yes, therapy helps!
Synchronicity: the science behind significant coincidences

Synchronicity: the science behind significant coincidences

May 9, 2024

To see the world in a grain of sand, And the sky in a wild flower, It covers the infinite in the palm of your hand And the eternity in an hour.

-William Blake

Some clues about synchronicity or significant coincidences

We have all experienced coincidences of facts to which we tend not to give more importance than that of a striking curiosity . We are thinking about someone and, just at that moment, we received a call from him; we remember a person that we have not had in mind for a long time and we find it later in the street, or a song on the radio that is very related to something that happens at that moment. Some people narrate experiences that may seem even more amazing to us, such as dreaming of events that happen later or perceiving in the distance an accident or the death of someone close to us.

From an eminently rational perspective, these facts are a matter of chance , coincidences that should not be given more importance than they have. On the other hand, extraordinary events are considered inventions of people who want to call attention or erroneous interpretations of objective facts.

However, the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung saw, in the occurrences of highly unlikely events, the expression of a phenomenon that deserved to be studied with rigor . In this sense, he coined the term synchronicity, which he defined as the simultaneous presentation of two facts that are not linked by a relationship of cause and effect, but by their meaning.

What does Jung's synchronicity consist of?

The development of the concept of synchronicity arises from the collaboration between Carl Gustav Jung Y Wolfgang Pauli , a Nobel prize in physics and one of the fathers of quantum mechanics. It is therefore a concept in which approaches of physics and psychology converge. The collaboration of these authors was reflected in 1952 with the publication of the joint book Synchronicity as a principle of acausal connections. In this book, synchronicity is considered as a key element for the understanding of the relationship between the psyche and matter.

Jung describes three categories of synchronicity : the first one shows the coincidence between a mental content (thought, feeling, a dream) and an external event (a call is received from someone who was thinking about it). The second is the coincidence between an internal vision and an event that happens far away (dreaming of an accident or the death of a person that happens in reality). The third is to have an image of something that subsequently happens in the future. It is emphasized that the images on which synchronicity is based are not necessarily presented literally but can be expressed in a symbolic way.

Rational thinking does not accept this type of phenomena, so when developing the concept of synchronicity, Jung uses what is usually called oriental thought . This type of thinking is related to what we usually refer to when we talk about intuition.

Western thinking vs. oriental thought

The rational, mechanistic and materialist thought on which the Western world view is based on illustration, and which is the basis of our beliefs, presupposes the linearity of time and the causality of phenomena.

From this paradigm, science questions the cause of phenomena with the intention of controlling and predicting events . In his methodology it is essential to build models and abstractions based on statistical generalities. The isolated cases, those that go out of the norm, as it is the case of the synchronicities, are inapprehensible from a statistical approximation, therefore they are not contemplated by the science, nor by our system of beliefs constructed under the same logic and influence.

However, this has not been the predominant way of thinking in the history of humanity, nor is it even today in diverse cultural contexts. Jung considered that the synchronicity was a coherent phenomenon with oriental cosmovisions, like the Chinese from where the Taoism or the cosmovisions of the millenarian India emerged, which have a conception of time and space different from ours.

The oriental thought , in which it is also necessary to include many of the indigenous worldviews, considers that all the elements of the universe are linked together forming a unit. Concrete reality, that is, what we observe, is considered an illusory manifestation of an underlying principle. Each element of the universe is considered as a reflection of something superior that encompasses it.The universe is seen as a great organism in which each element that composes it is intrinsically interrelated and at the same time it is a mirror of it. The individual is thus considered a microcosm that reflects the dynamics of the macrocosm, of the entire universe .

From the logic of a universe seen as a whole, composed of interdependent elements, operating under the influence of an underlying principle, when an event happens the natural questioning would not be about its origin or cause, as we usually do, but about what other events can occur simultaneously.

From the Eastern perspective it is understood that every moment in the universe possesses a particular quality, with which r all elements are synchronously synchronized . This type of logic would be the sustenance of astrology or oracles. At the moment of the birth of an individual, the stars are in a certain position and symbolically there is a record of it in each person, which is conditioned by it.

In the same way, when consulting an oracle, the tarot cards, the signs of the shell of the turtle etc., are not presented in a random way, but correspond to the particular moment and situation from which the questioning emerges; and because of this relationship, a symbolic meaning can be given to each of these events. In this scheme, synchronicity would be that phenomenon that would allow understanding that nexus between the questioning of the consultant and the composition of the elements of the oracle.

The symbolic dimension in synchronicity

Jung highlights how In Oriental thought, numbers, in addition to their quantitative function, are given a qualitative and symbolic dimension . To exemplify the above, it tells a short story of the Chinese tradition about the history of a kingdom that had to decide to enter or not enter into war. As there was no consensus, the council of wise men conducted a vote; the result was 3 votes in favor and 5 against. However, the king decided to go to war because the 3 was the number of unanimity. Numbers, like synchronicity, are considered as intermediaries between the everyday world and the spiritual world.

The conception that there is a unifying principle in the universe, a strange force that is the origin and driving force of everything, and that provides harmony and structure in chaos, has been present in various philosophies and worldviews. This unifying principle has been called Tao, Logos, Sense and with similar characteristics is the foundation of the main Eastern religions such as Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zen. Although it has been given different names, all these descriptions hold that reality, that is, the concrete and observable elements, as well as our dual abstractions, are the external manifestation of the One. The history of the universe and humanity would be a display of the different aspects of this unifying principle.

It is also considered that the different cycles and rhythms present in nature are an expression of this underlying principle . For oriental thought, time does not pass in a linear way but circular, the image of the spiral, like that of the conch shell. Thus, time has been considered as an expression of the eternal cycles of birth, death and regeneration. These cycles are present in nature, in the history of peoples and in individuals.

Many of the models and conceptions of Eastern mysticism that have accompanied humanity for thousands of years began to have resonances and parallels with the descriptions of the composition and dynamics of matter, provided by the physicists precursors of quantum mechanics around 1920. Jung he noticed those parallels and saw it as an opportunity to give argument strength to his observations and intuitions about synchronicity . Therefore, he decided to delve into those studies, exchanging correspondence, ideas and findings with several of the physicists precursors of quantum mechanics, including Albert Einstein and Wolfang Pauli.

Quantum physics, oriental thought and synchronicity

The quantum mechanics is that branch of physics that is responsible for describing the behavior of subatomic particles, that is, the smallest parts of which the universe is composed.

A confusion similar to what we can experience when we experience a powerful synchronicity, that is to say, that our rational and structured point of view falters, was what the physicists lived at the beginning of the last century, when they began to discover the strange, or even magical, way , in which subatomic matter behaves.

The very Albert Einstein, who with his theory of relativity revolutionized science and was a precursor of quantum physics, spent the last 20 years of his life trying to show the inconsistencies of quantum theory, since it seemed incredible to him that the world worked so singularly . Subsequent studies showed that, at the subatomic level, the world behaves largely in an unpredictable and paradoxical way, strongly questioning our common sense.

Experimentally it has been verified that if one of the particles is affected the other one is altered in a synchronic way. If, as it seems, all the elements that make up the universe, including ourselves, are the result of a great explosion of a very dense mass, it can be inferred that at the subatomic level we continue to maintain a link with the entire universe.

Similarities with oriental thought

The relationship between quantum physics and Eastern cosmology is a complex and controversial subject.

It is well known that subatomic particles can sometimes behave as waves and in others as particles. Perhaps the most surprising for our Cartesian mentality are the experimental results in which it is evident that an atom can be and not be in a place, or be in two places at once. Also, it can turn in one direction and at the same time in the opposite direction. All this recalls the world of mystery that both Jung and the mystics speak of when referring to the unifying principle and its manifestations.

The physicist David Bohm postulates that an implicate order, underlying the order deployed, works in the universe, reproducing the differences that Buddhism makes between the illusory world of maya and the unifying principle . The physicists also describe that a large part of the constitution of the matter we observe is empty, this being one of the aspects alluded to by the Tao.

Synchronicity, fractals and Unus Mundus

Spontaneously, nature forms certain geometric configurations which are present in the shape of the leaves, the spirals of the snails, in the caves, in the shape of the bones, the hurricanes. This kind of configuration patterns, also known as fractals, are sometimes considered as a manifestation in matter, of this underlying principle. Fractals or archetypal geometric forms are also present in some works of art and architecture.

The archetypal configurations besides being considered a manifestation of synchronicity, that is, of a link between the physical and psychic world, they can be an element that affects the aesthetic pleasure that both nature and art generate. Not a few people have experienced that the contemplation of nature, of a painting, or a sculpture, listening to a certain melody has given it something more than an aesthetic pleasure, and it has given them a sudden non-rational understanding of the interconnection of themselves with the rest of the elements of the universes.

This type of experience can also be considered as an expression of synchronicity, when our daily physical world is linked for instants with a transcendent and mysterious reality.

Jung resorts to the term Unus Mundus of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus to make reference to this unifying principle that is also somehow present in your concept of collective unconscious . The collective unconscious can be understood as that "soul of the world" from which emerge the symbolic patterns present in the mythologies of all peoples, and which, like fractals, tend to configure, not forms but typical modes of action. The so-called archetypes of the collective unconscious. Synchronicity for Jung can be a manifestation of a constellated archetype, a way in which the collective soul affects our life, promoting some experience, some perspective.

For Jung synchronistic phenomena were related to moments of great affectivity. That is why, he says, they tend to occur in moments of transition such as death, falling in love, travel, situations in which we are in contradiction in ourselves or in a dilemma before a fundamental decision. They can also be catalyzed by exalted affectivity in a psychotherapy, and in altered states of consciousness, generated by natural or chemical elements.

Some people are often more likely to experience synchronicities or be aware of them, but sometimes present in skeptical and predominantly rational people, opening their perspective and sensitivity to a symbolic dimension of life .

For Jung, synchronicities could also be part of collective life, as when scientists without maintaining any exchange of information make discoveries simultaneously, being the most recognized case, the postulation almost parallel of the theory of evolution by Darwin and Wallace .

Synchronicity and the "power of the mind": the rainmaker

Positive thinking and visualizations (through the imagination) can be effective for achieving specific objectives in some people . However, neither quantum physics nor synchronicity are in themselves scientific arguments in favor of what is often described as "the power of the mind to create realities", "to believe is to create" and things like that, that keep more relationship with an omnipotent child thought that with science. The power of prayer and good energies, on the other hand, still remain in the respectable terrain of beliefs and Faith.

Quantum physics has evidenced the participation of the subject in the physical reality observed at the micro physical level, and an interaction of the physical and psychic realm, but it does not follow that this incidence could be manipulated by the subjects to obtain manifestations in the reality. In the field of the micro physics, quantum logic works, but in our observable world, Newtonian physics continues to function and large dimensions are conducted through the logic of Einstein's relativity. These logics are related but can not be extrapolated. Physics is still in search of a unified theory that integrates and accounts for different areas.

On the other hand, synchronicity, as well as the Tao, refers to complex, paradoxical, impossible to reduce phrases and recipes of personal growth manual . In any case, they move away from the logic of control, domain, entrepreneurship and progress with which visualizations are usually related to the achievement of objectives. The logic of synchronicity is closer to letting happen, to resonate and flow with this underlying principle, and is usually expressed in a better way through poetic and literary images.

The following story of the Chinese tradition was Jung's favorite to convey the essence of synchronicity and Tao.

The rainmaker

In a certain Chinese village it had not rained for several weeks, so a rain maker . When the old man arrived, he went straight to the house they had prepared for him and stayed there without performing any ceremony until the rain came on the third day. When asked how he had done it, he explained that when he arrived in the village, he had realized the absence of a state of harmony, in such a way that the cycles of nature were not functioning properly.

As this state of disharmony had also affected him, he retreated to reestablish his equilibrium, and when this equilibrium was restored according to the natural pattern, the rain fell.

Bibliographic references:

  • Bolen, Jean Shinoda. The Tao of psychology. Barcelona: Kairós, 2005.
  • Capra, Fritjof The Tao of physics. Malaga: Sirius, 1995.
  • Franz, Marie-Luise von On divination and synchronicity: the psychology of significant coincidences. Barcelona: Paidós, 1999.
  • Jung, C. G. The interpretation of nature and the psyche: synchronicity as a principle of acausal connection. Barcelona: Edicones Paidós, 1991.
  • Peat, F. David. Synchronicity: bridge between mind and matter. Barcelona: Kairós, 1989


Similar Articles