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Synchronicity Statistics: Finding the Place of Probability in Coincidence Studies

The study of coincidences requires a basic education in probability. Why? Because the lower the probability (or the higher the improbability), the more likely that there is a hidden cause or explanation. How do we determine the probability of a coincidence? When is it possible to explain a coincidence by probability alone?

Gary Schwartz, PhD

In most coincidences, multiple influences produce the outcome. I call these influences vexing vectors. They are vexing to human minds because it is difficult to keep several of them in mind at the same time. One cause for one effect is easier.

Vectors are lines of varying force that influence an outcome. The various forces creating coincidences include probability, personal responsibility, and the parapsychological including telepathy and clairvoyance as well as the mysterious. The mysterious includes God, spirits, quantum holograms, entanglement, complexity theory and many others.

In discussing coincidences conventional statisticians use probability in the following way: it happened so it has a probability, therefore it could happen, so probability explains it because there is a probability of it happening. This is circular reasoning.

Gary Schwartz is working on a Probability for Coincidences or, as he calls, it Synchronicity Statistics. He estimates how many lifetimes it would take for an ultra-low probability coincidence to come into existence. Some probabilities are so low that Gary calls them “astronomically improbable” in his new book Super Synchronicity. To listen to our probability discussion on my radio show Connecting with Coincidence, click here.

Categorizing Coincidences: Different Strokes for Different Coincidences.

Currently coincidences are lumped under one umbrella but not all coincidences are created equal! The new discipline of Coincidence Studies begins with defining and establishing the primary categories of coincidences. In this way we can investigate differences and similarities among coincidence types. By creating the primary categories, we will find, among other things, that different types of coincidences have different processes, explanations and uses.

The primary methods used to categorize coincidences:

* Morphology involves classifying objects in a group by shape. In biology, for example, morphology deals with the form and structure of animals and plants. Like zoology and botany coincidences can be categorized by their common shapes. Shape differences help sharpen our understanding of function and cause. Does the coincidence involve a mental event or not? Are there more than 2 events involved? We will further explore the form and structure, or morphology, of coincidences later in this article.

* Process refers to the various sequences of events that help create the coincidence like “sitting down next to a stranger”.

* Explanations include possible causes the two most prominent of which are God and randomness.

* Uses covers the potential impact of coincidences including advice, support and supplying just what is needed.

Mind and Thing: The Basis for Morphology

A coincidence is usually defined as the surprising intersection of two or more similar events with no apparent cause.

The events making up a coincidence involve either an intrapsychic event (Mind) and/or an observable event in the environment (Thing). These two possibilities create three categories: Mind-Thing, Mind-Mind and Thing-Thing.

I. Mind-Thing: the intersection of a mental event with an environmental event. Mind-thing coincidences include but are not limited to:

* Synchronicity: a mental pattern matches an environmental event possibly offering significant psychological change as illustrated by Jung’s scarab.

* Serendipity: unexpectedly finding needed people, things or ideas as illustrated by the amazing series of events involving the discovery and manufacture of penicillin.

* Precognition: imagining something to happen and then finding that it happens

II. Mind-Mind: the intersection of two mental events. Two (or more) people experience a similar thought and/or feeling at a distance usually around the same time:

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* Telepathy: two people simultaneously have similar dreams or thoughts

* Simulpathity: experiencing the pain of a loved one at a distance

III. Thing-Thing: the appearance of two or more unexpected, similar, environmental events. Also called seriality. The difference between mind-thing and thing-thing is that a 3rd person can observe the matches.

Specific examples: Simultaneous discoveries, Doppelgangers, a long string of similar symbols (e.g. monkeys).

Morphology subsets includes those created by the conscious intention of the coincider. Consciously intended coincidences include:

1) Creative visualization: imagining a desired something and then it happens.

psychokinesis: moving an object with mental intention

2) Non-Coincidence: person expects a certain match and it does not come.

3) The mantic arts like tarot cards and I Ching. The seeker is consciously creating a potentially meaningful coincidence between one’s personal situation and the cards or coins.

4) Reincarnation research. Researchers record details of people described by young children and then actively search for the past existence of such a person. A strong similarity becomes a coincidence in need of explanation. Reincarnation pairing resembles a doppelganger in the current life.

5) Near Death Experiences: Researchers intentionally test the hypothesis that there is a similarity among the reports of people on the brink of death and returning to life. These reports form a serial coincidence.

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6) 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 coincidence is that all these variables are “not too hot or not too cold but just right” for human existence.

Continuous Variables: Probability, Similarity, and Temporality

* Mind-Thing, Mind-Mind and Thing-Thing are discrete variables, meaning they are distinct from from each other. Think of 2 or more marbles. Most coincidences can be placed in one of these groups. Other descriptive features involve continuous variables. Continuous variables are connected to each other. Think of a road. These features include:

* Probability–the likelihood of a coincidence is calculated by multiplying the base rates of each event components. Some coincidences are highly likely while others are ultra-low probability.

* Similarity of coincidence components—exactly the same or is there only some degree of similarity? Maybe you were thinking of a song, “Hey Jude” and it started playing on the radio, an exact match. Or maybe you were thinking of “Hey Jude” but another Beatles song started playing instead: a degree of similarity but not an exact match.

* Temporality–the time span between the appearance of the components

Future posts will address the other three categories: process, explanation and use.

A Coincidence Involving the Recent U.S. Power Grid Failure

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

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

The first outage occurred at around 7:20 a.m. in New York, when the power went down at the 7th Avenue and 53rd Street subway station. By 11:30 a.m. the city’s transportation authority confirmed that generators were running again in the station, although the New York subways were set to run delayed into the afternoon.

Later in the morning, power outages were reported at Los Angeles International Airport, as well as in several other areas around the city.

The San Francisco’s fire department responded to more than 100 calls for service in the Financial District and beyond, including 20 elevators with people stuck inside. Traffic lights were out at scores of intersections.

Because this triple simultaneous coincidence has a low probability, it is open to speculation about cause. Was it a cyberattack? Was it a geomagnetic storm? Is there one point at which the entire grid is vulnerable? Or was it somehow related to the liberal politics of San Francisco and New York City?

We may never know.

If a person with an alcohol problem is confronted, in a short period of time, with different events that suggest drinking is a major problem, this series of coincidences can act as a wake up call to do something about it. As a nation we can derive the same conclusion from this coincidence. Our electronic grid is woefully weakened and needs to be redone.

What is the source of this coincidence? A higher intelligence trying to communicate with us? Or a random event onto which we can put our own meaning.

Either way, the message is clear.

Seriality vs Synchronicity: Kammerer vs Jung: Can synchronicities be explained naturally rather than metaphysically?

While Jung insisted that meaningful coincidences could be explained through the “constellation” (activation) of archetypes, his contemporary Paul Kammerer thought they could be explained by current scientific principles. John Townley is keeping Kammerer’s perspective alive and evolving. To listen to our radio interview please click here.

John Townley writes:

“Paul Kammerer (1880-1926) was an Austrian biologist who studied and advocated the Lamarckian theory of inheritance–namely that environmentally induced genetic changes in the parent could influence the genetics of the offspring. His work was condemned by followers of the incoming Darwinian theory. However, he has recently been recognized as having uncovered the principles of epigenetics, far ahead of his time.

“Equally important may have been Kammerer’s other passion–collecting coincidence stories. He published a book with the title Das Gesetz der Serie (The Law of the Series, 1919) in which he recounted some 100 example anecdotes of coincidences organized into types, sub-types, and families, not unlike Linnaeus’s biological categories.

“He proposed that coincidences are actually just visible peaks of larger moving entities of organized information, which he called “constellations of bodies and forces” that displayed affinity and attraction under natural law. He developed some basic principles of how it might work, drawing on the physics of his time, including an “imitation hypothesis”, an “attraction hypothesis” and the principle of “persistence”, an extension of inertia that applied to systems and information as well as physical bodies. Again ahead of his time, much of what he describes as “seriality” is similar to what has more recently developed in chaos, complexity, and catastrophe theories.

“Albert Einstein himself called Kammerer’s theories “interesting, and by no means absurd”, while Carl Jung later drew upon Kammerer’s work in his essay Synchronicity. But Kammer’s approach to coincidence is almost the opposite of Jung’s, who attributed most of “synchronicity” to the inner world of the subconscious and psychological “archetypes”. Kammerer believed coincidences happen externally, as a part of less-obvious ongoing real-world systems, and we just notice them, more or less selectively, as they rise to the level of our attention.

“By removing coincidence from the murky world of individual psychological projection, he opens up possibilities of research that views the specific incidents as part of a larger, shared structure. His refreshingly-physical approach may be a helpful key in studying all sorts of anomalistic events and uncovering hidden patterns in fields as far apart as parapsychology, homeopathy, astrology, ritual, epidemiology, criminology, historical anthropology, creativity and the arts, and statistics.”

To hear Townley discuss Kammerer, please listen to our interview here.

For Townley’s synopsis of Kammerer’s ideas please click here.

If you would like to read an introduction to the translation of The Law of Seriality or request a copy of the full translation, please click here.

Factors that Increase Coincidence Frequency

What factors increase coincidence frequency? The answers involve the coincider (the person experiencing the coincidence) and the person’s situation.

Personal characteristics

People who see lots of coincidences describe themselves as spiritual and/or religious. Research also shows that coincidence-sensitive people tend to be self-referential, intuitive, and are seeking meaning in life. These personal characteristics have in common the increased tendency to make connections between inner states and external events.

Self-referential means that the person easily makes causal connections between environmental events and the self. For example, “Very few people came to our dance tonight. Maybe they knew I would be here.”

Intuitive means that the person’s thinking tends to bypass rationality and logic. Ideas come from out of the blue. For example, “I use gut feelings to guide me.”

People seeking meaning in life are scanning their environments and their minds for connections that lead to better understanding of their place in current reality.

For more details about this research, please click here

Situational Characteristics.

The circumstances that increase coincidence creation usually involve transition, high emotion, and need. These situationally altered states of consciousness include death of a loved one, sickness, job change, romance, and creativity. The outcomes in these situations are uncertain or indeterminate—meaning that the outcome is unknown. Without the momentum of predictable event sequences, new things can happen. The web of regular reality has been torn.

During transition people are usually more alert to their environments. They are looking for clues to their futures during this current reduction in predictability.

In the Flow

As positive psychology suggests, we are sometimes able to sync up with our surroundings. We can be dancing to the rhythms of our minds in concert with the events around us. Our thoughts seem to match, to parallel, to approximate the events of our surroundings. Getting into the flow can involve “meditation-in-motion” through which you let the rhythms move you.

Take Home Message

To increase the frequency of coincidence, activate your ability to scan both your mind and your environment, especially during uncertain times. This subconscious scanning will automatically look for matches between thoughts and events. Like the winning buzzer in an old TV game show, an alert to a parallel will be activated. You will then be challenged to do something about it—ignore, embrace, study, tell a friend or follow the implied suggestion. You may discover clues to some of the unsolved mysteries of reality.

The Connecting with Coincidence Radio Show Library

The weekly radio show CC with BB: Connecting with Coincidence with Dr. Bernie Beitman, MD, now has its own on-line library. You can go to the library here.

Welcome to the only radio show in the world dedicated to coincidences, synchronicity and serendipity!

Episodes 1 and 2: The series begins with my 2 lectures on Coincidence Studies. The aims of this new discipline include developing categories for coincidences: form, process, use and explanation.

3) Psychologist Gibbs Williams discusses the psychodynamics of coincidences–how we sometimes create coincidences to solve psychological conflicts.

4) Authors Trish and Rob MacGregor’s provide us with a wide ranging discussion of psi and coincidences with a focus on precognition.

5) Occupational therapist Kathy Meyers discusses the overwhelming barrage of coincidences occurring after a high school reunion and how coincidence counseling helped her make sense of it all.

6) Jungian teacher Gary Bobroff discusses Jungian archetypes and coincidences emphasizing how archetypes are so much a part of the human psyche.

7) Psychologist Gary Schwartz introduces Super Synchronicity, the subject of his recent book and evidence for greater intelligence being involved in our lives.

9) Psychologist Frank Pasciuti describes some remarkable coincidences that took place during psychotherapy.

10) Director David Strabala takes us on a tour of how he made his movie What is Synchronicity?

11) Jennifer Palmer, central character of the movie Synchronicity and the Collective Dream, describes how her real life experiences and the events of the movies overlap.

12) Philosopher Michael Grosso tell us how coincidences and religion interweave and helps us recognize the value of being in control of our own thoughts.

Look for future shows at this same address!

What Is Synchronicity? An interview with feature documentary director David Strabala.

While counseling a troubled teen, David Strabala wondered how this boy kept finding himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. Could he arrange his life to be in the right place at the right time? Wasn’t this a synchronicity question?

Inspired by the teen’s struggle and always the story teller, Strabala set about producing and directing the movie What Is Synchronicity? During his interview on my Connecting with Coincidence radio show, Strabala tells us several of the many coincidences that helped make the movie happen. His stories once again illustrate how being involved with coincidences increases their appearance.

One of his instructive personal coincidences involved a romantic relationship that he had just ended. A week after they both agreed to break up, he was stopped behind a car that was the exact make and model of his ex-girlfriend’s car. The driver looked very much like his ex. Then he noticed her license plate: “Wait 4 Me” it said. He took this as a sign that he should probably get back together with her. It seemed to mean that their relationship was meant to be.

He met with her and she agreed. They remained together for several years but the relationship never could progress to the marriage he thought he wanted. They separated once again.

Strabala thought back about that license plate. Wait a minute! The sign was not “get back together,” it was “wait.” He had done so much waiting in his life! The sign then reflected how his pattern of waiting had run its course, given their mutual doubts about marriage. He needed to accept how their energy had shifted and choose gratitude for the time they were together.

Listen to the entire interview here.

As I suggest in this Psychology Today post, meaningful coincidences like this do not necessarily mean the relationship is meant to be…. forever. So many people pass in and out of our lives This one was meant to be for a limited time, until Strabala learned what he needed to know.

As Above, So Below—a Sky/Brain Coincidence

Tomisiti Public DomainHermesTrismegistus
Source: Tomisiti Public Domain

Hermes Trismegistus, thought to be an an ancient Egyptian philosopher, wrote “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below…” The phrase has been summarized as “As above, so below.”

Here is an example.

The Spectrum of Brain Waves

Brain waves are electromagnetic currents generated by our brains that can be measured by electroencephalography (EEG). These currents range across a spectrum from about 4 Hz to 60 Hz. Hz (Hertz) refers to the number of cycles per second. A cycle in 1 second would be 1 Hertz; 100 cycles in a second is 100 Hertz.

The image below from the first human EEG recording by Hans Berger has 2 lines. The upper line is the EEG.The lower line is a 10 Hz timing signal. In the upper line, the more frequent the waves, the higher the Hertz.

Source: Public Domain–Wikipedia

The Spectrum of the Schumann Resonance

The ionosphere begins about 40 miles above the Earth’s surface. It contain ions, which are negatively and positively charged particles created by solar winds. Between the Earth’s surface and the ionosphere is an electromagnetic cavity which can hold electromagnetic currents. The lightning that frequently occurs in this cavity, generates electromagnetic currents. These currents bounce between the edge of the ionosphere and the Earth’s surface. The currents range across a spectrum from about 4 Hz to 60 Hz. These waves are called the Schumann resonances.

Schumann resonance created by lightning between the ionosphere and Earth’s surface
Source: Wikipedia

The human EEG and Schumann resonances occupy a very similar electromagnetic spectrum!

As with many coincidences, the similarity between these two spectra suggests that there is a link between them. We just don’t know what it is…yet.

Meditation and the Fundamental Frequency

Within this similarity between the two wave spectra lies another intriguing coincidence.

Meditation, relaxed states, and creative states—as well as the transition between sleep and wakefulness—are characterized by EEG frequencies around 4-8 Hz. During these states our minds tend to have a tenuous connection to ordinary reality. We are “up in the air.”

The fundamental frequency of the Schumann resonances is 7.83Hz. The fundamental frequency is the lowest frequency of a periodic waveform. The wavelength of this fundamental frequency is equal to the circumference of the Earth.

So, the fundamental frequency of the Schumann resonance falls within the range of the meditative, creative, and relaxed states of the human brain.

This presents another coincidence that suggests a connection between the the Schumann resonance and our brains.

What does this brain-sky coincidence mean?

We humans have long used coincidences as signals for possible causal connections. A baby cries because she is hungry or tired or thirsty. The mother comes. This is at first a coincidence. Then the baby realizes that if she cries, the mother comes. A causal link has been found and then used.

Science has often proceeded through coincidences. Please see my book Connecting with Coincidence to find examples, especially the discovery and production of penicillin.

What do you think is the connection between overlapping of the EEG and Schumann Resonance spectra? What do you think is the relationship between meditative states and the Schumann fundamental frequency? After collecting some of your speculations, I will add my own.

Some Coincidences are too Good to be True

microsoft_building_17_front_door Microsoft

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.

But Microsoft does not call people. These callers hope to find those people who are actually having trouble. If you talk with them, they will ask you to turn over to them control of your computer. They will hook you up to their computers through remote desktop software so they can “fix it”. Many tech helpers do just that, ask for your permission to take over the controls. If you allow them to remotely control your computer, these scammers may be able to find your passwords and accounts and raid them. (See this online discussion group.)

The con artists are using probability and probability alone. They guess that one of their many calls will find someone with computer problems (always happening to someone), who does not know that Microsoft never calls. Nothing personal. Just numbers. If you bite on this coincidence, it will become very personal.

Related Stories

How Madoff made off with other people’s money and financial newsletter writers can trick you into subscribing. See Connecting with Coincidence p. 164-6.

Is a Barrage of Coincidences Challenging Your Sanity? Try coincidence counseling.


Ohio Stadium–2007.

A barrage of coincidences can challenge world views by their existential significance and the fear of the immensity they imply.

They may also induce the brain to try to expect a meaning in everything, which may lead to heightened “associative thinking,” compared to the normal state of mind. The person sees coincidences everywhere and misses elements of real life.

Kathy Meyers

Having not attended a high school reunion in 20 years, Kathy Meyers felt compelled to attend her 45th reunion in July 2015. After renewing old connections, why did she start experiencing a long series of coincidences? They occurred as many as five times a week. Some made her laugh. Others were right time, right place. Many others were in what she called the “give me chills” category. She began to question her sanity or at the very least her long-held belief system.

So, was it a coincidence that one of those series of coincidences led her to re-discover Carl Jung and synchronicity? Then, led her to discover my website? She thought about contacting me for a consult. She did not need a standard psychiatric evaluation since she was happier than she had been in a long time. Many people told that her joy was contagious.

Then in April 2016, what compelled Kathy to attend an Ohio State University spring football game even after she was warned there would be 100,000 people and parking would be a nightmare? She randomly selected gate 18 out of 30 to enter. She started talking to a family of five who were waiting in line in front of her. They had driven to Columbus the night before from Virginia (to watch a practice game?!?) Neither parent had graduated from Ohio State, both were originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and were now living in a rural area of Virginia. They wanted their three kids to experience a big college stadium. Kathy thought OK, with 3 kids to pay $5 each to drive this far to watch the Buckeyes, maybe there is something else. She asked if they were from Charlottesville (because that is where I live). No, they lived about 90 minutes to the northwest. She explained that she had been having a bunch of weird coincidences and was considering scheduling an appointment with someone doing Coincidence Studies. That was when the man said, “Oh, you mean Dr. Bernard Beitman, the Yale-educated psychiatrist studying coincidences?” The man had heard me interviewed on the radio. Then his wife said to Kathy, “Is that another one of your weird coincidences?” Gate 18 out of 30!? Out of 100,000 people!? Kathy finds a man from Virginia who knows about me! How does one estimate the low probability of that happening? She took this as a sign to drive from Ohio to Charlottesville to consult with me.

We met for 90 minutes each of 3 consecutive days. We discussed her many coincidences, large and small.

She returned to Ohio more confident in her intuition, more willing to engage others in conversation and connection, and more willing to follow the “compels” that helped to produce coincidences. She decided to put an end to her miserable marriage. The many coincidences had become teachers for her, urging her to individuate, to become herself.

As was Kathy’s experience, a barrage of coincidence makes it difficult for coinciders to step back and analyze. A third person can be helpful—a relative, a friend or a professional person. Kathy’s series was so overwhelming that she needed someone who could help her categorize her coincidences, see the themes, and help her come to some conclusions.

She is one of the first clients in a new discipline—coincidence counseling.