The Organ of Synchronicity 66

Recently I have been plagued by coincidences. I was talking on a train about someone I hadn’t seen for thirty years, and then met them coming out of the train toilet. Had I subconsciously seen them on a platform and not consciously registered it? I don’t know, but coincidences of that nature have been occurring recently with a strange frequency. I have never quite been able to get my head round the theory of synchronicity.

In about 1986 I was working in the trade department of the British High Commission in Lagos. I went to visit a Yoruba turkey farmer near Ijebu-Ode who wanted help with his meat processing and freezing machinery. I spent an extremely pleasant day with his family. He showed me the massive church he was building, with a cantilevered roof. He had ordered a mighty organ from Rushworth and Dreaper, one of the world’s last manufacturers of real pipe organs.

The following week I left on leave. Before actual holiday I was doing a tour for ten days around the UK, visiting companies who wanted advice on doing business with Nigeria. The Department of Trade and Industry organised the itineraries through regional offices. In Liverpool I was delighted to find I had been sheduled to visit Rushworth and Dreaper and witness the skills and craftsmanship that go into building a pipe organ (there are literally hundreds of unglamorous wooden and lead pipes packed behind the showcase guilded exterior ones – which sometimes are simply dummies. Each pipe is a first class musical instrument).

Rushworth and Dreaper were most impressed that I had visited their customer just a week before. It was quite a coincidence given that, as far as I or the High Commission knew, he was just a turkey farmer and nothing to do with organs. But not that big a coincidence.

My tour over, a fortnight later I took my wife and children on holiday to Hong Kong. We went on to one of the big junks that sail Hong Kong Harbour as floating restaurants in the evenings. It was very packed, and we shared a table with a pleasant English couple. We introduced each other. “I am a director of a little Liverpool company that makes pipe organs”, he said, “It’s called Rushworth and Dreaper”.

As I said, I have never got my head round synchronicity. In some way human consciousness must on occasion be able to shape events that, by laws we understand, ought to be outside such influence. I have no idea how, why or how often, and to express such an idea is to invite ridicule. But that is what I observe.

66 thoughts on “The Organ of Synchronicity

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  • Iain Orr

    Clark: thank-you for that intriguing link. I’d take it as my desert island book or luxury if Kirsty would permit it. As a schoolboy I read a lot on telekinesis and time puzzle, principally in a J B Rhine Pelican and JW Dunne’s “An Experiment with Time” which featured a pre-cognitive dream of a railway crash in the Royal Scottish Burgh of Burntisland, where I grew up.

  • boniface goncourt


    Good points. Re Edgar Cayce’s dictum, George Orwell writes in ‘1984’, that future conflicts would be in an arc stretching from Tangier to Darwin.

    What I find in loonibooks is that there is usually
    a grain of truth amongst the fancies – food for though, if not actually thought. Look at the photos of the inca walls at Cuzco, with their enormous jigsaw stone blocks, no cement. How on earth did they lift and fit those blocks? We don’t need
    spacemen to suspect some strange techno.

    Seems a Birmingham girl has just woken up from a coma speaking
    with a French accent – a condition apparently affecting 60 people worldwide.And a couple of years ago, a Croatian boy awoke after a road accident, speaking only German. What is all that about?

    Or Nostradamus….most of his 900+ prophetic quatrains are apparently gibberish [although he did have to write in various playful codes, dialects and anagrams, to avoid suspicion of sorcery] – BUT about a dozen are unambiguous and on the money.
    He predicts accurately the execution of English King Charles l, and much about the French Revolution and career of Napoleon, eg that Napoleon will rule for 14 years. In Century IX, Quatrain 34, he relates the flight of King Louis XVl to Varennes, where he was betrayed by a Mr. Saulce, an oil-seller. Nostradamus correctly identies and spells the name ‘Saulce’. That unusual name has never appeared in any other historical event.

    How did he do it? Can information, if not people, travel back in time, perhaps as putative superluminal particles called ‘tachyons’?

  • Craig W

    The flippant answer is that it is pretty clear that Rushworth & Dreaper are a cover for MI6 and have been keeping tabs on you for a while 😉

    The real answer is more subtle. They say that if you hang around Glasgow Central Station you will eventually see everybody you have ever known in Glasgow walk by you. In a similar way the circles you and the director of Rushworth & Dreaper moved in were perhaps quite small. Hence the invite to visit Rushworth & Dreaper in the first place.

    When I climbed a lot of hills in the Scottish Highlands I started to see the same names in bothy books and even bumped into the same people a few times. I started to feel that I knew people. Then I went to a music festival (Wickerman) for the first time and realised, looking over the sea of punks and hippies, that I did not know these people at all.

  • Jives

    Craig W,
    ..If you hang around Glasgow Central long enough you will eventually be accosted by every single bampot in the world,ever.

  • Mary

    Craig W You didn’t bump into John Smith or Robin Cook by any chance on your munroe ascents did you ?

  • Daniel


    Can I share my square metre with Penelope Cruz?

    I’ve just seen an old episode of ‘Tales Of The Unexpected’ (aka ‘Tales Of The Bleedin’ Obvious’) starring Susan Penhaligon and it got me into thinking about a similar question.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Academic Parapsychology Depts are very much into investigating such phenomena which I suspect most of us have experienced in our time.
    There is more in heaven and earth…

  • Mary

    Ref what I said earlier, ‘Sky are more vociferous on Syria than the BBC. This morning they had some man shouting the odds in Baba Amr. Where is the US? Where is the UN? etc.
    I noticed this information about him on medialens. He called Danny Adbul Dayem and is some sort of operative and not what he appears to be, a Syrian in distress.


  • Michael Warren

    Years ago, when I was a student in Edinburgh, a university friend took a trip to London.He told me he knew only one person in London, but did not know where they lived. On his visit, emerging from a tube station, he bumped into this friend. A year or so later exactly the same thing happened again.

    More recently, my wife and I were having lunch in a pub in Wigtown, and I was talking with some enthusiasm about something I had been reading about syncronicity. Somewhat sceptical, my wife idly picked up a leaflet that was advertising Wigtown’s recently acquired status as Scotland’s Book Town. She opened the leaflet and almost fell off her seat.There was a picture of our youngest daughter, then aged about 8, beside a local landmark. I had been with my daughter to the book town launch, about two years earlier. I had no idea that she had found herself in someone’s photo and the photo had found its way into the publicity material. Whatever power controls syncronicity must have had a good laugh at that little trick.

  • Chris S

    “…The same may not be as true of the domestic BBC news programmes where the fall-out from Gilligan is still emasculating editorial decisions.”

    “Iain Orr

    10 Feb, 2012 – 12:48 pm
    Clark: thank-you for that intriguing link. I’d take it as my desert island book or luxury if Kirsty would permit it…”

    Check out this synchonicity: First post mentions Gilligan and the very next one mentions a desert island! “Oh this is the tale of a…”

  • Nextus

    All interesting stuff, Craig. A note of caution, however: an acceleration in the rate of coincidences often signals the onset of hypomania. It’s not a purely subjective illusion, either. On the one hand, the critical threshold of activation between related thoughts is lowered, so that more associations come into play and trivial thoughts are imbued with extra salience and meaning: things seem inexplicably connected where they didn’t before. (The converse phenomenon in depression is also well known.) But more intriguingly, in hypomania the actual rate of seemingly “precognitive” episodes accelerates markedly. There are various contributing factors. One is that the hypomanic brain operates quickly and hyperintuitively, picking up cues from all sorts of subliminal sources, in turn triggering memory traces via implicit associations that were never consciously registered. Accordingly, the mind makes apparently unlikely leaps of logic that in fact reflect the holistic associations embodied in massively distributed neural networks. This phenomenon can prompt great inspirational strides of creativity, bestowing the so-called “hypomanic edge”; but it soon overspills, as the lack of self-criticism disrupts balanced judgement and increases the risk of serious mistakes.
    It may be just a coincidence, but recent developments prompted me to wonder yesterday whether you might be at increased risk because the conditions that trigger your mood fluctuations seem to be coming into play again. So when I encountered your post about inexplicable coincidences today, it didn’t take a great leap of logic to prompt concerns. I’d recommend you keep a close on other telltale symptoms, such as an increase in energy, hypersexuality, lack of sleep, heightened perception, boosted confidence, elevated mood, delusions of reference, excessive spending, and so on. If some of these characteristics do become apparent, please slow down and proceed carefully. Otherwise, ride the wave and have fun!

  • Abe Rene

    I wouldn’t laugh at it, because, as others have indicated, it may contain signs of the activity of Providence in your life.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    That’s a good point, Nextus, I mean in general wrt elevated/ hyperstimulated states of consciousness. I’m sure that to some degree, a certain amount of artistic production – at least during the initial, ‘first draft’ stage – is mediated through not dissimilar mechanisms. It would be interesting to know whether other practitioners of the various art-forms have had similar experiences. But it’s always through internalisation of compositional technique, so rationalism/ some kind of logic is operating, albeit just beneath the surface of the conscious mind. Perhaps one might term that underlying rubric, a meme of sorts, the creative meme, perhaps.
    Not that I wish to invoke the ghost of R.D. Laing!

  • Hugh Mann

    I’m with you, Craig. Things have happened in my life which I do not believe are “coincidences”. These events do not break the rules of science, it’s just that science has yet to discover the relevant laws of the Universe. I am comfortable that the explanation lies somewhere in the vast field of human ignorance.

    Try to understand how interconnected our four human-friendly dimensions would be in relation to a fifth. Then imagine (you can’t, actually) adding another five or six, as per our best cosmologists’ speculations. Then tell me the universe can’t be interconnected in unobvious ways.

  • boniface goncourt

    The French writer Émile Deschamps claims in his memoirs that, in 1805, he was treated to some plum pudding by a stranger named Monsieur de Fontgibu. Ten years later, the writer encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Paris restaurant and
    wanted to order some, but the waiter told him that the last dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be de Fontgibu. Many years later, in 1832, Deschamps was at a dinner and once again ordered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier incident and told his friends that only de Fontgibu was missing to make the setting complete—and in the same instant, the now senile de Fontgibu entered the room.

    Highly droll…but, at the end of the day [squire] does it help you build a better mousetrap?

  • Franz

    Craig – you are in good comany. Wolfgang Pauli, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, was convinced of the reality of synchronicity.

    Once you get your head around that idea that “all is mind”, most of the paradoxes of orthodox scientific thinking disappear.

  • Clark

    Franz, “all is mind” is OK, so long as “mind” means the Universal mind. Otherwise, the universe devolves into a multitude of personal “universes”, and morality and free will become meaningless.
    There is little point in us campaigning on this blog against torture if that torture is merely the warped product of the victim’s mind.

  • fool musings

    For some life has no meaning, or just some prosaic or greedy meaning. If life has a meaning and such an intrinsic meaning that it is bursting out everywhere then noticing that and continuing to notice it may be a milestone; or a sign of being on the right path. Some suggest that the right brain is the reader of the wordless tapestry of subtle meaning which threads its way into our everyday experiences, but which the dominant left brain keeps in place (“steady on” says the left brain “we can’t be having too much of this – its the road to madness”) . Can the yin open its gate without inviting the yang (as the right brain perceives the myth, the essence, the left side is all to keen to spell it out in words and its lost)? Ouspensky (and others) suggested that we are destined to repeat the same basic experiences until we learn the lesson of that experience; see his novel The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin in which the hero learns that real change requires real sacrifice.

  • harry

    The only article that ever I read, that made sense of synchronicity was an article dedicated to a solipsistic universe. Quite an uncomfortable read actually.

  • crab

    “It may be just a coincidence, but recent developments prompted me to wonder yesterday whether you might be at increased risk…”

    Then is it not extra synchronous that this genuinely quite unlikely thing occured, at a time where you were wondering about this kind of thing seeming to occur?

  • Clark

    Harry, I recommend The Self-Aware Universe by Amit Goswami as an antidote to solipsistic interpretations of synchronicity.
    Crab, well spotted!

  • fool musings

    There have been a number of interesting FO mystics, such J G Bennett, but one wonderful musician spook and mystic was Sir Paul Dukes, whose long out of print book The Unending Quest is a gem.

  • Nextus

    “Extra synchronous?”

    Er, no, Crab. There’s an underlying logical rationale. For instance, if the freezing atmospheric conditions lead me to think it might snow, and the next day there is a covering of snow outside … is that a spooky coincidence? precognition? or just normal rationality?? Someone else said they were thinking about snow at the same time too. Telepathy?? My God – it was even mentioned on the TV news as well!! How amazingly interconnected we all are!!
    I’d hardly classify that as a “precognitive” event, even if the topic was ‘coincidence’ instead of snow. (Unless I was manic, maybe.)
    There are of course many genuine “one-in-a-million” coincidences, but they don’t warp the rather humdrum nature of causality (see Littlewood’s Law). There are also other ways in which our mindset can influence our own fate in non-obvious ways; Richard Wiseman’s research has turned up some real gems. We should look to the mundane explanations first, always with an eye to self-critical appraisal. We should keep an open mind, though: it’s possible there could be genuine causal interconnectivity in ways we can’t yet conceive.

  • Clark

    Nextus, of course it was no coincidence that you happened to mention coincidence, but I bet you wish you hadn’t!
    The nature of causality has never been completely humdrum, and with the development of the New Physics last century, science started catching up with that.

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