• Synchronicity

  • What is Synchronicity 

    In the design of Providence there are no coincidences.  Pope John Paul II

    Everything divided and different belongs to one and the same world…  C.G. Jung 

    The word ‘synchronicity’ was invented by Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung in 1929. He first used it publicly in May 1930 in a memorial address for Richard Wilhelm, whose life’s work had been the monumental task of translating into German the Chinese ‘Book of Changes’, the I Ching, which is based on the principle that in the moment of asking a vital question an answer is also present. Thus Jung brought to public attention the idea of meaningful coincidences.

    A synchronistic event not only has something uncanny about it, something otherworldly,inexplicable and wondrous, but it also has an important meaning for the person involved. For example, the writer Bill Bryson recounts in Notes from a Small Island how he once wanted to write an article about remarkable coincidences and approached a magazine publisher. His proposal was accepted, but he then realized that he did not have enough personal experiences to draw on to make the article interesting enough and wrote to the publisher informing them that he had changed his mind. He left the letter on top of his typewriter and went to work as usual. That very day there happened to be a sale of unwanted books at his office building. When he arrived at the sale, his eyes fell immediately on a book entitled Remarkable True Coincidences. A quick glance showed that it contained all the information he needed for his research, but moreover the first example of synchronicity was about a man named Bryson! Most people would believe that this was just another coincidence, a chance happening without any great significance. But it was a significant event because it brought the writer exactly the information he needed as quickly as possible. Maybe the fact that ‘something’ made Bryson delay posting his letter and then go to that book sale and find the very book he needed meant that synchronicity itself wanted to be written about…

    Bryson’s need for information about remarkable coincidences did not cause this book to turn up in the book sale. These two things happened at the same time but were, as far as we know, totally independent of one another and the only thing that connected them at all was meaning. That is why Jung called synchronicity an ‘acausal connecting principle’, as opposed to causality, where one thing leads to another or happens because of another. Synchronistic movements are not linear, but follow a meandering zigzag path and happen spontaneously without planning or warning.

    Some people have tried to find rational explanations for synchronistic phenomena, suggesting that perhaps they are a form of telepathy or thought transference. Could it be that at some level everything in this world is connected to everything else, as if we are living in some giant universal mind? Or do we have some kind of antennae that can pick up vital clues and information in situations of great urgency?

    Jung warned that it would be hard for many people to accept acausality, to understand that there are situations that no person or thing caused to happen, but that emerged as if from nowhere at just the right time.

    Aniela Jaffé, one of Jung’s most important collaborators, speaks of a ‘magical causality’, meaning that a link between two apparently unconnected synchronistic events exists but that it belongs to the realm of magic, being controlled by an intelligence of another dimension. Perhaps the fact that all synchronistic events are preceded by a thought, an idea, a plan or an emotions of some kind –  even if we are only aware of this with hindsight – is an indication of such a magical link. Marie-Louise von Franz, Jung’s closest colleague, who was fascinated by synchronicity, was concerned that no one would be interested in carrying out further investigations after her death. She even put out an appeal in her book Psyche and Matter for her work on this to continue. But synchronicity is elusive. It cannot be ordered or repeated and therefore does not lend itself readily to scientific investigation. It is a bit like trying to prove scientifically that there are such things as dreams. We cannot photograph a dream as proof of its existence. All we have is the empirical evidence

    Furthermore, we can only speak of a synchronistic event when it can be verified by observation. Therefore, synchronicity demands a witness. One of the two events has to be an inner state of being, a psychological attitude or disposition or an intention or a wish, and the other must be an outer observable event that mirrors the inner happening.

    We have been well trained and socially conditioned to trust only what we can experience with our five outer senses. Yet genuine synchronistic events can only be registered when our normal everyday consciousness is off-guard and their meaning can only be understood if we allow ourselves to ‘think’ with that other mind or ours, that mind which can make connections that are not obvious at first glance. The trick is to learn to use that other mind without prejudice and a free spirit and an open heart.

    The most interesting aspect of all truly synchronistic phenomena is that there appears to be a pre-existing knowledge of things to come, things of which we have at that moment no apparent awareness whatsoever. There seems to be an altogether ‘other’ that knows more than us, can see into the future and also has the ingenious ability to find the quickest route to guide or return us to our destined path.

    In spite of the absence of ‘scientific’ evidence that we have a sixth sense, the increase in synchronistic occurrences and the seriousness with which they are now being treated by investigators of paranormal phenomena are indications that the time is probably not far off when we will need to acknowledge the fact that there are dimensions to our minds that are infinitely wiser than our ‘normal’ consciousness. Jung and others have done much to draw this to our attention. The conscious mind could be regarded as the tip of the iceberg, with the rest being submerged in the waters of the unconscious. From time to time something of this submerged part breaks through the surface – perhaps in a dream, or as a fantasy or inspiration – and we receive some important information that inspires or gives us comfort or is an answer to a prayer. In that moment we are aware that we are not alone, that there is a whole other world ‘out there’ of which we normally know nothing but which nevertheless reveals itself to us in order to help or warn.

    Jung calls this world the ‘collective unconscious’ and its contents ‘archetypes’, which in this sense are ordering principles that underlie normal consciousness. Seen from another perspective, they are root images of human experiences – encoded experiences that we all share. There are archetypes of the Mother, Father, God, Self, Fool, Devil, Child, Love, etc. It is from this realm of archetypal forces, Jung claimed, that we are guided, as if by magic, in certain directions that constitute our individual way through life, the ‘individuation process’ as he called it. All the archetypes are connected with powerful emotions and ideas, and all of them could influence us at any time. How we experience them depends on who we are. The archetypes cannot be known directly in their actual form – just as we cannot know electricity – we can only see and feel their effects. Therefore, they take on guises that we can recognize and that will show us what we need to know.We understand so little about how, why and by what means other worlds interact with ours that it is probably not accurate even to assume that synchronistic events are acausal, in the sense of ‘by no physical cause’. The fact is that we simply don’t know. The worlds that lie beyond ours still remain a mystery.

    The most serious research into these dimensions is taking place in the field of quantum physics. Jung, who collaborated with the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Professor Pauli, was one of the first serious modern researchers to state that everything, every being and every experience, belongs to the same world. But this one world is not only the world of our known five senses, but a much vaster one that is not perceived in the ordinary way. Therefore, in order for us to get close to, and partake of some of the benefits of this other reality we need to cultivate a sensitivity and receptivity to its manifestations.

    There are various ways in which we can prepare ourselves for what the other side has to offer. We can begin by imagining that ‘cracks’ between the two worlds appear with great regularity, affording us a glimpse of the altogether ‘other’ or allowing it to break through into our normally rational, limited and closed minds. If we can start to play with the idea that there is more to life than we know or can scientifically prove, then we have taken a big step towards living a more abundant existence. There are already telling signs that we are becoming increasingly sensitive to wider realities through events such as UFO sightings, encounters with angels, or astral travelling.

    Some people need to be persuaded of this intellectually, while others are given an experience that changes their perception overnight. I am reminded of an event that happened when I was driving through the French countryside with my husband early one Sunday morning. As the roads were still empty and driving conditions excellent, I was going a bit faster than I normally would. When we approached a sleepy little village I hardly slowed down. Besides, didn’t I have priority as I was on the ‘main’ road? Well, not in France and not in this village! As we came to the narrow crossroads in the centre, a large green car pulled into our path from the right. We had no chance of avoiding it; there was no time to stop. All I could do was to shut my eyes and wait for the crash. But when I opened them again we found ourselves on the top of the hill with the village beneath us. I stopped the car and pulled over, unable to speak. We sat there for a long time in absolute shock. We will never know how we escaped a probably fatal accident and how we were transported to safety in a split second. Someone or something had intervened in our fate. To us this was undisputed proof that someone was looking out for us, someone or something in possession of unimaginable powers, what in religious language was termed divine providence’. Later, when we pondered over how and why we were saved, we thought that perhaps it might have been because we were on a pilgrimage. At the time we were writing a travel guide to all the sites in Europe connected with the Holy Grail and the Precious Blood (In Search of the Holy Grail and the Precious Blood) many of which have themselves witnessed extraordinary synchronistic miracles.

    We need a rainbow bridge between inner and outer realities, and the two sides of the brain. Many people all over the world are already building one by means of meditation, dream analysis, active imagination or Rebirthing therapy, to name but a few ways. We can walk this bridge with our intuition and our feelings, with love and understanding, and leave behind the rules of a scientific mechanistic world- view as we cross it. This needs practice and perseverance and perhaps also a guide who has already walked this way before us.

    In all synchronistic events one is in touch with both worlds; psyche and matter are as one. It is of no importance whether it is our soul or our rational mind that guides us, because in that moment there is no difference.