SYNCHRONICITY: A PATH TO BELIEF
SYNCHRONICITY is one of the great forces of spiritual life. It is a term coined by the great psychologist Carl Gustav Jung [1875-1961], one of the founding fathers of modern psychoanalysis, who eventually lost his position as Sigmund Freud’s favorite protégé due to personality conflicts with his would-be master, differences of opinion that could not be accommodated within the wise man-disciple relationship; and due to the increasing penetration of occultism into Jung’s worldview. Freud, though he had, of course, to deal with the IRRATIONAL which courses through the human psyche and is especially forceful in the case of the mentally ill, dealt with it from the perspective of a rational man, a scientist (or so he thought. He was sometimes more intuitive than logical). He thought the sense of belonging and oneness with the universe, which the mystic sometimes feels in his transcendent state (the "oceanic feeling"), to be a mere re-creation of memories from inside the womb, when the fetus is joined in blissful union with the mother; and God to be a mere psychological creation based upon the power and impact of one’s parents, which is imprinted on the psyche during childhood, endowing us with the idea of a great force that can be both a source of protection and punishment, and whose goodwill must be maintained at all costs. For Freud, religion was an illusion, and man’s inner spiritual life – fantasies constructed out of needs, fears, wants, and memories - did not contradict biology or physics as he understood them. We simply built an emotional world out of touch with reality as a coping mechanism, and spent much of our lives hiding in that world. Jung, who could also play the part of the scientist, parted dramatically with his master on this terrain. He believed that rationality could comprehend and explain only a part of existence; and that, in order to be whole as an instrument of perception and promoter of life, the mind must also learn to deal with the irrational, not merely as a pathology, but also as another (and equally legitimate) avenue for understanding. Jung believed in the potential esoteric validity of dreams (not only as creative mind-material for rational analysis, but also as mystical expressions of communication and illumination); he believed in the occult power of intuition; in the value of treating ghosts, and the mediums who claimed to deal with spirits, and telepathy and other psychic phenomena with an open mind; he came up with the idea of the "collective unconscious" which seemed remarkably similar to the occult tradition of the Akashic Record - a common source of memory for the entire human race which the individual mind can tap into with its more developed, psychic senses, if it does not squash those senses first; he explored the idea of "archetypes", which are great poles of generalized attributes which we all recognize (such as FATHER, MOTHER, PRIEST, WARRIOR, LOVER), which attract or repel, or in some way help to shape, our individual characters and our response to other individuals. His exploration of the impersonal in the psyche - that which is shared by all, regardless of personal experience, and which is therefore universal – led him to formulate the idea of a great mystical reality which not only connected us with each other (one mind), but with the entire universe, as well. Thus, within the framework of modern psychological science (which critics claimed he sought to use as a front for the genesis of a new religion), he laid, anew, the groundwork for a spiritual life. Finally, while diligent scientists of the day sought to shatter and expose myths, Jung sought to protect myths, to revitalize myths, and to restore myths (alloyed with reason, of course, so that they would not overrun the earth): to turn them into great wells of self-knowledge and empowerment, from which the whole human race would come to drink. In this regard, Jung has been severely criticized, for it is said he did not recognize the dangers of Nazism, a politics based in mythology, soon enough; and that his emphasis on the mystical weakened the rational faculties needed to dismiss Nazism with its compelling but misguided pageantry, which appealed overwhelmingly to subconscious forces not properly exposed to the light. In retrospect, Jung understood all this; but he believed that the error was not in human respect for myth, which is vitalizing and empowering, but, in the case of Nazism, in the lack of awareness that surrounded the surfacing of what was in the depths of the psyche, and in the subsequent lack of control and consciousness in its deployment. History has judged Jung, rather decisively, to have had very little to do with the rise of Nazism (he was never a Nazi), and today blames him merely for underestimating it at its inception. He saw it as part of a process of intellectual and spiritual strife (civilized man’s reaction against sterile reason) from which he hoped something more noble and constructive would arise. Instead of wisdom, the cultural tumult of the 1920s and 30s gave birth to a monster. Jung was as horrified and distressed, as the rest of humanity, by what followed.
Regarding SYNCHRONICITY, Jung coined this term to refer to the concept of "meaningful coincidence"; by this, he meant two events which occur which have a profound relationship with one another, which is not causal, however (one does not cause the other); rather, the relationship between the two events is "coincidental" or "parallel." In the case of SYNCHRONICITY, "coincidence" ( in the sense of a statistical probability manifested) is not involved; on the contrary, spiritual forces are said to be at work, stemming from the convergence of the personal and the universal, which is possible in a mystical universe where everything is connected. SYNCHRONICITY is a means by which the individual may sometimes receive invaluable information about his life, which he might not find in any other way; and it is most certainly a means of rediscovering the spiritual nature of the universe: of rediscovering the imbeddedness of the individual in the cosmic; of overcoming the sense of division between man and environment; and of realizing the intimate connection between all things.
Jung’s classic and most frequently cited example of synchronicity was drawn from the time he was in the midst of going over dream material with a client of his. The individual had dreamt of the Egyptian scarab, a sacred beetle symbolizing rebirth and transformation. This client was, in Jung’s opinion, trapped in a rational outlook which required an injection of open-mindedness (the ability to accept some "irrational" perspectives and approaches) in order to escape from her rut. At that very moment, Jung, whose back was turned to the window, heard a thumping on the glass behind him, and turning around, saw a beetle (as physically similar to the scarab as existed in his part of the world) which was trying to get in. The anomalous arrival of the beetle at the very instant that the woman was discussing her dream about the scarab seemed tailor-made by the universe to break through her closed mind, and to show her the spiritual nature of existence at the exact moment that she needed to embrace that nature in order to take her healing to another plane. Upon the arrival of the beetle, in this highly-charged context, the woman was jolted by an inner comprehension which could only be termed a moment of enlightenment, and at this point, her treatment began to progress by leaps and bounds. Jung was also deeply moved by this incident of SYNCHRONICITY, which had a major impact on how he, himself, perceived the universe.
Scientists, not surprisingly, dismiss the concept of synchronicity in the following way: they claim that during the course of a lifetime, the laws of probability favor some such incidents occurring (pairs of unrelated events that seem connected by the context in which they occur); after that, they cite the phenomenon of apophenia, which refers to an alleged human tendency to find patterns and relationships between random and meaningless data, when, in fact, no such patterns or relationships actually exist. The ability to find relationships, these scientists say, has had great survival benefits for our species; but the impulse to discover connections frequently misfires, especially when the perceiver is oversensitive or extremely creative. In this way, they say, aberrant marks and shadows on the surface of the planet Mars can be "seen" as a sculpted face on top of a gigantic pyramid, proof of a vanished civilization in outer space; a weathered rock found beside dinosaur bones can be "imagined" to be a shaped, tool, evidence of human life before any man ever walked on the earth; and a mere coincidence can be turned into a sign from God, proof of a "spiritual universe." According to these scientists, synchronicities are completely explicable in terms of statistical probabilities (over the course of a lifetime) and apophenia. They prove nothing and in no way contaminate the pristine world of reason we have been granted by science.
I, myself, find the scientific explanation of synchronicities as apparently strong on the outside, and as experientially weak on the inside, as are its dismissals of UFOs, spirits, and many other paranormal events. If you have not had the experience (if you are on the outside), the explanation makes sense, and suffices to drive the thought of such anomalies away. You are even able to laugh at others who claim to have had them. If you have had the experience, on the other hand (if you are on the inside), the scientific explanation no longer suffices. It is as if your house is filled with water from a river in flood, and someone tells you the problem you are having is a leaking pipe underneath the sink. He may convince the rest of the world that that is what happened to your house, but you know otherwise. Whether you can communicate this knowledge to others, or whether you are to remain forever isolated and lonely with your experience, dismissed as a fool or intimidated into silence, does not change the fact that you know. You know.
In my spiritual autobiography, The Journey of Rainsnow, I spent a great deal of time discussing synchronicities, which I feel are a crucial component of the modern spiritual awakening, and I cited some of the many ones which I had experienced personally during the 1990s, a very open and exploratory time for me. In one case, I had just finished my first past-life regression with a respected psychologist and therapist in the Washington DC area. In that regression, I had visions of myself as a Maya priest remembering a previous Maya life in which he had been sacrificed to Chac Mool, the God of Rain, by drowning in a sacred well. The sacrifice had taken place with his full consent, and I remember that the man's last wish was to come back as rain to save his people from drought. "Let me come back as rain..." Intrigued but unconvinced by the regression, which could have been nothing more than a guided daydream, I asked the Universe to give me a "sign" if the memories I had just had were in any way true and deserving of being taken seriously. Not long afterwards, the sun abruptly left the sky and a dry spell of many days was broken by a huge and unexpected deluge which lashed the earth with driving torrents of rain. Locals were surprised by the sudden change in the weather, whereas I was completely awed... It seemed that I was witnessing a momentary convergence of the external world and my inner world, an amazing synchronization of the cosmic and the personal which not only validated my recent 'past-life memories' but also brought to my awareness the deep connection which exists between Man and the Universe he lives in. We are not alone, orphaned insects on an abandoned rock circling a ball of gas; no, we are much more than that, intrinsic elements of the vastness, bound up in an intimate relationship with the Great Mystery.
Throughout those days of spiritual openness, synchronicities came abundantly into my life. Frequently, I would be undergoing a moment of doubt about my spiritual beliefs or my life in general, when suddenly some outside occurrence or event relevant to my train of thought would manifest, almost as if I were being spoken to by some greater force bent on dispelling my doubt, or giving me courage. At no time did I think this was something unique to me; rather, I believed that it was an indication of the often overlooked spiritual connection which exists between all of us and our environment, and of the ceaseless opportunities for communication which are available between our fragment-selves and the whole from which we come and to which we still belong. As I wrote in THE JOURNEY OF RAINSNOW, " The whole world is not only a place to live in, but also a form of communication!" In the 1990s I determined to open myself to that higher level of communication, which requires an open mind, a cultivated sensitivity and a spontaneous receptivity, which is how we get beyond 'constructing' meanings to 'hearing' them. Regarding one of my synchronicities in particular (but it could represent all of them), I went on to write: "Of course, you could question this way of putting apparently unrelated objects outside of myself together in such a way as to create a highly personal meaning for myself. You could say this was a case of 'wishful thinking', of 'reading too much into' a coincidence, of unconsciously manipulating reality to fit my emotional needs. However, the simple fact is that I did not 'put anything together': it put itself together, it erupted from the depths of my soul as something obvious, in a single powerful instant without time for reflection, editing or judgment. Without feeling any egocentric right to claim these circumstances as appendages of my own being - [all the elements of the synchronicity] existed, outside of myself, for their own purposes - I nonetheless 'chanced' upon them at a moment of critical need in my own life and was able to perceive what I felt was a message from the Universe through their presence." As some conceive it, "the Universe is a master of multi-tasking."
Along the lines of things already said here, I continued by saying: "Carl Gustav Jung, the great German psychologist known for his generous open-mindedness towards mystical and paranormal phenomena, called these strange events which sometimes occur in our lives 'synchronicities.' In our own times, James Redfield has brought the concept back into the forefront of New Age thought with his uneven bestseller, The Celestine Prophecy. In that popular and widely-read book, Redfield takes the bumps out of the word 'synchronicities', by calling them 'coincidences', or more appropriately, 'meaningful coincidences.' What both Jung and Redfield are referring to is the phenomenon of strange events occurring outside of ourselves which, nonetheless, have so much significance and meaning to our own lives, that it is almost as though they occurred for us, coordinated by some outside force for our benefit, to deliver a critical message to us or precipitate a crucial insight at a time of need. Outwardly alien to our lives, they nonetheless seem intimately linked to us, if only for an instant, surfacing like clockwork at that precise moment when their meaning can be understood, and their message needs to be received. According to Redfield, life abounds with such 'coincidences.' For those who choose to be alert to them and follow them, to flow with their strangeness, it is the beginning of a great reawakening, the opening of a door that will let magic and spiritual power back into their lives. It is the beginning of a journey that will reconnect them to God and their own true selves. For those who choose to deny them, to reject the sudden intuition that gives them meaning, to deny them, to 'unread' them when the passion is gone and push them away from the center of their lives, only logic will remain, moving on in cold determination toward oblivion, past the untraveled roads of the heart."
I believe in the power and significance of synchronicities, as phenomena capable of supporting us in our human struggle to survive and grow, and as transformative opportunities capable of restoring our connection to the Universe at the deepest level, and thereby helping to repair the ills of the earth which come from our disharmony. May we open up our spirit's ears, and listen!
Having explained, to the best of my ability, the theory and possibilities of synchronicities, I will end this article with some more examples of them - for I come from a time and place where learning was consolidated by concrete illustrations, which gave substance to the abstract, and put meat onto the bones of ideas.
SOME MORE EXAMPLES OF SYNCHRONICITIES:
1. A dear relative passed away. Her brother saw her spirit, after her passing, and was deeply moved. He said he saw her standing there in front of him with a huge smile on her face, and he was greatly consoled by the vision. I wished that I, too, might have some personal encounter with her and have my aching heart restored to peace. During her funeral ceremony, as her body was being cremated, and as I thought these thoughts, a butterfly, the symbol of transformation, suddenly appeared and landed on me. I felt, then, that it was her way, or the Universe’s way on her behalf, to assure me that death is not death as we perceive it, but only a change, a metamorphosis. We go from being caterpillars to butterflies. Though her beautiful body was being turned to ashes, her spirit was going to another plane, and would live on in a new way. It was a subtle, but profound way of being touched by her, and by God.
2. On another occasion, I was mourning the loss of my beloved cat. People who have pets know what this is like. Many times, pets become fully integrated members of our families, and we come to cherish their affection and to recognize their nobility, almost as if they were people. We come to value and to rely on their presence. When they die, especially under some circumstances, we are often left devastated and heartbroken. It is not absurd to feel this way, it is human. I was in the midst of such a loss, consumed by an almost unbearable sorrow over the fate of my dead cat, and also riddled with guilt, thinking I should have taken better care of him (though it is never easy for the poor to provide for their pets), when, all of a sudden, I turned the corner as I was walking down the street and came upon a high fence on which were formed the words, made by yellow ribbons tied to its front: THANK YOU. Given the internal conversation going on in my head – I was just then apologizing, with all my heart, to my cat, for not doing enough for him - it was as if he, himself, were responding to me, assuring me that I had done enough, after all, and thanking me for what I had given him – which was all that I could. "Thank You," he told me. I cannot tell you how moved I was!
The words on the fence, of course, were not written by my cat. They were, in fact, written by neighbors who were thanking everyone who was involved in defending our country against terrorists. I did not kidnap or divert the meaning of the words "Thank You" by associating them, at that moment, with my cat; their original, primary meaning remained intact, and I could appreciate that meaning, as well. In no way - I clearly understand - were the words "Thank You", placed there by the Universe solely for the purpose of consoling me about the loss of my cat. This is a crucial point to understand, because for some observers, the world of synchronicities seems wildly egotistic: a creation of terribly self-absorbed minds which dare to believe that the world revolves around them, and that reality is bent in their direction and geared to sending them constant messages of support and validation. It is as if the whole Universe were nothing but their private telephone, designed, by God, to call them on. It is important to reiterate that the events which we register as synchronistic have wider meanings as well as personal meanings, and have their own dynamics and directions, as well as their point of intersection with our private world. It is an amazing thing about the Universe that it can simultaneously carry out so many functions, operate on so many levels, and affect so many different people in so many different ways. Every event is like a word with a thousand different meanings, a thousand shades and nuances, and somewhere in the world, every one of its meanings can be heard. Those of us who are esoterically attuned find an amazing harmony of purposes here, a brilliant coexistence of phenomena which can transmit the destiny of masses at the same time as they deliver a highly personal message to a single individual. For me, I compare many a synchronistic event to a man who is walking down the road with his own purpose, towards his own destination; yet, on the way, as he passes me, he gives me a wink. I am not the center of the universe, not the reason the sun rises and sets, but the receiver of the wink. But many times, those winks have the value of gold. We knock nothing off kilter, pull nothing off course, make nothing crooked, leave nothing ajar, yet receive a blessing from the great intricacy. Regarding the words "Thank You" and my cat, I was peripheral, yet included in the grand design. The sign was put up by others for other reasons, yet I was guided to walk there at precisely the moment that the internal dialogue going on in my head would make it personally relevant to me. This is the classic form of the synchronistic event.
3. I was in mourning after the loss of my beloved wife when one night I had a most extraordinary dream. It ended exactly the way it began, with me meeting her by a traffic circle in Brooklyn, and us falling in love. The dream clearly tapped into the concept of recurring lives - the idea that we will (among other possible lives), live this same life over and over again, in new incarnations of the Universe; the idea that existence is an enormous circle, taking us back towards what we have lost at the same time that it seems to be taking us away from it. It was an overwhelmingly powerful and emotional dream that left me drenched with tears of joy and a sense of immortality for me and my beloved. (It was my own version of the Eleusinian Mysteries.) As I lay there in the afterglow of the dream, still stained with tears, the phone rang, forcing me awake, though not awake enough to answer. No one left a message on my machine. Out of curiosity, I crawled out of bed, and dialed *69 to find out who the caller had been: the number indicated began with a 314 area code (not a common area code for incoming calls where I live). 314, of course, are the initial digits associated with Pi, the geometrical value associated with the properties of circles. It seemed as though the deep esoteric experience of my dream were being demonstrated to be more than "just something in my head."
4. Feeling the need for spiritual comfort, a man (J) who had just lost his loved one (O) bought a book about miracles to console him. In this book there was a chapter about a woman who had lost her husband, and later claimed to receive a message from him after his death, proving the survival of connections based on love; at the chapter's head there was a quotation from the Book of Luke: the chapter and verse numbers corresponded to the birthday of O. (For example, 4:10 would equal April 10.) Thus, within someone else's story of receiving a communication from the deceased, or in representation of the deceased, J felt as though he had received his own personal communication.
5. A man who had a strong relation to geese, in the Native American tradition of "power animals", was filled with strength and hope every time he saw them: something magical about these graceful, brave, and somehow 'tribal' birds made him feel the beauty and power of the Universe, and reconnected him to his own often-forgotten sources of strength. Now this man had gone a long stretch without seeing them at all, and he was feeling weak and alone, when all of a sudden - at a time when he was feeling an acute need for them - he stumbled "by coincidence" on a Japanese poem: "You remain with me wild goose, no matter where you roam; [we are sharing this same night]." And even though he did not see them by the water, or hear them winging their way through the sky, he now remembered that they were somewhere in this same world even though he could not see them: some place where they wanted to be, being beautiful. And he no longer feeling cut off from them, or deprived of them (as his sense of what he was in contact with expanded), he felt his power returning ... When he needed it, a message came to him from a book he opened...
6. A man was getting ready to run in a Marathon; previously, he had entered another but been forced to drop out due to a combination of factors, including the bitter cold which cramped his legs up, and mistakes with his pacing that caught up to him late in the race. Somehow, that setback seemed to fit into a life pattern of starting things but not finishing them; of being an idea man, but not one to do something with his ideas; of being a dreamer, but not one to make them come true. Thus, when he undertook to run a second Marathon, it was as a symbolic battle to prove to himself that he could actually pay the cost for something he believed in and see it through to the finish... More than a mere race, it was a kind of ritual connected, as is the shamanic journey, to reality. ("The gears of daylight machines are powered by what transpires in the realms of shadow.") As a taxi drove him towards the race, the driver turned on the radio and playing on it was a version of THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD, a song not only incorporating the idea of the long journey he was about to undertake, but also its meaning (to finally grasp what had eluded him all these years.) For him, the airing of the song at that moment filled him with strength, reminding him in the deepest core of his being why he was here; and it seemed as though the Universe were somehow supporting him in his quest.
7. A man with a strong identity with the Native American Cheyenne people was feeling lost in the big city, far from anything that gave his soul strength. As he was feeling this way, he saw ahead of him on the street a young man who was wearing a jacket which said GRINNELL. No doubt, it referred to the college, and yet GRINNELL (George Bird Grinnell) was also one of the foremost historians and cultural chroniclers of the Cheyenne people, having written many books about them during his life. This small and innocent 'brush' with something seemingly insignificant, nonetheless restored to the man the thought that he was not alone in the city, that the Cheyenne people were in some ways nearby, and that their courage and their spirit were accessible. He took it as a sign meaning: "We are here with you, take heart." It wasn't just a jacket, it was a message using the jacket to reach him. Others might disagree, but the synchronicity as felt from the inside is a radically different experience from the synchronicity as perceived from the outside, especially by one who is eager to dismiss the intuitive and the mystical as agents of fantasy rather than as paths to extraordinarily subtle, yet overwhelmingly powerful truths.
8. A man posted a blog on the Internet. One day, coming to review his post, the browser experienced a glitch and could not load it properly. The result was that his blog was cut off in the middle. The last sentence in the truncated blog, one which obviously stood out under the circumstances, was, amazingly enough - when viewed only in the context of itself - the answer to a question which the writer had been asking himself that very day. It was as if the electronic medium had rearranged itself in order to talk back to him... Within the hour, the blog was back to displaying properly, and the meaningful sentence which had impressed him so much was back in its usual position, buried deep within the text.
9. At a critical time in his life, as he began a move towards independence from his parents and the beginning of his adult life, a young man had borrowed from the library a copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magically realistic novel ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE. The novel thus became associated in his mind with a period characterized by new beginnings, liberation and growth. Years later, in middle age, as he undertook a professional training to prepare him for a new direction in life (for his old life had stagnated), he saw, as he boarded a train to begin that new course of study, a young man who was reading a copy of ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE. The association was instantaneous, and understood at once - the parallel between the two times and the two life-changes, both necessary moves towards independence and the acceptance of the challenge of his destiny. This synchronicity provided a kind of congruence and harmony between the different yet similar phases of life, and at the same time a spiritually-felt vindication that his life was on the right track.
10. A man was wondering what he should do about a certain problem in life. That night, watching the television, a character on a show said something that applied directly to his situation and seemed to shed light on it. Its relevance was positively uncanny and gave him goose-bumps. (And no, he did not go on to perpetrate some horrible act against society! The fact that there are some madmen who take everything they see or hear as divine messages, and act upon them without any operating filters of common sense or morality, or mental 'checks and balances', should not obscure the fact that the TV can, indeed, sometimes talk to us!)
11. A man was in doubt as to whether he should work to keep a relationship with a certain woman friend of his up and running. Let's say her name was Doreen (hers wasn't the most common of names). On the street as he was walking back towards his home from work, and thinking about it, he heard someone calling out, "Doreen, don't go!" It was a girl calling out to her kid sister who was about to go off somewhere by herself. But of course the intense cry to 'Doreen' was strikingly relevant to his own inner thought processes as well. The synchronicity resonated strongly with something he was feeling inside but hadn't been able to reach yet, because his mind was spinning around in circles above the truths of his heart, which lay undiscovered, next level down, in his psyche. In one flash, as he heard the call to Doreen to stay, he felt as though a higher force (be it in him or without) had intervened to remind him of her importance to him. The synchronicity broke through the layers of problems and sacrifices which had clouded the love, and brought feelings to the surface that were stronger than the forces which opposed it... If the synchronicity had not elicited such feelings, it might have been unwise to rely upon it as an oracle - but the fact is that, in its wake, the man was left with a clear sense of the naturalness and rightness of the relationship, and made aware of the pain and loneliness he would experience in the event of a separation: better to work harder to keep the relationship alive!
12. A man was wondering if something someone had allegedly said and done were true, or if it were not being represented properly in the second- and third-hand reports he was getting. The behavior seemed so out of character with the person he knew that he could not believe it, and yet the reports had cast his mind into turmoil. As he was surfing the computer that night, thoughts of the situation kept popping in and out of his mind. In the midst of this, he came to a source of information on the web regarded as reliable by many, and found some material which contained blatant mistakes in it (he, happening to know more than the average bear about the subject, was able to recognize them). At once, the two situations connected: the inaccuracy of this news report hooked into the situation in his personal live, empowering his intuition to accept its conclusion that the reports about the person he knew were also inaccurate. If even this respected news source could get it wrong... In no way was the connection between the two phenomena or the conclusion drawn logical, but there was great strength in the man's inner sense of what had happened, and his faith in the other was totally reanimated; not only was a great weight lifted off of his mind: as it turns out, he was right!
--- It should be noted that in THE JOURNEY OF RAINSNOW a great deal of time is spent discussing synchronicities (especially, but not exclusively, see Chapter 18, MESSAGES AROUND US). All of this (sometimes dramatic) personal material was not included in the book to glorify myself, nor is any of the present material (the parts that come from me)... This needs saying, because reference to the synchronicities which have occurred in one’s life is used, by some - as are references to how many prophetic dreams one has had or how many psychic incidents one has experienced - for the purpose of vanity: to, as it were, pin medals of enlightenment on one’s chest and acquire proof of some special spiritual status. In the book I dealt with synchronicities as an intrinsic part of my story, crucial to the unfolding of my spiritual consciousness - whereas here I present cases (some belonging to me and some to others) in order to illustrate the nature of synchronicities, and the manner in which they are capable of interacting with the issues of one’s life. I am sure you have had many yourself; or if you have not, that once you are open to them, you will. What matters, in the end, is not that one experiences synchronicities, though it is wonderful if one can open oneself to them; but that, once one does, one does not ward them off with the reflex of science, which attempts to brush them away like flies with a whisk, but instead, allows oneself to be enriched by them; and that one, rather than stuffing them like feathers into one’s cap, uses them vigorously and effectively to become a better human being and to do the things that better human beings are needed to do in the world.
Although, for those unaccustomed to the idea of synchronicity, the concept may seem peculiar, it should be emphasized that the concept is deeply ingrained in many of our spiritual beliefs and practices, and has been around a long time, long before Jung finally crystallized it on the terrain of modern parapsychology. In ancient times, vast systems of carefully catalogued and elaborately defined codes of synchronicities were utilized to plot the course of cities, nations, and empires. In ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Etruria and Rome, augury and divination were granted a central position in the destiny of civilizations. For the ancient Etruscans, who greatly influenced the esoteric arts of the Romans, the kinds of birds seen in the sky after a question was asked in a sacred way - the height they flew at, whether they were on the right-hand or left-hand side of the observer, whether they climbed or dived, flew straight or circled - were all taken into account to assess the direction of destiny at that moment, and the inclinations of the Gods. Were it not for the implicit concept of synchronicity, the practice would have made no sense at all – what does a bird’s flight have to do with the outcome of a battle, or the value of a political alliance that hangs in the balance? Nothing at all, unless one accepts the bird as a form of speech of the divine, and believes that its movements (given significance by prophetic convention) will be directed, at the moment that one has asked a question of the Gods, to coincide with the answer.
In my opinion, these ancient systems of augury sacrificed much of the spontaneity and flexibility of the synchronistic phenomenon by locking the human relationship with the divine or magical aspect of the Universe into a previously conceived, and impersonal language of interpretation. In many cases, the results of the ancient prophecies were judged to be highly accurate; but at other times, they appear to have led to awful disasters. Rigid codes of interpretation may have acted as straitjackets confining the psychic sensibility of the seers. Intuition, in the end, was trapped inside a hardened science.
When one considers other forms of divination popular in today’s New Age, such as the Tarot, tea leaves, the rune stones, or "book opening", one, once again, quickly apprehends that the only principle which could ever make them truly effective is synchronicity. In the Tarot, for example, what should cause a certain card with a certain meaning to be drawn under a certain circumstance, in such a way as to have profound relevance to the life of the subject? Only an act of coinciding, binding the act of selecting an unknown card from the Tarot deck with the life situation of the individual in need of clarity, could possibly provide legitimacy to this method; only an "induced synchronicity", facilitated by the creation of a conducive spiritual space, and by the small amount of event-resources needed to engineer it. (The less outer forces that need to be harmonized and brought together to produce the synchronicity, the easier it must be to induce it. Working with a deck of cards is, relatively speaking, very easy on the Universe. Synchronicities, as most commonly understood, however, are not "induced", they just happen.)
In all cases, it must be stated, revelations pulled from the mystic realm must always be balanced by an appreciation for the solid facts of earthly existence; common sense and good judgment should never be thrown to the winds for the sake of a prophecy – for the psychic arts are delicate and subject to misinterpretation, and sometimes even seem cast our way to test us and the level of confidence we have within us. There is no way to flee from the burden of our will; no way to evade the fact that we are responsible for our own lives.
Generally speaking, synchronicities happen of their own accord, but as many of the cases I have described illustrate, they may also happen in the wake of prayers and petitions to the Universe, in the presence of needs that have the power of prayers, or in the context of divination practices. According to the classic Christian understanding, when one asks for a favor from God, the mechanism by which this favor is granted is not "acausal" or "synchronous", but causal. The request (and one’s worthiness of having one’s request granted) is the cause; and the effect is the fulfillment of the request. God is the agency, who is responsible for the transition of one’s wish into a reality. In the case of those synchronistic events which are "induced" by a request (asking for a sign) or by a sacred state of mind (as in the Tarot), there is a definite sense that a divine or spiritual force is at work, whether that force is God, or merely a sensitive and responsive Universe, to which we are deeply connected. In almost all cases, the synchronistic event leaves us with the feeling that there is some form of intelligence and nurturing energy all around us, in which we are engulfed; that we are not mere uprooted outcasts thrown to the mercy of the void. The nihilistic state of mind is dissolved; we are reborn as full-fledged citizens of a spiritual reality.
It is a natural result, once we come to such an appreciation, that we begin to expect great things. Coming to believe that we are noted, that our existence has been detected and registered by a greater power, that we are not invisible and do not live without a trace, and that the Universe is not as cold and indifferent to us as we once imagined, we come to expect all the benefits that recognition and love "should bring", all the blessings of "good parenting" that ought to come from the Higher Power we have recovered our belief in. We expect our spiritual awakening to bring us happiness, joy, health, prosperity, love, all the beautiful things we have longed for, and been dreaming of. Now that we are finally reconnected, we feel sure we will get them.
This is not always, however, the way it happens. In the wake of The Celestine Prophecy, the modern pop version of Jung’s exploration of synchronicities, vast numbers of excited readers were inspired to chase after the "meaningful coincidences" which appeared to them in their lives; to follow them, like Alice, down the rabbit hole of a new spiritual way of seeing, thinking, and living. Whole New Age multitudes opened themselves up to the experience of the synchronicity, and began to navigate their lives according to its magical possibilities, leaping from one inner discovery to the next, throwing away old maps for plotting personal and professional trajectories and replacing these dependable but unsatisfying maps with pure intuition. They lived without iron-clad plans, with their spiritual antennae up. There was, in these initial moments of the Celestine "revelations", a sense of optimism and euphoria pervasive among its converts: a rosy belief that this spiritual opening-up would expose them to infallible guidance previously shut out by reason, and that from this guidance would come bliss.
Unfortunately, as time went on, many of James Redfield’s devotees found out that synchronicities are only a part of the answer. Synchronicities showed them that we are connected to everything and that the Universe is, indeed, a spiritual place. But this understanding did not automatically rescue them from the problems of their lives, from economic hardship, bad relationships, health issues, frustration, despair, the doldrums. There was a rapid ascent, a spiritual rush, and the expectation of total liberation; and when total liberation did not come, in the terms they expected it to come in a material society, in a culture with an ingrained belief in rewards and punishments, there was a terrible sense of disillusionment, and even betrayal. God did not kiss them when they gave up nihilism, when they broke the chains of apathy. He led them on, and then, he let them down.
What went wrong? Two things. First, synchronicities are not usually meant to save us by themselves. They are meant to animate us, to restore us to spirituality. But spirituality does not mean stretching our hands out to God like a beggar. We must still fight for what we get; we must have great hearts and be willing to sacrifice and to struggle for what we want and what we believe in. Spirituality can help us to help ourselves; it can make us better fighters, so long as we don’t sit back waiting for a big hand to come down to us out of the sky to give us everything we need.
Secondly, we must come to appreciate the true nature of the gifts which spirituality gives to us. We all want money, we all want love, we all want success, we all want to do well according to the standards of the society we live in. But it doesn’t always go that way. The story doesn’t always have a happy ending, as we have become accustomed to defining "happy endings." As spiritual men and women, we must be able to realize, even in the midst of hard times and "failure", the beautiful blessings that come with spiritual awareness, in and of itself, without the "earthly" rewards we wish to see attached to it: the sense of peace and contentment that come from understanding the nature of the Universe and accepting what one cannot change in it; the incredible gift of being able to love, to feel, to care for others, to maintain one’s integrity and good-heartedness, to regret when necessary and to purify oneself if one has in some way fallen; to face mortality with nobility, grace, courage, and fairness to one’s fellow man. To make things better, and more human, wherever one goes… It is a sad commentary on our civilization that many would mock these words, and call them "idiotic", "corny", the "beliefs of suckers." For there is nothing sweeter than to reach a state such as this, in spite of all the obstacles; as one prepares to meet death, to breathe the clean, fresh air of a life well lived, not the polluted air of hypocrisy, corruption, and power without principles, on which some of those called "successful" today are destined to choke. All of this is not a paean to misery, but a homage to what is real beyond the dust-cloud of illusions that governs the world. The reign of mirages falls hard at the hour that we return to spirit.
Synchronicities are a means of rediscovering the spiritual nature of the Universe and receiving guidance from a higher source. Synchronicities do not do the work of living for us, but give us hope that our living is meaningful, and encourage us to use our god-given talents to do the best we can in a world that is not always easy to live in.
For some, the greatest difficulty with synchronicities is the high hopes that they raise – hopes of being saved by God coming down in a chariot, now that one’s belief in Him is finally restored. The difficulty is in handling the let-down, in weathering the failure of Paradise to materialize, the failure of shortcuts to bypass the struggle which everyone else has to go through, but which we hoped to avoid on the basis of our "special connection."
For others, the difficulty is to accept the synchronicities as true heralds of a spiritual order; to discount the constant whispering of Science in your ear, assuring you that they are nothing but constructs of your own mind. You have touched a hair on God’s head, but they call it probability.
Perhaps, there is no better reply to this nagging criticism than the words of Jung, himself [Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 302]: "Reason sets the boundaries far too narrowly for us, and would have us accept only the known – and that too with limitations – and live in a known framework, just as if we were sure how far life actually extends. As a matter of fact, day after day we live far beyond the bounds of our consciousness; without our knowledge, the life of the unconscious is also going on within us. The more the critical reason dominates, the more impoverished life becomes; but the more of the unconscious and the more of myth we are capable of making conscious, the more of life we integrate. Overvalued reason has this in common with political absolutism: under its dominion the individual is pauperized."
I write this article on synchronicities for both of us: for you and me. We have before us, a wonderful, time-tried path to belief, a wonderful compass on the journey of life. It will not save us from the steps we have to take, but it will help us to know where we should walk, and give us the strength to take those steps.
Synchronicities are what we will let them be: cords that connect us to greater and deeper ways of knowing; or cords cut by reason and left dangling from our lives, connecting us to nothing.
The power is ours to cherish, or to surrender to those who do not love us.
Jung, Carl G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
Rainsnow, J. The Journey of Rainsnow.
Weapons of Depth Contents