Synchronicity, Serendipity, Epiphany & Apophenia

I started my March 30 post with the familiar ironic trope, “just a coincidence…”

There, the reader could believe that I think it is more than a coincidence, while not needing to take a position herself. Now I want to address some of the embedded issues more directly. And have some word-play.

In my early March posts I maintained that going into my fear was important for me to do. I suggested it might be important for some (but not all) of you to do that as well. I claimed a good bath in one’s fear would likely lead to more freedom and flexibility afterwards. I said

Once you have given that painful thing the attention it deserves, then you are freed to express your full self in new ways, or in ways you had forgotten you have access to.

But my ironic use of the word “coincidence” suggests that I believe if we are willing to enter the darkness of our un-admitted fears, something bigger than just personal empowerment might be accessed.

Others might say my discovery of Stephen Jenkinson’s OrphanWisdom website was “serendipitous.” “Serendipity” means “a fortunate set of circumstances. An unplanned-for lucky event.” We’re talking “chance” here, “coincidence.” Good luck, without any greater significance than that.

Where others might say “Serendipitous,” I’ll say “an example of synchronicity.”
Speaking of the inventor of the word, Wikipedia says

Jung was transfixed by the idea that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order…

I, too, am transfixed by this idea. It is the foundation of this website, and I press this idea upon you, my readers, as we face The Great Disruption that Paul Gilding sees ahead.

A deeper order…

Flammarion caption

Yes! Traditional cultures the world over have recognized this. Unfortunately, Industrial Civilization has lost track of this aspect of reality. My message is that, as we enter fully into the Great Disruption, we can look to the deeper order for guidance. Meditation, Experiment with Light, the I Ching, Quaker meetings for worship, these are ways I have found to be in touch with, and receive guidance from, a deeper order of things. I know many people who have found other ways, as well. The experience of “epiphany” is well documented. Suddenly an ongoing mystery or confusion is illuminated and one’s understanding is enlarged.
“Was blind but now I see…”
I believe we can expect and rely on this guidance.*

We need to talk about this.
If there is a deeper order
–call it “God’s will,” whatever– then surely we need to attend to it as we remake our culture.

But is this idea of a deeper order a wishful fantasy? Can we only hope for serendipity but not trust in synchronicity? Skeptics, those who see randomness in evolution and in all aspects of human life, say the experience of meaningful connection is a trick of the human imagination. Where I say “epiphany,” they say “apophenia,” the experience of meaningful connection where none exists.

I want to take this argument seriously, rather than dismissing it. I think they have a point. I personally have put myself in a frame of mind where I could see faces and figures in the shapes of clouds. And I have pointed them out to friends who could see what I was referring to. I personally have had encounters with paranoia, especially in others, where Fred (say) felt a haunting sense danger, saw evil intent in every whispered remark. Fred has a clear experience of meaning. It is obvious to me that much of Fred’s experience is not related to any reality he and I share. OK, in my life, I have a clear experience of meaning. How can I trust my sense any more than I trust Fred’s? And to make it murkier, there are many examples of a gray area of artistic genius and mental instability.

* The suicide cult phenomenon
* groups with such a strong sense of shared meaning that they gather at a specified time to await the rapture
* beliefs that cataclysmic events would occur around 21 December 2012

How can I dismiss these examples of our apophenia and still take seriously “guidance” that comes to me or others?
If I believe in an invisible world underlying the material world, and
I believe it is possible to receive guidance from invisible influences,
how do I think we can distinguish between these numinous meanings, these leadings, and paranoid fantasies?
“Humility,” for starters.
And testing one’s leadings in the context of the group.

Friends, we do need to guard against creating “castles in the air.”
We need to guard against the powerful human tendency to create meanings disconnected from the larger realities of our biosphere. But isn’t that what we’ve got right now, in this endgame of industrial civilization? A shared construction of “reality” which is profoundly disconnected from the larger truths on which our lives are built?

This will not be easy, friends, but I offer to you, as an article of faith: we are individual expressions of a divine reality. If, in community and humility, we resolve to create a human world more in harmony with our overall Gaian reality than our current one is, it can be done.


* Patrick Curry has written a written a book on divination, his word for seeking and receiving guidance. It’s beyond my reach for a couple of reasons, but some pages of it lie behind the “preview”  button at: Divination: Perspectives for a New Millennium

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About Richard O Fuller

Quaker, living in the Twin Cities, Minnesota.
This entry was posted in 'Divine Action', Guidance, Industrial Civ., Transition. Bookmark the permalink.

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