Sunday, October 2, 2011

Synchronicity and I-Ching (1)

Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events, that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner. The concept of synchronicity was first described in this terminology by Carl Jung. The full formulation appeared in his book "Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle" which was published in 1952 and translated into English in 1972. In his foreword to I-Ching written in 1950 for the English translation of Wilhelm's translation of I-Ching, Jung mentioned his earlier formulation of the synchronicity concept was related to his study of I-Ching. So, how is I-Ching related to Jung's concept of synchronicity?

Synchronicity is an elusive concept. It is a concept to facilitate certain conceptualization (the details of which I shall deal below). It is however not an operational concept, i.e. one can't use it fruitfully to guide further research, I mean without distorting its meaning in the process (which unfortunately some academics who feel themselves having intellectual affinity with Jung or his synchronicity concept go the mistaken way of putting the concept to statistical tests and even said to have proved "Jung's synchronicity concept" statistically!).

First an example: A man dreamed of  a certain fire, and learned later that the same fire happened as per his dream, during the time he was asleep.

It can be defined as an incident of synchronicity through the following observations/assertions:

1. His dream doesn't cause the fire
2. The fire doesn't cause his dream
3. It is not statistically significant that the man's dreams are related to actual events, i.e. his dream happens by chance.
4. Despite the above, the two events certainly look related: they point to the same fire which did happen in certain time, at certain place. In other words, their meanings are related, or they are related by "meaning".

It is interested to note that events falling under the concept of synchronicity are NOT statistically related event. Hence, logically speaking one can't prove or disprove synchronicity by statistics (or by scientific method). In other words, synchronicity doesn't speak the scientific language, and hence any study purports to prove the concept (scientifically) commits a grave logical flaw (no matter he or she is labeled as a professor in an academic institution!).

The next question follows: if two (or more) related events happen by chance, and not one causing the other, how come they are related meaningfully! For the scientifically minded, the answer is straightforward: it just happens like this, which essential means: it is not under the domain of scientific investigation, or it has no scientific meaning).

For Jung, what causes the incident of synchronicity (note: NOT what causes either event) is the subject's Collective Unconscious. In other words: the Collective Unconscious speaks! How does the Collective Unconscious speaks and how does it speak in I-Ching in particular is the subject of my next post.

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