Synchronicity is an acausal connection principle.

In the reductionist universe left us by some physicists and all Skinerian behaviourists, there is nothing but dumb causality--like David Hume playing billiards: one ball strikes the next, and maybe the next, simply a stupid mechanism.

Pierre LaPlace once described this universe, given the position of all the particles in it at one time, he could calculate their position at any time past or future.

Synchronicty connects things, and people especially, across these billiard ball tracks, these chains of doom, breaking them into meaning.

The theory that everything in life is interconnected. Like 6 degrees of separation (or Kevin Bacon), only on a quantum level.

In 1997, a physicist at the University of Geneva divided photons and, using fibreoptic cables, sent the pairs of light particles over six miles apart. Reaching the ends of these fibres, the two photons were forced to randomly choose between alternate pathways. Uncannily, in every case, the choice of any one proton mirrored its partner, even though there was no physical way for them to communicate with one another. The Geneva experiment suggests to many physicists that some sort of quantum physics code that interconnects everything in the universe, including life itself.

A more practical example would be thinking about an old girlfriend moments before she calls you on the telephone and wants to talk about the past.

Synchroncity is not magical, it's not mystical, and it's not due to quantum mechanics. A specific coincidence doesn't offer any more insight into the Universe than any other act of valuation, because meaning doesn't exist outside of that act of valuation.

How many coincidences happen that you don't notice, because they don't mean much to you? How many times have you thought of a friend, and the phone didn't ring? You don't keep track of those - it's the coincidences that mean something which trigger your memory, so over time, the 'meaning' in the Universe appears to increase.

Synchronicity, however, does offer insight into statistics.

The reason we experience Synchronicity is because there are so many possible ways that unusual coincidences could happen, that it is far more probable that some will happen, than for none of them to happen, ever.

Like the human propensity for recognizing faces easily, our minds find patterns which don't exist in the events themselves. Attributing meaning to coincidences is a mirror-spell: an illusion which tells us only about ourselves, and what we consider meaningful, like Tarot or Astrology.

Every moment of every day is composed of an unimaginable amount of independent events that have come together in a truly unique way. Many of these events are predictable in their realization, in that they are connected by a causal chain of events. However, there are occasionally events that take place in which there is no probable causal chain of events that would make something happen. Carl Jung realized this, and determined that there must be a force in the universe that is responsible for all of these “random”, acausal coincidences. It is because of this that he coined the term “synchronicity”, and used it as a scientific “proof” of acausally linked events. Synchronicity is a valid acausal connecting principle that is based on testimonials, probability theory, and experimentation.

Causality is defined as “the way that we explain the link between two (or more) successive events” (Jung, 115). Synchronicity however, is “the parallelism of time and meaning between psychic and parapsychic events” (Jung, 115). This means that a synchronistic event is usually composed of two components, a normal and expected event (psychic) and an unexpected and otherwise coincidental or extremely unlikely event (parapsychic). One such example of a synchronistic event is of one M. Deschamps, who when a boy in New Orleans was given a plum pudding by M. de Fortgibu. Then, ten years later, M. Deschamps was in Paris and he ordered a plum pudding in a restaurant that he had seen. However, M. de Fortgibu also happened to be in that restaurant and had already ordered the plum pudding. Many years after that event, M. Deschamps was invited to partake of a plum pudding as a special occasion. As M. Deschamps was eating it, he made a remark about how the only thing missing from the event was M. de Fortgibu. Before he could finish the statement though, M. de Fortgibu walked in the door (Jung, 15). So, with this testimonial, the ordinary event that took place in all instances was the consumption of a plum pudding, and the unique and unexplainable event was the appearance of M. de Fortgibu. Another example of a synchronistic event that was experienced by Carl Jung firsthand took place between himself and a patient during a session. The patient was describing a critical moment in a recent dream where she was given a golden scarab. As she was telling him about this though, Jung heard a noise at his window behind him. He then opened the window to find that it was an insect that was making the noise, and that it also happened to be a golden scarab (rather a scarabaeid beetle, or rose-chafer) (Jung, 22). What made this event even more odd was the fact that such a bug would not normally be attracted to a dark room such as the one that the session was taking place. These are all considered synchronistic events because they combine a normal, expected event, and a more radical and unexpected and seemingly acausal event.

What distinguishes the above synchronistic events from other causal events is the fact that normal events can be explained or rationalized with a given probability. With synchronistic events it is said that all the individual events that coincide with each other at a given moment to create the synchronistic occurrence are at such unimaginable odds that it is not at all probable for such a thing to happen, for whenever a cause is even remotely thinkable, synchronicity becomes an exceedingly doubtful proposition (Jung, 45). For example, say that a man wakes up one morning and decides to check the balance of his bank account, and finds it to be $1,234,567. Then he goes to see a movie, and on his ticket stub there is a seven-digit code, and it just so happens that the seven-digit code on his stub is 1234567, the same as the amount of money in his account. It can then be said that the chance of that man receiving the ticket with that particular code is 1:10,000,000. Then, later that day, the man goes home and receives a telephone call. He then learns or otherwise notices that the number from which he received the call is the exact same number as the amount of money in his account. First of all, the chances of the telephone number being the same as the account balance are again 1:10,000,000. So, by combining the two probabilities, it can be said that the chances of all three of those numbers being the same are 1:100,000,000,000,000. At those odds, it is then possible to rule out a causal explanation for the two numbers being the same. The events can then be called synchronistic.

Aside from crunching numbers, there have been other tests conducted that aimed to prove the validity of synchronicity, one of which dealt with astrology and marriages. It should first be pointed out that within astrology there are certain zodiacal signs that are “naturally” drawn together, and therefore make good partners in relationships. Carl Jung used this information and spearheaded a study that took the standard horoscope and astrological predictions for marriages based on zodiacal signs and put them to the test based on 600 individuals, 300 male, and 300 female. In this test, Jung randomly mixed up the names and zodiacal signs of the test subjects and assigned couples together, carefully ensuring heterosexual matches. From those results, Jung calculated the probability of a successful marriage based on astrological constants. Based on his findings, Jung found that more often than not, classical marital conjunctions were more prevalent than any other combination (Jung, 64). It is because of this joining of a normal event, marriage, and a less orthodox occurrence, astrology, that Jung had come one step closer to verifying synchronicity as a standard connecting principle.

By taking into consideration testimonials, probability theory, and experimentation, Carl Jung has shown that synchronicity is a valid acausal connecting principle. Jung even at one point went so far as to say: “Synchronicity is not a philosophical view but an empirical concept which postulates an intellectually necessary principle” (Jung, 96). While some may agree with Jung, there are others that will never truly accept synchronicity as a scientific explanation, as it involves events that cannot be “proven” at this point in time. However, it should be noted that synchronicity is one way of explaining the otherwise unexplainable.

Jung, Carl Gustav. Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. Princeton University Press. 1973.

Node Your Homework

The Police may well have been the biggest band in the world by the time they recorded their fifth and final album together, releasing Synchronicity in 1983 before splitting up. Following its release they embarked on a huge tour in support of the album, before wandering off to do their own things for several years before finally reuniting in 2007 to embark on another massive tour. It's fitting, then, that their last LP is absolutely superb, leaving much of their reggae roots behind in favour of a larger, stadium-filling produced sound. Speakers pound with synthesisers and guitars on some tracks, before dropping away for quieter more reflective pieces later; and, of course, this album contains that perennial misunderstood song, Every Breath You Take.

The band were beginning to fracture long before this album, and the cracks do show. Only two tracks on the entire album were written by Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, the rest totally dominated by Sting. Their two tracks are generally considered concessions - by this point Sting was embarking on a solo career, had branched out into acting, and was seen as the controlling force within the band. However, the band hide their difficulties well: the musicianship is tight and excellently-performed, the band at their peak as performers. If the band were planning to continue recording afterwards, Synchronicity shows where they might have evolved and changed; as a swan song it's not a bad way to go out at all.

The album was commercially and critically successful after its June 1, 1983 release, hitting number 1 in both US and UK charts and spawning four singles which all charted highly on both sides of the Atlantic. The cover artwork features a red, blue and yellow stripe across a white background, each filled with pictures of the band members; there are many different variations of the sleeve, featuring the pictures and stripes in different orders. The three stripes motif would be continued on the sleeve artwork of several of the album's singles.

Track listing

  1. Synchronicity I - A bouncy, catching synthesiser opens the album, soon joined by the other instruments whilst continuing to carry the first song. Sting's lyrics build around a loose description of Carl Jung's theory of 'synchronicity', after which the album and song are based. His vocals fade over each other creating a cascading series of phrases during the chorus, becoming ever-more urgency as it nears its climax. When performed live, the song was nothing short of electric, backed with additional vocalists to help with the overlapping vocals. Not released as a single. "With one breath / With one flow / You will know / Synchronicity"
  2. Walking In Your Footsteps - Hand-beaten drums introduce the second track, mostly empty of the usual Police instrumentation and instead letting the vocals sit upon this percussion. The lyrics compare the dinosaurs to modern-day man, asking them how they felt to be the kings of their own world and how they'd managed to fall - and whether we could learn from their example. Quite a nice little song, a welcome break after the intensity of the opener. Not released as a single. "Hey mighty brontosaurus don't you have a lesson for us / You thought your rule would always last / There were no lessons in your past"
  3. O My God - A jazz-influenced song, reintroducing the saxophone to the Police canon here. This song is actually a reworking of an earlier, live-only track, "Three O'Clock Shot". The bass nicely works alongside the drums, with guitars creeping in around them to add to the atmosphere, as Sting laments life's situation, protesting to God for leaving him this way and begging for the 'space between us' to be filled. Not released as a single. "O my God you take the biscuit / Treating me this way"
  4. Mother - Ugh! Not a particularly listenable song. Written by Andy Summers, it features discordant saxophone whines and an incessant melody behind whining vocals pleading with the protagonist's Mother to leave him alone. Pretty difficult to recommend listening to more than once; I'd really recommend skipping straight over it. Not released as a single. "Well, I hear mother calling / But I don't need her as a friend"
  5. Miss Gradenko -Considerably better than the song coming before it, this number by Stewart Copeland is quite a pleasant, easy-to-listen-to song about a Soviet women trapped within bureaucracy, Sting asking them if they're safe within the Communist machine as she sends messages to the outside world. This song tends to get criticism from fans, but I find it a nice break before the ferociousness of the next track - and so much better than Mother. Not released as a single. "You've been letting your feelings show / Are you safe Miss Gradenko?"
  6. Synchronicity II - Rounding out the first side of the LP is possibly the hardest, loudest Police song, beginning with a burst of feedback and continuing the story begun with the first track. Musically the song's brilliant, loud and powerful, while the lyrics speak of one man's struggle through the various problems of the day, contrasted with mysterious machinations deep within a 'dark Scottish lake'. Put it on, raise the volume, and enjoy. Released as the third single from the album. "Many miles away / There's a shadow on the door / Of a cottage on the shore / Of a dark Scottish lake"
  7. Every Breath You Take - The quintessential Police song, one well-known to many and so popular Sting still draws a substantial royalty from it. Beginning with a distinctive guitar riff recorded in a single take, the song tells the story of a scorned lover now obsessively watching their former partner; however, the song is frequently mistaken to be a love song, thus adding to its rather disturbing charm. It's a fine track, and a fantastic way to open the second half of the record; when released as a single, it promptly found its way to the top of the charts in both the US and the UK. "O can't you see / You belong to me / How my poor heart aches / With every step you take"
  8. King of Pain - A difficult song to analyse, featuring a great deal of situations all referring back to the singers declaration that he's the titular 'King of pain'. Quite why this should be is unknown, save for a single line towards the end of the track mentioning "I always thought you could end this reign"; perhaps the song refers to simply the pain of being alone. Musically the song features quite diverse instruments, opening with a piano before being joined by several others. Released as the album's second single. "There's a red fox torn by a huntsman's pack / There's a black winged gull with a broken back"
  9. Wrapped Around Your Finger - Another haunting song drawing on many literary references, from the story of Merlin to names casually dropped into conversation such as Mephistopheles. A 'student' approaches a 'master' seeking to learn from them, soon falling into their sway, before (to the master's horror) overcoming them and enslaving them instead. This song sees the return of synthesisers in large doses, adding to the haunting aura surrounding this track, the album's fourth single. "You consider me the young apprentice / Caught between the Scylla and Charibdes'"
  10. Tea In The Sahara - A beautiful, gentle, sombre way to finish an album. The last track of the LP release ends it perfectly with the tale of three women stranded in the Saharan desert and left to die, taken from a passage in the book The Sheltering Sky. Bass-heavy and featuring some guitars that seem to drift in and out of consciousness, Sting's voice is on perfect form, encouraging you to lean closer to hear every word of this cautionary tale. For the CD and cassette releases, this really should have been the last track. Not released as a single. "As their eyes searched the land / With their cups still full of sand / Tea in the Sahara with you..."
  11. Murder by Numbers (CD and Cassette only) - The bonus track for the non-vinyl releases of the album rather spoils the mood, the previous song being the perfect closer. Still, this is a passable song, originally a B-side to Every Breath You Take, an upbeat song exploring the creation of a serial killer. "It's murder by numbers / One, two, three / It's as easy to learn as your A B C"

Despite being slightly spoiled by the bonus track, all versions of this album make for superb listening. From the heavy rock of Synchronicity II to the classic ballad Every Breath You Take, the album showcases a band at their absolute peak. It's a good purchase if you want to first get to know the band, although only a couple of the 'hits' are featured here. It stands as a fine conclusion to the band's studio work, and as an excellent LP in its own right.

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