Tag Archives: Connecting with Coincidence

EP213, Bethany Butzer: Invisible to Visible

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Coincidences alert us to the mysterious hiding in plain sight. Professor Bethany Butzer tells us that synchronicities reveal the all-pervasive consciousness.  

In this episode, our guest describes how synchronicities might serve as evidence that consciousness is more fundamental in our universe than space, time, and matter. They allow us, perhaps, to bridge the gap between the physical and the metaphysical, by momentarily experience an underlying domain of reality in which mind and matter are one. 

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 Dr. Bethany Butzer writes, teaches, and does research in the fields of positive psychology and transpersonal psychology, which emphasize the development of human strength and potential. She received her PhD in psychology from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Bethany has worked in the corporate world and in academia, and she has also spent several years as an entrepreneur. From 2013 to 2015 she was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School, where she studied the effects of yoga in school settings. Bethany currently lives in Prague, where she teaches and does research as a Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of New York in Prague. Bethany is also a Lecturer for the Alef Trust MSc program in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology. Her research focuses on yoga and mindfulness for youth, as well as transpersonal topics such as synchronicity, parapsychology, and ecopsychology. She teaches undergraduate and Masters-level courses on topics such as research methods, positive psychology, consciousness, and career development. She also works as a research consultant with clients around the world. Learn more at www.bethanybutzer.com.    

Our host Dr. Bernard Beitman is the first psychiatrist since Carl Jung o 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.

EP210, Ralph Blumenthal: Portals to UFOs

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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.

EP209, Sabrina Sauer: Improvise to Create Serendipity!

You Can Also Listen to this Episode on AnchorFM

By improvising with serendipity, Sabrina Sauer creates stimulating, rich environments and enthusiasm for flowing with the unexpected. 

Sabrina shares an example: “In my first year working as an assistant professor in Media Studies, I traveled to Milan for a conference. As I was relatively new to the field, I decided to watch a colleague’s presentation. Her session was chaired by a person who asked that colleague about a (in my mind) random topic that I also happened to be very interested in, just as I was thinking about that topic. I thought that that was a nice coincidence. Incidentally, I liked this person’s thought processes so much, that we are now married!”

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 Sabrina Sauer is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, at the Research Centre for Media and Journalism Studies. She obtained an MA in Media Studies, a PhD in Science and Technology Studies, and professionally trained as an actor prior to writing her dissertation about user-technology improvisations as a source for Information and Communication Technology innovation, at the University of Twente (Netherlands). She has published about media production, the agency of users and technological artefacts, exploratory search, improvisation, and serendipity. Her current research focuses on the use of digital data in creative media production practices, social innovation, and digital humanities. Learn more at https://www.rug.nl/staff/s.c.sauer/. 

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

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“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 207, Carol Bowman: Deceased Family Member Coincidences of Returning to the Family

You can also LISTEN HERE to this episode on AnchorFM

What if your 3 year old child tells you that they had been another relative of yours in a previous life. Is such a thing “just a coincidence”?  

Our guest on this episode, Carol Bowman, explores this topic based on her career researching phenomena relating to past lives. Carol is an author, a researcher of children’s past life memories, and a past life therapist for adults for over thirty years. We also discuss whether all coincidences are meaningful, and whether coincidences seem to increase at certain critical points in our lives.   

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

As a past life researcher and therapist, Carol Bowman has published two books: Children’s Past Lives (Bantam Books, 1997) and Return From  Heaven (HarperCollins, 2001). These have been translated into more than 20 languages. She has appeared on many TV shows, including Oprah,  Unsolved Mysteries, Good Morning America, and ABC Primetime, as well as in documentaries on the BBC, A&E, CBC, and PBS.  She has also been a  guest on radio shows and podcasts.  She has lectured in the U.S., Europe, and South America. Learn more at https://CarolBowman.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.

Dr Coincidence Speaks!

dr coincidence
Dr Coincidence

Is the world ready for Dr. Coincidence? Ready or not, here he comes.

On November 1, 2018 Dr Coincidence made his first major public appearance on the radio show CC with BB, Connecting with Coincidence with Dr. Bernie Beitman, MD. He told stories about how he got started with coincidences, talking about finding his lost dog, Snapper, his simultaneous choking with his father 3000 miles away, and imagining hitting the first pitch of a big baseball game for a home run and then doing it.

He describes his research into chest pain and panic disorder and his hopes for Coincidence Studies, comparing it to Freud’s and Jung’s organizations.

The intersecting patterns of coincidences are composed 2 basic components: mind and thing.

“Mind” refers to the unobservables within you, that no one else can see—your sensations, feelings, images and thoughts. “Thing” refers to objects outside of the mind, observable by another person. These two elements create 3 species: mind-thing, mind-mind and thing-thing. Mind can intersect with things and with other minds. Things can intersect with other things.

In the last segment he describes the wide variety of things that mind can coincidentally intersect with, the mind-thing coincidences:

Media
Helpful person
Inanimate Objects
Environment mirrors psychological conflicts
Animals reflecting your emotions
Plants comforting
Machines responding to human emotions
Seeing the future

To listen to the show, click here

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?

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.