In the book “Jung’s Map of the Soul, An Introduction”, Murray Stein recounts the story of an incident that happened with a patient of Jung’s. The patient had a dream of a golden scarab beetle. As they were discussing this, they became aware of a sound outside the window, and when they looked, there was a Swiss version of the same kind of beetle (Cetonia aurate) trying to get into the room.
Referred to as synchronicity, these sorts of events in which an occurrence in the outside world and an occurrence in the inner world mirror each other, have happened to many of us. Sometimes we see them as profoundly meaningful, sometimes we dismiss them as coincidence, sometimes they go unnoticed.
Occurrences like this should come as no surprise to anyone with a knowledge of the Hindu concept that the innermost soul of every being, the atman, “the self” (which is the opposite, generally speaking, of what we in the west consider to be the “self”) is identical to the universal Brahman—who is the great, underlying soul of the universe. (I’m expressing this in my own terms—and there are many, varying schools of philosophy in Hinduism, but this is a primary, and widely accepted thread, that runs throughout Hindu thought.)
One may question whether there is a clear division between the inner world and the outer world. Is there an inner and outer at all? This question flies in the face, not only of the material, atheistic view of the physical world as a sort of stand-alone event, that props itself up with its own laws of physics and has it’s own discrete, independent, unchallengable existence, but it also is quite different from the day-to-day perception that we, to the extent that we subscribe to a modern, western headspace tend to have of the world around us. As modern people, for us, things happen from external causes; events are required to follow the rules laid down by Newtonian physics and, for most of our lives on most days, that is that. The thunderstorm occurs, not because the gods are angry, but because the air currents and humidity are acting in a certain physical way.
Yet even modern physics has overturned this prosaic worldview, decades ago, with quantum physics and other even more arcane theories and concepts. Certainly, going back in time, for most of the societies that have gone before us, the inner world and the outer world are not two distinct happenings. They are intertwined—and life is, or can be, magical, mystical, pervaded with spirits, with numinous presences, with events and atmospheres far more meaningful and profound than the prosaic constructs we have deluded ourselves into seeing as “reality”. The “primitive”, animistic view of tribal people that knows the world as one filled with consciousness—where every stone, river, bird, or mountain is filled with life and awareness may be closer to the truth than our own sophisticated, but destitute, perception of reality.
“Reality” is far grander than anything we might imagine, and God and the gods more real than we might ever have thought possible. The underlying mystical reality of time and eternity far more present and profound than our own carefully-trained blindness has allowed us to see.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / A scarab beetle, for the occasion of the marriage between Amunhotep III and his wife, Queen Tiye