Synchronicity

scarab

Synchronicity [sin-kro-nis-uh-tee] is the experience of two or more events, that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner. The concept of synchronicity was first described by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s. The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality. Instead, it maintains that just as events may be grouped by cause, they may also be grouped by their meaning.

Since meaning is a complex mental construction, subject to conscious and unconscious influence, not every correlation in the grouping of events by meaning needs to have an explanation in terms of cause and effect.

Synchronicity explains ‘meaningful coincidences,’ such as a beetle flying into Jung’s room while a patient was describing a dream about a scarab. The scarab is an Egyptian symbol of rebirth, he noted. Therefore, the propitious moment of the flying beetle indicated that the transcendental meaning of both the scarab in the dream and the insect in the room was that the patient needed to be liberated from her excessive rationalism.

Synchronistic events reveal an underlying pattern, a conceptual framework that encompasses, but is larger than, any of the systems that display the synchronicity. Jung believed that many experiences that are coincidences due to chance in terms of causality suggested the manifestation of parallel events or circumstances in terms of meaning, reflecting this governing dynamic.

Following discussions with both Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli Jung believed that there were parallels between synchronicity and aspects of relativity theory and quantum mechanics. Jung was transfixed by the idea that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order, which he and Pauli referred to as unus mundus (Latin for ‘one world’).

Jung also believed that synchronicity served a similar role in a person’s life to dreams with the purpose of shifting a person’s egocentric conscious thinking to greater wholeness, and that very powerful synchronistic experiences result in such a revelatory experience that a new stage in a person’s psychological or spiritual development is attained. These revelatory synchronistic experiences are usually associated with major events such as birth, death or crises. Further experiences of synchronistic events provide a kind of confirmation of the new relationship between the individual and the wider reality. In this new reality all events, both internal and external, may have personal significance to the individual either psychologically or spiritually.

For Jung, synchronicity spanned the divide between the modern scientific world view and traditional religions. This was part of the reason why he worked so hard to bring synchronicity, which can so easily be dismissed, into the intellectual debate of the 20th century.

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