Are There (Hidden) Archetypal Patterns in Our Lives? Part 2 — Names
This article is the second in a series. To put what follows into context, it would be helpful to have read the first. If required, at least read the introduction to that to make sense of what follows. In a nutshell, I’m in an argument with the astrologer Michael Harding as to whether patterns and strange coincidences in our lives are the consequence of Jungian archetypes (i.e. transcendent, supernatural influences) or, as he thinks, planetary movements (celestial mechanics). Part 1 gave an overview of the issues, and provided some examples with discussion. Here I move on to coincidences/patterns involving names.
Sometimes this may simply mean people of the same name being drawn together to participate in the same event, for example: “John Stott, whose car crash was witnessed by Bernard Stott (no relation), and investigated by a WPC (Woman Police Constable) Tina Stott, was taken back to a police station where the trio was met by desk sergeant Walter Stott”¹. In other examples this type of interconnection seems to be deeper: “Patricia Ann Tranter, 30, of Ketley in Shropshire, went into hospital to have a baby. In the next bed was a stranger, called Patricia Ann Tranter, 24, of Ketley in Shropshire (they lived a mile apart). They gave birth on the same day, and met in the same church when the babies were being christened”².
On other occasions the name seems to act as a catalyst which attracts others of the same type. This quotation provides two examples: “A duck farmer in Lincolnshire employs two people called Crow, four Robbins, a Sparrow, a Gosling and a Dickie Bird. The latest recruit at Newport police station, Gwent, joining two policemen called Pidgeon, a Partridge, a Nightingale and a Bush, is PC Talbot Thrush”³.
Carl Jung notes the strangeness of the fact that he, Freud, and Adler should develop psychologies based on the ideas of rebirth, the pleasure principle, and the will to power respectively, among other connections between names and external factors⁴. (The words can be translated ‘young’, ‘joy’, and ‘eagle’ respectively.)
The Best of the Fortean Times also has a section on such coincidences, for example:
- a schoolboy James Bond was given the examination number 007 by a computer quirk.
- the Examining Attorney in the extradition hearing in New York of Joseph Coherty, who escaped from prison in Belfast, is Ms. Ira H. Bloch. H-block was the name of the prison.
- a lecture on “Depression and anxiety disorders” was given by Professor Jules Angst⁵. (Angst means anxiety.)
In all these examples there does not seem to be any obvious meaning in the coincidences; they are more in the nature of jokes, as if God were ‘having a laugh’. Arthur Koestler refers to this phenomenon thus:
- “Some of these coincidental events give the impression of being purposefully arranged or have some emotional relevance, while others are just impish or whimsical”.
- “As often as not one comes across bizarre coincidental events which seem to have been contrived wantonly, without rhyme or reason, by some practical joker behind the scenes”⁶.
He goes on to tell the following story, which happened to J.B. Priestley: “My wife brought three large coloured lithographs by Graham Sutherland. When they arrived here from London she took them up to her bedroom, to hang them up in the morning. They were leaning against a chair and the one on the outside, facing the room, was a lithograph of a grasshopper. When Jacquetta got into bed that night, she felt some sort of twittering movement going on, so she got out and pulled back the clothes. There was a grasshopper in the bed. No grasshopper had been seen in that room before, nor has been seen since. No grasshopper has ever been seen at any other time in this house”.
This example is particularly interesting because it can be compared directly to Jung’s story of the scarab-beetle. (This is his most famous example of synchronicity. Details can be found on the web.) The appearance of the insects in both places is extraordinary. In the latter there is a clear life-changing effect, so that one could argue that this was the intention of the organising factor. The same cannot be said about the grasshopper; it did not act as a catalyst for change in the lives of the participants, although, according to the participants, it is a clear example of synchronicity. As expressed above, it seems that some being is seeking to entertain either itself or us. The most likely explanation from the possibilities I have offered (in part 1) is therefore that of the archetypes, something akin to the Trickster.
Astrologer Dennis Elwell, discussing a synchronicity in Richard Dawkins’ life, sees evidence of a “certain mischievous logic”, and then comments: “In the world of living experience, coincidences do often seem to betray the presence of a designer, indeed of a scheming and often impish intelligence…”⁷. Also Jung has written an essay called On the Psychology of the Trickster-Figure which appears in Four Archetypes⁸. There he focuses on the malicious, destructive side of his nature. There is no evidence of this in the examples here, which all seem harmless. Perhaps a name like the Joker would be more appropriate.
Some writers have identified Hermes/Mercury as this figure in the Western tradition, for example:
- Thomas Moore: “He finds the images congealed in the density of matter, and then he tricks them out into the open; for Hermes in the crafty trickster god…”⁹.
- Luis Alvarado: “the Trickster aspect is especially important to remember when dealing with the Hermes (Mercury) archetype”¹⁰.
This would suggest a strong connection between Mercury and synchronistic events, an idea concurred with here: “One’s own daimon may be sensed, like that of Socrates, as an inner voice, or it may be less definite: an urge, a longing, a deep wish, a persistent fear, a recurring dream theme or image, perhaps a daimon of accident or trickery like Kerenyi’s Hermes who caused him to find abandoned books, take the incorrect but fortunate road, train, and so on”¹¹.
In the next article in the series, I’ll turn to the even more fascinating subject of number coincidences.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, politics, and astrology. All these articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here).
1. The Best of the Fortean Times, Futura, 1991, p 19
2. ibid., p 19
3. ibid., p 22
4. Synchronicity, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972, p 15 footnote
5. As 1, pp 22–23. For further examples of apt names, see The Coincidence File, Ken Anderson, Blandford, 1999, p 97. There are several dotted about in his other book, Coincidences: Chance or Fate?
6. The Challenge of Chance, Hutchinson, 1973, p 214, p 185
7. The Cosmic Loom, Urania Trust, 1999, pp 27–8
8. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972
9. The Planets Within, Lindisfarne Press, 1990, p 150
10. Psychology, Astrology and Western Magic, Llewellyn, 1991, p 227
11. as 9, p 56. See also Liz Greene, The Astrology of Fate, Mandala, 1985, pp 194–6.