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.”
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.”
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.