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Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner. To count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance.

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 subconscious influence, not every correlation in the grouping of events by meaning needs to have an explanation in terms of cause and effect.

Description

picture of the concept of synchronicity by CG 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.

Synchronistic events reveal an underlying pattern, a conceptual framework that encompasses, but is larger than, any of the systems that display the synchronicity. The suggestion of a larger framework is essential to satisfy the definition of synchronicity as originally developed by Swissmarker psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.

Jung coined the word to describe what he called "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events." Jung variously described synchronicity as an "acausal connecting principle", "meaningful coincidence" and "acausal parallelism". Jung introduced the concept as early as the 1920s but only gave a full statement of it in 1951 in an Eranos lecture and in 1952, published a paper, Synchronicity — An Acausal Connecting Principle, in a volume with a related study by the physicist (and Nobel laureate) Wolfgang Pauli.

It was a principle that Jung felt gave conclusive evidence for his concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious, in that it was descriptive of a governing dynamic that underlies the whole of human experience and history—social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Concurrent events that first appear to be coincidental but later turn out to be causally related are termed incoincident.

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.

One of Jung's favourite quotes on synchronicity was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, in which the White Queen says to Alice: "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards".

Examples

The French writer Émile Deschamps claims in his memoirs that in 1805, he was treated to some plum pudding by a stranger named Monsieur de Fontgibu. Ten years later, the writer encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Parismarker restaurant and wanted to order some, but the waiter told him that the last dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be de Fontgibu. Many years later, in 1832, Émile Deschamps was at a diner and was once again ordered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier incident and told his friends that only de Fontgibu was missing to make the setting complete—and in the same instant, the now senile de Fontgibu entered the room.

In his book Synchronicity (1952), Jung tells the following story as an example of a synchronistic event: "A young woman I was treating had, at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me this dream, I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the window-pane from the outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), which, contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt the urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment. I must admit that nothing like it ever happened to me before or since."

The wardrobe department for The Wizard of Oz unknowingly purchased a coat for character Professor Marvel from a second-hand store, which was later verified to have originally been owned by L. Frank Baum, the author of the novel on which the film was based.

The comic strip character Dennis The Menace featuring a young boy in a red and black striped shirt debuted on March 12, 1951 in 16 newspapers in the United States. Three days later in the UK a character called Dennis The Menace, wearing a red and black striped jumper made his debut in children's comic The Beano. Both creators have denied any causal connection.

Jung wrote, after describing some examples, "When coincidences pile up in this way, one cannot help being impressed by them—for the greater the number of terms in such a series, or the more unusual its character, the more improbable it becomes."

Criticisms and possible scientific explanations

Among some psychologists Jung's works such as The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche were received as problematic. In Fritz Levi's 1952 review in Neue Schweizer Rundschau he critiqued Jung's theory of synchronicity as vague in determinability of synchronistic events, that Jung never specifically explained his rejection of "magic causality" to which such an acausal principle as synchronicity would be related and also questioned the theory's usefulness.

A possible explanation for Jung's perception that the laws of probability seemed to be violated with some coincidences can be seen in Littlewood's law.

In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions and avoids information and interpretations that contradict prior beliefs. It is a type of cognitive bias and represents an error of inductive inference, or as a form of selection bias toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study or disconfirmation of an alternative hypothesis. Confirmation bias is of interest in the teaching of critical thinking, as the skill is misused if rigorous critical scrutiny is applied only to evidence challenging a preconceived idea but not to evidence supporting it.

Wolfgang Pauli, a scientist who in his professional life was severely critical of confirmation bias, made some effort to investigate the phenomenon, coauthoring a paper with Jung on the subject. Some of the evidence that Pauli cited was that ideas that occurred in his dreams would have synchronous analogs in later correspondence with distant collaborators.

It has been asserted that Jung's analytical psychological theory of synchronicity is equal to intellectual intuition.

In popular culture

Film

In the 1976 WWII film The Eagle Has Landed, set during 1943, the character Max Radl (Robert Duvall) asks a subordinate if he is familiar with the works of Jung and then explains the theory of synchronicity. This is an unintended prochronism, as Jung did not lecture or publish on the issue until 1951, and Max Radl explicitly mentions synchronicity appearing in "the works of Jung".

In the 1984 film Repo Man, Miller's "Plate 'o' Shrimp" theoryFrom the wikiquote page on Repo Man:
A lot o' people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch o' unconnected incidents 'n things. They don't realize that there's this, like, lattice o' coincidence that lays on top o' everything. Give you an example; show you what I mean: suppose you're thinkin' about a plate o' shrimp. Suddenly someone'll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o' shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin' for one, either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.
outlines the idea of synchronicity. The Miller character states that while many people see life as a series of unconnected incidents, he believes that there is a "lattice o[f] coincidence that lays on top o[f] everything" that is "part of a cosmic unconsciousness."

Other media

Writer and iconoclast Charles Hoy Fort mentioned synchronistic situations in his books (Book of the Damned, Lo!, New Lands, Wild Talents). New Lands (1923) tells of a woman who lost her ring in a nearby lake only to recover it years later inside a fish she bought at a local market. He also wrote about the butterfly effect years before Edward Lorenz, the American mathematician, coined the term (although the effect had been described in earlier works).

In the 1983 release Synchronicity by The Police (A&M Records), bassist Sting is reading a copy of Jung's Synchronicity on the front cover along with a negative/superimposed image of the actual text of the synchronicity hypothesis. A photo on the back cover also shows a close-up, but mirrored and upside-down, image of the book. There are two songs, titled "Synchronicity I" and "Synchronicity II" included in the album.

The Dirk Gently series of books by Douglas Adams often plays on the synchronicity concept. The main character carries a "pocket I Ching" that also functions as a calculator, up to a point. In Philip K. Dick's The Game-Players of Titan, several characters possessing pre-cognitive abilities cite the acausal principle of synchronicity as an element that hampers their ability to predict certain possible futures accurately.

In 2002, manga author Itagaki Keisuke based one of the story arcs of Baki The Search Of Our Strongest Hero on the synchronicity theme, presenting a story in which five death row inmates escaped at the same time, in different countries, each after surviving his own execution. Each inmate went back to Japan at the same time to meet in the same place for the same objective.

Heavy metal band Blaze, led by Blaze Bayley, released an album entitled Tenth Dimension. The overall concept of the record is based on Jung's work and the title song features the concept of synchronicity heavily.

See also



Notes

  1. Casement, Ann, "Who Owns Jung?", Karnac Books, 2007. ISBN 1855754037. Cf. page 25.
  2. Jung defined the collective unconscious as akin to instincts in Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious.
  3. In Synchronicity in the final two pages of the Conclusion, Jung stated that not all coincidences are meaningful and further explained the creative causes of this phenomenon.
  4. lecture notes, Jung Foundation, New York City, 1980s.
  5. Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll, Ch. 5, Wool and Water.
  6. Emile Deschamps, Oeuvres completes : Tomes I - VI, Reimpr. de l'ed. de Paris 1872 - '74
  7. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, paragraph 843, Princeton University Press Edition.
  8. C. G. Jung Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal, p. 91
  9. Jung On Synchronicity and the Paranormal p.91
  10. Tim van Gelder, "Heads I win, tails you lose": A Foray Into the Psychology of Philosophy
  11. RealityShifters | Synchronicity
  12. Bishop, pp 17-20.


References and further reading

  • Robert Aziz, C.G. Jung's Psychology of Religion and Synchronicity (1990), currently in its 10th printing, is a refereed publication of The State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-0166-9.
  • Robert Aziz, "Synchronicity and the Transformation of the Ethical in Jungian Psychology" in Carl B. Becker, ed. Asian and Jungian Views of Ethics. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999. ISBN 0-313-30452-1.
  • Robert Aziz, The Syndetic Paradigm: The Untrodden Path Beyond Freud and Jung (2007), a refereed publication of The State University of New York Press ISBN 13:978-0-7914-6982-8.
  • Elisabeth Mardorf, Das kann doch kein Zufall sein [22484]
  • Note especially the foreword by Carl Jung. (The I Ching is a type of oracle, or synchronicity computer, used for divination.)
  • Monsier de Fontgibu and the plum pudding in Echoes from the Harp of France, by Harriet Mary Carey, 1869, p. 174


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