As it happens, not long before I came across Denny O'Neil's reference to the "Net of Indra" metaphor, which stresses the connectedness of all things, I found a similar reference in an issue of Dave Sim's GLAMOURPUSS. I'll examine that reference in greater detail in another essay, but in essence, it started me thinking more about the concept of synchronicity.
Synchronicity is usually tagged with the definition "meaningful coincidence," as opposed to the many coincidences one encounters around which no discernible meaning accrues. In addition, Jung stresses in some writings that synchronicities take place due to an "acausal connecting principle."
Now, no matter how one tries to imagine such a principle, one can't help but do so with a mind conditioned by the actions and reactions of a cause-and-effect world. With that in mind, though, can one deduce by what properties such a connecting principle might operate?
The usual empiricist position toward such theorizing essentially takes the same attitude as the Latin proverb above: nature allows no jumps, no sidesteps, no free rides. But in a universe now informed by theories of quantum mechanics, does this position of naive realism hold water?
In "Synchronicity: an Acausal Connecting Principle," Jung wrote:
...since experience [i.e., Rhine's experimental work] has shown that under certain conditions space and time can be reduced almost to zero, causality disappears along with them, because causality is bound up with the existence of space and time and physical changes, and consists essentially in the succession of cause and effect. For this reason synchronistic phenomena cannot in principle be associated with any conceptions of causality. Hence the interconnection of meaningfully coincident factors must necessarily be thought of as acausal.
Joseph Cambray in his SYNCHRONICITY: NATURE AND PSYCHE IN AN INTERCONNECTED UNIVERSE, responds thusly:
...the collapse of space and time together with the disappearance of the principle of causality is remarkably congruent with the best theories in physics for the origins of the universe... It is as if at the deepest level [Jung] is finding a place for the psyche at the origins of the universe through the psychoid archetype."Cambray is careful to emphasize that this does not connote the embrace of theism:
This is not an intelligent design argument but an indication that the universe is as permeated with psyche as it is with space, time, and matter; that synchronicities provide traces of an original undifferentiated state.Now, in past essays I've always insisted that human culture does not obey the same logic that nature does: that it is more than a little possible for culture to "make jumps." It would be interesting, though, if the same principles that would seem to show a given culture working its way toward a given cultural archetype-- be it a positive or negative one-- were reflected in the world of physics.
After all, if as Stephen Hawking has argued, time did not exist within the universe's singularity-state, then it may not be correct to assume that time operates at all times on the physical principles valorized by empiricist thought.
Thus, if Dave Sim sees one set of meaningful coincidences in a given scenario, while Denny O'Neil sees another set elsewhere, one need not assume that either are connected through any linkage characteristic of time or space, but that they are rather connected through a medium of psychic intensity.
This in turn would have interesting ramifications for my notions of pluralism as expressed here. It would mean not just that a pluralistic credo of intersubjectivity was moral, but also natural.
For now, I'll wrap up by repeating the summary from the aforesaid essay:
Both interpretations would fit what I would call "the rule of intersubjective significance," which phrase I derive almost completely from Jonathan Culler in his 1975 STRUCTURALIST POETICS, except for my interpolation of "intersubjective." Both positions could be enjoyably argued although to little effect, for the comparison of the two stories, despite some similar features, would still hinge on each critic finding an intersubjective meaning that the other did not have-- which returns to the well-seasoned argument about "apples and oranges."
Nevertheless, the exercise remains worth the candle within a pluralist conception of literary hermeneutics. Each story resonates with some though not all readers precisely because each evokes a "significance" in those readers; a significance founded in the conventions of storytelling and in the expectations of readers looking to have those conventions both confirmed and denied.