Parapsychology: Experience and Theory Occultism and Spiritualism
To Carl Gustav Jung parapsychology was more than a subject for scientific research, experiment, and theory.
His life was rich in personal experiences of spontaneous, acausal, or – to use the common term – paranormal phenomena.
He seemed to be endowed with an unusual “permeability” to events in the background of the psyche.
But that alone does not explain the scope of his experiences; his sensitivity to manifestations of the unconscious was supplemented by constant observation of nature, of objects, and of people.
Given his close attention to the worlds of the psyche and of external reality, it is not surprising that he perceived meaningful connections between the two which would have been overlooked by a less sharp observer.Prophetic dreams and precognitions were no rarity in Jung’s life, though far from habitual.
Whenever they occurred he noted them with surprise – one is tempted to say, with the awe due to the miraculous.
He gave a circumstantial account of them in his memoirs, written when he was in his eighties.
Jung’s mother, Emilie Jung (née Preiswerk, 1849-1923), had a similar gift and was interested in the “supernatural.”
She [Jung’s Mother] left behind a diary in which she noted down all the premonitions, “spookish” phenomena, and strange occurrences she had experienced.
Her father, Samuel Preiswerk (1799-1870), was head of the reformed clergy in Basel, and as a child she was often assigned the task of protecting him from “spirits.”
She had to sit behind him when he was writing his sermons, because he could not bear “spirits” passing behind his back and disturbing him.
Every week, at a fixed hour, he used to hold intimate conversations with his deceased first wife, very much to the chagrin of the second!
Jung’s psychiatric diagnosis was that he suffered from “waking hallucinations,” though at the same time he dismissed this as a “mere word.”
Samuel’s second wife, Augusta (née Faber, 1805-1862), Jung’s maternal grandmother, was gifted with “second sight” and could also see “spirits.”
The family traced this back to an episode when, as a young girl, she lay for thirty-six hours in a state of catalepsy resembling death.
Her gifts, however, could stand the test of a more rigorous judgment: she sometimes saw apparitions of persons unknown to her, but whose historical existence was later proved.
Jung’s interest in parapsychology as a science began when he was studying medicine, that is, in the last years of the nineteenth century, when terms like “somnambulism” or “spiritualism,” popularized by the Romantics, were much in vogue.
One of his old school friends, Albert Oeri, wrote in an essay dedicated to Jung on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday:
“I will not deny that Jung underwent a severe test of personal courage when he studied spiritualistic literature, did a good deal of experimentation in that field, and stood by his convictions unless they were modified by more careful psychological studies.
He was up in arms when the official science of the day simply denied the existence of occult phenomena instead of investigating and trying to explain them.
Thus spiritualists like Zollner and Crookes, whose theories he could discuss for hours, became for him heroic martyrs of science.
Among friends and relatives he found participants for spiritualistic séances. … I enjoyed enormously listening to Jung holding forth on this subject when I came to see him in his lodgings.
His charming dachshund would look up at us so gravely, as if he understood everything, and Jung used to tell me that the sensitive little creature sometimes whimpered piteously when some occult force manifested itself in the house.”
As Oeri indicates, Jung did not confine himself to reading “occult” literature, but began his own experiments and, during the years 1899 and 1900, organized regular séances.
The medium was one of his cousins, a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl.
At the beginning of this enterprise, two “occult” phenomena took place in the house he was sharing with his widowed mother and sister.
A heavy walnut table, an old heirloom, split with a loud report, and soon afterwards a bread knife in a sideboard inexplicably snapped into four pieces, again with a sound like a pistol shot.
The four pieces of the knife are still in the possession of the Jung family.
At the suggestion of Professor Eugen Bleuler, later Jung’s chief at the Burghölzli Clinic, Zurich, Jung wrote his doctoral dissertation on the results of his spiritualistic experiments.
It is entitled “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-called Occult Phenomena.”
In the context of his work as a whole, this dissertation is of particular interest because it contains the germs of some of Jung’s later concepts which are of basic importance.
While lying in a trance, the young medium would utter the words of “personalities” which Jung interpreted as personifications of unconscious “part-souls.”
This suggested that the psyche was a plurality, or rather, a multiple unity; the part-souls or unconscious parts of the personality anticipated the concept of “autonomous complexes” in the unconscious.
This concept soon took on more solid form, mainly through Jung’s studies in word association while working as assistant physician at the Burghölzli (1900-1902).
It was then that he recognized the autonomous complex as one of the most important factors in the dynamics of unconscious processes.
The other concept of basic importance dealt with in his dissertation is the compensatory relation between the conscious and the unconscious.
Jung observed that the flood of fantasies and the personified complexes that manifested themselves in the trances complemented the conscious attitude of the medium and aimed at a greater completeness of her character.
Above all, it was the regular appearance of an aristocratic and distinguished woman who, as a kind of unconscious ideal, compensated the obviously too simple and unformed character of the young girl.
After a period of intense collaboration the somnambulistic abilities of the medium declined, and she tried to make up for the fruitlessness of the séances by fraud.
At this point Jung broke off his experiments.
Later, however, the complex of that “higher personality” actually established itself in real life: the unstable young girl turned into a mature and self-reliant woman.
Though she died young, at the age of twenty-six, she found a vocation which allowed her to develop her artistic abilities.
It is a well-observed fact that somnambulistic phenomena of a significant nature occur most frequently during puberty.
In his dissertation Jung offered the hypothesis that they represent attempts at character development, anticipating a process of differentiation.
In many cases they are: simply new character formations, or attempts of the future personality to break through [which], in consequence of special difficulties (unfavorable circumstances, psychopathic disposition of the nervous system, etc.) get bound up with peculiar disturbances of consciousness.
In view of the difficulties that oppose the future character, the somnambulisms sometimes have an eminently teleological significance, in that they give
the individual who would otherwise inevitably succumb, the means of victory.
Thus Jung attributed to somnambulisms the same meaning that he later ascribed to the neuroses: he detached them from the causal viewpoint and posed the question of their final significance within an individual process of development.
In the light of Jung’s later work, it is of interest that a genuine mandala came into existence during the reports of the medium’s trances.
Arranged as a series of concentric circles, it represented a sort of Gnostic system of the cosmos and its energies, which the young girl said she had “received from the spirits” and which Jung drew at her dictation.
The production of the mandala formed the climax of the medium’s manifestations, and thereafter her utterances became increasingly shallow and meaningless.
Although Jung’s active interest in parapsychology never diminished, he did not speak again of his investigations into “so-called occult phenomena” until very much later, when, in 1919, he delivered a lecture to the British Society for Psychical Research on “The Psychological Foundations of Belief in Spirits.”
In this paper he explained spirits and other occult phenomena as unconscious autonomous complexes which appear as projections, or, in other words, as “the exteriorized effects of unconscious complexes,” thus taking up again the argument of his dissertation.
He went on:
“I for one am certainly convinced that they are exteriorizations.
I have repeatedly observed the telepathic effects of unconscious complexes, and also a number of parapsychic phenomena, but in all this I see no proof whatever of the existence of real spirits, and until such proof is forthcoming I must regard this whole territory as an appendix of psychology.
When the paper appeared in revised form in 1948, almost thirty years later, Jung added a footnote to this sentence, based on the new conception he had formed of the collective unconscious, the archetypes, and hence also of occult phenomena:
“After collecting psychological experiences from many people and many countries for fifty years, I no longer feel as certain as I did in 1919, when I wrote this sentence.
To put it bluntly, I doubt whether an exclusively psychological approach can do justice to the phenomena in question.
Not only the findings of parapsychology, but my own theoretical reflections outlined in “On the Nature of the Psyche” have led me to certain postulates
whih touch on the realm of nuclear physics and the conception of the space-time continuum.
This opens up. the whole question of the transpsychic reality immediately underlying the psyche.”
The theoretical reflections to which Jung here alludes will be discussed below in greater detail.
But we may anticipate to this extent: he had come to the conclusion that beyond the world of the psyche with its causal manifestations and relations in time and space (that is, beyond consciousness and the personal unconscious) there must lie a transpsychic reality (the collective unconscious) where, as one of its main characteristics, a “relativation” of time and space occurs, and where, consequently, the law of causality loses its absolute validity.
What consciousness experiences as past, present, and future is relativized in the unconscious until they merge “there” into an unknowable unity, or timelessness; and what appears to consciousness as near and far undergoes the same process of relativation until they combine “there” into an equally unknowable spacelessness.
In investigating the discontinuities in subatomic processes, physics has also been confronted with the problem of acausality and the relativation of time and space, and this is of significance as regards the position of Jung’s discoveries and hypotheses within the framework of modern science.
Concurrently with his recognition of a transpsychic reality there went a differentiation in his conception of the archetypes, which must be regarded as the contents, or vehicles, of that transconscious realm.
From 1946 onward, Jung described them as “psychoid,” which means that they are not purely psychic but just as much physical in nature.
This contamination, running parallel with the contamination of the space-time categories in the unconscious, is an obvious paradox, though it is no more baffling than the familiar paradox of light in physics, which under some conditions must be explained as consisting of waves and under others, of particles.
The psychoid archetype is not to be confused with archetypal images or archetypal contents.
These belong to the knowable realm of consciousness and occur as analogous motifs in myths, fairy tales, dreams, delusions, etc., at all times and in all parts of the world.
The psychoid archetype, or “archetype per se,” is an unknowable factor in the collective unconscious, which underlies those motifs and arranges them into typical images and groupings.
It is a structuring element, comparable to a “pattern of behavior” in biology, that also underlies typical and recurrent situations in life, such as birth, death, illness, change, love, and, operating like an instinct, preforms typical relationships such as those between mother and child, husband and wife, teacher and pupil, and so on.
Jung compared the archetype per se to the “axial system of a crystal, which, as it were, preforms the crystalline structure in the mother liquid, although it has no material existence of its own.”
Since the archetype per se is psychoid, Jung succeeded in showing that it also arranges acausal parapsychological events (prophetic dreams, precognitions, etc.), thus opening the way to an understanding of these hitherto inexplicable phenomena.
The relationships between the two will be discussed in greater detail in the section on synchronistic phenomena below.
The postulate of an unknowable psychoid world in the background alters our initial question concerning the nature of spiritualistic phenomena only to the extent that Jung was no longer able to maintain with certainty his original thesis that spirits are exteriorizations or projections of autonomous psychic complexes.
What they really are, where they come from, why and where they are seen, remained for him – at least in most cases – a baffling question that could not be answered conclusively, and so it remains for science to this day.
He expressed himself very cautiously in his foreword to the German edition of Stewart Edward White’s The Unobstructed Universe:
“Although on the one hand our critical arguments cast doubt on every single case [of apparitions], there is on the other hand not a single argument that could prove that spirits do not exist. In this regard, therefore, we must rest content with a non liquet.”
In his contribution to Fanny Moser’s book, Spuk: Wahrglaube oder Irrglaube?
Jung describes his own encounter with a ghost in England in 1920.
He spent several weekends in a friend’s recently rented country house.
During the nights he experienced various increasingly violent ghostly phenomena like knockings, evil smells, sounds of rustling and dripping.
They aroused in him a feeling of suffocation and a sensation of growing rigidity, and culminated in the apparition, or hallucination, of a solid-looking half of a woman’s head lying on the pillow about sixteen inches away from his own.
Its one eye was wide open and staring at him. The head vanished when Jung lit a candle.
He spent the rest of the night sitting in an armchair.
He and his friend later learned what was already known to the whole village: the house was haunted and all tenants were driven away in a very short time.
Jung interpreted some details of his experience as exteriorizations of psychic contents in the unconscious.
But what remained an insoluble puzzle was the fact that the haunting took place solely in that house, indeed, in one particular room of the house.
During the week when he stayed in London, he slept peacefully in spite of a heavy working schedule.
It was a typical case of localized haunting, for which to this day no adequate scientific explanation has been found.
The house was pulled down shortly after Jung’s visit.
In the early twenties Jung, together with Count Albert Schrenk-Notzing and Professor Eugen Bleuler, carried out a series of experiments with the Austrian medium, Rudi Schneider, at the Burghölzli.
They witnessed materializations, psychokinetic and other phenomena.
Jung conducted similar experiments in the thirties with the medium O. Schl., again in the presence of Bleuler and others.
Jung told me later that in one series of experiments, papier-maché objects (cutouts of angels and beer mats) which had been covered with luminous paint and placed out of reach of the medium rose up in the air and sailed through the room as soon as the medium fell into a trance.
Twenty-five years later, when Jung was in Central Africa, he was reminded of those experiments by a typical chain of associations.
On the train journey from Mombassa to Nairobi, he beheld a brownish-black figure who stood motionless on a steep red cliff, leaning on a long spear and looking down at the train.
I was enchanted by this sight – it was a picture of something utterly alien and outside my experience, but on the other hand a most intense sentiment du déjà-vu. I had the feeling that I had already experienced this moment and had always known this world which was separated from me only by distance in time. …
The feeling-tone of this curious experience accompanied me throughout my whole journey through savage Africa.
I can recall only one other such recognition of the immemorially known.
That was when I first observed a parapsychological phenomenon together with my former chief, Professor Eugen Bleuler.
Beforehand I had imagined that I would be dumbfounded if I were to see so fantastic a thing.
But when it happened, I was not surprised at all; I felt it was perfectly natural, something I could take for granted because I had long since been acquainted with it.
In 1961, the year of his death, looking back on the phenomena he had observed, Jung wrote in a letter:
“I have seen objects moving that were not directly touched, and moreover under absolutely satisfactory scientific conditions. One could describe these movements … as levitation, if one assumes that the objects moved by themselves. But this does not seem to be the case, because all the bodies that apparently moved by themselves moved as though lifted, shaken, or thrown by someone’s hand. In this series of experiments I, together with other observers, saw a hand and felt its pressure – apparently the hand that caused all the other phenomena of this kind. The phenomena have nothing to do with the “will,” since they occurred only when the medium was in a trance and precisely not in control of his will. The phenomena seem to fall into the category of poltergeist manifestations.”
According to a later report of Jung’s it was a child’s hand he had seen and whose pressure he had felt. After a time it faded away.
Jung was a critical observer, not susceptible to suggestion.
At one séance, four of the five people present saw an object like a small moon floating above the abdomen of the medium.
It was absolutely incomprehensible to them that Jung, the fifth person, could see nothing of the sort, although they repeatedly pointed out to him exactly where it was.
From this Jung inferred the possibility of collective visions on such and other occasions – for instance, the sightings of flying saucers.
When he was asked by Professor Fritz Blanke of Zurich, author of a book on Niklaus von der Flüe, the patron saint of Switzerland, for an explanation of the saint’s twenty-year fast from 1467 to 1487, he reverted to the experiments at the Burghölzli, in particular the materialization processes.
It was not impossible, he wrote in his answer, that the nourishment of the saint was effected in a parapsychological way.
He himself had been present at the investigation of a medium who manifested physical phenomena.
It was found that at one point on the body where there was an emission of ectoplasm capable of acting at a distance, the ionization of the atmosphere in the immediate vicinity of the medium was about sixty times the normal.
At that point, therefore, ionized molecules were going in and out through the surface of the body.
Apparently it is these molecules that lead to the formation of the whitish or luminous ectoplasmic mist and also of materialized bodily parts.
“If such things can occur,” wrote Jung, “then it is also conceivable that persons in the vicinity of mediums might act as a source of ions – in other words, nourishment might be effected by the passage of living molecules of albumen from one body to another.”
His hypothesis is supported by the fact that “in parapsychological experiments decreases of weight up to several kilograms have been observed during the [phyical] phenomena, both in the case of the medium and of some of the participants, who were all sitting on scales.”
But Jung did not commit himself in these reflections, seeing in them merely a possible approach to an explanation of the miraculous fast. “Unfortunately these things have been far too little investigated.
This is a task for the future” was the conclusion of his letter.
In later years Jung no longer concerned himself with spiritualistic or occult phenomena and he never evaluated his parapsychological experiments scientifically, yet he did not by any means dismiss them as worthless.
“Although I have not distinguished myself by any original researches in this field, I do not hesitate to declare that I have observed a sufficient number of such phenomena to be completely convinced of their reality. To me they are inexplicable, and I am therefore unable to decide in favor of any of the usual interpretations.”
His interest in these matters brought him, above all, an enrichment of experience entirely in accord with his scientific attitude as an empiricist.
“In this vast and shadowy region, where everything seems possible and nothing believable, one must oneself have observed many strange happenings and in addition heard, read, and if possible tested many stories by examining their witnesses in order to form an even moderately sure judgment,” he says in his foreword to Fanny Moser’s book.
This sentence might stand as a motto to Jung’s work in the field of parapsychology.
The space-timeless realm of “transpsychic reality” naturally tempts one to any number of speculations and hypotheses not only about spirits but also about a Beyond and a life after death.
Jung personally held the opinion that man would miss something essential if he did not reflect on these matters and even indulge in fantasies about them.
His life would be poorer, his old age perhaps more anxiety-ridden, and furthermore he would break with a spiritual tradition that reaches back to the dawn of human culture.
From earliest times death and the idea of a life after death have filled man’s thoughts, and in religion, philosophy, and art have prompted answers to what is rationally unanswerable.
To throw all this to the winds is, from the psychological standpoint, symptomatic of an atrophy of instinct and a willful disregard of one’s psychic roots, bbth of which must be paid for dearly.
Death remains a terrifying darkness and becomes an enemy.
But if man forms opinions about death and the Beyond he should never forget that he is entering the world of myths.
Salutary and beneficial though these may be, they nevertheless have nothing to do with science, or rather, since all science grew out of myth, do not yet have anything to do with it.
In his memoirs, the chapter “On Life after Death” is devoted to Jung’s fantasy thinking or “mythologizing”: “Even now I can do no more than tell stories – ‘mythologize.’ ”
He offered a scientific answer that set bounds to mythological thinking in his essay “The Soul and Death” (1934).
Here he stressed the fact that the psyche extends into a spaceless and timeless sphere, for which reason it is also capable of extrasensory perceptions.
This would provide sufficient grounds for speculation but would not permit of any final conclusions about a postmortal existence.
A year before his death he expressed himself with somewhat greater precision on the same theme.
In a letter of May 1960, he wrote that in so far as the psyche is capable of telepathic and precognitive perceptions it exists, at least in part, in a “continuum outside time and space,” hence the possibility of authentic postmortal phenomena.
The comparative rarity of such phenomena suggests at all events that the forms of existence inside and outside time are so sharply divided that crossing this boundary presents the greatest difficulties.
But this does not exclude the possibility that there is an existence outside time which runs parallel with existence inside time.
Yes, we ourselves may simultaneously exist in both worlds, and occasionally we do have intimations of a twofold existence.
But what is outside time is, according to our understanding, outside change.
It possesses relative eternity.
Finally, a word should be said about a class of experiences, familiar to scientists, which in the English literature on the subject are called the “out-of-the-body-experiences.”
In a condition of profound unconsciousness, with the brain completely inactive, a person can have experiences about which he is able to report on returning to consciousness and which can be verified down to the smallest detail.
Occasionally he is able to perceive future events, and not infrequently he can observe his own body from outside, lying there as if lifeless.
In Man’s Concern with Death, edited by Arnold Toynbee, the chapter by R. Heywood is devoted to these reports.
They form the starting point for a discussion of the continued existence of the soul after death, which these outof-the-body-experiences seem to bring within the realm of the conceivable.
In his paper “Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle,” Jung reports on a number of such experiences, including one presented by Sir Auckland Geddes to the British Society of Medicine.
The conclusion he draws, or rather the hypothesis he advances, has, however, nothing to do with parapsychology in the proper sense; moreover, it does not lead on to a discussion of the possibility of life after death.
Jung takes as his starting point the researches of Karl von Frisch into the life of bees, in particular the “bee language,” through which they communicate to their comrades, by means of a peculiar sort of dance, the direction and distance of the feeding places they have found.
The information so conveyed must be regarded as “intelligent” and is understood by the bees.
Yet insects have no cerebrospinal system at all, but only a double chain of ganglia corresponding to the sympathetic system in man.
Jung concludes that the ganglionic system can evidently produce thoughts and perceptions just as easily as the cerebrospinal system.
He asks, What then are we to think of the sympathetic system in vertebrates?
Von Frisch’s observations prove the existence of transcerebral thought and perception.
One must bear this possibility in mind if we want to account for the existence of some form of consciousness during an unconscious coma.
During a coma the sympathetic system is not paralysed and could therefore be considered as a possible carrier of psychic functions.
If that is so, then one must ask whether the normal state of unconsciousness in sleep, and the potentially conscious dreams it contains, can be regarded in the same light – whether, in other words, dreams are produced not so much by the activity of the sleeping cortex, as by the unsleeping sympathetic system, and are therefore of a transcerebral nature.
In his memoirs Jung describes an out-of-the-body-experience of his own which he had while in a state of deep unconsciousness during a severe illness in 1944.
“It seemed to me that I was high up in space. Far below I saw the globe of the earth, bathed in a gloriously blue light. I saw the deep blue sea and the continents. … My field of vision did not include the whole earth, but its global shape was plainly distinguishable and its outlines shone with a silvery gleam through that wonderful blue light. … Later I discovered how high in space one would have to be to have so extensive a view –approximately a thousand miles! The sight of the earth from this height was the most glorious thing I had ever seen.”
Today, a quarter of a century later, it is tempting to take this as a precognition of the experience of the astronauts as, themselves “out-of-the-body” of this world, they gazed in wonder at the shining blue planet, Earth, rising over the moon’s horizon.
Of far more importance for Jung’s scientific work than the occult or spiritualistic phenomena we have been discussing (ghosts, and the question of life after death), were certain causally inexplicable events generally summed up as extrasensory perceptions.
They play a role in premonitions, prophetic dreams, inspirations, telepathy, precognitions, and “hunches” as well as in “mantic” methods of astrology, geomancy, the tarot cards, and the Chinese I Ching, or Book of Changes.
The literature and traditions of all countries and ages abound in examples of extrasensory perception, describing them as strange and miraculous occurrences and as evidence of the “supernatural” powers of men and animals.
In most of these experiences an unknown event inaccessible to the sense organs is perceived as an inner, psychic image (for instance, in a dream or vision).
It does not matter whether the event perceived has actually taken place in the past, is taking place in the present, or will take place in the future; nor is it of any importance whether it happens nearby or in some remote part of the globe.
It is perceived here and now.
Usually these strange coincidences of inner image and outer event are looked upon as mere chance. But that does not explain them.
Jung had a skeptical attitude towards the all-too-liberal use of the concept “chance” in science.
He backed up his objections by reminding his critics of Freud, for whom “chance” slips of the tongue, pen, or memory became the starting point for important psychological discoveries.
Moreover, a scientific explanation of extrasensory perception is doomed to failure so long as it is based on the principle of causality.
How can an event in the future be the cause of a dream that is taking place in the present, so that it reflects itself and is anticipated in it?
How can a man dying in New York cause a person somewhere in Europe to have a premonition of his death, let alone cause a clock to stop or a glass to shatter?
To put it more simply and realistically, how can the subject of a test score a probability-exceeding result when he tries to “perceive” the sequence of twenty-five picture cards which are uncovered one after another by the experimenter in a different room?
But that is precisely what J. B. Rhine of Duke University has statistically demonstrated in his famous card experiments.
They proved conclusively that man possesses a paranormal capacity for extrasensory perception.
Jung based his theoretical researches into parapsychology largely on the positive results of Rhine’s experiments, which have lent reality a new dimension.
“Rhine’s experiments have taught us,” he says, “if practical experience has not already done so, that the improbable does occur, and that our picture of the world only tallies with reality when the improbable has a place in it.”
For the purposes of scientific inquiry, the improbable is of greater importance than that which is probable from the start.
Parapsychology has been endeavoring for a long time to establish the reliability and veracity of reports of spontaneous extrasensory perceptions which were not experimentally induced and observed.
This it has succeeded in doing in a large number of cases, especially when a prophetic dream, premonition, etc., was reported or recorded in writing before the event it “perceived.”
Since numerous proofs of their veracity exist today and have been published in the literature on the subject, and most of the experiences exhibit, furthermore, some degree of similarity, we no longer have to rely, as in the early days of parapsychology, on the verification of each single case.
Even so, the problem of confirmation remains.
In cases where dreams are systematically recorded, as in the course of an analysis, verification is often made very much easier.
The chief objection to the scientific tenability of parapsychological phenomena still rests today on the impossibility of a causal explanation.
For the thinking of Western man, it is almost insuperably difficult to give up the principle of causality-regarded as absolutely valid since the time of Descartes – and to accept the reality of acausal connections.
The entry on parapsychology in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1961 edition) makes this perfectly clear:
“The chief obstacle to a more widespread scientific acceptance of the findings of parapsychology, as some of the fairest and most competent sceptics have pointed out, is the almost complete lack of any plausible theoretical account as to the underlying causal process.”
But science was the first to break down the absolutism of the causal principle.
Once it had accepted the statistical validity of natural laws, then logically it had to take account of the exceptions brought to light by the statistical method.
This put an end to the absolute validity of causality, above all in the observation of processes in the borderline territories of the infinitely great (the cosmic realm) and the infinitesimally small (the subatomic realm).
Jung established a corresponding situation in the realm of psychology: in the case of irregular processes which are conditioned not only by consciousness but also by the unconscious “the connection of events may in certain circumstances be other than causal, and requires another principle of explanation.”
Jung called this other principle that supplements causality “synchronicity,” and defined it as “a coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same or a similar meaning.”
It is an empirical concept that “merely stipulates the existence of an intellectually necessary principle which could be added as a fourth to the recognized triad of space, time, and causality.”
Jung expressly emphasized, however, that the principle of synchronicity should be applied only when a causal explanation is unthinkable. “For, whenever a cause is even remotely thinkable, synchronicity becomes an exceedingly doubtful proposition.”
Jung’s definition has led to frequent misunderstandings because “coincidence in time” is generally understood as an astronomical simultaneity dependent on clock time.
It is, rather, a relative simultaneity, to be understood as the subjective experience of an inner image coinciding with an outer event.
Only in this experience is the time difference abolished, since the event, whether in the past or future, is immediately present.
It may happen that inner image and outer event are connected together by an objective, clock-time simultaneity, but that is not the decisive factor.
The decisive factor lies in a subjectively experienced, relative simultaneity, for which reason Jung chose the term synchronistic rather than synchronous, and spoke of synchronicity and not synchronism.
Swedenborg’s vision, reported by Kant, of a conflagration in Stockholm while he was fifty miles away in Gøteborg comes into the category of synchronous events, since the vision and the fire coincided in time.
Nevertheless Jung would call it a synchronistic phenomenon because of its acausality.
But when Goethe, after parting from Friederike Brion, saw his double riding towards him, “not with the eyes of the body but of the spirit,” a future event was immediately present: eight years later Goethe rode back along the same way to visit Friederike, wearing, to his own amazement, the same attire, “smoky grey with some gold,” that had struck him on encountering his double.
Experiences of the past as immediately present seem to be rarer or to have been reported less frequently.
Great excitement was aroused by the experience of two English schoolteachers, C. A. E. Moberly and E. F. Jourdain, who in 1901 visited the park in Vesailles.
Wandering near the Petit Trianon, they fell into a dreamy state marked by an unusual feeling of anxiety, and had hallucinatory encounters with figures from the time of the French Revolution.
They observed details of the layout of the garden, details which had vanished when the hallucinatory state came to an end, but which could subsequently be verified from the old plans and charts.
The precise notes the two ladies took of their strange experience were published in 1911 as a book with the title An Adventure.
Kant’s report of Swedenborg’s vision of the fire in Stockholm, which took place in the year 1759, shows the almost insurmountable difficulty of accepting acausal phenomena as true and valid.
Even that towering thinker was not quite equal to the task!
He had given an account of the episode in a letter, of uncertain date, to Charlotte von Knobloch, adding that a friend of his had checked it and found everything confirmed by eyewitnesses both in Stockholm and Gøteborg.
There was no question of his doubting Swedenborg’s vision.
His Dreams of a Spirit-Seer was published in 1766, and here he expresses himself with much more reserve.
Again the facts are faithfully reported, but he as good as apologizes for serving up such a “fairy tale” and leaves it to the reader’s discretion, “faced with the wondrous tale with which I have admixed myself, to resolve into its elements that ambiguous mixture of reason and credulity, and to calculate the proportion of the two ingredients in my manner of thinking.”
In the very next sentence he says that he deems himself “sufficiently secured against mockery,” since by criticizing “this foolishness” he finds himself “in right good and numerous company.”
Collective thinking, then as now, is opposed to the instinctive knowledge of unsophisticated people who have always experienced such happenings and taken them seriously, just as it is opposed to the scientist who sets out to replace the habitual categories of thought by new ones.
Synchronistic phenomena are not characterized only by the relative simultaneity we have been discussing.
According to Jung’s definition, a decisive role is also played by their meaning.
It is meaning, or the sensing of a meaningful connection, that condenses acausally connected events into a single, integral experience.
Frequently the meaning emerges from the similarity or actual equivalence of the inner and outer event.
Jung gives an example of this.
“At the very moment when a patient was telling him a dream about a golden scarab, a scarablike beetle, a rose-chafer, tapped gently against the outside of the windowpane.
Here two distinct events (dream of the scarab, appearance of the rose-chafer), each with its own chain of causality, are connected together only by the equivalence of motif, by meaning.
Sometimes an unexpected encounter with a child, an animal, an object, or the sight of a landscape, a falling leaf, an everyday scene, or any other incident can mirror the inner event in the most precise way, and may even repeat an image seen in a dream.
Such contemplative experiences of the meaningful equivalence of inside and outside are likewise based on synchronicity.
Generally they arouse a sense of wonder, sometimes also of tranquility or liberation, possibly connected with an intimation of oneness with the world, of being held safely in the arms of life itself.
The equivalence of content whereby meaning is experienced can become an almost photographic repetition or anticipation of an external event by an inner image.
Someone chances to come to a strange city and finds his way about with no difficulty and without a guide.
He recognizes everything, because sometime before he had wandered through its streets and squares in a dream.
It is probable that the sentiment du déjà-vu arises from anticipatory but forgotten dreams.
In many cases the synchronistic equivalence is expressed only indirectly, and then it is a symbolic connection that evokes the experience of meaning.
This is true, for example, of those strange parapsychological happenings in which an object plays a part: it is meaningful that a clock suddenly stops, a mirror breaks, a glass shatters, a door opens by itself to “announce” the death of a friend or relative, as folklore has it, for all these happenings can be interpreted as symbols of death.
The same is true of dreams: the dream-image of a falling tree, of a person walking along who cannot be caught up with, of a blinding light or a light being extinguished, can herald death just as much as the dream of a journey or of bidding someone farewell.
Always it is the conformity of content that connects the psychic and physical facets of a synchronistic phenomenon.
Occasionally dreams are reported of a character so strange and weird that only one who is familiar with archetypal imagery can recognize their symbolic kernel as a herald of death.
In the last essay he wrote before he died, Jung recapitulated the salient points in a dream series of an eight-year-old girl.
She had written the dreams down in a little book which she gave to her father as a Christmas present when she was ten; she died a year later.
The dreams portray in great archetypal images impersonal, religious, and philosophical problems that far exceed the understanding of an eight-year-old girl.
The little girl’s account of her dream about the “bad animal” ran:
“Once upon a time I saw in my dream an animal that had lots of horns. It spiked up other little animals with them. It wriggled like a snake and that was how it lived. Then a blue fog came out of all four corners, and it stopped eating. Then God came, but there were really four Gods in the four corners. Then the animal died, and all the eaten-up animals came out alive again.”
The symbolic meaning places the foreseen or intuited death in a timeless, mythological setting. The religious creativity and mythopoeic faculty of the psyche are here at work.
Every prophetic dream, every premonition has its own psychic causality, independent of any other causal chain leading up to the event which is “perceived” in them.
The connecting link between the inner and outer event is, as we have said, meaning.
Yet it should not be forgotten that it is man who experiences and assigns meaning, that it depends on man whether phenomena of this kind are dismissed as mere chance, as vapid and nonsensical, or are simply overlooked.
For this reason it is of paramount importance that Jung, in pursuing his investigation of synchronistic phenomena, ranged alongside the concept of meaning the objective, scientific concept of an “acausal orderedness,” a comprehensive order, independent of man, which underlies acausal events and connects them.
We shall come back to this later.
It was characteristic of Jung’s restraint in scientific matters that he waited more than twenty years before presenting to the public his revolutionary essay on synchronicity.
In 1952 it appeared together with an essay, “The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler,” by the physicist and Nobel prizewinner Wolfgang Pauli.
Jung had coined the term synchronicity and had used it for the first time in his memorial address for Richard Wilhelm in 1930, when he sought to explain the methods of the Chinese oracle book, the I Ching, or Book of Changes, dating from the fourth millennium B.C.
In the early twenties he had come across the I Ching in the English translation by James Legge.
Greatly fascinated, he experimented with it for a whole summer.
At first he used the complicated procedure in which the forty-nine yarrow stalks have to be divided and counted off according to fixed rules.
Later he used the simpler coin method: three coins are thrown six times, each throw giving one of the six lines that constitute the “hexagram,” of which there are sixty-four in all. To each line is appended an oracle text with a commentary.
The positive and meaningful answers that Jung and his friends got from the hexagrams confronted him with the unsolved problem of the mantic methods mentioned earlier.
In a foreword to the new English translation of the I Ching, written very much later (1948), Jung justified his much-derided interest in this seemingly out-of-the-way territory:
“The irrational fullness of life has taught me never to discard anything, even when it goes against all our theories (so short-lived at best) or otherwise admits of no immediate explanation. It is of course disquieting, and one is not certain whether the compass is pointing true or not; but security, certitude, and peace do not lead to discoveries. It is the same with this Chinese mode of divination.”
According to modern theoretical physicists, belief in a quantitative, mechanistic picture of the world has turned out to be more and more of a superstition.
For this reason even parapsychology, at least in its most important branches, is recognized by them as a legitimate field for scientific research.
Indeed, Wolfgang Pauli has actually described it as the “border territory between physics and psychology.”
For Jung’s researches into parapsychology, and especially the mantic methods, it was a momentous event when he became acquainted with Wilhelm in 1928.
Their first meeting, which soon developed into a friendship, took place when Wilhelm, with the help of his learned friend Lau Nai Süan in China, had after ten years of work just completed a new translation of the I Ching, along with a commentary on the oracles.
In frequent discussions the two scholars exchanged ideas about the book and the interpretation of its hexagrams, so strange to the Western way of thinking.
In memory of these talks Jung wrote:
“I owe to Wilhelm the most valuable elucidations of the complicated problem of the I Ching and also the practical evaluation of the results obtained. … When Wilhelm was staying with me in Zurich, I asked him to work out a hexagram on the state of our Psychological Club. The situation was known to me, but to him not at all. The diagnosis that resulted was startlingly correct, and so was the prognosis, which described an event that occurred later and that I myself had not foreseen. To me personally, however, this result was no longer so amazing, since I had earlier already had a number of remarkable experiences with the method.”
It is exceptional for the answers given by the I Ching to contain actual prophecies.
Far more frequently they are symbolic descriptions of a psychological situation that is unclear to the questioner because he is unconscious of it.
Jung says of the I Ching:
“Like a part of nature, it waits until it is discovered. It offers neither facts nor power, but for lovers of self-knowledge, of wisdom – if there be such – it seems to be the right book.”
After the experimental period of the twenties had passed, and Jung was no longer so filled with scientific curiosity about the I Ching, he consulted it only rarely, and then only when it seemed opportune to seek an answer to a specific question in a specific situation.
Politeness to the spirit of this venerable book demands such restraint, only a fool importunes it, says one of the oracles (hexagram 4: Youthful Folly).
A specific situation presented itself when Jung was asked to write the foreword to the new English edition.
He then consulted the book twice, first asking it what it had to say about his intention to write a foreword, and then, after the foreword was half written, whether his action had been right.
His analysis of the answers takes up nearly three-quarters of the foreword.
The unprejudiced reader cannot but admit that the I Ching’s answers were both wise and meaningful.
In his memorial address for Richard Wilhelm, Jung summed up his explanation of the divinatory method in terms of his newly coined “synchronistic principle.”
The science of the I Ching is based not on the causality principle but on one which –hitherto unnamed because not familiar to us – I have tentatively called the synchronistic principle.
My researches into the psychology of unconscious processes long ago compelled me to look around for another principle of explanation, since the causality oprincile seemed to me insufficient to explain certain remarkable manifestations of the unconscious.
For I found that there are psychic parallelisms which simply cannot be related to each other causally, but must be connected by another kind of principle altogether.
This connection seemed to lie essentially in the relative simultaneity of the events, hence the term “synchronistic.”
Jung explained the positive results of the I Ching oracles as synchronistic phenomena, that is as an “unexpected parallelism of psychic and physical events.”
There is a meaningful connection (through equivalence) between the subjective and objective situation of the questioner and the hexagram resulting from the fall of the coins, which reflects that situation.
Yet no regular concurrence should be expected between the hexagram and the inner and outer reality.
It would also be a senseless undertaking to try to demonstrate any such regularity, since much depends on whether the questioner understands the meaning of the oracles, veiled as they are in symbols and difficult to interpret, and on whether he feels the answers to be apposite or “right.”
Jung himself inclined to the belief, without being able or even wishing to prove it, that “right” answers “are not a matter of chance at all but of regularity.”
This personal belief is at odds with his own scientific theory that synchronistic phenomena should under all circumstances be regarded as irregular occurrences.
His belief would be explained or justified by the fact that he consulted the I Ching only in critical situations, which, as will be shown, are the prerequisite for acausal phenomena.
In the course of explaining the I Ching Jung also touched on the question of the foundations of astrology, in particular of character horoscopy, a mantic method widely in use today.
Originally he regarded astrology as a function of time: just as a connoisseur can tell with absolute certainty the vintage and provenance of a wine, so a good astrologer can tell a person to his face in what zodiacal signs sun, moon, and ascendent stood at the moment of his nativity.
Such knowledge is possible because time is not, as is generally supposed, only an abstract concept and a conditioning factor of cognition, but must be understood as a “stream of energy filled with qualities,” so that the time quality peculiar to the moment of a man’s birth also attaches to his character and possibly to his fate as well.
The old astrological stellar myths are expressions of these intuitively grasped time qualities.
They are archetypal images, involuntary creations of the “knowing unconscious,” which primitive man projected upon the stars.
Jung wrote in a letter (June 1960):
We must bear in mind that we do not make projections, rather they happen to us. This fact permits the conclusion that we originally read our first physical, and particularly psychological, insights in the stars. In other words, what is farthest is actually nearest. Somehow, as the Gnostics surmised, we have “collected” ourselves from out of the cosmos.
The conception of astrology as a function of the time quality deflates the argument which, more than any other, is leveled against the seriousness and justification of astrology as a science; namely that, owing to the precession of the equinoxes, the astronomical position of the constellations in the zodiac no longer corresponds to the astrological zodiac on which horoscopes are calculated. A word of explanation may be necessary here. The point where the sun rises on March 21st, the vernal equinox, is called the “spring-point.”
In the second century B.C., Hipparchus of Samos fixed it at 0° Aries. The precession is the slow movement of the springpoint through the twelve zodiacal signs along the ecliptic, from Aries to Pisces to Aquarius, etc. It takes 25,200 years (a “Platonic year”) for the spring-point to make a complete revolution of the zodiac, and rather more than 2000 years (a “Platonic month”) for it to move through each zodiacal sign. At the beginning of our era it advanced from Aries into the first degrees of Pisces, and since about the middle of the present century it has been crossing over from Pisces into Aquarius.
So if in the birth horoscope of a man living today the sun stood in Pisces, by astronomical reckoning it was not in Pisces but in Aquarius; if it was astrologically in Aquarius, astronomically it was in Capricorn, and so on. How then can a horoscope be right?
The astronomical objection to astrology would be justified if the horoscope was actually based on the stars and their influence. But according to Jung’s original view, it is not a question of any influence exerted by the stars and their positions, not a question of causality but of synchronicity; that is, of the peculiar quality of the moment of birth, as portrayed in myths and archetypal images, and its acausal coincidence with the inner and outer events in a man’s life. “Whatever is born or done at this particular moment of time has the quality of this moment of time.”
Jung explained the difficult concept of time qualities by means of an example.
The astrological fixing of the time “sun in Aries” (correlated with March and April) has the quality “spring,” and it is springtime “regardless of the actual astronomical zodion in which the sun stands. In a few thousand years, when we say it is Aries time, the sun will actually be in Capricorn, hence in deep winter [in a winter sign], although the spring will not have lost its powers.”
The quality of the time moment March/April, or of the astrological statement “sun in Aries,” is and remains spring. The astronomical positions of the stars are merely quantities named by man for measuring and determining time but do not tell us anything about its qualities. It is a hoary old peasant rule that domestic animals born in spring and autumn display typical differences of character.
In 1951 Jung’s synchronistic theory of astrology began to waver.
That year Max Knoll delivered a lecture at the Eranos meeting in Ascona, Switzerland, on “The Transformations of Science in Our Age.”
He pointed out that the proton radiation from the sun is influenced to such a degree by the conjunctions, oppositions, and quartile aspects of the planets that the occurrence of electromagnetic storms (sunspot periods) can be predicted with a fair amount of probability.
And since correspondences have been established between sunspot periods and the mortality rate, as well as disturbances of “radio weather” during those periods, there is a real possibility of causal connections and direct influences.
These astronomical observations have confirmed the unfavorable influence of planetary conjunctions, oppositions, and quartile aspects, as always assumed by astrology, and the positive influence of the astrologically favorable trine and sextile aspects.
The scientific discovery of these causal relationships gave Jung an unexpected glimpse into the theoretical foundations of astrology.
At first he was inclined to repudiate its inclusion among the mantic methods based on synchronicity, for, according to the new findings, the possibility of a causal connection between the planetary aspects and man’s psychophysiological disposition would have to be taken seriously into account.
“Astrology,” he said, “is in the process of becoming a science.”
Later Jung revised this somewhat too drastic or one-sided statement and opined that synchronistic as well as causal connections would have to be adduced in explaining astrology.
In April 1958 he wrote in a letter:
“Astrology seems to require differing hypotheses, and I am unable to opt for an either-or. We shall probably have to resort to a mixed explanation, for nature does not give a fig for the sanitary neatness of our intellectual categories of thought.”
At all events, the positive results obtained with the help of traditional astrological methods of interpretation raise questions which have still not been satisfactorily answered today.
After the death of Jung, science made no further endeavors to solve the problem.
Jung’s book Aion (1951) can, depending on one’s standpoint, be regarded either as an astrological treatise or as the proof of a synchronistic phenomenon of cosmic proportions.
It is, in part, an account of the meaningful coincidence of the Platonic month of Pisces – which started two thousand years ago with the birth of Christ and, as we have said, is now passing into the Platonic month of Aquarius – with the spiritual development of Christianity during this period. The fish is an old symbol for Christ.
The parallelism between the cosmic event – the progression of the spring-point through the double sign of the Fishes – and the spiritual and historical events is exceedingly impressive.
The turn of the first millennium, just about the time when the springpoint reached the beginning of the second Fish, witnessed the rise of the heretical movements that compensated and also undermined Christianity – the Cathars, Waldenses, Albigenses, the Holy Ghost Movement of Joachim of Flora, and other sects.
Although the year 1000 did not mark the expected end of the world, it secretly initiated the “kingdom of the second Fish” –traditionally interpreted as the age of Antichrist – whose culmination, no one will deny, we are experiencing in the present century.
Jung’s method of approaching parapsychological phenomena was to combine extensive studies of the relevant historical and modern literature with careful observation of the inner and outer data presented by individual cases.
In astrology Jung not only carried out a statistical experiment himself but called for a statistical evaluation of astrological statements.
In general, however, statistics for Jung were of secondary importance.
In his foreword to Fanny Moser’s book he wrote:
It is true that with the help of the statistical method the existence of such [synchronistic] effects can be proved with more than sufficient certainty, as Rhine and other investigators have done. But the individual nature of the more complex phenomena of this kind forbids the use of the statistical method, as it proves to be complementary to synchronicity and necessarily destroys the latter phenomenon, which statistics are bound to eliminate as probable and due to chance. We are thus entirely dependent on well observed and well attested individual cases.
The question of the circumstances propitious to synchronistic phenomena offers special difficulties.
Empirically, it has been established that they occur (in the form of prophetic dreams, premonitions, psychokinesis, etc.) with greater frequency in the vicinity of archetypal events, such as death, illness, crises, the onset of mental diseases.
Since in archetypal situations man usually reacts with strong emotions, it would seem that emotion itself favors the occurrence of synchronistic phenomena.
And, in fact, during or because of emotion,, the threshold of consciousness is lowered, and the unconscious and its contents – the archetypes – gain the upper hand.
In other words, man falls into the relative space-timelessness of the unconscious where he experiences synchronistic events more easily than he would in a state of calm and sober consciousness.
For this reason paranormal phenomena play a much greater part in the lives of primitives, with their still feebly developed consciousness which is not yet sharply divided from the unconscious, than they do in ours; hence, also the highly developed gift for extrasensory perception occasionally observed in children diminishes when they grow up and their consciousness has become firmly established.
In the famous collection of parapsychological cases which Edmund Gurney, Frederic Myers, and Frank Podmore published at the end of the nineteenth century under the title Phantasms of the Living, it was shown that most spontaneous parapsychological phenomena were observed in connection with dying and death.
This observation was confirmed during the following decades.
Death is an archetypal situation of intense numinosity.
Here the unconscious breaks through into life, and no one in the vicinity can escape its power, which in many instances affects even animals.
The emotion with which the psyche reacts causes a weakening or loosening of the structure of consciousness: prophetic dreams, premonitions, apparitions step through the gaps as heralds of the mighty archetype Death.
The thesis of a connection between emotion and acausal occurrences is historically very old.
One of its earliest proponents was Albertus Magnus (1193-1280), who assumed an excessus affectus (excess of affect) as the cause of magical influence.
Jung inclined to the view that socalled “genuine magic” as practiced by medicine men is based on the scientifically still unexplained capacity to rouse oneself to a pitch of extreme emotion by an act of will, thus creating the necessary conditions for synchronistic events.
The same voluntary immersion in a state of inner excitement seems to underlie the well-known “excursions of the soul,” in which conscious measures are taken for a doubling of the personality.
In his memoirs Jung records a synchronistic phenomenon that he himself experienced in a state of great emotion.
In 1909 he visited Freud in Vienna.
He was interested to hear Freud’s views on precognition and on parapsychology in general, and asked him what he thought about them. Freud dismissed the whole subject as nonsensical.
While Freud was going on this way, I had a curious sensation. It was as if my diaphragm were made of iron and were becoming red-hot – a glowing vault. At that moment there was such a loud report in the bookcase, which stood right next to us, that we both started up in alarm, fearing the thing was about to topple over on us. I said to Freud: “There, that is an example of a so-called catalytic exteriorization phenomenon.” “Oh come,” he exclaimed. “That is sheer bosh.” “It is not,” I replied. “You are mistaken, Herr Professor. And to prove my point I now predict that in a moment there will be another such loud report!” Sure enough, no sooner had I said the words than the same detonation went off in the bookcase. To this day I do not know what gave me this certainty. But I knew beyond all doubt that the report would come again. Freud only stared aghast at me.
Jung was in a highly emotional state, his diaphragm a “glowing vault.”
Evidently his consciousness had fallen into the sphere of relativized time in the unconscious, and the coming event communicated itself to him as something immediately known.
In many cases, however, the emotion is connected only with the inwardly perceived image of an event (a death, an accident), while the person seeing or anticipating it extrasensorially remains in a relaxed mood.
This fact throws light on the nature of synchronistic phenomena.
On closer examination it turns out that emotion as such is only a secondary symptom.
It may be present in the person who perceives the event, or it may be connected with what is perceived, or it may be missing altogether.
What is essential for the occurrence of synchronistic phenomena is the constellation of an archetype, and emotion is a determining factor only in so far as it brings the unconscious, and hence the archetype, into the foreground.
Synchronistic phenomena and archetypal events are inseparably connected.
Since we are accustomed to thinking in causal categories, it is tempting to mistake the archetype for the phenomena’s transcendental cause.
Such a conclusion rests on the same error that leads primitives to explain virtually everything that happens in life as the effect of “magical causality.”
In reality the archetype must be regarded as the “arranger” of synchronistic phenomena. It is their condition, not their cause.
The “unexpected parallelism of psychic and physical events” is a manifestation of the archetype’s psychoid (psychophysical) nature: because of its
“tansgressivity,” its psychoid nature is split, and it appears here as a psychic image and there as an external event, occasionally even as a physical object.
The archetype arranges itself, along with its antinomies, in the facets of the synchronistic phenomenon.
But this split is never so radical that the experience of their underlying unity is lost; indeed, on that depends the experience of meaning, which is the distinguishing mark of synchronistic events.
As we know, a thing becomes conscious only when it becomes distinct from another thing.
Consequently synchronistic phenomena, in which parallel psychic and physical events are distinct from each other yet are connected by their equivalence and thus form a meaningful whole, must be regarded as the coming-to-consciousness of an archetype.
In general, coming-toconsciousness is an intrapsychic process: the characteristic distinction of one thing from another takes place in the thoughts, dreams, and intuitions of an individual.
It is different with synchronistic phenomena.
Here the antinomies or parallelisms, the various facets of the archetype that is coming to consciousness, are torn asunder.
They manifest themselves, psychically and nonpsychically, at different times and in different places.
This strange behavior may be explained by the fact that the psychoid archetype has not yet become fully conscious, but exists in a state that is half unconscious and half conscious.
It is still partly in the unconscious, hence the relativation of time and space.
But partly it has penetrated into consciousness, hence the splitting of its psychoid nature into two or more psychic and physical parallel events that are distinct from one another.
This nascent coming-to-consciousness is so thoroughly peculiar and puzzling that our reason struggles against recognizing the conformity of events which belong together.
Yet in the border territories of the psyche, that is to say, wherever the unconscious intervenes, we can no longer count upon the clear and logical connections which are mandatory in the world of consciousness.
In most cases it is not difficult to discern the particular archetypal situation underlying or arranging a synchronistic phenomenon.
Very often, as we have said, it is death, the imminence of danger, an accident. In the incident between Jung and Freud it was the impending end of a close friendship.
It can also, as in the case of the mantic methods, be the expectation of a miracle, the knowing of the unknowable.
Jung considered that such an expectation formed the archetypal background of Rhine’s experiments.
As a rule the score of successes falls off when boredom sets in, when the emotional expectation loses its intensity and the constellated archetype sinks back into th unconscious.
Even in apparently banal synchronistic events it is possible in most cases to uncover the organizing archetype.
Louisa Rhine, in her book Hidden Channels of the Mind, tells of a young girl who correctly foresaw that she would eat something uncooked, like spaghetti, and another girl unknown to her would say, “That’ll swell up in you.”
If we bear in mind the curiosity, the greed, that prompted her to eat directly from a packet of Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup, we can discern once again the emotion behind the impulse, while the words “food,” “hunger,” “eating” give us a clue to the archetypal background.
They denote a primordial instinct equal in importance to sex.
Both food and sex are deeply rooted in the unconscious and play a role in the formation of archetypal images in myth and religion.
They appear as the gods of food and love, and in this form represent the spiritual side of instinct.
Instinct and image are facets of one and the same archetype.
Our example also contains an unwitting allusion to the old mythological or archetypal idea of impregnation by eating (“That’ll swell up in you.”).
Telepathy must also be understood as a synchronistic phenomenon, though what happens here is the duplication of a psychic content – which appears both in the sender and in the receiver –rather than the parallelism of a psychic and a physical event.
From the psychological point of view, however, the question of sender and receiver is secondary.
Fundamentally, both are mere instruments of the autonomous archetype and its arrangement in space and time, or again they may be understood as co-protagonists in the drama of an archetypal situation.
Man, his conscious thinking and his will, are pushed into the background, for the impersonal, acausal process of “arranging” (the duplication of a thought in two persons distant from one another) can take place even if nothing is consciously “sent.”
If on occasion a thought seems to have been transmitted deliberately, it is not an act of will on the part of the sender that brings it about but the emotional involvement of the individual or individuals, which in its turn is a symptom of the constellated archetype.
The well-known and often astonishing telepathy between mother and child deserves special mention.
The mother-child relationship represents an archetypal situation par excellence.
For a long time after the birth the two form a psychophysical (and later a psychic) unity, and normally a strong psychic bond persists throughout childhood.
It has its roots as much in the unconscious as in consciousness.
Hence a much smaller impetus is needed for synchronistic phenomena than with people between whom the unconscious bond is weaker, and who are not contained in one and the same archetypal situation.
Another human relationship in which the unconscious bond is stronger than usual because the partners are involved in an archetypal situation is that between analyst and analysand.
It rests upon the (one-sided or mutual) projection of unconscious contents, a phenomenon which Freud called “transference.”
In such transference relationships – based on an archetype and thus closer to the unconscious – it takes less to constellate a synchronistic phenomenon than with people who are not involved in an archetypal situation: knowledge of one partner concerning the thoughts and experiences of the other is more easily established because they may be drawn more readily into the relativation of time and space.
Synchronistic phenomena have their place midway between the conscious and the unconscious, between the knowable and the unknowable, or between this world and what Jung called the “transcendental psychophysical background.”
Consciousness and this world represent, so to speak, an exfoliation of everything which in that background must be thought of as existing in a state of coalescence and thus forms an unknowable unity.
Timelessness divides into past, present, and future; spacelessness into the various dimensions of space; and the unimaginable psychophysical unity of the background realm – more precisely, of the psychoid archetype – appears split into psychic and physical events.
In the synchronistic phenomenon, with its curious merging of time, space, image, and object, something of the original transcendental unity becomes visible and can be experienced; and this inrush of the transcendental evokes wonder and fear.
It is a natural paradox, for in it the entities merged together in that unitary background reality are not completely separated, not yet completely split apart into the isolation of our time and our space.
On the contrary, the psychic and the physical speak the same language: they express the otherwise unknowable archetype, and what binds them together is “a meaning which is a priori in relation to human consciousness and apparently exists outside man,” or, in a wider sense, “a modality without a cause, an ‘acausal orderedness.’ ”
The fact that synchronistic events are closely linked with the unconscious, and more specifically with the archetype, explains their unpredictable nature.
The contents of the unconscious function autonomously.
This is one of the most important discoveries made by analytical psychology in recent decades.
The autonomy of unconscious contents gives all manifestations of the unconscious, including extrasensory perceptions, their sporadic and irregular character.
Regularity and predictability of events are guaranteed only where the concepts of space, time, and causality have absolute validity.
But this, as we pointed out at the start, is no more the case in the border area between conscious and unconscious than it is in the realm of subatomic or cosmic magnitudes.
By their nonconformity with the law of causality, synchronistic phenomena remain irregular, unpredictable events. Jung’s initial view was that they are always exceptions.
The results of Rhine’s experiments, however, modified this view in the sense that they may be expected to occur with some degree of statistical probability.
In the same way, as a result of observations of atomic behavior, statistical probability took the place of strict determinism.
Synchronistic phenomena point to the existence of that acausal orderedness we have spoken of, to which both the observing psyche and the observed physical process are subject.
The conception of an order anchored in the metaphysical realm places synchronicity, as a principle of cognition, within the framework of conformity to law that runs through the natural sciences; it is only a special instance, widely postulated today, of a transcendental order embracing the worlds within and without, spirit and cosmos.
In Jung’s own words: “I incline in fact to the view that synchronicity in the narrower sense is only a special instance of general acausal orderedness –that, namely, of the equivalence of psychic and physical processes.”
One aspect of this orderedness is Jung’s postulate of an absolute knowledge in the unconscious, or “an ‘immediacy’ of events which lacks any causal basis.”
He defined it as “an a priori, causally inexplicable knowledge of a situation which at the time is unknowable.”
An example of this would be Swedenborg’s vision of the fire in Stockholm.
Another aspect is the hypothesis of an a priori, self-subsistent meaning to which we referred earlier.
But this hypothesis is outside the realm of scientific verification.
Nevertheless, the idea of an objective, transcendental meaning allows us to glimpse the numinosity and metaphysical nature of the cosmic order in the background.
It was an important event in the history of science when the explanatory principle of synchronicity raised a bridge between physics and psychology.
They meet in the postulate of that a priori orderedness embracing both matter and psyche, and in their acausal connections.
Wolfgang Pauli writes:
Although in physics there is no talk of “self-reproducing archetypes” but of “statistical natural laws with primary probabilities,” both formulations meet in the tendency to expand the old, narrower idea of “causality” (determinism) into a more general form of “connections” in nature. The psychophysical problem (i.e., of synchronistic phenomena) also points in this direction. This approach permits me to expect that the concepts of the unconscious will not go on developing within the narrow frame of their therapeutic applications, but that their merging with the general current of science in investigating the phenomena of life is of paramount importance for them.
Physics and psychology have pushed forward into a region that eludes direct observation.
An intrinsically unknowable autonomous order must be predicated behind physical phenomena; the corresponding reality behind psychic phenomena is the collective unconscious with its intrinsically unknowable ordering factors, the archetypes.
Jung surmised that the two background realities were possibly one and the same entity:
“Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing.”
Synchronistic phenomena point to the psychophysical unity of the transcendental background and carry its paradoxical nature out of that inapprehensible realm into the realm of consciousness.
They call for the construction of a new and more complete world model, in which acausal as well as causal connections are acknowledged as real.
The causalism that underlies our scientific picture of the world breaks everything down into individual processes which it punctiliously tries to isolate from all other parallel processes.
This tendency is absolutely necessary if we are to gain a reliable knowledge of the world, but philosophically it has the disadvantage of breaking up, or
oscuring, the universal interrelationship of events so that a recognition of the greater relationship, i.e., the unity of the world, becomes more and more difficult.
Everything that happens, however, happens in the same “one world” and is part of it. For this reason events must have an a priori aspect of unity.
The transcendental, psychoid archetype with its autonomous “arrangements” in the psychic and physical realms allows us to glimpse just that interrelationship of events behind the individual processes.
In particular, synchronicity suggests that there is “an interconnection or unity of causally unrelated events, and thus postulates a unitary aspect of being.”
The principle of synchronicity brings the long-lost unity of the world again within the reach of modern thinking, and acts as a compensating element in the disunion and dichotomies of our time.
For this reason its significance does not lie only in the realm of psychology and science; it also provides a basis for a new answer to the pilosophical question of a world order. ~Aniela Jaffe, From the Life and Work of C.G. Jung, Pages 10-30