Tuesday, 1 March 2011


Temporarily satisfied with my work I began arranging my belongings inside my tent.  The ground I was to lie on was not as flat to the back as it had seemed to the eye.  I was left shuffling my sleeping bag, clothes and guitar until I had what seemed a satisfactory solution.  I lay down with my feet  toward the Westering sun which spilt through the gaps between the loose flaps at my feet.

Resting from my efforts I could hear the sounds of activity, voices, children running about and screaming with the freedom of their new-found territory.  The heavier tread of an adult brushed past within inches of me on the other side of my nylon walls, and I could hear its owner enter the large tent  to my right.

“Yes I’ve found it, Tina” I heard the voice say.

“Sean…. Sean Kenilworth, well I’ll be darned, it is you” I exclaimed as propelling myself forward I rose out of the front of my den and confirmed what my ears had told me.

Sean was an old friend from way back in Leeds.  I had recently graduated from the University when I first met him through a mutual friend, and we had shared a social group whose interests had begun with magic mushrooms and grown into investigation of mysticism, meditation and metaphysics.  ‘Exploring the limits of reality’ as he had once put it.  The early eighties had seen us explore paths of the Cabalistic Tree of Life and the corresponding images from the Major Arcana of the Tarot.  As so frequently happens with such groups, our meditation circle had self-destructed when the psychic archetypes we had activated led us each to our own individual paths.  The flower had withered, but was replaced with seeds that were blown by the wind to find places where they could grow and flower again in their turn.

I recalled Sean had once said in the about 1981 “I wonder what we’ll all be doing ten years from now?”  That decade had come and gone.  I lost touch with him, heard that he was living in a community in the West Country, tried to re-establish contact, had been stonewalled by his former girlfriend who misunderstood my reasons, and eventually given up my search.  Now after all this time the trajectory of his life’s destiny had intersected with mine again.

Reductionists will tell you that synchronicity is no more than the inevitable workings of statistical laws.  That in the vast number of events which occur all the time, improbable connections will occur simply because it is possible.  We do not see or count the occasions on which such connections do not obtrude but only notice when they do.

I fully accept that statistical laws are the means whereby such events happen, but the Reductionists fail to understand that meaning and recognition of patterns are characteristics of our nature.  The fabric of meaning and interpretation which we construct from our experience is a meta-layer above the material events.  To deny that we exist on this level is to negate the value of our humanity.  Scientists such as Roger Penrose have recently begun to point out that possibly the most interesting thing about the whole universe that we have begun to explore is the very existence of us exploring, perceiving, trying to understand it.  We are a function of the universe and so the impulse to find meaning is no less than a function of the universe too.

Much has been made of the fact that so-called primitive magical thinking relies on correlation of events which may be no more than unrelated coincidence. Scientific methodology shows us that we need to build up a valid statistical picture, and the advance of technology in the twentieth century has shown us the practical value of such an approach in the causal realm.  But humans are much more subtle, and less predictable than the materials we manipulate by our technologies.

Apparently chance meetings are not reproducible events, and so their significance is ignored by statisticians and methodologians.  But our intuition tells us that they have meaning, and so they do.  We must make of them what we can.  Invest no meaning and the event will be meaningless.  We are beings who search for meaning, construct it where we can, and wither without it.  The interpretations we arrive at may be maladaptive, like fanatics defending a backward and dying religion or political system, but we must credit the misguided with at least the drive to find meaning, even if the conclusion is hazardous.

Recognition of a synchronicity is not fatalism; at least does not have to be.  It can be a perception that a richer vein of possibilities is now available, and that it is up to us to choose how we deal with it.  Meaning is not causality, but interpretation.  Carl Jung called synchronicity an ‘acausal connecting principle’.  Material things are connected by causes, consciousnesses by meaning.

Alchemy was in one of its strands the infant chemistry, seeking new possibilities from combining simple materials.  As humans we are richly woven with varieties of influence;  engaging with the influences of another can lead to the development of new understandings, the equivalent of a new chemical with mysterious properties.

So recognising a synchronicity can be an opportunity to enrich one’s personal fabric;  it may be the recurrence of an energy with which we have not yet fully dealt and over which we need to exercise discrimination.  Either way the universe is requiring us to make a judgement and take a choice.  I am reminded of a story I read in a magazine in which a woman described a synchronous meeting with a childhood friend.  At the time she thought it would be an opportunity for the friendship to resume, but she said it did not.  It sounded to me as if she had neither put the energy and will into it, nor decided that she did not want to.  Her description was merely that nothing came of it.  She had made no choice, and was left wondering why nothing happened.

For the present I was not to be allowed to ignore the fact that an old psychonautical friend was now camping next to me for the coming week.  I did not shrink from re-establishing connection.  We had shared metaphysical exploration in years gone by, and I saw no reason to pass up the chance to do it again.  Our divergent experiences over the last few years would provide alchemical enrichment for us to connect with.

A slightly built woman of medium height with shoulder length ginger hair, wearing khaki trousers and a loose fitting multi coloured top was approaching.  “Hey Tina, look who’s camped next to us, my old friend Claire from Leeds!”  Sean exclaimed. 

copyright © 2011 Claire Rae Randall

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