What are coincidences? How do they happen? Why do they happen? What do they mean?
Coincidence, as commonly defined, is when two or more events happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection. But this definition only considers events that are causally related. Synchronicity, a term coined by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s, recognizes that concurrent events may be connected by meaning, rather than cause. Synchronicity is when two or more events that appear not be connected, and are unlikely to occur together by chance, in fact do occur together in a way that is meaningful. And a grouping of events by meaning need not have an explanation in terms of cause and effect. In other words, synchronicity is meaningful coincidence.
Robert Moss, a well known writer and teacher of dream exploration, tells a fascinating account of one of his own many experiences with apparent coincidence–and how he routinely enlists synchronicity to support his own decision-making and to help determine best direction.
Robert had been thinking of writing a novel involving Winston Churchill in an Indiana Jones type adventure, and as he was debating whether to go this route he made a conscious decision one morning that he would look for coincidences that day to give him direction. He decided to play a little game for himself in which he would interpret the first unusual thing that happened that day as guidance in writing his novel. He set out for the airport for a day of traveling, and upon changing planes in Chicago, he saw a man in the airport dressed in full Indiana Jones garb–the whole outfit. That was astonishing in itself. But more to come! Later, while seated on the plane drafting a portion of his novel in which Winston Churchill is being accompanied by his bodyguard out of Downing Street, a man approached Robert and said he had the seat next to him. Robert looked up, and it was the man dressed as Indiana Jones. As the man sat down, Robert jokingly said to him “Where’s the whip?” and so began a conversation. The Indiana Jones character proceeded to tell him that his clothes were “the real thing”–and that he had bought the outfit from Winston Churchill’s bodyguard.
Now that is some coincidence, isn’t it?
Keep in mind how this little study with coincidence unfolded. Robert formed a question in his own mind: is writing a novel about Winston Churchill involved in an Indiana Jones daring adventure the right thing to do? He then consciously made an intention to pay attention to unusual signs and look for any embedded guidance. Before the day was out he was seated next to an Indiana Jones character who had been outfitted by Winston Churchill’s bodyguard. Robert found meaning in these connections.
So how did this happen? How can it happen?
The world responds to us in many ways–and quantum physicists now know this is true. Coincidence, or synchronicity, is one such form of “response” and as such, it matters, it ought to be paid attention. In short, the Universe responds to human emotion. There is no real separation between mind and matter, and thoughts and feelings are actions that interact on all levels of creation. As Robert Moss points out, the more passions are engaged, the more coincidence happens. This is at least partly because thoughts and feelings can and do translate into physical effect in the world around us. For example, Robert’s strong feelings about creating a novel involving Winston Churchill and Indiana Jones were probably directly connected to the synchronistic events that unfolded.
Carl Jung found there is an underlying dynamic at work when events manifest around meaning and content, and that this dynamic governs the whole of human experience and history — social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. It is the foundation for his concept of collective unconscious. Jung believed that many experiences that are so-called coincidences due to chance (in terms of causality) suggested the manifestation of parallel events or circumstances in terms of meaning, reflecting this governing dynamic.
Translation: Coincidence is not random, at least not all the time. Sometimes it is significant, and sometimes apparent coincidences are actually circumstances that are connected and can offer insight or meaning. “Acausal” (meaning not causal) connection is still connection.
It is worth playing with this, and seeing how it can work for you.
You may hear Robert Moss tell this story in his own voice at http://youtu.be/DzU4c765QbM.
And if you want to read more of Jung on synchronicity, his seminal paper on it is published in book form in Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. (Jung, Carl G. (1973) .Bollingen, Switzerland: Bollingen Foundation).