The following is from David Richo’s, Ph.D., book Unexpected Miracles: The Gift of Synchronicity and How to Open It (New York: Crossroads, 1998) www.davericho.com
Synchronicity is the phenomenon of meaningful coincidence. It is a resemblance, correspondence, or connection between something going on outside us and something happening inside us. In any ordinary coincidence, the events are connected by meaning rather than by cause and effect. This may not yet be synchronicity but simply synchronization. It becomes synchronicity when it makes a meaningful connection with our life’s purposes or helps unfold our destiny to show love, see wisely, and bring healing to ourselves and our world. All coincidences are connected by meaning, but synchronicity happens when the meaningfulness is relevant to our personal evolution. It is the spur of the moment in that it spurs us on and in that it may happen suddenly! It happens just in time. It is also just in time in the sense that it is part of the justice of the universe in bringing us exactly the pieces we need to fashion— or be fashioned by— our destiny.
Synchronicity is a word made from two Greek terms meaning “joined with” and “time.” Synchronicity is a bond or connection that happens in a timely way. A correspondence between two things is suddenly made clear. The unifying connection was always present but an immediate and meaningful coincidence makes it visible here and now.
Synchronicity thus combines an essential unity with an existential one. The eternal present makes an appearance in the momentary present. This is why it seems fitting to say that synchronicity guides us into spirituality.
Synchronicities cluster around significant events. Many meaningful coincidences occurred, for instance, when the Titanic sank and when Lincoln and Kennedy were assassinated. Personal disasters or crises in our personal life will also invite synchronicity. Norma orders a red dress for a party but a black dress is delivered to her. As she is about to phone the store to report the error, her sister calls: “Mother has died. Come for the funeral.” Norma thought she was in control of her life; she thought she knew what would happen next. The synchronous event told her otherwise and outfitted her for what was actually coming next: something much deeper was about to occur.
Synchronicity is the surprise that something suddenly fits! Synchronous events are meaningful coincidences or correspondences that guide us, warn us, or confirm us on our path. Coincidence happens at a specific moment. In this sense it is existential, tied to the here and now. Correspondences are ongoing. This is how synchronicity is essential, always present, to our human experience. Synchronicity is also found in a series of similar events or experiences. It can appear as one striking event that sets off a chain reaction. It is always unexpected and somehow uncanny in its accuracy of connection or revelation. This is what makes it impossible to dismiss synchronicity as mere coincidence.
Jung called synchronicity: “A non-caused but meaningful relationship between physical and psychic events….A special instance of acausal orderedness….Conscious succession becomes simultaneity….Synchronicity takes the events in space and time as meaning more than mere chance.” A coincidence is two unplanned events that happen simultaneously. It becomes synchronicity when it is connected by meaning. You and I love red roses. That is a coincidence. If unknown to each other, we meet as our heads bump while we are both smelling the same red rose that caught our eye at the same time and then later, we are married, that is synchronicity!
Synchronicity gives us a clue to the deep underlay of purpose and meaning in the universe and how that purpose is working itself out in our lives. Our own wholeness has a foundation and support in the larger order of things. All objective events have a corresponding subjective configuration in our psyche. Synchronicity is an instant instance of this correspondence. Its spontaneous timely events are articulations of the continuous nature of creation, intimations about the irrefrangible unity underlying it. Synchronicity is always striking and sometimes eerie. The “other worldly” feeling we have when it happens to us may be an indicator that an archetype is arising into consciousness from the depths of our psyche.
Things happen as they need to for the best purposes of the universe. Our belief that we can interfere with this is another trick of the arrogant ego. We may not know how what is happening right now really fits into our future. I can only trust that in addition to all I see, there is some other vision that will appear and make all this appear as just right.
Yet synchronicity cannot happen by any conscious intervention of ego since it is a phenomenon of grace: an entry of the transpersonal world onto our personal turf. It is a moment that manifests the unity that always and already existed between psychological and spiritual, mind and universe, you and me, me and everything. It occurs when our unconscious is ready for a step into wider consciousness. The ancient oracles were about precisely this!
The inner artist of our true Self uses two brushes: a conscious one: synchronicity, and an unconscious one: dreams. The synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) of our lives and the dream images that have most excited or stupefied us are the best— though often most ambiguous— clues to our self-actualization. When a dream confirms a movement in the psyche, that is itself synchronicity. Prayer that is answered is synchronicity since prayers that are answered are the ones that are consistent with our destiny.
Synchronicity is the special moment in which destiny summons us to move forward. It is the spur of the moment that initiates movement and may at the same time smart! This is the process by which archetypal reality incarnates itself in historical time: something unknown is doing we do not know what or why or through whom. Synchronicity really means that we are never alone in the universe. “O mighty love! Man is one world, and hath another to attend him,” wrote George Herbert.
Many psychic events do not occur instantaneously but undergo an incubation period in the unconscious. Something has not yet happened but is in the works. Synchronicity cuts across time-bound warps. It transcends the limits of being and becoming. This is because in the inner world there is no separation between past and future, time or timelessness, what is happening, what is about to happen, and what will happen. Only the present exists, which contains it all. In synchronicity, we meet our future—or our past—in our present. “To transform itself in us the future enters into us long before it happens,” Rilke wrote.
Synchronicity is the strikingly meaningful coincidence of two events or of a series of events. It can also be the coincidence of a psychic perception and a simultaneously occurring event as happens in ESP. Premonitions are in this category. In both ESP and premonition, the case can be made for synchronicity only if meaningfulness is present. This is always the ultimate criterion of synchronicity.
Synchronicity occurs in a dream that reveals what is already true or about to become true: Lincoln dreamed he was assassinated one week before the event. Dreams and astrology manifest many synchronous correspondences. There is immense synchronicity in the zodiac and our inclinations/choices. Rituals are forms of synchronicity in that they are outward enactments of corresponding inward graces.
Synchronicity appears in our work on ourselves. There may be synchronicity in the fact that our knowledge of our real issues—in ourselves and in our relationships—comes simultaneously with the strength to face them! We are usually in denial for a long time before we finally recognize and acknowledge our own truth. Synchronicity is in the fact that we often only let ourselves know when we can deal with what we know.
When we are ready to learn, a teacher appears. This is synchronicity. Occasionally a person, who died long ago or recently, comes to mind over and over in the course of a week or more. It could be that the meaning of that person in our life is coming home to us in a compelling way. Perhaps we learned something from that person and need to remember it now. Perhaps there is something we are now ready to learn. This may be another form of synchronicity. The face of the teacher/grandfather appears when the time has come to be instructed or to gain a deeper insight into who we are. This might even be the time to ask that person to be our guide from the other world if that fits our world view.
Synchronicity also occurs in looking back upon your life and seeing how it all prepared you or instructed you for the fullest fruition of your potential. A hidden feeling or truth waited to be awakened by just the right person or circumstance, sometimes painfully. My destiny had to have just such a beginning. My neglectful father helped me practice for the independent life I live now. My empty cupboard helped me care about starving children. James Hillman writes: “This way of seeing removes the burden from the early years as having been a mistake and yourself a victim of handicaps and cruelties; instead it is the acorn in the mirror….”
Everyone and every event in life’s drama is part of the metaphor of our journey. The issue from an old relationship may not be: “how bad he was” but: “how much I needed to learn!” Most of us keep meeting partners who show us exactly where our work is, e.g., men who abuse, women who are unfaithful. The wounds are openings into our missing life. Often, the only way a lost piece of ourselves or of our history comes back to us is through another person. The unknown is scary so people and events come along that help us go there. This is synchronicity. The only mistake we make is hanging on to some people too long or too briefly. How and with whom did I do that? We take them as literally themselves instead of as themselves and metaphorical forces, come to boost or chide. What delivered me from the constrictions into the open air? Who finally pointed the way beyond my limitations?
Finally, there is synchronicity in divination devices such as the I Ching or the Tarot: one ineluctably chooses the hexagram or card that coincides with one’s circumstance. This meaningful coincidence is based on the belief that the psyche will direct us to the exact information that we need when we need it.
IS IT FATE OR DESTINY?
The culmination of synchronicity is its direct revelation of destiny: the design of the whole universe works itself out in the display of each unique human life. “Life is a struggle to succeed in being in fact what we are in design…Our will is free to realize or not to realize the vital design we are but which we cannot change or abbreviate….” wrote Ortega y Gasset.
What we refuse to bring into consciousness, comes back to us as fate. It hits us from without when we refuse to heed its summons from within. It makes spiritual sense to forge a lasting agreement with the universe, which can only be an unconditional Yes to what is. Attention to synchronicity helps us join unfolding processes consciously. The word “design” adds the element of artistry!
Each generation presents to the universe a population of people who have just the right ingredients in them to make the world better. Each person is a crucial cell in this mystical body of humanity. There is synchronicity in the fact that here and now the world always has just the human resources that it needs to further its evolution as is fitting for this epoch. Nature participates in the same synchronicity by its drifts of species and seasons of growth and change in each era. It creates an ice age and a temperate age in accord with the over-all requirements of evolution. I am here at the right time— and just in time— for me to make my contribution and nature is supporting me by presenting just the conditions that promote this enterprise. And so are all the people in my life.
Destiny is often connected to career. Our work in the world is often our form of service or of actualizing our potential. Jonah is the biblical archetype of refusing one’s destiny. Since he was needed as a prophet, his refusal of the call to become one was disregarded. He was swallowed by a whale and forced to swallow his pride. There are also times in the course of life when refusals are allowed to stand and then “a great prince in prison lies,” as Donne says.
Jung said: “We find our destiny on the path we take to avoid it.” The greatest of human tragedies is to be distracted from our destiny and lose our power to activate our potential because of years of addiction to drugs, alcohol, or to relationships that are abusive, unworkable, or depleting. A great potential in us can thereby fade away and no one will do anything to halt the dissolution. The world will stand by as we throw away our fortune. We will stand by as we throw ourselves away. There is no guarantee that a whale will intervene for us as it did for Jonah or a tornado as it did for Dorothy. The challenge is to find our destiny in exactly what we are refusing to engage in. This is no easy task. It is hard to stop and look while we are running the other way! Is my destiny scribbled on parchment, twirled in a bottle and hurled into the sea, to be stumbled upon only long after I am gone?
How does chance figure in? Chance may simply be a playful way the universe has of collaborating with us in the working out of our destiny. Thus synchronicity integrates the irrational into an orderly pageant of evolution. The challenge is always the same: to believe in the artistic design in spite of the random display. The record shows us humans to be crassly ignorant and destructive but also touchingly responsive and restorative.
Perhaps Ghandi expressed this tension between our existential display and our essential design most accurately: “I see that mankind still survives after all its attempts to destroy itself and so I surmise that it is the law of love that rules mankind. “
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Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and the recently released Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.com
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