Argument 1: The Problem of Rare and Spontaneous Events [Methodology]
Synchronicities are like random flickers of light emanating from the bodies of fireflies therefore it seems impossible to pin them down. Because of the unpredictability of their occurrence it does not seem feasible to investigate them scientifically as systematic research requires the “subject” in question to be to be observable in a specified location at a specified time.
The randomness of synchronicities permitted Jung (1955) to assert his first anti-causal argument—an argument about methodology—as follows:
scientific method assumes that all phenomena obey laws of cause and effect. Knowledge of these relationships comes from subjecting events to controlled experiments. This presumes that the phenomenon to be investigated is repeatable on demand. Since synchronicities are always spontaneous and rare, their unpredictability would seem to resist meeting this basic requirement of scientific method. Thus it follows that events like these are inexplicable from a causal perspective.1
Implied in this argument about methodology is Jung's foreclosing the possibility of ever finding a way to subject these events to scientific scrutiny. My research indicates that Jung’s categorical conclusion is not supported by some facts of which he was either unaware or perhaps chose to overlook.
A Rebuttal of Jung’s First Anti-Causal Argument
Science aims to establish order out of chaos seeking to discover regularity in apparent randomness. When applied to synchronicities, Jung concedes that there is a certain amount of order present even in the apparent randomness of synchronicities up to a point. So that while each synchronicity is spontaneous, and unique, each and every synchronicity, as previously described, has a common structure (see page 00). However, order and regularity fail to materialize when the researcher attempts to explain the nature of the link connecting the internal A psychic event with B, the external event. Therefore, to formulate an adequate naturalistic theory of synchronicities obligates the theoretician to bring this perplexing and seemingly inexplicable connection between the two halves of any synchronicity into the realm of scientific investigation—a task which Jung categorically believes is doomed to inevitable failure from the very start.
In this light, the first anti-causal argument is the most crucial one. For if there is no adequate methodology which can pin down these phenomena enough to be able to examine them scientifically then the positing of an irrational connection has to be seriously entertained as the most valid conceivable conclusion to be reached however distasteful this seems to those who would like to believe otherwise.
However, as Johnson (1996) convincingly points out in Fire in the Mind never underestimate the ingenuity of curious minds to fashion new organizing concepts that find serendipitous openings in seemingly impassable walls. “Instead of regarding complexity as a fixed platonic essence sitting in the middle of a neat scale, perhaps we should think of it as an ever-changing relationship between observer and observed. The implication, of course, is thatthere may be no preexisting, canonical order woven into the universe, waiting to be found. The orders we alight upon are, at least in part, human inventions; they depend on the lenses we use.”2
Freud’s Inferred Response
One such creative mind was that of Freud (1934) who in 1919, reflecting about supernatural phenomena, issued a challenge to all open minded people to answer the question: Is what the occultists tell us true or not?—a thinly veiled challenge to Jung, meaning, is what Jung tells us true or not?3 Mindful of this thorny issue of problematic methodology Freud (1934) offers the following guidance:“We will further our suspicion that the application of psychoanalysis may throw a light on other so called occult facts.”4
Freud would likely insist that even though there is an apparent mystery at hand when considering the nature of synchronicities it does not necessarily mean that no rational explanation is possible. What is called for is not a resigned attitude of passive surrender but a renewed attempt to make seemingly “just so” existential occurrences into data that can be viewed as problems to be solved. While there are other sources that could be mined, one rich addition to the realm of the collective consciousness that has important theoretical and practical applicability in enabling synchronicities to be scientifically investigated is the philosophical movement known as pragmatism.