Book Review

There Are No Accidents:
Synchronicity and the Stores of Our Lives

by Robert Hopcke

reviewed by David Linnig

In this fascinating book of possibilities, Robert Hopcke takes on the concept of synchronicity, originally described and defined by Carl Jung in his 1952 book, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle.  Hopcke, an experienced Jungian-oriented psychotherapist based in the San Francisco Bay area, is well positioned to help us understand this extraordinary occurrence—the synchronistic event.  This book is a mustread for anyone who has had one or more of these peculiar, unexplainable experiences and has wondered about its import for his or her life.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, Hopcke helps by presenting simple explanations and multiple examples of this concept of "meaningful coincidences" and "unexplainable connections."  Going well beyond the idea of mere coincidence, synchronicities are described as near-mystical events which have the potential for significant impact upon our lives.

In discussing the fundamental concept of synchronicity, Hopcke quotes Jean Shinoda Bolen who describes it "like a waking dream."  Actually, this only begins his description of this sometimes complex but always deeply moving and surprising experience.  A few examples cited on the book cover will help to characterize the phenomenon here: "... a woman is set up on a blind date with the same man years apart, on two different coasts; a singer's career changes direction when she walks into the wrong audition; just when he is feeling particularly alone, a man runs into a college friend at a remote outpost on an island in the South Pacific."

Hopcke points out that Jung cites three major features common to any synchronistic event: 1) the experiences involved are acausally connected, 2) it is a deeply emotional experience, and 3) it is symbolic in character.  To these, Hopcke adds a fourth and telling point which involves his entire book: synchronicities often come at times of transition in our lives.  He writes: "... we often feel as if we are being led from a way of being which no longer fits and guided into another fuller and more satisfying way of life."  Poetically, he adds that these experiences give us a "different way of seeing ourselves" and give our lives a new "dimension of beauty."

The concept of synchronicity fits in the space beyond hard rationality and near the influence of the unconscious upon our experience.  Using multiple examples from his practice and from his personal life, the author describes the influences of synchronistic events on the major aspects of our lives:

Hopcke challenges the reader to look beyond the purely rational cause-and-effect thinking so prevalent in our current society and to value the synchronistic experiences which come to us in various ways.  Yet, he also walks a fine line between the wholly rational approach and the other extremes of psychic phenomena, being careful to differentiate synchronistic events from ESP, astrology, Tarot, "predictive dreams" and such.  He states his intent to avoid either a purely psychological or an entirely scientific approach to his subject, rather "to simply tell stories and examine their meanings."

Throughout the book, Hopcke uses the last phrase of his subtitle, "... the Stories of Our Lives," to help us grasp the potential meaning of synchronistic events in our personal experience.  Coming back to his emphasis on life transitions as the place where synchronicity often has its most significant impact, he shows us how to relate to these unique and sometimes strange experiences.  His text offers an understanding of how we might profit from a better understanding of these unexplainable coincidences and how they can have significant impact on the way we live and the lifepaths we choose.

Hopcke is often asked how to work with synchronicity and, while explaining carefully that one cannot cause comething inherently acausal, he suggests various approaches.  Seemingly contradictory, they have an internal logic (even if they seem not wholly rational):

There is a clear undercurrent through the synchronistic context, that our ego is not (and should not be) the only influence on our conscious lives.  Those who can reach beyond the purely logical to appreciate what the unconscious has has to share will find great value in "listening" to their own synchronistic events.  In this way, we give more value to our subjective experience and more credence to those messages somehow coincidental and beyond the usual cause-effect relationship.

Extreme rationalists will almost certainly find fault with Hopcke'spremise and conclusions.  As a rational thinker who has experienced and valued a number of synchronicities, this reviewer is positively impressed by the balance Hopcke brings to this subject.  This is an important book and one that should be read by all who question the meaning of unusual experiences in their lives.  It can benefit even the most rational of logical thinkers if they are able to open sufficiently to imagine what might be possible.

David Linnig is a member of the Club board.


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