Author Topic: Elementary thoughts on synchronicity  (Read 3864 times)

flowerbells

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Elementary thoughts on synchronicity
« on: August 11, 2012, 12:30:38 PM »
Sealchan and Matt had a discussion last year on synchronicity, Jung's views in particular, where they spoke in erudite language and terms.  I could write that way in the past, but have chosen to hone my lay language skills.  I certainly do not have any objections to academic writing, it's just tough for me to read and understand it these days.  Hence, starting a new discussion on synchronicity.  I'm sure that Matt and Sealchan are way past me in this vein, but here goes.

All my life I've had synchronous or people-identifying experiences.  I never thought much about it, it just "was."  When I was in high school, I could look across the football field into the full stands on the other side and easily find the boy I had a mad crush on.  When I was in grade school, I, and most of the kids I think, could instantly identify the child inside any Halloween costume.  It used to puzzle me that, on those occasions when the Lone Ranger took on a disguise (on the radio)  -- once as an old man, as I recall -- he was not recognized.

By the time I was in college and for some years afterwards, people I knew would come into my life in places sometimes thousands of miles away.  A girl who sat behind me in choir showed up at the Vienna Opera House.  The president of the student body at my college in Iowa showed up a few years later on a dark highway in Marin  County, California. He gave us a life home when our car broke down.  He didn't look as I remembered -- he had longer hair and was smoking pot -- but turned around in the driver's seat and confronted me right in the face, saying "DO...YOU....KNOW...ME..?  It was amazing.

My first husband and I agreed that we were in the same "karass" -- a fictional synchronicity doctrine invented by Kurt Vonnegut in Cat's Cradle.  We "knew" that if we said, "I'll meet you in Paris next Monday (etc, no other information)" we would most definitely find each other.  As a matter of fact, 10 years after our divorce, I happened to return to San Francisco from Hunboldt County, Calif.  I was walking down Market Street in the early morning, planning to get a temp job at Manpower, Inc. (This was easy and fun in those good days.)  My plan also was to call my ex - in the evening after work.  In a few blocks, before reaching the Manpower office, there we were, walking toward each other on the Market Street sidewalk! 

Now, in my last decades, I have only to think about someone I have not seen for a while, and they show up in a few days. 

People have told me that I'm psychic, but I don't think so. I don't know what to think.

Marian

Matswin

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Re: Elementary thoughts on synchronicity
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2012, 07:37:57 AM »
Marian, Jung's notion of synchronicity is predicated on his monistic worldview. He thought that the outer world and the psyche have one common background, denoted unus mundus, in which the psychoid archetype resides (neither material nor psychic) . In the synchronistic event, the psychoid layer manifests itself in that the event is concurrently psychic and material. But people can seldom give any good examples of synchronistic events. Your examples would be easy for a skeptic to tear to pieces. The way in which you can pick out a person from afar depends on the human visual cortex, which is the most advanced in the world. They often give examples of animals that have superior vision, in that they can see more colours, have better darkness vision, etc. But the human vision is superior, because we have a better capacity to analyze what we see. If you know that he has a red sweater, then you can instantly pick out the relevant persons, and detect the person who has the right height, etc. This goes on largely unconsciously.

Nor is your example of the president of the student body very convincing. Since he has such a public position, very many people must know his face. So he is probably likely to bump into somebody who recognizes him in his future life, in another part of the country. In case of your former husband, you probably think about him now and then. In fact, I suspect people tend to think about former partners every day, at least for a short moment. Should they bump into him/her, then they tend to view  it as remarkable, since they had thought of this person today. But it's not remarkable, because they think of him/her every day. We tend to think of more peripheral people, too, especially if we lie awake at night. So it is not remarkable if we bump into them. Think of the many times that you have thought of certain people and *not* bumped into them. This is the normal state of things. So it must occur sooner or later, since we think of other people all the time, and pets we have owned. Especially if you return to the town where the person lives, then you are bound to think of him. The Vienna Opera House experience is curious, but such things are probably statistically bound to happen, perhaps once in a lifetime, or so.

So I think it is easy to dismiss your experiences as wholly natural. However, it is possible to argue that we have a sixth sense, that we can, to a degree, predict the future, and that we can sense the whereabouts of other people, etc. I think this is a more believable explanation of your experiences than the synchronistic explanation. I think that the psyche has capacities that we are unaware of, for instance, that the unconscious can catch glimpses of the future. But this has nothing to do with synchronicity.

Synchronistic events are supposed to happen when an archetype is constellated. An alternative explanation for the strange coincidences is the following. An archetype has psychic powers. Thus, it can coincide with an outer event on account of its predictive capacity. The archetype can unconsciously guide a person so that he bumps into another person, on account of the prophetical capacity of the unconscious, when an archetype is constellated. So it needn't depend on a natural force of synchronicity. It could depend on anticipation and other unconscious factors.

Jung always returned to the story of the Rainmaker http://www.psycheandnature.com/html/rainmaker_story.html . The story goes that the Rainmaker composed himself by way of a complentative effort. Hence, nature also went back to its natural order, and it started to rain. However, a meteorologist would say that a period of draught is naturally followed by a period of precipitation. The phenomenon could also be explained by the mental capacity of the wise old rainmaker. He is a spiritual man. This means that the archetype of the self is constellated. The constellation of the archetype gives him the capacity to foretell precipitation, unconsciously. So he just goes there and awaits what he imperceptibly knows will happen.

Jung's metaphysic of an unus mundus and its concomitant principle of synchronicity remains sheer metaphysical speculation. He thinks that the psyche has the same reality status as the outer world. So he achieves this by saying that there is a psychoid reality that underlies them both. It is a form of 'neutral monism'. However, alternatively, we could view the psyche as largely independent of matter, without them having a common ground. There is no need for a neutral metaphysical layer and a principle of synchronicity to postulate that the psyche is equally real as matter.

Perhaps synchronicity needs to be subjected to more criticism in the Jungian community. It seems that most Jungians simply swallow it, uncritically.

Mats Winther


flowerbells

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Re: Elementary thoughts on synchronicity
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2012, 08:30:26 AM »
Mats, thank you for your clear and interesting post.  But could you please explain constellation and monism?  I could look them up, but I'm wondering if Jung has a special meaning for those terms.

Marian

Matswin

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Re: Elementary thoughts on synchronicity
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2012, 12:10:02 PM »
An archetype is constellated when it has been energized for whatever reason, i.e. it shines stronger than other archetypes. It can occur spontaneously, via collective movements or religions, or via an effort of introversion. If a person focuses on God in his life, in contemplation, prayer, etc., then the self will supposedly constellate. It is being charged with energy thanks to the concentrative effort of mind.

"Monism is a point of view within metaphysics which argues that the variety of existing things in the universe are reducible to one substance or reality and therefore that the fundamental character of the universe is unity."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monism

"Neutral monism is a monistic metaphysics. It holds that ultimate reality is all of one kind. To this extent neutral monism is in agreement with idealism and materialism. What distinguishes neutral monism from its better known monistic rivals is the claim that the intrinsic nature of ultimate reality is neither mental nor physical."
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/neutral-monism/

Here is a qualified article on synchronicity by physics professor Victor Mansfield. He seems to think the notion is problematical. Evidently, he thinks that parapsychological explanations are sometimes preferable.
http://www.lightlink.com/vic/distinguishing.html

One difficulty is when Jung describes synchronistic events as very rare, while they derive from a constellation of archetypes. Still, Jung regarded the method of divination, known as I Ching, as building on synchronicity, and he himself experimented much with the yarrow stalks. But one cannot expect the archetypes of the collective unconscious to constellate just because one opens the book of I Ching. Therefore the notion of synchronicity seems hard to combine with divination practices.

Jung said that the beetle event is the most powerful synchronistic experience that he had experienced. "The woman patient who recited a dream she had had in which she was given a costly piece of jewelry, a golden scarab (beetle). While she was relating the dream Jung heard something tapping at the window from outside. Jung opened the window and in flew a scarbaeid beetle which he caught in his hand, its gold-green color resembling that of the golden scarab in the woman's dream. He handed the beetle to his patient and said, 'Here is your scarab.'" 
http://www.firstparishnorwell.org/sermons/scarab.htm

An alternative explanation for the beetle episode could be that the unconscious has a way of foreseeing the future. The reason why the patient dreamt about the beetle is because it would appear next day. This is an explanation according to the  parapsychological model.

Mats Winther




flowerbells

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Re: Elementary thoughts on synchronicity
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2012, 12:33:02 PM »
Hi, Mats, Thank you again for your clear message.

I had a similar experience to the beetle dream, only it was not a dream.  I have considered this, and the other events I wrote you about might be synchronicity. 

At one time, I thought I wanted to become a noise technician.  (I wanted to be anti-noise, but the only outlets for noise tech jobs seemed to be things like CH2MHill where they measured noise to see how much noise heavy construction sites could get away with, without breaking the law.  So I changed my mind about being a noise tech.)  Anyway, at that time I needed to get ahold of a copy of the Federal document from, I think, 1970, which outlined noise standards for the US.  It never became law, but is or was the definitive document on noise control.  It was large and very rare.  Copies were, according to the guy at CH2MHill almost impossible to get ahold of.

That same day or the day after I talked to the noise guy, I was at Kinko's next door to CH2MHill, waiting my turn to pay.  "When what to  my wondering eyes should appear....." but a copy of the Noise Standards document.  The man ahead of  me had it, and agreed to make me a copy then and there.

How would you account for that, if it isn't synchronicity?  I have also considered these incidents a sign that in some way I may be a psychic.

Marian

Matswin

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Re: Elementary thoughts on synchronicity
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2012, 01:21:44 PM »
That's impressive! Arguably, the reason why you got the idea of becoming a noise technician was that you had seen that guy in front of you, who had the document, ahead in time. That's when you got the idea. J.B. Priestley writes about such precognition phenomena in Man and Time.
http://www.amazon.com/Man-Time-J-B-Priestly/dp/051769042X

If it is a parapsychological phenomenon, rather than a synchronistic phenomenon, the you could be something of a psychic. In my youth I dreamt that two brown sparrows hatched in my apartment. Two days later a friend of mine called and told me a dream where he had visited my apartment. Two brown sparrows were flying around inside.

It is a remarkable example of parallel dreams. But the dream symbolized our newly born friendship, and we were both young fledglings. Our unconscious had chosen the same symbols independently, but there is likely parapsychology involved. In my dream, the sparrows soon flew out of the window. I had seen them hatch and then leave, but he only noted them flying around in the room. I don't see how synchronicity can account for parallel dreams, as the material world isn't involved.

Mats Winther
http://home7.swipnet.se/~w-73784/



flowerbells

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Re: Elementary thoughts on synchronicity
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2012, 01:41:07 PM »
Mats,
Quote
That's when you got the idea
  Not!  I had been working on getting a contract as a noise technician with CH2MHill for over a month.

What's parapsychological?  I mostly get the para- as in paralegal, but don't see how it fits with psycnological

Thanks for coming down to my level for a while...

Matswin

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Re: Elementary thoughts on synchronicity
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2012, 01:20:14 AM »
Aha, then in went like this. Since you had been wishing to procure this manual, the unconscious localized it in the near future, at the shop. So you were unconsciously drawn to it. This is why they say that prayer helps. The god of the unconscious involves himself in the difficulties, as it were. The unconscious can localize a person who has the same thing on his mind, and see to that the two persons meet.

This, at least, is an explanation. But synchronicity is not really an explanation. It is just a statement of just-so-ness, a mere statement of fact: a synchronistic event just occurred. Of course, it is really a metaphysical statement about the nature of the universe. It is like a huge impersonal spirit, metaphysically neutral, which can create coincidences in its offspring, matter and psyche.

Jung claims that the notion of synchronicity derives from the Chinese. The neutral spirit underlying existence would correspond to Tao. Tao means invisible divine order, permeating reality. It is malleable order, that is, it is not static order in the form of laws. Rather, Tao points out the right direction for the moment. So it is like an invisible gradient permeating reality, like a river without strands. According to Chinese thought, one should follow along with its flow. The wise person floats on the river, and he won't try to go in the other direction. All problems that mankind faces, including natural disasters, derives from people not going along with the flow of Tao.

So it is like an advanced pantheistic standpoint. If it's true that Jung's metaphysical worldview draws on Chinese Taoism and its notion of worldly events as contingent upon spiritual order, then Jung's system is really a form of modern pantheism. This satisfies the monistic criterion. The psychoid layer - an unconscious, impersonal and spiritual deity - constitutes the foundation for both psyche and matter. Thus, the world is one.

Mats Winther

flowerbells

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Re: Elementary thoughts on synchronicity
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2012, 09:44:30 AM »
Quote
Of course, it is really a metaphysical statement about the nature of the universe.

Mats, this is very exciting stuff.  Are you familiar with Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle?  In it, he has "created" (written about) a spoof religion called Bokononism, named after a guru figure named Bokonon.  Bokonon talks about the concept of the "karass," a made up word.  How a karass works is this.  If you keep seeing a person over and over in your wanderings around in life, this person -- whether you know them or not, whether you like them or not -- is in your karass.  There is also a duprass, which is two people who are the only ones in each other's karass.  Like, maybe, a very old married couple who do everything together. And then there is a false karass.  This is something like "the class of '93" or the example Vonnegut gives, "Hoosiers."  I have remembered this ever since I read Cat's Cradle in the 1960s.  It seems to be a weird
Quote
metaphysical statement about the nature of the universe.
Works for me in a comical way.
Marian