Okay, so I'm going to veer a little 'off topic' with this one. Mind you, who's to say what is on topic anyhow? One of the reasons I took such a long break from this blog was that I was searching around for new ideas and exploring new avenues. So, in this one, I'm talking about those strange coincidences that we can get from time to time. I've had my fair share of them, some of which I mention below, and other people are often keen to share theirs.
Just a work of warning; if you suffer an allergic reaction to woo stop reading now. My next post will be about something firmly cemented in the material plane, so please come back then.
It was the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung who first suggested the existence of ‘meaningful coincidences’. He was talking about coincidental experiences for which no causal relationship could be established. These, he wrote, may possess significance on some sort of deeper level, and he called these occurrences 'synchronicities'.
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that synchronicities do occur, and that they occur for a reason rather than just ‘wishful thinking’. Often it will be in the form of a random piece of knowledge falling into place that leads to greater understanding, or a chance meeting with someone who you might just have been thinking about that day but hadn’t seen for a long time. Sometimes the song you woke up in your head with, but haven’t heard since the 1980s, comes on the radio.
The writer Colin Wilson found that when he was delving deep into some matter he was writing about, books would literally fall off shelves, often open at the page presenting some vital but previously unknown passage of knowledge that proved to be the key to understanding.
Such ‘book synchronicities’ seem to be common among people who have set out on a path to expand their understanding of the multi-layered reality we inhabit, and I have had several myself. For example, a few months ago I was eating some breakfast and reading an article posted online by the Irish writer Thomas Sheridan about the ancient Indo-European symbol known today as the swastika being carved into rocks across Britain. I’d never heard of this and wanted to find out more – but I didn’t have time to find out more as I had to go to work just then.
Shortly afterwards I was walking towards my office down the pedestrianised high street in the town where I live and found myself walking past a charity shop where someone had left a couple of bags of clothes, books and toys overnight. Clearly, someone had been rummaging in it and the contents were spilled out all over the step. A glossy coffee-table type book caught my eye and I went over to pick it up. It was called Celtic Britain and I opened it right on a page that featured – yep – stones carved with swastikas.
When it comes to book synchronicities it seems that some people are particularly adept at sparking synchronicities. (Greg Moffit is another one – on one of his podcast shows he once mentioned the different stages of spiritual development outlined in The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck – and I promptly found a copy of the same book fluttering in the breeze in a Tesco carpark later that same day – coincidence?)
And as for Anthony Peake’s The Daemon, which I read last summer in a town in Germany, that could only be described as a smorgasbord of synchronicities featuring Hermann Hesse, Goethe and even Joan of Arc!
These are just a few examples among numerous others, book related or otherwise. Generally speaking, I have only started to notice them in the last five years or so. In periods where my interest in the arcane has waned, or I have been too busy with other areas of my life, the synchronicities seem to have faded away, as if put on pause. When I rekindle my interest, they come back with a vengeance – to the point where I almost expect them, and almost regard them as standard operating procedure.
But what about coincidences that don’t seem to serve any particular purpose but are just so downright improbable that they make you question the basis of everything you have been led to believe about the ordering principles of the universe?
My friend, David Moore, who is himself a walking talking bag of synchronicities, thinks they may have some kind of evolutionary role in human consciousness. He thinks we should pay attention to them because they could be trying to teach us something.
Again, I have some examples I would like to share, and for which I can offer no rational explanation. Get this: twice, when I have set foot on another continent for the first time, the first person I have randomly met who was not an immigration official, taxi driver or hotel clerk, was someone I knew.
The first time this happened to me was in Australia in 1995. I had got off a night flight from Malaysia to Perth and was walking bleary-eyed around the airport at about 1am looking for some clue about where I could spend the night. I had spent the last three weeks seriously ill with an undiagnosed malaria-like virus, including a stint in a hospital in Penang, and had lost around a quarter of my body weight.
Happy to be somewhere more westernised, I found a large illuminated board with about fifty or sixty adverts for places to stay and I picked one pretty much at random simply because the name appealed to me (“The Lone Star Saloon Inn”). Then, I jumped into a taxi, which took me into Perth and my chosen hostel. I walked in and the half-asleep clerk said they didn’t have any rooms left but there was a space on a bunk in someone else’s room that I could have. He implied that the occupant hadn’t paid his bill and so couldn’t complain when someone else was lumped in with him.
Being very tired and sick I said okay, and made my way to the room. It was a mess, with clothes and bottles everywhere, but the occupant was not in. I climbed into the top bunk and immediately fell asleep. Some hours later my roommate returned. He was pretty drunk and crashed around for a while with the light on (seemingly not noticing me in the top bunk) so I kept my eyes closed and pretended to be asleep. Eventually he turned off the light and began to snore.
In the morning, sunlight lit up the room. I peered over the side of the bunk to take a look at the drunken oath who had, by now, stopped snoring (I planned to check out almost immediately and didn’t even want to wake him). That’s when coincidence No.1 happened. I looked down on him and, to my great surprise, he was wide awake and staring up at me. We both did a double-take, because the face I was looking at was the barman from my local pub in Solihull. Neither of us knew what to say.
The same thing, more or less, happened when I first visited South America in 2000 with my wife. I arrived on a Sunday in Quito and found out I couldn’t get any dollars to pay for anything as all the bureaus de change were closed and ATMs didn’t accept foreign cards. I called the place I had booked and they told me to get in a taxi and they would pay the driver – I would pay them back the following day when the banks opened. I did this but when I got there they said there had been a mistake and I needed to pay up front.
The taxi driver took pity on us and said he knew of another place we could stay. He drove us to this new place and dropped us off. By this point it was getting dark and, Quito being a hilly city, lights of houses began to twinkle around us rising up to meet the horizon. We checked in and had a short nap to get over our travel weariness before going into the hotel lounge. In this room there was a large open fire that was roaring nicely (it is always chilly in the evenings in Quito) and we could look out of some large windows onto the twinkling fairy lights outside. There was only one other person in the lounge – a guy of about my own age – and he was sitting quietly in a large leather armchair and reading a book. He looked kind of familiar but I couldn’t place him. After a few minutes I sensed he was looking at me and he suddenly said “Jason?”
It was Louis, a friend from my sixth form college days – and someone I used to meet up with in the same pub I had seen the barman from. I hadn’t seen him in a decade and he had lost most of his hair in the intervening period, which was perhaps why I didn’t immediately recognise him. He said he was an artist and living in Paris but had decided to come to South America for inspiration. We both agreed how bizarre it was that we should meet in this way.
I’ve told this story to numerous people over the years, and the severely rational tell me it’s just a case of coincidence, constructing elaborate justifications of how our whole lives are just a series of probabilities that either do or do not come to pass.
In case anyone thinks this all sounds too bizarre and I have embellished it in some way, it is and I haven't. In the second instance I have my wife to back it up, although my purpose isn’t simply to tell a good tale but to figure out why these remarkable coincidences happened to me. Could it be that the subconscious mind (or daemon) is a trickster, and uses improbable coincidences and synchronicities to shake us out of our complacency?
I remain puzzled, but I do think that synchronicities seem to happen when you put yourself ‘out there’ rather than just sitting at home and not speaking to anyone. I have come to think that they may be psychic nudges, and that if we learn to recognise them for what they are we can gain new understandings of non-material reality and our place within it.
If you have any strange examples of synchronicities you want to share then please do tell.