Synchronicity is a spiritual encounter in everyday life. Once, a scarab beetle plowed into Jan’s neck as we sat on our deck. It fell to the floor and lay there in a stunned stupor. Jan immediately identified it as a scarab beetle, a rare occurrence for the time of year. We later discovered that the encounter with the beetle occurred at the same time as the death of someone we knew, someone whom I had once animatedly discussed Jung’s experience of synchronicity with a patient involving a scarab beetle, a beetle rarely seen in his environment.
The meaning of this synchronous encounter was obvious: a departing soul sent us an undeniable farewell gift that I alone would unmistakably recognize. From the spiritual dimension contact was made with the physical dimension in a most meaningful and touching way. That’s a synchronicity.
My ego, the soul agent of everyday physical life, was critically necessary for remembering the long ago scarab beetle discussion, but, to truly be touched and taught by the experience, had to humble itself to a higher power, higher than itself. The narrowly rational, doubting-Thomas, typical ego attitude of everyday life has a tendency to laugh off the experience as coincidence, or to inflate itself with spiritual airs for having had the experience.
Since the dominant spiritual dimension of our existence comes to life in our sleep/dream time and is largely lost to memory upon awakening, when ego reawakens to its governance over waking life, synchronicity can be seen as the Soul’s adroit use of physical reality to impress itself upon the ego’s limited knowledge of its greater Self.
Sometimes, synchronous events can seduce ego into recklessly misinterpreting their meaning and inflating itself in its decision making. Stan Grof humbly shared his experience of a celestially romantic relationship with Joan Halifax in his book, When the Impossible Happens, that led to an impulsive decision to marry during a transpersonal conference in Iceland, which was attended by Joseph Campbell and officiated by Huston Smith.
The relationship, or non-conscious relationship, between Joan and Stan lasted very briefly after Iceland. Joan went on to become Joan Jiko Halifax, a famous American Buddhist teacher, founder of, and currently Abbot of, the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM. Stan went on to marry Christina Grof with whom he collaborated on the creation of Holotropic Breathwork to gain non-drug induced access to the spiritual depths of the psyche. Both Stan and Joan were humbled and advanced in their relationship with Soul and the language of synchronicity through this memorable coupling and uncoupling.
The lesson of Iceland was for ego to become humbled but not intoxicated by the power of synchronicity orchestrated by the Soul. Ego must also assume 100% responsibility for its decisions in this world. Ego craves union and connection with its higher Soul, or Higher Power, but must retain decision making responsibility in the life it is currently in. Synchronicities may offer numinous spiritual experiences of Soul union, but Soul refuses to do the work of ego: to reflect, think, feel, intuit and decide.
If Soul already knew the answers to the life we are in, how would it benefit from sending us into this life? What would be the point? We are here on a mission of growth, ultimately accrued to the benefit of our greater Soul. Granted, Soul has much wisdom, resource, and power, but it requires of ego to access that guidance and apply it, as feels right for itself. Even if ego is mistaken in its judgment, it will learn and grow from its mistakes.
High Soul uses its power of synchronicity to help ego grow. Sometimes that means being the trickster, as in Stan and Joan’s Icelandic adventure. At other times, synchronicity lends itself to facilitating a meeting of souls, as was the case with Jan and my encounter with the scarab beetle.
Synchronicity can also be straightforward with spiritual guidance, as with the I Ching. Throwing physical coins is correlated with spiritual tuning in and guidance. Yet even the I Ching will become a trickster if ego becomes overly dependent, constantly deferring its decision making responsibility. Sometimes it gives you a totally inappropriate reading, essentially communicating: Wake up! Think for yourself!
In step three of the Twelve Steps of AA, a person in recovery is required to turn over the ego’s decision making to their Higher Power. Bill Wilson, cofounder of AA, was given the Twelve Steps in a direct encounter with his Higher Power during a therapeutic LSD therapy session. The function of step three is to refine and grow ego responsibility by first submitting it to the guidance of its Higher Power.
In the case of an addict, ego’s alienation from its Soul leads to attempts to merge with Soul through the use of excess substance, creating habitual spirit misfires, resulting in addiction. Step three suspends habitual behavior, while ego undertakes an honest life review and prepares to become a mature version of itself, with the support and leadership of its Soul. Eventually, ego is able to take full ownership of its life, and thus its decisions reflect the higher intent of its Soul.
When synchronicities occur, enjoy their numinous welcome but be careful with how you interpret and act upon their apparent insinuations.
Be humble before Soul, but never give up assuming full responsibility for decision making. That’s our deepest reason for being in this life.