Of Synchronicity & Dream

What if you slept, and what if in your sleep you dreamed,
And what if in your dream you went to heaven
And there you plucked a strange and beautiful flower,
And what if when you awoke you had the flower in your hand?
Ah, what then?
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1798

Some years ago I had a dream that influenced my thinking and ultimately the writing of Requiem for the Author of Frankenstein. In my dream I journeyed up into the heavens and beyond, literally entering some mysterious realm of the gods where I was entrusted with precious information I was to bring back with me. As I descended back toward the earth, I became aware I was dreaming and entered into what dream research calls a lucid state(1).

I seemed to be in a consciousness that was more aware and dynamic than my normal waking state. I was covered with a silvery metallic, light-like substance that was responsible for my heightened awareness, and I began trying to shake it off because I felt overwhelmed, frightened even, by my experience. I murmured the words, “too much” as I shook the silvery substance from my body, shaking myself more and more vigorously, until finally I shook myself awake.

I awoke to find the French doors at the end of my room rattling back and forth, shaking in the exact same rhythm as I had been doing in my dream. The spectacle was so bewildering that I could make nothing of what was going on. I looked away and back, expecting an illusion that would disappear, but it did not. I noticed my cat staring at the doors. And then it stopped. It wasn’t until a later, when a friend asked if I’d felt the earthquake, that I realized what had happened.

Synchronicity is meaningful coincidence. Many indigenous languages have a term for an autonomous “segment of the self that becomes most aware during dreaming(2).” It's generally translated as soul or spirit. Most indigenous cultures believed communication with an “Other” was possible through dream, that is, with the ancestors, or the cosmos, or with spirit beings and/or ghosts. Psychologist Carl Jung called this “Other” archetypes, energy-patterns that form representations of transpersonal motifs that are capable of fulfilling themselves externally, objectively, outside of the individual. The capacity to do so is what Jung identified as synchronicity.

Synchronicity is a meaningful paralleling of inner and outer events—that is to say, when one’s inner psychological state corresponds in a meaningful way with objective outer events. In synchronicity, the outer state does not cause the inner state, nor vice versa.

Synchronicity implies participation. It implies we live in a relationship with “reality.” Curiously, this is also one of the implications of modern physics. Take light, for example: light exists both as a wave and as particles. Neither existence is more fundamental than the other. Both are equally true, and equally necessary for our understanding of the nature of light. And yet, science cannot simultaneously experience the wave and particle manifestations of light. Science must choose to measure the wave (the interference pattern) or track the path the photon (the particle) traveled. It cannot measure both because, in following one manifestation of light, the other ceases to exist(3).

In other words, “light only has a contextual nature, not one that independently exists.” Light exists in relationship. “In the deeper quantum mechanical sense, we must actively participate in defining the universe. It’s not sitting ‘out there’ fully objective waiting for us to reveal its pre-existent, well-defined, intrinsic nature.… Rather than living in a world populated by independently existing and isolated entities, we… participate in the world’s definition, in the very unfolding of space-time(4)."

Synchronicity challenges our definitions of reality. Newtonian physics tells us that we live in a world of absolute space and time where objects exist independently of one another. Most of us have no experiential concept of the inner connectedness of things. Such inter-connectedness may be part of our spiritual or religious concepts, but it's seldom part of our everyday experience of the world. Synchronicity is perplexing because it reveals a relationship that is supposedly impossible and nonexistent, that is, an inner-connectedness between matter and the psyche.

And thus we find ourselves embedded in a natural world that cooperates with human consciousness. We find evidence that nature is not a separate “Other,” not a mechanical backdrop against which we live, but rather an ecological system in which we exist. In fact, to understand what "reality" is, we must recognize ourselves as participants in a multi-faceted relationship with all that is.

The fact that we must think about reality more expansively is an undercurrent that moves through Requiem for the Author of Frankenstein, Requeim is not only an historical fiction, but also a book that explores the nature of consciousness and reality. And consciousness is also a theme that moved through the lives and work of the Romantics, including Mary Shelley, though they had a very different language for speaking of it.

—Molly Dwyer

(1) LaBerge, Stephen and Howard Rheingold. Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. (NY: Ballantine Books, 1990.) Lucid dreamers know they are dreaming and are “aware (and thus awake) in a world within the mind.” pg. 17.

(2) Tedlock, Barbara, Ed. Dreaming: Anthropological and Psychological Interpretations. “Dreaming and Dream Research” (Santa Fe: School of America Research Press, 1992) pg.  26.

(3) Mansfield, Victor. Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making. (Chicago: Open Court, 1995)  pg. 103.
(4) Ibid. pg. 104-5; pg. 5