Synchronicity

One of Jung's greatest discoveries was his theory of synchronicity. It might be more simply defined as 'meaningful coincidence'. We have all had experiences that seemed unique and unusual, and we just chalk it up to chance. There doesn't seem to be any connection between events that come together to produce an unexpected outcome; we just call it coincidence. In some cases that is all it is, but in other cases the coincidence is meaningful or even profound. A single synchronistic event can change a person's life forever. We are all aware of how cause and effect seems to determine just about everything in our lives. Science is the study of cause and effect, and has given us laws of nature that assure confidence, security, and understanding of the world around us. Causal laws are facts that explain why things are the way they are, but Jung is attempting to understand how certain events can be connected without a causal explanation. That is why he calls synchronicity an acausal connecting principle.

It might be helpful to illustrate the idea of synchronicity with an example. When Abraham Lincoln was a young man living on the frontier, he had a desire to obtain an education that would help him acquire a professional career. He had little hope that this would ever happen. One day a stranger came to him with a barrel full of odds and ends. The man was in desperate need of money, and asked a dollar for the barrel. With his well-known kindness he gave the man a dollar not really knowing what he was going to do with the contents of the barrel. Later, while clearing it out, he came upon an edition of Blackstone's Commentaries. [Blackstone was a well-known jurist of the time]. It was the synchronistic acquisition of these books that enabled Lincoln to become a lawyer, and eventually embark on his career in politics.

There was one continuous line of causality working in Lincoln's life stirring him to seek greater opportunities. At the same time the causal continuity in the life of the stranger who had come upon hard times crossed Lincoln's own lifeline. The two lines of events had no causal connection linking them, but at a significant time the two lines came together in a synchronistic event that changed Lincoln's life profoundly.

Synchronicity seems bound up with the archetypes, and when the archetypes take on a "specific charge" they are raised to a supernormal degree of luminosity and become numinous. When this happens there is often a withdrawing of so much energy from other possible contents of consciousness that they become darkened and eventually unconscious. This might even create an imbalance in the psyche. The source of this power to affect the archetypes seems to be from highly charged emotions, intense feelings, or sudden inspirational flashes. The stage then becomes set for synchronistic events to unfold.

Jung found that the best instances of his theory were cases of ESP or extra sensory perception, parapsychology, numerology, and astrology. Jung believed he found direct evidence for the existence of acausal combinations of events through the experiments of J.B. Rhine.28 The experiment consists of an experimenter turning up a series of numbered cards bearing simple geometrical patterns. The subjects are asked to guess the signs as the cards are turned up. While the results varied, in many cases the results were distinctly above probability. The likelihood of success seemed to depend on how the subject approached the experiment. Eagerness and enthusiasm resulted in better results; lack of interest brought poor results. If the test subject was a strong believer in ESP, then the results were better than the results of those subjects that did not believe in ESP. As Jung says: "Lack of interest and boredom are negative factors; enthusiasm, positive expectation, hope, and belief in the possibility of ESP make for good results and seem to be the real conditions which determine whether there are going to be any results at all." 29 For Jung, the upshot of these experiments affirmed that "Synchronicity means the simultaneous occurrence of a certain psychic state with one or more external events which appear as meaningful parallels to the momentary subjective state--and, in certain cases, vice versa." 30

Through Jung's research we now know that the individual psyche is not just a product of personal experience, but has an evolutionary history resulting in a transpersonal dimension manifested in universal patterns and images such as are found in all the world's religions and mythologies. Jung further discovered that the psyche has a structuring or ordering principle that unifies the various archetypal contents. The archetype of wholeness is the central archetype that Jung calls the Self. The Self is the supreme psychic authority and subordinates all else to it including the ego. It is the central source of life and the fountain of our being. It is represented through those symbols that indicate wholeness or completeness such as mandalas, circles, and most importantly the sun, which has been described as the "Window opening into eternity."

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