Do you believe in synchronicity? It’s a term attributed to Carl Jung, in which there appears to be an “acausal connection of two or more psycho-physic phenomena”. Or in other words, a coincidence that occurs beyond what could be explained as a normal random event. This is also known as a meaningful coincidence. But most coincidences are random events that tie two or more things together or at least appear to. For example, you might be thinking about ice cream as you are watching T.V. only to find that during the next commercial break there’s an ad for Håågen Das. This may feel like a meaningful coincidence, especially if you take the ad to be a sign that you deserve the ice cream, but it’s not. A commercial that features ice cream is not odd or rare. Thinking about eating while watching T.V. is normal; there are so many food related commercials that it would be odd if you didn’t think about it now and again.
Normally I am a little skeptical when it comes to meaningful coincidences, but I’ve had several occur in my life so I am also open to the possibility that, in the words of my friend Micah, high strangeness can occur. It hasn’t happened for quite a while, at least not until last night. And oh boy, did it happen last night!
The impetus that led to last night’s high strangeness actually started about two month ago when I was talking about Shakespeare. A question was asked, “What makes him stand out among his peers?” and I had to admit I’d hadn’t read enough of his peers to make a solid case, other than to say, we don’t much remember them, so his writing was obviously better. I wasn’t completely happy with that answer so it occurred to me that it would be useful to have some type of collection of plays and or stories by some of his contemporaries. I have some of Marlow’s work, but not Ben Johnson or John Fletcher.
It just so happened that about the time I started looking for a possible collection of early 16th century plays, one of my fellow Shakespeare scholars Tweeted about a book he found in a used bookshop. The book is volume two (I think) in a series titled English Drama, this volume, 1580-1642. Shakespeare just happens to sit right in the middle of this time frame. This was exactly what I was looking for.
This Tweet is what I could call a lucky coincidence. Since most of the people I follow on Twitter are Shakespeare geeks and scholars it is no real surprise that one of them would eventually share a find like this. And who knows, even if I hadn’t been looking for a book like this, his Tweet might have prompted me to start thinking about my gap in literary knowledge of 16th century playwrights.
So we can agree that this was just a random event that just happened to coincide with my search for this type of collection. But here is where it all starts.
First, I have to explain who is not in this book. As the editors admit, “Due to constraints only five percent of ‘Elizabethan’ work is presented within these pages”. Shakespeare is not included because, and again in the words of the editors, “Ha, ha, ha, that’s funny. Everyone already has a collection of Shakespeare somewhere in their house!” Okay, I am paraphrasing, but the first volume does suggest that the hope of this collection would be to present other, less well remembered authors and playwrights, and that it would be redundant to include someone who is already widely available.
So, and I cannot emphases this enough, this volume in theory, had nothing to do with Shakespeare or his writing. The only connection it had was in my own head; I wanted it as a tool for my writing and lecturing.
Ah Amazon. Is there nothing that cannot be found on this site? It just so happened that several used bookstores connected to Amazon had copies for sale. I picked a seller with a 100% customer satisfaction rate who had what was described as a gently used copy. Just a random seller, with a good deal for me. No high strangeness here, right?
The book was due to arrive in April but, and this must be part of the 100% satisfaction, it came last night. This is what it looks like. Oh, and it weighs a ton. I’d hate to have to lift 10 percent of Elizabethan work.
I first opened the inside cover and saw this lovely inscription. I enjoy buying used books that have the original owner’s name in it. It makes me feel connected to them. It even has his street and city address. Now that, I’ve never seen before. If I didn’t believe the owner to be dead, I would almost have been tempted to write a letter of thanks for passing it on.
And here is where the high strangeness begins. When I flipped opened a random page to see just how sturdy this old book is, I found this. It is a note thanking the owner, George Kozan, for lending it out!
Thanks again for use of the book-it helped a lot-if every I can return the favor-let me know.
If this wasn’t odd enough, the note was placed on top of a newspaper article. I paused when I saw it. It was strange enough that I just happened to flip to the page that contained a note of thanks, but it also contained an old folded up newspaper clipping. Besides inscribed covers, I get a thrill out of finding stuff like old newspaper clippings in used books. Usually they aren’t useful but can be entertaining if they have ads or pictures of the latest fashion. I saw that this was a clipping was from the New York Times Book Review section. I unfolded it wondering what “new” book or books would be offered for review. What I saw as I opened it up stunned me, and for a second I think I stopped breathing. As dumb as this sounds, the thought, “someone is playing with me” did go through my mind as I looked at the clipping.
Yes, of all the clippings to keep, of all the books to keep it in, and of all of the people who could have ended up with this book, I, who wanted it for research for my own book about Shakespeare, was holding a review about a book about Shakespeare, Shakespeare a Biography, by Peter Qunnell.
I didn’t go looking for Shakespeare, but somehow found him anyway. If I weren’t such a skeptic, I might think that the universe had just handed me a sign that pointed to me finishing my book, but that may be a little to woo for me. On the other hand, even skeptics need inspiration so I’m going to frame the clipping and put it in my office. It can’t hurt.
Synchronicity my friends, synchronicity.
9 thoughts on “Synchronicity with Shakespeare”
That last line is probably his local 7-digit phone number, UNion 1-1487 (can’t be sure if those three similar digits are “1” or “7”), which would translate to 861-1487.
OK, for the benefit of readers younger than me, an explanation. In the old days, back when “liberal Republican” was not yet an endangered species, the three digits between the area code and the last four digits were called the exchange code/number, and they were often given in the form of a word followed by a trailing digit; hence Union 1, or, in my home town, Gilbert 8. The first two letters of the word translated into the first two digits of the three digits exchange number. How? Look at a phone with letters alongside of the numbers. UNion translates to 86, hence the exchange number was 861, while my home town’s exchange, GIlbert 8, was 448. Sometimes the exchange name would be abbreviated to the two first letters of the name; Mr. Kazan might have written out his phone number as UN 1-1487, just as I once wrote out my phone number beginning with GI 8.
What about the area code? In them thar days, almost no one used it. Area codes were geographically restricted (a system that broke down with mobile phones), and covered large areas with no overlays (a system that began to break down in a major way in the 1980s with the proliferation of private exchanges). Unless you lived on an area code boundary, you used one only for long distance calls. As late as the 1980s, companies wouldn’t necessarily put their area code on their stationary, figuring customers would know to look it up in their phone books, supplied by TPC (The Phone Company, a sadly humorous nickname for AT&T, at the time the only phone company for 90+% of Americans).
I don’t know anyone who uses exchange names anymore. They disappeared even before acoustic modems and pay phones. But they’re preserved in literary amber in the stories and novels of the early-to-mid-20th century. I just ran across some of them in a Raymond Chandler novel. Pretty soon, they’re going to need explanatory footnotes!
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Thanks Brian. It occurred to me after posting the picture, that the numbers may have been his phone number, but wasn’t quite sure. I am old enough to remember party lines but not Union codes. Thanks for the great history lesson!
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‘Meaningful coincidences’ have to have meaning to the somebody observing them, not necessarily to the world at large. The significance ascribed to them doesn’t come from the Universe, or a god, or Fate trying to send a message, to my mind; it is due to a spark happening in the brain of the person experiencing that moment and making a connection. No doubt there are lots of potential synchronicities happening to each and every one most of the time, we either don’t notice them or the spark of recognition doesn’t happen or the timing isn’t perfect.
However (and this is a big ‘however’) … Those moments of coincidence that we find significant are what being human and having creativity is all about. Jung’s description of the precipitating event for his theory is interesting:
“A young woman I was treating had, at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me this dream, I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the window-pane from the outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), which, contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt the urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment. I must admit that nothing like it ever happened to me before or since.”
The artist in me likes this event, its aptness, its poetry, its vividness. The critic in me finds fault with the logic, brought about by the phrase “the nearest analogy to a golden scarab”. Was the dream long and involved?
At what point in the narration of the dream did the rose-chafer make its presence heard? The middle? The end? Did it coincide precisely with the handing over of the golden scarab, or did it happen later? How long does the interval have to be before the ‘coincidence’ ceases to count as synchronous? And anyway, shouldn’t it have really have had to have been a golden scarab beetle to be meaningful, rather than an analogy? What significance should be attached in the incident if it had been a moth, or a bumblebee or some other insect or even bird?
The fact is, dream-scarab and rose-chafer (I should say, ‘common rose-chafer’) being in close experiential proximity was enough for Jung the creative practitioner, for my inner poet, perhaps for patient too. But the scientist in me says it is ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,’ the ‘acausal connection’ you draw attention to at the very beginning. What’s important is the significance your intention, the book, the clipping and the sequence of events holds for you, Sari. And even more important, how it speeds you on to your intended destination!
(Sorry, the little tyrant of a pedant in me has now been batted down. This was a lovely sequence of events, Sari, one that must be confirmation of the rightness of your actions!)
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Thanks for the comment, Chris. I agree with everything you pointed out. I do wonder if Jung would have made the connection had it been any other insect..It may have depended on how much he was willing to go to find meaning in the dream. The skeptic in me believes that meaningful coincidences are subjective and only occur in one’s mind. On the other hand, I have to admit, there have been things that have occurred that truly seem to happen for a reason. On this subject, I am a fence sitter.
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Thank you for your account of synchronicity. My experiences started in grammar school in the 1950’s. An Irish Catholic Nunn used to like to use the phrase, “propaganda of faith,” instead of propagation of faith. We learned about “God’s marvelous timing,” and they would give classic examples, like a nun walking and suddenly deciding to pause to nod in prayer. Had she kept going, a large falling object would have probably killed her.
As kids, we prided ourselves to be the first to yell out, “You owe me a coke!” (In reference to the coke ad, “the real thing”) when we heard or saw the same thing at the same time. It was not till I attended public school in the Junior Year and with different friends that these events that we took for granted, seemed to stir an ominous “twilight zone” chills from people.
Relentless bombardments of various typologies led me to compare what very well articulate and wise writers have commented on the phenomena in question. (George Noory just said “in question” on the radio).
The AD APERTURA LIBRA (wherever the book has opened) as told above by Sarij is also called “angel type” and/or “library type” coincidences by Arthur Koestler. In that set, the person is inquiring (psychic process) and a “book” falls open on a precise “answer.” The eyeballs focus autonomously as part of the operation. When natural light, (sun or moon) combine with the clouds to highlight the exact words at the same time and/or physical audio reinforces the same in reply at the same time, this adds to the degree of the set of co-events.
It’s as if the biblical saying that if one is in the kingdom, all that one is doing will be added unto them. It does save a lot of time and effort. The principle of synchronicity does demonstrate precision and efficiency.
I’ve heard about the angel book, though it is my feeling that as humans we have evolved to see patterns or meaning in just about everything around us, especially when we are looking for pattern. If I told you to turn to page 14 of whatever book you had in your hand and then read line 3, as this line will help you make a decision. You would most likely find meaning if you believed what I just said. However, I will not argue that it is possible to stumble upon a book just when you need it.
Sarij, if you have time, the following has 14 lines and if vocalized should be able to have an iambic pentameter. I wonder if you can make sense of it, as it is part a psychological IQ test of recognition of how many names of physical geographical locations and persons plus cross-connections.
It is supposed to be a “synchronistified sonnet” a world view en masse’.
A devoted pluralist will find it non sense. Whereas others can find latent cross connections. Do you have any comments about it?
Amman. So Viet Nam Tung US jawg ME
Seoul GrACE GhEM GhARB. Rome Sha King Fromm Iran?
Kadhaffy YasirArafat Watt Sea.
Amin Pal’stEin Cambods Speakes Waite I Stan-
Bull IQraqow Pole Boot Argentina
Anchorage Love Stars Wen Sharon Castrow..
Lib’s. Reagan Carter Ford NIXon Ch’ina.
Leban Grenad Marx Skinner Freud Trudeau.
Aye’Toll KHowemean Beirut. Hearth Goldah Tyre.
Whoscene AnWarSawdat OaRWELL OaRWhALE.
Andropov Stalin KhRUSHchev; HUNGaRY. Ire!
Mount Callvary Menachem Begin Isreal.
. Armygeddon Skull Hill? Belfast Eye Eve.
. De Gaulle Damaskus Yemen Tel Aviv.
Humm. Not sure I get all of it. It isn’t a sonnet as it does not fit the definition. A a sonnet is a type of poem that describes or contrast two things. Most are about love lost or comparing a lover to something else; usually the opposite of love.
I am not sure I am qualified to judge this. Poetry is subjective and to use it as a test assumes the reader is familiar with world history and shares this poem’s views of it.
Thank you Sarij for your honesty and reply.
Love is a key ingredient. There is a contrast. Latent in the flow from line one through the living end is an Animus and Anima. The classic Greek-Roman “world as a stage” and “actors” (sometimes echoed by Roman Emperors, like Augustus and Marcus Arelius), is downplayed and Shakespeare is given the credit.
There are two “metaphoric hemipsheres” (US and ME), displaying “tensions” in a polarity, on the first line. I was told that the formal structure is of the Shakespearean sonnet, 14 lines iambic pentameter.
As you have said it requires LOVE. The sonnet is about love in the deepest respect. It has an aching Gold Heart, aching, Hungry Soul and Grace in a curtsy, if one can compare the Pauli/Jung methodology of synchronicity and
“see the English” as well as “read the English ‘dream language.'” (Atom and Archetype: Pauli/Jung Letters 1932-1958 pp 145-147).
The formal sonnet is a façade, a “Mask.” Like a theatre mask, there is much ado about something and nothing. The “CASTro” is a literal synchronistical element, by which the names of people and places refer to the “theatre,” and cross connections if we can view the world en masse.’
Progoff, one of Jung’s best students on the subject suggests we compare Perre Pierre Tielhard de Chardin’s noosphere with Jung’s CU. Because of the efforts between Jung and Pauli, the dream illustration (Countries Mandala” (ibid p 146), is as if an “Ultra Human Psyche,” a collective “dream” with the “back ground radiation” (synchronicity) popping into physical conscious through the quandary of names.
Like most language, this sonnet will seem archaic. We all get a “cave like” or “generational,” hopefully broader perspective of history. The sonnet is a psychological game, I have been told.
Many young people could not even recognize how many names there are in the sonnet, let alone find latent “cross-connections.”
So Sarij, please understand, it has been verified that the “structure” is indeed of the Shakespearean Sonnet style.
The question of Love, contrast, story, view of the world as a true reflection of a sonnet, is a transformation of the world at large, articulating as if names are used (or abused) like words.