Posts Tagged ‘synchronicity’

The Great Mystery


“Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing. The synchronicity phenomena point, it seems to me, in this direction, for they show that the nonpsychic can behave like the psychic, and vice versa, without there being any causal connection between them. Our present knowledge does not allow us to do much more than compare the relation of the psychic to the material world with two cones, whose apices, meeting in a point without extension – a real zero-point – touch and do not touch.”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 418)

One of the most challenging problems to understand is the connection between psyche and matter. Psyche as realm of mind, thought, perception, idea, emotion, soul and spirit seems most un-matter like. Matter as realm of the solid, substantial, measurable, quantifiable seems far more predictable than psyche. Yet, here I sit at my laptop using my hands to type thoughts, ideas, and playful imaginings for you to read. In this act I become an embodied form of psyche. Psyche and matter, as seemingly disparate entities, unite into a visible whole. Of course, materialists will see no problem with this picture. For does not psyche arise as a complex emergent property from our bodily vat of biochemical substances? Is it truly possible that my humble ramblings are a result of solely a series of chemical reactions? I don’t deny that these reactions are taking place. What I do seriously question is that they are sufficient to explain ‘me,’ or any one else for that matter.

As I write, I am listening to a concerto by Bach. I find it astounding that one could describe this work of genius as merely the result of complex biochemical reactions. I believe that the interplay between psyche and matter is far more subtle than we recognize. There is still mystery here…

The psyche/matter, or mind/matter, puzzle has interested people for centuries. Jung witnessed connections between psyche and matter in his own life and the lives of his clients. His years of accumulated empirical observations led him to postulate the synchronicity principle as the interaction between events that have no seeming causal connection. Since our psyche is involved in experiencing meaning in these so-called ‘acausal’ events in the material world, we are immediately thrust into the realm of psyche and matter. Jung spent the latter part of his life thinking about this subject. He worked with the renowned quantum physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, on his ideas. He asked that we keep an open mind about synchronicity and that serious investigations be made on this topic.

There is richness in opening ourselves to questions about psyche and matter. Perhaps a deeper sense of meaning for our lives lies at the ground of this issue. The fact that the question of psyche and matter has entranced us for so long points to its archetypal nature. How does psyche arise from matter? Can psyche affect matter in some way? Is there something beyond psyche and matter? During these dark winter days, I encourage you to contemplate these intriguing mysterious questions. What will arise from within when you do?

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“The problem of synchronicity has puzzled me for a long time, ever since the middle twenties, when I was investigating the phenomena of the collective unconscious and kept on coming across connections which I simply could not explain …”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 843)

Based on a great number of personal experiences over many years, Jung came to the realization that events take place in the outer world that have a direct connection to the inner world of the psyche. Yet, these events have no direct causal connection. He called these meaningful events synchronicities. Synchronicity is archetypal and provides an ordering to lived phenomena.

Perhaps the most well known example from Jung’s work was the time he was meeting with a client who was stuck in her therapy process. She was very reluctant to move outside of her overly rigid views about things. One day she brought a dream in which the image of a scarab appeared. Just at the moment she was describing the scarab image in the dream there came a tapping sound. Jung went to the window and there was a scarab beetle tapping at the window. He opened the window, caught the beetle, carried it over to the women and said, “Here is your scarab!” She was so moved by the meaningful nature of this event that she was able to break out of her overly rigid views and her therapeutic process moved on.

There are events in our lives for which we have no logical explanation, yet they happen. These events place us in a space between psyche and matter. Who among you reading this has not experienced a synchronicity? You were thinking of someone whom you had not seen in a long time and your cell phone rang and that very person was calling you. You were in a foreign country walking down a street thinking of someone from home and there they were walking towards you. You had a dream about something and a few days later that very thing took place. All of these things are highly improbable, yet they happen and are meaningful to you.

I believe that synchronicities are taking place all the time, but our rigid conditioning creates a blind spot to such occurrences. Yet, if we become a little more attuned to their presence, we would see more of them in our lives. I do not speak of these things lightly. I was trained as a scientist and believe we should validate our suppositions. However, I am also aware that our scientific perspective can become too rigid. We can move into scientism, which is a blind adherence to rationality. Science can become a dogmatic creed. I feel we have to remain open to the fact that we are still searching to understand the universe.

Consider how people from times past viewed electricity and magnetism. No doubt these phenomenon appeared impossible, unreal, or even magical. Then later science came up with a way to explain these phenomena. Is it not possible that synchronicity is a similar phenomenon? Jung (CW 8, par. 967) states that, “Synchronicity is no more baffling or mysterious than the discontinuities of physics.”

Here Jung is referring to the very strange world of quantum physics. Jung had entertained Einstein at his house for dinners while Einstein was developing his special theory of relativity. He also had a long and productive collaboration with the world-renowned physicist Wolfgang Pauli. Thus, Jung had great respect for science and was only asking people to keep an open mind about the strange phenomena of synchronicity.

I encourage you for a moment to open yourself to the possibility that there are unknowns out in the world yet to be understood, wonders yet to be explained. Open yourself to seeing a synchronicity in your life this week.

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