chapter  6
13 Pages

Synchronicity: Wordsworth’s stolen boat episode in The Prelude

Such meaningful coincidences imply that time operates strangely at the quantum level of reality. It is not the arrow that Westerners assume it to be but instead a circle. William Shakespeare’s language provides apt illustrations of this contrast. Prospero’s phrase in The Tempest, “the dark backward and abysm of time” (1.2.50), refers to linear time in which the past is distant; Feste’s phrase in Twelfth Night, “the whirligig of time” (5.1.376), conveys not only the cycle of life but perhaps also the unity and simultaneity of all action. A very similar contrast appears in William Faulkner’s description in “A Rose for Emily” of “the very old men . . . to whom all the past is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches.2 If time is a loop that encompasses past, present, and future, much as all points on the circumference of a circle are equidistant from the center, then the temporal abnormality of synchronicities comes into clearer focus. This chapter investigates the underpinnings of Jung’s synchronicity theory in terms that resonate with the One Mind, and then it discusses synchronicity within an overall Jungian reading of William Wordsworth’s stolen boat episode in his psychological epic, The Prelude.