Hidden Wisdom behind the Meaningless Symbols
In common occasions, people say a phrase; “It’s just a coincidence.” The very manner people say this phrase shows how people take a coincidence as meaningless. It also reveals that our way of thought is heavily ruled by the notion of causality, the foundation of classic physics and all the other natural sciences. While the principle of causality keeps its position as the axiomatic truth “in the West from the time of Aristotle down to the present,” the ancient Chinese had a different notion of perceiving the world (Li 715).
The Book of Change, or I Ching in Chinese, had been used mainly for a purpose of oracle. However, the thought regarding this book of divination has evolved though time, such that it is regarded as the Book of Wisdom among sages in China. How does a collection of abstract symbols possibly lead us to wisdom? Just as the idea of coincidence is meaningless to the majority of people, so has been the I Ching’s interpretation—at least to people in the western world. However, with the drastic change of notion, which took place in the modern physics, and its correlation with Jung’s idea of synchronicity, this antique suggests a possibility for a new perspective of the truth.
In Jung’s definition, synchronicity means “the occurrence of a meaningful coincidence in time” (Jung 282).
Although the principle of causality does not allow a room for it, the existence of coincidences is an undeniable fact of the world. The problem arises in a scientific mind, for it is impossible to find out the objective cause of such incidents. When a coincidence happens, it is impossible to reproduce the similar effect by applying the similar cause. Let’s consider the moment of divination by using the method of I Ching. I get into a quiet room with an oracle. The oracle gives me three coins, and I throw them. Then, there they are, the words of wisdom.
Some People say that the world has many opportunities; some say that you cant get anywhere unless you are born to some certain class of people. Some even say that it is pure fate that brings you where you are going to be and what you get is what you get and you cant do anything about it. I think that people decide their own fates and it doesnt matter who was your parents or how much money you ...
Now, if I get into the same room with the same oracle next day, will I get the same reading as the other day? Of course, there is a chance that I might do, but I won’t count on it. This is the very property, which makes people skeptic about the meaning of coincidence. It is simply unreliable, for it cannot be verified by objective method. Whatever happened in that room with the oracle belongs only to that moment and that space. Unlike many scientific experiments, the answer of divination will not reproduce itself. Thus, we conclude that it was just a meaningless incident. However, before we jump into such a conclusion, I will pause for a moment in order to discuss an important fact about the reproducible—thus objectively verifiable—scientific truth. When people conduct scientific experiments, they “carefully sift, weigh, select, classify, [and] isolate” samples in a laboratory where the environmental conditions are artificially controlled in numerous ways (Jung xxiii).
In other words, people control the environment in order to reduce the interruption of natural chance. Thus, the suggested truth in this type of experiment shows only the statistical truth and not absolute. However, this is hardly the case of the nature itself. In the real world, the condition will be constantly changing, and we are living in the flow of this change while we are also subjects to change itself. To conclude the argument, we will never “know what nature does when left to herself undisturbed by the meddlesomeness of man” (Jung xxix).
Given that the coincidence is a fact of life, how do we explain its meaning? Once again, I have to pause for awhile, for the above question derives more fundamental question: how do we decide what is meaningful or not? What is our standard, in general sense, in perceiving something as meaningful to us? In a general term, what is meaningful to us contains some context, which is intuitive to our thoughts or perception. In the world of science, our intuition is governed by objective verification. The fact that something is objectively verifiable is very useful to us, for it gives us power to predict the effect in the future. Moreover, we can even create a cause in order to have an effect, which is of use for us. Therefore, in order for something to be scientifically meaningful, it must pass the test of objective verification, i.e., reproduction of expected effect. However, the modern physics reveals a flaw of this classical scientific view.
Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud – two of the best known names in psychiatry – each had tremendous roles in the field of psychoanalysis. Born nearly twenty years apart, they met in 1907 (Kendra Cherry ), and their first conversation was rumored to have lasted thirteen hours, they had such a good rapport. Jung soon worked under Sigmund Freud and they became great friends, although Freud was more ...
According to relativity theory presented by Einstein, “different observers will order events differently in time if they move with different velocities relative to the observed events . . . all measurements involving space and time thus lose their absolute significance” (Capra 62).
The relativity theory reveals two innovative facts. First, space-time continuum is a no longer an absolute measure. Once the velocity of the observer change so does the sequence of time and space. In other words, the sequence of cause and effect becomes ambiguous. This ambiguity of causality finally allows a room for Jung’s synchronicity. In order for us to obtain an explanation in terms of causality, there must be a stable notion of time sequence. However, according to relativity theory, time is not stable at all. Then, how do we explain the existence of possible simultaneous events, which take place in a matter of a moment, i.e., without a sequence of time, thus causeless? Second fact is that the status of observer is no longer merely an observer. If the model of the world can be rearranged depending on observers’ status, then what we call the verified fact loses its objectivity. The objective truth is truth, only because it has been observed in the same time-space continuum. It does not tell how things are. Rather, it tells how the observer arranges things around him. Thus, Heisenberg explains that “what we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning” (Capra 140).
Abstract Carl Jung was the illegitimate son of a poet. Jung’s emotional voyage into the psychological unknown began early in his life; he became aware of two separate aspects of his Self. This experience drew him into the field of psychiatry, dealing with subjective phenomena. After relationship trauma, with Freud, Jung began a dangerous and painful journey into the unconscious, he communicated ...
Within the two facts derived from the relativity theory, science can no longer ignore the subjective status of the observer, for it “cannot deny that [an observer’s] model of the world is a decidedly psychophysical structure” (Jung xxiv).
Therefore, the modern physics suggests the idea of the participatory universe where every phenomenon must include the existence of the observer. Now, let’s apply some ideas from new physics to Jung’s example of synchronicity. Jung introduces three possible forms of synchronistic incidents. One of them is “the coincidence of a subjective psychic state with a phantasm (dream or vision) which . . . the perceived event takes place in the future” (Jung 282).
In its effect, this form of synchronicity is similar to a prophecy making. As I mentioned earlier, time-space continuum turned out to be a relative measure. Therefore, the fact that the observed event took place in the future should not be a completely unscientific concept. One thing we have to notice is that the synchronistic observation has been made in the form of phantasm. It is a prolonged notion in psychology that a dream or a vision possibly reflects the realm of subconscious mind. A common notion about a dream is very simple: It isn’t real. However, in the case of synchronistic phantasm, the dream happens to reflect a physical event, which is very real. How is it possible? In order to explain such a phenomenon, Jung introduces the concept archetypes. Archetypes are “‘typical images’ that occur repeatedly in myths, fairytales, and in fantasies, dream and deliria. (Jung, Memories, p. 392) The archetypes ‘represent inherited forms of psychic behavior.’ They are empty, pure forms which together with the instincts constitute the ‘collective conscious’” (Li 711).
In short, archetypes are thoughts, which different beings share in a collective level. Jung’s theory of archetype suggests a possible existence of another source of our sense besides the direct nerves to cerebrum. An example of archetypes can be found in a similarity of myths in different parts of the world. According to the famous story of Moses and the Red Sea, God, responding Moses’ pray, splits ocean so Jew can cross it. A similar pattern of story in a similar situation can be found in a Korean myth. His enemies were following a man known as Ju-mong, who is known to be a founder of a nation in an old Korean territory. When he arrived at a river, knowing that he does not have a mean to cross it, he prays. Then suddenly, a numerous turtles arouse from the river and formed stepping stones so he could cross the river. As the example shows, two myths show an amazingly similar pattern of thoughts in two different worlds.
Brave New World Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931. It is about a futuristic dystopia in which Huxley exposes the corruption and imperfection of the perfect world. It compares to the real world in that it bears similarities to real events in world history. Huxley tries to convey what might happen if the government could have total control over individuals lives. In Brave New World, Huxley ...
The sixty-four hexagrams in I Ching represent archetypical situations in human affairs in the world. Each hexagram contains different combinations of two types of lines, which represent yin and yang energy. Although there are only two types of lines, each line has dynamic applications in its meaning. For instance, yang line might represent male, positive, heaven, day, creative, and etc. Therefore, each hexagram can entail numerous sub-translations depending on the characteristic of the asked question. Every event in everyone’s life is different in a sense that the pure natural event can never be reproduced precisely. However, similarity arises in those events, either in the situation itself or the psyche of the subject of experience. What the hexagrams in I Ching show is this similarity and proper action in such events. Maybe it is precisely for this reason why often people say in their old age, “Everyone has a different life but life itself is all the same after all.” The existence of archetypes correlates with the idea of the participatory universe. In order for archetypes to be possible, a thought must be shared in some means. Imagine an ideal system of common wealth. Everyone deposit some amount of money in the pool. Whenever someone needs money, he checks out the necessary amount of money from the pool. In this sense, the universe can be seen as a huge pool of events and ideas where all its participants share. Thus, one event in one portion of universe inevitably has an influence on another portion of the universe. Therefore, the causeless divination made by I Ching, or synchronistic events could be seen as the undetected connection between we and the pool we’re participating.
Here, an ironic observation arises. The very purpose for making divination is to find out the most proper action in a given situation, i.e., to find the pattern of flowing qi and try to flow with it. In such a sense, aren’t we seeking for a right cause in order to produce a right effect? However, the very mean to discover the right cause is causeless. Thus, Jung calls such a system of universe an acausal orderdness, which there are patterns of arrangement without any known cause. Another interesting fact regarding I Ching is that each hexagram must be read as “a state of continual transition . . . therefore not representation of things as such but of their tendencies in movement” (Wilhelm l).
Unexpected event that change my life forever Unexpected event that change my life foever because when Face a sudden crises that impact my means. When my grandmother fell sick with Cervical cancer. I can relate to Rachel statement “ the change was the reality of a life I’d never imagined myself to be in myself. In my mind I could not see anyone else who has been there fo me through thick and thin. ...
Our lives are constantly in motion, not only physically, but also psychologically, too. In that sense, there can be no fixed notion of positive or negative circumstances, for depends on our decision, the given situation will turn into another one. Therefore, the Book of Change is implying us the possible change of every moment in our lives. The thought of continual transition brings my attention back to the modern physics. In atomic physics—due to Heisenberg’s idea presented above—“matter does not exist with certainty at definite places, but rather shows ‘tendencies to exist’ . . . or ‘tendencies to occur’” (Capra 68).
Again, the modern physics confirm the relativity of matter in the real world.
After observing series of ideas regarding a relationship between our rational world and this antique, an interesting thought came across my mind. The universal sharing only happens in subconscious realm where the status is highly subjective. Essentially, even though we cannot ignore the influence of our psyche in the divination making—that is, in a sense of the participatory universe where the influence of an observer cannot be ignored—we still do not have any control of it. We simply do not know how our thought might affect the result of the divination. Could there be a reason for this? The biggest flaw of scientific development was the abusive manipulation of the cause. With such a power, humanity achieved so much progress. However, at the same time, we also produced so much disaster in the world, e.g., pollution, exhausted natural resources, and etc. Obviously, when we speak of cause and effect, we couldn’t possibly know the entire portion of effect. In our conscious level, we’ve been observing only immediate and useful effects and ignoring the rest. Maybe while we’re making a divination, I Ching is telling us that our conscious portion of mind does not know what we really need. Indeed, whenever we know something, we try to make use of that knowledge. Consciousness always accompanies desire for an improvement. Blinded by this desire, we often miss the big picture in use of our knowledge. (An analysis of the story of Genesis implies that the only difference between good and evil is the status of knowledge. For the evil nature of human is supposed to arise from the fruit of knowledge, which gave Adam and Eve a consciousness of God and their being.) Maybe then, I Ching is telling us that we should probably leave what’s causeless as causeless instead of bringing it down to consciousness.
Hans Holbein’s painting The Ambassadors, which Henry James was undoubtedly referencing in his eponymous novel, is a fascinating model because it contains the germs of a peculiar representation of the double and of some of the motifs associated with this theme: distortion, metamorphosis, liminality and perspectival relativity. At a first glance, the painting displays a simple referential ...
Capra, Fritjof. The Tao of Physics. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1999.
Jung, Carl G. Psyche and Symbol. Anchor, 1958.
Li, Peter. Paper for Presentation at the 5th International I-Ching Conference, Seoul, Korea. 1988.
Wilhelm, Richard. I-Ching. 1923(?).
(Forward written by Jung)