the concepts of fate and coincidences
Posted: 14 April 2007 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve read quite a bit on Jung’s theories, but it hasn’t helped. I have three very meaningful events in my life that have made me wonder and keep me wondering.

I will try to put them in the short form: my husband’s maternal grandfather and my maternal grandfather lived around the corner from each other in a 2 million city in Europe at the turn of the 20th century. I met my husband in the USA. We only discovered this after we were married a few years. People who hear this, say it was fate that we were meant to meet.

When i was 15, i had just returned (a week later) from a visit to my grandmother in Holland and was fast asleep and "felt" her stroking my face to awaken me,  to say goodbye. I even heard her voice. I woke to see nothing but found out two days later that she had died at just about the same time i had had this experience.

2 decades ago, when we were on the waiting list to adopt, some visiting spanish friends decided for fun purely, to hold a seance with a home-made Ouija board ( sp?) because it was halloween and it fit the theme that night. i went along…when i asked the question silently, only to myself, nobody knew…The spanish friends had no idea we wanted to adopt, in fact the lady doing the seance asked, "who here wants to know when they get a baby? who is pregnant?"  the answer came that whoever asked would get the baby on January 8th. The birth mother signed the release papers on that day. (Our child was born in December.)

I still get shivers when i retell this last one. I would love to know how any or all these could be explained rationally.
:?:

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Posted: 14 April 2007 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I would say the way to explain them rationally is that they were marvellous coincidences. Our brains tend to mis-gauge probabilities. Various examples of the way we do this include the availability heuristic , whereby people base their intrinsic view of the probability of an event on its vividness to recollection.

Another way of putting this is that you aren’t remembering all the other similar events (with Ouija boards and the like) that didn’t produce any memorable coincidences. So you cherry pick the few that you find marvellous, and imagine that there might be some agency behind them, making them more probable than they would otherwise have been.

But in fact there is no such agency.

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Posted: 15 April 2007 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Fragen, your examples point out a strength and weakness of the supernatural. 

First, when one has such experiences s/he has to search for physical world explanations.  If none can be found, we have to either think we were delusional or that the event did actually occur.  None of us care to think of ourselves as delusional so we are stuck with accepting the supernatural explanation.

Second, one of the foundations of science and the physical world is the ability of others to duplicate your conditions to see if they can replicate your results.  This cannot be done with the usually reported, very personal, supernatural events. 

One psychological explanation (not too satisfactory to me) is that on experiencing a strong emotional situation we lose our chronology line and events end up in our memory out of sequence.  Then when we remember them something we knew seems to have happened before we learned about it.

Doug is right that we have all sorts of probable and improbable things happen to us all the time as a matter of course.  We tend to remember the improbable ones. 

All of the above can be summarized as “I don’t have any explanation for what happened in your experiences.”  smile

Occam

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Posted: 16 April 2007 02:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I think belief in the paranormal is purely psychological, although I agree that it certainly feels real.  That’s the point.

My mother is in her eighties, and although generally in good health, she has had one or two bouts with serious infections.  Several times I have had dreams about her, or “feelings” which get me worried that something has happened to her.  I rush to see her, and everything is fine!  This has happened so many times now, I ignore them.  But someday, one of these feelings is sure to coincide with another serious illness.

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Posted: 16 April 2007 03:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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On the morning of my 25th Birthday I found a silver 1964 quarter in the change slot of a vending machine in my “apartment”

I was born in 1964, it was my 25th birthday and of course 25 is Silver.

At that time I was pretty messed up…a strung out drug addict who “needed” to find change to get by.

When I found that coin it shocked me. So I decided that the damn thing was an omen of good things to come.

Just over a month later at the end of my rope…long story short…I was hit by a car, while in the hospital being x-rayed was arrested for outstanding bench warrants and incarcerated. I came out the other end clean sober and with the motivation to do something with what life I had.

I had that coin mounted and wore it around my neck. And since I found it I have had a remarkably good life. Of course I always had a pretty good life by comparison to many and also have had a remarkable one for many reasons before and after that event.

7 years ago I gave it to my partner to show him how committed I was to him. He still wears it every single day.

I remember when I gave it to him I had a brief superstitious fear that i would lose my “lucky streak.” Well I don’t think that is true.

Was the coin a powerful magical devise that changed my life? In a metaphorical way, yes. It became a symbol of the life I was hoping to lead, and in such it became a prompt to act in more useful ways.

I recognize now that without that coin I may not have been able to hold on to the first clawing hand holds with which I pulled myself out of the pit. Of course the same can be said to be true of being hit by that car or the bench warrants. But is there any reason to believe that supernatural magic was in play, or is it more reasonable to assume that normal human symbolic affiliation helped me help myself? I think the latter makes more sense.

Does that symbol have intimate meaning to me and my partner, special meaning and importance to our lives? Why sure, but isn’t that meaning magical enough without having to fabricate unexplainable phenomena?

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Posted: 16 April 2007 04:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Think about it for a moment. Every single moment of every single day, for every single event on earth, is a chance for a “coincidence”.

There in literally in infinite possibility of coincidence occurring.

The opportunity for coincidence presents itself all the time. With 6 billions people, engaging in 24 hours a day for activity, with who known have many thoughts, ideas, expectations, etc., floating around in their heads, the opportunity for coincidences is endless.

What our brains do is filter out the coincidences that do happen and then place significance on them.

This is an evolved trait because our brains try to find patterns and cause and effect relationships, which is a good thing.

For example, for early man, putting seeds on the barren ground and then seeing plants growing there a few weeks or months later, they had to make a connection between the seeds and the growth of the plants. I doubt it happened just like that, but you get the idea.

We do need to seek patterns and cause and effect relationships.

We do this naturally via association such that when a confluence of phenomena occurs we make an association and try to see how the one thing may have caused the other.

The problem for our brains is that some times there is no real relationship, it is just chance, just coincidence, but our brains automatically assume that its not.

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Posted: 16 April 2007 05:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Chris,

Thanks for sharing your experience. You are lucky, and I suspect pretty unusual, in being able to maintain a strong attachment to such an object as a powerful symbol while not imbuing it with supernatural provenance. Such symbols and turning points in life are psychologically very important, and one of the problems I think we have as secularists is how to show people ways of valuing such things without the dupernatural mythologies that usually go with them. It’s true, but not enough, to say that our natural perceptions of meaning behind coincidences are mistaken. We somehow have to acknowledge and allow ourselves to preserve the emotional power of such talismans without letting them be “evidence” for the supernatural. If you don’t mind my asking, how did your concept of the coin’s significance change from literal to metaphorical? What prompted you to see it differently?

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Posted: 16 April 2007 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Chris,
Your experience points to an important idea.  Even if there is no supernatural cause for a coincedental event, the concatenation of that event and personal situations can be an extremely powerful motivation toward dealing with those situations. 

Often, when we are under stress, we are unable to choose a course of action.  A random event that happens to connect with our situation can help us think through and move toward solutions.

Occam

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Posted: 16 April 2007 02:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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The Science you don’t know LOOKS like magic. wink

I’m not sure if I ever saw the coin as a literal magic device. Though certainly it had more power on my imagination when I first found it. I guess I feel like part of us always “knows” when we are choosing delusion…much like in a way we know when we are walking down a dark wooded path alone at night that looking back will not dispel any monsters, but it still is relieving to look back.

Due to my remarkable relationship with our family priest, I believe I learned quite early on that a lot of our symbols do not have innate meaning, but their meaning is relative to the observer and perhaps the ceremony. Seeing the priest swig from the bottle of communion port in the antechamber before mass told me that it was just regular spirit, not a holy one. wink

So I suppose that by the time I had that coin in my hand I knew enough to know when I was imbuing it with magic for comfort sake, but again that in itself can be enough magic to make it through the night. How we choose to see reality is pivotal in how we act in reality.

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Posted: 17 April 2007 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”]The Science you don’t know LOOKS like magic.  :wink:

I’ve heard that statement before, but never realized until now, that the reverse can also hold true.  “The magic we don’t recognize can LOOK like science.”  smile

Occam

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