Every scar has a story – a story that says you have survived and thrived. That cut – evidence of how you fell, crashed hard, and then got up. Those…
Are ‘meaningful coincidences’ and a sense of déjà vu signs of a ‘higher self’ – another secret you? If so, could this be the key to magic and even art?
These two questions have over a millennia’s long pedigree. From Plato, Socrates, Carl Jung to modern Hollywood movies. But for you and me, they may hold the key to understanding life’s most miraculous moments.
In Plato’s Symposium, the ancient Greek prophetess Diotima of Mantinea says to Socrates that love is a “great daemon.” She elaborates, saying that “everything daemonic is between divine and mortal.” In other words, a Daemon appears to be a ‘bridge’ between two realities, between two levels of time – ‘mortal time’ and ‘divine time’, or eternity.
Over time, the word Daemon has come to be understood – or misunderstood – as meaning an evil spirit or devil. Now that is not to say that evil spirits and forces don’t exist (I like to be open on the issue). But in pre-Christian ancient Greece, the word Daemon meant something more benign. It meant a ‘tutelary deity’, a type of Guardian Angel. Diotima was an early challenger of this notion, however, insisting that it was something much more profound.
As we’ll see, the Greek prophetess was ahead of her time.
More recently, the author Anthony Peake explored the mystery of the Daemon in his book The Daemon: A Guide to your Extraordinary Secret Self (2008). Peake argues that the Daemon is an aspect of our psyche whose domain is within our non-dominant hemisphere of the brain (i.e. the right). It exists, he claims, in a state outside of linear time. The Daemon is also silent; it has no access to the speech centres of the brain, which are in the left hemisphere, or the ‘dominant hemisphere’.
Peake argues convincingly that the Daemon is a silent observer who has a wholly different perspective on our lives. It may even know our individual destiny, and those of others.
In Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld (1994), the philosopher Patrick Harpur makes some further distinctions that help us understand some of its qualities. He roughly divides the human mind into two types of ego. Our everyday sense of identity which lives in mortal time – and which we refer to as ‘I’ or ‘me’ – is what he calls the rational ego.
Our rational ego confers upon us a sense of continuity in time. Our other self is, too, an ego – with its own identity – but with crucial differences. He says that the Daemon is “not of consciousness, but of the unconsciousness.” The Daemon is also “not a waking, but a dream ego; not a rational, but an irrational ego” – an ego he calls the Daimonic Ego (Peake’s Daemon).1
Now, this brings us to the other topic of this article: synchronicity.
The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung coined the word synchronicity. It refers to those odd moments in life when the inner world of the mind is reflected in the outer world as an event. We call these coincidences. What makes Jung’s synchronicity different from a coincidence is that they are meaningful to the observer. Thus, synchronicity simply means ‘meaningful coincidence’ – a confluence of inner and outer events that seem to converge into a singular moment.
Synchronicities appear as if matter and mind ‘came together’ for a brief moment. But, as I will argue in this article, they may be interventions from our Daemonic minds.
As an example of typical synchronicity, I will use my own case. In fact, it inspired me to pursue the themes explored in this article.
A few years ago I was walking into Stourbridge Town in the West Midlands to do some shopping. For a reason I have forgotten, I was talking to my friend about the Austrian esoteric philosopher Rudolf Steiner. I had to admit I didn’t know much about him despite having read a few books which referenced his work.
Before long I asked aloud: “What are the fruits of his philosophy, Anthroposophy?” (I am paraphrasing, but I remember using the words’ fruits of Anthroposophy’.) Nonetheless, we continued walking, and as we approached a charity shop, we decided to investigate. The shop was small and generally over packed with clothes and other bric-a-brac. There was a small book section in the corner.
I glanced over it, and immediately a book grabbed my attention. The Fruits of Anthroposophy by Rudolf Steiner! Immediately I bought it, taking it as a sign – from a dimension unknown – that I ought to read more about Anthroposophy.
Before we unpack the implications of the synchronicity and the Daemon, let’s turn to another synchronicity. This time by one of the world’s most prolific British writers on occultism and existentialism, the late Colin Wilson.
Again, it concerns a book.
He was writing an article about the subject of synchronicity for An Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries (1987). Shortly afterwards he experienced a profound synchronicity. He said that it seemed so “preposterous” that it defied the ordinary definition of a coincidence.
For his article, he described a synchronicity that happened to the French ufologist Jacques Vallee. Vallee had been researching a Los Angeles-based religious cult. Its name, the Order of Melchizedec, termed after an obscure biblical prophet.
Vallee had been attempting to find more information about the cult but with little success. At some point during his search he took a taxi to Los Angeles airport. To his astonishment, the taxi driver who gave him his receipt signed it ‘M. Melchizedec’. And whom, it turned out, was the only Melchizedec in the enormous Los Angeles telephone directory.
Wilson must have thought this an impressive synchronicity, enough to include in his encyclopaedia. But the universe – or his Daemon – seemed to think one better.
He says that after he finished writing his passage on Vallee’s remarkable story, he broke off to take his dogs for a walk. He continues:
“As I was leaving my workroom, I noticed on the camp-bed a book that had obviously fallen off the shelf, and which I did not recognise. It was called You Are Sentenced to Life, by a Dr W. D. Chesney, and I had obviously bought it many years before in California and sent it for binding. But I had never actually read it. When I came back from my walk, I glanced through the book – and discovered, at the very end, a page headed ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEC.”2
Now the question that haunts us in these moments of meaningful coincidences is: “Well, what does it all mean?”
In each instance above, there is a sense that it is confirming a thought, as it were, rather as if some force is reminding us that we’re on the right path. Wilson’s account seems to say, ‘Yes, synchronicities do happen, and if you think Vallee’s is impressive, how about this…’ And then this mysterious ‘force’ ensures that the right book is brought to Wilson’s attention. After such an experience, it is almost impossible to shake off the conviction that the universe is a far stranger place than we take for granted.
So, where does the Daemon fit into all this?
The Daemon, as we have seen, is the unconscious and non-rational ego lying silent in our non-dominant hemisphere of the brain. And if anything is non-rational, then it is the synchronicity that Jung described as an “acausal connecting principle” (indeed an irrational description which simply means a cause that is not a cause!).
In The Many Faces of Coincidences (2017), Laurence Browne says, “[there is an] uncanniness that often accompanies these experiences, as if an ancient memory of the mysteriousness and inter-connectedness of life is suddenly and unexpectedly evoked.”3 Based on the above cases, this seems to be true enough.
Could it be that this other-self, the Daemon, is somehow involved in these unusual experiences? And, as it exists without access to our speech centres, is the synchronicity a mode of its expression? An expression, after all, that appears to lie outside time and space in the ordinary sense. And which – much like what Diotima said to Socrates – appears to exist between two levels of time, mortal and divine.
Veronica Goodchild, author of Songlines of the Soul (2012), believes that synchronicities are “moments of epiphany” designed to slow us down. They act to bring us into the present moment, providing us with a glimpse of “another world in the ordinary one.”4
The Daemon, I would argue, seems a likely candidate for this other self – or force – that comes into our lives in moments of synchronicity or déjà vu. We can see that our minds split into two complementary parts – into a rational ego and Daemonic ego. We can also see that in these moments we experience reality through two perspectives. This also answers the sense of uncanniness that soon accompanies synchronicity. Seeing the world in a state of ‘double-exposure’, as it were, reality itself appears to curiously overlap with another world.
Indeed, a simultaneity of two worlds coming together is its most reported impression. Moments in which the inner world of the mind seems to link up with the outer world. It appears nothing less than magical. Jeffrey Kripal, the Chair of Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University, says that synchronicity “[is] essentially a shiny new word for what we would have earlier called magic.”
The difference between magic and synchronicity experiences is more in degree than kind. Magic infers the will of a magician to affect change in himself or the environment. It is an active means to create synchronicity, of manipulating time and space under one’s desires. But synchronicity appears in unexpected moments, accounting for the initial surprise – the shock of seeing reality conform to one’s thoughts.
Yet is this true? In both examples above, synchronicity often appears when we’re intensely thinking about something. It may bother or even obsess us, whether consciously or otherwise. Many such cases of synchronicity can be found in books like Trish and Rob MacGregor’s The Synchronicity Highway (2013) or Raymond E. Fowler’s Synchrofile (2004).
Wilson’s experience is a case in point. He was writing and intensely thinking about synchronicities for his encyclopaedia entry. The event seems related; the book that fell off his shelf was relevant to what he was thinking and writing about at the time. And in my own experience, too, it was related to my desire to know more about Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy. The Daemon appeared to confer this opportunity.
Once we begin to think about the synchronicity experience in more depth, we see that it is what only a few centuries ago we would have called magic. Again, to return to Wilson’s example, we can see that there might be an element of mind-over-matter – or psychokinesis – involved. He managed to somehow unconsciously will the book to fall from the shelf. He also seemed to know on a deeper level – perhaps in the Daemonic mind – that this book contained the chapter he required and that he would return to find it.
The late physicist F. David Peat suggested it is the degree and sensitivity of mind that makes one open to the synchronicity experience. He said that a mind in “constant process of creative change… will respond to the overall patterns of nature so that the individual can enter into these patterns in new ways.”5
There are moments in life when we are far more open than usual to ‘creative change’. We could call these moments of intersection important events that shape our lives, pushing it in one direction or the other. Taking a risk is often a good example and one in which we often consciously look for ‘signs’ that a risk is worth taking. We look for omens or portents which may foretell the future – good or bad – of our choices. Authors Trish and Rob MacGregor describe the beauty of taking such risks lies in its galvanising of our unconscious elements. These rise to the surface of our rational ego – our everyday consciousness – allowing us to evolve, to challenge ourselves.
There are, alas, darker moments in our lives when we ask for guidance, and we appear to receive it – or, sadly, we don’t. Let’s say we do receive something apparently miraculous. Say, a synchronicity or omen that appears uncannily unlikely: Is it merely pathological? A desperate attempt to force reality to mean something but, in reality, is simply our mind playing tricks on us?
At this point, these questions become very interesting. As we have seen, our silent partner, the Daemon, lies apparently dormant within our psyche and seems to intercede in moments of heightened importance. It as if we call forth our unconscious self in moments of risk, radical change, or “Dark Nights of the Soul.”
Anthony Peake also makes the argument that the Daemon is our self that has already lived our lives before, in a sort of Eternal Recurrence. Our sense of déjà vu is, he argues, a recognition to our everyday self of a return, a re-run of our lives that feels eerily familiar. We feel, for a fleeting moment, the presence of the Daemon in our minds.
The corollary of this, of course, would be that to practice magic is to take risks and seek out ways of creating moments of transitions in our lives. In developing moments of intersection that forces our unconscious Daemon into manifesting. It would be reassuring to think we could work closely with a ‘Self’ that has, after all, lived our lives before. We could improve our own lives and those of others. Although relying too much on risks and shocks, of course, harbours many implicit dangers. We would, of course, unconsciously create needless and uncontrollable chaos in our own lives. Indeed, it reminds of that old proverb: “Be careful what you wish for.” Our conscious, ‘rational’ selves often make the wrong choices after all; not knowing what is best for us.
A subtler and gentler approach may be more suitable. In situations of risk and crisis, the Daemon may appear to scream out, imbuing our lives with signs and synchronicity. But there are also its more generative and beautiful dimensions. These imbue and saturate our art and appear in moments of heightened creativity.
Both rely heavily on moments of vision and intuition, of flashes and influxes of inspiration. In short, we’re now in the domain of the Muse, that Daemonic ‘in between’. Shakespeare said that the Muse gives “forms of things unknown [a] local habitation and a name.”
The imagination, so crucial to magic, here transmutes the invisible world of the Daemon into the here-and-now. We see it in forms of art, poetry, sculpture, dance and music. This, in itself, is a method of generating synchronicity. Dance is a synchronised performance – usually to music – expressing on one level that which is in implicit in the mind of the dancer. It becomes explicit – actual – in the form of the dance. In essence, the whole dance lies complete in the mind of the individual (unless it is, of course, improvised). The dance then unfolds again, in time, as a performance.
Again, magic is related to the arts (black magic is referred to as the ‘black arts’; white magic is often called the Hermetic Art). One need only turn to books on alchemy to see that it is often referred to as ‘The Great Work’. Usually equated with forming gold out of base elements, in esotericism and psychological theory it symbolises the transformation of the individual’s psyche. We may here replace ‘base elements’ as that of unconscious processes. Those aspects of ourselves that are unknown, even primal. Their elevation – through transmutation – become higher forms such as art, music and dance; the ‘gold’ of the alchemists.
Synchronicities, then, become life’s most artful expressions. They show themselves in a marriage between two realities – that of the rational ego and the Daemonic ego. These are the converging of the rational and irrational; conscious and unconscious. And as we have seen, this can be understood as magic in its microcosmic form. That in which the implicit becomes explicit; the subjective – or thought, feeling, sensation – becomes the objective. The manifest event that happens in ‘real time’ and is directly experienced.
The magician, of course, would see synchronicity as confirmation of his deep intent played out in the world. An artist also attempts to bring out what exists within the imagination. And once the canvas, sculpture or musical arrangement is actualised to satisfaction, it ‘feels right’. It provides a pleasing quality of completeness both in the artist and hopefully to other people, even culture at large.
The Daemon appears to exist within this realm of art and possibility; in short, the imagination. But it is not the imagination of mere fantasy and fancy. It is instead the possible and latent realities, even evolutionary potentialities. The full actualisation of the Daemon into ordinary consciousness would effectively make one a superman or a madman. This would depend on the level of integration of one’s personality and self-discipline. A poorly integrated person would fly apart if his unconscious processes suddenly made themselves too explicit.
As already mentioned, the Daemon appears to have access to our lives already lived. It has, at some point, ‘been us’ and gone through all our trials and tribulations. In psychological terms, it would be called our super-ego or our Transpersonal Self. Patrick Harpur adds that the “unconscious, soul, imagination – whatever model we use – are in themselves non-spatial, just as they are timeless.”6
Dreams, art, intuitions, synchronicities and omens – all are part of the magician’s and artist’s toolkit. All are the product of a timeless zone. Indeed, we often call a piece of awesome music ‘timeless’ for its sense of forever being new, interesting and inspiring. It’s almost as if the artist tapped into some wellspring of creative force recognised by some deeper part of ourselves. It moves us, brings us to emotional heights, and places us in another state of consciousness.
Heightened states of emotion, says occult historian Mitch Horowitz, “[are] the ideal state for using affirmations and visualisations to impress the subconscious and spur subtle abilities of thought.”7 But instead of imagining ourselves in some occult ritual to artificially evoke these heightened emotional states, we may turn to an everyday example. Our next artistic symbol pulls together all the threads of this article into a modern myth. It is an eminently practical and timeless classic of popular entertainment.
The movie Groundhog Day (1993) stars Bill Murray as Phil Connors, a cynical TV weatherman who is sent to cover the annual event of the movie’s namesake in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. But, once the first event is over, he wakes up to the same radio alarm playing Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’. For the second day in a row and at precisely the same time. It quickly dawns on him, however, that this is not a mistake of the radio station, but of an odd time-loop in reality itself.
Each day is repeated, identical to the last, with only our hero being aware and able to act differently. As each day draws to a close, and he loses consciousness or retires to bed – once again the day repeats, and it’s once again identical to the last.
At first, Phil Connors believes he is losing his mind, and those around him are quick to concur. But, after a few returns to his repeated fate, he begins to experiment. After all, he knows there are no direct consequences, for even if he killed someone, the next day they would be alive again. The victim would have no memory of the previous day – which, for them, is once again ‘today’, ‘now’. For Connors, of course, he retains a memory of every previous day. Thus, he can build up a mastery of all the circumstance and events that unfold each time. In this respect, Connors is the Daemon, the self that has already experienced your life before.
What’s interesting about the movie is that, at first, Connors indulges in base fantasies; brutalities, cruelty, infidelities. This eventually leads to a pervasive sense of emptiness; even despair and suicide. Once he reaches this spiritual threshold, he becomes more positively active. He decides to learn how to speak Japanese, French, and many other languages. He perfects various sports, learns how to dance, and further betters himself with the infinite time he appears to have at his disposal. After all these feats, he becomes, for all intents and purposes, a type of Superman. He knows the destinies, personalities and idiosyncrasies of everybody in the small town.
He brings joy and exuberance to everybody he meets. Connors has finally decided that he should use his timeless powers to uplift and creatively interact with his own life and those of others. In psychological terms, he’s become what the psychologist Abraham Maslow called a “self-actualiser.”
In an article on synchronicity, philosopher John Michell warns of invoking synchronicity frivolously. Michell says that these techniques are often taught in “cults and business schools.” He warns against them, calling them black magic. He concludes by saying that we are better off accepting life’s rewards and punishments as they are due. Connors finally is challenged to do just this. Michell also advises us to adapt “ourselves, our actions and thoughts, to a preponderance” of life’s rewards. We do this by orienting our actions and thoughts towards evolution and creative self-development.
If there is a lesson in all this, it seems to be hidden in the wonderful layers upon layers of movies like Groundhog Day. For the key to magic, like life, seems to be that we break out of our cycles of selfishness and psychological – even physical – entrapment. Instead, like Connors, we actualise our most intuitive and creative layers. Through these actions, we bridge two worlds in an effective and dynamic manner. We bring about a complexity and integration within our psyches. We become, in short, better people.
What happens to Phil Connors once he becomes the best version of himself? Time continues as normal and a new dawn beckons. This appears to be what our Daemon – through synchronistic hints – wants to create. It promises ascending spirals of evolution and not circles of stagnation.
Synchronicities along with our companion Daemon seem, at times, to lead us, providing us with curious hints. Nonetheless, they provide the keys to magic. The lock that it promises to open is no less than our own destinies – so let’s make our lives a work of art.
© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.
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