Wikipedia, 6/14/2008: Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally un-related. In order to be ‘synchronistic’, the events must be related to one another temporally, and the chance that they would occur together by random chance must be very small.
The idea of synchronicity is that the conceptual relationship of minds, defined by the relationship between ideas, is intricately structured in its own logical way and gives rise to relationships which have nothing to do with causal relationships in which a cause precedes an effect.
Instead, causal relationships are understood as simultaneous that is, the cause and effect occur at the same time.
[You’re thinking of calling Suzie. You reach for the phone, but it rings. It’s Suzie.]
Synchronous events reveal an underlying pattern, a conceptual framework which encompasses, but is larger than, any of the systems which display the synchronicity. The suggestion of a larger framework is essential in order to satisfy the definition of synchronicity as originally developed by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.
[Carl was a merry old fellow, and his beard was very good.]
It was a principle that Jung felt gave conclusive evidence for his concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious. in that it was descriptive of a governing dynamic that underlay the whole of human experience and history social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.
[For the life of me, I’ve never understood what synchronicity has to do with archetypes, which are images or ideas that we all have in our heads, like fearing bugs. It probably comes from our evolutionary memory embodied in DNA relating to pattern recognition. That is, far enough back, when our grandfather’s grandfather’s great grandfather was a bug, we were afraid of the larger bugs. But I digress …]
Jung believed that many experiences perceived as coincidence were not merely due to chance but, instead, suggested the manifestation of parallel events or circumstances reflecting this governing dynamic.
[Now here I have to agree with Carlos. I think stuff is going on, around and through us, stuff that flows both ways through time, stuff we cannot see anymore than a fish can tell the difference between Bach and the Beatles. This stuff affects us. Peculiar things happen. If you tune in, more of them happen. Wooooo.]
One of Jung’s favourite quotes on synchronicity was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, in which the White Queen says to Alice: “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards”. Because only if an observer could remember the future could synchonicity be expected and explained.
[My favorite quote from Alice is “No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.” What is yours?]
According to Occam’s razor, positing an underlying mechanism for meaningfully interpreted correlations is an unsupported explanation for a “meaningful coincidence” if the correlations may alternatively be explained by simple coincidence.
The amount of meaningful coincidence which one expects by random chance is higher than most people’s intuition would lead them to believe, an observation known as Littlewood’s Law.
[Hmmm. Littlewood. Perhaps that is as when we say, “Littlewood he know that …” Or maybe not.]
Jung and followers believe that synchronous events such as simultaneous discovery happen far more often than random chance would allow, even after accounting for the sampling bias inherent in the fact that meaningful coincidences are noticeable while meaningless coincidences are not.
[Uh oh. Who are these followers? In every picture I’ve seen, he’s been alone. Now I realize there must have been people shadowing him. Perhaps they were waiting outside the door of his office, in the street, or up your alley. Have you noticed them? I hadn’t. I didn’t notice a thing. That’s scary.]
In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias is the tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions and avoids information and interpretations which contradict prior beliefs. Many critics believe that any evidence for synchronicity is due to confirmation bias, and nothing else.
[Confirmation bias! That’s one of my favorites! In fact, it’s right here on The Adventures of Bloggard, listed in the Wisdom Log as Law 23 of Human Perception.]
Wolfgang Pauli, a scientist who in his professional life was severely critical of confirmation bias, lent his scientific credibility to support the theory, coauthoring a paper with Jung on the subject. Some of the evidence that Pauli cited was that ideas which occurred in his dreams would have synchronous analogs in later correspondence with distant collaborators.
[Severely critical. What a shame. Not just critical, but severely critical. Bummer.]
Jung claims that in 1805, the French writer mile Deschamps was treated to some plum pudding by a stranger named Monsieur de Forgebeau. Ten years later, the writer encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Paris restaurant, and wanted to order some, but the waiter told him the last dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be de Forgebeau.
Many years later, in 1832, mile Deschamps was at a diner, and was once again offered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier incident and told his friends that only de Forgebeau was missing to make the setting complete and in the same instant, the now senile de Forgebeau entered the room.
[Holy Cow! That must have been pretty scary!]
In fact, Deschamps gives the name as “de Fontgibu”, and also describes him as a Marquis and Colonel who fought against Napoleon under Louis Joseph de Bourbon, prince de Cond – “Oeuvres compltes de mile Deschamps, 1873” and “Echoes from the Harp of France” a collection of works by G.S. Trebutien – since no de Fontgibu appears in French history, this is most likely an invented name and could easily be a purely fictional character.
In the 1976 film The Eagle Has Landed, the character Max Radl (Robert Duvall) asks a subordinate if he is familiar with the works of Jung, and then explains the theory of Synchronicity.
In the 1980s film Repo Man, Miller’s “Plate ‘o’ Shrimp” theory outlines the idea of synchronicity. The Miller character states that while many people see life as a series of unconnected incidents, he believes that there is a “lattice o[f] coincidence that lays on top o[f] everything” which is “part of a cosmic unconsciousness.”
In the 1983 release Synchronicity by The Police (A&M Records), bassist Sting is reading a copy of Jung’s Synchronicity on the front cover along with a negative/superimposed image of the actual text of the synchronicity hypothesis. A photo on the back cover also shows a close-up but mirrored and upside-down image of the book. There are two songs, titled “Synchronicity I” and “Synchronicity II” included in the album.
1. from Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll, Ch. 5, Wool and Water —
‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.
‘Well, I don’t want any TO-DAY, at any rate.’ [replies Alice]
‘You couldn’t have it if you DID want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday — but never jam to-day.’
‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.
‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’
‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’
‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first –‘
‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’
‘– but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’
‘I’m sure MINE only works one way,’ Alice remarked. ‘I can’t remember things before they happen.’
‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.
2. from Emile Deschamps, in reference to Echoes from the Harp of France —
Simultaneous discovery is the creation of the same new idea at causally disconnected places by two persons at approximately the same time. If for example an American and a British musician, having never had anything to do with one another, arrived at the same musical concept, chord sequence, feel or lyrics at the same time in different places, this is an example of synchronicity. During the production of The Wizard of Oz, a coat bought from a second-hand store for the costume of Professor Marvel was later found to have belonged to L. Frank Baum, author of the children’s book upon which the film is based.
3. from Repo Man, the movie —
“A lot o’ people don’t realize what’s really going on. They view life as a bunch o’ unconnected incidents ‘n things. They don’t realize that there’s this, like, lattice o’ coincidence that lays on top o’ everything. Give you an example; show you what I mean: suppose you’re thinkin’ about a plate o’ shrimp. Suddenly someone’ll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o’ shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin’ for one, either. It’s all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.”
[And you thought it was just … oh, but maybe not.]