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Review – Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal

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Photo: MC

Title: Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal
Author: Roderick Main
Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Princeton University Press (177 pp. with index)
Date: 1997

Book reviews are usually about new publications, whereas Dr. Roderick Main’s Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal has been available for well over a decade. But considering this book’s unusual subject matter it might be appropriate that we’re looking back, so to speak.

After all, Jung says that the individuation process, where one becomes healthy and whole, is a lifelong journey. And at some point in one’s spiritual formation unconventional phenomena like synchronicity and numinosity can crop up, suggesting not just a linear but a holistic or, as Hermann Hesse put it in his novel Siddhartha, an upwardly spiraling universe of space, time and human experience.

Put differently, our take on life can sometimes defy a common understanding of things, and contemplation of the future, the past and, perhaps, heaven and hell can come to the forefront of consciousness. It’s at these times that the paranormal may become more than idle speculation and, indeed, a lived reality.

Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal contains a good number of selections from Jung’s massive body of work. Considering the book’s relatively concise format, it does a good job in capturing the scope of Jung’s thinking in the area parapsychology.

I’ve already spent many years studying and writing about Jung’s Collected Works, so I found Main’s Introduction (39 pp. with 5 extra pages of notes and references) most engaging. Not to say that I’m entirely bored of Jung, but it was nice to see some fresh new thoughts.

Of note are Main’s reflections on:

  • Causality and acausality
  • Jung’s understanding of the term “meaning”
  • Jung’s alleged leaps of reasoning
  • Jung’s view of time and eternity
  • Jung’s small-p political acumen

Also useful are selections from Jung’s work about telepathy and life after death.

Jung on Synchronicity might not satisfy those looking for the goofy and conflicted “everything’s okay” perspective, so often found in the New Age circuit. Nor is the book a mere repackaging of Jung’s work or another limiting tract of Jungian dogma. On the contrary, Jung on Synchronicity is an intelligent, forward-thinking book that further develops several paranormal ideas investigated by Jung.

As Jung himself writes:

The hypothetical possibility that the psyche touches on a form of existence outside space and time presents a scientific question-mark that merits serious consideration for a long time to come.†

Main has responded well to Jung’s challenge. Indeed, scholars and intelligent laypersons should gain much from this penetrating study.

† C. G. Jung, “The Soul and Death” (1934), cited in Main, p. 144.

—MC

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8 thoughts on “Review – Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal

  1. I experience several very obvious(usually involving numbers)synchronicities everyday.Often they are tied to precognitive dreams.These seem to have been increasing exponentially over the passed three years.

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  2. Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you’re really getting in tune. You might be interested in the long comments thread here: https://epages.wordpress.com/2008/05/24/synchronicity-new-age-fantasy-or-face-of-the-future/

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  3. I own that book. It looks interesting, but so far I’ve only skimmed it. This aspect of Jung’s thought attracts me because you don’t find it discussed in many books. It’s quite amazing the diversity of subjects that Jung wrote about.

    My particular interest in Jung’s discussion of synchronicity and the paranormal is how it connects with his ideas about archetypes. There are a couple of books that intelligently explore this connections: ‘The Trickster and the Paranormal” by George P. Hansen, and “Daimonic Reality” by Patrick Harpur. Have you read either of those? Do you know of any other good books along these lines?

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  4. Sorry for taking so long to get back. Somehow this one slipped through the cracks. I find that a lot of devotional writings, spiritual biographies, and the like point to these ideas in a meaningful way. Of course, each one will be influenced by their particular tradition. But so are most New Age and scholarly publications.

    Perhaps you could search this site for articles by Steve Hammons. I find that he deals with these ideas in a thoughtful and intelligent way.

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  5. Jung’s partly psychodynamic and partly mystical/magical theory of synchronicities is logical if one accepts his first assumptions about the nature and knowledge of realty (see Plato). If however one views the nature of reality and how it is know through the lens of Aristotle an alternative naturalistic theory of synchronicities is equally logical.

    I have been investigating the perplexities of synchronicities for the past 40 years. My findings are soon to be published in a book called: DEMYSTIFYING MEANINGFUL COINCIDENCES(SYNCHRONICITIES): The Evolving Self, The Personal Unconscious, and The Creative Process.

    At least with respect to the synchronicities I have studied both personal and professional I have found that they are byproducts of a person’s unique creative process in which one’s concious and personal unconscious work in concert to find a solution (pathway) in the midst of what initally appears to be an unsolvable dilemma.While my theory robs the magic usually associated with the “numinous spiritual coloration” of Jung and his adherents, to me it amplifies the wondrous creative process that each of us has in making meaningful connections with who we are and what we do as well as in making meaningful connections with resonant others.

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  6. Thank you for this review. The book seems interesting. I will have to add this book to my Jung collection.

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    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. There’s another one by Main that I saw in the library that looked interesting. Ironically, I haven’t had time to read it!

      The Rupture of Time: Synchronicity and Jung’s Critique of Modern Western Culture

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