Miracles: The Gift of Synchronicity & How to
David Richo, Ph.D.
Synchronicity is the phenomenon of meaningful
coincidence. It is a resemblance, correspondence, or
connection between something going on outside us and
something happening inside us. In any ordinary
coincidence, the events are connected by meaning rather
than by cause and effect. This may not yet be
synchronicity but simply synchronization. It becomes
synchronicity when it makes a meaningful connection with
our life’s purposes or helps unfold our destiny to
show love, see wisely, and bring healing to ourselves
and our world. All coincidences are connected by
meaning, but synchronicity happens when the
meaningfulness is relevant to our personal evolution. It
is the spur of the moment in that it spurs us on and in
that it may happen suddenly! It happens just in time. It
is also just in time in the sense that it is part
of the justice of the universe in bringing us exactly
the pieces we need to fashion— or be fashioned by—
Synchronicity is a word made from two Greek terms
meaning "joined with" and "time."
Synchronicity is a bond or connection that happens in a
timely way. A correspondence between two things is
suddenly made clear. The unifying connection was always
present but an immediate and meaningful coincidence
makes it visible here and now. Synchronicity thus
combines an essential unity with an existential one. The
eternal present makes an appearance in the momentary
present. This is why it seems fitting to say that
synchronicity guides us into spirituality.
Synchronicities cluster around significant events.
Many meaningful coincidences occurred, for instance,
when the Titanic sank and when Lincoln and Kennedy were
assassinated. Personal disasters or crises in our
personal life will also invite synchronicity. Norma
orders a red dress for a party but a black dress is
delivered to her. As she is about to phone the store to
report the error, her sister calls: "Mother has
died. Come for the funeral." Norma thought she was
in control of her life; she thought she knew what would
happen next. The synchronous event told her otherwise
and outfitted her for what was actually coming next:
something much deeper was about to occur.
Synchronicity is the surprise that something suddenly
fits! Synchronous events are meaningful coincidences or
correspondences that guide us, warn us, or confirm us on
our path. Coincidence happens at a specific moment. In
this sense it is existential, tied to the here and now.
Correspondences are ongoing. This is how synchronicity
is essential, always present, to our human experience.
Synchronicity is also found in a series of similar
events or experiences. It can appear as one striking
event that sets off a chain reaction. It is always
unexpected and somehow uncanny in its accuracy of
connection or revelation. This is what makes it
impossible to dismiss synchronicity as mere coincidence.
Jung called synchronicity: "A non-caused but
meaningful relationship between physical and psychic
events....A special instance of acausal orderedness....Conscious
succession becomes simultaneity....Synchronicity takes
the events in space and time as meaning more than mere
chance." A coincidence is two unplanned events that
happen simultaneously. It becomes synchronicity when it
is connected by meaning. You and I love red roses. That
is a coincidence. If unknown to each other, we meet as
our heads bump while we are both smelling the same red
rose that caught our eye at the same time and then
later, we are married, that is synchronicity!
Synchronicity gives us a clue to the deep underlay of
purpose and meaning in the universe and how that purpose
is working itself out in our lives. Our own wholeness
has a foundation and support in the larger order of
things. All objective events have a corresponding
subjective configuration in our psyche. Synchronicity is
an instant instance of this correspondence. Its
spontaneous timely events are articulations of the
continuous nature of creation, intimations about the
irrefrangible unity underlying it. Synchronicity is
always striking and sometimes eerie. The "other
worldly" feeling we have when it happens to us may
be an indicator that an archetype is arising into
consciousness from the depths of our psyche.
Things happen as they need to for the best purposes
of the universe. Our belief that we can interfere with
this is another trick of the arrogant ego. We may not
know how what is happening right now really fits into
our future. I can only trust that in addition to all I
see, there is some other vision that will appear and
make all this appear as just right.
Yet synchronicity cannot happen by any conscious
intervention of ego since it is a phenomenon of grace:
an entry of the transpersonal world onto our personal
turf. It is a moment that manifests the unity that
always and already existed between psychological and
spiritual, mind and universe, you and me, me and
everything. It occurs when our unconscious is ready for
a step into wider consciousness. The ancient oracles
were about precisely this!
The inner artist of our true Self uses two brushes: a
conscious one: synchronicity, and an unconscious one:
dreams. The synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) of
our lives and the dream images that have most excited or
stupefied us are the best— though often most ambiguous—
clues to our self-actualization. When a dream confirms a
movement in the psyche, that is itself synchronicity.
Prayer that is answered is synchronicity since prayers
that are answered are the ones that are consistent with
Synchronicity is the special moment in which destiny
summons us to move forward. It is the spur of the moment
that initiates movement and may at the same time smart!
This is the process by which archetypal reality
incarnates itself in historical time: something unknown
is doing we do not know what or why or through whom.
Synchronicity really means that we are never alone in
the universe. "O mighty love! Man is one world, and
hath another to attend him," wrote George Herbert.
Many psychic events do not occur instantaneously but
undergo an incubation period in the unconscious.
Something has not yet happened but is in the works.
Synchronicity cuts across time-bound warps. It
transcends the limits of being and becoming. This is
because in the inner world there is no separation
between past and future, time or timelessness, what is
happening, what is about to happen, and what will
happen. Only the present exists, which contains it all.
In synchronicity, we meet our future—or our past—in
our present. "To transform itself in us the future
enters into us long before it happens," Rilke
Synchronicity is the strikingly meaningful
coincidence of two events or of a series of events. It
can also be the coincidence of a psychic perception and
a simultaneously occurring event as happens in ESP.
Premonitions are in this category. In both ESP and
premonition, the case can be made for synchronicity only
if meaningfulness is present. This is always the
ultimate criterion of synchronicity.
Synchronicity occurs in a dream that reveals what is
already true or about to become true: Lincoln dreamed he
was assassinated one week before the event. Dreams and
astrology manifest many synchronous correspondences.
There is immense synchronicity in the zodiac and our
inclinations/choices. Rituals are forms of synchronicity
in that they are outward enactments of corresponding
Synchronicity appears in our work on ourselves. There
may be synchronicity in the fact that our knowledge of
our real issues—in ourselves and in our relationships—comes
simultaneously with the strength to face them! We are
usually in denial for a long time before we finally
recognize and acknowledge our own truth. Synchronicity
is in the fact that we often only let ourselves know
when we can deal with what we know.
When we are ready to learn, a teacher appears. This
is synchronicity. Occasionally a person, who died long
ago or recently, comes to mind over and over in the
course of a week or more. It could be that the meaning
of that person in our life is coming home to us in a
compelling way. Perhaps we learned something from that
person and need to remember it now. Perhaps there is
something we are now ready to learn. This may be another
form of synchronicity. The face of the
teacher/grandfather appears when the time has come to be
instructed or to gain a deeper insight into who we are.
This might even be the time to ask that person to be our
guide from the other world if that fits our world view.
Synchronicity also occurs in looking back upon your
life and seeing how it all prepared you or instructed
you for the fullest fruition of your potential. A hidden
feeling or truth waited to be awakened by just the right
person or circumstance, sometimes painfully. My destiny
had to have just such a beginning. My neglectful father
helped me practice for the independent life I live now.
My empty cupboard helped me care about starving
children. James Hillman writes: "This way of seeing
removes the burden from the early years as having been a
mistake and yourself a victim of handicaps and
cruelties; instead it is the acorn in the
Everyone and every event in life’s drama is part of
the metaphor of our journey. The issue from an old
relationship may not be: "how bad he was" but:
"how much I needed to learn!" Most of us keep
meeting partners who show us exactly where our work is,
e.g., men who abuse, women who are unfaithful. The
wounds are openings into our missing life. Often, the
only way a lost piece of ourselves or of our history
comes back to us is through another person. The unknown
is scary so people and events come along that help us
go there. This is synchronicity. The only mistake we
make is hanging on to some people too long or too
briefly. How and with whom did I do that? We take
them as literally themselves instead of as themselves and
metaphorical forces, come to boost or chide. What
delivered me from the constrictions into the open air?
Who finally pointed the way beyond my limitations?
Finally, there is synchronicity in divination devices
such as the I Ching or the Tarot: one ineluctably
chooses the hexagram or card that coincides with one’s
circumstance. This meaningful coincidence is based on
the belief that the psyche will direct us to the exact
information that we need when we need it.
IS IT FATE OR DESTINY?
We are dragged along by fate to that which we refuse
to walk toward upright. –Jung
The culmination of synchronicity is its direct
revelation of destiny: the design of the whole universe
works itself out in the display of each unique human
life. "Life is a struggle to succeed in being in
fact what we are in design...Our will is free to realize
or not to realize the vital design we are but which we
cannot change or abbreviate...." wrote Ortega y
What we refuse to bring into consciousness, comes
back to us as fate. It hits us from without when we
refuse to heed its summons from within. It makes
spiritual sense to forge a lasting agreement with the
universe, which can only be an unconditional Yes to what
is. Attention to synchronicity helps us join unfolding
processes consciously. The word "design" adds
the element of artistry!
Each generation presents to the universe a population
of people who have just the right ingredients in them to
make the world better. Each person is a crucial cell in
this mystical body of humanity. There is synchronicity
in the fact that here and now the world always has just
the human resources that it needs to further its
evolution as is fitting for this epoch. Nature
participates in the same synchronicity by its drifts of
species and seasons of growth and change in each era. It
creates an ice age and a temperate age in accord with
the over-all requirements of evolution. I am here at the
right time— and just in time— for me to make my
contribution and nature is supporting me by presenting
just the conditions that promote this enterprise. And so
are all the people in my life.
Destiny is often connected to career. Our work in the
world is often our form of service or of actualizing our
potential. Jonah is the biblical archetype of refusing
one’s destiny. Since he was needed as a prophet, his
refusal of the call to become one was disregarded. He
was swallowed by a whale and forced to swallow his
pride. There are also times in the course of life when
refusals are allowed to stand and then "a great
prince in prison lies," as Donne says.
Jung said: "We find our destiny on the path we
take to avoid it." The greatest of human tragedies
is to be distracted from our destiny and lose our power
to activate our potential because of years of addiction
to drugs, alcohol, or to relationships that are abusive,
unworkable, or depleting. A great potential in us can
thereby fade away and no one will do anything to halt
the dissolution. The world will stand by as we throw
away our fortune. We will stand by as we throw ourselves
away. There is no guarantee that a whale will intervene
for us as it did for Jonah or a tornado as it did for
Dorothy. The challenge is to find our destiny in exactly
what we are refusing to engage in. This is no easy task.
It is hard to stop and look while we are running the
other way! Is my destiny scribbled on parchment,
twirled in a bottle and hurled into the sea, to be
stumbled upon only long after I am gone?
How does chance figure in? Chance may simply be a
playful way the universe has of collaborating with us in
the working out of our destiny. Thus synchronicity
integrates the irrational into an orderly pageant of
evolution. The challenge is always the same: to
believe in the artistic design in spite of the random
display. The record shows us humans to be crassly
ignorant and destructive but also touchingly responsive
and restorative. Perhaps Ghandi expressed this tension
between our existential display and our essential design
most accurately: "I see that mankind still survives
after all its attempts to destroy itself and so I
surmise that it is the law of love that rules
For all that has been: Thanks!
- I am thankful for the work I have accomplished and
the graces I have received.
- I acknowledge and appreciate the synchronicities in
my daily life.
- I acknowledge a meaning in every chaos.
- I acknowledge a world beyond my senses, a truth
beyond my intellect, a wisdom beyond logic, a power
beyond my limits, a serene design despite any
- I am thankful for the graces that take me beyond my
- I seek community with others on my path.
- I embrace the givens of life: beginnings and
endings, aloneness, change, unfairness,
unpredictability, and sometimes being given more than I
- I open myself to every transformation that is ready
to happen in and through me.
- I respect the right of others to reject my path.
- I reclaim my body as a channel of spirituality: I
celebrate my powers and passions.
- I drop the need for certainty; I am comfortable with
- I let go of fear and obligation and live by love and
- I keep finding an inner source of strength and
comfort in and beyond my soul.
- I disperse compassion and love wherever I go.
- I consecrate myself to join with others to end war
and injustice in my lifetime.
- I keep finding new companions on my journey to
- I redeem the earth and include all humanity in my
- My only search is for that which is always and
already all of ours!
For all that will be: Yes! -Dag Hammarskjold
Copyright © 2001 David
Richo, Ph.D. This article is an excerpt from Unexpected
Miracles: The Gift of Synchronicity & How to Open
David Richo, Ph.D., M.F.T., is a psychotherapist, teacher, and writer in
Santa Barbara and San Francisco California who emphasizes Jungian,
transpersonal, and spiritual perspectives in his work. He is the author of:
How To Be An Adult (Paulist, 1991), When Love Meets Fear (Paulist, 1997),
Unexpected Miracles: The Gift of Synchronicity and How to Open It
(Crossroad,1998) , Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power and Creativity of Your
Dark Side (Shambhala, 1999) and Catholic Means Universal: Integrating
Spirituality and Religion (Crossroad, 2000). For
a catalog of David Richo’s tapes and events, please