Thursday, October 24, 2013

Synchronicity-Spooky at a Distance

     Synchronicity, a concept first proposed in the scientific literature by Carl Jung in the 1920s, is the 'experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance but which are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.'

Carl Gustav Jung

     It is an idea that has been claimed by some to be superstition, by others as describing scientific connections and still by others as proof of an 'otherworldly' power in the events of our lives. Synchronicity is an idea that may be difficult to understand but, according to Jung, 'the idea of synchronicity is that the conceptual relationship of minds, defined as the relationship between ideas, is intricately structured in its own logical way and gives rise to relationships that are not causal in nature. These relationships can manifest themselves as simultaneous occurrences that are meaningfully related.

      Synchronicity, is it 'karma'? Not quite. 
     The idea of 'karma' in Hinduism is one that explains cause and effect through a system where beneficial effects are derived from past beneficial actions and harmful effects from past harmful actions, creating a system of actions and reactions throughout a soul's life (or lives) forming a cycle of rebirth. The causality is said to be applicable not only to the material world but also to our thoughts, words, actions and actions that others do under our instructions.
     To qualify as synchronistic, the two or more events involved must be temporally coincident (taking place at or about the same time) and must be mutually acausal (not related one to the other in any causative way).
Jung's Concept of Synchronicity

     Jung believed that events which we often see as coincidence, events due to a chance happening, have a causal relationship 'in the greater scheme of things'. Jung discussed this concept of synchronicity with renowned physicists such as Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli, suggesting a relationship between synchronicity and the theory of relativity as well as quantum mechanics. Jung and Pauli thought that there was a unifying 'idea' in life, an underlying unified reality from which everything emerges and returns to, the 'unus mundus'.
     In the world of quantum physics, there are indeed strange things that take place:
Albert Einstein

     'Spooky (at a distance) physics' or 'interaction at a distance' is the effect or interaction of two objects which are separated in space with no known mediator of the interaction. This goes against the ingrained human idea that objects must touch (physically or through a magnetic or gravitational field) in order to interact.
     The theory of quantum mechanics predicts that two or more particles can become 'entangled' (quantum entanglement) so that even after they are separated in space, when an action is performed on one particle, the other particle responds immediately. Scientists still don't know how the particles send these instantaneous messages to each other (instantaneously, faster than the speed of light), but somehow, once they are entwined, the two (or more) particles retain a fundamental connection.
Quantum Entanglement (Spooky at a Distance)
-Separated Ions Affect One Another

     Synchronicity is distinct from apophenia which is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. An extreme form of apophenia is paraidolia which is the perception of a sound or 'image' as being significant. An excellent example of 'hopeful over-reading' of information was the perception of a photograph of the Martian surface taken by one of the Viking missions in 1976 showing a face staring into the cosmos.

A Face on Mars

     This was later shown to be an aberration of the light on the top of a high Martian plateau. Other more common examples of paraidolia are the perception of faces in cloud formations, coded messages on musical recordings and most popularly religious paraidolia, such as 'Jesus on toast' or 'Mary on a sandwich'. The most well-known case of religious paraidolia was the sighting of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich found by Diana Duyser of Florida. Mrs. Duyser claimed to have kept the sandwich on her night stand for over 10 years, during which time she had excellent luck at the casinos. The fact that the sandwich had remained mold-free was considered, by some, to have been proof of the sandwich’s miraculous nature.
Virgin Mary (Jesus?) on a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

     These cases often prove, in the end, to be quite profitable. In 2004 the grilled cheese sandwich was listed for sale on Ebay, where the (partially eaten) sandwich was bought by Golden Palace Casino for $28,000.
     Is there really some 'unifying' force or influence in our world that we are unable to see? Are we so deeply immersed in our own space that we cannot 'see the forest for the trees'?
     Is the idea of synchronicity similar to fractals, the repeating patterns that are ubiquitous in nature. Fractal patterns are obvious when examined from afar but easily overlooked when viewed from up close.
The Repeating Pattern of Fractals

     Some researchers argue that synchronicity is much more common than we appreciate, that it occurs every day and everywhere and that these synchronistic events tend to become obvious to us only in the case of the most startling coincidences. Are the events in life 'cause and then effect' or is there something more? Is there an 'overseeing' rule of (quantum?) law which says that everything is related? Can there be effect and then cause?..Or is that even stranger, even more unimaginable than 'spooky at a distance'?
Alice Through the Looking glass
     Stranger things have been written and reality is often stranger than fiction (see post: Stranger Than Fiction).
     'That's the effect of living backwards. It always makes one a little giddy at first...It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards!' said the White Queen to Alice. ('Alice Through the Looking Glass' - Lewis Carroll)

     *Synchronicity: subject of research for the novel The Tao of the Thirteenth God - Amazon Kindle

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Psychomanteum and Near-Death Experience

     A psychomanteum, is in a sense an adjunct to scrying (see post: Scrying). The psychomanteum is the mirrored room used by practitioners to contact the spirit world. The practice of using a psychomanteum is often called 'mirror-gazing' and has been used in one form or another for thousands of years.

Dodona, North-West Greece
     A natural pool of water or water collected in a bowl, even the reflection of a pool of blood have been the mediums used for this practice. The psychomanteum has also been called the 'apparition booth', found at oracle sites in ancient Greece. One of the earliest sites of a psychomanteum has been discovered at Dodona in north-western Greece, a site famous for its oracles and one that probably pre-dated Zeus as the patriarchal god of the Greeks with the worship of the 'mother goddess'.
     Near-darkness, a flickering light and mirrors aim to place the practitioner into a trance-like state. The lack of depth when gazing into a reflective surface, such as a mirror, decreases mental alertness, promotes relaxation and allows visions or hallucinations to be more easily induced.  'Catapromancy' was the term used to describe the use of mirrors for divination in ancient Rome and ancient Greece.

     One such catapromancy center was described by an ancient traveller: 'Before the Temple of Ceres (Roman goddess of agriculture, grains, fertility and motherly relationships) at Patras, there was a fountain, separated from the temple by a wall, and there was an oracle, very truthful, not for all events, but for the sick only. The sick person let down a mirror, suspended by a thread till its base touched the surface of the water, having first prayed to the goddess and offered incense. Then looking in the mirror, he saw the presage of death or recovery, according as the face appeared fresh and healthy, or of a ghastly aspect.'
     There were even specialists in the priesthood of Rome who gazed into mirrors, known as the 'speculari'.
     But the use of a psychomanteum is not a phenomenon that died with ancient civilizations. The Ganzfeld Experiment (see post: Scrying) is a more modern technique that, in effect, creates an environment of sensory deprivation and has been used to investigate parapsychological phenomena. Several researchers, including those who examine near-death experiences (Dr. Raymond Moody) have used the psychomanteum as a tool to examine the 'para-normal' as well as altered states of consciousness (see post: Altered States of Consciousness).
Ganzfeld Experiment

     The 'Institute of Transpersonal Psychology' (ITP) in Palo Alto, California has been given large grants for research into the use of psychomanteum, especially as a tool for coping with the grief of a deceased loved one. According to researcher, Dr. Arthur Hastings: 'More than half the participants feel they have had some kind of contact with their departed, most often through a mental conversation or feeling their presence. Sometimes it is visually or through touch.  Sometimes the departed is not present, yet nine out of ten participants feel a sense of resolution.'

     Is the use of a psychomanteum just another technique similar to others used in various societies to contact the dead? Does the altered state produced when using a psychomanteum give the practitioner the same experience as the Bwiti of Central Africa when they consume ibogaine and become the 'seers of the dead' (see post: A Drug to See the Dead)?
     For an interesting interview with Dr. Raymond Moody and 'near-death' experiences, click on the link below.

     *Paranormal experience: subject of research for the novel  The Tao of the Thirteenth God - Amazon Kindle.