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  • Ninay Desai

Seeking Synchronicity

In January 2013, I visited Chennai on a professional assignment with a few team members. One day, we had the morning to ourselves. A colleague asked me to accompany him to buy a saree for his wife. Amongst the ones we saw was a muted gold silk saree with a rhomboid weave of golden and silver thread. My colleague considered purchasing it but eventually preferred another. That night, I spoke to a friend who told me about a dream he had the preceding night. He lived in the US and so his night was my day. He’d dreamt of walls covered in a sort of wallpaper made of silk. And it was the colour of muted gold covered in rhombi. Taken aback, I told him about having seen a saree that morning, very similar to what he described. We laughed it off but the incident has stayed with me. Over the years, I wondered if it had been a synchronicity

A man stands atop a jutting pile of rocks on a cliff, overlooking a large body of water. A galaxy of stars glitters in the night sky. This image is being used to symbolise the Universe's role in our experience of synchronicity. Image by Evgeni Tcherkassi.

Even prior to that incident, I’d often wondered about the kinds of happenstance that, in my case, revolved around pieces of information, books and people. Sometimes, I’d be thinking about an idea and would find a book about the concept the next time I popped into a bookstore. Or would meet and get to know people who engaged my curiosity in a particular direction. To me, these signs were answers to questions I wasn’t asking aloud. In fact, sometimes, I wasn’t even asking them. At least, not consciously. Most of these instances don’t stand out and could be brushed aside as coincidences. Though in hindsight, their meaning is easier to spot because the paths they opened up and the places they led to became apparent.

I refer to this as Synchronicity now because Signs from the Universe (which is what I called such occurrences earlier) makes me sound flakier than a croissant and paints the Universe in a most unflattering light - as if it doesn’t have better things to do than to send me signals! Also, I learnt that this wasn’t something that I alone had noticed.

Synchronicity as a theory was propounded by Carl Gustav Jung, a pioneer of analytical psychology. He expanded the scope of his theory by working with physicist and Nobel Laureate Wolfgang Pauli. They described synchronicity as circumstances that appear meaningfully related yet lack a causal connection.

In other words, synchronicity states that some events are meaningfully related not by cause and effect, but by some other principle. Quite often, external events in our lives resonate with our internal psychological and emotional states. Which does not happen in case of simple coincidences. Also, synchronicities often appear in times of emotional intensity or when we are faced with a choice. There are times when ideas or people cross our path as if the universe put them there – in a response to our need.

One of the most famous instances of a synchronicity is from Carl Jung’s experience of treating his patients. It is called the story of the golden scarab. Jung wrote about it in his book Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. His patient was a well-educated young woman whose concept of reality was strictly rational and geometrical. As a result, Jung had found her psychologically inaccessible. He wrote,

Well, I was sitting opposite her one day with my back to the window, listening to her flow of rhetoric. She’d had an impressive dream the night before in which someone had given her a golden scarab – a costly piece of jewellery. While she was telling me this dream, I heard something behind me gently tapping on the window. I turned around and saw that it was a fairly large flying insect that was knocking against the window pane from outside in the effort to get into the dark room. This seemed to me very strange. I opened the window immediately and caught the insect in the air as it flew in. It was a scarabaeoid beetle whose gold green colour resembles that of a golden scarab. I handed the beetle to my patient with the words, ‘There is your scarab’. This experience punctuated the desired hole in her rationalism and broke the ice of her intellectual resistance.”

Sometimes, the breakthrough or synchronicity is stunningly memorable as in this case. At other times, it could be gentler. And the significance of those signs is also deeply personal because each of us carry our own universes of meaning in our minds. For instance, curls of pencil shavings may be a core memory from your childhood. And so, only you would appreciate the significance of unexplained pencil shavings scattered on a window sill in an otherwise pristine house that a realtor is showing you.

A diagram denoting the dissimilarity between synchronicity and causality, designed against the background of a night sky in a forest.

In explaining his theory, Jung didn’t hold back from using the language of Physics (with help from Pauli, of course), though he did stop shy of using the term “Big Bang”. Carl Jung spoke about how “under certain conditions space and time can be reduced to almost zero, causality disappears along with them because causality is bound up with the existence of space and time and physical changes, and consists essentially in the succession of cause and effect. For this reason, synchronistic phenomena cannot in principle be associated with any conceptions of causality.”

While researching this post, I came across another astounding tale of synchronicity. In the early 1970s, the actor, Anthony Hopkins was starting out in the movies and was cast in The Girl from Petrovka, a film based on a novel (with the same name) by George Feifer. As preparation for his role, Hopkins decided to read the novel. He walked around London checking every bookstore. Unfortunately, not a single copy was available. Disappointed, he took the subway back home. On the train, he spotted an object left behind by someone. It was a copy of The Girl from Petrovka. This is a pretty amazing story but it gets better.

At some point during the making of the movie, George Feifer, the author of the book, came to the set. While chatting with Hopkins, Feifer mentioned that he’d lent his copy of The Girl from Petrovka to a friend who had left it on a train. Utterly surprised, Hopkins pulled out his book and showed it to the author. Feifer exclaimed, “That’s my copy.”

That’s synchronicity for you. A coincidence so striking, meaningful and utterly impossible to orchestrate that it exceeds all possible explanations. Perhaps what comes to us as new information in this lifetime has been explored in another lifetime. Is it possible that synchronicities are nodes on the branches of lifetimes on the tree of destiny?

A synchronicity may appear in the form of dreams, symbols, numbers, conversations, spontaneous encounters and ‘trickster’ events. Trickster events are those which initially have a negative effect but reveal a positive impact in the long run. Like missing a flight only to meet someone on the next flight who works at a company you’re applying to for a job. Or walking into a music store because the friend you are meeting for a drink is delayed. And you end up enrolling in piano lessons every Thursday, and realise after a few months of lessons that music comes naturally to you. In the words of J Mike Fields,

“Synchronicities are the doors to the wisdom of a thousand lifetimes waiting for integration.”

I know all of this may sound a bit unbelievable. I’ll understand if you think I’ve lost my marbles. That’s fine. I do have a suggestion though. Just to strengthen your assertion, look back upon your life. Who knows? You might spot a synchronicity hiding in plain sight in the guise of the merely coincidental. Or perhaps, you’ll uncover a curiosity for coincidence and its serendipitous sibling, synchronicity. You may choose to explore it further to learn the various types of synchronicities and their links to quantum physics, the concept of karma and past lives. Would this blog post then count as a sign for you from the Universe?

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Amazing blog..... bang on synchronicity. You really feel it at times...

Ninay Desai
Ninay Desai

Yes, it can be very striking and makes one wonder about the other dimensions. Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. Cheers.

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