Category Archives: Monday

EP210, Ralph Blumenthal: Portals to UFOs

You Can Listen to This Episode on AnchorFM!

A New York Times reporter chases coincidences to uncover fantastic stories.

In this episode, Ralph Blumenthal describes his journey from New York Times crime reporter to writing about alien abduction. He believes in the power of books to “choose their authors,” rather than seeing the process as authors always being the ones to choose what books they will write.

Ralph gives a sample story of the coincidences revealed in his work: Noted Harvard psychiatrist and alien abduction researcher John E. Mack was run down and killed by a drunk driver in London on the night of Sept. 27, 2004, days before his 75th birthday. At nearly the same time, J. Wesley Boyd, a fellow psychiatrist and protege of Mack’s at Harvard, was landing in St. Petersburg, Russia, to attend a medical conference. In a taxi from the airport, Boyd looked out of the window to see a car ram into a crossing pedestrian. Boyd saw the man’s head slam onto the sidewalk and his legs crumple under the car. Later Boyd learned that his friend John Mack had been run over and killed in London at almost the same time, and in a very similar way. He was haunted by the painful synchronicity. 

Connecting with Coincidence with Bernard Beitman, MD (CCBB) is now offered as both an audio podcast–anywhere that podcasts are available–and in video format on the Connecting with Coincidence YouTube channel. Please SUBSCRIBE to our channel to be notified when future episodes are posted! Also available, there are 138 archived episodes of the CCBB podcast available, HERE. We would love to hear from you as well! If you have a coincidence story to share, please leave it in the comments below, and we will respond. 

Our guest Ralph Blumenthal is a Distinguished Lecturer at Baruch College of the City University of New York, and was an award-winning reporter for The New York Times from 1964 to 2009. Ralph has written and co-authored seven books on organized crime and cultural history. He co-authored the recent series of groundbreaking Times articles on the secret Pentagon program to investigate UFOs. He led the Times metro team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the 1993 truck-bombing of the World Trade Center. In 2001, Blumenthal was named a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to research the progressive career and penal reforms of Warden Lewis E. Lawes, “the man who made Sing Sing sing.” The book on Warden Lawes, “Miracle at Sing Sing,” was published by St. Martin’s in June, 2004. His most recent book is “The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack,” published March 15, 2021 by High Road Books of the University of New Mexico Press. Learn more at www.ralphblumenthal.com.

Our host Dr. Bernard Beitman is the first psychiatrist since Carl Jung to attempt to systematize the study of coincidences. He is Founding Director of The Coincidence Project. His book, and his Psychology Today blog, are both titled Connecting with Coincidence. He has developed the first valid and reliable scale to measure coincidence sensitivity, and has written and edited coincidence articles for Psychiatric Annals. He is a visiting professor at the University of Virginia and former chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He attended Yale Medical School and completed a psychiatric residency at Stanford. Dr. Beitman has received two national awards for his psychotherapy training program and is internationally known for his research into the relationship between chest pain and panic disorder. Learn more at https://coincider.com.

CCBB Episode 208, J.M. DeBord: Dreaming Life with Synchronicity

You can also LISTEN HERE to the episode via AnchorFM

“Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” Here’s some evidence.  

In this episode, J.M. DeBord explores the relationship between dreams and synchronicity. For example, a young man starts dreaming about an anime show, and then discovers that it’s a real show. Further stories of incredible dream-real life coincidences follow.  

Connecting with Coincidence with Bernard Beitman, MD (CCBB) is now offered as both an audio podcast–anywhere that podcasts are available–and in video format on the Connecting with Coincidence YouTube channel. Please SUBSCRIBE to our channel to be notified when future episodes are posted! Also available, there are 138 archived episodes of the CCBB podcast available, HERE

Our guest J.M. DeBord is the author of four books, including the the best-selling Dream Interpretation Dictionary. He is the creator of RadOwl’s Dream School and a longtime moderator of the largest and most popular online community for dream sharing: dreams.reddit.com. He’s also a student of Carl Jung’s psychology and a moderator of that subreddit. Learn more at https://jmdebord.com or https://Dreamschool.net. 

Our host Dr. Bernard Beitman is the first psychiatrist since Carl Jung to attempt to systematize the study of coincidences. He is Founding Director of The Coincidence Project. His book, and his Psychology Today blog, are both titled Connecting with Coincidence. He has developed the first valid and reliable scale to measure coincidence sensitivity, and has written and edited coincidence articles for Psychiatric Annals. He is a visiting professor at the University of Virginia and former chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He attended Yale Medical School and completed a psychiatric residency at Stanford. Dr. Beitman has received two national awards for his psychotherapy training program and is internationally known for his research into the relationship between chest pain and panic disorder. Learn more at https://coincider.com.

CCBB Episode 206, David Hench: A Poker Player Rolls the Synchronicity Dice

Poker players create coincidences. They play with random chance. Some can tilt the card shuffle in their direction while carefully playing by the rules. David Hench has survived the odds and now tells us about his coincidence-filled life of chance, statistics and poker cards. View on YouTube HERE, or listen on AnchorFM HERE.

Connecting with Coincidence with Bernard Beitman, MD (CCBB) is available as both an audio podcast–anywhere that podcasts are available–and in video format on the Connecting with Coincidence YouTube channel. Please SUBSCRIBE [https://www.youtube.com/c/Coinciders/featured?sub_confirmation=1] to our channel to be notified when future episodes are posted! 138 archived episodes of the CCBB podcast are also available, HERE: https://www.spreaker.com/show/dr-bernie-beitman-md. We would love to hear from you as well! If you have a coincidence story, please leave it in the comments below, and we will respond.

In this episode, we discuss with professional poker player and author David Hench his views on the significance of synchronicity and whether the universe is what it appears to be. David has always been intrigued by both sports statistics and palindromes, and became a trivia champion, forever keeping an eye on palindromes in letters or numbers. So imagine his surprise when, at age 50, he ordered his birth certificate and saw that he had been delivered into this world by a “Dr. Staats,” and that, beyond that uncanny coincidence, the certificate was littered with palindromes. Both the doctor’s first name (Bob) and last name (Staats) were palindromes, as was his time of birth: 6:06 PM. So David is a statictics (a.k.a.’stats’) fanatic, delivered into the world by Dr. Staats (both homonym for “stats’ and a palindrome). An auspicious debut into a life filled with synchronicities.

About our Guest

Our guest David Hench is a lifelong poker player, until recently. He is the author of a poker humor column called “Joker Journal,” and he later compiled the column into a book of poker humor. He’s currently a writer of spiritual, inspirational, human interest, sports and humor topics. In my writing now, he is an advocate for the true self of people. Learn more about David Hench at Sojourner-Publications.com.

About our Host

Our host Dr. Bernard Beitman is the first psychiatrist since Carl Jung to attempt to systematize the study of coincidences. He is Founding Director of The Coincidence Project. His book, and his Psychology Today blog, are both titled Connecting with Coincidence. He has developed the first valid and reliable scale to measure coincidence sensitivity, and has written and edited coincidence articles for Psychiatric Annals. Dr. Beitman is a visiting professor at the University of Virginia and former chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He attended Yale Medical School and completed a psychiatric residency at Stanford, has received two national awards for his psychotherapy training program, and is internationally known for his research into the relationship between chest pain and panic disorder. Learn more at https://coincider.com.

Do Coincidences Save Lives?

Some coincidences involve an uncanny timing of events that delay the time of death or disability. Following are some of those many stories.

 Clinic Painter (eponymous vase)/Wikimedia Commons

User:Bibi Saint-Pol, own work, 2007-07-21Source: Clinic Painter (eponymous vase)/Wikimedia Commons

Pediatrician Harley Rotbart collected many such stories in his physician-contributed anthology called Miracles We Have Seen: America’s Leading Physicians Share Stories They Can’t Forget. One striking example from this collection involved Father Carl. This beloved priest finished rounds on his hospitalized parishioners in a suburban Boston hospital. He then got into an otherwise empty elevator, pressed the button for the lobby, and collapsed from a massive heart attack.

But somehow the elevator didn’t go to the lobby—instead, the doors opened on the second floor, the floor housing the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU), where the cardiologist in charge of the unit was waiting at the elevator to go upstairs to make his rounds. The cardiologist immediately took charge of the unconscious priest and set about the necessary treatment. Had the elevator not deposited him on just the right floor with just the right person, Father Carl would have died.

During an evaluation of her cancer, physicians scanned the brain of politician Jennifer Kitchen of Craigsville, Virginia, for metastasizes. They found an aneurysm that would soon burst and disable or kill her. 

Janet Payne of Kinkcora, Prince Edward Island, Canada, was approaching a stoplight with her three children in the back seat. Although the light had turned green, she stopped a few yards from the intersection to adjust the seat belt of one of the children. She turned back to drive and saw a truck speed through the intersection that would have hit her had she proceeded through.

One of our study patients at the University of Missouri-Columbia research (see this Psychology Today post) reported that she was in her car at an intersection when the light turned green. At that moment, the phone rang. It was her brother who rarely calls and whom she thinks of as her guardian angel. She looked up to see a truck barreling through the red light. It would have hit hurt had she not paused to answer the phone.

Psychologist Chris Mackey of Geelong, Australia, has several reports of people being saved from suicide by coincidences.

A man was in a hidden quarry about to lose consciousness from carbon monoxide poisoning when the cellphone next to him rang. He answered it and gave enough of a reluctant hint of where he was to be found in the nick of time. He then felt he was meant to live and made a full and lasting recovery from depression.

Another man had a gun in his mouth, about to pull the trigger, when he looked out the window to see a blackbird looking at him. The bird took flight and smashed into the window and died. The man thought that the bird had died so he could live. He went to rehab for his drug addiction, recovered, and began living normally.article continues after advertisement

Chris also wrote about a personal example in his book The Positive Psychology of Synchronicity about a coincidence associated with his own psychiatric hospitalization for depression. “I very rarely experienced any synchronicity at that time. When I was at my absolutely lowest ebb, I was on the threshold of developing a suicide plan. I sat in a bleak hospital corridor, thinking that if nothing changed in the next five minutes, I would shift my focus to how I could end my life. Within a couple of minutes, a nurse approached me to fetch me to answer a phone call from a good friend who lived interstate and only rarely called. The timing seemed so uncanny—synchronistic assistance from the outside—that it completely stopped any further thought of taking action to end my life. I still believe it’s quite possible I would not be here if not for that phone call.”

Each of these is a single instance that statistically minded people can attribute to the unproven Law of Very Large Numbers: In large populations, any weird thing could happen. (To read a critical evaluation of this “law,” please see Sharon Rawlette’s Psychology Today post on the subject.)

However, consider the experiences of Executive Coach Katrin Windsor of Boulder Colorado.

“I once missed a train that crashed. I once had a big tree fall on me, but strangely it fell in such a way that I stood in the opening of its big branches and it didn’t touch me!? I once hiked with my husband and two sons in Yellowstone. John and Bryan walked 20 feet ahead of Dan and me. Suddenly a big tree fell right between us and didn’t touch anybody!? I once missed a Guided Volcano Jeep tour in Sicily. We missed it by 1 minute and watched the Jeep we were supposed to be on leave without us. So we sat down at the Tour Office restaurant and ordered a plate of pasta. In the middle of chowing down our pasta, ambulances and sirens and helicopters arrived, and suddenly the Jeeps we missed returned with three dead tourists because the volcano became active and started spewing big rocks!?”

Some people will invoke the Law of Very Large Numbers. Others might attribute this remarkable string to God or the Universe. As a psychotherapist, I look for personal responsibility in my patients as well as in coincidences. Janet Payne attributes her stopping before the intersection at a green light to a strong intuitive feeling to not proceed and to fix the seat belt of her child.article continues after advertisementhttps://febf9c840d5958770643f520d3d151eb.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?v=1-0-38

To the question of explanation, Katrin Windsor replied, “I frankly have no clue as to why I have been so lucky, except that it obviously is not my time yet to go. My last lucky accident was when I had a bike crash in Denver in December and miraculously fell between two parked cars into an empty parking spot, so I didn’t bounce off a parked car and back into the busy street, where cars would have had a hard time avoiding me. My take from that most recent accident is that I’m clearly here to channel spirit. It does feel like Fujoli is my way which is connecting people to their aliveness.”

Again, some will invoke the Law of Very Large Numbers while others will invoke some form of divine intervention. In the study of coincidences, resolving questions like these are central to its purpose. See this Psychology Today post from Sharon Rawlette about personal explanations for meaningful coincidences. 

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

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.

Serendipity: A Store, a Movie and a Coincidence: A cool word takes on new meanings

Portsmouth, New Hampshire clothing store
Portsmouth, New Hampshire clothing store

The word “serendipity” has many pop-culture references, but many people don’t know its original meaning or realize its usefulness.

When customers walk into Serendipity, a women’s clothing store in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, they usually think of the movie Serendipity (2001) starring John Cusak (Jonathan) and Kate Beckinsale (Sara).

The movie is serendipity rich. The two main characters meet at the Manhattan ice cream place called Serendipity 3. Sara writes her phone number on a piece of paper, but a gust of wind from a passing truck pulls it out of her hand.

She refuses to write it down again and instead asks John to write his name and phone number on a $5 bill, which she spends. She then writes her name and address on the inside cover of a book and sells it to a used book store.

If they are meant to be together, she says, each will find the items and contact the others.

The Origins of the Word

Walpole circa 1741.
Walpole circa 1741.

Horace Walpole, a member of the British House of Commons in the 18th century, recognized in himself a talent for finding what he needed just when he needed it.

For example, a gift in the form of a portrait of a Grand Duchess whom Walpole had long admired arrived from his distant cousin in Florence, Italy. Walpole needed a coat of arms with specific elements in it to decorate the new picture frame and accidentally found what he was looking for in an old book.

On January 28, 1754, Walpole, thrilled with this coincidence, wrote to his cousin, Horace Mann, giving a name to his ability to find things unexpectedly—serendipity.

He got the name from a fairy tale called “The Travels and Adventures of Three Princes of Sarendip.” Sarendip (or Serendib) is an ancient name for the island nation Sri Lanka off India’s southern coast. The king of the fable recognizes that education requires more than learning from books, so he sends his sons out of the country to broaden their experience of the world.

Throughout the story, the clever princes carefully observe their surroundings, and then use their observations in ways that save them from danger and death.

For Walpole, serendipity meant finding something by informed observation (sagacity, as he called it) and by accident.

Current Usage

Serendipity currently has two related meanings: 1) Looking for something and finding something even better. 2) Looking for something and finding just what you needed.

The history of the search for new drugs provides many examples.

Viagra was accidentally found while researchers in England in the 1990s were testing a new anti-hypertensive and anti-angina drug. Their male subjects reported increased and prolonged erections. It became one of the best selling drugs of all time.

Scotsman Alexander Fleming was actively searching for a new antibiotic in 1928. He returned from vacation and found penicillin juice killing bacteria in petri-dishes that should have been washed while he was gone.

In each of these cases, researchers had to be open to new possibilities coming at them in unexpected ways. Serendipity, like luck, requires perseverance, preparation, and opportunity.

The “Law of Attraction” may also apply. This is the belief that “like attracts like,” that positive or negative thoughts may bring positive or negative experiences to one’s life. In the case of serendipity, the thought of a needed something somehow helps to bring that something to a person’s life.

But it is not enough to imagine what you want or need. You have to move. A Spanish Gypsy proverb says it well, “The dog that trots about finds the bone.”

This capacity seems to sometimes rely on the human capacity to find our way to places where there are people, ideas, or things that provide us with what we have been seeking. I call this human our Geospatial Positioning System (GPS).

When I asked a customer in Serendipity what she thought the word meant, she said, “Bliss.” Perhaps she most strongly associated the word with the joy that accompanies unexpected discoveries made through serendipity.

The people who walk into the store Serendipity may have a specific item in mind and find it, or they may have a general need and find it clearly expressed in something they just happen to discover there.

Either way, serendipity can be beneficial and fun, and it invites us to wonder how it happens.