What is synchronicity?
The term synchronicity is used a lot and most people seem to think of the phenomena as a recurrence of unrelated but meaningful events, or, as a series of meaningful coincidences. An example might be an experience I had a couple of weeks ago. During the morning I perused Facebook while enjoying my morning coffee and saw that a friend posted about having earwigs in her home and needing an exterminator. I had not heard of the earwig until then so I Googled the insect to get a closer look. Later that day I was reading a book by the French author Michel Houellebecq and came across a passage about giant earwigs. That night, while I was working on my novel, an insect landed on a piece of paper next to me; I looked down and, you guessed it, it was a darn earwig! Keep in mind I’d never seen one before and if I had, I hadn’t known enough about it to identify it. So, the point here is that the earwig appeared to me three times within a 24-hour period. Coincidence? Perhaps. Synchronicity? I think so. What does it mean? That’s another story (smile).
I’m sure everyone has had similar experiences and I’d love to hear yours so please feel free to post them in the comments section. Synchronous experience is not limited to insects, of course, and is frequently the stuff of seeing repeating series of numbers, thinking about someone and then either seeing them or receiving a call, message, etc. from them (though an argument could made here for precognition which some claim to be part of synchronicity).
What does the synchronous experience mean?
The most striking aspect of synchronicity seems to be repetition and consistency of imagery and that, I think, is something most people can agree upon when defining the term. Another fundamental element of synchronicity is that it is meaningful in some way, but it is up to you (the observer/experiencer) to flesh out the meaning. Sometimes enlisting the help of a friend or acquaintance, and certainly the Internet, can help with interpretation. I’m also glad to offer an educated and intuitive guess or two should you have a question about something that happened to you, but, ultimately, and as with dream interpretation, you are truly the only person who can decipher and acknowledge. Guidance from other people can help, but at the end of the day it is up to you to decide.
An Exercise to help you discover the meaning
Active Imagination is a Jungian exercise you might try to help you uncover the meaning of synchronous events. In its simplest terms, Active Imagination can be performed this way:
- Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed
- Have a notebook and a pen, a laptop, or any sort of writing device that resonates with you
- Start writing, yes, just writing. Do not edit, do not stop, do not overthink it; in fact, free your mind and let your words flow onto the page. Typos, grammatical errors, etc. are inconsequential here. Once you’re in the flow write down a question that you have and see what happens. I have pasted an excerpt from an Active Imagination session below so you can get an idea of the flow. Keep in mind that the session will be very raw and I have added the “Question” and “Answer” identifiers for clarity.
Question: A, what do you want me to know? Is the assignment I was given worthwhile? Is X a good teacher? Were you speaking through her?
Answer: No, it was not me, it was another. Teach, Travel, Write.
Question: How? How am I to do this? I require money to live; I am not able to continue this way indefinitely.
Answer: Nothing is indefinite; everything is indefinite; you will survive. You know these things and you continue to ask questions; you know what I have told you for months, whispered to you for years even though you refused to listen. Listen. Be aware. Get out of your way. Those things are true. Listen. Listen. Listen.
The idea here is to tap into the unconscious; for some the intent is to connect with Higher Self, the Guides, and so forth. I cannot tell you who will answer or what the answers will be. I can tell you this: Just Let Go. It may not work the first few times, but if you try this exercise regularly, I am confident you will be amazed by what is revealed.
But, why is it called ‘synchronicity’?
The Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, coined the term ‘synchronicity’. Jung kept a record of what he called “meaningful coincidences” for several decades, trying to find a causal explanation for the phenomena he experienced himself and those occurrences his patients shared with him. As a traditionally trained scientist, Jung struggled with the concept that these so-called meaningful coincidences were anything other than, well, coincidence. It was not until J.B. Rhine conducted his infamous ESP experiments that Jung thought a scientific explanation had been found that verified the phenomena of meaningful coincidence. Once the Rhine studies were published, Jung shared his own ideas and experiences with the public and termed the phenomenon ‘synchronicity’. Some key elements of Jung’s definition of synchronicity are the following:
- “I chose this term because the simultaneous occurrence of two meaningfully but not causally connected events seemed to me an essential criterion.” (25)
- Synchronicity consists of “a) an unconscious image comes into consciousness either directly (i.e. literally) or indirectly (symbolized or suggested) in the form of a dream, idea, or premonition. B) An objective situation coincides with this content.” (31)
- “Synchronistic phenomena prove. . .that a content perceived by an observer can, at the same time, be represented by an outside event, without any causal connection.” (115)
Should you elect to read Jung’s book, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, you may find that throughout the text Jung seems to almost struggle to justify the synchronicity concept. Indeed, each time I read the text I am struck by how hard he tries to convince the reader (and, I imagine, himself) that these meaningful coincidences might represent something beyond what logic can explain. In short, Jung’s book is not intended as mysticism and he clearly seems conflicted between what we might call intuition/higher knowing and quantitative scientific investigation.
And here’s the thing, the concept of synchronicity was not Jung’s, he merely labeled and defined it in Western terms. So. . . where did it come from?
The concept is an ancient one.
Jung consulted many texts (some ancient and some from his contemporaries in the fields of mysticism, occult, physical science, alchemical, cosmology, and philosophy) to help him understand the phenomena of synchronicity. Some of those texts were the I Ching, books by the alchemist Magnus Albertus, Saint Augustine, Saint Isidore of Seville, Johannes Kepler, Hippocrates, Paracelsus, Plotinus, Wei Po-Yang, and many others.
I mention these references only to demonstrate that the concept is an ancient one. It is a concept that has always existed within spiritual, mystical, and occult circles and Jung is often credited as the person who gave it more of a mainstream appeal. Granted, Jung was criticized for his interest in and occasional reliance upon alchemical and occult sources, but the fact remains that without his work the concept might not be as accepted today as it is. And still, there are many skeptics but that’s fine; all of us are on a unique journey and what works for you today may not work for you tomorrow. It’s part of the process.
If synchronicity is a topic that interests you, I encourage you to search beyond Jung and consult some of the ancient philosophical and mystical texts that describe it in more detail. A good place to start is the I Ching, the Hindu Veda’s, the teachings of Jesus, any of the ancient Buddhist texts at http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/
I hope you enjoyed this post. As always, take what resonates with you and leave the rest behind.
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Naked Faced Mara