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Synchronicity and Magick

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on August 6, 2012 | Comments (9)

I recently read a blog which claimed that the author’s magick was improving because he was witnessing increased synchronicities in his life. Is this a valid point? Well, I have to answer both yes and no. Yes, his magick is increasing but not in the way his blog implied.

Blinded With Science?

Today, the concept of “do a ritual and get a result” doesn’t satisfy all practitioners of magick. We’ve become more scientific and simply getting a desired magickal result isn’t good enough. We want to know how the magick actually worked: The ritual caused x, x caused y, y caused z and z caused the result. Without knowing xyz we end up doubting that magick took place. “Perhaps,” we think, “it’s just a coincidence.”  Of course, if you do rituals dozens of times and usually get the results you desired, that should remove this from a “mere coincidence” interpretation. How many times do you need to be hit in the head with a hammer to know that when you get hit in the head with that hammer, it hurts? But for many it does not. They want magick explained in scientific terms.

This is not unusual. When I used to haunt used book stores I could almost tell the decade an occult book was written just by its title. For example, anything that looked to magnetism as a source of everything metaphysical was late 18oos early 1900s. Then came the books that saw atoms as the source of everything. Then came the nuclear focus. Now, one of the big things is explaining everything metaphysical through quantum physics. No matter that the person explaining how magick works through quantum physics has little or no training in quantum mechanics and presents his or her theory using a very superficial understanding of the quantum world. But that’s okay. The people who need such concepts will use them until another theory comes around to “scientifically explain” how magick works.

But these pseudo-scientific explanations are not the only ones. Anciently, there were the beliefs that there were spirits/gods of nature that caused magick to work. Over time this changed to more grandiose deities and then to sub-deities including archangels, angels, and various other spiritual entities. Next came periods of magick caused by evil spirits, demons, and other nasties. Even the ghosts of the dead were considered responsible for actions that might otherwise simply be called magick.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the concept of the unconscious or subconscious mind was popularized by Sigmund Freud. This was added to by his follower (who later went his own way), Carl Jung.

With Jung came the concept that the thoughts of many could create a concept and form that had meaning even to those outside of the original group. Gods, angels, spirits, etc. became archetypes that are part of our collective unconscious. He wrote:

This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.

—The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

Besides archetypes and the collective unconscious, Jung came up with another idea that has been accepted as important by many magicians. The simplest description of it is a “meaningful coincidence.” For example, you think of someone and the phone rings. They’re calling you. Without a cause-and-effect explanation, it’s only a coincidence. Two unrelated things have occured. But our mind interprets and gives meaning to the coincidence, just as our mind interprets and gives meaning to the thousands of tiny dots on the page of comics in a Sunday paper and we interpret the dots as images. Thus, the unrelated events that simple correspond in time (one comes after another) become a “meaningful coincidence. Jung called this a synchronicity.

Freud looked for meaningful ideas within our dreams. When his book, The Interpretation of Dreams first came out, many scoffed at it, thinking it was another “dream dictionary.” Actually, the underlying concept was that our unconscious minds would reveal themselves through dream imagery. As a psychiatrist he could help a person by understanding what was going on in that person’s unconscious mind.

The same is true of the ambiguous designs used in the famous ink blot or Rorschach test. Looking at the blots and having to describe them taps into your unconscious. The blots have no inherent meaning at all; your interpretation of them, drawn from your unconscious, is important information that can be used by a psychiatrist or psychologist.*

And Jung was a psychiatrist. Many of his concepts are linked to this healing modality and, in my opinion, should be understood in relation to his desire to help people heal. This principle forms a belief system or paradigm that underlies Jung’s writing. It is, for many, the forgotten truth of synchronicity.

Does Synchronicity Explain Magick?

Earlier I wrote that a synchronicity was a meaningful coincidence. But a coincidence between what? To Jung, it was a meaningful coincidence between something mental (such as thinking of someone) and an external event (that person calls on the phone). Jung believed that the mental action resulted in the external event through “acausality.”

Say what?

That’s right, using your mental ability in some way (such as a spell or ritual) acasually results in an external event. Wow! This acausality, which Jung called Synchronicity, explains magick! Except, right now, it’s just a word and really doesn’t explain anything.

So what does “acausal” mean? According to dictionary.com, acausal means: “having no cause.”

Uh-huh.

If the cause is a ritual and the effect is a desired result, then according to this concept, the cause and effect relationship has no cause. In other words, do a ritual and the result occurs even though there’s no cause and effect relationship.

Or put another way, magick works because it works. There is no cause and effect.

Does this sound like “psychobabbel” to you? It does to me. By this concept magick works because there is no known way for it to work. But if we just give it a fancy name, like “Synchronicity,” it will sound scientific and meaningful even when it’s the words are putting forward meaningless concepts. We could just as well use the word s’morgadraly to mean “without cause.” Then we could say that “magick causes effects by s’morgadraly.”

Fancy, scientific-sounding words do not explain how magick works.
In short, I do not believe that “Synchronicity” is the means by which magick works.

The thing is, Synchronicity can be a valuable concept…to a psychologist. Potential synchronicities happen all the time. Some we recognize and others we don’t. Why? The key word is that they are a meaningful coincidence. That is, they are just coincidences—things that happen without a cause leading to an effect—but our minds create meaning for the coincidence. You think of a person and that person calls you on the phone. There’s no causal relationship, but our mind invents a relationship, a synchronicity, because something involved with this was important to us. Just like the meaning we see in an ink blot or an image we remember from our dreams is important to us and tells a psychologist about our thinking.

Things brings me back to the first paragraph of this post. What the blogger I had read didn’t seem to understand is that his increased awareness of synchronicities did not mean, as I believe he incorrectly believed, that his magick was improving. What it did mean is that his awareness of things occurring in his environment was increasing. Very often we go through life ignoring what is going on around us. The mystic George Ivanovich Gurdjieff believed we were basically sleeping and had his followers practice exercises that would awaken them to the greater reality. The Indian Tantrics known as the Pagal Naths (Crazy Lords) would perform unusual things to shock people out of their ordinary consciousness.

In many mystical traditions, becoming more consciously aware of the world around us is a first step in improving psychic and magickal abilities. So although the original blogger was incorrect that his magick had improved, his awareness of increasing numbers of synchronicities indicates to me that he is moving along on a path of greater spirituality that may, indeed, eventually lead to enhanced magickal ability.

That’s my take on why I contend synchronicity is valuable but does not explain how magick works.
Do you believe synchronicity explains magick?
Please share why in the comments.

 

 

*Note: most psychologists no longer use the Rorschach ink blot test and many question its validity.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By James
on August 6th, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

I have only recently started recording daily synchronicity in my Magical Journal and just this morning was writing how I am unsure if these have any significance but it feels wrong not to note them. I think your analysis is accurate, but the synchronicity of stumbling across this post today is not lost either.

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#2 
Written By Bex vanKoot
on August 6th, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

I think you (and perhaps Jung) are missing an important part of scientific explanation: correlation doesn’t mean causation. Synchronicity isn’t a “because” event. You do magick towards a goal. You also achieve that goal. Did you get the result because of the magick? Or did you do the magic because of the probability of the result? Or did something else entirely cause BOTH things? Synchronicity is about correlation, not causation. Synchronicity is a wake up call that says, “Hey, remember that magic you did? It’s only the first chronological part of a correlated sequence of events.” Synchronicity isn’t the means by which magic works, it is the means by which we are reminded that magic is happening all around us, all the time.

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#3 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on August 6th, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

Hi, Bex.
I don’t disagree with you that it’s not an issue of causation. The point in my post was that too many people interpret it that way.
Things are correlated in time only because our minds interpret it that way. Becoming aware that magick is happening all around us, all the time, is, IMO, opening to the greater reality, an important aspect of magick. And that’s one of the great values of becoming aware of synchronicities.

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#4 
Written By Dave
on August 6th, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

This is amazing. I repeat my post to your previous blog! Also, I agree that synchronicity is NOT a form of causation. Great article.

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#5 
Written By Ommar Ramirez
on August 6th, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

I think it can be viewed from the other side… Magick explains synchronicity. I believe in “causality”. Meanning (and please correct me if I’m wrong)that EVERY effect has a cause. In the example given above, the person that calls you, got motivated by your constant thinking and so, that person took the phone and made the call. I disagree in the point that there is no cause for the connection of events. As you say, becoming aware of synchronicities is just taking notice that the performed magick worked.

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#6 
Written By Los
on August 6th, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

You are quite correct to note that this “synchronicity” stuff is entirely the product of an individual’s mind *attributing* significance to a random coincidence.

I agree that an individual noticing an increase in synchronicity *could* be the result of paying closer attention to reality. After all, “magical” and mystical practice aims at training the mind to observe reality better and better – in the Thelemic system, at any rate – so that the individual can pay more and more attention to his True Self (buried underneath the distorting influences of his mind). So it could be that regular magical practice might make a person so much more observant that his mind would have more raw material from which to attribute significance (and thus produce these synchronicities).

On the other hand, synchronicity is just as likely (if not more likely) to be a product of people paying attention to illusory mental phenomena *instead* of reality. Talking about a friend just before he calls is a rather common occurrence, not at all unusual or unexpected, and the idea – which some people do hold – that coincidences of any kind could be some kind of supernatural “message from the universe” or evidence that they have developed superpowers can only come from paying attention to stories in one’s head (the exact kind of distorting influences that Thelemic practice seeks to ameliorate).

As far as magick “working” goes (in the sense of causing external “results”), you know my opinion on that subject. But if you accept that synchronicity occurs (i.e. that there are random coincidences that the mind just subjectively interprets as significant), then it would be impossible to distinguish the so-called “results” of a magical operation from synchronicity. Unless, of course, you have specific criteria by which to distinguish them.

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#7 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on August 6th, 2012 @ 9:12 pm

Hi, Ommar.
Just want to say I really like your approach!

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#8 
Written By Angel Angelov
on August 10th, 2012 @ 10:27 am

Talk about synchronicity – roughly a week ago, I was thinking of writing Mr. Kraig about the matter at hand, but I didn’t have internet access at the time. I was wondering whether I sensed things before they happened, or I caused things to happen by thinking about them. Actually, the way I feel the process is taking place is this: I think of someone (or of something happening) briefly, then get them out of my head, which seemingly leads to me meeting them soon after. I feel that if I don’t go through the “get them out of my head” phase and instead keep thinking about the person/situation, it won’t work. In other words if I push, things don’t happen, but if I “make room” for them, they come to me. I’m still pondering over the whole thing.

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