Jedi Simon Research


Carl Jung (1875-1961), synchronicity & the collective unconscious


Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and colleague of Freud's who broke away from Freudian psychoanalysis over the issue of the unconscious mind as a reservoir of repressed sexual trauma which causes all neuroses. Jung founded his own school of analytical psychology.

Jung believed in astrology, spiritualism, telepathy, telekinesis, clairvoyance and ESP.  In addition to believing in a number of occult  and paranormal notions, Jung contributed two new ones in his attempt to establish a psychology rooted in occult and pseudoscientific beliefs: synchronicity and the collective unconscious.

Synchronicity is an explanatory principle; it explains "meaningful coincidences" such as a beetle flying into his room while a patient was describing a dream about a scarab. The scarab is an Egyptian symbol of rebirth, he noted. Therefore, the propitious moment of the flying beetle indicated that the transcendental meaning of both the scarab in the dream and the insect in the room was that the patient needed to be liberated from her excessive rationalism. His notion of synchronicity is that there is an acausal principle that links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception.

What evidence is there for synchronicity? None. Jung's defense is so inane I hesitate to repeat it. He argues that "acausal phenomena must exist...since statistics are only possible anyway if there are also exceptions" (1973, Letters, 2:426). He asserts that "...improbable facts exist--otherwise there would be no statistical mean..."  (ibid.: 2:374). Finally, he claims that "the premise of probability simultaneously postulates the existence of the improbable" (ibid. : 2:540).

Even if there were a synchronicity between the mind and the world such that certain coincidences resonate with transcendental truth, there would still be the problem of figuring out those truths. What guide could one possibly use to determine the correctness of an interpretation? There is none except intuition and insight, the same guides that led Jung's teacher, Sigmund Freud, in his interpretation of dreams. The concept of synchronicity is but an expression of apophenia.

According to psychiatrist and author, Anthony Storr, Jung went through a period of mental illness during which he thought he was a prophet with "special insight." Jung referred to his "creative illness" (between 1913-1917) as  a voluntary confrontation with the unconscious. His great "insight" was that he thought all his patients over 35 suffered from "loss of religion" and he had just the thing to fill up their empty, aimless, senseless lives: his own metaphysical system of archetypes and the collective unconscious.

Synchronicity provides access to the archetypes, which are located in the collective unconscious and are characterized by being universal mental predispositions not grounded in experience. Like Plato's Forms (eidos), the archetypes do not originate in the world of the senses, but exist independently of that world and are known directly by the mind. Unlike Plato, however, Jung believed that the archetypes arise spontaneously in the mind, especially in times of crisis. Just as there are meaningful coincidences, such as the beetle and the scarab dream, which open the door to transcendent truths, so too a crisis opens the door of the collective unconscious and lets out an archetype to reveal some deep truth hidden from ordinary consciousness.

Mythology, Jung claimed, bases its stories on the archetypes. Mythology is the reservoir of deep, hidden wondrous truths. Dreams and psychological crises, fevers and derangement, chance encounters resonating with "meaningful coincidences," all are gateways to the collective unconscious, which is ready to restore the individual psyche to health with its insights. Jung maintained that these metaphysical notions are scientifically grounded, but they are not empirically testable in any meaningful way. In short, they are not scientific at all, but pseudoscientific.





There is currently a controversial debate concerning whether unusual experiences are symptoms of a mental disorder, if mental disorders are a consequence of such experiences, or if people with mental disorders are especially susceptible to or even looking for these experiences. –

 Apophenia is the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena. The term was coined by K. Conrad in 1958 (Brugger).

Peter Brugger of the Department of Neurology, University Hospital, Zurich, gives examples of apophenia from August Strindberg's Occult Diary, the playwright's own account of his psychotic break:

He saw "two insignia of witches, the goat's horn and the besom" in a rock and wondered "what demon it was who had put [them] ... just there and in my way on this particular morning." A building then looked like an oven and he thought of Dante's Inferno.

He sees sticks on the ground and sees them as forming Greek letters which he interprets to be the abbreviation of a man's name and feels he now knows that this man is the one who is persecuting him. He sees sticks on the bottom of a chest and is sure they form a pentagram.

He sees tiny hands in prayer when he looks at a walnut under a microscope and it "filled me with horror."

His crumpled pillow looks "like a marble head in the style of Michaelangelo." Strindberg comments that "these occurrences could not be regarded as accidental, for on some days the pillow presented the appearance of horrible monsters, of gothic gargoyles, of dragons, and one night ... I was greeted by the Evil One himself...."

According to Brugger, "The propensity to see connections between seemingly unrelated objects or ideas most closely links psychosis to creativity ... apophenia and creativity may even be seen as two sides of the same coin." Some of the most creative people in the world, then, must be psychoanalysts and therapists who use projective tests like the Rorschach test or who see patterns of child abuse behind every emotional problem. Brugger notes that one analyst thought he had support for the penis envy theory because more females than males failed to return their pencils after a test. Another spent nine pages in a prestigious journal describing how sidewalk cracks are vaginas and feet are penises, and the old saw about not stepping on cracks is actually a warning to stay away from the female sex organ.

Brugger's research indicates that high levels of dopamine affect the propensity to find meaning, patterns, and significance where there is none, and that this propensity is related to a tendency to believe in the paranormal.

In statistics, apophenia is called a Type I error, seeing patterns where none, in fact, exist. It is highly probable that the apparent significance of many unusual experiences and phenomena are due to apophenia, e.g., EVP, numerology, the Bible code, anomalous cognition, ganzfeld "hits", most forms of divination, the prophecies of Nostradamus, remote viewing, and a host of other paranormal and supernatural experiences and phenomena.



A pseudoscience is set of ideas based on theories put forth as scientific when they are not scientific.

Scientific theories are characterized by such things as (a) being based upon empirical observation rather than the authority of some sacred text; (b) explaining a range of empirical phenomena; (c) being empirically tested in some meaningful way, usually involving testing specific predictions deduced from the theory; (d) being confirmed rather than falsified by empirical tests or with the discovery of new facts; (e) being impersonal and therefore testable by anyone regardless of personal religious or metaphysical beliefs; (f) being dynamic and fecund, leading investigators to new knowledge and understanding of the interrelatedness of the natural world rather than being static and stagnant leading to no research or development of a better understanding of anything in the natural world; and (g) being approached with skepticism rather than gullibility, especially regarding paranormal forces or supernatural powers, and being fallible and put forth tentatively rather than being put forth dogmatically as infallible.

Some pseudoscientific theories are based upon an authoritative text rather than observation or empirical investigation. Creationists, for example, make observations only to confirm infallible dogmas, not to discover the truth about the natural world. Such theories are static and lead to no new scientific discoveries or enhancement of our understanding of the natural world.

Some pseudoscientific theories explain what non-believers cannot even observe, e.g. orgone energy.

Some can't be tested because they are consistent with every imaginable state of affairs in the empirical world, e.g., L. Ron Hubbard's engram theory.

Some pseudoscientific theories can't be tested because they are so vague and malleable that anything relevant can be shoehorned to fit the theory, e.g., the enneagram, iridology, the theory of multiple personality disorder, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, the theories behind many New Age psychotherapies, and reflexology.

Some theories have been empirically tested and rather than being confirmed they seem either to have been falsified or to require numerous ad hoc hypotheses to sustain them, e.g., astrology, biorhythms, facilitated communication, plant perception, and ESP. Yet, despite seemingly insurmountable evidence contrary to the theories, adherents won't give them up.

Some pseudoscientific theories rely on ancient myths and legends rather than on physical evidence, even when their interpretations of those legends either requires a belief contrary to the known laws of nature or to established facts, e.g., Velikovsky's, von Däniken's, and Itchen’s theories.

Some pseudoscientific theories are supported mainly by selective use of anecdotes, intuition, and examples of confirming instances, e.g., anthropometry, aromatherapy, craniometry, graphology, metoposcopy, personology, and physiognomy.

Some pseudoscientific theories confuse metaphysical claims with empirical claims, e.g., the theories of acupuncture, alchemy, cellular memory, naturopathy, reiki, therapeutic touch, and Ayurvedic medicine.

Some pseudoscientific theories not only confuse metaphysical claims with empirical claims, but they also maintain views that contradict known scientific laws and use ad hoc hypotheses to explain their belief, e.g., homeopathy.

Pseudoscientists claim to base their theories on empirical evidence, and they may even use some scientific methods, though often their understanding of a controlled experiment is inadequate. Many pseudoscientists relish being able to point out the consistency of their theories with known facts or with predicted consequences, but they do not recognize that such consistency is not proof of anything. It is a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition that a good scientific theory be consistent with the facts. A theory which is contradicted by the facts is obviously not a very good scientific theory, but a theory which is consistent with the facts is not necessarily a good theory. For example, "the truth of the hypothesis that plague is due to evil spirits is not established by the correctness of the deduction that you can avoid the disease by keeping out of the reach of the evil spirits" (Beveridge 1957, 118).


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