chapter  7
19 Pages

The lawful irrationality of synchronicity

The centrality of extrasensory perception (ESP) experiences for Jung’s understanding of the psyche can easily be underestimated-either by dismissing it as some sort of naive belief in spirits, as Harvard dream expert J. Allan Hobson puts it (Hobson 2002, 2005) or by viewing the theory of synchronicity as some late development in Jung’s career that arose only in the 1950s along with his book on UFOs,1 perhaps nothing but the self-indulgence of an old man. It therefore seems important to demonstrate that a deep concern with “border zone” phenomena was constant throughout Jung’s professional life. In 1900, when he began his psychiatric career, parapsychological claims were deemed to be either naively exalted fantasies, a sort of superstitious religion, or else were seen as pathological symptoms of interest only to the psychiatrist. Jung wanted to understand them in another sense-as legitimate phenomena for psychological investigation, a body of natural but poorly developed talents of the human psyche. He found incidents of ESP to be more common than is generally believed or admitted, although undeniably irregular and unpredictable. He wanted to know how it is that such phenomena sometimes turn out to be extraordinarily useful and how reality must be structured if such things do sometimes occur. He bravely made incursions into the border zones of exact science, despite the danger to his reputation, believing that the only way to obtain an adequate picture of the human psyche was to exclude none of its capabilities. In that sense Jung’s persistence represents what is the best in science. Indeed, as we shall see in this chapter and those that follow, Jung has been as much an unrecognized trail blazer in parapsychological studies as he has in evolutionary and biologically sensitive theories of the psyche. Starting with his roots in the “French School” of dissociation psychology and hypnotic trance, he studied spiritualism with an eye as critical as those of London’s Society for Psychical Research (SPR) and agreed with the SPR that some mediums were anything but fraudulent. He followed the labora tory work of J. B. Rhine at Duke University, and was delighted to fi nd that ESP adheres to some basic laws that seemed related to his own archetypal studies. In the end, he found not science but mainstream Western metaphysics to be the obstacle to our accepting and developing our inborn capabilities. In collaboration with Wolfgang Pauli, therefore, he proposed a remedy, namely the idea that our

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public view of reality excludes a necessary principle of nature-the one he calls synchronicity.