Synchronicity, a window into the Kingdom of Heaven
Abstract: Two cases of apparent precognition are seen in terms of synchronicity or meaningful coincidence. One case involves the well-known precognitive automatic writing of Mrs Verrell, the wife of a Cambridge don, the other involves the dream of Joakim Thoresson, then a theological student in Gothenburg, Sweden. Both cases are seen as windows into an understanding of The Kingdom of Heaven, as taught by Jesus.
It will be agreed that the Kingdom of Heaven/the Kingdom of God is central to the teaching of Jesus. The Kingdom is understood in this essay as a certain state of spiritual awareness of oneness with the Source of all things. The teaching of St Paul about “dying to self, and rising with Christ” is central to Paul, and is seen as describing a similar spiritual state.
If I were to attempt to justify this point of view by quoting passages from the Gospels and the writings of Paul, things could become very complicated and controversial. There are many competing understandings and interpretations, and if we were to study them here we would never get to look at the science that can suggest what Jesus and Paul may have meant in teaching about these matters.
So, I want to begin by discussing, in a sense scientifically, the human experiences that seem to have to do with that spiritually unitive state that may be thought of as The Kingdom of Heaven.
So let’s jump in at the deep end and look at a clairvoyant case history reported by Lawrence LeShan, and quoted by Colin Wilson in Beyond the Occult: i(Trust me, the case history does have something to say about the Kingdom of Heaven.)
The clairvoyant case history of Mrs Verrall.
LeShan cites a case involving Mrs Margaret Verrall, wife of a Cambridge don, who was one of the most remarkable mediums in the early decades of the twentieth century. When practising automatic writing Mrs Verrall recorded the following scene: “The cold was intense and a single candle gave poor light. He was lying on a sofa or a bed and was reading Marmontel by the light of a single candle… The book was lent to him, it did not belong to him…’ In a script a few days later she wrote, ‘Marmontel is right. It is a French book, a memoir, I think Passy may help, souvenirs de Passy or Fleury. The book was bound and it was lent – two volumes in old-fashioned binding and print.’ Some time later she meet a friend, a Mr Marsh, who told her that she had accurately described something that had happened to him. He had borrowed one volume of Marmontel’s memoirs from the London Library and taken it to Paris, where he had read it in a bed, on a freezing cold night, by the light of a single candle. The chapter that he had been reading was about the discovery of a picture painted at Passy and associated with a certain M. de Fleury.
An interesting piece of clairvoyance, one might think, but not particularly remarkable. Until we learn that Mrs Verrall wrote her description on 11 December 1911 and Mr Marsh did not read the book in Paris until 21 February of the following year. (pp. 33-4)
Let us consider this “case history”. Mrs Verrall was practising automatic writing. She held a pen over paper with no conscious intention as to what she would write. She was simply open to whatever the Unconscious would move her hand to write.
The Unconscious through her hand wrote, “The cold was intense… Marmontel is right” and so on.
Here we can be reminded of the words of Jesus, “The Spirit blows where it wishes. We do not know where it comes from or where it is going to.” (John 3.8) So it was with Mrs Verrall. Much later The Unconscious, (what is unconscious to Margaret Verrall, - call it the X-factor if you wish), ensures that she meets a friend, Mr. Marsh. Yes, he has had exactly the experience that her automatic writing had described. And he had it more than two months after she wrote it. How can this be? Did Mr. Marsh’s later experience cause Mrs. Verrall’s earlier writing? Did Mrs. Verrall in some way cause the experience of Mr. Marsh? We have no evidence that either happened. Did then, some exterior agency cause both Mrs Verrall’s writing and Mr Marsh’s experience? Who can say? We can say little more than that we seem compelled to see the automatic writing and the experience as somehow meaningfully together, as somehow one event. Very strange for our waking minds, but rather familiar when we think of how dreams can behave.
It is obvious that this story, this case history, challenges our ordinary everyday picture of reality, where we go shopping, earn our living, and get things done. It challenges the materialist understanding of reality, where former things directly cause later things, that cause and effect always operates rather as cause and effect operate in a machine.
This story doesn’t seem immediately to prompt us to think about The Kingdom of Heaven. It doesn’t immediately prompt us to think about God.
But I do have a similar and personal story or “case history”, if you like. It certainly does more to prompt us to think about the Kingdom. Yet it is very similar to the story of Mrs. Verrall and Mr. Marsh.
Joakim Thoresson’s precognitive dream.
This is the story: I had had a long telephone conversation with a friend in Auckland about the Holy Communion service seen as a script of a playii, about the spiritual communion that may be engendered by this play, about Stephen the Martyr, about the Cubic City of God of Revelations 21, about years of mysterious coincidences relating to the unity or marriage of the so-called spiritual and physical in The One, and how this was symbolised in the image of the Cubic City of God, and the story of the heavenly marriage that precedes it. Stephen the Martyr is of very great importance to me, since I seem to have had almost 200 conversations with him (as a trance personality) about the nature of reality, through the lips of a medium called Thomas Ashman.iii The conversations took place within a private circle. There is some agreement amongst qualified scholarsiv that a little dialectal Greek that he spoke on two occasions is genuine, and is of his time and place.
Immediately after the end of my conversation I received an e-mail from a friend who was a theological student in Sweden at that time, called Joakim Thoresson. In Swedish he was recounting a dream that he had ten days before. In his dream he was attending his parish church in Biskopsgården in Gothenburg. In the dream his parish priest was very energetically proclaiming that the words of the Holy Communion service were like the script of a play. While the preacher was speaking Joakim could see above the congregation figures in white robes having true Communion with each other. At the other end of the church, at the gallery where the organ and the choir were placed, stood the church caretaker, called Stephen. And Stephen was nodding in vigorous agreement with the words of the preacher. At the same time Stephen was twirling four cubes so that they looked like globes of the Earth. The dream then changed, and the congregation was coming out of church. It became apparent that there was about to be a wedding, and that the bride had not yet arrived. (We note the matching references to Communion service as the script of a play, at another level spiritual communion, the name “Stephen”, references to a cube, to a bride. Later I will point out further correspondences.)
You can see that Joakim was like Mrs Verrall, and I, like Mr Marsh. You can see how closely Joakim’s dream represents the main topics of the conversation with my friend in Auckland. The Cubic City of God is represented by Joakim’s cubes spun by the church caretaker Stephen. And Joakim’s dream adds a marriage, where the bride has not yet appeared. The simile of the bride belongs with that of the Cubic City in Revelation 21. Verse 2 reads, “And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming out of heaven from God, prepared and ready, like a bride dressed to meet her husband.”
Joakim’s dream presages my conversation with the friend in Auckland. That same conversation suggests a likely interpretation of Joakim’s dream. And yes, the dream and the conversation need to be put together. As was the case with the putting together of the personal experiences of Mrs Verrall and Mr Marsh, dream and conversation ask a question about reality. One can be said to foretell the other, but we cannot say that one caused the other. If there is a cause it must be found within the timeless, spaceless realm of the One, alias The Kingdom of Heaven. That such a timeless, spaceless realm exists, is asserted by numbers of theoretical physicists, and by philosophers sympathetic to Plato, not to mention poets and theologians. Once again though, our discussion will get bogged down if we make learned quotations from them with proper discussion of what they have to say. Readers will have to go elsewhere for enlightenment.
To repeat, the Joakim’s Dream/my conversation event does appear to exhibit characteristics of the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is a further correspondence between the conversation with my friend in Auckland, and Joakim’s dream. I mentioned that Joakim, in his dream, had Stephen twirling four cubes. I have in fact omitted one detail in the account of my conversation with my friend: that we had discussed the views of Lawrence LeShan as contained in his book Alternate Realities.v There, LeShan opines that Reality is Reality but that it can be viewed in four modes. Firstly there is the mode of viewing that we can term the Sensory-Physical mode. This is the mode of the Left-Brain, where we reason, experiment, manipulate and act in the physical. Secondly there is the Archetypal mode, where we manipulate symbols. Thirdly, the Transpsychic, where the agreement is that we are all connected but separate, and can pray for each other and affect each other psychically or spiritually. Fourthly, there is the Clairvoyant or Holistic mode of seeing things, where all is perceived as The One.
LeShan stresses that there is in fact One Reality, yet each mode of relating to that one reality, when we are in that mode, seems to exclude and make nonsense of the others. Even so, each mode is entirely valid.
What these experiences suggest about the Kingdom of Heaven/God.
My experiences, my conversations with Stephen, stories such as those two I have told here, put alongside the thinking of spiritually minded physicists and mystics, all seem to add up to this: they suggest that we enter (the mode of experiencing reality that is) the Kingdom of Heaven when we truly enter what LeShan calls the Clairvoyant (Holistic) mode of seeing things.
Perhaps readers may agree that the paired stories of Mrs Verrall and Mr Marsh, and also the stories of Joakim’s Dream and my Conversation about the Holy Commmunion, beg to be seen as two timeless, spaceless Thoughts. In each case there is one story, in which one part seems to predict and also amplify the meaning of the other. Yet each pair is one story, apparently being told outside the framework of time and space.
I see such timeless, spaceless thought as being pictured in Joakim’s dream. And yet there is a further correspondence. Stephen the church caretaker twirls the four cubes to make the appearance of four globes. You remember the four modes of LeShan, but the globes. Why were these so significant for me?
The gist of our many conversations with St Stephen, is that mind or Spirit is the ultimate reality, and timeless, spaceless. Serving the purposes of Spirit is the physical with its apparent time and space. The spiritual/physical universe is not split, and is not divided. And it is when we begin to truly know and feel this that we come to some understanding of the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven, perceiving spiritual/physical reality in what we have termed the clairvoyant or holistic mode.
Further synchronicities showing how physical and spiritual can be seen as “married”.
Accompanying our conversations with Stephen were constant synchronicitiesvi (meaningful coincidences) and these continued for many years after our conversations ceased. Every one of these synchronicities had in one way or another to do with the perception of the “marriage” of the spiritual and the physical. In actual fact the spiritual and physical are married, they are in fact one continuum. And synchronicities can only be understood in terms of that continuum. But our challenge, in our lives here in the physical, is to see them as married, and as one continuum. We undergo many experiences of life for just this purpose. Conversion, being filled with Spirit, or awakening, occurs when we finally firmly grasp the fact that all is Spirit, that God is to be perceived as in all, through all, and above all.
With regard to the globes: I had experienced a fascinating series of synchronicities that had the UFO as the theme, which led me to perceive an imagined cube contained by the globe of the Earth, with some of its corners at the Devil’s Tower Wyoming USA, Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Celestial Mountains in Western China. Devil’s Tower being nearly 180° of longitude apart from the Celestial Mountains, and Christchurch nearly 90° apart from both of them, all of them close to the 45th parallel, north or south. I remember being excited at being able to imagine such an internal cube contained within these points, and then wondering whether the Scripture passages set for the coming Sunday would have anything to do with my discovery. I ran downstairs and half way down, from that point, for some reason I started counting the steps. There were twelve. I rushed to the Lectionary (which is a list of Bible readings for each Sunday of the year) and found that I was to preach on Revelation 21, about the Cubic City of God, with its twelve gates, whose dimensions, according to some scholars, are such as to exactly contain the globe of the Earth.vii
Thus Joakim’s dream of Stephen spinning the cubes until they looked like globes was of course highly significant for me. But they are also in accord with ancient thinking, where squaring the circle, cubing the sphere in itself symbolised the marriage of Spiritual and Physical, so that they are seen as one. Once again, experiencing God as in all, through all, and above all. When we experience things in this way, I consider that we are seeing the Kingdom of Heaven/God as taught by Jesus.
To see this Kingdom, to have this knowledge that in the flesh or not, one has eternal life, John 3.3 has Jesus saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Paul puts it thus, “Know ye not, that so many us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6.1-4) It seems that Paul also agrees there is some kind of rebirth.
Some physicists experience synchronicity, and write about it from the point of view of their science.
If what I have been writing seems to make sense, we will still have many questions and objections. Questions about the science underlying these thoughts about the Kingdom of Heaven can be followed up by consulting Wikipedia about physicists David Bohm, David Peat, Arthur Eddington, Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, Sarfatti, and many others. One needs to investigate what they have to say about the mental aspect of Reality, and to notice their Platonism.viii In addition all the phenomena studied by psychic research are manifestations of a timeless, spaceless aspect of reality. David Peat and Wolfgang Pauli with Carl Jung have much to say about the spiritual and physical roots of synchronicity or meaningful coincidence. We would drown in the number of words, if we were to pursue this line of investigation here.
The Kingdom of Heaven as we may have previously conceived it.
But thoughts are more likely to come to mind about the Kingdom of Heaven/God as we may have previously conceived it. We may have conceived it as God’s reward for a good life lived within the confines of the Christian church. At one mode of spiritual development we can imagine, that if we are “good”, and obey the Ten Commandments and the behaviour prescribed by our church or our society, we will be rewarded by being allowed to enter the Kingdom. No doubt, being “good” does in fact help our spiritual awakening. But it is not the same affair as spiritual rebirth. In the controversy as to whether we are saved by faith or by works, we can side with Martin Luther in affirming that we are saved by faith alone, if by that he meant spiritual rebirth into the awareness of participating in the Kingdom of Heaven. Such rebirth should of course issue in good works.
A study of some of Jesus’ words about entering the Kingdom suggests that he is indeed speaking of the state of being that will allow us to perceive this God in all, through all, and above all, that all is the creation of Spirit. If we study the Beatitudes, (Matthew 5.3-10) we see states of being very likely to be involved in “entering the Kingdom of Heaven” as here supposed: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Blessed are the humble, not egotistic, non-prejudiced, perhaps) “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (because they know that Spirit is one and eternal.) “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Not inherit real estate, but the certainty that they are one with the Spirit in all, through all, and above all.) “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (These last sayings seem to require no interpretation.)
Much more can no doubt be written about Jesus’ teaching on The Kingdom of Heaven. We can only stress here the centrality of Love, love of God, love of neighbour. Perhaps this deep awareness of the God in all through all and above all is love. And Jesus said that God is love. Perhaps that covers it.
All the varieties of psychical research and the Kingdom.
A further question will now no doubt come to mind: Beatitudes, yes, they describe what will qualify us to experience the Kingdom. But our two extraordinary stories, What have the Beatitudes got to do with stories like that? Even more so, what have the gamut of less spiritual seeming psychic or paranormal phenomena to say about the Kingdom?
Broadly interpreted we may identify the Kingdom with love and with Spirit, and ultimately they may be the same thing. But Spirit in itself behaves differently from Spirit as it manifests itself in physicality. Seeing things in terms of physicality, we observe the normal passages of time, and causal interactions between this and that, and the use of electromagnetic energy. Pure Spirit is not constrained by the limits of time and space, and this is shown in numerous ways. In this essay we have recounted two stories which clearly defy the physical rules of time and place. (Yet, as here the physical seems to break its own rules, and plays the game of Spirit, it can be suspected that the physical is not really different from Spirit, but observes differing rules when so-called “normality” is in operation. All meaningful coincidence appears to show physicality changing its supposed rules at the behest of Spirit. The rules under which Spirit operates are demonstrated in the stories we have told in this essay. These ‘rules’ or ‘ways of manifesting’ are observed also in the phenomena of telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, spiritual healing, psychokinesis, they are observed through the operation of spiritual mediums, they are found when people speak in tongues, they are found in distance viewing, they are probably found in the exercise of most of the spiritual gifts that are listed by St Paul in I Corinthians 12:8-13 "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."
Creativity of all kinds, and genius, may all be examples of Spirit at work that doesn’t obey the rules, or “the game”, maybe the illusion of physicality.
In our journal THE GROUND OF FAITH we give many examples of Spirit at work. Not all examples that we give are edifying, but they are all reminders that ultimately physicality itself may be the illusion, or perhaps Spirit seen in a different modality, but that Spirit is the only reality.
Before I finish, I note that not once in this essay have I mentioned sin or evil. I have asserted a possible identity between Spirit and love. Is there a problem in asserting that? Can we argue that evil is the result of NOT being aware of being in the Kingdom? That evil is what happens when we are self-centred and unable to behave towards others as if they were an extension of ourselves. It happens when there is ignorance that my neighbour is my brother or sister, it happens when we see people, animals, all of creation, as other than the extension of the one Spirit. Can we see evil as the result of spiritual blindness, and lack of love?
In this essay we have been thinking about Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven/The Kingdom of God, from the point of view of modern psychical research, and the study of paranormal experience. We studied two paranormal experiences that we could describe as predictive clairvoyance, or predictive dreaming. They could also be described as synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence.
The details of these two experiences suggest that they originate in a dimension that where the ‘rules of the physical “game”’ are not observed; time and space, cause and effect, do not seem to be characteristic of this dimension.
If we regard these two experiences as synchronicity, as together acausally in meaning, then we seem to be observing events in the physical that are not observing the ‘rules’ of physicality. Physical happenings are taking on a dreamlike nature.
There are very many types of manifestations of the paranormal in physicality that break the apparent rules of physicality. And some of these we have only listed. But our two case histories perhaps are sufficient to point us to this timeless spaceless, acausal realm, which may be what Jesus termed the Kingdom of Heaven. We enter the Kingdom of Heaven when we are blessed by being able to be in tune with the teaching of the Beatitudes, when we are awakened to this spiritual realm, when we become aware so to speak of our citizenship of this realm.
We could suggest that the task of the church, while acknowledging the varying phenomena of the Kingdom, is to lead us to true Communion with the Source of all things, and to pray, in the words of Jesus, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
i Colin Wilson, Beyond the Occult (1988)
ii We had been discussing a booklet on that theme written by a Christchurch NZ clergyman, Rev John Williamson
v Lawrence LeShan, Alternate Realities, New York, M.Evans, 1976
vi “Jung coined the word to describe what he called "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events." Jung variously described synchronicity as an "acausal connecting principle", "meaningful coincidence" and "acausal parallelism". Jung introduced the concept as early as the 1920s but only gave a full statement of it in 1951 in an Eranos lecture and in 1952, published a paper, Synchronicity — An Acausal Connecting Principle, in a volume with a related study by the physicist (and Nobel laureate) Wolfgang Pauli.” Quoted from a Wikipedia article. Physicists who have written on synchronicity are Pauli himself, F. David Peat, Synchronicity, The Bridge Between Matter and Mind, 1987; (Peat shared ideas and research with physicist David Bohm, a protégé of Einstein.) Victor Mansfield, Synchronicity, Science and Soul Making, 1995. Other writers are Arthur Koestler, The Roots of Coincidence, 1972, Alan Vaughan, Patterns of Prophecy, 1974, Scott B. Smith, Coincidence, 1987; Robert H.Hopke, There are no Accidents,1997
vii see John Michel: 1972 City of Revelation: On the Proportions and Symbolic Numbers of the Cosmic Temple, Garnstone Press (However we may evaluate Michell’s scholarship, it is the synchronicity around my conception of cube containing the earth that is of interest here.)
viii see Ken Wilber in Quantum Questions, 1984.