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Sixty Years Later: The Enduring Allure of Synchronicity by Dan Hocoy
My Review with Extended Excerpts and References

Sixty Years Later: The Enduring Allure of Synchronicity Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 2012 and SAGEPUB JOURNALS by clinical psychologist Dan Hocoy, PhD Associate Dean, PHS, Saybrook U. Oakland, CA who's interest in the subject of synchronicity is the result of many numinous, personal experiences.

Dan Hocoy's articulate overview of the subject and his scholary clarity and in-depth references are a profound help for my integrating fundamental issues that I've addressed in sporadic fashion over the past two decades that are yet superficially presented in my Anthropic Trilogy. Because of the importance and relevancy of his work to a better understanding of many of my extrapolated concepts, this page will present some extended excerpts and references to encourage readers to access the above link for the full PDF download.

Abstract

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Jung’s (1952) concept of synchronicity; a survey of popular books and academic publications indicates that the idea has never been more popular. The unique longevity and cultural impact of synchronicity, compared with other notions of its era, is worthy of discussion. This article explores the multiple factors that seem to have synergistically converged to maintain its relevance. Human existential needs for meaning,connection, and agency appear to make up the "fertile ground", while personal experiences of meaningful coincidences, especially profound and numinous ones, seem to constitute the "seed" of belief in synchronicity. The New Age Movement may provide the favorable environmental conditions for the idea to flourish, and the association with physics and explicit support by celebrated scientists serve to enhance its credibility and ensure its survival. If the past is any indication of the future, a coincidence of the necessary conditions will persist synchronistically, and the meme will continue to thrive for some time to come.

Selected Excerpts

Carl Jung used synchronicity to refer to a meaningful coincidence of an outer event with an individual’s inner state in which there is no apparent causal relationship. The term consists of the Greek words for joined with and in time, suggesting a bond that takes place in temporal correspondence. A common example of synchronicity is someone having a spontaneous thought about an old friend that he or she has not seen or heard from in years and then finding a message from the person on Facebook shortly after. Synchronicities are also associated with the uncommon and often consist of numinous, life-changing, and deeply spiritual experiences (Main, 2007); these synchronicities can play a critical role in an individual’s growth and personal transformation (e.g., Richo, 1998).

As we are naturally creators of meaning and are able to construct fairly full lives from our circumstances, we are not usually paralyzed by the notion that our existence may not have lasting meaning. However, the notion that there may not be any relationship between our personal experiences and the ordering of the world presents a disturbing and unavoidable existential issue: human meaning and existence may not have any significance beyond their momentary experience.

Synchronicity, however, provides evidence that our worst existential fear, that the meaning of our existence is finite and arbitrary, may be unfounded. It can be seen as offering proof of a higher order in which our experiences have lasting and objective significance, as well as a construct on which to pin our greatest hope about our existence.

And although common experiences of synchronicity help sustain its currency, it is the uncommon, numinous, and life-altering experiences of synchronicity that constitute the cultural lifeblood for this meme...They are so contrary to our causal, material worldview that the experiences are considered to be metaphysical or spiritual in nature. Main (2007) shows how these synchronicities constitute an experience of the numinous, consistent with Otto’s (1923) definition of “mysterium tremendum et fascinans” (p. 12)...Such powerful experiences create ardent and convincing evangelists for the existence and power of synchronicity; they constitute the prima materia for the concept, providing continual validation and helping secure it in the collective psyche.

Jung’s idea can also be regarded as derivative of the very intellectual environment in which it emerged. In many ways, synchronicity epitomizes the spiritual openness of the era and can be considered a product of the monism, Gnosticism, and transpersonal Eastern elements of the New Age Movement...The coincidence of Jung’s concept with the New Age Movement plays a factor in synchronicity’s longevity. And according to the principles of synchronicity, the emergence of the idea at the same time of a cultural movement amenable to it may not be an accident. As existential human needs make up the fertile ground and personal experience constitutes the seed, the New Age Movement provides the favorable climate or environmental conditions for the continued relevance of synchronicity.

Nobel laureate, quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli, with whom Jung collaborated...suggested that the concept of synchronicity be expanded to constitute a global acausal principle of nature, one that could subsume and account for both quantum physical phenomena and personal psychic experiences (Donati, 2004). Partly as a result of this collaboration, the theory of synchronicity has been compatible with many discoveries and theories of quantum physics of the 20th century.

The concept of synchronicity has found support, either implicit or explicit, in the discoveries and theories of quantum physics’ most famous researchers. Werner Heisenberg, Nobel laureate and discoverer of a relationship between human observation and physical matter in the Uncertainty Principle, explicitly rejected the notion of an objective reality that is independent of human consciousness (Heisenberg, 1990), implicitly supporting the role of subjective experience found in synchronicity. David Bohm discovered “quantum potential” in which paired subatomic particles remain symmetrical without any apparent communication between them and developed a model for how consciousness and matter might be inextricably linked (Bohm, 1990).

David Peat, Bohm’s collaborator, has explicitly identified Jung’s concept of synchronicity as the bridge between mind and matter; he has argued that synchronicity is the unifying principle behind individual consciousness, meaningful coincidence, and the totality of space-time (Peat, 1987).

Initially supported by 20th-century findings in quantum physics, the validity of synchronicity is also buoyed by more recent theories in cosmology and astrophysics. John Wheeler, who coined the term “black hole,” conceived the theory in astrophysics of a Participatory Universe in which human consciousness is imbued with agency in the determination of physical reality and occurrence of events. Wheeler (1998) suggests that humans form a quantum system with matter in which their thoughts shape not only the present and future but also past realities, which are not fixed. Another cosmologist, Andrei Linde (2004), expanding on Wheeler’s theory, suggests that human consciousness is actually required to bring the universe into physical existence from a cosmic cloud of probability. The recursive process implicated by a participatory Universe, in which the physical order and human consciousness mutually constitute one another, presents a possible mechanism in the cosmos for how synchronicity functions.

The concept of synchronicity can be interpreted as also being consistent with the latest theory on the structure of the cosmos, or M-theory...Expounding M-theory, Brian Greene (2011) asserts that there may be 11 dimensions in all, which collectively function on a completely different set of laws still unknown to us and, among other things, may allow for parallel universes. Although M-theory does not address synchronicity in any way, the reference to a different set of laws not determined by space-time provides a potential explanation for some metaphysical aspects of synchronicity.

The fact that synchronicity may not be a falsifiable construct is not a problem for those who regard the traditional scientific paradigm as being too limited to prove or disprove such phenomena. So for skeptics and New Agers alike, the complementation of theories in physics and endorsement by scientists provide synchronicity with a rare credibility. Indeed, the enduring relevance of the notion of synchronicity may very well be the result of this unique convergence of esoteric spirituality and hard science.

The continuing complementation of the theory of synchronicity with findings in quantum physics and cosmology, as well as explicit support by celebrated scientists, has greatly enhanced the credibility of synchronicity in mainstream culture. These various factors have combined synergistically to ensure the relevance of synchronicity well into the 21st century.

References

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Author Bio
Dan Hocoy, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist as well as associate dean and executive faculty in the Graduate College of Psychology and Humanistic Studies at Saybrook University. He was moved to study synchronicity as a result of many numinous, personal experiences.

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