I’m a big believer in synchronicity — meaningful coincidence, or what you might call spooky coincidence. Of course, seeming coincidences often happen for reasons that aren’t spooky at all. They can be explained satisfactorily as the play of chance, or the not unlikely outcome of your own choices and interests in life.
So I started reading the new Dan Brown book, The Lost Symbol, last night and was struck repeatedly by coincidences — he writes about things I’m interested in and so it’s not surprising that some of his source material evidently comes from books I’ve read or am reading now. One of his protagonists, for example, is a researcher in so-called “Noetic Science.” That is, the science of what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance” as it pertains to consciousness — the way our minds seem to be unconfined by the three pounds of brains in our skull but instead are entangled with each other and with the world around us.
There’s an Institute of Noetic Science (IONS) near San Francisco, and it happens to be the subject of a chapter in a book I read last week, NPR religion reporter Barbara Bradley Haggerty’s excellent Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality. Haggerty investigates the scientific underpinnings of psychic phenomena. One of her themes is this idea of entanglement — that the universe is somehow knitted together in ways that materialist science currently can’t explain and maybe never will. On a certain view, a religious one, the unifying factor is God. We’re unified with each other through Him, which is why minds can affect each other across vast distances. That’s the case for the elementary reason that, as in the Jewish prayer Shema, “the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). That doesn’t mean just that there’s one God instead of two or three. Rather, God really is One. Somehow, there’s a unity to God that extends to the rest of creation. If we could see to the heart of reality, we would perceive that everything that seems to enjoy a separate existence from God is really nullified before Him.
Our minds are mostly shut to evidence of this unity — it would be overwhelming otherwise, infinitely so — but occasionally, with more sensitive people or sometimes under the influence of events, spiritual practices, or certain substances, intimations will make themselves felt.
Haggerty’s book just came out in May so obviously it’s not Brown’s source on this. Still, readers of The Lost Symbol will be interested to read Haggerty’s journalistic take on the subject. She visits IONS and interviews researchers who have documented the way, for example, married couples can produce measurable physiological effects in their partners by directing loving thoughts to them even if the two are in separate, totally sealed rooms. Somehow their minds, one might venture to say their souls, are entangled. One woman, a subject in the research, turns out to be psychically sensitive to an unusual degree.
Haggerty tells how this woman once had an intuition that her daughter was in trouble. Haggerty later confirmed the story with the daughter. What happened is that the daughter was driving to Sacramento. The mother got a feeling that she must call a certain unfamiliar phone number that had just popped into her head. She called. It turns out it was the number of a service station off the highway on the way to, yes, Sacramento. She described her daughter, Allison, to the service station attendant. Just then, a young woman was walking up to him. He said, “Allison?” Of course, it was her. Allison’s car had broken down and she had come on foot looking for mechanical assistance.