A Philosophy of Astrology #7 ~ The Key

When Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli discussed synchronicity, they were not just looking for a way to explain extraordinairy meaningful coincidences. The real goal was to come up with a theory that allows for the integration of matter and meaning, or physis and psyche.

In this post i'll propose that we can think of astrological order in terms of Jungian synchronicity. In fact, in its broadest conception, Jungian synchronicity could account for astrological structures in Nature and for many other so-called 'anomalous' phenomena. Below, synchronistic similarity is presented as a deep ordering principle that precedes spacetime, causality and the 'laws' of physics.

This post relies heavily on Bernardo Kastrup's lucid, compact analysis of Jung's theories in Decoding Jung's metaphysics. Disclaimer: Kastrup doesn't seem interested in astrology. In fact, he has used a popular variety, the sun sign column, as an example of vagueness and he avoids references to Jung's (flawed) astrological experiment as described in Synchronicity: an acausal connecting principle.

Besides Kastrup, there are a few more authors who deal with the expanded 'post scarab beetle' version of synchronicity. I'd recommend The Pauli-Jung Conjecture, edited by Harald Atmanspacher and Christopher A. Fuchs and The Innermost Kernel by Suzanne Gieser. Most importantly, the letters of Pauli and Jung on synchronicity have been published in Atom and Archetype by C.A. Meier.

Relationships of meaning
According to Kastrup, the key claim of Jungian synchronicity is that "in addition to chains of cause and effect, the physical world organizes itself also according to archetypally determined relationships of meaning".

After a discussion of causality in classic physics and quantum physics, Kastrup suggests: "For all we know, instead of accidents, quantum events conform to subtle, non-local patterns of organization corresponding to a yet-unacknowledged metaphysical ordering principle, different from causality. This is what Jung bets on. Perhaps the structure of the entire universe - from galaxies to strands of DNA - which we today attribute to mere chance, arose in fact as a result of such unrecognized global patterns."

So maybe, randomness isn't quite as random as most scientists think it is. Kastrup gives us a wonderful quote: "As Jung puts it, 'Within the randomness of the throwing of the dice, a psychic orderedness comes into being.'" Of course, this line of thinking opens the door to the 'creative' use of randomness in mantic procedures. When Kastrup notes that "we cannot induce these acausal events at will. The best we can do is to pay attention to the world around us, in the hope of noticing one of them as it spontaneously unfolds", he doesn't take into account that in some sense, oracles like the I Ching and Tarot create synchronicities at will. Kastrup has said repeatedly (see video @ 50:00) that regular consultation of oracles leads to banalization. While there is some truth to this i think Kastrup's habit of consulting the I Ching just once a year, at the beginning of a new year, says more about his personal reservations than about anything else.

Bernardo Kastrup defends a philosophical position that he refers to as 'analytical idealism'. He claims that Jung was also an idealist. When he discusses the breakdown of the barriers between matter and mind, Kastrup emphasizes that "Jung's writings on synchronicity are peppered with subtle suggestions that this unifying metaphysical ground underlying both psyche and physics is experiential." While discussing the role of archetypal templates as ordering principles, he makes the crucial point that "In an important sense, what Jung is saying is that our physical, waking reality is amenable to symbolic interpretation, just as our dreams are."

To remove any doubt about Jung's position, Kastrup adds this quote: "It not only seems so, it simply is so, that the archetype fulfills itself not only psychically in the individual, but objectively outside the individual." According to Kastrup this claim leads to the conclusion that the physical world arises from the collective unconscious: "For Jung, the collective unconscious underlies and permeates the whole of space in a non-local fashion. This means that the expression of the archetypes in the physical world is global, instead of being restricted by the locality constraints of causality, such as the speed of light limit. In other words, archetypal patterns organize the world instantaneously across space, operating within the degrees of freedom left open by the indeterminacy of quantum-level events."

Kastrup notes that Pauli and Jung were "keenly aware" of how far the explanatory power of synchronicity could coherently be taken. After some years of collaboration, they expand the concept to "all acausal events in nature, not only those accompanied by a semantically equivalent psychic state." The basic idea being that a correspondence of meaning is just an instance of similarity, which isn't only about ~ for example ~ similar shapes, but about many kinds of similarities.

Kastrup says that ultimately, Jung extends the definition of synchronicity as follows: "Synchronicity could be understood as an ordering system by means of which 'similar' things coincide, without there being an apparent 'cause'." According to Kastrup, the implication is that "all quantum events, at a microscopic level, must be structured according to some global pattern of similarities. We don't ordinarily recognize this global pattern because its non-local character renders its repetition and study under controlled laboratory conditions impractical. It follows from this that synchronicity - insofar as it defines the structures or tendencies underlying all quantum events - is the only metaphysically real ordering principle in nature. The laws of nature we are familiar with in our daily lives become mere epiphenomena of archetypal synchronicities. [...] Under this broader view of synchronicity causality isn't a fundamental ordering principle, but a regular compound outline of many microscopic synchronistic events."

So there we have it, the outlines of a speculative but coherent theory of synchronistic order, developed by two of the most brilliant scientific minds of the 20th century, and re-interpreted by one of the most brilliant philosophical minds of the 21st century, allowing for astrological order, cartomancy, telepathy and so on. We've moved from strange incidents involving scarab beetles to the deep roots of the Unus Mundus, a Jungian term for the whole of reality. Similarity, association and maybe some version of 'symbolism' become the primordial glue. While similarity and association are relatively stable, unambiguous concepts, any definition of a 'symbol' as it pertains to this primordial layer will probably be recursive to some extent. I mention this because Pauli, whose views sometimes differed considerably from Jung's, has suggested the symbol as a new fundamental unit of reality ~ not in the last place because mathematics is symbolic. See Suzanne Gieser's excellent article 'Jung, Pauli and the symbolic nature of reality' in The Pauli-Jung conjecture.

Cosmic mind-metaphor
In the last paragraph of his chapter on synchronicity, Kastrup writes: "Notice what Jung is doing: he is extrapolating the natural basis for cognitive associations in the psyche to a universal basis for the organization of all events in nature. He seems to regard the whole universe as a supraordinate cosmic mind - a 'greater and more comprehensive consciousness' - operating on the principle of association by similarity, just as the human psyche does."

This Jungian cosmic mind-metaphor is of course tailor-made for astrological use. Imagine the firmament as a psychophysical network made of geometrically modulated signs and symbols, with stars, planets and asteroids acting as rocky neural nodes, and we've got the 'above' part of the astrological worldview in place. The 'as above so below' similarity then pulls this cosmic mind down to Earth.

Astrologers and synchronicity
This is not the first appeal to synchronicity as the basis for astrology. In Cosmos and Psyche, philosopher-astrologer Richard Tarnas discusses synchronicity before introducing purely astrological concepts: "In his later work, and most explicitly in the context of his analysis of synchronicities, Jung moved towards a conception of archetypes as autonomous patterns of meaning that inform both psyche and matter and provide a bridge between inner and outer: 'Synchronicity postulates a meaning which is a priori in relation to human consciousness and apparently exists outside man'. Jung's later work thus intimated the ancient understanding of an ensouled world, of an anima mundi in which the human psyche participates and with which it shares the same ordering principles of meaning."

On the other hand archetypal astrologer Keiron Le Grice sticks to the limited scarab beetle-concept of synchronicity and characterizes it as a rare phenomenon with limited explanatory power: "However, there remain important differences between astrology and synchronicity, differences often overlooked when synchronicity has been uncritically cited as an explanation of astrology. In contrast to the specific personal nature of synchronicities, astrology relates rather to the archetypal background to such cases, to the wider framework of meaning in which synchronicities occur. And unlike synchronicities, which occur sporadically, unexpectedly, only at specific moments in time, astrology is based upon a relatively constant correspondence of an inner meaning and an external planetary pattern. In this sense, astrology is based on a special type of enduring synchronicity as it were, one that is inscribed in the celestial planetary patterns."