by Frank Joseph
New Dawn No. 88
Frank Joseph is the editor-in-chief of Ancient American, a
bi-monthly, popular science magazine describing overseas visitors to
the Americas centuries before Columbus. His books Destruction of
Atlantis, Survivors of Atlantis, Edgar Cayce’s Atlantis and Lemuria,
and Atlantis Encyclopedia resulted from Joseph’s world travels in
search of clues to the ancient past.
He has also written a book on the
subject of the above article, Synchronicity & You. He is a member of
The Oriental Institute at the University of Illinois (USA) and
Japan’s Savant Society. Joseph lives in Colfax, Wisconsin, USA.
Synchronicity is the most mysterious thing in the world.
Synchronicity is the term parapsychologists use for “meaningful
coincidence.” It happens to everyone, more often than we realize.
But synchronicities are not “mere” coincidences, random accidents
Going through a half-forgotten collection of old photographs, you’re
surprised to find the snap-shot of a friend you lost contact with
years ago. Just then the telephone rings and the voice on the other
end of the line belongs to the same person in the photo.
You’re desperate to find a parking place because you’ve got to be on
time for a crucial appointment. There’s not an open spot as far as
the eye can see. Suddenly, a car pulls out in front of you, leaving
you a space right in front of the address where you’re expected.
You’ve just finished reading a book about rare birds, when the first
humming-bird you’ve ever seen in your back yard is drinking nectar
from a nearby flower.
These are typical incidents of synchronicity. And while most people
brush them aside as insignificant happenstance, some of the greatest
minds in history have grappled with this universal enigma.
“Synchronicity” was coined by last century’s leading psychologist,
Carl Gustav Jung. Fascinated as he was by it, even Albert Einstein
could not understand how it worked.
A synchronous event of my own in 1991 prompted me to interview, over
the next six years, eventually 100 persons about their feelings on
this elusive enigma. The meaningful coincides they shared with me
proved more illuminating than anything I ever read on the subject.
Collecting them into a loose order, I was somewhat astounded to see
that these synchronous events experienced by my friends and
acquaintances arranged themselves into repeating categories.
Although many of the persons interviewed differed widely in age,
spiritual beliefs or education, the meaningful coincidences they
recounted all belonged to specific groups of common experience.
Widening my research, I found that persons belonging to other
cultures, sometimes long dead – often many hundreds of years ago –
fell into the same seventeen categories which emerged from the men
and women who told me of their own fortuitous occurrences. Their
often dramatic, occasionally funny, always numinous testimony formed
the basis for a book I wrote, Synchronicity & You, Understanding the
Role of Meaningful Coincidence in your Life. Synchronicity is
fundamentally a form of guidance that enters into the personal lives
of every human being. Even if we knowingly discard it, at least part
of its influence enters our subconscious.
Some guiding synchronicities form a category best described as
“Warnings.” A representative incidence of admonitory synchronicity
not included in my book was recounted by the California poet, Miriam Hohf:
“Many years ago, when I was a small
child living in the Pennsylvania countryside, I took long walks
by myself across the fields and into the forest, listening to
the birds and talking to the rabbits and squirrels. I never felt
afraid and deeply loved all the trees and animals. But on one
otherwise beautiful, sunny day, my surroundings felt different
“Everything was absolutely calm and motionless. Just when I
approached the edge of the forest, however, a gust of wind
suddenly arose, loudly rustling the leaves. I stopped and
listened to them, because I felt they were speaking to me. They
seemed to be saying, ‘Go away! Do not come into the woods today!
There is danger here! Danger! Not safe to play here today! Go
away!’ For the first time, a chill of fear ran through me and I
fled, almost in tears. I did not visit the forest again, too
afraid to return.
“About a week after my experience, mother told me about a
terrible story just published in the local paper. It seems that
on the same day the leaves spoke to me the body of another
little girl was found by the police. She had been brutally raped
before being murdered. Did the spirits of the forest warn me in
the rustle of their leaves?”
Another prominent category of
synchronicity falls under the heading of Numbers, which thread
together mystical human experience, often with surprising results.
The number 57, for example, is an intimate characteristic of the
American Revolution, as investigator Arthur Finnessey abundantly
demonstrates in his well-researched book, History Computed.
Among the outstanding examples he cites is the last time the Liberty
Bell rang, in tribute to George Washington, before it cracked on
February 22, 1846 – 57 years after his 57th birthday.
his titles and signature, the closing paragraph of the US
Constitution, following its original seven articles, makes up 57
It was ratified by 57 yes-votes from New Hampshire, and all
Constitutional law begins with the Constitution’s 57th word – that
word being, “All.”
On February 6, 1777, 57 weeks to the day after
the pivotal Battle of Princeton, another turning-point took place
when the French joined the American cause.
They fought off 19
British warships, making it possible for Washington to defeat
Cornwallis on October 19, 1781, in a war which began on the 19th of
April, 1775 – 57 is the sum of these three significant 19s.
Washington’s only two victories over British Commander Cornwallis
were 57 days apart. So too, 57 days separated the other decisive
battles of the war, at Cowpens and the Guilford Courthouse.
final anniversary of Lexington and Concord celebrated during the
Revolutionary War was precisely 57 months, 57 weeks and 57 days
after they were fought.
In South Carolina’s most famous assault
at “Fort Ninety Six”, 57 Americans were killed.
is the sum total of the number of men who signed the Declaration of
Independence (57) and the Constitution (39).
The American Revolution’s 57th month
concluded on 19 January, 1780; the Redcoats took Charleston exactly
twice times 57 (114) days later.
Twelve times 57 (684) days before,
the decisive Battle of Monmouth was fought.
In numerical symbolism, 57 is the combination of two numerals, 5 and
7. Five is associated with male energy (i.e., war), while seven
signifies the completion of cycles. Together they form a symbolic
concept perfectly reflecting the completion of major military cycles
running like inter-linking themes throughout the history of the
Revolutionary War. Isodore Kozminsky refers to any number from 55 to
64 as “the Sword,” associated with military victory (Numbers, Their
Meaning & Magic, NY: Samuel Weiser, 1977, page 51).
These ancient interpretations of 57 make its frequent recurrence
throughout the War of Independence very appropriate. Yet, we stand
in awe of its historical significance: Was it somehow an out-growth
or expression of America’s violent struggle for freedom, or did it
from the beginning (from before the beginning) determine historical
The outstanding feature of 57, around which a causal incidents
revolved, was a major rift in the fabric of history – the American
Revolution. All other, similarly powerful historical events likewise
produce extraordinary high levels of meaningful coincidence. In
fact, the more dramatic, even traumatic, the event, the greater the
intensity and sheer number that appear.
An outstanding example was the Titanic disaster. Hardly any other
single occurrence in the 20th century generated such a large
collection of impressive examples. So many, in fact, they embraced
all 17 categories of synchronicity. The meaningful significance of
particular numerals played its part in the Titanic disaster, too –
in that classic bad-luck symbol, Number 13.
That this traditionally unfortunate number was factually associated
with the most infamous of unlucky ocean liners should come as no
surprise. Two, separate examples serve to illustrate. A British
journalist, W.T. Stead, demonstrated his contempt for superstition
by deliberately concluding a story on the 13th of April, 1912.
Further tempting fate, his narration described the discovery of an
ancient Egyptian sarcophagus and the curse of violent death alleged
to overtake anyone who verbally translated its inscription. The next
day, R.M.S. Titanic met the disaster in which Stead perished.
A fellow passenger who lightheartedly challenged the deadly number
was from Youngstown, Ohio. George Wick had been traveling with his
family through Europe for several months and booked homeward voyage
on Titanic. While in transit to Cherbourg, where the doomed ship
would make final docking before attempting her transatlantic
crossing, he stopped at Paris. There he purchased a Grand Prix
sweepstakes ticket, choosing Number 13 on purpose, just to prove to
everyone that he was not superstitious. “Watch and see what it does
for me!,” he exclaimed. Several days later, Wick went down with the
The “Warnings” cited in Miriam Hohf’s childhood experience
proliferated around the Titanic before she sailed. A White Star
insignia crumbled to pieces in the hands of Mrs. Arthur Lewis while
she was pinning it to her husband’s cap. He was just about to board R.M.S. Titanic, where he was a steward. At the time, she regarded
the incident as a bad “omen,” although he dismissed her expressed
anxiety as foolishness, until the ship foundered a few days later.
Fortunately, Mr. Lewis survived.
In another Titanic-related warning, Colonel John Weir, a mining
engineer with a worldwide reputation, almost canceled his first
class ticket because of distressful feelings about the voyage.
Staying at London’s prestigious Waldorf Astoria, he awoke on the
morning of April 10th to find that the water pitcher atop his
dresser had unaccountably shattered, soaking his clothes.
He seriously expressed his premonitory
feelings to the hotel manager, who allayed the Colonel’s
“superstitions” enough for him to reluctantly board the great ocean
liner. While at sea, Weir told his secretary about the burst water
pitcher, could not shake his sense of foreboding, and said he must
get off Titanic at the next opportunity, when it docked in
Queenstown, Ireland. Again dissuaded, he remained aboard, only to go
down with the ship he intuited was doomed.
As some measure of the magnitude of synchronous phenomena associated
with the disaster, no less than 899 persons who initially booked
passage for Titanic’s maiden voyage eventually refused to board her
because of warnings they experienced in the forms of various omens,
premonitions, dreams and precognitive events. An additional 4,066
would-be passengers either missed the boat or canceled their
reservations, usually under apparently normal circumstances, but
sometimes through unusual coincidences that prevented them from
Blanche Marshall suffered a hysterical outbreak on April 10th, 1912,
as she and her family watched the Titanic steam past the Isle of
Wight from the roof of their home overlooking the River Solent. In a
virtual panic, she said the liner would sink before it reached New
York and railed against her husband, daughters and servants for
being blind to her vision of masses of people drowning in the
freezing waters of the North Atlantic.
While neither Mrs. Marshall nor anyone she knew sailed aboard the
Titanic, she was prevented from boarding another doomed liner just
three years later by similar precognition. In 1915, her husband had
booked tickets for their return trip to England from America aboard
the Lusitania. She thought nothing of it until she saw the May 1st
date of the tickets.
Convinced the ship would be torpedoed
and sunk on that passage, Blanche convinced him to change their
booking. Interestingly, she felt safe traveling on Lusitania at any
other time. It was only the prospect of the May 1st crossing that
alarmed her. True to her sense of foreboding, the vessel was
torpedoed and sunk with heavy loss of life on the same voyage she
refused to take.
A sub-category of “Premonitions” is synchronous literature.
Published in 1892, From the Old World to the New described the
sinking of an ocean liner after colliding with an iceberg in the
North Atlantic. The “fictional” name of its captain, E.J. Smith,
likewise belonged to the man who commanded R.M.S. Titanic, twenty
years later. Interestingly, the author of From the Old World to the
New, W.T. Stead, lost his own life on board the same ship.
While Titanic was being readied for her maiden voyage, the May issue
of Popular Magazine was coming off the presses with the story of
Admiral, an 800 foot-long ocean liner crossing the North Atlantic
through calm seas at 22 1/2 knots. She strikes an iceberg and sinks,
leaving the survivors among her thousand passengers to be rescued by
a steamer. Similarities to the real-life tragedy convinced readers
the story was based on Titanic’s particulars.
But author Mayn Clew Garnett was said to
have received the details for his novelette in a dream he had while
sailing on the Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic. While he may have
been influenced by physical parallels noticed during his passage
aboard the virtually look-a-like vessel, Garnett’s selection of 43
north latitude for Admiral’s collision with the iceberg was
virtually the same position at which Titanic met her identical fate.
Literature is not alone among the arts which figure into synchronous
events. More in black humour than conscious precognition, a crewman
and his wife made recordings for each other, the husband singing
“Only To See Her Face Again” to her “True Til Death,” on April 7,
1912, prior to his service about the world’s greatest ocean liner.
Three days later, he sailed on the Titanic, never to return.
Animal interaction in human experience forms its own, distinct
category of synchronicity, and was not missing in the fate of R.M.S.
Titanic. The age-old sailor’s belief that rats leave ships long
before any apparent danger of sinking was exemplified aboard R.M.S.
Titanic, when two crewmen in a forward boiler room saw
panic-stricken rodents scampering aft, away from the starboard bow.
Next day, an iceberg struck that very spot. Both men escaped the
disaster with their lives, because the rats’ sudden appearance had
made them uneasy enough to station themselves, as often as possible,
in the immediate vicinity of the lifeboats.
Another incident of animal synchronicity associated with Titanic
concerns Bess, a thorough-bred horse belonging to Isadore Straus,
the co-founder of Macy’s Department Store. The same night he and his
wife were killed in the sinking, six-year-old Bess suddenly died of
causes the veterinarian was unable to determine.
Tactile sensations comprise a sub-heading of “Death” in
synchronicity. The unaccountable perfume of flowers associated with
someone close and recently deceased is not uncommon. Another example
belongs to May de Witt Hopkins, who experienced the fragrance of
roses in her London home one day after R.M.S. Titanic sank. Although
word of the disaster had spread by that time, names of those on
board were not yet published.
But with the flowery scent filling her
room from no apparent source, Hopkins suddenly felt that someone she
knew was trying to make her aware of his or her death. She later
learned that a friend, who was, unbeknownst to her, a passenger on
the ship, had indeed perished when it went down. Interestingly, her
own mother, during the late 19th century, had been similarly alerted
to the death of a loved one by a mysterious, flowery odour.
“Inanimate Objects,” like the White Star insignia that fatefully
disintegrated in the hands of Mrs. Lewis, comprise a wide-ranging
group of synchronous experiences. The Managing Director of the White
Star Line, Joseph Bruce Ismay, survived the Titanic, but thereafter
resigned his post, because he was publicly, although unfairly,
blamed for the tragedy.
He spent the next 25 years of his life in
virtual seclusion, dying on October 17, 1937. That same Sunday
afternoon, a framed, oval mirror that hung in Ismay’s office during
his tenure at the White Star Line suddenly crashed from its hook,
scattering broken pieces across the floor.
Two weeks after Titanic was lost, a large wooden crate left
unclaimed at Pier 61, in New York harbour, was opened by port
authorities. They were surprised to see that it contained a
meticulously detailed model of the sunken vessel. It had originally
been sent to the US for promotional purposes on behalf of the White
Star Line and was supposed to be returned to the London offices on
the doomed ship’s return voyage.
But the 30 foot-long representation was
accurate in more particulars than anyone could explain. Although it
presented a full compliment of 20 davits, there were only a dozen
miniature lifeboats. Moreover, the bow was partially ruined and a
long crack appeared from the keel toward the upper deck, mimicking
the actual damage sustained by Titanic.
As might be expected, “Dreams” are an important category of
synchronicity. While traveling in Europe during the spring of 1912,
a New York lawyer, Isaac C. Frauenthal, dreamt of being aboard a
large ship which collided with some floating object and began to
sink. His was a long, vivid nightmare, in which he clearly recalled
the sights and sounds of calamity. Several nights later, the
identical psycho-drama repeated itself, and he told his brother and
sister-in-law that it must be a warning against their up-coming
voyage on R.M.S. Titanic.
But they laughed at his dream and convinced him to go through with
their return trip to America aboard the doomed White Star liner. All
three survived the sinking foretold in Isaac’s recurring nightmare.
Perhaps the most inexplicable aspects of synchronicity are those
more infrequent instances of “Parallel Lives.” When Lucien P. Smith
narrowly escaped death during the terrible fire on Viking Princess,
in 1966, it was his second, major disaster at sea. A survivor of the
Titanic, he was in his mother’s womb when that ship sank, just as
Mrs. Astor, also aboard, was pregnant with her son, John Jacob. Both
children were born eight months after the sinking, in which their
fathers perished. Their mothers died in the same year, 1940.
Individual lives and major conflicts are events sometimes so
powerful they echo beyond their own time and appear to replay
themselves in the future. Such an extraordinary case of parallel
history began to unfold when William C. Reeves went aboard the tramp
steamer, Titanian, as an ordinary seaman, departing Scotland for New
York on April 13, 1935. Ten days later, at 2300 hours, he was
ordered into the foc’s’le head to stand watch.
Although the sea was calm, the darkness was moonless and
impenetrable. Reeves began to feel increasingly uneasy, not only
because of the very poor visibility conditions he now faced as
ship’s look-out. He thought, too, of the premonitory novel he had
been reading in his cabin, Morgan Robertson’s Futility.
unable to keep his mind from drifting back to a dramatic moment in
the book when Titan’s look-out missed seeing an iceberg in time to
avoid disaster. Also, he could not help but notice the ironic
similarity of his ship’s name, Titanian, and Robertson’s Titan with
As his sense of irony deepened into anxiety, he realized that the
time was now 23:35, just five minutes before the hour Titanic struck
the iceberg. Reeves knew that penalties were severe for raising a
false alarm, the darkness ahead showed no sign of danger, and for
some moments he hesitated to act. But at last his feelings of
imminent collision overwhelmed him and he ordered the bridge to stop
engines, “Iceberg ahead!”
No sooner had the ship’s speed dropped off, than she smashed into
several large fragments of ice, which twisted her bow and disabled
her propeller. Slowing to full stop, Titanian’s crew were astonished
to behold an enormous iceberg looming directly ahead out of the
darkness. The floating mountain appeared at 23:40, the same hour of
Doubtless, had the Titanian not stopped in time, she would have
followed her predecessor to the bottom. An SOS sent to Cape Race,
Newfoundland, brought rescue to the stranded crew.
The multiple synchronicities of this parallel event – the similar
ships’ names, Reeves’ powerful premonition, his reading of
Robertson’s book, precisely the same hour for meeting with a deadly
iceberg – far out-strip all considerations on behalf of mere chance.
Instead, they clearly define the operative principle of meaningful
coincidence as a legitimate phenomenon.