Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jung, synchronicity and the white queen - In work, more to come

--from Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll, Ch. 5, Wool and Water --

'It's very good jam,' said the Queen.
'Well, I don't want any TO-DAY, at any rate.'
'You couldn't have it if you DID want it,' the Queen said. 'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday--but never jam to-day.'
'It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"' Alice objected.
'No, it can't,' said the Queen. 'It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know.'
'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!'
'That's the effect of living backwards,' the Queen said kindly: 'it always makes one a little giddy at first--'
'Living backwards!' Alice repeated in great astonishment. 'I never heard of such a thing!'
'--but there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways.'
'I'm sure MINE only works one way,' Alice remarked. 'I can't remember things before they happen.'
'It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen remarked.

is the experience of two or more events which are causally unrelated occurring together in a supposedly meaningful manner. In order to count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance.

The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality. Instead, it maintains that just as events may be grouped by cause, they may also be grouped by their meaning. Since meaning is a complex mental construction, subject to conscious and subconscious influence, not every correlation in the grouping of events by meaning needs to have an explanation in terms of cause and effect. (definition swiped from wikipedia)

Examples of synchronicity:

The French writer Émile Deschamps claims in his memoirs that in 1805, he was treated to some plum pudding by a stranger named Monsieur de Fortgibu. Ten years later, the writer encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Paris restaurant and wanted to order some, but the waiter told him that the last dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be de Fortgibu. Many years later, in 1832, Émile Deschamps was at a diner and was once again offered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier incident and told his friends that only de Fortgibu was missing to make the setting complete—and in the same instant, the now senile de Fortgibu entered the room.

Jung's thoughts on synchronicity:
Jung wrote, after describing some examples of synchronicity, "When coincidences pile up in this way, one cannot help being impressed by them -- for the greater the number of terms in such a series, or the more unusual its character, the more improbable it becomes."

One of Jung's favorite quotes on synchronicity was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, in which the White Queen says to Alice: "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards".

Jung believed that many experiences perceived as coincidence were not merely due to chance but, instead, suggested the manifestation of parallel events or circumstances reflecting this governing dynamic. Synchronicity is a principle that Jung felt gave conclusive evidence for his concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious. in that it was descriptive of a governing dynamic that underlay the whole of human experience and history — social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. (ok I have been thinking about this all day and the terms "collective unconscious" keeps popping in my head...)

The point of this blog post:
A philosophy friend of mine sends me this message the other day (which is what sparked this entire blog post):
How does Jung's favorite quote from Alice in Wonderland relate to synchronicity? I suppose if an observer could remember the future synchronicity would be expected and we would be able to explain it? I find it very ironic that this particular quote is touted as his favorite synchronicity quote...Partly because of I think Jung is so desperate to gain a window into why synchronicity exists at all, and it plays on his need to be able to rationalize and explain it.

Related theories to play with:

Collective Unconscious/cosmic unconsciousness: Walt Whitman described cosmic consciousness as "ineffable light, light rare, untellable, light beyond all signs, descriptions and languages."

Occam's razor:

Littlewood's Law:

Confirmation bias: (uhm I'm discounting this one all together...yes I am all for individual perception and human bias, but I am with Jung and Wolfgang Pauli (coauthored a paper with Jung criticizing confirmation bias as it relates to synchronicity)


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