dr. aziz's foreword to synchronicity: multiple perspectives on meaningful coincidence
by robert aziz
I am most grateful to Dr. Lance Storm for having invited me to contribute the Foreword to this impressive compilation of papers on synchronicity that are here brought together in book form under his direction and editorship. It is indeed an honour to be a participant in a project of this scope and significance.
The contributions selected for this project come from a group of individuals with highly specialized yet diverse professional backgrounds linked first and foremost by their respective scholarly, clinical and experimental research interests in the subjects of meaningful coincidence and synchronicity. Moving through the material and chapters of this work, one will have the feeling of being an attendee at an international conference on synchronicity, perhaps the first international conference on synchronicity. A circle has been drawn and a roundtable discussion has been convened.
Now something about which one should be forewarned, especially newcomers to this subject area, is that cohesive, group conclusions will not be forthcoming, much as would be true of most professional conferences. Perhaps making matters worse, one will at times observe amongst contributors difficulties in not only determining how operative factors are to be studied, but no less which ones are to be pursued. For some readers this will be the disappointment of the work; for other readers it will constitute its beauty. The beauty of the work is that academics, clinicians and experimental researchers are sharing their personal, clinical and research experiences of the problems under consideration and they are for the most part doing so, moreover, not with the intention of providing answers, but within the spirit of creating the space in which such answers might appear.
Science, as it is well known, is held together as much by belief systems as it is by research. Paradigmatic assumptions, which constitute the basis of a given scientific model's belief system, not only determine how something will be studied, but, even more restricting, what should be studied in the first place. With respect to this first limitation, several of the experimental contributors quite rightly argue that if research focusing on the events associated with synchronicity and meaningful coincidence were to have as its objective the establishment of repeatability within the mechanistic cause/effect relationship of the predominant scientific belief system, we would be committing to the equivalent of a snipe hunt or fool's errand. With respect to the second limitation, even in knowing what we do about scientific belief systems, we will nonetheless be challenged to remain cognizant of how within scientific communities (unconditionally committed as they supposedly are to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding), a genuine bias exists against the study of that which present scientific research has not yet validated. Yet where would we be if scientific inquiry were limited to that which established research had validated? We are challenged, therefore, not to have our own research endeavors in this field corrupted by such projections.
Of course paradigmatic assumptions played no small role in Freud and Jung's clinical work and their subsequent theorizings about the psyche and its dynamics. Freud, for his part, being fundamentally aligned with the mechanistic-causal determinism of 19th century science took as his mission the task of entering that last frontier of nature—the psyche or soul—and securing it for the science of his time by way of its complete despiritualization. Jung, for his part, pushed back, and he did so in at least two important ways: First, by way of his observation that the psyche, in contrast to the mechanistic-causal dynamics of Freud's conflict model, has the capability to self-regulate, which is to say, to spontaneously self-organize; Second, by way of his discovery of the archetypal unconscious and his subsequent assessment of it being the living basis and source of all that humanity has come to identify as the spiritual.
These theoretical steps, to be sure, were steps of incredible import. But having said this, we should not fail to understand that Jung's counteroffensive, as it were, Jung's attempt to respiritualize that which 19th century science had despiritualized, would, in the main, given the limitations of Jung's own paradigmatic assumptions, never lay true claim to, or even seek to lay claim to, any ground beyond that of the strictly intrapsychic, even after the fact of the introduction of the Jung/Pauli synchronicity concept. Very much in contrast, then, to the core assumptions of the Jungian Paradigm—assumptions which ultimately prohibited Jung and Jungians from embracing and extending theoretically the synchronicity concept and its implications—in the form of what I have termed the Syndetic Paradigm, we take the critical theoretical step of moving from a closed-system model of a self-regulatory psyche to an open-system model of a psyche in a self-organizing totality. The Syndetic Paradigm, in this regard, holds that all of life, that is to say, nature in its entirety is bound together in a highly complex whole through an on-going process of spontaneous self-organization.
There are many things to be said about the implications of the above-described paradigmatic progression, but with prioritization in mind I believe it most valuable to reflect briefly on an implication of this progression for both clinical practice and research.
Current paradigmatic assumptions have led clinicians and researchers to think strictly in terms of clinician/subject or researcher/subject separateness. On the part of analysts, such an assumption would take the form of ensuring the analytical process is guided, not by their personal experiences, even their personal experiences of a compensatory nature, but by the compensatory experiences of their analysands. Never would it be acceptable for the compensatory experiences of the clinician to enter into the equation. Clinician/subject separateness necessitates working with analysands strictly with regard for the self-organizing dynamics of their compensatory processes, not the clinician's.
In great contrast to the above, as we move beyond paradigmatic assumptions of exclusivity and separateness through to paradigmatic assumptions of inclusivity and interconnectedness, what we begin to understand is that some of the most important answers to the problems of an analysand may very well be found, not within the compensatory process of the analysand as such, but rather, in the process of the therapeutic whole in which both analyst and analysand are contained by way of self-organizing nature. Whereas in the old paradigm it was assumed that the analysand's process alone would provide the requisite compensatory direction, it is now clear that a much-needed compensatory puzzle piece may very well be found, not in the dream of the analysand, for example, but rather, in the dream of the analyst. The analyst, in other words, may hold by way of the inclusive dynamic of self-organizing reality indispensable information to the facilitation of the analysand's healing and transformation. Of course the implications of all of this for current notions of transference and counter-transference are enormous. Professional protocols reverse. In fact so much so that what was previously deemed unethical to present to the analysand is now deemed unethical not to present.
Now concerning experimental research, the implications of the paradigmatic progression from exclusivity and separateness to inclusivity and interconnectedness are no less far-reaching. Perhaps the most striking shift is that that which paradigmatic assumptions would have before identified to us as the container of the research process, that is to say, the experimenter and by extension the experiment itself, would now have us regard as the contained. Putting it somewhat differently, the new paradigmatic assumptions lead us to understand that the researcher and research experiment are as much nature's experimental subjects, as it were, as nature itself was previously held to be by the researcher. Accordingly, it would be more than in our best interests to understand that just as experimental researchers have sought to force nature to disclose itself to them—albeit at times through impossibly narrow experimental designs analogous to asking a great artist to disclose his or her talent by way of an exercise in paint-by-number —nature itself works incessantly to force us to be the instrument of its disclosure by way of the transformation of our consciousness. The unanticipated, therefore, as it presents both within and even outside of the fixed experimental design, should never be overlooked or taken lightly. For what happens around or outside the experiment may reveal to us more about nature's mysteries than that which presents from within the parameters of the formal experiment itself.
For the experimental researcher such a shift will quite rightly be attended by a sense of loss of control and even vulnerability, but I can say that this amounts to a relatively minor affront to ego control compared to what one will experience should nature's on-going experiment take things up to an altogether different level. I am referring especially to the experiences of those great, but nonetheless, creatively burdened individuals whose consciousness levels and genius cause their heads to be sticking up a little higher than others when the lightning bolt of paradigmatic shift is unleashed by way of self-organizing nature. C.G. Jung and Wolfgang Pauli, the 1945 Nobel Laureate in Physics, were most certainly such individuals, but I will just say here I am led to conclude that Pauli, not Jung, was the one who took the direct hit on the synchronicity concept and its implications during those earlier years. The genius of Pauli's scientific mind and vision; the profundity of his dreams, which were of immense significance to our current cultural crisis of meaning, speaking as they did to the problem of our state of spiritual alienation (not only from our natural beings or instinctual selves, but matter and nature as a whole); his transparency when it came to the investigation of those dreams and his intrapsychic process; the sincerity of his commitment and sacrifice to find the way forward; and his experience of suffering and even torment in failing to meet his objective, all lead me to this conclusion.
It is imprudent to conceive of individuation in the new paradigm as a strictly individual journey. That is true of anyone's individuation, not to speak of the individuation journeys of cultural luminaries such as Jung and Pauli. In the new paradigm, as noted above, we move from a closed-system model of a self-regulatory psyche to an open-system model of a psyche in a self-organizing totality. All of life, in other words, which is also to say, all individuations, is bound together in a highly complex whole through an on-going process of spontaneous self-organization. It is the case, accordingly, that those problems and questions by which the lives of Jung and Pauli were at times so violently seized now come to us by way of self-organizing nature as the problems of our respective journeys. That which was unresolved and unanswered still cries out for redemption. It is up to us now by way of self-organizing nature to act.
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