What did Carl Jung mean by his theory of synchronicity? Anthony Stevens explains that Jung was writing about a connecting principle that creates meaningful relationships between events occurring at the same time.  This principle goes back to ancient Chinese thinking about reality which you can find in the I Ching or Book of Changes. Since all life is pattern it follows that time also functions as an aspect of that pattern. In other words, everything that happens is related to everything else that happens through the time at which the happening occurs.

Jung was sympathetic to this view because it corresponds to the way in which we experience meaningful coincidences and also how we experience time. We may be taught that time is an abstract measure but it doesn’t feel like that. Rather, it is felt to have a character of its own which colours all events as they occur. The whole ‘nostalgia industry’ is based on this and it is as true of physical events as of mental events that may as a consequence appear to be causally related – such as when a door slams at the same time as one is reading of a door slamming in a novel. Our Western minds dismiss such things as meaningless, but life reaches beyond that. As Stevens writes:

We are not prisoners on a mechanistic treadmill driven by abstract time. Through awareness of acausal relationships between the phenomena of life we enter a wider reality capable of liberating us from the intellectual chain-gang whose warders are Cause and Effect.

There is a great example of synchronicity from Jung’s clinical work with a female patient described as rationalistic and argumentative. She had been to other analysts without resolving her difficulties and one day she told a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While recounting the dream there was a tapping on the window, and Jung let in, catching in his hand a rose chafer which is a time of scarab beetle not usually found at the latitude where he was working. He describes what happened:

‘I handed the beetle to my patient with the words, “Here is your scarab”. This experience punctured the desired hole in her rationalism and broke the ice of her intellectual resistance.’