I was somewhat startled during a visit to Weston-super-Mare a few months ago when I arrived in my hotel room to find that the pattern of the shirt I was wearing was an exact match for the bedroom curtains, the duvet cover and even the scatter cushions! For a moment it felt as though I had side-slipped into some bizarre parallel reality (I think my face in the picture probably says it all) and when I lay down on the bed, my shirt blended into the duvet so perfectly that it was hard to tell where my body boundaries even were! It was so ridiculous that I was half-expecting a partition wall to fall down at any moment to reveal the comedian Michael McIntyre and to discover that I was his "unexpected star of the show!" Fortunately it turned out not to be a wind-up but nothing more than a curious twist of fate which had somehow paired me with this particular hotel room and its *cough* highly tasteful decor. This utterly surreal experience was an amusing example of coincidence. No doubt we've all experienced similar situations which have left us scratching our heads in bemusement and pondering,"What are the odds?" How often do we discover we have something surprising in common with someone else and declare "It's a small world!" or "You couldn't make it up!" However, sometimes coincidence can take on a whole new level of weirdness in which the same signs, symbols and numbers keep cropping up in our lives again and again until it becomes impossible to ignore the extent of the repetition. Examples such as these are what are known as "meaningful coincidences" and it's a phenomenon which the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung termed synchronicity.
I started to experience a veritable explosion of bizarre synchronicities in the course of my recovery from stress-related illness eight years ago. Throughout this period I was swamped by recurring sequences and patterns and mysterious connections between people and places which went way beyond the realms of ordinary coincidence. For example, I would be asking myself a question about something and would then turn on the television to find the answer to that same question delivered on a TV programme at that precise moment. I could then pick a book off a shelf and open it to a random page to find the exact same information printed there. References to the fabled lost continent of Atlantis were suddenly everywhere - in books, magazines articles, on television and online. So too were references to the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and to the mysterious Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. I was suddenly spotting sphynxes all over the place, including carved into the stonework of buildings I'd been walking past for years. People would telephone me just as I'd been thinking about them. I had a dream about a door in my mother's house being jammed and was woken from that dream by a phone call from my mum to say that a door in her house was jammed. I would meet different people in different places, quite randomly, and then find later on that those people were all mysteriously connected to each other. Everyone I met suddenly seemed to have links to the Salisbury Centre - a meditation and spiritual development centre located near the Commonwealth Swimming Pool in Edinburgh. The number seven would keep recurring again and again, as did the number 157. The latter already had some significance in my life as 157 was the number of the house in Glasgow I grew up in and was also the exact distance in miles door-to-door between my home in Dunfermline and my parents' house in Morayshire. However, 157 suddenly started to become omnipresent - it featured in the addresses of numerous places I would either visit or have to correspond with, it appeared in phone numbers and bus routes and it was consistently the number of the hotel room I was allocated in several different hotels around the world! Perhaps most bizarrely of all, it cropped up in a stage show performed by the mentalist Derren Brown which I attended at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Brown asked everyone in the entire audience to think of a number. Perhaps unsurprisingly I thought of 157 since it was very much at the forefront of my mind at the time. He then ripped a page from a book, apparently at random, and held it up to reveal Page 156 before stating, "Though, of course, some of you may have been thinking of the number on the reverse side"... which was, of course, 157! The same words, signs, numbers and themes were recurring over and over again to such an extent that it began to alter my entire perception of reality. I started to feel as though I was being manipulated like a piece in a massive cosmic chess game and that an invisible force or puppet-master must surely be moving all these other pieces into my orbit for a specific reason and a purpose. These synchronicities, though mysterious, were all universally beneficial to me. The people I was encountering, and the organisations I was being invited to join as a result, would go on to play pivotal roles in my recovery from illness and the launch of my new life. The recurring signs, symbols and numbers, once I learned to stop ignoring and start following them, were all pointing me in the direction of things that would aid my progress and development. It was as though somebody was planting clues for me to follow in a kind of mischievous treasure hunt. And it became increasingly difficult to avoid the obvious conclusion that it was all, in some way, divinely ordained.
I'm by no means alone in experiencing such bizarre patterns. I soon discovered that my good friend and hypnosis master Thom Shillaw was going through a similar experience. In his case he was encountering references to wolves everywhere, along with recurring appearances of the number 23. It transpires that 23 is one of the most common of all synchronicities recorded worldwide and has even spawned the term 'The 23 Engima' to describe the widely-held belief that all incidents and events associated with the number 23 are somehow tied-in with a centuries-old plan. It's said that once you start to notice the number 23, you'll soon be seeing it literally everywhere. The 23 Enigma became the basis for the 2007 movie The Number 23, starring Jim Carrey. William Burroughs, the author of The Naked Lunch, is one of the first known people to have come across the 23 Enigma. In 1960, he heard a sailor called Captain Clark talk about having successfully sailed for 23 years without incident. Later the same day, Clark’s ship sank, killing him and everyone else aboard. Also that day Burroughs listened to a radio broadcast, which reported on an airliner crash in Florida. It was flight 23 and the pilot was another Captain Clark. Here are a few more examples of its prominence: In humans, each cell normally contains 23 pairs of chromosones. 22 of these pairs look the same in both men and women, the 23rd pair is the sex chromosone and that is different for men and women. Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by numerous enemies in the Roman Senate. His stab wounds were said to number 23. William Shakespeare is believed to have been born on 23rd April 1564 and he died on 23rd April in 1616. Psalm 23 (The Lord is my shepherd…) is the most famous and quoted of the Psalms. The first Morse code transmission was ‘What has God wrought?’ This is a passage from the Bible, Numbers 23:23.
The truth is that coincidences like these aren’t really coincidences at all. They’re signs that the universe wants us to stop for a moment, take a break from our busy lives and contemplate the fundamental laws of reality. Albert Einstein described it perfectly when he said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” God works by design, and sometimes he opens up his blueprint to us, if we’re conscious enough to take notice of it. Synchronicity happens to most of us at some point in our lives, usually when we’re searching for answers. At these times our attention is driven to apparently normal and random events that provide us with the answers that we’ve been looking for, yet we can’t come up with a rational explanation for why and how it happens. If we contemplate these repetitive patterns and sequences, we realize that they appear for a purpose. Synchronicity happens to make us question our understanding and perception of the universe. It invites us to a realm where we can feel a deeper connection to the outside world. The frequency of synchronized events that we experience depends on our level of consciousness. The more conscious we are of our being and the nature of the things around us, the more synchronized we are with the universal flow. This is why the frequency of my own synchronicities escalated so spectacularly during my recovery from illness when I was regularly practising meditation with the result that my field of consciousness and awareness had expanded beyond its normal parameters. Carl Jung believed that synchronicities mirrored deep psychological processes, carried messages the way dreams do, and take on meaning and provide guidance to the degree that they correspond to emotional states and inner experiences. For example, you’re trying to decide whether to say yes or no to a particular opportunity, and while driving on the motorway someone suddenly cuts in front of you and you notice the bumper sticker reading: Just Do It!
One of the most important things about synchronicity is the astonishment it generates. It leaves us thunderstruck, flabbergasted in a way that shakes us out of our complacency and our enslavement to surface appearances. Synchronicities are so far removed from the mundaneness that seems to characterize most of daily life, that they help reconnect us to a sense of natural awe and wonder. American author Carlos Castaneda referred to synchronicity as “the path with heart.” In his book The Way of the Shaman, anthropologist Michael Harner says that synchronicities are considered among shamanic cultures to be “a kind of homing beacon analogous to a radio directional signal indicating that the right procedures and methods are being employed.” Synchronicity is also believed to be connected to what my NLP coach Andy MacArthur refers to as the Reticular Activation System (RAS) - a bundle of nerves at our brainstem that filters out unnecessary information so that the important stuff gets through. The RAS is the reason you learn a new word and then start hearing it everywhere. It’s why you can tune out a crowd full of talking people, yet immediately snap to attention when someone says your name or something that at least sounds like it. Your RAS takes what you focus on and creates a filter for it. It then sifts through the data and presents only the pieces that are important to you. All of this happens without you noticing, of course. The RAS programmes itself to work in your favour without you actively doing anything.
In an excellent online article on the subject, titled Understanding Synchronicity, Zubair Awan writes: "We can observe these indications and patterns when we’re in tune with our true self and nature. If we consciously observe our daily endeavours and encounters, we realize that every choice, action, delay and disappointment possesses a stream of consequential circumstances that map out our future. Everything happens for a reason, and the whole universe sets itself in motion for us during our challenges. Every event that has happened in your life has meticulously lead you to this very moment in which you’re reading this. The events of your future are directly linked to your choices in the present. At any given moment, we’re sitting with infinite possibilities in our hands. Whenever a coincidence occurs, it intrigues us to contemplate and appreciate the significance of the present moment. The signs of synchronicity go unnoticed, most of the time, because we’re too busy to detect and ponder them. Many of us feel entangled in worldly affairs, and a sense of virtual absence resides quietly in our lives. We become strangely loyal to our daily commitments to material things, so we forget to treat them as what they really are: just empty spaces. Our thoughts are conditioned by the material world, a world whose confines we must transcend in order to develop an affinity for perceiving metaphysical realities that await our discovery. All the facts of the physical world are governed by the metaphysical realities at the back end. It’s only after we’ve attuned ourselves to the universal flow that we’re able to decipher the signs of a higher reality that the universe serves us".
Another tsunami of synchronicities engulfed me shortly after I took the decision to name my coaching and therapy business Phoenix to tap into the mythological firebird's symbolic association with death and resurrection, regeneration and rebirth. Suddenly I began to see references to phoenixes all over the place (as a glance at the pictures above demonstrates). Restaurants, theatres, streets, pubs, gardens, construction companies, motor dealers, industrial estates - all sporting the name phoenix - were suddenly omnipresent. For me there could be no surer sign from the universe that I was on the right track. All these phoenixes were surely an indication - a validation from the forces of creation that the path I had chosen was the correct one. Something similar happened on my recent trip to the Languedoc region of southern France (see my recent blog Holy Grail - The Mysterious Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau) only this time it was salamanders I was seeing everywhere - not just the real thing but also ornamental salamanders carved into the stonework of many of the local castles and churches, including the famous church at Rennes-le-Chateau. Then, most bizarrely of all, I emerged from our B&B in the sleepy village of Rennes-les-Bains one morning to find that someone had drawn a large and intricate picture of a salamander in white chalk on the road outside during the night. Intrigued as to what this latest sign from the universe might mean, I googled salamanders to see whether they had any traditional symbolic significance. I already knew that they were associated with alchemical fire, but the wider explanation would leave me well and truly gobsmacked. "In mythology, the salamander is a symbol of fire, immortality, and death and rebirth and as such is traditionally associated with, and synonymous with, the phoenix". It seemed this latest recurring symbol was none other than my phoenix motif in another form. As the saying goes, you literally couldn't make it up!
The salamander's association with regeneration stems from the fact that it sheds its skin like lizards and snakes and is therefore constantly renewing itself. The historic belief that salamanders were born in fire, like the phoenix, is believed to stem from the fact that they take shelter in rotting logs and could therefore be seen emerging from the flames when our ancestors tossed logs onto a fire. No less a figure than Leonardo Da Vinci added fuel to the salamander's mythological reputation when he wrote that they possessed no digestive system and lived purely off the flames of the fire. So who was responsible for the mysterious chalk drawing which appeared on the road in Rennes-les-Bains during my recent visit there? This remains a mystery but the fact that it appeared just a few feet from the home of a very senior member of the shadowy secret society known as the Priory of Sion cannot be ignored. Notice the upward-pointing triangles beneath the tail of the salamander in the chalk drawing at Rennes-les-Bains (pictured above) and which appear to be pointing the way like arrows. An upward-pointing triangle is the alchemical symbol for fire, with which the salamander is associated. Notice also the downward-pointing arrow shapes on the spine and tail of the salamander. This is the alchemical symbol for water. When the fire and water symbols interlock they form a six-pointed star, or Seal of Solomon - an ancient magical and religious symbol representing universal balance, the union of the microcosm and macrocosm, God and man, the masculine and the feminine. Like the salamander, the Seal of Solomon is another commonly-occurring symbol in the architecture of the south of France. It became increasingly obvious to me that all these signs were clues from the universe, pointing me in a particular direction and that the symbolism of the phoenix and the salamander was at the heart of the message. So, if all these synchronicities I was experiencing were clues and pointers, then what was the underlying significance of the number 157 which had been following me around for so long? When a number keeps appearing in your life repeatedly, it's always worth exploring the number's meaning under ancient systems of gematria. Every letter in the Hebrew, Greek and Latin alphabets is assigned a numerical value, so words and phrases also have a numerical value based on the total value of all the letters within them when added together. The number 157 is the gematria value of the Biblical phrases "The New Covenant" and "Everlasting Salvation". The New Covenant was the new relationship between God and humans meditated by Jesus through his death and resurrection and symbolised by the sacrament of Holy Communion. Like the phoenix and the salamander, the number 157 was therefore pointing me very clearly towards the idea of death and rebirth being the route to salvation - the underlying metaphor upon which I have built my entire coaching and therapy business (see Regeneration - The Death and Resurrection Show). In order to be reborn anew, you must allow your old self - the false personality - to die a symbolic death so that your inner phoenix can rise from the ashes and be given full expression. Additionally, the digits of 157 add up to 13 - a number of tremendous occult power and historical significance. The Knights Templar were rounded up and arrested on Friday 13th - the origin of the superstition that Friday 13th is unlucky. Thirteen was the total number of people at the Last Supper (Jesus plus twelve apostles - The New Covenant again) and the total number of people seated at Camelot's Round Table (King Arthur plus twelve knights). It is the number of witches in a coven and, funnily enough, the number of regenerations (or lives) possessed by a Time Lord in the television series Doctor Who, which brings us back to the theme of regeneration and rebirth yet again. The theosophical reduction of 13 (the single-digit number arrived at by adding both its digits together) is four, which just so happens to be my lifelong favourite number and, like the Seal of Solomon and the equal-armed cross of the Knights Templar, is a universal mathematical symbol of perfect balance. If your head's spinning by this point then don't worry. Mine still is too. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of synchronicity.
The moral of this story about synchronicity is that you should never ignore these recurring signs and symbols. If the same motifs are cropping up in your life continually then it's almost certainly a sign that the universe is trying to tell you something. Being aware of the patterns and following the clues to see where they lead is an integral component in the path of spiritual development and self-improvement. When you start to follow the signs, it means you're operating in harmony with universal laws rather than resisting them... and that's when true magic starts to happen and your life takes on the qualities of an adventure. Synchronicity is the call of the universe that invites us to see its wonders and contemplate its mysteries. The signs of a grand design and universal flow are depicted in everything around us, including ourselves, but they’re only revealed to those who observe and ponder. Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything.” This sentiment was echoed by Allysha Lavino, the tour guide from Sacred Mystery Tours who escorted me round the sacred sites of Languedoc earlier this month, with her telling catchphrase "Stop looking and start seeing". When synchronicity first starts to happen, at times it can seem overwhelming. You may even begin to question your sanity. But don't panic. You're not going mad - you're just waking up and becoming more aware. Here at Phoenix we're experts at helping people to decode the synchronicities occurring in their lives and teaching them how to follow the clues towards a better life in which they can maximise their full potential. Do you have stories of synchronicity you'd like to share? If so, we'd love to hear from you so that we can include your experiences in our ongoing research into such phenomena. Check out our website at phoenixcoaching.co.uk to book an appointment or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org