All the events in a man’s life would accordingly stand in two fundamentally different kinds of connection: firstly, in the objective, causal connection of the natural process; secondly, in a subjective connection which exists only in relation to the individual who experiences it, and which is thus as subjective as his own dreams.
The writer Wilhelm von Scholz 1)↓ has collected a number of stories showing the strange ways in which lost or stolen objects come back to their owners. Among other things, he tells the story of a mother who took a photograph of her small son in the Black Forest. She left the film to be developed in Strassburg. But, owing to the outbreak of war, she was unable to fetch it and gave it up for lost. In 1916 she bought a film in Frankfurt in order to take a photograph of her daughter, who had been born in the meantime. When the film was developed it was found to be doubly exposed: the picture underneath was the photograph she had taken of her son in 1914! The old film had not been developed and had somehow got into circulation again among the new films. The author comes to the understandable conclusion that everything points to the “mutual attraction of related objects,” or an “elective affinity.” He suspects that these happenings are arranged as if they were the dream of a “greater and more comprehensive consciousness, which is unknowable.”
Decisive evidence for the existence of acausal combinations of events has been furnished, with adequate scientific safeguards, only very recently, mainly through the experiments of J. B. Rhine and his fellow-workers, 2)↓ who have not, however, recognized the far-reaching conclusions that must be drawn from their findings. Up to the present no critical argument that cannot be refuted has been brought against these experiments. The experiment consists, in principle, in an experimenter turning up, one after another, a series of numbered cards bearing simple geometrical patterns. At the same time the subject, separated by a screen from the experimenter, is given the task of guessing the signs as they are turned up. A pack of twenty-five cards is used, each five of which carry the same sign. Five cards are marked with a star, five with a square, five with a circle, five with wavy lines, and five with a cross. The experimenter naturally does not know the order in which the pack is arranged, nor has the subject any opportunity of seeing the cards. Many of the experiments were negative, since the result did not exceed the probability of five chance hits. In the case of certain subjects, however, some results were distinctly above probability. The first series of experiments consisted in each subject trying to guess the cards 800 times. The average result showed 6.5 hits for 25 cards, which is 1.5 more than the chance probability of 5 hits. The probability of there being a chance deviation of 1.5 from the number 5 works out at 1 : 250,000. This proportion shows that the probability of a chance deviation is not exactly high, since it is to be expected only once in 250,000 cases. The results vary according to the specific gift of the individual subject. One young man, who in numerous experiments scored an average of 10 hits for every 25 cards (double the probable number), once guessed all 25 cards correctly, which gives a probability of 1 : 298,023,223,876,953,125. The possibility of the pack being shuffled in some arbitrary way is guarded against by an apparatus which shuffles the cards automatically, independently of the experimenter.
After the first series of experiments the spatial distance between the experimenter and the subject was increased, in one case to 250 miles. The average result of numerous experiments amounted here to 10.1 hits for 25 cards. In another series of experiments, when experimenter and subject were in the same room, the score was 11.4 for 25; when the subject was in the next room, 9.7 for 25; when two rooms away, 12.0 for 25. Rhine mentions the experiments of F. L. Usher and E. L. Burt, which were conducted with positive results over a distance of 960 miles. 3)↓ With the aid of synchronized watches experiments were also conducted between Durham, North Carolina, and Zagreb, Yugoslavia, about 4,000 miles, with equally positive results. 4)↓
The fact that distance has no effect in principle shows that the thing in question cannot be a phenomenon of force or energy, for otherwise the distance to be overcome and the diffusion in space would cause a diminution of the effect, and it is more than probable that the score would fall proportionately to the square of the distance. Since this is obviously not the case, we have no alternative but to assume that distance is psychically variable, and may in certain circumstances be reduced to vanishing point by a psychic condition.
Even more remarkable is the fact that time is not in principle a prohibiting factor either; that is to say, the scanning of a series of cards to be turned up in the future produces a score that exceeds chance probability. The results of Rhine’s time experiment show a probability of 1 : 400,000, which means a considerable probability of there being some factor independent of time. They point, in other words, to a psychic relativity of time, since the experiment was concerned with perceptions of events which had not yet occurred. In these circumstances the time factor seems to have been eliminated by a psychic function or psychic condition which is also capable of abolishing the spatial factor. If, in the spatial experiments, we were obliged to admit that energy does not decrease with distance, then the time experiments make it completely impossible for us even to think of there being any energy relationship between the perception and the future event. We must give up at the outset all explanations in terms of energy, which amounts to saying that events of this kind cannot be considered from the point of view of causality, for causality presupposes the existence of space and time in so far as all observations are ultimately based upon bodies in motion.
One consistent experience in all these experiments is the fact that the number of hits scored tends to sink after the first attempt, and the results then become negative. But if, for some inner or outer reason, there is a freshening of interest on the subject’s part, the score rises again. Lack of interest and boredom are negative factors; enthusiasm, positive expectation, hope, and belief in the possibility of ESP make for good results and seem to be the real conditions which determine whether there are going to be any results at all.
I chose term “synchronicity” because the simultaneous occurrence of two meaningfully but not causally connected events seemed to me an essential criterion. I am therefore using the general concept of synchronicity in the special sense of a coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same or a similar meaning, in contrast to “synchronism,” which simply means the simultaneous occurrence of two events.
|Der Zufall: Eine Vorform des Schicksals.
|J. B. Rhine, Extra-Sensory Perception and New Frontiers of the Mind. J. G. Pratt, J. B. Rhine, C. E. Stuart, B. M. Smith, and J. A. Greenwood, Extra-Sensory Perception after Sixty Years. A general survey of the findings in Rhine, The Reach of the Mind, and also in the valuable book by G. N. M. Tyrrell, The Personality of Man. A short résumé in Rhine, “An Introduction to the Work of Extra-Sensory Perception.” S. G. Soal and F. Bateman, Modern Experiments in Telepathy.
|The Reach of the Mind (1954 edn.), p. 48.
|Rhine and Betty M. Humphrey, “A Transoceanic ESP Experiment.”