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Treading the Line between Materialistic Science and Synchronicity Science: Aeon Magazine

Mainstream journalists, are people like the rest of us, yet they must hew the party line that states: “Any meaning you find in a coincidence is your projection onto randomness. Go ahead, make something useful out of what you experienced but don’t try for any explanation outside of conventional science.” In this article, the author seems to show his interest in looking beyond our current views of reality. See what you think.

On coincidence
Aeon Magazine
by Cody Delistraty

https://aeon.co/essays/just-how-meaningful-is-coincidence-beyond-the-statistics?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=5c0245f99a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_07_09_01_36&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-5c0245f99a-69638045

In the 1920s, one of Carl Jung’s female patients proved particularly frustrating to him – notwithstanding her ‘excellent education’ and ‘highly polished Cartesian rationalism’. She was ‘psychologically inaccessible’, the Swiss psychiatrist later wrote in his Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle (1960), by which he meant that she wasn’t accepting his pseudo-scientific methods.

To better understand her subconscious mind, Jung had her recount her recent dreams. She told him that, the night before, she had dreamed that she’d been given a golden scarab as a piece of jewellery. As she was describing the dream, there was a tapping on the window and Jung turned around. ‘I opened the window immediately and caught the insect in the air as it flew in,’ he wrote. ‘It was a scarabaeid beetle, or common rose-chafer (cetonia aurata), whose gold-green colour most nearly resembles that of a golden scarab.’ Jung knew this was just what his skeptical patient needed to see. ‘I handed the beetle to my patient with the words, “Here is your scarab.” This experience punctured the desired hole in her rationalism and broke the ice of her intellectual resistance. The treatment could now be continued with satisfactory results.’

Jung called this an instance of ‘synchronicity’, a concept whose application to psychology he developed with the Austrian-born theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli to describe the way that seemingly unrelated events can in fact be significantly related and held together by an unseen force – in this case, his patient’s dream and shared reality coalescing with the appearance of the scarab beetle. Jung believed in an unus mundus, or a unitary world, in which there is no separation between mind and matter. Everything is connected; every event has a reason behind it. It spurred his belief in even wilder ideas such as telepathy, and fed his concept of the ‘collective unconscious’, for which he claimed there were certain universal ideas, beliefs and archetypes implicitly understood by everyone from birth.

The Austrian biologist Paul Kammerer, a contemporary of Jung’s, built on ‘synchronicity’ with his theory of ‘seriality’, which says that coincidences are a basic force of the Universe, like gravity. Albert Einstein, always pushing the boundaries between faith and reason, found the quasi-spiritual idea of seriality intriguing, and is rumoured to have called it ‘original and by no means absurd’.

Today, nearly all scientists say that coincidences are just that: coincidences – void of greater meaning. Yet, they’re something we all experience, and with a frequency that is uniform across age, sex, country, job, even education level. Those who believe that they’ve had a ‘meaningful coincidence’ in their lives experience a collision of events so remarkable and unlikely that they chose to ascribe a form of grander meaning to the occurrence, via fate or divinity or existential importance. One of the most commonly experienced ‘meaningful coincidences’ is to think of your friend for the first time in a long while only to have her telephone you that instant. Any self-respecting statistician would say that if you tracked the number of times you thought of any friend, and the number of times you had that friend immediately ring you, you’d find the link to be statistically insignificant. But it is not necessarily irrational to attribute grander significance to this occurrence. To those who believe in meaningful coincidences, statistical insignificance does not undermine an event’s causality or importance. To them, just because something could happen doesn’t mean it wasn’t also fated to happen.

It’s a mindset that applies equally to our habit of weaving relationships between coincidental events into epic myths, religious stories, even conspiracy theories. Longwinding, Dickensian stories of interconnected coincidences leading to a cathartic conclusion can provide us with a sense of meaning, of life holding subtler, unseen mysteries that make even our suffering worthwhile – as if our lives were really a series of sophisticated, interconnecting puzzle pieces. This largely explains the seductiveness of most mainstream religions as well: a divine hand orchestrating our lives is a particularly comforting notion, even if, scientifically, there’s little to lend credence to such beliefs.

But just because we might ‘know’ that meaningful coincidences don’t really exist doesn’t mean that they don’t still move us. The poet John Keats in 1817 accused Isaac Newton of trying to ‘unweave the rainbow’, by which he meant that Newton was attempting to take the magic out of life by paring it down to its scientific basis. The young poet might have been wishful in his thinking, but such a statement also raises the question of how we should grapple with mysteries – with or without a belief in a greater meaning to life? Even if every possible coincidence could be scientifically explained, we shouldn’t necessarily discount its importance. You can watch a movie or read a novel, and be at once aware of its nonreality while also being moved by it. Must these ideas therefore be incompatible? Indeed, might the continued belief in meaningful coincidences even be rational and necessary to our experience of existing in the world? And, is a belief in meaningful coincidences something vital to our survival as humans?

After the so-called Freud Wars starting in the 1970s, led by the American essayist Frederick Crews, any orthodox adherence to Freudian or Jungian ideas has since been frowned upon in the mainstream scientific community. Statistical and evolutionary arguments against notions of synchronicity, seriality and meaningful coincidences at large have come to seem ironclad, and the existential aspects of coincidence have been wholly discounted. Those who do believe in meaningful coincidences also haven’t been doing many favours for themselves. People who strongly believe in the paranormal and in conspiracy theories, for instance, tend to be significantly worse at probabilistic and statistical reasoning than those who don’t believe in them, according to studies from the University of Bristol and Goldsmiths, University of London, respectively. In truth, most of us are surprisingly poor at gauging the probabilities of events, so when we receive that phone call from the friend we’re thinking of, we’re prone to ascribe to it a significance disproportionate to its relative commonness.

A good example of our lack of statistical logic is when gamblers interpret a run of black or red numbers in roulette as meaningful, in spite of the fact that each time one colour comes up, the next spin has exactly the same 50 per cent probability of landing on black or red. Or, take ‘the birthday problem’, which simply asks: how many people would you need to get into the same room in order to statistically assure that at least two share the exact birth month and day? Given that there are 365 days in a non-leap year, and that most people you know probably don’t have the same birthday, you might reasonably suppose that you’d need quite a high number to find an exact match. Hundreds, perhaps, and even then you’d be lucky to find two people with the same birth month and day. Statistically, however, you need only 23 people in the room for a greater than 50 per cent (hence ‘statistically probable’) chance of finding two people with the exact same birth month and day. For a 99.9 per cent chance, you need only 70 people.

We ascribe exceptional meaning to what we perceive as exceptionally low-probability events, but they’re often not as low-probability as we think. And, even if they are unlikely, the most unlikely events are – with 7 billion people on Earth – actually relatively common, thanks to the so-called law of truly large numbers, the statistical adage of Frederick Mosteller and Persi Diaconis, in which a big sample size will eventually lead to essentially any result. Many people have survived being struck by lightning (even multiple times). Many have won the lottery (even multiple times). Plus, we’re culturally trained to see meaning in intrinsically meaningless events: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died hours apart on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; Mark Twain was born and died on days in which Halley’s Comet could be viewed from Earth. There’s statistically nothing further to be derived from these events, but we talk about them regardless as evidence of a greater, often spiritual, meaning. Every coincidence can be statistically explained. Even Plutarch understood this. Writing in ‘The Life of Sertorius’, a volume in his Parallel Lives series (1st century CE), he noted: ‘It is no great wonder if in the long process of time, while fortune takes her course hither and thither, numerous coincidences should spontaneously occur.’

Concepts such as synchronicity are ‘very seductive, because mysteries always are’

Irrespective of the mathematics of coincidence, there are still psychology specialists unwilling to give up on adapting theories of synchronicity and seriality. Bernard Beitman, a psychiatrist in Virginia and the author of the bestselling Connecting with Coincidence: The New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life (2016), believes that meaningful coincidences both exist and can be proven. One story he likes to tell about coincidence is extremely personal. He was 31 years old and living in San Francisco. One night, at about 11pm, he began violently choking over the sink. He hadn’t been eating or drinking, and the attack seemed to come out of nowhere. He drank some water, recovered, and then went to bed wondering what had spurred his choking fit. The next morning, he received a call from his brother, who told him that their father had died at two in the morning in Connecticut – which, because of the three-hour time difference, made it the same time as when Beitman had begun choking. His father had died choking to death on his own blood. Beitman found this pair of events incredibly significant, but he couldn’t find a sufficiently scientific explanation for them other than random chance. So he developed his own explanation, taking, in part, from Jung’s idea of synchronicity.

Beitman called this experience ‘simulpathity’ – or the experience of another person’s suffering, even from afar. He has since tried to provide a scientific basis for other Jungian ideas such as serendipity and seriality, and his overarching view is inherently Jungian, invoking the unus mundus while adding a distinctly New Age twist. ‘I use a term called “the psycho-sphere”,’ Beitman told me, ‘by which I mean only that mental atmosphere that surrounds Earth, in which we are immersed right here.’ Admittedly, trying to find a scientific basis for believing in meaningful coincidence is not a widespread pursuit (Iris Bell, a psychiatrist at the University of Arizona, with whom Beitman has co-written a book, is another rare exception). Statisticians still push back.

‘I find it very surprising, given the incontrovertible mathematical arguments,’ says David Hand, a prominent statistician and emeritus professor of mathematics at Imperial College London. ‘If you look at the relative numbers – especially of statisticians and probabilists, who are expert in such matters – you will find a vanishingly small percentage who would agree with concepts like synchronicity.’ But, perhaps, Hand reasons, the popularity of Beitman’s ideas isn’t all that surprising given human nature. ‘It’s very seductive, because mysteries always are.’

In fact, Beitman has taken a clever tack in recognising that just because something is random doesn’t also mean it’s not significant. It’s a similar argument that an atheist will eventually face when debating with a religious person who believes that God pulls the strings of life. Just because the atheist can use the law of truly large numbers to statistically prove that every event that happens within the boundaries of the physically conceivable world is possible without a god, this proof doesn’t also mean that those chance events are not somehow hiding meaning. (Or indeed, that some magical string-puller might not be behind at least some of them)

Meaning cannot be quantified or even clearly and routinely identified. The difficulty that Beitman faces is in trying to make meaningful coincidence into a scientific concept. Like a religious person, the greatest asset to believing in meaningful coincidence is that you cannot prove that something is devoid of meaning since ‘meaning’ is not scientifically testable. Where Beitman is most successful – even rational – is when he shows how experiencing a coincidence can encourage psychological shifts. He tells the story of a patient who told him that she was letting her abusive husband return to living with her. But before she went to get him from the airport, she received a phone call. The woman on the other end had the wrong number; yet, for reasons unexplained, they continued to talk, and it came out that the other woman had an abusive boyfriend. The other woman sounded fearful and unstable, and after hanging up the married woman decided to separate from her husband after all. This, Beitman says, is a meaningful coincidence that fundamentally altered her psychology and outlook on life. It is also why meaningful coincidences are so important. With the exception perhaps of the chilliest of rationalists, these types of events tend to have deeply visceral, sometimes life-changing effects.

Cynically, one could reason that trying to add a scientific patina to the belief in meaningful coincidence is driven by greed: there will always be money to be made in writing books about or giving talks that exploit people’s desire to see chance coincidences as significant. We want evidence of a hidden meaning in life – and we’re willing to pay for it. Beitman might be one of the few trying to provide an academic spin to meaningful coincidences, but there are literally thousands of books and movies about the beauty, significance and importance of coincidences (not to mention how they’re used to win religious adherents). Coincidences, write Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal in their bestselling book Small Miracles: Extraordinary Coincidences From Everyday Life (1997), show ‘the rich promise of a bounteous universe and the splendour lying dormant within your soul. Coincidences are everywhere and can happen any time. When your soul is ready, they will come. All that is required is that you open your heart.’ This is obviously just a bit of feelgood hocus pocus. But it’s not actively harmful either, other than in taking advantage of people’s willingness to pay to hear what they want to hear.

Where a belief in meaningful coincidences can become dangerous, however, is when it begins to impair your judgment. For one, it can make you think illogically. For instance, ‘overfitting’ occurs when you fit your belief model to the noise rather than the signal, like suddenly ‘seeing’ UFOs after your friend has been talking about them. ‘Hidden meanings’ come out of the Jungian and Freudian ideas of the collective and individual unconscious, in which ‘slips’ of words or phrases are viewed not merely as linguistic errors but as pointing towards a greater subconscious, psychological meaning that’s not really there. Or the aforementioned ‘gambling fallacy’, which occurs when you begin to see seemingly hidden patterns in outcomes that result only by chance.

But while these might seem like small-time issues – UFOs, Freudian slips – there are sometimes larger questions at play. For instance, when the anti-vaccination movement was embraced in the United States, children died or had their health imperilled by parents who aligned rising rates of autism in children to the rising number of vaccines being given. It’s true that autism tends to be diagnosed around the same time that vaccinations are administered, but anti-vaxxers confused correlation with causality, relying, in part, on a belief in meaningful coincidence. Something has to be making certain children around the age of vaccinations get sick, they thought. But as study after study has shown, there’s no stock in the claim that vaccines make children autistic or even sick. Scientists, therefore, need to help ‘people to make decisions on the basis of concrete evidence, not half-baked pseudoscience,’ says Hand, the statistician. ‘Scientists have a public duty to help to disperse the mists of confusion.’

A belief in meaningful coincidence is, from an existential perspective, surprisingly rational

‘When we experience coincidences, we experience a pattern of events, sometimes perceived to be very rare, and that are surprising to us, that feel like they are caused by something,’ adds Magda Osman, who teaches experimental psychology at Queen Mary University of London. But just because we can’t say why, exactly, certain events happen at certain times doesn’t give them meaning, she says. ‘Coincidences are just an inevitable part of our cognitive system. That is it.’

What so much of the question around meaningful coincidence comes down to is how you choose to fill the vacuum of life’s mysteries. Is the realm of the unknown a place of spirituality and existential significance for you, or does the world remain entirely material?

Beneath the statistical incorrectness, beneath any economic ploys, beneath even the potentially grave errors that can result, a belief in meaningful coincidence is, from an existential perspective, surprisingly rational. If your father were to choke to death across the country at the same time that you felt a phantom choking, you might know, intellectually, that there was no mysterious, invisible connection at play. But, if you did let your mind wander to that possibility, it would allow you a new way to grieve your father’s death, giving you a sense of intimacy or a fatalist understanding of events. Beitman claims that science is ‘fairly flexible’, which seems like a red flag to serious researchers. But behind such a statement – and motivating the millions of people who buy books on, watch movies about, or have ever thought about what the many links between the events in one’s life mean – is the sometimes-necessary need to fabricate meaning.

We do this in infinite ways, not least via the apparatus of religion, but one way of finding meaning is to marry the mental and material worlds, signing up to what Jung called the ‘collective unconscious’ – an invisible realm that binds together our lives. It’s a belief that’s scientifically disproven, of course, and it’s flawed from its start; but, like so many other non-scientific beliefs, from a psychological angle, it makes some sense. There is, after all, a difference between statistical significance and human significance – one does not always dictate the other. Wrong and right all at once. A beetle is just a beetle until you decide that it’s not.

Synchronicities Reveal Tunnels Between Minds

Three coincidence stories paint a picture of a tunnels between minds.

Bombers Together

Conversations about coincidences can stir up coincidences. This theme is illustrated by my radio show about coincidences.

The day before Eben Alexander was to talk with me about his new book, I read a coincidence story involving B- 17 and B-24 Bombers. The author Frank Joseph had been writing about these bombers from WWII, when he felt the need for sunshine and a breath of fresh air. He heard a strange, deep droning coming from up in the sky. First a B-17 and then a B-24. How did that happen? It was spring, 2001.

Four hours later I received a coincidence story from Eben. While living near Boston, he was clearing out the attic. He suddenly remembered he had a radio controlled model B2 bomber but had not seen it in 2 years. He felt compelled to look for it. After not finding it in the attic, he ran down to the garage, didn’t see it. He then went out to the driveway and looked up. He saw a real B2 bomber flying right over the house at a fairly low altitude. This is the only time in his life he had ever seen one in flight. It was the spring of 2001.

Two very similar bomber stories within a few hours of each other? How does that happen?

This is evidence of a temporary connection between Eben and me in preparation for our interview. We had to reschedule twice because of various broadcast problems. We were reaching out to each other emotionally creating temporary tunnels between our minds.

A Fish Story

Karen Newell joined Eben in our conversation. She told us a fish synchronicity.

One morning Karen woke up, recalling a dream about one of their koi fish. They named him Buster (yes, they named all 18 of them), who was lying on the ground dead. Two other fish had recently gone missing but they hadn’t yet figured out the predator. She quickly put the dream image out of her mind, figuring it was due to anxiety over their safety. Later that day, she walked out to the pond and suddenly remembered the dream clearly and vividly. This prompted her and Eben to look in the pond for Buster. He wasn’t there. He was never found. Using a security camera, they discovered that a blue heron was the culprit. Now a net covers the pond. They have lost no fish since then.

Karen had a strong connection to Buster. She thought that maybe he was signaling her about his death so they could prevent the other fish from the same fate. A mind tunnel between Buster and Karen could explain this synchronicity.

Thinking together

Eben and Karen have a close relationship.

While in the final stages of editing their co-authored book, Living in a Mindful Universe, Karen was out on their porch watching the dogs in the yard, mulling over different sections of the book. One particular set of two sentences that had been bothering her came to mind. She then saw a way to make the writing smoother. At this point, she went into the house to make the edits. Eben was at his desk going through the manuscript. She looked over his shoulder. He was viewing the exact paragraph containing the sentences she wanted to change! He then made her suggested edits.

Eben and Karen do many things together beyond meditation and book writing. They have built a strong mental connection between them. Each was putting extra energy into their collaboration just as they do in other ways. An enduring mind tunnel has been constructed.

To hear Eben and Karen talk about these experiences and the nature of Consciousness please click here.

Why Do You Experience Lots of Coincidences (or Not)?

People who describe themselves as spiritual or religious report experiencing more meaningful coincidences than those who did not according to research done by my Coincidence Studies group.

In subsequent research, we proceeded to define the personality traits that were associated with high coincidence sensitivity.

This is a summary of our findings. For the full report please click here.

Participants were 280 undergraduate university students enrolled in a psychology class. Of the sample, 159 (57%) were female, and 121 (43%) were male. The mean age of the sample was 19.1 (SD = 1.1). Of the sample, 88.2% were white, 6.8% were black, 2.1% were Asian, less than 1% was Hispanic, and 2.1% reported “Other.”

Participants were presented with a prototypical coincidence scenario to prompt their understanding of “coincidence”.

The primary purpose of this study was to conduct a confirmatory factor analysis of previous work on the Weird Coincidence Scale (WCS) to help establish its psychometric reliability and validity. To accomplish this goal, we selected from a large set of personality questionnaires to compare with scores on the WCS.

The secondary benefit was the identification of personality variables that are associated with coincidence sensitivity.

Six Personality Traits

Six personality traits emerged as potential measures of coincidence sensitivity:

Referential Thinking Scale measures ideas of reference which involve the belief that outside events have a particular and unusual meaning for the person. An example of a test item is “When I see two people talking at work, I usually think they are criticizing me.”

Positive and Negative Affect Scale measures the independent dimensions of positive and negative affect. The positive affect terms are happy, joyful, pleased, and enjoyment/fun and the negative affect terms are depressed/blue, unhappy, frustrated, angry/hostile, and worried/anxious.

Vitality Scale measures subjective vitality, or positive feelings of energy and aliveness. An example of a test item is “I have energy and spirit.”

Religious Commitment Inventory measures “the degree to which a person adheres to his or her religious values, beliefs, and practices, and uses them in daily living.” A sample item is, “I spend time trying to grow by understanding my faith.”

Meaning in Life Scale measures two independent constructs — presence of meaning in life and search for meaning in life. An example of a Presence item is “I have discovered a satisfying life purpose.” An example of a Search question is “I am looking for something that makes my life feel meaningful.”

Faith in Intuition Scale measures the experiential thinking system, which is characterized as being “preconscious, rapid, automatic, holistic, primarily nonverbal, intimately associated with affect.” An example item is “I tend to use my heart as a guide for my actions.”

Findings

We compared their scores on the Weird Coincidence Survey with each of their scores on the personality questionnaires. The most statistically significant was The Referential Scale. The ranking of all 6 was:

1) Referential thinking

Referential thinking is characterized by beliefs that “events around me have to do with me.” Looking for coincidences and finding meaning in them represents a form of referential thinking.

2) Vitality and negative affect

High emotional charge is likely to generate increased associations.

3) Religious commitment

Religious commitment is often associated with the idea that God intervenes personally in people’s lives, suggesting the coincidences may be interpreted as a means by which people are being guided.

4) Search for meaning

A tendency to explore meaning in life is likely to be applied to searching for meaning in coincidences.

5) Faith in intuition (which statistically was not significant)

Faith in intuition involves finding importance in and drawing conclusions from coincidences rarely through rational means. We were surprised that this factor was not significant although others have found it to be significant using different scales.

Comment

An increased tendency to associate one idea to another is the common denominator among these personality characteristics. In various ways, each of these traits facilitates connecting an observation with a thought or a thought with an observation. To be self-referential increases the likelihood to connect an observation to a comment on the self. High emotion increases thought production which creates more connections. Religious commitment seeks thoughts and experiences to support the idea that God intervenes in our lives through “minor miracles” like coincidences. The search for meaning drives people to connect their external experiences to their internal needs as possible guides in life’s journey.

With what ease do you connect similar ideas together?

Why Do You Experience Lots of Coincidences (or Not)?

dr coincidence

People who describe themselves as spiritual or religious report experiencing more meaningful coincidences than those who did not according to research done by my Coincidence Studies group.

In subsequent research, we proceeded to define the personality traits that were associated with high coincidence sensitivity.

This is a summary of our findings. For the full report please click here.

Participants were 280 undergraduate university students enrolled in a psychology class. Of the sample, 159 (57%) were female, and 121 (43%) were male. The mean age of the sample was 19.1 (SD = 1.1). Of the sample, 88.2% were white, 6.8% were black, 2.1% were Asian, less than 1% was Hispanic, and 2.1% reported “Other.”

Participants were presented with a prototypical coincidence scenario to prompt their understanding of “coincidence”.

The primary purpose of this study was to conduct a confirmatory factor analysis of previous work on the Weird Coincidence Scale (link is external) (WCS) to help establish its psychometric reliability and validity. To accomplish this goal, we selected from a large set of personality questionnaires to compare with scores on the WCS.

The secondary benefit was the identification of personality variables that are associated with coincidence sensitivity.

Six Personality Traits

Six personality traits emerged as potential measures of coincidence sensitivity:

Referential Thinking Scale measures ideas of reference which involve the belief that outside events have a particular and unusual meaning for the person. An example of a test item is “When I see two people talking at work, I usually think they are criticizing me.”

Positive and Negative Affect Scale measures the independent dimensions of positive and negative affect. The positive affect terms are happy, joyful, pleased, and enjoyment/fun and the negative affect terms are depressed/blue, unhappy, frustrated, angry/hostile, and worried/anxious.

Vitality Scale measures subjective vitality, or positive feelings of energy and aliveness. An example of a test item is “I have energy and spirit.”

Religious Commitment Inventory measures “the degree to which a person adheres to his or her religious values, beliefs, and practices, and uses them in daily living.” A sample item is, “I spend time trying to grow by understanding my faith.”

Meaning in Life Scale measures two independent constructs — presence of meaning in life and search for meaning in life. An example of a Presence item is “I have discovered a satisfying life purpose.” An example of a Search question is “I am looking for something that makes my life feel meaningful.”

Faith in Intuition Scale measures the experiential thinking system, which is characterized as being “preconscious, rapid, automatic, holistic, primarily nonverbal, intimately associated with affect.” An example item is “I tend to use my heart as a guide for my actions.”

Findings

We compared their scores on the Weird Coincidence Survey with each of their scores on the personality questionnaires. The most statistically significant was The Referential Scale. The ranking of all 6 was:

1) Referential thinking

Referential thinking is characterized by beliefs that “events around me have to do with me.” Looking for coincidences and finding meaning in them represents a form of referential thinking.

2) Vitality and negative affect

High emotional charge is likely to generate increased associations.

3) Religious commitment

Religious commitment is often associated with the idea that God intervenes personally in people’s lives, suggesting the coincidences may be interpreted as a means by which people are being guided.

4) Search for meaning

A tendency to explore meaning in life is likely to be applied to searching for meaning in coincidences.

5) Faith in intuition (which statistically was not significant)

Faith in intuition involves finding importance in and drawing conclusions from coincidences rarely through rational means. We were surprised that this factor was not significant although others have found it to be significant using different scales.

Comment

An increased tendency to associate one idea to another is the common denominator among these personality characteristics. In various ways, each of these traits facilitates connecting an observation with a thought or a thought with an observation. To be self-referential increases the likelihood to connect an observation to a comment on the self. High emotion increases thought production which creates more connections. Religious commitment seeks thoughts and experiences to support the idea that God intervenes in our lives through “minor miracles” like coincidences. The search for meaning drives people to connect their external experiences to their internal needs as possible guides in life’s journey.

With what ease do you connect similar ideas together?

How to Use Meaningful Coincidences

We know they happen. The data are very clear. Coincidences appear in the lives of most people, some more frequently than others. We can describe them in terms of mind and thing. We can list their archetypal themes. How can they be used? What is their cash value?

General Uses of Meaningful Coincidences

Encourage us to become curious about them

We come to the awareness of coincidences in a variety of ways. Some of us seem to be born with the predisposition to be curious about them. Sometimes a major coincidence dramatically draws our attention to them as happened to Brendan. Others become overwhelmed by a flood of coincidences, demanding personal investigation.

However one comes to acknowledge their existence, curiosity often follows.

Confirm cherished beliefs (The confirmation bias)

If you want to believe that God makes your coincidence happen, then a startling or useful coincidence can confirm that belief. If you want to believe that the universe is random, coincidences can also confirm that belief. If you believe, as I do, that each of us contributes to the creation of many coincidences, then that belief can also be confirmed.

Stimulate interest in how the world works

If what you are thinking is surprisingly matched by an event in your environment, how does that happen? Perhaps our minds minds more connected to the material world than science currently tells us. Are some coincidences windows into a hidden reality? Do we have more psychic powers than we believe we have? Or perhaps they are teaching us about the way statistics can inform our understanding of low probability experiences.

Activate and exercise our observing selves

Our observing self is that part of our awareness that monitors our mental activity. By coming to recognize that some of our mental events are surprisingly matched by environmental events, we activate our ability to observe our inner workings. We then exercise our ability to connect our mind’s events with the events in our surroundings. The more coincidences we experience, the more fluidly our observing selves finds parallels between our thoughts and our surroundings.

Encourage us to think about probabilities

A common response to a weird coincidence is: What are the odds of that happening? Try to answer that question by estimating the probability of each part of the coincidence. For more details about estimating probabilities, please see this previous post.

Great stories to tell!

Tell some friends a coincidence story. You may trigger a very interesting discussion. You are also likely to hear stories from them. Maybe you will help each other to figure them out.

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Guiding Principles for Using Coincidences

Be selective about which coincidences to examine

The frequency of coincidences varies. For some of us, coincidences rarely appear. For those who regularly experience them, whom I call coinciders, some periods can be full of them. Other periods have very few. When there are lots of them, enjoy the possibility of being in the flow. That may be enough of an examination. When you do examine them look at the low probability ones first, especially those that trigger intense feelings in you. Be careful about over-examining befuddling coincidences. If you become overwhelmed by their frequency, seek coincidence counseling.

It’s your choice about how to use them

Meaningful coincidences offer us possibilities, not certainty. They are best thought of as sign posts rather than directives. We are probably not being imposed upon by some external force although some of us do think of them this way.

Some offer a clear path forward that seems very reasonable to take. Others present confusing ambiguity. For the ambiguous ones, select the option which best suits your needs in both the short and long terms. Some are tempting but not the right thing for us.That means refusing to follow the implied suggestion.

Interpreting coincidences

The use of some coincidences may be obvious. Others may be not so clear. Take some time, let the meaning percolate through your mental-emotional system. Write them down. You may see a pattern emerge as can happen with dreams. As you become more tuned to coincidences, you will see that we also live in a symbolic world, a real life dream world. Events may become symbols as in novels and plays. Some of us learned this in childhood from a nursery rhyme:

“Row, row row your boat, gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”

An insightful interpretation of this rhyme can be found here.

Specific Uses of Certain Coincidences

Provide comfort and support

The most common use of coincidence, especially in times of distress, is to provide comfort and support. In this video Kathryn describes how connections with strangers and a Santa Fe jeweler helped to her feel that she was not alone and that everything would be alright. Pay attention to the feeling she had in response to the coincidence. Jung labelled it “numinous”. That feeling marks the coincidence to be significant.

Stimulate good feelings

Some coincidences are fun or enjoyable or aesthetically pleasing. Like fine entertainment and fine art, they help us feel good, that everything is right in the world. For example, a 24 year old woman, upon experiencing an amazing coincidence, told me, “It was like when your mom pulls the sheet over you, and it settles on you, and you feel you are in the right place.” p.221

Lock and key–providing just what we need

There it is, just what you are looking for or even something better. You recognize the fit between idea and object/person/event immediately or shortly thereafter. No ambiguity. A missing object mysteriously shows up, or a long lost relative suddenly appears or just the idea you needed for work or creativity saunters out in front of you. Your task is to grasp it or let it go.

Affirming love and connection

We seek connections with other. These bonds can be and are often supported by meaningful coincidences. In romantic love coincidences can be especially impactful which presents the lover with a two-sided coin. We have a tendency to believe that highly unlikely coincidences are encouraging us to believe that this relationship will last forever. The feeling they generate in us seems to strengthen the sense that eternity stretches out in front of us. Often this is not the case as described in this post.

In family relationships and friendship coincidences can strengthen bonds through the remarkable empathy that emerges through simulpathity. We feel the pain, distress and other feelings of a loved one at a distance. Rob Hopke describes many love synchronicities in his new book as has SQuire Rushnell.

Expanding awareness of personal powers

Simulpathity and human GPS suggest we have psychic abilities that are not recognized by modern science. Scientists have well-reasoned arguments against these potentials as summarized by statistician David Hand.

When we experience them ourselves, we may begin to question scientific orthodoxy. Each of us needs to be scientific in our approach to recognizing and using these abilities.

Being scientific requires becoming our own personal scientist as described by Gary Schwartz. Test your hypothesis in the real world: Gather evidence. Probe and observe the responses. Be careful about bias toward one conclusion over another. Compare your experiences with others. Read accessible research on the subject.

You will not have the opportunity to perform a controlled, blind experiment since coincidence experiences are difficult to systematically organize for study. At least at this time. You are functioning in the real world not in controlled environment of the laboratory.

Psychiatrists must take research done under controlled conditions and apply the results to the messy data set that many patients present. As an example of the problem of becoming your own scientist and yet the need to do so click here. You finally have to decide what is real based upon limited information.

Helping others through coincidences

Some coincidences directly involve other people. We are the intermediaries. It is as if we are players in someone else’s dream. See, for example, the tennis basket post.

Using synchronicity awareness as a spiritual path

Meaningful coincidences demonstrate that our minds and our environments are connected. They suggest that our minds are part of a Greater Mind.

Spiritual practices like meditation, ecstatic dancing, and fasting encourage us to go deeply into our mind and body to become consciously present in the Here-and-Now.

As a spiritual practice, synchronicity awareness takes a complementary position. On this path you look outward as well as inward.You discover that external events converging together in each moment are related to each other. By immersing yourself in awareness of the interconnections at this moment, you can enter Here-and-now.

Misuse of Coincidences

The dark side of meaningful coincidences tends to get less attention than the sunny side.Here are several ways they can be misused and hurtful.

Self aggrandizement

Repeated coincidences can foster an expanding sense of one’s own specialness. “The Universe is speaking directly to me so often! I must be quite wonderful to be the center of all this attention.” Correction: You are not the only person experiencing many coincidences.

Good for me, not good for you

Some coincidences have both positive and negative results, depending on your role in them. For example, a husband and wife are looking for a new house. They find one that he likes and she does not but someone else has put in a bid. The couple then finds out that the bid has been withdrawn. The husband jumps at the opportunity. They argue. This becomes the last straw in their long standing problematic relationship and their marriage ends.

In another example, robbers try to cash the forged personal check of a bank teller to whom they brought the check to cash. 125

Charlatans use probabilities against us

Tricky people can use coincidences to pull cash out of unsuspecting people. They use simple probabilities to catch their victims.

One group, presenting themselves as Microsoft, randomly calls people offering to help with their computer problems as described in this post. (Microsoft does not call people.)

Another offers to sell a “highly effective” investment advising newsletter:

Mr. Lucky receives a financial newsletter, no strings attached, at no cost. He glances at it. The financial advisor announces that there will be a dramatic rise in a specific stock index. And there is. The next newsletter trumpets his clever methods for making this prediction. It also predicts another rise in the index. And there is. Once again, the advisor reviews his metrics for this conclusion but this time forecasts a decline in the index. And down it goes. After several more of these accurate predictions, the newsletter editor asks Mr. Lucky to send $2,000 for future newsletters with a fuller range of trends and a greater potential for earning high returns.

Let’s look behind the scenes. By purchasing a list of investors with a net worth of over one million dollars, the financial advisor selected 128,000, half of whom received a newsletter predicting a rise in the index while the other half received a newsletter predicting a decline. To those 64,000 who got the correct prediction, he sent another set of newsletters, half predicting gains and half predicting losses. The 32,000 who received the correct prediction were then sent another set of newsletters, again, half predicting gains and half predicting losses. Mr. Lucky was one of the 16,000 for whom the financial advisor was “correct” three times in a row. He decided to wait for one more prediction. Unfortunately for him, he received a prediction that was again correct, so he joined many of the 8,000 investors who sent the advisor $2,000 for this variation on a scammer-created coincidences.

Over-weighting Coincidences in decision making

Coincidences can inform decision making but cannot be relied upon as the sole reason for a decision. Here is an example:

Sitting her car with her boyfriend, a 19 yo female was weighing the marriage proposal of her boyfriend. As she pondered, grandmother’s favorite song came on the radio. She decided that was the sign she needed and said yes.

She provided no more information than this. It seemed that her uncertainty may have had good reasons.

and another:

During the interview with the dean of the another medical school, the professor, who was applying for Chair of a department there, glanced at a pile of books on the dean’s bookshelf and spotted a thin book with a maroon cover and gold edges. The professor blurted: “I know that book.” The dean said, “That’s my favorite book!” They enthusiastically discussed the Christian theology of that book for the rest of the interview. At the end, they prayed together and gave thanks for their meeting. Subsequently, the dean eliminated all other chair candidates, much to the frustration of the departmental faculty, and hired the professor. The faculty could not work with him. His wife couldn’t create a positive social network. So they returned to the town from which they had come, wishing that that he had never accepted the job.

Living Life with Meaningful Coincidences

Expecting coincidences during daily life can become a way of living. They ebb and flow like ocean tides, coming in and moving out. They are more likely during major life events like birth and death both symbolic and real. They are also more likely to occur in times of high emotion, and need. They may pop up humorously and suggestively and mysteriously. They indicate that we are embedded in webs of meaning. They show us that we have abilities we may not have yet recognized.

We still must live the life of the 5 senses–driving the car, caring for loved ones, earning money, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of our bodies. We can learn to hold the multiplicity of our human capacities in balance, allowing our minds to gracefully meet the expectations of current and future demands. Synchronicity awareness then becomes part of the fluid landscape of our minds.

The Archetypal Themes of Synchronicity Stories: Meaningful coincidences fall into several narrative categories.

Categorizing coincidences is fundamental to the development of Coincidence Studies. At this time in its evolution, the four main categories that together describe most coincidences are: description, use, explanation and archetypal themes. There is some overlap among and between these categories.

Description begins with Mind and Thing variables as discussed in this previous post. Mind-Thing is a surprising match between a mental event with something in the environment. Thing-thing is a surprising series of two or more objects in the environment. Mind-Mind is communication between minds at a distance (e.g. simulpathity).

Use refers to the many ways coincidences may influence people including confirmation of the current path, help with decision making and spiritual development.

Explanation encompasses the many possible causes of coincidences ranging from probability to God as well as our own human contributions. Some propose complicated theories (eg. quantum mechanics and complexity) to explain coincidences. No single explanation can account for all meaningful coincidences.

In this post, we focus on the archetypal themes category which is divided into personal and socio-cultural-physics coincidences. Here “archetypal” refers to the enduring themes in coincidence stories. The themes are divided into the Personal coincidences and Socio-cultural-physics coincidences.

PERSONAL

Intuition Leads the Way: Information outside our usual ways of knowing contributes to actions that yield positive results.

A brother feels impelled to drive to the lake in a forest he had never visited before. He pulls up next to his 17 yo sister who has their father’s gun and is intending to shoot herself. He didn’t have any idea why he got into his car; he didn’t know where he was driving, or why he was going there. By following his intuition, he saved her life.

Help Somehow Arrives: You are in a dangerous situation, and you are unexpectedly rescued.

A woman about to pick up her abusive husband at the airport receives a wrong number call from a woman who has recently divorced her own abusive husband. After hearing the anxiety in the caller’s voice, the woman decides to not pick-up her husband and proceeds with separation. They are synchronicity sisters!

Animals and Plants Comfort and Highlight: Flowers and birds may offer condolences.

At a picnic, a woman grieving the loss of her 5-day-old child sees a small bird land on her breast. The bird stays there until she shoos it away, symbolizing for her letting go of the baby. p 124

Doing Something out of the Ordinary: Go this way instead of the usual way, getting lost or doing something different.

“My husband and I decided to buy and fix up the house we were currently renting. It was an okay place and seemed like the easiest thing to do. We drove to the bank and started the process of taking out a loan. On our way back to the house, my husband decided to go a different, longer way back. He said later he just felt like taking the alternate route. I spotted a woman putting up a “For Sale” sign for her house right as we passed by. We stopped. It was just what I wanted. We bought it! It was just the right place for our family.”

Talking with strangers: You sit down next to someone you do not know (on a bus, on a plane, in a waiting area) AND you begin a conversation that leads to romance, a business partner or other possibilities.

A young woman on a plane asks the young man who is sitting next to her for the time. She is wearing a large watch. Four years later they marry. A marriage made in heaven!

Context Mirrors Psychological Conflicts: Your environment symbolically reflects back the contents of an inner struggle.

A man intently considering divorce went to the local mall and saw five friends and acquaintances, each of whom was in the midst of divorce. Several weeks later he heard from three old friends, each of whom were divorced. This series of other people divorces made him realize: that he did not want to be one of them.

Imagining a desired future and it happens

A high school football and baseball player imagines running the opening kick-off back for a touchdown and hitting the first pitch of a game for a home run. He did both.

We are Intimately Connected with the Media: You think of a question and it is answered by the TV, radio, or internet. You think of something and it is reflected back by the media.

“A doctor walked into the hospital waiting room a moment ago and called my name…only to have the stranger next to me stand up alongside me…because we have the same name. I took that as my cue to message you…and as I’m typing this…the guy on tv is now singing a country song with the lyric “same last name”…and that lady and I are laughing.” (12/29/17 email from HAPPY Reading to me.)

The Machine Stops or Starts in Response to Intense Emotions

A church clock was lovingly looked after by a local doctor for decades and then stopped at precisely the moment he died.

The Weird Lost and Found Department: Lost items show up in the strangest ways.

A man brings an antique bracelet to a jewelry store to be valued. He had found it working in the sewer. During his discussion with the jeweler, a woman walks in and says. “That is my bracelet. I flushed it down the toilet.” (Plimmer and King, p. 137)

Intentional Coincidences to predict the future: Opening a holy book, using the I Ching or Tarot cards to grasp an image of the future

As a lowly member of his high school class, Winston took a preliminary examination to be placed in a much sought after position. He knew that, among other things, they would be asked to draw a map of a specific country unknown to the students. The night before the exam, he put the names of all the countries in the world in a hat and drew out New Zealand. He carefully memorized that map. The first question on the exam was: “Draw a map of New Zealand.” He received very high marks. The student was Winston Churchill, and the test got him into the military, which provided an essential step toward his becoming Prime Minister of England. (Winston Churchill, My Early Life (New York: Touchstone, 1930).

Deceiving others by creating a coincidence: Setting up a coincidence to lure someone into a problematic situation.

You are having computer problems. You have Microsoft software. You receive a call from someone telling you that your computer has problems needing to be fixed: it has a virus; it’s slow, or it’s sending out error messages. How wonderful! Someone at Microsoft knew of your troubles. What a great coincidence! Help just when you needed it.

Microsoft does not call people.

If you allow them to remotely control your computer, these scammers may be able to find your passwords and accounts and raid them.

The con artists are using the probability that one of their many calls will find someone with computer problems who do not know that Microsoft never calls.

The expected outcome of a coincidence does not happen: False positive coincidences

Just after he put his house on the market Dave heard from an old friend he had not talked with for many years. The friend was moving the Charlottesville and Dave’s house seemed perfect. The timing was great! Then his old friend changed his mind.

Coincidences involving coincidences: MetaCoincidences

As I am writing about psychotic coincidences, I receive an email from a woman in Australia. She is volunteering to do research for me if I am willing to pay. She is currently on anti-psychotic medications. When she was off her meds, she experienced many coincidences. She is volunteering now to reduce her medication dose and report the coincidences she sees. I declined her offer.

Some people see meaningful coincidences that do not exist: Psychotic Coincidences:

“The woman in the apartment next to ours keeps intruding on my mind. She is reading the same books I am. Her thoughts become my thoughts. I can’t think my own thoughts anymore! I have the evidence! Please help me figure this out.”

Her husband emailed me later and asked me not to respond to her emails since she is now on anti-psychotic medications and seeing a psychiatrist.

Social, Political and Physics Coincidences

Fiction predicts the future: Novels, cartoons, and other artistry provide unexpected windows into the future

Morgan Robertson’s 1898 book entitled “Futility” described the maiden voyage of a transatlantic luxury liner named Titan. Although it was touted as being unsinkable, the ship struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank with much loss of life. In 1912, the Titanic, a transatlantic luxury liner touted as unsinkable, struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic on her maiden voyage and sunk with great loss of life. In Robertson’s book, the disaster took place in April, as did the sinking of the Titanic. In the book, there were 3,000 passengers aboard the ship; on the Titanic, 2,207. In the book, there were 24 lifeboats; on the Titanic, 20.

Public machinery stops working in several different places around the same time.

On April 21, 2017, power outages took place around United States.

San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles were the three main areas that were hit the hardest. Each of the areas experienced problems or shutdowns in business commerce. Also, basic infrastructure such as communication networks, mass transportation, and supply chains experienced problems.

Chance meetings change the world

One evening in 1970, a young Navy lieutenant found himself outside the White House Situation Room with a parcel of sensitive Pentagon documents, waiting for someone to sign for them. He sat down beside a man in late middle age, who wore a dark suit and an unsmiling expression. The two men fell into conversation. Shortly afterward, the officer applied for a job as a reporter at the Washington Post. Soon, the F.B.I. man confided in the reporter, telling him that he believed that the Nixon Administration was corrupt, paranoid, and trying to infringe on the independence of the Bureau. In the summer of 1971, both men were promoted, one to the No. 3 job at the F.B.I., the other to the metropolitan staff of the Post. Within a year, their friendship became the most important reporter-source relationship in modern history. The reporter was Bob Woodward, who, with Carl Bernstein, led the coverage of the Watergate scandal and the fall of Richard Nixon. The F.B.I. man was Mark Felt, who, until he was in his nineties and revealed himself as Woodward’s source, was known to the world only as Deep Throat.

Multiple people make the same discovery around the same time in science-technology and the arts: Simultaneous discoveries

Commonly cited examples of multiple independent discoveries are the 17th-century independent formulation of calculus by Isaac Newton, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and others. The 18th-century discovery of oxygen by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Joseph Priestley, Antoine Lavoisier, and others; and the theory of evolution of species, independently advanced in the 19th century by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.

We live in a universe with mathematical constants that are just right for our existence. Cosmic Coincidences

Carbon-based life on Earth depends on a narrow range of many different cosmic constants. This is not a similarity-based coincidence. This set of numbers provides the coincidence that all these variables are “not too hot or not too cold but just right” for human existence. see Laurence Browne

Synchronicity and Symbols: We live in a symbolic matrix


Norse Tree of Life

I am developing a taxonomy for coincidences. Early botanists noticed similarities and differences among plants and categorized them; I’ve noticed similarities and differences among and between the coincidental flora in the forest of daily life.

To develop a scale for coincidence sensitivity, I asked participants to rate the frequency of common coincidences. The list of common coincidences was gleaned from a much longer group of possibilities. The result was the Weird Coincidence Survey. The 12 items of the WCS can be found on this website under “your coincidences”. You can take the survey to see how sensitive to coincidences you are.

From 1551 respondents to the WCS, the most common coincidences were:

I think of a question only to have it answered by an external source (i.e. radio, TV, or other people) before I can ask it.
I think of an idea and hear or see it on the radio, TV, or Internet.
I think of calling someone, only to have that person unexpectedly call me.
I advance in my work/career/education by being in the right place at the right time.

Most intriguing to me are the connections to our media. Are we becoming nodes in the vast internet connectivity? I explore this idea in this PT post.

Ray Grasse has a grander view. He starts with synchronicity and then expands to the symbols all around us. He notices what happens at the beginning of a process. One of his examples involves two people meeting for the first time and a car exploding outside as they talk. Foreboding for the relationship! And it was. The relationship did not go well.

Grasse quotes Emerson: “The whole world is an omen and a sign. Why look so wistfully in a corner? The voice of divination resounds everywhere and runs to waste unheard, unregarded, as the mountains echo with the bleatings of cattle.” (The Waking Dream, p.251)

You see a car on fire, a knife injures your foot, you have an argument with your spouse and Mars is in transit. Each of these has in common a force of some kind. To hear Ray talk about the expansion of symbol awareness in daily life please click here

Reference

Grasse, Ray. The Waking Dream (1996): Unlocking the symbolic language of our lives. Quest Books. Wheaton, Ilinois, USA

Beyond the Veil: Synchronicity and Near Death Experiences

Eben Alexander, MD
Near Death Experiences (NDEs) awaken minds to new realities. They tear through the web of ordinary life.

NDEs are profound subjective events at the threshold of death. They often include spiritual and paranormal elements, such as a sense of leaving the physical body, perceiving events at a distance, and encountering mystical entities and environments.

Bruce Greyson, MD, a pre-eminent NDE researcher, has shown that after these life-altering experiences, people report that they see more coincidences.

NDEs give the experiencer a place to stand outside of our conventional concepts of how the world works. Some people return from their excursions into greater consciousness to teach us how to better understand ourselves and help our age-old quest for peace and the expansion of human consciousness. Dr. Eben Alexander is one such teacher.

Here is Eben’s NDE story:

After decades as a physician and teacher at Harvard Medical School and elsewhere, academic neurosurgeon, Alexander thought he knew how the brain, mind, and consciousness worked. A transcendental NDE during a week-long coma from an inexplicable brain infection changed all of that—completely. Memories of his life had been completely deleted, yet he awoke with memories of a fantastic odyssey deep into another realm—more real than this earthly one!

Since his 2008 NDE he has been reconciling his rich spiritual experience with contemporary physics and cosmology. By probing deeply into our own consciousness, we transcend the limits of the human brain, and of the physical-material realm. His story offers a crucial key to the understanding of reality and human consciousness.

To hear him describe more about what he learned, please click here.

I Ching and Intentional Meaningful Coincidences: Toss the coins and see the future?

I Ching, The Song Dynasty

The I Ching, also known as the Book of Changes, is humanity’s oldest oracle. It is regularly consulted on matters relating to business, relationships, politics and other aspects of life. It is the pre-eminent book among the six Confucian Classics. The I Ching influenced the development of various Chinese philosophical systems, including Taoism, Confucianism, and the Yin-Yang School.

Throwing the coins of the I Ching intentionally creates coincidences between the mind of the asker and the pages in the book. Like all mantic methods, it is intended to clarify the present and predict the future. The I Ching originated within the worldview of ancient China in which the spiritual aspect of reality was accorded equal importance to the physical and psychic aspects. (Main, p. 142). It is based on the idea that events “fall together in time”. Its readings then reflect the current state of now. The readings symbolically mirror what is going on in the present.

Using the I Ching is a form of bibliomancy, the random selection of passages from a sacred book. The I Ching is a collection of sixty-four, six-line figures “hexagrams” with each figure having a name which is elaborated upon in its accompanying text.

The website DecisionPointIChing.com, and its blogs show how the wisdom of the I Ching can be elicited to comment on political and cultural activities as well as personal decision making. To learn more about the I Ching please visit this website, and listen to its creator Mary Kay Landon discussing it with me here.

Landon recommends these 4 books:

The I Ching, or Book of Changes. (1950/1967). (R. Wilhelm & C.F. Baynes, trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Arguably the first authoritative translation of the I Ching into English, this version includes famed Swiss psychiatrist Carl G. Jung’s Foreword in which he discusses—and demonstrates—how the I Ching provides an example of his theory of synchronicity. This translation is also notable in that it includes a complete translation of “The Ten Wings,” Confucius-era philosophical commentaries on the images and meanings associated with the much older basic text.

Wing, R. L. The Illustrated I Ching. (1982). Garden City, NY: Dolphin Books (Doubleday & Co., Inc.). The companion volume to the author’s The I Ching Workbook, it offers an accessible, plain-language description of the meaning of the hexagrams and provides a simplified coin method for consulting the oracle. As such, it serves as a suitable and faithful introduction to the I Ching. The explanation for each hexagram is also accompanied by a Chinese illustration that depicts its meaning. Line text descriptions do not include translations of the original text.

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Karcher, Stephen. The I Ching: The Classic Chinese Oracle of Change. The First Complete Translation with Concordance. (2002). London: Vega. This translation offers multiple direct translations for each character appearing in the ancient Chinese text (i.e., “concordance”) along with author commentaries on the hexagrams and most of the line texts. As such, it offers the experienced practitioner a choice of interpretations on both the hexagrams and line texts, which can provide additional insights into unclear readings. Not recommended for beginners.

Huang, Alfred. The Complete I Ching. (1998). Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions. This is Mary Kay’s favorite translation at this point because it offers a Chinese perspective on the judgments of the hexagrams and line texts, as well as in its descriptions of the meanings of the Chinese ideograph for each hexagram. These ideographs offer another layer of meaning and insight into this ancient oracle. The author’s clear language and presentation of the material makes this also an appropriate translation for thoughtful beginners.

Beyond the Veil: Synchronicity and Near Death Experiences


Eben Alexander, MD

Near Death Experiences (NDEs) awaken minds to new realities. They tear through the web of ordinary life.

NDEs are profound subjective events at the threshold of death. They often include spiritual and paranormal elements, such as a sense of leaving the physical body, perceiving events at a distance, and encountering mystical entities and environments.

Bruce Greyson, MD, a pre-eminent NDE researcher, has shown that after these life-altering experiences, people report that they see more coincidences.

NDEs give the experiencer a place to stand outside of our conventional concepts of how the world works. Some people return from their excursions into greater consciousness to teach us how to better understand ourselves and help our age-old quest for peace and the expansion of human consciousness. Dr. Eben Alexander is one such teacher.

Here is Eben’s NDE story:

After decades as a physician and teacher at Harvard Medical School and elsewhere, academic neurosurgeon, Alexander thought he knew how the brain, mind, and consciousness worked. A transcendental NDE during a week-long coma from an inexplicable brain infection changed all of that—completely. Memories of his life had been completely deleted, yet he awoke with memories of a fantastic odyssey deep into another realm—more real than this earthly one!

Since his 2008 NDE he has been reconciling his rich spiritual experience with contemporary physics and cosmology. By probing deeply into our own consciousness, we transcend the limits of the human brain, and of the physical-material realm. His story offers a crucial key to the understanding of reality and human consciousness.

To hear him describe more about what he learned, please click here.