Quantum Physics,
Depth Psychology,
and Beyond

Thomas J. McFarlane
February 26, 2000
revised June 21, 2000

ABSTRACT: This paper begins with a review of developments in the modern Western worldview, especially as they relate to the relationships between psyche and matter, with particular emphasis on certain trends in psychology and physics in the early 20th century. Next the paper discusses several ideas relating to the connection between psyche and matter, especially those related to Jungian depth psychology and quantum physics. The paper concludes with some thoughts on how the unity of psyche and matter suggested by these ideas might provide a framework for an integrated understanding of both the inner and outer realms of experience.


If a union is to take place between opposites like spirit and matter, conscious and unconscious, bright and dark, and so on, it will happen in a third thing, which represents not a compromise but something new.[1] - C. G. Jung

The modern worldview of Western culture is characterized by an implicit division between the objective or physical realm of existence and the subjective or psychic realm of existence, with the objective or physical realm generally dominating the subjective or psychic realms to the point of virtual exclusion, as in the materialistic worldview which considers mind to be a mere epiphenomenon of matter. The dominance of modern materialism is due in large part to its association with the remarkable theoretical and practical power of classical physics as developed by Newton and his successors. According to this model, reality consists of a fixed and passive space containing localized material particles whose movement in time is deterministically governed by mathematical laws. Consequently, mental phenomena, in this picture, are nothing more than the complex functions of the material brain governed by physical laws.

Although scientific materialism provided the dominant worldview of modern Western culture, it did not exist to the total exclusion of other alternatives. Nevertheless, these alternatives did not succeed in fundamentally challenging the dominance of materialism. Instead, this challenge largely came from within empirical science itself. In the 20th century the modern materialistic worldview began to unravel in the face of scientific developments, particularly in physics. In physics, the development of relativity and quantum theory served to radically undermine various fundamental assumptions at the base of the materialistic model. For example, the special and general theories of relativity forced physicists to revise their basic conceptions of space, time, movement, gravitation, matter, energy, and the nature of the cosmos as a whole. Quantum theory, on the other hand, forced a revision of the concepts of causality, determinism, and locality. Perhaps most importantly, it even challenged the idea that properties of matter have an objective existence independent of observation. As a result, 20th century physics undermined the very basis for materialism, and suggested to some thinkers that the psyche may be involved, in some mysterious way, with the determination of the observed properties of matter.

Meanwhile, developments in psychology during the 20th century explicitly introduced the psyche into the domain of scientific inquiry. In particular, Freud's psychoanalytic theory demonstrated the reality of a psychological unconscious, an unobservable psychic reality which contains repressed personal impulses and desires. These hidden psychic contents exert their influence upon consciousness and thus can be indirectly known by us through a study of various conscious contents, such as our dreams. Although the concept of the psychological unconscious did not initially challenge materialism, the discovery of the transpersonal depths of the unconscious by Jung (i.e., the collective unconscious and psychological archetypes) presupposed a psychic reality that was difficult to reconcile with any strictly materialistic understanding of human nature. Moreover, Jung's later work with the phenomenon of synchronicity provided evidence that the deepest regions of the unconscious (i.e., the unus mundus) consists of "psychoid" structures that transcend the distinction between psyche and matter altogether.

The above developments in 20th century physics and psychology have analogous implications: just as psychology revealed in the deepest regions of psyche a profound connection with matter, physics revealed in the depths of matter a profound connection with the psyche. Although the precise nature of these connections remains elusive and controversial, the provocative possibility of transcending the dualism of mind and matter has provided motivation for the development of a more comprehensive and unified worldview. As Jungian psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz says,

The unexpected parallelisms of ideas in psychology and physics suggest, as Jung pointed out, a possible ultimate oneness of both fields of reality that physics and psychology study. . . . The concept of a unitarian idea of reality (which has been followed up by Pauli and Erich Neumann) was called by Jung the unus mundus (the one world, within which matter and psyche and are not yet discriminated or separately actualized).[2]

The remainder of this paper will explore in more detail some of these developments during the 20th century, with a particular emphasis on depth psychology and quantum physics. Because this paper does not presuppose familiarity with quantum physics or depth psychology, a brief exposition of some basic concepts in these two areas of research will precede the discussion of their connections.

Quantum Physics

The existing scientific concepts cover always only a very limited part of reality, and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite. Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown we may hope to understand, but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word `understanding'.[3] - Werner Heisenberg
The fundamental laws of quantum physics were discovered independently in 1925 by Werner Heisenberg and in 1926 by Erwin Schrödinger in response to puzzling experimental evidence that contradicted the fundamental concepts of classical physics. For example, electrons (which were previously thought to be particles) were found to exhibit properties of waves. Conversely, light (which was previously thought to be waves) was found to exhibit properties of particles. This confusion of classical distinctions between particles and waves was resolved by Niels Bohr's principle of complementarity, according to which the wave and particle concepts are understood to be mutually exclusive but both necessary for a complete description of quantum phenomena.

A consequence of this wave-particle duality is that all matter has a wave aspect, and cannot be said to have a definite localized position at all times. Moreover, by virtue of their nonlocal wave properties, pairs of spatially separated particles sometimes exhibit nonlocal correlations in their attributes. Another consequence of the wave-particle duality is a corresponding duality between the unobserved and the observed. This duality raises puzzling questions regarding the nature of measurement in quantum mechanics: how is it that the wave suddenly changes into a particle, and how is this sudden transformation related to observation?

A deeper understanding of these subtle issues requires some basic understanding of the way quantum physics describes phenomena. According to quantum physics, the state of an unobserved quantum of matter or light (such as an electron or photon) is represented by a solution to Schrödinger's wave equation. This solution is a quantum wave function y(x) whose intensity |y(x)|2 at any particular position x represents the probability of observing the quantum at that position. When the quantum is observed, however, it is seen to have a definite actual position, and the wave function no longer properly describes the quantum. Thus, when the quantum is unobserved, it is a nonlocal wave of probable positions; and when the quantum is observed, it is a particle having a definite localized position. As a result, both the particle and wave concepts are required to completely characterize a quantum: the particle concept is required to describe its particle-like behavior when observed, while the wave concept is require to describe its wave-like behavior when unobserved. The particle and wave concepts are called "complementary" descriptions because they are both needed to characterize the observed and unobserved aspects of any quantum, as illustrated in the following table.


wave functions
unobserved quanta
observed quanta

Although observation is evidently necessary to bring about the transition from possible to actual, the fundamental nature of observation in quantum theory remains somewhat mysterious. This problem of measurement derives from the fact that, prior to observation the quantum is described as being a nonlocal wave of probability spread throughout space, while after observation only one of the possible values is actualized. Thus, observation involves a discontinuous "collapse" (also called a "projection") of the quantum wave function from a continuum of possibilities to a single actualized value. This projection, however, is an ad hoc element of the formalism, and is not a lawful transformation that is governed by Schrödinger's wave equation. There is no explanation for how, when, or where this mysterious projection happens. Moreover, when the projection takes place, the laws of quantum physics do not predict which of the possible values will be actualized in any given observation, thus violating classical determinism and introducing an element of acausality and spontaneity into the theory at a fundamental level.

In a fundamental analysis of the quantum measurement process, John von Neumann argued that consciousness is required to explain the projection of the wave function from possibility to actuality. In particular, he reasoned that because all physical interactions are governed by Schrödinger's wave equation, the projection that is associated with observation must be attributed to a non-physical consciousness that is not governed by physical law. According to von Neumann, this activity of consciousness only serves to cause the projection, and does not select or influence the particular value actualized. There is thus a spontaneity inherent in the projection that takes place in the transition from the unobserved to the observed.

Jungian Psychology

Since the stars have fallen from heaven and our highest symbols have paled, a secret life holds sway in the unconscious. ...Our unconscious...hides living water, spirit that has become nature, and that is why it is disturbed. Heaven has become for us the cosmic space of the physicists, and the divine empyrean a fair memory of things that once were. But "the heart glows," and a secret unrest gnaws at the roots of our being.[4] - C. G. Jung
The notion of the psychological unconscious was first extensively developed in Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1900, and further developed in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, published in 1905. In addition to the contents of our conscious awareness, Freud considered the psyche to also contain an unconscious region whose contents are hidden and cannot be directly observed. These unconscious contents, according to Freud, consist of previously conscious contents that have been repressed and forgotten. The unconscious is thus a kind of `skeleton closet' containing personal psychological contents that were conscious in the past but then hidden away. Although they are no longer directly observable, these unconscious contents can be indirectly known through their effects on consciousness, such as their influence on our dreams. In Freud's conception, the unconscious contains only personal psychic contents that were previously conscious, but then repressed, typically during childhood.

After studying with Freud, Carl Jung deepened and expanded Freud's notion of the unconscious, most notably in his Psychology of the Unconscious, published in 1912, and his Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, published in 1934. According to Jung, the unconscious contains, in addition to repressed personal contents, a deep and vast region of collective psychic contents, called the collective unconscious. In contrast to the personal unconscious contents that were previously conscious, the collective unconscious contents do not derive from previously conscious personal contents. Instead, the collective contents are innate and universal. In Jung's words,

We have to distinguish between a personal unconscious and an impersonal or transpersonal unconscious. We speak of the latter also as the collective unconscious, because it is detached from anything personal and is common to all men, since its contents can be found everywhere, which is naturally not the case with the personal contents.[5]

Although the collective unconscious is present in the depths of each individual psyche, it is not subjective in the sense of being different from person to person. Because the collective unconscious is common to all individuals, it is objective in the sense that all individuals share these same deep psychic structures. As Jung writes,

The collective unconscious stands for the objective psyche, the personal unconscious for the subjective psyche.[6]

In short, the door to the unconscious does not open up to a skeleton closet, as Freud proposed, but opens up to a larger world beyond the walls of the conscious psyche.

It is important to note that between the personal and collective regions of the psyche there are various intermediate levels of depth, each having its share of universality and particularity. Jung explains:

In as much as there are differentiations as corresponding to race, tribe, and even family, there is also a collective psyche limited to race, tribe, and family over and above the "universal" collective psyche.[7]

The unconscious, in other words, is not divided into distinct personal and collective regions, but rather is a continuum with the personal and universal contents at each extreme. Jung's most important contribution and his primary interest, however, is in the deeper regions of the collective unconscious, whose structures Jung calls archetypes. Like Plato's Ideas, the archetypes of the collective unconscious are universal patterns that shape our experience of the world and provide it with common elements. Following Kant, however, Jung considers the archetypes as epistemological structures rather than independent ontological entities:

The collective unconscious, being the repository of man's experience and at the same time the prior condition of this experience, is an image of the world which has taken eons to form. In this image certain features, the archetypes or dominants, have crystallized out in the course of time.[8]

According to Jung's conception of the collective unconscious, the archetypal structures are not fixed, but dynamic. Not only do the archetypes evolve over time, but they also have dynamic and creative activity in the present. Moreover, this activity is not merely a reaction to the activities of consciousness, but is inherent in the unconscious itself. As Jung explains,

If [the unconscious] were merely reactive to the conscious mind, we might aptly call it a psychic mirror world. In that case, the real source of all contents and activities would lie in the conscious mind, and there would be absolutely nothing in the unconscious except the distorted reflections of conscious contents. The creative process would be shut up in the conscious mind, and anything new would be nothing but conscious invention or cleverness. The empirical facts give the lie to this. Every creative man knows that spontaneity is the very essence of creative thought. Because the unconscious is not just a reactive mirror reflection, but an independent, productive activity, its realm of experience is a self-contained world, having its own reality, of which we can only say that it affects us as we affect it--precisely what we say about our experience of the outer world. And just as material objects are the constituent elements of this world, so psychic factors constitute the objects of that other world.[9]

The objective psychic world, or collective unconscious, is thus similar to the objective physical world in that both worlds have objective structures and both worlds have autonomous activity independent of our personal will. For example, just as the objective physical world serves as a creative impetus for the development of our scientific worldviews, the psyche develops and evolves because the objective psyche is not merely repressed conscious contents, but has an autonomous activity that is relatively independent of our personal consciousness. Because this activity of the unconscious is relatively autonomous, it often manifests as a compensation or correction to our conscious views or beliefs. The result is an evolution of the psyche toward wholeness and integration, a process Jung called `individuation'.

In an unconscious compensation, some unconscious content is spontaneously expressed or manifested in consciousness, such as in a dream, and provides the psyche with an opportunity to integrate the unconscious content into consciousness. One of the most interesting and dramatic types of unconscious compensation is the phenomenon Jung calls synchronicity. Synchronicity is necessarily meaningful in the sense that it is a form of unconscious compensation that serves to advance the process of individuation. It is distinguished from other forms of unconscious compensation by the fact that synchronicity involves a connection between inner psychological experience and outer experiences in the world, where the connection is acausal in the sense that the inner experience cannot have been an efficient cause of the outer experience, or vice versa. In short, synchronicity is a meaningful, acausal connection between inner and outer events. Because the phenomenon of synchronicity involves an acausal coordination of the inner and outer worlds in a meaningful way, it is not exclusively a psychological or physical phenomenon, but is "psychoid" meaning that it somehow essentially involves both psyche and matter. Thus, Jung interpreted synchronicity to imply the existence of an extremely profound level of reality prior to any distinction between psyche and matter. In other words, synchronicity phenomena represent a manifestation in consciousness of psychoid structures present in the depths of a transcendental unitary reality Jung called the unus mundus:

Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing.[10]

The unus mundus is also implied by the fact that we evidently occupy one reality that contains both psyche and matter, and that these two domains of reality are not absolutely independent and isolated, but interact with each other. As Jung says,

Psyche and matter exist in one and the same world, and each partakes of the other, otherwise any reciprocal action would be impossible. If research could only advance far enough, therefore, we would arrive at an ultimate agreement between physical and psychological concepts.[11]

Jung's concept of the unus mundus, therefore, not only shows how matter is implicated in the depths of the psyche, but also provides a framework for integrating our understanding of psyche and matter. In this framework, both the objective psychic and objective physical worlds are rooted in a common unity at the depths of reality. Because the unus mundus is normally unconscious, it is experienced as the mysterious Other that is the infinite unseen context of our finite conscious experience. Viewed in its subjective aspect, this unified reality takes the form of a psychic domain containing psychological archetypes that manifest in our inner experience. Viewed in its objective aspect, the unus mundus takes the form of a physical domain containing the archetypal laws of nature that govern manifestations in our outer experience. If psyche and matter are, as this suggests, a single reality viewed from different perspectives, then a comparison of their common elements as revealed in physics and psychology may provide insight into the nature of reality at its deepest and most universal level.

Psyche and Matter: The Connections

Modern science may have brought us closer to a more satisfying conception of this relationship [between psyche and physis] by setting up, within the field of physics, the concept of complementarity. It would be most satisfactory of all if physis and psyche could be seen as complementary aspects of the same reality.[12] - Wolfgang Pauli

Microphysics is feeling its way into the unknown side of matter, just as complex psychology is pushing forward into the unknown side of the psyche. Both lines of investigation have yielded findings which can be conceived only by means of antinomies, and both have developed concepts which display remarkable analogies. If this trend should become more pronounced in the future, the hypothesis of the unity of their subject-matters would gain in probability. Of course there is little or no hope that the unitary Being can ever be conceived, since our powers of thought and language permit only of antinomian statements. But this much we do know beyond all doubt, that empirical reality has a transcendental background.[13] - C. G. Jung
In attempting to understand the deepest levels of reality, it is wise to take note of Jung's observation that our concepts are imperfect instruments, and that any conceptual representations we may form of these regions of reality will likely involve antinomies, and should be taken as being essentially symbolic rather than literal. For example, progress in the conceptual understanding of the nature of quanta was accomplished by acknowledging the principle of complementarity, which states that mutually exclusive sets of concepts must be used to completely characterize quantum phenomena in all their aspects. As Marie-Louise von Franz tells us, Jung recognized that this principle of complementarity applied to psychology as well as to physics:

Bohr's idea of complementarity is especially interesting to Jungian psychologists, for Jung saw that the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind also forms a complementary pair of opposites.[14]

The analogy suggested here is that the wave-particle complementarity in quantum physics parallels the unconscious-conscious complementarity in psychology. Indeed, just as the wave is the unobserved aspect of the quantum and the particle is the observed aspect, so the unconscious is the unobserved aspect of the psyche and the conscious is the observed aspect. Moreover, the wave is continuously spread throughout space, while the particle has a limited location. Similarly, Jung states that

The area of the unconscious is enormous and always continuous, while the area of consciousness is a restricted field of momentary vision.[15]

The analogy goes even further. The quantum wave function represents probabilities, as contrasted to the actualized particle. Similarly, the archetypal structures of the unconscious represent fundamental potentialities of psychic manifestation, while conscious contents are actualizations of these potentialities. As von Franz explains,

What Jung calls the archetypes...could just as well be called, to use Pauli's term, "primary possibilities" of psychic reactions.[16]

This suggests that the unus mundus behind both psyche and matter is also a continuous world of potentiality. Jung elaborates:

The common background for microphysics and depth-psychology is as much physical as psychic and therefore neither, but rather a third thing, a neutral nature which can at most be grasped in hints since in essence it is transcendental. The background of our empirical world thus appears to be in fact an unus mundus. ... The transcendental psychophysical background corresponds to a `potential world' in so far as those conditions which determine the form of empirical phenomena are inherent in it.[17]

The following table summarizes the correspondence between complementary principles in psyche and matter:

TRANSCENDENT unconscious contents
unmanifest archetypes
unobserved quanta
wave functions
EMPIRICAL conscious contents
manifest images
observed quanta

Extending the analogy between psyche and matter further, physicist Victor Mansfield points out a similarity in the manner in which potentialities are transformed into actualities in the two realms:

In physics the irreversible measurement process transforms the potentialities into actualities. What is the corresponding psychic function that transforms `the potential world...' into the world of multiplicity? It is reflective consciousness, the association of knowing with the ego, which makes the empirical world possible and brings the transcendental into the empirical world of multiplicity. The primordial unity of the unus mundus is shattered by reflective consciousness-a point agreed upon in most mystical traditions.[18]

In quantum mechanics it's only when an individual observes that an acausal spacetime event manifests. Our participation through measurement generates acausality. Analogously, when a unique center of consciousness, a specific individual, actualizes a possibility in the unus mundus, acausality enters our world. Introducing a particular perspective, a finite center of consciousness, inevitably brings acausality into the transition from possibilities to actualities.[19]

Similarly, Jung has made a correspondence between the indeterminacy inherent in quantum measurement and the attempt to consciously determine unconscious contents:

Any attempt to determine the nature of the unconscious state runs up against the same difficulties as atomic physics: the very act of observation alters the object observed. Consequently, there is at present no way of objectively determining the real nature of the unconscious.[20]

It should be pointed out here that Jung's characterization of quantum measurement requires clarification. The quantum measurement does not alter the actual properties of the object being observed since these properties do not have determinate existence prior to measurement. More accurately, the measurement is the occasion for the determination of the actual properties of the object. There is thus a spontaneity that enters nature in quantum measurement. Similarly, the manifestation of unconscious contents within consciousness also has an element of spontaneity, insofar as the particular conscious image manifesting an archetype is not completely determined by previous conscious contents. This type of spontaneity is especially evident in synchronicity.

Although synchronicity phenomena and quantum phenomena have certain similarities, there are also important differences. Consider, for example, nonlocal correlations that have been experimentally observed between two separated quantum events. Like synchronicity, the observed properties of the observed quanta have an element of spontaneity in their manifestation, and the correlations between the two quanta are not due to efficient causation between the two particles. Quantum nonlocality phenomena differ from synchronicity, however, because two quantum events are both events in the outer physical world. Synchronicity, on the other hand, is necessarily a connection between an inner event and an outer event, bridging psyche and matter, and thus pointing to the unus mundus. This brings us to perhaps the most important distinction between the two phenomena, which relates to the inner psychological meaning that is essential to synchronicity. As explained by Mansfield,

In the quantum phenomenon...there is no meaning involved. ...In contrast, when an archetype manifests in a synchronicity experience, meaning is the critical point.[21]

Thus, synchronicity essentially involves the manifestation of meaning in the sense of an unconscious compensation that serves an individual's process of individuation toward wholeness. Nonlocal correlations between quanta, in contrast, are connections between two physical events, and do not involve a manifestation of inner psychological meaning.

Another more subtle distinction between synchronicity and quantum nonlocality is that the quantum correlations are scientifically repeatable and predictable, while synchronicity phenomena appear to be almost entirely spontaneous and unpredictable. A closer psychological analog to quantum nonlocality is parapsychological phenomena. Mansfield elaborates:

Parapsychological phenomena are an example of general acausal orderedness, but not of synchronicity, which I strictly define as an acausal exemplification of meaning in the inner and outer world. Parapsychological phenomena are acausal since no energy or information exchange seems responsible for the correlations measured, but they lack the meaning associated with synchronicity. Furthermore, parapsychological phenomena, like similar quantum phenomena, are "constant and reproducible".... This reproducibility is in further contrast to the unique and unpredictable nature of the more narrowly defined synchronicity.[22]

Jung considered synchronicity to be a special case of "general acausal orderedness," which refers to forms of order that cannot be understood in terms of efficient causality or physical determinism. For example, the causal ordering of physical phenomena according to the deterministic laws of classical physics are not acausal orderedness. Nonlocal quantum correlations, however, are an instance of acausal orderedness manifest in the physical world. Synchronicity is also an example of a specific form of acausal orderedness which involves a meaningful connection between inner and outer events, exhibiting a manifestation of the depths of the unus mundus prior to divisions between psyche and matter.

From the above comparisons between physics and psychology, we can infer that the unus mundus is a domain of unified potentiality beyond the limitations of spatial separation and causal relationships in time. Although it is prior to many structures and limitations of manifest phenomena, this domain has orderedness and meaning--it is a domain of Logos. As a result, the deep structure of the unus mundus is perhaps most appropriately represented using the symbols of mathematics. As Jung explains,

Number helps more than anything else to bring order into the chaos of appearances. It is the predestined instrument for creating order, or for apprehending an already existing, but still unknown, regular arrangement or "orderedness." It may well be the most primitive element of order in the human mind.[23]

And von Franz amplifies Jung, pointing out that mathematical order is common to both psychological and physical domains:

The deepest and most clearly distinguishable archetypal factor, which forms the basis of psycho-physical equivalence is, the archetypal patterns of natural numbers. . . . In respect to mathematical structure, the acausal orderedness in matter is of the same kind as that in the psyche and each is continually reflected in the other.[24]

As an archetype, number becomes not only a psychic factor, but more generally, a world-structuring factor. In other words, numbers point to a background of reality in which psyche and matter are no longer distinguishable.[25]

If indeed number, and mathematics in general, reflects the order of the unus mundus, this would explain the profound mystery of how it is that mathematics, which is a phenomenon of the mind, should prove so remarkably effective in representing the physical world. This mysterious harmony between psyche and matter is implicitly present at the foundation of all physics, and testifies to the Pythagorean roots of modern science. The Pythagoreans, however, viewed mathematics as much more than a mere language of quantity. For them numbers were symbols charged with archetypal meaning. The modern view of numbers, in other words, acknowledges only the quantitative aspect of numbers and ignores their aspect as quality and meaning. Moreover, von Franz points out that numbers are not merely static forms, but also represent vibrational energies (as the Pythagoreans recognized in the intimate connection between numbers and musical tones):

Since today we see processes everywhere rather than structures or static orders, I have also proposed seeing numbers in this perspective--as rhythmic configurations of psychic energy.[26]

From time immemorial number has been used most frequently to bridge the two realms because it represents the general structure of psychic and physical energy motions in nature and therefore appears, as it were, to provide the key to the mysterious language of unitary existence, particularly in its aspect of meaning (Tao).[27]

Like quanta, numbers have two complementary aspects, both of which are required if we are to more completely understand them. They have both quantitative and qualitative aspects, both static and dynamic aspects. It is through this double aspect of number, von Franz claims, that we can see their importance as a bridge between psyche and matter:

This complementary double aspect of number (quantity and quality) is in my opinion the thing which makes it possible for the world of quantity (matter) and of quality (psyche) to interlock with each other in a periodical manner.[28]

Although von Franz associates matter with quantity, and psyche with quality, it should be noted that material vibrations, as with musical strings, are experienced as qualities or quantities depending on which aspect of the phenomenon we choose to isolate. Moreover, mathematical ideas experienced in the psyche have aspects of quantity as well as quality. Thus, it appears more appropriate to identify the qualitative aspect of number with its more subtle, vibrational component (whether physical or psychic) and the quantitative aspect of number with its more concrete, discrete component. The table of complementary aspects can then be amended to include the elements of number, as follows:

TRANSCENDENT unconscious contents
unmanifest archetypes
numerical psychic qualities
unobserved quanta
wave functions
numerical physical qualities
conscious contents
manifest images
distinct numerical quantities
observed quanta
distinct material quantities

In any case, the key to the unity of psyche and matter, and to understanding the unus mundus, essentially involves the nature of number. There was at least no doubt as to this point for von Franz:

In the last analysis, the mystery of the unus mundus resides in the nature of number.[29]

The understanding suggested by the above comparisons between structures in physics and psychology, therefore, is that physis and psyche are aspects of the same reality, with mathematics as a key archetypal core of both. However, we should note that the complementarity between psyche and matter (i.e., the two columns of the table above) appears distinct from the complementarity within psyche and matter (i.e., the two rows of the table above), so we should be careful not to confuse the two.

According to von Franz, the physicist David Bohm arrived at a similar understanding of the unified ground of psyche and matter:

David Bohm also presupposes the existence of an "ocean of energy" as the background of the universe, a background that is neither material nor psychic, but altogether transcendent. . . . Ultimately, it corresponds exactly to what Jung calls the unus mundus, which is situated beyond the objective psyche and matter and which also is situated outside space-time.[30]

Bohm's "ocean of energy" is a deep part of the implicate order of reality, which is distinguished from the explicate order. Typically, we are conscious of only these explicate features of reality, while the implicate features form an unconscious background. Bohm's idea of the implicate order thus normally corresponds to the unconscious, while the explicate order corresponds to the conscious. He summarizes the idea of the implicate order as follows:

The essential feature of this idea was that the whole universe is in some way enfolded in everything and that each thing is enfolded in the whole. From this it follows that in some way, and to some degree everything enfolds or implicates everything, but in such a manner that under typical conditions of ordinary experience, there is a great deal of relative independence of things. The basic proposal is then that this enfoldment relationship is not merely passive or superficial. Rather, it is active and essential to what each thing is. It follows that each thing is internally related to the whole, and therefore, to everything else. The external relationships are then displayed in the unfolded or explicate order in which each thing is seen, as has already indeed been indicated, as relatively separate and extended, and related only externally to other things. The explicate order, which dominates ordinary experience as well as classical (Newtonian) physics, thus appears to stand by itself. But actually, it cannot be understood properly apart from its ground in the primary reality of the implicate order.[31]

Reality is a flowing of this whole (or, in Bohm's terms, a holomovement) with varying degrees of implication and explication. For Bohm, reality includes both psyche and matter, and the idea of the implicate order applies to mind as well as to matter, thus providing a link between the two:

We are suggesting that the implicate order applies both to matter...and to consciousness, and that it can therefore make possible an understanding of the general relationship of these two, from which we may be able to come to some notion of a common ground of both.[32]

And von Franz agrees:

These terms of Bohm's can be applied quite well to the ideas put forward by Jung in his area of research. For example, in that case the archetypes can be understood as dynamic, unobservable structures, specimens of the implicate order. If, on the other hand, an archetype manifests as an archetypal dream image, it has unfolded and become more "explicated." If we go on to interpret this image using Jung's hermeneutic technique. . . that image would "explicate" and unfold still further.[33]

It is significant to note that, as von Franz implies, unconscious content can be explicated to various degrees, making it more conscious. This suggests that there is not a clear distinction between the conscious and the unconscious, but rather a continuum. Indeed, Jung explicitly says just this:

Conscious and unconscious have no clear demarcations, the one beginning where the other leaves off. ...The psyche is a conscious-unconscious whole.[34]

In other words, the psyche is a unity or whole containing an explicate region of consciousness that is neither fixed nor ultimately distinguishable from the whole. According to Bohm, however, consciousness is not necessarily coincident with the explicate order, since we can become directly aware of these subtle flowing aspects of the implicate order taking place in the background of the more concrete and explicit aspects of our experience. Nevertheless, our consciousness is often habitually fixated on the more explicit content. As Bohm explains:

One reason why we do not generally notice the primacy of the implicate order is that we have become so habituated to the explicate order, and have emphasized it so much in our thought and language, that we tend strongly to feel that our primary experience is of that which is explicit and manifest. However, another reason, perhaps more important, is that the activation of memory recordings whose content is mainly that which is recurrent, stable, and separable, must evidently focus our attention very strongly on what is static and fragmented. This then contributes to the formation of an experience in which these static and fragmented features are often so intense that the more transitory and subtle features of the unbroken flow...generally tend to pale into such seeming insignificance that one is, at best, only dimly conscious of them.[35]

Bohm seems to point out possibilities of consciousness that were not acknowledged by Jung. In particular, for Jung the unconscious is a transcendental region of reality that we can never know directly. Thus, we only know the unconscious indirectly and imperfectly from the images and other concrete manifestations that surface in consciousness. According to Bohm, however, although consciousness is habitually fixated on the explicit surface manifestations rising up from deeper implicate levels of the psyche, it is nevertheless possible to become directly conscious of these implicate orders of reality--orders of reality that Jung assumed to be forever unconscious. Thus, while Jung remains correct with regard to consciousness that is fixated exclusively on explicit orders, his statements must be qualified to allow for a consciousness that develops the capacity to be aware of subtler levels of manifestation. Such a consciousness will have the capacity for direct awareness of contents that previously would be considered transcendent, unconscious, and only indirectly knowable by inference from more explicit and concrete manifestations. The implication is that we cannot maintain a rigid or ultimate distinction between the transcendent and empirical, between the archetypes and their manifestations, or between the implicit order and the explicit order. Rather, the explicit is imbedded in and essentially integrated with the implicit, with a continuum of degrees of enfolding and unfolding uniting the two. Similarly, the manifested images of the archetypes cannot ultimately be separated from the archetypes, but must be seen as their manifested aspects that are inseparable from the archetypes in their potential-actualized wholeness.

An Integral View of Psyche and Matter

Surprisingly, our exploration into the unity of psyche and matter has revealed an essential unity between the implicate and explicate aspects of each. That is, the unity is as much vertical within each realm as horizontal between them. In retrospect, we can see why this must be so, since the separate empirical realms of psyche and matter cannot truly be united if this unity only resides in a transcendent realm that is absolutely divided from the empirical realms. We must have unity both vertically and horizontally. This combined vertical-horizontal integration can be illustrated by the following analogy from physics. Prior to Einstein, energy and matter were thought to be separate and autonomous empirical phenomena. This separation of energy and matter is reflected in the two classical conservation laws: the conservation of energy and the conservation of mass. After Einstein, however, the distinction between matter and energy was no longer absolute, and it was recognized that mass and energy are separate aspects or manifestations of an underlying unity of mass-energy (mathematically represented as a 4-dimensional energy-momentum vector). The old conservation laws were thus subsumed within a new law: conservation of mass-energy.

TRANSCENDENT 4-dimensional energy-momentum vector

1 component of the energy-momentum vector 3 components of the energy-momentum vector

In this analogy, the duality of mass and energy is horizontal, because these are two phenomena manifesting on the same empiric plane. They manifest as relatively autonomous phenomena as long as relative motions are negligible in comparison with the speed of light. In Einstein's theory, matter and energy are understood as the empirical manifestations of a unified reality (i.e., the energy-momentum 4-vector). Energy corresponds to one component of the 4-dimensional vector, while mass corresponds to the other three components. Interestingly, however, the vector acts as a whole, with the result that its mass and energy components can be mixed in various ways when the vector manifests (is "projected") into a particular empirical reference frame. This mixing betrays the unity of energy and mass within this transcendent realm. One can visualize the essence of this mixing by imagining two spotlights shining on an upright pole from different angles, projecting two shadows on the floor. One shadow is the analog of energy, the other is the analog of mass. If we tilt the pole away from its upright orientation, the lengths of the two shadows (i.e., the observed mass and energy) will change, while the length of the pole itself stays constant.

The above analogy illustrates how we might understand how psyche and matter can manifest as relatively autonomous realms that are nevertheless mysteriously coordinated by virtue of their common origins deep within the unus mundus. Like the conservation laws of matter and energy, psyche and matter manifest in such a way that the transformations of one are in many ways independent of the other. Our thoughts, for example, normally appear to operate with relative independence from the transformations taking place in most of the physical world. Conversely, the transformations of matter in the universe are not normally altered by our thoughts. Yet, certain anomalous phenomena such as synchronicity sometimes burst forth unexpectedly, hinting at some mysterious unity of psyche and matter. And at deeper, subtler, and more implicate levels of manifestation, the connections become increasingly evident, such as the archetypal patterns of number that are essential to the orderedness in both realms.

Thus, if consciousness becomes sufficiently subtle to see the implicate aspects of both psychic and physical phenomena, their unity in a common source can be directly experienced and not merely inferred indirectly from diverse concrete particulars. This implies the necessity for an expanded epistemology for physics, psychology, and knowledge in general that takes us well beyond the forms of knowing that are limited to only the most explicit orders of reality. For truly integrative knowledge, we must expand and deepen our capacities of consciousness. Otherwise, an integral theory will be nothing more than a pleasing speculative construct based on explicit contents that have emerged from the deeper levels. In short, if we are really to know the unitive depths of Bohm's ocean of energy, we must allow ourselves to sink down into them, and not merely watch the surface phenomena that merely hint at what is below. The unconscious calls us into its depths.

We can define the unconscious in the most general sense as the domain of all things that are indirectly known, posited, or presumed to exist outside of the present conscious awareness but that have an influence on the contents of conscious awareness. The unconscious is the realm of the unmanifest (relative to our present consciousness). Typically, our consciousness is fixated on the explicate order, while the implicate order remains largely unconscious. In some cases, however, consciousness may move into the depths of the implicate order. In addition to both personal and impersonal psychic contents, these depths also include both personal and impersonal physical contents. For example, although the dishes inside the dishwasher are presumed actually to be there, they are in fact outside of present conscious awareness, and are in the domain of the unconscious (relative to our present consciousness). Because they are in principle accessible to anyone, they are part of a collective unconscious. What we conventionally call objective physical reality, therefore, can be viewed as a region of the collective unconscious that is partially presented to each of us in a unique way during our waking consciousness. The structures of this region of the unconscious are known as the physical laws, since they determine the lawful manner in which this region behaves and evolves. The so-called objective world is in fact part of the unconscious and is only glimpsed indirectly through its projections into conscious awareness. For example, if I open the dishwasher, what appears in consciousness is a visual image of a plate viewed from a particular perspective. The plate in itself is not seen. It is not in consciousness. Only a projection of the plate's visual image is seen. The plate itself (its implicate aspect) remains a transcendental idea posited to exist outside of consciousness. The plate is therefore still largely implicate in the unconscious, even when I am looking at an explicate aspect of it. Only an image of the plate actually arises in consciousness. Moreover, if my friend is looking as well, she will see a different image due to her different perspective. Neither one of us sees the plate in all its implicate totality, however. This is analogous to the fact that the universal implicate aspects of archetypes are not manifest in the explicate order, but their diverse explicate aspects manifest to us in dreams as particular symbolic expressions that vary from person to person.

The explicit archetypal contents that are generally accessible to us provide the basis for a collective understanding of a shared world. In the case of access via the physical senses, this collective understanding takes the form of the physical world. In the case of the mind, this collective understanding takes the form of psychological archetypes, transpersonal states of consciousness, mathematics, and so on. Insofar as the archetypes are not entirely unambiguous in their explicate manifestations, or manifest in ways that are influenced by cultural or personal factors, they allow us to create a multitude of interpretive frameworks for understanding and representing these objective worlds. Thus, for example, our inner experience of mystical states of consciousness may find expression in various different philosophical or religious systems, while our outer experience of physical phenomena may be understood in terms of distinct scientific paradigms. The development of physics involves the successive refinement of our shared understanding and explorations of deeper and deeper regions of these collectively accessible regions of outer experience. As our understanding penetrates to deeper levels of increasing subtlety, the representation becomes more universal and comprehensive, so that the structure of the nested representations within physics range from very general universal laws down through particular instances valid only for restricted domains of experience, to a specific quantitative numerical prediction for a given experimental arrangement. Our understanding is therefore provided with a depth that reaches from the multiple contents of explicate conscious awareness from many possible perspectives, down to the universal implicate depths that are common to all perspectives. A similar structure is present in mystical traditions, where the understanding links the particular experiential phenomena of an individual, up through intermediate levels common to certain types of individuals engaged in particular practices, to universal principles common to all individuals. Depth psychology is again similar, with experiential dream images and such related first to personal unconscious contents, and then to deep archetypal structures of a collective nature.

Note that each phenomenon contains within it aspects of all levels. The implicit aspects of a phenomenon may be known directly by a correspondingly subtle awareness. Alternatively, they may be unfolded by comparing and contrasting similar phenomena from many different perspectives, providing us with a more explicit understanding of the aspects that are particular to each phenomenon, and the aspects that are universal to all the similar phenomena.

It appears that at a very deep level there is no distinction between physical and psychic structures, and that these are, as it were, two perspectives we have on the same core reality. Thus, through comparison and contrast of physical and psychic phenomena, we can isolate the essence of this common core. It does seem clear, however, that one key feature of this core is its mathematical nature. (Note that this view contrasts with the notion that "physical" is a concrete level of reality, while "psychic" is a subtle level. Rather, they both have depths of subtlety that penetrate to the core of reality, and they both have a concrete surface that is immediately present in ordinary empiric consciousness. Thus mind cannot be reduced to matter, nor matter to mind. Both emerge as different aspects of a more fundamental ground.)

It should be kept in mind that, as Bohm points out, our access to these deep implicate levels is not necessarily limited to indirect access through correlation of diverse explicit contents with theoretical representations in order to infer their common core. It is also possible to directly access these implicate levels of reality that are normally considered unconscious. In other words, the unconscious can become conscious in two ways: indirectly through inference from explicit contents, or directly through an expansion of the range of consciousness into the more implicate levels of reality.

With the advance of physics and psychology, our theoretical understanding of the mystery beyond the range of our present consciousness is expanding to the point where we see hints of the identity of psyche and matter at deep levels. The evolution of consciousness that is explicating and integrating more of the unconscious appears to be bringing into an explicate unity an original implicate unity. This integrative theoretical understanding, however, is merely an attempt to conceptually hold together diverse fragmented contents that have emerged on the explicate level. Such a conceptual unity is at best a partial and imperfect representation of otherwise unconscious content, and we must be careful not to mistake this representation for the unconscious content itself, confusing our world of abstractions with concrete experience. Fundamentally, this mistake is the ignorance of the process of positing the existence of things beyond or outside our consciousness, and thus confusing our conscious representations of those things as being "things themselves" (such as when we imagine a material particle to have an objectively existing position). Because the conscious representation inevitably fails to correspond exactly with the unconscious reality, the confusion results in a distortion of our understanding of reality. Inevitably, reality (i.e., the unconscious portion of reality) manifests itself to consciousness in a way that contradicts this distortion. This unconscious compensation is then experienced as a crisis, and the anomaly is either integrated or denied. If it is integrated, a more comprehensive and accurate conscious representation of reality typically develops. If it is not integrated, the unconscious compensations will continue until they create sufficient cognitive crisis to result in a sacrifice of the distortion. In either case, because our representations can never perfectly mirror reality, the developmental process will continue. This whole process of development is based on the fundamental mistake of failing to recognize that our conscious representation of what is outside of our consciousness (i.e., the objective world) is an imperfect imaginative construct, and not an actual mirror of some real, objective reality.

If there is a recognition of the very process of positing the existence of things outside of consciousness through the confusion of the representation with the real, then any inaccuracy of our conscious representation is no longer a problem because it is never confused with reality in the first place. The spontaneous revelations of reality that do not fit into prior representational schemes are then experienced with delight, and are not met with resistance. In other words, it is recognized at the deepest level of our psyche that reality always has and always will infinitely transcend our representations of it. As a result, we are most in touch with reality when our experiences go beyond our representations of reality.

End Notes

[1] Jung (1955), 536.

[2] von Franz (1964), 384.

[3] Heisenberg (1962), 201.

[4] Jung (1970), 25.

[5] Jung (1966), 66.

[6] Jung (1966), 66.

[7] Jung (1966), 275.

[8] Jung (1966), 95.

[9] Jung (1966), 185.

[10] Jung (1970), 5.

[11] Jung (1951), 261.

[12] Pauli (1994), 260.

[13] Jung (1970), 8.

[14] von Franz (1964), 382.

[15] Jung (1968), 8.

[16] von Franz (1964), 383.

[17] Jung (1955), 538.

[18] Mansfield et al. (1991).

[19] Mansfield (1995), 202.

[20] Jung (1970), 27.

[21] Mansfield (1995), 82-83.

[22] Mansfield (1998).

[23] Jung (1973), 40.

[24] von Franz (1980), 194.

[25] von Franz (1992), 216.

[26] von Franz (1992), 256.

[27] von Franz (1974), 284.

[28] von Franz (1992), 57.

[29] von Franz (1974), 54.

[30] von Franz (1992), 253.

[31] Bohm (1990).

[32] Bohm (1980), 196.

[33] von Franz (1992), 252.

[34] Jung, as quoted in Pauli (1994), 153.

[35] Bohm (1980), 206.


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