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Different events happen in the universe, the stars shine, the wind erodes rocks, volcanoes erupt or magnets attract iron. The study of the rules and laws governing these facts belongs to the domain of science. Some of these events happen to us humans, so we can find a job, win the lottery, be taken ill or suffer an accident. Traditionally, all these events have been considered from the mythological, philosophical, religious and parapsychological point of view.
Psychologist Gustav Jung coined the word synchronicity to describe temporally coincident occurrences of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally unrelated. For example: just as a psychotic person said he was Christ the creator and the destroyer of light, the electrical installation of light fell from the ceiling and left him unconscious.
This implies that certain events in the universe group into meaningful patterns that do not follow the regular laws of causality. Therefore, these synchronous events should transcend the laws of science because they are expressions of deeper movements that originate in the structure of the universe and are inseparably related to both the matter and the meaning.
The present study hopes to present a scientific approach to the types of events that are included in the concept of synchronicity.
Between centuries VII and VI BC, an important phenomenon happened in different cultures. A rational thinking appeared about the origin of things, their diversity and their continuous change. People tried to find a common principle, builder and order of everything. It was the time of the first Greek philosophers, of the prophets of Israel, Zoroaster the Iranian prophet, the Upanishads and Buddha from ancient India and Confucius and Lao Zi in the Chinese tradition. The explanation of this chronological coincidence continues to be a subject that impassions historians. The development of these cultural movements built our current civilization.
Presently, this rational thinking about reality continues to be valid. Matters like Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Psychology and Biology research into our mental and physical features as well as into the world. We have achieved a great knowledge about the laws of nature as we can see reflected in technical development.
However, the knowledge about the deep reasons for the events that happen to us is not so notorious. We don´t know why certain things apparently happen to us by chance.
Every event that happens to us humans has a meaning to us and maybe only to us, which we call subjectivity, but does this event have a purpose, an aim? Does it reflect some kind of natural or moral law? Does it depend on something we did before?
There are smokers that develop lung cancer but there are also smokers that do not develop it. We can imagine a person who gets up at 8 AM, drives his car and at 6 PM, while driving at 120 Km/h on the highway, he crashes with another vehicle and as a consequence of this his legs are amputated. In a tenth of a second, while the car covers a distance of 3 meters, the catastrophe happens and the driver’s life changes forever. One split second before or after nothing would have happened to him. Since he got up in the morning, 360.000 tenths of a second have gone by. Was it by chance or was there a purpose, an intention for the accident to take place?
Determinism vs indeterminism.
Deterministic Scientists state that if we know the initial conditions of a system and its laws, we can predict what will happen at any moment, as Laplace’s demon would do. This includes events that happen to us humans. However, in Physics there is actually a controversy between determinism and indeterminism that we summarize in the Einstein-Bohr debate and in Einstein’s sentence “God does not play dice”, rejecting the Quantum randomness.
At a subatomic level, the Quantum Mechanics are deterministic, with the Schrödinger equation that describes how the quantum state of a physical system changes in time and must determine the future value from the present value. The measurement process itself, however, cannot be described by the Schrödinger equation; it is somehow a thing apart and it is a probabilistic model and surprisingly the outcomes depend on how the researcher has designed the experiment. The double slit experiment is well known and its striking consequences that demonstrate the inseparability of the wave and particle natures of light and other quantum particles and the influence of the researcher measurement in the experiment outcomes. For determinism, luck and chance do not exist.
The idea that some tiny events when they happen might cause large changes in the life of who suffers them can be seen in mathematics. The Butterfly Effect is a phrase that encapsulates the more technical notion of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in the chaos theory. Small variations of the initial condition of a dynamic system may produce large variations in the long term behaviour of the system. The term "butterfly effect" itself is related to the work of Edward Lorenz in 1961. The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in a certain location. The cases of most interest arise when the chaotic behaviour takes place on an attractor, since then a large set of initial conditions will lead to orbits that converge in this chaotic region.
In psychology, we can find similar ideas. Clinical psychologists know that the patient is trapped between an external reality (social support, job, affective relationships, economic resources) and an internal environment (personality, unconscious, skills, instinctive desires, beliefs), and the result blocks the person in a negative emotional pattern. Freud discussed this model in the 1920 essay “Beyond the Pleasure Principle. “.
Different psychotherapeutic schools try to unblock this situation focusing on several points. Behavioral psychotherapies will develop training in coping with a changing environment, assertivity techniques in communication, social skills and self-awareness. Psychodynamic therapies focus on resolving the patient's conflicted feelings. Cognitive therapies help patients gain insight into and resolve their problems through verbal exchange with the therapist, sometimes combined with "homework" assignments between sessions. A systemic approach focuses on the ways people build their stories about how they should live their lives and the impact of these stories on their patterns of relationship. But several studies show the importance of the role of the therapeutic alliance in psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy outcome. Finding a psychotherapist is an event that happens to a patient.
The term pareidolia describes a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, taking the Rorschach test or hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse. The phenomenon is related to the term of hierophany, coined by Mircea Eliade in his “History of Religions” as a manifestation of the sacred in the world.
Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, who defined it as the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness". This is an interesting phenomenon because it could be applied to synchronicity sometimes due to the Forer effect. It is also possible that the apophenia phenomenon is behind conspiratory theories (J. F. Kennedy’s assassination, 11-S in USA and 11-M in Spain), and it can influence religious and social explanations. There are two interesting documentals called “Zeitgeist” and "Zeitgeist: Addendum" that could be influenced by this phenomenon. It is difficult to know if it is apophenia or if they are describing something that matches with reality.
Psychologist Gustav Jung coined the word synchronicity to describe temporally coincident occurrences of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally unrelated.
Rupert Sheldrake, the controversial doctor of biology at Cambridge, defined the concept of morphic field as a particular form belonging to a certain group which has already established its (collective) morphic field, which will tune into that morphic field. The particular form will read the collective information through the process of morphic resonance, using it to guide its own development. This development of the particular form will then provide, again through morphic resonance, a feedback to the morphic field of that group, thus strengthening it with its own experience, resulting in new information being added (i.e. stored in the database). Sheldrake regards the morphic fields as a universal database for both organic (living) and abstract (mental) forms. Sheldrake's concept has little support in the mainstream scientific community.
Non scientific explanations
Most religions tried to explain why certain things happen to us human beings. For Christians it is the concept of God’s will, the miracle, Blessed Virgin Mary’s mediation, or the Saints community. It is related to prayer, sin and the Last Judgement. As Meister Eckart’s “Omne datum optimum“ sermon says: "How can we tell if it is God's will or not? Were it not God's will rest assured that it would not be. You suffer no illness or other affliction that is not God's will".
Through the law of karma in Indian religions, the effects of all deeds actively create past, present, and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life, and the pain and joy it brings to him/her and others. The results or 'fruits' of actions are called karma-phala. In religions that incorporate reincarnation, karma extends through one's present life and all past and future lives as well.
Historically, Judaism has considered belief in the divine revelation and acceptance of the Written and Oral Torah as its fundamental core belief. Coincidence does not exist, every event has a meaning. Historical and natural events in Israel are interpreted as God’s will in function of the Jewish collective behavior, so there is a causal connection between human behaviour and its destiny.
The new religion of Discordianism recognizes chaos, discord, and dissent as valid and desirable qualities, in contrast with most religions which idealize harmony and order, a fruit of his own mind. It is related to the 23 Enigma which refers to the belief that all incidents and events are directly connected to the number 23, some permutation of the number 23, or a number related to the number 23.
For the ancient Greeks, the concept was represented by Nemesis, goddess of retribution. She is the implacable executrix of justice.
The Naskapi are the indigenous Innu inhabitants of an area they refer to as Nitassinan, which comprises most of what other Canadians refer to as eastern Quebec and Labrador, Canada. For them, the term Manitou refers to the concept of one aspect of the interconnection and balance of nature/life; in simpler terms it can refer to a spirit. This spirit is seen as a person as well as a concept. Everything has its own Manitou— every plant, every stone and, since their invention, even machines. These Manitous do not exist in a hierarchy like European gods/goddesses, but are more akin to one part of the body interacting with another and the spirit of everything; the collective is named Gitche Manitou.
There are other non scientific matters trying to give answers to the events that happen to us human beings. White and black magic, I-Ching, the turtle shell oracle of the Shang dynasty, horoscope, and a wide range of methods have a target of explaining why different events happen to us or how to deal with them.
Common people speak about good and bad luck, fortune and misfortune, and a piece of luck or a piece of bad luck as an experience of continuous chance. There is a similarity with the mathematical concept of the attractor. We also have people that have a jinx.
We also have a collection of proverbs.
Most people have an awareness of significant coincidences.
Several para-scientific studies, which some people consider nothing but a complete fraud, have tried to clarify these subjects. The most well known of these studies being that of Rhine and that of Kammerer.
The Global Consciousness Project, also called the EGG Project, (Princeton University) is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration of scientists, engineers, artists and others. They have been collecting data from a global network of random event generators since August 1998 until February 2007, focusing on an engineering approach to the question whether sensitive electronic devices including random components might be affected by special states of consciousness, including strong emotions and directed intention.
The subject has been approached in the field of literature, in which Luke Rhinehart’s book “The Dice Man” stands out., We can also find different films about synchronicity, and recently in the video game world the Xbox 360 title “Fable II ”, where the moral choices you make will all impact on the game development, to some degree or another.