The heralds and defenders of our innate and extraordinary human potential, the creative divine-like qualities we possess as consciously aware beings with the power of thought and choice, come from an unexpected and surprising place in our modern era. They do not belong to a monastery or mystical tradition that requires our blind faith in them and their message but rather walk the corridors of universities around the world and work directly in the field, in hot pursuit of science and understanding the mysteries of the human.
Modern discoveries in neuroscience and understanding the human brain as a supercomputer with vast potential has helped demystify much of the old gaps in knowledge and religious superstition. The magical and apparently unexplained world of synchronicities, meaningful coincidences, and déjà vu are not spared from the sharp and truly open minded scrutiny of scientific exploration and discovery. Such is the work, not surprisingly, of Dr Kirby Surprise, a hands-on clinical psychologist, who works in an advanced outpatient program for the State of California, and the author of the recent book, Synchronicity, the Art of Coincidence, Choice, and Unlocking Your Mind. SuperConsciousness had the opportunity to interview Dr Surprise about his work and research on Synchronicity and the discovery that Synchronicity Events are not the action of external forces or deities but a mirror of our own thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs we create and manifest in our environment. This is the kind of scientific research that removes the power we have given to other people, amulets or beliefs, and places it squarely back on our shoulders as the authors and designers of our own life and destiny.
Synchronistically, we live in extraordinary times of discovery and enlightenment, a new Renaissance of the arts but this time the highest art of the human mind — science! Do not miss this important interview with Dr Surprise.
SuperConsciousness: Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to study coincidences or synchronistic events?
Dr. Kirby Surprise: I had a bunch of synchronistic events during my years in college, 20 or 30 a day! I had to find out what they were, especially coming from a culture that knew nothing about them.
SC: How would you describe or define synchronicity?
KS: Synchronistic events happen when people see a meaningful connection between external events and their own internal states. All of these synchronistic events are actually reflections of people’s internal processes. So whenever I listen to someone say, “Well, how do you explain this; I was writing a paragraph and listening to the radio, and as I was writing at the exact same moment the commentator on the radio said the phrase I was writing on the paper?” If you understand them as reflections of what people are thinking and feeling, most synchronistic events become very explainable.
SC: Can you tell us about something you mentioned in your book regarding the tarot cards in the West as a tool to generate synchronistic events? Could you explain how these different divination traditions that people are familiar with are not divination, per se, but synchronistic events?
KS: I am proposing that in your environment most of the events around you, the randomness of them, is affected by how you’re thinking. One of the many functions of your unconscious is to look for patterns in the environment, based on what you’ve been paying attention to — the unconscious is extremely intelligent — instead of viewing it as sort of a vast undefined area, think of the brain as a vast supercomputer. It’s intelligent and it’s alert and it’s active, as the unconscious is. When people have created systems of divination in the past, what they’ve actually done is created a language with which to communicate with their unconscious. If the unconscious understands that you’ve been studying tarot cards and that certain symbols on the decks mean certain things to you, then when you do the readings, what you get is the randomness of chance is changed, so that the cards that come up are symbols that the unconscious can be trying to communicate through. Whenever anybody uses any form of divination, they’re actually talking to parts of the unconscious, asking it for information that may not immediately be consciously available.
One of the amazing things about synchronicity is it bridges into these realms of spiritual philosophy. For instance, in Zen Buddhism there’s a state of consciousness called, “Satori,” which is shorthand for and often called “enlightenment.” During that state, the individual loses the separation between themselves and the environment. They become one consciousness. SE are tiny bits of Satori. When you see your reflected thoughts and emotions in the environment, this is direct experience that you are not limited to merely the individual self that you normally think of. You are seeing a small demonstration of the fact that there is no real separation between you and the world around you. So, SE are tiny Satori. They’re small versions of realizing the essential unity that science, philosophy and mystical spirituality have been trying to tell us about all along.
Synchronistic events are very much a mirror, a direct mirror, and they cause events in the environment to reflect what you already believe. Some of the works on synchronicity, the more spiritually oriented ones, have been saying, “Let synchronicity be your guide; it’s the universe trying to give you signposts,” and I’m saying, “No, absolutely not.” That’s like randomly following your dreams without analyzing them. Synchronistic events reflect your belief system. Let’s talk about fundamentalist systems because they’re sort of set. If someone is a fundamentalist Christian, they’re going to see a world that reflects back to them those beliefs, and they’re going to take those synchronistic events as confirmations of their fundamentalist beliefs. The same works for Islam, Buddhism, Shamanism. It works for political opinions. People look out into the world and see their own thoughts. Just because they are reflected back to them as meaningful coincidences, does not mean they are true. It does mean it is a way of tracking what you are already thinking. It’s also a way of seeing what some of the deeper more unconscious or transpersonal parts of yourself might be doing as well.
SC: You mentioned that we influence reality, we do not create it. Can you explain the difference?
KS: Some folks in the New Age Movement want to believe that we create our own reality. Clearly we don’t or I wouldn’t have to pay for my iPhone or do my taxes this week. We do get to influence the meaning of reality, though. We get to create these synchronistic events that are not cause and effect. Let me describe the situation that everyone is in that’s quite amazing. The room you’re sitting in right now is actually a hallucination. You have no direct contact with the outside reality. You, the part of you that’s conscious, that makes decisions, is about the size of a walnut on the very front tip of the brain. The rest of the brain, those automated systems that do all this wonderful stuff for you, are creating the reality around you.
You have billions of sensory neurons pointed out into the environment. Each one of them is a digital computer. It’s producing digital signals, bits of information, just like a data base that runs through the brain, which is the universe’s largest known supercomputer. The brain takes these trillions of bits of information and constructs the reality that you’re experiencing right now. What you’re experiencing is a neurological representation of the outside world, and it’s highly edited by the brain. There are millions more patterns in the universe and in the room around you than you could possibly deal with. What this amazing supercomputer in your head does is it only shows you the patterns that it thinks are most relevant to what you want to see.
The first part of SE is the brain deletes most of the information coming in from the senses immediately. Then, based on what you’ve been thinking, what you’ve been feeling, and where you’ve been putting your attention, it determines what patterns are of most interest to you, and it looks out, presents those, and when it sees partial incomplete patterns, it actually fills those in for you. So, in a real sense, what people have done who say, “You create your own reality,” is make just a very slight error. You do create your own reality, you create the neurological representation that you are living in. You don’t create the external reality that the senses are reporting on. And as far as synchronicity goes, the truly amazing part is that you are also changing external reality by about three to five percent. Not only are you enhancing patterns based on your sensory data, but to a smaller extent, you are changing the outside probabilities as they occur around you as well. That, until string theory came about, seemed unexplainable. In the book, I have a model that tells you how that is possible.
If someone is a fundamentalist Christian, they’re going to see a world that reflects back to them those beliefs, and they’re going to take those synchronistic events as confirmations of their fundamentalist beliefs. The same works for Islam, Buddhism, Shamanism.
SC: You explained that we are not really changing or breaking any laws of physics with divination or a synchronistic event; we are basically beating the odds of probability. Can you elaborate more?
KS: Right; and not drastically, five percent, maybe. There are instances where spectacular synchronistic events occur that are driven by high states of emotion. As therapists, we all know that people who have had traumatic experiences, that are very emotional, tend to reproduce those traumas in the environment as SE. Likewise, people that have peak spiritual experiences who are highly emotional and energy-charged also generate a lot of SE . They are driven by qualities of emotion, attention and thought. They don’t break any physical laws.
Whatever does not violate known physical laws should be allowed to be at least theoretically possible until disproved. Synchronicity does not operate on linear time. It is not cause and effect in the sense that you are changing the environment. Therefore, no laws of physics are violated by saying that people can produce synchronistic events.
You do create your own reality, you create the neurological representation that you are living in.
Many of the events that unfold around us are reflecting what we are thinking and feeling. It’s just if you are not cued into the fact that the environment responds to you, you never make the connection. People are running through synchronicities around them all the time. It’s natural. You in fact cannot stop doing it. It’s just that if you don’t understand that this is part of the nature of reality, those automated systems in your brain say, “Well, you are not thinking that’s important so I just won’t point it out to you.”
SC: Do you think it is important to educate people that synchronicities are a mirror of themselves, rather than some external deity or force creating the synchronistic event for them?
KS: Yes, I think that’s very important. In my practice I have been referred people who have been labeled as paranoid schizophrenic with religious delusions because they believe that God is telling them they are the Messiah, or various things. If they are not truly psychotic, they don’t have some organic cause, sometimes what has happened is they have seen synchronistic events and the only explanation they had was it must be God. Because it is the only explanation the culture has offered them, that belief gets reflected in the environment.
I believe, in the deepest levels of the mystical traditions of all religions, they have been telling us that we, in our deepest identity, are God, as Joseph Campbell would say. Synchronistic events are one step on demonstrating that you are not essentially separate from the environment. You don’t require explanations such as, “somebody else is doing it.” It is perfectly fine for you to be able to create synchronistic events because you are a piece of, and seamlessly connected to, the indivisible universe that’s already out there.
SC: Unfortunately through superstition, many people have abused this and presented themselves as the only interpretation of these events. Even today we see this with many fundamentalist religions where their interpretation of divine will leads them to the point of horrific violence, the mutilation of basic human rights, supremacy over others and divisions — all because of an interpretation.
KS: In my opinion religions are all human created things. Rules of order and conduct and who gets to collect the taxes have nothing to do with spirituality at all. I believe that synchronistic events point to the essential unity of all people and all things. Religions, especially the fundamentalist ones, are very big on what’s us and what’s them, who to include into those true followers that are following the true commandments of God, and who do we get to exclude because of their beliefs, their race, their sexual orientation and the like.
Synchronistic events point out to those people you are talking about that are not separate from you, that those events are you; you are not separate from the environment. If you can see the environment react and mirror back to you what you are thinking and feeling, what you are seeing is a demonstration that the environment is you. There is no separation. When you talk to other people, they are part of you. So you should be kind, gentle, loving and understanding with them, because whatever you do to them you are actually doing to yourself — there is only one being in the universe. Synchronicity points out that these man-made separations are in fact useless.
SC: That is a really uplifting and wonderful thought. You also say that synchronistic events can be very seductive, that they can tell you exactly what you most want to hear. Can you give us some specific examples?
KS: Let’s go back to one of the clients I had who had been labeled as paranoid schizophrenic. I first met him in his 50s. When he was in his 20s, he saw a synchronistic event and wondered, “How is that possible,” and the only explanation he had was, “It’s God.” What happened then was he figured, “Why would God be talking to me? I must have a special purpose in the world.” Everyone actually has this sort of thread in them, somewhere, of wanting to be the Messiah. We want to essentially be parents to the universe. We want to help. We want to make things better, and it would be wonderful to think that we were God’s chosen special child. That desire, that sort of psychodynamic want to please the parent is innate in all of us.
This client projected that outwards, and what it came back as was, “Yes. You are one of my chosen Messiah, people, whatever.” He spent the next several decades lost in SE about his special mission from God.” It is very seductive, because if you want to play that mythology, you see it projected externally and it comes back to you as synchronistic events. It is a story that we tell ourselves, and people have many stories that they are seduced by. There are people who have been traumatized and abused as children, or had horrific things happen to them, and they tell themselves stories about why that happened. Those stories can get projected back into the environment, and people can wind up replaying the circumstances of their trauma over and over and over again, because they’re not done with that story yet. SE and the personal myths they reflect are very seductive, both positive and negative.
If you realize that you have the choice about what patterns you create, you can look for the stories that you want to be involved in. These can be the spiritual path you are on, or they can be completely frivolous. People can project “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings,” they can play chess with the environment, they can use the mirror in any way they actually want, and what I’m trying to say in the book is, “You have a choice. It’s your thoughts, it’s your ability. There’s no karma involved, there’s nothing heavy-duty about it, there is nothing bad or good, essentially. It’s a mirror. You are the environment that you are perceiving, and you have some influence over the way the events around you unfold.”
What I am trying to do is give people back that choice. It has largely been taken away from us by all kinds of organized religions that want to say that we are not the center of our universe, that somebody or something else is, and that we have to be beholden to that. I am saying that the connection we have is with the deepest parts of ourselves, and ultimately all of the mystical traditions, spiritual, inner traditions in the world are saying that it is us, that our deepest identity has no boundaries. This — synchronicity — is not only a small demonstration of that, but it’s actually empowering people to use the bit of creative energy and influence they have in the environment for anything they want to do.
SC: You mentioned something about children growing up in our society who are told that their internal world does not affect the external reality. You said this is not an act of maturity but of cognitive castration. Can you elaborate on this?
KS: When you are four and five years old the sort of Disney culture that we are all exposed to says that you can wish upon a star, that your inner desires, dreams and fantasies may come true, and that there’s magic in the universe, basically. In psychology we call this, “magical thinking.” You believe that your thoughts have an effect on the environment. Then, when kids get to be seven or eight years old, the society says, “Look, it’s time to grow up. We are sorry we lied to you about Santa Claus. There’s no magic in the world. You better start getting ready to have a job because it’s rough out there.” They don’t tell them that it is a fact that things always happen magically for you, and they sort of throw out the baby with the bath water.
I believe, in the deepest levels of the mystical traditions of all religions, they have been telling us that we, in our deepest identity, are God.
We should be telling kids, “Look, you do have the ability to influence the environment a little bit. You got maybe a four or five percent edge on finding the things that you are looking for. That is your magical ability,” and that there’s an actual explanation for it. Until recently there wasn’t a good way to explain that. We can now actually come up with an explanatory fiction that says, “Yeah, it’s not only possible but it’s likely we’ve always been doing this.” The problem is that when you empower somebody — you actually empower them — they don’t have to listen to you anymore. The society and the structures that control it, be they political, philosophical or religious, are not real big on letting people know that they have some real influence and the ability to think for themselves. Unfortunately, we pass that onto our children.
SC: Can you tell us a little more about how it is not just what you think but also feelings, emotions that manifest in our environment?
KS: The brain is kind of sectioned out into different kinds of consciousness, different kinds of processing. One of the most interesting relationships in the brain is the relationship between emotion and the way memory and perception work. The brain is only wired for four basic emotions: we have love, fear, anger and revulsion. That’s all we actually have. We have some instinctual drives, but the emotions are basically the same. Two of them make us move towards things we are focusing on, and two of them make us withdraw from them. Whenever we experience anything, we are experiencing a complex combination of all four in different intensities.
Experiences that you have in the world that have no emotional charge — a thing we call, “emotional valence” — you will not remember. If there’s no emotion attached, no memory is formed. What is happening is your senses present you with the outside world. If it is something that you don’t decide is important, there’s no emotion attached to it, and it never passes into long-term memory. This emotional valence also determines what patterns you see around you. Patterns that you have no emotional attachment to, you experience, but you don’t process them into long term memory. They disappear. We remember and see the patterns that are emotionally meaningful to us. Synchronicity works the same way. The synchronistic events people see are generally events that have some associated emotional charge to them.
SC: I found a really fantastic out-of-the-box concept in your book where you are speaking about “traveling in probability,” not distance and space. Can you elaborate on that?
KS: This is part of the explanatory fiction of the book. I am taking what is known from current string theory and basic metaphysics, and taking it one step further. Science is now telling us that the universe is a lot weirder than we ever thought it was. We used to think of physical reality as having four dimensions, three of space and one of time. Now we are being told reality has 11 dimensions, different dimensions, different kinds of space and time. We are also being told that our entire physical universe is actually projected on a very thin energy membrane, almost like the surface of a bubble, and that there’s more than one of them, that in fact there’s an infinite amount of them in the room with us right now. Each one of them is another universe, it’s another probability, a universe where things are just slightly different than the ones next to it.
Think of these membranes as pages in a huge infinitely large book. Instead of thinking about you being on one page, and being able to travel to one of the pages next to you, you are the one holding the book. You are holding a huge section of these infinite probabilities right now — you, not an imaginary alternative version of you. The you that is listening to this exists on an almost infinite amount of these probabilities right now. In fact, you are traveling in them. The same way that in astronomy we talk about light years as a measure of distance, we are also traveling in probability. That means that you have a range in which you can travel. It is not infinite.
The problem is that when you empower somebody — you actually empower them — they don’t have to listen to you anymore. The society and the structures that control it, be they political, philosophical or religious, are not real big on letting people know that they have some real influence and the ability to think for themselves.
These travels in probability that we have are directed by our emotions and thoughts. When you see SE reflecting you thoughts and emotions in the environment, you are not altering the environment, you are moving yourself in these infinite probabilities to probabilities that more closely match what you have been thinking and feeling. You don’t change anything. You position yourself in the infinite probabilities. This solves Jung’s essential dilemma of how is it possible that anybody could cause synchronistic events, and he was right, people don’t change the universe. What you do do is change your position in the infinite probable universes that you already exist in.
Whether this explanatory fiction is ultimately true or not in the centuries to come, what it does do is give the reader a framework that allows them to look out into the universe and create the events for themselves, knowing that this ability is not infinite, it has practical limits and general rules, and that it’s not a cause and effect thing. They are not affecting other people. It is a grounded, sane, basis for people to use this ability they already have, and that they have already been using for their entire lives.
SC: Following that idea, you say in your book that our life is our greatest work of art. You also mention that meditation and dream work can be integrative and therapeutic and lead us in the right direction. Can you comment on meditation and dream work as tools for traversing this universe of probability?
KS: Synchronicity works in an extremely straightforward way. It’s a direct mirror. If you look into the mirror of the environment and you are obsessed with what is preventing you from achieving things in your life, either internally or externally, that focus gets reflected in the mirror. You see events around you that mirror the hard time you are having internally. If you simply say, “Okay. What do I actually want?” and look for that, you get events that present you with the opportunities to pursue that pattern. A particularly lucid dream, where that frontal lobe part that is you comes online with the rest of the brain, some people call it “astral projection,” when you have all of that focused and working together, produces much more coherent emotional signals. The result is more meaningful and intense SE.
Lucid dreams are just phenomenal for creating synchronistic events, especially if you are looking for synchronistic events. It is because they are instances where the conscious mind that experiences the self, the individual self, and the unconscious mind, which creates the dream environment, are working together in perfect harmony. In those instances you get a natural advantage in your environment. Synchronistic events are not just something you produce, they are also a way of communicating with other parts of yourself. If you pay attention to your dreams, the unconscious will start producing dreams with more meaning and make more attempts to alert you of things that the unconscious thinks are important. If you pay more attention to SE, the unconscious communicates more through them as well.
Synchronistic events respond exactly the way dreams do if you pay attention to them. The unconscious, those deeper parts of the self, say, “Wow, the conscious mind has finally got a clue and is paying attention. Maybe it will listen to me if I try to talk to it this way.” Synchronistic events can indeed be a way for those very intelligent and aware parts of the rest of your supercomputer to try to talk to you, to cooperate with you, helping you in whatever creative problem solving in your life that you want to do.
SC: You also mentioned the concept that there are health foods for the mind. You say that kindness is probably the best one of them all.
KS: In my better moments, I understand that everything I see and interact with is a neurological representation. So when I am dealing with some other person, and if I am grounded and in my right mind, I realize that what I perceive in them is actually a representation I am building in my brain, somewhere. Do I want to be unkind to part of myself? If you are angry with somebody, what you are angry with is part of the neurological representation you are creating. What we do to others we literally are doing to ourselves because we are not seeing a direct representation of the outside world. We are seeing our interpretation of it. Be kind to others because you are being kind to yourself. The more that we indulge in anger and fear, the more we stress ourselves out. We are not actually attacking the environment, we are attacking a model of ourselves that we have built and mistaken for the environment.
Synchronistic events can indeed be a way for those very intelligent and aware parts of the rest of your supercomputer to try to talk to you, to cooperate with you, helping you in whatever creative problem solving in your life that you want to do.
SC: At the end of your book you give several tools for creating synchronistic events intentionally and explain that meditation is the safest and most effective tool. Can you share some of these tools with us?
KS: As far as finding the tools, they are in the book. That is what I wrote it for, to give people a sort of stable place to stand and the tools to explore. I would suggest this as a very simple synchronistic game for people, and again, this is also in the book and on the website.
Pretend that you are onstage, that this entire universe around you is something that’s been constructed for your convenience to carry out the patterns and interests of your life. Pretend that there is a stage crew behind this reality altering events and arranging the randomness of meanings just for you, so that you can play out what you are thinking and feeling. With this idea that you are onstage, that you are now a conscious actor, and having the courtesy to let other people slip in with their lines as they want to, look for the stage crew responding to you. Look for synchronistic events in the environment that indicate they are being created just for you.
The fun part of this exercise is that almost universally some people contact me and say, “Wow, I never realized that angels control the universe,” or that “advanced consciousnesses and UFOs create events,” and then you have to remind them, “No. You set the stage. You created the story.” Be very conscious that synchronicities are a mirror, and you can stand on your stage and start to create whatever story you want to focus on.