by George Boeree, Phd


     Personality theorists have argued for many years about whether psychological processes function in terms of mechanism or teleology. Mechanism is the idea that things work in through cause and effect: One thing leads to another which leads to another, and so on, so that the past determines the present. Teleology is the idea that we are lead on by our ideas about a future state, by things like purposes, meanings, values, and so on. Mechanism is linked with determinism and with the natural sciences. Teleology is linked with free will and has become rather rare. It is still common among moral, legal, and religious philosophers, and, of course, among personality theorists.
     Among the people discussed in this book, Freudians and behaviorists tend to be mechanists, while the neo-Freudians, humanists, and existentialists tend to be teleologists. Jung believes that both play a part. But he adds a third alternative called synchronicity.
    Synchronicity is the occurrence of two events that are not linked causally, nor linked teleologically, yet are meaningfully related. Once, a client was describing a dream involving a scarab beetle when, at that very instant, a very similar beetle flew into the window. Often, people dream about something, like the death of a loved one, and find the next morning that their loved one did, in fact, die at about that time. Sometimes people pick up he phone to call a friend, only to find that their friend is already on the line. Most psychologists would call these things coincidences, or try to show how they are more likely to occur than we think. Jung believed the were indications of how we are connected, with our fellow humans and with nature in general, through the collective unconscious.
     Jung was never clear about his own religious beliefs. But this unusual idea of synchronicity is easily explained by the Hindu view of reality. In the Hindu view, our individual egos are like islands in a sea: We look out at the world and each other and think we are separate entities. What we don't see is that we are connected to each other by means of the ocean floor beneath the waters.
     The outer world is called maya, meaning illusion, and is thought of as God's dream or God's dance. That is, God creates it, but it has no reality of its own. Our individual egos they call jivatman, which means individual souls. But they, too, are something of an illusion. We are all actually extensions of the one and only Atman, or God, who allows bits of himself to forget his identity, to become apparently separate and independent, to become us. But we never truly are separate. When we die, we wake up and realize who we were from the beginning: God.
      When we dream or meditate, we sink into our personal unconscious, coming closer and closer to our true selves, and the collective unconscious. It is in states like this that we are especially open to "communications" from other egos.

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