Synchronicity, a concept first proposed in the scientific literature by Carl Jung in the 1920s, is the ‘experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance but which are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.’
It is an idea that has been claimed by some to be superstition, by others as describing scientific connections and still by others as proof of an ‘otherworldly’ power in the events of our lives. Synchronicity is an idea that may be difficult to understand but, according to Jung, ‘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 that are not causal in nature. These relationships can manifest themselves as simultaneous occurrences that are meaningfully related.
Synchronicity, is it ‘karma‘? Not quite. The idea of ‘karma’ in Hinduism is one that explains cause and effect through a system where beneficial effects are derived from past beneficial actions and harmful effects from past harmful actions, creating a system of actions and reactions throughout a soul’s life (or lives) forming a cycle of rebirth. The causality is said to be applicable not only to the material world but also to our thoughts, words, actions and actions that others do under our instructions.
To qualify as synchronistic, the two or more events involved must be temporally coincident (taking place at or about the same time) and must be mutually acausal (not related one to the other in any causative way).
Jung believed that events which we often see as coincidence, events due to a chance happening, have a causal relationship ‘in the greater scheme of things’. Jung discussed this concept of synchronicity with renowned physicists such as Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli, suggesting a relationship between synchronicity and the theory of relativity as well as quantum mechanics. Jung and Pauli thought that there was a unifying ‘idea’ in life, an underlying unified reality from which everything emerges and returns to, the ‘unus mundus’.
In the world of quantum physics, there are indeed strange things that take place:
’Spooky (at a distance) physics‘ or ‘interaction at a distance‘ is the effect or interaction of two objects which are separated in space with no known mediator of the interaction. This goes against the ingrained human idea that objects must touch (physically or through a magnetic or gravitational field) in order to interact.
The theory of quantum mechanics predicts that two or more particles can become ‘entangled’ (quantum entanglement) so that even after they are separated in space, when an action is performed on one particle, the other particle responds immediately. Scientists still don’t know how the particles send these instantaneous messages to each other (instantaneously, faster than the speed of light), but somehow, once they are entwined, the two (or more) particles retain a fundamental connection.
Synchronicity is distinct from apophenia which is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. An extreme form of apophenia is paraidolia which is the perception of a sound or ‘image’ as being significant. An excellent example of ‘hopeful over-reading’ of information was the perception of a photograph of the Martian surface taken by one of the Viking missions in 1976 showing a face staring into the cosmos.
This was later shown to be an aberration of the light on the top of a high Martian plateau. Other more common examples of paraidolia are the perception of faces in cloud formations, coded messages on musical recordings and most popularly religious paraidolia, such as ‘Jesus on toast’ or ‘Mary on a sandwich’. The most well-known case of religious paraidolia was the sighting of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich found by Diana Duyser of Florida. Mrs. Duyser claimed to have kept the sandwich on her night stand for over 10 years, during which time she had excellent luck at the casinos. The fact that the sandwich had remained mold-free was considered, by some, to have been proof of the sandwich’s miraculous nature.
These cases often prove, in the end, to be quite profitable. In 2004 the grilled cheese sandwich was listed for sale on Ebay, where the (partially eaten) sandwich was bought by Golden Palace Casino for $28,000.
Is there really some ‘unifying’ force or influence in our world that we are unable to see? Are we so deeply immersed in our own space that we cannot ‘see the forest for the trees’?
Is the idea of synchronicity similar to fractals, the repeating patterns that are ubiquitous in nature. Fractal patterns are obvious when examined from afar but easily overlooked when viewed from up close.
Some researchers argue that synchronicity is much more common than we appreciate, that it occurs every day and everywhere and that these synchronistic events tend to become obvious to us only in the case of the most startling coincidences. Are the events in life ’cause and then effect’ or is there something more? Is there an ‘overseeing’ rule of (quantum?) law which says that everything is related? Can there be effect and then cause?..Or is that even stranger, even more unimaginable than ‘spooky at a distance’?
Stranger things have been written and reality is often stranger than fiction (see post: Stranger Than Fiction).
’That’s the effect of living backwards. It always makes one a little giddy at first…It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards!’ said the White Queen to Alice. (‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ – Lewis Carroll)
*Synchronicity: subject of research for the novel The Tao of the Thirteenth God – Amazon Kindle