I was always fascinated by the many examples of synchronistic events Jung recounted to clarify his ideas. Many people from all walks of life share an intense interest in this shadowy side of our mostly artificial, conscious-bound lives.  However rare they may be, they're psychic facts which reveal an extra-sensory world beyond our usual mundane experiences. Seldom do they conform to traditional notions of them.

They defy scientific and religious preconceptions alike -- part of the irrational mystery, not only of consciousness, but of a natural reality which refuses to be pinned down by human logic or assumption. This mystery is so unsettling to our inherited self-images as to be a severe blow to those egos whose fear and insecurity is compensated by certainty. It nonetheless imposes itself with such persistence that only the most fearful (the most certain) could not be, if not awed by it, at least impressed by it.

Jung wrote that one of the main features of synchronistic events appears to be their connection to archetypal situations. By archetypal, Jung referred to those basic functions common to all and which correspond to the over-all run of human experience: transitional stages of development and such events as trigger awareness of them; decisive conflicts and milestones which have shaped human response over eons to the realities of both inner and outer conditions;  instincts for general adaptation.

Because there is a common level of experience for all who share this worldly reality, Jung suggested that archetypal images operate in the animal psyche in the same way we're driven by them, only perhaps (or perhaps not) less consciously. Though this idea logically proceeds from established principles of evolution, the nature of conscious focus blocks out our experience of it, just as animals live it in relative unconsciousness.

Unlike "lower" animals, however, we're outfitted to perceive it more or less consciously, retrieve memories of it at will (or almost), and weigh the possibilities of its future import -- one of the reasons for dreams, our vivid memories of them, and our capacity to reflect on them.

Collectively, we've always seen ourselves as far removed from instinct and animal behavior (an objective measure of our lack of awareness of ourselves), and traditional religious, philosophical, and even scientific assumptions have long described the split psyche we inhabit. Even our remote ancestors, more attuned to nature than ourselves, reveal the self-flattering influences of ego in much the same way we're possessed by them today. It's an artificial reality we're driven to construct consciously, but which deceives us immeasurably about our unconscious natures.

Owing to our animal heritage, it only makes sense that instinctual life-energies express natural processes conforming to an earthly reality. This, despite religious fantasies which conceive ego as somehow co-existing in an ethereal universe beyond the reach of nature and the earth; a pretty accurate description, though not exactly in the way we've been conditioned to accept it. Such ideas graphically illustrate Jung's conception of psychic reality: they're very real to those who believe in metaphysical ideas, even as they point to a deeper, symbolic reality.

They don't presently belong to the common stock of accepted truths. For anyone who's had "other-worldly" experiences, though, Jung's concepts are an avenue by which to see them as very natural events which occur among all people in all times. That they can't be explained in terms of cause and effect is further incentive to explore this irrational reality which defies causal logic. 

Maybe it's easier for ego to look at the problem the other way round and see how animals resemble us rather than how our behavior comports with theirs. One experience in particular which helped me to recognize our affinity with animals (besides the entire history of our development) was when I was in my late twenties:

It was a very decisive period in my life; my best friend of many years had died in a car accident (more on the synchronistic phenomena surrounding this experience later), and I felt the need to be more connected with nature than the city streets I'd become accustomed to during the previous few years. I moved back to the woods, got a dog, and began a new life without my old friend.

Soon thereafter, I had a very impressive dream in which I saw a great tree trunk that had been severed. It was very thick, about three feet high, and I touched it. I thought in the dream: it was the hardest and most concrete thing I could imagine. Suddenly, the tree trunk began to undulate, reminding  me of a belly dancer. This trunk which was so dense and hard, dead and cut-off, was yet so pliable and flexible and alive, I was astounded.  An atmosphere of profound mystery penetrated me as I watched it sway.

Shortly after the dream, I'd been cutting pieces of lumber for a project I was engaged in and had left ten or so small blocks of wood lying in the front yard. The next morning, planning to go out and gather them up, I happened to look out through my front window...

There, right in front of the house lay my dog fast asleep. Surrounding her in a circle were five of the blocks of wood I'd cut the previous day. She'd walked around the yard and chosen (consciously?) five of the scattered blocks to lay about her and then stretched out to sleep within the circle she'd made.

I didn't have to know anything about the symbolic attributes of the number five or the circle, or even the dog, to feel the strange emotional impression of the sight of her sleeping in the front yard in the protective sphere her own dog's imagination had arrayed. I knew intuitively it was meaningful.

Later experiences, along with Jung's ideas, helped me understand that it was about the natural energy gravitating around this period in my life which drew my dog to express the archetypal symbols which prompted her (and my) behavior -- though emotionally, I still didn't need any reasons for it, nor did I ever really seek any. Subsequent study of the history of symbols only reinforced its mystery and meaning to me.

The experience alone was enough for me to accept it as something ultimately beyond comprehension, though somehow not requiring any explanation to clarify it to me. Those irrational emotions needed nothing more than the experience of them at the time. In fact, it would almost have seemed a sacrilege to question them -- and I was not a religious man in my late twenties. 

Well, I did question such things later -- to try to satisfy my rational curiosity. But, you know what? In the end, it didn't really matter. I never lost my awe. Am I ignorant? Unscientific? A simple rube, too emotionally vulnerable to appreciate rational truth? Or have you replaced the mystery in your life with the dull certitude of fact and knowledge and accepted opinion? 


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Comment by Evan Hanks on September 14, 2013 at 6:16am

Hi Ric,

Thank you for your kind words. Of course you may use anything you like from any of my posts. It's amazing what a little knowledge of symbols can bring to the surface, isn't it? For me, that's the real value of Jung's work. Thanks again!

Comment by Ric Brijl on September 14, 2013 at 5:45am

Good Morning Evan,

Thank you for sharing just this outstanding Post.

Your story with the intellectual part is very clearly explained and the part of numinous moved me, because of the fact that “it takes one to know one”.

As Linda and Aleksandar are like me members of the course of the RB, on this RB Forum (Lecture 17) I just “tried” to explain to Aleksandar what I meant with “unlearning”.

Now I have read your Post and to me it seems that you described the matter in a far more understandable way then I tried to do.

So I hope that you don’t mind that I add some of your sentences in a addition reference (from you) to my inadequate explanations.

Some time ago I watched on TV a dog program and by others it showed a dog who had a lot of toys laying in the garden.

But it was astounding too see, that the dog time after time was placing his/her toys in strange patterns (by others I think also a circle).

I can’t recall what program I was watching and at the time, I thought it was extraordinary, but now, after reading your Post, the behavior of the dog in that program has meaning for me – because by sharing, you added some Consciousness to me about some of the ways by which the Numinous seem to work.

I am wishing you a fine Saturday (in the woods of Virginia ?) – enjoy – Ric.

Comment by Evan Hanks on August 5, 2013 at 5:18pm

P.S. to Aleksander:

Whether your article is good or not (and I think it is), the surest way to certainty for those who would remain certain is to ignore anything and everything that might disturb it!

Comment by Evan Hanks on August 5, 2013 at 5:00pm


I read your article, and I found it very cogent. However, I'm not a scientist, nor do I have the accepted credentials to be considered in any way knowledgeable about anything. I appreciate your arguments, though I feel like I understand why they're not receiving the attention you feel they deserve: they're right there in that indescribable no-man's land between rational and irrational. Rationalists cannot accept that, no matter how much sense it makes. One point I venture to make without trying to sound judgmental (you're much more educated than I about the ideas you discuss!): that no-man's land is the unconscious, and without the concepts to understand, not what it is (we can never do that) but what it implies, is where, as Jung said, science ends. Beyond that is the unknown. You can't know how much I admire your courage in addressing what so few wish to acknowledge!

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