Simultaneous occurrences that connect together in a meaningful
way. Such events may be the result the same prior cause
or the result of sheer chance. Meaningfulness, a somewhat subjective
notion, may vary from person to person. One person
may see coinciding events as highly significant and another
view the same events as merely of mild academic interest. Some
unique coincidence may become highly important, even lifechanging
events, for the person who perceives them.
Unusual coincidences may be determined and assessed by
calculating probabilities. When calculation shows that coincidences
at a level higher than chance are occurring, and there
is apparently no normal agency (error, fraud) to which the occurrence
could be attributed, occult explanations (magic, spirit
intervention, clairvoyance, telepathy) are given, and psychical
research may shed light on the problem.
How complex calculating probabilities may be is well illustrated
by a curious experience of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle told
in his book Through the Magic Door (1907). He was staying in
Switzerland and had visited the Gemmi Pass, where a high cliff
separates a French from a German canton. On the summit of
the cliff was a small inn that was isolated in winter for three
months as it became inaccessible during heavy snowfalls. His
imagination was stirred and he began to build up a short story
of strong antagonistic characters being penned up in the inn,
loathing each other, yet utterly unable to get away from each
others society, each day bringing them nearer to a tragedy. As
he was returning home through France a volume of Guy Maupassants
Tales came into his hands. The first story he looked
at was called LAuberge. The scene was laid in the very inn
he had visited and the plot was the same as he had imagined,
except that Maupassant brought in a savage hound.
Doyle experienced a most unusual coincidence. Maupassant
visited the inn and wrote his story. Doyle visited the same place
and evolved the same train of thought. He planned a story,
then bought a book in France and saved himself from an eventual
accusation of plagiarism. Was this also coincidence He believed
it to be more, an intervention by spiritual powers. But
there are other explanations. For example, some might suggest
that Maupassants intense feeling about the inn amy have lingered
in the psychic atmosphere and led Doyle magnetically
to the book.
The calculation of probabilities offers little assistance in individual
cases. For example, the London newspapers reported
on April 1, 1930, that during the evening of the previous day
two men, both named Butler, both butchers, were found shot
(one in Nottinghamshire, one near London) by their cars. One
was named Frederick Henry Butler, and the other David Henry
Butler. They were entire strangers, unrelated, and both shot
themselves with pistols by the side of their cars. In a case like
this there is no chance expectation on which a calculation could
be based. The probability is infinitesimal. Even if one in a billion
suicides were by two strangers of the same occupation, of
the same name, and under the same circumstances, there is still
nothing to tell the date at which the occurrence is likely to take
place. It may as well happen today as a thousand years hence.
The improbability of the coincidence is therefore no barrier
against its turning up in one single case.
Many similar cases of bizarre coincidences were collected by
Charles Fort and his latter-day disciples. Carl G. Jung discussed
the idea of personally significant coincidences under the
Parapsychology has attempted to study repeatable coincidences
and to measure their probability. A similar effort has
been attempted in astrological studies. The truth of various astrological
statements (e.g., people born under a prominent
Cockatrice Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
Mars tend to be warriors) have been tested by checking the occurrence
of various planets in the birth charts of a large number
of prominent people.
Franz, Marie-Louise von. On Divination and Synchronicity
The Psychology of Meaningful Chance. Toronto Inner City Books,
Jung, Carl G. Sychronicity An Acausal Connecting Principle.
London Ark Paperbacks, 1985.
Koestler, Arthur. The Roots of Coincidence. London Hutchinson,