The Many Faces of Coincidence
An important step towards unravelling the profound mysteries of coincidence
Review by Geoff Ward. Photos of book singing by Gail Browne. Book signing chaired by writer Adam Williams.
One day my wife Angie and I stopped to look at an impressive standing stone overlooking a bay not far from our home. It stood in the corner of a field, and just over the fence was a large modern house. I took photos of the stone, one of them with the house in the background.
A week later, walking on the deserted beach below, we found a small digital camera in the sand. The memory card was intact and, hoping to find a clue as to the owner, we called up the photos. Imagine our astonishment when we saw that one of them showed the same standing stone and house!
The photo had even been taken from the beach not far from where we found the camera, and another photo from it showed the whole beach itself, taken from near the house. Calling at the house, we discovered it was where the owner of the lost camera lived.
A meaningful coincidence, certainly, but was it synchronicity, especially in the true Jungian sense? This is the kind of question that Laurence Browne deftly sets out to answer in his quest for an inclusive categorisation of all kinds of coincidence in what must become a landmark work — The Many Faces of Coincidence (Imprint Academic UK £14.95 / US $29.90, August 2017). It’s a timely, accessible and important contribution to consciousness studies and philosophic thought.
Browne proposes four categories (possibly yet to lead to sub-categories), or explanations of coincidence: random chance (a probability that could be calculated mathematically), natural causal (accounted for by standard theories of physical and mental causation), supernatural causal (paranormal elements, eg, telepathy) — and, the most interesting category, synchronicity.
Most interesting because, in Jung’s terms, synchronicity affords a glimpse of the unus mundus, the one underlying reality: subject and object become temporarily united in a ‘timeless epiphany’ which might last only a moment. For synchronicity to happen, the spaces between individuals and things, rather than being empty, must somehow afford a connecting link or itself be a transmitting medium. And indeed, synchronicity turns out to be the main focus of Browne’s book.
Radio interview with Laurence on Russian radio: