In introducing the idea of synchronicity, I present here the first few pages of a sequel toThe Stephen Experience which I call
INTO THE WIDER DREAM
Probably all of us from time to time become aware of one of the
strangest of coincidences. We can hardly believe it has happened.
And it seems very meaningful. It has come at an important moment
in our life. We have the feeling that it is saying something to us, although
perhaps we can’t interpret it precisely. We are at an absolute loss to
know how it happened. It can’t be chance we think, but how on earth....?
Carl Jung called such meaningful coincidences "synchronicity". Others
might detect in them the hand of God, of Providence, or speak of guidance
by the Holy Spirit. Whatever the language, such coincidences are deeply
meaningful, and seem inexplicable and no smart talk about the statistical
likelihood of strange happenings will dissuade us from seeing the meaning,
the utter appropriateness of the event.
Sometimes we can have a string of synchronicities, and life takes
on a dream-like quality. We may then think a little more deeply, and
come up with a thought like "are we and these events being dreamed
up by.. by a mind that encloses all of us? Does this mind dream us up
as well as some of these strange events where we can trace no possible
cause and effect? And of course, that is what makes sense to me, and
why I name my book Into the Wider Dream.
If we have experienced strings of synchronicities, we find our view
things forever changed. Life is seen from an entirely other angle.
So far as this book is concerned, you could see it as a sort of
autobiography, conveyed through accounts of strings of synchronicities.
If you have already read my book The Stephen Experience,
where we, over a long period of time, were speaking with the spirit
of Stephen the first Christian martyr, you will notice that this book is
really a continuation of that Experience, and a further exploration of
the Divine. In The Stephen Experience, I referred to the unseen "Dreamer"
as "The Christ of the Space Between".
But to tell the story of an actual string of synchronicities: Maybe
fifteen years ago now, my wife Gertrud and I had been thinking
of building a retirement house by the seaside, near the river Styx.
An appropriate place, I suppose, when you remember that the
river Styx in classical mythology is what you cross when you die.
One day, she and I, and her daughter Kari set out to explore.
It was quite some time before we got to the river, since I had
driven us by a circuitous route from town, going in all sorts of
directions. I think was a little depressed at the thought of retiring,
and the thought of death.
And then the synchronicity starts. Or perhaps it started when I
led us in a wild goose-chase in the wrong directions. In any case,
we shortly come to a pine plantation outside which there is a notice
proclaiming "The Ultimate Game". This is a new commercial venture
where people stalk one another through the undergrowth in the
trees, attempting to "kill" each other with dye pellets shot out of
a gun. "How awful to play a death game like that" we exclaim.
And drive on. Within a minute, we see a policeman and a tow
truck beside the River Styx. They are trying to haul out a car
which had been driven into the river, and which was submerged
under the water. We wonder whether or not the driver had been
drowned. And drive on.
It is dusk. Suddenly two ginger cats leap out of the shadows at the
side of the road. I swerve the car sharply, but I have killed one of
the cats, and there it lies twitching in the road. I am tempted to
throw it into the River Styx. I then think that I had better own up.
There is a man working in a vegetable garden over the hedge.
"Is this your cat?" Yes it is. The man is kind about it. We are
sympathetic to each other. And are very upset. And we drive on.
Two minutes later, we are at our caravan at Brooklands Motor Camp.
I am still upset. Gertrud is kind to me and tells me to sit down while
she gets the evening meal. She goes into the camp kitchen, and
immediately through a window comes a ginger cat identical to
the one I have just killed.
I am sitting in the caravan, and to distract myself pick up Gary
The Dancing Wu-Li Masters: an Overview of the New Physics.
I open the book at random, at a part I haven't yet read. It is page 108. I read:
"'Schrödinger's Cat' sums up the difference between classical physics
and the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics,
and the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.
'Schrödinger's Cat' is a dilemma posed long ago by the famous
discoverer of the Schrödinger wave equation:
A cat is placed inside a box. Inside the box is a device, which can
release a gas, instantly, killing the cat. A random event (the radio
decay of an atom) determines whether the gas is released or not....
According to classical physics, the cat is either dead or it is not
The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics says that the
cat is in a kind of limbo represented by a wave function which contains
the possibility that the cat is dead, and also the possibility that the cat is alive."
For me the cat was dead, for Gertrud it seemed as if it were alive,
and that dead/ aliveness was mirrored in the story of Schrödinger's Cat.
The sceptic in you may say, "Yes, yes, a remarkable series of
coincidences. But to be realistic: you were thinking about retirement
and death. You knew the name "Styx" is associated with death. You
knew there was an area alongside Styx Road, where people pretended
to kill each other with dye pellets. It was there all the time. It was just by
chance that they were pulling that car out of the water. You don’t know
that anyone had died in that accident. And it was rotten luck that you ran
over one of the two ginger cats. And then, well it was a coincidence that
Gertrud saw another ginger cat. And as for your reading about Schrödinger’s
Cat, well, that was just one of those things."
To that, the believer in me might say, "I hate it when people say
one of those things’. It just dismisses the question without thinking about it.
Look! Put yourself in my place. I am thinking about death to come, and
there in the space of twenty minutes all these upsetting things happen, all
about death, and not-death. The whole thing was feeling to me as if I were
surrounded by the numinous, the meaningful, the spiritual. But mixed with
that was the feeling that I was experiencing a weird and unpleasant dream.
And do you know what? They found a skeleton in a field just there by the
Styx, that very afternoon! And do you really not consider it strange that I
came upon that bit about Schrödinger’s Cat just at that moment?"
"All in your mind," says sceptical you.
But then I play my trump card. I say that all that had happened in
synchronistic series up to this point, seemed in retrospect to be a commentary
on the death of an artist friend called Drew Peters. Drew was in hospital
while we were at the camp, but as he was such a fit man, we had no fear
that he would die.
But while we were at the motor camp Gertrud had this dream that I
in her words: "Someone had died upstairs in the house that we were in. We
did not understand who it was, or why he had died. But when I got upstairs
I saw geometrical three-dimensional shapes of foam plastic, floating around
the air in the room. In the dream I had an "aha!" experience, and in the dream
I went to find Michael [that’s me] to say 'Oh now I know, his death had to
do with geometry.' In the dream this made sense, but not when I awoke."
On the morning after the dream we returned home where we could be
reached by phone. It was a few hours later that a friend called Victor
phoned to say that friend Drew had just died.
Victor remarked that it was at least good that Drew had actually
his book on ancient geometry.
We grieved for our friend, and went to see Lois with whom he lived,
a long- term friend of ours. From her we learned that two weeks before
he died he had dreamed that his car had broken down, never to go again,
and that her car had driven up to him, with the engine of his car, and the
doors of his car fitted to hers. (He had apparently been in good health at the
time.) But now he had died suddenly of a brain embolism. And in their home
I noted the furniture, the earthenware, the paintings that he made... so much
of him was surrounding her now, as if he continued to be with her. It was the
story of Schrödinger's Cat once again, he was both dead and alive, and his
apparently premonitory dream, seemed to foretell this.
It had been not long before his death that we had bought from him
oil painting entitled "Gethsemane", which, like many of his paintings, could
be interpreted as conveying the feeling "dead-not dead". In the foreground
were rotting pieces of wood, and moss, in the distance shafts of light shone
through the trees. We had been tempted for instance to buy a companion
painting, showing jagged and bleached tree stumps, with fresh new plants
growing beside them.
The sceptical you at this point is a little nonplused. You hedge.
Drew had had subliminal bodily warnings that he was going to die. Perhaps
we had good reason to suspect his impending death. Perhaps we knew he
was writing this little book on Geometry – actually for his Masonic Lodge.
But the fact is, no, no, and no. Perhaps nothing, we had no inkling, and we
knew nothing about his book.
So you abandon your scepticism a little and say, "All right I believe
had this strange dream, and that it all came true, and I believe that it was psychic,
or something like that. But I don’t believe all the earlier stuff had any meaning
in itself. You just put it there."
At this point I press my point and invite the sceptical you to think
about reality. "Gertrud is mysteriously aware of the death, and the book on geometry.
Let’s both admit that we don’t have the foggiest how she became aware. But she
was aware." Then, I continue, "I wonder whether you would agree with me that
there is no agreement at all amongst scientists, as to what awareness and
consciousness actually is? Perhaps you know that the psychologists who have
tried to get rid of the scientifically insoluble question about consciousness, by
claiming that it was no more significant than the noise coming out of a motorcar.
The time seems to have come when psychology must discard all reference
consciousness, when it need no longer delude itself into thinking that it is making
mental states the object of observation.
. . .Psychology as the Behaviorist views it is a purely objective,
branch of natural science which needs introspection as little as do the sciences
of chemistry and physics.
"How angry I get with smart ‘simply’ or ‘nothing but’ thinking, closing
doors to further thought!
"Then we have those theoretical physicists, who see the universe
psychophysical organism. Perhaps you have heard of Werner Heisenberg,
Wolfgang Pauli, Jack Sarfatti, or David Bohm? They very much have persuasive
theories of consciousness, but not such as to command general agreement. I warm
to such people much more, since they do not claim to finally know.
"But in any case, to come back from those musings, you might perhaps
Gertrud did dream of Drew’s death, and of the geometry. And in that case, you
might be prepared to give ground and to say that her dreaming was ‘psychic’.
If you do, I thank you, but in that case, I would have to ask, do you know
the difference between ‘psychic’ consciousness, and ‘ordinary’ consciousness?
I can’t really see a difference, unless perhaps you regard ‘psychic’ as being
conscious of things unseen. In which case, perhaps you might agree that I
was being just as ‘psychic’ in my seeing all those ‘death/not-death’ events
along the river Styx. Yes, I was seeing events along that river that any
other traveller would have seen. But perhaps you would allow that I might
have been seeing these events with an awareness similar to Gertrud’s in her
dream. It looks as if both Gertrud and I had a prior and deeper awareness
of the theme surrounding the ‘death/not-death’ of Drew.
"At the end of the short trip along the Styx, the living ginger cat
in through the kitchen window. Simultaneously I randomly find the passage
about Schrödinger’s dead/not dead cat. What’s happening out there in
the physical world is becoming increasingly dreamlike, don’t you think?
Physical reality itself seems to be bending and distorting under the pressure
of Mind. That is how I see it." It seems we have to abandon normal ideas
of cause and effect. Indeed physicist John S. Bell’s theorem is that we
must either drop the idea of local cause and effect, or drop the mathematics
of Quantum Mechanics. And it is not the latter that scientists are about to
drop. In the realm of the very small, all determines all else in the universe,
and instantaneously. Thus we hear of Eddington many years previously,
saying that the universe is a great thought. Building partly on the thought of
John Bell, David Bohm wrote of the exterior or explicate psychophysical
universe, being "projected" by the interior or the implicate. It is similar to
Plato’s teaching about the form or picture laid up in heaven, giving rise to
the physical thing out there in the reality of see and touch. In The Stephen
Experience I preferred to use the image of The Christ of the Space Between
who orchestrated the events of psychophysical reality. These are all dissimilar
pictures for the same notion.
So therefore in thinking about synchronicity, we are perhaps left
that all reality as we perceive it with our "commonsense" mind, is part of the
dream of "The Christ of the Space Between" of the "Implicate", of the "Ideal
Form". Maybe we can indeed say that, "all determines all else simultaneously
throughout the universe." Everything may be a kind of Cosmic Dream. When
we experience Synchronicity, or when we are "psychic", we are simply momentarily
perceiving deeper and more hidden layers of meaning.
But how can we distinguish between perception and self-deception?
- for we
know we all can dream up rubbish. I think the answer is simple: we can say
that just as a prophet is proved to be a true prophet when his prophecies
come true, so synchronicity is revealed to be synchronicity by the depth of
perception that it reveals, and the depth of its meaning. Synchronicity reveals
itself the more it links itself to other meanings, revealing a wider spiritual
landscape. In brief: From the point of view of the commonsense world,
where you believe you can see how one thing causes another, there cannot
be synchronicity or acausal coincidences that are meaningful. The commonsense
world says that meaning comes when we study cause and effect. Much of
enormously successful scientific endeavour is based on this commonsense view.
This is overwhelmingly obvious when we are dealing with what I might call
middle-sized events, all the events accessible to the physical senses. For these
events, the commonsense is valid. But theoretical physicists have amply
demonstrated, that once we deal with the ultra small, as in Quantum theory,
or the ultra large, as in Relativity theory, we find that the universe "is not only
queerer than we imagine, it is probably queerer than we are able to imagine".
As I said, it is the theoretical physicists who put forward believable
about consciousness, and firmly place it in the quantum world. Once you accept
what the "commonsense" world calls "psychic", you have really given the game
away. You are admitting the existence of a realm that is acausal, as in quantum
reality. You are admitting that you can become aware of conscious knowledge
that can exist apart from brains, apart from the physical senses, apart from
electromagnetic radiation conveying information from this to that. You are in the
quantum world, where the acausal, and all influencing all else, is accepted.