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Synchronicity

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  1. What is synchronicity?


What is synchronicity? It is the occurrence of events which have the following characteristics:

  1. The events are simultaneous. There could be:
    • Two internal events, e.g., two people having a corresponding thought at the same moment.
    • Two external events, e.g., two people committing a corresponding act at the same time.
    • A combination of an inner event (i.e., a thought or feeling) and an external event. Carl Jung, who developed the concept of synchronicity, offered this example: During a therapy session, a patient was describing her dream about a golden scarab (a beetle which was notable in Egyptian mythology); when a similar beetle suddenly flew in through an open window, the patient was so astonished by the coincidence that she experienced a breakthrough in her therapy.
  2. The events are meaningful. We intuit a special significance; the event "glows," and it resonates deep within us, and perhaps it stirs a profound realization regarding some aspect of our life. This meaningfulness differentiates synchronous events from mere coincidences. For example, we might be reading a newspaper article about a politician when his or her campaign ad starts to play on a nearby radio; if we do not intuit any particular importance to the concurrence, then it was just a coincidence. Whenever we mistakenly view a coincidence as a synchronous event, we are indulging in superstition; we are falsely believing that there is an implication (or even a cause-and-effect relationship) in the fact that the two events occurred together.
  3. The events are not connected by cause-and-effect; i.e., one event does not cause the other. Jung theorized that synchronicity is a universal force, like gravity, which somehow presents parallel occurrences due to a quirk in the time-space continuum. Jung said that the concept of synchronicity explains the workings of astrology, I Ching, and similar phenomena; for example, he believed that the lay of the coins in I Ching is synchronous with personal events in the person's life. Synchronicity -- Jung's "acausal connecting principle" -- is a separate principle from that of cause-and-effect (i.e., "karma"), so it provides another way in which to view the dynamics of the universe; in synchronicity, two events appear to be related but we do not detect a causal, karmic relationship between them. But perhaps another force lies behind synchronicity. Jung and other authors have detected no cause-and-effect link between two synchronous events. But we can speculate that there is a third element which precipitates the two events. Consider this analogy: In a room, we have one person who is deaf, and two persons who can hear. When a firecracker explodes, the two hearing people jump in surprise. From the viewpoint of the deaf person (who did not hear the firecracker), the jumping was a synchronous event; one person's jump did not cause the other person's jump -- but the law of cause-and-effect was indeed occurring, with a cause which was simply not perceived by the deaf person. Perhaps all synchronous events are caused by a force which we do not detect. (This possibility is explored further in our study of the synchronicity of cycles.)

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