere constructs that don’t really exist. However, we have no choice: we have to think that the empty states of atoms and molecules are real, because they can control empirical phenomena.
For example, all chemical reactions are steered by the virtual states of the reacting molecules, which determine what kinds of molecules can form in a reaction. In a specific type of reactions, called Redox reactions, the products appear with characteristic magnetic properties, which are determined by their virtual states. In addition, oxygen can serve our metabolism, because it contains what chemists call degenerate states. Degenerate states are invisible and yet they are the basis for the particular reactivity of oxygen.
There is no doubt: invisible virtual states are real. Since their inner forms can affect visible phenomena, they must be truly existing, real entities. Molecules are guided in their actions by the wave forms of their virtual states, like by inner images.
The concept of the inner images derives from psychology. Brain scientist Gerald Hüther (, p. 17) calls inner images all that “which is hidden” behind the visible surface of living beings and steers their actions. Similarly, Jung  believed that archetypal images exist in our consciousness, which are manifestations of the pure forms of archetypes, which are unknowable.
In chemistry, a molecule doesn’t do anything that isn’t allowed by a wave form—an inner image—of one of its virtual states. In life, a human being does nothing that isn’t allowed by an inner image of the mind. There is an equivalence of the mental and the physical. Psychology is the physics of the mind: Quantum physics is the psychology of the universe.
7. Quantum Wave Functions Are Archetypes
It is no accident that the development of psychology as a science took a quantum leap after 1900 C.E, when the era of the Classical Sciences came to an end and the Quantum era began. Jung’s view of the human psyche presupposes a structure of the universe that is in perfect agreement with the Quantum universe, but impossible in Newton’s world. For example, Jung’s assumption that an invisible part of the world exists, which doesn’t consist of material things, but of forms—the archetypes—is unacceptable in a Newtonian universe, in which all phenomena depend on the properties of matter.
Jung’s collective unconscious is a non-personal part of the human psyche. It is a realm of forms—the archetypes—which can appear spontaneously in our consciousness and act in it, influencing “our imagination, perception, and thinking” (, p. 44). The archetypes are “typical modes of apprehension” (, p. 137), which shape, regulate and motivate the conscious forms in our mind in the same way, in which the virtual states of atoms and molecules shape and control empirical phenomena. We must constantly reach into the realm of the archetypes and actualize their virtual forms, in order to be able to live and to give meaning to life.
We have described above, how molecules are guided in their actions by the wave forms of their quantum states, like by inner images. Since the inner images control all the processes of the world, they must have guided, too, the evolution of life. In this way, biological evolution appears primarily not as an adaptation of life forms to their environment, but as the adaptation of minds to increasingly complex forms—archetypes—in the cosmic potentiality. In our minds, the cosmic forms appear as thoughts; in the physical reality they appear as material structures. We can understand the world, because the forms within our mind and the structures of the world outside, both derive from the same cosmic source.
It makes sense to think that all of reality is like the reality of the atoms. That is, behind the visible surface of things there is a realm of invisible forms, which have the potential to appear in the empirical world and act in it. As pointed out above, we can think of this realm like of an ocean, whose waves are hanging together and are mind-like, so that the universe now appears as an indivisible wholeness, and consciousness is a cosmic property.
The appearance of the archetypes in our mind shows our connection with a transpersonal order. Beyond the narrow confines of our personal psyche, Jung pointed out, the collective unconscious is
“a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad…where I am indivisibly this and that; where I experience the other in myself and the other-than-myself experiences me…There I am utterly one with the world, so much a part of it that I forget all too easily who I really am.” (, p. 21).
Idealist philosophers and mystics have pursued such ideas through the ages. In the nineteenth century, for example, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel taught that “Absolute Spirit” is the primary structure of the universe. Everything that exists is the actualization of spirit, and everything is connected with it. Spirit is everything, creates everything, and thinking and being, subject and object, the real and the ideal, the human and the divine—all are One. Thus, Hegel concluded, our thinking is the thinking of the Cosmic Spirit, who is thinking in us.
Thousands of years prior to Hegel, the Indian Sages invented the allegory of the water pots, which are filled with water and placed into the sun: You can see the sun in each one of them, but there is only one sun. Similarly, you can find consciousness in countless human minds, but there is only one consciousness: the Cosmic Consciousness.
The word, “consciousness” derives from the Latin, “con” and “sciencia”, and it means a state of “knowing together”. Interestingly, when we speak of our consciousness and that of other people, we always speak of “our consciousness”, and never use the plural form, speaking of our consciousnesses. There is no plural form, because there is only one consciousness: the cosmic consciousness. If our personal consciousness is merely a part of a cosmic system, it isn’t amazing that archetypes can appear in our mind and act in it.
By the way, in which it describes the world, quantum physics has taken science into the center of ancient spiritual teachings. For example, molecular wave functions have no units of matter or energy. They are pure, non-material forms. The same is true for Jung’s archetypes: like the wave functions of quantum systems, they are pure, non-material forms. In Aristotle’s metaphysics, all things are mixtures of matter and form. There was only one pure form: God.
The name that quantum chemists have given the empty states of atoms and molecules—that is, calling them “virtual states”—is a peculiar expression and one wonders, where it is coming from? As it turns out, the concept wasn’t invented by quantum chemists, but by Meister Eckhart, a medieval Dominican Monk and Mystic. “The visible things are out of the oneness of the divine light”, Meister Eckhart (cit. in , pp. 63–64) wrote, and their existence in the empirical world is due the “actualization of their ‘virtual being’”.
What a stunning phenomenon! The same unusual term appears in the mind of a medieval mystic and then, hundreds of years later, in the mind of a quantum chemist. The example shows, that absolute truths can appear, again and again, with the same messages, through thousands of years, in different minds, different ages and different parts of the world. It is difficult to avoid the impression that our minds are connected to a cosmic realm of thoughts: the realm of Jung’s archetypes.
Jung’s archetypes and the wave functions of quantum states are so similar that we could think of the archetypes as the virtual state functions of our mind; and we could speak of the virtual quantum wave functions as the archetypes of the physical reality. Because they “have never been in consciousness” before (, p. 42), the archetypes appear out of a nonempirical realm of the world. For each one of us the birth of a conscious self is out of a realm of nonempirical forms, in the same way in which the birth of an empirical world is out of a realm of virtual states. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the two families of forms have their home in the same cosmic realm; that is, in the realm of the cosmic consciousness. “That the world inside and outside ourselves rests on a transcendent background is as certain as our own existence.” (Jung cit. in , p. 4).