The Cosmos “Neither Declares Nor Conceals”

~ dedicated to the memory of Dev Hathaway

I can be a bit particular in my usage of certain terms. Recently my research has drawn me back to the subject of synchronicity, the mention of which often causes undue confusion. There are reasons why I use the words coincidence, serendipity, and synchronicity in very specific ways.

A bit of logic should silence all arguments: Yes, all synchronicities are coincidences, but not all coincidences are synchronicities.  Strictly speaking, any two things that happen concurrently form a coincidence, whether it carries any special meaning or not.   Serendipity is a step up – more like a lucky coincidence, but not out of the realm of everyday possibility.

By contrast, synchronicity is that rare coincidence that punctuates – with an exclamation point – a deeply meaningful coincidence, one that is so astonishingly rare as to be nearly unbelievable.  And, to satisfy its critics, the synchronicity’s extraordinary significance must be clearly and immediately undeniable.

Synchronicity has been acknowledged to happen more frequently during events or times in our lives that are accompanied by profound insight, change, or discovery – events such as falling in love or ending a relationship, experiencing cascading epiphanies, or, perhaps, inviting contact from “other intelligence.”

To explain, I’ll have to go back in time about fifteen years. One of my most esteemed English professors, the late Dev Hathaway, told me that my writing reminded him of Annie Dillard’s. Coincidentally, Dev was an acquaintance of Dillard’s sister. I remember the smile in his eyes as he mentioned I even looked a bit like her. He advised me to read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

That same afternoon I was browsing quantum mechanics or some such topic at the university library. Most of the books were relatively new – many in paperback, and all of them looking fairly standard for the subect matter. As I scanned the shelves, my eyes were drawn to one book that seemed somehow out of place: a dark, fabric-covered hardback with a faint, copper-hued title. I leaned in and, still unable to read the worn lettering in the dim light, pulled the book out: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

In a library housing hundreds of thousands of volumes, how is it that my eyes landed on the same book Dev mentioned just moments earlier – and why?

Later that week I chanced upon a paperback copy of said book, marked down to some unreasonably low price at a bookstore’s closeout sale, and I was able to add the book to my collection. Now, that I was at the bookstore at the same time as the book was a coincidence – and it was serendipitous that I happened to spot it while quickly rummaging through boatloads of others, especially since I had just learned about it.

Looking back on those days, when I was finishing college in my late 20s, everything in my life was at an intense high. I was experiencing some profound interactions with what might be called the subtle realm. Once I was sunbathing in the back yard – a lush, overgrown, and private area – observing nature. As I watched a dragonfly dart around the bushes and trees and Queen Anne’s Lace, I thought to it, “Come and sit nearby.” To my delight, the dragonfly immediately came over and landed very close, facing me with a steady gaze for several seconds while I perceived, with joyful gratitude, its gossamer wings and velvety eyes.

Back to the library, though, and to synchronicity.  At the top of my list of “all-time wildest synchronicities” has to be the following. I was in an “Intro to the Internet” class in the mid-1990s when a book was passed around containing the e-mail addresses of a hundred or so relatively well-known people. My assignment was to e-mail one of them and then report back on the result. I flipped through the book and found a name that was quite familiar, although I didn’t know much about him: Noam Chomsky.

Later that day I was, again, in the university library. This time I was deliberately looking in the bound periodicals section for a particular back issue of Esquire magazine, to read an interview with Dr. John Mack about the alien encounter phenomenon.

As I walked past the bookshelves, alphabetically approching Esquire, coincidentally I saw a section of bound volumes of a periodical called “Encounter.” I’d never heard of this publication, but I couldn’t resist stopping to take a quick look at one of the books. I chose one at random, with dates like Sept. 1971 – May 1973. I quickly flipped it open to a densely-packed page and immediately saw two words: “Noam Chomsky.”

So as I stood in a library of a million or so books with many more hundreds of millions of words mixed up in mostly-random order, I had chosen the right book, the only page in that book, and the exact place on that page to find the words that I had chosen earlier that day. Something was pulling me toward that book – or vice versa. Now that I would call a synchronicity.

Could a “conscious” factor in the book have sensed me walking by, and called me in?

Noam Chomsky – a linguist – ended up having a connection to an overwhelming interest of mine, crop circles, and specifically, to the meaning that they might convey. Nice conversation starter, eh? “Mr Chomsky, what do you think about the language of the crop circles in the fields of rural England?”

But to reframe: simple coincidences are not necessarily less valuable than astonishing synchronicities. Remember, Dev’s coincidental acquaintance with Annie Dillard was closely connected to the synchronicity of finding Pilgrim at Tinker Creek later that day. In fact, there was a similar chain of events in the Noam Chomsky synchronicity, only in a much tighter time frame: first, the coincidence of walking past a periodical named “Encounter,” which clearly grabbed my attention, and second, the synchronicity of my eyes landing on the words “Noam Chomsky” when I opened a volume at random.

I believe that the magnitude of a particular synchronicity’s meaning is inversely correlated to the odds of the coincidence. Doubtless, these events – especially the ones of least probability by chance – support the reality of a pervasive, yet obscure consciousness which I feel is omnipresent in the Cosmos – by whatever name it be called, whether quanta or God or something else entirely.

To paraphrase Heraclitus, who noted so long ago with riddling insight, the Cosmos “…neither declares nor conceals, but gives a sign.”


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5 Responses to “The Cosmos “Neither Declares Nor Conceals””

  1. Thanks for your sequencing of significance–coincidence–serendipity–synchronicity. Yet coincidences you say can be more significant than synchronicity. What did the Pilgrim book sequence mean to you? What did the Chomsky library angel do for you. Mostly what you describe is surprise and wonder with intimations of something greater. I am looking for the practical both psychologically and work/school.

  2. Stace says:

    Thanks for reading, Bernie. To clarify, I would say that any two things that happen at the same time are coincidences, whether they have a causal factor or not. For instance, if you were typing your comment and the phone rang, with no special meaning connecting the two events, they would still, literally, coincide. For that reason, I rarely use the word “coincidence” as it represents to me the very mundane aspects of existence; I prefer to be more specific. Now if you were searching for sources while typing a research paper about synchronicity and at the same time you received a call from a friend of yours suggesting that you might enjoy my post, that would be serendipitous. To qualify as a true synchronicity, by my definition, maybe you’d be typing your comment to me and the phone would ring and it would BE Noam Chomsky on the other end, having misdialed a phone number!

    Personal meaning in the synchronicities I’ve described (Pilgrim, Noam) revolve around my research and writing about the “supernatural,” research that was evolving rapidly at the time both synchronicities happened. One of the definitions of “pilgrim” in the Free Online Dictionary is “one who embarks on a quest for something conceived of as sacred,” which reflected the direction my life was taking at the time. And as a linguist, Noam Chomsky indeed was quite relevant to a important aspect of that quest, which was ultimately my search for how to communicate with non-human intelligence, and additionally, to find meaning in the symbology of the non-human-made crop circles that suddenly enchanted me.

    I hope that elucidates my post in a way that helps you in your search for meaning……and again, thank you for reading!

  3. There have many coincidences in my life that have all the earmarks of synchronicity yet unfortunately there is not one incidence that I can recall. Yet at the time I remember thinking how odd the incident was at that moment in my life. The importance of it and how it changed my life are probably forever lost in my fading memory but I specifically remember the feeling of awe as I pondered the amazing series of events that must have transpired to have led me to that moment.

    What would you call this type of moment? You are getting ready to call someone you haven’t heard from in a long time and suddenly the phone rings and it’s the very person you were intending to call. How about when you pick up a phone book to look up someones phone number and you open up the phone book to the exact page that you need. I’m sure that it’s coincidence but it happens more times than I can tell you. One time I found out that my sister’s brother in law had died unexpectedly and two minutes after hearing the news, my phone rings and it’s his aunt, who had misdialed the number she had meant to call. To have misdialed the number that she meant to call would have required her to misdial two numbers out of sequence and dial a number that she had never called before. My mother was close to this woman but there was no reason for her to ever call me. So misdialing two numbers doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you think of all the numbers she could have called and she ended up talking to me by mistake and yet there was some pertinence to all of it. I always felt that moment was very odd. Maybe those are serendipitous moments but most certainly not synchronistic moments, but still in the scheme of things it gives you pause to wonder about the order of the universe and it’s effect on everyday life.

  4. Stace says:

    Clearly you have experienced synchronicities in your life (and I’m grateful for what you’ve shared) – which is a beautiful, exquisite, gift. To delve more deeply into the meaning of the extraordinary pointedly look beyond the surface details and into the otherworld(s) intersecting with your everyday life.

    Funny how that

    The phone things tend to show up in reports more frequently, I think, in association with the involvement of technological equipment, and thus, something within the scientific realm within which to frame the coincidence.

  5. Great stories Stace. Keep trusting.

    One question : In finding these connections, what paths did they create that have led you to the now and to all that you know now ?

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