Archetypes and Synchronicity

PAULI SHOWED THAT BENEATH MATTER, abstract pattern determines the behaviour of matter in a noncausal way.[i]

The ‘theory of synchronicity’ originally grew out of Jung’s psychotherapeutic experiences and his theory of archetypal symbols, as well as meanings in alchemy. While Jung had talked about “synchronicism’ as early as 1929, in particular with regard to Eastern philosophy and the I-Ching, it was thanks to the new quantum physics, particularly Heisenberg’s ‘principle of uncertainty’ and Pauli’s ‘exclusion principle’ that the theory could be expanded further with new scientific plausibility.[ii]

In collaboration with Pauli, Jung explored the question of hidden symmetry within the universe from the perspectives of both physics and psychology and published his ideas on synchronicity.[iii]

SYNCHRONICITY IS DESCRIBED variously as “the coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same or similar meaning” and “acausal parallelisms”.[iv] As with archetypes, essential to synchronicity is meaning.

Jung’s position was that while causal explanations of natural events, inherited from the modern scientific view, are valid for explaining much of what occurs in nature and experience, they are insufficient to explain all.[v] Phenomena exist which “cannot be explained causally unless one permits oneself the most fantastic ad hoc hypotheses”.[vi] As Cosgrove states:

“Jung’s position would find some agreement from scientific ‘realists’ and critics like Paul Feyerabend. Relativity theory indicates that space and time may be reduced to zero under certain conditions where, logically, linear causality becomes impossible. It collapses distinctions between being and becoming. Only an enduring unity, or an inexplicable discontinuity make sense under these conditions, description becomes purely contextual. To accept this unity may render us silent. But characteristically humans seek to create meaning and do so through metaphor. The metaphors of synchronicity are those of harmony and correspondence… This principle of meaning cannot be grasped through empirical observation or measurement, but rather apprehended phenomenologically, below the intellectual level of formal science.”[vii]

Charles Card has argued that if quantum mechanics led to a revolution in physics, it is a revolution not yet completed. There is the mystery of non-locality at its heart – in other words the phenomenon where measurements made at the microscopic level refute local realism and are independent of our description of how nature operates. This may entail deeper and more fundamental changes to our scientific weltbild, world view, than those already taken place. Card concludes that quantum non-locality “is the most dramatic indication of the possibility of archetypal order in quantum phenomena”.[viii]

Archetypal Holographic Universe

THE ‘HOLOGRAPHIC UNIVERSE’ idea, or holographic model, has also been suggested as a mechanism for explaining the existence of archetypes.[ix] Theoretical physicist David Bohm argues that behind the quantum lies an even deeper reality which he called the implicate order, which causes apparently random quantum processes to unfold as they do. The implicate order is “enfolded” in the explicate order or manifest reality detectable at the quantum level and the level of everyday experiences. Interestingly, de Quincey draws links between the theory of Bohm and Jung:

“Like Bohm, Carl Jung proposed that below the conscious mind lies the unconscious psyche, and that below causal matter lies the realm of indeterminate quantum events. Deeper still, below both the level of unconscious psyche and quantum events, lies the realm of a-causal archetypes. Jung called it the “unus mundus,” an indivisible continuum of “psychoid” events. (“Psychoid” means of the nature of both psyche and matter). The archetypes can never be known directly; they can only be inferred from their effects on the conscious psyche (eg. in dreams via the unconscious) and on material objects (eg. patterning of physical processes via quantum events).”[x]

Evidence from psychiatrist Stanislav Grof indicates that archetypal images can be modelled by the holographic idea; that holography’s success at modeling many different aspects of the archetypal experience suggests that there is a deep link between holographic processes and the way archetypes are produced; and that evidence of a hidden, holographic order surfaces virtually every time one experiences a nonordinary state of consciousness.[xi]

Holist physicist, philosopher and author F. David Peat, states that Pauli was fascinated with the idea that just as Jung had identified the objective element within the collective psyche, physics would have to come to terms with the subjective aspects of matter, which he termed “the irrational”.[xii] Pauli found this dualism between objective and subjective especially significant and indicative that there was a much deeper connection between mind and matter:

“Below the everyday appearances of matter, in which the scientist acts as an impartial observer, are encountered quantum processes in which observer and observed are intimately linked. Below this level, Heisenberg and others have hinted, there may no longer exist a fundamental ground of matter but, rather, fundamental symmetries and ordering principles.”[xiii]

At their deepest, the subjective layers of matter and the objective layers of the mind are hidden from direct perception. Their existence can only be inferred from their impacts at higher levels. It is possible that below quantum phenomena there is a new, nonmaterial level of symmetry. Could it be, asks Peat, that below the collective unconsciousness there is something beyond mind; “a fundamental dynamic ordering perhaps? … (whereby) … At such a level the division between mind and matter would no longer apply and the domain of creative ordering and objective intelligence would have their ground”.[xiv]

Recent support for Jung’s theory of archetypes has come from Christopher Isham, a theoretical physicist at Imperial College London, whose main research interests are quantum gravity and foundational studies in quantum theory. He has linked space and time and the development in quantum theory of the space-time continuum with progress in philosophical and psychological thought from Plato to Kant to Jung.[xv]

‘Emergence Theory’ which involves the shift away from materialist, mechanistic reductionism that has dominated the modernist scientific world view, towards mental causation which is not reducible to physical causation, also gives further support for archetypal theory.[xvi] Also, Christopher Hauke argues that while the writing of Jung and post-Jungians has been ignored as “anachronistic”, “archaic” and “mystic”, it is more relevant now than ever before. Not only is it a response to modernity, it offers a critique of modernity and Enlightenment values which brings it into line with postmodernism.[xvii] As has been shown, postmodernism is inherent to both quantum physics and archetypal epistemology

[i] Peat (1988) Synchronicity, 17.
[ii] Ibid, 22.
[iii] Ibid, 34.
[iv] Ibid, 23.
[v] Denis Cosgrove, ‘Environmental Thought and Action: Pre-modern and Post-modern’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 15 (1990), 352.
[vi] Ibid, 352. Cf. C.G. Jung, Synchronicity – An Acausal Connecting Principle (Princeton, N.J., 1973).
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Charles R. Card, ‘The Emergence of Archetypes in Present-Day Science and its Significance for a Contemporary Philosophy of Nature’, 14.
[ix] Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe (London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1996).
[x] Christian de Quincey, ‘Deep Spirit: Quantum Consciousness?’, 5.
[xi] Talbot (1996) The Holographic Universe, 71; Cf. Stanislav Grof, Beyond the Brain (Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press, 1985).
[xii] Peat, ‘Time, Synchronicity and Evolution’, 3. http://www.fdavidpeast.com/biography/essays/text/saur.txt.
[xiii] Peat (1988) Synchronicity, 103.
[xiv] Ibid, 104.
[xv] See Christopher Isham, ‘Space and Time at the Edge of Mind’, Royal College of Psychiatrists: http://www.repsych.ac.uk/college/specialinterestgroups/spirituality/publications/newsletter”/
[xvi] See Philip Clayton and Paul Davies, The Re-Emergence of Emergence – The Emergentist Hypothesis from Science to Religion (Oxford University Press, 2006).
[xvii] Christopher Hauke, Jung and the Postmodern – The Interpretation of Realities (Routledge, London, 2000).