Did the I Ching Teach Synchronicity Before Carl Gustav Jung? (Part Three)

Note: You may benefit from reading the first two parts to this I Ching series before reading this third addition. Click here to read part one. Click here to read part two.

So what does synchronicity mean anyways? According to the  Merriam-Webster dictionary it means:

“the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality —used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung”

Long before I had ever heard of Carl Jung or his synchronicity concept, I was having my own “coincidental occurrence of events”.  The ironic thing is that during my teen years I was consulting the I Ching pretty much on a daily basis, but never took the time to read the foreword of the only translation I used for many years . Of course it was written by none other than Carl Gustav Jung; coincidence? I think I skimmed over it once; at that age, I only saw a lot of complicated words that I could neither make head nor tail of and pretty much said, “screw it!”.

Youthful Folly

I remember one time I grew tired of consulting its wisdom. It seemed at times to really peeve me off, especially when I didn’t get the answer I wanted.  So I started questioning the accuracy of the I Ching and with a rebellious nature, I thought, “this is a load of crap, it can’t really show me insights about my life and changes to come. It’s got to be me just believing it to be so right? I mean it’s just a book!” So I pulled out three coins and tossed them six times (the standard method I was taught and used for consulting its wisdom back then) and wrote down the corresponding lines. Then I checked them on the chart at the back of the book and arrived at Hexagram #4, Youthful Folly. I read it and a few specific paragraphs practically jumped off the pages and punched me in the face:

“The Judgment

YOUTHFUL FOLLY has success.

It is not I who seek the young fool;

The young fool seeks me.

At the first oracle I inform him.

If he asks two or three times, it is importunity.

If he importunes, I give him no information.

Perseverance furthers.

…A teacher’s answer to the question of a pupil ought to be clear and definite

like that expected from an oracle; thereupon it ought to be accepted as a key

for resolution of doubts and a basis for decision. If mistrustful or

unintelligent questioning is kept up, it serves only to annoy the teacher. He

does well to ignore it in silence, just as the oracle gives one answer only and

refuses to be tempted by questions implying doubt.”

 After I picked my jaw up off the floor, my rebellious nature yelled out “This is just a coincidence!” After all I was a teenager, need I say more?  I continued with my line of thinking: “Go on, roll the coins again, and you will get something that is more favourable; it’s just a crap shoot anyways!” So I did. I wrote down the line formations with each roll, not paying any attention until I finished. I then glanced at the formed hexagram, then at the one I had rolled first. “No F*#^ing way! It can’t be??” But it was… I had just rolled the EXACT SAME HEXAGRAM. #4, Youthful Folly! Can you say BOOT TO THE HEAD!?! This time when I picked my head up off the floor, I started to wonder; what are the odds?

I certainly don’t know because I sucked at math in school! I never claimed to be brilliant, only that I was a seeker of knowledge and the knowledge I was interested in sure wasn’t math! The I Ching in its wise way and most appropriately, had just bestowed upon me the royal finger!

Up yours, learn something!

I licked my egotistical wounds and  never again questioned the legitimacy of the I Ching or its accuracy for that matter. From that point on we had an understanding and respect for each other. Me, I respected the Book of Changes as kind of a living entity. The I Ching, I imagined respected me realizing that I was a mere mortal, trying to find my way in this ebb and flow of existence. Thank you I Ching, Yijing or Book of Changes, for accepting me as your student. Inserting my full and gracious martial art bow here. – Terry J. Hodgkinson

Below is the third part regarding Carl Gustav Jung’s foreword in the Wilhelm/Baynes addition of the I Ching. Enjoy. Please leave comments or questions. Thank you.

“The manner in which the I Ching tends to look upon reality seems to disfavor our causalistic procedures. The moment under actual observation appears to the ancient Chinese view more of a chance hit than a clearly defined result of concurring causal chain processes. The matter of interest seems to be the configuration formed by chance events in the moment of observation, and not at all the hypothetical reasons that seemingly account for the coincidence. While the Western mind carefully sifts, weighs, selects, classifies, isolates, the Chinese picture of the moment encompasses everything down to the minutest nonsensical detail, because all of the ingredients make up the observed moment.

Thus it happens that when one throws the three coins, or counts through the forty-nine yarrow stalks, these chance details enter into the picture of the moment of observation and form a part of it — a part that is insignificant to us, yet most meaningful to the Chinese mind. With us it would be a banal and almost meaningless statement (at least on the face of it) to say that whatever happens in a given moment possesses inevitably the quality peculiar to that moment. This is not an abstract argument but a very practical one. There are certain connoisseurs who can tell you merely from the appearance, taste, and behavior of a wine the site of its vineyard and the year of its origin. There are antiquarians who with almost uncanny accuracy will name the time and place of origin and the maker of an objet d’art or piece of furniture on merely looking at it. And there are even astrologers who can tell you, without any previous knowledge of your nativity, what the position of sun and moon was and what zodiacal sign rose above the horizon in the moment of your birth. In the face of such facts, it must be admitted that moments can leave long-lasting traces.

In other words, whoever invented the I Ching was convinced that the hexagram worked out in a certain moment coincided with the latter in quality no less than in time. To him the hexagram was the exponent of the moment in which it was cast — even more so than the hours of the clock or the divisions of the calendar could be — inasmuch as the hexagram was understood to be an indicator of the essential situation prevailing in the moment of its origin.

This assumption involves a certain curious principle that I have termed synchronicity, a concept that formulates a point of view diametrically opposed to that of causality. Since the latter is a merely statistical truth and not absolute, it is a sort of working hypothesis of how events evolve one out of another, whereas synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers.

The ancient Chinese mind contemplates the cosmos in a way comparable to that of the modern physicist, who cannot deny that his model of the world is a decidedly psychophysical structure. The microphysical event includes the observer just as much as the reality underlying the I Ching comprises subjective, i.e., psychic conditions in the totality of the momentary situation. Just as causality describes the sequence of events, so synchronicity to the Chinese mind deals with the coincidence of events. The causal point of view tells us a dramatic story about how D came into existence: it took its origin from C, which existed before D, and C in its turn had a father, B, etc. The synchronistic view on the other hand tries to produce an equally meaningful picture of coincidence. How does it happen that A’, B’, C’, D’, etc., appear all in the same moment and in the same place? It happens in the first place because the physical events A’ and B’ are of the same quality as the psychic events C’ and D’, and further because all are the exponents of one and the same momentary situation. The situation is assumed to represent a legible or understandable picture.


My argument as outlined above has of course never entered a Chinese mind. On the contrary, according to the old tradition, it is “spiritual agencies,” acting in a mysterious way, that make the yarrow stalks give a meaningful answer. These powers form, as it were, the living soul of the book. As the latter is thus a sort of animated being, the tradition assumes that one can put questions to the I Ching and expect to receive intelligent answers. Thus it occurred to me that it might interest the uninitiated reader to see the I Ching at work. For this purpose I made an experiment strictly in accordance with the Chinese conception: I personified the book in a sense, asking its judgment about its present situation, i.e., my intention to present it to the Western mind”….TO BE CONTINUED. – Carl Gustav Jung.

Terry Hodgkinson leads TRAVEL RETREATS to the Taoist Wudang Mountains for personal development and spiritual enhancement. The I Ching is part of the study on his retreats. For more information, click on Wudang, China Retreat, Mastering the Tao Nature in You For information on Terry Hodgkinson’s retreat to India, click on Awaken Your Inner Guru


About Terry Hodgkinson

Terry J. Hodgkinson is a MindFit consultant. He owns Positive Changes Hypnotherapy and Meditation Centre in Toronto, Canada. As a corporate trainer, keynote speaker and retreat leader he enjoys his work so much that he calls it his passion. In 2009 Terry's book, Memoirs of a Wandering Ninja - Walking the Path of Enlightenment was published. *For information on Terry's international retreats visit: www.TaoJourneys.com *Book Terry for your next event visit: www.TerryHodgkinson.ca *Martial arts training visit: www.ChungFuMartialArts.com
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