Synchronicity

Synchronicity

Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events which are causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner.

The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality. Instead, it maintains that just as events may be grouped by cause, they may also be grouped by their meaning.

In order to be synchronistic, the events must be related to one another temporally so as to rule out direct causation.

Description

The idea of synchronicity is that the conceptual relationship of minds, defined as the relationship between ideas, is intricately structured in its own logical way and gives rise to relationships which are not causal in nature. Instead, causal relationships are understood as simultaneous—that is, the cause and effect occur at the same time.

Synchronous events reveal an underlying pattern, a conceptual framework which encompasses, but is larger than, any of the systems which display the synchronicity. The suggestion of a larger framework is essential in order to satisfy the definition of synchronicity as originally developed by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.

Jung coined the word to describe what he called "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events." Jung variously described synchronicity as an "acausal connecting principle", "meaningful coincidence" and "acausal parallelism". Jung introduced the concept as early as the 1920s but only gave a full statement of it in 1951 in an Eranos lecture and in 1952, published a paper, Synchronicity — An Acausal Connecting Principle, in a volume with a related study by the physicist (and Nobel laureate) Wolfgang Pauli.

It was a principle that Jung felt gave conclusive evidence for his concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious, in that it was descriptive of a governing dynamic that underlies the whole of human experience and history—social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Events that happen which appear at first to be coincidence but are later found to be causally related are termed as "incoincident".

Jung believed that many experiences that are coincidences due to chance in terms of causality suggested the manifestation of parallel events or circumstances in terms of meaning, reflecting this governing dynamic.

One of Jung's favourite quotes on synchronicity was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, in which the White Queen says to Alice: "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards".

Scientific reasoning

In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias is the tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions and avoids information and interpretations that contradict prior beliefs. Many critics believe that any evidence for synchronicity is due to confirmation bias, and nothing else.

Wolfgang Pauli, a scientist who in his professional life was severely critical of confirmation bias, lent his scientific credibility to support the theory, coauthoring a paper with Jung on the subject. Some of the evidence that Pauli cited was that ideas which occurred in his dreams would have synchronous analogs in later correspondence with distant collaborators.

Examples

The French writer Émile Deschamps claims in his memoirs that in 1805, he was treated to some plum pudding by a stranger named Monsieur de Fortgibu. Ten years later, the writer encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Paris restaurant and wanted to order some, but the waiter told him that the last dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be de Fortgibu. Many years later, in 1832, Émile Deschamps was at a diner and was once again offered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier incident and told his friends that only de Fortgibu was missing to make the setting complete—and in the same instant, the now senile de Fontgibu entered the room.

In his book Synchronicity (1952), Jung tells the following story as an example of a synchronic event: "A young woman I was treating had, at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me this dream, I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the window-pane from the outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeud beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), which contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt the urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment. I must admit that nothing like it ever happened to me before or since." (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, paragraph 843, Princeton University Press Edition)

Simultaneous discovery is the creation of the same new idea at causally disconnected places by two persons at approximately the same time. If, for example, an American and a British musician, having never had anything to do with one another, arrived at the same musical concept, chord sequence, feel or lyrics at the same time in different places, this would be an example of synchronicity. During the production of The Wizard of Oz, a coat bought from a second-hand store for the costume of Professor Marvel was later found to have belonged to L. Frank Baum, author of the children's book upon which the film is based.

In popular culture

Film

In the 1976 film The Eagle Has Landed, the character Max Radl (Robert Duvall) asks a subordinate if he is familiar with the works of Jung and then explains the theory of synchronicity. In the 1980s film Repo Man, Miller's "Plate 'o' Shrimp" theory outlines the idea of synchronicity. The Miller character states that while many people see life as a series of unconnected incidents, he believes that there is a "lattice o[f] coincidence that lays on top o[f] everything" which is "part of a cosmic unconsciousness."

In the 2004 film I ♥ Huckabees, a character hires existential detectives to solve his coincidence. They caution him, "Not all coincidences are meaningful."

The 2007 film August Rush features a plot built upon several synchronicities, all surrounding a series of unlikely meetings and occurrences that ultimately lead to a reunion between the title character and his parents.

Other media

Writer and iconoclast Charles Hoy Fort wrote several books on synchronicity, including the Book of the Damned, Lo!, New Lands and Wild Talents. New Lands tells the famous story of the woman who lost her ring in a nearby lake only to recover it years later inside a fish she bought at a local market. He also wrote about the butterfly effect years before Lorenz, the famous mathematician who coined the term.

In the 1983 release Synchronicity by The Police (A&M Records), bassist Sting is reading a copy of Jung's Synchronicity on the front cover along with a negative/superimposed image of the actual text of the synchronicity hypothesis. A photo on the back cover also shows a close-up, but mirrored and upside-down, image of the book. There are two songs, titled "Synchronicity I" and "Synchronicity II" included in the album.

The Dirk Gently series of books by Douglas Adams often plays on the synchronicity concept. The main character carries a "pocket I Ching" that also functions as a calculator, up to a point. In Philip K. Dick's The Game-Players of Titan, several characters possessing pre-cognitive abilities cite the acausal principle of synchronicity as an element which hampers their ability to predict certain possible futures accurately.

In 2002, manga author Itagaki Keisuke based one of the story arcs of Baki The Search Of Our Strongest Hero on the synchronicity theme, presenting a story in which five death row inmates escaped at the same time, in different countries, each after surviving his own execution. Each inmate went back to Japan at the same time to meet in the same place for the same objective.

See also

Notes

References and further reading

  • Carl Jung (1972). Synchronicity — An Acausal Connecting Principle. Routledge and Kegan Paul. ISBN 0-7100-7397-6.
  • Carl Jung (1977). Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal: Key Readings. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-15508-8.
  • Carl Jung (1981). The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01833-2.
  • Robert Aziz, C.G. Jung's Psychology of Religion and Synchronicity (1990), currently in its 10th printing, is a refereed publication of The State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-0166-9.
  • Robert Aziz, "Synchronicity and the Transformation of the Ethical in Jungian Psychology" in Carl B. Becker, ed. Asian and Jungian Views of Ethics. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999. ISBN 0-313-30452-1.
  • Robert Aziz, The Syndetic Paradigm: The Untrodden Path Beyond Freud and Jung (2007), a refereed publication of The State University of New York Press ISBN 13:978-0-7914-6982-8.
  • Marie-Louise von Franz (1980). On Divination and Synchronicity: The Psychology of Meaningful Chance. Inner City Books. ISBN 0-919123-02-3.
  • Joseph Jaworski (1996). Synchronicity: the inner path of leadership. Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.. ISBN 1-881052-94-X.
  • Arthur Koestler (1973). The Roots of Coincidence. Vintage. ISBN 0-394-71934-4.
  • Victor Mansfield, (Physicist) (1995). Science, Synchronicity and Soul-Making. Open Court Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8126-9304-3.
  • Elisabeth Mardorf, Das kann doch kein Zufall sein
  • F. David Peat (1987). Synchronicity, The Bridge Between Matter and Mind. Bantam. ISBN 0-553-34676-8.
  • Richard Wilhelm (1986). Lectures on the I Ching: Constancy and Change Bollingen edition. Princeton University Press; Reprint. ISBN 0-691-01872-3. Note especially the foreword by Carl Jung. (The I Ching is a type of oracle, or synchronicity computer, used for divination.)
  • Monsier de Fontgibu and the plum pudding in Echoes from the Harp of France, by Harriet Mary Carey, 1869, p. 174

External links

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