Last week I journeyed from my home in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Area to Joshua Tree, CA to seek insight into the synchronicities that permeate my personal and professional life. 

By profession I am an urban and regional planner; increasingly I find value in discerning the "spirit of place" as a window into the community where I work.  That has led me into the emerging field of terrapsychology, especially as articulated by Craig Chalquist.

Although the Joshua Tree synchronicity symposium did not address terrapsychological issues directly, I was attracted to it particularly because of the opportunity to learn from Rupert Sheldrake and Richard Tarnas, two brilliant thinkers who in my opinion lay an important foundation for terrapsychology or any other depth psychological work these days.  Their teachings at Joshua Tree more than met my hopes for the event.

I had not previously studied with Rupert Sheldrake, although I had read his "Science Set Free" book and watched several YouTube videos of his talks.  His Joshua Tree material did sound some familiar themes, but I was especially grateful for his attention to the latest developments in consciousness studies and his highlighting of the apparent breakdown of the materialist perspective even among its advocates (example of Sam Harris' book "Waking Up" just now published).  I also valued the opportunity to dialogue with him and came to appreciate better his unique views on both organized and unorganized religion.  His own articulated perspective of Psychedelic Anglicanism Married to a Practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism certainly gives credence to the late Robin Williams' statement regarding Episcopalianism (the US equivalent of Anglicanism) - that "no matter what you believe there is at least one other Episcopalian who believes the same thing."

Joshua Tree was my fourth time hearing Richard Tarnas - he's frequently appeared in the Twin Cities and I make a point of taking part in his events close to home when I can.  I'm finding especially valuable in Tarnas his articulation of the varieties of synchronistic experiences and his point that some are messages from the cosmos via inanimate or barely-animate means (e.g., the golden scarab in the dream of Jung's patient) while others are best seen as extensions of innate capabilities that we all possess in some measure (e.g., telepathic communications).  His emphases on the trickster dimension to most synchronistic experiences and the corollary need to avoid ego inflation were especially welcome to me.

Keeping this post to a manageable length, I'll simply note one pleasant synchronicity that occurred at the symposium.  As previously mentioned I have been attracted to Craig Chalquist's work.  I've not met him in person but have engaged in several conversations with him via email and phone.  Several months ago I asked if he would be at the Joshua Tree symposium and he said probably not - and indeed he was not there.  But serendipitously, Bonnie Bright, a former Chalquist student, had a prominent role in the symposium and was offering a free copy of the Chalquist "Rebearths" book to anyone who would agree to post impressions of the symposium on the Depth Psychology Alliance website.  So that's the genesis of this blogpost.  Thank you Bonnie and Cosmos!

How this all fits into my work as a city and regional planner may be the subject of another post at another time.

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Comment by Donna May on September 24, 2014 at 3:18pm

Mark, welcome to the forum and your synopsis of the Joshua Tree event. I was unable to be there and your words help me get a little taste of what I missed. I look forward to reading more about you and your work in the future!

Comment by Bonnie Bright on September 24, 2014 at 6:10am

Fantastic, Mark! I hope you will consider more....!

Comment by Mark VanderSchaaf on September 22, 2014 at 6:41pm

All -

Thanks for your responses to my little summary of Joshua Tree.  This was my first adventure with blogging (I'm a lagging baby boomer when it comes to social media) but you're inspiring me to consider more...

Comment by Gael McCool on September 22, 2014 at 6:08am

Hi Mark, I appreciate your comments and agree that Richard Tarnas' description of varieties of synchonistic experiences was one of the highlights, and I especially appreciated his comment about avoiding avoiding ego inflation. Great example of synchronicity at the end too!

Comment by Bonnie Bright on September 22, 2014 at 4:36am

Thank you, Mark, for this excellent and heartfelt commentary on the symposium. What synchronicity! I loved your story about the book at the end. Meanwhile, you really captured some meaningful ideas and shared some great examples. I wish everyone here in the community could have been there, but if they couldn't, this is a wonderful glimpse of what we were able to take part in. It was great to meet you, and I hope you'll share more here on readings, ideas, thoughts, insights, conferences, etc. in the future! You're an excellent writer.

Comment by Craig Chalquist, PhD on September 21, 2014 at 1:47pm


It's interesting that Trickster would be mentioned in Joshua Tree. I spent eleven years studying which mythic presences seem strong in which parts of California. Trickster owns that part of the state, from what I can tell. So I would add a third dimension to synchronicity: that sometimes it seems like a movement, presencing, or gesture of the spirit of the place where it occurs. Cheers--

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