Robert Caspary – Jung Pauli and the time I photographed a dream

5 minute read



I believe synchronicity is an act of chance, and that chance is a benevolent energy. With regard to my arts practice, acknowledging and welcoming chance is a powerful non-action. There’s a saying in baseball “It’s not a chance if you don’t take it”. Beautiful!


The Wolf at Night (One Portrait of Pauli)- 2018- (Original historical image from Google; printed on bond paper, hand coloured, scanned, digitally manipulated) Image transfer on faux leather

This portrait was inspired by a recent reading of the book ‘Deciphering The Cosmic Number (The Strange Friendship Of Wolfgang Pauli And Carl Jung) by Arthur I. Miller’.

My first reading of ‘Synchronicity’ was not only an education in the phenomena itself, it was also a gateway into all things connected with it; the I Ching, astrology as a science, dream-work, and of course the authors, Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli.

The materials by, and about, Carl Jung can and do fill libraries. To ‘search’ Jung, to delve into these materials, is at least one life’s work. To find materials on his friend, patient, and co-author Wolfgang Pauli, was the opposite; an exercise in frustration.

What little material there is generally available, relates to his Nobel prize-worthy research in atomic physics and quantum theory. A small biography is available, which focusses on his scientific achievements.

One further fact about Wolfgang Pauli was widely known, his immense telekinetic powers, the legendary ‘Pauli Effect’. He was effectively banned from participation in the Manhattan Project by his former student J. Robert Oppenheimer for this fact alone.

With a vast amount of research, Miller fills in the gaps as to who Pauli was as a person. His youth and upbringing, his early brilliance as a physicist and mathematician (the corrections he made to Einstein’s first theory of relativity, at the age of 22, were gratefully received and noted). But he was also formed by personal troubles and tragedies. His reputation well established in the red-light districts and bars of Hamburg and Vienna. It was this increasingly discordant life, and a feverish quest to discover the ‘cosmic number’, that lead him to seek treatment from Jung.

Jung, meanwhile, had been in need of a scientist, a physicist with whom he could collaborate to explore his theory of ‘synchronicity’, and his belief that there is a quantifiable, physical, component to a synchronistic event. Pauli found in Jung what Jung found in Pauli….the perfect opposite; balance.

‘Deciphering the Cosmic Number’ is a spellbinding read about the beginning of a great partnership and the development of the theory of ‘Synchronicity’.

I’ve always had an fondness for Wolfgang Pauli that has no explanation. These quotes from the book’s dust jacket set the tone nicely…

“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 felt the wind blowing over from the lunatic asylum!”- Jung on Pauli.

“(I contacted) Mr. Jung because of certain neurotic phenomena which are connected with the fact that it is easier for me to achieve academic success than success with women. Since with Mr. Jung rather the contrary is the case, he appeared to me to be quite the appropriate man to treat me medically”. – Pauli on Jung.




The Synchronistic Event When I Photographed A Dream

I’ve had synchronistic experiences well before I knew about synchronicity. These events, and many other types of ‘extra-normal’ experiences, have been with me since childhood. This one I’m about to relate however is unique even by my standards, photographing a dream.

The dreamscape has been a rich environment for me for a long time, and I often experience the ‘dream coming true’, a situation where a dream previously dreamt unfolds in the waking world. I dreamt both my children, in specific situations and conversations, a year or more before each were born, and I had it all materialize, to my great joy and enjoyment.

This experience was different however, in that the dream materialized, but didn’t really ‘come true’. It was the winter of 2009 when I awoke, remembering a very sad dream I had had that night. While my dreams are usually in full colour, this one had been grey, muted and dull.

In the dream, my wife and I quarrel, about something tedious and commonplace, but this time there’s a break. She tells me she’s had enough, she’s leaving, and I know unequivocally we’re over. My last view of her in the dream is as she walks away down the beach, with the dog, until she disappears in the distance.

Although the dream troubled me for a time, and I turned it around in my head for different ways to decipher it, I soon forgot about it as there were strong oddities about it (we don’t live near a beach, for one).

But in the summer of that year, the family was cottaging by the lake. The weather that summer had been on again/off again, and on one of the off days we’d been hanging around inside most of the day. When the weather finally cleared, the children left to amuse themselves and my wife decided to shake off the cabin fever tension by taking he dog out. Sensing a glorious ‘moment to myself’ moment, I gathered my camera gear and headed down to the lake.

The waves were still choppy and the clouds were low on the horizon. I set up a shot of the scene ahead and snapped. Winding the film forward, I re-set and turned to the vista on my right and froze. It was the sad beach dream from the previous winter. The final image of my wife on the beach, disappearing into the distance. I was frozen there, watching, when I suddenly remembered I had my camera! Hands shaking, I framed it, focussed, and clicked. I had photographed a dream!!

I work on film, and I was on vacation, so it was a week or so before I processed the negatives and saw the dream. I printed it. It was a dead-on image of my dream…nailed it! I felt the desolation, the sadness and the finality of the dream.

But I will be honest here, in my own opinion this is a very boring image. If you didn’t have all this context, there’s not really much in the photo to draw one’s interest.

I’ve only exhibited it once, and in the company of other related images on a gallery wall it’s easy to walk by it.

I had to ponder this for a while, you’d think a photo this magical in creation would have some sparkle, some charisma. But then I realized that one of the critical elements of synchronicity is the very personal emotional content of the event. I’ve found this to be true when trying to verbally describe a synchronicity event to someone.

The “OH WOW!” content one feels isn’t there for others, and didn’t translate to a photographic capture.

For me though, the image still conjures up melancholy and loss, though to end the tale, there’s been a few subsequent quarrels, and lots of beaches, and we continue to enjoy both together (the dog as well).

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