by Michael W. Clark

2007

from EarthPages Website

 

 

Parts relate to whole, the chain holds on, and where it ends, unknown
Alexander Pope

An Essay on Man

The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) at one time was a close friend and colleague of Sigmund Freud.

 

But the two pioneering theorists had a falling out in 1914 over personal and professional differences, most notably Jung's rejection of Freud's increasingly dogmatic insistence on the primacy of the libido.

 


 


Before their split, the two corresponded frequently about the emerging school of psychoanalysis. One of the topics mentioned in their letters was Jung's idea of synchronicity, which at that time wasn't clearly defined.

 

While Freud mostly ridiculed the notion of synchronicity, Jung's far-reaching interests led him to the study of quantum physics, providing him with solid theoretical and empirical grounds to develop the concept.

 

Jung also wrote about personal encounters with synchronicity, another factor which compelled him to advance this cutting edge idea.

 

 

Synchronicity suggests that mind and matter,

as well as past, present and future

exist in a meaningfully connected continuum.

 

It also implies that everyday distinctions

concerning self and environment,

causality and the belief in linear time

are historically specific assumptions

rather than absolute truths.


 


By the 1950's, Jung had outlined three types of synchronicity:

The meaningful acausal coincidence of a psychological event and an external observable event, both taking place at or around the same time.

This first type of synchronicity could be illustrated as follows: You're driving home and about two and a half blocks from your destination, you begin to think of a friend whom you haven't seen in years.

 

Upon entering the front door you find the very same friend had just phoned and left a message on your answering service.

  • The meaningful acausal coincidence of a psychological event and an external observable event, the latter taking place outside the individual's range of sensory perception.

This second type of synchronicity is illustrated by the well-documented vision of the Swedish scientist and mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).

 

Jung notes that Swedenborg inwardly saw a devastating fire which took place approximately 100 miles away in Stockholm, representing what psi researchers now call remote viewing.

  • The meaningful acausal coincidence of an internal psychological event with an external observable event, the latter taking place in the future.

Also called precognition, examples of this third type of synchronicity are found throughout history.

 

In the Biblical tradition, for instance, Jesus accurately predicts Peter's finding a coin in a fish's mouth, as well as his own betrayal, death and resurrection (Matthew 17:27; 26:23; John 2:19).

 

With Jesus, however, one could argue that he was absolutely certain that his precognitions would come true. Therefore his predictions might be construed as synchronicities by non-believers but not by himself and his followers.

 

For believers, Jesus' accurate predictions are sure evidence of God's plan of salvation.

 

 


The Chicken or the Egg

Jung says that synchronicity entails an acausal relationship between ego consciousness and the outer environment.

 

Synchronicity just happens; it's not caused by any single agent. Moreover, Jung cautions against actively searching for instances of synchronicity, emphasizing the idea that synchronicity is never sought nor anticipated, but discovered. 1

 

At the same time, however, Jung also says the conscious ego is guided toward synchronicities by the archetypes of the collective unconscious. If this sounds confusing, the problem may in part be attributed to Jung's brand of theorizing and perhaps to the somewhat mysterious nature of time.

 

The issue of causality vs. acausality continues to be debated within academic, scientific and theological circles.

 

 


Popup Illustrations

  • Is synchronicity causal or acausal? Jung's take on acausality can be confusing...

     

     

    Causal or Acausal?

    Jung's take on acausality can be confusing. When consciously recognized by the ego, synchronicity is supposedly an "acausal connecting principle." But Jung also says that the archetypes, as primordial patterns of the collective unconscious, direct us to the experience of synchronicity.

     

    If observed from a deeper, archetypal level of consciousness, synchronicity might appear somewhat more causal than acausal. Jungian scholars still debate this apparent casuality/acausality paradox.

    Perhaps part of the problem arises from different beliefs about the nature of consciousness. Some of the related questions are:

    Do we perceive from the vantage point of the ego, the archetypes or the self? Are these loci discrete or connected? If they overlap, how might the different loci be weighted?
    Do psychological conditions and parameters influence our perception and interpretation? Assuming the ego is the high achievement of consciousness, do we ever not identify with some other agency?


    What about individual differences? Might different people have qualitatively different centers or norms of consciousness? Might some people have several alternating norms of consciousness, each one being different (i.e. multiple self theory as found in philosophy)?


    How well do Jung's concepts correspond to reality?


    Is Jungian theory shaped by European and North American cultural assumptions?


    By way of contrast, the Asian theory of chakras indicates seven different centers of consciousness.

     

     

  • An example of false synchronicity: A German submarine officer in WW-II looks through the periscope...

     

     

    False Synchronicity

    A German submarine officer in WW-II looks through the periscope at night for enemy battleships. The crew of a nearby Allied battleship believes they're in safe waters. The ship's decks are well lit.

     

    The German submarine officer sees the Allied ship's lights through the periscope, reports to his commander who fires a torpedo. The torpedo makes a direct hit.

    Meanwhile, the captain of the Allied battleship is deep in his quarters and muses what terrible luck, we've hit an iceberg. He notes with bitter irony that he was just getting some ice for a shot of whiskey at the very moment his ship struck what he supposed was an iceberg.

    For the Allied captain, the ice cubes and the impact of the wrongly imagined iceberg were acausally connected. He radios his base commander and tells the sad story. The radio transmission is overheard by the German submarine officers.

     

    They laugh uproariously. They know it's no iceberg.

     

     

  • An analogy to illustrate how synchronicity could be brought about by deceptive influences: A lonely man called Lorenzo visits a fortune teller...

     

     

    "I See A Secret Admirer"

    A lonely man called Lorenzo visits a fortune teller. But the fortune teller is a scam artist. She extracts all sorts of details from Lorenzo, including his home address. "I see love for you in the near future. A secret admirer... flowers in the mail..."

    Meanwhile the fortune teller's husband is secretly recording the entire session. Later that week the fortune teller's husband drives by Lorenzo's house in the middle of the night and drops a flower with an attached "From a Secret Admirer" note in his mailbox.

    Lorenzo is impressed and delighted. He's hooked and returns to the fortune teller for many more visits.

    In this analogy, Lorenzo represents the ego duped into perceiving a contrived synchronicity. The fortune teller and her husband are dark archetypal forces.

     

    The archetypal forces manipulate individuals by providing the ego with false information, thus influencing their ego-choices in such a way as to literally bring about synchronicities.

     

    The deceived ego, however, only sees wonderful and amazing acausal connections.

     

     

  • An analogy illustrating how a positive influence could contribute to synchronicity: A woman named Annabelle dreams of a beautiful angel ...

     

     

    "Look Both Ways"

    A woman named Annabelle dreams of a beautiful angel who says, "always look both ways before you cross the road." The next morning Annabelle is rushing to her bus stop, about to cross a busy intersection.

     

    She judges the traffic velocities, all set to dash across the road. Seeing an opening in the oncoming traffic, Annabelle begins to run for it. Suddenly the angel of her dream vividly comes to mind and she stops on the center line. A speeding car whizzes by, as if from nowhere. Had Annabelle not stopped at the center line she would have been killed.

    In this analogy Annabelle represents the ego perceiving synchronicity. The dream angel is a positive archetypal force. The archetypal force is aware of future possibilities.

     

    It provides valuable information to the ego so as to contribute to a positive outcome.

     


 


Inferiority/Superiority and Synchronicity

It's essential to realize that synchronicity is ethically ambivalent. Synchronicity may be experienced by saints, devil-worshippers and the insane. 2

 

In instances of psychological inflation, 3 individuals may act in horrendously cruel ways, all the while believing they're God's special gift to humanity. Indeed, synchronicity may be extremely dangerous when experienced by a demented person who interprets it so as to inflate his or her ego.

 

In such instances, the immodest identify with archetypal forces and adopt a false and destructive sense of superiority. Jung says that this kind of self-aggrandizement often arises when psychological complexes have not been resolved.

 

Thus an Adlerian inferiority/superiority complex may be reinforced by the experience of synchronicity. 4

 

 

 

Spiritual Elitism and Synchronicity

Synchronicity isn't talked about too much in modern society.

 

And it likely wouldn't be a great topic at cocktail parties. It's hard to know if this taboo arises from fear, ignorance or some combination of the two. It seems reasonable to say that not too many people experience synchronicity on a regular basis.

 

While this may be the state of affairs in most so-called developed countries, the paranormal writer Colin Wilson turns conventional wisdom upside down by suggesting that a healthy mind, not a deviant one, regularly experiences synchronicity.

 

In keeping with this idea, gurus, shamans and saints from a wide variety of spiritual traditions claim to live in an almost perpetual state of synchronicity. Could the spiritually wise be more aware and, therefore, better attuned to synchronicity than the unwise?

 

Myself, I see this kind of thinking as leading to unhealthy, elitist attitudes.

At the same time, however, it's possible that one form of wisdom is characterized by an acute awareness of synchronicity. But this is a complicated issue. Those claiming to be wise often prove to be lost in fantasy, wish-fulfillment, paranoia, confusion, deception and error. This wouldn't be a huge problem if misguided people always kept to themselves.

 

But oftentimes we hear of arrogant charismatic figures who seem to hoodwink, exploit and abuse others—economically, sexually and sometimes lethally.
 

 

 


The Promise

On a more optimistic note, synchronicity may point to a divine plan within God's Creation.

 

It's hard to know if Jung would have seen it this way.

 

But the Biblical Isaiah illustrates this essentially theological perspective:

This plan of mine is not what you would work out, neither are my thoughts the same as yours! For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours, and my thoughts than yours. 5

In his recent publication, The Rupture of Time, the Jung scholar Dr. Roderick Main writes extensively on synchronicity and its wider implications:

Synchronicity suggests that there are uncaused events, that matter has a psychic aspect, that the psyche can relativise time and space, and that there may be a dimension of objective meaning accessible to but not created by humans...

 

If the psyche can relativise time and space, then it becomes possible for temporally and spatially distant events somehow to involve themselves in the here and now without any normal channel of causal transmission.

 

If there is a dimension of objective meaning, this implies that the meaning we experience in not always or entirely our subjective creation, individually or as a species, but that we may be woven into an order of meaning that transcends our human perspective. 6

To sum, I've tried to briefly present some of the ethical and cosmological issues addressed by Jung in his exposition of synchronicity.

 

If synchronicity seems somewhat obscure and perhaps difficult, we should try to remember that it's a relatively new concept, one which compels us to take a fresh look at ourselves and our place in the unfolding universe.

 

Considering its recency, it's hardly surprising that the idea of synchronicity has given rise to several branches of inquiry, each requiring further development.
 

 

 


Notes

1. The philosopher Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) also refers to mutually occurring events. In Leibniz's Monadology, the soul, body and all of creation exist in a "pre-established harmony." But for Leibniz the ultimate cause of cosmic interconnectedness is the Divine Will of an eternal Creator, existing beyond and above time and the cosmos. Freud wrote to Jung that synchronicity is merely the product of unconsciously projected desires. In another letter, however, he concedes to an "undeniable cooperation of chance."

2.

(a) For instance, while denying Jesus, Peter heard the cock crow as predicted by his master (Matthew 26:74).
(b) A fair and responsible discussion of the arguably relative idea of insanity is beyond the scope of this article. But perhaps we could tentatively define insanity as "holding a rigid belief in the truth of ideas, persons, objects or processes which are false, to the extent of losing the ability to make reasonable judgments."

This definition is, of course, problematic in that so-called madpersons may see or believe in things that are existing, meaningful and true but which are visible and understandable only to themselves. And to complicate matters, some philosophers speak of imaginary ideas as having at least a subsistence, if not a true existence. See William T. Blackstone, The Problem of Religious Knowledge: The Impact of Contemporary Philosophical Analysis on the Question of Religious Knowledge (N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963), p. 12.

3. Most of Jung's concepts are competently defined in Daryl Sharp's Jung Lexicon.

4.

(a) See the discussion in Aliens 2007, under the headings Aliens, Psi and Delusions of Grandeur and Spiritual Discernment: Negative Spiritual Influences (NSI).

 

 

 

extracted from

ET's, UFO's and the Psychology of Belief

 

 

Psi and Delusions of Grandeur

Arlan K. Andrews summarizes a considerable number of reports which suggest that psi abilities (e.g. ESP, clairvoyance) increase significantly after a person encounters what he or she believes is a first ET/UFO contact.1 Although not adequately explored in the ET/UFO literature, it's conceivable that exploitative ET's or negative spiritual influences (NSI) impart paranormal abilities particularly on psychologically vulnerable individuals, leading them to develop an Adlerian-style inferiority/superiority complex.

It might be relatively easy for a vulnerable person to overlook painful personal issues if ET's/NSI's were busy feeding him or her other people's thoughts, false prophecies and delusional ideas about being special. Some individuals seem convinced that they've been sent to Earth to fulfill their role as sacred rulers of the unenlightened masses. They're quite willing to overlook their flawed prophecies and as long as their bubble doesn't burst, which would result in painful personal issues coming to the fore.
 


Spiritual Discernment: Negative Spiritual Influences (NSI)

While most people see false prophecy in terms of a delusion or mental illness, contemporary and ancient religious traditions suggest the perhaps related approach of discernment. As the anthropologist I. M. Lewis illustrates in Ecstatic Religion (1971), saints, sages and shamans from all corners of the world agree that the psyche is not an island. This may have a positive side. Figures like St. Anthony, for instance, reportedly have guided individuals toward lost articles and missing children. But personal openness to being guided also has a negative side. Many believe that the mind can be influenced or even possessed by spiritual hackers, traditionally regarded as demons, tramp souls and ancestral spirits.

Some believers in NSI might be paranoid reactionaries. But it's doubtful that all who believe in evil spiritual powers are paranoid and deluded. Along these lines different religious traditions suggest that NSI may produce hallucinations and manipulate individuals by seeming to predict aspects of the future. Accordingly, NSI could see future possibilities, influence a spiritually inclined person's choices and compel him or her to accept a false explanation as to why certain events took place. Most of us have probably encountered someone with an underlying inferiority complex and/or unresolved psychological wound who parades around telling others they're an achieved saint.2

To avoid this kind of scenario, it's important that external influences are painstakingly discerned. Discernment is the use of reason and experience coupled with divine gifts to separate true and false interior perception. As Henri Martin P.S.S. puts it:

The charism of discernment is "a kind of supernatural instinct by which those who have it perceive intuitively the origin, either divine or not, of thoughts and inclinations submitted to them." (J. de Guibert, Lecons, p. 306). It is to be distinguished from revelation of the secrets of hearts, properly so called, made directly by God. In such revelations, which is extremely rare, objective certitude is absolute. In the case of discernment the chances of error lie in the subjective interpretation and use of the supernatural light received. Lacking an infused charism, ordinarily "God will assist by special interior light a gift of discernment acquired by experience and prudence in the application of the traditional rules of discernment." (ibidem).3

On the need for seekers to be sincere, humble and rational in the discernment process, the scholar of mysticism, Evelyn Underhill, says:

Ecstasies, no less than visions and voices, must, they declare, be subjected to unsparing criticism before they are recognized as divine: whilst some are undoubtedly "of God," others are no less clearly "of the devil."4

Having said this, there's no doubt that the concept of ET/UFO's may be thought-provoking. It points to a broader canvas and possibly to the next stage of humanity's journey on this Earth. As with any new and uncharted territory, however, it would be unwise to act on blind impulse. Those who believe they inwardly perceive and perhaps have special abilities from ET's would likely do best to err on the side of caution. Regardless of their origin, interior perceptions and alleged psi abilities must be soberly evaluated in the spirit of humility and, in most instances, within the context of informed and qualified associates. By testing interior perceptions within a larger group of qualified people and, in the case of predictions, against actual outcomes, interpretive mistakes could be identified and, with sober reflection, redirected. This could also involve coming to terms with personal issues and/or faulty information that lead to the interpretive mistakes in the first place.

To rigorously examine a truth claim is hardly a groundbreaking idea. It's the essence of the 'discernment' process as practiced in most world religions and the 'peer review' of most scientific disciplines. And there's no reason why ET and UFO research shouldn't strive to be both spiritually and scientifically responsible. Anything else runs the risk of lapsing into fanaticism and fantasy.

 

 

(b) Jung and Adler's concepts are noted here for the sake of argument. The idea of so-called "archetypes" and Adler's emphasis on a "Will to Power" are much debated within depth psychology and related disciplines.

5. The Living Bible (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1973) Isaiah 55:8-9

6. Roderick Main, The Rupture of Time (New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2004), p. 2.