Fushigi — WTF?

When I began this blog I had a vague notion of what I would do with it, but whatever that notion was is long gone.

I did not anticipate writing a poem a day! Nor, in fact, just about anything I've blogged.

But the most peculiar has been the evolution of the fushigi posts. What is a fushigi?

I came across the phrase fushigi in a book by the Constructive Living psychologist David K. Reynolds called Rainbow Rising from a Stream. I reviewed the book in my book blog egajdbooks. Reynolds translated the Japanese phrase to mean 'wondrous' event. [I have recently learned, from a friend from Japan, that her translation of that from Japanese into English would be 'mystery.' Also a delightful translation.]

Before I adopted the Japanese term, I used to call them synchronicity-petites after Carl Jung's idea of synchronicity. But what I was experiencing did not seem worthy or 'deep' enough to be true synchronicities, hence my diminution. Before that I called them 'Black Book Items' because I tracked them in a black bound hard covered notebook. I amassed 3 of them before beginning to blog them.

From my 2009.08.13 review (edited):

I learned a great Japanese word, today, from the book [Rainbow Rising from a Stream].


This translates, per Reynolds, as 'marvelous' or 'wondrous'. It is applied to the magical moments of synchronicity-petites, as I call them. Synchronicity-petites are the small confluences of life, which when attended to experientially refute the universe as being dead collection of dead matter. This term equates, roughly, to Cesar Millan's use of the term 'the ripple effect', in that events come together meaningfully to those open to them.

The example Reynolds gave was of his having purchased as a gift a hair drier for a friend whose hair dryer broke that morning.

I find this word most excellent because I kept a black book log of the fushigi-like events that I find barrage my experience of life. Often in ways that, while marvelous, are also distressing to some more or less extent.
And yes, these as singular events are dismissible to the empiricist, but at what point does a collection of improbable events stop being a coincidence. My fushigi posts are my small effort at suggesting that there is more to life than random chance, that life may very well be alive and have some kind of non-verbal intuitive awareness with a wickedly funny sense of humour.

I've been reading an interesting book that has compiled into one short volume C.G. Jung's thoughts and puzzlements over the idea of synchronicity and its place in the experience of life.

Roderick Main, editor.
Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal.
New York: Princeton University Press, 1998.
ISBN 0691058377

I have transcribed a couple of pages to expand my WTF description that will be of interest to those puzzled by fushigis and the whole concept of synchronicity.

General Acausal Orderedness

Synchronicities such as Jung's scarab case—presented by him as paradigmatic—typically manifest themselves as random one-off events. However, certain kinds of acausal phenomena display a greater regularity than this. The results of Rhine's parapsychological experiments were sufficiently reproducible to achieve a high level of statistical significance (see Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8: 516). Also, with mantic methods such as astrology and the I Ching Jung writes that 'Synchronistic phenomena are found to occur — experimentally—with some degree of regularity and frequency' (Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8: 511). Again, if the mind- body relationship were found to be synchronistic—and Jung is at least open to this possibility—then this too would imply that acausality is not just 'a relatively rare phenomenon' (Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8: 500, n. 70). Above all, however, the conception of synchronicity as having to do solely with irregular one-off events was called into question for Jung by such factors as the properties of natural numbers and certain quantum phenomena such as 'the orderedness of energy quanta, of radium decay, etc.' (Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8: 517).20 These are properties of the world which appear to have no deeper cause but are 'Just-So', i.e., acausal (Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8: 516). In the light especially of this last factor, Jung was forced to consider 'whether our definition of synchronicity with reference to the equivalence of psychic and physical processes is capable of expansion, or rather, requires expansion' (Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8: 516). He concluded that the definition was indeed too narrow and needed to be supplemented with the broader category of 'general acausal orderedness':
I incline in fact to the view that synchronicity in the narrow sense is only a particular instance of general acausal orderedness—that, namely, of the equivalence of psychic and physical processes where the observer is in the fortunate position of being able to recognize the tertium comparationis [i.e., the meaning by which the psychic and physical processes are related]. (Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8: 516)
More specifically, synchronicity in the narrow sense is distinguished from general acausal orderedness in that phenomena belonging to the latter category 'have existed from eternity and occur regularly, whereas the forms of psychic orderedness [i.e., synchronicities] are acts of creation in time' (Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8: 517). He then adds: 'That, incidentally, is precisely why I have stressed the element of time as being characteristic of these phenomena and called them synchronistic' (Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8: 517). This represents a significant shift of emphasis—if not a different view altogether, and possibly a more coherent view—from his earlier explanation in terms of simultaneity (Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8:441).

Jung's statements about general acausal orderedness are few but have attracted interest. For example, Jung several times expresses the view that natural numbers may prove particularly important for an understanding of synchronicity: 'I feel that the root of the enigma', he writes, 'is to be found in the properties of whole numbers' (Jung Letters 2: 1951-1961: 289; see also Jung Letters 2: 1951-1961: 352, 400). This hint has been taken up by Marie-Louise von Franz in a number of publications (Number and Time: Reflections Leading Towards a Unification of Psychology and Physics, On Divination and Synchronicity and On Dreams and Death: A Jungian Interpretation).

Epistemological status of the principle of synchronicity

'Synchronicity,' Jung insists, 'is not a philosophical view but an empirical concept which postulates an intellectually necessary principle' (Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8: 512); 'It is based not on philosophical assumptions but on empirical experience and experimentation' (Jung 'On Synchronicity' CW8: 531); from the material before him he claims that he 'can derive no other hypothesis that would adequately explain the facts (including the ESP experiments)' (Jung 'Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle' CW8: 505). Notwithstanding this last statement, it is 'only a makeshift model' and 'does not rule out the possibility of other hypotheses' (Jung Letters 2: 1951-1961: 437) (p33-4).

From: Dream Analysis: Notes of the Seminar Given in 28 November 1928

Before continuing our dream, I must tell you about certain things which have happened in the meantime. Those of you who are intuitive probably observed that the mood in our second meeting was somewhat upset. We had the bull dream with its community aspect, and so we lived through a little scene which we might have watched in ancient Athens—I mentioned the fact that important men used to tell their dreams, and illustrated it by the dream of the senator's daughter and the dream of the Greek poet. Or we might have watched such a scene in the market-place of some primitive village, where a man gets up and says: 'In the night I saw a vision, a spirit spoke,' and then everybody gathers round and is dreadfully impressed. All this has brought interesting coincidences to light.

You remember that on 21 November we spoke of the bull and the meaning of the bull-fight. The dreamer is a man whom I occasionally still see—that means analysis has not killed him yet! Now from the 20th to the 24th he spent four days making a picture which he could not understand, and which astonished him so much that he came to me to ask for an explanation. He had to draw a bull's head, and it must be a very sacred bull because he holds the disc of the sun between the horns. Unfortunately I cannot show you the picture because the man thinks we have already been very indiscreet in discussing his dreams here in the seminar. I get my examples from my patients—from you too! I told him that we were talking of the bull in connection with his dream, and that his drawing synchronizes with that, and then I explained to him the meaning of his drawing.

Then after our last meeting, after Dr Shaw's dream, when I commented on the antique meaning of the bull-fight, I got another letter from Mexico, from the friend who had just actually been to a bull-fight. This letter came about two days after the last seminar, it would have been about two weeks on the way, so she must have written it just about the day when we first spoke of the bull in the seminar. She does not describe the fighting. I will quote what she says: 'The one point of supreme art in the whole thing is the moment when the bull stops still, confused, and faces the matador, and the matador standing in front of him makes the gesture of scorn to show his complete mastery'. 'The matador is the point of perfect conscious control in that weltering mass of unconsciousness, in that black background of barbarism'. And it seemed to me that that was the meaning of the symbol: one must have perfect conscious control, perfect style and consummate grace and daring, to live in the bosom of barbarism; if one weakens anywhere one is done for. That is why the bull-fight was the symbol of the divine. And the toreador is the hero because he is the only shining light in that dark mass of passion and rage, that lack of control and discipline. He personifies the perfect discipline. My friend is a quite independent observer, but she got the gist of it and in that moment found it necessary to convey it to me.

This is what we call just a coincidence. I mention it to show how the dream is a living thing, by no means a dead thing that rustles like dry paper. It is a living situation, it is like an animal with feelers, or with many umbilical cords. We don't realize that while we are talking of it, it is producing. This is why primitives talk of their dreams, and why I talk of dreams. We are moved by the dreams, they express us and we express them, and there are coincidences connected with them. We decline to take coincidences seriously because we cannot consider them as causal. True, we would make a mistake to consider them as causal; events don't come about because of dreams, that would be absurd, we can never demonstrate that; they just happen. But it is wise to consider the fact that they do happen. We would not notice them if they were not of a peculiar regularity, not like that of laboratory experiments, it is only a sort of irrational regularity. The East bases much of its science on this irregularity and considers coincidences as the reliable basis of the world rather than causality. Synchronism5 is the prejudice of the East; causality is .the modern prejudice of the West. The more we busy ourselves with dreams, the more we shall see such coincidences—chances. Remember that the oldest Chinese scientific book is about the possible chances of life (p73-4).
And there you have a pretty good introduction to Jung's idea of synchronicity, with some examples and perhaps some ideas to make us wonder about life.