Analytical Psychology and Physics:
Part 2, Synchronicity, Parapsychology, and Unity
Prepared for the Third Festival of Myth and Psyche: Science and the Sacred
Colorado Springs, CO, July 25-27, 2003
Physics and Astronomy Department
Hamilton, NY 13346
Part 1 of this paper discussed the complementarity between analytical psychology and modern physics. Part 2 shows how this complementarity demands, contrary to Jung, that we distinguish between synchronicity and paranormal phenomena and thereby improve our understanding of both phenomena. To prepare for this distinction, I first review Jung’s understanding of synchronicity by analyzing some case material. I follow that by a brief review of the modern successors to J.B. Rhine’s pioneering studies of paranormal phenomena that so heavily influenced Jung’s view of synchronicity. These reviews set the stage for distinguishing synchronicity from paranormal phenomena, discussing some of the implications of this distinction, and briefly considering the unity between analytical psychology and physics implied by complementarity.
II. Synchronicity and Individuation
Although my books (Mansfield, 1995, 2002) contain extended discussions of synchronicity, here I briefly review the topic by weaving together that material along with some new discussion.
According to Jung (1978), synchronicity is an acausal connection through meaning of inner psychological states such as dreams, fantasies, or feelings, with events in the outer or material world. The keys to understanding this definition are the notions of acausality and meaning.
Causality/Acausality: For Jung, causality involves energy exchanges and conventional notions of space and time. In discussing synchronicity he writes, “We must give up at the outset all explanations in terms of energy, which amounts to saying that events of this kind cannot be considered from the point of view of causality, for causality presupposes the existence of space and time in so far as all observations are ultimately based upon bodies in motion” (Jung 1978, p. 434). Or, Marie-Louise von Franz writes, “Jung just presumed the same thing that nearly all physicists do today: that causality implies a provable interaction within the space-time continuum. All other formulations, represent for Jung, an overstretching of the concept of causality.” (von Franz, 1992, p. 234)
In classical physics, any interaction can serve as an example for causality. For instance, gravity caused the apple to fall on Newton’s head. Or, psychologically, anxiety caused me to forget her name. In synchronicity, there are no causal connections between the inner psychological states and the outer material events. Neither the inner state causes the outer event nor vice versa. I call this horizontal acausality, since here the inner states and outer events are on the same epistemic level—both are consciously known.
There is also what I call vertical acausality, where the purported agent is transcendent and unknowable in itself. von Franz (1992, p. 231) addresses this when she writes:
According to the Jungian view, the collective unconscious is not at all an expression of personal wishes and goals, but is a neutral entity, psychic in nature, that exists in an absolutely transpersonal way. Ascribing the arrangement of synchronistic events to the observer’s unconscious would thus be nothing other than a regression to primitive-magical thinking, in accordance with which it was earlier supposed that, for example, an eclipse could be “caused” by the malevolence of a sorcerer. Jung even explicitly warned against taking the archetypes (of the collective unconscious) or psi-powers to be the causal agency of synchronistic events.
Thus Jung also eliminates any transcendent principle, whether archetypes or angels, as the cause for synchronicity (Jung, 1978, p. 516). We cannot attribute what happens “down here” in the empirical realm to what goes on “up there” in the transcendent realm. Despite synchronicity’s thoroughgoing horizontal and vertical acausality, Jung did not seek to abolish causality, but to supplement it with synchronicity (p. 519).
Meaning: Although the inner and outer elements of a synchronicity experience are not causally related, they do connect through meaning. “Meaning” is a deceptively simple term, whose familiarity may mask its critical role in both Jung’s thought in general and synchronicity in particular.
Let’s start with Jung’s most exalted view of meaning. Section 3 of his synchronicity essay, entitled “Forerunners of the Idea of Synchronicity,” begins with a discussion of Taoism, by far the most extensive treatment of any of the “Forerunners.” To prepare us for the discussion, Jung writes: “Although meaning is an anthropomorphic interpretation it nevertheless forms the indispensable criterion of synchronicity. What that factor which appears to us as “meaning” may be in itself we have no possibility of knowing. As an hypothesis, however, it is not quite so impossible as may appear at first sight.” (Jung 1978, p. 485). After stressing the indispensable nature of meaning and the difficulty of grasping it in itself, Jung tells us that there are many translations of Tao, but he says, “Richard Wilhelm brilliantly interprets it as ‘meaning.’” (p. 486) Jung extensively quotes Lao-tzu’s Tao Teh Ching from Arthur Waley’s The Tao and its Power, “with occasional slight changes to fit Wilhelm’s reading,” as Jung’s translator, R.F.C. Hull, tells us. (p. 486, fn. 3) For example,
There is something formless yet complete
That existed before heaven and earth.
How still! How empty!
Dependent on nothing, unchanging,
All pervading, unfailing
One may think of it as the mother of all things under heaven.
I do not know its name,
But I call it “Meaning.”
If I had to give it a name, I should call it “The Great.” (p. 486)
This exalted and transcendent level of meaning, “formless yet complete, that existed before heaven and earth,” is clearly beyond the colloquial use of the term meaning. Given Jung’s view, I regret that he did not substitute a more technical term for meaning such as “transcendent meaning.” It might have prevented many of the misconceptions about synchronicity and its dependence upon meaning.
Lao-tzu characterizes the Tao as “Nothing” and Jung writes: “‘Nothing’ is evidently ‘meaning’ or ‘purpose,’ and it is only called Nothing because it does not appear in the world of the senses, but is only its organizer.” (p. 487) Meaning, or synonymously, purpose, is somehow an “organizer” of the world yet, “Tao never does; Yet through it all things are done.” (p. 488) Meaning organizes, but does so acausally, and in that sense “never does.” The diagram in Figure 1 summarizes the structure of synchronicity.
Figure 1: Synchronicity structure
This lofty meaning or purpose enters the realm of the opposites and mundane life through unconscious compensation. For Jung, unconscious compensation is the chief form of interaction between the unconscious and consciousness. This is the psyche’s way of correcting the ego’s blindness or inappropriate views and guiding us in the process of individuation. This dynamic principle expresses the purposiveness or guidance of the unconscious.
Rather than stressing the efficient causes of psychological phenomena, Jung was more concerned with their final causes. (Recall that efficient causes may involve physical energy exchange, while final causes never do.) The question shifts from “What past experiences brought me here?” to “Where is this experience trying to lead me? What does it demand of me? What purpose or meaning does it have for my evolution?” The emphasis is less on reduction—tracing present symptoms to past events—although this is also employed in Jungian analysis. (Mansfield and Spiegelman, 1996) As Jung said, “By finality I mean merely the immanent psychological striving for a goal. Instead of striving for a goal, one could also say sense of purpose. All psychological phenomena have some such sense of purpose inherent in them…”(Jung 1978b, p. 241)
This principle of unconscious compensation is sufficiently critical to our understanding of the incarnation of meaning in synchronicity that it deserves a specific example, which I adapt from my synchronicity book (Mansfield, 1995, pp. 15-16).
The tale revolves around shoes. Feet and their accouterments matter a great deal to us Pisces. Since Jung taught us that important dreams are largely compensations and reactions to the conscious situation at the moment, it’s always necessary to appreciate the conscious background for a given dream. Furthermore, if we want to understand the dream images symbolically, we also must know the dreamer’s associations and relations to the dream images. Symbols, although rarely as obvious as in the following example, are the best possible expression of an unknown content, which seeks expression or revelation to consciousness. Their meaning is never fixed, but depends upon the detailed associations and history of the dreamer toward them. For truly archetypal dreams, personal associations are often missing or inadequate and then mythological and cultural amplification is necessary. However, for the present example, I only need to supply some historical background to show how the unconscious is applying its compensation, how it’s attempting to balance my conscious attitude, to regulate my development.
My graduate career in physics and astrophysics started strongly, but my soul cried out for other kinds of development. After several upheavals, I left graduate school in the middle of writing my Ph.D. dissertation. With a furious immersion in various forms of psychology and a job in an experimental ward in a mental hospital, heavily influenced by Jungian psychology, I plunged deep into the world of the unconscious. It was exhilarating excavation that nearly transformed me from a staff member to a patient in the hospital. Eventually I returned to finish my Ph.D., but the road was not smooth. I was pulled in several ways at once and it was difficult restarting graduate work. I often felt out of place and undeserving of my generous fellowship. Things got so bad that one day when my graduate advisor was walking toward me in the hall, I ducked into the men’s room to avoid him. I didn’t want to admit I had made so little progress since last seeing him. While lurking around in the men’s room waiting for my advisor to pass, I tried to decide whether my psyche or my graduate work was in worse shape. Things soon turned around and eventually I finished the Ph.D. in fine form, but during my low point I bought a very fashionable pair of Italian shoes. They were ankle-high with a pointed toe, a slightly raised heel, and very shiny. Putting on these dressy boots made me feel like a macho Ph.D., not some inadequate neurotic ducking into the men’s room to avoid people.
Before the shoes had gotten scuffed, Colgate University hired me for a tenure stream position. My research was moving along nicely, teaching was going very well, everyone seemed pleased with me, and even my meditation seemed to deepen. I thought with great satisfaction, “At this rate I’ll be president of the university in a few years!” During that time a particularly belligerent person called to hassle me, but I was in the shower. I knew this phone call would be a difficult struggle, so I jumped out of the shower and jokingly prepared myself by putting on my “power boots.” I stood there naked, except for my shoes, and argued forcefully on the phone while my wife held her sides laughing. Then the following dream occurred:
Figure 2: Vic's close friend
I was visiting a mental hospital and noticed several deeply disturbed people around the periphery of the room. I then began an animated conversation with a pig who stood upright on his hind legs and wore a stylish three-piece suit. I was amazed, but humoring him and carrying on the discussion seemed important. He bragged about being a spiritual titan, having an IQ of 110, and being very popular with the ladies. I listened politely and examined him carefully. I noticed his impeccably tied necktie and the meticulous cut of his suit. My eyes followed his legs downward and I noticed to my great surprise that his cloven hooves were standing in my favorite boots!
I awoke laughing from this delightful dream and got the point immediately. It was the pinprick needed to burst the balloon of my psychological inflation, my completely unrealistic assessment of my abilities. Well before this experience, I had learned the subjective method of interpreting dreams, which views each element of the dream as a projection or personification of our psychological structures at that moment. Each aspect of the dream symbolized—was the best possible expression of—an aspect of my personality. It was inescapable; this simple but powerful dream was applying a much needed corrective to my psychologically unbalanced condition. If my wife had said, “You need a more realistic assessment of yourself. You are inflated—a pretentious pig,” you can imagine what my response would have been. At best I would have been resentful and defensive. However, the unconscious cornered me with this preposterous pig symbol expressing my unflattering psychological truth. As Jung says in the opening quotation, “The more one-sided his conscious attitude is, and the further it deviates from the optimum, the greater becomes the possibility that vivid dreams with a strongly contrasting but purposive content will appear as an expression of the self-regulation of the psyche.” (Jung, 1978b, p. 253) After that dream, interest fell away from what I then called my “pig boots.” It was impossible to wear them.
Finally, Jung’s experience with synchronicity convinced him that it pointed to a transcendent unity of psyche and matter. For example, he writes: “This principle [synchronicity] suggests that there is an interconnection or unity of causally unrelated events, and thus postulates a unitary aspect of being which can very well be described as the Unus Mundus.” (Jung 1978, pp. 464-5)
With this brief review of synchronicity and an example of unconscious compensation, I now present one of the many anonymous first-person synchronicity experiences in my synchronicity book (Mansfield, 1995, pp. 41-4).
This happened twenty-one years ago, four weeks after the birth of my first son. I was a twenty-nine-year-old graduate student living in an idyllic cottage on Cayuga Lake. My wife and I were luxuriating in being parents, our healthy new son was greedily nursing, and the fall leaves swirled round us with vibrant colors.
In two successive nights I had very similar dreams of my father. I had never dreamed of my alcoholic father in my life, nor have I since. He left me as an infant and had almost no contact with me. My mother lovingly raised me entirely by herself and remarried when I was twenty-one. In my mother’s eyes he was justifiably evil incarnate. Occasionally when she was at the height of her anger because of some bad behavior of mine she would say, “You’re just like your father!” That was the nuclear weapon of curses.
Both these vivid dreams portrayed my father in a very favorable light. In the dreams he told me that he was a sensitive and poetic person who found it impossible to live with my headstrong, aggressive mother. He claimed that it really was not his fault that he left. The two successive dreams seemed very peculiar to me, especially since they were so alike. I attributed them to my becoming a father, but they were still mysterious.
The day after the second dream, my father’s brother called me on the telephone; a real shock, since I had nothing to do with anyone in my father’s family and had no contact with them for fifteen years. He told me my father was dying in a Veterans Administration Hospital in Washington, D.C. and that I should go and visit him. I angrily blurted out, “Would he come and see me if I were dying?” I told my uncle I had no interest in seeing him now after all these years.
I hung up the phone. Rage, bitterness, and self-pity enveloped me like live steam. Where was he when I needed him? How come I had to take my mother’s brother to the father and son banquet when I got my letter in high school football? How come my most vivid early memory of him was his stumbling into my mother’s apartment and vomiting explosively all over the bathroom walls? Ferocious fights between my father and mother, face scratching, me standing there in helpless fear saying, “Mommy, I’ll get you my hammer to hit him . . . “—all this washed over me. That rotten bastard! No, he made me a bastard! He cheated me of a normal childhood. He would not even pay the $5.00 per week of child support awarded by the divorce court. Maybe the half-brother I had never met, sired while he was married to my mother, would visit him in the hospital. How embarrassing it was being investigated by welfare workers to see if my mother and I were eligible for aid. After all those years of telling people my father died in World War II, that stupid bum writes my high school and asks how I am discharging my military obligation. He never even sent me a Christmas card! Why did he screw me up like that? Let the son-of-a-bitch die by himself as he deserves!
Figure 3: Gathering
I wandered around all that beautiful fall day with hot tears streaming down my face, alternating between bitterness and sadness. Gradually I became torn about whether I should see him after all. I started thinking how I would enjoy telling him he was a grandfather. I didn’t know what to do. The battle raged. I had been reading some Jung and experimenting with the I Ching. I consulted it in desperation. The hexagram “Gathering” came up. Part of the interpretation reads, “The family gathers about the father as its head.” I was dumbfounded! That hexagram, plus the repeated dreams, decided it for me. I realized with an uncanny certainty that something bigger was operating in these events than just my fury and self-pity. We all piled into my little car and sorrowfully drove to Washington, D.C.
The intensive care nurse asked me if this man was my father. I confessed, with embarrassment, “I don’t know.” In fact, that ashen gray man with tubes running into his head was my father. I told him who I was and that he was a grandfather. He said, “When I get better I’ll make it up to you.” He was always making alcoholic promises he could never keep right to the very end. I wept for him, for me, for my mother, for the family that never was. I wiped blood oozing from his mouth. I felt him suffer and watched my bitterness and self-pity dissolve in sadness for us all. I said a tearful good-bye and never saw him again, since he died in a few days. Nor did I ever again feel that bitterness and anger toward him. Yet those old wounds still bleed a little.
Figure 4: Father and Son
The night after that hospital visit I dreamed of a beautiful old black car from the nineteen-thirties carrying me up a stream bed behind my maternal grandfather’s house. I remember the house from living there in my infancy. Although I could make no sense of this short dream, I felt very comforted by it. I always remembered the feeling of it and wondered what it meant. Twenty years later, among the half-a-dozen pictures containing my father, I saw that beautiful black car. In my childhood I had seen that picture a few times. (See figure 4.) My father stood in front of it with his left foot on the running board and me cradled in his arms. That handsome young man seemed to beam with pride and affection for me—and perhaps some anxiety about his looming responsibilities. That is the only picture I have of me and my father.
What does it all mean? Certainly my bitterness about my father needed to be overcome, both for my sake and that of my family. Although my life has been very good, a hard knot of rage, hatred, and shame was poisoning me. It had to be dissolved.
There is another dimension. Through the genuine need for self-reliance and as a defense against my pain and vulnerability I had built some heavy armor around me. Through time the wounds of my childhood had largely healed, but at the expense of a large build up of hard scar tissue, a sort of encasing shell. Directly experiencing my loss and my father’s suffering cracked the armor and reopened the wounds. Thanks to the preparation of the dreams and the urging of the I Ching, the wounds could heal more thoroughly with less hard scar tissue. The curious thing about armor is that it keeps the outside world from harming you, but it also prevents you from expressing much tenderness or from letting the world in. Overall, it’s a heavy burden to carry around.
Of course, the experience made me question my relationship to the world. What in me “knew” my father was dying? What knew that my encrusted bitterness needed softening through those extraordinary dreams of my father? How can coins “randomly” thrown connect so meaningfully to my psychological state then? I only have partial answers to these questions, but they will not go away.
Later, when I spoke to my teacher, Anthony, about this experience, he only said, “Unless we can learn to forgive others, we’ll never forgive ourselves.” Perhaps that is the best lesson.
This experience clearly reveals the intentionality or purposiveness of the self. The self seems intent on dissolving his bitterness, self-pity, and shame, both for his sake and that of his family. We can understand synchronicity as a massive unconscious compensation, an incarnation of meaning intending to transform us. In addition, these connections between the inner world of dreams and the outer world of sickness and death are through meaning, not causality. His father’s illness did not cause his dreams nor did his dreams cause his father’s illness. However, it is possible that his father in a moment of profound remorse thought of him and the father’s contemplation telepathically expressed itself in him as those two striking dreams. If this were the case then the causal connection between the father’s contemplation and his dreams would rule this out as a case of acausal synchronicity. This possibility, although it cannot be conclusively ruled out, seems highly unlikely. The connection between the question about whether to visit his father and the hexagram “gathering” with its stunning statement that “The family gathers about the father as its head” is surely acausal, but meaningful.
The question naturally arises about whether he can forgive himself. Often this is much more difficult than forgiving others. On that sobering note, I turn to a brief summary of the modern successors to the laboratory studies of paranormal phenomena that so powerfully influenced Jung.
III. Laboratory Studies of Paranormal Phenomena
The quotation above is from a letter that did not find its way into Jung’s two-volume set of letters, but is from the more complete set of letters between Jung and Rhine that has recently surfaced (Mansfield, et.al., 1998). The startling revelation that the synchronicity essay "is largely based upon your ESP (extra sensory perception) experiment" cannot be found in Jung’s Collected Works, his published letters, or his autobiography.
The experiments that so deeply impressed Jung involved telepathy (mind to mind communication without any sensory connections) and psychokinesis (mind influencing matter without any physical connections). The telepathy experiment involved Subject A flipping randomly ordered numbered cards each with one of five possible simple images on them. They record the order of the flipped cards. The other isolated subject, B, guesses the order of these images. Some subjects got no better score for the order of cards flipped than that expected from random guesses. However, Rhine got statistically significant correlations for some pairs of subjects. His psychokinesis experiment involved mentally influencing the numbers that come up on randomly thrown dice. The modern refinements of these two types of experiments are today carried out worldwide and are called the ganzfeld experiment (telepathy) and the mental biasing of random number generators (psychokinesis). These descendants of Rhine’s original experiments are now done with sophisticated information processing technology that allows for a degree of precision and methodological rigor undreamed of by the pioneer researchers.
Ganzfeld. The term ganzfeld, or "total field," describes the conditions under which experiments test for the ability of subjects to receive images from a distant and isolated sender. The receiver wears headphones playing white noise and on her eyes half Ping-Pong balls illuminated by red light. The resulting uniform sound and visual experience gives a total undifferentiated perceptual field or ganzfeld, believed to lower resistance to alien imagery. The working hypothesis is that paranormal phenomena involve a weak signal easily unnoticed in normal consciousness. After the receiver undergoes a series of relaxation exercises, the isolated sender views a randomly chosen video clip from a randomly chosen group of four clips. In recent experiments, a computer does the random selecting and they are known as autoganzfeld. The receiver’s verbal reports about all their images and feelings are recorded and then the best match between these reports and the actual video clip shown is determined after the showing. In modern versions of the experiment, the receiver judges which of the four video clips matches their internal imagery, while in others the experimenter decides which clip best fits the verbal reports of the receiver. The success rate according to blind chance is ¼ while a variety of labs consistently find 1/3 for unselected subjects. For gifted subjects the success rate can be over ½. The experiments, such as those done at Cornell University, are done with great care. Bem and Honorton report:
The receiver’s and sender’s rooms were sound-isolated, electrically shielded chambers with single-door access that could be continuously monitored by the experimenter. There was two-way intercom communications between the experimenter and the receiver but only one-way communication into the sender’s room; thus neither the experimenter nor the receiver could monitor events inside the sender’s room. The archival record for each session includes an audiotape containing the receiver’s mentation during the ganzfeld period and all verbal exchanges between the experimenter and the receiver throughout the experiment.
The automated ganzfeld protocol has been examined by several dozen parapsychologists and behavioral researchers from other fields, including well-known critics of parapsychology. Many have participated as subjects or observers. All have expressed satisfaction with the handling of security issues and controls (Bem and Honorton 1994).
Much more can be said about the details of different versions of the experiment. The important point for our purposes is that the results are statistically significant and, as a recent review of ganzfeld experiments show, the more rigorously the experiment adheres to the standard protocol, the higher the success rate. (Bem, Palmer, & Boughton, 2001)
Biasing random number generators. Although there are many labs throughout the world doing these kinds of experiments the best known one is at the Princeton University Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR Lab). (Jahn, et. al. 1997) The Princeton experiments involve subjects willfully biasing the behavior of a variety of mechanical and electronic devices to conform to pre-stated intentions. In calibration runs these machines all produce strictly random outputs of zeroes and ones so that on average there are equal numbers of both. In a typical run the operator sits in a comfortable setting in front of a random number generator and tries to make the machine generate more ones than zeros. This might be followed by a run with no intended bias, followed by another to generate more zeroes than ones, and so on. The sequence of intentions is usually controlled by the experimental apparatus. No instructions are given as to how to affect the random number generator, but after stating each intention a computer collects data. Thousands of such experiments, involving many millions of trials, have been performed by over a hundred operators.
The observed effects are small, of the order of a few parts in ten thousand, but they are statistically significant and operator specific in their details. Using a variety of machines, the results of given operators tend to be similar in character and scale. They can be demonstrated with the operators located thousands of miles from the laboratory or even exerting their efforts hours before or after the actual operation of the devices. This last variation of the experiment rules out any simple causal connection between intentions and outcomes because the intentions can occur up to 336 hours after machine operation with no reduction in effect size (Jahn, et. al., 1997). These experiments and the handling of the data are subject to the same level of scrutiny by outside observers as the ganzfeld experiments. As in the ganzfeld experiments, sophisticated meta-analytic techniques accounting for methodological quality and overall effect size from a variety of studies at different labs show unequivocal non-chance effects.
I forgo discussing the many interesting details about these experiments and just summarize by saying that under exacting laboratory conditions there is strong, repeatable evidence for psychokinesis. Most importantly, despite the many mysteries surrounding them, these parapsychological phenomena have been brought into the realm of science and shown to be objective and repeatable. In the language from Part 1 of this paper, they now lie within the physics plane. They are thus complementary to synchronicity which, because of its meaning content, lies in the plane of analytical psychology.
IV: Distinguishing Synchronicity and Parapsychological Phenomena
Distilling the complementarity between analytical psychology and physics to its essence gives a statement something like: “The meaning at the focus of analytical psychology is complementary to the objective regularities found in physics.” Since both paranormal phenomena and synchronicity are acausal, it is important to recall that physics is quite capable of measuring acausal phenomena and it is precisely these techniques that are employed in modern laboratory parapsychology.
The parapsychological phenomena sketched above are not usually meaningful connections or correlations as Jung and von Franz define meaning as an expression of the self—as unconscious compensation propelling individuation. It’s true that parapsychological phenomena may be arresting and alert us to the possibility of acausal connections between psyche and matter—no small realization. For some rare persons, such an acausal occurrence might be a numinous experience providing an important unconscious compensation, one deeply meaningful for that individual. This would be a genuine synchronicity experience, but then its parapsychological component would be incidental rather than necessary. Nevertheless, I suggest that for most persons parapsychological phenomena have little to do with their individuation, the self guiding them toward wholeness, or their unique path to a meaningful life.
If, as Jung and von Franz claim, some transcendental meaning is manifesting in both the inner and outer world, then we should interpret the synchronistic experience symbolically just like a numinous dream—as a specific expression of the guidance of the self. We could hardly claim this for the parapsychological experiments mentioned above.
An interpretation of a symbolically rich and numinous dream would be incomplete and unsatisfying if it merely reaffirmed the existence of the unconscious. Such interpretation would not show how this numinous dream specifically expresses that person’s individuation. Analogously, I suggest not considering parapsychological phenomena as synchronistic merely because they illustrate acausal connections between a subjective state and objective events. I propose reserving the word synchronicity only for those completely acausally connected events that express some specific, archetypal meaning, some particular display of unconscious compensation. Jung’s categorizing parapsychological phenomena as synchronistic is not consistent with his own definition of synchronicity as acausal connection through meaning, where meaning is an expression of the self propelling our individuation. Figure 5 below illustrates this more accurate classification scheme.
Figure 5: Classification
Precise boundaries rarely exist in psychology. The shaded area separating synchronicity from parapsychological phenomena is my diagrammatic attempt to recognize that the distinction between these phenomena may not always be precise or easy to make. The meaning might actually be there—if only we had the eyes to see. It’s true that even if we cannot articulate the significance of a psychological experience, it can still be transformative. The unconscious compensation may still be effective. However, as Jung stresses the “sine qua non” for all truly synchronistic experiences is meaning—some significant expression of unconscious compensation, some genuine guidance from the self. The boundary also gets blurred because synchronicity experiences often include parapsychological phenomena—as the example above shows.
Strictly applying the meaning criterion eliminates some parapsychological experiences that others might consider synchronistic. In the case of laboratory tests of parapsychological phenomena, the distinction I am suggesting is easier to make. However, in the spontaneous cases of paranormal phenomena, the distinction is more difficult. Like synchronicity experiences, these cases occur sporadically and are often emotionally compelling. My suggestion is that unless these spontaneous paranormal phenomena experiences are an expression of unconscious compensation, a manifesting of the purposiveness of the unconscious within the individuation process, then they are distinct from synchronicity. Without a strict interpretation of synchronicity, we are constantly in danger of confusing it with parapsychological phenomena. This would result in a great loss in clarity, especially since our present understanding of both phenomena is so rudimentary.
I cannot understand Jung (Jung 1978c, para. 840) when he says, "Rhine’s experiments confront us with the fact that there are events which are related to one another experimentally, and in this case meaningfully, without there being any possibility of proving that this relation is a causal one, . . ." (the italics are Jung’s). How could he be using "meaningfully" here? Yes, a greater than chance correlation has meaning in the conventional sense of the word. We can analyze it mathematically, speak intelligibly to others about it, and so on. However, this conventional and trivial use of meaning is not the way Jung normally uses the term. As von Franz says, "The realization of ‘meaning’ is therefore not a simple acquisition of information or of knowledge, but rather a living experience that touches the heart just as much as the mind" (von Franz, 1992, p. 257). Can we say that laboratory studies of parapsychological phenomena "touch the heart as much as the mind?" Are these statistical correlations expressing the archetype of meaning—the self? Are they a spontaneous and creative unfolding of our unique wholeness, of what we are meant to be? Clearly they are not and therefore not synchronicity experiences, something I have been saying since my synchronicity book published in 1995.
My belief in the necessity of distinguishing synchronicity from paranormal phenomena based on meaning was recently confirmed when I read the letter from Pauli to Jung dated 28, June 1949 which refers to a draft of the synchronicity essay that Jung sent to Pauli for his comments. In the first paragraph, Pauli writes:
Many thanks for your interesting manuscript and your friendly letter. I should first of all like to point out that the Rhine series of experiments seem to me to be a totally different type of phenomenon from the other phenomena listed by you as "synchronistic." For with the former I cannot see any archetypal basis (or am I wrong there?). This for me, however, is crucial to an understanding of the phenomena in question, as is your earlier observation (Eranos Jahrbuch 1947 ) that their appearance is complementary to the archetypal contents becoming conscious. I regret very much that this aspect is not mentioned at all in your latest work. Perhaps you could make further additions here, for it would make it all easier to understand. (Meier, 2001, p. 36)
Surprisingly, after this there are only indirect references to this critical point in the Pauli-Jung letters. From Jung’s synchronicity essay we can see that, despite all the other influences of Pauli, Jung did not agree with him on this point.
Pauli was infamous for delivering the most cruel and insensitive criticisms of the work of others. Because of his astounding brilliance he was nearly always right and his biting criticism earned him the nickname “the whip of God” or the “terrible Pauli.” With this in mind, I am surprised by the diffidence in Pauli’s tone “(or am I wrong there?).” Is this the whip of God speaking? Or how about when he writes “As an obedient student of yours . . .” I can only speculate that the age difference between them (Jung was 25 years older) and Jung’s tremendous psychological knowledge and personal power account for Pauli’s differential tone in all the letters.
Distinguishing between parapsychological phenomena and synchronicity in no way diminishes the importance of the laboratory studies of such phenomena. Yes, parapsychological phenomena may not be intimately connected to the archetypal meaning driving our individuation, yet these meticulous laboratory studies with all their consistency and repeatability have more potential to revolutionize physics and our entire worldview than the unique and unpredictable synchronicity phenomena. For all their numinosity, synchronicity experiences are, by their very nature, resistant to the kind of careful empirical investigation required for them to be integrated into our modern scientific understanding. While synchronicity speaks directly to the evolution of our subjective being, the exacting laboratory studies of parapsychological phenomena speak more directly to our understanding of psyche and its place in nature.
Given that one mind can transmit information to another without any sensory connection has tremendous implications for our sense of connection with others. We usually consider our inner world as private, as our little psychic castle with a large, impenetrable moat around it. But these experiments show that there is much traffic back and forth and the boundaries between you and me are not clearly defined. Although our mental connections with each other may be largely unconscious and perceived by some as threatening our very sense of privacy and selfhood, they are still effective.
These parapsychology experiments vividly confirm what Englishman John Done wrote in Meditation 17 in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, 1624. There he writes, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” England may be an island nation, but culturally, spiritually, economically, and politically it is part of Europe and the world. We too are deeply integrated into the continent of humanity in more ways than we know.
Buddhists would say that the profound interconnections among us mean that another person’s pain or joy is at least in part mine and our duty is thus to labor for the benefit of all sentient beings. Perhaps the scientific proof of the deep interconnections between minds displayed in parapsychology can ultimately encourage more compassion for our fellow human beings. Unfortunately, parapsychology is grossly neglected by the general scientific community. I believe that understanding these experiments would simply require too many profound shifts in our worldview and thus the collective resists through inertia and fear.
That mind can directly affect matter (psychokinesis) also has the potential to profoundly transform our worldview. For just one example, consider mental healing. If we can reliably bias a random generator what could we do about something of much greater concern, such as our own health or that of a loved one? Of course, recognizing the reality of telepathy or psychokinesis can also be turned to harm or at least silliness. As Jung said so often, there is always a shadow.
There are also possibilities for abuse with synchronicity. Along with being thankful for the dramatic infusion of meaning into our lives that comes with a major synchronicity we can become inflated. “How deeply spiritual I must be if the world is conspiring to teach me!” We can also attempt to turn the most trivial of events into giant synchronicity experiences as another way of expressing our inflation or as the simple primitivity of early eruptions of the self, the archetype of meaning.
V. Some Implications of Complementarity
Recall from part 1 of this paper, that quantum mechanical complementarity tells us three important facts: First, each member of a complementary pair requires mutually exclusive experimental conditions to manifest. We cannot simultaneously manifest both members of a complementary pair in the same experiment any more than we can simultaneously see two views of the cube from part 1. Complementary properties do not even have a well defined existence independent of the detailed measurement or outside of the actual experience and its associated state of consciousness.
The mutual exclusivity of expressions of complementary pairs implies that, despite their many differences, in an actual experience (analogous to a particular experimental arrangement) there can never be a conflict between analytical psychology and physics. For example, consider the example “Crossing to Safety” from part 1 of this paper. Two mutually exclusive states of coconsciousness must be involved when considering the experience synchronistically versus scientifically. The different states of consciousness prohibit simultaneous intuition of transformative meaning in the inner and outer worlds and objective calculation of the car’s speed. Synchronicity requires an experience of the unity of psyche and matter while a scientific analysis requires the objectification of matter. More generally, in a given experience there can never be a conflict between science and the sacred or science and religion. Of course, doctrinal assertions made in retrospective reflection, outside of the actual experience, can strongly diverge. For example, a synchronicity pivots around the incarnation of transformative meaning while science denies the existence of such meaning. However, this divergence is an expression of the fundamental tension that always exists between members of complementarity pairs. Waves and particles, causal and acausal, or yin and yang will always be an opposition, but not in a given experimental setup or a particular experience.
Second, despite the great differences between members of a complementary pair, no one member is more important than its opposite nor can one member be reduced to another. There is thus no danger of having science, as it is presently known, absorb analytical psychology, in its present form, or vice versa. Despite their many differences, they have equal claims to reality.
Third, the unity that resolves the complementary opposites transcends the realm in which the opposites manifest. The mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics, done in the usual infinite-dimensional complex Hilbert Space, is on an entirely different ontological level from any expression of complementary opposites in the laboratory. What of the unity that underlies both science and analytical psychology? von Franz (1975, p. 247) tells us that
The most essential and certainly the most impressive thing about synchronicity occurrences . . . is the fact that in them the duality of soul and matter seems to be eliminated. They are therefore an empirical indication of an ultimate unity of all existence, which Jung, using the terminology of medieval natural philosophy, called the Unus Mundus.
A unity that “eliminates” the duality of soul and matter and is the “ultimate unity of all existence” must be a principle logically prior to the division between subject and object and all phenomenal manifestation. Since discursive language must always objectify its referent, we know that such an indivisible unity is more encompassing than either the psyche or matter. For this reason the unity spoken about by mystics, whether the Unus Mundus or Brahman, must be ineffable, incapable of becoming objectified as ordinary knowledge, whether psychological or scientific. Thus, it cannot be grasped through image. This is not comfortable ground for modern minds so deeply influenced by the Cartesian logic of science. Nevertheless, such a unity encompassing both analytical psychology and science is the goal of all religious and mystical traditions.
In the Mysterium Coniunctionis Jung describes the Unus Mundus, the transcendent unity embracing all the oppositions, as “the potential world of the first day of creation, when nothing was yet ‘in actu,’ i.e., divided into two and many, but was still one. . . a potential world, the eternal Ground of all empirical being, just as the self is the ground and origin of the individual personality past, present, and future.” This description emphasizes the “potential” nature of this unity, echoing the potential nature of both wavefunctions and psychoid archetypes. The Unus Mundus is not an actualized manifestation, not “in actu,” but a transcendental potential to manifest, including complementary opposites under the appropriate conditions.
Such a lofty unity can only be approached through humility, reverence, and awe on the via negativa. Because of its indivisible nature, this unity cannot be known with the discursive intellect. Unlike ordinary or scientific knowledge, we must know it by becoming it. Being and knowledge must become one. This knowledge by identity is beautifully expressed in the poem “Sunrise Ruby” by Rumi (Barks, 2000, p. 100-1). (A little background information: Hallaj was a famous Sufi mystic (857-922) who was brutally put to death for heresy.)
In the early morning hour,
just before dawn, lover and beloved wake
and take a drink of water.
She asks, “Do you love me or yourself more?
Really, tell the absolute truth.”
He says, “There’s nothing left of me.
I’m like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
This is how Hallaj said I am God,
and told the truth!
The ruby and the sunrise are one.
Be courageous and discipline yourself.
Completely become hearing and ear,
and wear this sun-ruby as an earring.
Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.
Barks, C. (1995). The Essential Rumi. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.
Bem, D. J. and Honorton, C. (1994). ‘Does Psi Exist?’. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 115, No. 1, 4-18.
Bem, D.J, Palmer, J. and Broughton, R.S. (2001) ‘Updating the Ganzfeld Database: A Victim of Its Own Success?’ The Journal of Parapsychology Vol, 65, September.
Jahn, R.G., Dunne, B. J., Nelson R.D., Dobyns, Y. H., and Bradish G.J. (1997). ‘Correlations of Random Binary Sequences with Pre-Stated Operator Intention: A Review of a 12-Year Program.’ Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 345–367.
Jung, C.G. (1978). ‘Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle.” CW 8: 419-531. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C.G., 1978a. ‘Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle,’ CW 8, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Mansfield, V. & Spiegelman, J. M. (1996). ‘On the Physics and Psychology of the Transference as an Interactive Field.’ Journal of Analytical Psychology, 41, pp. 179-202.
Mansfield, V. (1995). Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
Mansfield, V. (2002). Head and Heart: A Personal Exploration of Science and the Sacred. Chicago, IL: Quest Books.
Mansfield, V., Rhine-Feather, Sally, and Hall, James (1998). ‘The Rhine-Jung Letters: Distinguishing Parapsychological from Synchronistic Events.’ Journal of Parapsychology, 62:1.
Meier, C.A., editor (2001). Atom and Archetype. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.
von Franz, M-L. (1975) C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time, trans. William H. Kennedy, London: Hodder and Stroughton.
von Franz,M-L (1992). Psyche and Matter. Boston, MA, Shambhala.
visits since 7/18/03.