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.

The Notesbooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Marie Rilke

An Aged Quill Recording:

The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (an excerpt) is now available for streaming.

This is an excerpt from The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke (1910). Translated from German by William Needham. Narrated by Joseph Voelbel. This was Rilke’s only novel, it was written in a water closet in Paris, as Rilke didn’t have enough money at the time to afford a place with a real study.

Will they see this Saint Germain? He shouted. Did we say Saint Germain? Cross it out. Write the Marquis Von Bel Mar.

Rainier Marie Rilke (The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge)

This particular excerpt was chosen for it’s enigmatic inclusion of a much debated historical personage by the name of St. Germain, and also for it’s mystical and religious overtones. Rilke’s eye for the unique is singular, and although there were many parts to this book that could have been included in this excerpt, for example, the opening of the novel where Rilke discusses people’s faces, this recounting of St. Germain, was a point in the book that jumped out at me the most.

This book partly inspired my short story, “Inside the Mind of Le Comte“, which the interested reader can also find on my youtube channel.

The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

Boethius’ petitions Lady Philosphy to provide him consolation amidst his imprisonment.

An Aged Quill Recording:


A choice excerpt from the esteemed Roman Senator Boethius, whom penned this letter to Lady Philosophy whilst falsely imprisoned for treason. Boethius is acknowledged as a Saint, and is burried in a crypt in Pavia, Italy. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explained the relevance of Boethius to modern day Christians by linking his teachings to an understanding of Providence. This audiobook excerpt is from Book V, the notable pinnacle of the philosophy expounded within. Book five contains six parts. Follow Boethius as he logically tracks you through an explanation of the coexistence of Fate Vs. Free Will, which is the existince of Free Will inspite of the omnipresence of Providence, and the subtle but significant difference between looking forward in time to predict something and looking at all things in time simultaneously.

This is one of my personal favorite pieces of philosophy ever-written, and it was an honor to record it for anyone whom wishes to pursue the acquisition of knowledge in the pursuit of an understanding of divine intelligence.

Wiki Excerpt:

“Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius, also Boetius (477–524 AD), was a Roman senator, consul, magister officiorum, and philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born about a year after Odoacer deposed the last Western Roman Emperor and declared himself King of Italy. Boethius entered public service under Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great, who later imprisoned and executed him in 524 on charges of conspiracy to overthrow him. While jailed, Boethius composed his Consolation of Philosophy, a philosophical treatise on fortune, death, and other issues, which became one of the most popular and influential works of the Middle Ages. As the author of numerous handbooks and translator of Aristotle, he became the main intermediary between Classical antiquity and following centuries.”

Philosphical Synopsis:

The by and large gist is knowledge of activities occurs in orders of perception. That is, an event is known by the knowledge of it; also, there are orders to knowledge: divine intelligence, man’s reason, the imagination, and sense-based experiences. Boethius thinks the way in which we know a thing is determined by the level at which we approach it. The act of observing a man walking and the sun moving simultaneously above him are both, in his terms, ‘necessary’ when observed. However, one is volutional, that is free-will based (the man walking) though necessary because of its clear observation, while the other is also necessary, (the sun’s movement), but is based on a higher order of cohesion.

So to, the difference between the divine intelligence perceiving an event, which is absolutely necessary but also enables free will, and the difference between rationally understanding something, choosing and experiencing it, is the difference between these two types of necessary, one self-evident (sun moving), the other conditional (man goes for a walk). The reason these two types of necessary can exist is because Bothius believed God’s perception of events aren’t in time in the sense of past, present, and future, like the process of putting on your sneakers, and going for a walk, but rather God’s glance at an infinite present contains all these subsequent sequences (or orders). In his estimation, the apperception of all events in time is a higher order of knowledge: that is to say divine intelligence, uncaptured in time, perceiving everything as a single moment.

Again, in his opinion this does not-with-stand time relative ‘free-will’ (man chooses to go for a walk). The higher order perception of all events does not reduce the possibilty to choose any event within it. To unpack that a bit, to perceive a sense-based event is different than to imagine it. To reason over a truth or a law, is more significant than to engage the imagination, and beyond that, to issue forth a law by or order of God, is an even higher order that supersedes our ability to reason over, imagine, or experience it. So this is the essential pecking order Boethius contends exists in the manner that man perceives events. Boethius concludes that since all is seen in a glance by God, pray fervently, lift up your voice to our creator, and strive to act in accordance with a higher order of knowledge.

Since all events are a consequence of the order in which we percieve them, and a higher order perceives more of the picture, Boethius believes that one actually becomes ‘more free’, and genuinely exercises ‘free’-will, when one moves in accordance with this higher order, which is God’s divine intelligence. The senator also contends to move against this though allowed, is actually a departure from higher levels of perception of the divine order, representing a ‘lack of freedom’, which is to say, though acting within our freewill, engenders the opposite, a feeling that imposes its own prison.

“In the same way, human reason refuses to believe that divine intelligence can see the future in any other way except that in which human reason has knowledge. This is how the argument runs: if anything does not seem to have any certain and predestined occurence it cannot be foreknown as a future event.

Of such, therefore, there is no foreknowledge. And if we believe that even in this case there is foreknowledge, there will be nothing which does not happen of necessity. If therefore, as beings who have a share of reason, we can judge of the mind of God, we should consider it most fitting for human reason to bow before divine wisdom just as we judged it right for the senses and the imagination to yield to reason.

Let us then if we can raise ourselves up to the heights of that supreme intelligence. There reason will be able to see that which it cannot see by itself. It will be able to see how that which is no certain occurence, may be seen by a certain and fixed foreknowledge, a knowledge that not opinion, but the boundless immediacy of the highest form of knowing.”  

– Excerpt from ‘The Consolation of Philosophy’ by Boethius

The entire playlist of: Excerpts of Philosophical Literature.

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The Secret Miracle by Jorge Luis Borges

An Aged Quill Recording:

The Secret Miracle by Jorge Luis Borges is now available for streaming.

The Secret Miracle is based on the notion that God can do anything, and grants a last wish of a man facing a firing squad to have enough time to finish composing his magnum opus.

“Upon a courtyard flag stone a bee cast a stationary shadow.”

– Jorge Luis Borges (The Secret Miracle)

The literary devices employed by Borges to represent the stillness of time are keen, eloquent, and unexpected. This is one of the lesser known Borges shorts from his collection, ‘Ficciones‘, and one I highly recommend. Enjoy!