Local author debuts new play at Fringe Festival

World Premiere of Almonte Playwright’s Entangled at Ottawa Fringe Festival

by Jacob Berkowitz

In my work as a contract science writer, hired to popularize science and medicine, I’m often torn by the parts of the story I can’t tell.

In the formal science press release there’s usually no place for the astronomer or biologist’s nuanced personal backstory. For the details of how the addiction, the heartbreak, the loss of a child or the desire to have one, shaped the trajectory of a life and in turn, scientific discovery.

Which is why I was so excited and intrigued when in 2008—taking a pause from writing in a physics library and scanning the shelves—I came across the book Atom and Archetype: The Pauli/Jung Letters 1932-1958.

I knew from the book cover’s image that the Jung was pioneering Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung and the Pauli, the renowned, Nobel Prize-winning quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli.

What I didn’t know is that the muse would lead me on a ten-year journey to turn Jung and Pauli’s backstory into Entangled. The play is an exploration of the complexities and challenges of friendship, love, death and dreams within the context of the greatest physics and psychology insights of the 20th century.

Born in 1900, Pauli was a physics child prodigy, earning his PhD at age 18 explicating Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. He’d go on to predict the existence of the neutrino, “a nothing that is”, and earn the Nobel Prize for the Pauli Exclusion Principle, a quantum description about why no two particles can occupy the same space—and thus literally why there are distinct objects rather than a single, great quantum blob.

Actors Paul Rainville as Carl Jung (left) and Almonte’s David Frisch as Wolfgang Pauli put Entangled on “its feet” in early rehearsals at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum. Watching intently are director and Mississippi Mills creative impresario Cathy Clark (back, right) and stage manager Jane Osborn.

But in 1930, at the height of his rational prowess, Pauli was anguished by his mother’s suicide and his wife leaving him after a year of marriage, and tormented by his nighttime dreams and drinking. Seeking help, he sought out the renowned Zurich psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung.

That first visit resulted in a 25-year-long relationship that is one of the most fascinating meeting of minds and hearts I’ve ever come across.

In person and in writing, Pauli shared more than 1300 dreams with Jung. In turn, Jung used these quantum dreams to develop and try and prove core aspects of his dream theories, in particular the presence of ancient alchemical symbolism in modern dreams.

Imagine the kind of intimacy and vulnerability that develops between two people sharing and analyzing dreams at this scale. Yet, Jung and Pauli shared an even deeper connection, one that deeply entangled them in one another’s psyches. Through their conversations, they realized they were exploring the same great mystery, the nature of matter and mind—Pauli with numbers and equations on a blackboard, Jung with dreams and symbols in talk therapy. And in both cases, they were trying to join two dimensions to create a form of divine wholeness: conscious and unconscious, the quantum and the cosmos.

They felt an immense intellectual kinship, yet in a personal relationship underlain with uncertainty and deep, unresolved emotional tensions related to loyalty, trust and intimacy.

On his deathbed in a Zurich hospital in 1958, the last person Pauli called for was Jung. His friend, the great psychologist never came. Well, not until Entangled.

For more information, including show times and tickets see: www.jacobberkowitz.com

Opening performance is June 13.