One of my readers named Mark has commented several times on cases of synchronicity in which I end up blogging about something that links in some intriguing way to a particular issue occurring in his life. I’ve had my own cases of synchronicity and I’ve been sufficiently fascinated by the phenomenon that I’m writing a book on the topic. While I submitted the proposal (with approximately sixty pages of written text) to my agent in March, life circumstances have prevented her from assessing it. But we have had several publishers express interest in seeing the proposal and I can say it will be unlike any other book on synchronicity out there. Too many of those books end up being hokey chicken soup for the soul or tutti frutti spirituality (or both). The book I’m writing aims to address some hard and oft overlooked philosophical issues relating to the topic while still reaching a broad audience.
The most important distinction to be made when we’re talking about synchronicity is between anomalous synchronicities (i.e. those best interpreted as mere chance events) and teleological synchronicities (i.e. those which occur within an explanatory context and are best explained as providential signs).
In closing I’m going to give you an example of an anomalous synchronicity that happened to me about three weeks ago. At the time I took the last remaining piece of sponge cake out of the fridge while the radio was playing in the background. As I opened the drawer to grab a fork Jimmy Buffet’s song “Margaritaville” began to play on the radio though I was only half paying attention. I sat down and began to cut into the cake. Then just as I lifted a forkful to my mouth I suddenly heard Buffett’s opening lyric: “Nibblin’ on sponge cake.”
The event bears all the marks of a classic example of synchronicity. But alas, it lacks any overt teleological dimension and thus is not sufficient to warrant the invocation of a divine intelligence acting through the event. However, if there were some prior context which would have made the event meaningful then that would be sufficient to invoke an intelligence operative in this event (barring any strong defeaters to the existence of such an intelligence).
And what might such a context look like? To consider one example, imagine that I had been invited over for dessert at my neighbor’s house the night I was to begin a fast and I was uncertain whether to accept the invitation and suspend the fast. So I prayed for God to provide me with a sign as to whether I should accept the dessert invitation and five minutes later Jimmy’s lyrics rang out just as I took a bite. If I am already a theist (and why would I be praying if I weren’t?) that would provide sufficiently finely tuned background to warrant an inference to teleological synchronicity.
For more on God’s action, synchronicity and miracles see my articles “Levitating teapots and other miraculous things“, “When is a medical anomaly a miracle?“, and “Intelligent Design according to Charlotte’s Web“.