Monday, 22 September 2014

It's Only a Coincidence

Some years ago, the late, lamented Robert Anton Wilson summed up the position of sceptical materialists by pointing out they they have a singe mantra: it's only a coincidence, it's only a coincidence, it's only a coincidence.

Fast forward this YouTube clip to 12.00 minutes and hear it in his own words ...

Synchronicity has been defined as "meaningful coincidence" which is the opposite of what the sceptics mean by coincidence. They maintain that there is no such thing as meaningful coincidence - just random, accidental, happenstance. The self-styled "Skeptics Dictionary" website has this to say about synchronicity:

What reasons are there for accepting synchronicity as an explanation for anything in the real world? What it explains is more simply and elegantly explained by the ability of the human mind to find meaning and significance where there is none (apophenia).  Jung's defense of acausal connections is so inane I hesitate to repeat it.
You can follow the link above if you can bear to read the whole entry. The website is compiled by Robert Todd Carroll, a retired philosophy teacher with no scientific qualifications whatsoever. Yet he believes he is qualified to call Jung "inane". It so happens that Jung had a collaborator on his work on synchronicity: a brilliant and famous quantum physicist called Wolfgang Pauli. Pauli was convinced of synchronicity yet are we to believe that Carroll, at a glance and with no scientific background, has seen the truth that evaded such stellar intellects as Pauli and Jung? You decide.

So, to delve a little into the work of Jung and Pauli, I'll include a couple of incidents which illustrate the concept and will perhaps serve as a starting point for our discussion.

Jung's Beetle

This is from the website:

 One night, the patient dreamt a golden scarab - cetonia aurataThe next day, during the psychotherapy session, a real insect this time, hit against the Jung's cabinet window. Jung caught it and discovered surprisingly that it was a golden scarab; a very rare presence for that climate.

So, the idea is all about coincidence: in this case, between the scarab dreamt by the patient and its appearance in reality, in the psychotherapy cabinet.
But this coincidence is not senseless, a simple coincidence. By using the amplification method, Jung associates in connection with the scarab and comes to the concept of death and rebirth from the esoteric philosophy of antiquity, a process that, in a symbolic way, the patient should experience for a renewal and vitalization of her unilateral personality, the cause of the neurosis she was suffering from. 
Thus, a significant coincidence of physical and psychological phenomena that are acausal connected.

Pauli and the number 137

Wolfgang Pauli, as I mentioned above, was a big name in quantum mechanics and is famous for the Pauli Exclusion Principle for which he received the Nobel Prize (he was nominated by Einstein). He had personal problems with relationships and was advised to seek help from the psychologist, Carl Jung. The "treatment" phase of their relationship lasted only a couple of years but they collaborated on several projects for many years thereafter, attempting to find common ground between physics and psychology.

Pauli was interested in numbers, especially numbers of significance in physics. One such is the number 137 which, in physics, is the value of the "fine structure constant". Not only did this number have great significance in his work but, as Pauli discovered from Jung, 137 has great mystical significance and, in Hebrew Gematria, is the value of the word: קבלה (Kabbalah). 

Pauli died in hospital in 1958. For a man obsessed with synchronicity, his hospital room number would have been just such a meaningful coincidence: it was room 137.

Other links:

Daily Mail Article: 

The answer to life, the universe and everything...



  1. Enough of this deep stuff - check out some of these which include Dennis the Menace being invented at the same time in the USA and UK and the comics containing the character going on sale on the same day!

  2. Here we if dead on time, waiting for the perfect moment, comes a synchronicity about a synchronicity.

    Into my computer inbox today Thuirsday - the day of the S.E. meeting - comes news of Michael Shermer, the world's biggest paranormal sceptic, getting his scepticism 'shaken to the core' by a synchronicity!

    Read all about it here folks....and wonder.....


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