THE BRIDGE BETWEEN MATTER AND MIND
by F. DAVID PEAT PhD
|Carl Jung defined synchronicity as “The coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same meaning.” His implication is clear–certain events in the universe cluster together into meaningful patterns without recourse to the normal pushes and pulls of causality. These synchronicities therefore must transcend the normal laws of science, for they are the expressions of much deeper movements that originate in the ground of the universe and involve, in an inseparable way, both matter and meaning.The true story of synchronicity begins with the collaboration of two remarkable thinkers, the psychologist Carl Jung and the physicist Wolfgang Pauli. Their concept of synchronicity originated in a marriage between the approaches of physics and psychology. Jung writes, “In writing this paper I have, so to speak, made good a promise which for many years I lacked the courage to fulfill. The difficulties of the problem and its representation seemed to me too great…If I have now conquered my hesitation and at last come to grips with the theme it is chiefly because my experiences of the phenomenon of synchronicity have multiplied themselves over the decades”. “Meaningful coincidences are unthinkable as pure chance–the more they multiply and the greater and more exact the correspondence is…they can no longer be regarded as pure chance, but, for the lack of a causal explanation, have to be thought of as meaningful arrangements.“
W. Pauli writes, “There must be something else. I think I know what is coming. I know it exactly. But I don’t tell it to others. They may think I am mad. So I am doing five dimensional theory of relativity although I don’t really believe in it. But I know what is coming. Perhaps I will tell you some time.”
Despite our appeal to a “scientific view of nature,” such events do occur, and while it is true that anyone of them can be dismissed as “coincidence” such an explanation makes little sense to the person who has experienced such a synchronicity. Indeed the whole point of such happenings is that they are meaningful and play a significant role in a person’s life. Synchronicities are the jokers in nature’s pack of cards for they refuse to play by the rules and offer a hint that, in our quest for certainty about the universe, we may have ignored some vital clues. Synchronicities challenge us to build a bridge with one foundation derived into the objectivity of hard science and the other into the subjectivity of personal values.
Synchronicities take the form of patterns that emerge by chance out of a general background of chance and contingency and hold a deep meaning for the person who experiences them. Often these coincidences occur at critical points in a person’s life and can be interpreted as containing the seeds of future growth. Synchronicities could, therefore, be said to involve the meaningful unfoldment of potential. Synchronicities are therefore often associated with periods of transformation; for example, births, deaths, falling in love, psychotherapy, intense creative work, and even a change of profession. It is as if this internal restructuring produces external resonance’s or as if a burst of “mental energy” is propagated outward into the physical world.
Such synchronicities begin within the outer world and then move inward as their meaning is revealed. Such synchronicities depend on detecting a deeper meaning to the patterns and clusterings of the phenomena around us. They may involve our becoming linked with the environment in a special way, anticipating events or sensing some underlying pattern to the world. While the conventional laws of physics do not heed human desires or the need for meaning–apples fall whether we will them to or not–synchronicities act as mirrors to the inner processes of mind and take the form of outer manifestations of interior transformations.
The many examples of coincidental movements of thought, feeling, and ideas between unconnected groups and across disciplines suggests that a deeper meaning lies beyond these coincidents and synchronicities.
The special flavor of a synchronicity lies in its being, at one and the same time, a unique, individual event and the manifestation of universal order. Wrapped within the temporal moment, a synchronicity exhibits its transcendental nature. It is this relationship between the transcendent and the coincidental arrangement of mental and physical happenings that the synchronicity acquires its numinous meaning.
Neils Bohr, for example, stressed that quantum theory had revealed the essential indivisibility of nature while Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle indicated the extent to which an observer intervenes in the system he
Quantum theory and relativity had a revolutionary effect upon this Newtonian approach, not only in transforming the formalism of physics but also changing the worldview that was associated with it. The worldview that we have all inherited from an outmoded physics still has a profound effect on our whole lives; it permeates our attitudes to society, government., and human relations and suggests that every adverse situation can be analyzed into an isolated “problem” with a corresponding solution or means of control. It is for such reasons that synchronicity can have such a profound effect on us, for it reaches beyond our intellectual defenses and shatters our faith in the tangibility of surfaces and the linear orders of time and nature.
In building the bridge between mind and matter, the notion of causality must be bypassed in favor of transformations and unfoldings. Causality and synchronicity are not contradictory but are dual perceptions of the same underlying reality. In other words, synchronicities are manifestations, in mind and matter, of the unknown ground that underlies them both. In this way similar orders are found in both consciousness and in the structuring of matter. The parallelism between the objective and the subjective aspects of the universe do not so much arise through causal connections, or linear patterns in time, but out of underlying dynamics that are common to both. Synchronicities therefore introduce meaning and value, in an essential way, into nature. The meaningful patterns of the world, which transcend all our attempts to limit and encompass them, arise not so much through the mechanisms of external orders but through the unfolding of their own internal significance.
While science has an awesome power to predict and control, it is also clear that its essential fragmentation of nature is no longer able to address all the major problems that face the world today. Synchronicity, however, with its sensitivity to harmony and the indivisibility of consciousness, humanity, and nature at least opens up the possibility of a new approach. But again this does not mean making a choice to “adopt” synchronicity or to “replace” some of the approaches of science with those of synchronicity. Rather, by being perceptive to these issues it may be possible to move, in a creative way, in an entirely new direction…One step toward becoming more sensitive to the duality between these different worldviews is to begin to question the whole current order of science and to develop new ideas and theories that have a more holistic approach.
In the present century the ultimate level of nature appears to be that of space-time and the infinite energy of the quantum field. But there is no reason to suppose that the ground of reality lies there and that there may not be an uncountable number of yet more subtle levels to be discovered. Indeed both consciousness and matter may be discovered to evolve out of a common order where the processes of matter and the activity of information are two sides of one reality.
The real message of synchronicity, for the Western scientific viewpoint, is not to throw away all that is of value within the last five hundred years, but to be sensitive to new perspectives and to allow the mind its full creative potential. In this way it becomes possible to retain a subjective experience of nature and a sense of the meaning and interconnectedness of things without needing to reject the scientific approach. Synchronicity will appear very naturally to a mind that is constantly sensitive to change, for it reveals the overall patterns of nature of mind and provides a context in which events have their meaning.
Synchronicity has gradually been enfolded into an entirely new dimension; in place of a causal deterministic world, in which mind and matter are two separate substances, appears a universe of infinite subtlety that is much closer to a creative living organism than to a machine. Reality, in this way, is pictured as a limitless series of levels which extend to deeper and deeper subtleties and out of which the particular, explicate order of nature and the order of consciousness and life emerge. Synchronicities can therefore be thought of as an expression of this underlying movement, for they unfold as patterns of thoughts and arrangements of material processes which have a meaningful conjunction when taken together. Paradoxically,the nothingness of the ground state, out of which the universe is sustained, is both a vacuum and a plenum. It is a vacuum because, as in the everyday idea of empty space, matter is able to move through it without interruption. But it is also a plenum because it is infinitely full of energy. Indeed, the observable material universe is nothing more that the minor fluctuations upon this vast sea of energy. And, it should not be forgotten, just as this infinite energy is used in the generation of matter, so it is also available to mind, through the deeper ground of its source.
Why should synchronicity be considered as some isolated coincidence of mind and matter when the one underlying source is constantly giving birth to the universe at every eternal moment? An answer to these questions is given in the final chapter, where it is suggested that a fragmentation in the way the mind has come to perceive the orders of time, and the growth of the self with all its attachments, has blinded our perceptions to the basic creativity in the universe. While the source of all reality is an unconditional creativity, it does appear that–human society, and the individual within it, often operate in a fairly mechanical way so that they respond to new situations from relatively fixed positions and in uncreative ways. In other words, they appear to be trapped in structures and forms of their own making, such as the beliefs, goals, and values that have become so rigid that they are unable to move in the flexible and subtle ways that characterize the general order of the universe. Is it possible therefore for the creative source to permeate the life of the individual? By no longer sustaining the mechanical order of time and attachment can the division between mind and body, individual and society, and society and nature be healed and the whole order of consciousness transformed in a creative way? Is it possible that the balance of life on this planet may be restored and a deeper sense of meaning function within the individual and society?
Synchronicities, epiphanies,–peak, and mystical experiences are all cases in which creativity breaks through the barriers of the self and allows awareness to flood through the whole domain of consciousness. It is the human mind operating, for a moment, in its true order and extending throughout society and nature, moving through orders of increasing subtlety, reaching past the source of mind and matter into creativity itself.
Synchronicities have opened a window onto a creative source of infinite potential, the well-spring of the universe itself. They have shown how mind and matter are not distinct, separate aspects of nature but arise in a deeper order of reality. Synchronicities suggest that we can renew our contact with that creative and unconditioned source which is the origin not only of ourselves but all of reality. By dying to the self and its mechanical, reactive responses to nature, it becomes possible to engage in an active transformation and gain access to unlimited ranges of energy. In this way, body and consciousness, individual and society, mind and matter may come to achieve their unlimited potential.
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