Friday, February 19, 2010

"Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle" by Carl Jung

What is an amazing coincidence? Is it magic? Is it just impossible luck? Maybe its nothing more than a roll of the dice that the you wake up one day, and you have the flu. As a result you don't go into work, and a few hours later there's a huge snowstorm, and the afternoon rush hour roads are jammed and your colleagues don't get home until 10PM that night. In such a case, you feel blessed to have gotten the flu. But was it just a coincidence, or, was it written, somehow?

One could theorize the weather and your sickness were related. But sometimes, just sometimes, there cannot be any connection whatsoever, and the only two 'explanations' are that you've witnessed a) an amazing coincidence or b) a miracle.

I've wanted to read this book for a number of years; I've been a huge fan of Jung's work since I started reading his amazing insights into personality development (Id, ego, projection, etc). Synchronicity goes beyond those 'theories' of psychology and borders on the paranormal.

Synchronicity, I assumed, was his theory to explain the occurrence of unbelievable 'magical' circumstances, and perhaps, what they can tell us about ourselves. Be warned: although this is only a 120 pager, this was academic piece from a brilliant man, written in 1960. In other words, put the coffee on.

Having read it, I can't believe where Jung went with this idea. Having first introduced the notion of causality and 'connected events' he posits that in such a complex world, it would be easier to start by looking for events that are unique-- they are indeed rare. Connected events are everywhere. He delves into rigorous statistical analysis of card games and dice games, and concludes that ESP may be possible, as well as 'willed outcomes' (Think, The Secret).

This is where Jung gets going. He puts away the calculator for a second and turns to.... Chinese Philosophy?

Having first pondered the possibility of ESP/Psychics/psycho-kinetics, he then discusses several ancient systems of divination, preferring the Chinese (Like the 'Yi Ching') for their holistic approach (again, almost everything is connected). He goes into a very spaced out and esoteric trip consisting of galactic forces (in attempt to prove or disprove Easter and Western Astrological forecasts) and Greek Gods--seriously--knowing that all these things are man's 'creation', the common link is, Archetypes?

Archetypes are an idea of patterns, figures and characters that are common throughout the world's cultures and eras. These seem to be models for possible personalities and relationships which are so universal as to be, perhaps, wired in our DNA to understand (eg. The Hero, the Trickster, the Nurturing Mother--these are ingrained ideas which Jung believes compose our dreams).

This is really an amazing book whereupon, Jung attempts to sit down and prove the power of our minds to either predict the future or create it. I won't spoil the end, because I won't do it justice, obviously, but I'll share an anecdote, which occurred just after I finished reading the book.

It just so happened that during my Think Week, I'd finished a book called 'The Ascent of Money"the day before. Now, there's a part in that book which mentions Mary Poppins: apparently, there's a scene in Mary Poppins where everyone wants to take their money out of the bank at the same time, causing a run on the bank's money. Why do I mention it? Because just before going to sleep that night, and I was watching some TV (keep in mind, this is China, most of the Channels are Chinese talk shows and dramas). I stopped on what looked like a very old movie, with some old-looking white people. It was Mary Poppins.

Why is that weird?

Well first of all its about 50 years old. Secondly, its geared towards a North American audience, making it less liklely to have any appeal whatsoever in China in 2010. The fact that I remembered 'Oh yeah, I was just reading about this yesterday' was amazing. And I'd actually bought that book 'The Ascent of Money' about 6 months prior and never got around to reading it until then. It's amazing that I just so happened to get the book, and then let it sit on my coffee table for half a year before, in the right hotel, on the right week, watching the right channel at the right time, Mary Poppins shows up. And it would have been completely meaningless unless I'd read Ascent of Money they day before, instead of the day after.
You're right, I'm probably just grasping at straws there. Or maybe Synchronicity is just a matter of paying attention to the millions of coincidences and miracles that happen every single day.

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