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September 29th, 2011CoincidenceDr. Kirby Surprise 5 Comments

The clearest example of the opposition of the archetypal and personal causation models resulted when Jung tried to gain further acceptance for the existence of synchronistic events, by associating his model of them with then current PSI research. He was very concerned with possible criticism over his avocation of the existence of synchronistic events He attempted to give them scientific weight by comparing them to experiments being conducted in the laboratory. Jung’s own attempt at scientific verification was a comparison of the birth charts of married couples, looking for trait correlation in the horoscopes. He chose the work of Dr. R.B. Rhine to associate with synchronicity, thus attempting to move synchronicity into the formal laboratory setting.

Dr. J.B. Rhine was a researcher who was also interested in synchronistic events, but his approach was different from Jung’s. Rhine started with a question, not a model. He wanted to know if it was possible to confirm or disconfirm subject’s ability to influence events by non-physical means. He designed and conducted many experiments in an attempt to answer this question. His focus was not based on a preconceived model of how the phenomena must behave. In contrast, Jung started with a model already set to some degree, assumed the truth of its premises without experimental testing, and held fast to it in spite of evidence that its forbidding of personal causation of synchronistic events was contrary to the experience and research of others. It was Jung who declared that Rhine’s experiments were a demonstration of synchronicity under laboratory conditions, and that the concept of synchronicity was therefore an empirically real phenomenon. It was also he who could not accept the conclusion of those experiments, that people can influence events by nonphysical means by an act of attention.

Of particular interest to the idea that people create synchronistic events are Rhine’s experiments on the effects of the subject’s attention on random events. He concluded that the randomness of the order of events could be changed in the direction of the subject’s desire and attention. These random events included series of coin tosses, die throws, the position objects landed when dropped in a random manner, the values of randomly generated electrical currents, and the rate of particle release, among others. In each instance it was found that the probability of these physical events was changed by the psychological expectation and attention of the observers, even though no physical force was detected.

Jung accepted that these were measurements of synchronistic events, but not the very core of the research’s purpose and conclusion, that people have the ability to personally produce synchronistic events. He preferred an explanation keeping with his archetypal model. He proposed that there must be some archetypal influence controlling both the experiment and subject producing the illusion of personal influence, failing this as a reasonable explanation he suggested that the subjects must have had some psychic way of predicting the outcome of the experiments, then using this knowledge unconsciously to give false outcomes. Given the controls and sequences of the experiments this is not likely. Jung was also not able to give even a rudimentary account of how his counter theories might operate, they seem to be more of the nature of pure objection than reason, observation, or experience.

Rhines’s work went beyond proof of personal causation. He demonstrated that the emotional states of the subjects affected their ability to influence the random events of the experiments. Such psychological states as interest or boredom increased or decreased test scores significantly (Forwald, 1954.) Boredom and anxiety decreased the subjects ability to change the randomness of events in their desired direction, while focused attention and positive expectation increased the occurrence of the targeted events. He also found that physiological states caused by the ingestion of alcohol (Averic, Rhine, 1945) or caffeine (Rhine, 1945) lowered or raised scores respectively. Emotions and personal physiological states can facilitate or inhibit synchronistic events.

Several other researchers have suggested that PSI and synchronicity are related phenomena. Vaughn Suggests that synchronicity is responsible for all PSI phenomena. A more moderate position states that synchronicity may be responsible for only specific ranges of PSI phenomena, such as telepathy (Schwarz, 1969) or clairvoyance (Teague.) Grattan and Guinness suggests that synchronicity may be just one class of phenomena in that of PSI in general, and that like many such abilities its operation is primarily unconscious. (Tart, 1981) in a grounded approach speculates that synchronicity needs to be separated from PSI phenomena which could be accounted for by some means of transmission. He also points out that because there is no model for the operation of synchronistic events, testing hypotheses is difficult.

Rhine’s work opened a Pandora’s box of possibilities and speculation, some of which I would now like to offer. We now have a direction to look for the causes and meanings of synchronistic events; the internal states of those who observe them. Synchronistic events follow the patterns of the psychological structures and beliefs of those who observe them. The experiments Rhine did are based on the scientific model. Part of this model attempts to eliminate as many variables as possible, so that outside effects on the results will be kept to a minimum. The feedback the subjects got from the events they were trying to influence was also reduced to a minimum. There isn’t much to relate to about a coin or dice toss. In contrast to the laboratory, the real world we exist in is beautifully complex and rich in events that allow us to experience a wide range of emotional and intellectual meaning. I submit that just as Rhine’s subjects influenced events in the laboratory, we all have similar effects on events in the world around us. Further, this influence follows the patterns of our psychological structures and conscious choices of attention, regardless of our conscious effort to do so or not. We all exist in a world of acausal synchronistic events, which reflect back to us our conscious, subconscious and transpersonal processes.

We usually don’t notice the hundreds of minor synchronistic events occurring around us each day. This feedback system remains unused because of the way we have chosen in this culture to specialize our consciousness. We have all learned to think in a highly specific form which regards linear rationality and the principals of utilitarian logic as the only valid way to perceive the world. Instead of noticing the subtle tones of synchronistic events that form a constant background of everyday life, we must almost literally be hit over the head with an acausal event before we give it any attention or validity.

There is no essential difference between the synchronicity of the house moving, and the way a die falls in a lab experiment. Western culture is based on quantitative reasoning. Thinking this way an event involving a house should require more energy or effort than one involving a die. This belief exemplifies the specialization of western thought in the causality of physical time and space. This has often been at the expense of more qualitative and associative thought processes such as those employed in the perception of synchronistic events. Synchronicity is acausal, and as such exists beyond the limitations of causal reasoning. It has a logic of its own, association and relationship from which meaning is derived. These are dependent upon the psychological structures and experiences of the individual and the environment they formed in. Many religious and philosophical systems expound the existence of an acausal reality with which a person forms an intimate relationship. In the west many have turned to Taoism, Tantra and aboriginal spirituality in search of this connection to the universe. Western culture has relegated this kind of unified consciousness primarily to mystics and heretics. Instead of being unusual, synchronicity should be seen as a state when the true connection that should exist between the inner and outer worlds is functioning normally. They, synchronistic events that are seemingly caused by the observer, are not the results of a state of psychic imbalance as Jung claimed.

  • Nancimac99

    I agree with you about “…synchronicity should be seen as a state when the true connection that should exist between the inner and outer worlds is functioning normally.” Perhaps you are missing the point that synchronistic experiences are in themselves part of restoring psychic imbalance to a balanced state.

    • Anonymous

      Perhaps, but as a psychologist who has treated many people with psychotic disorderes who also have SE, the appear more simplyreflective than restorative. I do believe that a person activly in the growth process will see that process in the SE. But, each person is unique, and I can’t speak for how SE work for everyone.

  • Juan Tracy

    Synchronicity sounds a lot like what Don Juan was talking about in the in the books by Carlos Castaneda, how we can sometimes summon intent by our impeccable behavior until it comes to us voluntarily. The force behind this is called ‘the emanations at large’ which sounds exactly like what David Wilcock calls ‘the source field.’

    • Anonymous

      In the case of SE as I’m describing it, the process is actually very automatic, once your attention is looking for them. And, importantly, they reflect all aspects of the self and are not tied to moral or ethical codes. Its a full spectrum reflection. As the fictional shaman Don Juan would say SE are a confirmation from the environment, I’m saying they are reflections of your thoughts that appear more often around emotionally charged material, positive or negative, not a sign of spiritual merit.

  • Josie

    Lots of events are classified as Synchronicity — though I never thought of them that way before.
    In reading your book I thought that the incident at the clown house was psychic on the part of your friend….people have thoughts/dreams/premonitions about things that are about to occur or that will occur at a future time all the time….it’s almost like animal instincts.  I don’t see this as synchronicity.  Also when you talked about creating the “dinosaur thought-form” (lol) and your wife and some children picking up on it…

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Dr. Kirby Surprise

Dr. Surprise received his Doctorate in psychology in 2007 from the institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco, his masters in psychodynamic and transpersonal psychology from John F. Kennedy University in 1988. Dr. Surprise received his license as a psychologist in 2009, and currently works in an advanced outpatient program for the state of California.

Book Reviews

“Synchronicity is teeming with delightful and often compelling surprises about the nature of meaningful coincidences in contemporary life. The author’s prose is playful, provocative, and profound. Though you may not agree with all of Professor Surprise’s conclusions, this book should be required reading for anyone wanting to understand the magnificence and mystery of synchronicity.”
—Gary E. Schwartz, PhD, professor of psychology and medicine, The University of Arizona, and author of The Sacred Promise


“An interesting mix of mythology, neuroscience, and common sense, this book takes a serious, but light-hearted look at the way synchronicity works and the degree to which it can be controlled. Going well beyond the ideas of Jung, synchronicity’s discoverer, psychotherapist Surprise draws on anthropology, String Theory, and Walt Disney to make the case that our internal states do effect external events....”
—Anna Jedrziewski, New Age Retailer


A true thriller from cover to cover—Kirby Surprise proves that there really is nothing more fascinating and mysterious than the human mind.
—Linda Watanabe McFerrin, Author of The Hand of Buddha and Dead Love (Stone Bridge Press, 2010)