Tuesday 31 July 2012

Synchronicity and angels


Synchronicity may be explained by angels.

Synchronicity usually refers to happy and extraordinary occurrences in life, when it feels that things have been arranged for one's personal benefit.

I have found that it occurs in a particular mood or emotional state, when I just know that things are building-up towards a synchronous event.

Reflecting on the meaning of synchronicity was a factor in my becoming a Christian - as it implies that the universe is, to a significant extent, interested in me as an individual, which implies a 'personal God'.

But I hadn't thought much about the mechanisms of synchronicity - how such events might be effected in practice.

Then reading (again) about angels (and demons) in Peter Kreeft's book on the subject, I realized that the properties of Guardian Angels, as he describes them, drawn from the writings of Aquinas and others, would be a plausible explanation of to effect synchronicity.

Angels have greater knowledge than humans, greater intelligence, can move very fast, can effect change in the world, and communicate with humans (especially by emotions and general ideas) - and using these abilities to generate synchronicitous events would be a good method of helping specific humans (that being the role of guardian angels).

Of course, human will necessarily remains free - and a synchronicity leads to a choice which could go either way; and humans are free to interpret anything as a meaningless coincidence if they choose; but presumably angels do what they can, within such necessary constraints.



Kristor said...

The Kreeft book is great. Allow me also to recommend "The Angels and Their Mission According to the Fathers of the Church" by Jean Danielou, SJ. It is interesting to gain the perspective of the Fathers; different things loomed large for them, than for us.

Opening the book at random, I came to this quote I had underlined, from St. Athanasius' "Life of St. Anthony:"

'The vision of the angels works softly and peaceably, awakening joy and exultation.'

Note that in this quote, which I pulled at random from the book by opening it and looking at the first passage I had highlighted, Athanasius refers to just the feelings you mention in your post. This is, naturally, an instance of synchronicity.

ajb said...

How do you think this might relate to the notion of synchronicity being related to providence?

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - I haven't really thought this through - but my first idea is that (although united at a deep level) synchronicity is recognized at the time it happens, while providence is only known in retrospect.

Ariston said...


It is interesting to note that the Greek for providence pronoia (πρόνοια) is not the sort of determined plan we think of, but rather a forethought or will–for. Maximus the Confessor talks about how this pronoia is expressed in the formation of God's plan for each individual; its free expression is the true ‘freedom’ of the Christian life. Synchronicity, in this light, is a sort of mild ‘interference’ to allow opportunities for such fulfillment. Like our host, I do think that there is some sort of guiding by angels (specifically guardian angels) in placing persons in the right place at the right time (and similarly found such intuition as a convincing drive towards Christian metaphysics— at the least).

That said, I always worry about confirmation bias, but I try to keep careful track of what only seems unlikely and fortuitous and what seems grossly unlikely to be random. The sheer weight of the latter haunts me (in a proper sense).

Samson J. said...

That said, I always worry about confirmation bias

Yes, I was going to say something similar in the Notion Club Paper thread. How tantalizing to *want* to believe that Tolkien and Lewis really were gifted with dreams from the spiritual realm!

but I try to keep careful track of what only seems unlikely and fortuitous and what seems grossly unlikely to be random. The sheer weight of the latter haunts me (in a proper sense).

Yes, this is a major factor in building many people's Christian faith (including mine).

jgress said...

It is said the angels move "very fast". This seems to mean that they are able to move faster than humans, no doubt because they are not constrained by limits on movement of massive objects. However, they are not able to move anywhere instantaneously, i.e. they are not God. Do angels travel at the speed of light, perhaps? That would account for how angels, while being immaterial, are still constrained by time itself.

Bruce Charlton said...

@jgress - very fast is right, for the reasons you give (plus revelation) but I don't think we can be more precise than that.

@Ariston - confirmation bias does not always apply - often the opposite bias applies.

As when mainstream social scientists refuse to believe there are significant psychological differences between men and women. No number of 'confirmations' is ever enough - each 'confirmation' can always be explained away by confirmation bias.

Kristor said...

"Providence" is just the Latin translation of "pronoia." They boil down to omniscience - which, thanks to the Divine simplicity, is coterminous with omnipotence.