The Roots of Coincidence by Arthur Koestler

The Roots of Coincidence Cover Ilustration (Picador)

An Aged Quill Recording:

The Roots of Coincidence by Arthur Koestler (Excerpt) is now available for streaming.

An intelligent and scientific discussion of meaningful coincidence provided by Arthur Koestler. Koestler highlights the research done by Viennese biologist Paul Kammerer, in his book published in 1919, entitled, “Das Gasetz der Serie” (translates as “The Law of Seriality”), in which, Kammerer postulates, “A lawful recurrence of the same or similar things and events – a recurrence, or clustering, in time or space whereby the individual members in the sequence – as far as can be ascertained by careful analysis – are not connected by the same active cause.”

“The first half of Kammerer’s book is devoted to the classification of coincidental series, which he undertook with the meticulousness of a zoologist devoted to taxonomy.”

Arthur Koestler (The Roots of Coincidence)

Koestler writes, “The first half of Kammerer’s book is devoted to the classification of coincidental series, which he undertook with the meticulousness of a zoologist devoted to taxonomy. There is a ‘typology’ of non-causal concurrences related to numbers, names, situations, etc. After this comes a chapter on the ‘morphology’ of Series, which are classified according to their “order” (the number of successive coincidences), their “power” (number of parallel coincidences) and their “parameters” (number of shared attributes)…

In the second, theoretical part of the book, Kammerer develops his central idea that coexistent with causality there is an a-causal principle active in the universe, which tends towards unity. In some respects it is comparable to universal gravity [theory] – which, to the physicist, is also still a mystery; but unlike gravity which acts on all mass indiscriminately, this force acts selectively on ‘form and function’ to bring similar configurations together in space and time; it correlates by ‘affinity’, by which means this a-causal agency intrudes into the causal order of things – both in dramatic and trivial ways – we cannot tell, since it functions ‘ex hypothesi’, outside the known laws of physics. In space it produces concurrent events related by ‘affinity’; in time similarly related series.”

“We thus arrive at the image of a world-mosaic or cosmic kaleidoscope, which, in spite of constant shufflings and rearrangements, also takes care of bringing like and like together.”

Paul Kammerer (Das Gasetz der Serie)

Koestler also looks at the work of psychologist Carl Jung, in particular Jung’s explanation of the term, “synchronicity”, and physicist Wolfgang Pauli, with respect to their paper: ‘Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle’. Koestler writes, “Althugh Kammerer’s “Seriality” and Jung’s “Syncrhonicity” are as similar as a pair of gloves, each fits one hand only. Kammerer confined himself to analogies in naive physical terms, rejecting ESP and mentalistic explanations. Jung went to the opposite extreme and tried to explain all phenomena which could not be accounted for in terms of physical causality, as manifestations of the unconscious mind: “Syncronicity is a phenomenon that seems to be primarily connected with psychic conditions, that is to say with the processes in the unconscious.” – Carl Jung.

Koestler notes, “Its deepest strata, according to Jungian terminology, are formed by the ‘collctive unconscious’, potentially shared by all members of the race.”

Of Pauli, Koestler also includes an excerpt of his essay, “The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler”, which originally appeared in a series of monographs published by the Jung Institute in Zurich. Towards the end of his essay Pauli says: “Today we have the natural sciences, but no longer a philosophy of science. Since the discovery of the elementary quantum, physics was obliged to renounced its proud claim to be able to understand in principle the ‘whole’ of the world. But this predicament may contain the seed of further developments which will correct the previous one-sided orientation and will move towards a unitary world-view in which science is only a part in the whole.”

This narration is an exerpt from ‘The Roots of Coincindence, Chapter 3, “Seriality and Synchronicity”; a choice composition on a rarely studied subject under the microscope of a poetically-scientific mind.

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