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The Tao of psychology: Synchronicity and the self [Hardcover]

Jean Shinoda Bolen


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 111 pages
  • Publisher: Harper & Row; First Edition edition (1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062500805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062500809
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 14.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I went to the mountains when I was a youngster and lay in my sleeping bag under the stars, seeing the vastness of the Milky Way above. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quantum Physics Meets Eastern Philosophy 23 Aug 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Quantum physics has defined a basic unit of matter that makes up all things, both organic and inorganic, which is pure energy. The same unit of energy that is a part of your body today may, only days before, have been a part of a bird flying over Beijing or an Ethiopian villager. This "new" knowledge from modern physics sounds very much like the Tao--in Eastern phillosophies, the "unifying principle in the universe to which everything in the world relates." The tao (lowercase) is the life path that is in harmony with the universe, the "path with heart." Jung believed that all people and all animate and inanimate objects are linked through a collective unconscious. Synchronicity, he said, was a connecting principle that manifests through "meaningful coincidences." Bolen proposes that synchronicity is the Tao of psychology; it relates the individual to the totality. She makes good use of anecdotes to explain Jung's layers of consciousness, the Jungian analytical tools of amplification and active imagination, and the difference between causality and synchronicity. Bolen has a gift for making clear Jungian concepts that seem obtuse or hazy in the hands of other writers.
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relating Jungian synchronicity to the Tao, ESP, dreams, etc. 7 Dec 2004
By Neal J. Pollock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Dr. Bolen describes the nature of synchronicity (Jung's concept of meaningful coincidence) and its relationships with the Tao (the Way), ESP, the occurrences of life, flow, and many diverse wisdom teachings. Her language is straightforward, her book very readable. Within its few, tiny pages, it says quite a lot. The author makes a very interesting observation that there is a strong correspondence between ones inner state and one's outer circumstances. Which is the cause and which is the effect? Maybe, per her book, each is both. This leads her to conclude that we can change both simultaneously. On page 61, she writes: "Synchronicity holds the promise that if we will change within, the patterns in our outer life will change also. If the people and events of our lives are here because we have drawn them here, then what happens in our lives apparently by chance or fortune is not really accidental."

This parallels Jung's view that the therapist and patient become a dyad and progress together. Dr. Bolen quotes Jung on page 51, "'The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: If there is any reaction, both are transformed.' In some instances, each personality at that exact moment in time may be unusually susceptible to the particular "chemical" action of the other." This reciprocity is exemplified in romance. From pages 55-6: "When, in everyday life, a person "falls head over heels in love," the loved one has provided the "hook" that attracts the archetypal projection ...What is seen is an archetypal image that is a projection; put another way `Beauty is in the archetype of the beholder'...That person is then reacted to emotionally as if he or she were one and the same as the image." Indeed, such relationships are internally/externally reciprocal as well. Per page 59, "the projection may have a Pygmalion-like effect...in some way influencing her to take on the predetermined role...Synchronicity suggests that the outer world really does reflect the inner world, not just that it seems to."

In support of her thesis, Dr. Bolen describes the holistic view vs. the limited view using the famous "Dermis Probe" (Idries Shah's term and book title) of the blind men and the elephant (page 102) surmising that no extant religious view has all the answers. She asserts on page 76 that psychotherapy helps us to transcend our self-imposed limitations: "Often people have been programmed by overly critical or rejecting parents to accept a limited or negative view of themselves or to be suspicious or mistrustful of others...In order to grow, the mental limits are the handicaps that must be transcended."

Despite the existence of "Negative" synchronicity" (coincidental events that block, hinder, and frustrate what one is attempting),...when a person is following a path with heart, his or her dreams are usually nourishing...Synchronistically, opportunities seem to open fortuitously" (page 94). This seems to parallel Csikszentmihalyi's concept of flow. She uses Jung's story of the Chinese rainmaker of Kiaochau, on page 98, and Plato's cave story (page 102) to demonstrate the application of this concept. Though, as she states on page 102, "We can never fully grasp what is boundless, infinite, and eternal," she provides an upbeat view of synchronicity and presents it in a manner that supports the use of free will to affect not only our inner selves (Eastern approach) but also our outer selves (Western approach) in an integrative manner-consistent with Jung's views of Individuation.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS IS NO COINCIDENCE 13 Jan 2001
By BPG - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Just as synchronicity brings meaningful events together, this book unites some very meaningful topics: coincidences, psychology, Jung, Taoism and the I Ching. Dr Bolen weaves these phenomena together in a highly readable format. If you've ever believed that there is more to coincidences than meets the eye, then reading this book is perhaps the next meaningful coincidence awaiting your life.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great little book on Synchronicity and more.... 25 Sep 2006
By Patrick D. Goonan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great little book on synchronicity i.e. meaningful, but non-causal relationships between events both outer and inner. Dr. Bolen knows her stuff and in this text she manages to pack a lot of interesting information on Jung's notion of synchronicity and her own reflections on its relationship to the Tao and paranormal phenomenon.

This is a quick, educational, entertaining and very thought provoking read. While the book is short, there is a lot of good information. It is also easy to read and very understandable. You need to be a Jungian analyst to follow it unlike many other books on Jung's thought.

This book is also written from a personal perspective. I liked this aspect of it and for me it added value. I can't imagine anyone with an interest in Jung, Tao or the paranormal not finding this book interesting reading.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sychronicity clarified! 8 Mar 2009
By Froxfield_Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
..and very informative - if you want to know about synchronicity this book will explain it to you in clear terms. Written by a Jungian Psychiatrist, it is excellent. I have just finished it and am about to reread it. It is worth reading for the outline on Jungian Archetypes alone. Marvellous.
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