Synchronicity: the Magic of Imagination

What are these

So wither'd and so wild in their attire,

That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth,

And yet are on't? Live you? or are you aught

That man may question?"

— William Shakespeare: Macbeth.
The weird sisters
The weird sisters

Pronoia

Synchronicity. It is a word invented by the psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung sometime in early part of the 20th century.

The first time he used the word publicly was at a memorial address for Richard Wilhelm in 1930. Wihelm was the German translator of the I-Ching. The word was used, in this context, as an explanation for how the I-Ching achieves its magic. Later Jung worked with the physicist Wolfgang Pauli to develop the idea into a full-blown theory.

It refers to a series of coincidences that appear to have some kind of meaning.

When two or more events conspire by their unlikely coincidence to lead you on a journey, that is known as synchronicity. Some people live by it.

Another word might be serendipity, a happy accident. Or you could call it “pronoia”, the positive form of paranoia, meaning that the world isn’t out to get you, it is out to guide you.

Other words might be “fate” or “wyrd” or “destiny”.

Fate doesn’t necessarily refer to something inevitable, as if the story of your life was prewritten in the stars, and all you have to do is to live it. Rather it refers to a kind of force acting upon the world, something primal and ancient that breaks in on the ordinariness of our lives. You know when it is there. Something happens and it startles you. You stand back from it shaken and amazed. The whole world seems to turn to you at that moment. It is like the eye of the universe is bearing down upon you. But it doesn’t tell you what to do. Instead it asks a question. It asks what you will do next. Will you rise to the challenge, or will you fall? Will you be brave enough to stand up to your fate, or will you crumble beneath its challenges?

It may be the word “fate” and the word “fairy” are related, as is the word “fey”. The Fey are spectral beings from another dimension whose job it is to question you, to prod you, to lure you, to tempt you, to challenge you.

Sometimes the Fey appear in the form of human beings, and maybe then they challenge you on an emotional as well as a psychic level, as Morgan Le Fey challenged King Arthur.

The word “wyrd” too refers to a form of fate. We spell it this way, with a “y”, in order to distinguish it from the modern use of the word, as something just odd or out of the ordinary, although, in fact, they are the same word.

The weird sisters in Macbeth are weird in that they represent fate, not because they are old or ugly or strange. They are archaic beings, like the Fates of ancient Greece; and like the Fates, there are three of them. When they tell Macbeth his future, they do not tell him how he should act. It is hubris, his own vanity, which brings him down, not the weird sisters.

The wyrd is the web of life. It is the vast, all-encompassing fabric of being, which binds us together. It weaves the universe into a whole. We are held together by it, all of us, as one.

In Jungian terms synchronicity is an acausal principle which links coincidental events into a meaningful pattern. One example Jung gives is when he was talking about a dream in which a scarab beetle appeared, and a real beetle flew in through the window at the same time, which Jung interpreted as a sign.

Jung believed that the mind and the universe are connected on some level, that the mind can influence the universe.

The sceptics argument against this is that the ability to read meaning into apparently random events is a product of the human brain, not a law of nature. But then, you ask, what is the human brain but a product of nature? So our tendency to read meaning into random events is a product of nature too. It is nature’s counter-balance to its own meaninglessness, to have created a being whose very purpose is to find meaning.

A magic carpet
A magic carpet

Magic carpet

Perhaps the mind and the universe interweave with each other, like the warp and the weft in a carpet. Maybe this is the meaning of the magic carpet of Near Eastern imagination. It is like this: the physical universe is a linear series of complex causal events coursing through time, while the mind is the lateral perception of it, creating meaning across time. The mind and the universe interweave with each other, binding themselves into a pattern.

Thus we are instruments of meaning in a random universe. Synchronicity is not external to us, it is internal to us. It is not a law of nature, it is a choice we make. Does the universe have meaning? Yes it does. It has the meaning we choose to give it.

This might be the meaning of the word “destiny” too. A destiny is a destination. But there’s nothing inevitable about a destination. It’s somewhere you choose to go. You are not obliged to go there. You could choose somewhere else instead.

So that’s it. We’re free. We can choose to follow a synchronistic event, or not. It’s up to us.

It all depends what we’re lead by. Some people are lead by money. People who are lead by money are the slaves of the money-religion. The people who control the money-religion are money-priests. We call them bankers. They are the people whose job it is to create money out of thin air. The theologians of the money-religion we call economists. The money-religion is what rules our world right now, but it is no more than a religion. It is based upon equally spurious myths.

Other people are lead by ambition, or sex, or by hatred. Some people are lead by fear. Other people are lead by beauty, by love, by poetry. Some people are lead by football. Synchronicity is just what you choose to follow in the grand cascade of events that make up your life. You can choose the good, or you can choose otherwise. You can choose to be lead by what is helpful to your world, or you can choose to be lead by something else. Sometimes you can choose to do nothing but sit on your haunches and ruminate.

Some people – most of us these days – are lead by what we see on the TV. There’s a whole world of constructed reality there on that screen which keeps us distracted from ourselves and our purpose. If there’s a war going on but we don’t see the bodies, maybe it doesn’t really seem like a war. We don’t hear the screams of pain, or the horror, or the wails of grief. We’re not there inside the traumatised child’s mind when his parents are splattered like wet mud all over the walls of his home. We don’t know the hell of it. So we buy all of these constructed arguments about peace and democracy and protecting our way of life. We buy all of the calm reassurances that justify the madness: that we’re fighting this war for the sake of peace, that war is the route to peace, that only war can bring us peace, instead of more and more and more war.

The TV screen is an instrument of hypnosis. It flickers at you in a certain rhythm, constant and unrelenting. It spirals into your unconscious. It makes you think you know what’s going on. Meanwhile it saps you of imagination. It saps you of empathy. It saps you of intelligence. It saps you of your soul.

So you can choose. You can choose to turn your telly off and go and watch the sunset instead.

Imagination

My friend King Arthur Pendragon – who believes himself to be the reincarnation of the historical Arthur – refers to synchronicity as “Magic”. Magic is an affirming event, a confirmation, as when he went to Stonehenge and asked for a sign, and a black and white bird flew out of the stones and hit him in the face. This was at the time when he was asking the universe for confirmation of his identity. Arthur took that bird as the sign and called it magic. He’s been dressed in a white nightie with a circlet ever since.

The dictionary definition of the word “magic” is the use of charms, rites, incantations or spells to influence events; an extraordinary power or influence producing surprising results and defying explanation; the art of influencing events and producing marvels. From the Old French, magique, from the Latin, magice, from the Greek magike, from magos, one of the members of the learned or priestly class, from the Persian magush, possibly from the proto Indo-European magh, to be able, to have power, related to the word machine. Magic as a machine of power.

Traditionally magicians would invoke forces in order to control events. They would claim to whip up rain, or bring the clouds, or make the winds blow, by the force of their magical will. It’s the first step on the road to science, as no wise magician would attempt to invoke forces he didn’t comprehend. Often the magician would work by knowing the event in advance. By knowing the stars he would understand time. By understanding time he would know what would happen. This is what Stonehenge is for. It tells you in advance what will happen and when. It tells you the times of the solstices and the equinoxes with astonishing accuracy. It is a Neolithic sun temple, over 5,000 years old, and yet its measure of time is more accurate than will be achieved again for another 4,500 years at least. That, surely, is a form of magic.

If the magician, understanding the workings of the universe, were to predict an eclipse, say, what power he would have. He could tell the people it was he who had ordained that the sun should go out and make the people bow down before him in fear and awe and wonder. Knowledge is power, and power is an addictive drug. That is why we should never trust magicians.

In our use of the word it works both ways. It’s more like a conversation than a controlling mechanism. It involves listening to the world as well as telling it what to do. Magic involves signs, portents, auguries as well as spells and enchantments. It’s an exchange with nature, a two-way process. It is reading the universe and then asking the universe for support. It is trusting to fate. Perhaps it is trusting to randomness. It is trusting to the randomness of the universe and then living according to its signs. It is a way of short-circuiting the fatalism of social conditioning by following other rules. It is making up your own rules instead.

Magic is imagination. It is imagining a world into existence. William Blake said, “What is now proved was once only imagined.” David Widgery said, “the most revolutionary force is the power of the imagination.”

By following the thread of synchronicity we release the magic of the imagination to create new possibilities in a new world.

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Comments 28 comments

Nils Visser profile image

Nils Visser 4 years ago from The Low Countries

Loved this loved this loved this. You know why.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks Nils. I think you loved this.


CR Rookwood profile image

CR Rookwood 4 years ago from Moonlight Maine

I love your take on this, especially magic as a conversation. I often think of 'reading' the world and I loved your example of Arthur and the bird. I am so sick of this idea that we are lumps of meat with firing electrons inside and that's it. I mean, gee, could you come up with a LESS attractive idea?????

Awesome as usual CJ. Hope you are well. ;)


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks CR. The example of the bird flying out of the Stones is from the revised edition of my book, the Trials of Arthur, which we are just about to release on Kindle. This is a left over chapter from that. I should have waited till the book came out really, which just goes to show how I rarely practice what I preach. I'm glad you enjoyed it though.


spryte profile image

spryte 4 years ago from Arizona, USA

Well you sucked me right into this one with the title alone...thank you! I learned a new word too...pronoia and I love it! I've always felt that each life is a journey and mine has been occasionally re-directed onto paths that I might not have otherwise taken by a guiding hand, that occasionally slaps me across the face and says "No...this way...not THAT way." But I do like the idea that we seek what drives us...and I had to chew on that for a bit to understand what makes me take the bait every time. Thanks you again for another thought-provoking piece. And Happy Father's Day!


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks spryte, it was from my associate Fraser Clarke, one of the original Yippies, that I first heard the term "pronoia". I like it too. I wonder what your bait might be, and glad you took it on this occasion.


AlexK2009 profile image

AlexK2009 4 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

Great hub. Synchronicity fascinates me though I believe Jung did not define it too well. I do pay a lot of attention to coincidences though.


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 4 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Love this hub - I always talk about synchronicity because I'm aware of how it works in my life and see how it works in the lives of others. I enjoyed all of the places this article took me - a magic carpet ride. Thumbs up!


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey

Hello CJ-- nice to see you and I too love this. I just may have to buy your e-book when it comes out and read more. I am a fan of Jung and love the connection you make between synchronicity and magic-- favorite phrase: "Perhaps the mind and the universe interweave with each other, like the warp and the weft in a carpet." Wonderful image!

Thanks for a beautifully crafted thought provoking elegantly orchestrated piece of writing. Really enjoyed this.


spryte profile image

spryte 4 years ago from Arizona, USA

CJ - Curiosity :) Inquisitive sprytes want to know.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Alek, yes, Jung over-complicates it. I think my definition is better.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks kartika: glad you liked the ride.

Thanks robie: it's not really that well crafted. I just wrote it. Maybe it comes out of my brain that way, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'll let you know when the book it out. By next Tuesday I think.

Yes of course, spryte. Curiosity. It's one of my baits too.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Alek, the reason Jung's definition is so convoluted is that he attempts to make it a law of nature, measurable in a scientific way, when of course it's not. It is no more measurable than intuition, say, or creativity. It's something only the individual can know for themselves, subjective, not objective, individual not general.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Perhaps we have this need to be more important than we are in the scheme of things that leads us to read patterns in the randomness of the universe. How difficult it is for us to accept that we are naught but blobs of life no different from any other, with no more power to affect the cosmos than does a worker ant in a hive! To offset this idea, so unattractive to the ego, we must search for order in chaos and meaning where none exists. Such is my rather unromantic take on life. Great hub, though -- as usual.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hey Immartin, you go on being an unimportant blob of life, and I'll go on being a link in the chain of being. We may not have any power in the cosmos, but we do have power over the way we see ourselves. Such is my vain take on life, but I know which I prefer.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida

I like being a nothing. There's tremendous comfort in knowing you are simply one more ingredient in the vat of biological soup. For one thing, it's liberating.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

No you don't "know" that Immartin. It's a position you have volunteered for, a role you have accepted.


SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 4 years ago from Philippines

There is a symbiotic relationship that exist in all things whether one is an unimportant "blob of life" or a link in the chain of being. A tidal wave began with a small ripple somewhere. Who is to say that the wave was greater than the ripple that created it? Science and religion may one day come to the same conclusion as to the nature of the universe. The line between imagination and reality is being altered with new discoveries. Synchronicity is hard for us to fathom because we look at events in a linear way; past-present-future. A shaman's vision or a deja vu experience may be glimpse into these alternate worlds of science fiction.


Tenerife Islander profile image

Tenerife Islander 4 years ago from Tenerife

Voted up for this, Chris! As you know I see a lot of synchronicity and magic in my life but I also know a lot of skeptics.


Gibbs A Williams Ph.D. 4 years ago

I fully endorse your take on synchronicities. For a full explanation you might be interested in taking a look at my book on this subject - the results of a fifty year investigation of this perplexing and challenging topic. The title is: DEMYSTIFYING MEANINGFUL COINCIDENCES (SYNCHRONICITIES): The Evolving Self, The Personal Unconscious, and The Creative Process.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks Dr Gibbs: I'll check out your book now.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Just put a link into the Hub, though I must admit that I can't afford the book myself. Economics trumps synchronicity.


Haunted Shoreline 4 years ago

Enjoyed this. Think you are right about Jung's doomed attempt to desscribe synchronicity as a law or principle. What interests me about synchronicity is the atmosphere of the Uncanny that accompanies synchronicitous events (whereas mere coincidences are accompanied by no such feeling). There's plenty of synchronicity on the Shoreline: http://thehauntedshoreline.wordpress.com/category/...


CJStone profile image

CJStone 4 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks HS. I'll put your link into the blog and accept it as synchronous.


thoughthole profile image

thoughthole 4 years ago from Utah

Wonderful Hub! I need to bookmark this as it recounts the true definitions, spellings, and origins of words that my collegues and I go over frequently. I always remember the concepts we discuss, but not the details.

This is an excellent representation of the Synchronicity concept, I love it. There are no coincidences...


rmichaelf profile image

rmichaelf 4 years ago from North Central West Virginia, where the green grass grows...

I loved this! I am so embedded in the principle that a collegue at work on my birthday gave me a homemade b-day card on which, S-Y-N-C-H-R-O-N-I-C-I-T-Y was written vertically. After each letter she had spelled out another word making a sentence which as you read down applied the principle to me.... But, I lost it shortly afterwards. I went back to her and asked her if I could have another copy of it and she replied, "Oh, wow Mike, I didn't write it down and I can't remember it now..." I was saddened, for it was truly unique.

Oh well,

SYNCHRONICITY!

:-)

michael


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Up, Useful, and Interesting. The questions of existence, consciousness, meaning, symbol, coincidence, and imagination are ever fascinating.


CJStone profile image

CJStone 2 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks Brian. It was a bit of synchronicity which brought you here I think.

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