Brian Inglis’s book, Coincidence, was subtitled, A Matter of Chance – or Synchronicity? It described and categorised various forms of coincidence. From ‘it’s a small world’ – those pleasurable moments of surprise when by chance, in an obscure part of the country, you run into friends you haven’t seen for years – to ‘the library angel,’ where an important book or reference is drawn to the attention of the seeker. Rather as happened to me in Otley Library, going straight to the book that was to open the door to worldly success.
Meaningful coincidences appeared to be brought about by some unseen influence, usually to the recipient’s benefit, although as several examples illustrated, some appeared to be the work of a malicious mind, particularly with regard to illicit love-affairs. As though ‘the joker’ was keen to expose the deceivers.
An example of the purely amusing type occurred as I was looking through some of Brian Inglis’s books. Breaking off for lunch. I picked up the local free paper, and for the first time in months turned to the ‘What’s On’ page. My eyes lit upon a review for the film There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day Lewis.
I read that the screenplay had been adapted from the novel Oil! written in 1927, by Upton Sinclair. I remarked to my husband that I couldn’t have told him the author’s name, but I could see that book in my mind’s eye. With its black cloth binding and green lettering, it had been the one novel at home that I never succeeded in reading, even when reduced to desperation level. As a teenager, I would scour the titles on the shelves, come to Dad’s old copy of Oil! pick it up, read the first page, and think, ‘No, perhaps not…’ and put it back.
Knowing I still had it somewhere, I said I must dig it out, give it another chance. Perhaps five minutes later, I picked up Brian Inglis’s The Unknown Guest. Opening it at random, my eye was caught by this: ‘…Upton Sinclair, then at the height of his fame following his denunciations of tooth-and-claw capitalism in Oil! and other works, amazed his rationalist followers with his admission of his belief in clairvoyance…’
It was so odd, it made me laugh. It was as though my father was playing games, especially as the connections were all there – my girlhood, my passion for books, Brian Inglis, All Our Yesterdays, past and present, coincidence, and even the reference to clairvoyance, which despite his open mind, Dad had always dismissed as nonsense.
Most contributors to Coincidence sent in solitary or closely-related incidents that had been truly extraordinary in their lives; some of which had had profound on-going effects. But some – especially those to whom coincidence was a fairly regular if less startling event – expressed the view that certain states of mind possibly attracted or generated such events: a view to which I’m half-inclined to subscribe.
‘…but it appears to be more common for the sense of destiny to come to people through a drawn-out sequence of events,’ Brian Inglis wrote, ‘often trivial in themselves, the element of coincidence being provided by the feeling, in retrospect, that a guiding hand was at work.
‘One of the most remarkable series of coincidences pointing to such guidance has been experienced by Ann Victoria Roberts, the author of ‘Louisa Elliott’. As a child, she was given a diary kept by Liam Elliott in the trenches during the First World War until he was killed in 1917. She was deeply moved by it and eventually, married and with a family, she felt compelled to write a novel around it. A fortunate meeting in a library precipitated a succession of ‘library angel’ episodes and other coincidences, pushing her into writing a book on a much more ambitious scale than she had originally planned. The coincidences, usually trivial in themselves, were cumulatively significant for her; “All the time I was working on the book,” she recalls, “I felt quite strongly that I was being nudged by some mysterious power” – and it was not to lose its hold on her during the six years before the book was finished. Twenty years earlier she had written a novel which had failed to find a publisher. Not merely did Louisa Elliott become a best-seller: on the strength of her synopsis for a sequel, based more specifically upon the life of the soldier himself, a publisher in the United States secured the rights, after a four-day auction, for $900,000…’
When that was written, Liam’s Story was still unfinished, and the coincidences and strange events were still going on.
In Coincidence, without confirming or denying anyone’s assessment of their own experience, Brian Inglis was again putting the case for further investigation. But as he acknowledged, coincidences do not lend themselves to laboratory research, and generally refuse to be defined or explained by orthodox science. Probability theory answers some; chance covers others; synchronicity is a word much bandied about, while Quantum Theory presents attractive possibilities.
Who knows? Scientific thinking continues to move on, and maybe Stephen Hawking’s lifelong quest to discover the Meaning of Everything will illustrate the connection between physics and the psyche, the seen and the unseen, the peculiar relationship between Man and the Universe. Between Man and the Mind of God.
Awed by a TV programme about Hawking’s quest, I was delighted to hear one of the contributors, Professor Michio Kaku of City University, New York, utter these wonderful words: ‘Common sense,’ he declared, ‘has no place in the quantum world!’
I find that heartening. Especially in the face of those rationalists and materialists who for centuries have been deriding religious and spiritual belief as mere superstition, ignoring the fact that the best – and worst – of those beliefs connect in a similar way across the world. Like draws like. And maybe quantum science will one day explain it.
Link to Coincidence – A Matter of Chance or Synchronicity? http://www.amazon.co.uk/Coincidence-Matter-Synchronicity-Brian-Inglis-ebook/dp/B00993AYGO/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411732504&sr=1-9&keywords=brian+inglis
Permission to quote from ‘Coincidence’ by Brian Inglis, was given by the estate of Brian Inglis with the proviso that a link was included to http://whitecrowbooks.com