The term 'Synchronicity' was coined by Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist,
an influential thinker and the founder of Analytical Psychology.
an influential thinker and the founder of Analytical Psychology.
The Gift of Synchronicity
an extract from 'Unexpected Miracles: The Gift of Synchronicity & How to Open it' by David Richo, PhD
an extract from 'Unexpected Miracles: The Gift of Synchronicity & How to Open it' by David Richo, PhD
Synchronicity is the phenomenon of meaningful coincidence. It is a resemblance, correspondence or connection between something going on outside us and something happening inside us.
In any ordinary coincidence, the events are connected by meaning rather than by cause and effect. This may not yet be synchronicity but simply synchronization. It becomes synchronicity when it makes a meaningful connection with our life’s purposes or helps unfold our destiny to show love, see wisely, and bring healing to ourselves and our world.
All coincidences are connected by meaning, but synchronicity happens when the meaningfulness is relevant to our personal evolution. It is the spur of the moment in that it spurs us on and in that it may happen suddenly! It happens just in time. It is also just in time in the sense that it is part of the justice of the universe in bringing us exactly the pieces we need to fashion - or be fashioned by - our destiny.
Synchronicity is a word made from two Greek terms meaning "joined with" and "time." Synchronicity is a bond or connection that happens in a timely way. A correspondence between two things is suddenly made clear. The unifying connection was always present but an immediate and meaningful coincidence makes it visible here and now. Synchronicity thus combines an essential unity with an existential one. The eternal present makes an appearance in the momentary present. This is why it seems fitting to say that synchronicity guides us into spirituality.
Synchronicities cluster around significant events. Many meaningful coincidences occurred, for instance, when the Titanic sank and when Lincoln and Kennedy were assassinated. Personal disasters or crises in our personal life will also invite synchronicity. Norma orders a red dress for a party but a black dress is delivered to her. As she is about to phone the store to report the error, her sister calls: "Mother has died. Come for the funeral." Norma thought she was in control of her life; she thought she knew what would happen next. The synchronous event told her otherwise and outfitted her for what was actually coming next: something much deeper was about to occur.
Synchronicity is the surprise that something suddenly fits! Synchronous events are meaningful coincidences or correspondences that guide us, warn us, or confirm us on our path. Coincidence happens at a specific moment. In this sense it is existential, tied to the here and now. Correspondences are ongoing. This is how synchronicity is essential, always present, to our human experience.
Synchronicity is also found in a series of similar events or experiences. It can appear as one striking event that sets off a chain reaction. It is always unexpected and somehow uncanny in its accuracy of connection or revelation. This is what makes it impossible to dismiss synchronicity as mere coincidence.
Carl Jung called synchronicity: "A non-caused but meaningful relationship between physical and psychic events.... A special instance of acausal orderliness.... Conscious succession becomes simultaneity.... Synchronicity takes the events in space and time as meaning more than mere chance."
A coincidence is two unplanned events that happen simultaneously. It becomes synchronicity when it is connected by meaning. You and I love red roses. That is a coincidence. If unknown to each other, we meet as our heads bump while we are both smelling the same red rose that caught our eye at the same time and then later we are married, that is synchronicity!
Synchronicity gives us a clue to the deep underlay of purpose and meaning in the universe and how that purpose is working itself out in our lives. Our own wholeness has a foundation and support in the larger order of things. All objective events have a corresponding subjective configuration in our psyche. Synchronicity is an instant instance of this correspondence. Its spontaneous timely events are articulations of the continuous nature of creation, intimations about the indestructible unity underlying it.
Synchronicity is always striking and sometimes eerie. The "other worldly" feeling we have when it happens to us may be an indicator that an archetype is arising into consciousness from the depths of our psyche.
Things happen as they need to for the best purposes of the universe. Our belief that we can interfere with this is another trick of the arrogant ego. We may not know how what is happening right now really fits into our future. I can only trust that in addition to all I see, there is some other vision that will appear and make all this appear as just right.
Yet synchronicity cannot happen by any conscious intervention of ego since it is a phenomenon of grace: an entry of the transpersonal world onto our personal turf. It is a moment that manifests the unity that always and already existed between psychological and spiritual, mind and universe, you and me, me and everything. It occurs when our unconscious is ready for a step into wider consciousness. The ancient oracles were about precisely this!
The inner artist of our true Self uses two brushes: a conscious one - synchronicity, and an unconscious one - dreams. The synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) of our lives and the dream images that have most excited or stupefied us are the best - though often most ambiguous - clues to our self-actualization. When a dream confirms a movement in the psyche, that is itself synchronicity. Prayer that is answered is synchronicity since prayers that are answered are the ones that are consistent with our destiny.
Synchronicity is the special moment in which destiny summons us to move forward. It is the spur of the moment that initiates movement and is experienced as though being intelligently guided ! This is the process by which archetypal reality incarnates itself in historical time: something unknown is doing we do not know what, or why, or through whom. Synchronicity really means that we are never alone in the universe. "O mighty love! Man is one world, and hath another to attend him," wrote George Herbert.
Many psychic events do not occur instantaneously but undergo an incubation period in the unconscious. Something has not yet happened but is in the works. Synchronicity cuts across time-bound warps. It transcends the limits of being and becoming. This is because in the inner world there is no separation between past and future, time or timelessness, what is happening, what is about to happen, and what will happen. Only the present exists, which contains it all. In synchronicity, we meet our future - or our past - in our present. "To transform itself in us, the future enters into us long before it happens," Rilke wrote.
Synchronicity is the strikingly meaningful coincidence of two events or of a series of events. It can also be the coincidence of a psychic perception and a simultaneously occurring event, as happens in ESP. Premonitions are in this category. In both ESP and premonition, the case can be made for synchronicity only if meaningfulness is present. This is always the ultimate criterion of synchronicity.
Synchronicity occurs in a dream that reveals what is already true or about to become true: Lincoln dreamed he was assassinated one week before the event.
Dreams and astrology manifest many synchronous correspondences. There is immense synchronicity in the zodiac and our inclinations/choices. Rituals are forms of synchronicity in that they are outward enactments of corresponding inward graces.
Synchronicity appears in our work on ourselves. There may be synchronicity in the fact that our knowledge of our real issues - in ourselves and in our relationships - comes simultaneously with the strength to face them! We are usually in denial for a long time before we finally recognize and acknowledge our own truth. Synchronicity is in the fact that we often only let ourselves know when we can deal with what we know.
When we are ready to learn, a teacher appears. This is synchronicity. Occasionally a person who died, long ago or recently, comes to mind over and over in the course of a week or more. It could be that the meaning of that person in our life is coming home to us in a compelling way. Perhaps we learned something from that person and need to remember it now. Perhaps there is something we are now ready to learn. This may be another form of synchronicity. The face of the teacher/grandfather appears when the time has come to be instructed or to gain a deeper insight into who we are. This might even be the time to ask that person to be our guide from the other world if that fits our world view.
Synchronicity also occurs in looking back upon your life and seeing how it all prepared you or instructed you for the fullest fruition of your potential. A hidden feeling or truth waited to be awakened by just the right person or circumstance, sometimes painfully.
My destiny had to have just such a beginning. My neglectful father helped me practice for the independent life I live now. My empty cupboard helped me care about starving children. James Hillman writes: "This way of seeing removes the burden from the early years as having been a mistake, and yourself a victim of handicaps and cruelties.”
Everyone and every event in life’s drama is part of the metaphor of our journey. The issue from an old relationship may not be: "how bad he was" but: "how much I needed to learn!"
Most of us keep meeting partners who show us exactly where our work is, e.g. men who abuse, women who are unfaithful. The wounds are openings into our missing life. Often, the only way a lost piece of ourselves or of our history comes back to us is through another person. The unknown is scary so people and events come along that help us go there. This is synchronicity.
The only mistake we make is hanging on to some people too long or too briefly. How and with whom did I do that? We take them as literally themselves instead of as themselves and metaphorical forces, come to boost or chide. What delivered me from the constrictions into the open air? Who finally pointed the way beyond my limitations?
Finally, there is synchronicity in divination devices such as the I Ching or the Tarot: one inevitably chooses the hexagram or card that coincides with one’s circumstance. This meaningful coincidence is based on the belief that the psyche will direct us to the exact information that we need when we need it.
Is it Fate or Destiny?
The culmination of synchronicity is its direct revelation of destiny: the design of the whole universe works itself out in the display of each unique human life. "Life is a struggle to succeed in being in fact what we are in design...Our will is free to realize or not to realize the vital design we are but which we cannot change or abbreviate...." wrote Ortega y Gasset.
What we refuse to bring into consciousness comes back to us as fate. It hits us from without when we refuse to heed its summons from within. It makes spiritual sense to forge a lasting agreement with the universe, which can only be an unconditional 'Yes' to what is. Attention to synchronicity helps us join unfolding processes consciously. The word "design" adds the element of artistry!
Each generation presents to the universe a population of people who have just the right ingredients in them to make the world better. Each person is a crucial cell in this mystical body of humanity. There is synchronicity in the fact that here and now the world always has just the human resources that it needs to further its evolution as is fitting for this epoch.
Nature participates in the same synchronicity by its drifts of species and seasons of growth and change in each era. It creates an ice age and a temperate age in accord with the over-all requirements of evolution. I am here at the right time - and just in time - for me to make my contribution, and nature is supporting me by presenting just the conditions that promote this enterprise. And so are all the people in my life.
Destiny is often connected to career. Our work in the world is often our form of service or of actualizing our potential. Jonah is the biblical archetype of refusing one’s destiny. Since he was needed as a prophet, his refusal of the call to become one was disregarded. He was swallowed by a whale and forced to swallow his pride. There are also times in the course of life when refusals are allowed to stand and then "a great prince in prison lies," as Donne says.
Jung said: "We find our destiny on the path we take to avoid it". The greatest of human tragedies is to be distracted from our destiny and lose our power to activate our potential because of years of addiction to drugs or alcohol, or to relationships that are abusive, unworkable or depleting. A great potential in us can thereby fade away and no-one will do anything to halt the dissolution. The world will stand by as we throw away our fortune. We will stand by as we throw ourselves away. There is no guarantee that a whale will intervene for us as it did for Jonah, or a tornado as it did for Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.
The challenge is to find our destiny in exactly what we are refusing to engage in. This is no easy task. It is hard to stop and look while we are running the other way! Is my destiny scribbled on parchment, twirled in a bottle and hurled into the sea, to be stumbled upon only long after I am gone?
How does chance figure in? Chance may simply be a playful way the universe has of collaborating with us in the working out of our destiny. Thus synchronicity integrates the irrational into an orderly pageant of evolution. The challenge is always the same: to believe in the artistic design in spite of the random display. The record shows us humans to be crassly ignorant and destructive but also touchingly responsive and restorative.
Perhaps Gandhi expressed this tension between our existential display and our essential design most accurately: "I see that mankind still survives after all its attempts to destroy itself and so I surmise that it is the law of love that rules mankind."
(Soon after the Human Butterfly Crop Circle [Holland, September 2009] was discovered I was sitting here in front of the computer in the wee hours of the morning thinking about the 'Butterfly' after seeing the Butterfly symbol (((Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ))) on the Google Talk status. I closed my eyes and sat there with the image of a butterfly in my mind ... and then a white butterfly flew through the window and sat on my leg ...... Synchronicity ... :)
David Richo ...
"Synchronicity is a gift of the universe, available to use in every moment. It is the subtle and sweet music of existence that we can hear if we only listen. Our dance to this synchronistic flow is experiential ecstasy. It is the effortless dance of the self with the universe."
Copyright © 2001 David Richo, Ph.D. This article is an excerpt from 'Unexpected Miracles: The Gift of Synchronicity & How to Open it'.
What is Synchronicity? A Wink from the Cosmos
by Meg Lundstrom (Intuition Magazine, May 1996)
by Meg Lundstrom (Intuition Magazine, May 1996)
Earl was trying to track down an out-of-print book called The Adventures of Marco Polo. He scoured two used book stores in New York City, had no success, and caught a taxi to a third. The cab driver was unusually chatty, and during their conversation, Earl glanced at his license on the dashboard. His name? Marco Polo!
Art was sitting at his computer typing an e-mail missive when his cat Coal jumped from his lap onto the keyboard. Before Art’s startled eyes, as the cat shifted from key to key, its paws tapped out the word emerson on the screen. "To make it even weirder, I’ve been studying Ralph Waldo Emerson intently for the past year, and the study has taken on a very symbolic meaning to me," he says, still in shock. "My wife was sitting next to me at the computer, and if I’m sent away for being crazy, she has to go, too!"
The uncanny coincidence. The unlikely conjunction of events. The startling serendipity. Who hasn’t had it happen in their life? You think of someone for the first time in years, and run into them a few hours later. An unusual phrase you’d never heard before jumps out at you three times in the same day. On a back street in a foreign country, you bump into a college roommate. A book falls off the shelf at the bookstore and it’s exactly what you need.
Is it only, as sceptics suggest, selective perception and the law of averages playing itself out? Or is it, as Carl Jung believed, a glimpse into the underlying order of the universe? He coined the term synchronicity to describe what he called the "acausal connecting principle" that links mind and matter. He said this underlying connectedness manifests itself through meaningful coincidences that cannot be explained by cause and effect. Such synchronicities occur, he theorized, when a strong need arises in the psyche of an individual.
Jung described three types that he had observed: the coinciding of a thought or feeling with an outside event; a dream, vision or premonition of something that then happens in the future; and a dream or vision that coincides with an event occurring at a distance. No one has come up with a definition that has superceded his, although there has been debate on whether events linked to precognition and clairvoyance should be included as synchronicity.
Some scientists see a theoretical grounding for synchronicity in quantum physics, fractal geometry and chaos theory. They are finding that the isolation and separation of objects from each other is more apparent than real: at deeper levels, everything - atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, people - participates in a sensitive, flowing web of information. Physicists have shown, for example, that if two photons are separated, no matter by how far, a change in one creates a simultaneous change in the other.
Whatever its cause, the appeal of synchronicity runs deep.
"People love mysterious things, and synchronicity is like magic happening to them," says Carolyn North, author of Synchronicity: The Anatomy of Coincidence (Regent Press)."It gives us a sense of hope, a sense that something bigger is happening out there than what we can see, which is especially important in times like this when there are so many reasons for despair."
The more pragmatic a person, the greater the surprise a synchronistic incident is - even mild ones of the sort that happen to most people sooner or later. For example, Bruce, a corporate lawyer, was stunned the day that, just as he was getting ready to dial his father, he picked up the phone and heard his father’s voice on the other end - calling him. "I said, "Holy smokes!" We were both dumbfounded!" he recalls. For a moment in time, synchronicity shattered their assumptions of cause-and-effect reality.
Some people, however, would shrug and call this intuition. How are the two different?
At first blush, synchronicity and intuition seem to be separate phenomena. Synchronicity happens "out there": against the odds, something in the Universe seems to swing into place to answer an inner need we have. Intuition happens "in here": it’s an inner knowing, an ability to tune into knowledge in a nonrational, nonlinear way. We know something but we don’t know how we know it.
Yet the boundaries get fuzzy very quickly. Jung’s definition of synchronicity clearly incorporates precognition and clairvoyance, which, by some people’s definition, are also types of intuition: they are certainly inner knowing. For example, here’s a mind-boggling synchronicity story that’s just as mind-boggling when viewed as an intuition story. Pam's father was chopping down a tree for firewood when it suddenly fell on him, crushing the left side of his face almost beyond recognition and shattering his back. Against all odds, he shoved the tree off of himself and walked a mile for help. Pam flew to Ithaca, New York, to be with him. It wasn't until weeks later, when she had returned to New York City, that she picked up the notepad she had been taking notes on in class at the time the accident had happened. She had been idly doodling in the margins -- and her drawings included a face with the left half shaded in black and a person's back with two Xs on the spine, marking the same vertebrae that her father had broken.
If we eliminate Jung’s two psi-related definitions and just focus on the coinciding of inner and outer events in a way that defies causal explanation, there can still be an overlapping, because the inner event can be an intuitive hit. In practice, synchronicity and intuition sometimes seem so intertwined that it’s hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins.
Shelley was sitting at Notre Dame in Paris giving her sore feet a rest. The shoes she had worn from the States had turned out to be painful, and her limited budget didn't allow her to buy another pair. Suddenly she felt an inner prompting, and she got up, walked out of the church, and turned left. Following her promptings, she made several other turns to arrive at a square. There, on top of a trash can, sat a pair of brand new black boots with no signs of wear -- in exactly her size. "It was perfect," she said. "If they had been inside the trash can, I wouldn’t have pulled them out. If they had been worn before, I wouldn’t have put them on. And they were so stylish I never could have afforded them myself!"
So is this an intuition story or a synchronicity story?
Intuition got her to the boots. Synchronicity provided her with precisely what she needed: she was virtually handed the boots by the Universe.
Some synchronicities are not the delivery of objects but of insights: something in the outer world crystallizes or confirms an inner process. Those synchronicities can "feel" much like intuition: it’s sudden information perceived by the psyche and experienced as true.
"They’re both messages, but one is internal and one external," says John Graham, a former foreign officer who, with his wife Ann Medlock, runs the Giraffe Project, an intrepid organization in Langley, Washington, that recognizes people who stick their necks out for the common good. The organization lives hand to mouth on donations, but John intuitively knows when a big cheque is in the morning mail, and the amount is often synchronistically the exact amount they need to pay a pressing bill. "Synchronicity and intuition are saying the same thing, it’s just as if one was speaking French and the other Spanish," he says.
David Spangler, an author, teacher and former guiding light of Findhorn, believes the two have many underlying similarities. "Intuition is another form of synchronicity: When I intuit something, there’s no apparent cause-and-effect relationship between my knowledge and how I got the knowledge," he says. "Likewise, synchronicity is precipitated intuition: we know of a connection not inwardly but outwardly, through action and perception. In both cases, the pattern carries the same message: we live in a world more intricately and holistically organized than we may ever have previously supposed."
Ultimately, it seems that our perception of the two is based on how we experience the boundary between our inner and outer environments. The more we feel a part of all around us, the more we engage in a dance of energy and input from all sides. At that point, it doesn’t matter, except as a point of passing interest, where the information comes from: it just comes.
Yet, until we live at that exalted level of consciousness, we can make good use of the interplay between the two. For example, some people develop their intuition using synchronicity as a tool. They follow an inner urge or message and watch for the results: if a meaningful coincidence results, it is a sign to them that they’re on the right track and that they can trust that voice in the future. For instance, Kathleen was driving toward the mountains for a hike when she made a split-second decision to go to a pottery studio instead. "I don’t know why -- it just felt right," she says. She had thought about stopping there before but had never gotten around to it. Just as she walked in the door, a woman was putting the finishing touches on a large ceramic pot. "It’s a drum," she told Kathleen, "But I don’t know anything about putting a skin on it." "I’ve made drums!" exclaimed Kathleen. "I know where to get the skins!" They quickly agreed to collaborate; in exchange, the woman will give her lessons. "It confirmed my intution," says Kathleen, "and let me know that pottery is something I should definitely pursue."
Conversely, some people make active use of intuitive skills to garner useful coincidences. Ray Simon, a Massachusetts writer, is constantly scanning the environment for oddities; he runs quick intuitive checks on them and follows where they lead him, often with fortuitous outcomes. For example, he was at a library looking up material on Alfred North Whitehead. A computer search listed 12 references, the third of which was blank. He pulled up the information on the third, found out that it actually referred to a book on Sartre, and so went to the shelves to find it. "These things are annoying to follow," he says with a laugh. "Your reasonable mind wants to do things that make sense." Next to that book was a different one on Sartre, a comic book that laid out his philosophy in a whimsical format. "I needed that information because I write computer manuals, and it’s an ongoing battle to stay light," he says. "That book enriched my life and expanded my thinking about what could be done."
There’s something about turning one’s choices over to intuition
that seems to avail oneself to synchronicity," says Allan Combs, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina at Asheville who co-authored Synchronicity: Science, Myth and the Trickster (Marlowe). "In practice, that can mean moving from moment to moment when making decisions, even small decisions -- especially small decisions! If you expect the unexpected, synchronicity will emerge."
Intuition, researchers have found, flourishes in a person who is open, receptive and nonjudgmental. Synchronicity has had little research - it defies laboratory tests, of course - but people who have studied the topic report a phenomenon which Alan Vaughan, author of Incredible Coincidence: The Baffling World of Synchronicity (Ballantine) calls "the synchronicity of synchronicity." Just having an active interest in the matter seems to make synchronicities happen more often - in part, of course, because we notice them more.
Likewise, synchronicity seems to be dampened by cynicism and doubt. Although some synchronistic events, like some intuitive hits, cannot be easily ignored, others are of a subtler nature -- almost dreamlike in their metaphorical patterns -- and it takes practice both to notice and decode them.
In her book The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self (HarperCollins). Jean Shinoda Bolen writes about being at a dinner party with friends when one woman raised a question: Occasionally, when she closed her eyes, frightening demonic images would appear. Should she confront them? examine them? immediately turn her attention elsewhere? As they discussed the matter, a skunk started scratching at a sliding glass door in front of them, trying to get inside.The hosts had never seen a skunk in the area, and after discussing how odd it was to see one trying to approach people, they joked about how unlikely it was that anyone would open a door to one. It was only later that Jean and her husband realized that the skunk provided a synchronistic answer to their question: Just as a skunk would stink up a living space, allowing demonic images in would do the same to one's inner space.
Says North: "If your belief system is such that intuition and synchronicity are real and significant, you will notice them. If your belief system is that they’re hogwash, you won’t."
Belief systems also dictate what people attribute the workings of synchronicity to. When it occurs, they may thank their luck, or fate, or destiny, or karma, or a miracle, or angels, for example. "Synchronicity happens when God wishes to remain anonymous," goes one saying.
Carrie and Dan view as divinely inspired the string of happy coincidences that have allowed them to adopt and raise eleven disabled children on Dan’s salary as a school cafeteria worker. One month, hit with several emergencies, they had no money to pay rent -- until lightning struck, hitting two of their trees. When the insurance adjuster came by, he wrote out a cheque so they could have them taken down, but he said to Carrie with a smile, "If I were you, I wouldn’t bother taking those trees down -- you’re only going to lose a branch." The cheque exactly covered their rent. Said Carrie: "We thanked God. We walk in his shadow."
As was true with Carrie and Dan, synchronicity seems to appear often at times of personal crises and at such passage points as births and deaths. Sunbathing on a Caribbean beach with her friend Sandy, Mary found herself thinking sadly about Beth, a mutual friend of theirs who had died unexpectedly two weeks earlier. Softly, she started humming "Amazing Grace." When she finished, Sandy said, "That's so strange. I was just thinking about Beth, and `Amazing Grace' was her favorite song." Mary was stunned: she had never associated the song with Beth. They later learned that at the exact time Mary had been humming, Beth's family had been holding a private memorial for her.
"Synchronicity seems to happen when you’re intensely caught up in something that’s very deep -- for instance, falling in love makes it pop up all over the place," says Combs. "A lot of activities that tap into the deep mystery of life - things like meditation and contemplative prayer - also seem to stir it up."
Synchronicities are sometimes regarded as signs, and some people consciously use them to make decisions in life. In the novel The Celestine Prophecy, a bestseller which thrust synchronicity into the public consciousness, James Redfield says that all coincidences are significant because they point the way to an unfolding of our personal destiny.
MaryAnn had moved to London to live with her boyfriend, only to discover that she hated the city and that he had a nasty streak. One morning at 6 a.m., after a tearful fight with him, she fled the house and was out walking the dank, grey streets, feeling completely miserable. Suddenly a dead bird fell out of the sky and landed at her feet with a plop. "That did it," she says. "It was a sign from the Universe and it was shouting, 'Go home!' And I did."
Often synchronicities are simply a lark, a wink from the cosmos. Rebecca, a screenwriter, was researching the life of a mysterious woman, a famous writer's lover who had died tragically at a young age. Driving to Boston to view the writer's archives, Rebecca on a whim stopped off at the sprawling cemetery in the woman's home town, and quickly chanced upon her gravestone. On top of it was sitting a rabbit, its pink nose quivering. At the sight of Rebecca, it started skittering around in circles. In Boston a few hours later, she was reading through the writer's diaries when in the margin of a page, she came upon a few lines of curlicue, schoolgirlish handwriting, which she recognized as being the young woman's. The words? "Thank God for the rabbits and their funny little habits."