Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Causality and Synchronicity

Jim Butler wrote an interesting comment to my post on psychism and science, found here:

The long and short of it is that two possible explanations exist for these kinds of events: causality and synchronicity. In the case of the dream and the NDE experiences, I'd have to lean heavily in favor of a causal explanation. In the case of astrology, I'd lean towards the synchronicity explanation. It's not that each have to be exclusive of the other, but only one seems to make much sense for each case. It may be a situation similar to quantum mechanics, where in some experiments light seems to behave as a particle, and in others as a wave. The difference here is that we are not sure we are even examining the same kind of process, so this kind of simultaneous paradox need not be necessary.

I find it hard to imagine that synchronicity would account for this woman's dream, or that her neurons would be stimulated by the wrinkles in her bedsheets in just the right way to produce this particular dream image. Synchronicity doesn't account for gravity, for example. One doesn't need to imagine that objects just happen to always fall towards the center of the earth at a constantly accelerating speed because synchronicity says they must. Causal explanations work best in such cases.

Synchronicity is a way of accounting for the coincidence of patterns that seemingly have no causal relationship. The dream and NDE experiences seem to have a causal relationship, not one of inexplicable coincidence. In fact, it may well be that many instances we attribute to synchronicity actually have a causal relationship. The whole phenomena of thinking of a person just before they call you on the telephone could more easily be explained by psychic causality and the transfer of information from brain to brain through subtle pathways. It's not that synchronicity couldn't play a role, but it seems to get washed out whenever causality comes into play.

Astrology is another story, however. From my viewpoint as an astrologer, the whole significance of astrology is that it is uses patterns that are almost completely isolated from causal connections, which leaves only the underlying patterns of synchronicity to be examined. I don't buy the idea that the planets or stars have any influence, gross or subtle, upon earthly events. The value of astrology is precisely that these astronomical patterns have NO causal connection to human life, and thus we are only looking at a purely synchronous connection. The trained astrologer is not using psychism in the sense of causal "sensitivity", in the sense of picking up information that is hanging around in the ether. They are employing a very deliberate process of interpretating patterns. It may be that some astrologers are also employing some form of psychic sensitivity, and using the patterns of astrology to stimulate their imagination and its connection on a subtle level. I just don't see it that way. Instead, astrology is a way of looking at the underlying pattern that exists not just at the physical level, but even at the psychic level. So even when the astrologer uses psychic sensitivity, he is only looking at the synchronicity of the psyche's underlying patterning, not its causal relationships. So astrology is not at all the same kind art as doing "psychic readings". It's a way of trying to intuitively grasp the underlying patterning from which everything is arising, not of establishing a direct link between one person and another.

I've often used the analogy of a tree. If you look at a leaf and the branch it grows from, one can see an immediate causal relationship between them. The leaf grows out of the branch. This is a causal relationship. The outward patterning similarities between a mother and child can be explained causally, both by genetics and environment, and even by the psychic links between the two. Trying to explain their patterning similarities by synchronicity is both a stretch and unnecessary. But if one compares two leaves on two different trees, the only relationship they have with one another is by examining the similarities in their pattern. This is not so much a causal relationship as evidence of a deeper patterning connection. In such a case, it isn't the causal relationship that can explain their relationship but an examination of the patterns themselves as a form of synchronicity. The patterns of stars and planets are so far away and so separated from any causal link with human life that only the synchronicity of the two remains meaningful. By studying those patterning links, one finds not a causal pattern they share, but one gets a sense for the deeper pattern that both came out of.

Once one recognizes that deeper patterning that has been isolated from human life on earth, the zodiacal pattern, then one can go back and apply that pattern even to causal situations and relations. In other words, one could compare the astrological charts of mother and daughter and in that way see what their synchronous relationship is, rather than just their causal relationship. And this is done, of course, not by comparing mother and daugher, but by comparing the star patterns associated with their separate births. These two charts ought to have no causal relationship between them, which is precisely why it is a valuable way of comparing the two for synchronous coincidences.

So while I think there's a relationship between the causal approach to psychism and the synchronicity approach, I think they need to be kept separate in order to best make use of them. I don't know of a good way to combine the two, and I think astrologers in particular who try to do so end up deeply compromised and deluded. The astrologer may even get subtle information popping into their minds while doing a reading, but it's important to treat this information as synchronicity rather than direct psychic reading. In other words, when a particular thought or image comes up to the astrologer, they shouldn't interpret it directly, but see it in terms of the chart itself, as another data point of the synchronous pattern, and use it accordingly in looking at the overall situation being addressed. This requires a stricter form of discipline than most astrologers are accustomed to, but it is invaluable in coming to a correct reading that is free of subjective bias.

Now as for the mechanisms involved, I don't really know. Not all subjects of study are amenable to synchronicity analysis. It's a different way entirely of looking at things. In many respects it is deeper and more profound in its implications. But people tend always at some point to flip back into a causal analysis, and this messes everything up. Astrologers often do this right off the bat by presuming a causal relationship between the planets and human minds, as if there is some subtle force radiating from the planets and influencing human beings. Not every astrologer believes that, but even those who don't tend somewhere down the line to mix a causal understanding in with their chart interpretations, and I think this is a mistake that can be readily corrected. In the end, the astrologer is left as a mere witness of synchronous patterns, which is where the astrological arts really do begin to enter a spiritual dimension, rather than the faux-spirituality that is so endemic to the profession. Being the mere witness of the patterns leads to a far deeper understanding than is possible by analyzing causal relationships.

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