Atlanta, 1892. Pharmacist John Pemberton just wanted to cure headaches. He combined coca leaves and cola nuts, but the bitter after-taste was almost worse than having a headache. So he added a flavored syrup to sweeten the deal. In the process of trying to find the perfect ratio of these three ingredients, he accidentally spilled carbonated water into one batch. And the world’s first Coca-Cola was born.
I’ve been intrigued lately with the Buddhist idea of auspicious coincidence, which accepts that all circumstances bring us toward spiritual alignment. Synchronicity, through this lens, is less about happy accidents or bad luck, and more about the idea that synchronistic experiences leave us with a curious sense that we should pay closer attention to the hidden patterns underlying our world. It’s deeper than the trite everything happens for a reason. It’s more an urging that everything happens, and it’s up to us to suss out the meaning. Auspicious coincidence might suggest that John Pemberton created Coke not by accident, but simply pulled his deep, unconscious knowing into his conscious world.
These moments can be transcendent, and equally mundane. Auspicious coincidence assumes that time and linear causality are not the ultimate way in which reality is ordered, that unseen forces are just as powerful as what our eyes and brain process. It asks us to put aside our ego and self-obsession to draw closer to the divine. As Albert Einstein explained, “Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.” Even when two events, people, or things do not seem to be related, they are connected.
Carl Jung supposed that synchronistic events were actually necessary for human development; that auspicious coincidence was nothing more than an archetypal pattern connecting us to the deeper truths of human existence.
The term auspicious comes from the Latin auspicium, meaning divination by observing the flight of birds and the term coincidence is a Medieval word meaning to fall upon together. This might suggest that the true nature of reality can be puzzled out through, well, nature. Anyone on the path of awakening is likely to be mesmerized by birds flying in formation, left wondering what it all means. We look around at the natural world and fall upon the divine everywhere we look. The more we notice these unseen universal energies, these moments of seeming random connection, the more there are to see. Our contemplative walk in the woods leads to the exact book we need to read falling off the shelf when we return home.
Eons ago, two chemicals called actin and myosin evolved to allow the muscles in insect wings to contract and relax, so that the organism could fly. Billions of years later, those two exact chemicals allow the human heart to beat. It’s not much of a leap to think then that, when we gaze heavenward and see animals in flight, our heart beats in recognition.
What I’m saying is this. Stop trying to rationalize away – or worse yet, simply ignore – the auspicious coincidences that surround you daily. Awaken to them. What wisdom are they imparting?