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SYNCHRONICITY: A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
 with Input from Jung and Science

Valerie Albrecht

Author Biographer Eastern Health Practitioner Speech Pathologist www.theoceansofenergy.com

Thank you for this opportunity to present on Synchronicity. It has allowed me the time for introverted thinking on the matter. To retrieve memories of my synchronistic experiences and the awe that accompanied them. To expand my frame of reference for it and to think again about what this mysterious phenomenon might mean.

Synchronicity is now in the everyday language of those who have been influenced by new Age psychological and spiritual thought. It is called upon whenever divination in any form is used: the Tarot, the I Ching, Numerology, Runes. Stings’ album Synchronicity reached platinum record sales.

First I will suggest what we might be talking about here and some ways of looking at synchronicity: for example, Jungian, the Eastern Tao and I Ching, Parapsychological Thinking and the “Just like a waking dream” thinking. Then I will take synchronicity into my PhD topic What are the ways of thinking of Synchronicity in Aboriginal culture. I will also put forward some thoughts of what we might do with synchronicity. Interspersed will be some personal stories of synchronicity – mine and yours.

My presentation is not about definitives or a comprehensive overview of the subject but rather to submit thinkings, readings and experiences.  Reference list used for this presentation is available on request.

I have learnt that whenever I am doing something or writing something deeply meaningful to me synchronicities occur. This makes me feel like I am being supported by something greater.

Story 1 Hence this recently occurred. As I was preparing for this talk I ordered a book through inter-library loan. The following week after I had finished teaching a yoga class I found myself on a route home which I had just decided not to take. It took me past the NLA where the book was to be sent. At that moment my phone rang with a message that the book had arrived.

So What are we talking about? WORDS. synchronicity, chance, an act of god, luck, luck of the draw, co-incidence, simultaneity, acausality providence, serendipity, in the Middle Ages it was referred to as “correspondences”, in the I Ching, it is referred to as the hidden will of divinity or heaven summed up as the Tao, In Jung’s words it is: energy psychological intensity, psychic energy which cannot be measured quantitatively, knowing, intuitive knowledge, matchmaker, accidental encounters, a universal wink.

Synchronicity in Jungian philosophy is the manifestation of a thought, either individual or collective, into meaningful co-incidences that have a powerful effect on the individual and collective involved, and which for a short time, bring the outer physical world into unity with the inner psychic world through synchronistic action/s.  In his essay “Spirit of Psychology” Jung describes it as “a psychically conditioned relativity of space and time where one’s own emotional interest and unconscious expectations can influence and says it Is always, striking, powerful and transformative.”

In Carl Jung and Albert Einstein: An Acausal Connecting Principle. synchronicity is briefly put as meaningful co-incidences, patterns of connections not caused by causality.  Princeton University Press 1973

and from Hopcke: In 1951 Synchronicity was the most controversial and original idea.  He describes it as linking events acausally in terms of subjective meaningfulness of the co-incidence rather than by cause and effect. Hopcke further says To understand it requires a way of thinking foreign to western culture -Thinking that does not separate the physical world from interior psychic events.

Hopcke ventures further to say There is a “magic agency” to it, caused somehow by inward psychic processes, subjective, emotional meanings. It is Invisible. Intangible Transcendental. It demonstrates the invisible world in action.

James Redfield: in Celestine Prophecy explains it as “beyond what is expected by mere chance.” Unity Church Publishers 1993

Einstein has stated: “Synchronicity is Gods’ way of remaining anonymous.”

and from Eckhart Tolle “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness through synchronicities?”

Jean Bolen in Synchronicity and Self says “Synchronicity in life arises spontaneously and through such events we realize there is a linkage between ourselves and the world that we cannot account for by logical means.

Was Shakespeare referring to Synchronicity when he asked: “Can such things be without our special wonder?”

So it seems there are many ways of looking at and putting words to Synchronicity.

Back to Jung.

His concept of synchronicity, first emerged in the 1930’s and was first published in the early 1950’s. It challenged ideas of time space and causality.

Jung says “I kept coming across connections which I simply could not explain as chance groupings. I found co-incidences which were connected so meaningfully that their “chance” occurrence would be incredible/incommensurate.”

His synchronicity pioneered and influenced across medicine, psychology, art, literature, religion, science the humanities across Eastern and Western thinking as well as the North South shamanic axis. However it’s reception showed that the west was sadly lacking in spiritual awareness and acceptance of subjective intuitive complexity.

Jung’s synchronicity also invited a place for impossibility, the unknowable becoming knowable, miracles, that human nature is attracted to the appeal of miracles and has hope that these things may be possible.

The PROCESS according to Jung: Synchronicity requires a human participant to give meaning to a subjective experience. The experience occurs within a subjective time frame. The person links the 2 events together although the events need not occur simultaneously. The participant determines what is meaningful. Accompanied by spontaneous emotional response say, chills up the spine, hair standing up on the back the neck, telepathic communication, gut level communication, awe, warmth. These are important differences from CAUSALITY which has to do with objective observation and reasoning knowledge.

To appreciate causality one needs the ability to observe outer events and think logically. Causality can be repeated.

To appreciate synchronicity one needs the ability to note an inner state, a thought, feeling, dream, vision or premonition and to intuitively link it with a related outer event. This co-incidence of events is meaningful only to the participant, thus is unique and is not repeatable.

Jung describes 3 types:

Co-incidence between mental content and outer event:
A dream or vision which co-incides with an event taking place at a distance which is later verified and occurs without using any of the 5 senses.

An image, dream, vision, premonition about something that will happen in the future which then does occur

Certain aspects of synchronicity are bound up with archetypes and complicated by them because of the factor of affectivity/emotion/instincts whose formal representation in Jungian philosophy is the archetype. This is a presentation on it’s own.

Jung: “We cannot imagine events that are connected non-causally and are capable of a non-causal explanation. There is no rational intellectual explanation why a person might have a dream, thought, or inner psychological state that co-incides with an event. But these events as we’ve all experienced exist.

Enter Science                                                                                         

Scientific methods generally aim to establish regular cause and effect events which can be repeated and where one variable at a time is only to be considered Therefore unique or rare events, such as synchronicity are ruled out, ones which cannot be grasped statistically.

Science has of course, considered the “unthinkable” variables of, enthusiasm, hope, belief and positive expectation and has used sophisticated, expensive, sensitive machinery and complex mathematical formulas to statisfy them. In the end it has often come up with the conclusion: that there is interrelationship between all things, synchronicity being but one example.

So can scientific intellectual awareness pave the way for acceptance of a spiritual concept?

In response to science Jung stated that :the existence of synchronicity refuses to be argued out of existence and we must abandon the statistical method about it.

The Tao I Ching Approach:

Is based on Intuitive knowledge that there is a patterned matrixed universe or an underlying meaning to all experience, or a primal source to which we are connected which invokes a feeling of reverence. The Tao is something known rather than thought about so that explanatory words are inadequate. Lao Tsung attempts to describe synchronicity as a reality of God, the nature of life forces, the Source, the One or very simply “meaning”.

Classical Chinese thinking on synchronicity is “what likes to happen together in a meaningful way at the same moment.”

It’s main principle as in all Eastern religions is that everything relates and is connected. It emphasizes this eternal value in a continually changing universe, assumes the cosmos has a discernable underlying pattern, and strongly advises holding onto inner values while counselling action and attitudes appropriate to the outer situation.

Back to Jean Bolen who says, The I Ching ought to be considered as an additional consultant to dreams and synchronicity for the lover of self knowledge and wisdom.

Para psychology -the union of physics, psychology, philosophy and psychic phenomena and the implications of this. It’s study includes “mind over matter psycho-kinesis” (moving objects), ESP, clairvoyance, telepathy, “impossible” poltergeist phenomena (strange inexplicable goings on in a house) and the archetype of the miracle. Jung includes all of these examples as meaningful co-incidence –under the category of synchronicities as each is always accompanied by mental and emotional intensity, receptivity and meaning for the person involved.

In 1969 the American Association for the Advancement of Science accepted the Parapsychological Association as a member organization after being nominated by Margaret Mead and after 2 failed submissions.

Hans Bender German psychiatrist and parapsychologist agrees with Jung “ psyche and matter seem inseparably entangled and inner psychological states and external physical events can become fused by powerful emotional and psychic energies producing poltergeist phenomena - a form of synchronicity, also referred to in Eastern approaches as the Tao.”

So to Dreams. What do Synchronicity and Dreams have in common?

Some meanings are immediately clear some need to be analyzed

Both are unique and variable from person to person from the everyday to a few life significant ones

Some are colorful some are only in black and white, some full of symbols, some full of everyday trivia

We can notice dreams or not. We can notice synchronicity or not

Both increase when a person is experiencing intensity of feeling

Both have central casting i.e. a participant and both can be disturbing and obvious to the participant

Both can be decisive forces in that the participant can struggle with the meanings.

The warnings about the danger of becoming all too engrossed or fascinated by dreams can also apply to synchronicity. Writers of both entreat: “Do not abdicate logical rational thinking, Rely on omens or base actions on them.”

So can synchronicity be described as like a waking dream where we experience the intersection of the timeless with time, where the union of spheres of existence is actual. Where what is inside us and outside us becomes unseparated.?

The Aboriginal Concept:

My work with Aboriginal communities and people in Australia and North America has created my PhD interest in Aboriginal concepts of time and synchronicities and how this plays out in, policy and planning in Aboriginal health, education, employment, 5, 10 year plans, even Close the Gap which has and needs to have timelines and time goals to achieve outcomes and even to the very practical sense of Aboriginal people and appointment keeping. Planning and programming with Aboriginal people and organizations is predominantly based on western linear concepts of time and indicators. I have found little clear research and information of inclusion of Aboriginal ways of looking or world views of time and planning and even less on any Aboriginal concept of synchronicity. I have come to call the synchronicity concept in this context “spirit way time”. For now, as it is early in my research I will throw out some of what I have found that appears to have commonalities with Synchronicity.

1.      In the Aboriginal world view and thinking nothing is separate from anything else not land, people, heavens, ancient stories - everything belongs in a pattern. The sacred beings of the Aboriginals were all treated as equals - each had power and wisdom , are part of the pattern, part of the story. This is specifically congruent with the interconnectedness of the I Ching Tao synchronicity approach.

2.      The Aboriginal concept of land, people, heavens, ancient stories all being connected and somewhat “magical”, inexplicable, transcendent or psychic have similarity with the magical, inexplicable transcendent psychic aspects of synchronicity as described by both Jung and the Para-psychological approaches.

3.      Stanner, who has researched Aboriginal spirituality voluminously, says Aboriginal religious philosophy was inculculated with a sense of mystery by symbolisms ( rock art) pointing to metaphysical realities which were thought to show themselves by signs ( e.g.in the weather) He could find no aboriginal word for time so called it “ social time” to include cycles, seasons and circles. In recent times research has found that Aboriginal people use the word “everywhen” when talking about time. A question I will be asking is “Could the western and Jungian definitions and words about synchronicity also describe the Aboriginal experience of them?”

I’m looking forward to further investigating.

What we might do with it:

1.      Make meaning to find “a path with heart”

2.      Validate our path by making a metaphor for something going on in our lives Positive synchronicities light our path. Negatives ones become cause to pause and ponder the direction we are taking

3.      Take Hope, Grace and Humility from Synchronicitous events.

4.      Unify our right and left brain functions into equal import.

5.      Take introspection – “What might I have done to cause this?”

6.      Direct our decision making “Something is trying to tell me something”

7.      Or we could take it as simply a nourishing means to perceive how deeply everything and everyone is connected, including things within ourselves i.e. we are not alone, are part of something far greater, divine, dynamic - with no action required? Jung refers to this aspect of interpreting synchronicity as a way to discover our shared humanity.

8.      Be wary of making an expectation list, making decisions based on synchronicity, and abdicating rational thinking

9.      Are they just so stories as Jung has said ?

10.  Could we learn to ask a different questions: Instead of that happened because of that and that and then that happened ask according to the I Ching way “what likes to happen together – explore BOTH ineer and outer events. Make an intuitive picture on what had to happen together what had to constellate in that moment of time. Ask, “Does the synchronicity mean an actual event or just the quality of that possible event or the possible likelihood of an event?” 

11.   Know that whether we look at synchronicity psychologically or physically or psychically or all combinations of approaches and, and include considerations of emotion, hope and belief, it might well become a double concept, a double motif, a duality. In Native American Indian way of looking this would be referred to as Coyote

12.   Accept that there are incompatible ways of looking at Sychronicity which, cannot be put together, or linked. Therefore we cannot establish a single law of synchronicity. Jung offers this as way to be freed from a one sided image of the world.

13.  So then, do we simply “play” with it and Smile at it?

Synchronicity continues to amaze, confound, baffle and cause me joy. The creative drive of synchronicity keeps me awake at night, gives me nightmares, has driven me to grief and wonderment that I thought was beyond words. When I contemplate, discuss and research synchronicity I am enthused, enthralled, absorbed, afraid of what is revealed, but still my voice lifts, my breath releases a sigh of “Yes”  Synchronicity Matters. It brought me here to Canberra, to the Yung Society to this presentation. Thank you.

Valerie Albrecht

www.theoceansofenergy.com

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