Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research
from ParadigmSys Website
recovered through WayBackMachine Website
For increased clarity, this paper distinguishes several types of causal events from synchronistic ones. Physical causality postulates a physical mechanism to account for meaningful correlations between events, psychological causality a psychological mechanism.
Presumed physical causality and presumed psychological causality are categories of faith that puzzling correlations will eventually be explained by straightforward extensions of current knowledge.
State-specific causality recognizes the limited and semi arbitrary qualities of our ordinary state of consciousness, as noted in the author's systems approach to consciousness, and the possibility that different cognitive styles in altered states can make puzzling correlations comprehensible and causal while in the altered state.
Paranormal causality results when psi abilities (telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, or psychokinesis) cause a correlation between events, although the mechanics of these processes are currently unknown. Being-specific synchronistic causality represents genuinely causal relationships that we are forever unable to satisfactorily grasp because of the inherent limits of human nature.
Absolute synchronicity is genuine,
meaningful relationship between events that is actually acausal: the
category is definable, but may not be empirically useful.
I have usually come away from these encounters feeling confused! I now think, in retrospect, that the confusion arose because several different types of phenomena, some of which may very well be causal, have so frequently been indiscriminately lumped together under the term synchronicity" that the concept itself has become inherently confusing.
Some of Jung's own examples of
synchronicity, for example, strike me as  more likely
illustrating what I shall later call 'paranormal causal" types of
events rather than acausal events.
I hold a rock in my clenched hand; at a given moment I open my hand, and the rock falls to the ground.
We say that opening my hand, event A, is the immediate cause of the rock's falling to the ground, event B. We infer causality from the temporal and spatial proximity of events A and B. In this particular case, our belief in causality would be even stronger because we believe we understand the causal mechanism, M: the constant gravitational attraction on the rock which is free to operate when event A, the opening of my hand, occurs.
What we usually fail to realize in
thinking about causality from the experience of ordinary events like
this is that causality is actually a psychological reality, not a
'physical" or 'external" reality that we simply observe or discover;
that is, we commonly project a psychological operation onto the
external world and forget that it is a psychological operation.
Let us conventionally assume the independent existence of an outside physical world of matter, energy, space, and time - a physical world that exists and has its own lawful happenings independent of our perception of it. Let us further assume that our consciousness is intimately linked with the functioning of our brain, nervous system, and body (I shall refer to this trinity as the brain for convenience in the rest of this paper).
I emphasize 'intimately linked with," rather than going even further (although it is conventionally done) and assuming that consciousness is identical with the functioning of the brain. A consequence of these two assumptions is that consciousness has no direct contact with the external physical world. Consciousness only has "contact" with neural impulses.
Some of these neural impulses are shaped
by physical processes in our sense organs, which processes are in
turn shaped by impinging energies from the physical world, so we
mistakenly believe we have direct contact with the physical world.
Fig. 1 -
Psychological construction of causality.
Physical energies from events stimulate our sense organs, where they are changed into neural impulses.
These neural impulses in turn undergo a great deal of modification through a variety of processes I have lumped together in the figure under the heading Input Processing.
Input processing is almost wholly
automatized and operates virtually instantaneously in terms of human
time-perception. It is non-conscious. At birth and before the
enculturation processes have begun to specifically program it, Input
Processing is presumably much less extensive than in the adult, and
the main constraints on it and the "inherent values" in it are those
dictated by our biology; that is, the physiology of the sense organs
makes them sensitive to certain kinds of physical events and not to
Given the existence of biologically
active needs/values in the infant, such as hunger, avoidance of
pain, continuation of pleasurable sensation, and homeostatic needs
in general, these processed neural transforms are evaluated and some
kind of decision made about them. For the very young infant, the
evaluations and decision may be very simple, such as to keep on
sucking the nipple because the sensation of hunger is still present:
the built in value for the infant is to take in nourishment in order
to eliminate hunger sensations.
We are generally disinclined to attribute such consciousness to young infants, but consciousness will become increasingly important as they develop and grow older. I have also shown in Figure 1 that Input Processing affects and is affected by two processes that I have labeled CRO (Consensus Reality Orientation) values and personal values.
These are interlocking processes that are not important in the very young infant, but become increasingly important and largely predominant as we move into childhood and adulthood. The Consensus Reality Orientation is the set of implicit perceptual learnings that shapes our perceptions so that we perceive things as people in our culture do, and achieve the state of "normal" consciousness or what might be better called "consensus consciousness."
Thus, say, someone holds a white pencil
up in front of us and we immediately perceive it as a pencil. This
is the result of unconscious and virtually instantaneous input
processing in accordance with the CRO.
We generally assume there is a continual changing flux of experience, what William James (1890) postulated to be a "blooming, buzzing confusion." It is confused because we assume there is no ordering of it along "sensible" lines; i.e., there is a continually changing territory with no map to recognize where we are in the territory at the time.
This, of course, is a projection of adult beliefs about the infant mind, and we can never be certain of it.
There may indeed be some partial, innate
maps that are biologically given, such as the sight of a human face
being a desirable experience, a kind of benchmark in the flux of
experience; but it seems reasonable to assume that the infant's
experience is largely chaotic and unorganized. The infant's
cognitive task is to produce order among the chaotic flux of events,
because order is more conducive to interacting with events in a way
that insures maximal satisfaction of needs.
We shall concentrate on the latter, so
we would thus say that the infant's cognitive task is to build up a
good internal map of the external world in order to operate
effectively (in terms of needs and values) in interactions with the
external physical world.
As a simple example, as I sit in my study I notice that there is a pair of headphones sitting beside a table lamp; they are in spatial proximity to each other. Or I look out my front window and I notice that a green Ford goes by and a little while later a red Buick drives by. Here we have a temporal order. The infant must develop the concept of proximity/order.
Probably spatial proximity/order is
developed first, for in order to arrive at temporal proximity,
infants must have made the major developmental leap (usually
occurring around a year after birth) of developing object constancy,
developing an internal mental representation of an object that they
hold onto after the object has been removed from sensory view.
I would not argue that the headphones are where they are because the table lamp is where it is, or that the red Buick appeared because the green Ford had gone past. Simple spatial or temporal proximity/order is not enough to establish causality for the adult, although Piaget (1928) observes that there is a developmental period where it seems to work this way for the infant, a period he calls "magical thinking."
In this brief period, if some pleasurable event unexpectedly happens to an infant, such as the mother walking in and playing with him for a minute and then leaving, the infant can often be observed to look disappointed when the mother leaves. He may then repeat the act he was doing just before the mother came in, and then look up expectantly, as if he were operating on an assumption that since A preceded B, simply repeating A ought to make B happen.
(I think a good deal of this kind of
magical thinking also goes on in adulthood, but we don't like to own
up to it.)
Young children must strive for an adequate mapping of this kind of relationship, of causality, because it is knowing the real causal factors in their experienced world that gives them an opportunity to take effective action. The internal map that is developed, then, must not only note the spatial and temporal proximity ordering of things, but must also note the effective causal relationships among them.
In typical practice, we say that 'A causes B" if whenever A appears, B follows-that is, if in 100 percent of our observations we note that B follows the appearance of A. We might call this the invariable contingency criterion for postulating causality. Being curious, however, we are usually not content with establishing causality only on the basis of invariable contingency; we want to know the underlying mechanism that results in A causing B.
When we can specify mechanism we are
mentally much more comfortable (even if the postulated mechanism is
a fantasy on our part).
They are also provided with feedback on the results of numerous attempts to deliberately manipulate the world-to deliberately test, as it were, an internal hypothesis, an internal map feature stating that if they carry out action A, B is going to result from it. "Cause," in this sense, is a very anthropomorphic concept; a direct feeling of the effective results of the application of personal power.
As children grow older, however,
specifying mechanism becomes important in their concepts of causes,
especially since they now have had experience with a wide variety of
proximity orderings that do not repeat themselves in any regular
pattern, making it clear to them that causality must be more than
simple proximity ordering.
Thus what we validate is one kind of
experience (that we call our mental maps or ideas) with other kinds
of experiences (that we call current sensory experiences and
attribute to the external world). "Validation" is consistency
between different classifications of mental experience.
The first kind are those in which they
feel they are active, leading them to believe that they are causing
something to happen.
Note too that the implicit 'other side of the coin" of the idea of causation, whether, personal or abstract, is the idea of inertia: the idea that if A doesn't' t appear or someone doesn't do something, nothing will happen-that is, that unitary, self-contained objects don't do anything unless acted on by some kind of causal force.
A rock lying on the ground stays where it is until someone or something moves it. In terms of ordinary human time-scales, the rock is an isolated, solid, whole object. Apparent exceptions to this notion, as in the case of an object that seems to be isolated undergoing change, lead us to the idea that the object has component parts which are not immediately visible, but if we understood the actions of these component parts we would have the mechanism for the observed change.
Thus the leaves and other organic matter
in my compost pile keep shrinking in volume, although I cannot see
anything taking away part of them or pushing them together into a
smaller mass. But the biologist would tell me it is because the
leaves and organic matter are not atomistic units but composite
structures, and if I could see the chemical and bacterial action on
a smaller scale level, then the cause of the shrinkage in volume
would be quite understandable.
With the psychological nature of
relationship and causality now in mind, let us consider eight types
of discriminable causality and two types of pseudo-causality.
At worst the predictability is only
statistical; at best it is extremely accurate and based on an
understanding (a mental map that orders experience) of the
mechanism, M. Thus we say that A causes B because of M.
This may involve a relatively small act of faith that seems a reasonable extrapolation from current knowledge (we will be able to predict the weather better once we understand sunspot activity more precisely), or it may be a global act of faith, a statement that everything will eventually be explained in terms of the kind of physical explanations we now have no matter how much these observations seem to contradict the current types of physical explanations. This kind of global faith is widespread among the scientific community for social reasons.
Carried to an extreme of "There's got to
be a rational scientific explanation for what I just saw no matter
how miraculous it seems," it can be a psychological pathology
blinding us to proper observation of data and creative thinking.
As an example, someone notes that Bill, at a party, prefers the company of older, very proper women. Bill's psychotherapist remarks that this is because Bill has not worked through his Oedipal complex with his mother and so is unconsciously seeking his mother in the women around him.
Psychological causality relationships
may also be looked for in terms of purely internal, mental events
(I'm thinking of this because of such and such a psychological
process that went on earlier), but we will stay with our focus on
external physical events.
As with presumed physical causality,
this may involve rather small extrapolations from the current state
of the psychological sciences or be a global act of faith that could
become a cognitive pathology by distorting one's perception of
events that might be disturbing and/or inhibiting creative thinking
about puzzling events.
According to this view, physical
explanations seem more 'fundamental" and thus are the preferred
types of explanations that we should always strive for.
Presumed physical causality, pushed to its limits that everything will be explained this way, implicitly makes the grandiose assumption that the human mind will be able to make representations of all of physical reality.
Further, since practically all our
science (and all of it, "officially") has been developed in an
ordinary state of consciousness, the implicit assumption is that in
our ordinary state of consciousness we can make these increasingly
better and perhaps ultimately perfect maps of the presumed
independently existing physical realm.
A person observes some events in his ordinary state of consciousness which do not reliably make any sense": he can neither observe an obvious order, predict the future, nor postulate a plausible mechanism for the observed events.
But, after going into one or another altered state of consciousness (ASC), he perceives a pattern in those same events. The concept of state-specific causality recognizes that the perceptions and logics of our ordinary consciousness are not absolute and given, or the only kind of logic, but semi-arbitrary. An ASC constitutes a temporary reorganization of the mind in a radical way that brings both new styles of perception (changes in input processing) and/or new kinds of logics.
The perceptions and logics are only
understandable in the altered state. While there is memory from one
episode of the altered state to the next, the memory of the altered
state in the ordinary state is poor, so the knowledge of the ASC is
state-specific. One might thus have state-specific causality; i.e.,
in the altered state reliable proximity/orderings are observed,
and/or a plausible causal mechanism can be thought of, and/or
predictability is attained.
To illustrate, some of the more abstract versions of modern Mathematics are like state-specific sciences.
They require a certain Set of mind,
arrived at after years of training, in order to manipulate
mathematical equations properly and to arrive at certain kinds of
conclusions. The outsider, the non-mathematician, may not be able to
follow the mathematical operations at all, they don't make sense to
him, but the end results, such as a better way to design an airplane
wing for less air friction, turn out to be validated in the physical
I suspect, for example, that some of the
paradoxes about the paranormal will be much more readily
understandable to the state-specific sciences we might develop in
Nevertheless, because B has presumably been initiated by A (even though, at this early stage of the game, we have only a low level of statistical reliability), it is easy to believe that a causal mechanism is involved.
We then assume, as in the case of
presumed physical causality, that the development of the science of
parapsychology will eventually lead us to more reliable control and
prediction over paranormal phenomena, and that we will begin to
postulate mechanisms for the phenomena that will in turn help
increase their reliability and control.
Barring sensory cues and reasonable extrapolation as hypotheses, as we can in many actual cases, it seems reasonable to assume that either some unconscious part of the mother's mind was continuously sensitive via psi to the welfare of her son and/or the highly traumatic event of dying happening to the son triggered off some sort of telepathic sending on his part; and so the son's death caused the mother's dream.
We may or may not be able to understand the mechanisms of the paranormal in our ordinary state of consciousness, or we may have to develop a state-specific science and get into states-specific causality in order to understand them, but in principle many paranormal events fit well within a causal way of conceptualizing reality.
Thus paranormal events per se should not
be indiscriminately used to illustrate the concept of synchronicity.
We may sometimes sense meaningful relationships among events here, and on statistical or similar grounds feel sure that these relationships are genuine, but we will never be able to predict the occurrence of such events with any degree of accuracy, manipulate them reliably, or postulate plausible causal mechanisms.
Because we can get a partial, albeit
inadequate, grasp of some kind of meaningful action at work,
however, we postulate that there are causal factors involved, but
these factors are either so complex and/or of such a different order
of reality than the human mind (and its instrumental aids) that they
will forever remain beyond the limits of our comprehension.
As an exercise, we may postulate that
there could be some different kind of intelligent being than us
which could causally comprehend events which to us must always
remain being-specific synchronistic. 
Similarly, we might postulate the
existence of entities which could causally comprehend what to us are
being-specific synchronistic events. These might not necessarily be
"higher" entities in the sense of superior to us in all ways, but
simply beings with a different kind of intelligence. Some things
that to them might be being-specific synchronistic might be clearly
causal to us.
We observe them, but, in accordance with physical causality and presumed physical causality, there was no physical channel available to connect A and B.
Fig. 2 - Functioning of being-specific synchronistic causality
What happened was that event S, on a
different, synchronistic level influenced and/or was influenced by
either or both events A and B on our level, thus 'indirectly" (to
us) linking them in a way that created a relationship and drew our
While I was preparing to write the four paragraphs above, my telephone rang. It was a colleague from the East Coast calling. I had not heard from him in almost two months and did not expect him to phone me in the foreseeable future. I was quite surprised and intrigued by his calling just when he did, as only a couple of hours earlier I had dictated a letter to him concerning various matters of mutual interest.
Thus the "coincidence" involved in his phoning me so soon after I had dictated the letter to him and while I was writing a paper on synchronicity (more precisely, just as I was starting the above section on synchronicity proper and wondering what I could use as an illustrative example) seems quite striking!
My colleague's conscious reason for calling me had to do with the publication of a chapter I had contributed to a book he was editing, and this certainly had no connection with my physical activities or my thoughts at the moment; but it is the fact that I had dictated the letter to him, was concerned with synchronicity, and needed an illustrative example of some real occurrence that made the particular proximity/ordering of events in it seem synchronistic.
The being-specific synchronistic causality explanation of his calling me would require that some event S on the synchronistic level affected both of us: event S affected my colleague's activities so that he phoned me at the particular time he did, while my own activities were affected by event S so that I not only happened to be thinking about synchronicity, but also happened to write to him earlier that day, though I could just as easily have written that letter at any other time during the several months preceding my actual writing.
Insofar as this event is synchronistic, we will never really understand the nature of the event S on the synchronistic level that brought it about, nor will we voluntarily be able to repeat this kind of pattern - i.e., I will not be able to cause people I have written to earlier in the day to telephone me in the future just by deciding that I need an example of synchronicity.
By definition, events brought about by being-specific synchronicity will not show a consistent, controllable pattern. This particular example is complicated because taken alone, I could argue just as strongly for a paranormal causality explanation. Perhaps it was not especially meaningful that I thought about my colleague just when I did and decided to write to him.
But this, combined with my desire to
have some kind of example of synchronicity, may have activated some
sort of "telepathic-agent" process on my part, outside of my
awareness, that led to his making the phone call precisely when he
did, rather than at any other time.
I have defined being-specific synchronistic causality in an absolute way above as referring to meaningful, presumably causal events that are beyond our level of understanding. We should distinguish a variant of being-specific synchronistic causality, however, in which our future evolution might develop our intelligence in such a way that observations which were formerly being-specific synchronistic to us would seem intelligible, becoming reduced to well understood or presumed physical or psychological causality or paranormal causality.
We should also note that an event which is being-specific synchronistic in our ordinary state of consciousness might become intelligible in some ASC, so we could mistake a case of state-specific causality for being-specific synchronicity.
This latter distinction can only be made
in practice by attempting to develop state-specific causal
explanations: events which do not yield to this approach after
sustained effort are probably being specific synchronistic.
If future research trends continue in this direction, and even if we get fleeting glimpses of relationships here and there but cannot put them together meaningfully, this would indeed argue for the being-specific synchronicity of what we now call paranormal phenomena.
What may very well happen, however, is
that among the wide range of things now considered paranormal, some
will start yielding to paranormal causal explanations while some
might never yield and so constitute being-specific synchronistic
We observe relationships between two or more events, but even though the events happen in a meaningful pattern, they are not caused at any level. It is not a matter of being-specific synchronistic causality, where we can comfortably believe that causality works at all levels, but our minds are too limited to understand it: here we have an absolute principle of meaningful patterns appearing, but no causal mechanism existing to bring them about.
Perhaps this is what quantum physicists mean when they claim that the behavior of any and all individual particles is unpredictable, acausal, yet the statistical behavior of those particles, the patterns they form, is meaningful and regular.
For being-specific synchronistic causality we, in effect, postulate that there might be a kind of intelligence which could understand causal mechanisms that are closed to us: here no such kind of intelligence can be postulated. Things "just happen" to be meaningful. I am not clear yet on whether we could distinguish in practice absolute synchronicity from being-specific synchronistic causality.
Let us round out this discussion by
looking at two types of pseudo-causality.
Two or more events are observed to come together and form a proximity/order that we believe is meaningful. We can trace back the independent causal chain of each of the separate events and understand how it got to the particular junction we saw as meaningful, and where it goes from there.
The mistake we make is in believing that there is meaning in this junction.
We should say it was probably just coincidence, and although we may project meaning into it if we so desire, we should not make the mistake of believing that our projections are a statement about what went on in the physical or psychological world. To apply this to our example, we could argue that my colleague telephoned me because the day before he had been telephoned by a publisher about my chapter in the book he was editing, and he now needed to ask me some questions.
This is a perfectly ordinary causal chain of events. Similarly, I had written my letter to him several hours earlier because of presumed psychological causality, and these causal chains just happened to cross at the particular time they did. The argument then goes that because I wanted an example of synchronicity, I merely projected the concept of synchronicity into these events, and that there is no reason to believe that it was contained in the events themselves. It was just "coincidence."
This is not to say that projecting meaning is necessarily bad: projection can lead to useful hypotheses. Quite aside from whether paranormal causality or some kind of synchronicity was "really" operating to account for the phone call, the interpretation I have placed (or projected?) on the events is useful for illustrating various concepts.
Like any psychological process, however,
if I project meaning too frequently I shall get a very inappropriate
map of the world that will eventually lead me into trouble.
It is a fallacy that made us think of a causal relationship, or even a synchronistic one, when it was not there. If we could trace back the causal chains on all the events, we would find that they did not actually cross anywhere.
Going back to my earlier example of the headphones on the desk beside the table lamp, I might decide that the lamp caused me to put the headphones in that particular place because I wanted to have light to see them; actually, the reality might have been that I put the headphones on the first clear space I found on the desk, and that the table lamp had nothing to do with it.
I am sketching in a mistaken connection on my mental map of that particular segment of reality. This kind of pseudo-causality is particularly prevalent in "explaining away" any occurrence which disturbs us.
If it were subjected to the basic test
of any causal explanation, that it must coincide with the observed
facts and predict new ones, it would obviously fail, but in
projected causality we do not usually test our explanations.
I shall now describe an apparently synchronistic series of events accompanying an earlier presentation of these ideas which I interpret as a synchronistic "confirmation" of the usefulness of thinking about synchronicity in this way.
The text of the presentation was run off on a ditto machine on Thursday, January 29, 1976, and a dozen copies were ready for me to take back to my home in Berkeley that evening so I could distribute them at a meeting the next evening of a group of local California scientists interested in parapsychology. The meeting was the first in a planned series for these scientists, who were to meet at my home once a month to discuss their current research and interests.
Those attending this first meeting, in addition to me, were:
A series of events happened in connection with our going to dinner before we began our formal meeting that were synchronistic in the way this term is usually used.
These events were so apropos to my
presentation on synchronicity and to the formal purpose of the
meeting, Targ's description of the latest SRI research on remote
viewing, that I shall interpret them as a synchronistic confirmation
of the usefulness of presenting my paper.
My first contribution (Tart, 1968) to OBE research was a study on the physiological correlates of OBEs in a subject identified as Miss Z in the original report. This research attracted considerable attention among parapsychologists, and is generally considered to have stimulated further laboratory investigations in this area. Palmer is one of the most active investigators of OBEs, having published several articles (Palmer and Lieberman, 1975; Palmer and Vassar, 1974) on the subject in the last few years.
He was working with me on the analysis of a large case collection of OBEs at the time of the meetings, and we hoped to do physiological research with talented OBE subjects in the future. Hastings was an old friend of Miss Z, and had assisted me in carrying out the research with her more than a dozen years ago. Targ also was acquainted with Miss Z at the time the original research with her was done, and he has had a long-term interest in OBEs.
His remote viewing experiments with Harold Puthoff (Puthoff and Targ, 1976; Targ and Puthoff, 1977) represent a phenomenon that is similar to an aspect of some OBEs - the acquisition of information at a distance from the physical body. Although I think the OBE is a different phenomenon from remote viewing when we look at both closely, Targ and I have often discussed just what the similarities and differences are.
Rauscher, a physicist at the University
of California, Berkeley, had done some pilot work on remote viewing,
and she planned to carry out a more complete experiment later that
I was among the latter, and while I was standing at the counter Hastings came up to me and announced that Miss Z was sitting at the opposite end of our group's long table!
After completing my research with Miss Z more than a decade ago, she moved to Southern California and I lost track of her; then I heard indirectly that she had emigrated to Israel. I eventually learned that she had returned to California, and I ran across her in San Francisco a couple of years before the date of our meeting.
We had chatted for a while about whether she was still having OBEs (they were very rare with her now). The only other occasion that I had run into her since then was about a year and a half earlier, when Hastings and I met her in the ticket line for a San Francisco show. She said she very rarely visited Berkeley. It struck me as a remarkable "coincidence" that Miss Z should show up at the same table as a group of people comprising several of the most active researchers on OBEs.
Hastings, Palmer, and I spoke with Miss
Z only briefly, and she left not long after we arrived. The other
members of our group were too engrossed in conversation at the time
to be aware of what was happening.
Now it was Mary Poppins floating around in the air with her umbrella and doing various other "magical" things. This was not only appropriate for the specific OBE parallelism, but also for the paranormal theme of the meeting in general. Further, I had been in a small store selling miscellaneous used goods that afternoon and had noticed a woman looking at and handling a rather old umbrella.
This struck me as odd at the time, as we had been having a drought, and umbrellas were not needed. Following the Mary Poppins film after one intervening film was a cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland, called "Alice and the White Rabbit," showing a variety of "magical" changes underscoring of parapsychological events. Further, the intervening film comprised something of a minor personal synchronicity for me, as it was a cartoon of "Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby," a story that my daughter had read aloud to our family just the previous weekend while we were on a camping trip.
It is very rare for my family to read
this sort of story, aloud or to ourselves. I chose to interpret
these events as an example of either being- specific or
synchronistic causality. Paranormal causality does not seem
particularly plausible as there were so many events to arrange to
give the final happening its full flavor.
I am inclined to think that this pattern of events was an instance of being-specific synchronistic causality because my own desire a week earlier for an example of synchronicity had only been partially met by my colleague's phone call from the East Coast.
That was interesting, but not entirely convincing.
While this very lack of 'over-convincingness" was quite
useful to me in illustrating the difficulties in distinguishing
categories of synchronicity, some part of me still hoped for
I think it is important to make these distinctions conceptually, even if it is not clear how we can make all of them in practice. Not only should it improve the clarity of our communication about these matters; it might also protect us from a danger inherent in the concept of synchronicity.
This danger is the temptation to mental laziness. If, in working with paranormal phenomena, I cannot get my experiments to replicate and cannot find any patterns in the results, then, as attached as I am to the idea of causality, it would be very tempting to say, "Well, it's synchronistic, it's forever beyond my understanding," and so (prematurely) give up trying to find a causal explanation.
Sloppy use of the concept of
synchronicity then becomes a way of being intellectually lazy and
dodging our responsibilities.