Nowadays, the tensions run high between the purely scientific way of seeing the world and one which assumes the existence of a power greater than ourselves, and like it or not, we all find ourselves in a state of profound transition around the place of sacred stories in our lives. Are my beliefs "fictions" in the least respectful sense of the term, a set of self-serving fantasies I have formulated or made up about the nature of existence to reassure, comfort, or delude myself? It is possible to "prove" the existence of God somehow, if all we have are our subjective experiences -- what has happened to us individually, what we have felt, what it meant?
Wherever there are deep questions, wherever there is a story to be told, whether there are transitions to be made, there, too, we have found synchronistic events very often playing an important and sometimes decisive role. And, with regard to the stories of our spiritual or religious lives, the acausal connecting principle which is at the heart of a synchronistic experience, the way that objective reality is brought into a meaningful relationship with subjective experience, affords one way to bridge the conflicting demands of rationality and belief.
Ask someone how they mey their spiritual teacher and embarked upon what they consider their spiritual path, and more likely than not, it happened synchronistically. What I didn't expect, however, in talking to people about their spiritual lives, was how few people had ever told anyone else the story of their spiritual awakening, a sign, in my opinion, of just how devalued (or perhaps protective) people have become about these sacred stories which, in other cultures, have a central place in human relationships. I felt very privileged, for this reason, as I listened to tale after tale unfold of how, through sheer chance, people found themselves on the road to higher consciousness.
In retrospect, it should not have seemed strange to me that, as I was about to sit down to begin writing this first draft of this chapter, I got a phone call from a young woman named Ellie. Having been told by a friend of hers that I was writing a book on synchronicity, she thought she would give a call and offer me the story of her spiritual awakening. I had intended to write that day, but I decided to practice what I preach about synchronicity and be open to the potential meaningfulness of this coincidence. I changed my plans in order to meet with her that day, and soon after, in the sunlight of a California spring, we managed to find one another in the crowded shopping mall near her school.
"I've never really sat down and told anyone this," she said, equally shy and self-confident, "but the reason I'm here talking to you, doing what I am doing in my life at all is pure chance." Describing herself as a science major at UCLA without any exposure to spirituality or psychology, Ellie told me that the year before, at age 25, she had undergone a "mid-life crisis," knowing that the scientific career she had always trained for was not what she really wanted to be doing but having no idea what her calling might be.
"It was like I was at the end of my life as I had known it. Not that I ever considered suicide or anything like that, but I just knew that the life I had been living was over." By chance, a friend gave her a copy of one of Marianne Williamson's books, which Ellie read with some interest, the first ever of this sort of reading she had done. Intrigued by Williamson's spiritual perspective, she thought she might like to go hear Williamson talk, but the location of the talks and the fact that Ellie did not have a car made it rather impractical. Upon discovering that Williamson also had a radio show, Ellie took the time to tune in to the show on a regular basis, finding herself over a period of six months more and more drawn to its spiritual message.
Ellie found herself intrigued in particular by Williamson's frequent references to a spiritual community center called the Agape Center and, through directory assistance, she got its phone number, discovering then that it was located by sheer luck only a ten-minute walk away from where she was living. As Ellie began to attend the center's events on a regular basis, at the same time her uncle, who was in training as a hypnotherapist, asked Ellie if she might want to do some hypnotherapy with him, not for psychotherapeutical purposes but rather to help break her of her habit of nail-biting.
"So there I was, really without intending to, going to the Agape Center and in hypnotherapy," she said to me, proceeding slowly in her story, almost as if it was hard for her to believe herself. One night, as her process of inner awareness continued in both venues, Ellie was sitting in a bookstore, leafing through a magazine when a book left on the table in front of her by someone else caught her eye. Coming across the book by accident, in this way, she took a brief glance through it, and though not overly impressed by it, she nevertheless found in it a reference to Ken Wilber and transpersonal psychology, neither of which she had previously heard of and about which she knew nothing.