Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

A Walk through the Manifold World of Coincidences

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

A Walk through the Manifold World of Coincidences

Article excerpt

A Review of The Many Faces of Coincidence, by Laurence Browne

Exeter, UK: Imprint Academics, 2017. Pp. 202. $29.90., ISBN 13: 978-1-84540-915-9

Synchronicity has become a vogue expression used in many ways to denote "occurrences." In a similar way, the term coincidence is often used in a reductionist context to eliminate meaning from seemingly related occurrences. Both terms have a contextual relation and are often used in a barely reflected way. Thus, it is a meritorious undertaking to examine the use of these terms more closely and summarize the findings to an interested readership. The Many Faces of Coincidence is the published version of the dissertation of philosopher and historian of science Laurence Browne on coincidences and synchronicity. It is a well-written work that provides a theoretical framework for the classification of different forms of coincidences. The book is divided into six chapters and they contained several surprises and interesting new insights.

In the first chapter, Browne deals with the introduction of the concept of synchronicity by Carl Custav Jung, its genesis, and Jung's predecessors and main influences. These include Arthur Schopenhauer with his transcendent will, Gottfried Leibniz and his Monadology, and Paul Kammerer (1919) and his law ofseriality, as well as theologian and sinologist Richard Wilhelm (Wilhelm &. Baynes, 1967) who introduced Jung familiar to the I Ching. Jung's idea of a synchronistic principle arose within the context of this relationship with Wilhelm. However, Jung elaborated the concept of synchronicity further in the context of the fruitful exchange with physicist and Nobel physics laureate Wolfgang Pauli at the end of the 1940s and during the 1950s (Lindorff, 2004). Nevertheless, the two scholars did not always share the same opinion. For example, Pauli criticized parts of Jung's conception of this kind of coincidences as logically inconsistent.

Jung was fascinated by specific characteristics of quantum physics that deviated from classical physics, and by the findings of experimental parapsychology, which he regarded as substantiating his model of acausal connections. Pauli recognized its potential as a possible explanation of synchronistic events, but he held the opinion that Jung did not differentiate in an appropriate manner between quantum-physical characteristics of nature and the findings of experimental parapsychology. He also considered the term synchronicity inapt because the relevant events would not necessarily have to happen exactly at the same point in time (i. e., be synchronous). However, although Jung was open to Pauli's suggestions and criticism, he kept the term, arguing that in synchronistic events the timeless sphere of archetypes would be connected to occurrences in the timely sphere, and therefore two synchronistic occurrences would not need to be synchronized in conventional time. The inclusion of the archetypical sphere into the characterization of synchronistic events makes Pauli's criticism of Jung's attempt to include the parapsychological experiments by Rhine understandable insofar as Pauli could not detect any meaningful occurrences based on archetypes in boring laboratory experiments consisting of countless trials of card guessing or die rolls. This is only one example of several conceptual ambiguities in Jung's thinking presented in Browne's book.

The important elements of the "composition of synchronicity," the title of the first chapter, include the idea that there are two types of synchronicity, namely a general principle of synchronicity as acausal connecting principle, and a narrower category of synchronistic events as specific manifestations of a general acausal order. Furthermore, there are spontaneously occurring and also induced synchronistic events--the latter occur in divinatory practices such as the I Ching, or in some magical practices. In general, synchronistic events are rather rare, and they are accompanied by an affective involvement of the people concerned. …

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