NEW DAWN (ND): Dr. Surprise, doesn't
it seen strange for someone named Surprise to be writing a book
DR. KIRBY SURPRISE (KS): Yes, Surprise is actually my family
name, and I am a licensed psychologist. It's definitely a
meaningful coincidence that I wound up writing a book on
Having a name like Surprise is probably one of
the reasons the book seems to have had a charmed life in the
publication process. The name and the book itself are their own
ND: What exactly are synchronistic events?
KS: Synchronistic events (SE) are
coincidences in which a meaning or message seems to be conveyed
by the events to the observer. They happen when the inner and
outer worlds become synchronized.
Here's an example from the
book that helped fuel my own fascination with SE:
One cool autumn day I was sitting in my car waiting to pick up a
friend. I was listening to the radio to pass the time. During a
commercial break an ad for the movie Carrie was played.
movie is about a teenager who discovers she has the ability to
move objects at a distance. I started having fantasies about
what it would actually be like to experience moving an object
this way. I had seen the film; during its climax, Carrie uses
her power to crush her family's home. I looked across the street
and saw an old cottage.
Focusing on the house, I
about what being able to move an object that large would be
I was remembering a National Inquirer headline about a
house that supposedly was turned over on its side by some
psychic force. I was wondering what effect such a power would
have on a person, how it might feel to move a house.
As I stared at the house the entire cottage shuddered violently.
The house started to move. It rolled over onto its side. The
roof was now facing me. I was astonished and felt panicky. I
stared at the overturned house and wondered, could I have really
done this? I wondered if this was just a vivid dream.
I was awake and the event was real.
"OK," I said to myself. "If
I just did that, then I want to see the house crushed
like in the movie."
As I stared, awestruck, the house again began to shudder.
roof started to collapse inward as if the centre of the house
were slowly imploding. Beams burst through walls and windows
shattered as the house began to tear itself apart.
later, I saw a flash of yellow paint above the house, then the
largest bulldozer I'd ever seen climbed lazily over the centre
of the house, crushing the structure into rubble in a few
It then started to load the debris into waiting dump
trucks. The house had obscured the demolition equipment from
sight. With the radio on and windows up, I couldn't hear the
My fantasy had come to pass, my wish fulfilled
through a series of synchronistic events.
ND: You're claiming that not only are these events real, but
that we all create them every day. But isn't it possible that we
are just interpreting what we experience wrong, that
synchronistic events are a trick of the mind?
KS: Many SE are based solely on the way we interpret events
SE can seem like miracles, violating the laws of time
and space. You are the actual miracle. You have billions of
sensory neurons pointed out into the environment. Each neuron is
literally a digital biological computer operating like a binary
circuit sending signals to the brain. Your brain is the known
universe's most powerful supercomputer.
Your brain has a hundred
billion neurons, each as powerful as a small desktop computer,
each networked to as many as two hundred thousand others.
One of the things you're doing with all that computing power is
taking trillions of bits of digital sensory information, and
constructing, in areas of memory, the universe as you are
experiencing it as you read these words.
You, the conscious
executive functioning in the frontal lobes, is about the size of
a walnut. You have no direct contact with the outside world. You
experience a neurological representation of the world
constructed for you on a stage of the brain's memory.
in effect, your own "Matrix" computer.
The automated systems of the brain that construct this reality
for you make vast changes to the information before you
experience the data as the reality around you. The brain evolved
to match patterns. It looks over vast rivers of sensory
information, and memory, to find the patterns you, the executive
function, has been interested in.
We evolved as grassland hunters. Our task was to look out over
the miles of waving patterns in the savannah, and see through
the camouflage of other creatures.
We survived by looking at all
that data, and deleting the patterns that had no meaning, and
completing the partial patterns that meant dinner, or predator.
We do this because there is millions of times more information
in the environment than we could consciously process.
the brain evolved automated systems to do the editing for
The brain deletes most of the sensory data from the reality
you're experiencing right now. Patterns you have looked for in
the past get enhanced, missing pieces added, until patterns with
some meaning emerge.
the typical reader reads only the first three or
four letters of each word in a sentence. The brain deletes the
rest of the word, and then fills in the meaning by using the
context of the sentence and subject matter.
This speeds up
pattern recognition while reading. As you read, you have been
hallucinating parts of this very sentence. So, when you say we
are "just" interpreting events, you're describing a miraculously
SE do not appear as "tricks of the mind."
They partially result
from the automated systems of the brain searching out and
enhancing patterns in your environment. The patterns are always
there, but unless they have some emotional relevance to you,
what psychologists call "Emotional Valence," they are deleted
and no memory of them is created.
SE often appear because you
have been consciously, or unconsciously, thinking about
something, and the automated pattern recognition systems in your
bio-supercomputer highlight matching patterns in the environment
Even more amazingly, you are also altering the randomness of
events in the external world as well based on your thoughts and
emotions. You are not just altering sensory data, you actually
change the probabilities in the outside world as well.
ND: So, you're saying that we create our own reality?
KS: Only in the sense that I believe some well meaning people
often mistake our brain's creation and editing of our
neurological representation of reality for creating objective
Clearly, none of us creates actual reality. We
do have some influence over the randomness of events around us
though. We create SE that mirror our thoughts and emotions. This
happens with all thought processes, conscious, unconscious and
We don't create or change the physical matter and
energy around us, but we do influence the relationships between
events to create SE.
ND: How much influence do we have over the events around us?
KS: Research is telling us that we do change the randomness of
events around us by around 3-5%.
The best experimental designs
are called "Double Blind Experiments." In this design the
subjects have been randomly selected, and subjects don't know
what the experiment is actually about. The person performing the
experiment does not know what the expected outcome of the
experiment is either.
The experimenter and subjects are both
"Blind" to the expected outcome.
The core problem this method is
meant to help eliminate is a basic, hard-to-swallow, scientific
the expectations of the researcher
change the outcome of
the events in the experiment just by the act of observation and
The estimation of SE influence being 3-5% comes from Dr.
He was a psychologist and researcher. Back in the 1930s a
man came to his office with a strange claim. He said he was a
gambler, and he could control dice rolls with his mind. Not all
the time, but enough so that it was a noticeable effect that
turned the odds in his favor.
Rather than dismiss this claim,
Rhine did what a good scientist does. He said "show me."
took six pairs of dice; the gambler's task was to have more dice
come up with the number six than could be expected by chance.
They tossed the dice.
Again, and again, and again. It works.
amount of change over random hovered at about 3-5% above chance.
The effect was real. Rhine spent decades doing rigorous
experiments on the ability of subjects to change random events.
He was having people produce SE on demand. The research,
reproduced and confirmed by peers, states the odds are millions
to one in favor of us being the cause of this effect.
Rhine concluded events could be changed in the direction of the
subject's desire and attention.
These random events included
series of coin tosses, die throws, the position objects landed
in when dropped in a random manner, the values of randomly
generated electrical currents, and the rate of particle release
from a radioactive source, among others.
In each instance, he
found that the probability of these physical events was changed
by the psychological expectation and attention of the observers,
even though no physical force was detected.
Rhine's work went beyond proof of personal causation. He found
emotional states, such as interest or boredom, affected the
subjects' ability to influence SE.
Boredom and anxiety decreased
the ability to change the randomness of events in their desired
Focused attention and positive expectation increased
the occurrence of the targeted events.
He found alcohol or
caffeine lowered or raised scores respectively.
emotions and personal physiological states can facilitate or
My book shows people that not only do they do this
all the time, but that very complex ideas and emotions can be
reflected by SE as well.
ND: If this is the way our reality works, then why aren't more
people aware of doing this?
KS: There is a measure of self-awareness called "The Mirror
Test" developed by bio-psychologist Gordon Gallup.
shown their own reflection in a mirror. If they recognize the
reflection in the glass as their own, it is taken as an
indication it is a self-aware being. Humans, some great apes,
elephants, and dolphins generally recognize their own
reflections; a few birds do as well.
Interestingly, some birds
and dogs that can't initially recognize their own reflections
can be trained to do so.
Synchronicity is a form of mirror test. People see in the mirror
of events around them the image of their own inner life. They
see what they think, feel and believe. They even see their
fantasies about what causes these reflections. Everyone has
experienced meaningful coincidences. They are explained by
supernatural and religious beliefs, archetypal influences, or
more exotic personal mythologies.
SE mirrors these beliefs back
to the observer. SE often are mistaken for confirmations of the
objective reality of personal beliefs. Most people are looking
into the mirror of SE every day. They don't realize the images
they see are their own thoughts.
You have an amazing ability. Your thoughts and feelings, your
memories and experiences, are reproduced in the events around
you as coincidences. The world presents you with meaningful
coincidences based on your inner life. Everyone creates their
own SE, constantly.
The ability is innate to the way our brains
process information into meaning.
This seemingly magical ability
goes largely unnoticed, unexplained and misunderstood, until it
presents itself in spectacular form, simply because people never
question the everyday SE in their mirror.
ND: In the book you state religion has nothing to do with
spirituality. What did you mean by that?
religious doctrines were created to keep people under
control and to maintain civil order.
You can spot them pretty
they consist mainly of
behavioral instructions and
Jared Diamond describes in
Guns, Germs, and Steel - The
Fates of Human Societies the evolution of the concept of a
single, all-powerful God.
When we lived in tribal groups without
fixed laws, we generally had social communities of about 60
We can't keep track of everyone in larger groups. This
makes it impossible to make good pattern matches about everyone,
so we break up into smaller groups.
We answered this problem by
creating a social technology that allowed many more people to
live together. Tribal groups came under the law of a single
king, whose authority came from the Gods we created and the
punishments imposed on heretics.
Alternately, some spiritual doctrines don't focus on behavior;
they focus on achieving states of consciousness.
They change the
frame of reference to
creating experiences of 'connectedness':
...often focused on creating states of
In these states of consciousness, the
practitioner experiences existence without boundaries. The
subject/object relationship we experience as separateness ceases
You become one with everything. SE demonstrates this
connectedness. This connection is not something you earn; it is
what you already are. SEs are not something you learn to create,
you learn to recognize you are already creating them.
I have heard people ask if someone was "enlightened," as if it
were a possession that enhanced their value. Enlightenment is
the recognition of your essential unity and connection with
existence. You don't have to earn it, you are it. Spirituality
The stock and trade of most religion is having
people trade that natural connection for a code of behavior.
ND: You're saying that we all see a reality created by the
meanings we look for, and that we do this naturally and
KS: Absolutely. All of us have known decent, rational, people
who have what we would consider extreme religious, political or
You may wonder,
"How could they possibly
It's because beliefs are patterns of thought that
become reflected in the world around us.
People mistake their
reflected SE for confirmation of their version of the nature of
reality, when in fact they have just come to believe what they
As a psychologist, I see people replaying the patterns of past
traumas and relationships in their lives over and over.
unconscious recreates these patterns in our lives as a way of
trying to process them. SE work the same way. Researchers have
commented that one of the most consistent types of SE patterns
that manifest around people are reflections of either traumatic
or spiritual experiences.
The commonality in both is the
emotional valence around the events that seems to directly drive
ND: What are the implications for the way people experience
their spiritual life?
KS: Most of us live in what Joseph Campbell would call a
A Christian looks for help from Jesus, and
SE appear that seem to be from their deity. Muslims look for
Allah, and find the pattern of their thoughts reflected back to
them. Pagans look for the mother Goddess, and are answered by
however they believe their deity to be.
I love to study
mythology, what Campbell would call "Other people's Religion." I
have several dictionaries of 'Gods' and
descriptions of thousands of Deities, all of which were the
centre of people's spiritual life and belief, and all, but for a
very few, are now considered mere myths of our ancestors.
What has endured are the shamanic and mystical traditions, most
of which have a strikingly similar teaching: there is only one
being, one consciousness, and we are it.
Again, as Campbell
"You are, in your deepest identity, God."
implication here is that when you create SE, you are not
altering an external environment.
You are seeing a demonstration
that your thoughts are not separate from the environment. You
are experiencing an aspect of yourself that is not limited to
the cause and effect of time and space.
There is much more to
you than meets the eye, you are connected to everything.
ND: You claim that modern science and String theory support the
idea that we are all navigating in many realities at once - can
you say more about that?
KS: I am offering an explanatory fiction of SE that fits the
facts of String theory, as we now understand them.
I have read,
I believe in your magazine, articles by people who have come to
understand that the Planes of consciousness described by our
traditional mystics are actually the newly speculated on
dimensions of reality String theory has given us.
This is a
great step forward, to realize that all matter and dimensions
have their own flavors of consciousness.
String theory our universe has 11 dimensions, all particles
being extensions of dimensions linked to other dimensions in
various patterns. But beyond even that, it appears our universe
is projected onto what's being called a "Membrane."
It's as if
we exist as Flatlanders on the surface of a thin bubble in what
is being called
M-space. We are not the only bubble universe out
The separation between membranes is probably as small as
the smallest quantum state. This means a virtually infinite
number of alternate physical universes in the space around you
right now. It used to be a joke when someone said Elvis is
performing on stage in Vegas in a parallel probability.
a joke anymore; it's the standard model of physics.
In the book I'm saying we don't just live in one probability. We
don't jump from one to another, we live in an almost infinite
range of them simultaneously.
I believe our experience of the
passage of time itself is the result of our movement, at the
speed of light, as described in the
Special and General theory,
through these probability membranes.
Our trajectory through
these probabilities is altered by our thoughts and emotions
because, as our not so ignorant mystics have told us, thought
and emotion are dimensions that underlie the physical reality.
Whether this explanation proves to be accurate or not, it is
useful. If you believe it, it allows you to navigate probability
just a bit, 3-5%, by choosing your thoughts and emotions, to
create SE. The problem with explaining SE has always been a kind
of "flat earth" thinking that mandated something to "cause" SE.
It appears as if the entire structure of the universe would have
to be altered to create SE.
With an infinite number of
probability membranes being travelled through, you do not alter
anything: your mental patterns move you through probabilities in
which events around you reflect your internal processes.
already a multidimensional being.
ND: If I wanted to try to prove to myself that my thoughts are
being mirrored in the environment around me, exactly how would I
go about it?
KS: The best way, as self-serving as it sounds, is to first read
the book so that you have a safe context to start with.
so responsive that people sometimes get trapped in the house of
mirrors of their own thoughts. The book was created to ground
people and give them a working context. It also contains a
series of exercises that starts at the creation of simple SE,
and progresses to creating more complex full personal
The easiest way to create SE is to simply regularly
think about them, then look out into the world as if it is a
single, responsive being trying to communicate with you through
Expect a response SE, and eventually they will appear. Just
don't forget you are seeing your thoughts mirrored in external
ND: What advice do you have for people who are experiencing
synchronistic events and might be scared or confused by them?
KS: Relax. SE are not dangerous.
The meanings they convey
are just thoughts, and only have the reality you chose to give
them. They are not even paranormal. They are extremely normal.
Everyone is creating SE. You were born creating SE, you have
been doing it all your life. SE are part of the natural survival
skills you evolved to help you through your life.
The best way
to use them is as a form of communication with other parts of
yourself, to teach yourself connectedness. Choose the patterns
you want to look for and expect them to appear as SE.
become scared or anxious, ask yourself why you are choosing to
scare yourself, then move on to creating something fun with SE.
Because SE are driven by the attention you put into them, any
pattern of SE you don't want can be extinguished by either
looking for a different pattern, or ignoring them until they
If you signal the brain you're not interested in
them, it will gradually stop presenting them.