Jung’s Psychological/Supernatural Theory of Synchronicities
“If Jung was a man of science capable of expressing his discoveries in the ordinary language of men, he was also a strange being who narrated improbable experiences in a language that was at odds with that of official science…He gave new terms to those mysteries which emanate from the eternal tradition of man.” Michael Serrano, Jung and Hermann Hesse
Meaningful coincidences (synchronicities) appear to defy conventional laws of cause and effect (psychic determinism). Classical psychoanalysts (and other likeminded scientists), aware of the radical implications of the Jungian perspective, are likely to be disturbed and perhaps challenged by its clear threat to the traditional understanding of the nature and knowledge of reality and the use to which this knowledge is applied. Delighted [indeed, over-awed] by his personal experiences of synchronicities, hyper aware of their religious implications, Jung created a challenging supernatural theory of meaningful coincidences held together by an explanation of a-causal connectedness (the principle of synchronicity.) His radical and provocative point of view has garnered wide spread appeal dominating the synchronicity scene culminating in his provocative categorical assertion that a causal explanation of synchronicities is not even conceivable in rational terms. It will be demonstrated that Jung’s a-causal synchronicity theory, while emotionally compelling, raises more challenging questions than providing definitive answers.
Further it will be demonstrated that all the factors which lends Jung’s synchronicity a distinctly supernatural cast such as the transcendent function and the a-priori realm of absolute archetypal meaning will be accounted for from a purely naturalistic theoretical and psychodynamic perspective. Thus the interested reader will be left with two distinct theories of synchronicities—one supernatural (transpersonal), the other a theme and variation of a purely naturalistic point of view—which may be employed in satisfying his own understanding and practical utilization of these puzzling events.
It should be noted that psychoanalysis was in its infancy when Jung met Freud at his villa for a critically important meeting in 1909. During this meeting they experienced a shared synchronicity whose ripple effects significantly contributed to their eventual breakup in 1912.
Jung, Freud’s heir apparent, having initially embraced the Master’s monumental breakthrough in treating mental patients suffering from neurosis by means of the new method called psychoanalysis, was—at the same time of this meeting—realizing that major doubts about Freud and aspects of his theory had undeniably surfaced. A major concern of Jung’s, which have major implications with respect to their alternative attitudes towards synchronicities, is made explicit in his (1961) commentary about this meeting: “Above all, Freud’s attitude towards the spirit was highly questionable.”1
At this time, Freud and Jung were in agreement that their primary aim was to free their patients from the grips of neurosis expressed in the form of debilitating symptoms such as panic anxiety, hysteria, and obsessive/compulsive attitudes and behavior. The particular method chosen to treat a given patient’s complaints is based on the practitioner’s explicit or implicit assumptions about the nature of symptom formation.