Bojan Gorjanc on March 13th, 2009


There are moments in the life of each one of us when we touch what the Irish writer, James Joyce, termed an epiphany, so that “the soul of the commonest object … seems to us radiant”. Epiphanies are occasions of benediction when meaning floods as a blessing into our lives and we have a profound experience of recognition, pattern, numiniousness, a deeply felt intuition of the rightness of a particular situation, and of a world that suddenly makes sense. Within such a moment the habitual distinction we make between inner and outer, subjective and objective, dream and reality breaks down to reveal the cosmos and our own lives under the one light.

F. David Peat says in the book Kooperation mit der Evolution that this experience of epiphany is the essential feature of what the psychologist Carl Jung termed a synchronicity. In turn, synchronicities reveal the larger patterns of the cosmos, including those movements of growth, realization and renewal we call evolution.

Jung originally defined synchronicity as “an acausal connecting principal” and “meaningful coincidence”. Of particular significance is the associated sense of meaning and significance that distinguishes a true synchronicity from a mere coincidence. Synchronicities reveal, in particularly dramatic ways, links between inner mental patterns and events in the external world. These involve quite different orders of connection than those associated with our familiar notions of causality. In this sense, synchronicities are closer to the medieval conception of sympathies.

Synchronicities call into question the most cherished scientific concepts of chance and necessity, causality and acausality, separation in space and in time. Yet, throughout history most cultures have had profoundly different visions of space, time and causality than those of 19th century science. These more traditional approaches embrace rather than reject synchronicity.

In ancient Indian and central America, and indeed, in Europe until the late middle ages, time was experienced not as an arrow moving along a line but in terms of cycles of birth, death and renewal. Furthermore time was unified with space, as can still be found in the verbal tense structures of certain Native American languages.

The universe was perceived not so much in terms of separately distinct objects connected by forces but through sympathies, influences, humors, resonances and patterns that belong together. It was not that movements of the planets causally influenced events on earth, but that an essential harmony was maintained between the patterns of heaven and earth. Within such a world-view, synchronicity is perfectly natural.

It was only with the rise of banking and commerce – lending money against time and accumulating interest – in the late middle ages that time became fragmented from space into a linear, secular form. Finally, with the Renaissance and the rise of science, time became the servant of prediction, control, accumulation, wealth, progress and a faith in the power of technology to solve all problems within a material universe pictured exclusively in terms of force and mechanical causality. According to such a worldview biological evolution, a long march towards perfection, replaces life as part of an organic universe imbued with spirit.

The use of a linear time as the ultimate arbiter of progress is an aberration within the world’s cultures. Creativity lies outside time. It embraces both the emergence of new, the unconditioned, and the renewal of the familiar – as when an outstanding pianist plays a well-known sonata or an intelligent reader returns to a familiar poem. True evolution is of a similar order. It is an expression of the basic creativity of the cosmos, that same creativity capable of throwing up the arresting patterns we term synchronicities.

Evolution lies outside the restraints and measures of linear time. Is Brahms superior to Bach, Grass to Goethe, Beuys to Grundwald, or for that matter Freud superior to Shakespeare in understanding the dark nature of the human soul? Or have the spiritual and ecological sensibilities of contemporary Europe advanced compared to the gentle agricultural culture of the Iroquois nation of North America. And, in terms of life on earth, are not the ancient bacteria that regulate the composition of our atmosphere amongst the most significant entities to have evolved?

But in an image of evolution based upon the values of industrial progress and economic competition, the meaning of an individual life and the creative moment is lost within supposed grand struggle for survival between species. But twentieth century science has challenged the very ground upon which this 19th century ideal was founded. No longer does science boast of its ability to predict and control, nor technology to create eternal progress. First quantum theory and then the theories of chaos and complexity have transformed our notions of being and becoming.

Modern science pictures life in terms of stable eco-systems, and eco-systems interacting through patterns of cooperation and self-organization. In this sense it is the responsibility of each individual to engage and renew their subtle, yet vital connections with the whole.

If consciousness and humanity are to evolve it must be though renewal and growth and an act of recognition of our essential solidarity with all living things. At the same time we must acknowledge our shadow, the dark side of our humanity, and attempt to come to terms with it. We must know our darkness and our light. We must become conscious of the patterns that connect to us life, both matter and spirit.

That felt sense of the patterns of the cosmos that are experienced as flowing through us during synchronicities and epiphanies. At such moments it seems as if we are able to touch the essential creativity of the universe. This may have been what the painter Cezanne meant, when he spoke of the landscape becoming conscious though him and of his paintings being the objective consciousness of that landscape. Or when Mozart reported that compositions appeared to him in their entirety. It is that ability to touch the universal during moments of high creativity that has been characteristic of the work of other great artists, architects, writers, musicians and mystics; and also of those moments when human society demonstrates a collective creative urge as occurred, yet always in a limited sense, in ancient Athens and during the Renaissance.

Our planet stands at a crisis point. Our way out can no longer lie in fantasies of control but in a new wisdom, an understanding of our inner connectedness to all things and the realization of our inherent creativity and humanity.

You can download the whole chapter from the book Kooperation mit der Evolution in English (Time, synchronicity and evolution).

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