Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi speaks these words seconds after the destruction of the distant planet Alderaan in the movie “Star Wars.”
A Brief Outline
What Is A
In his book Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, 1847-1865, Ward Hill Lamon relates a dream Lincoln had shortly before his death. In the dream Lincoln heard a group of people mournfully weeping downstairs in the White House, but he could find no one. Upon entering the East Room he discovered a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Demanding of one of the soldiers stationed there, “Who is dead in the White house?” he received the reply, “The President. He was killed by an assassin.” Such fantastic stories challenge our preconceptions and rational explanations about how the world works.
Jung recounts in his autobiography disturbing dreams and visions in 1913. In one vision he witnessed a monstrous flood covering Germany and realized a catastrophe was in progress. “I saw the mighty yellow waves, the floating rubble of civilization, and the drowned bodies of uncounted thousands. Then the whole sea turned to blood.” Jung said he was perplexed and nauseated, assuming this vision was personal. It was not until World War I broke out a year later that he realized its collective nature. This irrational experience led Jung to conclude that each person’s unconscious possesses not only a personal but also a collective dimension.
We assume we live individual lives, connected to one another only by sight, touch, hearing and feeling. But in another sense we are also connected “below the surface,” despite the boundaries of distance, race, religion, circumstance, and even time. It is a great mystery. For the most part, this collective bond is beyond our control or explanation. Yet it exists. Why certain people seem more open and receptive to such intrusions from the unconscious, no one can say. And yet the stories of foreboding dreams, eerie premonitions, and unexplainable experiences continue to surface. And so often they seem to come when an individual, family, or nation is at great risk or in immanent danger.
In the wake of these terrorist attacks upon America we should certainly occupy ourselves with such issues as increased security, detailed anti-terrorist plans, and better international intelligence gathering. We do live and breathe and move in the “real world.” But perhaps we should not lose sight of this other connection we apparently have to one another. After hearing the kinds of uncanny stories I have heard this past week, I wondered if these nocturnal images might be included in a different type of intelligence gathering.
If such an undertaking is too fantastic, we can at least derive some comfort in the knowledge that someone in Charlotte, or wherever, can feel a concern and a connectedness to an unknown stranger miles away and days before. Perhaps it will also help those unwillingly plagued by disturbing nightmares to consider the possibility that the messages they receive may say more about our collective link to one another than about some personal deficiency. We are united in more ways than you can imagine.... Howard W. Tyas, Jr.
Synchronicities, according to Jung are meaningful coincidences
Carl Jung believed the traditional notions of causality were incapable of explaining some of the more improbable forms of coincidence. Where it is plain, felt Jung, that no causal connection can be demonstrated between two events, but where a meaningful relationship nevertheless exists between them, a wholly different type of principle is likely to be operating. Jung called this principle "synchronicity."
In The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Jung describes how, during his research into the phenomenon of the collective unconscious, he began to observe coincidences that were connected in such a meaningful way that their occurrence seemed to defy the calculations of probability. He provided numerous examples culled from his own psychiatric case-studies, many now legendary.
"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 his 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 outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to the golden scarab that one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetoaia urata) which contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt an 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, and that the dream of the patient has remained unique in my experience."
Who then, might we say, was responsible for the synchronous arrival of the beetle--Jung or the patient? While on the surface reasonable, such a question presupposes a chain of causality Jung claimed was absent from such experience. As psychoanalyst Nandor Fodor has observed, the scarab, by Jung's view, had no determinable cause, but instead complemented the "impossibility" of the analysis. The disturbance also (as synchronicities often do) prefigured a profound transformation. For, as Fodor observes, Jung's patient had--until the appearance of the beetle--shown excessive rationality, remaining psychologically inaccessible. Once presented with the scarab, however, her demeanor improved and their sessions together grew more profitable.
Because Jung believed the phenomenon of synchronicity was primarily connected with psychic conditions, he felt that such couplings of inner (subjective) and outer (objective) reality evolved through the influence of the archetypes, patterns inherent in the human psyche and shared by all of mankind. These patterns, or "primordial images," as Jung sometimes refers to them, comprise man's collective unconscious, representing the dynamic source of all human confrontation with death, conflict, love, sex, rebirth and mystical experience. When an archetype is activated by an emotionally charged event (such as a tragedy), says Jung, other related events tend to draw near. In this way the archetypes become a doorway that provide us access to the experience of meaningful (and often insightful) coincidence.
Implicit in Jung's concept of synchronicity is the belief in the ultimate "oneness" of the universe. As Jung expressed it, such phenomenon betrays a "peculiar interdependence of objective elements among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers." Jung claimed to have found evidence of this interdependence, not only in his psychiatric studies, but in his research of esoteric practices as well.
Of the I Ching, a Chinese method of divination which Jung regarded as the clearest expression of the synchronicity principle, he wrote: "The Chinese mind, as I see it at work in the I Ching, seems to be exclusively preoccupied with the chance aspect of events. What we call coincidence seems to be the chief concern of this peculiar mind, and what we worship as causality passes almost unnoticed...While the Western mind carefully sifts, weighs, selects, classifies, isolates, the Chinese picture of the moment encompasses everything down to the minutes nonsensical detail, because all of the ingredients make up the observed moment."
Similarly, Jung discovered the synchronicity within the I Ching also extended to astrology. In a letter to Freud dated June 12, 1911, he wrote: "My evenings are taken up largely with astrology. I make horoscopic calculations in order to find a clue to the core of psychological truth. Some remarkable things have turned up which will certainly appear incredible to you...I dare say that we shall one day discover in astrology a good deal of knowledge that has been intuitively projected into the heavens."
Freud was alarmed by Jung's letter. Jung's interest in synchronicity and the paranormal rankled the strict materialist; he condemned Jung for wallowing in what he called the "black tide of the mud of occultism." Just two years earlier, during a visit to Freud in Vienna, Jung had attempted to defend his beliefs and sparked a heated debate. Freud's skepticism remained calcified as ever, causing him to dismiss Jung's paranormal leanings, "in terms of so shallow a positivism," recalls Jung, "that I had difficulty in checking the sharp retort on the tip of my tongue." A shocking synchronistic event followed.
Jung writes in his memoirs:
"While Freud was going on this way, I had a curious sensation. It was as if my diaphragm were made of iron and were becoming red-hot--a glowing vault. And at that moment there was such a loud report in the bookcase, which stood right next to us, that we both started up in alarm, fearing the thing was going to topple over on us. I said to Freud: 'There, that is an example of a so-called catalytic exteriorization phenomenon.' 'Oh come,' he exclaimed. 'That is sheer bosh.' 'It is not,' I replied. 'You are mistaken, Herr Professor. And to prove my point I now predict that in a moment there will be another such loud report! 'Sure enough, no sooner had I said the words that the same detonation went off in the bookcase. To this day I do not know what gave me this certainty. But I knew beyond all doubt that the report would come again. Freud only stared aghast at me. I do not know what was in his mind, or what his look meant. In any case, this incident aroused his distrust of me, and I had the feeling that I had done something against him. I never afterward discussed the incident with him."
In formulating his synchronicity principle, Jung was influenced to a profound degree by the "new" physics of the twentieth century, which had begun to explore the possible role of consciousness in the physical world. "Physics," wrote Jung in 1946, "has demonstrated...that in the realm of atomic magnitudes objective reality presupposes an observer, and that only on this condition is a satisfactory scheme of explanation possible."
"This means," he added, "that a subjective element attaches to the physicist's world picture, and secondly that a connection necessarily exists between the psyche to be explained and the objective space-time continuum." These discoveries not only helped loosen physics from the iron grip of its materialistic world-view, but confirmed what Jung recognized intuitively: that matter and consciousness - far from operating independently of each other--are, in fact, interconnected in an essential way, functioning as complementary aspects of a unified reality.
The belief suggested by quantum theory and by reports of synchronous events - that matter and consciousness interpenetrate is, of course, far from new.
Synchronicity reveals the meaningful connections between the subjective and objective world.
Synchronistic events provide an immediate religious experience as a direct encounter with the compensatory patterning of events in nature as a whole, both inwardly and outwardly.
All synchronistic phenomena can be grouped under three categories:
1 The coincidence of a psychic state in the observer with a simultaneous objective, external event that corresponds to the psychic state or content, (e.g. the scarab), where there is no evidence of a causal connection between the psychic state and the external event, and where, considering the psychic relativity of space and time, such a connection is not even conceivable.
2. The coincidence of a psychic state with a corresponding (more or less simultaneous) external even taking place outside the observer's field of perception, i.e. at a distance, and only verifiable afterward (e.g. the Stockholm fire).
3. The coincidence of a psychic state with a corresponding, not yet existent future event that is distant in time and can likewise only be verified afterward.
1. One in which the compensatory activity of the archetype is experienced both inwardly and outwardly. [the event seems to emerge from the subconscious with access to absolute knowledge, which cannot be consciously known]
2. One in which the compensatory activity of the archetype is experienced outwardly only. [ these convey to the ego a much-needed wholeness of the self's perspective, they show one a new perspective]
1) The specific intrapsychic state of the subject defined as one of the following:
a) The unconscious content which, in accordance with the compensatory needs of the conscious orientation, enters consciousness [something is in our conscious]
b) The conscious orientation of the subject around which the compensatory synchronistic activity centers [something happens concerning what is in our mind]
2) An objective event corresponds with this intrapsychic state [may be literal or figurative correspondence]
a) The objective event as a compensatory equivalent to the unconscious compensatory content
b) The objective event as the sole compensatory of the ego-consciousness
3) Even though the intrapsychic state and the objective event may be synchronous according to clock time and spatially near to each other, the objective event may, contrary to this, be distant in time and/or space in relation to the intrapsychic state [as in telepathy, clairvoyance, etc.]
4) The intrapsychic state and the objective event are not causally related to each other [acausality]
5) The synchronistic event is meaningful [excludes some coincidence, but does not require the meaning to be understood]
a) The intrapsychic state and the objective event as meaningful parallels
b) The numinous charge associated with the synchronistic experience [feeling of spiritual experience]
c) Import of the subjective-level interpretation [the content must reflect back on the issues of the individual]
d) the archetypal level of meaning [transcends the individual and implies absolute knowledge].