Monday, February 11, 2019

Meaningful Coincidences

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.


  1. Several years ago I worked at a cafe in rural Ontario. It got quiet mid afternoon and I sometimes had a chance to read. I had decided to read up on Quantum Physics to see if it had any explanation for the strangenesses of life that I have encountered. I was finding it hard going. A customer entered, I served him coffee and we chatted about his work. He installed elevators so the elderly could access the lakes from their cliff side cottages. He finished his coffee and as he headed out the door turned and said "By the way I'm a physicist" Never before or since have I met someone who declared themself as part of that profession. I said I had some some questions and he came back in and indulged me with a short tutorial.
    It is one of the strange things I still am amazed by, And maybe that's the point.

    1. Nice story! It's odd the way peopled books sometimes seem to appear in order to help you understand something.

  2. At some point in my life, I noticed that quite frequently, something I needed would just turn up in my life. The key seemed to be that I had to go looking for the thing. The things that turned up were typically quite trivial but at the same time very specific so that the odds of a chance encounter were quite small. One time I was looking for an herb for some soup I was making. I went out to an area where I thought I might find the herb. Unfortunately the area had been scraped clean. So I gave up the search, decided to rest and look over the valley in front of me. I sat down on the ground. The sun had set but there was enough light for me to see that right in front of me was the plant that I had been looking for.
    Some ideas related to the nature of these phenomena. At no time did I ever think that there was some way to make this sort of thing happen intentionally, that is, to manifest something by wishing for it.
    My overall reaction to this sort of phenomenon is to simply accept that it happens with some regularity, which it does. I have no theory for the mechanism by which this sort of thing manifests. It does however, give me some sense that whatever happens is for the best regardless of what my opinion is.

  3. One more comment on coincidences. We generally think of causation working forward in time only. However, if causation could work in reverse, that is, with the future causing events in the present, then the future could be thought of steering outcomes in the present. This is generally regarded as teleology and frowned on by materialists.
    The laws of physics generally work equally well forward and backward in time so no violation of physics involved as long as entropy increases as we go forward in time.
    That said, I also don't think that science is equipped to adequately explain all aspects of the world's workings and that maybe we shouldn't try to push it beyond its limits.

    1. Some good points there, Wolfgang. Was it Terrence McKenna who talked about 'attractor points'? These are big events that send shockwaves 'back in time', which some people can pick up on.

      The writer Anthony Peake has made numerous videos and published quite a few books on this subject. His latest one was about the English playwright J.B.Priestly (of, 'An Inspector Calls' fame), who seemed to be - ahem - ahead of his time in this regard, and who went onto influence Philip K Dick.

  4. There's plenty of atrocious woo-woo out there Jason, but this ain't of that ilk. I've been sensitive to serendipitous coincidence and synchronicity all my life. Hamlet's wonderful line speaks volumes: "There is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy." This was a worthy detour...thanks.

  5. Hi Jason,

    Great to have you back blogging. Synchronicity is always an interesting topic.

    You may like this one: After reading this post, I went to the local market to do some shopping and it costed exactly €55.55 and I received a fiver back as change -- 55555. The market guys assure me the food is extra tasty when you get such a hit.

    1. Haha. I went to Prague last year with my daughter and we went in three separate restaurants on three separate nights, and the bill came to 66.6 crowns each time. I think even she was starting to get a bit freaked out by it!

  6. Yeah I was joking with the market guys that the five 5s was probably better than getting the three 6s. YOu must have struck a devil's kitchen. How did your pizza diavola taste?

  7. The human brain is a deceptively complex thing. It's not just the human features we are aware of and all so proud of, it's also the millions of years of selection packed in to the "automatic" hindbrain, the hypothalamus, the autonomic nerve system, etc..

    Weird that something we use all the time, that is our essence, in a sense, has workings that are so opaque to us.

    The subconscious, as we call it, is always doing stuff, and I think that many of the examples you cite are those times when the subconscious prods the conscious part, and says"hey! note what just happened! it correlates to something I've been storing and working on for years! take some action!"

    Or maybe, we are just fooled by statistical chance, since one typically would bump in to hundreds of people every time you are on a journey, but the one that has connection to your past makes such an impression, you forget all the hundreds that had no connection.

    And of course, people you knew in the past, by definition, are on similar life paths to you, and so the odds that you'll bump in to them again are much greater than the odds that you'll meet a villager from Siberia, say.

    As you can tell, I'm a more science based guy, but have to say, when synchronicity happens to me, I still get chills, and makes me wonder if there is something more going on both for me and Horatio.

    1. Hi Steve. I'm all in favour of science as a means of gaining greater understanding of the wider mysteries of the universe. I actually think it is one of the better things we humans have managed to do. As I see it, science keeps expanding our understating into realms that were previously regarded as unknown or even mystic - so that's why I'm particularly interested in the work of people like Rupert Sheldrake, Anthony Peake and Tom Campbell, who probe into the places where most science based writers fear to tread.

  8. Hi Jason
    Yes, lots of personal ones. I tend to use them. For a while a few, in sequence, acquired sufficient meaning for me to need to do something about it. But that is a long story.

    I always liked the cosmic scale of this one. I read the letter from Scott in Nature at the time.
    This is the only record on the net I can find.

    Quote: "A Curious String Of Coincidences
    The journal Nature is not the place where one usually finds mention of bizarre coincidences. Nature's nature is supposed to be exclusively rational -- completely dedicated to a cause-and-effect universe. Yet, there it was: A letter from A. Scott calling attention to the fact that three fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacted Jupiter almost precisely 25 years after three crucial events in the Apollo-11 moon landing mission.
    Fact #1. Comet fragment 1 impacted the same day as the Apollo-11 launch, but 25 years later.
    Fact #2. The largest comet fragment hit Jupiter 25 years to the minute after the actual landing.
    Fact #3. The final comet fragment hit almost precisely 25 years after lift-off from the lunar surface.
    "So the start, climax and end of the series of impacts coincided exactly with the start, climax and end (in the sense of departure from the Moon) of the Apollo-11 mission to the Moon."
    (Scott, Andrew; "Strange But True," Nature, 371:97, 1994.)"

    Phil H

    1. Hi Phil. When the synchs start coming thick and fast it can feel like following a trail of sweets leading into a dark forest ...

      Interesting about the comet!

    2. Hi Jason
      Yes ... When younger I cheerfully remarked; 'the universe must have a sense of humour’. (Uncertain smile these days)

  9. I could go on and on and on.

    And on.

    But I'll recount just one (tiny) example, back from when I thought these things were just "flukes".

    Many years ago I was travelling from Toronto to Melbourne to visit my girlfriend, she and I often enjoying eating a particular kind of food back in Toronto and when visiting my father's country of birth. Half an hour before my connecting Sydney to Melbourne flight was due to land in Melbourne the guy sitting next to me, who I hadn't spoke to at all, offered me his newspaper and said it might interest me. I gave it a look, and what do you think I find but an article (with address) about a Danish delicatessen just outside of Melbourne. "What a fluke!" I thought, and my girlfriend and I enjoyed many-a-Danish meal during my month in Melbourne.

    Suffice to say, that was no fluke.

    1. Wow - that's weird. There aren't very many such establishments in the world (I don't even think I've ever seen one).

  10. Too many to mention! Two instances: several times in my younger days, total strangers wandered up to me in pubs and said, "I think I know your brother! I met him in a pub in Vladivostok/Singapore/Caracas..." At first I'd write it off as a clumsy chat-up line, but it generally turned out to be true. As said (sailor) brother was bald & bearded, & as a female I'm neither, I've often wondered what it was that made them think of him half a world away, months or years later, & make that connection.

    And this weekend, I bumped into an old friend I hadn't seen or heard of for several years. After exchanging news of all our offspring & mutual friends, I laughed & told him I felt like thanking him for an errand he'd run for me in a dream two nights before; in the dream, he & his wife had kindly driven 120 miles each way to fetch my great-aunt's passport from a certain small town on the north Devon coast. He literally took a step backwards and said, "I've just come back from there this morning..." I have no idea what this "coincidence" might mean, but something tells me there will be meaning - some kind of useful information, a connection, a spark of understanding in one or other of our minds- eventually.

    1. Very weird! I had another jaw dropper once - I'd just spent the week in Mallorca, researching the village where the occult writer Robert Graves had lived. I was telling my friend about the trip on evening just after I returned while we were in a small, smoky backstreet bar - one of about 20 in the little Spanish mountain town we lived in. There were some local roughneck youths being loud and playing pool nearby, who were being pretty raucous. One of them came up to the bar to order a drink and started speaking to me in perfect English. I said "How did you learn to speak English so well?" and he said "Oh, my grandfather was English. He was a writer, but most people haven't heard of him..."

      I'll let you guess the rest...

      And dreams are a whole other interesting realm.

    2. A bit late in the thread as I've been ill, but I wonder, was the Graves house museum open at the time of your visit to Deya?

      Being very interested in Graves, Sassoon, etc, I went there with my Catalan cousins, and we rather wished we hadn't by the end of the visit!

      The family seemed rather odd and notably unfriendly considering they had opened a museum in their home, and then we all felt that the place had an unpleasant - even malevolent - atmosphere. Of course, there is always something spooky about trying to freeze the house of a famous person at a certain point in time, but it was more than that.

      One of my cousins is a half-gipsy 'witch', reads the Tarot and heals, and she couldn't wait to get away. We were all a bit shaken, actually. I won't say exactly what happened, as I believe it would be unlucky (mix with gipsiess......:-) )

      When I later told them about Laura Riding, with whom Graves at first lived there, she said it all made sense, and that people like that can't live in a place without in some way cursing it.

      Riding seemed to sow unhappiness and insanity even wherever she went - see her biography. A sort of tainted charisma.

      All the best


      What were your Deya vibes?

    3. Hi Anthony - I didn't venture into his house/museum for some reason. I was there in the winter so perhaps it was closed. This was in about 2006.

      Deia itself seemed very pleasant, but with an unmistakable 'vibe' about it that I wasn't sure I liked. I read about Laura Riding in a Graves biography and - from the sounds of it - she was likely involved with occult practices. She seemed to have a kind of manic energy that may have been in conflict with Graves' more placid nature. Apparently they jumped out of a window together at some point - or she was pushed.

      The English philosopher/occult writer Colin Wilson visited him there and he apparently made him (Wilson) climb up a dangerous cliff as a kind of initiatory test. Once he was happy with his performance he granted Wilson an audience.

  11. Hi Jason,

    Sometimes coincidence has a great deal to do with recognising opportunities, and then grasping them (or whatever action is appropriate). I've encountered quite a number of people who seem to me to be searching for something, but when presented with an opportunity, it passes them by. Dunno. And yet at the same time, to me they appear somewhat dissatisfied with the world.

    Occasionally though stuff sails straight past me too! And try as you might, you can't be onto everything.

    This maybe coincidence, but I was planning to write about this topic on Monday...

    Hope you enjoyed Perth? And did you have a chance to drop over to this eastern side of the continent in your travels? Far out summer has been most hot and dry and has apparently broken the record. I was about to make a joke about vinyl LP’s (i.e. records) but the summer weather just isn’t funny.


    1. Hi Chris - I think you are right about them being ways about recognising opportunities. One thing I noticed from an early age as that if I really, really wanted something I tended NOT to get it ... immediately. Usually, however, if I simply forgot about it, after a while I would notice coincidences that, if followed up on, would lead me to the object of my desire - a bit like climbing the rungs of a ladder.

      I loved Perth. Spent about a month there and did a diving course. The light is so clear and bright there ... happy days. After Perth I spent the next few months bumming around the rest of your extremely large country. You may remember that I worked in Mooroopna ("Fruit Salad City")for a while on a farm?

  12. Alright then. Several years ago my son was working on building a house in the mountains a couple of hours outside of Los Angeles. He used a van as a work van. One day he had some sort of important meeting to get to in the city and as he was driving down the mountain road he noticed that he had been careless of the fact that his work in the country had left the back of his van in a mess, full of dirt and twigs and such. He was thinking to himself why he had't cleaned it up a bit before heading down the road and then "If only I had a broom to sweep it out!" Well, well, just around the next bend in the road he saw it, a battered old broom lying at the side of the road.

  13. I listened to a podcast about this sort of thing. Based in real psychology and science. Each person has about half a million 'events' in a month. Most are unremarkable but the times we pull up to an intersection and a giraffe is turning left in a convertible at the same time we get there, we remember those times and forget the rest.

    Doubting Thomasi, I'll go with you. More fun. I'll even say we are driven by cosmic forces from the ninth dimension. Enjoy the ride.

  14. I am interested what you make of this. So many people just tell me it is coincidence and unconnected. But the probability of these events happening when they happened seems really remote.
    I arranged a camping trip to the West Coast of Ireland with my sister as I was researching our family tree. I had got back as far as my Great Great Grandfather and had located the small village he had lived in. There was an old graveyard and we went in to look for our family name Melvin on the stones, but they were all weather-worn and broken and so tightly packed together that it was an impossible task. We left disappointed but 2 mins up the road was a newer cemetery and it even had a list of names with their location. We went straight to the one Melvin gravestone, and the minute we saw it my sister said "We shouldn't be seeing a Melvin grave". It freaked me out, so I took a quick photo so I had the inscription and we left.
    Next morning my mum called to say that my Uncle had passed away the previous afternoon. Very unexpected.
    I was really freaked out and stopped researching family history for several years, but my sister reassured me that it was a coincidence, so I decided to go to Burslem and see my Grandfathers grave, as I was meeting a friend nearby. I spent 2 hours on a freezing January morning walking round this large cemetery with no luck. I thought some instinct or memory from when I was 12 would guide me, but I just couldn't find any Melvin gravestones. I left my flowers on a strangers grave. A few days later I found out my friend from the allotment had passed away and was buried in Burslem cemetery that same week. I didn't even know her family were from there and it is over an hours drive from where I live. She wasn't even that old so it was really unexpected.
    My husband said I needed to stop digging into the past, because it was like a horror story where you are screaming at them not to open the door but they are compelled to open it out of curiosity and it always ends badly.

    So I stopped researching completely. Or at least until a distant cousin related to my Great great grandmother contacted me out of the blue. We shared information, but that was it. Then this cousin told me he was off to Ireland to do his own investigations. I told him about the graveyards and he said he would take a look.
    When he emailed to tell me all that he had discovered in Ireland, my husband was working overseas. I was excited and started going through all my notes and trying to piece things together in my family tree. I mean all that other stuff was just coincidence right?
    That very same day my husband was admitted into hospital with a serious and rare tropical disease. He was in intensive care on life support for 2 months before he had recovered enough to be airlifted home and then spent a further 6 months in hospital here.

    It feels uncomfortable writing this, but definitely the past seems to be interactive with the present so why wouldn't the future be too?


I'll try to reply to comments as time permits.