Healing Through Numinous Encounters: A Jungian Approach
C.G. Jung described synchronicity as having an incomprehensible numinous quality, such that the experience has an element of a “third” or “other” being present. For Jung, there were three key elements to these kinds of experiences: acausal connection, meaningful coincidence, and numinosity. Jungian Analyst, Lionel Corbett, explained numinous experiences as having a significant physical component as well:
“The feelings of awe, dread, and amazement that accompany a numinous experience are important not simply because they help us to identify the experience as sacred. These emotions tell us that the experience has been embodied. Emotions are felt in the body as a result of the action of the autonomic nervous system. They make the heart beat faster, make us pale, and produce muscle tension and sweating. Our hair may stand on end, and a variety of hormones may be secreted. A powerful emotional reaction provokes the response of the whole organism.”
The numinous has an incredible healing capacity too, since it has the potential to reconnect us to a greater whole. Numinous experiences, such as prophetic dreams or stunning synchronicity, are an invitation and can signal a transition or important new phase beginning to unearth itself. Within these experiences there is a union of matter and spirit, a connection between something real and something more than real. It is this alchemical marriage of two realities that want to equally create something new from the experience.
According to Jung, any work with unconscious material affects the psyche in a way that can be disorienting, such are the effect these encounters can have on one. Jung, from his own experience, learned that working with unconscious elements re-shapes our entire orientation toward the world:
“Once we give serious consideration to the hypothesis of the unconscious, it follows that our view of the world can be but a provisional one; for if we effect so radical an alteration in the subject of perception and cognition as this dual focus implies, the result must be a world view very different from any known before.”
On a personal level, these kinds of experiences seem to bolster my regard for the unconscious and the cosmological forces at work. Embracing these encounters creates a larger reality, expands psychic space. Suddenly, “the other” wants to be known, and through its visibility to the individual or group, something of the cosmos has been touched—something of our connectedness to each other and everything else has been realized. These are the riches of a kind of double-sight, to allow us to be addressed by the incomprehensible. When one is truly open, these experiences resonate because there is already something deep within us that recognizes them, whether it be a connection that was once lost or because it offers a sense of harmony, balance, and togetherness. In these precious moments of numinous experience, one is suddenly not alone in the universe.
These raw experiences are true gifts for the psyche and hold the power to re-orient the individual. Though these moments can be quite painful or frightening or mysterious, they often hold treasures beyond our wildest imaginings.