Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events which are unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner.
If for example an American and a British musician having never had anything to do with one another arrived at the same musical concept, chord sequence, feel or lyrics at the same time in different places, this is an example of synchronicity. During the production of The Wizard of Oz a coat bought from a second hand store for the costume of Professor Marvel was later found to have belonged to L. Frank Baum, author of the children’s book upon which the film is based.
The French writer Emile Deschamps claims in his memoirs that in 1805 he was treated to some plum pudding by a stranger named Monsieur de Fontgibu. Ten years later, the writer encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Paris restaurant and wanted to order some, but the waiter told him the last dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be de Fortgibu. Many years later in 1832, Deschamps was at a diner, and was once again offered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier incident and told his friends that only de Fortgibu was missing to make the setting complete and in the same instant, the now senile de Fontgibu entered the room.
Writer and iconoclast Charles Hoy Fort wrote several books on synchronicity including the Book of the Damned, Lo!, New Lands and Wild Talents. New Lands tells the famous story of the woman who lost her ring in a nearby lake only to recover it years later inside a fish she bought at a local market. He also wrote about the Butterfly Effect years before Lorenz, the famous mathematician coined the term.
The Dirk Gently series of books by Douglas Adams often plays on the synchronicity concept. The main character carries a pocket I Ching that also functions as a calculator, up to a point. In Philip K. Dick’s The Game Players of Titan, several characters possessing precognitive abilities cite the acausal principle of synchronicity as an element which hampers their ability to accurately predict certain possible futures.
John Constantine, the main character in the Vertigo Comics series Hellblazer, is sometimes seen riding the synchronicity highway, to meet certain goals or even just to one up those around him. In the D20 Modern roleplaying game Urban Arcana, Synchronicity is a magic spell that subtly rearranges reality, allowing the subject to avoid the minor inconveniences and hassles of everyday life.
Terence McKenna used the term ‘cosmic giggle’ to mean “a randomly roving zone of synchronicity and statistical anomaly. Should you be caught up in it, it will turn reality on its head. It is objective and subjective, simultaneously ‘really there’ and yet somehow is sustained by imagination and expectation.” The phenomenon is also explored, though not named, in The Red Notebook by Paul Auster, and is considered a major theme of his entire bibliography, appearing in some form in almost every work.
The idea of synchronicity is that the conceptual relationship of minds, defined as the relationship between ideas, is intricately structured in its own logical way and gives rise to relationships which are not causal in nature. Instead, causal relationships are understood as simultaneous such that the cause and effect occur at the same time.
Synchronous events reveal an underlying pattern or conceptual framework which encompasses, but is larger than, any of the systems which display the synchronicity. The suggestion of a larger framework is essential in order to satisfy the definition of synchronicity as originally developed by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.
Jung coined the word to describe what he called temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events. Jung variously described synchronicity as an connecting principle, meaningful coincidence and acausal parallelism. Jung introduced the concept as early as the 1920s then in 1952 published a paper in a volume with a related study by the physicist Wolfgang Pauli.
It was a principle that Jung felt gave conclusive evidence for his concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious. Synchronicity is descriptive of a governing dynamic that underlay the whole of human experience and history, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Events that happen which appear at first to be coincidence, but are later found to be causally related are termed as incoincident.
Jung believed that many experiences that are coincidences due to chance in terms of causality, suggested the manifestation of parallel events or circumstances in terms of meaning, reflecting this governing dynamic.
In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias is the tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions and avoids information and interpretations which contradict prior beliefs. Many critics believe that any evidence for synchronicity is due to confirmation bias, and nothing else.
Wolfgang Pauli, a scientist who in his professional life was severely critical of confirmation bias, lent his scientific credibility to support the theory, coauthoring a paper with Jung on the subject. Some of the evidence that Pauli cited was that ideas which occurred in his dreams would have synchronous analogs in later correspondence with distant collaborators.