Tag Archives: Connecting with Coincidence

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

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.

A Non-Statistician’s Approach to Coincidences: Part 5

Photo by Lesho Ward
Photo by Lesho Ward

We are sensitive to coincidences for good reason. Coincidences help us to see new patterns.

We seek patterns to navigate through space and time. Patterns provide maps for the territory of our lives—where to go, how to get there, what to say to whom. The surprise of coincidences raises a question: am I seeing a new pattern?

At 11 p.m. on Feb. 26, 1973, when I was 31 years old, I suddenly found myself bent over the kitchen sink in an old Victorian house on Hayes Street in the Fillmore District of San Francisco. I was choking on something caught in my throat. I couldn’t cough it up. I hadn’t eaten anything. I didn’t know what was in my throat. I’d never choked for this long before. Finally, after 15 minutes or so, I could swallow and breathe normally.

The next day, my birthday, my brother called to tell me that my father had died in Wilmington, Del., at 2 a.m. EST. He was 3,000 miles and three time zones away; 2 a.m. in Wilmington was 11 p.m. in California. My father had bled into his throat and choked on his own blood at about the same time I was uncontrollably choking. He died on Feb. 27, my birthday. (from Connecting with Coincidence)

The timing was too tight for me to think it was “just random.”

My research at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the work of psychiatrist Ian Stevenson make it clear that many other people have experienced similar correlations in time. I named this pattern “simulpathity”—the experience of the pain of a loved one at a distance.

One dramatic, surprising coincidence became a clue to the existence of a new pattern.

One of the participants in my coincidence study at the University of Missouri-Columbia told this story about her near suicide:

“There was a very dark period in my late teens, a confused time to say the least. I cannot explain the rationalization, or rather, I should state, there was none. I couldn’t seem to withstand all the suffering in the world … and one afternoon, I took my dad’s gun, got in my car, and drove to an isolated place on the lake. The intention was to end my own life. I sat there, with gun in hand, without truly understanding why … It was if I didn’t have any clue how I managed to arrive at this moment in time. But, as tears slowly came down my cheeks, I heard the sound of another car pulling up beside [me] … and my brother stepped out of the car, asking me to hand him the gun.

“I was breathless; I was totally shocked. All I could do is to ask him how on Earth he knew I was feeling this way; how did he know I even had this gun, and, most important, how did he find me? He said he had no answers. He didn’t have any idea why he got into his car; he didn’t know where he was driving, nor why he was going there; or what he was supposed to do when he arrived.”

How did her brother know that she needed him? What made him make these complex decisions without a conscious intention? He seemed drawn to his sister by her distress, without consciously knowing that she was about to kill herself.

Subsequently, I began to think of this as simulpathity coupled with an uncanny knowledge about where she was and how to get there.

Many similar stories led me to hypothesize the idea of human GPS—that we can find our way sometimes to people, ideas and things we need without knowing how we got there. (from Chapter 1, Connecting with Coincidence)

Coincidence detection is no anomaly of the human mind. Through reading and research, I could confirm that my experience with my father was no anomaly. It was an example of something frequently experienced. Coincidence recognition is part of a rational process for finding new patterns.

Magda Osman, a senior lecturer in experimental psychology at Queen Mary University of London, wrote in a Scientific American article: “Searching for patterns is essential to our cognition and survival, and the cost of not having this ability far out weights the false paths we take when we see patterns that aren’t there. If we observe a pattern then we have detected a regularity in the world, and a regularity is likely to have a causal basis. We can use this regularity to make a prediction, and if we can predict, we can control future events more reliably–to our great advantage.” (Osman)

Coincidences drive the search for causal explanations because we need to understand how the world works.


Co-authored by Tara MacIsaac a reporter and editor for the Beyond Science section of Epoch Times. She explores the new frontiers of science, delving into ideas that could help uncover the mysteries of our world.

A Statistician’s Approach to Coincidences: Part 4

Illustration by Tom Brown
Illustration by Tom Brown

Coincidences emerge in the minds of the beholders. Without a human mind to detect them, most coincidences would not exist.

Cognitive processing errors serve for statisticians like Persi Diaconis and David Hand as a bulwark against the potential meaning of coincidences. Their perspective shows us how our minds help to create meaningful coincidences.

We can pop coincidences into existence by perceiving patterns where there are none. When taken to an extreme, this tendency has a name: “apophenia.”

The Oxford dictionary defines coincidence as “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.” We can perceive a concurrence by overemphasizing or stretching the similarities of the events and by selectively remembering events.

Let’s examine these two very common tendencies.

Just how similar is “similar”? Computer software developers are actively seeking an objective answer to this question. But, for now, degree of similarity remains subjective. Human beings are still better than computers at finding patterns and judging similarity.

Sometimes we may stretch similarity beyond what is reasonable to create coincidences out of two or more unrelated events. We see similarities that may not be there because we want the connection to be there.

But what are the limits of “reasonable” similarities? It’s hard for me to clearly say.

Similarity between two specific patterns can be judged on a gradient by human raters, and eventually by computer programming. For now we can be satisfied with knowing that we probably aren’t too bad at discerning similarities and that there will always be someone who will claim that my similarity is not similar enough.

Degree of similarity plays an important role in judging the probability of a coincidence. The more similar the two (or more) events of the coincidence are, the lower the probability of the coincidence.

Let’s say you and a friend meet up and you’re both wearing the exact same shirt and pants bought from the same store. The probability of that happening is lower than both of you wearing pants and shirts that are the same color but different designs. The closer the similarity, the lower the probability.

We select what we see and remember. What else is new? We have to select information from the huge onslaught of stimuli coming at us. To not select is to overload our brains.

We can, and do, selectively remember certain details and then match those details to a current event. If we did not do that, there would be many fewer coincidences. We also would be living in an ever-present now without links to past experience.

Some people overdo this remembering and matching—selecting just the right memory to create the coincidence. Others may be smacked in the face with a coincidence and not notice it.

What other factors could be influencing the probability of the coincidence? This question challenges students of Coincidence Studies to examine the variables contributing to the coincidence beyond the base rates of each intersecting event. For example, actor Mike Myers was visiting famed author, physician, and alternative-medicine advocate Deepak Chopra. As Mike walks into Deepak’s office, he sees a card on the wall. Mike pulls out his own deck of cards, the first one of which is the same card as the one on the wall. Mike is amazed at the coincidence.

This coincidence was perhaps more probable than it seemed to Mike. The deck contained images of Hindu gods. Deepak relies heavily on Hindu ideas for his teaching. Mike knew that. In preparation for their meeting, Mike seemed to want to show Deepak what he knew that might be relevant to their discussion.

While the coincidence seemed amazing to Mike the context of their relationship increased the likelihood of a matching card. However, if you watch the video, you can see that there were many cards in the deck so Mike’s came placing this one, the Goddess of Wealth, on the top lowers the probability.

In summary, the main cognitive errors people make in estimating the probability of a coincidence include: stretching the similarities to make the two elements fit, selectively remembering past events to find a match with a current event, and neglecting the contextual influences that could increase the probability.


Co-authored by Tara MacIsaac a reporter and editor for the Beyond Science section of Epoch Times. She explores the new frontiers of science, delving into ideas that could help uncover the mysteries of our world.

Couvade: When Men Feel Pregnant

Photo by Mike Murphy
Photo by Mike Murphy

A Wisconsin woman had tried for 5 years to become pregnant. One day her husband woke up feeling nauseous at the smell of breakfast. He rushed to the bathroom to vomit. He repeated the scene the next morning. Did he have an ulcer? No. She was pregnant.

He was experiencing morning sickness and she was not. His symptoms continued for the next four months while she had none. His symptoms persisted even when he was miles away from her. (The Gift, p. 91)

Sympathetic pregnancies (couvade) have their basis in parallel physiological responses in the expectant father.

In a study by researchers at Memorial University in Canada, men and women were found to have similar levels of the hormones prolactin and cortisol in the period just before the babies were born. After the births, the mothers and fathers had lower concentrations of sex steroids (testosterone and estradiol). Men with sympathetic pregnancy symptoms had higher prolactin levels and greater reductions in testosterone.

Since increases in prolactin seem to increase interpersonal bonding, they speculated that these hormone changes played a role in preparing males for bonding with the infant.

There are several psychological theories which seem inadequate. These theories involve the man’s jealousy of the soon to arrive new born, his feeling of being displaced and marginalized.

In my view the man with sympathetic pregnancy becomes highly attuned to his pregnant partner. In that attunement, he feels what she is feeling at a depth he did not consciously seek.

He experiences physiological empathy.

I think the attunement is mediated through the energy fields circulating within and around our bodies. With pregnancy, the shift in her energy field is so strong that his attunement gives in to her new vibrational level and equilibrates to it. Physiologically, he becomes more like her.
Theresa Santos reported a practical version of this spousal dance.

“On our last morning in New York we had a ton of things left to do before leaving for our flight that evening. I particularly needed to do a lot, because there are just some things I take care of better and more efficiently than my husband (cleaning, laundry, some final packing … he’s very organized with packing, but I’m quicker) and a lot of those things needed to be done. My husband’s chores for the morning consisted only of going to the mall to pick up a few things, including another suitcase.

I’d experienced morning sickness almost every day last week and the week before. I’ve usually been really slow in the morning. But, on Sunday, I woke up early and felt really well. I was energetic and efficient, which I haven’t been lately. My husband, instead, was nauseous and fatigued. He seemed to have taken on the morning sickness for me that day.”

She took care of the more demanding tasks symptom free while her husband took on the easier chores loaded with morning sickness.

If we understood the mechanisms behind couvade, we might take a step toward explaining simulpathity, the experience of the distress of a loved one at a distance.

Most men do know their partners are pregnant, whereas in most cases of simulpathity, the root of the sympathetic symptoms is unknown at the time. This is a key difference, yet understanding the mechanisms of couvade may provide a first step in coming to understand the mechanisms of simulpathity. In simulpathity one person somehow picks up the physiological experience of another person at a distance. Like courvade, this physiological resonance is not done consciously. The big difference of course is not only does the husband know she is pregnant but he is living near her. With simulpathity, the resonating pair are away from each other and the experiencer does not know that the other is in distress.

So physical closeness and conscious awareness make couvade different from simulpathity. Yet aside from these two factors, there are many similarities that suggest shared underlying mechanisms.


Co-authored by Tara MacIsaac a reporter and editor for the Beyond Science section of Epoch Times. She explores the new frontiers of science, delving into ideas that could help uncover the mysteries of our world.

The Psychosphere

Angie emailed me on May 8, 2015:
“I am struck by the uptick in media-related coincidences as suggested by your Weird Coincidence Survey results. (See Blog Post Weird Coincidence Survey Results.)  I wonder if the increasing prevalence of electronic communication has some unique quality as it relates to our connectedness.  Is there a sub-current of communication that works via electronic waves, for example?  It is true that for me, most coincidences I notice are directly related to media.  My precognitive dreams seem to tie in most frequently with topics that appear on TV, radio, or social media (but also my private music collection and even in books) within minutes, hours or a day.  Do mass communications act, somehow, as multipliers of the energy field on which these impulses travel and connect…and where is God…or our concept of God…in all of that?”

Dr. B: The increasing connectivity among our minds through the multiplying media, is further establishing an infrastructure for communication through what I call the psychosphere, our mental atmosphere. Some coincidences may be evidence that we are increasingly connecting to others and with the media through psychosphere.