Depth Psychology Blog  -  02 Mar 2013 11:06 AM | Bonnie Bright 

  I liked Bonnie Bright´s comments about this book,  in particular:

"Tarnas stresses that Jung held the belief that synchronicities served a similar function to dreams and psychological symptoms that essentially served to counteract the one-sidedness of the psyche and turn the person toward the unconscious and therefore toward greater wholeness—that is, individuation. In other words, we can benefit from a synchronistic event by allowing it to challenge and redirect our own conscious attitude". 

But  what follows immediately afterwards:


" By observing more of the aliveness and autonomy of the world around us, we begin to allow synchronicities to occur ". 

 is not a necessary nor a sufficient condition for synchronicities to happen, IMHO.

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  • O.K., we seem to agree James.

     Let us see if this is also the case when we encounter definitions that are not exactly Jungs´ but that reflect common understanding of the word synchronicity.

    For example this is what we find in Wikipedia:

    Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner

    I like it,   Including "apparently".   I will start a new thread in this forum in case you or other are interested in commenting it.

    Best regards,


  • Sorry for my typing errors.  The book I mention is

    Charles Baudouin. L'œuvre de Jung

    • Thanks for the clarification, Gustavo. I agree that psychological compensation seems to play a role in the ‘meaning’ side of synchronicity. I also agree with you that many will latch onto Jung or others and treat the subject’s pronouncements as dogma. It is certainly not my intention to do that, only to clearly define terms. It has become popular in colloquial speech to refer to meaningful coincidences as ‘synchronicities.’ This can be a useful abbreviation, but the essential idea of acausality is still an important aspect of the term to keep track of. Jung often changed his definitions, and so may we, but I like to be clear about where we are starting. It may make a difference as to where we end up!

      All the best,

  • Gustav, hi:

    I like Bonnie's comments, too. I'm not sure I understand your objection to her encouraging us to remain open and expectant toward synchronicities. Can you say more about what you feel are sufficient conditions for sychronicities to occur?

    My understanding of Jung's claims regarding synchronicity is that apparently synchronistic events seem to happen more readily when one is in conscious relationship to an archetypal field. I think this is line with Richard Tarnas' comments, referred to by Gray. Archetypal fields are, by Jung's definition 'numinous,' and could be described, to paraphrase Bonnie's words, as alive and autonomous. I agree that there is often much more to apparently synchronistic events than simply being 'open', but beginning to be open to what is uniquely numinous to each of us seems to me to be kind and helpful advice.

    The eternal fountain of existential being is continually flowing in all of our lives. When this begins to seem ordinary, at least for me personally, I think it is time to plug into the aliveness of the world around me. It becomes far less likely that I will be aware of the potential for individuation or synchronicity if I am in a state of disconnected dissociation from the wellsprings of existential being. Of course, at the same time, I don't imagine that I can place any demands on the universe to produce synchronicities for my amusement simply by 'being open,' but being open to them does seem like a nice place to start.

    All the best,

    • Hi James,

      Thanks a lot for this message.  Perhaps it would allow to start an exchange of ideas regarding synchronicity.

      I did not mean to object to Bonnie´s encouraging us to remain open, as a matter of fact I consider it very positive.  But I do not think this leads to experiencing synchronicities.

      And I also think that asking the question about the necessary conditions  for synchronicities to occur is valid.  I have not seen it so expressed in the papers and books I have read about synchronicity, what I have found is a variety of positions by different writers with different emphases,  all of them partially valid I would say.

      My personal experience with synchronicities leads me to affirm that being in a conscious relationship to an archetypal field in not a condition for synchronistic events to occur.

      You mention numinousity.  Numinousity  is a characteristic of synchronistic events,  of course, But the subject becomes conscious of its numious condition (shortly) after the first impressions of the synchronicity. But it does not seem to me to be a condition to start the event.

      For the above mentioned reasons,  and apart from Bonnie´s words regarding Tarnas book,  I would like to ask the question:

      What are the necessary conditions for a synchronistic event to happen?

      Best regards,


      • Gustavo, hi:

        You’re welcome, thanks for bringing up an interesting topic. I’m not so philosophically minded that I could go into great depth on this topic. My own understanding of synchronicity could best be described as a classical Jungian understanding, and comes primarily from Jung’s (1973) famous book on the topic, and also from Marie Louise von Franz (1980). From that point of view, I would like to suggest a few things, without going into much depth.

        First, Jung considered all of his work to be an ongoing scientific project. That he chose to investigate the anomalies of human existence was part of his method, not simply a penchant for the bizarre. In the case of synchronicity, the concept was and is a hypothesis, as is true with his other concepts such as the collective unconscious, the archetypes, etc. He saw and experienced phenomena, and then tried to explain it: usually in ways that pertained to human perception, i.e. the psyche. The point I wish to make is that synchronicity is a working hypotheses developed as a heuristic device in order to begin to describe meaningful coincidences. It is not an established fact, but a topic subject to much conjecture. Additionally, synchronicity refers as much to subjective perceptions of events as it does to the events themselves. In other words, it must be a meaningful coincidence, not simply two events coinciding.

        Second, while I appreciate the article that you have posted by Zachary Stinson (A Multi-Causal Approach to Synchronicity), Jung invented the word synchronicity, and he defined the word as “an acausal connecting principle.” As such, if Mr. Stinson is discussing something that is causally based (let alone multi-causally based), by definition, he is talking about something other than what Jung called synchronicity.

        Finally, that brings me to your question, “What are the necessary conditions for a synchronistic event to happen?” In light of what I’ve said in the previous paragraph, this question sounds suspiciously like a trick question on a physics exam. If by ‘necessary conditions’ you’re suggesting a cause, then, once again, we can’t be talking about what Jung was describing as synchronicity, which is an ‘acausal connecting principle’: no cause! The whole point is the difficulty of the Western mind to grasp anything that does not admit to Aristotelian causes such as: A leads to B which leads to C, etc. Jung was discussing something which is more akin to ancient Chinese thought which allows for fields of energetic commonality (which Jung saw as archetypal fields).

        In terms of the possibility of numinosity being a necessary condition of synchronicity, again, by Jung’s definition, synchronicity is unconditional, if ‘conditions’ are related to causes. Moreover, numinosity is a subjective emotion, not an objective, observable quality of an external object. Numinosity is evoked in the subjective experience of an individual who encounters something tremendous and mysterious. Jung’s definition of archetypes includes the idea that they are always experienced as being numinous. Thus, if a synchronistic even is experienced as being numinous, there must, if we are sticking with classical Jungian definitions, be something about the experience that is archetypal.

        Which brings us back to Bonnie’s suggestion that, “by observing more of the aliveness and autonomy of the world around us, we begin to allow synchronicities to occur.” While I agree with you that such an attitude is by no means a necessary condition for synchronicities to occur (since, by Jung’s definition synchronicity is acausal), such an attitude does tend to open my mind and heart to that which is beyond my comprehension. Will that cause synchronicities to occur? Certainly not, not if we are sticking to Jung’s definition. Still, I find it a worthwhile attitude.

        In any case, I find chasing synchronicities a questionable idea. From what I’ve read of Jung and von Franz’s understandings of synchronicity, it might best be described as merely the byproduct of an archetypal field. As such, to chase after synchronicities would be like a man dying of thirst chasing the clouds that rise from a waterfall, instead of drinking the cool water flowing at his feet. The archetypal fountain within us is the psychological equivalent of the eternal divine fountain of living water. Why chase after the vapor clouds (synchronicities)? I am too thirsty for that!

        All the best,


        von Franz, M. L. (1980). On Divination and Synchronicity: The Psychology of Meaningful Chance. Toronto: Inner City Books.

        Jung, C. G. (1973). Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. Princeton: Bollingen Press.

        • Thanks again, James.

          Reading your message I find that our dialog landed in a new field,  so to speak. And an interesting one, indeed.

          Apart from the fact that necessary conditions are not solely accepted by Aristotle and his followers, sufficient conditions imply causality but that is not the case of necessary conditions. IMHO a necessay condition for synchronicities to happen is that the person is undergoing a compensation in his psyche;  but such compensations don´t necessarily trigger a synchronicity.  Many compensations occur at the psychic level only.

          So I keep thinking that asking about the necessary conditions of synchronicities is a valid question, and it helps to clarify concepts.

          But as I mentioned I am under the impression that our dialog landed in a new field.  In order to transmit my thinking about it, and without being offensive at all, I will give a nickname to it and call it "the muslim problem of certain Junguians".

          Treating Jung as a prophet and treating his writings as sacred words is not too far from treating Mohamed as a prophet and his writings,  the Quoran, as sacred.  In both cases only his writings are taken into considerations,  and in both cases one finds that there are not one but many phareses regarding one specific word.  

          As a matter of fact,  Jung did not leave a ONE DEFINITION of synchronicity but several explanations along different writings of what he had in mind.  And not only is this the case with synchronicity,   it is the case with most of his concepts.   One can sometimes follow his process of discovering from the beginning to the end of a reality behind a concept.

           In this respect it is fascinating to follow for example the book of a Frenchman,  who was quite close to Jung during many years.  One of his books,  "L´ouvre de Jung"  explains how difficult it was to trranslate Jung´s writings for the first tiime into a latin language given the undeniable fact that Jung was not a systematic writer,  nor a systematic thinker.

          Besides there is the fact that the meaning of words change over time.  As a close case of it one can see the difficulties of Jung when reading latin texts about alchemy:  he has a good comand lf Latin and he knew many of the word before,  but their meanings had changed a lot over the centuries.

        • Thank you James, I admire your choice of words and linguistic style, and appreciate the fact that you just helped me come to a better understanding of synchronicity.

  • I saw Richard Tarnas give a speech in Seattle a couple years ago at the Washington State Astrological Association entitled "Astrology, Synchronicity, and Romantic Love."  The link is that romantic love brings an archetypal, synchronistic field to our perception, where in contrast synchronicity and astrology are normally off the radar of mainstream, objective-based culture. Thus romantic love takes on extraordinary importance, carrying the entire magical anima mundi meaning in a worldview sensing no meaning outside the human ego perspective. He said astrology, synchronicity, and romantic love all (1) have great potential for profound significance, are (2) extremely susceptible to negation and a skeptical negating, and  are (3) susceptible to projection and illusion.  He also brought up the connection you are referencing between synchronicity and individuation. He said the individuating process is painful because its about becoming not what the ego wants us to become but what the universe wants through us.  Astrologically, we have to navigate between the mirages of a negative Neptune archetype and the negations of a negative Saturn archetype.  He said a lot depends upon self-discernment: becoming aware of shadows, complexes, and neurotic needs.  He said the more you are aware of depth psychology, the more you can be in romantic love and see the other as they truly are.  He also said that synchronicities show nature itself as the sacred circle, the universe allowing us into its mystery.

    • Hi Gray -

      This is so intriguing to me, the link between astrology, synchronicity and romantic love -- mostly adding "romantic love" into that.  I didn't know Richard Tarnas talked about that.  

      While I don't entirely understand the combination of those three things, it has seemed to me for quite a while now that really grasping the significance and reality of anima mundi changes the whole game entirely, especially when it comes to projection and what people call "illusion."

      I mean, if western culture considers a lot of "romantic love" to be full of projection and illusion, and what we're supposedly projecting is the anima --- if you grasp the reality of anima mundi, it would mean that you are projecting anima onto anima... which is silly and un-does a lot of common psychological understanding.  But it's why I suspect Tarnas says that in romantic love you can see the other as they truly are.  It stops being about some confused "projection" or illusion.  

      Curious about how astrology fits directly into this...!

      Thanks for posting this, Gray.


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