Scientists ask, “is Synchronicity a Reality?”
Have you experienced synchronicity yourself?
Probably all of us from time to time become aware of the strangest coincidences. We can hardly believe it has happened. They seem very meaningful. They have come at an important moment in our life. We have the feeling that they are saying something to us, although perhaps we can’t interpret it precisely. We are at an absolute loss to know how it happened. It can’t be chance we think, but how on earth….?
Carl Jung called such meaningful coincidences, “synchronicity”. Others might detect in them the hand of God, of Providence, or they may perceive guidance by the Holy Spirit. Whatever the language, such coincidences are seen as deeply meaningful, inexplicable and no smart talk about the statistical likelihood of strange happenings will dissuade us from seeing the meaning, the utter appropriateness of the event.
Sometimes we can have a string of synchronicities, and life takes on a dream-like quality. We may then think a little more deeply, and come up with a thought like “Are we and these events being dreamed up by - by a Mind that encloses all of us? Does this Mind dream ourselves up, as well as some of these strange events where we can trace no possible cause and effect?” And of course, that is the theory that makes sense to me, and why I name my book Into the Wider Dream.
If we have experienced sufficiently remarkable strings of synchronicities, we will find our feelings about life forever changed.
This is very apparent in the synchronicities that I relate in this book, that have been experienced by myself and a number of special friends of periods of many years..
Synchronicity: death, at the river Styx: or dead/not-dead
In 1985, my wife Gertrud and I had been thinking of building a retirement house by the seaside, near the river Styx. An appropriate place, I suppose, when you remember that the river Styx in classical mythology is what you cross when you die. Our particular and physical River Styx lies 13 kilometres north of Christchurch, New Zealand.
We set out one day to explore the area. It was quite some time before we got to the river, since I had driven us by a circuitous route from town, going in all sorts of directions. I think I was a little depressed at the thought of retiring, and the thought of death.
And then the synchronicity starts.
We shortly come to a pine plantation outside which there is a notice proclaiming “The Ultimate Game”. This is a new commercial venture where people stalk one another through the undergrowth in the trees, attempting to “kill” each other with dye pellets shot out of a gun. “How awful to play a death game like that” we exclaim. And drive on.
Within a minute, we see a policeman and a tow truck beside the River Styx. They are trying to haul out a car which had been driven into the river, and which is still mostly submerged under the water. We wonder whether or not the driver had been drowned. And we drive on.
It is dusk. Suddenly two ginger cats leap out of the shadows at the side of the road. I swerve the car sharply, but I have killed one of the cats, and there it lies twitching in the road. The other runs away. I am tempted to throw dead cat into the River Styx. I then think that I had better own up. I see a man working in a vegetable garden over the hedge. “Is this your cat?” Yes it is. The man is kind about it. We are sympathetic to each other; and are very upset. And we drive on.
Just a few minutes later, we are at our caravan at Brooklands Motor Camp. I am still upset. Gertrud is kind to me and tells me to sit down while she gets the evening meal. She goes into a separate camp kitchen, and immediately through the kitchen window comes a third ginger cat identical to the one I have just killed.
While this is going on, I am sitting in the caravan, and to distract myself pick up Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu-Li Masters: an Overview of the New Physics. I open the book at random, at a part I haven’t yet read. It is page 108. I read:
“‘Schrödinger’s Cat’ sums up the difference between classical physics and the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, and the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. ‘Schrödinger’s Cat’ is a dilemma posed long ago by the famous discoverer of the Schrödinger wave equation:
A cat is placed inside a box. Inside the box is a device, which can release a gas, instantly, killing the cat. A random event (the radio decay of an atom) determines whether the gas is released or not.
According to classical physics, the cat is either dead or it is not dead. The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics says that the cat is in a kind of limbo represented by a wave function which contains the possibility that the cat is dead, and also the possibility that the cat is alive.”
Then Gertrud brings in the meal, and tells me about the visit from this third (and alive) cat. The striking thing here for me is that while I am feeling bad about killing the cat, I am reading about a cat that was both dead and alive, and as I am doing this, Gertrud comes in telling me about the visit from the alive cat.
I continued to think about retirement and death to come, and there in the space of twenty minutes all these upsetting things happen, all about death, and not-death. The whole thing was feeling to me as if I were surrounded by the numinous, the meaningful, and the spiritual. But mixed with that was the feeling that I was experiencing a weird and unpleasant dream.
And one more thing: we read in the papers next day that someone found a human skeleton in a field just there by the Styx, that very afternoon.
In retrospect all that happened up to this point seemed to be a commentary on the death of an artist friend called Drew Peters. Drew was in hospital while we were at the camp, but as he was such a fit man, we had no fear that he would die. But while we were at the motor camp Gertrud had this dream that I report in her words: “Someone had died upstairs in the house that we were in. We did not understand who it was, or why he had died. But when I got upstairs I saw geometrical three-dimensional shapes of foam plastic, floating around the air in the room. In the dream I had an “aha!” experience, and in the dream I went to find Michael [that’s me] to say ‘Oh now I know, his death had to do with geometry.’ In the dream this made sense, but not when I awoke.”
On the morning after the dream we returned home where we could be reached by phone. It was a few hours later that a friend called Victor phoned to say that friend Drew had just died. Victor remarked that it was at least good that Drew had actually finished his book on ancient geometry.
We grieved for our friend, and went to see Lois with whom he lived, also a long-term friend of ours. From her we learned that two weeks before he died, he had dreamed that his car had broken down, never to go again, and that her car had driven up to him, and the doors of his broken down car were fitted to hers. (He had apparently been in good health at the time of his dream.) But now he had died suddenly of a brain embolism. And in their home I noted the furniture, the earthenware, the paintings that Drew had made… so much of him was surrounding her now, that it seemed as if he continued to be with her. It was the story of Schrödinger’s Cat once again, he was both dead and alive, and his apparently premonitory dream, seemed to foretell this.
It had been not long before his death that we had bought from him a fine oil painting entitled “Gethsemane”, which, like many of his paintings, could be interpreted as conveying the feeling “dead - not dead”. In the foreground were rotting pieces of wood, and moss, in the distance shafts of light shone through the trees. We had been tempted for instance to buy a companion painting, showing jagged and bleached tree stumps, with fresh new plants growing beside them.
So many events on a common theme packed into so short a time!
The death game, and the car being pulled out of the water are not meaningful in themselves, but when added to the number of deeply emotionally charged and meaningful events that follow, they are felt as part of a series that are felt as one event.
In brief: Much of the meaningful happenings is about the ambiguity “dead/not-dead”. To begin with we are thinking about retirement and death; but are not dead. We pass a place where people are playing a death game but nobody dies. We pass a place where a submerged car is being pulled out of the river. Has someone died? We don’t know. We kill a ginger cat, and in the camping ground see an identical cat, alive. Gertrud sees the living cat just when I am reading about a cat that is both dead and alive. Gertrud dreams that a friend (whose name she could not recall on awaking) has died, and that there are important geometrical shapes floating in the air. We then learn that a friend has in fact died, having completed his book about geometry (I believe it had to do with Masonic beliefs. My recollection is that we were unaware of this preoccupation of his.) Later we hear of a dream suggesting that although he has died, he is still present. There is also the actual skeleton discovered in that synchronistic area around the Styx river. Symbolically, a skeleton lying beside the Styx would imply a soul that has passed over and lives.
The above could just as well be an account of a dream. And an interpreter of the dream might well suggest that it is a dream about Eternal reality where there is actually no death.
Definitions of synchronicity.
Synchronicity has been defined as, “…the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance and that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.” It was first described in this way by Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychologist, in the 1920s. The phenomenon was seen as co-existing with the normal kind of cause and effect we see in everyday life. Jung called synchronistic events, “acausal”, or “non-causal”. He didn’t mean that there was no cause, but rather that no cause could be traced in physical reality. It could on the other hand, be traced in a higher level of reality.
We can trace no causal relationship between the deeply emotional happenings around the River Styx, on that day, but to me they are plainly linked around a common theme, and Gertrud’s dream about the death of Drew, seems to point to a higher level of reality that is bringing these events about.
We take such a level for granted when one consults Tarot cards, the Chinese I-Ching, or a fortune teller. In doing so one is testifying to a faith in a hidden reality, where Meaning governs the affairs of the world, and is beyond the reach of cause and effect.
Synchronistic events imply that a person is part of an orderly framework and is its focus, and to realize the truth of this, is more than just an intellectual exercise, but involves some kind of spiritual awakening. From the religious point of view these events seem to imply an “intervention of grace” - Jung saw synchronicity as shifting a person’s egocentric conscious thinking to embracing a greater wholeness.
Prior to the development of modern science, this faith in an overarching Meaning will have been the normal state of mind of much of humanity. Such a faith is certainly not absent in developed Western culture, but modern rationality desires reassurance that there is some scientific basis for such a faith. Synchronicity is not a phenomenon that commands acceptance by the majority of scientists, yet there are leading physicists in particular, who accept its reality, and see it as consistent with, but not proved by, the facts of quantum mechanics (QM). The underlying mathematics of QM theory, is beyond the comprehension of the non-physicist, and this unfortunately is why their views are not a widely known as they should be. But it is possible to sketch in ordinary language how they see things, and some attempt to do so will be made in this book.
The multi-episode synchronicities described in this book have additional features:
The same theme repeats in many episodes.
The repetition is unlikely to be a matter of chance.
There is a plainly paranormal element (in this case, predictive dreams.)
Observers in the event feel themselves caught up in some sort of narrative or drama produced by some more unitive level of mind.
There is a strong feeling of Meaning, and of the Numinous.
The light that physicists can throw on synchronistic events.
There are numbers of physicists of the first rank who consider that consciousness is an integral part of the study of physics, and who accept synchronicity as a reality, and put forward scientific theories as to how the phenomenon comes about.
Amongst these we can name theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli (the physicist who collaborated with the psychologist Carl Jung), astrophysicist Arthur Eddington, holistic physicist David Peat or quantum physicist/philosopher David Bohm. There is also Nobel Prize-winning physicist Brian Josephson who directed the Mind–Matter Unification Project, which he describes as: “a project concerned primarily with the attempt to understand, from the viewpoint of the theoretical physicist, what may loosely be characterised as intelligent processes in nature, associated with brain function or with some other natural process.
Where synchronicity manifests, we abandon accepted ideas of causality. With regard to the physical world itself ideas of causality are challenged by the theorem of CERN physicist John S. Bell which implies that we must either drop the idea of local cause and effect, or drop the mathematics of Quantum Mechanics. And it is not the latter that scientists are about to drop. At the subatomic level, it is maintained that all determines all else in the universe, and instantaneously.
Bohm, a protégé of Einstein, wrote, “I would say that in my scientific and philosophical work, my main concern has been with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole, which is never static or complete but which is an unending process of movement and unfoldment.”
In that vein Sir Arthur Eddington many years previously, said, “The universe is of the nature of a thought or sensation in a universal Mind… To put the conclusion crudely — the stuff of the world is mind-stuff.”
Bohm again: “We have reversed the usual classical notion that the independent ‘elementary parts’ of the world are the fundamental reality, and that the various systems are merely particular contingent forms and arrangements of these parts. Rather, we say that inseparable quantum interconnectedness of the whole universe is the fundamental reality, and that relatively independent behaving parts are merely particular and contingent forms within this whole.”
In the same book Bohm wrote of the exterior or explicate psychophysical universe, as being “projected” by the interior or implicate. The thinking of Bohm and several other leading theorists is similar to Plato’s teaching about the eternal forms laid up in heaven, giving rise to the physical appearances out there in the reality of see and touch. These are all varying pictures for the same notion.
So therefore in thinking about synchronicity, we are perhaps left with the suggestion that all reality as we perceive it with our “commonsense” mind, is part of the “projection” or “thought” of the “Implicate Order”, of the “Platonic Ideal Form”. For Bohm there is a two-way interaction between the projector and the projection, enabling us to maintain that, “all determines all else simultaneously throughout the universe.” We could call the projector the Dreamer and the projection a kind of Cosmic Dream. When we experience true synchronicity, we are led to sense the activity of the projector, in what we think of as the spiritual realm.
Sufficiently striking and sufficiently meaningful coincidences should persuade us to agree with the non-Materialist scientists, who almost with one voice proclaim the mental basis of reality.
The double-slit experiment.
There is an interesting experiment suggesting that mind in some form may be involved at subatomic level. As I am not a scientist, I shall quote from the presentation of Gary Zukav . He mentions the 1803 experiment of Thomas Young who allowed a narrow beam of sunlight to shine through two equal and parallel slits in a screen, on to a wall. If he covered one slit, then the whole wall became illuminated. But if he uncovered both slits, then instead of seeing the illuminated wall, he saw that illumination with alternating bands of light and darkness. The centre band was brightest.
On both sides of the centre band of light were bands of darkness, then bands of light, but less intense than the centre band.
What he observed was a wave interference pattern. He was showing light behaving like water rushing through one or two slits in the side of its channel. With one slit open, the water rushing through, fans out. With two slits open the two fanning flows of water interfere with each other and produce complex patterns.
The modern photon concept was developed gradually by Albert Einstein to explain experimental observations that did not fit the classical wave model of light. In particular, the photon model accounted for the frequency dependence of light’s energy, and explained the ability of matter and radiation to be in thermal equilibrium
Let us go back to Young’s double-slit experiment and run it with photons. (This has been done.) Suppose that we have a light-gun which can fire, in effect, one photon at a time. The experiment is set up as before, except that only one slit is open. Now we fire the photon: it goes through the slit that is open, and we mark where it hits the wall (using a photographic plate). Because we have done this experiment before, we notice that the photon has landed on an area that would be dark if the second slit were open. That is, if the second slit were open, no photons would be recorded in this area.
To make sure, we do the experiment again, but this time we leave both of the slits open. Just as we thought, there are no photons recorded now in the area where the photon hit in our first experiment. When both slits are open and interference is present, this area is in the middle of a dark band. The question is, how did the photon in the first experiment know that the second slit was open?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Some physicists, like E.H. Walker, speculate that the photons may be conscious. Consciousness may be associated with all quantum mechanical processes, since everything that occurs is ultimately the result of one or more quantum mechanical events, the universe is “inhabited” by an almost unlimited number of rather discrete conscious, usually non-thinking entities that are responsible for the detailed working of the universe.
Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen thought experiment.
Here is another experiment seeming to show instantaneous “psychic” communication between photons.
Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen thought up this experiment in 1935. It was later modified to measure spin states, by David Bohm. Contrary to the expectations of its originators, the experiment demonstrated the apparent transfer of information from one point to another at a speed faster than that of light, without any known means by which that information could be transmitted. Very simply the experiment involved aiming a laser-beam from point A to point B. At B the beam is split to travel to the right to point C, any number of kilometres away; and to the left to point D, also far distant. At point C, the beam is deliberately altered in a certain way. Then the seemingly impossible happens: the beam at point D is found to have altered in the opposite way, and instantaneously.
This phenomenon was confirmed by Alain Aspect in 1982 of the Institut Optique, University of Paris. J.S. Bell’s Theorem took into consideration the same phenomenon.
Quantum Physicist, David Bohm
David Bohm believed Aspect’s findings imply that objective reality does not exist, that despite its apparent solidity the universe is at heart a phantasm, a gigantic and splendidly detailed hologram. To understand why Bohm makes this startling assertion, one must first understand a little about holograms. A hologram is a three-dimensional photograph made with the aid of a laser. Unlike normal photographs, every part of a hologram contains all the information possessed by the whole. This suggested to Bohm another way of understanding Aspect’s discovery. Bohm believes the reason subatomic particles are able to remain in contact with one another regardless of the distance separating them is not because they are sending some sort of mysterious signal back and forth, but because their separateness is an illusion. “In terms of the [deeper and perhaps ultimate] implicate order one must say that everything is enfolded into everything”. He argues that at some deeper level of reality such particles are not individual entities, but are actually extensions of the same fundamental something.
It has an important bearing on our thinking about synchronicity, when Bohm writes, “each part contains information about the whole object”.
In a holographic universe, even time and space could no longer be viewed as fundamentals. This suggests that given the proper tools it might even be possible to someday reach into the superholographic level of reality and pluck out scenes from the long-forgotten past. What else the superhologram contains is an open-ended question.
“We introduced the notion of a higher dimensional reality that projects into the lower-dimensional, elements that have not only a non-local and non-causal relationship but also just the sort of mutual enfoldment that we have suggested for mind and body”
“It will be ultimately misleading and indeed wrong to suppose… that each being is an independent actuality who interacts with other human beings and with nature. Rather, all these are projections of a single totality.”
Psychologist & neurosurgeon, Karl Pribram
Karl Pribram also asserts the holographic nature of reality from the point of view of his study of the brain. He was drawn to the holographic model by the puzzle of how and where memories are stored in the brain. For decades numerous studies have shown that rather than being confined to a specific location, memories are dispersed throughout the brain. In a series of landmark experiments in the 1920s, brain scientist Karl Lashley found that no matter what portion of a rat’s brain he removed he was unable to eradicate its memory of how to perform complex tasks it had learned prior to surgery . The only problem was that no one was able to come up with a mechanism that might explain this curious “whole in every part” nature of memory storage. Then in the 1960s Pribram encountered the concept of holography and realized he had found the explanation brain scientists had been looking for:
“It seemed immediately plausible that the distributed memory of the brain might resemble this holographic record. I developed a precisely formulated theory based on known neuroanatomy and known neurophysiology that could account for the brain’s memory store in holographic terms. In a dozen or so years since, many laboratories including my own have provided evidence in support of parts of this theory.”
Pribram thus addresses the question about how the brain can contain so many memories: it is a holographic process within the brain. But there is still the question: who or what does the remembering? Who or what is looking? The brain is no unconscious mechanism like a computer.
Marilyn Ferguson writes,
“Lecturing one night at a symposium in Minnesota, Pribram mused that the answer might lie in the realm of Gestalt psychology, a theory that maintains that what we perceive “out there” is the same as – isomorphic with – brain processes. Suddenly he blurted out, “Maybe the world is a hologram!”… A few days later, Pribram read copies of Bohm’s key papers urging a new order in physics. Pribram was electrified. Bohm was describing a holographic universe.
“What appears to be a stable, tangible, visible, audible world, space,” said Bohm, is an illusion. What we see is the explicit, or unfolded, order of things, rather like watching a movie. But there is an underlying order that is the space mother and father to this second-generation reality. He called the other order implicate, or enfolded. The enfolded order harbours our reality, much as the DNA in the nucleus of the cell harbours potential life and directs the nature of its unfolding.”
So then, who or what is remembering, or is looking? Who or what is causing? I am tempted to say that it is God who does these things, but the term “God” has too many meanings; better to say that the Source of all things does all this through “points of view” that can be identified as our higher selves. These higher selves are in no way separate from the Whole.
Put Bohm’s and Pribram’s thinking together with CERN physicist John Bell’s Theorem that maintains that causation is characteristic of the Whole rather than the parts, then we begin to have something that can make sense of our synchronistic stories.
I have quoted Bohm as saying, “In terms of the [deeper and perhaps ultimate] implicate order one must say that everything is enfolded into everything”. It is, of course, a hard idea to make sense of. Perhaps it will be helpful if we think in terms of an analogy. Take radio broadcasting. At least if we live in a city, wherever we may be, a blur of radio and television signals can be detected in any room we find ourselves in, little hindered by concrete walls or other impediments. We know nothing about any such blur until we switch on our radio or TV, and even then, without some tuning device, there would only be a meaningless blur of sound or light. For us to watch our favourite TV program we have to block out the signals of all other TV programmes and radio broadcasts. This is accomplished by a tuning device in our receiving sets. We can then immerse ourselves in the program presented on the screen.
Bohm, Pribram and other contributors to The Holographic Paradigm see the whole of reality as a similar blur. To get the program called, “This present moment, from my point of view, in this physical realm” I need a receiving set and a tuning device. It does not matter whether or not we see this program as involving synchronicity.
What receiving set will perform this feat? It is of course my brain. And my brain is most efficient in the screening out all competing programs. Occasionally it lapses in its efforts and then I experience “a paranormal phenomenon.”
That was a good analogy so far as it goes, but to get closer to the true nature of things I need to postulate an aspect of myself in the holographic blur that is playing a part in projecting the program that my physical self and its brain is experiencing. To get still closer to the facts, I need to think of that aspect of myself as collaborating with an undefined number of others in projecting this program.
So, if we think back to the River Styx synchronicity we can see it as a kind of movie perhaps projected in some way by the combined minds of Michael, Gertrud, Victor, Drew in relation to much else in the holographic blur that is the universe where everything causes everything else. In this “movie”, everything seems to fit together with clockwork precision. A Christian might well say that the Holy Spirit was at work, and yes, those who experience such “movies” would confirm that they have feelings of the numinous, of the presence of the Holy. Others might say that it was our “higher selves” who are producing these “movies”. Still others might say that our “higher selves” and the “Holy Spirit” represented the same influence.
Of course it is the case that we are indulging in an informed speculation, which best seems to us as applicable to most synchronistic case histories. Personally I would maintain that there is a certain structure in this Whole that I would describe as consisting of our individual points of view. It is hard to imagine conscious awareness and memory other than that of the point of view. There may indeed be a universal mind expressing itself in each of these points of view, but the question is, Can there be such a mind if it is unconscious of this and that, and of points of view? I would therefore maintain that the universal mind expresses itself through a limitless number of points of view.
The synthesis of Bohm’s and Pribram’s theories has come to be called The Holographic Paradigm. A group of influential scientists believe it may be most accurate model of reality science has arrived at so far. Many have noted that it makes parapsychological phenomena much more understandable, including such psychologists as Stanislav Grof and Keith Floyd.
Transpersonal Psychologist, Stanislav Grof
In contemplating the proposition that causation, and memory belong to the Whole operating through limitless points of view, we need to add that the points of view of the past are included in all this, as well as may be the future. If remembering belongs to this complex Whole, the past will be included. Carl Jung described this as the Collective Unconscious, and noted how ancient archetypes and symbols manifest themselves both in dreams and in synchronicities. (More about Jung, later.)
In similar vein, Transpersonal psychologist Stanislav Grof feels the holographic paradigm offers a model for understanding many of the baffling phenomena experienced by individuals during altered states of consciousness. He had patients who appeared to tap into some sort of collective or racial unconscious. Individuals with little or no education suddenly gave detailed descriptions of Zoroastrian funerary practices and scenes from Hindu mythology. Grof noted how individuals reported out of body experiences, precognition, regressions into apparent past life incarnations. Because the common element in such a experiences seem to transcend the experiences of the individual, he called them “transpersonal experiences”, and in the late 60s he helped found a branch of psychology called “transpersonal psychology”. With reference to the holographic paradigm, Grof noted that if the mind is actually part of a continuum, we have a labyrinth that is connected not only to every other mind that exists or has existed, but to every atom, organism, and region in the vastness of space and time itself. Thus the fact that it is able occasionally to make forays into the labyrinth and have transpersonal experiences no longer seems so strange.
Keith Floyd’s Work
Keith Floyd, a psychologist at Virginia Intermont College, Bristol, Virginia, has pointed out that if the concreteness of reality is but a holographic illusion, it would no longer be true to say the brain produces consciousness. Rather, it is consciousness that creates the appearance of the brain—as well as the body and everything else around us we interpret as physical. Such a turnabout in the way we view biological structures has caused researchers to point out that medicine and our understanding of the healing process could also be transformed by the holographic paradigm. If the apparent physical structure of the body is but a holographic projection of consciousness, it becomes clear that each of us is much more responsible for our health than current medical wisdom allows. What we now view as miraculous remissions of disease may actually be due to changes in consciousness which in turn effect changes in the hologram of the body. Similarly, controversial new healing techniques such as visualization may work so well because in the holographic domain of thought images are ultimately as real as “reality”.
Physics and Culture
The ideas relating to physics and culture deserve to be elaborated somewhat further. Each of us has been born into a specific cultural environment: a particular language, social values, perhaps a religion, and ideas about the nature of reality. All these and more are there at our birth and seem part of the very ultimate nature of things. Illustrating this are the original inhabitants of isolated New Zealand. They had words for their various tribes, but not for themselves as a race. What therefore were they to call themselves, when faced with European immigrants? Why, the “maori” or the “normal” people of course (at least that is one theory). Most of us will probably recognise the feeling that our dialect, our version of religion, is sort of God-given, divinely approved.
But we know that in actual fact that our culture, our language, and indeed our religion, are the creation of countless millions of minds over thousands of years, have evolved slowly, and express limitless experiences. Western culture for instance is deeply influenced by the religion, the arts, the philosophy, and the literature of the Hebrews, the Greeks, and the Romans, stretching back 2600 years and more. Even if our thinking has been thoroughly secularised, our poetic selves are still capable of responding to the ancient gods and goddesses, and the ancient mythologies, at least as archetypal images.
Consider again the different scientific ways described above, that point us towards seeing Reality as one undivided whole. If we find all this convincing, then we must accept the proposition that consciousness, languages, cultures, religions, arts, technologies and whatever, somehow belong to the whole. They belong in the everyday world, in libraries, in computers, in any way in which knowledge is preserved.
Carl Jung’s Collective Unconscious
Through a life time’s study of the dreams of his patients, as well as his own, psychologist Carl Jung built up the theory that this same ancient and modern knowledge is somehow also stored in what the he called the “collective unconscious”.
Both consciousness and culture continually evolve. In the 21st century as communications draw us ever closer to each other in a “global village”, the pressure is on all cultures to move towards accommodating to each other, so that there becomes more general agreement about what is right and wrong, the rules of trade, international justice, accommodation between Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, facing the forces of secularism and so on.
They evolve, but they are all indispensable. Take away language, culture, philosophy, and religion, take away our relationships with each other: exactly what is left? We have largely obliterated mental life.
Yes, it is true that the above creations of the human mind are imperfect, change for the better, or for the worse. But they are what is, and they are the means evolved for creating and relating to Reality. And, according to almost universal human intuition, there is a dimension beyond, unknowable to human minds. Our engagement with this Reality can either be superficial, or at depth.
To respond at depth to what comes from the Whole, and from the Void, can be described as holy, whole making; and to respond at depth means to abandon self-centredness, and to be open to the creativity and love of the Whole. This response also permits hidden knowledge belonging to the Whole to influence the individual.
Physicist & Philosopher, Danah Zohar
The thinking of Danah Zohar complements that of Bohm and his friends. It seems that she identifies Bohm’s Implicate Mode, or the Projector with the Quantum Vacuum. In her book, The Quantum Self she writes:
“we need to see the link between the physics of human consciousness and the physics of the quantum “vacuum” as proposed by quantum field theory. [p.225. Synonyms for ‘vacuum’ are ‘space’, the ‘Void’, and the abandoned concept of the ‘aether’.]
The quantum vacuum is very inappropriately named because it is not empty. Rather, it is the basic, fundamental, and underlying reality of which everything in this universe – including ourselves – is an expression. As British physicist Tony Hey and his colleague Patrick Walters express it: ‘Instead a place where nothing happens, the “empty” box should now be regarded as a bubbling “soup” of virtual particle/anti-particle pairs. Or in the words of American physicist David Finkelstein, ‘A general theory of the vacuum is thus a theory of everything.’”
[p.226]. “The exciting realisation, from the point of view of understanding consciousness, its roots, and its purpose, is that one of the fields within the vacuum is thought to be a coherent Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), that is, a condensate with the same physics as the ground state of human consciousness. Further excitations (fluctuations) of this coherent vacuum condensate appear to have the same mathematics of our own Fröhlich-style Bose-Einstein condensate.”
At page 83 Zohar writes:
“The crucial distinguishing feature of Bose-Einstein condensates is that the many parts that go to make up an ordered system not only behave as a whole, they become whole; their identities merge or overlap in such a way that they lose their individuality entirely.”
Such a condensate occurs at extremely low temperatures. It is another name for a superconductor, where all particles not only behave as a whole, they become whole as one particle. The quantum vacuum becomes a superconductor, and one and undivided. But what has this to do with consciousness?
In 1968, Professor Herbert Fröhlich of Liverpool University described a means by which living cells, and in particular, brains, may become superconductors, and act as one. His means is termed a “pumped system”, where energy pumped into living tissue causes its molecules to vibrate in unison.
Plainly, we are noticing yet another testimony to the oneness, undivided wholeness of reality. We have considered Bell’s theorem, the EPR effect, and Bohm’s and Pribram’s holographic universe.
At p. 85, Zohar writes,
“I think that the Bose-Einstein condensation among neuron constituents is what distinguishes the conscious from the nonconscious. I think it is the physical basis of consciousness.”
Especially importantly for the purposes of my synchronistic studies, she writes at page 237:
The physics of consciousness that gives rise to the world of culture – to art, ideas, values, moralities, and even to religions – is the same physics that gives us the world of Nature. In both cases, it is a physics driven by the need to maintain and increase ordered coherence in free response to the environment.
Personal synchronicity: envying the musicians
I have already given some examples of meaningful coincidence, or synchronicity. It is a fact that such coincidences seemed to increase greatly in number and depth, after I had an experience during meditation, where I felt that I had dropped my defences against the world of Spirit. At the time it felt like a kind of death of my personal being. However I might interpret the experience, thereafter I seemed more open to be guided by some wider being of awareness. It was on the day of this happening that I was at a concert where I was envying the skill of the musicians, not really listening to the music, and was chastising myself for thereby spoiling a spiritual experience.
I recorded all this in my spiritual journal, and then felt an impulse to see what perhaps lay under a nearby bookcase - what book might I find? And what might I read at the top of page 69 in such a book? It turned out to be my edition of Thomas Gray’s poems, part of his Ode for Music. And at the page indicated I found these words:
“Nor Envy base, nor creeping Gain,
Dare the Muse’s walk to stain,
While bright-eyed Science watches round,
Hence, away, ‘tis holy ground!”
Thus intuition, in a seemingly miraculous fashion, led me under the bookcase to a quote matching my feelings at the concert. Perhaps my feelings at the concert were prompted by the same impulse that drove me to look under the bookcase.
Was this perhaps another illustration of Bohm’s “higher-dimensional reality which projects into the lower-dimensional” etc.? Or yet again, we could express it in different language: we have another illustration of God’s providence, of guidance by the Holy Spirit. We should also express it this way, for we are dealing with the Holy.
Naturally I had the sense of the Holy, of the presence of something greater than I. Both my experience with the orchestra, and the experience of being directed under the bookcase, was contained in something greater than I, in a Wider Dream, a Thought of Spirit.
Now here is another synchronistic story. It happened in 1984, when I first learned about the work of Bohm.
Synchronicity: “David Bohm.”
I was lying in bed reading Fritjof Capra’s The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture.  I read pages 87-89 on the physicist David Bohm’s The Implicate Order whose starting point in his theories is the “unbroken wholeness” of reality. Capra wrote that Bohm’s aim “is to explore the order he believes is inherent in the cosmic web of relations at a deeper, ‘non-manifest’ level.” (I don’t have a date for this incident, but in the incident I noted that Bohm depicted a reality consistent with the synchronistic understanding presented in this book. I got out of bed and went to the mailbox at the gate. There was a parcel from the USA and in it the newly published novel by Steven M. Rosen (formerly a professor of psychology in the City University of New York.) It is called The Moebius Seed, A Visionary Novel of Planetary Transformation. (1984) Steven and I had become friendly because of repeated synchronicity between us.
I opened the book at page 8: Acknowledgments. I see David Bohm’s name in the first line. What a coincidence. Then I see my own name printed underneath that of David Bohm (and alongside the name of Arthur C Clarke). It surprises and moves me to see an apparent orchestration from another level of consciousness, with my reading exactly the right page of the right book at the right time, then going out and getting the novel linking my name with the name of the person about whom I have just heard.
Austrian Lamarckian Biologist, Paul Kammerer
It is true that when we encounter synchronicity that we wonder what are the odds against chance that the event would come about. It might be a very unexpected thing for one’s bus ticket to have the same number as one’s bank account, and then to be the same number as one’s theatre ticket that night. Paul Kemmerer was a pioneer in the study of synchronicity. His word for it was “seriality”, and he recorded many meaningful sequences of things. He wrote:
“We thus arrive at the image of a world-mosaic or cosmic kaleidoscope, which in spite of constant shuffling and rearrangements, also takes care of bringing like and like together”. Seriality is “ubiquitous and continuous in life, nature and cosmos. It is the umbilical cord that connects thought, feeling, science and art with the womb of the universe which gave birth to them.”
He seems to have seen “seriality” as something happening “out there”. My view is that synchronicity is something that happens “in here”, as I have already said, a kind of psychic perception, a kind of spiritual insight, a sense of the numinous – a different order of things from Kammerer’s seriality. But not an entirely different order. If you think back to my story about the River Styx, you will notice that my “out there” experiences fit into Kammerer’s concept, in that there is a continual and remarkable serial repetition of events on the same theme within a very short space of time. The “out there” gives the curious impression of being a dream itself, of being a mental phenomenon itself. So perhaps “out there” may ultimately be identical with “in here”.
Is meaning a purely subjective affair? It is a subjective affair, but often shared by a number of people who feel themselves caught up into the event. On the other hand, if I tell my stories properly, I hope you will often be able to empathise with us in our experiences, vicariously share in them, and that this in turn will support you in the spiritual experiences you may have yourself.
Meaning and the continuation of meaning, is the key, in discussing synchronicity. A friend saw meaning in an old man standing with a scythe. The meaning was that he would soon hear of the death of someone close. He came home. And he did hear about such a death. In this case, the meaning he believed he intuited, was correct. If meaning drops away, then it was no synchronicity; there was no meaning.
Finally, synchronicity does involve faith. If one’s faith is that Meaning cannot reside in dimensions beyond those accessible to the senses, then no number of stories will convince one to the contrary. But if one has made the leap of faith that our minds are held within an overarching mind, then Meaning in these stories may become very apparent.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published March 2015
Size: 229 x 152 mm