The Place of Synchronicity in an extended Cosmology
I’ll start with an anecdote told to me by a friend, an example of the little synchronicities that happen in everyday life: ‘My cousin's father had died in Paris, so I booked Eurostar to go to the funeral which was on the coming Monday. I was given a seat in a set of four where three other women all strangers were sitting. One woman, traveling alone, told us that a relative had died in Paris and she was going to the funeral which was on Monday. The two other women, traveling together, said a relative of theirs had also died, and they were also going to the funeral in Paris on Monday. Four people, three funerals - all on the same day - and the train company had booked us in four seats together!’ Well what do we make of that? David Peat calls synchronicities ‘wake-up calls’ because they pull us up in our tracks. It’s as if we’ve noticed a little flaw in the fabric of space and time.
There’s no cause and effect at work in this example; rather it’s a case of subject matter on the mental level being reflected in a situation on the physical level. So could there be another connecting principle, besides cause and effect, at work in the universe? Jung thought so, and coined the word synchronicity for it. He’d kept a log-book of the coincidences that occurred in his life, and in 1955 he published his findings in a work called Synchronicity: an A-causal Connecting Principle, where he announced he’d discovered a new law that was able to explain meaningful coincidences.
It had taken him over 20 years to crystallize his thoughts on the subject, because there were some big questions at stake – the nature of reality and of consciousness itself. Our common experience is that we live in two parallel worlds – the material world out there and the immaterial one in our heads. And since the 17th century, when Descartes divided matter from mind once and for all, so he thought, we’ve believed in an unbridgeable gap between them. However when we experience a synchronicity the separation between the inner and outer worlds breaks down. When investigating this phenomenon, Jung had to think outside the box of his cultural conditioning. And he was helped there by his conversations with the sub-atomic physicist Wolfgang Pauli. Jung was puzzled by the strong experiencies of synchronicity he’d had while experimenting with the I Ching – the Chinese oracle.
He’d found that the way the coins fell always pointed to texts in the book that were relevant to his current concerns, and decided this coincidence of psychic process and objective incident couldn’t be explained by the law of cause and effect. Pauli spoke of matter having a ground where space and time, and with them cause and effect fell away. And to Jung the quantum level, as it was described to him, sounded very like the unconscious substrate of the collective mind in his depth psychology. There were parallels between Pauli’s description of the loops of active information within the quantum flow that organize the elementary particles, and Jung’s formative patterns in the collective unconscious that he called archetypes. And the two concluded that perhaps they were approaching the same thing from different angles. Also Pauli remarked to Jung that the flow of waves and particles on the quantum level appeared to him much more like the workings of a great mind than like anything material – which is a mind-blowing idea when you think of it, because it implies that, when physicists observe quantum waves collapsing into particles, what they are in fact seeing are thoughts crystallizing in a giant mind! So, could the relationship between the two worlds be like the relationship between quantum waves and elementary particles? Did the main difference lie in the mind being wave-like, and thus existing in a space of probabilities, whereas things in the realm of matter are positioned in space and time?
Figure 2 shows three levels of reality: the outer material world, level A, the inner subjective world, level B, and the quantum level or collective unconscious, level C, their common source. To use the language of David Bohm, forms unfold out of Level C, where they are implicate, to become explicate on Level B as thoughts, and on level A as material objects and events. Then they enfold back into Level C to become implicate again. In Bohm’s ‘implicate order’ ( Level C) are found the ‘symmetries’ which contain the information that patterns the contents of our minds on Level B, and structures the forms of the natural world on Level A. So, to return to Eurostar, the theme of a death in the family unfolded in the inner worlds of the women as their thoughts around attending a funeral, and in the objective world it brought them together in the seating on the train. So were there four separate minds in that Eurostar compartment, or were they sharing the thoughts of a greater mind? In my view synchronicities like these happen because our personal minds are tributaries of the great river of a cosmic mind, that’s ever active throughout creation. And if this great mind is responsible for bringing forth both our inner lives (Level B) and our outer circumstances (Level A), it would be natural to experience outer events that correspond to our inner preoccupations. Figure 3. This nested hierarchy shows 3 hypothetical levels of mind in the cosmos. The greater levels in a nested hierarchy permeate the lesser, thus the individual mind, while being an autonomous whole in its own right, is infused by the contents of the collective and cosmic minds in which it’s embedded. The 3 levels in this diagram should also be understood as levels of consciousness. As there’s a top-down flow of meaning in the cosmos, the full sense of any single human experience can only be understood in the context of the larger more global patterns of meaning in which it’s contained. In addition to nested hierarchies, systems science also introduced us to the concept of fractal correspondence. Figure 4 In the Hermetic books it’s written ‘the human mind is an image of the Supreme Mind’, while the Biblical verse that says man is made in the image of God is in the same vein, both meaning ‘man is a fractal of the whole.’ Thus the patterns of thought in the great cosmic mind are reflected in the thought processes of tiny human minds. And this has great explanatory power, not only for our understanding of synchronicity but also of how astrology works, whose complex edifice balances on the synchronicities. A discovery in modern physics of the so-called ‘observer effect.’ blurred the separation between the inner and outer worlds. This proved that the mind of the scientist carrying out an experiment influences its outcome. Together with the double slit experiment, which pointed to an observing consciousness being necessary for elementary particles to form, it shook the foundations of empirical science by questioning the objectivity of the facts that it produced. In recent decades scientific proof has also been emerging of the power of the human mind to influence the material world, for example from the PEAR laboratory in the USA, which was set up to investigate para-normal phenomena.
The many trials carried out there using random event generators, REGs, which perform electronically the same function as flipping a coin, conclusively demonstrated that participants with strong intentions had the power to change the REG’s naturally random behaviour to a statistically significant degree. So, if the mind can influence matter, perhaps the slogan bandied about in new-age circles that we ‘create our own reality’ is true after all. And perhaps we also create our own synchronicities. One characteristic all strong experiences of synchronicity have in common is the feeling of the person who experiences them that they contain a personal message. Jung would investigate the synchronicities that happened during sessions with his clients to uncover their symbolic significance. It was his view that meaning is not found in the facts themselves but in the links between them. The meaning of an experience therefore lies in the wider collective patterns of significance with which it resonates. Jung proposed that, just as the outer physical world is governed by laws of nature, so the inner world of the psyche has its structuring principles - the archetypes. They give a ‘thematic predisposition and organization to human experience by creating a complete spectrum of meaning’. At first he located them in the collective human psyche, but later referred to them as structuring principles of meaning in the cosmos as a whole. In other words he was suggesting there’s objective meaning in the universe. Synchronicity is a phenomenon of consciousness, and the conception of a cosmic mind goes together with that of a conscious cosmos. I support the view that there’s only one consciousness, which underpins the universe and is the most fundamental property of life. In the beginning was consciousness. And, if this is the case, as a corollary, the cosmos must contain value and meaning, because consciousness and meaning belong together.
Astrology is a doorway into the dimension of cosmic meaning. It identifies 12 formative Ideas or archetypes within the cosmic mind, which it represents by the zodiac symbols. These archetypes are the creators and maintainers of the cosmos (Figure 5) Quantitatively they give a cyclic structure to our experience in the space-time world, and qualititatively they offer a system of cosmic meaning which is represented in the zodiac matrix Figure 6 Just as in our minds we experience ideas generating trains of associated thoughts, so in the cosmic mind a field of associated ideas emanates from each archetype. These manifests on all levels of creation, forming what the ancients called the ‘great chain of being’ whose categories cover the natural phenomena of the physical world, and the varieties of human outer and inner experience. Figure 7 is a diagram of the archetypal ideas in the Aries field from my book ‘Inside the Cosmic Mind,’ which also includes diagrams of the archetypal fields of all twelve astrological categories.
Once we’re familiar with the archetypal fields of these twelve core Ideas, a huge range of life’s experiences can be understood within their contexts. Astrology is based on synchronicity between the cosmic patterns symbolized by the planets in the sky, and human personal and collective behavior which Jung described as ‘a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective states of the observer’. Synchronicity in the context of astrology reveals the broad framework of meaning in which human life at any time is manifesting. And, as an astrologer, I experience daily how amazing the synchronicity can be between the themes symbolized by the changing configurations of the sky and the events happening on earth. And each time I identify the patterning of the archetypal ideas symbolized in a birth chart, and accurately describe how it plays out in its owner’s life, I give proof of synchronicity. Whereas when astrologers such as Richard Tarnas suggest how the archetypal qualities of a planetary configuration such as the present Uranus Pluto square, could manifest, and then see the events they described making news headlines, for example in the 2011 Arab Spring and the revolutionary wars that have followed, they prove that the ancient law of ‘as above so below’ still has validity. (Figure) Thus astrology gives us an overview of the patterns of archetypal meaning pervading the cosmos, and offers us a model of an integrated inner-outer cosmology. It thrived in the past in cultures with world-views in which no essential distinction between mind and matter was made, for example in ancient China which produced the I Ching. For the Chinese the world was not structured by cause and effect, but as David Peat puts it, through clusterings, coincidences and correspondences. And, rather than seeing history as chains of cause and effect, they was it as ‘an account of things that like to happen together.’ Thus synchronicities were not only expected to happen, they were welcomed as they offered insights into the patterns of meaning the whole was weaving.
I’ve produced an oracle book that in its modest way fulfils the same role as the I Ching, and also contains a vast array of meaning based on astrology as its organizing system. I have a prototype with me this weekend, and invite you in your spare moments to test synchronicity by throwing a twelve-sided dice and receiving a message from the oracle.
Synchronicities often have an aura of numinosity as they point to our lives having a transcendental dimension. And, whether or not we believe in higher selves, caring ancestors or guardian angels, experiences of synchronicity can give us the feeling we’re being guided. If I had time I’d give you some examples of this type of mysterious coincidence, but you’ll have to wait for the book I’ve written on this subject to come out.
Finally, through opening a window into a timeless spaceless dimension, synchronicity gives us experiential proof that the gap between the two worlds is an illusion, and there is a world of greater meaning beyond. Figure Then, once the interconnectedness of things has been glimpsed, the sadness that accompanied our belief in our isolated separateness melts away. And our three-dimensional world becomes illuminated with intimations of a deeper coherence, of, as Wordsworth put it, ‘something far more deeply interfused…a motion and a spirit, that impels all thinking things, all objects of all thought, and rolls through all things.’