I was having the darnedest time getting my work done. As I'm sure anyone who works at a computer with an Internet connection understands, my urges for procrastination were easily indulged with a combination of surfing the Web and obsessively checking my email at least once every five minutes. The email situation was bleak, one of those days when I hadn't received a single non-junk item since I'd woken up. At least as far as the Web was concerned, there were always, um, ten zillion different alternatives available to distract me from business at hand, whether in the form of celebrity gossip or politically charged news or new music clips or the blogged thoughts of random strangers.
In this particular case, I decided to entertain myself by using the search engine as a kind of oracle, typing in some random phrase and seeing where it would lead me. I entered something like, "What will I find if I use this search engine for a bit of synchronicitous fortune-telling?" and ended up at a site where different people shared their stories about synchronicity. (That's what you get when you skew the search results with some high-falutin' is-it-really-a-word word like 'synchronicitous'.)
For those unfamiliar with the term, synchronicity was coined by psychologist Carl Jung (not '80 rock band The Police) to describe events of meaningful coincidence linked together by means other than traditional cause-and-effect. Landing on such a site enabled me to justify my time-wasting under the rubric that reading its stories qualified as some spiritually edifying (rather than merely secular) time-wasting endeavor.
For the next hour or so, I flipped back and forth between writing (a sentence at a time), checking my email (and still not getting any), and reading stories about synchronicity (lots of 'em). When I got to the section entitled 'Getting What We Need', I realized I was feeling a bit sad. Spending a lot of time writing can be a lonely affair. You spend a lot of time alone, producing words that then get sent off into the ethers without necessarily knowing who, if anyone, is reading them and what, if any, effect they are having.
That day's lack of connection with other humans was getting me down, so as I read about others 'getting what they needed', I said out loud to the universe, 'Please, oh please, can I just get an email from someone?' (I bet you can guess where this is going...) And, sure enough, when I checked my Inbox for the twentieth time that hour, I had an email. More than that, it was an email newsletter from my fantastic new friend Jessica, an amazingly talented Bay Area tarot readerand she had even glowingly mentioned me to her clients in the email. I felt supported by the universe and was able to finish my work fairly quickly after that.
I relate this anecdote not only to give Jessica her well-deserved shout-out, but also because the mechanism of synchronicity is integrally tied to astrology and how it works. Astrology, like all manifestations of synchronicity, is a language of symbols. For example, astrology presupposes that the planet Mars represents certain qualities such as fieriness, physical energy, assertion of personal will, and aggression. We correlate the planet in the sky with the Roman god of war through its name. We use the 'male' glyph (a circle with an arrow pointing due northeast) to symbolize Mars, as its principles have generally been thought of as male-associated. And it just so happens that Mars is also the 'red planet', owing to the color of its soil, with red traditionally linked with blood and fiery heat. These coincidences have some basis in actual historical occurrences, and they also hold together in a symbolic unity that falls outside clear paths of causality.
When Mars travels through the segment of our sky labeled, say, Piscesafter a constellation of stars formed by human consciousness and named in reference to a mythic story about Aphrodite and Eros disguising themselves as fish to escape a monsterwe astrologers believe that the qualities we associate with Mars in our earthly lives take on a Piscean character. That is, our physical will and energy turn highly sensitive, romanticized and/or idealized, potentially confused and easily swayed by the psychic influence of others.
And yet, throughout astrology's millennia of application and acceptance, no one has 'proven' that the movement of certain planets through certain areas of the sky actually causes phenomena here on Earth. For nowand perhaps for alwaysastrology rests on the notion that meaningful coincidences exists between what happens above (i.e., in the sky) and what happens below (i.e., here), and that by studying the patterns of these coincidences over time, we are able to gain insight into ourselves and the past, present and future of our lives.
As an astrologer, I lead my life believing in signs and symbols, synchronicity and the meaningfulness of coincidences. If I didn't, I'd be pretty rotten at my job. But not everyone does. There are many folks for whom qualities of pragmatism, clear logic and inherent skepticism (or is it cynicism?) override any notions of symbolic meaning, 'unprovable' belief and faith, and I respect their view.
When I recently related an observation to a friendan unintentionally self-inflicted cut on my face was located in exactly the same location under my eye as another unintentionally self-inflicted cut I'd had on my face almost a decade earlier, while dealing with similar emotional issuesshe seemed unimpressed by what I'd noticed. It's no skin off my teeth if she believes or doesn't believe that this coincidence holds meaning. Either way, I derived great meaning for myself in drawing this parallel; it helped me to better process my current emotional issue by seeing its continuity with past issues and how far I'd come. Different beliefs and meaning-systems make the world go round.
I've never made a big deal trying to convince non-believers that astrology really works, mostly because there are enough people who do 'believe' in it to occupy my professional energies. It's those same people unlikely to find strength and affirmation in little coincidencesbecause can't they all be 'explained away' with sufficient knowledge of statistics (and/or a strong enough belief in the non-meaningfulness of life)?who are unlikely to find much use for astrology. They want proof, and whatever experiential examples we offer probably won't do the job.
(Unless, of course, you get into the radical ramifications of quantum physics, how our neat-and-tidy understanding of cause-and-effect actually breaks down on the atomic level, how synchronicity might actually be provable in scientific terms currently outside our limited consciousness. Anyways...)
But just as we may be unable to 'prove' that astrology works or that synchronicity happens, there is no way that a skeptic can prove a coincidence is not meaningful. It's just not logically possible. Meaning is based on belief. If someone doesn't believe in intuition, he's not likely to find examples of it in his own life. For such folks, that form of symbolic knowledge is either simply unavailable (since it's not being recognized) or called some different name with greater affinity to a pragmatist's worldview.
However, I'd be suspicious if someone actively tries to rip apart the synchronistic meaning you find in something, whether through astrology, religion or some other symbolic system of your choosing. So what if I'm just 'believing' in something because 'it makes me feel better'? Is 'feeling better' such a malignant motivation? So long as you don't use your symbolic knowledge to harm others or inhibit their liberties, it's none of their business where you find meaning.
And furthermore, methinks that those who doth protest too much are toiling too hard to prevent seeing what they are probably afraid to look at in themselves.