There is a Toronto bookstore called BMV Books that I used to haunt on a regular basis.
One evening in the bookstore I told the man behind the counter that my Ph.D. was on Carl Jung’s concept of synchronicity.
“Arthur Koestler” he simply said.
“Huh?” I replied, with a bit of a zing yet not fully remembering who he was talking about.
After a brief chat, I mentally noted the name and returned home to do my research.
Since then I have purchased some books and looked over a fair amount of web material about Koestler.
He’s not one of my Top 10 thinkers but is definitely worth mentioning.
Arthur Koestler (1905-83)
Arthur Koestler was a Hungarian-born British journalist and author who initially favored communism and wrote against the Nazis.
Koestler joined the German Communist Party (KPD) and was interned in a concentration camp but escaped to England in 1940, where he stayed the rest of his life.
By this time Koestler had become disenchanted with Stalin, broken with communism in 1938, and began to explore political, scientific, and humanistic ideas through fiction and learned works.
Koestler took particular interest in the human brain, envisioning it as naturally conflicted from an incomplete evolutionary process. This idea of natural conflict might have been more about him, however, and not the vast majority of people. Some allege that he was a misogynist and a serial rapist.
These troubling allegations aside, Koestler also looked at possible links between subatomic physics and parapsychology. He wrote about the idea of coincidence, forwarding ideas remarkably similar to Carl Jung’s concept of synchronicity.
This may come as a surprise but we must remember that synchronicity is an ethically neutral concept. Dangerously insane individuals, troubled neurotics, and suffering saints all may experience (or believe they experience) the alleged phenomena called synchronicity—that is, Jung’s concept for meaningful coincidence.
Koestler did not stop there, however. Wikipedia notes that he went pretty deep in the proverbial deep end.
Mysticism and a fascination with the paranormal imbued much of Koestler’s later work and he discussed paranormal phenomena, such as extrasensory perception, psychokinesis and telepathy. In his book The Roots of Coincidence (1972) he claims that such phenomena can never be explained by theoretical physics. According to Koestler, distinct types of coincidence could be classified, such as “the library angel”, in which information (typically in libraries) becomes accessible through serendipity, chance or coincidence, rather than through the use of a catalogue search. The book mentions yet another line of unconventional research by Paul Kammerer, the theory of coincidence or seriality. He also presents critically the related concepts of Carl Jung. More controversial were Koestler’s studies and experiments on levitation and telepathy.
However, I am not convinced Koestler ever learned how to ‘swim’ under the surface or at least how to hold his breath. Only those who have taken the time to sort out personal issues can navigate those deep waters without becoming insane or perhaps a cruel manipulator, a cowardly bully and/or an abuser of vulnerable people and their sweet kindnesses.
I myself have encountered more than one person like this both personally and professionally.
We all know about Hitler and his wacky fantasy life. How about today? Is some dangerous weirdo lurking behind the scenes, just waiting to wreak havoc on a world already egregiously disrupted and distracted by Covid-19 and human rights conflicts?
History suggests that during strange times like ours characterized by pandemics, riots and upheavals, darkly intelligent madpersons have more room to maneuver, exploit, and potentially dominate. With everyone looking the other way, the nutcases delight in their wild, supremacist delusions and sadly, make their fantasies a reality by forcing them on many unsuspecting victims. The holocaust is only one example.* A terrible one to be sure. But there are others.
As for Koestler, I don’t think he was clever or evil enough to evolve into something quite like that.
An advocate of euthanasia, Koestler and his third wife, Cynthia née-Jeffries, committed double suicide in 1983 after Arthur developed a terminal illness.
Cynthia’s final words:
I fear both death and the act of dying that lies ahead of us. I should have liked to finish my account of working for Arthur – a story which began when our paths happened to cross in 1949. However, I cannot live without Arthur, despite certain inner resources. Double suicide has never appealed to me, but now Arthur’s incurable diseases have reached a stage where there is nothing else to do.
To me, it seems there might be a pattern here that we’ve all seen before. The dominant, swanky older male woos the young, vulnerable woman. The latter becomes so enamored with the former that she has no life of her own. A subtle kind of emotional abuse perhaps?
Only God and the Koestlers can say. But I would think a healthy relationship would allow for personal survival and emotional recovery after one half the pair dies.
* Germany was terribly poor and as politically incorrect as it may be to say so, throngs of average Germans welcomed Hitler who gave them bread, jobs and many false promises. See The World At War, BBC, “A New Germany” DVD 1, Episode 1.
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