As an agnostic member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) I have a tendency to question or rationalize so called “spiritual experiences.” However, this year I have experienced three “synchronicities” that I find difficult to relate to in any other way. The most recent being a very powerful experience which moved me greatly and relates to Steps Eight and Nine of AA’s Twelve Step Program.
All three experiences were preceded by internal emotional struggle with particular issues in my life, a surrender of my ego, and a humility and willingness to follow advice or guidance from others.
I inwardly admitted my powerlessness in relation to the difficulties I was experiencing, and I asked for help. I felt a complete willingness to do whatever was necessary and to do it with hope and faith.
At this point, in all three instances, events happened that resolved the difficulty, were an answer to my emotional struggle, or have led to significant movement within me. All three experiences seemed striking synchronicities – to me, at least. The last event was simply awe inspiring and difficult for me (and, I would suggest, for anyone else) to rationalize. It filled me with a sense of joy and gratitude, and in retrospect I can now understand that what I experienced was a feeling of forgiveness.
When talking about synchronicity, I mean the occurrence of an inner or psychic experience and the seemingly meaningful coincidence of an outward physical event. The coincidence tends to engender feelings of awe and amazement, and often a sense of the transcendent or ‘numinous’ (divine or greater reality/power).
It feels as if something beyond the self has communicated or connected with us and one feels humble in its presence. A true synchronicity has these qualities and can have a dramatic effect upon the person experiencing it. The hymn “Amazing Grace” comes to mind, with its expression of spiritual conversion.
The experience can inspire a change in outlook and feeling, not unlike the descriptions within the literature of AA when defining the effects of a “spiritual experience”. For me, a true synchronicity is a spiritual experience and the two are synonymous.
Sceptical people will suggest that these so called meaningful coincidences are explainable in terms of probability and confirmation bias. I have often concluded these explanations myself in response to my own, and others’ experiences of synchronicity.
However, some of these experiences are very difficult or impossible to explain rationally and are well beyond the realm of probability (even mathematicians will accept this statement). They are a mysterious phenomenon which is beyond our comprehension.
When people try to explain their spiritual experiences they often struggle to communicate them effectively; and the ineffable quality of such experiences seems very common to them. I think feelings of awe, wonder and greater meaning are very difficult to convey to others.
My experiences this year have had a significant effect upon me in terms of my openness to spirituality; and I do feel changed in outlook and feeling in this respect. Have I undergone a spiritual conversion experience? I’m not sure, maybe to a degree and I’m still in the process of having one. Am I still agnostic? I think so, as I still don’t know if God exists or not, but I now feel more willing to trust and believe in a power greater than myself; whatever that maybe.
This reminds me of the “promises” in the AA “Big Book”…..
“Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”
p.84, 3rd edition.
In my case, it’s been very slowly; but hey, “it’s progress, not perfection,” as we say in the Fellowship. I think my spiritual awakening has mainly been of the “educational variety” (1) and is ongoing at this time. If I look back to just a few years ago, I can now see great changes in relation to my attitudes and reactions, particularly in terms of recovery and spirituality.
I have transformed from a belligerent member of the AA fellowship with very little time or appreciation for the Twelve Step program, to someone who now embraces it and is willing to help others with its practice. In doing so, I continue to grow and develop as a human being, and in my spiritual awareness and practice. Maybe it’s never too late to “know a new freedom and a new happiness.” (2) I really hope so.
Definition of Synchronicity:
the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality —used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung.