Chance? Coincidence? Providence?
On the surface, life can appear to be a bewildering array of
random events, leading us to believe that chance operates
in the situations of our lives.
Is there more to life than meets the eye?
We can be brought up with a jolt when something major happens
in our life or that of a relative or close friend.
Was it by chance that Aunt Mary was shopping in the High Street
when a car ran out of control seriously injuring her and several
Was it chance that held me up in a traffic snarl
that I missed a 3.30pm flight which crashed on take off killing
everyone on board?
Equally, was it chance that each one of the passengers
killed decided to catch that particular flight?
These are difficult questions to answer.
Yet we also know that life presents many strange, intriguing connections
and striking coincidence where unconnected events, or people
who are complete strangers to each other, show a connection
or relationship which normally just should not happen. It
is something which takes place far more often than statistically
it should; so much so that more and more people are taking
them more seriously than purely chance events, and subjecting
them to careful scientific study.
What are we to make of these events? Do we just dismiss
their strangeness out of hand and say that it is all just
random chance with nothing more to it? Do they leave us wondering,
with the thought that there are more things going on in life
than we realise? Or do they indicate the evidence of a universal
mind, causing and directing a chain of events to take place
for some purpose which cannot be really understood? Whatever,
it is undeniable that these things happen and that everyone
has his or her own strange episodes to relate.
James Redfield's book The Celestine Prophecy has
created considerable interest in the whole area of coincidence
in life. The first Insight deals with the need to become consciously
aware of the coincidences in our lives in order to sense and
then discover that there is some other process operating behind
the scenes. Yet, the concept that chance encounters having
a deeper meaning is not new and many mystics and philosophers
have addressed it. The "buzz" word for it in more
modern times is synchronicity, a term coined by Carl
Jung, the Swiss psychologist, to explain the many mysterious
phenomena which the scientific laws of causality can only
ignore - a link between physical and psychic states which
have the same or similar origin.
Causality is a valid law to describe the connection between
a physical cause and a physical effect, but synchronicity
describes the connection between a psychic and physical state
or event. This is no criticism of the principle of causality,
it merely goes beyond its boundaries into the more subtle
but no less real world of mental energies . . . . . Whether
we are prepared to recognise this is another matter!
It is very easy to pour cold water on synchronistic coincidences
and to explain them away. The commonest type of coincidence
is the "it's a small world" where two people
who know each other happen to meet in a remote situation,
perhaps when away on a holiday, or two strangers discover
they both know a third person. A cynic could justifiably maintain
that meetings between friends who share similar interests
and lifestyle is highly probable and that if you put any two
people together, the chances are that they will quickly find
areas in common. So what?
But a good number of this type contain a further ingredient
which is not so easily explained. .Many people have experienced
a presentiment that they will shortly meet a certain person,
or read a certain word, and it takes place. A common variety
of this is the instance of picking up the phone on sudden
impulse and ringing, only to be met with the startled reception,
"Goodness, I was just on the point of ringing you!"
Normally when these types of coincidence occur we just accept
them for what they seem to be; interesting and odd instances
to tell one's friends.. Many of them arguably are quite trivial.
Perhaps though, we can nip them too quickly in the bud, for
there are many recorded examples of so-called coincidence
which led to people being given help, assistance, and solutions
they badly needed. We do not normally go looking for such
events in our lives, and we could ask how many others we miss
out on noticing?
Is it legitimate to seek something underlying these coincidental
events, or is it simply reading into things something which
in fact is not there?
Swedenborg’s spiritual teachings do provide a very helpful
basis for trying to cultivate the habit of seeing links in
the way life unfolds and presents things to us. This includes
events such as those apparently chance happenings mentioned
at the beginning of this leaflet as well as synchronistic
events. Swedenborg makes it clear that what is often called
fate, fortune or coincidence is actually under the influence
of Divine Providence. Most religious people recognise that
God does exercise an overall care and guiding role over creation.
Yet Swedenborg goes very much further showing that the beneficent
care of the Divine operates in absolutely every detail, even
the most seemingly insignificant and trifling, of an individual's
life. The focus of this divine activity is primarily related
to our eternal welfare, not our material comforts. All the
time we are being presented with opportunities geared to assisting
our spiritual growth, although we are unaware of this happening.
Of course it is very difficult for us to know fully what is
significant and what isn't. We can never be quite sure what
is of importance for our spiritual welfare and what isn't.
But we should not assume that something isn't working on a
spiritual level so it is useful to cultivate the habit of
seeking links in the way life unfolds and presents things.
An approach to life in the belief that nothing happens merely
by chance and that all events in our lives, while not necessarily
arranged by God, are completely and securely under the infinite
love and wisdom of the Divine Providence can only bring peace
of mind. We remain free to make our own interpretations of
all the various events and happenings; and usually it is sometime
afterwards that we can begin to make some sense of it all.
Life can be like continually looking at the reverse side of
a tapestry - many loose ends, knots and unconnected threads.
We need to have glimpses of the beautiful picture on the right
"All things, indeed, the least of all things, down
to the minutest are directed by the Divine Providence, even
as to the very steps . . . . there is nothing such as chance,
and apparent accident or fortune is providence in the ultimate
of order." Swedenborg
There are more things in heaven and earth than you
and I ever dreamed of . . . .