Synchronicity: Coincident Phenomena We Should Observe and Welcome

“Synchronicity” is an unfamiliar yet interesting concept that owes to a twentieth-century Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who defines it as “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.”[1] Such events are not causally related, but yet meaningfully connected and explain events that lie outside the boundaries of scientific inquiry. Amid a skeptical scientific world, Jung found a Nobel physicist Wolfgang Pauli to support his idea, which is why part of Pauli’s work provides an example of synchronicity that is referred to as the Pauli Effect.

Synchronicity is observed to take place in our day-to-day lives and dates back to time immemorial. Synchronicity’s significance is evident from the fact that it illustrates an aspect of humanity’s spiritual living. It is a Divine form in which events in human life are communicated, giving advance signals of what is going to happen. It thus plays some role in guiding humankind. Synchronicity comes into our awareness by way of dreams, visions, revelations, or intuitive feelings.

Jung himself has sought to use the concept to justify the paranormal. He thought that without this theory it was impossible “to explain ESP, or the fact of meaningful coincidence, as a phenomenon of energy.”

A well-cited example of synchronicity that Jung provides is a dream narrated by one of his woman patients while he was trying to treat her. She dreamed the night before that someone had given her a golden scarab (a costly piece of jewelry). At the time of therapy, Jung saw a golden insect tapping on the window; he opened the window and the insect, “whose gold-green color most nearly resembles that of a golden scarab,” flew into the room.

Another of Jung’s dreams was about the death of his wife’s cousin. He dreamed about this at 3 a.m., which was exactly the time the death of his wife’s cousin occurred. In his lifetime, he had many such prophetic dreams.

Such coincident phenomena are found to occur in the lives of many of us. One good example I could recount here is a dream of my wife. One night she dreamed that our youngest daughter had fallen from a roof. The next morning she saw a girl of the neighboring house falling from the roof of their house. Our eldest daughter once dreamed that she was walking through an entrance and saw beggars lined up against a wall. Later she visited a holy shrine and saw the same scene and was amazed. I have also had similar experiences. After I had submitted my Ph.D. dissertation and appeared at an examination, I saw in a dream that a nice, gentle breeze blew over me and I felt exceptionally good. That signaled a momentous moment in my life when I successfully fulfilled all the requirements for my Ph. D. degree.

Scriptural anecdotes also provide interesting examples of synchronicity. A well-known example provided by the Quran is a dream of the Prophet Joseph during his young age. He saw in his dream that eleven stars and the sun and the moon prostrate before him (12:4). In his later life, when he became the treasurer of the Egyptian government, he had a family reunion when all members of his family fell down prostrating before him (12:100), thus fulfilling his earlier dream. Joseph was a good interpreter of dreams (12:37). The Quran recounts two men’s dreams that were interpreted by him (12:36, 41). Dreams like these illustrate that they are couched in symbolic or metaphorical forms, which is the usual Divine language.

The Quran provides another good example of synchronicity. It states that God sent Moses’ mother a message (wahy) that she put her infant child into a chest and throw it over a river (20:39). That way the infant was saved from Pharaoh’s brutal hands (At that time, Pharaoh gave a direction that all male infants in the kingdom be killed); in fact, he fell into their hands but they liked him and could not kill him. Moses was thus raised in his enemy’s family.

Most people may not notice or carefully observe such coincident events when they occur. That may, in part, be because it is difficult to interpret dreams, which most often appear in metaphors. It may also be because many such events may not actually have any significance as examples of synchronicity. When, however, synchronicities of significance do occur in our lives, we should carefully observe them and welcome them as part and parcel of our spiritual living.

[1] Jung also used other terms to define synchronicity: “acausal connecting principle,” “meaningful coincidence”, and “acausal parallelism.” He thought that the principle of synchronicity gave conclusive evidence for his other two concepts, namely, “archetypes” and “the collective unconscious.”

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