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Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle

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Jung's only extended work in the field of parapsychology aims, on the one hand, to incorporate the findings of "extrasensory perception" (ESP) research into a general scientific point of view and, on the other, to ascertain the nature of the psychic factor in such phenomena. While he had advanced the "synchronicity" hypothesis as early as the 1920s, Jung gave a full statement only in 1951, in an Eranos lecture; the following year (he was seventy-seven) he published the present monograph in a volume with a related study by the physicist (and Nobel winner) Wolfgang Pauli. Together with a wealth of historical and contemporary material on "synchronicity," Jung describes an astrological experiment conducted to test his theory.

"The concept of synchronicity indicates a meaningful coincidence of two or more events, where something other than the probability of chance is involved. Chance is a statistical concept which 'explains' deviations within certain patterns of probability. Synchronicity elucidates meaningful arrangements and coincidence which somehow go beyond the calculations of probability. Pre-cognition, clairvoyance, telepathy, etc. are phenomena which are inexplicable through chance, but become empirically intelligible through the employment of the principle of synchronicity, which suggests a kind of harmony at work in the interrelation of both psychic and physical events."
The Journal of Religious Thought

115 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1952

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About the author

C.G. Jung

981 books8,766 followers
Carl Gustav Jung (/jʊŋ/; German: [ˈkarl ˈɡʊstaf jʊŋ]), often referred to as C. G. Jung, was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. Jung proposed and developed the concepts of extraversion and introversion; archetypes, and the collective unconscious. His work has been influential in psychiatry and in the study of religion, philosophy, archeology, anthropology, literature, and related fields. He was a prolific writer, many of whose works were not published until after his death.

The central concept of analytical psychology is individuation—the psychological process of integrating the opposites, including the conscious with the unconscious, while still maintaining their relative autonomy. Jung considered individuation to be the central process of human development.

Jung created some of the best known psychological concepts, including the archetype, the collective unconscious, the complex, and synchronicity. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a popular psychometric instrument, has been developed from Jung's theory of psychological types.

Though he was a practising clinician and considered himself to be a scientist, much of his life's work was spent exploring tangential areas such as Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, and sociology, as well as literature and the arts. Jung's interest in philosophy and the occult led many to view him as a mystic, although his ambition was to be seen as a man of science. His influence on popular psychology, the "psychologization of religion", spirituality and the New Age movement has been immense.

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Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews9,765 followers
October 28, 2015
The central theory of 'synchronicity' relies on an unfortunate combination of flawed research and misapplied statistics. Jung hems and haws but is never able to demonstrate that any acausal connection between events exists.

The first problem is his reliance on research by Joseph Rhine, who coined the term 'parapsychology' to describe his studies. Throughout his career, Rhine's work was plagued with errors, and his ESP experiments were so poorly-designed as to be useless.

To produce good results means setting up a good test. If there are flaws in the test, the results will be useless. When Rhine began to speak about the 'remarkable findings' in his research, he gained interest and his papers were widely read. Sadly, it was immediately clear to professionals in the field that the results were unreliable.

Through the course of his early experiments, Rhine did not lay out a system by which the testing took place. He used a set of twenty-five Zener cards to test his subjects, but never specified any method by which the cards be randomized or presented. One of the most successful tests took place in a moving car.

The expected outcomes were also underestimated, so that subjects reported as performing 'above chance' were in fact quite average. Each deck contained five symbols with five cards each, and Rhine reported this meant a one-in-five (20%) chance of guessing the correct card. However, the cards were not returned to the deck and reshuffled after each one was drawn, so every card after the first had a greater than 20% chance of being guessed.

If the first card drawn is a star, the subject knows that only four star cards remain. That means the other symbols in the deck now have a greater than 20% chance of being drawn. If eight cards have been drawn and none of them are a cross, the subject now has a 30% chance of being correct if he guesses a cross, since there are more crosses remaining in the deck than any other card. The odds of guessing correctly increase for every card drawn.

Beyond counting cards, it was later discovered that several of Rhine's assistants were helping certain subjects to cheat, that subjects were often allowed to handle the cards, and that the original cards were often thin enough that the symbols could be seen through them when backlit.

After changing the tests to make cheating more difficult and getting rid of assistants caught cheating, Rhine never again produced any meaningful results. Sadly, he revealed his prejudice when he refused to publish any experiment that did not support his theories.

He then tried to excuse his lack of evidence by the so-called 'Decline Effect', which is just another misunderstanding of how statistics operate. Imagine you roll a large number of dice, then get rid of any that roll five or lower. You continue rolling, and continue keeping only those that roll high. Eventually, you're down to a handful of dice. If you keep rolling them, they will average out.

They were never super dice, after all, we just happened to decide to keep the ones that rolled high--which some of the dice were bound to do, by sheer chance. That's not an anomaly, it's our own selection bias. It's like someone who doesn't like red skittles, and so only eats the other ones, and then is surprised when the bag has only red skittles remaining by the end.

Rhine did the same thing: he tested large numbers of people, and kept only those who scored highly. He was selecting only the data that confirmed his theory. Then, when he retested them, they averaged out. This is not a magic 'decline effect', it is the natural correction of his own selection bias averaging out over time.

The fact that Jung did not recognize the flawed methodology throughout the experiments troubled me. A theorist needs to be able to recognize and avoid using flawed data, and the fact that Jung has so quickly embraced it suggests a lack of rigor in his own approach.

Besides these contentious studies, Jung often relies on anecdotes--examples from his life, or from other people which suggest that coincidences are in some way important. For example, he remarks that one patient was telling of a dream she had about a beetle, at which point a beetle flew into the window of his office.

Anecdotes are like metaphors: they are useful for illustrating an idea, but only a fool mistakes the illustration for the idea. One can 'burn the midnight oil' without actually having any oil at hand, and just because a man gets attacked by an escaped tiger in NYC, that is not evidence of an urban tiger epidemic. Beyond that, memory is an untrustworthy thing, and human beings assign more importance to events which confirm what they already believe, tending not to remember things that conflict with their beliefs.

In this specific case, coincidences like the kind he describes are not actually uncommon. While it is unlikely that a bug would fly in while a woman spoke about bugs, that is only one of many coincidences that might have happened that day. If a person has a thousand small moments in a day where a coincidence might happen, then statistically, each person will experience a one-in-a-thousand coincidence every day.

Given enough time, the coincidence actually becomes more likely to occur than not to occur. It is unlikely that a roulette wheel will land on seven if you spin it once. If you spin it a thousand times, it would be miraculous if it didn't eventually land on seven. With a world population of 6.8 billion, 6,800 people are experiencing a one-in-a-million coincidence right now.

Unfortunately, Jung never overcomes either the flawed studies or the vague arguments which undermine his theory. He speaks back and forth at some length about various suppositions and possibilities, but never develops any convincing insight. A good piece of philosophy contains not only an interesting theory, but also presents the flaws and contradictions which that theory must overcome in order to be relevant. It is impossible to discuss the necessity of an idea without first dealing with the problems amassed against it. Only if its power and accuracy prove greater than these problems can the idea truly emerge as a workable concept. Jung never manages to cross this important threshold.

It is clear that he has passion, and that there is a great desire within him to explore and understand, but this is simply not enough. He tells us that there have been many ideas throughout history which were considered unpalatable, which were rejected outright, and only accepted as truth later. He reminds us that it is vital to keep pushing the boundary--yet again he forgets statistics--for every great idea that was rejected for being before its time, there are ten or a hundred ideas which ended up being flat out wrong.

The lesson of history is that the odds are against the radical idea. We might think of great successes like Kepler or Newton, who changed our conception of the world with radical notions--but both men also had passionate ideas which they worked on their whole lives, and which turned out to be baseless--for Kepler, the notion that the orbits of the planets were based on the platonic solids, and for Newton the study of alchemy.

While reading, I had my own moment of synchronous coincidence, when Jung quoted Kepler's notion of 'Geometric Unity' as an example of a philosophy of synchronicity--despite the fact that it turned out to be incorrect. Mankind is better served by thinkers who work on likely theories rather than ones who chase white rabbits.

Yet, I am not numb to the passion that drives a man who works to prove the impossible. There is a part of me that has always wanted magic to exist. A world with magic seems a more interesting and wonderful world. Part of the reason I am skeptical, the reason that I searched so hard for truth, for proofs, was that I wanted to believe. But a simple desire does not make reality:
"Do you want a piece of cake?"
"Then have one."
"I don't see it . . ."
"You aren't looking hard enough."
"I've checked the whole kitchen and I still don't see any cake."
"You just don't want the cake enough. If you really wanted the cake, you'd be eating it already."
"But there isn't any cake here!"
"Well, you can't expect to find the cake with a negative outlook like that. Cakes don't respond well to negative energy."
"I'm pretty sure that even if I wanted this cake more than I ever wanted anything, it still wouldn't be here."
"What a hopeless cynic!"

One of my favorite articles is a piece by Dr. Susan Blackmore, entitled 'Why I Have Given Up", which goes into great detail about how difficult it is to try to study unusual theories. She searched in vain for evidence of fantastical claims for a quarter century. In the beginning, she hoped they were true--that she would find something definitive, and that the way we look at the world might be changed forever. By the end, she had still not found a single shred of evidence.

Believers attacked her. They said she didn't have an open mind. All the people who had contacted her over the years, sure that they had proof, blamed her when they couldn't demonstrate it. People have a passion for wondrous notions, even when there is nothing to suggest they might be true. It's important to have an open mind as a student of the world, but it's also important to make sure you don't open it so wide that your brain falls out.

A place with unicorns and psychic powers where all things are connected and directed by fate seems exciting and interesting. Yet these things are only interesting because they are impossible. They are only fantastical because they do not exist. If they did exist, we would come to expect them. They would be normal to us, and we would no longer find them wondrous.

Yet that would not decrease how remarkable they were. The ability to communicate one's thoughts remotely and immediately to a person across the world is terribly fantastical--yet it is something we can now do at a whim. It is no less fantastical to do it with a cellphone, rather than psychic energies, and the only reason the psychic power seems interesting is because we cannot do it. It is the lure of the thing we cannot possess.

Instead of losing the self in the contemplation of things that are wondrous because they are impossible, why not contemplate things which are wondrous, but which are all around us all the time? Is it not fantastical that we can see and measure stars as they were countless years before our race was born? Is it not fantastical that we can comprehend the invisible particles which make up all substance in the world?

God is a fantastical impossibility: contemplating him means withdrawing from the world and wishing for another existence. Natural laws are a fantastical reality: to contemplate them is to come closer to a grand understanding.

If you were walking in the middle of the woods with a friend and came across an arched bridge of stone that gracefully spanned a deep ravine, it would be a beautiful and awing thing to behold. If you asked your friend where it came from, which would be the more fantastical answer: that the natural laws which govern the depositing and erosion of stone naturally created this wonder, or that some guy built it? And yet what is god besides the notion that 'some guy built it'?

To me, the notions of gods, angels, psychic powers, magic, astrology, and all the rest do not make the world a more remarkable place, because they are all of man, not of the world. They are not explanations, they provide no understanding, and they indicate no grander existence. They are attempts to make the world more like us.

We are programmed to see ourselves everywhere--we see a face in the light socket, we yell at the car for breaking down, we apply complex psychological motivations to our cat. What is god but the attempt to make the universe more like us--to make it living, breathing, thinking, moral, creative, thoughtful, emotional, and answerable? It allows us to pretend for a moment that we are important, that we are in control in some grand, real way.

The man-shaped universe does not appeal to me. It is not necessary, nor is it remarkable. It does not make things grander and more wonderful, it makes it small and personal and simple.

This world is already magical and fantastical to me. I already find it beautiful and surprising and beyond comprehension. To sit and study the tiny fraction of what we know and understand delights and overwhelms me. Why obsess over a world of false fantasies when there is a world of real, living, breathing miracles out there waiting for you, every day?

When a thinker creates and inhabits an empty world of hopes and sympathies, he murders everything sublime and touching in life. It is a tragic thing to kill real wonder in the name of false ones.
Profile Image for William2.
745 reviews2,959 followers
October 3, 2022
Part 1 is engaging but a little dull. Part 2, which is the so-called simple astrological experiment Jung conducted to test his theory, is all statistical math and thus incomprehensible to me. But Parts 3 and 4, addressing similarities between Synchronicity and certain aspects of the world as explained in Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching, not to mention parallels with Virgil, Agrippa, Synesius, Kepler, Hippocrates and Schopenhauer, alone repays one’s interest.
Profile Image for Eloy Cryptkeeper.
296 reviews193 followers
January 30, 2022
"Haríamos bien en no considerar los resultados de la observación astrológica como fenómenos sincronísticos, sino como posiblemente causales en su origen, pues, cuando se puede pensar en una causa, aunque sólo sea de forma remota, la sincronicidad se conviene en una tesis excesivamente dudosa.
De cualquier forma, por ahora no tenemos fundamentos suficientes para creer que los resultados astrológicos son algo más que puro azar o que las estadísticas que utilizan grandes cifras dan un resultado significativo"

"Ni siquiera la tradición nos ayuda mucho para elegir entre la causalidad mágica y el significado trascendental porque, por una parte, la mentalidad primitiva ha explicado siempre la sincronicidad como una causalidad mágica, incluso hasta hoy, y, por otra, la filosofía adoptó una relación secreta o conexión significativa entre los acontecimientos naturales hasta bien entrado el siglo XVIII . Personalmente prefiero la última hipótesis puesto que, al contrario que la primera, no entra en conflicto con el concepto empírico de causalidad y puede considerarse un principio sui generis"

Dicho por el propio Jung, aquí no pretende esclarecer exhaustivamente algo que define como un conjunto de hechos muy complicados; Pero si, al menos quitar el manto de oscuridad y abordar ciertas preguntas . Es muy interesante la parte filosófica y ciertos conceptos"Sinronicidad y Acasualidad". Por el contrario, el apartado del estudio astrológico resulta tedioso y no lleva a ningún lado(de hecho fue desechado este aspecto)
Profile Image for Viktoria.
Author 2 books74 followers
May 8, 2020
Firstly, I have never written such a long review before, so brace yourself.

Secondly, this book is nothing short of a fascinating read, despite its flaws.

It is important to mention that Jung was apparently fascinated by Einstein's theory of relativity and the idea that time and space are relative and only become factual when observed consciously, Schopenhauer's attempt at illustrating two modes of events, the first being causal chains and the second, and more relevant to Jung's idea of synchronicity, being the meaningful cross-connection (“...a subjective connection which exists only in relation to the individual who experiences it, and which is thus as subjective as his own dreams.”) and Lebniz's idea of pre-established harmony.

Having that in mind, It is also important to say that Jung's term “synchronicity” is different from “synchronism” and means “the simultaneous occurrence of a certain psychic state with one or more external events which appear as meaningful parallels to the momentary subjective state.”

From several experiments (the one conducted by Rhine, for example) Jung arrives at the idea that “chance” ideas “reveal the structure of that which produces them, namely the unconscious”, thus implying that meaningful coincidences rests on an archetypal foundation and are made meaningful by the activation of the collective unconscious.

Based on his personal observations and with the help of experiments, Jung theorizes that the collective unconscious has in itself a sort of determinizm of events, a priori knowledge of them (which he likeness to Leibniz's pre-established harmony, meaning, an absolute synchronism of psychic and physical events) and in certain objective situations the unconscious (when it is strengthened) “sends” to the conscious (which is weakened, and with it, so are the common concepts of time and space) a sorf of “omen” in the form of a dream, premonition or else. Thus leading to the assumption that “Synchronistic phenomena (...) prove that a content perceived by an observer can, at the same time, be represented by an outside event, without any causal connection. From this it follows either that the psyche cannot be localized in space, or that space is relative to psyche. The same applies to the temporal determination of the psyche and the psychic relativity of time.”

Jung also dedicates a whole chapter on the forerunners of the idea of synchronicity, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It includes musings on the nature of the Tao, its “nothingness” and analysis of ideas expressed by Hippocrates, Plotinus, Pico della Mirandola, Agrippa von Nettesheim, Leibniz, Kepler and above all, Plato.

And now, for the elephant in the room. Yes, Rhine's experiments are heavily doubted, there is no denying that and there is a lot of literature on the subject, if one is interested. As for Jung's own experiment, even he says that it is “too arbitrary” and “too clumsy”. But it is important to keep in mind that the subject considered is hard, if not impossible, to empirically prove because of the need of abaissement mental, which “tips the scales in favour of the unconscious” and is hard to produce in a strictly conducted experiment. I mostly read Jung as a philosopher, so I am not really that bothered by his not-so-clearly-observed-experiments. In spite of all objections, what Jung brings to the table, is a very novel idea and it is definitely worth considering.

In the end, this book gave me a lot of food for thought and made me understand myself, how I view and understand the world, and what I believe in, a little bit more (isn't this what we all strive for, after all?) and I greatly appreciate that.

Profile Image for Erick.
256 reviews237 followers
July 15, 2020
Jung had noted in his life a tendency for certain meaningful coincidences to cluster together. He gives an account of an experience regarding fish (meaningful as an archetypal symbol), where he either saw an actual fish, is told about a fish, sees a drawing of a fish, etc, all within a short space of time. The likelihood of such a clustering happening is incredibly improbable; and because these incidences couldn't have been attributable to a specific cause, he saw them as acausal, but still pointing to some meaningful connection between them. Jung termed this kind of occurrence synchronicity.

This book recounts some experiments regarding synchronicity and his rationale behind the theory. Jung discusses astrology, the I Ching, and various other subjects that are seemingly relevant. In my own life, I have experienced similar meaningful coincidences regularly. I concur that synchronicity is a genuine occurrence. My conviction is that these are usually indicative of a spiritual substrate to reality. I feel the same way about archetypes.

One thing I wanted to comment on here is a story that Jung relates on page 27 - 28. Jung notes that interesting details may become slightly confused in occurrences of synchronicity. What's interesting is that people have a tendency to confuse the exact same detail. The term Jung uses is paramnesia. Upon investigation, I found that this term goes back to the psychologist Emil Kraepelin, and was used to describe a condition where a subject may confuse, or misremember, some detail when fantasy or delusion is influencing the memory. Jung relates a story here about how a name, Ericepaeus, that showed up in an Orphic text he was studying, he repeatedly misread as Ericapeaus. A woman he was treating had a dream where someone handed her a piece of paper and it had the name Ericipaeus written on it. Obviously, it is interesting that this woman patient had a dream relating directly to Jung's studies, but equally interesting is that she also made an error regarding the fifth letter of the name, just as he had. In the actual text, the letter was an E. Jung misread that letter as an A, and the woman misread it as an I. Jung found it interesting that the mistake was regarding the same letter. I think Jung stumbled on to something profound here. I think the current hype regarding the Mandela Effect is an example of a mass delusion, but it does point to some tendency of the human mind to mistake the same details across swaths of the population. One of the so-called examples of the Mandela Effect is that many people remember the series of children's books titled The Berenstain Bears as the Bernstein Bears. I too remember it as the Bernstein Bears. One should probably keep in mind that both variants are related Jewish surnames. Bernstein is the far more common variant, and that could easily explain the mass confusion. Whatever the case, it does point to the human mind having memory issues when it has recourse to variants; often choosing a simpler variant when given the choice. This does seem to happen unconsciously. Almost all Mandela Effect examples seem to relate to this issue of paramnesia. What is incredibly strange is that when this tendency is finally noticed by the population at large, instead of attributing the issue to an error in the human mind, people would rather explain it as an error of reality and the universe. I think we can Occam's razor any such explanation right off the table. As I said, I think the hype regarding the Mandela Effect is an example of mass delusion, but Jung pointed to its roots in synchronicity and paramnesia. I think the solution is to be found there.

I think this book is incredibly interesting. Jung was not opposed to investigating subjects like the paranormal and the occult. Certainly, synchronicity would fall into such a category. Nevertheless, I attest to the occurrences that it addresses personally. I think this is an essential work of Jung and recommend it as such.
Profile Image for Yelda Basar Moers.
184 reviews143 followers
September 25, 2016
I have always been fascinated by Carl Jung and the concept of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence. This was the first book I had ever read by him though I had read several books about him. I must say that thought the famous psychiatrist and writer of the soul and this topic are truly compelling, reading Jung himself is difficult in that his language is awkward and not written for a general lay audience. It is a difficult and cumbersome read and I do not recommend it unless you are someone in the field of psychology or a scientist. For those interested in Carl Jung and this topic I have heard from several people that it is best to read books about him than by him to truly understand his work.

In this book Jung was attempting to show how synchronicity works with the psyche, to prove its existence. I could not understand it as the language was too awkward and hard to follow. I am on a mission to find a book about this author and this subject that can explain it well for a general audience. I will share it when I find it!

Profile Image for Solomon.
9 reviews9 followers
June 27, 2012
Jung's concept of synchronicity (i.e. acausal nonlocal meaningful coincidence) is presented with a beautiful calm and eloquence.

My reading of the book was motivated by a recent strikingly synchronistic experience of my own. And it seems to me that my actual reading of the book is somehow, in turn, entangled with both this earlier synchronistic experience and also with subsequent events and experiences...

I purposefully use the word "entangled" because I'm quite open to the possibility that a connection may one day be revealed between Jung's synchronicity and the acausal & nonlocal features of quantum mechanics. The sympathy with which Jung's ideas were apparently received by Wolfgang Pauli suggests to me that he too may have felt this way.
Profile Image for Marjan.
152 reviews39 followers
April 26, 2014

In the course of the last 9 months I've become very familiar with the concept of Synchronicity from my own experience. Slowly I began noticing it, then there was a phase when I thought it was all just a false impression, then it became too obvious to deny it and after the first quirky phases of acceptance I've made friends with it. Sure, each of those events could easily be attributed to chance or some psychological bias, but when the peculiarity and unlikeliness grows and the frequency often goes beyond reasonable count (sometimes even 3-4 per day), it is simply inexplicable in the more conventional materialistic causality terms. At one hand I am quite reluctant to speak about these experiences, mostly because of all the stigma it is associated with, but on the other hand I would just like to go on the highest roof and scream about every time it happened.

In that regard I am very happy that Jung gave it a very loud and clear scientific voice that should silence down anyone still dwelling on the "Dawkins delusion". The book is far from being easy to read, some preexisting knowledge on brain anatomy, Jungian psyche concepts (unconsciousness, anima, animus, the Self, the Ego, etc...) and eastern philosophy (Tao and I Ching) would come handy.

But the real beauty of this book is not only that it challenges the orthodox reductive way of thinking in Western science, but it also provides a very potent alternative in a form of a modernized Tao philosophy. The principle of causality and materialism by implications carries in the idea of linearity. But if one is willing to let go of that and embrace the idea of Tao, which posits that the whole is included into each part, and that each part carries the whole within it, much like a multi dimensional fractal, where not just properties of space and matter are distributed in such way, but also time itself (try to imagine a multi dimensional space-time-matter Mandelbrot set), then the Synchronicity phenomenon becomes much more trivial and actually inevitable. The reason we find these events "unthinkable" is hence not so much in the nature of the event itself, but in the nature of our concept of "thinkability". It is an epistemological problem. :)

That is my understanding, in a nutshell... There is much more to be found in the book, with many more details and even empirical data. Jung just can't disappoint a curious person.
Profile Image for Julian Worker.
Author 35 books352 followers
May 11, 2022
CG Jung first used the word synchronicity in 1930 in a memorial address for Richard Wilhelm, the translator of the I Ching or Book of Changes. Jung was seeking to explain the modus operandi of the I Ching and in later lectures he equated it with the Chinese concept of Tao.

The philosophical principle that underlies our conception of natural law is causality. If the connection between cause and effect turns out to be only relatively true then another explanation of the connection is required.

Synchronicity is no more baffling than quantum physics. It is only the ingrained belief in the sovereign power of causality that makes it appear unthinkable that causeless events exist or could even occur.

Jung decided to find out how far an accepted astrological tradition would stand up to statistical investigation. Jung's choice fell on marriage because the traditional belief in regard to marriage has been that there is a conjunction of sun and moon in the horoscope of the marriage partners.

His results are significant.
Profile Image for Alaíde Ventura.
Author 4 books1,041 followers
July 19, 2021
Sí está bien, pero se nota que le entendería mucho mejor si también leyera a Schopenhauer, y pues no tengo tanta vida, creo.

Pero sí buenísimo, me potenció mi egolatría y la sensación de que el universo gira a mi alrededor, jaja.
Profile Image for Gregg Wingo.
161 reviews19 followers
December 19, 2014
This work by Jung is a fascinating look at the subjective experience of being a human mind in a physical universe. He begins the book with the following statements:

1) Natural laws are statistical truths, which means that they are completely valid only when we are dealing with macrophysical quantities.

2) The philosophical principle that underlies our conception of natural law is causality.

3) Their [Acausal events] existence - or at least their possibility - follows logically from the premise of statistical truth.

4) But if the causal principle is only relatively valid, then it follows that even though in the vast majority of cases an apparently chance series can be causally explained, there must still remain a number of cases which do not show any causal connection.

5) Chance groupings or series seem, at least to our present way of thinking, to be meaningless, and to fall as a general rule within the limits of probability.

6) Should this proof (of acausal events exceeding the limits of probability) be forthcoming, however, it would prove at the same time that there are genuinely non-causal combinations of events for whose explanation we should have to postulate a factor incommensurable with causality.

7) Because of this quality of simultaneity, I have picked the term "synchronicity" to designate a hypothetical factor equal in rank to causality as a principle of explanation.

8) Meaningful coincidences - which are to be distinguished from meaningless chance groupings - therefore seem to rest on an archetypal foundation.

From this basis Jung explores paraphychology, astrology from an archetypal basis, the I Ching and other forms of divination, near-death experiences, and radioactive decay. From this and in discussion with Wolfgang Pauli he formulated the tetradic schema of our quantum based physical existence: Indestructible Energy-Causality-Synchronicity-Space Time Continuum.

We are all aware of both meaningless and meaningful coincidences in our daily lives. They are the basis for surprises and superstition, and decision making. For instance, in business we deal with staffing issues in the retail environment. Managers determine by experience and analysis the number of employees needed to serve the average number of customers that will enter the store. However, we also know that they come in random clusters or retail statistical fluctuations that necessitate additional personnel to maintain customer service levels and avoid losses in sales during these surges. These represent meaningless coincidences but ones which we must prepare for.

As a reader I often experience what seem like meaningful coincidences like a new vocabulary word suddenly occurring in each new text I read. Or picking up books in my library that I have owned for years that I only now feel are relevant for the zeitgeist. Perhaps these are instances of awareness but I often wonder at their significance.

However, I decided to write this review today because I feel I am in the midst of a synchronous experience. At three in the morning of November 10th of this year, the town of Marlinton (the countyseat of a neighboring county) began to burn and lost a block of its business district due to constant winds that made it impossible for the firefighters to contain the blaze. That morning I awoke to learn of this ongoing event and to also learn it was the anniversary of the wreak of the Edmund Fitzgerald which as the song reminds us occurred "...when the gales of November come early". Unable to sleep in the early morning hours of the 11th of November I picked up "The Skrayling Tree" by Michael Moorcock, a writer who incorporates the archetypes of Dr. Jung as the basis for his fantasy multiverse. As I turned to Chapter Two of the book I was stunned by its title: "On the Shores of Gitche Gumee" - the Chippewa name for Lake Superior where the men of the Edmund Fitzgerald lost their lives. Are these meaningful coincidences, a synchronicity?

If you are interested in science of synchronicity or the role of archetypes in the mystic arts you should read this insightful work by one of the great thinkers of psychology and the nature of the human experience.

Profile Image for Scriptor Ignotus.
495 reviews174 followers
June 21, 2018
Unbeknownst even to his biographers, C.G. Jung was an obsessive fan of The Police: the popular British rock band active in the 1970s and 80s and known for such hits as “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic”, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, and “Message in a Bottle”.

Mesmerized by the hypnotic drumming of Stewart Copeland, the iconic, raspy vocals of Sting, and the captivating guitar riffs of Andy Summers, Jung would use the trio’s music as an aid for his active imagination sessions, whereby he would plumb the depths of the unconscious for self-knowledge. He studied the group’s music—as he did the work of Paracelsus, Hermes Trismegistus, Pico della Mirandola, and Jacob Boehme—to acquire insight into such matters as the connectivity of cosmos and psyche, the archetypes of the collective unconscious, and the relation of alchemical symbolism to the individuation process.

Though his studies of The Police were immensely fruitful, Jung was perplexed by two songs from the group’s celebrated corpus: “Synchronicity I” and “Synchronicity II”. Finding the meaning of the lyrics impenetrable, he spent the final years of his life rifling franticly through ancient manuscripts looking for clues. What he discovered astonished him: in the two “Synchronicity” songs, Sting was developing a new theory about the nature of reality to compliment Einstein’s relativity theory.

The “triad of classical physics”—space, time, and causality—was missing a fourth principle necessary for a wholistic understanding of nature. Sting identified this “missing” principle as that of synchronicity; defined as connections of meaning (rather than physical cause and effect) deriving from an original or pre-existing unity of nature. Whereas Einstein unified space and time, commonly thought of as separate factors, into the composite of space-time, Sting thought a similar meta-concept was needed to articulate the essential unity of causality and synchronicity, the two connective principles.

If the trinitarian logic of exclusion and distinction were replaced with a more wholistic, quaternal conception of reality, Jung thought, the mystical wisdom of the ancients and the empirical science of the moderns could be reconciled within a complete map of reality. Of course, this longing for the inclusion of a fourth into a preexisting three was a projection of Jung’s desire to become the fourth member of The Police, and his disappointment at being rejected by the band because they had no need of a marimbist.

The idea of synchronicity—the notion that our psychological conceptions of meaning have some correlate “out there” in the physical world because meaning is as “natural” as cause and effect—was the assumed worldview of virtually every premodern thinker, from Lao Tzu to Leibniz, and was only denied its legitimacy in the West in the eighteenth century, when empirically-verifiable causality became the exclusive principle of European natural science.

Compare Sting’s “Synchronicity I” to Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching.

Sting defines synchronicity:

”With one breath, with one flow
You will know

A connecting principle,
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible.
Science insusceptible
Logic so inflexible
Causally connectible
Yet nothing is invincible[…]

Effect without a cause
Sub-atomic laws, scientific pause

Lao Tzu defines the Tao:

”There is something formless yet complete
That existed before heaven and earth.
How still! how empty!
Dependent on nothing, unchanging,
All pervading, unfailing.
One may think of it as the mother of all things
under heaven.
I do not know its name,
But I call it “Meaning.”
If I had to give it a name, I should call it ‘The Great.’”

The similarities speak for themselves. Even if we do not accept The Police’s theory of synchronicity outright, we must take it at least as seriously as I took the writing of this review. My props to Dr. Jung for his remarkable work of pop music criticism.
Profile Image for Jef Gerets.
34 reviews4 followers
September 14, 2022
Een beetje een bizar werk, maar toch interessant. Twee sterren omdat Jung een hypothese naar voren schuift en eigenlijk een eerste kijk probeert te geven hierin. Het heeft veel potentieel maar blijft op het einde echter slechts een plausibele hypothese. Wel cool hoe hij om synchroniciteit te proberen verklaren, bewijst dat de astrologie geen wetenschappelijke fundering heeft, maar misschien wel een synchronistische. Hij brengt de astrologie dus naar de vuilbak om haar daarna er terug uit te halen. Het boek is dus ok maar verwacht geen openbaringen van inzichten.
Profile Image for Sidhartha.
50 reviews2 followers
March 3, 2009
Clearly not the strongest work by Jung but maybe one of the bravest ideas in the 20-th century.
11 reviews1 follower
May 7, 2016
The best part: the explanation of why meaningful coincidences are, indeed, meaningful - because all our lines of connection come from the same source. Jung also explains why his theory goes beyond the "primitive" idea of assumed belief in the meaningfulness of events (e.g. believing disease occurred because one is being punished, etc.), as well as the Chinese idea in the Tao and the belief in the whole vs. the detail (which is generally what Jung's idea of synchronicity is): it's simply because he's framing it within the realm of western scientific thought. One of the effects of this is his argument that western thought is rooted too much in the idea of "causality," and so "synchronicity" is a kind of western challenge to the idea of causality.

I personally would add two thoughts to Jung's discussion:

1) Rather than a globe which has longitudinal lines which begin at the same source (which, it could be said, is God) and latitudinal lines which illustrate events which connect individuals as they go along their individual paths, I think the diagram should be more a bunch of lines starting at one source which all have erratic shapes and whose coincidental "collisions" are represented as specific intersections between the actual lines.
2) I think it's important to think about whether or not it is true that if a whole society thinks more in terms of synchronicity, that it actually becomes more true. For example, I feel that in Asian societies where people collectively believe more in their interconnectedness, one might actually experience more strange coincidences than they would experience in a society that did not think that way. Thus, even the existence of synchronicity is relative to the belief of a group. Similarly, in the US, our beliefs in pushing the individual will and thought over the top has literally proven to birth more innovation.
Profile Image for Joel.
148 reviews24 followers
July 6, 2022
I enjoyed the beginning and end of this book, but the midsection mostly went over my head. Jung is always a pleasure to read, but I'm not confident about the intellectual rigor applied to the astrological component of this work. His ideas around and arguments for the concept of synchronicity are interesting. Only recommended if you're a big fan of Jung - probably not worth the time of someone just starting out on his works.
Profile Image for Joshua.
195 reviews4 followers
September 6, 2012
I am always looking for these events in my life. When they come around it is abundantly clear and is always amazing!

This is a book that I refer back to when I believe a synchronistic event is taking place in my life.
Profile Image for Judee.
26 reviews
January 30, 2011
Probably would have given this a higher rating if I had understood it better. Made my brain tired but opened up new vistas of thinking about things.
Profile Image for Nicholas.
294 reviews5 followers
April 17, 2014
Synchronicity, or the idea that two or more events can be connected meaningfully but acausally (that is, one does not cause the other) is an intriguing concept. We've all had various experiences that seemed almost impossible chance connections. However, I actually found myself less persuaded about the concept after reading Jung's book than before.

The first problem is that the book is not well organized. He kind of slides into the definition and "evidence" rather than presenting it in what I would find a more methodical way.

The second problem is that his astrological study is not convincing at all (and is very complicated to understand for someone not familiar with astrology). Jung manages to find meaning in it, but it seems like a stretch. He even chalks up his experimental errors in favor of a positive result to the synchronicity of his researchers and himself wanting that result. The experiment also suffers from one major flaw of assuming (but in no way proving) that there is no causal relationship between the horoscopes and marriage. I happen to agree with that assumption, but you can hardly discount that possibility when your whole point is to develop a theory of an acausal relationship.

In sum, synchronicity is an interesting concept, but I don't think one needs to read this book to gain an understanding of it.
Profile Image for Kyle.
432 reviews10 followers
January 5, 2017
Little did I know, starting to read this book on the winter solstice, how synchronicitious my life would become while reading. The most surprising event happened shortly after New Year's Day and covering a teacher's grade seven class: Mesopotamian math, Andy Goldsworthy's nature art, the Fibonacci spiral and fourth state of water all seemed to have an underlying connection that would best be described as acasual but nevertheless made an impression on my consciousness. To top it off, one morning when the bridge was shut down and an alternate route to the North Shore needed to be found, I shared a Car2Go with a man who happened to be a student at the same elementary school I was trying to get to. Reading this book at any other time, it would have been just a weird coincidence, but I wasn't reading this book at another moment of spacetime. Still plenty to delve into with the astrological and I Ching connections that fascinated Jung so, and I am confident that if I press on with his writing, my dissertation writing will hit the same synchronous notes that are alarming for many but heavenly for those properly tuned in.
14 reviews
November 9, 2010
It doesn't make for light reading but a must read for those who like myself intuitively know to be there a direct open line of communication between the world of the psyche and the quantum reality that in ways completely invisible and entirely counter-intuitive to Newtonian physics supports our everyday, observable macro-cosmic reality.
Profile Image for Noah.
3 reviews
April 26, 2023
You’re telling me this man was PAID by an INSTITUTION to do this?
Profile Image for Rida.
30 reviews2 followers
June 26, 2022
I felt like I was reading a philosophical rendition of the concepts of Quantum physics and Quantum Mechanics. For a while I just could not place my finger on a very important philosophical thought experiment that had to do with particles popping in and out of existence and their nature of creation and destruction and this book brought that memory back of "Monadology" which at the time I read it felt eerily similar to Quantum Physics.

What Jung is describing is the idea of Quantum entanglement, in his view the two particles do not cause any change in each other or have a communication of any sort but by their inherent nature are designed in such a way that they are forever aligned in purpose. What this means to me is related to the idea that these particles or the origins of creation contain all possibilities which are open to perception.

There is a sentence which popularly pops up in science and philosophy that goes something like, "We are the Cosmos trying to understand itself" and I believe that since its a recurring pattern, that is what the particles decided to do. To manifest conditions that were required for conscious perception. However I do not believe this is the only thing the origin is capable of doing. Even if I cannot put my finger on what other possibilities can exist beside ideas, concepts, thoughts, imagination or creativity I am sure other variations or completely other forms also exist. This is just the beginning. Or the End, depending on which point on the sphere you are.

Extremely fascinating read.
Profile Image for Joshua Modica.
4 reviews
December 26, 2021
Dear Carl,

If you're trying to convince me of acausal events which can't be statistically verified, then why would you spend most of the book trying to statistically verify them? Every time you come even close to making your case, you belatedly realize that actually means you're disproving your case. This book was a baffling ordeal.

<3 Josh
Profile Image for Jess.
415 reviews30 followers
May 12, 2012
Jung's writing is dense with references to other work, and it made it difficult to get very immersed in this. I have been fascinated by synchronicity for years now and wanted to go back to the source itself, but wasn't as satisfied by it as I would have liked.
Profile Image for John Stepper.
510 reviews19 followers
December 21, 2013
A fascinating read. It's so interesting to see such a great mind wrestle with what appears - then and now - to be easily looked down upon as mysticism or just plain chance.

Would have loved to have dinner with Jung. So learned and yet so open to possibilities he didn't fully understand.
Profile Image for dv.
1,232 reviews44 followers
May 30, 2023
Più che un trattato compiuto in sé, una piattaforma verso culture (la Cina) e saperi diversi (l’astronomia), in nome di un concetto che conserva intatto il suo fascino perché sicuramente parte della nostra vita quotidiana.
Profile Image for Marianne.
48 reviews8 followers
June 24, 2018
Fun. Science and Spirit merge in Jung’s thorough discussion of various ancient to modern approaches to attempting to understand synchronicity. Mentions of Synesius and Paracelsus, among many other great Knowers. I wish I could say I understood the statistical analysis of his experimental method… I recommend https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5... and https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... as great parallel discussions. It is fun to track personal synchronicities while reading these.

On synchronicity: “This correspondence is simply there like any other agreeable or annoying accident, and it seems doubtful to me whether it can be proved scientifically to be anything more than that.”

“Final causes, twist them how we will, postulate a foreknowledge of some kind. It is certainly not a knowledge that could be connected with the ego, and hence not a conscious knowledge as we know it, but rather a self-subsistent ‘unconscious’ knowledge which I would prefer to call ‘absolute knowledge.’ It is not cognition but, as Leibniz so excellently calls it, a ‘perceiving’ which consists – or to be more cautious, seems to consist – of images, of subjectless ‘simulacra’.”

On numbers: “There is something peculiar, one might even say mysterious, about numbers. They have never been entirely robbed of their numinous aura.”

“It is generally believed that numbers were invented or thought out by man, and are therefore nothing but concepts of quantities, containing nothing that was not previously put into them by the human intellect. But it is equally possible that numbers were found or discovered. In that case they are not only concepts but something more- autonomous entities which somehow contain more than just quantities. Unlike concepts, they are based not on any psychic conditions but on the quality of being themselves, on a "so-ness" that cannot be expressed by an intellectual concept. Under these conditions they might easily be endowed with qualities that have still to be discovered. I must confess that I incline to the view that numbers were as much found as invented, and that in consequence they possess a relative autonomy analogous to that of the archetypes. They would then have, in common with the latter, the quality of being pre-existent to consciousness, and hence, on occasion, of conditioning it rather than being conditioned by it.”
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