The Science of Reading Signs

Yesterday two special things came to me. As I walked with a companion along the path overlooking the eastern shore of the island, a large black feather came down in front of me, falling vertically from the sky in a lovely spin, twirling perfectly upright as it descended and landed at my feet. I was stunned, and could have reached out and picked it from mid-air, but it’s descent was so purposeful that I didn’t want to interrupt its fall. It was a good size feather: 9-10 inches long and perfectly formed. It appeared at first to be black, but was really a deep, rich, solid gray-brown. Later that day I was showing the same visitor my office, and was surprised to find, upon a little side table in my sitting area, a small, attractive and unused journal I had never seen before. It had a very lovely patterned cover and a quote from Rilke on it. The quote read: “Think of the world you carry within you”. Were these “signs” or synchronicities? How does one know?

I decided that, maybe, these “signs” were telling me something. How dare I make such a conclusion? And is that crazy?

It so happens that my visitor yesterday is an Extragalactic Astrophysicist. She also happens to be my sister-in-law Ruth. She is one of the world’s experts on the Big Bang, as well as the properties of black holes in the distant edges of the universe. She wanted to see some of the sights at the end of the island, and have a walk along the little cliff trail overlooking the ocean. She also wanted to get a glimpse of the old cottage called Inner Ledge, the former summer home of three women physicians who were the first Jungian analysts in the U.S. This is the location of a Jungian Retreat the Island Well is planning for September, and she was curious. We were having a wonderful conversation, but it was indeed strange — I was in the challenging position of trying to actually explain why I “believed” in Astrology to someone who studies the properties of the known cosmological universe.

She is an understanding and open -minded person, and listened with close interest to what I was saying. Since I am not an astrologer or shaman, but just someone who has absorbed much of what I know in a non-linear and intuitive fashion, I felt that my explanations were pathetically inadequate. But on the other hand, I marveled that Ruth was taking the conversation seriously, and she was using her considerable intellect to understand what I was trying to say as best she could. She and I share an admiration for the writings of Carl Jung, who had a great interest in “mystical sciences” like astrology and alchemy. We agreed, as did Jung, that even though modern academic scientific thought has not yet learned to measure, quantify and explain mystical phenomena, it would be actually unscientific to completely discard material that doesn’t fit into a particular paradigm of reality. With that as a common point of interest, her mind was open and receptive.

I think that the art of perceiving “signs” is all about being receptive to the essence of that particular moment in time. It’s all about context. If I had been standing in the grocery store parking lot, or sitting in a kayak, the feeling or message of a feather from the heavens or a new journal might be different. But I was walking with Ruth to a special place that has been resonating with me on an emotional and spiritual level for years; a location that attracts me so powerfully that I rearranged my life and moved from another state to live near enough to visit at my heart’s desire.

And what was I doing when these gifts — a quill and a journal — came to me? I was in conversation with someone who is so much more learned than I — someone who explores the edges of the universe, someone who, like me, cares about the greater meaning of life and our evolution. But I was also struggling to translate into words, into language her scientific mind might accept, bits of the understanding I have developed over the years about ancient teachings from traditions that still embrace the mysteries of soul and spirit.

Yes, there are times I do “see signs” and choose to accept and respect the information. Maybe someday a brilliant scientist will reveal the workings of all this—and finally provide a rational explanation of the physics underlying this expanded, mystical reality. But if that ever happens, I can’t help but wonder if the scientist will be given a “sign” and a nudge toward the “Truth” – and that is how she will figure it out.