Pan and Synchronicity

Pan and Synchronicity

Satyr Frolicking with Nymphs, painted by Claude Lorrain (public domain
Satyr Frolicking with Nymphs, painted by Claude Lorrain (public domain
In the mythology of Pan, high noon seems to the very best time of day. It was usually at noon that Pan suddenly appeared, causing great panic and terror among whoever was present at the time. Midday, when the sun was at its zenith, a fearful panic would ensue. Noon is one of two liminal times of the day, the other being midnight. These times are almost paradoxical moments, noon being both the height of the sun’s ascent and the beginning of its descent. As Jung writes,

The sun falls into contradiction with itself. It is as though it should draw in its rays instead of emitting them. Light and warmth decline and are at last extinguished” (Modern Man 109).

It is also interesting that at noon, no shadows are possible, since the sun is directly overhead. For just a moment, time seems to stand still. It is at this very special moment when the veil of normalcy is torn asunder and Pan manifests himself, in all his mischievous splendor. Hillman writes,

This is the unrelatedness of Pan, and of the spontaneous aspect of nature. It simply is as it is, at where it is at; not the result of events, not with an eye to their outcome; headlong, heedless, brutal and direct, whether in terror or desire. This is what is meant by the spontaneity of instinct – all life at the moment of propagation or all death in the panic of the herd (Hillman lvi-lvii).

The archetype of Pan may be the governing principle behind spontaneous occurrences. Hillman says that by connecting Pan to spontaneity, we may “understand more psychologically the tradition of difficulty in comprehending and conceiving such events” (ibid.). Furthermore, these seemingly incomprehensible events may also be connected to the idea of synchronicity. Jung believed that synchronicity was equal to space, time, and causality, and “he found that synchronistic events happen mainly when instinctual (emotional, archetypal, symbolic) levels of the psyche are engaged” (ibid.). Pan encompasses very powerful natural instincts, as has been shown in previous articles. Hillman goes on to say that the Pan archetype cannot illuminate all synchronistic events, but does shed light on those of a sexual nature, when a fearful panic is present, or those that occur at noontime, Pan’s favorite moment of the day for causing mischief. These are the archetypal motifs of Pan.

The main point Hillman is driving at with connecting the goat-god with synchronicity is that Pan “connects nature ‘in here’ with nature ‘out there” (ibid.). This is also what synchronicity accomplishes. According to Jung,

Synchronicity therefore means the simultaneous occurrence of a certain psychic state with one or more external events which appear as meaningful parallels to the momentary sub­jective state-and, in certain cases, vice versa” (Synchronicity 25).

So, synchronicity originates in the region of the middle third, the imaginal realm, the metaxy, the place of soul. We have seen in prior articles that the Pan archetype, with its twin nuclei of Pan and Nymphs, is raw sexuality/fleeing fear and meekness, very important human instincts that, when transformed, bring about a state of reflection. Synchronistic events also bring about reflection. Hillman is definitely on to something important here.

My next article will connect these themes to some comments made by Robert Romanyshyn, in the essay I quoted yesterday, Alchemy and the Subtle Body of Metaphor. There are some very interesting parallels therein.

Works Cited

Jung, C.G. Modern Man In Search of a Soul. Trans. Cary F. Baynes and W.S. Dell. New York:
          Harcourt, 1933.

Jung, C.G. Synchronicity. Trans. R.F.C. Hull. New York: Princeton, 1960.    

Hillman, James. An Essay On Pan. Pan and the Nightmare. By Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher. Trans. A.V. O’Brien, M.D. New York: Spring, 1972. i-lix.

2 thoughts on “Pan and Synchronicity

  1. Great article, especially the interconnection sexuality and panic. And, surprisingly: synchronicity…
    Dutch proverb says about coincidence: “It is as if the devil (“deuce”) is in it” (Pan’s Play …). Two faced?

    Pan and Venus are often linked together, obviously they are attracted to each other (she rises from the waters, he from earth/vegetation…)?
    Remember one painting where Venus has her shoe in her hand, showing Pan the
    bottom of it (shows her contempt?).
    She must have known of higher Love 🙂

  2. p.s in certain phase in mystic life same panic occurs again and again: always choice and struggle between Love & Fear.
    Until only Love and Trust remains?
    It could be Pan is the Janusheaded Trickster (and secret Teacher?) that tests us until we really can stand on own humane legs, aware and trusting our Transcendental?

    Wish you a good

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