Can We Take Astrology Seriously? — Archetypes and Synchronicity
This article is basically a defence of the Jungian concepts of archetypes and synchronicity against those who argue against them.
It is also chapter 11 of a book I wrote some time ago, the early chapters of which are available on Medium, exploring whether there might be any truth in astrology. In the first part, I developed a worldview derived from Jungian psychology and quantum physics, which would allow the possibility of astrology. This was summarised at the beginning of part 2 in chapter 9.
During my research I had came across a book by Michael Harding called Hymns to the Ancient Gods¹ which, although believing in astrology, was putting forward a completely different explanation, in essence trying to remove all traces of spirituality, by denying the existence of archetypes, and arguing against meaningful coincidence in the Jungian sense.
In chapter 10 I offered a general critique of this book, which explains why there are references to Harding in the early part of the following article. This is the next chapter of the book, which goes into more detail on these specific points.
(For a guide to the whole series so far, please see Astrology near the bottom of this page of my website.)
Recommended Reading: if you are interested in more material on this theme, please see The Archetypal Cosmos by Keiron Le Grice, Floris Books, 2010.
Chapter 11. Archetypes and Synchronicity
So much for the general critique. The more important points to discuss are Harding’s strong denials that the Jungian concepts of synchronicity and the archetypes contribute towards astrological effects, given that I have suggested that they are a possible explanation. This raises the question, are they valid concepts in themselves but inappropriate in this context, or are they actually invalid? Harding, whilst making some small concessions to the former viewpoint, in general favours the latter. It seems important therefore to spend some time defending these ideas.
According to Jung, synchronicity is a manifestation of the archetypes². This suggests that the archetypes are primary and without them the theory of synchronicity would fall, so I shall discuss them first. Harding’s objections can be summed up as follows:
1) He says that the concept of the archetypes was invented erroneously in order to explain effects which in reality should be attributed to Astrology (p74, also p152). He believes that because we see patterns, events repeating, we make the false assumption that there is a hidden blueprint or programme generating them, the reality being that it is simply in the nature of things, in response to astrological configurations, to repeat.
2) There are too many archetypes, thus making the theory so general that it does not really say anything meaningful. His complete argument is outlined on pages 44–47, but can be summed up: “If practically anything can be claimed as evidence of archetypal activity then one thing is as good as another. As the theory is diluted to cover every conceivable eventuality so it loses its power and originality”, having just complained that, “in the terminology of Karl Popper it is quite ‘unfalsifiable’, it can neither be proved nor disproved and exists only for itself in its own land”.
3) He believes that Jung uses the theory of archetypes to justify his “ultra-conservative” views, which apparently include National Socialist sympathies, and border on racism, specifically anti-semitism.
This last point has no connection with Astrology and I therefore do not intend to discuss it here. The relevant issue is whether or not the archetypes are a true theory, not the use to which the theory is put. It is well known that almost any valuable advance in knowledge can be misused, the most frequently cited example being Einstein’s theory of the equivalence of energy and matter, which allowed later politicians and scientists to develop nuclear weapons. Also topical to my investigation is the probability that some charlatans have used Astrology as a way of making money. Here the situation is less clear-cut in that the person who developed the theory is the same as the one alleged to be misusing it. If Jung were indeed racist and anti-semitic, that would be a serious charge, and I mention the accusation here so that I should not be thought to be sweeping it under the carpet³. I’ve read a lot of Jung, and so far I’ve not found any evidence to suggest this.
I shall turn therefore to the first two criticisms. The first question is crucial to my discussion; if the archetypes are a valid concept and are truly responsible for the totality of life, and if Astrology is also valid, then it would seem to follow logically that Astrology must be a manifestation of the archetypes, one of their ‘languages’. Harding’s view is clearly a consequence of his underlying philosophy that there exists nothing beyond the material level of existence that we experience. The diametrically opposed astrological view is expressed by Stephen Arroyo: “The zodiacal signs have also been called ‘energy fields’, archetypal patterns, universal formative principles etc. These are all names for the same reality. These universal formative principles are the living realities which astrology symbolizes, and they are identical with Jung’s ‘archetypes’… If we accept the reality of psychic forces, we can surely accept the reality of the unseen builders of all life, material and psychic. These unseen builders are the primal energy patterns or formative principles of the universe. Jung calls them the archetypes because they have been active in molding all life on this planet since the beginning of time. Astrologers call them the zodiacal signs and are mainly concerned with them in relation to the way they manifest in human beings as personality types.”⁴.
And both these viewpoints come from astrologers! So who is right?
Since this debate is a variation of “Was the Universe, including humanity, created, or could it be the way it is by accident?”, or even more simply “Is there a God?”, I hope it is clear from the outset that no completely convincing, definitive answer will be found. The question has important consequences for our understanding of the material universe, which is science’s field of investigation, so it would clearly be interesting to see what science has to say about it. In order to do this I am going to explore the work of Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist widely read in many areas of modern science, who has taken a special interest in this issue, as can be seen from the titles of some of his books: The Cosmic Blueprint, God and the New Physics, The Mind of God. The first of these⁵ explores in detail the question I am discussing here, which in his preface Davies expresses thus: “Can known physical processes explain the continuing creativity of nature, or are there additional organizing principles at work, shaping matter and energy and directing them towards ever higher states of order and complexity?” (p1). We can easily see in his words “additional organizing principles” a perfect description of the archetypes, Arroyo’s “unseen builders”, so in effect he is asking “do archetypes exist?”. His eventual conclusion is that there is “powerful evidence that there is ‘something going on’ behind it all. The impression of design is overwhelming” (p203), thus, yes, the archetypes do exist. Let us see how he arrived at this conclusion.
Davies explains that the concept of organizing principles would be hard to fit into the prevailing views of modern science — in biology reductionism, in genetics and evolution neo-Darwinism, and in astronomy Newtonian mechanics. He even goes so far as to say that they “remain a challenging but speculative idea… But the reductionist methodology of most scientific investigations makes it likely that such principles, if they exist, risk being overlooked in current research” (p199). This would be acceptable if these theories had been proved beyond all doubt to be absolute truth, and were capable of explaining everything. This is far from being the case, however, although that is exactly what their adherents sometimes claim for them. According to Davies they are incapable of explaining:
1) how life began:
- “Given a living organism, it is possible to imagine ways in which it may multiply. But where did the first organism itself come from? Life begets life, but how does non-life beget life?
“It should be stated at the outset that the origin of life remains a deep mystery. There are no lack of theories, of course, but the divergence of opinion among scientists on this topic is probably greater than for any other topic in biology.
“The essential problem in explaining how life arose is that even the simplest living things are stupendously complex. The replicative machinery of life is based on the DNA molecule, which is itself as structurally complicated and intricately arranged as an automobile assembly line. If replication requires such a high threshold of complexity in the first place how can any replicative system have arisen spontaneously?” (p115)
- “The spontaneous generation of life by random molecular shuffling is a ludicrously improbable event” (p118). (Random molecular shuffling is the hypothesis of materialism and its offspring Neo-Darwinism.)
2) what Davies calls the second ‘optimistic’ arrow of time, defined thus: “the fact that the universe is progressing — through the steady growth of structure, organization and complexity — to ever more developed and elaborate states of matter and energy”, preceded by the following observation: “Its origin lies shrouded in mystery, but its presence is undeniable” (p20), and followed up later by this: “It is far from clear how this tendency towards higher levels of organization follows from Darwin’s theory” (p112)⁶.
3a) the emergence of solid matter: “There is still no proper understanding of the origin of the solar system… It is remarkable that from a featureless cloud of swirling material, the present orderly arrangement of planets emerged” (p129).
3b) the shapes and forms which this adopts: “(Our galaxy’s) form is similar to that of many other galaxies that are revealed by large telescopes. Astronomers have classified galaxies into a number of distinct types — spirals, ellipticals, etc. How they got their shapes is still a mystery. In fact, astronomers have only the vaguest ideas of how galaxies formed” (p121).
3c) the stability, harmony and order of these forms:
- “It is equally remarkable that the regimented motion of the planets has remained stable for billions of years, in spite of the complicated pattern of mutual gravitational forces acting between the planets.
- “The planetary orbits possess an unusual, even mysterious, degree of order. Take, for example, the famous Bode’s law…which concerns the distances of the planets from the Sun. It turns out that (a) simple formula…. fits to within a few per cent all the planets except Neptune and Pluto. Bode’s law was able to correctly predict the existence of the planet Uranus, and even predicts the presence of a ‘missing’ planet where the asteroid belt is located. In spite of this success, there is no agreed theoretical basis for the law. Either the orderly arrangement of the planets is a coincidence, or some as yet unknown physical⁷ mechanism has operated to organize the solar system in this way” (pp129–30).
He goes on to discuss the rings of Saturn, and draws the same conclusion: “There is no proper theoretical understanding of Saturn’s rings. In fact, calculations repeatedly suggest that the rings ought to be unstable and decay after an astronomically short duration”⁸.
4) The development of life-forms, particularly the human embryo:
- “Among the many scientific puzzles posed by living organisms, perhaps the toughest concerns the origin of form… How is a disorganized collection of molecules assembled into a coherent whole that constitutes a living organism, with all the right bits in the right places? The creation of biological forms is known as morphogenesis, and despite decades of study it is a subject still shrouded in mystery.
- “The enigma is at its most striking in the seemingly miraculous development of the embryo… (which) is somehow supervised to an astonishing level of detail and accuracy in both space and time.
- “In studying the development of the embryo it is hard to resist the impression that there exists somewhere a blueprint, or plan of assembly, carrying the instructions needed to achieve the finished form. In some as yet poorly understood way, the growth of the organism is tightly constrained to conform to this plan. There is thus a strong element of teleology involved. It seems as if the growing organism is being directed towards its final state by some sort of global supervising agency. This sense of destiny has led biologists to use the term fate map to describe the seemingly planned unfolding of the developing embryo”. (Fate map! His italics. Astrologers take note!!! Have biologists invented their own word for the birth-chart? Note also that ‘blueprint’ is a word frequently used as a synonym for ‘archetype’.)
- “The scientist can clearly see organizing factors at work in… the development of the embryo, but has little or no idea of how these organizing factors relate to known physics” (pp102–3, 106).
5) Purposeful behaviour, especially when it occurs at the group level. I’m sure everyone will have seen on wildlife programmes those moments when a whole flock of birds or shoal of fish all change direction as one. If we assume that there is no leader communicating instructions telepathically, then we are led in the direction of assuming some kind of group consciousness to which they are all responding. A similar phenomenon occurs in nests of ants, for example, when all members act individually but nevertheless simultaneously, clearly in pursuance of a group purpose. Davies comments: “According to standard theory, the remarkable instinctive abilities of insects and birds is entirely due to genetic programming; it inherits its skill through its DNA. Of course, nobody has the slightest idea of how the mere fact of arranging a few molecules in a particular permutation (a static form) brings about highly integrated activity (his italics). The problem is far worse here than in morphogenesis, where spatial patterns are the end product. It might be conjectured that the genetic record resembles a sequence of programmed instructions to be ‘run’… but this analogy doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. Even instinctive behavioural tasks can be disrupted without catastrophic consequences. An obstacle placed in an ant trail may cause momentary confusion, but the ants soon establish an adjusted strategy to accommodate the new circumstances”.
“The concept of ant behaviour is thus holistic, and only partially dependent on the internal genetic make-up of an individual ant” (pp187 and 188).
My point has been repeatedly expressed in the above quotations. Because this one states the issue so perfectly, however, I’ll include it so that it can serve as a summary of the above: “How do the atoms of the different elements present⁹ conspire to aggregate in the right proportions and in the correct locations to maintain orientational order over such long distances, when each atom is subject to different forces? There seems to be some sort of non-local organizing influence that is as yet a complete mystery” (p79).
It was fascinating to me, from my psychological/empirical rather than scientific/theoretical starting-point, to read Davies’ book, and see him constantly refer to the archetypes in so many words, seemingly without being aware of Jung’s concept¹⁰, certainly without referring to it specifically. If you recheck the italicized passages you will find phrases like these: shrouded in mystery, seemingly miraculous, no proper theoretical understanding, as yet poorly understood, not known how this relates to known physics, not the vaguest idea, ludicrously improbable, and so on. All the problems he is discussing may of course be resolved by future scientific developments (he was writing in 1989). Given the strength of his language in these passages, however, I would suggest, although Davies would not necessarily agree, that they may yet prove to remain incomprehensible to science, the explanation being that something beyond the reach of science, that is to say, something outside spacetime is responsible.
While discussing Dreisch’s vitalist theory, for example, Davies explains that this was exactly the reason why it was rejected: “It was not at all clear how blueprint information which is not stored anywhere in space can nevertheless bring about the action of a force at a point in space” (p97). Yet that is exactly what is claimed for the archetypes, for example in these words from F. David Peat: “Nature contains certain archetypal patterns and symmetries that do not exist in any explicit material sense but are enfolded within the various dynamic movements of the material world. Matter, according to such a view, does not represent a ‘fundamental reality’ but rather is the manifestation of something that lies beyond the material domain”¹¹. We can also refer to another of Davies’ examples. If calculations repeatedly suggest that Saturn’s rings ought to be unstable and decay, so that their continuity is a complete mystery to scientists, then it is likely that something outside the normal factors taken into account by science is holding the rings together. Is it just possible that this ‘something’ is also not stored anywhere in space?
Something else that struck me while reading was the fact that certain ‘dirty words’ have clearly emerged in science, which I would list as:
- organizing principles themselves
- teleology/final causes
In reality, however, they are all cover-ups for the ultimate dirty-word, which is ‘mystical’; this is the reason why they have become so unpopular. The following quotation from Davies condenses these elements perfectly: “Talk of ‘organizing principles’ in nature is often regarded as shamefully mystical or vitalistic, and hence by definition anti-scientific” (p142). This state of affairs can apparently be attributed to “Darwin’s theory of evolution and the rise of modern molecular biology (which) led to the emphatic rejection of all forms of animism or finalism” (pp7–8).
Unfortunately, these theories which have led to organizing principles, animism and teleology becoming dirty words are not exactly solid themselves. Thus Davies can say: “Although final causation is anathema to scientists, the teleological flavour of biological systems is undeniable. This presents the scientist with a disturbing quandary. Thus (Jacques) Monod agonizes: ‘Objectivity nevertheless obliges us to recognize the teleonomic character of living organisms, to admit that in their structure and performance they decide on and pursue a purpose. Here therefore, at least in appearance, lies a profound epistemological contradiction’ ” (p96). If a determined reductionist is reluctantly forced to say this, it strongly suggests that we should question the status of ‘teleological’ as a dirty-word. Davies seems to agree:
- discussing the work of biologist Robert Rosen: “A radical reformulation along such lines restores the old Aristotelian classes of causation, even leaving room for the notion of final causes” (p159).
- “modern physics has a strongly holistic, even teleological flavour, and this is due in large part to the influence of the quantum theory” (p165).
- Comparing the evolution of the universe to an unfolding flower, which suggests a blueprint he is reminded of “Aristotle’s ancient teleological picture of the cosmos”, and wonders, “is it to be resurrected by the new paradigm of modern physics?” (p200).
If, despite the prejudice of many scientists, there is evidence of teleology, perhaps we should also re-examine the concept of animism/vitalism, which is described as “the belief that life cannot be explained by ordinary physical laws, and therefore requires some sort of ‘extra ingredient’… Vitalists claim that there is a ‘life force’… which infuses biological systems and accounts for their extraordinary powers and abilities” (p97).
In an earlier chapter I drew attention to the quantum mechanical idea that particles — what we think of as matter — seem to be conscious, appear to make decisions. Although he himself is strongly against any suggestions of animism, some of Davies’ material does tend in that direction: “It is hard to overemphasise the importance of the distinction between matter and energy in, or close to, equilibrium — the traditional subject for scientific study — and far-from-equilibrium dissipative systems. (Ilya) Prigogine has referred to the latter as active matter (his italics), because of its potential to spontaneously and unpredictably develop new structures. It seems to have ‘a will of its own’ ” (p87). Later he elaborates: “One of the fascinating aspects of the work of Prigogine and others on dissipative structures is that a common language is developed for the description of both living and non-living — indeed quite ordinary — systems. Concepts such as coherence, synchronization, macroscopic order, complexity, spontaneous organization, adaptation, growth of structure and so on are traditionally reserved for biological systems, which undeniably have ‘a will of their own’. Yet we have been applying these terms to lasers, fluids, chemical mixtures and mechanical systems” (p92). Is this the beginning of a revival of scientific animism?
The materialistic, reductionist, atheistic tendency in science believes that it has freed us from such ideas, which it sees as the credulous, superstitious, outdated nonsense believed by our ancestors. Modern scientists, however, in the light of evidence such as Davies presents, are already in growing numbers beginning to take more seriously the concept of a designer god (or some variation of that idea). And for good reason. If the dominant theories are incapable of explaining what we can all see with our own eyes (the organized development of the embryo, the collective behaviour of ants, Saturn’s rings), then surely it is time we at least modified our theories. Perhaps we need a complete rethink, something which Davies himself is clearly in favour of. He wants to achieve this by pursuing the scientific route further, seeking to discover a new class of laws which explain the mysteries described above. I am excited that this should be so, and look forward to reading what the current generation of scientists comes up with as explanations for these phenomena. At the same time I would like to point out that science may not be the only avenue of exploration in this area. Psychology would also be a useful ally, for if the concept of teleology is in the process of rehabilitation, perhaps science should also take the ideas of the organizing principles (blueprints, archetypes) and animism more seriously, for, despite being accused of being ‘mystical’, and described by Davies as “a challenging but speculative idea”, they are exactly the ideas which would resolve the five problematic areas listed above, where science seems to have come up against a brick wall. Scientists have observed the effects of the archetypes, and to that extent have acknowledged their existence, but don’t know how to deal with them, since they cannot observe them, perform experiments on them, and therefore create theories about them¹².
Harding, however, states that what is mistakenly attributed to the archetypes is in reality the effect of astrological factors. Could this “non-local organizing influence that is as yet a complete mystery” be attributed to celestial mechanics? Michel Gauquelin’s cosmobiology claims that all kinds of energies arriving from distant parts of the solar system affect life on earth, and provides some evidence to back this up, so there is a possible parallel. It is of course the basic premise of Harding’s astrology that long distance planetary influences shape our psychology, but the effects to which he refers in this context do not include the organization of matter and the development of an embryo. Perhaps an astrological explanation could be proposed for these and the other problem areas, but at the very least I would suggest that in each case it would be somewhat far-fetched, and that the archetypal explanation is more likely. In one of them in particular Harding’s idea seems impossible; the motions of the planets clearly cannot be given as an explanation for their own formation.
One of Harding’s major arguments against the archetypes is his discussion of chaos theory (pp64–66), during which he makes the following statements:
1) “(Mathematicians have become fascinated by) the qualities of certain sets of numbers to produce such coherent results out of apparent disorder”.
2) The “true significance (of the patterns) lies in the fact that they are demonstrating a coherent order in the underlying mathematical process, a process that would otherwise take place out of view, so to speak. Most strikingly, such patterns reveal sub-patterns which reveal sub-patterns and so on which continue to maintain the exact mathematical relationships (his italics) in decreasing proportion, and are presumed to do so for infinity” .
3) “However it is phrased, it does seem that even in apparent chaos, where numbers appear to break down, there is a unifying principle at work and its power is so great that everything ultimately bends to its will”.
In the phrases I have italicized, especially those in 3, there is clear reference to a factor that I would describe as archetypal. (And according to Harding [p65] certain mathematicians are in agreement since they postulate the existence of a hidden ‘attractor’, but he dismisses this as “the old idea of archetype or formative principle.. re-emerging once again, this time inside the silicon-chip”.) There are echoes here of the type of statements that I quoted from Davies above, for example: “The scientist can clearly see organizing factors at work… but has little or no idea of how these organizing factors relate to known physics”. Harding also sees a strong suggestion of mysterious principles operating, but his response is to deny their existence. (In the process he makes some fairly extraordinary statements, for example in 2 he seems to be saying that merely seeing patterns in some way explains their origin, and that mathematical process is a property of inanimate matter.) We know that he does not subscribe to a Jungian or spiritual view of the formation of the physical universe. Since he offers no alternative, intermediary explanation, we can therefore only assume that he subscribes to the commonly held materialist view, that the universe is the accidental result of random collisions of particles. In such a universe, where do “coherent order” and “a unifying principle…so great that everything ultimately bends to its will” come from? He consistently falls back on the statement that anything that can be construed as archetypal is simply “in the nature of things”, which merely begs the question, in a materialist universe, how they got there in the first place¹³.
The difficulty arises, as I see it, from the fact that Harding’s thinking starts from a position in which the universe already exists, and we then observe its workings. When discussing the archetypes therefore, he only needs to concern himself with one aspect of their behaviour, namely repetitive patterns, for example, “…we are in some form of constant resonance to patterns which pre-date our birth” (p88), and can develop a theory which enables him to dismiss them. The patterns are merely one manifestation of the archetypes, however; the theory goes further to include a whole hypothesis regarding the origin, formation, and structure of matter. Consider:
1) this passage from Anthony Stevens: “The archetype possesses a fundamental duality: it is both a psychic structure and a neurological structure, both ‘spirit’ and ‘matter’, and Jung came to see it as the essential precondition of all psychophysical events… He proposed that archetypal structures are not only fundamental to the existence and survival of all living organisms but that they are continuous with structures controlling the behaviour of inorganic matter as well. The archetype is not to be conceived, therefore, as merely a psychic entity but rather as ‘the bridge to matter in general’ ”¹⁴.
2) this statement by F. David Peat: “(Jung) even suggested that this objective unconscious merges into the instinctual responses of the animal kingdom. In a sense therefore its order may encompass the whole of life and possibly beyond, into all matter itself”¹⁵.
By restricting himself to arguing against only one part of the theory of archetypes, Harding has the luxury of not having to deal with the questions raised by Davies’ problem areas, which, in my opinion, Harding’s astrology and phenomenological/existentialist philosophy are incapable of explaining.
This leads me on to Harding’s second objection, namely that there are too many archetypes, thus making the theory so general that it does not really say anything meaningful. Since the concept of the archetypes is intended as an explanation for the totality of life as we know it, to claim that the theory is diminished in some way because it tries to encompass everything, in order to fit in with a theoretical philosophical requirement, is therefore somewhat perverse. The ‘theory’ has not been developed in order to satisfy philosophical requirements, rather to provide a description of life as it is, based upon observation and experience.
This type of problem is often encountered when trying to come up with definitive knowledge about the nature of reality. Science and philosophy have collaborated in order to put together a set of rules to try to ensure certainty in their statements. Stephen Hawking explains: “a theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations”¹⁶. If we add to this Karl Popper’s requirement¹⁷, mentioned by Harding that, in order to be useful, a theory must be testable, and the need for replication of experiments, then we have all the important elements.
These rules are essential tools in their proper field of application, experimental science. There they are useful servants, but if we say that all investigations into all levels of the universe have to be subjected to their requirements, they become very poor masters. Yet this is the way that Harding is arguing here. He has an ally in Peter Roberts who, in The Message of Astrology¹⁸, uses the same type of arguments in order to reject synchronicity and find an alternative explanation for Astrology. Here are some of his typical statements:
- “However, it is a great problem for any universal theory which applies to absolutely everything that it may actually be meaningless because it cannot be tested” (p96).
- “It is impossible to devise an experiment which would distinguish between synchronicity and an alternative theory, because whatever happens can always be interpreted as being within the framework of synchronicity. There are no predictions which can be made from synchronicity which, if found to be true, would distinguish it from an alternative theory” (p98).
- “The fact that even theories within the main corpus of science¹⁹ run the risk of being vacuous, i.e. of being strictly untestable, indicates how much care is necessary in constructing theories about astrology which avoid this same trap” (p99).
- “Unless (Elwell’s loom theory) affords some means of distinguishing its truth from alternative views then it is ultimately sterile” (p104).
It seems obvious to me that we will never get to the bottom of Astrology if we continue to argue in this way. We should not dismiss concepts like the archetypes and sychronicity, not to mention Astrology, because they are not amenable to scientific investigation or because theories about them do not satisfy philosophical requirements. The explanation for them may be metaphysical, that is to say by definition beyond physics, beyond science. Thus the physicists Fred Alan Wolf and Bob Toben say: “Mathematicians can describe the limits of space-time, but they can’t describe what is beyond, they only know there is a beyond…. We only know that there is something other than space-time but we don’t know what it is, because beyond space-time is nonphysical, unmeasurable”²⁰. The same idea is expressed in psychological language by Frieda Fordham: “To attempt to define the collective unconscious is to attempt the impossible, for we can have no knowledge either of its boundaries or its true nature; all that we can do is to observe its manifestations, describe them, and try to understand them so far as is possible”²¹. The poet William Blake, in a very famous quotation from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, puts it thus: ‘if the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite’. In other words, in our ordinary state of consciousness, we are incapable of seeing how things really are²².
If it is true that there is “something other than spacetime”, and if synchronicity and Astrology emanate from there, then it is obviously pointless to try to apply to the investigation the rules of science and logical philosophy, which are, after all, systems of enquiry devised by the uncleansed doors of perception of the human mind to understand the workings of the physical universe of spacetime.
I do not think that what I have just said is particularly profound; in fact it seems obvious. And yet Roberts feels able to say: “It was argued that metaphysical theories involving synchronicity or the cosmic loom encountered such difficulties that we are left with mechanism of some sort” (p111, see also p143 for a similar statement). If I take the liberty of paraphrasing this, it runs something like, “because metaphysical theories about astrology do not satisfy conventional scientific requirements, the explanation for astrology must be contained within the causal workings of the physical universe”. This is an extraordinary thing to say, a clear example of the rules becoming the master rather than the servants. It stems from the fact that Roberts is working on the assumption that there is only any point to Astrology if it can be proved to the satisfaction of an, in this context, inappropriate set of theoretical rules. These ‘difficulties’ only seem so when viewed from this rigorous philosophical/ scientific point of view; from the perspective of Wolf/Toben, Frieda Fordham, and Blake, they are not difficulties at all, just one aspect of how the multi-levelled universe is. Quite simply, there are just some things which our minds cannot hope to understand, no matter how deep our longing to do so. By having theoretical requirements like these, one might miss the truth precisely because it cannot be tested.
I shall turn now to Harding’s objections to synchronicity; here is a summary of his position:
1) He does not actually deny that apparently miraculous events might occur, but believes that if they do this would be as the consequence of astrological influences. In a hypothetical example he invites us to note which midpoints were being triggered off in the relevant chart at the moment of the event (p27). He believes that astrological effects and synchronicity are incompatible by definition, in that the latter is said to work acausally in a random and sporadic manner, thus cannot describe anything which results from the application of a known (!) causal system, which is what Astrology is in his view.
2) As noted above (in the previous chapter), he prefers the concept of synchrony to that of synchronicity, although he gives two different definitions of it. Two pages after the previous quotation synchrony is described merely as “the plane of time which joins all things existing in the Now”, whereas the historical dimension, previously included in the definition, is described as the diachronic (p41).
3) Furthermore, there are many phenomena related to astrological factors, which do not fit with the examples given of synchronicity: “As astrology can be demonstrated to work with earthquakes, plants, chemical processes and a host of mundane events, which presumably neither dream, think nor fantasize, astrologers have to recognize the possibility of external or underlying principles at work which have nothing specifically to do with human life. But if this is the case, then however they operate, it will not be synchronistically” (p26).
I will give my reply to this last objection first. The problem that Harding perceives is directly attributable to his underlying world-view. For him, there is only the material universe and its offspring the Freudian psyche; nothing else exists. There is therefore only one astrology, which operates in relation to this understanding of the world, and everything that could be construed as astrological has to come under its umbrella. From a spiritual perspective, however, there is more to be taken into account. Four levels of reality are often referred to: spirit, soul, psyche, body. If the microcosm/macrocosm argument is accepted, then these levels exist not only in relation to the individual, but also to the wider universe. According to the old dictum ‘as above, so below’ there are correspondences between the different levels. From this perspective it is a reasonable hypothesis that there are different levels to Astrology, manifesting themselves in ways appropriate to each one. In the material universe there is apparent cause and effect, so it is no surprise that Astrology (cosmobiology) should operate accordingly. Synchronicity, however, can only be understood as a manifestation of the psychological/soul levels, and will occur according to the laws, whatever they might be, of that level²³.
Harding is trying to say that statements applicable to material astrological effects should also be able to be used indiscriminately in relation to psychological astrology. This is a bold, certainly not proved, and I would say incorrect, assumption. His argument is therefore inappropriate to the context in that he is confusing the different levels. I accept that he does not believe in the other levels that I am talking about. However, if I rephrase my objection in his language, saying that he applies ideas relevant to one category of knowledge to another area without considering whether this is appropriate, I think that it is still possible to detect the weakness in his argument.
I do not completely disagree, however, with the other ideas that Harding expresses. In chapter 4 I said that synchronistic events are comparable only in a loose sense to the principle which is assumed to apply in Astrology and that we would need to go further if we wanted to establish a connection between synchronicity and Astrology. In order to do that I differentiated synchronistic events from a more general synchronistic correspondence which, in order to be meaningful, implies that there is a ‘picture’ for the totality of the universe at any given moment which can be mirrored inwardly. According to this view synchronistic events (powerful, meaningful coincidences) would therefore have a stronger energy which makes them stand out from a general background of pure synchronicity (interconnectedness)²⁴.
This seems very similar to Harding’s second definition of synchrony, “the plane of time which joins all things existing in the Now”. I would therefore have agreed if he had said that synchronicity cannot by itself explain everything that Astrology achieves, because of the factor of the past²⁵. Both Harding and myself would want to add the historical dimension; for both of us the totality of history is stored in the collective unconscious but for me the storehouse is more psychological than physical, whereas for him it is somehow stored in the genes²⁶.
Is synchronicity a valid concept ?
In favour of synchronicity we have the testimony of creative minds as diverse as Wolfgang Pauli, a physicist in the vanguard of the quantum physics revolution, who collaborated with Jung on The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche — the first part of which was Synchronicity — and Sting, who gave one of the Police’s albums and a song the same title, presumably in recognition of the importance of the idea in his thinking. Other significant texts, apart from the obvious Jungian ones, are Synchronicity²⁷ by F. David Peat (a collaborator of David Bohm), The Roots of Coincidence²⁸ and part of The Challenge of Chance²⁹ by Arthur Koestler, Incredible Coincidence³⁰ and Patterns of Prophecy³¹ by Alan Vaughan, On Time³² by Michael Shallis, Coincidences³³ by Tony Crisp, Coincidence³⁴ by Brian Inglis, Coincidences, Chance or Fate?³⁵ and The Coincidence File³⁶ by Ken Anderson, and others. All of them speak in the same terms, that is to say, that synchronicity points to a hidden reality organizing the universe that we know.
Alan Vaughan is especially significant in that he explains in detail how his experiences with synchronicity have led him:
- to explore the world of quantum physics and accept its findings. In this context he relates the following synchronistic event: “When I heard Bohm’s presentation of this theory (of the Implicate Order) at the Consciousness Theory Group in San Francisco, I was astonished. Just the day before, I had written a draft of this chapter, leading to the same conclusions but derived entirely from the study of synchronicity” (p237).
- to accept Jung’s thinking in these areas. He points out that Jung’s work “slowly developed a following that exploded in the 1970s to enter the leading edge of scientific thought” (p13), and goes so far as to wonder, whether “the findings of future consciousness research will be footnotes to Jung” (p249), (as it has been said — by A. N. Whitehead — that modern philosophy is but footnotes to Plato).
Interesting statements in the other books are as follows:
- “We are tentatively suggesting: that there is a basic flaw or inadequacy in the current concepts of chance and randomness, which calls for some additional hypothesis to account for the spontaneous emergence of order from disorder — perhaps more or less on the lines of Pauli’s acausal principle”³⁷, (that is to say, Jung’s theory of synchronicity, upon which Pauli collaborated).
- “When a striking coincidence occurs to you, it is more than a chance event. It is a breakthrough of something that science is only on the edge of understanding. It is an emergence into your life of a power that transcends the common concept of time and space”³⁸.
- “In this sense, an experience of synchronicity is a soul moment. It is an electrifying experience, as sudden as a visitation by a god, a palpable inrush of grace and power, one of the defining moments in life, a sudden conviction that we might move beyond fate and realise a hint of our destiny”³⁹ .
- “The experience of time through coincidence points to a much more complex, much more bewildering and awesome aspect of nature, overlooked in the more familiar descriptions of the apparently explicable and seemingly controllable world given by instructional science⁴⁰.
- “The special flavour of a synchronicity lies in its being, at one and the same time, a unique, individual event and the manifestation of universal order. Wrapped within the temporal moment, a synchronicity exhibits its transcendental nature. It is in this relationship between the transcendent and the coincidental arrangement of mental and physical happenings that the synchronicity acquires its numinous meaning”⁴¹.
Similar supporting statements can be found in Ken Anderson’s books⁴². He quotes:
- Robert H. Hopcke, psychotherapist, in his book There Are No Accidents, says that “the ‘random chance’ of synchronicity often reminds us that we are not the sole author of our own stories”. In the promotional material for the book, he identifies synchronicities as “more than random chance occurrences, claiming they can occur deliberately ‘during periods of personal transition, when perhaps we are ready for change, but don’t know it ourselves. In such a case it may take synchronicity to wake us up, to point us in the true direction of our lives rather than allowing us to continue on the path we think we are on’ ”⁴³.
- Jeriann Sharf , creator of the synchronistic-based mind games Fun Runes and MAGIspear, says: “Actually it’s the Universe’s way of reminding us that there is something bigger going on here… Hinting is what the Universe does through the form of ‘coincidences’ to remind us who we are and that we are connected to the greater whole. Through these eerie coincidences we begin to catch sight of the threads in the fabric of the grand overall design as the Universe weaves the fate of one individual into the fate of another in a greater meaning called Destiny. In these moments of synchronicity the people, places and events that we encounter seem to have meaning for us, and we sense that we are where we are for a reason. Suddenly life has meaning and purpose. It is as if we are all participants in The Big Show with the Universe as the Great Choreographer… The Oneness of the Universe is the Ultimate show”⁴⁴.
I hope readers do not think that I have been labouring the point unnecessarily. I wanted to show the quality of the statements made by an impressive array of people who subscribe to the Jungian viewpoint on synchronicity. Yet, according to Harding, all these people have got it wrong and completely failed to understand their own experiences. For, instead of stopping short and saying that synchronicity, although valid, is not responsible for astrological effects, he denies its validity completely, suggesting instead that so-called synchronistic (acausal) events are in reality caused by astrological factors (movements of the planets). Let us examine this proposition.
For me, if it were possible to relate a synchronistic event to astrological material, this would be welcome evidence that there is a connection between synchronicity and Astrology, but for Harding it would disprove synchronicity. This is because Jung’s definition of the concept, by pointing to a hidden level of archetypal intelligence, makes it incompatible with his phenomenological/ existentialist standpoint, so that he is forced to find an alternative explanation. He is unwilling to acknowledge the existence of anything mysterious in the world: “the idea of synchronicity with its inherent quality of meaning produces a picture of the world so irrepresentable as to be completely baffling” (p25). Ironically, Harding’s description of the archetypal realm, the level beyond space-time is remarkably accurate, in line with the thinking of Jungians and quantum physicists. (Please refer to the quotes by Toben/Wolf and Frieda Fordham above which are relevant again here.) However, he jumps to the, in my opinion, erroneous conclusion that if something is irrepresentable, it therefore does not exist.
Here are two synchronistic events from my own life, which I hope will provide material useful for the discussion. I have chosen personal examples, rather than other already published ones, because I can personally guarantee the accuracy of the statements, including the inner, subjective material.
- Probably the most impressive (to other people) synchronistic event of my life happened as follows. I was enrolled at the London Institute of Psychosynthesis and was participating in their Foundation Year. Each Summer they held a residential School lasting a fortnight somewhere out of town. That year the plan was to go to St. Davids (in Wales). At the time I firmly believed that I wanted to become a Psychosynthesis counsellor/ therapist. Nevertheless I had played a lot of guitar in the past, had a reputation as a campfire guitarist, knew a lot of songs. I wondered whether I should take my guitar down there, with a view to doing some sing-songs, entertaining all the people whilst having a good time myself. It did not seem to be a big deal one way or the other — if it hadn’t happened, no one would have missed it — but the idea had been buzzing around in my mind for a couple of days. I was asking myself, “Shall I take my guitar to St. Davids?” although not with any great intensity, as if I were trying to obtain inner guidance. No other person on the planet knew that I was having this thought. At the time I was working as a visiting officer for the Department of Health and Social Security. This meant that I spent quite a lot of my working time walking around the local streets between claimants’ homes. This was what I was doing when something extraordinary happened. On the pavement ahead of me, or perhaps in the gutter just to the side, I noticed a guitar plectrum. This in itself was unusual; it was the only occasion in my life that I have seen a plectrum in such circumstances. They are normally carried inside cases, so it is very hard to see how one might be dropped accidentally. My curiosity aroused, I picked it up. To my amazement, embossed on the plastic inside a small circle were the words ST. DAVID UK NYLON.
I was not in any way surprised to be experiencing a powerful synchronistic event; in the previous two years there had been many such occurrences. What was surprising was that I was being given such a strong push in a direction that at the time seemed of no great consequence. It was clear therefore that I would have to have a guitar with me in Wales. The problem was that at the time the only guitar I owned was a rather special, expensive classical one; I would not have been happy to risk using it on sandy beaches and so on. I therefore resolved internally that I would not take my own guitar with me, but that, if it was so important for me to have a guitar there, then someone else would have one which they would be prepared to lend to me. I was putting the hidden archetypal organiser to the test, something I would not normally want to do. But that is exactly what happened. A Dutch couple had gone there with their twelve-year-old son. He had taken his guitar with him, intending to practise. When he arrived, the lure of the beach and the other entertainment made him less enthusiastic, and he was more than willing to let me use it for the whole fortnight. There was indeed at least one beach-party when my playing and singing was much appreciated. More significant in retrospect was that during one of the courses in which I was participating, the leader was looking for a way of rounding it off, and I volunteered to put a few songs together. I don’t think that he had been present on the beach, so he had no idea whether I was any good or not. During the sing-song finale to the course I could tell that he was impressed. I don’t remember his exact words but afterwards he said something like “You could be really useful in this movement of ours”. This did not have any immediate effect upon my life, but I remembered his comment and several years later, responding to the contents of dreams and other inner experiences, I decided to dedicate myself to the task of writing songs and music to celebrate the spiritual life.
2) This next story occurred before the one I just related, but I am telling it second because I wanted you to read the more typical example first. What I have just described is a classic Jungian synchronistic event; an outer phenomenon coincided with an inner state of mind, providing a rich meaning for the one individual concerned, resulting in a change in their life in the direction suggested by the event’s meaning. (Compare the example of Jung, the woman and the scarab-beetle, where the synchronistic event precipitated a change in the woman’s attitude, allowing her analysis to proceed successfully.)
A year earlier, because I had already experienced several such events, I idly wondered whether they were always like that, that is to say of such life-changing importance, or whether it was possible to have a trivial synchronistic event, a ‘meaningless’ one so to speak. This was in no sense a challenge to the world to produce one, in fact, once the thought had passed through my head, I completely forgot about it. As far as I remember this happened about Tuesday in whatever week it was and, as in the first example, no one else on the planet knew that I had had the thought.
During this period I was attending an evening class in Jungian psychology at an Adult Education Institute in Clapham (South London) on Friday evenings. My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, lived in Finchley (North London), and on the Friday following the thought described in the last paragraph I was intending to travel from her flat down to the class by tube, quite a long journey. I needed something to read, so I inspected her extensive collection of books. There was nothing which jumped out at me, demanding to be read. For no reason that I can put into words I eventually chose the Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith; it was not the type of book that I would normally read, but I had heard that it was something of a classic, so picked it in the absence of anything else appealing. I started reading on the tube; I did not find it particularly interesting, but continued with it. Quite some way into the journey I read the following line: “APRIL 23. Mr and Mrs James (Miss Fuller that was) came to meat-tea, and we left directly after for the Tank Theatre. We got a bus that took us to King’s Cross, and then changed into one that took us to the ‘Angel’ ”⁴⁵. At the exact moment that I finished the sentence, the train pulled up at a station. I looked up to see which one, and was taken aback to see that it was the Angel. I immediately remembered my thought of about three days earlier, and realised what had happened. “Can synchronistic events be trivial and insignificant?” The answer had come back, “Yes they can.” This experience had no immediate impact on my life, nor did it change it subsequently. In fact, after that evening I did not even bother to continue reading the book.
If I turn now to an analysis of these two events, the first thing to say is that for the sceptic nothing happened at all; what I saw as meaningful were in fact meaningless coincidences, and to think otherwise means that I am nuts. They are of course entitled to this opinion. I am certain in my own mind, however, that the experiences were real and had the meaning which I have ascribed to them — there is a certain gut-feeling when a synchronistic event occurs. (In retrospect I remembered that I had had an odd feeling at the moment I chose the book, not really understanding why I was doing so.) For Harding they would fit perfectly with two statements he makes, firstly that “the process of synchronicity seems to exist to bring something to the attention of an individual, in his or her own specific context, emanating from their own internal psychic needs at that moment” (p26, his italics), and secondly that synchronicity may help “to explain the workings of the individual psyche”, but not “the workings of astrology” (p42). In both stories everything that happened is exclusively related to the life of one individual. It is possible that they contribute nothing to an understanding of Astrology. Harding suggests, however, that people attribute to synchronicity what is actually Astrology. Is this possible in these examples? The crucial point is whether or not such events should be attributed to celestial mechanics, or to an organising archetypal power, or perhaps to some other completely different factor.
With regard to the first story, an astrological connection is conceivable, but in my opinion unlikely. What was at stake was the future orientation of my life, my career. This is the type of material with which much astrology is concerned, and these things might be visible in my birth-chart and subsequent progressions. The suggestion would be, therefore, that the motions of the planets somehow conspired to organise my finding the plectrum in order to push me in a direction that was, so to speak, ‘written in the stars’. In order to do that of course, the planets would have to have ‘known’ that I had had the idea of taking my guitar to St. Davids in the first place. According to the ideas I discussed in part 1, this proposition is not completely out of the question — all matter has some form of consciousness, subatomic particles seem to ‘know’ — but this does not fit with Harding’s view of the world. According to him such events are generated simply by the motions of the planets, which presumably remain unconscious of the role that they are playing. I would suggest therefore that the most likely explanation of this event is synchronicity, therefore archetypal, rather than astrological.
The second story is even harder to explain from an astrological standpoint. Here there is almost no event; a train pulled into a station, that’s it. There was no scarab beetle at the window, no flock of birds that could at least be witnessed by others even if they did not appreciate the significance (two examples given by Jung). It was purely a response to a thought. Again, the planets would have to have known that I had had this thought, having picked it up presumably by telepathy. The full implications, however, are even more staggering. What I prefer to call the ‘hidden intelligence’ knew the contents of all the books on the shelves (and possibly therefore the contents of all books that have ever been written), persuaded me to select one which, as it turned out, had been pre-selected by this intelligence, and then timed my reading of it to coincide to the nearest second with an outer event. (On that theme, here is an extraordinary statement by the astrologer Liz Greene, who clearly has some experience of events of this nature; she talks about “the overriding sense of some kind of a priori knowledge in the unconscious… This ‘it’ is generally experienced as God. The sense of the omniscience of the unconscious, without any conceivable causal basis, gives rise to a peculiar feeling of fatedness when we encounter synchronous events… ‘It’ seems to have fingers, if that is the appropriate word, in both the inner and outer worlds, in the realms of both spirit and matter, as though there were really no distinction between these opposites”⁴⁶.)
Harding might well ask what midpoints were being triggered at this moment. The onus is on him to suggest how such factors could make any difference. How could the planets have known that I had had this thought? Harding never once suggests that he believes that planets have consciousness. If it could be shown, however, that moments such as these are astrologically significant in some way, as I said above, I would be delighted at the evidence of a connection between the two principles. Whatever else these stories do or do not demonstrate, however, I do not think that they can be explained by any of the Freudian, existentialist/phenomenological, or Formalist and Structuralist liguistic theories that Harding presents as explaining Astrology.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, and politics. 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. Penguin, 1992
2. Although not all subsequent writers, even when generally sympathetic to Jung and synchronicity, are in agreement. Arthur Koestler, for example, is very critical; see The Roots of Coincidence, Picador, 1972, pp97–8.
3. I shall merely say in passing that I think that Harding’s argument is far from watertight; the material is not always presented objectively, and I detect some examples of distortion and exaggeration. For those interested in exploring this issue in depth, there is a whole book of essays devoted to it, called Lingering Shadows, edited by Aryeh Maidenbaum and Stephen A. Martin, Shambhala, 1991.
4. Astrology, Psychology, and the Four Elements, CRCS, 1975, pp73–4
5. Unwin, 1989
6. For an alternative discussion of this idea see Arthur Koestler, The Roots of Coincidence, Picador, 1972, pp114–8. He calls this phenomenon the ‘Integrative Tendency’.
7. This is an assumption that Davies is making. The archetypes would not normally be described in this way.
8. Freeman Dyson makes the same point on a grander scale. He talks about “the equations that are supposed to describe the dynamics of a galaxy. There is a mystery here. When we solve the equations on a computer, the solutions show the stars falling into strongly unstable patterns of motion. When we look at real galaxies in the sky, we do not see these patterns. In science a discrepancy of this sort is always an important clue; it means that something essential has been overlooked, something new is waiting to be discovered. In the case of the galaxies, the discrepancy has two possible explanations. Either our mathematics is wrong, or the galaxies are held stable by some huge concentration of matter that is invisible to our telescopes” (Disturbing the Universe, Harper & Row, 1979, p255). Perhaps it is inevitable that a scientist would describe the missing ingredient as invisible matter. However, elsewhere in the book he does reveal that, true to the tradition of quantum physics, he understands consciousness to be primary.
9. Here Davies is discussing the patterns in quasicrystals.
10. If he is, he does not mention it, which is slightly strange given that he has clearly read some relevant work of Jung — he briefly discusses the latter’s association with Pauli and synchronicity, for example.
11. Synchronicity, Bantam, 1987, p96
12. Firstly, compare:
- astrologer Stephen Arroyo: “By definition, (these ‘universal principles’) border on the transcendent since they give rise to all manifestations and observable patterns in the material universe. Many scientists have come to believe that there is an invisible organizing pattern within living things, a sort of psychological pattern which guides and determines the form that energy will assume”. (Astrology, Psychology, and the Four Elements, CRCS, 1975, p29)
- astrologer John Addey: “…the lives of the cosmos are vehicles of Eternal Ideas; that what is spread out in time and space has a unitive subsistence beyond time and space”. And: “The things, events and conditions of time and space have their formal causes outside time and space; the processes of efficient causation which we behold taking place in the phenomenal world are mere mechanisms whereby formal causes are implemented” (A New Study of Astrology, (1996) Urania Trust, 1996, pp178,180). Later he elaborates, talking about the difficulty “…of understanding the properties and characteristics of spirit. This is the key, for it is the dynamic and connective characteristics of spirit which enable wholes to express themselves in and through parts, and to organize and maintain the activities of their parts; and these properties are communicated by spirit even to the vital and formative principles of existences in gross matter. It is as if spirit retained a footing in even the least and lowest of material existences” (p202). There then follows a discussion (p203 et seq.) of the issues Davies raises.
Secondly, the term that Davies frequently uses in this context is “self-organizing”, for example: “In many cases the system makes a sudden leap to a much more elaborate and complex state. Especially interesting are those cases where spatial patterns or temporal rhythms spontaneously appear. Such states seem to possess a degree of global cooperation. Systems which undergo transitions to these states are referred to as self-organizing” (p72, his italics). Could this term in itself not be a result of the fact that the organizing element is invisible, untraceable?
13. It is well-known that in classical physics there are various laws of nature involving mathematical formulae, and other constants. Davies draws attention to some others in relation to chaos theory:
- “The critical value at which chaotic behaviour starts is 3.5699” (p43).
- “Feigenbaum came across the curious ‘magic’ numbers 4.669201… and 2.5029… by accident, while toying with a small programmable calculator. The significance of these numbers lies not in their values but in the fact that they crop up again and again in completely different contexts. Evidently they represent a fundamental property of certain chaotic systems” (p54).
…and other statements which to me are strongly suggestive of the archetypes:
- “It seems that chaos has universal features, and that Feigenbaum’s numbers are fundamental constants of nature” (p51).
- “The properties of real numbers amount to far more than our collective experiences of arithmetic. There will be theorems concerning numbers which are unknown to anybody alive today, yet which are nevertheless true” (p194).
I would ask how any of this could be true in a materialist/existentialist universe. It is interesting that both Harding and Davies are using the same material, one to deny the existence of organizing principles, the other to suggest it. Compare William Sullivan: “Both archaic notions of scale and modern notions of chaos intuit a form of intelligence at work that, by dint of its paradoxically unpredictable ‘pattern-resolving’ powers, suggests the possibility of a science of right intervention. In the past, this pursuit has gone under many names, among them the Dharma and the Tao” (The Secret of the Incas, Three Rivers Press, 1996, p341). I leave it to the reader to decide who is more convincing.
14. Jung, OUP, 1994, p41
15. Synchronicity, Bantam, 1987, p105
16. A Brief History of Time, Bantam, 1988, p9
17. The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Hutchinson, 1980, especially pp40–42
18. Aquarian Press, 1990
19. He is discussing Darwin’s theory of evolution, criticized by Popper.
20. Space-Time and Beyond, Bantam, 1982, pp55–56
21. An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology, Penguin, 1991, p27
22. Even a mathematician can express himself in these terms. Gödel devised a theorem which proved that no human mathematician ever could sum up or express the Realm of Forms (a Platonic term for what I have been calling the archetypal level). This means that: “Whatever we try to say in human language, in any kind of language, will always be partial. This is as true of the ‘languages’ of Christianity and Judaism as it is of the language of mathematics. All must content themselves with being partial expressions of a ‘higher’ or a ‘deeper’, and ultimately an inexpressible, truth”. This therefore must apply to quantum physics: “If, instead of contenting ourselves with describing the manifestations of underlying reality, we try to describe underlying reality itself, we are destined to fail. Our physics always breaks down en route to the Absolute”. (Danah Zohar, The Quantum Society, Bloomsbury, 1993, pp106–7, her italics)
23. Having already made this hypothesis, I then came across the work of Luis Alvarado, who makes similar distinctions. Although in context he is doing this only to establish the different emphasis of various astrologers, he identifies three strands in the current status of Astrology: the astrology of the body, or scientific astrology (Gauquelin); the astrology of soul (Liz Greene); the astrology of spirit (Dane Rudhyar)” (Psychology, Astrology and Western Magic, Llewellyn, 1991, p69 et seq.). He explains the differences between the last two thus: “Rudhyar’s philosophy of astrology begins and ends with the sky… Where Liz Greene…would help us journey through the Underworld to find soul, Rudhyar consistently tells us to look up, to reach beyond, to find Divinity” (p71).
He then goes on to make distinctions of level similar to those I was making above: “The astrology of the body is found whenever statistical methods and scientific requirements are met; whenever cause and effect are the sought after results. The astrology of spirit is found whenever we aspire to God and to Logos, whenever the need is for transcendence, whenever we search for intelligent activity… Just as there can be a psychology of the soul (James Hillman)… so we can posit an astrology of the soul” (pp71–2).
24. This is also the view of F. David Peat: ‘Synchronicities… therefore no longer imply just an occasional form of coincidence but the essential meaningful relationship between the mental and material aspects of the universe’ (as footnote 15, p198).
Also, Alan Vaughan, the author of Incredible Coincidence, was wondering about these questions: “Where does synchronicity end and chance begin?” “Is there such a thing as random chance in our lives?” “As I was pondering these questions, I fell asleep and dreamed I was talking with parapsychologist Gertrude Schmeidler about synchronicity. She asked, ‘But where does synchronicity end and chance begin?’ ‘But don’t you see’, I exclaimed. ‘Everything is synchronicity. Nothing happens by chance!’ As I said those words in my dream, a tremendous energy flooded my brain and shocked me awake, forcing me to consider this intuitive answer” (Corgi, 1981, p250).
25. The suggestion that synchronicity is by itself the explanation, it seems to me, comes about because it can explain the most common use of Astrology, the construction of the chart of individuals in relation to their birth-times, which is, after all, believed to be the mirroring of inner and outer at a precise moment. Astrology in the hands of the professionals, however, claims to have wider applications than that.
26. He seems convinced of this idea even though, as he himself states (p51), there is no scientific evidence for it, at least according to the dominant trends in modern scientific thought.
27. Bantam, 1987
28. Picador, 1972
29. Hutchinson, 1973
30. Corgi, 1981
31. Turnstone, 1974
32. Burnett Books, 1982
33. London House, 2000
34. Hutchinson, 1990
35. Blandford, 1995
36. Blandford, 1999
37. Koestler, as footnote 29, p209
38. Tony Crisp, as footnote 33, p11
39. Phil Cousineau, quoted in Coincidences, as footnote 33, p65
40. Michael Shallis, as footnote 32, p140
41. F. David Peat, as footnote 15, p85
42. We have to be careful, however, not to assume that ‘coincidences’ and ‘synchronicity’ are interchangeable synonyms, for not everyone involved in the debate thinks like that. The author himself, although clearly fascinated by coincidences, is not favourably disposed towards Jung’s idea, saying “I find much of the essay (i.e. Jung’s book) incomprehensible and was pleased to read that Koestler thought it ‘very vague’ ” (Ken Anderson, Coincidences: Chance or Fate?, as footnote 35, p29). In particular, Anderson finds unnecessary Jung’s distinction between ‘chance coincidence’ and ‘meaningful coincidence’, presumably on the basis that he thinks that the same agency, whatever that might be, is responsible for both. This distinction seems reasonable to me, however. If part of the definition of synchronicity is ‘meaningful coincidence’, and certain coincidences, e.g. “a taxi driver getting a concert ticket which is the same number as his licence”, have no psychological meaning for the person concerned, then clearly a separate category has to be established.
Koestler seems to agree: “Intellectual decency demands that somewhere we should draw the line between significant coincidences, which we suspect to contain some hidden factor, and trivial coincidences, due to pure chance alone” (The Challenge of Chance, as footnote 29, p208). He later distinguishes between “trivial coincidences which can be explained by probability theory, selective attention, or the ‘small world’ argument, and that other category of experiences…” (p213).
43. The Coincidence File, as footnote 36, p15
44. ibid. p16
45. This sentence is on p40 of the 1975 Penguin edition, although this is different from the copy in the original incident.
46. The Astrology of Fate, Mandala, 1985, p278