Lightning strikes


Blog 173   All this series of blogs can be found on the website of the Church of England Newspaper

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.” – II Peter 3:3

And we’ve heard plenty from this lot since St Peter’s, Rome was struck by lightning on the day the pope announced his retirement. All over our intelligent newspapers uninformed unbelievers, in the grip of empiricist dogma, have poured scorn on the idea that those two events might be connected. But no one in his right mind would claim that the pope’s retirement speech caused the lightning strike. “It was just a coincidence,” say the hidebound sceptics whose false god is deterministic materialism. I agree with them that the event was a coincidence – but it wasn’t only a coincidence.

By way of trying to account for strange happenings which appear to be significant but for which empiricism can offer no explanation, the Nobel prizewinning physicist Wolfgang Pauli and the psychologist C.G. Jung together produced a paper called Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. Combining the insights of quantum mechanics and depth psychology, they asserted that near or simultaneous events may be linked without the relation between them being a case of cause and effect. This was and is ridiculed as primitive, unscientific superstition by the gormless determinists. But in order to justify their dismissal of synchronicity, they would have to believe that physics ended with the clockwork version of it taught by Isaac Newton.

But in the quantum world real events occur without causes. So it is sheer blindness (or bigotry) to assert that the only connections which happen in the world are causal connections. The so called law of cause an effect is, as Immanuel Kant pointed out, only a necessary conjecture made by the human mind. Kant showed beyond doubt that space, time and causality are a priori categories of experience. To put this in a way that even the mocking determinists ought to be able to understand: we cannot even begin to think about the physical universe without first assuming the reality of space, time and causality.  Thus the great Kant demonstrated the truth expressed by Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” We have been doing science for a mere 400 years and so to pretend that the useful statistical generalisation – which is all the law of cause and effect is – explains all the connections in the universe is both arrogant and foolish.

Shakespeare again – in Julius Caesar – “When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” The comet didn’t cause the assassination of Caesar, but its appearance at the same time was perhaps not insignificant. And if we could find a way of investigating what we mean by significance in such cases, our understanding would be enriched.

The Bethlehem Star is another example of synchronicity. It didn’t cause the Incarnation, but it certainly marked the event. It was what the biblical writers knew for a miraculous sign – what Jung and Pauli called an example of synchronicity. History affords thousands of similar examples. Very well, today there has been a spectacular meteor shower over Russia and tonight a largish asteroid will pass within 17,000 miles of earth – the nearest of any recorded. Neither of these events will cause any political, social or ethical happenings. That does not render them insignificant.

Look up at the sky tonight. And watch this space…

(PS Jung’s edition of the paper he wrote with Pauli is in his Collected Works, volume 8)