24. Synchronicity and the Fish Symbol - Revisited
The book The Mind of God was written after numerous events of synchronicity were experienced by the author. The term was coined by famed psychiatrist/psychologist Carl Jung, to describe simultaneous thoughts and events in physical reality that are meaningfully related. The events often involve symbolism that Jung studied extensively and which he identified as the language of the unconscious mind. Certain symbols are widespread throughout every culture and time, including the tree of life and the fish. Jung was studying the significance of the fish symbol when the following chain of events occurred on April 1, 1949:
Finishing an inscription containing a figure that was half-man, half-fish, Jung went out to lunch, and was served fish. Someone at the meal, with a slip of the tongue, mentioned the custom of making an “April fish” of someone. Later that afternoon, a former patient he hadn’t seen in months showed him some pictures of fish. That evening, someone showed him a piece of embroidery filled with fish. The next morning, a patient he hadn’t seen in ten years, described a dream she had the night before about a large fish. A few months later, after writing about this series of events to use in another paper, he walked to the bank of a lake. He’d been to the same spot several times already that morning, and no one else was present. Now, however, there was a sizable fish laying on the sea wall with no explanation for how it got there. (1)
1. On Synchronicity, published in Man and Time, Papers from Eranos Yearbooks, 3; New York and London, 1957
I received the following E-mail on April 1, 2008, and was assured it was no prank:
I just read an excerpt of your book on the web, and I wish to introduce myself. My birth name was Robert Fish, and I was conceived around the time Dr. Jung had his series of fish experiences. When I read the essay in 1997, I was very moved. I went to talk with experts in Jung’s philosophy, and I was invited to speak to his society and to meet with some famous psychiatrists who like Jung’s philosophy. We found many physical connections between my life and Dr. Jung. For example, Dr. Jung attributed the development of his synchronicity theory to conversations he had with Albert Einstein. Currently, a friend, with whom I studied advanced science in high school, holds the Einstein chair of physics at Princeton.
I am a medical doctor, and am currently applying for a license to practice in America. I have taken time to think about the meaning of synchronicity in terms of modern science. One theory I have is that people are said to communicate vast amounts of information to other people through the unconscious content of their speech and body language. An example of this is the old dial up internet. Those connections could or can translate sonic symbols into any amount of information. Similarly, as far back as Freud it was noted that psychics might be able to know things about people they are talking with because they are sensitive to this subconscious communication. Just like the internet, which was invented by humans, connects the whole world, it is not unreasonable to believe that there is a veritable Internet of subconscious communication between us all on the planet, and that anyone with the ability to tap into it could know what they wanted about others on the planet. This doesn’t exactly explain how a Kingfisher could have dragged a fish out of the lake and deposited it on a rock. However, if we consider that part of our brain which processes synchronicity may be a primitive part of our cerebrum that we share with birds and fish, it is possible to believe that the kingfisher or cat or whatever, responded to Jung’s wish to see a fish symbol and be reassured that synchronicity is a valid concept.
I must go now. I wrote you because it is April 1st, and I like to take time out to do something reminiscent of Jung’s essay on April 1st.
By the way, April 1st, or Fools day in the early days of France was called “April fish” day, because in April, the sun quits the zodiac sign of the fish. Bob Fishman has pointed out that, due to the procession of equinoxes, the Sun doesn’t leave Pisces in late March (April 1) any more, but rather on April 22.