Beautiful alignments in the duality of existence.
Carl Gustav Jung was a prominent Swiss psychologist in the 19th century who made a name for himself by studying old myths and religions. In doing so, he coupled his findings with experiences from his patients and formed his own branch of psychology — analytical psychology.
His ideas of the archetypes and the collective unconscious are often celebrated in contemporary western culture. However, one of his deeper and less recognized ideas seems nonetheless unbelievably impactful — that is the idea of synchronicity.
Synchronicity is defined as a meaningful coincidence. But we must make no mistake, the idea is far deeper than it sounds. The origination of instances of synchronicity and its relation to our lives makes it an invaluable idea that deserves attention.
The Duality of Our World
Before diving directly into synchronicity, it is important to lay the contextual groundwork for a richer explanation.
The first idea to note that our reality is not singular, but dual. The idea of a dual reality was first developed by Plato in his theory of forms. Specifically, there are two worlds — a world of being and a world of becoming.
The world of becoming is very familiar to us. It is the external, physical world that can be recognized by our senses and conscious state. It is called the world of becoming because the physical world is a world of constant flux. The phrase ‘the only constant is change’ rings true in this reality.
The world of being, on the other hand, is a reality that transcends the world of becoming. It transcends the external world and even the more superficial aspects of our consciousness. Plato attributes the world of being to an unchanging, absolute realm of what he called forms — these were essentially the ideals of everything that exists in the physical world.
The world of being for Jung seems most accessible from the mind as it’s conception since Plato was primarily psychical as well. This duality can also be compared quite closely to the duality of psyche and matter, or the dichotomy between physical and spiritual reality (also present in Buddhist philosophy).
Interestingly, contemporary culture is less aware of this world of being because the advent of Aristotelian philosophy early in the day has killed it. To provide historical context, Aristotle believed that there was nothing in the intellect that was not previously in the senses. This idea essentially meant that only the world of becoming exists and all ideas in the psyche only originate from the physical world. Nowhere else.
Jung’s ideas were a complete contrast to this as he believed in the existence of important unconscious processes that were not rooted in the senses. On that note, there are two important distinctions between the world of being and the world of becoming — causation and time.
The physical world operates on the concept of cause and effect. The idea of causality is so interwoven into our lives that anything other than that is so ambiguous and foreign that we reject it immediately. If an event occurs absent of a cause, we are completely baffled.
Yet, the world of being does not operate within the boundaries of causality. It transcends this element of the physical world and does not follow the laws of classical Newtonian physics (although it must be made clear that this world cannot be conceptualized similarly to the physical world).
Dreams clearly highlight the absence of causation. Although it may be the case that there are noticeable contents in your dreams that correlate with real life, dreams are often incomprehensible and odd. This is because dreams do not operate on the basis of causation. Things do not happen because of something, they just happen.
The physical world operates on the concept of time as well. Happenings in this realm are sequential, and it is also why the physical world is called the world of becoming. The element of time is the element that facilitates change.
The world of being also does not operate within the boundaries of time. Again, it transcends the temporal element present in the physical world, which is why it is called the world of being since it is not in a state of constant change. Like Plato’s idea, the world of being is unchanging and absolute.
This can be proved with a personal thought experiment. Try to remember something you did when you were a young child, it can be immensely meaningful or immensely stupid (take your pick). And now think, is that person still you? The rational conclusion would be yes.
Although the event itself has been subjected to the element of time, your relation to it has transcended time. Your deeper sense of self does not subject itself to the change that comes with time, and this reflects itself on the world of becoming. This shows that certain areas of consciousness are bereft of time.
The Golden Scarab Beetle
Now that we know of the duality of both worlds and the distinction between them, synchronicity can be better explained. Synchronicity itself does not operate on the principle of causality, which is why it is often termed a meaningful coincidence. The world of being itself, being primarily psychic and bereft of time, also lays the foundation for a meaningful occurrence between the time-bound and the timeless.
An instance of synchronicity arises when there is a meaningful and usually symbolic alignment between the world of becoming and the world of being, between psyche and matter, between the physical and the spiritual.
When a coincidence occurs between certain psychic content and objective, external events, that is an instance of synchronicity. A potent example to illustrate such an instance would be a personal anecdote from Carl Jung on his experience with one of his patients.
He had a client who came to him for therapy and she was a very rational, intellectual, and well-educated person. She was not in touch with her feelings at all and Jung felt that he was struggling in helping her get in touch with her feelings, her natural being.
In his book Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, Jung wrote:
“A young woman I was treating had, at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me this dream, I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the window-pane from the outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), which, contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt the urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment. I must admit that nothing like it ever happened to me before or since.”
Jung then took the beetle and presented it to his client, saying “Here is your scarab”. From then onwards, her therapy changed and she became more in touch with her inner self. As Jung put it,
“The dream alone was enough to disturb ever so slightly the rationalistic attitude of my patient. But when the “scarab” came flying in through the window in actual fact, her natural being could burst through the armor of her animus possession and the process of transformation could at last begin to move.”
This was a beautiful illustration of synchronicity. The golden beetle itself held symbolic value, especially in Egyptian mythology. It represented existence, manifestation, development, and growth. This instance of synchronicity arguably changed the life of Jung’s patient, allowing her to continue to grow as she developed her relationship with her emotions and inner self.
The alignment between the psychic contents and external occurrences can prove to be symbolically meaningful and life-changing. Such is the nature and importance of synchronicity.
What Makes Synchronicity So Special?
An instance of synchronicity is not a coincidence in the common sense of the word. If you were to think of a coincidence as the simultaneous happening of occurrences only in the physical world, the notion of probability is still at play.
However, when the coincidence is between the psyche and matter, the notion of probability is eliminated. This is because a form of foretelling would be at play. When the symbols or signs appear in dreams, it becomes less of a coincidence and more towards the activity of unconscious processes on the external world.
Even coincidences that occurred outside of dreams may not be completely probabilistic.
For example, if you noticed that the first numbers on an unknown phone call were 676 and then continued noticing that sequence of numbers throughout your day, it is not simply probability. You get unknown phone calls all the time, but what was it in your mind that made you receptive to remembering this very one?
Jung argued that such instances were not simply coincidences, but products of important unconscious processes that were meaningful and impactful to our lives. The elimination of probability in such arguably ‘miraculous’ occurrences contribute to the significance of synchronicity.
The example with Jung and his patient should have given you an idea of the power of synchronicity in our lives. An instance of synchronicity could change one’s entire temperament.
Since ynchronicity is an alignment of psyche and matter, Jung claimed that it was an unbelievably meaningful occurrence as he believed in an underlying order to the universe. Oftentimes, such instances hold ancient symbolic meanings that have been present in myths and religions for centuries.
Like the scarab beetle, other symbols as well can be present. Another example from Jung would be his personal experience with the symbol of a fish. After he finished an inscription of an image that was half-man, half-fish, Jung went out for lunch and was served fish. While eating, someone at the meal had a slip of the tongue and mentioned making an “April fish” of someone.
Later on, a patient whom he has not seen in months showed up and showed him some pictures of fish. In the evening, someone showed him an embroidery filled with fish. The next day, another patient he has not seen in ten years came to him and described a dream she had about a large fish. A few months later, he took a stroll at the bank of a lake and found there was a substantial amount of fish laying on the sea wall with little explanation for how it got there.
The fish symbolized the idea of redemption as it is often compared with Christ and the serpent symbol. Nonetheless, such occurrences are already so off-putting that when they are coupled with old, symbolic, and sometimes religious meaning, one cannot doubt their significance and power in our lives.
The idea of synchronicity is a very complex one and this article only served as an introduction. Then again, even with the primary knowledge of the nature of synchronicity, we cannot doubt that, if true, it plays an important role in our lives.
The elimination of probability and symbolic meaning add to its significance, but the simple idea that our psyche and matter can align to produce impactful and life-changing events shows that there is more to us than we know.
The unconscious processes at work are intricate and interesting. What we can do is not merely focus on one world, but the other as well. We can give credit to reason and rationality, but we have to also keep in mind that the world of becoming is not all there is.
Sometimes, our emotions, longings, and even dreams can give us invaluable information that cannot be otherwise substituted by rationality — so listen to them. Sometimes your heart knows better than your head.
Finally, as we continue to live our lives with reason and emotion, we can keep a lookout for those instances. The instances where being and becoming intertwine, where science and spirit meet, where the internal and external align. Look out for those instances, because synchronicity is worth looking out for.
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