Where can the divide be drawn between premonition and coincidence?
When people tell me about their “coincidences,” they describe scenarios with a pattern I’ve heard so often that I’m convinced their unconscious mind has something to do with it. That these coincidences are actually examples of premonition at work.
Like this one: a young man was working on the roof of his house. His mind wanders to a high school sweetheart, someone he loved as a teen and wondered if he’d see again. A reunion was coming up, and he didn’t usually go to those, but maybe she’d be there. He went back to work on the roof. When his mother alerted him that he had a call on the house phone, he asked her to take a message since climbing down quickly would be a lot of trouble.
After work, he found out the call was from his former love interest, the very one he had been thinking about. He couldn’t believe it! He called back and they had a wonderful conversation, one that transcended the limits of the relationship they had had in the past. They were able to express real fondness for each other and even talked about seeing each other again. The reunion came up as a possibility, and they left it open. They said goodbye, and he felt fulfilled. How wonderful, he mused, like magic, she had called him. That connection, and the following conversation, was enough for him, even if they never met again in person.
[Read: “Oracle Cards for Beginners.”]
Coincidences—or two, separate incidents happening at the same time—strike us powerfully because they feel related, despite the fact that they share no obvious common cause. You’re thinking of a friend when the phone rings and it’s her! How random, we say. What a wild coincidence. Our current scientific framework negates the possibility that our thoughts could correlate to the incoming phone call. We don’t even consider that we’re somehow involved in the occurrence.
But within the framework of premonition, thinking about a friend, and then receiving a phone call from her, is a solid example of our intuitive capacity. Our premonitory ability to sense the event before it happens is due in part to the phenomenon of retrocausality.
Retrocausality is the idea that effect can precede cause. An effect from the future can make its way to the present moment—and into the present mind—before the cause happens. While it’s a theoretical concept from quantum physics, plenty of data show retrocausality occurs in the human body unconsciously. On the conscious level, retrocausality happens in cases of premonitory phone calls, dreams, and especially intuitive gut feelings about the safety of our loved ones. When you have a feeling or a dream about a loved one’s safety, don’t dismiss it out of hand.
[Read: “3 Lessons to Learn From Conversations Between Science and Religion.”]
In the case above, the young man on the roof had a premonitory feeling about his former sweetheart—but there's another layer to the story: a few weeks after his powerful conversation with her, the young man received a second call, this time from his former love’s mother. She had died in a car crash, leaving three children behind. The young man was full of sadness but not regret. He was thankful for the coincidence and their sincere conversation. He had the eerie realization that, although he didn’t know it then, he had already said his final goodbye. Maybe, he mused, that was the reason for her call in the first place. Maybe she somehow sensed she was going to die, and made the call to him “out of the blue” to connect one last time.
In the second part of the story, the framework of premonition makes sense of the otherwise chaotic events. The young man’s sweetheart, sensing her own car crash, reached out to someone she loved to say goodbye. He, in turn, had premonitory thoughts about her before she called, and said everything he wanted to say to her in the call.
I had a lot of resistance to the language around premonition at first. That we could detect future events with a “second sight” felt like a superstitious idea. In our conventional understanding of time, premonition is not possible. But listen to Episode 2, “The Second Sight’ of The Extraordinary Project, and you’ll understand how premonition is both possible and likely in the case of coincidence.
For more information visit: newyorker.com & cornell.edu.
Listen to more episodes of The Extraordinary Project and learn more at theextraordinaryproject.net.
Read Suzanne’s piece in the November/December 2021 issue: “5 Risks of a Spiritual Path.”
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