Along with the Tao Te Ching, Carl Jung's writings on Synchronicity have been major influences on my thought and understanding of experience. In his lectures, Jung equated Tao and Synchronicity as two names for the same phenomena. The intertwining fabric of these two concepts helped me understand both. Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 156)
It might seem appropriate to begin my exposition by defining the concept with which it deals. But I would rather approach the subject the other way and first give you a brief description of the facts which the concept of synchronicity is intended to cover. As its etymology shows, this term has something to do with time or, to be more accurate, with a kind of simultaneity. Instead of simultaneity we could also use the concept of a meaningful coincidence of two or more events, where something other than the probability of chance is involved. . . .
I have therefore directed my attention to certain observations and experiences which . . . have to do with spontaneous, meaningful coincidences of so high a degree of improbability as to appear flatly unbelievable. I shall therefore describe to you only one case of this kind, simply to give an example characteristic of a whole category of phenomena. It makes no difference . . . whether you dispose of it with an ad hoc explanation. . . . The causal explanation, the only possible one from the standpoint of natural science, breaks down owing to the psychic relativization of space and time, which together form the indispensable premises for the cause and effect relationship.
My example concerns a young woman patient who, in spite of efforts made on both sides, proved to be psychologically inaccessible. The difficulty lay in the fact that she always knew better about everything. Her excellent education had provided her with a weapon ideally suited to this purpose, namely a highly polished Cartesian rationalism with an impeccably "geometrical" idea of reality. After several fruitless attempts to sweeten her rationalism with a somewhat more human understanding, I had to confine myself to the hope that something unexpected and irrational would turn up, something that would burst the intellectual retort into which she had sealed herself.
Well, I was sitting opposite her one day, with my back to the window, listening to her flow of rhetoric. She had had an impressive dream the night before, in which someone had given her a golden scarab - a costly piece of jewellery. While she was still telling me this dream, I heard something behind me gently tapping on the window. I turned round and saw that it was a fairly large flying insect that was knocking against the window pane from outside in the obvious effort to get into the dark room. This seemed to me very strange. I opened the window immediately and caught the insect in the air as it flew in. It was a scarabaeid beetle, . . . whose gold green colour most nearly resembles that of a golden scarab. I handed the beetle to my patient with the words, "Here is your scarab." This experience punctured the desired hole in her rationalism and broke the ice of her intellectual resistance. . . .
All the phenomena I have mentioned can be grouped under three categories:
Our survey of this wide field of experience would be incomplete if we failed to take into account the so called mantic methods. Manticism lays claim, if not actually to producing synchronistic events, then at least to making them serve its ends. An example of this is the oracle method of the I Ching, which Dr. Hellmut WiIhelm has described in detail. The I Ching presupposes that there is a synchronistic correspondence between the psychic state of the questioner and the answering hexagram. The hexagram is formed either by the random division of the 49 yarrow stalks or by the equally random throw of three coins. The result of this method is, incontestably, very interesting. . . .
Causality is the way we explain the link between two successive events. Synchronicity designates the parallelism of time and meaning between psychic and psycho physical events, which scientific knowledge so far has been unable to reduce to a common principle. The term explains nothing, it simply formulates the occurrence of meaningful coincidences which, in themselves, are chance happenings, but are so improbable that we must assume them to be based on some kind of principle, or on some property of the empirical world. . . .
I do not regard these statements as in any way a final proof of my views, but simply as a conclusion from empirical premises which I would like to submit to the consideration of my reader. From the material before us I can derive no other hypothesis that would adequately explain the facts. I am only too conscious that synchronicity is a highly abstract and "irrepresentable" quantity. It ascribes to the moving body a certain psychoid property which, like space, time, and causality, forms a criterion of its behaviour. . . .
If that is so, then we must ask ourselves whether the relation of soul and body can be considered from this angle, that is to say whether the coordination of psychic and physical processes in a living organism can be understood as a synchronistic phenomenon rather than as a causal relation. . . . The assumption of a causal relation between psyche and physis leads on the other hand to conclusions which it is difficult to square with experience: either there are physical processes which cause psychic happenings or there is a preexistent psyche which organizes matter. In the first case it is hard to see how chemical processes can ever produce psychic processes, and in the second case one wonders how an immaterial psyche could ever set matter in motion. . . .
The synchronicity principle possesses properties that may help to clear up the body soul problem. Above all it is the fact of causeless order, or rather, of meaningful orderedness, that may throw light on psycho physical parallelism. The "absolute knowledge" which is characteristic of synchronistic phenomena, a knowledge not mediated by the sense organs, supports the hypothesis of a self subsistent meaning, or even expresses its existence. Such a form of existence can only be transcendental, since, as the knowledge of future or spatially distant events shows, it is contained in a psychically relative space and time, that is to say in an irrepresentable space time continuum. . . .
One is as much impressed by the disharmony of things as one is surprised by their occasional harmony. In contrast to the idea of a preestablished harmony, the synchronistic factor merely stipulates the existence of an intellectually necessary principle which could be added as a fourth to the recognized triad of space, time, and causality. . . . But unlike causality, . . . synchronicity is a phenomenon that seems to be primarily connected with psychic conditions, that is to say with processes in the unconscious. Synchronistic phenomena are found to occur - experimentally - with some degree of regularity and frequency in the intuitive "magical" procedures, where they are subjectively convincing but are extremely difficult to verify objectively and cannot be statistically evaluated. . . .
Synchronicity is not a philosophical view but an empirical concept which postulates an intellectually necessary principle. This cannot be called either materialism or metaphysics. No serious investigator would assert that the nature of what is observed to exist, and of that which observes, namely the psyche, are known and recognized quantities. If the latest conclusions of science are coming nearer and nearer to a unitary idea of being, characterized by space and time on the one hand and by causality and synchronicity on the other, that has nothing to do with materialism. Rather it seems to show that there is some possibility of getting rid of the incommensurability between the observed and the observer. . . .
Space, time, and causality, the triad of classical physics, would then be supplemented by the synchronicity factor and become a tetrad, a quaternio which makes possible a whole judgment. . . .
The question now arises whether our definition of synchronicity with reference to the equivalence of psychic and physical processes is capable of expansion, or rather, requires expansion. This requirement seems to force itself on us when we consider the above, wider conception of synchronicity as an "acausal orderedness." Into this category come all "acts of creation," a priori factors such as the properties of natural numbers, the discontinuities of modern physics, etc. Consequently we would have to include constant and experimentally reproducible phenomena within the scope of our expanded concept, though this does not seem to accord with the nature of the phenomena included in synchronicity narrowly understood. . . .
In this way we also avoid multiplying our principles of explanation illegitimately, for the archetype is the introspectively recognizable form of a prior psychic orderedness. If an external synchronistic process now associates itself with it, it falls into the same basic pattern - in other words, it too is "ordered." This form of orderedness differs from that of the properties of natural numbers or the discontinuities of physics in that the latter have existed from eternity and occur regularly, whereas the forms of psychic orderedness are acts of creation in time. That, incidentally, is precisely why I have stressed the element of time as being characteristic of these phenomena and called them synchronistic. . . .
Synchronicity is no more baffling or mysterious than the discontinuities of physics. It is only the ingrained belief in the sovereign power of causality that creates intellectual difficulties and makes it appear unthinkable that causeless events exist or could ever occur. But if they do, then we must regard them as creative acts, as the continuous creation of a pattern that exists from all eternity, repeats itself sporadically, and is not derivable from any known antecedents. . . .
Meaningful coincidences are thinkable as pure chance. But the more they multiply and the greater and more exact the correspondence is, the more their probability sinks and their unthinkability increases, until they can no longer be regarded as pure chance but, for lack of a causal explanation, have to be thought of as meaningful arrangements. As I have already said, however, their "inexplicability" is not due to the fact that the cause is unknown, but to the fact that a cause is not even thinkable in intellectual terms. . . .