From the conclusion of Mike Clelland's book The Messengers: Owls, Synchronicity, and the UFO Abductee:
[P]ulp sci-fi publisher Ray Palmer . . . said that flying saucers intrude into our lives to make us think. I would amend that to say that they intrude into our lives to make us think deeply. The same could be said for owls. . . .
Those owls at sunset didn't grant me enlightenment or anything so grand, instead they initiated a process of crumbling. Some brittle part of me started falling away and something new has been trying to emerge. . . .
I have changed. I now see magic in the world around me. It's woven into the fabric of everything. This might seem naive, but I see owls, UFOs, and synchronicity as an expression of this magic, all blurring together and playing a similar role. These are deeply challenging ideas, but they are also seductive, and they've been tugging at my soul.
I agree entirely with this assessment, and I find Clelland's formulation of it to be helpfully clarifying. The primary purpose of synchronicity, and of the elusive nonhuman intelligences that are inextricable from it, is to elicit -- patiently, often over the course of many years -- new ways of thinking and of being. Clelland's title refers to messengers, but this is clearly a case in which the medium is the message.
Whitley Strieber has expressed a similar idea many times, saying that the close-encounter experience is primarily "a process of creating questions that can neither be borne nor answered," and that it is in this way that other worlds are helping our own.
I understand what Clelland means when he refers to "some brittle part of me . . . falling away" under the influence of synchronicity (mediated, in his case, by owls). Looking back, I think I can even say that synchronicity had its role to play in awakening me from my dogmatic slumber and leading me by slow degrees out of the narrow desert of dismissive materialism and back into the fold of Christ. I refer not to any particular synchronicity, not to any dramatic "conversion experience," but to a gradual falling away of brittleness through an influence as patient and diffuse as the love of one's parents.
Despite having a rather idyllic childhood, I secretly spent a rather large portion of it in a state of abject terror. In very early childhood, this took the form of a paralyzing fear of "bad dreams" and of "monkeys" and "bugs" coming into my room at night. This led to insomnia, and when my parents offered the advice that one good way of falling asleep is to close one's eyes and pretend to be asleep, they had no way of knowing that what they were suggesting was absolutely impossible, that I could no more do it than I could jump off a cliff. (My 2013 poem "The Bugs" deals with this chapter in my life.)
Around the age of 11 or 12, I discovered the works of Whitley Strieber, which terrified me more than anything I had ever read and provided a sort of nucleus around which free-floating terror could congeal. As late as my college years, I suffered from an intermittent but extreme fear of the dark which was very difficult to overcome, even though I constantly challenged it by taking a night job and walking home every morning at 4 a.m.
When I became an atheist, fear stopped as if it had been turned off with a tap. (When I was 17, I had written an essay arguing that atheism was a response to the fear of the dark. It's a bit rich that five years later, with zero self-awareness, I myself dealt with my fear of the dark by turning to atheism!) I had decided that I no longer lived in a supernatural world, and the disquieting aspects of the supernatural obligingly withdrew. This disappearance of fear -- not a manic sort of fearlessness at all but a bored fearlessness -- was extremely abrupt, and I noted it at the time and found it somewhat disturbing even though I had to admit it was perfectly rational. (Under atheism, there are no stakes and nothing matters, so what the hell is there to be afraid of?)
Somewhat surprisingly, the return of faith has not brought a return of fear. The supernatural is back, and of course some aspects of it are extremely malevolent, but I'm just not scared of it anymore. It's neither mania nor ennui this time, but just a calm sense of being "persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39; I think Paul also exhibited non-manic fearlessness). 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fear relieved.
Why am I writing all this in a post about synchronicity? I don't know, it just seemed relevant somehow.
I think some people resist synchronicity because it is fundamentally irreverent, blending the absurd with the holy and stubbornly refusing to recognize the demarcation that separates the sacred from the profane. I have sometimes had occasion on this blog to apologize for, well, the vulgarity of some of the sync fairies' links, and of course I've just been going on about how St. Michael's defeat of the Dragon is related to the nonsensical palindrome "Mr. Owl ate my metal worm."
I no longer really object to this, obviously. The Hebrew word for "holy" means "separate," but the English word holy means "whole."
Another little synchronicity: In this post, I included a link to my old poem "The Bugs," which describes a technique I used to use as a very young child in order to fall asleep without closing my eyes first: visualizing two clouds, one on either side of my head, and trying to focus on them both at the same time. Just before finishing the post, I went into the kitchen and saw that my wife had bought a drink from a tea stand and that the cup was decorated with this image: