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The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self Paperback – January 18, 2005
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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“Successfully presented, with the freshness of a personal response…interesting and very instructive….” (--The Journal of Analytical Psychology)
“[Bolen] charts a path that will lead many readers to the heart of their own emotional and spiritual pilgrimages.” (--San Francisco Chronicle on Crossing to Avalon)
“[W]ise and challenging...an absorbing, often uncannily perceptive, and useful companion for the soul journeys of our time....” (--Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple on Crossing to Avalon)
About the Author
Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD, is a psychiatrist, a Jungian analyst, and an internationally known author and speaker. Her books include Goddesses in Everywoman, Gods in Everyman, and many others. She is a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and was a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco. She lives in Marin County, California.
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The important thing is that synchronicity occurs outside of time and space. It is experienced in a temporal context, but that's not how it got there. It appears out of nowhere and no time. And, it communicates. This is marvelous. Synchronicity is a kind of language and, in my own experience, is the way that those who have left this reality communicate with those of us still here. By this time, shouldn't we know more about how this works, in other words, how to speak the language ourselves? So far, we know that belief in synchronicity makes it more likely to occur, and an emotional component helps to initiate it, but beyond that, synchronicity is left to chance, which itself doesn't exist. This is an irresistible paradox.
Bolen's book, like many others, abounds with tales of synchronistic events, which never fail to fascinate. It was the occasion of a synchronicity for me when Bolen's account of a patient suffering from deep depression decided to cast the I Ching and discovered hexagram 5, Waiting. My wife passed more than a year ago and since then I have annoyed her with constant complaints about having to wait before I can join her. Hexagram 5 spoke to me at the appropriate moment. Not only that, but Bolen's first name is Jean, the same as my wife's. There were other parallels.
Bolen is a Jungian analyst, which makes her especially qualified to write about synchronicity because it was Jung himself who coined the term. She contends that the space between people and things must contain a connecting link or be a transmission medium. Jung called it the collective unconscious and argued that an archetype must be in play in order to create a synchronicity. Maybe so. For me, the question is still an open one. The medium could be the Zero-Point Field or, in metaphysical terms, the Akashic Record. Anyway, synchronicity suggests that everything in the universe is interconnected, so potential communication between dimensions is a given.
Bolen links synchronicity to the existence of the Chinese Tao out of which everything is manifested. The Tao itself is meaning. This compliments quantum physicist J. A. Wheeler's contention that everything is made up of information. Knowing that, we could realize that every moment of our existence is one big synchronicity, and that we frequently get peeks at it in operation when we make meaningful connections between ourselves and external things and events.
Anyway, Bolen's book is a stimulating read and manifestly something more than a collection of Believe-It-or-Not experiences. Maybe this review will itself lead to a synchronicity for me. Stranger things have happened.
As Dr. Bolen explains it, "In the experience of a synchronistic event, instead of feeling ourselves to be separate and isolated entities in a vast world we feel the connection to others and the universe at a deep and meaningful level. That underlying connection is the eternal Tao, and a synchronistic event is a specific manifestation of it." (p. 24). Unfortunately after that succinct summary she mostly just goes on to give examples of how she has experienced this in her own life and psychiatric practice, and doesn't go into much more depth.
This was Dr Bolen's first book, and while I enjoy her writing style, which is down to earth and unassuming, and was excited at the start, it becomes a bit repetitious and superficial as it continues (and even has the feel of a single lecture or magazine article padded to make a small book). It is remarkable though how easily she explains potentially foreign and esoteric subjects - like the Eternal (and unnamable) Tao and Jung's notion of the collective unconscious and the diversity of archetypes within. However there is also a kind of sloppy stereotypical generalizing here that reflects the naïve idealism of both the times and genre (typical of the 70's and pop psychology/spirituality), and expresses an underlying bias for Eastern and against Western cultures and religions (apparently as trendy now as it was 40 years ago).
For example she says, "The experience of the Tao or of a unifying principle in the universe to which everything in the world relates, underlies the major Eastern religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Zen. Although each religion may call the experience by a different name, the essence of all varieties of Eastern mysticism is the same." (p.4), and later when she equates the Eastern approach to the right brain and the Western to the left, and then goes on to summarize how the right brain is holistic and the left fragmentary, and how this is expressed in the two opposite world views. There is some truth to these generalizations (as archetypes perhaps), but they also miss the very sense of unity she is attempting to celebrate.
So as an intro to a somewhat obscure and difficult subject (the intangible, ineffable eternal Tao and how it manifests in our lives in psyche and substance) this is not a bad book. It is just not a deep and detailed study. I guess that's the part that's up to us to discover.
This is a quick, educational, entertaining and very thought provoking read. While the book is short, there is a lot of good information. It is also easy to read and very understandable. You need to be a Jungian analyst to follow it unlike many other books on Jung's thought.
This book is also written from a personal perspective. I liked this aspect of it and for me it added value. I can't imagine anyone with an interest in Jung, Tao or the paranormal not finding this book interesting reading.
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Jean Shinoda Bolen brings to light the essentials of Jung’s concept of synchronicity and then...Read more