The Roots of Conicidence and the Frontiers of the Mind

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What or where are the boundaries of psychology and parapsychology? Are those that ridicule research into ESP, telepathy, precognition, and clairvoyance acting as responsible skeptics? Or are they closed-minded?

When it comes to the human mind, it may be always be best to keep an open mind. In 1972, a slim book by Arthur Koestler was published on the subject, The Roots of Coincidence: An Excursion into Parapsychology. Koestler’s aim is to get the paranormal out of the hands of the flimflam cheesecloth-ghost conjurers and into the laboratory. By exploring the latest advances (at the time) in subatomic physics, Koestler, a Hungarian writer best known for the anti-Soviet political novel Darkness at Noon, delves into the very real psychology of parapsychology through the lens of modern physics.

To make his point, Koestler quotes at some length the esteemed professor and psychologist H. J. Eysenck, author of Sense and Nonsense in Psychology as well as the definitive one-volume encyclopedia of psychology:

Unless there is a gigantic conspiracy involving some thirty university departments all over the world, and several hundred highly respected scientists in various fields, many of them originally hostile to the claims of the psychical researchers, the only conclusion the unbiased observer can come to must be that there does exist a small number of people who obtain knowledge existing either in other people’s minds, or in the outer world, by means unknown to science….
“Scientists, especially when they leave the particular field in which they have specialised, are just as ordinary, pig-headed and unreasonable as anyone else, and their unusually high intelligence only makes their prejudices all the more dangerous.”

Carl Jung’s concept of Synchronicity, the simultaneous occurrence of two meaningfully connected but not causally connected events, is in part laid out in collaboration with physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who first predicted the existence of the mysterious subatomic particle the neutrino, in an essay entitled “Synchronizitaet als ein Prinzip akausaler Zusammenhaenge.” In contrast to his “scientific father” Sigmund Freud, Jung cites the archetypal foundation of coincidence. As Koestler notes, Pauli’s breakthrough was in his revolutionary proposal to extend the principle of non-causal events from microphysics (where it came to be accepted, for example in the proof that the neutrino possessed contradictory properties of existence and nonexistence) to macrophysics (where such a notion was not, and generally is not, accepted).

The relationship between the paranormal and the psychological may be seen throughout literature. In two of his greatest plays on the workings of the human mind, Hamlet and Macbeth, Shakespeare relies on ghosts, witches, and the supernatural to express the psychology of tragic hesitation and blind ambition. Bram Stoker’s Dracula character is, in part, a study of mind control via means we can apprehend but not logically comprehend. Americans Edgar Allan Poe and Henry James likewise explore similar territory.

We at AMHF prefer to keep an open mind with respect to the roots of coincidence, be they in dreams, in the physical world, in realms we cannot yet comprehend. Newtonian physics may have launched humankind to the moon and sent research satellites to the ends of the solar system. But in fact, the truer physical universe is almost the one informed by “superstition”; the one described by Albert Einstein in his mind-bending and counter-intuitive theories of relativity. If physics shows us the existence of negative mass, black holes in space, the possibility of time moving backward, if even pets and wild animals sense a world beyond our five human-animal senses, why would similar breakthroughs not be in store for those of us who delve into the magical matters of the mind?

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