The Art of Creating Synchronicities:
The 12 Keys to Experiencing Mystical Reality
BY ROBERT MOSS
synchronicities are happening all around us for those who have eyes to see. photo: ling wang marina
Kairos Time: The Ancient Key to Mystical Reality
Key elements in the experience of synchronicity that came into bold relief in the informal survey I conducted with over 800 people familiar with my work include these:
+ You know that coincidence is meaningful because you feel it.
+ You know this is a special moment; sometimes it feels like time has stopped or, alternatively, as if something that is timeless has entered the realm of time.
+ You may feel blessed or challenged by the presence of the numinous.
+ And very often you want to do something. You want to say thank you; you want to tell other people; you want to check whether you have received a message and then figure out what to do about it.
In the ancient world, you knew a god was present because everything started to quiver or shimmer. The special moment was itself a god. We now know his name, Kairos. He is the antithesis of the old god Chronos. While Chronos represents linear time, the time that moves relentlessly in one direction, time that binds, Kairos represents that special moment in which you can break the bonds and operate in a spacious Now—in synchronistic time.
Thinking about the special quality of the Kairos moment, I want to offer a new word for the practice of navigating by synchronicities. The word is kairomancy. Translation: divination by special moments. Alternative version: making magic by seizing those special moments. Kairomancy trumps and contains other Mancies — bibliomancy, cartomancy, chiromancy, and their kin — as the Fool (to those who know the greater tarot) contains the secret of the whole deck and carries all the patterns of the world in his sack.
To become a kairomancer and a master of creating and navigating synchronicities, you need to learn to trust your feelings as you walk the roads of this world, to develop your personal science of shivers, to recognize in your gut and your skin and in free-floating impressions that you know far more than you hold on the surface of consciousness. You need to take care of your poetic health, reading what rhymes in a day or a season. You want to expect the unexpected, to make friends with surprises, and never miss that special moment. The kairomancer understands that the time is always Now, except when the time is GO.
The Twelve Rules of Kairomancy: How to Experience Synchronistic Reality
1. Whatever You Think or Feel, the Universe Says Yes
Whatever you think or feel, the universe says yes. Perhaps you have noticed this. Yes, we are talking about the law of attraction. It is indeed an ancient law, never a secret to those who live consciously. “All things which are similar and therefore connected, are drawn to each other’s power,” according to the medieval magus Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim. It is a rule of reality and synchronicity that we attract or repel different things according to the emotions, the attitudes, the feelings, the agendas that we carry.
Before you walk into a room or turn a corner, your attitude is there already. It is engaged in creating the situation (and potential synchronicity) you are about to encounter. Whether you are remotely conscious of this or not, you are constantly setting yourself up for what the world is going to give you. If you go about your day filled with doom and gloom, the world will give you plenty of reasons to support that attitude. You’ll start looking like that cartoon character who goes about with a personal black cloud over his head that rains only on his parade. Conversely, if your attitude is bright and open to happy surprises, you may be rewarded by a bright day, even when the sky is leaden overhead, and by surprisingly happy encounters.
Through energetic magnetism, we attract or repel people, events, and even physical circumstances, including synchronicities, according to the attitudes we embody. This process begins before we speak or act because thoughts and feelings are already actions and our attitudes are out there ahead of us. This requires us to do a regular attitude check, asking, What attitude am I carrying? What am I projecting?
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What are you doing? A woman in one of my workshops told me she hears this question, put by an inner voice, many times a day. Sometimes it rattles her and saps her confidence. But she is grateful for the inner questioner that provokes her to look at herself. It’s a question worth putting to yourself any day. As you do that, remember that thinking and feeling are also doing.
“The passions of the soul work magic.” I borrowed that from a medieval alchemist also beloved by Jung. It conveys something fundamental about our experience of how things manifest in the world around us. High emotions, high passions generate results. When raw energy is loose, it has effects in the world. It can blow things up or bring them together. There is an art in learning to operate when your passions are riding high and to recognize that is a moment when you can make magic and create synchronicities. Even when you are in the throes of what people would call negative emotions — rage, anger, pain, grief, even fear — if you can take the force of such emotions and choose to harness and direct them in a certain creative or healing way, you can work wonders, and you can change the world around you.
How? Because there is no impermeable barrier between mind and matter. Jung and Pauli in concert, the great psychologist and the great physicist, came around to the idea that the old medieval phrase applies: unus mundus, “one world.” Psyche and physis, mind and matter, are one reality. They interweave at every level of the universe. They are not separate. As Pauli wrote, “Mind and body could be interpreted as complementary aspects of the same reality.” I think this is fundamental truth, and it becomes part of fundamental life operation when you wake up to it.
The stronger our emotions, the stronger their effects on our psychic and physical environment. And the effects of our emotions may reach much further than we can initially understand. They can generate a convergence of incidents and energies, for good or bad, in ways that change everything in our lives and can affect the lives of many others, as evidenced by the often life altering effects of synchronicities.
When we think or feel strongly about another person, we will touch that person and affect his or her mind and body — even across great distances — unless that person has found a way to block that transmission. The great French novelist Honoré de Balzac wrote that “ideas are projected as a direct result of the force by which they are conceived and they strike wherever the brain sends them by a mathematical law comparable to that which directs the firing of shells from their mortars.”
synchronicity is ultimately a reflection of our own consciousness and perception. photo: inkje photocase.com
Bring in the creative imagination, and it is wonderful how the world can rearrange itself. I heard a beautiful little synchronistic story about this from a friend in California. She had been consciously building a kind of inner sanctuary, a place of peace and joy where she could take herself anytime in her imagination. She envisioned a lovely place with healing waters, around an oak tree she knows in the natural world. In imagination, she added a swing to the tree, visualizing the ropes fastened to one of its great limbs. She pictured herself rocking happily under the spreading canopy of the oak. She used this image to help her get through a long and sleepless night when she was severely ill.
A week later, feeling much restored, she took a hike to the place of the oak. And found that someone had added a swing, exactly where she had placed it in her imagination, a beautiful synchronicity if there ever was one.
“We are magnets in an iron globe,” declared Emerson. If we are upbeat and positive, “we have keys to all doors…T he world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.” Conversely, “A low, hopeless spirit puts out the eyes; skepticism is slow suicide. A philosophy which sees only the worst… dispirits us; the sky shuts down before us.”
Kairomancers know that whatever our circumstances, we always have the power to choose our attitude, and that this can change everything.
2. Chance Favors the Prepared Mind
Remember Cluster Chucks, the name on the abandoned cider carton I found on the sidewalk while thinking about ways to describe synchronicities and probability bundles? The cider carton with the naughty name is an example of a sidewalk oracle. Such oracles often speak most eloquently when we are not looking for anything in particular but have something on our mind or in our heart to which the world may provide an answer or a commentary. In such encounters, we will notice the truth of Pasteur’s observation that “chance favors the prepared mind.” And so do synchronicities. Someone else, confronted by the Cluster Chucks carton, might have muttered something about college kids trashing the neighborhood or merely chuckled over the play on another phrase. For me, the name on the box was both a confirmation of a line of thought and the gift of a fun, colloquial way to name a phenomenon that often eludes tagging.
In The Three “Only” Things, I reviewed the extraordinary role of chance, in the form of laboratory “accidents” and “accidental” discoveries, in the history of science and invention. Alfred Nobel produced gelignite — a more stable explosive than dynamite, which he also invented — when he accidentally mixed collodion (guncotton) with nitroglycerin. Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann discovered the properties of LSD by accidentally ingesting it at his lab, a synchronicity that changed the course of human history.
Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin because he neglected to isolate bacterial cultures from stray spores blowing around in his hospital building — notably from a mycologist’s lab on the floor below. Fleming went away on vacation. When he returned, he found that penicillin mold had killed his bacteria — and saw with his trained eye an extraordinary cure.
Rayon was discovered by the French chemist Hilaire de Chardonnet, an assistant to Louis Pasteur, when he spilled a bottle of collodion and later noticed that as the liquid evaporated, it changed into a viscous substance from which thin fibers could be drawn.
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The secret of America’s favorite breakfast cereal was discovered when the Kellogg brothers left cooked wheat untended for a day and then found that when they tried to roll the mass, they got flakes instead of a sheet. Charles Goodyear learned how to vulcanize rubber — producing the automobile tire and spawning the automotive revolution in transportation — after he accidentally left a mixture on a hot plate that turned into hard rubber. All these examples illustrate the profound role that synchronicities can and do play in not just shaping our lives but forever altering the world as we know it.
Smart luck, rather than dumb luck, is involved in such inventions and discoveries. The beneficiaries of chance were prepared to take advantage of the Kairos moments they were given because they knew the fields of possibility that were being opened. They had done the work that made them ready for the divine play. Anyone unprepared would have dismissed the accidents and kitchen errors as irritations or unpleasant messes instead of unexpected solutions, vital clues, or course correction.
Kairomancers attract the right kind of accidents, which are often simply synchronicities in disguise. In a study of creative genius, John Briggs observed that “creators actively court chance. They’re always ready to notice and amplify with insight some accident of their environment virtually everybody else thinks is trivial or fails to notice. This capacity is, in a deep sense, what makes creators creative.” Creative writers know this well. As Roberto Calasso observes, “The writing of a book gets under way when the writer discovers that he is magnetized in a certain direction… Then everything he comes across — even a poster or a sign or a newspaper headline or words heard by chance in a café or in a dream — is deposited in a protected area like material waiting to be elaborated.”
3. Your Own Will Come to You
Your own will come to you. AE (the visionary writer and artist George Russell) summarized the law of spiritual gravitation in this phrase. It is a vital truth. AE also wrote: “I found that every intense imagination, every new adventure of the intellect [is] endowed with magnetic power to attract to it its own kin. Will and desire were as the enchanter’s wand of fable, and they drew to themselves their own affinities….One person after another emerged out of the mass, betraying their close affinity to my moods as they were engendered.”
If the passions of our souls are strong enough, they may draw “lifelong comrades.” In his beautiful little book The Candle of Vision, AE gave a personal example of synchronicity. When he first attempted to write verse, he immediately met a new friend, a dreaming boy “whose voice was soon to be the most beautiful voice in Irish literature.” This was of course William Butler Yeats. “The concurrence of our personalities seemed mysterious and controlled by some law of spiritual gravitation.”
Retaking the Biology Class
It was spring quarter in college, and I had decided at the last minute to retake a biology class that I slept through as a freshman, in hopes of getting a better grade. I had started having dreams and strong attraction to tall guys with wavy auburn hair, out of the blue. These traits had never been on my radar before. I pushed the fantasies aside, telling myself I was going to concentrate on school only that quarter.
The class was strangely empty. I got that sense of déjà vu. Everything was odd and yet familiar. I knew somebody here. I turned around to look and in a moment of profound synchronicity, saw the tall guy with auburn hair from my dreams. In the same instant, he turned to look at me.
We started talking after that, and as soon as I looked into his big brown eyes, time stopped. I felt at home when I was with him. Everything about this felt right and safe, yet also charged with magic. We’d be talking and the music playing in a space would give us the same words we were thinking or saying to each other. We would go our separate ways and meet each other at the same places in ways we did not plan.
A year later, at our wedding, the best man said in his speech that our first day in class was not a real class day at all, which is why the lab was so empty. He also said that when my husband went back to the apartment they shared at the time, he said he had just met the girl he was going to marry. He then started going in to class early to get a seat at the front. He would put his books on the seat next to him to save it for me and make sure we would sit together. Thirty years into our marriage, he tells me that he has loved me before we met in this lifetime. We are still generating synchronicity — songs that speak our unspoken thoughts, him calling me just as I pick up the phone to call him.
It is an old and true saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Deborah gives a moving personal account of how that has worked for her:
Out of the Box
I have met my teachers through synchronicity. My husband died suddenly, tragically, in Horta on our boat where we lived. I came home to Maine and took a job selling yachts. Part of the job included using the Excel program.
One day I looked at the screen and realized I was spending my days putting numbers in square boxes. So I quit.
The day I left my job, I walked down Main Street. I paused in front of the museum to watch a Tibetan monk. He was in the window, constructing a mandala. I watched, spellbound by the care with which he was making the circles, grain by grain. He became my teacher. It was a very special moment of synchronicity. I rejected a life in a box and immediately met a teacher who creates circles to be blown away. I have been friends with that monk for fifteen years.
What we feed our minds and our bodies attracts or repels different parts of ourselves as well as different people and different classes of spirits.
I have noticed in my own life as a writer that when I am seeking to create something new, and taking risks is involved, I draw the synchronistic interest of greater powers. More of my own creative spirit becomes engaged, lending me abilities beyond those I possess when I am doing something small and safe. I notice this as a teacher and healer. When I am willing to give more to others, to do my very best to bring the light or spirit into their eyes or to wrap them in the healing embrace of Great Mother Bear, I draw powers far beyond my ordinary self — and now it can be very important to let the ordinary self stand aside while a Greater Self operates.
4. You Live in the Speaking Land
We live in a conscious, highly synchronistic universe, where everything is alive, everything is connected, everything has spirit. Early peoples say that humans are the animals that tell stories about all the others, but this does not mean that humans are the only ones talking. Birds speak in complex languages; bees are great communicators, and their drone or hum is the sound that humans often hear when their inner senses are opening. A stone can speak, though it may lie dormant and silent until approached in the right way. A river or a mountain can speak. Thunder was louder than any human could speak until people started making things that can blow up cities.
As Australian Aborigines say, we live in a Speaking Land. How well we can hear depends on how we use our senses, both inner and outer. How much we can use and understand depends on selection, on grasping what matters.
One summer, en route to a lake in the woods where I like to swim, I stopped at a friend’s house. She appeared at the side of the house, pressing a finger to her lips while beckoning to me with the other hand. When I walked quietly over to her, I saw, ten feet away around the corner of the house, a young black bear. He stared at me intently for what seemed like a long time before ambling away into the woods. As he moved, I noticed he was hobbling; one of his legs was injured.
I have felt a very strong, synchronistic connection with the Bear for more than twenty-five years, ever since I met the Bear in a series of life-changing dreams and learned that, in North America, the medicine bear is a tremendous power for healing and protection. So I was deeply impressed with the unexpected meeting with the black bear on the grass, and was concerned about the condition of its leg.
I did not realize that there was a quite synchronistic and specific message for me in this sighting until, one week later, I fell and injured my leg, severing one of the muscles that compose the quadriceps. Now I, too, was hobbling with an injured leg. Six weeks later, just before I went in for a consultation with an orthopedist to determine whether I should undergo knee surgery, my friend called me to say she had seen the black bear again and his leg was fine. This gave me high hopes for my own leg. The orthopedist was amazed by the strength and mobility I had regained in my leg and told me, “You are either very odd or very lucky,” and that no surgery would be required — just more swimming and walking in the woods.
Spirits of place include the spirits and holographic memories of humans who have lived and loved and struggled on the land before us. I once led a favorite workshop on “Making Death Your Ally” at a retreat site near the Gettysburg battlefield. It was not really a surprise when I noticed, through my inner senses, that we had been joined by the spirits of several hundred men in blue and gray, soldiers killed on both sides in the American Civil War who had apparently remained close to the place where their bodies had fallen. I requested their senior officers to step forward. I suggested to them that they were welcome to audit our class but that it was primarily intended for the living who had joined our circle and that I would be grateful if they would remain outside our perimeter and maintain good order. I have rarely felt that one of my workshop groups has received so much psychic protection! I give specific practical guidance on discerning and dealing with spirits of the deceased in my books Dreamgates and The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead.
5. Grow Your Poetic Health
“The bottom of the mind is paved with crossroads,” wrote the French poet Paul Valéry. This marvelous, mysterious line stirs up the imagination. It encourages us to think about how on the surface of the mind we may have been shortchanging ourselves. We may have been snagging ourselves in limited, linear thinking, even trapping ourselves in mental boxes that prevent us from experiencing synchronicities.
Life is full of crossroads. We often rush through them without noticing the choices that were open in a Kairos moment. Or else we see our choices in false absolutes, duty versus pleasure, good versus bad, black or white. In the deeper mind, we are ready to take a more spacious view and roam with more freedom in the garden of forking paths, even to see that Yogi Berra may have spoken truth when he said, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Kairomancers take care of their poetic health by developing a tolerance for ambiguity and a readiness to see more angles and options than the surface mind perceives. They grow poetic health by cultivating that “talent for resemblances” that two wise Greeks, Aristotle and Artemidorus, both held to be the primary qualification for a dream interpreter — and that is no less a vital prerequisite for recognizing signs and symbols of synchronicity in waking life.
Mark Twain is supposed to have said that history rhymes. I don’t know whether he really said that or not. The words have not been found in the canonical texts of this wonderfully noncanonical humorist. I do know that life rhymes. We notice recurring, themes and symbols in dreams: running late for the plane, not prepared for the test, trying to keep the bear out of the living room. In the same way, we notice that themes and situations synchronistically recur in everyday life.
Pay attention when the same theme, or symbol, or image comes up again and again synchronistically, just as you might pay attention to recurring dreams. When a theme or situation comes at you again and again in dreams, that is often a signal that there is a message coming through that you need to read correctly — and that, beyond merely getting the message, you need to do something about it, to take action. It is the same with rhyming sequences and repeating symbols in waking life.
When you begin to notice a repetition of a certain situation in life, you may say, “Okay, we’re going around the track again. Maybe I want to make sure that I’m not just going around and around in my life in circles of repetition, but that I am on a spiral path.” Which would mean that each time life loops around to where you think you were before, you’ve risen to a slightly higher level, so you can see things with greater awareness and, hopefully, make better choices.
There is a whole education in the art of poetic living in Baudelaire’s poem “Correspondances”:
La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.
Nature is a temple whose living pillars
Sometimes let slip mysterious messages;
We walk here through a forest of symbols
That watch us with knowing eyes.
[My free translation]
Baudelaire, the urban dandy, has it exactly right: we are walking in a forest of living, synchronistic symbols that are looking at us. When we are in a state of poetic health, we understand that “the imagination is the most scientific of the faculties, because it is the only one to understand the universal analogy, or that which a mystical religion calls correspondence.”
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se répondent.
Perfumes, colors, and sounds correspond.
[Baudelaire, “Correspondances,” my free translation]
In the midst of leading a workshop titled “Dreaming Like an Egyptian” in Ann Arbor, I stopped for breakfast at a Whole Foods store. As I munched my mini-baguette — my favorite break-fast — I talked to my coordinator and a couple of wonderful dreamers who were attending the workshop about the significance of snakes in the Egyptian maps of the Otherworld. Snakes appear all over — as adversaries, as protectors, or simply as guardians whose function is to make us brave up and prove we are ready to progress to the really good stuff.
When Ra journeys in his solar boat, accompanied by Creative Utterance (Hu), Insight (Sia), and Magic (Heka), he is shielded and enclosed by the Mehen serpent, whose name means “the Enveloper.” He is opposed by the cosmic adversary, Apophis, also depicted as a serpent, of the world-devouring kind.
The Egyptians symbolized awakened psychospiritual power with the wadjet, or uraeus serpent, the cobra that features on the crowns of pharaohs. The raised head evokes the opened third eye of vision and the ability to operate from this center.
Wadjet is also a snake goddess, patron of Lower Egypt, protector of kings and of Horus, closely allied — in evolving mythology — with both the cat goddess Bast and the vulture goddess Nekhbet. Her name means “papyrus colored.”
We spoke of our own associations and synchronicities with snakes and the many different ways snakes can figure in dreams. We talked of the snake’s power to shed its skin and of the importance of the serpent as a symbol — for the vital energy of life, the kundalini force, and in medicine and healing.
After half an hour of this lively, serpentine conversation, it was time to move on to start day two of the workshop. I reflected on how, in our opening session, we had called the serpent energy up through the soles of the feet, and through the energy centers of the body, to open the third eye. I had invited our adventurers to do the full Egyptian by picturing the wadjet cobra at the vision center, and then rising from there to fly above the landscape like a bird.
In the parking lot, right in front of us a synchronicity: we discovered a sleek, powerful convertible painted Egyptian blue. On the front was a silver cobra. On a side panel was a larger cobra that seemed to quiver, ready to strike, against the mirror-bright surface of the car. I walked around the back and found the cobra again, in a crest, and the make of the car. I was looking at a Shelby GT 500. I looked it up and found that it is a high-performance version of the Ford Mustang, retail price around fifty-five thousand dollars, advertising slogan: “Coiled and ready to strike.”
Life rhymes, and it hisses.
6. Coincidence Multiplies on the Road
This refers both to outer movement and to inner transitions, especially when either carries you outside your normal rounds. You’re not just going through the constant rounds of your life. You’re out and about. You’re going somewhere new.
Maybe you’re crossing a border. Maybe you’re getting on and off planes or trains. You’re out and about. In movement in the world, you tend to drop your normal, routine pattern of perceptions and notice some different things because you’re in a different landscape, inviting synchronicity into your life.
Nonetheless, unless you’ve changed your eyes, you won’t see the new things. You have to have different eyes in order to see different landscapes. Even so, it is generally true that when we are in movement, not in the familiar rut, we are more likely to notice and to generate and experience coincidence.
The bigger side of it is that when we are in motion in terms of life passages, including challenging passages, when we are falling in or out of love, falling in or out of relationships, when birth or death is in the field, coincidence and synchronicity tends to multiply not just in our perception, but in objective reality. It multiplies because everything is astir. Things are not constant. They are themselves in motion.
The Vapor Drinker and the Hungry Road
I took the synchronistic road with me on a trip to Santa Fe for a board meeting of the Society of Shamanic Practitioners. My in-flight novel was The Famished Road, an extraordinary novel by Nigerian author Ben Okri. I was seized by the first lines, which I read over and over, to let the mystery move through me while I tried to fathom it: “In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry.”
The narrator is a boy of the kind called abiku in Nigeria, who may be fated to die young because he has spirit companions on the Other Side who want him to return to them soon and will do almost anything to pull him out of the land of the living. Madame Koto’s palm-wine bar is his constant hangout, and its clientele makes the denizens of the space bar in Star Wars look like country club golfers in plaid pants.
I was seized by descriptions of how, as the living raise a glass or a fork or a cigarette to their lips, the spirits pressing thick about them dive in to get the first taste. The spirits drink the vapor of booze or food or smokes rather than the solid stuff. By my experience and observation, this is very much how it is, though few in modern Western society are able to perceive it. I have never met a genuine alcoholic, for example, who is not afflicted by a press of dead drunks trying to get another drink — that is to say, the spirit of the bottle — through them.
I was thinking about this when I deplaned at Albuquerque airport. On my way down to baggage claim, I was greeted by a crescent line of cheery people ringing handbells, with a large explanatory sign that read: “ENCHANTMENT. Albuquerque Handbells Ensemble.” Nice.
As I rode the last escalator down, I was astonished to see a lean man in dark glasses puffing on a cigarette. Not something you expect to see in a U.S. airport these days. When I got closer, I saw that he was not blowing smoke. Rather, as he sucked on the tube, a fine mist — a vapor — rose around him.
After I took my seat at the front of the airport shuttle, he came up the steps, still sucking on the strange cigarette. “Excuse me,” I spoke to him. “I would like to know about your ghost cigarette.”
He took this as an invitation to take the vacant seat next to me. He explained how the e-cigarette, as he called it, simulates the act of tobacco smoking by using heat to vaporize a propylene glycol liquid solution into an aerosol mist that is inhaled.
I told him about the vapor drinkers in the novel. “When I saw you, I thought a character had stepped out of Madame Koto’s bar.” He laughed and shared part of his life story. A writer and artist, he has traveled the two worlds, experimenting with lucid dreaming and the shamanic use of hallucinogens. He quickly agreed with me that the most powerful dreamers and shamans have no need of chemicals beyond those produced in their own bodies. He told me about his friend Francis Huxley’s early work in Amazonia and Haiti, adding two books to my always immense reading list.
He had lived in Bali and gave me a thrilling, step-by-step account of rituals of village exorcism in which the powers of good must be mustered against evil spirits led by the terrifying demon queen, Rangda. All of this made for a wonderfully synchronous fast and fun ride from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.
An airport lounge is the model of a liminal space, and I stop at many. I got up at midnight to work on this book before rushing to the airport to catch a predawn flight, then stopped in at a bar at O’Hare while waiting for my second flight of the day. It was only 10:00 am, but I had earned a beer. I was joined at the bar by a well-dressed older woman who asked the bartender for a manhattan. That’s a classy bourbon cocktail you don’t often hear ordered in midmorning, except maybe by Don Draper in Mad Men.
Before the bartender had mixed the drink, she switched her order to bourbon with ginger ale. I could not resist. I said to this stranger, “You raised the tone of this establishment and then you dropped it down again.”
She laughed, then peered at me and screeched, “We know each other!” I did not recognize her until she reminded me that she had attended some of my workshops twenty years before and had joined a group I led on an adventure in the high Andes. We had not seen each other since. How come she was in the bar now? She synchronistically explained that three of her flights had been canceled and she had to stay overnight at an airport hotel.
“Do you have a story for me?” I asked.
“I’ve been going deeper into Buddhism,” she replied. “I just came from a Buddhist retreat in Wisconsin.”
“Okay. Always good to ground and balance after something like that. Cheers!” We clinked glasses. I am an Australian. I’ll have a beer anytime I feel like it when traveling, but I’ll leave the morning manhattan to someone coming off a Buddhist retreat.
She wanted to talk about karma.
I told her that I think there are consequences for everything we do and that it is important to consider how we are collecting karma of every kind in our present lives, as well as carrying karma from other lives. “I like the Buddhist idea that we can be released from all of that in the moment of enlightenment. Tathagata time!” We toasted again.
More serious now, I reflected on the apparent contradiction between the idea of linear karma and the probability that in the multidimensional, synchronistic universe, everything is going on Now — and on limitless parallel event tracks.
“If I think that my life is linked to the dramas of other people in other times and that I have inherited karma from what they did or did not do, maybe I can reach back to them, launching from the moment of Now. Maybe my thoughts and actions now help or hinder in their own time — which is also now — and may be more helpful as I rise to greater consciousness of how all this works.”
It is possible to operate with these two seemingly contradictory visions of reality: linear karma in Chronos time and the simultaneity of synchronistic experience in the multiverse in a spacious Now. It is like the observation in physics that something can be both a particle and a wave, and you will see it one way or the other according to how you observe it.
7. By What You Fall, You May Rise
For every setback, look for opportunity. That is a provocative statement, hard to accept when you feel betrayed or shamed or in the depths of grief or loss. When you have lost your job, or your partner has walked out on you, or you have made the worst mistake of your life, how can you accept the idea that “by what you fall, you can rise”?
You have nothing to lose by proceeding as if, despite appearances, there may be a gift in the loss. You can try saying to yourself, Okay. That went down the tube. That door closed. Wait a minute. If that door closed, where’s the door that might be opening?
You may want to consider the cases of people who have been savagely beaten down by life only to rise again, showing us that there can be a tremendous synchronous gift in a wound. I think of Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad, who helped hundreds of fugitive slaves escape to freedom in the North in the years before the American Civil War. Aged about eleven, she was nearly killed when she was hit in the forehead by a two-pound lead weight hurled by an angry overseer. She carried the scar for the rest of her life. One of the synchronistic effects of the wound was that she developed a form of narcolepsy that required her to take short and sudden “sleeps” in the middle of any kind of activity. It was during those sleeps that she saw visions that showed her the roads and river fords and safe houses to which she was able to guide escaping slaves, avoiding the slave owners’ posses.
When we are seized by terrible emotions of rage or grief in our own lives, we can choose to try to harness the raw energy involved and turn it — like a fire hose — toward creative or healing action.
You will want to remember that on the path of transformation and synchronicity, you reach a point where you break down or you break through, and sometimes the breakdown comes before the breakthrough.
Sometimes a fair amount of Chronos time is required to appreciate what Emerson called “the compensations of calamity.” He wrote that such compensations become apparent “after long intervals of time. A fever, a mutilation, a cruel disappointment, a loss of wealth, a loss of friends, seems at the moment unpaid loss, and unpayable. But the sure years reveal the remedial force that underlies all facts.”
8. Invoked or Uninvoked, Gods Are Present
“I was just walking Zeus,” the dog walker greets me on the sidewalk. “He’s in a very good mood today.”
This is excellent news, even (or especially) if the Zeus in question is a large black Lab mix. God is dog spelled backward. Anyone who knows anything about gods knows that they don’t stay in one form.
The mug on my desk has the motto Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit (Invoked or uninvoked, the god is present). This is the inscription Jung carved over the entrance to his home on the lake. The mug holds pens and pencils I reach for every day.
“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous,” goes that old saying. This is certainly the view of ancient and indigenous peoples on synchronicity, though they would prefer to say “gods” rather than “God.” The Stoics maintained that divination is possible because there are gods and they wish to communicate with humans. “If there is divination, there are gods; if there are gods, there is divination,” as Cicero summarized the argument in his treatise De divinatione.
Living in the vicinity of Zurich, city of bankers and cuckoo clocks, and mentored by Freud, who was a self-declared atheist and skeptic, Jung invented a language of “archetypes” for public use, in place of the old talk of gods and spirits. But the old gods continued to dominate his imagination, and they even exerted a hold on Freud, who surrounded himself with an army of statuettes of deities from all over the ancient world and refused to travel without at least a platoon of these “old and grubby gods.”
When Jung speaks of archetypes as dynamic forces emerging from the collective unconscious and working effects in the mind and in the world, he is talking about powers that most human cultures have recognized as gods or spirits. In his essay “The Spirit of Psychology,” Jung describes an encounter with the archetypes as an experience of the “holy.” He observes that it can be both healing and destructive and that no one who has gone through this experience remains unchanged. The archetypes are not subject to time and space.
Canadian dream teacher Nance Thacker recalls: “When I was a kid, I used to think the gods, goddesses, and our ancestors were playing with us, setting up the scenarios and making bets as to what we’d do. Sometimes they’d slip us a little hint about something that was to come or give us a little nudge to remind us that they were there in the form of synchronicities, déjà vu, and the like (though I didn’t have words for the experience at the time).”
Perhaps we need to return to the wisdom of the child and the ancients. While the world around us is alive and spirited, it is also the synchronistic playground or boxing ring for spirits whose home is in other realities. Some have been worshipped as gods, invoked as angels, or feared as demons, and still are by many. A passage in the
Puranas informs us that there are forty thousand orders of beings, humanoid to human perception, that are within contact range of humans. They may be friendly, hostile, or inimical to humans and human agendas.
For the ancients, the manifestation of a god did not necessarily remove the need to do some fact-checking or at least get a second opinion. There is a most illuminating story about this in the Odyssey. The hero, Odysseus, has survived sea monsters and sirens and the wrath of a sea god and is at last on his home island. But he has been away for ten years since going off to war, and almost everyone believes he is dead. His palace is full of brutish and lustful men, suitors vying for the hand of his wife, Penelope, and with it, his kingdom. Their appetites are laying waste to his livestock, his wine cellar, and his female servants.
At the prompting of his constant guide, who is no less than the goddess Athena, Odysseus has disguised himself in the rags of a beggar, with a funny traveler’s hat. He is mocked and scorned by the suitors and even some of his own retainers. Nobody recognizes him. They will find it hard to recognize him even when he shows himself in a different form. His homeland seems stranger to him than the magic, synchronistic realms from which he has returned. He must be asking himself, Which is the dream? He may be wondering whether he is dead.
He spends a sleepless night, tossing and turning. The “man of many ways” is seeking a way to expel the suitors who have taken over his home. But they are many, and he is one; and even if he finds a way to kill them all, their kinsmen will come to take revenge. The goddess Athena now appears to him in mortal form, “swooping down from the sky in a woman’s build and hovering at his head.” She wants to know why he is still awake, fretting and exhausting himself. Why does he distrust her when she assures him that he will gain victory that day? Athena promises that he will gain victory “even if fifty bands of mortal fighters closed around us, hot to kill us off in battle” — because she is with him.
Athena “showered sleep across his eyes,” but when Odysseus wakes, on the morning of Apollo’s feast day, even the promise of a goddess is not enough. He wants further signs and synchronicities. He speaks to the All-Father, Zeus. “Show me a sign.” In fact, Odysseus asks for two signs, “a good omen voiced by someone awake, indoors” and “another sign, outside, from Zeus himself.”
He is synchronistically answered at once by a great roll of thunder, out of a clear blue sky.
Then he hears a “lucky word” from a woman grinding grain inside the halls. Hearing thunder from a cloudless sky, the woman recognizes a sign from Zeus.
She speaks aloud to the king of the gods:
Sure it’s a sign you’re showing someone now.
So, poor as I am, grant my prayer as well;
let this day be the last, the last these suitors
bolt their groaning feasts in King Odysseus’ house!
The twin synchronistic oracles — from the sky and from overheard speech — harden Odysseus’ resolve, and the scene is set for the astonishing slaughter of the suitors under the rain of arrows from the bow that none but the hero (and his son) can bend. In Robert Fagles’ translation, book 20 of the Odyssey is given the title “Portents Gather,” and it is a good one. Here we see oracles speak in ways the Greeks observed closely and valued highly: through brontomancy (divination by thunder) and by listening for kledons (overheard speech or sound).
In the Odyssey, as in ancient Greek society, dreams and visions are the most important mode of divination and signposts of synchronicity. Yet our understanding of dreams may be deceptive, as Penelope explains in book 19 when she speaks of the since-famous gates of ivory and horn. So even when blessed by a direct encounter with a goddess, the hero turns to the world around him for confirmation.
Consciously or unconsciously, we walk on a kind of mythic edge. Just behind that gauzy veil of ordinary understanding, there are other powers, beings who live in the fifth dimension or dimensions beyond. To them, our lives may be as open as the lives of others would be to us if we could fly over the rooftops — and nobody had a roof on their house, and we could look in and see it from every possible angle.
A kairomancer is always going to be willing to look for the hidden hand in the play of coincidence and synchronicity, and to turn to more than one kind of oracle to check on the exact nature of the game.
9. You Walk in Many Worlds
Part of the secret logic of our lives may be that our paths constantly interweave with those of numberless parallel selves, sometimes converging or even merging in synchronistic ways, sometimes diverging ever farther. The gifts and failings of these alternate selves — with all the baggage train of their separate lives — may influence us, when our paths converge, in ways that we generally fail to recognize. Yet a sudden afflux of insight or forward-moving energy may be connected with joining up with an alternate and lively self, just as a sour mood of defeat or a series of otherwise inexplicable setbacks may relate to the shadow of a different parallel self, a Sad One or a Dark One.
It is possible that every choice we make spins off a parallel event track with different outcomes. This is becoming the mainstream view of physics, as in Many Worlds theory. In this multidimensional universe, in our multidimensional self, we are connected to many counterpart personalities living in other times, other probable realities, other dimensions. According to the choices that we make and the dramas that we live, we sometimes come closer to them; and sometimes, in a sense, we step through a portal, we step through an opening between the worlds, we step through an interdimensional membrane, and our issues and our lives and our dramas and our gifts and our karma are joined in a moment of immense synchronicity.
Then there is our relationship to other personalities, living in the past or future, whose dramas are connected to our own and may all be going on simultaneously. I think of a Mongolian warrior shaman who appeared in a recent dream, standing at a threshold. Behind him is a vast plain — a plain of battle, a plain of struggle. He is wearing a long, heavy coat of skins and furs. His headdress is a helmet with furs. He has bronze shaman’s mirrors and metal charms all over him. I look at this man in my dream, standing in the threshold between his reality and mine. I know that he is living at least eight centuries ago, yet we are connected now. We know each other. We are connected in a multidimensional drama, and this may generate events in both our lives that will appear as synchronistic “chance” to those who cannot find the transtemporal pattern.
Such synchronous connections may be triggered by travel. You go to a new place, and you encounter the spirits of that land — including personalities that may be part of your own multidimensional story.
Jane Roberts’ account of how this works, in the Seth books that she channeled and in her own Oversoul Seven novels, is the clearest and most coherent that I have so far discovered.
Part of the secret logic of our lives is that we are all connected to counterpart personalities — Seth calls them “probable selves” — living in other times and other probable universes. Their gifts and challenges can become part of our current stories, not only through linear karma, but through the synchronistic interaction now across time and dimensions. The dramas of past, future, or parallel personalities can affect us now. We can help or hinder each other.
In the model of understanding I have developed, this family of counterpart souls is joined on a higher level by a sort of hub personality, an “oversoul,” a higher self within a hierarchy of higher selves going up and up. The choices that you make, the moves that you make, can attract or repel other parts of your larger self.
The hidden hand suggested by synchronistic events may be that of another personality within our multidimensional family, reaching to us from what we normally perceive as past or future, or from a parallel or other dimension.
10. Marry Your Field
“The poet marries the language, and out of this marriage the poem is born.” This beautiful, passionate statement was made by W. H. Auden, and it takes us right inside the crucible in which all creative action is born. It’s sexy, it’s spiritual, it makes your heart beat faster, it puts a champagne fizz of excitement into the air and embracing is creates synchronicities in spades. It suffuses everything around with incredible light, so you feel you are seeing the curve of a flower stem or the bubbles in a glass for the very first time.
Such depth, such passion, such focused rapture is not only the province of poets, though we may need poetic speech to suggest what and how it is. Are you with me now? I am talking about you, and me, and the creative leap we can and will make as the year turns. The essence of the creative act is to bring something new into the world. You may have no earthly idea, at this moment, about how exactly you can do that.
So let me offer some eminently practical guidance, based on what Auden said about the roots of creation: start by marrying your field.
What is your field? It’s not work in the ordinary sense, or what your diplomas say you are certified to do, or how you describe yourself in a job résumé — although it can encompass all of those things. Your field is where you ache to be. Your field is what you will do, day or night, for the sheer joy of the doing, without counting the cost or the consequences. Your field is the territory within which you can do the Work that your deeper life is calling you to do. Your field is not limitless. You can’t bring anything into creative manifestation without accepting a certain form or channel, which requires you to set limits and boundaries. So your field is also the place within which the creative force that is in you will develop a form.
If you are going to bring something new into your world, find the field you will marry, as the poet marries language, as the artist marries color and texture, as the chef marries taste and aroma, as the swimmer marries the water.
Let’s say that you have a synchronistic notion that your creative act may involve writing. Maybe you even think you have a book, or a story or screenplay, in you. For you, marrying the field will require you to marry words and be their constant lover. You’ll engage in orgies of reading, have tantric sex with a first (or third) draft. You’ll kiss your lover in the morning by writing before you go out into the world, and when you go out, you’ll gather bouquets for your sweetheart by collecting fresh material from the call of a bird, the rattle of a streetcar, the odd accent of that guy on the cell phone, that unexpected phrase in the ad in the subway car.
You’ll work at all this, because marriages aren’t always sweet. Some days, you may hardly be on speaking terms. Some days, you feel your partner hates you or is cheating on you with someone else, maybe the fellow who just got a piece in the New Yorker or is merely in front of the mike in the neighborhood poetry slam. But you carry on. You fetch the groceries. You tuck your partner into bed at night and promise to dream together.
And out of this constancy — through tantrums and all — will come that blaze of synchronous creation when the sun shines at midnight, when time will stop or speed up for you, as you will when you are so deep in the Zone that no move can be wrong. Depending on your choice of theme and direction, you may find you are joined by other creative intelligences, reaching to you synchronistically from across time and dimensions in that blessed union that another poet, Yeats, defined as the “mingling of minds.”
When the sun no longer shines at midnight, when you are back on clock time, you won’t waste yourself regretting that today you’re not in the Zone. You are still married. You’ll do the work that now belongs to the Work.
11. Dance with the Trickster
The Gatekeeper is one of the most important archetypes that is active in our lives and is one of the keys to calling in more synchronicities. He or she is that power that opens and closes our doors and roads. The Gatekeeper is personified in many traditions: as the elephant-headed Ganesa in India; as Eshu/Eleggua in West Africa; as Anubis in ancient Egypt; as Hermes or Hecate in ancient Greece. I open all of my gatherings by invoking the Gatekeeper in a universal way, with the request:
May our doors and gates and paths be open.
They say in Spanish, “Tiene que pagar el derecho” (You have to pay for the right to enter). In many traditions, it is customary to make an offering to the Gatekeeper when embarking on a project or a journey. The offering required of us may simply be to check in and show a little respect.
There is a close affinity between the Gatekeeper and the Trickster. A being like Hermes or Eshu may play either role. One of Hermes’ appellatives, stropheos, literally means “socket,” as in the socket of a hinge that enables the pin to turn, and the door to open and close. So we can think of him as a Hinge guy — as in “hinge of fate” — or a Pivot. As he swings, so do our fortunes. Hermes steps through the doors between worlds with a hard-on, as men often transit from the dream world to the waking world and as hanged men enter the afterlife. Hermes is penetrating, and this is the effect of synchronicity. It pushes through, it opens up, and it inseminates.
Trickster is the mode the Gatekeeper — that power that opens doors in your life — adopts when you need to change and adapt and recover your sense of humor. If you are set in your ways and wedded to a linear agenda, the Trickster can be your devil. If you are open to the unexpected gift of synchronicity, and willing to turn on a dime (or something smaller), the Trickster can be a very good friend.
The Trickster will find ways to correct unbalanced and overcontrolling or ego-driven agendas, just as spontaneous night dreams can explode waking fantasies and delusions. Our thoughts shape our realities, but sometimes they produce a distinctly synchronistic boomerang effect. The Trickster wears animal guise in folklore and mythology, appearing as the fox or the squirrel, as spider or coyote or raven.
Anansi, a Trickster god of the Ashanti of Ghana, brilliantly and hilariously evoked in Neil Gaiman’s novel Anansi Boys, is a spider and also a man. “It is not hard to keep two things in your head at the same time. Even a child could do it.” He makes out that he is the owner of stories. Indeed, to make friends with the Trickster, we want to be ready to make a story out of whatever happens in life and to recognize the bigger, synchronistic, never-ending story that may be playing through our everyday dramas. If nothing goes wrong, it has been said, you do not have much of a story. The Trickster knows all about that.
We are most likely to meet the Trickster at liminal times and in liminal places, because his preferred realm is the borderlands between the tame and the wild. He invites us to live a little more on the wild side. He approves when we make a game or a story out of it when our plans get upset, our certainties scrambled.
He insists on a sense of humor.
The well-known psychic and paranormal investigator Alan Vaughan tells a great story against himself about the peril of taking synchronistic signs too seriously. He read that Jung had noted a perfect correspondence between the number of his tram ticket, the number of a theater ticket he bought the same day, and a telephone number that someone gave him that evening.
Vaughan decided to make his own experiment with numbers that day in Freiburg, where he was taking a course. He boarded a tram and carefully noted the ticket number, 096960. The number of the tram car itself was 111. He noticed that if you turned the numbers upside down, they still read the same. He was now alert for the appearance of more synchronistic reversible numbers. Still focused on his theme of upside-down numbers, he banged into a trash can during his walk home. He observed ruefully, “I nearly ended by being upside down myself.” When he inspected the trash can, he saw that it bore a painted name: JUNG.
It was impossible not to feel the Trickster in play. Alan felt he had been reminded — in an entirely personal way — that the further we go with this stuff, the more important it is to keep our sense of humor.
A title of Eshu, who is both Trickster and Gatekeeper in the Yoruba tradition of West Africa, is Enforcer of Sacrifice. He is the one who makes sure that the gods receive their offerings. The price of entry may be a story, told with humor.
12. The Way Will Show the Way
There is a practice in Ireland called vaguing, which Patricia Monaghan writes about beautifully in The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog. On a country walk, when you come to a fork in the road, you let your body choose which way to go. You will notice that a foot or a leg has a tendency to turn left instead of right, or the other way around, and off you go. Of course, this is practice for a day off, when you do not have anywhere in particular you need to be at noontime and you do not mind being off the maps.
Yet being ready to fall off the maps, and make an unexpected find when you do that, is practice for a kairomancer in the rhythm of synchronicity on any day, even when on a tight schedule. David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas, found a new book was waiting to meet him when he got off a tram at the wrong stop. Mitchell relates that around Christmas in 1994, in Nagasaki, he got off at a wrong tram stop and stumbled upon “a greenish moat and cluster of warehouses from an earlier century.” This was his first encounter with Dejima, a trading factory of the Dutch East India Company, built on a man-made island in Nagasaki harbor. For two and a half centuries, when Japan was closed to the outside world, this was the sole point of contact between Japan and the West.
Twelve years after alighting at the wrong tram stop, David Mitchell published his extraordinary historical novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which richly deserves its tremendous critical and commercial success. Mitchell succeeds in transporting us into the mental and physical worlds of two cultures at the close of the eighteenth century. He is a master of what he amusingly calls “Bygonese,” conveying how people thought and talked in an earlier time in a way that never seems labored or antiquarian. Among his memorable characters, Dejima itself becomes indelible. And he found it by getting synchronistically lost.
Antonio Machado says it with poetic clarity:
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Wayfarer, there is no way,
you make the way by walking it.
[My free translation]
In my workshops, we often sing a song that came to one of my students, a writer from Minnesota, when I led a journey for members of an Esalen retreat to seek power songs, the kind that entertain the spirits and provide wings for shamanic travel. Some of the members of that retreat brought back very old songs in the languages of their ancestors. One brought back “Yellow Submarine.” Some brought back original material. This is the liveliest of those songs, a synchronistic anthem for kairomancers, imagineers, and sidewalk Taoists:
Make it up as you go along
Make it up as you go along
Make it up
Make it up
The way will show the way
When you get the hang of it, you let the original text go hang. You pummel and pillow-fight with the words:
Make it up
Shake it up
Fake it up
Bake it up
The fox may know the way
The star will light the way
The dream will show the way
The heart will find the way
The way will show the way
Creating Synchronicities: The Oath of the Kairomancer
Twelve rules for the kairomancer, and one OATH, which will help us to remember the heart of the practice. To navigate by synchronicity and catch those Kairos moments, we need to be:
1. Open to new experience;
2. Available, willing to set aside plans and step out of boxes;
3. Thankful, grateful for secret handshakes and surprises; and ready to
4. Honor our special moments by taking appropriate action.
This excerpt on synchronicity is from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life ©2015 by Robert Moss. Printed with permission of New World Library. newworldlibrary.com
About The Author
Robert Moss is the author of Sidewalk Oracles and numerous other books about dreaming, shamanism, and imagination. He is a novelist, poet, and independent scholar, and the creator of Active Dreaming, an original synthesis of dreamwork and shamanism. He leads creative and shamanic adventures all over the world and leads popular online courses in Active Dreaming for The Shift Network. His website is mossdreams.com