The structural similarities between Carl Jung’s conception of the unconscious and the Dark Matter paradigm in modern cosmology
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Particle Physics Primer
According to our best physics, there are four fundamental interactions in the universe. The strongest of the four is aptly named the Strong Nuclear Force. This interaction dominates short range phenomena, and is the reason why positively charged protons are held together in the nuclei of atoms. The next force is Electromagnetism — one we are very well acquainted with. This interaction is the reason why our hands can’t go through walls, and why opposite charges attract. Next is the Weak Nuclear Force — responsible for the radioactive beta decay certain elements undergo. All of the above forces are mediated by the exchange of particles, meaning that in order to experience a force — the corresponding ‘force carrying’ particle must be exchanged. This class of particles are known as Gauge Bosons. Important for our coming discussion is the following fact: the force carrying particle associated with electromagnetism is the photon. This means that if something does not interact electromagnetically, it will not give off photons, and thus will not give off visible light.
The final, and most perplexing of the four forces is Gravity. We have yet to discover its force carrying particle, which is why I didn’t include it on the list above. Instead, as Einstein argued, gravity is a geometric property of spacetime. Massive objects (planets, stars, interstellar gas) distort the fabric of spacetime, causing other objects to navigate through these geometric deformations. One of the most astonishing consequences of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity is gravitational lensing. This effect is observed when looking at distant galaxies through telescopes
For us to see these distant objects, light must travel all the way from them to us. This means that photons must travel through spacetime into our telescopes. However, if there are massive objects in their path, these objects will distort spacetime — causing the photons to alter their trajectories and produce strange warped images such as the one seen above.
Whatever Dark Matter is, it does not couple to the photon. This means it does not interact electromagnetically with particles — which is why we cannot see it. In fact, it doesn’t appear to interact with any of the particle mediated forces! So how do we know it’s there? The answer is because of Gravity. There are numerous arguments, given over almost a century, that all seem to plausibly converge to the existence of Dark Matter. They all center around the problem of ‘missing mass’. We have examples of gravitational lensing, where there are no visible surrounding objects, yet the images of galaxies are so distorted that we see four versions of the same image! This leads us to believe that between us and this galaxy, exists a large amount of Dark Matter, causing spacetime to distort — warping the trajectory of the incoming photons. Observations of galaxy clusters show that the given velocities of their component galaxies are so fast, that the contents should scatter. Yet mysteriously, they remain gravitationally bound. This leads us to believe that there is some unseen mass contributing to the gravitational field. Another piece of evidence is that our universe has several very distinct large scale structural properties that simply would not have time to form, given the age of our universe. The early universe was an extremely hot and dense place, so hot and energetic that normal atoms couldn’t form for quite some time— since protons, neutrons and electrons were all too energetically excited to bond together. However, since Dark Matter doesn’t interact with any of the Gauge Bosons (which is how normal matter interacts with each other), it could have begun spreading out around the cosmos and clumping up in certain areas early on. Thus, when the universe had cooled sufficiently as to allow normal matter to form, it would be gravitationally attracted to wherever the Dark Matter had accumulated. Dark Matter is only visible through the structure it gives to the cosmos. It is unseen, yet much more abundant than regular matter. However, this is not the first time an invisible, large body has provided the underlying framework for the visible to express itself.
Dark Matter and the Unconscious
We can never directly experience our unconscious. It provides the structural framework through which conscious experience manifests itself. Everyday we are bombarded with far more sensory information than we can process consciously. Yet, the extraneous data is not lost — it simply goes into our unconscious and is dealt with beneath the surface. Carl Jung has postulated that the unconscious mind is far more massive and deep than the conscious mind. All the data we receive is parsed through and categorized deep within our being. As such, the unconscious contains its own splinter psyches and complexes. These are groupings of mental contents that manifest in response to certain stimuli. These are essentially structural frameworks that are instantiated by the contents of our conscious mind. We can only ever witness our complexes as projections onto things external to us — their raw, abstract form is totally unintelligible to us. The unconscious is mysterious, massive, unseen and dark. Its existence is only inferred based on the external order it incites.
The mystery of our own psyches is structurally similar to the primary mystery in cosmology. Both Dark Matter and the Unconscious mind provide the framework for our lived experience — and are only known to us through their structure giving properties. They are both large in scale, rich in content and mysterious in nature. The words of Rumi ring true once more. His poem, A Garden Beyond Paradise, opens with the following line:
“Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world”