As the title says, this book is about the friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl young. This came as a surprise for me because previously I had absolutely no idea that both knew each other. As a physicist, I always knew Pauli to be one of the greatest, and as you can see on my previous post here on this blog I am also a huge fan of Jung and his analytical psychology. So when I saw this book on amazon webpage it immediately took my attention and I bought it. In reality, as you read it you realize that the book is much more about Pauli than about Jung. It is about their "friendship" but much more from the point of view and of the importance and the impact that it had on Pauli's life. This doesn't make the book less interesting, but quite the opposite. This might be only a personal view, but because Jung was a psychologist and talked precisely about human beings, I never had problems into seeing him as a "normal" human being, which is not true about Pauli, at least not as I used to imagine him. When I think about those great physicist like Einstein, Dirac, Pauli, and in case you don't know Pauli was awarded the physics Nobel prize twice, in a way I always have the impression that I am in front of almost an alien personality that came to life only to dedicate itself to its work and that they have no time to have feelings and frustrations and those type of things as normal human beings. But of course looking more closely, reading biographies for example, you totally realize the opposite. This was specially the case of Pauli. In fact, his friendship with Jung started precisely when Pauli went to see him as a patient after suffering a mental breakdown after years of living not a very mentally sane life. Even though mental healthy issues are obviously very serious things that we should not pretend are good for ones life, to see this on Pauli, it helped me to at least in my head to humanize the picture I had of the great successful physicist. Those are things you can always do intellectually but actually to read step by step of a case of someone you admire who undergoes the whole process of getting sick and doing therapy and recovering a bit helps a lot to internalize this humanization process. Again, this might be only a personal thing, but I really struggle with the image, or maybe the archetype, of this great successful physicist. Working on academia, as I do, you are all the time confronted with this archetype, and it can really drive you mentally sick if you don't pay attention and work on it. It is a struggle I live everyday and maybe this is the reason I liked so much this book. It is only an impression but reading through the whole process that Pauli did made me at the end of the book starting to see him much more as a "friend" and not so much as the untouchable great physicist he was.
Back to the story, there is a nice quote from Young about the moment Pauli first came to consult with him which is: "When the hard-boiled rationalist... came to consult me for the first time, he was in such a state of panic that not only he but I myself left the wind blowing over from the lunatic asylum!". So the book goes on about Pauli's treatment and his life during this period of his life, but it does not stop there. Pauli and Jung end up becoming close friends and not only Jung becomes important for Pauli because of the therapy but also Pauli becomes important to Jung since they start to be a type of co-workers in subjects that young previously was involved like synchronicity, mysticism, and the unification of psyche and physics. I didn't know this but they both even wrote books together on those issues. This was another good surprise for me. As Pauli was getting old he really got into some aspects of mysticism and he tried all the time to make it relate to physics. Especially he got very interesting into mysticism about numbers and how that related to things that happened in his life that even lead him to breakthroughs in physics that lead ultimately him to win the nobel prize. There is a lot of dream analysis and mystical events that happened in his life specially after he meet Jung. Even his death was embedded in big symbolism involving a number that was extremely important for physics at the time. It is all very well explained and clarified in the book. Well, to summarize, it was a very good experience to me to learn this more "human" side of a physicist that I always admired. As always is a pleasure to get in touch with some Jungian stuff again. The book has it all: Physics, Psychology, mental healthy issues, mysticism, history. There is actually a lot about the history of physics at that time when Pauli lived from 1900 to 1958. Easy to read and very enjoyable. I had a great time reading it. If you are interested and give it a go one day I hope you find it equally pleasant.