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Synchronicity, Intuition and Sisyphus


Sisyphus (Σίσυφος) was clearly the theme of the dream that woke me this morning.

This mythological Greek King was – for complex reasons you can discover yourself by plunging into Greek mythology – condemned by the Gods to perpetually roll a huge rock up-hill, only to have it roll down again just before he reached the top. A never-ending task…..something we have all experienced, in reality or in our dreams….. or in my case, both.
The dream itself had little to do with rocks, but everything to do with a task that could never be completed – something I identify with in relation to the endless revisions of books, in order to keep them current and of value to those who invest in them for reliable up-to-date information. This background to my life clearly influences my dreamworld, as the theme of dream after dream seems to be an inability to complete some task or other, and to never quite arrive on time for a ‘very important meeting’.
Last nights’ beauty (memo to my unconscious: ‘thanks! – I get the message!’) managed to combine both elements – for I was late for a meeting of some sort, and was trying to climb a ladder that led to wherever this meeting was to occur, however the ladder (rope) was constantly descending as I scrambled upwards, rung after rung, to the bemusement of people who were heading down at the same time, to my increasing dismay and frustration.
I have a feeling that I woke just as I actually reached the top…… but heck, who cares, by that time I was exhausted!
And of course, I had over-slept, it was already 6am, by which time I have usually completed at least an hours work trying to get that rock up the hill. And since it’s just 24 hours before I am leaving Corfu for London, I decided to abandon the rock-rolling tasks for today, and to settle down to the relaxation that writing this blog offers – since it allows me to freely express whatever surfaces that might be of possible interest to others, or to myself.

Today’s blog posting was destined to focus on Krishnamurti (see last posting), however that will wait, as I really don’t want to go there today and I feel that after my climbing of the rope ladder, I’ve earned the right to do what I want today – apart from packing that is.
Reading my morning emails (and my dream) may have triggered this posting, as one of them, from a Portuguese osteopathic colleague sent me on one of those synchronistic surfing journeys that can yield up wonderful links and discoveries.
As Wikipedia (sorry, but I have been seduced by its’ easy access to what increasingly seem sound pages of information) says: ‘Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally un-related.’
Well, in this instance the two events are:

  1. an interest I have in the topic of intution for one of my Sisyphean book revisions, and
  2. the mention in the email from Portugal of Professor Antonio Damásio and his work on intuition.

One of the sites I stumbled on when surfing in search of Dr Damasio’s ideas, quoted him as saying:”Intuition is the process of getting to a destination without knowing the route.”….. and …. “Sometimes you did not even know you wanted to get there.
I like these encapsulated thoughts on what is a particularly fluffy concept, in much need of being explained – at least in my mind.

Synchronicity of course is another concept that defies easy dissection.
Jung discussed this in his slim volume Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. (1973 2nd ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press), and over his lifetime defined synchronicity in various ways: “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events”, as well as “meaningful coincidence” and “acausal parallelism”.
And it seems that intuition, at least in Dr.Damasio’s analysis, involves the synchronous occurance within the individual of ;

  • Something we see or hear, that can be described as an ’emotionally competent stimulus’ that has not yet reached consciousness
  • This subliminal stimulus apparently provokes an array of structures in the brain (mostly the limbic system) that trigger a complex somatic response to these sensory inputs.
  • Catherine Wallace describes what happens next (according to Damasio):”These somatic responses are emotions, properly so called: the body’s response to external stimuli that are significant in some way for pain or for pleasure, for joy or for sorrow. Emotions range from spikes in blood pressure to grimaces or gasps to the stunningly complex motor responses necessary to swerve in an instant at highway speeds and in the snow. Sweaty hands, pounding hearts, the cold churning gut: these too are emotions. Feelings, properly so called, are distinct from emotions as strictly defined. Feelings well up within consciousness …. as yet other structures in the brain catch up with what’s going on both in the world and in the bodily response to it.
  • What we call critical thinking comes in even later than feelings. In fact, critical intelligence and problem-solving are stunningly dependent for their accuracy upon these primary neurological systems of somatic emotion and mental feelings. Life’s ongoing flow of visceral responses and many-threaded feelings builds and later provides access to an otherwise minimally accessible archive of observations, experiences, and prior judgments.”

Damasio explains, feelings kick in to “help us solve nonstandard problems involving creativity, judgment, and decision-making that require the display and manipulation of vast amounts of knowledge. . . . the state of feeling prompts the brain to process emotional-related objects and situations saliently”
…. which suggests (if we accept this brain-centered/data-bank of memories model), that what we ordinarily call “intuition” is a complex, somatic, subliminal repository of prior experience … a sixth sense.

Or is it something else altogether?
More surfing is required, more reading and, intuitively speaking, more synchronicity.

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