Friday, August 14, 2020

Birth of the Kairomancer


While working on my book Sidewalk Oracles,  I tried to come up with a new word to describe the phenomenon of meaningful coincidence. Jung coined the word "synchronicity" because he was frustrated by the difficulty we have in talking coherently about coincidence. "Synchronicity" is actually a very unsatisfactory term, since in its literal derivation, it refers only to phenomena occurring at the same time, while synchronistic events - as Jung was well aware -may play out over extended periods of time.
     Wolfgang Pauli,the quantum physicist who helped Jung develop his theory of synchronicity, insisted that the key element in this phenomenon is isomorphy, which means the identity or strong similarity of forms. Things resemble one another. What is inside us is around us, and a symbol recurs in both worlds. auli dreamed that "we must build cathedrals to isomorphy" and encouraged Jung to adopt the term. But Jung cleaved to "synchronicity" and since it sounds respectable and scientific, many of us use it to allay the skepticism and confusion that arise at the mention of "coincidence".
     I had the sense, however, that we can do better. I considered older terms for meaningful coincidence and what generates it, from correspondence and confluence to sympathy and signatures, from wryd to weirder. I played with some neologisms of my own,but found them awkward. 
    I dreamed the word "reincidence", for a riff of coincidence. I thought that was cool,but not the suitcase term I was seeking. I reviewed the central elements in the experience of synchronicity:

-          You know it when you feel it.
     There is a meetup between what is on your mind and what is in the world around you.
-          You know that this is a special moment, a moment of revelation.            
           You may feel that ordinary time has been suspended.           
           You may feel epiphany, a lifting of the veil of the regular world.-          
           You feel the universe just got personal.
     You sense that a hidden hand is giving you a secret handshake or pushing you pack.
     You feel it in your shivers.

It is easier to describe the experience than to account for it. The trick is to apply the phenomenon, to use for navigational guidance, to make it part of a personal, practice method of divination: a mantic art.
      I ask myself, what word would Jung use for synchronicity now that he is living outside time? Wouldn’t he want to remove the Chronos who lives on in the word, as the younger gods overthrew old Chronos and jailed him in a cave? 
|    I ponder this under the shower. I recollect that in Greek, there are two kinds of time. Chronos time is what we observe when we look at a clock and measure out our days. The name of the old god lives on in words like chronology and chronometer, and of course in that slightly problematic word synchronicity.
     Then there is Kairos time, the time of a younger and less predictable god. Kairos time is the "appointed time", when powers and movements of a deeper world irrupt into our regular lives, when the Greater Trumps are in play. 
    Kairos time is risky time, offering both opportunity and danger, the excitement of living on the edge. Lynn Haupt says beautifully in Crow Planet, "It is a time brimming with meaning, a time more potent than 'normal' time."
    Kairos is the god of special moments, when time works differently or seems suspended. He is the lord of jump time, opportunity time, of what Jung once called - in dialogue with Mircea Eliade - a "rupture in time" (that is to say, Chronos time).
     In the iconography Kairos was depicted as a handsome youth. He is fast and slippery.When he appears, bringing perhaps amazing opportunity, you have to grab him while he is on front of you. His hair curls over his forehead but the back of his head is bald.Once he's sped by you, there is nothing to grab. This is the origin of our phrase "seize time by the forelock". 
     The celebrated Greek sculptor Lysippos carved his image, showing a winged figure with a razor and hair hanging down over his face. As explained by Poseidippos, the razor is "a sign to men that I am sharper than any sharp edge." His hair hangs over his face because "he who meets me must take me by the forelock." The back of his head is bald because "once I have sped by none can seize me from behind." 
     It comes to me, standing naked as Kairos on the bathroom tiles with a towel in my hand, that I have a word for the practice of navigating by synchronicity.
      Kairomancy. Divination by special moments of Kairos time. Develop this practice and you become a kairomancer, someone who is always poised to recognize and act in those special Kairos moments of opportunity.
     In my book Sidewalk Oracles, I lay out the basic rules of kairomancy. I summarize the key qualities and qualifications for a kairomancer as:


Don’t worry. It’s not a solemn pledge but a mnemonic. To navigate by synchronicity and catch Kairos moments, we need to be 

Open to new experience
Available, willing to set aside plans and step out of boxes
Thankful, grateful for secret handshakes and surprises, and ready to
Honor our special moments by taking appropriate action.

Part of this text is adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Image: a copy of Lysippos' carving of Kairos

1 comment:

HawkwardSarah said...

I like how you say, "when the Greater Trumps are in play." I feel a very special connection to your book 'Sidewalk Oracles' because shortly after receiving it I went to a variety store called Zandbroz in downtown where I live and spotted a carousel Lion in there with its mouth open that looked very much like the one on the cover of your book. And when I spotted it I felt waves of wonder crash over me. I am deeply grateful to have learned about the opportunity to navigate as a kairomancer in the world.

I read this post yesterday and then this morning I awoke from a dream where I found myself sitting in a big stadium filled with people. I spotted a woman with dark curly hair and the sight of her made me excited because I saw her as a synchronicity in the dream. I turned to the person to my left to share my excitement and said that this woman, whose name was Deva, was involved in the connection of synchronicity somehow. When I awoke I instantly recalled a book I have that I have not yet finished called 'The Body Deva: Working With the Spiritual Consciousness of the Body' by Mary Mueller Shutan and I also pondered the name Deva itself. At this time, I associate the word with 'God consciousness.' I guess I will return to reading this book and listen more closely to what my Body Deva is saying to me.