Synchronicity and Emergent Self-Organisation


 

As
far as synchronicities ago, I have had my fair share of extraordinary
ones. Sometimes they even seem to come in bursts and flurries. In any
case, when you experience a powerful synchronicity it is hard to simply
assume that chance alone was at play. The ‘merelyistic' arguments that
wave such events aside as nothing more than happenstance and statistical
probability are well worn and well boring. From my own experiences it
seems to me that something else may be afoot – and I would connect this
with the phenomenon of self-organization. In other words, the notion I
am entertaining in this essay is that synchronicities are real and that
they evince a hitherto unacknowledged instance of self-organization.

When
you think about it, Nature is replete with instances of
self-organization. Look at how, over time, various exquisitely ordered
patterns crystallise out of the Universe. On a macroscopic scale you
have stable and enduring spherical stars, solar systems, and spiral
galaxies. On a microscopic scale you have atomic and molecular forms of
organization. And on a psychological level, fed by all this ambient
order and pattern, you have consciousness which also seems to organise
itself into being (by way of the brain). Thus, patterned organisation of
one form or another is what Nature is proficient at doing over time.
And even when Nature elicits something that seems totally destructive –
like an exploding supernova – even the spewing fallout (elements such as
carbon, silicon and iron for example) can, eventually, potentiate
further forms of self-organization.

Probably
the most notable example of self-organization is life itself. What
could be more redolent in self-organizing prowess than a living
biological organism? Imagine what it is like for an individual cell in
an organism. It needs water – and lo and behold water is delivered to
it. What a great life saving coincidence. The cell may also need some
glucose as fuel. Lo and behold glucose is delivered. Fuel is no good to
the cell without oxygen to burn it with. Lo and behold oxygen is
delivered – yet another coincidence. Or maybe the cell needs a certain
crucial protein in a certain crucial place. Ah, there it is again – the
nifty providential coincidence in which what is needed is provided for.

Of
course, I am fooling around here. A cell is able to sustain its highly
organized pattern not through the coincidental arrival of what it needs
but by the deliberate arrival of what it needs. For the cell is
part of an exquisite self-organizing system – namely a living creature -
which itself has arisen due to the amazing self-organizing process we
call evolution.

In
short, whether it be living things like organisms and ecosystems, or
non-living things like snowflakes and rolling ocean waves, Nature has,
through its lawful configuration, a striking ability to promote order
and organization. This being the case, is it possible that the amazing
synchronicities many of us experience represent an emerging ‘higher
level' manifestation of self-organization? To make use of an alluring
metaphor, are certain events and cultural processes akin to iron filings
coming under the organising influence of a powerful magnet? Such a
‘magnet' could be seen, perhaps, to be synonymous with the Whole which
forces component parts to synchronise in a specific way.

Leaving
that quixotic contention on the backburner, let me focus on the
staggering synchronicity that propelled me into writing this essay.
Before I detail it, let me just mention another synchronicity of note. I
am what they call a mushroom man, a psilocybin researcher. Once, when I
was doing some historical research in this field, I came across a very
curious synchronicity involving the author Arthur Koestler. Here is what
I wrote about this strange synchronicity in a multimedia item that I
used to produce. To give the reader the proper context, the following
quote comes after material about the British history of the psilocybin
mushroom in which I noted key news articles that made it to the pages of
the Times newspaper (these news articles related to the
sub-cultural use of Britain's indigenous psilocybin mushroom that
emerged during the 1970's and 1980's):

"I
should like to relate an uncanny synchronistic twist to the story so
far. Right alongside one of the mushroom articles appearing in the Times
in 1981 there appeared a large picture of the author Arthur Koestler in
conjunction with a short feature about him. The significance of
Koestler is that he experienced psilocybin in the early 1960's but had
bad experiences and thence severely derided psilocybin in his subsequent
writings. However, no connection was made between the Koestler feature
and the mushroom feature although they were both printed on the same
page. This was not surprising though as the link was tenuous and would
only be known to a dedicated student of psilocybin history. A mere
interesting coincidence then and nothing more. Two years later, printed
right next to a Times story on the acquittal of a psilocybin
mushroom possessor (which became a test-case whereby the unprocessed
mushroom was deemed to be egal to possess) was a short piece announcing
the suicide of Koestler. This was a startling piece of synchronicity,
given a decidedly fractal depth since Koestler had written two books
chiefly about synchronicity entitled The Roots of Coincidence and The Challenge of Chance. He even ran a competition in the Sunday Times in
1974 to find the most interesting case of synchronicity. Indeed the
Koestler Foundation exists to this day which still documents cases of
synchronicity. Perhaps someone should inform them of the above case. It
certainly seems more than chance."

I
well recall what it felt like when I became privy to these
synchronistic psilocybinetic juxtapositions. It felt like reality was a
kind of narrative or story, that there were plots and themes which, like
currents and eddies in a river, were coalescing certain events
together. In fact, this is what I really mean when I talk of higher
level self-organization. It is the idea that there are natural forces
afoot that are weaving together events and people in subtle ways that
science does not yet acknowledge. In any case, let me briefly detail the
main synchronicity that occurred recently.

Back
in 1985 I met this chap that ended up being a guru to me. He introduced
me to the ideas and teachings of Gurdjieff. And I rate Gurdjieff as the
single biggest influence of my inner life (notwithstanding the
influence of the psilocybin mushroom!). Ever since then, the guru and I
have discussed Gurdjieff and his practical psychological teachings. And
in the mid-1990's the guru and I made a number of important pioneering
psilocybin treks around various wilderness areas of the UK. So we have
always been, as Gurdjieff would say, essence friends.

Now,
back in 1985 after I first met the guru and he first told me about
Gurdjieff, the first book I read about him (and I eventually went on to
read just about every available Gurdjieff book) was The Gurdjieff Work by Kathleen Riordan Speeth – and it had such an impact that I can even now recall certain pages of that book.

Fast
forward 25 years. Due to the death of a distant relative and the
necessity for a small inheritance to be shared out, the guru, who I am
still in touch with, was contacted by his long lost cousin who, on a
trip to London, paid him a visit. They had never met before – but were
pretty much forced to meet due to the aforementioned death of a
relative. It transpires that they are rather like chalk and cheese. The
guru is uneducated (in the traditional sense) and has pretty much always
been extremely poor (in the material sense). The long lost cousin on
the other hand appeared to be very educated and even rather wealthy. In
other words, the guru and his long lost cousin had lived totally
different lives in different countries and had never been aware of one
another's existence.

Well,
after an initial meeting and certain discussions, it transpired that
this long lost cousin spent time in the mid-1970's living with, and
being romantically involved with…. none other than Kathleen Riordan
Speeth, the Gurdjieff author mentioned above! As if that was not amazing
enough, I soon learned that this Kathleen Riordan Speeth, after the
relationship ended with the guru's cousin, went on to have some sort of a
relationship with Claudio Naranjo (a scholar of South American
psychedelic shamanism). This too was synchronistic as I mention, and
quote, Naranjo in a forthcoming psilocybin book of mine. To be sure, the
quote pertains to self-organization – although in this case the
self-organization of vast amounts of psychological information into
powerful visionary symbols.

So,
all in all, these unfolding synchronicities have had a big impact on me
of late. Being highly personal however, no one will likely feel them as
forcibly as me. These events also made me ponder more deeply what I say
about self-organization in my psilocybin book – namely that reality
consists of a flow of self-organizing information. If so, then it is no
wonder that we may become embroiled in curiously profound synchronistic
events. As I have said elsewhere, life on Earth is akin to a self-writing self-righting story.
There are plots and themes and convoluted sub-plots. And we may be
characters – being woven together in ways we never dreamed were
possible. So keep your eyes and minds open. And trust that Pachamama be a
cool author.