Synchronicity, Shamanic Journeys, and Rubber Balls
Swiss psychologist and grandaddy to psychoanalysis, Carl Jung, used to talk about synchronicities — a very particular form of coincidence where the contents of our psyches (whether a recurring thought, dream content or peculiar symbol) manifests in some way in the real world. Like when you’re thinking of a friend you haven’t spoken to in a long time and they suddenly call you, out of the blue.
Jung seemed to suggest that our psyches could have some effect on the material world and that they may actually have “caused” these events.
I know a lot of folks (myself included) who have had precognitive dreams — dreams that seem to predict the future — synchronicities, as thought of here, seem to go some way in explaining that phenomenon.
I am fascinated by the concept of synchronicities and even have a journal where, along with dream images, and assorted other curiosities, I record any synchronicities I experience.
I’ve got a big one to write down.
I’m reading a book about how to go on Shamanistic journeys.
I’m actually listening to it on Audible, but it sounds better to say you’re reading it, for some reason.
The book is by a man named Carl Green. He’s a Jungian analyst and a practicing Shaman. The combination of Jungian analysis and Shamanistic practices is what drew me to the book — both topics I find myself extremely interested in.
Green lays out how to go on an internal journey into the “lower worlds” — a space inside ourselves where we can come into contact with archetypal energies. The journey is conducted through meditative visualizations — much like the work I do for a living as a hypnotherapist.
On this journey, you encounter beings and objects that embody various and disparate parts of your subconscious.
A rationalist would immediately start asking if this is simply an exercise in daydreaming but I’m not writing this for rationalists. Well, maybe recovering rationalist.
On my journey, I met a fish-man wearing a cloak. He served as my guide. We went into a cave called the cave of wounds and there I met a very short fish-man wearing a tweed suit. I’m not sure why my imagination is choosing to represent the various parts of my subconscious as fish-men but I bet a little introspection and analysis would reveal a very satisfying answer.
I entered a few more caves on the journey. The last one was called the Cave of Treasures. In this cave, you’re meant to discover an object that represents your learnings from this journey and take it back home with you. The object I discovered was a small rubber ball — the kind you would have played Jacks with if you grew up in the 1940s and even knew what the hell a Jack was.
I won’t get into it all here but the ball represented resilience and bouncing back and all the things any unimaginative hack could associate with a rubber ball.
I ended the journey and went about my day.
Later that afternoon, I was having dinner with my wife, my son, and my parents at a pizza joint in my hometown. The adults were eating and my son was playing some coin-operated game by the door. After a handful of quarters, he came to the table with a rubber ball he’d won from the game and gave it to me as a gift.
My jaw dropped. I thanked him, put the ball in my pocket, and spent the rest of lunch secretly flabbergasted.
Secretly because I imagined the weird resonance of the event would be written off as a coincidence by my parents. Even though they probably wouldn’t self-identify as rationalists, they have the same rationalistic mindset that most of our culture suffers from.
As soon as my wife and son and I were alone, I told them about the rubber ball and my shamanic journey. My wife expressed some momentary amazement. My son too. I suppose, though, to be honest, my wife is constantly on the lookout for such events as confirmation of her more mystical worldview and my son is still at that age where of course the world is magic and of course stuff like that happens, so they moved on quickly.
As I sit typing this, I feel the event’s significance for me lessening — an unfortunate side-effect of that damn rationality I keep mentioning — anything that doesn’t fit into it or confirm the rational mindset’s iron grip on reality seems to fade more quickly from our consciousness — as if rationality had a built-in failsafe, in our brains, to force us to ignore and eventually forget anything with the whiff of the irrational about it.
But, that’s why I keep the journal. I know, without a record to remind me, I would, in time forget the rubber ball and its assignment to remind me to always bounce back.
And I kept the ball. Put it in sight of my desk. So that, whenever I’m feeling knocked down, whenever I’m tempted not to get up, I’ll remember the message I received on that journey and bounce back.