By Sky Nelson-Isaacs
Synchronicity is a meaningful alignment of two events that creates an experience we are seeking to have, whether consciously or not. We have all experienced synchronicity, even if we did not recognize it. Some synchronicities help you live a meaningful life more than others.
For example, imagine a much anticipated road trip and the vehicle breaks down. While waiting by the side of the road, a mechanic who specializes in the same type of car driven stops to lend a hand.
Philosophers and scientists have theorized about the nature of synchronicity for decades. I believe the phenomenon can be described with a model of a branching tree of life’s events. The branches are drawn from our understanding of quantum mechanics.
Synchronicity — A meaningful coincidence
Each of the possible circumstances in life shows up as a branch on this tree. And through a process called “meaningful history selection,” the most meaningful branches become statistically more likely. These branches are the meaningful coincidences or synchronicities.
I suspect that synchronicities show up in our lives in response to our inner emotional dialogue, or our felt experience. The parts of ourselves that are wounded influence synchronicities. They do so by re-experiencing the wound for the purpose of understanding and making different meaningful life choices.
Synchronicity is a program which works without fail. It is a scientific law, yet also composed of conscious experiences. It is a conscious or “awake” law of physics rather than the usual impersonal laws. In my understanding, it is fully compatible with the notion of cosmic consciousness or divine mind. Though it also does not have to be interpreted that way.
Synchronicity is as old as religion, and the astounding nature of it can make one feel connected to the greater whole. It’s as if the cosmos know what we are thinking and feeling.
These types of synchronistic experiences gave rise in early history to a notion of personalized deities with human characteristics who are omnipresent and maybe even omnipotent.
I agree that synchronicity is omnipresent—it can happen anywhere and at any time—but not omnipotent, as it must work within the laws of physics to accomplish meaningful synchronistic events. Carl Jung established the formal definition of a synchronicity as a meaningful coincidence, connecting to the collective unconscious and symbolic consciousness.
In other words, it is not the specific circumstances that are profound, but how they align within the context of someone’s consciousness and life.
I love his investigation of symbols as a language of the unconscious. I think that feelings drive the events of our lives. By this I mean that synchronicities show up in response to our felt experience. The language of that felt experience is symbolism.
My definition is quite compatible with Jung’s, although he investigated a broader spectrum of circumstances, while I have tried to pinpoint the core elements in a rigorous way.
There is a very small physical difference between the case where I board a train on time and that in which I don’t. But the types of circumstances these cases lead to can be radically different. There is a big symbolic difference between the cases.
Synchronicity happens everyday
Our actions reflect this symbolic meaning — I either run for the train or I don’t. And a synchronicity is a set of circumstances which emerge that match my action symbolically. If I run, I may be more likely to experience a fluke event that delays the train long enough for me to get on board.
A synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence. So if someone says an event was just a coincidence, they are trying to say it was not meaningful.
I see synchronicities lying along a spectrum of meaningfulness. Some barely help you live a meaningful life at all, like reading a story about a blue feather and then coming across a blue feather unexpectedly on your front porch.
Others seem to have profound meaning.
Such as the time I was trying to meet my good friend (who became my wife) while traveling in Greece, but gave up and headed to Paris only to run into her there.
Not every event helps you live a meaningful life. Randomness is part of thermodynamics. My theory of synchronicity draws upon the leeway that I suggest is present in quantum mechanics. This allows for macroscopic systems as a whole to fall into place.
“Meaning” is about the meta-arrangement of circumstances, so the randomness of physical events supports the notion of synchronicity.
Your own inner knowing is what ultimately determines the usefulness of a synchronicity. –Sky Nelson-Isaacs
This allows a given meaningful situation to show up in many variations. The underlying interactions can be random, but the overall flow of life’s circumstances can be patterned.
Popular culture has long included synchronistic plot devices. Most movies have elements of synchronicity in them. So I find it interesting to digest books or novels noting how the plot often relies on highly unlikely events. We take it for granted in our media, yet we are skeptical of it in our actual lives!
The book “Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership” by Joseph Jaworski was influential for me in thinking about synchronicity as it shows up in organizations. “Rethinking Organizations” is a book about leadership models that draws heavily on the notion of flow. The thesis in my own book relies on this, being attuned to synchronicity.
“Carl Jung’s Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle” is a foundational book in the field. Both “Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Matter and Mind” by David Peat and “Synchronicity: Through the Eyes of Science, Myth and the Trickster” by Alan Combs and Mark Holland are strong contributions to the scientific and cultural understanding of synchronicity.
Of course the foundational contribution, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi influenced my thinking on the field substantially.
Rather than questioning whether a situation is or it isn’t a synchronicity, simply drop into the flow and appreciate the opportunity. Or the obstacles that life has sent and what you might gain or learn from it.
I suggest using synchronicity to get more in touch with your authentic goals and highest ideals. Do so to feel your meaningful life more fully. When living with a heart open wide, the mental question of what is or isn’t a synchronicity drops away, and we find ourselves living fully in the moment and in the flow.
Sky Nelson-Isaacs is a physics educator, speaker, writer, and musician. He is the author of “Living in Flow: The Science of Synchronicity and How Your Choices Shape Your World.”