Synchronicity 438

Synchronicity 438
Carl Jung
卡尔 荣格

VII. Exposition

There is yet another psychological analogy between my two
cases and the Rhine experiments, though it is not quite so obvious. These apparently quite different situations have as their common characteristic an element oE “impossibility.” The patient with the scarab found herself in an “impossible” situa¬tion because the treatment had got stuck and there seemed to be no way out of the impasse. In such situations, if they are serious enough, archetypal dreams are likely to occur which point out a possible line of advance one would never have thought of oneself. It is this kind of situation that constellates the archetype with the greatest regularity.


In certain cases the psychotherapist therefore sees himself obliged to discover the rationally unsoluble problem towards which the patient’s un¬conscious is steering. Once this is found, the deeper layers of the unconscious, the primordial images, are activated and the trans-formation of the personality can get under way.


41 [Statistical analysis is designed to separate out groupings (termed dispersions)
due to random activity from significant dispersions in which causes may be looked for. On Professor Jung’s hypothesis, however, dispersions due to chance can be subdivided into meaningful and meaningless. The meaningless dispersions due to chance are made meaningful by the activation of the psycho id archetype.-
42 Cf. par. 841; also “On the Nature of the psyche,” par. 404f.

848 In the second case there was the half-unconscious fear and
the threat of a lethal end with no possibility of an adequate recognition of the situation. In Rhine’s experiment it is the “impossibility” of the task that ultimately fixes the subject’s attention on the processes going on inside him, and thus gives the unconscious a chance to manifest itself.


The questions set by the ESP experiment have an emotional effect right from the start, since they postulate something unknowable as being po¬tentially knowable and in that way take the possibility of a miracle seriously into account. This, regardless of the subject’s scepticism, immediately appeals to his unconscious readiness to witness a miracle, and to the hope, latent in all men, that such a thing may yet be possible.


Primitive superstition lies just below the surface of even the most tough minded individuals, and it is precisely those who most fight against it who are the first to succumb to its suggestive effects. When therefore a serious experiment with all the authority of science behind it touches this readiness, it will inevitably give rise to an emotion which either accepts or rejects it with a good deal of affectivity. At all events an affective expectation is present in one form or another even though it may be denied.


849 Here I would like to call attention to a possible misunder-
standing which may be occasioned by the term “synchronicity.” I chose this term because the simultaneous occurrence of two meaningfully but not causally connected events seemed to me an essential criterion. I am therefore using the general concept of synchronicity in the special sense of a coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same or a similar meaning, in contrast to “synchronism,” which simply means the simultaneous occurrence of two events.


850 Synchronicity therefore means the simultaneous occurrence
of a certain psychic state with one or more external events which appear as meaningful parallels to the momentary subjective state-and, in certain cases, vice versa. My two examples Illustrate this in different ways.


In the case of the scarab the simultaneity is immediately obvious, but not in the second example. It is true that the flock of birds occasioned a vague fear, but that can be explained causally. The wife of my patient was certainly not conscious beforehand of any fear that could be compared with my own apprehensions, for the symptoms (pains in the throat) were not of a kind to make the layman suspect anything bad




The unconscious, however, often knows more than the conscious, and it seems to me possible that the woman’s unconscious had already got wind of the danger. If, therefore, we rule out a conscious psychic content such as the idea of deadly danger, there is an obvious simultaneity be¬tween the flock of birds, in its traditional meaning, and the death of the husband. The psychic state, if we disregard the pos¬sible but still not demonstrable excitation of the unconscious, appears to be dependent on the external event.


The woman’s psyche is nevertheless involved in so far as the birds settled on her house and were observed by her. For this reason it seems to me probable that her unconscious was in fact constellated. The flock of birds has, as such, a traditional man tic significance.43 This is also apparent in the woman’s own interpretation, and it therefore looks as if the birds represented an unconscious premonition of death. The physicians of the Romantic Age would probably have talked of “sympathy” or “magnetism.” But, as I have said, such phenomena cannot be explained caus¬ally unless one permits oneself the most fantastic ad hoc hypotheses.


851 The interpretation of the birds as an omen is, as we have
seen, based on two earlier coincidences of a similar kind. It did not yet exist at the time of the grandmother’s death. There the coincidence was represented only by the death and the gathering of the birds. Both then and at the mother’s death the coincidence was obvious, but in the third case it could only be verified when the dying man was brought into the house.



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