The coincidences in this section, mostly from early 1988, seemed to lend themselves more easily to a narrative exposition than a diary.
And unlike many of the other examples many here are, for the most part at least, verifiable.
I have appended a V to those that are verifiable and to make the following of it all easier I have added a synopsis.
Synopsis of the main coincidences of the Narrative
I note on December 22nd 1984, in an astronomical atlas which my mother was to give as a Christmas present to Robert Smith, a crater on the dark side of the moon called Plaskett.
Here it is with an image of my face jokingly inserted by Frederic Friedel.
On November 5th 1986 I dream of Lance Percival. A friend suggests that as the unconscious representing two Arthurian figures: Lancelot and Percival.
I discover that on the day I was born the first, primitive, map of the dark side of the moon appeared.
V (1) I conclude that the naming of the crater and myself happened on the same day, but then realise that on the first map not all of the features of the moon’s dark side may have been named.
I check astronomical textbooks and chance upon Plaskett’s Star; the object of largest known measurable mass, in Monoceros.
Plaskett´s Star was thought to be the most massive pair of stars known, but in 2008 a body of opinion arose that an even more massive star previously thought to be single could be a binary system -
However, because of difficulties in measurement of the mass of Eta Carinae, Plaskett´s Star still remains the object of largest known measurable mass.
I dub the ‘trail’ of possible meaning that coincidences may leave ‘The Unicorn Spoor’.
V (2) I see reviews of the opera Parsifal and note the singer playing him is a ringer for me.
V (3) I consult an encyclopedia, and by chance note it has a depiction of the constellation of Monoceros: The Unicorn. So I find out that Plaskett’s star is in The Unicorn one week after I had written of The Unicorn Spoor.
V (4) On February 14th 1988 I see Lance Percival on TV.
V (5) This and some other Arthurian-related coincidences prompt me to know more of Parsifal (Parzifal, Perceval, Percival).
I had known little about The Holy Grail but now read that in several versions of the legend, Parsifal is the one who finds it, that the quest symbolises the search for the Holy Spirit, and that the word may be derived from the Latin crater (bowl) or gradalis (dish).
Hence two streams of coincidence met at the word ‘crater’.
V (6) When looking up the source of the quote "First catch your hare" I chance upon the aphorism
"The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a new star"
and copy it out.
So gradalis also has its place in the nexus.
V (7) The next day, when pondering whether I ought to include a round table that I had seen on TV on Feb 14th as part of the Arthurian confluence, "round table" is said on the radio.
V (8) I switch on the TV to watch the morning news. One item was about the death of the composer of the musical Camelot.
V (9) When checking the name of the radio announcer I see that the film Knights of The Round Table had also been broadcast on Valentine’s Day.
I had been thinking of a man I knew called Ferrer whom I once persuaded to lend money for a film to a man called Baker. The Radio Times mentions that Arthur and Mordred are played by actors called Ferrer and Baker.
V (10) I find out that the crater was not named on March 18th 1960, but that my father was born during the period of observation during which the star was discovered.
V (11) These observations were made by a father and son team, the father John and the son Harry.
My father’s middle name was John and my first is Harold. My father was known as "Jack" and so was John S. Plaskett.
V (11a) On the day I discovered that the Canadian astronomer, who was based in British Columbia, was known as "Jack" a man from British Columbia orders a copy of my book Coincidences.
V (12) I telephone the Royal Astronomical Society to check details of eclipses and the telephone is answered by the librarian who had previously sent me details on Monoceros. He had happened to be passing the front desk, which he never normally did, when the phone rang.
I read Canto 18 of Dante’s Paradiso in which he and Beatrice reach the Heaven of Jupiter where the spirits of the Just have formed themselves into a red eagle.
V (13) In Canto 19 there is a reference to coin counterfeiting. In the background on my TV a reference to stealing valuable ‘Eagles’ is made. These were U.S. coins of $10 value.
V (14) I was wearing a sweater, a surprise gift from Douglas Baker in 1985. It has the image of a red bird of prey, possibly an eagle, on the left breast.
V (15) My school, Bedford Modern, had a red eagle for its emblem and this too was embossed on the left breast of the school blazer. The school’s motto was "They shall mount up with wings as eagles." Dante’s Eagle denounces unjust contemporary European rulers.
On December 10th 1984 I had confronted my old headmaster over his unjustness.
V (16) Later that day I had heard for the first time U2’s song Drowning Man, from their War album, the lyrics of which contain the school motto.
V (17) Dante specifies that it is only the spirits of the Just comprising the beak of the Eagle which speak.
‘Beak’ is a slang term for a headmaster.
V (18) In November 1984 I had debated with my brother how only one religion could be exclusively valid when so many people would have had no chance to hear of it.
We had also visited our maternal grandmother at an old people’s home near his house.
In Canto 20 Dante states that it is possible for those who knew not Christ in their earthly lives to still attain Heaven.
I then see that my mother has written a letter to my maternal grandmother at the new home, to which she moved on the day that I read of Dante and Beatrice arriving at the Eagle.
The address was:
Mrs B.C. Ingram
The Old Vicarage
V (19) It is confirmed to me that Grandma’s names are Beatrice Constance.
I read of Dante and Beatrice arriving at the Heaven of Jupiter where the spirits of the Just have combined themselves into the shape of an eagle.
This eagle then answers for Dante the same question that had troubled me and which I had debated with my brother when visiting him and our maternal grandmother four years earlier: is it possible for virtuous heathens who have never known Christ yet to make it into Heaven?
The eagle confirms that God works in a truly ecumenical manner.
And their visit to the Heaven of Jupiter, where the Souls of the Just reside and have formed themselves into a ruby red eagle, I read of on the same day as our maternal grandmother, Beatrice, arrived at her new home: The Eagle Home in the village of Eagle.
V (20) I learn that for Dante his childhood love, Beatrice, was always associated with the number nine. Our grandmother was then 90.
Curious how it was the name of Ingram which played the integral part in this nebula of coincidence clustered around justice.
As it would also figure in the miscarriage of justice case into which I found myself drawn fifteen years later...
I am notified by the library that Arthur C.Clarke’s Chronicles of the Strange and Mysterious, which I had ordered over four months before, has arrived.
V (21) As I begin to read its fifth chapter I spot J. Wilman, a chessplayer whom I know but who is not from the area, in the Bedford library.
V (22) Chapter Five refers to possible sea monsters and also the discovery, in 1984, of the Megamouth shark.
It then details the experiences of Bermuda fisherman, Sean Ingham, captain of Trilogy, a boat which may have been towed by a gigantic octopus. Clarke’s introduction had said that his book is a follow up to two earlier ones and that there will be no more as
"There’s a nice symmetry about a trilogy and I have no intention of spoiling it."
V (23) The only previous time I had come across a reference to Megamouth was in a Nature article that I read at Copenhagen airport in 1985.
When checking in my bags there I saw that the man immediately ahead of me in the queue was a Danish chess enthusiast whom I recognised from a trip to Copenhagen in 1981. He recognised me too but, as with J. Wilman, nothing was said.
V (24) I read Canto 26 of Paradiso where Dante is examined in Love by St John. I see parallels between the Canto and Ingham’s adventures, as the boat is called Trilogy and The Divine Comedy is a trilogy, and in Canto 26 we have the third of Dante’s examinations.
In Cantos 24 and 25 he had been examined in Faith and Hope.
V (25) He tells St John (who is symbolised as an eagle) that he recognises now that Love of God is the one supreme Love from which all righteousness stems and that this has "dredged him from the sea of wrongful love."
Dante’s image of cogged wheel and ratchet is just that of the winch on Trilogy.
V (26) Years later I discover that in his novel Beast, based on Ingham’s experiences, Peter Benchley has worked in a character called Dr (i.e. one qualified) St John.
V (27) I learn that in 1971 an article was published detailing the analysis of the tissues of a carcass that washed up in Florida in 1896. Written years before Ingham built his boat, it was called An Octopus Trilogy.
V (28) In Dr R. Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis I read of spiritual exercises, some based on Arthurian Grail mythology and Dante’s Divine Comedy. There is also a case of a man visualising himself descending into the ocean where he encounters a large octopus. He struggles to the surface whereupon it transforms into his mother! For the first time he begins to feel deep feelings of compassion for her.
V (28a) (As I was working on this point of Entry (28), where a man starts to see his mother as a person in her own right after they have together reached the top of an imaginary mountain, my mother came up to the top floor of our new Spanish home where I was working and spoke with me.
That being the only time she ever ascended to that level.)
My mother’s maiden name is Ingram.
I learn that Ingham and Ingram may be regarded as the same name and that ingram means ‘ignorant’. The exercise was designed to lead from ignorance to knowledge.
Meeting the themes of an encounter with a giant octopus in the context of love and spiritual growth once again makes me wonder if symbols have some significance of their own.
V (29) I read of Charles Williams’ suggestion that the climax of The Divine Comedy may be regarded as the achievement of The Holy Grail.
V (30) I encounter the theme of the giant octopus in the proofs of my book Playing To Win,
V (31) and then again when I go for a quote from a the story Virtue in a book of Somerset Maugham’s Collected Short Stories and mistakenly open a page from A Clergyman’s Daughter by George Orwell.
Each book is far larger than the others on my shelves and is published by Octopus.
V (32) In Virtue, the wife of a man called
leaves him for another man. In A Clergyman’s Daughter the daughter of
Reverend Charles Hare
leaves him through a bout of amnesia.
I had recently spoken to the only clergyman’s daughter I knew, Clare, and she told me that she had left her husband,
V (33) The next novel in the Orwell compilation is Coming Up For Air, in which a middle-aged man goes back to his roots in the West Midlands in an attempt to recapture his youth.
I meet Clare again and mention the "clergymen’s daughters leaving Charles" coincidences which prompted me to think of her, and of Coming Up For Air being the next novel in the book.
She replies that she had recently come across a copy of Coming Up For Air at her mother’s place, and had read it.
V (34) In Coming Up For Air Orwell situates the family home of the central character, George Bowling, in a similar location, i.e. the area of England known as the West Midlands. Mr Bowling seeks out his childhood home in the hope of recapturing some of the pleasures of his youth. He is forty-five and both his parents are dead.
Clare was also travelling to that part of the world for a break from routine.
(35) Her parents divorced when she was young.
But to her great surprise she did see her father at a motorway service station on the way to Leek.
V (36) In April 1988, I met with Clare again, and, perhaps inspired by some of the coincidences we had uncovered together, she asked me whether I had recorded any dream on February 14th 1988.
Unlike her, I had been regularly writing down my dreams for the previous four years, and noted that mine of that night involved synchronised swimming and the wife of a grandmaster in water, dressed in purple.
But she had written down one particular dream dreamt on Valentine’s day in Leek. It involved her taking part in synchronised swimming, which in real life she had never done.
V (37) Also in Leek she had purchased some home-made greeting cards and one of them was of a pair of great-crested grebes, kissing or necking, against a purple background. The cards were made by a woman resident in the town where she herself lived: Saint Ives, Cambs.
V (38) A letter from Greenpeace advocates that I boycott Icelandic fish.
I am then offered Icelandic fish.
V (39) A comment from a page of an old chess magazine had been fascinating me.
I encounter someone reading it.
In Bedford I and others mistake the triangular top of a building for a cloud. The adjacent building has a pediment very like an eye.
V (40) I meet with several more instances of one-eyedness or blindness, some involving the knocking out of an insect’s eye and the playing of games.
V (41) I have previously mentioned to Dr. John Nunn that the phenomenon of meaningful coincidence really demands a new science. I then buy my one and only issue of The New Scientist magazine and am tempted to take out a subscription.
They then write to me inviting me to take out a cheaper subscription.
I read Koestler’s The Challenge of Chance in which he mentions a letter he wrote to The New Scientist in 1972 asking for examples of coincidence to be sent in.
V (42) Dr Nunn jokes that if I ever figure out how the I Ching oracle works that I should let him know so that he may apply it to the stock market.
I point out that in a book that lies in front of us, Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street by David Payne, the I Ching does indeed come to be used for just that purpose.
V (43) I telephone Dr Nunn out of the blue to ask for his thoughts on some coincidences that I had given to him months earlier, and he says that he is looking at the material at that very moment.
V (44) I am reminded of Prof. J. Wheeler’s Twenty Questions game where there is no target word to guess. He hits upon the answer ‘cloud’, and after long thought is told that he is right.
This reminds me of my own earlier bogus, triangular Bedford ´cloud´.
V (45) The number and concentration and recurrent themes of the coincidences I record in late 1987 to early 1988 makes me seek out another opinion on it all: was it just me detecting shapes in clouds?
(And please not to forget that in Entry (45) what I, and others, initially thought to be a cloud of unique shape turned out to be an authentic and concrete thing!)
Or did it strike anyone else, as it struck me, that here was something not readily explicable though mere chance?
Brian Inglis does not want to read my material, so I stop William Hartston in the street and hand it to him.
Whilst reading a coincidence about Forgetting about Castling in a Game Where a Grandmaster Norm was at Stake the phrase "I ´m a really lousy chess player. I don’t even know how to castle", is used in a drama that he has playing simultaneously on his television.
V (46) I explore the symbolic and direct details of this coincidence from a coincidence.
V (47) Fout months later, Clare buys a copy of S. Gooch’s 1978 book The Paranormal. It contains a sub-section on Synchronicity and Coincidence in which the first example given is about a pilot television programme designed to test the limits of intelligence.
The first participant listed is William Hartston.
V (48) It is noted by Gooch that all three participants in the programme had surnames which were those of towns (Harston is a town).
Harston is very near Cambridge. Clare bought the book in Cambridge, where Hartston resided.
V (49) I explore the ramifications of this coincidence from a coincidence from a coincidence, and the significance of testing the limits of human intelligence, for when Dante enters Paradise, Virgil, who represents reason and served as his guide in the poem’s first two parts of Hell and Purgatory, vanishes.
Reason can go no further.
Only Divine Grace, represented by Beatrice, may grant further insight.
V (50) I then encounter the phrase "the limits of human intelligence" in an article written by William Hartston.
V (51) Gooch has mentioned a misspelling of Hartston’s name. I then again encounter the same misspelling in a chess article.
(52) Inglis, had dismissed my material and told me not to waste his time. That prompted the response "I think you’re going to be rather amused a couple of years from now that your first reaction was that you were having your time wasted!"
About two years after that he issues a request in The Observer newspaper for anecdotes of coincidence to be sent to him so that he may make a book out of them.
V (53) Further eagle motifs prompt me to the realisation that there may be a parallel between the attempts to prove something nonreplicable and the manner in which the reality of meteorites came to be accepted by scientists, in that the confirming deluge landed at a place called L’Aigle: The Eagle.
V (54) And the first words spoken on the moon were "The Eagle has landed", suggestive of a possible reciprocation.
It was only on April 28th 2015 that the full significance of the reciprocation struck me.
For Armstrong´s words indicate a full return, insomuch as the place where the confirmatory meteorite fall now announces itself - in an also capitalised manner - as it lands.
V (55) I appreciate that, in contrast to meteors which just appear in the sky, meteorites not only land: they may also leave craters.
And this narrative begins with the central and ambivalent theme of a moon crater.
V (56) In Entry 238 I note parallels between space exploration and spiritual exploration generated via coincidences I encounter in 2007.
In this Narrative we see many coincidences clustered around my reading of Dante´s Paradiso, a work which, as well as being the climax of a journey to enlightenment is also a (fictionalised!) tour of the 14th century model of the solar system.
(57) I notice my mother wrapping up a present for Robert Smith. The last time I had seen a present from her to him was December 22nd 1984; the astronomical atlas.
On TV a programme from a series called Greek Fire was showing. Within five seconds of my remark a picture of an ancient Greek painting was shown.
It had Krater written on it.
My mother’s present was a tankard.
V (58) As I recount to my wife how I feel there was a relevance to the lunar announcement “The Eagle has landed” a TV ad reaches the point where Armstrong was taking the first step on the moon saying “It’s one small step for man…” .
V (59) I note that in Terry Gilliam´s 1991 film The Fisher King, Robin Williams plays the part of a man called ´Parry´ - a diminutive form of Parsifal.
(See Youtube hit for ´Robin Williams on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1991´.
And what Williams says circa 6:20 there .)
And he claims that he has glimpsed a photograph of The Holy Grail which he must seek in a FEBRUARY 1988 edition of a magazine, i.e. the same date it all irrupted into my life.
V (60) It began with my spotting a reference to Plaskett´s lunar crater in an atlas: a Christmas gift from my mother to Robert, the grandson of her friend, Margaret Hughes.
In September 2001 I walk into a London bookshop and rearrange the two copies of Coincidences on their shelves
I had left a copy at mother´s months before as a present - one might almost say a reciprocal present - for the same man.
She tells me she had herself read part of my book. I say that I would send she herself a copy, and did.
She adds that she had not taken any of several chances to give a copy of Coincidences to Robert Smith.
So she supposed she would now have to be giving it to him as a Christmas present.
I remark that was something of a coincidence for Coincidences begins with the Christmas gift of a book by her to the same guy. She replies that she knew. She had read some of it.
I am most surprised. She observes that she noted that I had not given her a copy.
But I said that I would now be happy to. And did.
Thus a circuit of investigation was brought to completion, for it all began with the discovery of a crater on the dark side of the moon in an astronomical atlas - a Christmas present which my mother gave to Robert Smith in 1984.
Now she said she would give a copy of my book, Coincidences, which was spawned from a discovery from that very atlas, to the same man.
As a Christmas present.
V (61) An unexpected codicil was that in February 2017 I began giving chess lessons by internet to a gentleman: Les Crane.
After a lesson in early March 2017 he startled me by saying that not only had he purchased a copy of Coincidences via Amazon but that it appeared to be the very one I had given to my mother as it contained the dedication -
"To mum, with love from James."
This was the very copy, Smith having since died.
V (62) Eddie Izzard sends up God in his Stripped show. He begins by saying his atheism is based upon God never coming down.
He specifies why God ought to have made Himself known at a particular moment in history - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IpN3-HAlP0
V (63) And lastly, turning to the end of Appendix Five here, and
re a kind of container for spirit, Roderick Main´s book Revelations of Chance appeared on March 1st 2007.
Two chapters are devoted to an analysis of the material in this Narrative,.
That was the date upon which the European Space Agency announced that the future home of mankind might be Plaskett´s Crater.
The area Luna Incognita was not known until the first probes sent back data. The earliest map of Luna Incognita was published on March 18th 1960.
One unappreciated feature was that Plaskett´s Crater, part of ´the dark side of the moon´, is actually the very opposite.
Because of its proximity to the lunar North Pole it is permanently bathed in sunlight.
Part Two: Narrative
These events are mostly from early 1988.
I start with some incidents which might appear desultory and disordered, but should the reader persist I trust their relevance and interconnection will become clearer.
I have appended
to all examples which are, at least to some degree, supportable with evidence and hence not purely anecdotal: V for ´verifiable´.
X X X X X
On December 22nd 1984, I was at my family home in Bedford when I spotted a Christmas present which my mother was going to give to Robert Smith, the grandson of her friend, Margaret Hughes.
It was an astronomical atlas and when I leafed through it I was surprised to note that there is a crater on the dark side of the moon called Plaskett.
I showed this to my father and he said that he knew of a Canadian astronomer of this name.
X X X X X
On November 5th 1986, I had a dream in which the English actor and comic Lance Percival appeared. That was one of many (seemingly) random dream episodes of that night. I had come across no reference to this man for many months or even years prior to his appearance in my dream, and so I was puzzled.
The next day I mentioned it to a friend and she read it as my unconscious having come up with his name as a representation of two knights from Arthurian mythology: Lance (Lancelot) Percival (Percival or Perceval or Parsifal).
My knowledge of myth, such as it was, was confined mainly to those of Greece and Rome. Lancelot I had heard of but the character of Percival was new to me. I resolved to sometime find out more about him.
X X X X X
In the mid 1980s I read in Arthur Koestler´s autobiographical work The Invisible Writing how his interest in coincidence led him into a deeper exploration of the nature of time.
He was prompted to consult what he called his "secular horoscope" by looking up the news stories on the day of his birth (I believe the main one was of the war between Russia and Japan). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxf1F32Wwbo
So I decided to do the same.
It appeared that on March 18th 1960 the Soviets had published a first map of the dark side of the moon, based upon photographs from a probe.
The newspaper pages here are from March 19th 1960, detailing the events that happened the day before.
Princess Margaret had visited the radio telescope at Jodrell Bank.
V (1) I mentioned to a few people the coincidence of the naming of the crater and myself on the same day. But then it occurred to me that on a first map perhaps not all of the features were named and that some might have had their names ascribed later.
To clear this up I went to the Bedford Library in the first week of February 1988 and scoured astronomical atlases and textbooks, but was still unable to pinpoint the exact date of the naming of the crater.
However, under "Plaskett" in an astronomical dictionary I found this reference:
Plaskett’s Star — A huge spectroscopic binary of period 14 days in Monoceros… It was discovered to be a binary or double star by J S. Plaskett in 1922.
I had never heard of the star and neither had any member of my family that I asked.
I asked the librarian if she could make inquiries for me about the dates of the naming of both crater and star. It occurred to me that in disproving the coincidence with the crater, I might encounter another; my father was born on January 17th 1922.
(I might note that although it is not at all unknown for craters or asteroids to carry the name of an individual it is far rarer for a star to carry one.)
She said that she would check it out with the librarian at the Royal Astronomical Society.
X X X X X
In the last days of January 1988, I wrote up a coincidence that occurred on November 22nd 1987, and to which I gave the heading The Unicorn Spoor.
I had been watching a TV documentary about tiger conservation in India. Few people there have ever seen a tiger, although everybody knows they exist.
I thought that there is something of a parallel here with creatures whose existence is disputed, such as the yeti or Bigfoot.
Many people in the Himalayas regard the yeti as an established fact, but for sceptics the best evidence is photographs of huge footprints in the Tibetan snows, or reports (or maybe even samples) of unusual droppings.
I drew a comparison between the yeti, with the claimed droppings and tracks, and the paranormal debate. Despite extensive laboratory investigations of such putative phenomena as e.g. telepathy or clairvoyance there was no proof for any of them, but there was a great deal of anecdotal evidence to support such propositions.
I had written:
But even though we do not have proof, what do we have? What does all the anecdotal evidence and catalogue of weird happenings and the enormous amount of testimony add up to?
If there are rumours of yetis and you come across the droppings of an unknown creature — what should the rational mind conclude?
This thought was very much in my mind as the documentary ended.
Twenty minutes later I watched another documentary, about the efforts of American biologist Dan Janzen to reconstruct a tropical dry forest park in Costa Rica.
His theory why tropical forest no longer covered this area was that its propagation would have required an animal capable of reaching up into high tree branches and feeding upon their leaves and seeds. This beast must have existed once, Janzen deduced, and with its passing went the forest.
We were then treated to an animated reconstruction of what looked like a cross between a camel and an okapi, as it defecated everywhere, for this was the proposed method by which the seeds of the vegetation were spread.
Just as new droppings or tracks are not direct perception of a phenomenon, but are intimations of something unknown, so meaningful coincidence is to me an indicator of something glimpsed, but yet to be clearly seen or understood.
Hence The Unicorn Spoor.
X X X X X
By early February 1988, several media references to the opera Parsifal had served to rekindle my interest in the Arthurian character created by the dream of fifteen months earlier.
In the January to February period the quality newspapers ran features on a Covent Garden production.
In The Times of February 18th 1988, Bernard Levin wrote:
When Parsifal enters he adds strains from the other world… Suddenly… we hear, for the first time… the Grail… in the struggle between good and evil… it is approaching, with its glorious news that the battle is almost over, and light has triumphed over darkness…
Surely this is what the shepherds who were tending their flocks must have experienced when the angel appeared to them with glad tidings of great joy.
The tidings in Parsifal are brought in Act Three, when the Spear, which pierced Christ’s side heals the wound of Amfortas’ guilt…
And… what is the Christian message but hope?
Surely Wagner is saying that Parsifal is neither Christ nor John the Baptist, but the Paraclete of St John’s Gospel, who is sent to comfort the world: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." And it is man, sinful but capable of redemption, who receives the divine gift from the hands of "the innocent fool, made wise by pity."
David Cairns wrote another newspaper piece on the same subject which included a photo of Peter Seiffert as Parsifal.
Beneath are some of myself.
V (2) I saw how similar to myself Seiffert looked in this picture.
|From May 1985|
|From January 1980.|
|From March 1986|
It´s not just the physiological features such as colour of hair, nose, ears and chin but also the way we were then each choosing to wear our hair and even the length of sideburn.
Yet the similarity could have been made clearer still had I had taken some pictures of myself in February 1988 striking the same pose of a man looking upwards. My friend Clare shrieked when she saw the likeness.
It will always remain one of my greatest regrets that I did not capture it better.
This was taken at The Ritz in the summer of 1986 -
Back row: Dr.J.D.M.Nunn, J.S.Speelman, G.K.Kasparov, R.D.Keene OBE, M.G.Chandler, myself, and S.Reuben
Front row: W.R.Hartston, The late R.G.Wade OBE, Dr Jana Malypetrova/Hartston/Miles/Bellin, Angela Julian-Day, D.S.C.Goodman, and D.N.Levy
And this at the Park Lane Hotel, London, in the Spring of 1986 -
Left to right: The late Roy Clues (then Treasurer of the World Chess Federation), R.D.Keene OBE, an official of sponsors of the 1986 World Chess Championship, Foreign and Colonial, A.Karpov, The late Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, A. Julian-Day, myself, D.S.C. Goodman, The late R.G.Wade OBE, D.W.Anderton OBE, S.Reuben, and D.N.Levy
On February 8th 1988 I consulted an encyclopaedia: a 1963 edition of The Caxton World of Knowledge. In Volume 5 I could find no reference to Parsifal, but there was this on Perceval:
Perceval Sir. See Grail, The Holy.
In the inside covers of each volume are star maps with constellations depicted through the figures that they are supposed to represent; a kind of join-the-dots image.
I had seen them many times over the years but I could have identified only the best known constellations.
What caught my eye as I closed Volume 5 of this encyclopedia set was the pictorial representation in its inside cover of: "Monoceros: The Unicorn." V (3) I discovered that Plaskett’s Star is in the constellation of The Unicorn just over a week after I had written up an example of coincidence to which I had given the title The Unicorn Spoor.
To this coincidence itself I gave the understandable title Where The Spoor Led.
I wrote it up and added it to the original list on February 14th 1988.
V (4) At 10.30 that evening I was watching a TV programme called The South Bank Show. A clip from the satire show That Was The Week That Was from 1962 was shown. It was a sketch in which there appeared a confrontation between a classic American businessman and a classic Englishman. Lance Percival played the Englishman.
That was almost certainly my first encounter with him of any kind since my dream of 1986.
V (5) All of these Arthurian-related events prompted me to find out more about the legends from the aforementioned encyclopaedia.
Nennius (c.800 AD) mentions Arthur as a kind of mythical hero, leading the British against Saxon invaders.
In Geoffrey of Monmouth (c.1140) Arthur defeats the Saxons, Picts and Scots, conquers Ireland, Iceland and Norway, invades Gaul and is about to enter Italy; but at the news that at home Mordred has married his queen, Guinevere, he returns and is killed in battle in Cornwall.
In 1120, William of Malmesbury had linked the knight Gawain with Arthur and circa 1155 the Round Table first appears in the poetry of the Norman-French Wace.
The verse of the first writer of magical Arthurian romances, the French poet Chrétien de Troyes (c 1135 — 1190) especially his unfinished Conte del Graal (or Perceval) began the succession of Grail stories and also linked Arthur and the Grail legend. There then followed an immense proliferation of Arthurian legend.
I read of the
LANCELOT GRAIL CORPUS. (c 1215 — 1235).
A cycle of French prose romances linking Chrétien de Troyes’s theme of the Quest for the Grail with the death of Arthur and the end of the Arthurian world. The Grail theme receives a more religious interpretation and the chaste Galahad displaces Perceval as the Grail hero.
But of most interest were the remarks under
For the first time I appreciated that it is the dish used by Jesus at The Last Supper and then by his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, to receive his blood at the Cross. his uncle then brought it to England, and it mysteriously disappeared. The chivalry of Christendom sought it.
It could feed the pure and blind the wicked, and the quest for it symbolised the quest for the Holy Spirit.
Lancelot glimpsed it, but was unworthy. Gawain gave up the search; only Galahad, Perceval and Bors attained their goal. The best-known versions are in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur; Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and Wagner’s Parsifal, and one of the earliest accounts is Wolfram von Eschenbach’s (Parzifal, c 1210).
In pagan fertility rites the Grail was sought because it alone could revive the Fisher King, who lay sick, and on whose continued life depended the fertility of people, crops and cattle.
Key elements of Christianity somehow become grafted on to those old stories to give us this "Holy" adaptation. The Caxton World of Knowledge mentioned that "the word may be derived through Old French from the Latin crater (bowl) or Low Latin gradalis (dish)."
After my inquiries on the moon how could I fail to notice the suggested derivations of Grail?
The association with crater is clear enough, but I thought I also saw some others with the proposed origin of gradalis (dish).
V (6) In mid January 1988, I had noticed this opening sentence to a newspaper article: "First catch your hare… so begins a famous recipe…"
This threw some light upon the cryptic title to a book by Sir Laurens van der Post: First Catch Your Eland. I consulted several books of quotations and eventually found the hare quote: "To make a ragout, first catch your hare".
It is from a cookbook published in 1747 attributed to Dr Hill. Whilst searching for the quote in the cookery section I chanced upon this:
"The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a new star".
Dishes? Stars? By February 15th 1988, this serendipitously acquired quote began to intrigue me.
There were some more happenings apropos the Grail quest.
V (7) On the morning of February 15th 1988 I recalled that the previous evening I had watched a TV programme on antiques and that one item brought in for expert evaluation was an exquisite round table. At 8.21 a.m. I was pondering intently on whether this ought to be considered part of the Arthurian confluence.
In the background was Radio Four’s Today programme. Within three seconds of this thought the woman presenter said "round table meeting."
I listened to her interviewing Minister John Patten about an international conference of nations who had lent money to third world states. It was mooted to cut the interest rate on many loans or even to write them off altogether.
V (8) I switched on the TV to watch the morning news. One of the first items was about the death of the composer of the musical Camelot.
V (9) The following day I visited the library because I wanted to find out the name of the lady on the radio. Again my aim was accurate presentation of facts. I discovered that it had been Sue Macgregor.
As I turned through the pages of the Radio Times, I saw this on the Film Guide page:
3 p.m. Sunday February 14th BBC 1
Knights of the Round Table.
The accompanying note ran:
Only the might of Arthur Pendragon, King by divine right, can bring peace to a strife-torn England. With the gallant Sir Lancelot by his side he sets forth to conquer his enemies, but reckons without the evil Mordred who schemes to bring down the crown.
The dramatis personae was:
Stanley Baker as Mordred
Robert Taylor as Lancelot
Ava Gardner as Guinevere
Mel Ferrer as Arthur
Felix Aylmer as Merlin
Anne Crawford as Morgan le Fay
Maureen Swanson as Elaine
Gabriel Wolf as Percival
Robert Urquhart as Gareth
Niall Macginnis as Green Knight.
Previous events had very much switched me on towards the Arthurian myths, so how I had overlooked that this film had been shown that day I will never know.
I also noted the names of some cast members, because as I had ascended the library escalator I happened to think of a man called Ferrer and how I once persuaded him to lend money to a man called Baker to assist with the making of a film.
x x x x x
It struck me how many of these coincidences had happened when I was pondering or investigating a related matter.
So, for instance:
(a) When checking on the dating of the crater I discovered the star’s existence.
(b) When drawn by my dream to find out more about the opera Parsifal I see that the singer playing him looks a lot like me.
(c) When trying to find out more about the character of Perceval I discovered that Plaskett’s Star is in the constellation of The Unicorn. That formed a coincidence with the title I had given to the example of eight days previous: The Unicorn Spoor.
(d) I gave this unicorn coincidence the title Where The Spoor Led. On the day I came to write it up I see again the actor called Percival, last encountered in my dream of November 5th 1986, on TV and that prompts me to consult the encyclopaedia once again about the Knights of the Round Table.
Thus I discover the origins of the term Grail may be gradalis or crater.
Hence my investigations into the naming of Plaskett’s crater on the moon now link in with a separate group of coincidences.
(e) When wondering whether an antique round table that I had seen offered for evaluation on Valentine’s day is relevant to the other Arthurian events, the phrase "round table" comes over the radio.
Moreover it was used in a chivalrous context.
Moreover I too was engaged in an evaluation of the table’s true worth.
(f) I switch on the TV to watch the morning news. One of the first items was about the death of the composer of the musical Camelot.
(g) When visiting the library to check on the name of the BBC Radio announcer I discover that the film Knights of the Round Table had also been broadcast on BBC TV on February 14th 1988.
There seemed some cueious interconnection, and I also had the feeling that my own acts of inquiry were somehow having a "triggering" effect upon events.
Wondering how I should write it all up I thought that they might be referred to as "nebulae" of coincidence.
x x x x x
The librarian at the Royal Astronomical Society sent information on the crater and the star:
MONOCEROS The Unicorn
Among the most celebrated stars of Monoceros is Plaskett’s Star, a 6th magnitude spectroscopic binary named after the Canadian astronomer John S. Plaskett who found in 1922 that it is the most massive pair of stars known; each of their masses… at least 55 times that of the Sun... lies at a distance of 3600 light years... near the cluster NGC 2244, of which it may be a... member.
And the notes on that cluster are:
a... combination of... the Rosette Nebula, and a cluster of about 16 stars… the nebula appears as a pink loop,… NGC 2244 consists of stars that have been born from the Rosette Nebula’s gas...
And see also -
(At that time Plaskett´s Star was thought the most massive pair of stars known, but in 2008 a body of opinion arose that an even more massive star, previously thought to be single, could be a binary system -
However, Plaskett´s Star still remains the object of largest known measurable mass.
V (10) I discovered that in fact the crater had not been so named until 1970. It also transpired that the star was indeed discovered and named when my father was born.
V (11) A father and son team, John Stanley and Harry Hemley Plaskett, made a series of observations between December 1921 and April 1922 before they could determine that the star was:
(a) A binary star.
(b) Of the greatest known mass.
It is sometimes referred to as Plaskett’s Object, since it is the thing in the universe of largest known measurable mass.
The names themselves are coincidental since my father was Allan John and I am Harold James.
And the surname is very rare. In 1991 an international registry of names estimated the world Plaskett population at less than five thousand.
V (11a) On June 22nd 2010 I entered into a search engine
"Youtube James Plaskett".
Surprisingly, the third hit was -
Thus I came to know that the astronomer senior was known as "Jack".
So was my father.
This was on the same day that a resident of British Columbia, Peter Barrett, ordered a copy of my book Coincidences. The Canadian astronomer operated from British Columbia, too.
I had become aware of Peter´s presence on Twitter when circa June 21st 2010 my Statcounter informed me that someone in British Columbia had accessed this blog via entering
"Revelations of Chance documentary"
into a search engine.
My blog proved one of the hits and one of the others was a Twitter ´tweet´ of May 18th 2010 saying that a proposal for a TV documentary of that name had been submitted by a Peter Barrett.
V (12) To jump ahead, on my twenty-eighth birthday, March 18th 1988, I telephoned the Royal Astronomical Society because I wanted to know more about an eclipse that was happening that day. The telephone was answered by a gentleman who was most helpful and who offered to send me some data on eclipses.
As I dictated my name and address he exclaimed, "Oh you’re that chap in Bedford that I supplied all that stuff on Monoceros to!".
It was the librarian. I assumed that I was talking to the front desk.
"This is the front desk," he explained. "I’m never normally down here but I just happened to be passing and I heard the telephone ring. Since there was nobody at the desk I picked it up."
Again there was the sense of the act of investigation triggering the coincidence.
Through further researches I gathered that the quest for the Holy Grail represents very much a personal and individual attempt to contact the divine.
H. Kahanne’s and R. Pietrangeli’s "The Krater and the Grail, Hermetic Sources of the ‘Parzival’ " clarified to me how the symbolism of the Grail was born from ancient cults and myths, e.g. the Greek krater was the deepest bowl of creation and divine wisdom.
In Gnosticism the krater was a feminine principle; the mixing vessel filled with spirit, which the Creator sent down to earth so that those who strove for higher consciousness might be baptised in it.
So the krater could be viewed as the most primal aspect of the Grail pantheon.
... ... ...
Next there were some coincidences relating to the third part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Paradise.
On February 15th 1988, I took out from the library the last two books of Dorothy L. Sayers’ translation of Dante’s trilogy.
In 1979 I had read the first book Inferno (Hell) and also commenced the second, Purgatorio (Purgatory). Now, I wanted to finish off Purgatorio and read Paradiso (Paradise).
I finished Purgatory. Dante scales the mountain of purification accompanied by the Roman poet Virgil, who represents reason. At the summit they reach the Garden of Eden. Dante turns to address Virgil but finds that he has vanished.
For we have reached the limits of human intelligence.
Reason can go no further.
Beatrice, Dante’s childhood love, representing divine insight, takes his place as guide. She leads him through Eden to "the stars".
I thought that the structure of Dante’s masterpiece was of him journeying first down into Hell and then up Mount Purgatory into Paradise where Dante and Beatrice ascend towards God in a rose.
But when I read the last book I saw that it is nothing short of a conducted tour of the fourteenth century model of the cosmos. Canto One has them flying towards the Moon, which they reach by Canto Two. And so their magical mystery tour takes them to Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Each planet represents a Heaven and at each they encounter certain spirits who had lived on Earth.
Then they go beyond the solar system to the Eighth Heaven of the fixed stars. From there on to the Ninth of the Primum Mobile and then to Dante’s Tenth Heaven, the Empyrean, the abode of God, where Beatrice returns to her seat in the eternal rose.
Finally Dante beholds God, the Ineffable.
Later it occurred to me that:
(a) My investigations of the heavens started, progressed, and then finished at the same places as Dante’s in Paradise, i.e. the Moon, the Stars and a celestial rose (because Plaskett’s Star is part of, or right next to, the Rosette Nebula).
(b) This last point meant that my decision to refer to nebulae of coincidence became a coincidence itself.
But, of course, these two observations are stretching things a bit (or perhaps I should say that they are somewhat nebulous!).
By March 7th 1988, I had read up to Canto 18 in Paradise. Dante has arrived with Beatrice at the heaven of Jupiter. The planet symbolises public justice in peace.
Here they behold the spirits of the Just who form themselves into letters, a pattern of lights, which spell out the Latin words from the Biblical Book of Wisdom
Love justice, ye that judge the earth.
The spirits then transform the final letter into the symbol of justice, the Imperial Eagle. The image of the Eagle signifies the ancient supremacy of Rome; a power Dante viewed as ordained by God for the peace and unity of the world.
The phrase ends with the word terram, "the earth".
The final letter M is the Roman numeral for 1,000. Together with all the associative ideas of a millennium, here it specifically symbolises Monarchy, that is, world government, or the concept of all peoples united under a universal ruler.
Allegorically, this gradual forming of the message and Dante’s apprehension of it, letter by letter, signifies the approach of mankind, by trial and error, to the establishment of justice in the world.
As the series of letters becomes intelligible only when it has all been spelled out, so the sequence of world events forms a pattern which will be comprehensible only when it is complete. In the meantime, all endeavour to establish just government on Earth is a step towards the realisation of God’s plan for mankind.
By 1 a.m. on March 8th 1988, I was reading Canto 19, throughout which Dante and Beatrice are in the Heaven of Jupiter.
The spirits of those who ruled justly on Earth now speak as one voice, the voice of Justice. Dante hopes that here he may at last learn the solution to a problem which has long troubled him: whether virtuous heathens who have never heard of Christ are automatically excluded from Heaven.
The Eagle replies that the human intellect cannot explore the depths of Divine justice; man cannot ask whether the judgements of God are just but only whether they are in accordance with His will, the perfect standard of justice, of which our own is but a reflection. The Eagle then denounces the unjust rulers of contemporary Europe.
V (13) At 1.05 a.m. Anglia TV broadcast an episode of the detective programme Kojak. I was watching TV and reading at the same time.
This episode was about a coin thief who is a delivery boy and exploits his opportunities to pilfer from the homes of numismatists. In the opening scene such a theft goes awry when he is disturbed and in his panic he ends up battering an old women to death.
His fence will not handle the stolen coin because of its link to the murder, but he arouses the young man’s greed by describing the assets of their next target; a man of great wealth who has several rare and extremely valuable coins.
"Can you imagine what one of those eagles is worth?", asks the fence.
"60,000 dollars?" suggests the delivery boy.
"Your estimate is a little conservative I would say. More like 70,000 now."
Kojak and his team eventually track down the gang of coin crooks. An eagle was a former United States gold coin worth ten dollars. It was withdrawn from circulation in 1934.
Lines 139 — 141 of Canto 19 are:
And Portugal shall be held up to blame
With Norway and the Rascian who laid eyes
On Venice coin and forged his own ill fame.
And these are the notes:
In these three lines, the Eagle mentions together Dionysius, King of Portugal (1279 — 1325) Haakon, King of Norway (1299 — 1319) and Stephen Ouros, King of Rascia, who in 1307 struck coins which counterfeited the Venetian ducat.
V (14) I was wearing a sweater that I wore the previous day when reading Canto 18. It was light blue with the outline of a bird of prey, it could be a hawk, a falcon or an eagle, etched in red over the left breast. It was a surprise gift in 1985 from Douglas Baker.
Lines 1 — 6 of Canto 19 show what colour Dante gives to the Eagle:
Grandly before me with its wings displayed,
The image shone, which, in their sweet fruition
Exultant, all those weaving spirits made;
Each seemed a ruby, that the ebullition
Of the sun’s fires smote with its burning link,
So that the splendour blazed upon my vision.
The secondary school that I attended, Bedford Modern, had as its emblem a red eagle with its wings displayed and the school blazer had the emblem embossed on the left breast in a similar manner to my sweater, except that on the sweater the bird is patently in flight. The school magazine was called The Eagle. The school motto was the biblical quote "They shall mount up with wings as eagles." http://www.bedmod.co.uk/home.html
This last detail is pertinent to something that happened in 1984.
V (15) For I had then paid a visit upon the headmaster. In February 1978, this man, who had only been at the school for a few months, had "asked" (but it would be more accurate to say forced) my parents to "withdraw" me from the school. He cited my inadequate work rate, a poor attendance record and generally setting a bad example as reasons.
But the principle one was that I had forged a letter to excuse myself as sick for one morning.
This was particularly absurd as I actually was sick that morning, and the content of the letter was valid! Only the authorship was false.
Undoubtedly there was some substance in these charges, but all the same I was dumbfounded when he notified me of his decision. It all seemed quite unnecessarily draconian, an opinion that I know was shared by the deputy head and the year master, and they had both known me for almost seven years.
The authorities have always insisted that no stigma attaches to a record of withdrawal, and that this was no more than a yellow card. But it certainly looked and felt like a red.
I was withdrawn just a few weeks before my entire year was to be granted leave of absence for final A level study anyway (although they did let me sit the exams).
Life went on and I put it all behind me.
(Yet, if someone were to suggest that the name of Plaskett could be added to the list of those whose academic performance suffered through overly concentrating on chess, they might have a point.)
But on December 10th 1984, I experienced a mounting anger and so confronted him. He greeted me cordially but his manner soon changed when he saw my mood. For five minutes I expressed my sense of injustice in no uncertain terms.
V (16) Later that day I listened to a cassette that I had purchased the day before; War by U2. I had listened to most but not all of the tracks. One track that I heard for the first time that day was Drowning Man.
My attention was caught by the lyrics:
Rise up, rise up,
With wings like eagles.
You rise up and not grow weary.
My outburst had a cathartic effect, but I still felt that a wrong had not been righted. So later, in a truly epic act of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, I visited him again and another, calmer conversation took place.
In February 1977 I had been diagnosed diabetic. The condition produces difficulty in concentration and drowsiness. During our second talk I made a passing reference to my diabetes. The reply shocked me. "I didn’t know until you told me then!"
And my feelings that his 1978 action was unjust were sharpened by my having shown considerable clemency towards the school then re a crininal assault I suffered at the hands of a master. (See Diary Entry 134)
When, during our second talk, I drew his attention to that assault he insisted that my delay in reporting it meant that no action would now be taken.
However, he did not reply to my repeated question, "I wonder what would have happened to me if I said that to him?".
I departed his office, disgusted, but to some degree appeased.
A lull had appeared following my first violent expression of my sense of being wronged.
"Well thank goodness you’ve got that off your chest!", he said.
"It’s not a question of getting something off my chest!!" I bellowed back. "It’s a question of justice!!"
In the early hours of the morning of March 8th 1988, I was reading of a red eagle, comprised of the spirits of the Just, denouncing unjust contemporary European rulers, with such an eagle on my chest.
V (17) Dante specifies that it is the souls comprising the beak of the Eagle who speak. ("Beak" is an English colloquianism for a headmaster.)
But by far the brightest component of this eagle nebula was just about to become visible.
V (18) In November 1984, I had visited my brother, Neil, at his home in Lincoln. We had debated his faith of Christadelphianism. I had kept hammering home at one point: How can there be only one route to salvation when many people will never have had any chance to hear of it?
I have never been able to fathom the claim of so many fundamentalist beliefs that theirs is the one true path.
The American evangelist Jimmy Swaggart said that Mother Theresa would be judged by God and found wanting for her failure to follow the right religion. Neil said the same, although he had a different faith to Swaggart.
I said that it would have to be an unfair Supreme Being Who made such judgements.
As mentioned at Canto 19, Dante too is deeply troubled by this question of the exclusion from Heaven of virtuous heathens. The answer comes in lines 67 — 69 of Canto 20:
Who’d credit in that erring world below,
That Trojan Rhipeus is the fifth of these
Most holy lights that in that circle glow?
The six lights forming the pupil and the curve above the eye of the Eagle are recognised by the body as the greatest representatives of justice on earth. The pupil of the eye is formed by King David. The fifth light is the spirit of the Trojan Rhipeus, whom Virgil had described as "the one man amongst the Trojans most just and observant of the right."
The presence in Heaven of both Rhipeus and another eminent pagan, the Emperor Trajan, at last provides Dante with his answer.
Redemption is not, of necessity, denied to those who knew not Christ. Divine grace may yet grant salvation to the righteous.
Reading Dante’s commentary upon this theological matter naturally prompted the memory of my own discussion of it four years before. I then recalled that Neil and I had then also visited our maternal grandmother at an old people’s home just around the corner from his house.
I read Dante throughout that night.
At 7.30 a.m. I spotted a letter which our mother had written to her mother and which had lain in the hall since the previous evening.
The address was:
Mrs B.C. Ingram
The Old Vicarage
This was not the one that I remembered and when my mother came downstairs I asked her about it. She explained that yesterday, March 7th 1988, my grandmother had moved to a new old people’s home in the village of Eagle. She then left for her work (as it happened, also at an old people’s home, where she was a cook).
A suspicion began to form in my mind, but it all seemed ´too good to be true´.
V (19) But it was later confirmed that my maternal grandmother’s names were Beatrice Constance. (In fact she had a third Christian name of Lucy, but that initial my mother had omitted.)
I read of Dante and Beatrice arriving at the Heaven of Jupiter where the spirits of the Just have combined themselves into the shape of an eagle.
This eagle then answers for Dante the same question that had troubled me and which I had debated (and the one and only time in my life I ever debated the topic with anyone) with my brother when visiting him and our maternal grandmother four years earlier: is it possible for virtuous heathens who have never known Christ yet to make it into Heaven?
The eagle confirms that God works in a truly ecumenical manner.
And their visit to the Heaven of Jupiter and the eagle there I began to read of on the same day as our mother´s mother, Beatrice, arrived at her new home - The Eagle Home in the village of Eagle.
And indeed there, three years later, she would die.
V (20) Shortly afterwards I read on in Paradise to Canto 28 and saw another aspect to these events.
The notes affirm that for Dante his childhood love, Beatrice, was always associated with the Holy Trinity and the number nine.
The allegorical relationship of Beatrice to the Trinity had been intuitively apprehended by Dante when he wrote:
this lady was accompanied to the end by the number Nine, that men might clearly perceive her to be a nine, that is, a miracle, whose only root is the Holy Trinity.
Now, reflecting the supreme unity of the Trinity, her eyes image the theological demonstrations of the Church concerning the unity of God.
On March 7th 1988, my maternal grandmother, Beatrice Constance Ingram, was ninety years old.
Curious that this nebula of coincidences on the theme of the eagle and justice should revolve around Ingrams, in view of the miscarriage of justice case into which I was to find myself drawn 15 years later.
Wholly pertinent to that last point is that on March 21st 2007 my mother happened to mention to me, for the first time, that her father´s initials were actually identical to her mother´s.
His middlename was Charles: Bertrand Charles Ingram.
The next day, March 9th 1988, I received a note telling me that a library book that I had requested back in November 1987 had at last arrived. It was Arthur C. Clarke’s Chronicles of the Strange and Mysterious.
At the end of 1984 I had read a previous compilation of odd goings-on in Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers, and had found his survey of such phenomena as, e.g. telepathy or precognition very interesting. I also understood that he had produced an earlier book, Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, which, like the one on Strange Powers, stemmed from a TV series. In November 1987, I spotted this third volume in a bookshop and resolved to get it from the library.
But there was an inexplicable delay. Despite half a dozen inquiries by me and assurances by staff that the matter was being looked into, the book failed to materialise.
In fact I had almost forgotten about it.
I went straight to the library, picked it up, and went over to the coffee shop area to read it.
I found chapter five the most interesting, but the coincidences that came with it were even more intriguing than the chapter itself.
V (21) As I began to read from it I was very surprised to see John Wilman, a chess enthusiast and Police Constable from Cambridge, queuing at the counter. I think he recognised me too, but neither of us spoke.
Clarke ends his foreword to his book thus:
As many of the items chronicled end up even stranger and more mysterious than when we started to investigate them, the series could obviously go on forever. I promise you that it won’t. There’s a nice symmetry about a trilogy, and I have no intention of spoiling it.
V (22) A very interesting choice of words in the light of what was to follow.
The fifth chapter is headed Of Monsters and Mermaids.
Reminders of our ignorance of what the oceans contain are regularly delivered. In 1984, a fishing boat netted a 4.5 metre-long megamouth shark off California — until then only the second member ever seen of what is now recognised as a new species.
In 1986, near Kiribati, local fishermen watched a great creature drag two of their colleagues down to die in the deep. This incident, added to others such as the famous 1896 Florida globster, where a carcass weighing 8000 kilograms (it is still disputed whether it is of a cephalopod or a mammal) washed up at St Augustine, Florida, suggested that there may be truly giant octopuses in the sea. The 1896 photographs leave no doubt as to the specimen’s size. The main part of the body was 6 metres long by 3 metres across and it is said there were tentacles, or the stumps of them, attached to it. But the largest acknowledged octopus has a tentacle spread of only 10 metres.
Clarke then considered what happened to Bermuda fisherman, Sean Ingham. Ingham was deploying very large crab traps at a depth never before tried, just off the Bermuda shelf. They were lowered and raised by winch from his 15m boat, Trilogy.
By the beginning of September 1984 Ingham had already lost a trap after a sudden strain on the line. A few days later the crew were hauling up a new pot and had reached about 300 fathoms when there was a series of jerks, the winch ran backwards and once again the line parted. On 19 September, Mr Ingham had a trap set at around 850m down. This time, even with the full force of the winch, they could not break the pot clear of the bottom. Ingham scrutinised what lay beneath the boat by using Trilogy’s sophisticated sonar. Clearly outlined on the ocean floor, was a 15 metre high pyramid-like shape: something was surrounding their trap. He decided to wait, with the rope snubbed as tight as possible on the winch. Twenty minutes later the boat started to move steadily south at a speed of about 1-knot. After about 450 metres, whatever was towing Trilogy changed direction. And then it abruptly turned again. Ingham put his hand on the rope near the water line: "I could distinctly feel thumps like something was walking and the vibrations were travelling up the rope."
Ingham was now convinced that some gigantic sea creature had hold of his pot and was proceeding, trap, 15m boat and all, towards its lair.
Suddenly the rope became slack and the crew hauled up the trap. It was bent on one side and the top had been stoved in:
Neither cameras nor underwater scanners... have accompanied Mr Ingham, but… a creature on the ocean floor with the power to retain a trap against a... winch; an accumulation of bite-sized shrimp and crab… the location off the Bermuda shelf: all lead inexorably to the idea of a large octopus. No other creature known or imagined could conceivably give such a show of strength in such circumstances. Perhaps the homeland of the great creature... so mysteriously washed up almost a century ago has now at last been located.
I noted the reference to Megamouth. I had come across a mention of it only once before and that was in July 1985, when I had been at Copenhagen airport awaiting a flight to Helsinki. I saw an issue of Nature magazine featuring a large article on sharks. I bought it and read of all kinds of shark, including Megamouth.
V (23) Whilst I was queuing to check in my bags I noticed that the man in front of me was a Danish chess enthusiast whom I recognised from both of my two previous trips to Copenhagen in 1981, and 1985. He was clearly startled to see me, but here too no formal gesture of acknowledgement was made.
A parallel to the sighting of Constable Wilman.
I continued my reading of Dante’s Paradiso. By 8 p.m. on March 9th 1988, I had reached Canto 26.
At Canto 24 Dante and Beatrice rose beyond the planets to the Eighth Heaven, that of the Fixed Stars.
To continue towards God, three qualifications are necessary; faith, hope and love. These are the theological virtues that direct the soul aright to God.
But they cannot be acquired by human acts.
Only grace, operating through revelation, may grant them. Man’s soul cannot progress by understanding and knowledge alone. He must be assisted by divine light. This light is mediated to us by spiritual teachings, which transcend reason, as we follow them by acting according to the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.
Dante undergoes examination in each virtue at the hands of, respectively, Saints Peter, James and John. Only upon passing each exam is he permitted to continue with his journey.
Having passed the first two he sees, at the close of Canto 25, the approach of a dazzling light. This is the soul of St John, who is to examine him in love.
There was a legend that St John had ascended into Heaven in his physical body. Doubting this, Dante peers eagerly into the depth of the light, but its brilliance blinds him. He is bewildered and alarmed by his sudden blindness, but St John reassures him that his sight will be restored by the healing gaze of Beatrice. Meanwhile the Apostle questions him concerning love.
Dante declares that God is the beginning and end of all his loves, the ultimate good and hence the supreme object of love. In response to more detailed enquiry ("Now through a finer sieve thou needs must strain thy words…" l 22.) he indicates how he came to this understanding.
Reason and revelation ("By philosophic arguments and by Authority…" l 25.) have led him to recognise God as the be-all of his love. Goodness, as soon as it is apprehended by the intellect, enkindles love for itself, and the greater the good the greater the love. God is the greatest good and therefore the highest object of man’s love.
So, by both philosophical and logical argument, Dante has shown that God, being the chief good, must be the highest object of man’s love.
In lines 37 — 38, Dante refers to Aristotle’s assertion that God is the unmoved Mover for love of Whom the Heavens are moved. He then refers, in line 43, to the Gospel of St John himself with its opening "In the beginning was the word" by which great heralding the mystery of the nature of God is proclaimed to man.
St John then quizzes him on what secondary causes have led him to this full love for the Creator. "But are there other cords which pull thee tight to Him?"
As he concludes his discourse on love, a hymn of praise is sung by the assembled saints in their joy at his passing of the exam, and Dante’s vision is restored.
22 Now through a finer sieve thou needs must strain
Thy words. Who guided, then, thy shaft to fly
At such a target? This must thou explain.
25 By philosophic arguments and by Authority which from this realm descended,
Such love of good imprints me with its die.
28 For good, as good, as far as apprehended,
Enkindles love so far, and as much more,
As good within itself is comprehended.
31 Hence towards that essence, where abides such store
Of goodness, that all goodness elsewhere found
Derives its splendour from that radiant core,
34 The loving mind is, as it must be, bound
To move, more than to all else, if it know
The truth which is this demonstration’s ground.
37 Such truth, he who the primal love doth show
Of sempiternal substances, to me
Makes plain, and plain doth utter it also
40 The voice of that true Author, even He
Who speaking of himself to Moses said:
"Ego ostendam omne bonum tibi."
43 And plainly in thy prelude it is read
Which cries the mystery of God to man
Louder than ever news was trumpeted."
46 "By human reasoning", the answer ran,
"And revelation which concurs with it,
The highest of thy loves to God doth span.
49 But are there other cords which pull thee tight
To Him? Show by thy words how many are
The teeth whereby this love of thine doth bite."
52 The sacred purpose of Christ’s aquila
Beneath his questioning was plain to me.
I knew where he would lead me and how far.
55 I said: "All ratchets which can severally
Revolve the heart towards God co-operate
And are indented with my charity:
58 The being of the world and my own state,
The death He died that I might live the more,
The hope in which I, by faith, participate,
61 The living truth which I conveyed before,
Have dredged me from the sea of wrongful love,
And of the right have set me on the shore.
V (24) As I read Canto 26 I saw strong parallels with the incident detailed in the fifth chapter of Chronicles of the Strange and Mysterious, which I had ended up reading earlier that day due to an inexplicable four month delay.
For instance, the boat is called Trilogy.
The Divine Comedy is a trilogy.
The word trilogy is derived from the Greek Tri (three) and Logos, which means either
(a) Philosophy, reason or the rational principle expressed in words and things, argument, or justification; especially personified as the source of order in the universe. (from Greek: word, reason, discourse), or
(b) The divine word; the second person of the Trinity.
Here in Canto 26 we have the third of Dante’s three examinations in the theological virtues.
The accompanying notes clarify matters:
l 51: "The teeth whereby" etc: see note to lines 55 — 7.
l 52: Christ’s "aquila": The eagle was the symbol of St John the Evangelist. It was said to indicate his more fervent insight into the divine mysteries. St Augustine wrote "Aquila ipse est Johannes sublimium praedicator" (John, the preacher of sublime things, is a very eagle).
Lines 55 — 7: "All ratchets which can severally" etc: Dante answers the question: what are the secondary loves which lead you to direct your highest love to God? The image is here interpreted as that of machinery operated by cogged wheel and ratchet, which has at last "dredged him from the sea of wrongful love" (l 62).
Lines. 58 — 61: "The being of the world and my own state" etc: Dante lists all the blessings or gifts that together have set his love in order: the existence of the world, his own existence (l 58), the Redemption and his awareness that Christ died for him (l 59), the Christian hope which he holds by reason of his faith (l 60), the living truth (derived from reason and Revelation) that God is the source of all goodness (l 61).
Lines. 62 — 63: All Dante’s spiritual progress has consisted of setting his love in order. In Purgatory Virgil explained to him how love may require guidance. Now, at last, the right choice of objects for his love has led him to make the full committal of his soul to God.
The striking link between the passages in the two books has to lie in the complex metaphor that Dante uses in lines 46 — 66, and especially in lines 55 — 57.
Between 1310 — 1320 AD he wrote of how the love of God and his own reason have combined to dredge him from the sea of wrongful love.
And the notes to lines 55 — 57 clarify that:
V (25) The image is here interpreted as that of machinery operated by cogged wheel and ratchet... Just like Trilogy’s winch.
V (26) (See Entry 159 http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2006/03/158-past-and-future-glories.html for how eleven years later I was to find that Peter Benchley chose in his novel Beast, written in the 1990s, after these events, to work in a Dr [i.e. qualified, and so the right person to conduct an examination] St John into this very scenario, and also for yet further nuances to do with love and the mysterious, hidden sea creature.)
And then there was that eagle again!
Saint John, symbolised in mediaeval art as the eagle.
V (27) Incidentally, in 1998, Sean Ingham was to give me a copy of a 1985 newsletter of the International Society of Cryptozoology which was concerned with both his experiences and the other evidence for the giant octopus. This of course included the 1896 "Florida globster".
It mentioned that in 1971, Wood and Gennaro had published an article in Natural History, Vol. 53 (3) based upon their analysis of its preserved tissues. They argued that it must have been an octopus.
The article, written years before Ingham built his boat, was entitled An Octopus Trilogy.
I feel that I should now jump ahead to bring in something from October 1988.
I spotted the book Psychosynthesis by Dr Roberto Assagioli in the Bedford library. I had been impressed with one previous work of his, The Act of Will, and so now chose to read this one.
Psychosynthesis was Assagioili’s system of psychotherapy, incorporating the idea of a spiritual reality.
I think he was trying to devise a modern form of yoga.
For example, he offers exercises based on (a) the legend of the Grail, (b) Dante and (c) the blossoming of a rose — as a symbol of inner opening.
In (a) the therapist describes the use of the Grail symbol in mythology and Wagner operas, extracts of Wagner are played and people are asked to meditate on each symbol for a week.
In the Dante exercise a similar meditation on descent into Hell and then the slow ascent via Purgatory is advocated.
But I noted that he mentions a technique based upon the themes of descent and ascent and a case history involving a large octopus.
Assagioli views the central symbolical meaning of Dante as a complete psychosynthesis. Hell is the analytical exploration of the lower unconscious. The ascent in Purgatory is a process of moral purification and raising of consciousness. The final part — Paradise — depicts the stages of superconscious realisation, right up to the final vision of God.
This is the essential meaning, but there is also much further symbolism.
Virgil, symbolising reason, guides Dante, explaining that he must first make the pilgrimage through Hell, i.e. experience a deep psychoanalysis. He encourages Dante on, explaining to him the various stages of the process.
When Dante reaches the summit of Purgatory, the guide becomes Beatrice, symbolising Divine insight, who leads him into the superconscious regions of Paradise.
Assagioli observes that the main leit-motiv of The Divine Comedy is a descent followed by a double ascent and that this bears a similarity to a method of psychotherapy expounded in 1945, by Desoille, i.e. the Rêve Eveillé.
A patient is asked to visualise himself climbing to the top of a mountain, and maybe even going further via a ray of light or a cloud. He is also asked to visualise a descent into the ocean. Desoille found that during the descent the images invoked by his patients were related to unconscious threats and to certain complexes of negative emotions associated with parental figures. By contrast, in the ascent positive feelings and even new experiences of love and wisdom were often evoked by his technique.
V (28) A patient may take some of the images encountered and bring them up, symbolically, to the surface, observe them, and then continue with the ascent. Dr Robert Gerard of Los Angeles reports a case in which his patient encountered an octopus in the ocean that threatened to engulf him. He was asked to visualise himself taking it up to the surface with him. There the octopus changed into the face of his mother. Then the patient was asked to climb the mountain with her.
As he climbed higher he began to see her as a human being in her own right, no longer threatening to him. Upon reaching the summit he experienced, for the first time, deep feelings of compassion for her.
V (28a) (On September 14th 2002 I was working on this point of this Entry and was dealing with the part where a man starts to see his mother, at the top of the imaginary mountain that they have climbed, as a person in her own right. My mother was staying with us in our new Spanish home, the first time that she had ever done so.
She was staying in a room on our first floor, but, for the one and only time during her one week stay, she came up to the top floor, ours, where I was working and spoke with me.)
Returning to Dante’s Divine Comedy… we ask (the patients)… to read the poem… in the light of its... symbolism; and to… identify themselves with Dante… encouraging them to ask for further explanations of the deeper meanings.
Around 1995 I read an article on the origins and meanings of names. It stated that ´Ingrams´, ´Ingram´ and ´Ingham´ are essentially the same name.
In the exercise the subject sees the octopus, upon reaching the surface, transform into his mother. My mother’s maiden name was Ingram, (also the surname of my aforementioned half-brother, Neil) i.e. essentially the same as the skipper of Trilogy.
The exercise, like Dante’s journey itself, is designed to bring about insight and understanding of hidden realms, transforming ignorance into knowledge.
Chambers Dictionary gives "ingram" as an adjective meaning "ignorant ".
The improbability of the themes of Dante’s Divine Comedy and contact with a large octopus combining again in the same context of ascent towards spiritual growth and love struck me so forcibly that I began to take more seriously the idea that there could be meaning underlying symbols.
In Assagioli’s exercises his students are asked to "introject" themselves into the events, i.e. to identify with a character or symbol in the story.
But for me the coincidences concerning the Holy Grail, The Divine Comedy and the threat of a giant octopus all occurred spontaneously.
WB Yeats insisted that certain symbols possess a power quite independent of the human mind — or at least of individual minds. Colin Wilson suggested that Assagioli’s experience with his patients supported this, or something close to it; the symbols become charged with a power which in turn charges the mental batteries.
Jung distinguished between a sign, such as NO PARKING, and a symbol by pointing out that whereas the sign is exact, there are always meanings and connotations associated with symbols which extend beyond any precise definition.
Plato conjectured that above and beyond our material world there is a world of ideas where perfect forms exist, i.e. the perfect idea of a square, a sphere, a table, etc. This was further developed by Sir Karl Popper with his concept of "World 3".
But few philosophers have taken seriously Yeats’ suggestion that the relevance of symbols abides anywhere other than in men’s minds.
Before moving on I will mention that in 1996 I read Geoffrey Ashe’s book King Arthur’s Avalon.
He advances the view that the finale of Dante’s Divine Comedy may be regarded as the achievement of the Holy Grail.
V (29) Charles Williams has observed that the climax of The Divine Comedy is, in effect, the achievement of the Grail. Just as Dante diverted courtly love to the ends of orthodoxy in the character of Beatrice, so he purified the dreams of the Arthurians in this other respect. The poet stands beside St Bernard at the summit of Paradise, in the Rose of Light formed by the blessed souls; and Bernard prays to Our Lady to vouchsafe Dante a glimpse of the unveiled Trinity - the goal of de Borron’s mysticism.
In view of this one could argue that all the coincidences involving my reading of Paradiso are also related to the achievement of the Holy Grail.
X X X X X
I felt that I was encountering certain themes around this time and I acknowledge that this may have made me on the lookout for them.
V (30) Still, there were a few more incidents of which I felt I had to take note.
One such was on March 15th 1988, when during a telephone conversation with Grandmaster Raymond Keene he mentioned that he liked the proofs to my book Playing To Win. I then had a look at my copy, and there I saw another form of giant octopus!
It was in an extract from Keene’s book Manoeuvres in Moscow which concerns the 1985 World Championship Match between Karpov and Kasparov and the position after Black’s 16th move in the 16th game:
16…N(b4) — d3 White: Karpov, Black: Kasparov
World Championship, Moscow, 1985
Keene wrote of the arrival of the knight at d3:
This piece starts out as a knight but shortly transforms into a monstrous centralised octopus, tentacles grasping out in all directions, hovering over the key squares in White’s position.
Later Karpov, who lost the game, was forced to give up his queen for this terrible black Knight, which Kasparov noted was "highly symbolic."
The discussion of the opening of this game is perhaps the most central of the points about the very nature of chess which I consider in my book. I had been so impressed with Keene’s image that I had made up my mind to include it long before I sat down to write.
V (31) And I thought that I spotted the motif again, this time in the midst of an odd tangle of events that seemed to be pulling an acquaintance into the story.
On the evening of March 7th 1988, I was prompted to look up a quote from an edition of Somerset Maugham’s Collected Short Stories about how he cannot help entertaining the suspicion that there may be some underlying purpose to human life.
The quote is at the beginning of the short story Virtue:
When such tremendous vicissitudes have been needed to get them here... , one would have thought some huge significance must be attached to them;... that what befell them must matter a little to the Life Spirit or whatever... has produced them. An accident befalls them... The story... is finished abruptly, and it looks as though it meant nothing at all... And is it not odd that this event, of an importance so dramatic, may be brought about by a cause so trivial?... Our smallest actions may affect profoundly the... lives of people who have nothing to do with us.
I opened the Maugham book in search of the quote... and found myself staring at a page from A Clergyman’s Daughter by George Orwell. I had picked the wrong book from the shelf, having been confused by their similar sizes, (being compilations they were both much larger than most of the titles on my shelves) and colours.
Then I noticed that each was published by Octopus.
The possible significance of the books only occurred to me two days later on March 9th 1988, when I encountered the coincidences with the giant octopus in Clarke’s book. I found myself thinking more about it… and for some reason was drawn to make a strange connection.
V (32) When going for a quote from Maugham’s story Virtue I mistakenly open a page from a book of six novels by Orwell and find myself looking at a page from A Clergyman’s Daughter.
In Virtue the wife of a man called Charles leaves him for another man. In A Clergyman’s Daughter, the daughter of the Reverend Charles Hare leaves him through amnesia.
For some reason the title A Clergyman’s Daughter made me think of the only person I knew who fitted that description: a woman chess player called Clare.
On the weekend of February 26 to 28th 1988, I had competed in a chess tournament where I chatted with her. I asked how her husband, Charles, was but she told me that although they were on good terms, the marriage had bust up a few months earlier.
A clergyman’s daughter leaving Charles… I was somehow struck by the connection with the two Heinemann/Octopus books.
Yet there is little logic in seizing on just this one similar detail from the two stories. But there it is.
V (33) The next novel in the Orwell compilation is Coming Up For Air. In it a bored middle-aged man goes back to his rural childhood home for "a breath of fresh air." Orwell prevents him from finding a little happiness in this nostalgic quest (he is particularly looking forward to fishing once more in a pool, as he had done as a lad) by staging a series of disappointments for him, culminating in the discovery that the drained pool is now being used as a rubbish dump.
From March 28th to April 6th 1988 I was at a tournament in Oakham. Clare was also there.
Rather sheepishly, for I did not know her all that well, I said that what she had told me at the end of February seemed to fit in with a pattern of events outlined in these two stories. I also said that I could not logically defend what led me to link her in with the two works. It just somehow seemed pertinent. I went on, even more nervously, to note that there seemed also to be some nebulous link with this and other things that I had met with under the loose heading "coming up for air."
This made her somewhat ill at ease for she replied that on February 14th 1988, she had travelled from her home in St Ives, Cambridgeshire back to her family home in Leek, Staffordshire to visit her mother.
In Coming Up For Air Orwell situates the family home of the central character, George Bowling, in a similar location, i.e. the area of England known as the West Midlands.
During her four day stay in her hometown of Leek she had sorted through some old books. One of these was Orwell’s Coming Up For Air. Whilst there she reread it.
V (34) Mr Bowling seeks out his childhood home in the hope of recapturing some of the pleasures of his youth. He is forty-five and both his parents are dead.
Clare was also travelling to that part of the world for a break from routine. Her parents divorced when she was young and she had not seen her father for many years, so the chances of her experiencing again the ambience of her childhood were remote.
(35) But to her great surprise she did see her father at a motorway service station on the way to Leek.
V (36) In April 1988, I met with Clare again, and, perhaps inspired by some of the coincidences we had uncovered together, she asked me whether I had recorded any dream on February 14th 1988. Unlike her, I had been writing down my dreams for the previous four years.
But she had written down one particular dream that she dreamt on Valentine’s day in Leek. It involved her taking part in synchronised swimming, which in real life she had never done.
V (37) Also in Leek she had purchased some home-made greeting cards and one of them was of a pair of great-crested grebes, kissing or necking, against a purple background.
Her inquiry surprised me, but I consulted my diary and read out the following extract -
A scene of I and Raymond Keene and Annette (his wife) sitting on a wall by a river or lake. A barracking of Raymond commences by the amazing device of his opponents scuba diving underwater dressed as a formation of great-crested grebes! They are like underwater footballs but in the final scene, where they appear in a formation above water, like waterfowl in a synchronised swimming formation; fan-like!
Everybody laughs and smiles as they cruise by making their criticisms of Keene and he and his wife laugh too.
Then Annette languishes on her back in the lazy flow of a stream which leads off from below the wall on which Raymond and I were seated. She paddles, kicking gently against the stream, dressed in purple and looking like a nymph.
Later Clare was to discover that the greeting cards that she had purchased were made by a woman who also lived in St Ives, Cambs.
I checked out the possibility of a TV transmission of something on the subject of synchronised swimming but there seemed to be nothing of that nature broadcast on the evening before our dreams.
Of course synchronised swimmers have to repeatedly come up for air.
After hearing all this I felt less of a chump about broaching the subject in the first place. I also felt that here might be some confirmation that in recording and advancing such material I was "on to something".
... ... ...
Assuming there is anything in these matters related to her the question arises: Why should she have been brought into it?
I am uncertain, but this occurs to me.
There had been not so much as one row during their few months of marriage, but she left for an indefinable want of "something more". He was keeping her in comfortable style, yet her discontent grew until she felt that she had to depart from this secure but cloistered and unfulfilled existence.
So she did, and as a consequence had to cope under drastically reduced circumstances for the foreseeable future.
I have mentioned my hunch that acts of investigation may trigger coincidences. I suspect that her search had something to do with the subsequent unfolding of events.
In his introduction to William Plomer’s novel Turbott Wolffe, Sir Laurens van der Post pointed out that the ancient Chinese regarded coincidences not as accidents but as manifestations of a profound law of which we are inadequately aware. For them all worldly events were coloured by the character of any specific moment of time, which the modern mind might dismiss as "sheer coincidence". The German concept of Zeitgeist is perhaps the closest European parallel.
In support of the Chinese belief, van der Post commented:
I have noticed that when one renounces an established order and the protection of prescribed patterns of behaviour and, out of a longing for new meaning, commits oneself to an uncertain future, like a fish to the sea… coincidences crowd fast in on one like the salvos of stars shooting out of the night in Southern Africa towards the close of the year. Coincidences, at these times, do not appear capricious and extraneous, but rather signs of confirmation that one has found again the rhythm and swing of the authentic sea of life.
At the close of 1987, I wrenched myself free from a set of circumstances that were stifling me… and soon afterwards encountered many coincidences.
V (38) On March 11th 1988, an envelope arrived from Greenpeace with a picture of a whale leaping out of the sea on the cover.
Inside was a plea to boycott Icelandic fish because of that nation’s continued whaling policy. The Greenpeace letter spoke of:
the plight of Leviathan… more than a symbol of all that is vast and mysterious in the natural world. He is wonderfully real.
There were several other references to Leviathan around this time because April 5th was the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of the author of the book of that title; Thomas Hobbes.
On April 5th 1988, Icelandic Grandmaster Jon Arnason approached me in Oakham and offered me something to eat from a plastic packet. I could see what it contained, but still extended my hand to accept some morsels of… Icelandic fish.
X X X X X X
V (39) A further coincidence developed from some conversations I had with Matthias Steinbacher at a tournament in Ostende in September 1987. He mentioned how impressed he had been by Grandmaster Tony Miles’s notes to his victory over Roman Dzindzikashvilli from the 1987 New York Open. These had appeared in edition number five from 1987 of the Dutch magazine New In Chess.
"His notes were really enlightening!"
I too had found these notes excellent and instructive. They had appeared in a long article on the New York event by Grandmaster Lubomir Ftacnik to which he had given the title
The Greatest Story Ever Told
During February 1988, I kept finding Miles’s profound note to white’s twenty-seventh move (see the diagram, where the position after this move is shown) cropping up in my mind, although why it should I could not understand.
White: Dzindzikashvilli, Black: Miles
New York Open, 1987
His note was: "No !s or ?s for this. It’s just necessary."
A white Knight sacrifices himself for just two pawns (normally one would require at least three as full compensation.) He simply had to do it: the position demanded it. The consequences of the white Knight sacrifice are unclear, but the opponent refuses to judge it as good or bad.
IT’S JUST NECESSARY.
A very original kind of chess thinking.
What I found so interesting about it was how this withholding of judgement was applicable not only in the wholly objective environment of the chessboard, but also in certain moral contexts.
For example, I had been puzzling over the old theological chestnut: How is it possible to believe in a loving and omnipotent God when the world is full of pain and suffering?
Whatever the prevailing fashions of thought in a secular age, I have always considered that the universe is too organised to be an accident, But I subscribe to no faith.
In early 1988, The Guardian ran a strip cartoon where:
The mighty, humanistic, rationalistic, atheistic scientist prepares to give himself over to an annual springtime moment of wild abandon…
Then, after a frame’s pause, he hurls himself into the air yelling —
"THE UNIVERSE IS A LITTLE TOO DARNED ORDERLY TO BE JUST A BIG ACCIDENT!!"
The design argument for God does not sway the humanist, because, as with all cosmological arguments, we really need another universe against which to draw comparison.
In the mid 1970s, design arguments resurfaced in the form of the anthropic cosmological principle which argues that observers are necessary to bring the universe into existence and to maintain it.
After the coincidences around the themes of eagle, giant octopus and the Grail I was even more drawn towards theological speculations.
But "the problem of pain" troubled me greatly. And then I found myself taken with this nonjudgemental attitude to a committal and speculative chess move: It’s just necessary.
I found myself seeing some similar innocence hanging over the way things are, i.e. that in order for there to be a world of human affairs there had also to be inequality and suffering, and that perhaps that should be borne in mind rather than fretting over how a benign god could permit it?
This is neither a profound nor an original insight, but it had a big impact upon me then.
What made it worthy of record was that on April 4th 1988, I was playing my eighth round game from the Oakham tournament. My opponent was Jon Arnason, the man who would next day offer me the Icelandic fish. Between moves I went for a walk around the playing hall.
I saw that Australian Shane Hill had finished his game and was now browsing at a chess bookstall. Amongst the many works on display there were several old copies of the magazine New In Chess. At that time there had probably been a total of fifty published issues of it.
I glanced at what he was reading, and saw that it was Ftacnik’s report from the very same issue, number five from 1987. He had the magazine open at pages 34 — 35.
The top of page 35 reads:
The laws of probability were temporarily buried and the players became mere pawns in the devilish set-up of the almighty Caissa.
Caissa is the supposed muse of chess.
Immediately after that begin Miles’s notes to his game with Dzindhikashvilli.
Another coincidence! I wanted to have a witness so I grabbed the attention of a passing player, James Howell, and emphasised to both he and Hill that they should not forget which issue of the magazine he was reading from and at precisely which spot it was open as I passed by. I pointed out particularly the original and captivating note to white’s twenty-seventh move.
They were each somewhat bemused ("Don’t be so enigmatic!" commented Howell), and I was uncomfortable. But I felt that I had to bring in witnesses to the fact that he should have been perusing that very page just at that moment.
X X X X X X
Aside from these theological speculations, my main thoughts during the early months of 1988 were along the lines of those expressed at the beginning of this narrative: Scientific Investigation.
If there is something in all this, why is it not possible to prove that there is something wrong with the conclusions of our science?
In his book World of Strange Powers, Arthur C. Clarke notes that when a new concept appears in science, then it might be fair to say that from first announcement through arguments to complete agreement (or refutation) takes a minimum of ten years and a maximum of fifty. Where laboratory checking is possible, it is usually much sooner:
"Sometimes, of course, an element of luck is involved, especially where the events concerned are beyond human control or experimental investigation."
Perhaps the most striking instance of that was the acceptance of meteorites.
In the late eighteenth century the Académie Française had denounced the idea of stones falling from the sky as an unscientific absurdity. Antoine Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry, declaimed,
"Stones cannot fall from the sky, because there are no stones in the sky!"
The matter was settled decisively on April 26th 1803.
Thousands descended on the town of L’Aigle, just one hundred and twenty kilometres west of Paris itself.
The interval between authoritative denial and embarrassed recantation was about thirty years.
Yet the study of the paranormal has seen nothing like that.
Despite so much effort by whole armies of investigators, we are still arguing about the validity of some of the evidence itself generations or even centuries after it was first proffered. Some surveys have indicated that perhaps as many as two thirds of scientists in both the United States and the United Kingdom consider that PSI powers, telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, precognition, etc are either an established fact or a likely possibility.
But this is simply not good enough. If there were any truth in these matters, then surely almost all scientists would be taking them seriously:
We might then ask: What evidence would be necessary to convince a complete sceptic, and what would disillusion a confirmed believer? It’s much easier to answer the second part of the question than the first; the sad history of paranormal research provides many examples, some of which would be hilarious if they were not so pathetic (Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers).
In August 1987, the Society for Psychical Research acknowledged that a century after its creation it had failed to prove anything beyond the boundaries of "normal science."
I found this very puzzling.
There is a veritable mountain of anecdotal evidence. Surely it cannot all be lies? Thousands and thousands of witnesses all lying? I cannot believe it. Why then has there not been a single conclusive example of a paranormal phenomenon in history?
As A.M. Coleman observes in his book Facts, Fallacies and Frauds in Psychology:
The sad fact is that after a century of parapsychological research no one has produced a single piece of evidence that impresses the sceptics, still less an experiment that reliably yields positive results when it is repeated by independent researchers.
Martin Gardner is equally forthright in The New Age — Notes of A Fringe Watcher about his conclusions concerning the inability of researchers into extrasensory perception to come up with anything:
the extraordinary claims of parapsychology are not backed by extraordinary evidence… sceptics would not have the slightest difficulty… in accepting PSI forces the moment that evidence accumulates that can be… replicated. Unfortunately, for 50 years parapsychology has rolled along the same murky road of statistical tests that can be repeated with positive results only by true believers. PSI forces have a curious habit of fading away when controls are tightened or… even when a sceptic is just there to observe.
Both draw attention to the failure of parapsychologists to replicate phenomena that would strike at the very foundations of our science. It is this that causes them to reject the entire area as unworthy of serious scrutiny.
The alternative viewpoint was well put by Colin Wilson in Beyond The Occult, where he said that for people like himself, who had not witnessed such phenomena but had read about them and talked to witnesses whose honesty he accepted, the conviction rests that such things really do happen. Therefore the paranormal is not some fairy tale but a reality.
The pronouncements of sceptical scientists, "entrenched in a kind of lazy dogmatism", he regarded as quite irrelevant as evidence. They had already decided that the paranormal does not exist because it cannot exist.
Which attitude is the fairer? Nothing proven in the laboratory, nothing replicated… but masses of anecdotal evidence and some of it from the most reputable people.
Indeed it seemed to me that anyone professing belief in the paranormal ought to feel it incumbent upon them to immediately add a qualification to that statement, i.e. "...and I accept that, for some reason, it cannot be proven."
All of the evidence ever produced could be summarised thus: "It may be disputed."
What should one conclude of this bewildering state of affairs? I believe in rationality, but what is the rational philosophy? (See Diary Entry 40.) http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2006/03/39-two-knights-versus-pawn-for-first.html
The spoor of a unicorn, or a load of nonsense?
Perhaps I should add that, in 1989, D. Radin and R. Nelson did "meta-analyses" of the published results of all the psychokinetic experiments that had ever been conducted and their statistics showed that the aggregate results demonstrated that the mind is able to influence mechanical devices, with the odds that the overall result was due to chance being 10 to the power 35.
Nevertheless, despite such figures, and also the impressive results produced by the Koestler parapsychology laboratory in Edinburgh, the scientific establishment tried to pick holes in them, and at the century’s end the reductionist, mechanistic paradigm was still very much in place.
X X X X X
At 6.40 p.m. on March 15th 1988, I was walking along a footpath by the River Ouse in Bedford town centre; just out for a stroll. Quite possibly it had been at least a decade since I had walked along St Mary’s Embankment, as it is known.
I was halted in my tracks by the sight of a small cloud in the shape of an upright triangle!
Not only that, the only cloud in the sky!
I was staggered. I looked round and saw about fifty metres away two youths, very probably students from nearby Mander College.
I shouted to them to come over and see this, and when I pointed out the cloud they gasped in astonishment and said that it was the most remarkable thing that they had ever seen. A few moments later they walked on towards the town bridge, and when I followed shortly afterwards I realised our mistake.
There had been no cloud! It was the top of a building!
The photographs show the dark triangular top to a white building. On that evening the main column of the building was indistinguishable from the background of cloudless sky. Hence the illusion of a small, dark, triangular cloud.
(A view from almost the same spot two centuries earlier -
The building on the bridge was the gaol in which John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim´s Progress.)
The view a little closer to the bridge illustrating how the "cloud" illusion only occurred at a particular vantage point.
View of the Swan Hotel and adjacent building from the bridge.
I had read that an upright triangle may be a symbol of the higher self or soul.
In a book on meditation I then noted a discussion of the significance of the morphology of the upright triangle and its three dimensional form: a pyramid. It was observed that when a yogi adopts the lotus posture the bony prominences of the body assume the approximation of a triangular shape.
"It is in pyramidal states of such spiritual consciousness that the capstone of Man becomes ablaze with its awakened spiritual eye."
Compare with the top of the Swan Hotel as it appears in those photographs.
It was of course a pyramidal structure and not, as I had first thought, a two dimensional triangle, that caught my attention that day.
And in 1997 I noted that in a lecture Rudolf Steiner gave in 1905 he cited the upward-pointing triangle as a symbol of the Holy Grail itself (see Appendix Five, here).
I took the photos only to show the impression given by the top of the building — an upright triangle. But after they were developed, and I turned to the literature about the significance of that shape, I stumbled upon an illustration of man’s supposed spiritual eye in operation and then saw how similar that is to the front of the adjacent building: the Swan Hotel.
The swan is another established symbol for the soul. So is an upright-pointing triangle (see Entry 56.) http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2006/03/56-not-knowing-right-from-left-foot.html
And there were several other incidents involving one-eyedness or blindness...
On the evening of March 7th 1988, I chuckled over the memory of a story I had told to two Americans four years earlier. It was an incident from the American sit-com Taxi. A blind man, paying his first visit to New York, gets into the cab of the unscrupulous cabbie, Louie (played by Danny de Vito) who tries to rip him off.
At 4 a.m. on March 8th 1988, I saw an episode of Taxi on TV and realised that it was the same one that I had recalled a few hours earlier.
Louie says that the ride costs twenty-two dollars and fifty cents, but the passenger protests.
Passenger: I’ve been counting the ticks on the meter. It now reads exactly six dollars.
Louie: (A short man.) I should warn you I happen to be a very big, tall, muscular guy.
Passenger: Then you must be talking through your belly button. There’s my six dollars. You’re a very dishonest person!
Louie: You got a nerve calling yourself handicapped!
It was that last line that I, and those to whom I recounted it, found particularly brilliant.
On May 2nd 1988, I watched the Kilroy discussion programme on BBC TV. The topic was blind dates.
It made me recall how my brother Allan had met his wife in this way, but that it would not have been my preferred mode of introduction.
Two days later an issue of a light-hearted chess magazine called Kingpin arrived in the post. Inside there was this piece:
Bristow at Large
Inconsolable since Jim Plaskett turned down her offer of a blind date, Mrs Bristow, Kingpin’s revolting charlady, has politely requested space in the magazine ("else I’ll break your legs"). So over to Mrs B.
In fact no such offer had been made (although I would have turned her down).
Also within the magazine was a graphological analysis of my handwriting by a woman who had never seen me and did not know upon whose script she was commenting.
On May 16th 1988, I opened the previous day’s edition of The Observer Magazine. I turned to the Games page to look at Michael Stean’s Chess column, but its place was taken by a column on Collecting, which I had never seen before.
There was a picture of a piece of jewellery, a locket containing the jewelled shape of an eye.
Amusingly enough, I had even said to a few people that one of my hobbies was collecting coincidences.
In early May 1988, I flew, via Zürich, to Liechtenstein for a chess tournament.
V (40) On the morning of May 8th 1988, I took breakfast in my hotel in the Liechtenstein village of Bendern. One of the books that I had with me was The Heart of The Hunter by Sir Laurens van der Post. I was annoyed by the large number of flies in the place. "Bloody flies!" I thought, swatting at one.
That brought back the memory of an unpleasant experience from September 1985.
I was keeping a notebook in which I recorded words whose meanings I was uncertain of and also the titles of all the books that I could remember having read. A fly landed on my table. I struck at it with a pen, and the consequences are recorded in my diary:
An horrific experience!
A housefly just landed on my vocab book. Absently I swatted at it with a biro.
I knocked one of its eyes out!
Quickly I despatched it.
The blood stained my list of books — just one of the titles: Games People Play which was the third one down from the top on the left.
Only the word People was stained.
This was a page listing all of the books I had read under the heading Psychology. Eric Berne’s Games People Play is about the psychological theory of transactional analysis in which people are designated as manifesting one of three types of personality: Child, Parent or Adult. The aim is to move away from the incomplete Child or Parent personae to the healthy Adult personality.
Curiously enough, when I went to my old diary to look up this incident I discovered that I had recorded something else that happened that day:
September 25th 1985 11.38 p.m.
As I boarded a train at 6 p.m. I was thinking of Orwell’s Coming Up For Air. 3 hours later I read this in Yet Being Someone Other: "Only when that answer ended the primordial dialogue did the men gasp, as if coming up for air out of an unfathomed deep themselves, and start to talk again."
Yet Being Someone Other is an autobiographical work by Sir Laurens van der Post. I read on in The Heart of The Hunter. Van der Post discusses the religious myths of the Kalahari Bushmen. He had become fascinated with interpreting the profundities which he felt sure lay behind these apparently nonsensical Stone Age tales, in "cracking the code" which would allow him to then render them into a twentieth century idiom.
He tries to decipher one of their stories about a battle between the baboons (who, with their protruding brows, he sees as symbols of intellectuals, of life as pure mind) and the creature who for the Bushman is the most potent representation of God; the praying mantis. In Bushman stories there was always great emphasis upon life as not merely being but also as an unending process of becoming.
It was this that gave man’s life its quality and meaning.
So in order to grow mantis finds he must first submit to the critical faculties of life.
He must, therefore, enter into argument with the baboons.
Beings who regard the cultivation of mind as all-important, and thereby refuse to pursue wholeness in themselves, tend to be neurotic and emotionally immature. This is rather sad because the baboons have their own valid contribution to make, theirs being through this analytical and critical ability.
War is the archaic manifestation of argument, so mantis sends his son to "fetch sticks suitable for making arrows for his coming war."
The baboons notice it, and, as is the nature of the reductive spirit, they are at once suspicious. The oldest asks the mantis child what he is doing. Unfortunately, like every new vision of life when it first arises, the child, is naïve and foolish to the point of self-destruction.
Van der Post suggests that this is part of the pattern that has ever compelled holy men to behave in such a way that the word for a saint in many languages originally meant either "lunatic", "silly", or "idiot." "Cretin" is derived from the medieval French, which described the village idiot as un bon Chrétien, "a good Christian". "Parsifal, who began the great adventure of the medieval world, was nothing if not simple."
It does not occur to him that those who are so good at arguing with others would resent an argument directed against themselves. He answers truthfully: "I am collecting sticks for arrows for my father to make war against the people who sit on their heels" (the baboons).
The baboons pass this news to one another, with rising emotion, something they do not know how to control:
Soon they cannot control themselves any longer. They kill him. They batter his head so that the eye falls out, and they play ball with it. If there is any better image of what the over-critical faculty, the one-sided mind of pure reason, does to new creation, I have yet to meet it. The baboons… each want to claim… the vision, for themselves… baboon crying to baboon:
And I want it,
Whose ball is it?
And I want it,
Whose ball is it?
And I want it.
When it seems as if what is left of the new vision will soon be destroyed in a quarrel amongst the critics themselves, mantis has a dream "that the baboons were those who… had made a ball of the child’s eye"… he sees what he must do to save the new vision…
He throws himself into battle against the baboons, is nearly killed, "and only just gets away with the eyeball of his son in the bag of hartebeest skin he always carries."
Van der Post’s interpretation is:
Mantis recognises that the… over-critical argument is killing both the new vision and himself: the only solution is to withdraw..., protecting the new vision by his natural, instinctive attitude which… the container of his beloved hartebeest skin, represents.
He comes to a place of water and greenery, an ever-recurring image of the source of the first spirit. There he takes the eye and tenderly immerses it in the water, saying: "Thou must grow out, that thou mayest become like that which thou hast been." Day by day the eye changes, until mantis hears it splashing in the water and finds his child made whole again. "There, then, complete is the boy, complete the vision — the new way of life."
Once again a Parsifal reference, here in the context of the naïf who begins "the great adventure of the mediaeval world", and an interpretation of the significance of a game involving knocking out an insect’s eye.
And here, as in Berne’s system, we see the healthy growth of a new Adult from Parent and Child.
In this myth the one-eyed and overly critical view of pure reason is damaging, and even threatening to destroy, the valuable new creation.
I should say that I had purchased this book three to four weeks earlier and had scoured its pages looking (unsuccessfully) for a passage on coincidence to which the author refers in his book, A Mantis Carol. Therefore, my eyes had run over these pages before, but in no sense of the word could it be said that I had "read" them.
That afternoon I played my third round game against Kai Bjerring from Copenhagen.
At a tournament in Lugano in 1986 he had introduced himself to me as a fellow diabetic, and I had met him again when we played against each other in an event in London in 1987. In Liechtenstein I lost to him. Afterwards he revealed something that amazed me. In 1985, he had gone totally blind in his right eye due to diabetic complications, and retained only eighty per cent vision in the other one. There was nothing in his demeanour to suggest that he was partially sighted.
1985 was also the year in which I knocked out the fly’s eye.
Tragically, diabetes would cost Bjerring the sight in his other eye too, before his death in 2006 at age sixty.
And, jumping ahead to May 1990, I was reading from Sir Laurens van der Post’s 1954 book, The Dark Eye in Africa. Aside from the title itself, the author had devoted the previous four pages to a consideration of the problems which ensue from European man’s tendency to concentrate upon only the visible aspect of reality, whilst tending to neglect the unseen spiritual dimension.
He particularly cites this as the underlying cause of so many of the problems of colonialism in Africa and expounds on the significance of the Cyclops as a deterrent reminder to mankind of the dangers of overemphasizing one aspect of the personality at the expense of the rest.
He mentions William Blake:
one of the first to spot "the one-eyed giant" of our time poking up his head above the clear horizon of what was considered to be the beginning of an era of permanent enlightenment and reason. His intuitive awareness of the presence of this danger was so accurate and so acute and so in harmony with the aboriginal language of the spirit that he actually wrote of "the one-eyed vision of science".
In the background on TV was a programme about the Cannes Film Festival in which Barry Norman was concluding a review of Ken Loach’s film Hidden Agenda. It is about the behaviour of the security forces in Northern Ireland. Norman concluded his review with the words "at least it brings passion and commitment, albeit one-eyed, to a serious problem."
The idea of an unseen dimension influencing the visible world is, of course, that of a hidden agenda. Also many people would view the situation in Northern Ireland as colonial and a schism created by religion.
As I mentioned, I received a letter from Roderick Main in September 1991, expressing interest in my material. Subsequently we met to discuss it. He had originally written to me from Oxford but when we met, in March 1992, he had moved to Lancaster.
Upon arrival in the centre of Lancaster I realised that I had been there before, but I could not recollect when or why.
And then I remembered.
It had been in October 1986, when I was travelling by coach from Barrow-in-Furness to Bedford.
I had been suffering severe problems with my right contact lens and that eye was smarting so badly that I removed the lens and purchased an eye patch in Lancaster, which I immediately donned.
X X X X X
V (41) In Liechtenstein I read a copy of New Scientist magazine, the only copy I ever bought. I had been intrigued by the front cover, which proclaimed an article by Susan Blackmore on near death experiences. She dismissed them as no more than fantasies created by the dying brain, and nothing mystical.
She gave one caveat.
There was one small piece of evidence that was a big challenge to the view she put forward. Michael Sabom, a cardiologist from Atlanta, Georgia, had claimed that some patients had seen things during near death experiences that they could not possibly have reconstructed from hearing remarks made by hospital staff or from what they previously knew of resuscitation techniques. Not only did he collect some anecdotal tales, such as a shoe seen on an inaccessible window ledge, but he asked subjects to imagine going through a resuscitation procedure and to tell him what they saw. What they reported was nothing like the detailed and correct descriptions of apparatus or the movement of needles on dials which people with near death experiences said that they saw from out of the body.
She commented that future research ought to look carefully at such evidence. Only then might we know whether Sabom’s data really hold out hope to those looking for "something more" after death.
In 1987, I had read a book by Ian Wilson called The After Death Experience in which Sabom’s work was also mentioned. The simplicity and importance of checking whether people who reported such experiences could verify events that took place when they were technically unconscious struck me immediately.
Why all this waffle about "it could just be all in the brain" when a perfect method of establishing whether it were or not existed?
However, as Blackmore reports, nailing down such corroboration had proven beguilingly and frustratingly difficult.
I was impressed with my copy of New Scientist and even thought about taking out a subscription, but it seemed a bit pricey.
When I arrived home I found amongst the mail an envelope with "We have seen the future, and it works like this" on the cover, and inside this invitation:
"The editor of New Scientist cordially invites James Plaskett to accept an introductory subscription at a saving of 25%."
This was the only communication of any kind that I ever received from New Scientist.
In Liechtenstein I also reread Arthur Koestler’s The Case of the Midwife Toad, which details the efforts made by Paul Kammerer to produce laboratory evidence in support of the Lamarckian idea that animals may somehow inherit advantageous characteristics acquired by their parents.
Lamarckian thinking is total heresy to all Darwinists, but Koestler’s book seemed to indicate that Kammerer had come up with just such evidence (as indeed has much subsequent research).
I was also looking again at another book of his, The Challenge Of Chance, which Koestler coauthored with R. Harvie and A. Hardy in 1973. Koestler wrote Section Three: Anecdotal Cases. One of the first things he mentions is a letter of his to the New Scientist of 1972, asking for reports of coincidences. He also makes a reference to the other book of his that I had with me.
In 1970, whilst working on the biography of Paul Kammerer, whose book The Law Of The Series (Das Gesetz der Serie) dealt with coincidence and his theory of "seriality", a whole series of coincidences seemed to descend on Koestler, "like a meteor shower on a summer night".
It was almost as if Kammerer’s amiable ghost were beckoning with a malicious grin: "I told you so". (p.195)
And in the earlier quote from van der Post re the search for meaning and the "pay off" of coincidence, he chooses the same meteor shower simile.
Koestler related just one episode which occurred at the beginning of his research, and for which complete documentary evidence was available.
When Kammerer died in 1926 aged forty-five he left a daughter, then eighteen. All Koestler knew was that her name was Lacerta. Fortunately he knew a research worker in Austria who had done occasional jobs for him. She married, but her maiden name — which is relevant — was Herta Buresch.
In February 1970, he asked her to try to discover the whereabouts of Kammerer’s daughter — provided she was still alive. She uncovered an address in Vienna where the family had once lived. On February 12th 1970, she wrote to tell him that whilst loitering at the house she had attracted the attention of an old lady peering out from a house across the road. From her she learnt that Kammerer’s widow had died in 1954, and that the daughter had emigrated long before that.
The villa was now inhabited by an eccentric, totally reclusive old lady, a paintress, who had lived in the back wing for over forty years. The neighbour then recalled the name of the lawyer who had dealt with the estate after the death of Kammerer’s widow and through him Koestler was able to contact Lacerta Kammerer who now lived in Australia.
She supplied him with invaluable assistance in writing her father’s biography.
In a letter to her of March 2nd 1970 he inquired about "the crazy old paintress". Lacerta replied that she was probably Herta Buresch, née Bitterlich, or her sister Liesl. She remembered both well.
The other Herta Buresch had no relatives in Vienna.
Yet this, Koestler insisted, was only the overture to the Kammerer series.
Unfortunately, he does not seem to have left a full record of these, but here is onesuch -
The information about Kammerer's liaison with the dancer Grete Wiesenthal was contained in a letter which Lacerta wrote from Australia dated June 24, 1970: on the same day I received the same information independently from Professor Paul Weiss over dinner; half an hour later, on the same evening, the Austrian television announced that Grete Wiesenthal had died in Vienna, aged eighty-five...
V (42) During a conversation with Dr John Nunn http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nunn in August 1987 in Swansea, I had said that I thought that we really needed "a new science" to cope with the phenomenon of meaningful coincidence.
And apropos triggering coincidences, I might cite these two with him.
In the same conversation I mentioned some interesting results that I had obtained with the Chinese oracle the I Ching. He was unacquainted with it but after I had explained its supposed modus operandi he remarked "Well, if you ever figure out how it works please let me know so that I can apply it to the stock market."
A novel, which I was then reading, lay unopened and unreferred to on the table between us. It was called Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street by David Payne. I told Nunn that in it the I Ching comes to be used for precisely that purpose.
V (43) Later I tried to interest him in some of the clumps of coincidences that I had encountered in 1988. After some pestering he agreed to take a look at them "When I’ve got time."
Several months after that I rang him out of the blue and asked for his thoughts.
He gasped and said, "I can see it now!"
I had rung just as he had gotten around to it.
Each of these cases might be seen as an act of inquiry into meaning, however casually undertaken, leading to a coincidence.
And in the second we see coincidences generating further coincidence.
In A Mantis Carol, Sir Laurens van der Post tells of how he reached a point in the writing of a book on the Bushmen of the Kalahari where he was trying to express how he had come gradually to think of coincidences as manifestations of some hidden law. They could confirm, amongst many other things, the extent to which our lives conformed to some immense, overwhelming pattern.
He was also thinking that this veiled law with its messengers of strange, often absurd parallels, disturbing our allegiance to a highly organised rational progression of things, might be the one which governed the growth of meaning in our lives.
It was then that he found himself drawn via a series of coincidences into an encounter with a dead Bushman in, of all places, New York (see Appendix One and Diary Entry 235). http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2007/12/234-answering-question-of-when-earliest.html
And I myself read this profound and beautiful book in November 1987, i.e. just before most of the events of this narrative.
Alchemists, such as Sir Isaac Newton, attached many symbolic interpretations to the attempt to transmute base metals into gold. One view was that by searching for meaning the alchemist was transforming the drab, mundane quality of his life into something scintillating and numinous.
This I find a very similar notion to that of a person’s experience of meaning depending upon the way in which he participates in life.
V (44) This idea would also seem to have occupied the very sanctum of materialism; physics.
Today Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle insists that subatomic phenomena are sometimes particles and sometimes waves. It is up to us to decide which. The important point is that this limitation has nothing to do with the imperfection of our measuring techniques. It is inherent in the atomic reality itself.
This property of matter is very strange. Before viewing the object the physicist must decide whether he will regard it as particle or wave; he must decide just how he will observe. In the study of subatomic phenomena, and also in relation to light and in relativity theory, the twentieth century saw the introduction into science of the vital significance of the observer.
Prior to this, in an era when classical Newtonian physics was dominant, the observer was an irrelevancy.
In The Tao Of Physics, Fritjof Capra examines the parallels between modern physics and mystical traditions. He suggests that things have now gone beyond this even, and that we must now regard not just the scientist’s observation, but his actual participation, as an integral feature of reality.
Professor John Archibald Wheeler sees this involvement of the observer as so important that the quantum principle destroys the notion of the scientist standing behind glass, apart from his investigations:
Even to observe so minuscule an object as an electron, he must shatter the glass. He must reach in. He must install his chosen measuring equipment. It is up to him to decide whether he shall measure position or momentum… Moreover, the measurement changes the state of the electron. The universe will never afterwards be the same. To describe what has happened, one must cross out… ‘observer’ and put in its place the new word ‘participator’. In some strange sense the universe is a participatory universe.
The idea of participation instead of observation has entered modern physics only in the past century or so, but, as Capra points out:
is an idea which is well known to any student of mysticism. Mystical knowledge can never be obtained just by observation, but only by full participation with one’s whole being.
In the late 1980s, I saw Professor Wheeler speaking on TV about the anthropic cosmological principle, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle which is the idea that the universe needs observers to bring it into existence and then to maintain it. He related an incident which he thought supplied some parallels to modern physics.
He had been part of a group playing the Twenty Questions game. Each of them in turn would leave the room and upon their return would have to try to guess which word the others had chosen between them. The contestant would ask one question of each of the others, and it could only be answerable with "Yes" or "No". He had a maximum of twenty. Whoever successfully identified whatever word had been selected for him in the least number of questions was the winner.
When it came to Wheeler’s turn he noticed upon his re-entry that his friends had curious smiles on their faces. He began his questioning and was surprised that, rather than responding almost immediately, they were taking longer and longer to come out with their "Yeses" and "Noes".
After a dozen or so questions he finally ventured "Well, is it ‘cloud’?"
After long thought he received the reply "Yes!", and his fellow contestants all burst out laughing.
The point was that there had been no word.
Whilst Wheeler was outside they had agreed that each answer would be consistent with previous ones, hence the lengthening delays in the responses.
But there was no actual target word. When Wheeler asked if it was "cloud" the other answers had to be reviewed to see if it would suffice.
Consider the earlier incident circa Point V (39) of this narrative involving the illusory ´cloud´ of Bedford.
If we are merely the naturally selected products of a material universe, then our position is basically that of spectators. But physics’ insistence that our choices are critical to the nature of reality reveals it as more like an audience participation show.
Does then the way in which we participate in life affect what will befall us?
... ... ...
The concentration of coincidence that fell into my life in late 1987 to early 1988, in so short a timespan and on so specific, recurrent and oft not unconnected themes, led me to seek the opinion of some "authority" on such matters to see their reaction to, e.g. the groupings involving the leit-motifs of eagle, giant octopus, the Grail, etc.
Was I, a man already with a mild interest in coincidence, truly recording something which seriously challenged the mechanisms of chance?
Or ought one to conclude that there might well be more to it all?
It seemed to me that Brian Inglis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Inglis who had written on similar topics, would be as good a choice as any, and so, on March 15th 1988, I telephoned him and said that I felt that I had something interesting which he might wish to look at. He was polite, but doubtful, commenting that he had heard it all "four thousand times before." Yet he agreed to view the material, and so I sent it to him. (See Diary Entry 69). http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2006/03/69-parallel-processing-of-ending-of.html
When I rang back a few days later he was brusque.
"Look, this is just a collection of coincidences! Nobody’s going to take any interest in that! You had all that with Koestler! I’m not having my time wasted!"
At this last unexpected remark I burst out laughing, and found myself saying "I think you’re going to be rather amused a couple of years from now that your first reaction was that you were having your time wasted!"
He calmed down and made some valid criticisms about the presentation (I had hurriedly scribbled it all down) and order. It became clear that he must have rapidly dismissed it after having read only the first few pages, which consisted mostly of (untyped) sundry examples, many of which I consider not even notable enough to make the diary selection here.
Hence he had not progressed on to the later clusterings that are the basis of this narrative.
He seemed bemused that I should have wanted him to comment on it. But if not him, who had written on such matters, as critic, then who?
Since he would not look at it I had to show it to… somebody else.
I accepted that it had to be presented neatly, and set about typing. I did this in late March to early April 1988, during a chess tournament at Oakham School.
I was not interested in preaching to the converted, and I wondered who might serve as a rational person to whom I could offer it for consideration as soon as possible.
Present at the event in a journalistic capacity was William Hartston, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hartston
whom I knew and with whom I had even appeared on TV (see Diary Entry 9). http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2006/03/9-splash-and-tv-names.html
See the photo acompanying point V (2) of this Narrative.
His intellect, our acquaintance and the convenience of his being there when I first made the material presentable made me think him a suitable critic.
And there was one other reason.
In late 1985, Hartston had mentioned to me that he had been asked by The Literary Review to review a book by Michel and Françoise Gauquelin into the effects upon outstanding sports figures and scientists of the positions in their natal horoscopes of, respectively, the planets Mars and Saturn.
In particular he mentioned that the book addressed the behaviour of the scientific establishment towards the work of the Gauquelins and how some scientists had behaved disgracefully when acquainted with their evidence, with unethically conducted attempts at replication undertaken, and also an outright cover-up by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) about their failure to disprove the Gauquelins’ work.
(See Denis Rawlins’s whistle-blowing pamphlet "sTarbaby", viewable at http://www.psicounsel.com/starbaby.html)
I should add that in subsequent conversations I held with Dr David Nias who, with Professor Hans Eysenck, coauthored Astrology: Science or Superstition? a 1982 book sympathetic to the Gauquelins’ "Mars Effect", he revealed that in the early 1990s he had discovered that in France, where much of the data was collated, birth times were not noted by hospital staff but were sent in by the parents themselves, often weeks afterwards.
This meant that their accuracy could be questioned, and it was when he heard this that he himself had begun to have his doubts.
Nevertheless, the point about the unsatisfactory and unscientific reactions from CSICOP to the Gauquelins’ claims is unaffected, for they did not raise this objection. It was spotted by David himself.
Nias and I became acquainted in 1992, after I discovered that he was a member of a London backgammon club that I joined.
When I had asked Hartston what conclusions he had reached he said that he thought more time should be spent on the investigation of such matters.
That prompted me to think that he might be somehow more receptive than most people.
And so, without even saying what the material was, I stopped him in the street and handed it to him, stating only that I would be grateful for his comments.
When I rang a few days later he had an incident of his own to report.
V (45) The eighteenth coincidence listed amongst the material I gave him was this:
Forgetting About Castling in A Game Where A GM Norm Was At Stake
In December 1983, I played in a tournament in Brighton. During one of the evenings at the beginning of the event I mentioned to several of the other players that the crucial thing which had enabled me to beat Lev Gutman in the last round of the Benedictine International in Manchester that September was his forgetting about the possibility of my castling. I had castled around move twenty-five, and that is very late and unusual. By winning the game I won the tournament and also recorded the second of my three necessary qualificatory results for the title of Grandmaster (such a performance is termed a GM norm). Gutman had needed only to draw that game to record a GM norm for himself.
I went on to say that that was not the only time that I had seen someone overlook the possibility of the opponent castling in a game where a GM norm was at stake. I saw Michael Stean do it in a game against Leif Øgaard from the April 1982 tournament in Gausdal, Norway. Øgaard had the white pieces and he castled queenside exceptionally late, at move thirty-one. This was a possibility that Stean had quite missed, and without that resource for Øgaard the position would have been unclear or even favourable for Stean. But by castling Øgaard established an advantage and went on to win the game and with it the tournament. He also thereby registered his second GM norm.
In the final round of the Brighton tournament of December 1983, Nigel Short played black against William Watson, a game which Short had to win to gain his third Grandmaster norm, and with it the title.
A tense situation developed where at the critical moment Short had been banking on the move "castles queenside" to give him some chances of victory. But when the anticipated position arose on the board he saw that castling was actually not legal; the laws of the game forbade it.
Consequently, having touched his king he was forced to move it. The only king move lost straight away and so he resigned. Immediately afterwards Watson said to me how curious a coincidence he found this.
Hartston told me that whilst he was reading the above an episode of a drama series entitled A Very Peculiar Practice was showing on his TV. It was set in a medical practice in a Midlands University.
In that particular episode - Death of a University - the beginning was of a dream sequence based around Ingmar Bergman’s masterful film The Seventh Seal. In this film a knight plays a game of chess against Death. Despite having the advantage of the white pieces, the knight still loses. In the opening scene a Medical Doctor, played by Peter Davison, says to the woman next to whom he awakens: "I was playing for my life, Grete! And I’m a really lousy chess player: I don’t even know how to castle."
Hartston asked me "How can that happen?".
And he asked that question more than once.
V (46) Coincidence often leads to coincidence. Dr Roderick Main termed it "Synchronicity’s self-referring tendency". Vaughan called it "The Synchronicity of Synchronicity".
(Note also the "meteor shower" that pelted Koestler when he was researching a biography of the coincidence collector Kammerer. And how, in V (42), Nunn was phoned by myself precisely when reading my material on coincidence that he had promised he would read "When I get round to it".)
At first I too thought only of the high improbability of it all.
But then, prompted by the discovery of something meaningful associated with so many of the others that I had encountered, I looked for some discharge of meaning accompanying Hartston’s experience.
And came up with the following interpretation.
The title of Grandmaster (GM) is the highest and most prestigious in the game (apart, of course, from World Champion). As mentioned, it is achieved by a player acquiring at least two and sometimes three or even four GM norms. A GM norm is acquired by a player scoring a certain percentage of points in an international event in which at least three GMs are competing.
As a young man William Hartston tried hard to get this title but, despite some excellent results, he failed by a hair’s breadth. Indeed it is important to emphasise just how close he came.
In the Spring of 1976, he made a GM norm by winning a strong tournament in Sarajevo. In January 1973, he had failed to make a GM norm at an event in Hastings. The scoring system in chess is one point for each win, half a point for a draw and zero for a loss. The average rating of the players at Hastings meant that a score of 64% from the fifteen games was the requirement for such a norm, i.e. 9.6 points.
So the norm could be not the 9.5 points that it would have been had the average rating of the players been just a fraction higher: it had to become a full TEN points.
I think that I read a comment in an article by one of the controllers of the tournament stating that it needed to be an average of just ONE point per player higher.
Hartston needed just one draw - one half point - from his last two games to achieve that norm.
These, as it happened, were against two of the strongest players in the world; Grandmasters Wolfgang Uhlmann of East Germany and Bent Larsen of Denmark.
But Bill was playing the tournament of his life, and tried hard to win the penultimate game. He went on to lose it and also the final one, and so ended with a total of nine and a half points.
Had he drawn just one of those games then that norm, together with the later one in Sarajevo, would have sufficed for the title.
And had the average rating of each of the Hastings competitors been just athe smallest conceivabe fraction higher then the percentage requirement for the norm would have been consequently lowered, and Hartston’s finishing score, 9.5/15, would have become a norm performance.
So it was impossible for him to have come any closer to achieving the Grandmaster title.
Since then there have been some amendments to the norm criteria. In 1978 the percentage requirements for GM norms were raised, and neither Hartston result would today suffice for a modern GM norm.
Legislation has also permitted norm results in events to be truncated, i.e. it would now be possible for Hartston to cite his performance over just the first thirteen games of the Hastings tournament, discount the final two, and call that a norm.
Had that possibility existed in the early 1970s then he would thus have registered a thirteen game GM norm, which also would have proved sufficient, in conjunction with the Sarajevo result, to gain him the title in 1976.
Lastly, applicants for the GM title used to have to make all their norms within a five year period.
In 2000 the rules were changed to permit indefinite validity of a norm, and also reactivation of all expired norms.
But by then Hartston was no longer an active player, and so his status never advanced beyond that of the lesser rank of International Master (IM).
In the early 1970s, Hartston was the top English player but he was displaced by Tony Miles, who became England’s first GM in February 1976. Hartston’s wife then left him for Miles, whom she subsequently married.
She is a medical doctor who in the 1980s was practising in the Midlands, as she does today.
See also the photo acompanying point V (2) of this Narrative.
The eighth rank in chess is the promotion zone. Upon reaching there a Pawn undergoes a stupendous increase in power and status by becoming the most powerful piece of all, a Queen.
The Seventh Seal?
A Very Peculiar Practice? (and both castling late, or forgetting about the possibility of castling, certainly fit that description).
A GM norm at stake… Hartston missed that prized title by just the one norm, and he came as close as possible to achieving that.
(Note also that in Watson Vs Short, Brighton 1983, Short needed to win to make his final required norm, i.e. for the Grandmaster title, and a television crew was on hand awaiting that possibility.)
An Englishman’s home is his castle.
I suggested to Bill that in the light of this symbolic reading he was the only man in the world who could have had the coincidence.
I found Hartston’s experience encouraging; a kind of confirmation that in recording such material I was "on to something".
And furthermore that bringing it to the attention of others was ´a good thing´. Just as I was to feel soon afterwards when discussing such things with Clare.
In each instance it was further inquiries into meaning, she asking about my dreams, he with his search for an explanation ("How can that happen?") that led on to coincidences for them.
V (47) But the coup de grâce arrived on August 15th 1988.
On that afternoon Clare decided to drive the twelve or so miles from her home in St Ives to Cambridge. There she browsed in a second hand bookshop and spotted a book by Stan Gooch called The Paranormal. She had not heard of it before, but, I think it would be fair to say, due to my influence she bought it.
In the second part of his 340 page paperback Gooch surveys a range of putative paranormal phenomena.
On page 149 begins a 12-page section entitled Synchronicity and Coincidence.
After her own experiences it was naturally to that chapter that Clare turned first.
She received a shock:
In a recent pilot television programme designed to test the limits of human intelligence, the names of the three contestants were Hartston, Burton and Walkington. All three end in - ton, and all three are names of towns — except for one letter (Harston is a town). The contestants were not of course chosen because of their names but because each of them had done extremely well in similar competitions on previous occasions.
The next paragraph was of a recently published story of two men driving their cars in a remote part of the English countryside. Theirs were the only vehicles around, yet they managed to crash into each other. They were strangers but it transpired that their Christian names and surnames were identical.
Then Gooch related how he was once asked by a hippie in the Middle East to ring his family back in England. Their telephone number turned out to be the same as Gooch’s and the local area code was the one immediately adjacent to his.
He specifies that these three examples are all of what we term "coincidence". "They do not signify anything. In respect of such happenings we often prefix the word coincidence with the word ‘meaningless’ — we say ‘a meaningless coincidence.’ "
This book was published in 1978.
That was actually the very year in which the name of Hartston was changed: Jana married Miles.
The actress playing a Pole and lying in bed next to the Doctor. played by Peter Davison in that final episode of A Very Peculiar Practice - Death of a University - is actually Polish - Joanna Kanski. She married a fellow Pole in England in 1984 and made that her new homeland.
Poland in 1988, like Czechoslovakia, was still a Communist regime.
Joanna subsequently had a son she named Christopher. So did Jana.
And Joanna may be viewed as, essentially, the same name as Jana.
After Clare drew my attention to this (of course, buying such a work and turning to that section of it were further inquiries into meaning on her part) Hartston confirmed that he is the person named first in the opening paragraph of the first example of that section.
I have already given my reasons for choosing him as the first critic of my material, after I had gotten it into a legible form.
He was utterly sceptical about meaningful coincidence.
"But since I’ve had my experience, I’m not so sure any more!"
I picked the person with whom Gooch had chosen to begin his section on Synchronicity and Coincidence.
Moreover he went on to have a coincidence, one which impressed him more than any he had had in his life, whilst reading my material.
And that a coincidence relating to becoming a Grandmaster, when he received the material from one of the then less than then four hundred holders of the title.
(Further to the theme of improbable first recipients, see Entry 175 to note who got the first copy of the book, Coincidences, into which the material was made.
As with Hartston, Geldof was not my first choice.
As with Hartston, he lost his first wife to another man who also excelled in his, specialist, field.)
Once again, my first reaction was merely the unlikelihood of it. It was only some time later that I thought more about the possible meaning that this coincidence from a coincidence from a coincidence might contain.
So I turned again to Gooch’s book and looked in detail at what he had written between pages 149 to 151.
He begins by citing three examples of what he terms "coincidences that do not signify anything". Then he describes the backbone of science: the principle of causality.
Finally he outlines a third principle: Jung’s synchronicity, "events, which were not mere coincidence, and yet were not causally linked either."
Following Jung, I myself, along with other serious thinkers on the paranormal today (Arthur Koestler, for example), accept the idea of three principles of explanation for the connecting of events, namely coincidence, synchronicity and causality. The main body of science, it must be emphasised, still recognises only the first and last of these.
So Gooch chose the first incident as an example of an utterly meaningless coincidence.
Not only that, it isn’t a coincidence! It becomes one only by tampering with Hartston’s name.
The other two incidents with which the section begins, meaningless though they may be, are at least coincidences.
What might it all mean?
V (48) Clare bought the book in Cambridge. In 1988 Hartston was resident in Cambridge. Gooch suggests a connection between the contestants’ surnames and towns. ("Harston is a town").
Harston is a small town less than ten kilometres southwest of Cambridge.
But even that insight did not seem to me to be all of it.
V (49) On the evening of October 19th 1991, I wondered about the significance of the nature of the TV programme. I was thinking on how well the reference to "...a pilot television programme designed to test the limits of human intelligence…" fitted with the facts, for:
(a) Hartston is a highly intelligent, Cambridge-educated mathematician and rationalist.
(b) As a strong chessplayer (twice British champion) and industrial psychologist he had published works dealing with the functioning of the brain, psychology, etc.
In pondering the biggest questions I was aware of being someone else grappling with topics at the limits of human intelligence. I felt sure that this being a pilot television programme designed to test those limits was very pertinent.
For any coincidence presents an enigma and stimulates one to investigate beyond the normal range of one’s understanding.
If it is not chance, then we should have to concede defeat.
The baboons would have to lay down their critical arms.
The matter would be beyond us.
And I was not asking Hartston to just read the stuff for the heck of it: I sought an assessment. i.e. to see whether he, like me, thought it demanded, or at least provoked, an assessment as something beyond chance.
V (50) The following morning I bought a copy of The Mail on Sunday and turned to William Hartston’s chess column. It was a humorous discussion between himself and a polar bear with the bear asking why chess players think so much.
Hartston explained that it was because the complexity of the game demanded a good deal of calculation. The bear wondered why they think so long though, sometimes an hour on a single move:
Bear: "In one hour one could read a short book, or watch a film, or attend a postgraduate lecture on some abstruse topic at the limits of human intelligence. The content of any of these must, by any reckoning, be far greater than any chess position."
Hartston replied that the finiteness of chess makes a player want to attempt an exhaustive calculation, yet the vastness of the task makes that impossible.
"There is, in practice, no limit to how much thought you can expend on a single chess position."
The bear then asked how it was possible for one of the world’s strongest Grandmasters, twenty-one year old Viswanathan Anand, to think so little but play so very well.
Hartston had no fully satisfactory response, but suggested that Anand’s very quick sight of the board, youthful confidence and marvellous intuition combined to obviate the need of intense calculation.
So, asked the bear, if intuition is better than calculation, why do chess players think?
Hartston could only ask in reply why polar bears had white coats? Since it is in the nature of chess players to think their thoughts will therefore tend to expand or even overflow the time available.
The bear said that he probably agreed… "and then casually slipped out of his white coat, hung it on a hook, and sauntered out of the door."
(See Entry 147 for more on the superiority of intuition over intellect - http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2006/03/146-lourberlorborloborlobo.html and note Entries 121 and 164 for instances of answers, supplied by Hartston, appearing before questions.) http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2006/03/120-and-furthermore.html http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2006/03/163-unlucky-for-some.html
Reading the same phrase in a piece by the same man the next day seemed to me to support my hunch that straining the mind on matters at the limits of intelligence had something to do with it.
And this now a third generation coincidence to stem from the original one about forgetting about castling.
And also there is a popular (but probably incorrect) view of Grandmasters as the highest intellects. Hartston failed to attain that level.
For several years he played Board One for his country. He was taken for a de facto Grandmaster.
And he failed by only the slenderest possible margin,
Given that Gooch started the section with this incident in order to emphasise that it is pure coincidence and devoid of any significance, and that it was subsequently transformed into what was for me the most affirming evidence that there is something going on more than chance and causality, the question presents itself: Is there any such thing as a truly meaningless event?
Had Clare, Hartston and I transmuted the base metals of our lives via the alchemy of looking for meaning? And were things going to an absolute extreme in order to make the point?
What clearer emphasis of the meaninglessness of a grouping of events could there be than to place it as the first example of such empty happenings of "just coincidence", and it not even a proper coincidence either?
Is the significance of Gooch’s choice of "non-event" that anything is meaningful, in the sense that it has the potential to be transmogrified through our own attempts to investigate meaning?
Will a future science do away with the notion of chance and acknowledge something else as one of the three principles of explanation for the connecting of events; causality, synchronicity… and events yet awaiting transformation into synchronicity?
And, as Roderick Main was to note, there was also a transformation in Hartston himself.
Or was it all nothing but chance, meaningless chance?
In 2001 Gooch told me that he now regarded only causality and synchronicity as valid. For him there was no longer such a thing as chance.
V (51) On February 22nd 2000, the same twist on the name cropped up again when The Daily Telegraph chess correspondent, Malcolm Pein, reported on Jeroen Piket’s victory over World Champion Gary Kasparov in a two game match on the internet. This was Kasparov’s first ever defeat in match play by a human opponent.
Piket Vs Kasparov had been the final of a sixteen player knockout tournament, the first ever held over the internet. Piket had started out as a 472-1 outsider, and Kasparov had made some disparaging remarks about his playing strength. So his triumph was all the more piquant.
The first game was drawn but in the second play went into a well known type of ending where Piket had a Rook and four connected pawns and Kasparov a Rook and three. All of the pawns were on the same flank and demonstrating the drawing technique ought not to be too difficult for a top Grandmaster.
But the World Champion appeared unfamiliar with it, and just eleven moves after entering the ending he resigned at move fifty.
On move 46 Kasparov and Piket transposed to the game between GM Michael Stean and IM William Hartston from the 1972 British Championships at Brighton. Stean won the game after Harston (sic!) also missed the right plan.
Not only the same name alteration (here an error) as occurs in Gooch’s book, but he also brings in GM Stean and Brighton, two elements of the "Forgetting about castling in a game where a GM norm was at stake" example.
In fact when they had met in 1972, William Hartston was an IM and thus outranked Michael Stean, who had yet to acquire any chess title. Stean became IM in 1975, and GM in 1977.
This matter is explored further in Entry 128 http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2006/03/127-writing-sting-in-and-out-of-it.html
And here is another misspelling of his name on August 21st 2012 - http://www.chessvideos.tv/puzzle-3924-FromHartsonWhiteley1974.php
When Beatrice appears to guide Dante in Paradise she represents Divine wisdom. Virgil, as the representation of reason, was his fitting guide in the two previous parts of the poem, Hell and Purgatory.
But with his entry into Paradise Dante has reached the limits of human intellect.
Now only the highest intelligence, God’s grace, may grant him further insight.
Maybe my own inquiries were responsible for the production of some of the material that I had advanced to others for their consideration?
(52) I found it both meaningful and amusing when I read in The Observer newspaper of December 23rd 1989, the announcement of The Observer Coincidence Project.
Today we launch The Observer Coincidence Project, in which we are asking you to tell us about strange and surprising coincidences that you have experienced. It is being run jointly with The Koestler Foundation and Hutchinson, who will publish a book collating the most remarkable of your stories next autumn. It will be written by BRIAN INGLIS, the noted author and specialist in the study of the paranormal. Here he introduces the project and its aims. Overleaf, you will find a questionnaire to be filled in when telling us of your own experiences.
Here was Inglis, who had been affronted by my proffering him coincidences for his appraisal, and had accused me of wasting his time because that subject had been dealt with by Koestler (and who indeed had been bewildered that I should have thought him the right person to review them) now appealing to the general public to send him their examples of coincidence so that he might work them into a book!
The Koestler Foundation was set up with funds bequeathed by Arthur Koestler in 1983 with the aim of furthering inquiry into parascientific areas.
I was subsequently informed by one of the Foundation’s officers that Inglis had wanted to address a topic in which Koestler had taken a particular interest.
Koestler was at pains to point out that the stock argument against meaningful coincidence, that it breaks the laws of causality, no longer holds because in modern physics the principle of causality has been replaced by one of uncertainty.
I noted the timing of this announcement (close as possible to December 22nd - see Appendix One) and the intended book when recalling my remark, "I think you’re going to be rather amused a couple of years from now that your first reaction was that you were having your time wasted!"
And again, The Observer…
Inglis’s subsequent book, Coincidence: A Matter of Chance or Synchronicity?, is a compilation of anecdotes and speculates about mechanisms, other than chance, that might underlie them.
He writes of "group mind", which might be operating in cases of crowds gripped by hysteria, the notion that mind is not located in the brain but that the brain is, by analogy, the television set through which the mind functions, and of instances of action or communication without identifiable cause.
Personally, I had difficulty in fitting these ideas as explanations to the majority of cases in his book.
X X X X X
At 0.30 a.m. on May 15th 1988, I was in the same Zürich hotel as I had been in ten days before — the Hotel Krone, Limmitquai.
(Two years later I discovered from my brother, David, that in the early 1970s he had been sent to Switzerland several times by his company, Sperry, and had regularly stayed in this small establishment.)
V (53) Three hours earlier, I had taken my evening meal in the hotel restaurant. I had noted that the shadows and indentations on the side of an ice bucket resembled an eagle. My coffee arrived with a carton of cream. On it was a picture of a Golden eagle with its name in both German and French: Stein adler and Aigle royal.
My mind ran over the same old ground.
Proving the anecdotal. Attempting to provide proof for that which is not replicable, is beyond human control and is not amenable to laboratory investigation.
(By the way, at 10:43 a.m. on Christmas Day 1988 I was devising a system of classification for coincidences that I had noted.
I wrote down the following -
(1) My testimony.
(2) Testimony of one other person.
(3) Testimony of more than one other person.
(4) Weak evidence.
(5) Reasonable evidence.
In the background on TV was a cartoon called The Little Troll Prince.
I was about to begin classifying my records according to the above scheme when a remark was made.
The Little Troll Prince was on trial and in response to some remark made in his defence the prosecutor said -
“Hearsay! I want fact!”)
I thought back to the earlier cited passage in Arthur C. Clarke’s World Of Strange Powers and how the dispute over the reality of something that could not be replicated was eventually resolved.
And I then realised that the great meteorite shower which forced the French Academy of Science to concede the falsity of the authoritative statement of chemist Lavoisier that, "There are no rocks in the sky, therefore rocks cannot fall from the sky!", landed on a town called The Eagle! (L’Aigle.)
Could there have been more than just "an element of luck" in the locus of the confirming meteorites’ arrival?
The carton of cream had, for the very first time, taught me that the German term for what we call a Golden eagle brings together the words for ´stone´ and ´eagle´.
`V (54) And there fast followed the suspicion that there was also something in the first words spoken on the moon being "The Eagle has landed."
The astronauts brought back with them the first samples of moon rock.
In August 1996, I was studying Dr Roderick Main’s thesis Synchronicity as a Form of Spiritual Experience and I pondered on his observation that just as the psychophysical dimension needs the spiritual, so does the spiritual dimension, in some sense, have need of the psychophysical.
Some dualist religions depict creation as a constant battle between the forces of light and darkness. Zoroastrianism, for example, emphasises the crucial significance of humanity.
Man is in need of God, but so is He in need of man’s attention.
It is observed that the grandeur of the rising sun would be of little moment were not men alive to view it.
The meteorite fall at L’Aigle confirmed that extraterrestrial rock is apprehensible by man.
The only other way to come by such rock is to… go up and get it.
Then the possible symbolic significances of where the great meteorite shower came down, and also of the first pronouncement on the moon, seemed clearer.
(Note that in Entry 110 it is specified that Christianity is unique amongst faiths in that in it alone was there an instance of God reaching out to man.
In all others it was a case of man making his act of supplication towards God.)
Samples of the historic meteorite fall at L’Aigle at 1:00 P.M. on April 26th 1803 were collected and displayed to the Académie Française by Jean-Baptiste Biot.
The shower of stones was estimated to number two to three thousand with an aggregate weight of about thirty-seven kilograms. Great scientific advances ensued.
It marked the turning point where pondering the meteors of the heavens became studying the fallen meteorites. The matter moved from the supernatural and speculative to the authenticated and hence real scientific study.
The difference between a meteor and a meteorite is that the latter falls to the ground.
Meteors, which merely flash through the sky as "shooting stars", were not enough to convince the sceptics.
But what landed at The Eagle was.
Rock solid evidence!
Biot´s report cited two kinds of evidence of an extraterrestrial origin for the stones:
- Physical evidence: the sudden appearance of many identical stones. Stones not only differing from those indigenous to the region but also similar to other stones which had fallen from the sky in other places
- Moral evidence: a large number of witnesses who saw a "rain of stones thrown by the meteor"
A crater is even clearer evidence!
(It seems that ´impact craters´ where meteorites fell were not always so regarded) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_crater
I felt some strange circuit of investigation being completed. Although it had meant little to me at the time, it was my discovery, on December 22nd 1984, of the existence of a crater on the dark side of the moon bearing my name that started the whole thing.
V (55) (I might note that circa 6:40 P.M. on November 29th 1989 I was in conversation with my mother about the precise circumstances of my birth, e.g. where exactly in Cyprus the family was living then.
She revealed that she stayed for ten days at the Four Lanterns Hotel as the birth was ten days overdue and circa 8:P.M... "and look what happened", she joked.
On the TV screen in the background came footage of Neil Armstrong stepping on to the moon and giving his famous utterance about the "...giant leap for mankind."
This was part of a local news programme called Look East.
There had been nothing previous to suggest that such footage was going to be shown.)
And actually it was only on April 28th 2015 that the full significance of the reciprocation struck me.
Insomuch as Armstrong´s very first words after touchdown indicate a full return; the very place where the confirmatory meteorite fall landed now announces itself as Apollo 11 lands.
And, just as the two words of L´Áigle were each capitalised, so were those of "The Eagle."
Let me also note that the address on the envelope I spotted, mentioned in point V (18), is
´The Eagle Home´.
X X X X X
V (56) In Entry (238) http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2007/12/237-whats-in-name-and-parallels-between.html
I examine parallels between space exploration and spiritual exploration generated via some coincidences I was to meet with in 2007.
In this Narrative we see many coincidences clustered around my reading of Dante´s Paradiso.
That book, as well as being the climax of a journey to enlightenment is also a (fictionalised!) tour of the 14th century model of the solar system.
... ... ...
(57) On May 10th 1990, I was again in the family home and I noticed my mother wrapping up a present. I asked her who it was for and she said that it was a birthday present for Robert Smith.
I remarked that the last time I had seen a present from her to him was on December 22nd 1984, when she gave him that astronomical atlas.
In the background on TV was a programme from a series called Greek Fire, which was about the influence of ancient Greek civilisation on modern life. This particular programme was about art, and within five seconds of my remark a picture of an ancient Greek painting was shown.
It had Krater written on it.
My mother’s present was a tankard.
V (58) And at 10:30 p.m. on August 7th 1996 I was recounting to my wife the importance of the insight upon why I had intuitively felt, on May 15th 1988, that there was a relevance to the lunar announcement “The Eagle has landed”, even though I could not, at that time, see its precise legitimacy to these matters.
And then came the aforementioned epiphany.
As I was explaining to her what I now perceived to be the relevance of those words on the moon, a TV advertisement that we had playing in the background reached the point where Neil Armstrong was taking the first step on the moon and saying “It’s one small step for man…”
This was an ad for Yellow Pages, and though we had each seen it several times before there had been no inkling when I raised the subject that this ad would be shown whilst I was making my exposition.
V (59) In 1991 Terry Gilliam´s film The Fisher King came out.
Robin Williams plays the part of a man called ´Parry´ - a diminutive form of Parsifal. Also, like Parsifal, Parry does battle with a Red Knight.
He claims that he has glimpsed a photograph of The Grail which he must seek in a FEBRUARY 1988 edition of a magazine, i.e. the same date it all irrupted into my life.
(See the YOUTUBE hit for Robin Williams on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1991 and what Williams says circa 6:20 there .)
Months earlier I had left a copy of my book at my mother’s home for her to pass on to Robert Smith, via his grandmother. I now asked if it had reached its intended reader.
She said that actually it had not yet, despite several opportunities for her to get it to him. She now supposed that she would be giving it to him as a Christmas present.
I remarked that that was something of a coincidence for Coincidences begins with the Christmas gift of a book given by her to the same guy. She replied that she knew: she had read some of it. I was most surprised. She also observed with a slight air of grievance that she noted that I had not given her a copy.
I said that I had not given copies to any members of my family, and had only asked for that one to be passed on to Smith as he features on the book’s first page.
But I said that I would be happy to send her one, and did.
V (61) In February 2017 I began giving chess lessons by internet to a gentleman: Les Crane.
After a lesson in early March 2017 he startled me by saying that not only had he purchased a copy of Coincidences via Amazon but that it appeared to be the very one I had given to my mother as it contained the dedication -
"To mum, with love from James."
This was the very copy, Smith having since died.
V (62) The splendid Eddie Izzard sends up God in general in his Stripped show.
Here, at a performance recorded at Madison Square Garden in 2011, he begins by saying, circa 3:45, that his atheism (or non-theism) is based upon two proofs.
And the first is simply God never comes down.
No supposed revelation has convinced him.
At 1 hour: 35 minutes he concludes by specifying where he thinks God hangs out and why our Creator ought to have made Himself known, in a sincerely congratulatory and appreciative manner too, at one precise moment in our history - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IpN3-HAlP0
I am indebted to Dr Roderick Main for drawing my attention to so many details and nuances contained within this material. His insight that synchronicity itself may just be a form of spiritual experience I find most pertinent.
One of my most seminal influences was a book by James Hewitt entitled Teach Yourself Yoga, which I chanced upon in the family home at age eleven. I discovered that the basic concept is that above the personality lies man’s higher nature, his soul with which, in the practice of yoga, he seeks to unify and identify himself. Contact with it often led to great and beneficial transformations, indeed it was suggested that many of the most outstanding figures in the history of Western civilisation had unwittingly hit upon similar exercises to those practised by the yogis of the east, and had thereby strengthened this link. Quotations were given from yogis who spoke of the advanced stages of this process of union, where all sense of personal identity was replaced by a sensation of omniscience and joy wherein the unity of creation and the essentially benign structure of the universe were known directly.
This experience Hewitt termed samadhi.
I was immediately struck by the superiority of yoga over religion, for here, rather than accepting a received doctrine, an act of investigation into the questions that are of most interest was possible.
None of the techniques appeared very drastic and the one common theme seemed to be the practice of meditation. I found it very plausible that, if there is a spiritual component in man, an effective method of becoming more aware of and drawing closer to it would be simply sitting in silence and clearing one’s mind.
I also liked the personal nature of the investigation, something reinforced by the title of this, the first book that I came across on the subject; Teach Yourself Yoga.
But I started to ask myself just how successful my attempts had been. It was true that I had had a handful of experiences, always whilst sleeping, of glorious compassion and sensitivity. The first of these was in the mid 1980s.
I have never taken any hallucinogen.
Like Lord Rees-Mogg (see Entry 40) I accept that I have no right to expect accounts of any such subjective experiences to be accepted by others, because there is no evidence. I mention them because they were so important to me. They clinched that the full range of human consciousness is way beyond the estimations of mainstream psychology, and also supported the idea that attempts to know more about the soul may bear fruit.
Indeed it may well be that this is far more common than is popularly supposed.
When researching her 1984 book, The Making of A Moonie, Eileen Barker reported on a questionnaire presented by a chap called David Hay to members of the Unification Church and also to a control group.
It contained one question that had also been asked of a hundred postgraduate students by Hay: "Have you ever had any religious or mystical experiences."
So high and so similar were the percentages (of both Moonies and students) that said they had - often with accompanying comments from the one hundred postgraduate students such as, "No I’ve not told anyone. For the simple reason, there’s such a lot of disbelievers about, and they’d ridicule you, like." - that she felt that the emphasis in psychology was put on the wrong factors.
I do not therefore, want to suggest that Moonies are unique or freakish because they will (very probably) have had some kind of religious experience; I do, however, want to point out that they find themselves in an environment in which they (and, indeed, others) BELIEVE that such experiences are uncommon and that those who have them can be considered slightly (or very nutty). Reading through the responses of both Moonies and the control group, I began to feel that had Freud been studying present-day students in Britain rather than 19th century matrons in Vienna, he might have concluded that it was spiritual rather than sexual repression which lay at the root of many current frustrations. It is, after all, often quite acceptable for a student to tell his friends whom he slept with the previous night. He is far less likely to tell them that Our Lady appeared while he was saying his prayers.
As the twenty-first century dawns reductionism and neo-Darwinism rule, so such spiritual experience gets hushed up.
But of the ecstatic consummation to which those who claim to have achieved full union attest, where the aspirant is "catapulted into the dynamo of the universe and where he experiences omniscience and a light brighter than a thousand suns", of that I knew no more than when I had first read of it as a boy.
Maybe the authors of those yoga books have had this experience, but I certainly never have. After so many years, I felt that I was going to have to reconcile myself to never truly knowing.
In A Fortune-Teller Told Me, Tiziano Terzani reports meeting a fellow Italian in Bangkok. This man had become a monk and taken the name of Chang Chaub.
But he regarded himself as a failure because, despite twenty years of application to his disciplines, he had still never yet known satori. By contrast he cited someone he knew of who, after only two years of exercises, had experienced satori whilst driving along a Californian freeway.
In the late 1970s, I had read in another book on yoga that one should not look for results. Only the materialist, he who is spiritually sick, looks for results. Rather one should act out of right motive. The aspirant is undertaking the journey of becoming whole; of unifying personality with soul. However on this journey there is no goal. The journey is the goal.
When I first read words such as these I had to smile. They seem so twee and evasive. In normal science we look for results to confirm our conjectures, so why not treat the experiment of yoga in the same way?
But when reviewing my catalogue of coincidence, I wondered if perhaps it supported the statement.
The metaphor came to me of a man on a journey towards a destination that is no more than a dim light flickering in the distance. His sights are set on it and he trudges off in that direction. From time to time he glimpses a shiny and attractive stone along the path, which he would pick up, polish, and deposit in his bag, before continuing on toward that far-off light. And then he might spot another such stone, and then another, and since he finds them appealing and intriguing and their discovery adds interest to the trek, he keeps those too. And he continues on toward his goal.
After many years he has to accept that he is still walking and the light appears hardly any nearer. It seems that he is not closing on the target, and the years are slipping by.
Then he glances into his bag and discovers that it is now bursting with these eye-catching stones which, although apprehended individually, have combined to perhaps form something of an end in themselves.
In this Narrative I speculate that reality could be an audience participatory show.
Is it conceivable then that the very act of looking for a thing could also become the process by which it manifests?
If synchronicity itself is to be viewed as a form of spiritual experience, then the book was right.
The journey is the goal.
Or, should you prefer:
"Think of all the different things that can happen in a single day…"
"Now and then you experience a strange coincidence. You might go into a store and buy something for 28 crowns. Later on that day Joanna comes along and gives you the 28 crowns she owes you. You both decide to go to the movies — and you get seat number 28."
"Yes, that would be a mysterious coincidence."
"It would be a coincidence, anyway. The point is, people collect coincidences like these… When such experiences — taken from the lives of billions of people — are assembled into books, it begins to look like genuine data. And the amount of it increases all the time. But once again we are looking at a lottery in which only the winning numbers are visible."
(Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder)
Appendix One: December 22nd changes for the better
I began my narrative with how on December 22nd 1984 I chanced upon Plaskett’s moon crater in an astronomical atlas which was to be given as a Christmas present by my mother.
As mentioned, in November 1987, I read Sir Laurens van der Post’s book, A Mantis Carol, wherein he relates a series of coincidences that happened to him in the 1950s. He had just spent five years in the Kalahari desert studying the ways of its Bushmen inhabitants. Then he followed some leads which drew him to give a series of lectures on the Bushmen in Canada and North America. At the end of his tour he was approached by a woman who told him of her family’s adoption of an African man: Hans Taaibosch. She suspected that he might have been a Bushman, but needed van der Post’s expertise to confirm it.
Upon her production of photos he affirmed that the deceased Taaibosch was indeed a Bushman, but he was astonished that she should have met with him in, of all places, New York, when very few of his own countrymen had ever seen one.
And all this occurred at a particular moment:
it was the first hour... of 22nd December. The old Chinese had a proverb that at midnight noon is born… The day before was the shortest of the year… Yet… the… movement of time was reversed and the universe bound for a whole hour already on a new course towards a decline of the dark and increase of light. Did she realise that spring was already one hour old?…
Just such a moment of extremity… could be the only possible timing appropriate for the event of Christmas? Some two thousand years ago… a tide of life had turned… as spring was being born… Man was utterly at the mercy of a way of life based on worldly power, altogether arrested, worn out… however great its contribution to… life… at its best had been before.
Then… a new source of power was born… Consider that there could have been no better personification of the birth of a despised and rejected self than in that of a child born, in terms of the world of power, illegitimately to a woman of the most… persecuted… race… the Jews. And this… rejection was… put beyond question by the fact that the child… lived to be doubly rejected, indeed eliminated by the rejected people themselves and the very element in life that he had come to rescue from their arrested selves…
Could she not see how Hans Taaibosch too… was charged with similar imagery? And... all had been synchronised, so that Hans Taaibosch could be resurrected and she and I be searching for the meaning of his life… just as we were nearing to the celebration of the day on which some two thousand years ago this new principle of life… was made flesh and blood… when the universe was once more compelling a new season in the character of time... ? We too were living in another Roman hour… with life under arrest crying for renewal and rebirth in every aspect of itself…
Could one doubt… after such a… coming together of time, man, history, the universe and all its systems and seasons, that they were… all subject to the rule of one, overriding and common law?
The beginning of Spring, and therefore of sunnier times.
Amongst the spate of media articles on the opera Parsifal that appeared at the beginning of 1988 was one where Valerie Grove interviewed its director, Bill Bryden. Bryden had never directed an opera before, and reported that one of his first discoveries was that in the opera world nobody worries too much if one of the stars is "n/a" (not available).
Parsifal rehearsing without its Parsifal? I am told this is the norm in opera… When Bryden’s Parsifal, Peter Seiffert, finally arrived three days before Christmas, the relief was palpable, and there was laughter on stage for the first time.
I put together my original compilation of these events in the first half of 1988.
On July 22nd 1988 I watched a video with a friend, Jerry Hyde. He had obtained it from a video hire store without previously consulting me. It was Trading Places. I knew a little about it but I had never seen the whole film before.
I discovered that the plot is that an impecunious black con man, played by Eddie Murphy, is offered the job of a millionaire white banker, played by Dan Aykroyd, by two wealthy rogues. They just want to use them as guinea pigs in an experiment to see what the consequences of this role reversal will be (Aykroyd having all of his money taken from him and being forced out of his home).
Ultimately the black tramp and the white rich boy suss the deception, and they unite to turn the tables on the two villains.
The character Eddie Murphy plays is called Billy Ray Valentine.
The role switch takes place on the day on which the film begins; December 22nd.
I saw it because it was the selection of the gentleman who then watched it with me;
In the fictitious events of Entry 128 there occurs another instance of a change of identity, a sinister one.
And then comes the arrival, on December 22nd, of the agent, the classic good guy, who is to turn things round from bad to good.
I suppose one might point out that the announcement in a Sunday newspaper of The Observer Coincidence Project happened on December 23rd 1989!?
Quotations from the works of Sir Laurens van der Post recur passim throughout my text, and my admiration for his efforts to elevate our attention beyond the terrestrial to the spiritual aspect of existence will hardly have escaped the reader.
But he was only human.
He died, aged ninety, on December 13th 1996.
His feet of clay were revealed in an article in The Mail on Sunday. It told of how, when a married man of forty-seven, he had sired a child by a fourteen year old girl who had been his ward as he escorted her via ship from South Africa to England. It was also claimed that he had subsequently refused to acknowledge his grandchildren.
The article appeared on December 22nd 1996.
It was Dr D.Baker who provided me with the first ever horoscopic analysis of my natal chart. On December 22nd 1984.
Towards the end of 1997 Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch and I became aware of allegations of sexual abuse against Douglas Baker and decided to confront him about these. I gave my wife the power of veto, which she at first exercised. Then, a few days later, she said that she had reconsidered the matter and elected to allow us to do so immediately after I had fulfilled some commitments which I had made for the next weekend.
So we went in on the Monday and, through a hidden microphone, were able to record his admissions.
That was December 22nd 1997.
And there is this extract from Entry 18 -
" At around 5:15 on the evening of December 21st 1998 I alighted from a train that I had boarded at Welwyn Garden City as it arrived at London King’s Cross. Jonathan Mestel shot past me at King’s Cross as he hastened to board a train departing from the adjacent platform.
(Harry Potter fans, note the location!)
I waved at him through the glass. I had been to Welwyn to research data further to pursuit of a criminal guru, and at the afternoon’s end I had, by chance, passed by the offices of The Welwyn and Hatfield Times newspaper. I went in and spoke to Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch’s contact there, and she gave me the phone number of a private investigator whom she recommended.
The next day Jeremy made contact with this man. "
The guru, of course, was Baker.
Note also points (3) and (4) of Appendix Five.
Appendix Two: Three (prompted!) predictions
Brian Inglis told me not to waste his time with a collection of coincidences, because nobody would take any interest in that subject. Two years later he issued an appeal for people to send him accounts of coincidences for him to fashion into a book.
He was emphatic that "The only way you’re going to be able to do anything with this is through predictions!"
I considered him the expert, so I took a deep breath… and put his advice into practice.
On March 13th 1988, I told four people that I thought that in the next few days there would be a major news story about something coming out of the sea. I said this to Mrs S. Pinnock, J.S. Speelman, R.D. Keene OBE and R.G. Wade OBE. Two days later The Guardian ran a story:
DIVERS DISCOVER CRATER OF TREASURE
It was reported how the previous day had seen the disclosure of a discovery made three years previously by an Oxford University research team. They had found wine goblets in a shipwreck off North Sicily. The ship was thought to have sunk into the crater of a live volcano between the late fifth and fourth centuries BC.
Gas from the crater interacted with seawater to embalm the huge cargo of black-glazed fineware pottery in sulphuric acid. This may have helped to preserve its contents. It was only the second wreck from the period ever discovered. Some two thousand three hundred cups, bowls, plates, jugs and lamps have so far been recovered but divers "have only scratched the surface," said Mr Mensun Bound, director of Oxford’s Maritime Archaeological Research for Europe.
The Times also gave the story front page coverage.
The prediction was an extrapolation, based on things coming up for air. I think I cast my net fairly wide and said that it might be Norwegian or something off the Norwegian coast, and that it might be connected with religion and could die as it surfaced. That was because of some incidents involving the kraken and the Norwegian bishop Pontoppidan, who was said to have sighted it. I read of this in early 1988, in J. Stafford-Deitsch’s book Polyphemus.
But all four remembered me saying that something "very large, very strange, and which had been submerged for a very long time, would surface out of the sea in the next few days."
The treasure was part of the second oldest shipwreck ever found and the organisation MARE (Latin for "sea") disclosed the find on March 14th 1988, so that all seems to fit "submerged for a very long time" and "surfacing out of the sea in the next few days".
Sheila Pinnock remembered me telling her that something would "irrupt out of the sea in the next few days". Interestingly enough the discovery is in the crater of a live volcano.
"Predictions", Inglis had said. Plural. So I "extrapolated" from the clusterings once more, and this time, on March 15th 1988, told one of the four that I thought that a major news story involving an eagle would soon break.
But I was quite wrong.
Finally, when I made the prediction to R.G. Wade OBE that, "something very large, very strange and which had been submerged for a very long time would be coming out of the sea in the next few days", he paused for a moment and said, "It might be Bobby Fischer."
Fischer became Chess World Champion in 1972, but had then ceased to play. I immediately adopted Wade’s suggestion as an independent prediction, for it seemed to fit the bill exactly.
And there was something more to it.
In the encyclopaedia entries on the Holy Grail mentioned on page it states that:
The legend is a Christianised adaptation from an ancient pagan fertility rite, in which the grail was sought because it alone could revive the Fisher King who lay sick.
It had been speculated that Fischer’s refusal to play, along with other peculiar behaviour, indicated some psychological disorder.
I was wrong. There was no announcement of an imminent comeback from Fischer.
But in September 1992, exactly twenty years since he had last played, Fischer did come back and played a match with Boris Spassky. Hardly anybody else had thought that he would play again.
Around that time Roderick Main gave a lecture to the annual conference of the Society for Psychical Research based on my stuff, and he referred to the fact of the first public presentation of the material coinciding with Fischer’s comeback.
Hits, misses, and ricochets!?
I did it because Inglis told me to. Predictions are definitely NOT my thing.
Appendix Three: R. Main’s analysis
The incidents in this blog may be regarded either as pure chance or, to some degree, indicative of an as yet not fully appreciated aspect of reality.
It is up to the reader.
In 1995, Roderick Main successfully submitted a PhD thesis entitled Synchronicity as a form of Spiritual Experience to Lancaster University’s Department of Religious Studies. Chapters six and seven are concerned with the material in my narrative.
Roderick gave his imagination free rein!
His central idea is that in some extended groupings of coincidences synchronicity may be viewed as spirit’s mode of revealing itself.
I said that it was the recurrence of certain motifs which led me to choose the format of a narrative
Main suggested that what I had initially highlighted reflected my own evaluation of the events’ symbolic significance at least as much as their frequency. Also I had overlooked certain other themes. He therefore proposed his own five:
(a) Celestial phenomena (including moon, stars, meteorites) (Twenty incidents).
(b) Arthurian legend (including Parsifal, the Holy Grail, the Round Table) (Twenty-one incidents).
(c) Dante’s Paradiso (including principally the eagle but also Beatrice, threefoldedness, and the rose) (Twenty incidents).
(d) Sea monsters (including octopus, Leviathan, coming up for air) (Fourteen incidents).
(e) Eyes and vision (including blindness, one-eyedness, the third eye, new ways of looking) (Twelve incidents).
(Note the shop from which Dr Watson emerged in Entry 142.)
He also noted the less frequently occurring themes of unicorn (two incidents), identity (six incidents), chess (five incidents), the union of opposites (six incidents) and the date of December 22nd (four incidents).
In Appendix One, however, I have noted a full nine events relating to December 22nd.
Some of the coincidences he found individually quite striking.
Then there was the sheer quantity contained within a relatively short space of time, for most of them occurred from the end of January to mid May 1988, and a single day, February 14th, provided the focus for no fewer than six.
And then he noted the recurrence of certain motifs, and the meaningfulness of some of the patterns of events:
And lastly, it not infrequently happens that a coincidence occurs whose content seems simultaneously to express two (or more) hitherto unrelated themes… Arthurian legend and… Dante’s Paradiso are each… related at various points to all of the other four principal themes, while the themes of celestial phenomena and sea monsters are related to all themes except that of eyes and vision; the latter is therefore conspicuously related only to… Arthurian legend and Dante’s Paradiso.
But the themes of sea monsters and eyes and vision were certainly to be united in Entry 124.
And, as I note in the Narrative (28), the climax of Paradiso may be viewed as the achievement of the Holy Grail.
So perhaps it is not a truly separate theme from the Holy Grail!?
He then adds that the richness, complexity and symbolic content are such that it positively invites some deeper analysis:
I believe… that my own interpretation… at the very least exemplifies the potential richness of such symbolic and spiritually-oriented analyses.
Having noted the five given content themes, he went on to propose a number of conceptual themes running through them: Identity, Transformation, Spirituality, and Synchronicity:
... emerges first through the highlighting of his surname in the two coincidences involving Plaskett’s Crater and Plaskett’s Star. The first of these also draws attention to his date of birth. Next, Plaskett’s actual physical appearance was highlighted through… the remarkable resemblance between himself and the singer playing the part of Parsifal in Wagner’s opera…
repeated emphasizing of aspects of Plaskett’s own identity… surname, date of birth, appearance, experiences, clothing, behaviour, actual person and condition of health… can only serve to increase consciousness of the issue of identity generally…
Again, the two figures with whom Plaskett has been implicitly identified, Parsifal and Dante, are among the pre-eminent spiritual seekers in western literature.
This, he feels, emphasises my identity as one also in search. He notices the emphasis on participation and how I, for example:
while searching for information about Plaskett’s Crater… learned of the existence of Plaskett’s Star… Most clearly, however, the significance of participation is implicit in the coincidences identifying Plaskett with Parsifal…
There is the idea of transformation from ignorance to knowledge, and from lesser… to greater consciousness… in the coincidence involving a first map of the dark side of the moon: territory which had always been inaccessible now… charted… Again the celestial journey of Dante, and analogously that of Plaskett, consists of a series of progressive transformations into ever higher and subtler states of consciousness and insight…
Plaskett’s Crater, being on the far side of the earth’s satellite… lies at the extreme outer limit of connectedness to the terrestrial and faces into the heavenly or, symbolically understood, spiritual spaces beyond. Plaskett’s Star… is… out in these… spaces. Conversely, meteorites… come from… the heavens and impact on the earth and moon — symbolically, a spiritual influence imprinting itself on the psychophysical… Also, within… the theme of sea monsters there is implied the notion of two levels of reality (water on the one hand, air or land on the other), with significant transitions and transformations taking place between them. Thus there is the idea of ‘coming up for air’ also with the symbolic implication that sustenance needs to be drawn from a higher level… This, however, is balanced by the coincidence involving the great- crested grebes: these… birds obtain their sustenance by penetrating from the higher dimension (air) into the lower (water) — suggesting symbolically that not only is the psychophysical dependent on the spiritual but that… the reverse is the case.
When my son was born, underwater, on September 15th 1996, the midwife’s first observation as he rose upwards to emerge and grope his way towards his mother’s breast was, "He’s coming up for air.":
Another aspect… takes the form of first recognising some… neglected feature of reality and then… discovering in it some unexpected value. This is the case with the motif of the giant octopus. One coincidence draws attention simply to the existence of this monstrous creature below the sea, it being detected largely through its negative power to interfere with the vessel Trilogy on the surface… The transformation… is clearest… in the… exercise in which a patient imaginably ‘encountered an octopus… which threatened to engulf him’… On reaching the surface… the octopus changed… into the face of his mother.
He also proposes that in the letter from Greenpeace there was an attempt to transform the image of the whale from that of something monstrous into, as they put it:
a symbol of all that is vast and mysterious in the natural world… intelligent, intuitive, perhaps even thoughtful…
Finally, an even more explicit expression of the idea of something from below the sea being found to have great value when raised to the surface is the incident involving the discovery of the treasure of ancient Greek pottery. (In Appendix Two.)
Main then moves on to a theme that I addressed: transformed vision:
the blind taxi passenger, in outwitting the driver who tries to cheat him, shows evidence of having a kind of sensitivity or perception other than normal vision… Again, there is the coincidence involving the illusion of the triangular cloud and Plaskett’s inadvertent photographing of the pediment resembling the symbol of the ‘third eye’: here a misperception results serendipitously in the evocation of a symbol of higher perception — suggesting perhaps that the transformation into higher forms of perception may require a temporary loss of accurate perception on normal levels…
Note that Kai Bjerring (40) had lost an eye through complications stemming from the same affliction I carried; diabetes. Yet it was he who was to win the chess game we played in 1988.
Synchronicity likewise, though it may be an important additional or new way of looking, can all too easily seem delusory nonsense to the unsympathetic…
In Entry 124 the man encountering the surfacing oarfish is an eye surgeon:
the incident involving Plaskett’s Star… evokes the possibility of a spiritual aspect to one’s identity; those involving meteorites… suggest… concrete effects originating from a transcendent source…
He also notes:
the process of developing towards fuller realisation of spirit. This is especially the case in the… development of Plaskett’s identification first with a crater on the moon which faces out into the heavens and then with a star… and the paralleling of this movement with Dante’s journey…
The final conceptual theme I wish to highlight is that of synchronicity itself…
Main addresses what he termed "the self-referring nature of coincidence":
There are two aspects to this: one is where the content or context of a coincidence has to do with coincidence itself; the other is where the content, though not necessarily to do with coincidence, expresses meanings which are suggested also by the essential form of coincidence regardless of its specific content… For example… any coincidence… presents one with… an enigma… and stimulates one to investigate beyond the normal range of one’s understanding. This would appear to be reflected by the specific context of the Hartston coincidences which express the idea of the limits of human intelligence. Again, it is intrinsic to the essential form of coincidence that it creates or reveals meaningful relationships between events which in themselves are either not meaningful or are not meaningful in that particular way… This idea of the meaningless being made meaningful, is… reflected in… the coincidence involving Gooch’s book
Main feels that the concept of synchronicity is especially evoked in the cases of my making a symbolic association between meteorites and coincidences and the two parallel dreams of synchronised swimming:
it is as though synchronicity is pointing towards itself and revealing certain aspects of its nature: its spiritual origin and the kind of proving to which it is susceptible…
Again… coincidences whose contents suggest the possibility of a new kind of perception highlight… the very nature of synchronicity… it… encourages and requires us to look in a new way.
Indeed, I suggested that it demanded a new science (42):
the synchronistic relationship between events is presented by Jung as being complementary to the kinds of causal relationship of which we are normally aware. This… may… be what is suggested by the repeated emphasis in Plaskett’s collection on the motif of one-eyedness. Sometimes… being one-eyed means being partially sighted, limited, incomplete. At other times, however… the "single eye" is the "third eye" of spiritual insight or an unexpectedly appearing precious jewel. In these latter cases the "single eye" may signify… a new kind of integrated or holistic perception…
Finally… Plaskett’s coincidences repeatedly and explicitly emphasize the concept of spirit… In other words… we are enabled to witness… synchronicity’s self-revelation as spirit.
See my remarks in Entry 142 about how the synchronicities generated during my attempts to make an anti-Darwinian TV series explicitly pointing towards hylozoism and dualism - even though the intended series was not going to argue for spirituality.
Appendix Four: The Grail
Main picked out three components of Arthurian legend: the knight Parsifal, the Round Table, and the Holy Grail.
A Modern Grail Story:
He notes the similarity between myself (then!) and Peter Seiffert as Parsifal. As my surname and date of birth had already featured coincidentally he suggests that this next development might be seen as:
the level of identification becoming more concrete, more physically embodied.
Further, whereas before the identification was with... the relatively static phenomena of a lunar crater and a distant star, here it is… much more dynamic… an actor or singer; similarly with incidents… where the contents are the names of the actors Lance Percival… and Ferrer and Baker. This emphasis on acting suggests a more intimate participatory relationship to the events, even… some form of dramatic enactment.
Consider also the progression of coincidences in Entry 142 http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2006/03/141-giant-octopus-odds.html : firstly a pair of detectives in a comic strip.
Next another pair on television.
And then we have the physical encounter between myself and Dr Watson as he enters from Baker Street and I was just about to leave for Baker Street station.
There too progressive involvement coincides with things becoming ever more concrete and dynamic as the fictional detectives appear first in two dimensions, then become mobile as screen actors and ultimately move to 3D as two real searchers manifesting in the most appropriate of locations.
Also, after my first appearance on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? the contestants booked into a hotel and each, for security reasons, used mother’s maiden name.
That made me Mr J. Ingram.
The second time I was on the (real) name of one of the other players was Jean.Ingram.
Then Major Ingram and his wife appeared on it, as a couple.
And then individually.
Then when my appearance in the hot seat was broadcast it was on the same evening as the Ingrams appeared as a couple on another quiz show, during which jokes were made about their conviction for cheating on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
And then Ingram Wilcox won the million in September 2006.
Specifically… Plaskett finds himself identified with the figure of Parsifal. Within most versions of Arthurian legend Parsifal… quests after and eventually discovers the Holy Grail… a certain king known as the Fisher King is suffering from a wound which will not heal until a knight of conspicuous excellence discovers his castle and, seeing the Grail there, immediately asks certain questions concerning it. So long as the king remains sick the whole land suffers. But when the knight arrives and asks about the Grail, both the king and the land will be healed. Parsifal is the knight predestined to undertake and accomplish this task.
Parsifal in fact arrives at the Grail Castle twice. The first time… He views a number of marvellous things relating to the Grail, and even the Grail itself, but… he omits to ask anything about them. The following morning all the marvels have disappeared, and… his omission to ask the relevant questions means that the curse which is on the king and the land remains in effect; his personal failure is thus the cause of continued widespread suffering… he determines to find the Grail castle again at any cost. After many years of seeking he eventually does so, this time asks the all-important questions, and… the ailing Fisher King and the whole land recover from their plight.
When Parsifal first sees the Grail he remains a passive observer, not appreciating his own crucial role in the events he is witnessing. By the time he sees it the second time, however… the Grail has become… the central goal of his life. There is a parallel to this in Plaskett’s change of attitude towards coincidences. Prior to the extraordinary concatenation… that occurred to him at the beginning of 1988 he had… already noted a fair number, and had even been… recording them. But when the main clusters got under way, he became… fascinated… Like Parsifal, he became engaged in a sort of quest. And it soon became clear that this active involvement was itself in some way leading to the occurrence of further incidents (the "triggering" effect). In other words… participation in the coincidence phenomenon — characterized primarily by his more inquiring attitude — appeared to be resulting in the manifestation of more… meaningful coincidences. Thus, as in Parsifal’s case, the asking of the right questions — questions ultimately concerning meaning — leads to a significant reanimation of the environment.
I have already drawn attention to the significance of the manner in which one lives. By actively participating in a search for meaning, rather than merely passively observing a life that one has already accepted as accidental and pointless, it could be argued that one ceases to be a kind of "dropout".
He noted four coincidences from my narrative around the theme of:
The Round Table
The image of the Round Table evokes in several ways the problem of the integration of the spiritual aspect of reality with its more mundane aspect. According to the Queste del Saint Graal the Round Table was the third of "three most important tables in the world." The first table was that at... the Last Supper, and the second, ‘in the likeness and in resemblance of it,’ was… the table… upon which the Grail was placed or around which the Fisher King and his company sat eating food miraculously bestowed by the Grail. Being the third, the Round Table is at a further remove again... used by King Arthur and his knights, it is very much in the material world…
An important feature… is that all the seats around it were occupied save one, the so-called ‘siege perilleux.’ This ‘perilous seat’ was supposed to represent the ‘empty place vacated by Judas...’ It could only be occupied by ‘the predestined and the most virtuous man who should one day find the Grail’… Parsifal. However, as E. Jung and von Franz point out, ‘it is a remarkable fact that the discoverer of the Grail... should have to occupy just precisely Judas’ seat.’ The reason for this, they suggest, is that Perceval has been chosen to reunite the too widely sundered opposites of good and evil...
See Entry 224. http://james-plasketts-coincidence-diary.blogspot.com.es/2007/12/223-le-sige-perileux.html
And the third ingredient of Arthurianism is:
The Holy Grail
My own studies into this myth revealed that:
(a) The Grail has been transported away to some secret place.
There would appear to be a connection here with the idea that after its arrival in Britain (brought by Joseph of Arimathea) the Grail fell into "captivity" or disappeared into a "beyond" or into concealment. This situation might be looked upon as a kind of incubation.
(b) Only he whose name is written on the Grail can find it, i.e. Parsifal.
(c) It discriminates between good and evil.
(Stated in The Grail Legend, by E. Jung and M-L. von Franz.)
Plaskett… (discovered)… that one possible derivation of the word ‘Grail’ was from the Latin (in fact originally Greek) word ‘crater’… we have noted how Plaskett’s coincidences have brought about… identification… with the crater on the far side of the moon and… Parsifal… these identifications can only have been reinforced by the unexpected equation of the two images, crater and Grail…
In most versions of the legend the Grail is considered to be a… vessel... Wolfram von Eschenbach… portrays the Grail as a stone. But… all accounts agree… that the Grail… is a resonant symbol of spiritual mystery and power, and hence also of the goal of spiritual striving… Thus it is not unlikely that when (it) emerges synchronistically in Plaskett’s life, it is also… as a symbol of the spiritual goal towards which he is striving. Specifically… union… with his higher self or soul. Interestingly, E. Jung and von Franz… conclude their chapter on ‘The Grail as Vessel’ with the suggestion that ‘in a special sense… the soul is that wondrous vessel which is the goal of the quest and in which the life-giving power inheres…’
I had been pondering how one might go about proving the reality of the spiritual dimension of the universe. This too is symbolized by the Grail:
This problem of evidence and proof was for Plaskett initially found to centre on the coincidentally highlighted image of meteorites. Later, he had the realisation ‘that really big meteorites not only produce samples of extra-terrestrial rock… they also produce CRATERS! A crater is even clearer evidence!’
See point V (55)
This suggests another line of connection. The image of the crater was found to be associated with the Grail. Now it turns out also to be associated with the image of meteorites. Finally, completing the circle of associations, E. Jung and von Franz relate information which enables the image of meteorites also to be associated directly with the Grail.
In speaking in this Narrative (55) and on page 70 of Coincidences of a "circuit of investigation being completed", I had failed to register this last nuance, although it did occur to me, independently, when I read Wolfram von Eschenbach circa 1989.
In Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the Grail is, as has been said, not a vessel but a stone. Of this stone it is said:
They (the Knights of the Grail) live from a stone
of purest kind.
If you do not know it,
it shall here be named to you.
It is called lapsit exillis.
There is much dispute as to what lapsit exillis means. Some take it to be a corruption of either lapis elixir or lapis exilis, both of which are expressions found in alchemy to refer to the philosopher’s stone… But there is also another intriguing possibility...:
Because of the reading, lapsit ex coelis, there was a wish (among some commentators) to interpret the Grail as a meteorite, for in antiquity meteorites were considered to be (lithoi empsuchoi) — stones with a soul.
This interpretation receives some support from the fact that, as Joseph Campbell relates:
According to Wolfram’s perhaps invented reference, the Provencal author Kyot discovered the legend of the Grail in Toledo, in the forgotten work of a heathen astrologer, Flegitanis by name, "who had with his own eyes seen hidden wonders in the stars. He tells of a thing," states Wolfram, "called the Grail, whose name he had read in the constellations. ‘A host of angels left it on the earth,’ Flegitanis tells, ‘then flew off, high above the stars. ’ "
Again, E. Jung and von Franz relate another version of the story, according to which the Grail was said to be a precious stone that fell out of Lucifer’s crown when he was expelled from heaven. There the idea of the lapsit ex coelis, of its having fallen from heaven, is likewise expressed.
(See Entry 150.)
The coincidences involving the images or ideas of the crater, meteorites, the Grail, and coincidence itself, together with the association arising from them, have established the following connections:
(a) The Grail is associated with a crater;
(b) Meteorites are associated with the phenomenon of coincidence;
(c) Meteorites are associated with craters;
(d) Meteorites are associated with the Grail (in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival and elsewhere; also by combining (a) and (c);
(e) The crater is associated with the phenomenon of coincidence by combining (b) and (c); and
(f) The Grail is associated with the phenomenon of coincidence (by combining either (a) and (e) or (b) and (d) ).
This tight nexus of associations is all the more striking in view of the fact that each of the images or ideas — crater, meteorites, Grail, coincidence — was already central to at least one incident impressive and suggestive in itself.
And I could add that the group of eagle coincidences detailed in this Narrative and also in Coincidences gets pulled in too because the eagle is associated with coincidence via my nebula. It is then associated with meteorites through the name of the place where the confirming shower arrived, and hence with the Grail via combining (a) and (c).
Plaskett’s coincidences then have thrown into prominence the image of the Grail both as a vessel (crater) and as a meteorite. The two versions are not strictly incompatible: the vessel could conceivably have been cut out of meteoric stone, perhaps even out of the jewel from Lucifer’s stone. However, there may also be a specific reason why both versions are evoked by Plaskett’s material. In the case of a crater which has been produced by the impact of a meteorite, the meteorite would, at least initially, be contained in the crater. In a sense, then, the meteorite can be viewed as the content and the crater as the container. The fact that both images are equated here with the same thing, the Grail, suggests the paradox that ‘the container is the content.’ This in turn reflects the… self- referring nature… (of synchronicity)… whereby the meaning seemingly derivable from the content of a synchronicity is often basically the same as that which is derivable from… the… form of… every synchronicity: form and content express the same meaning, so… in a sense, form and content are one.
And my wife pointed out that in the undersea crater featured in Appendix Two we have an instance of a crater containing Kraters, i.e. the treasure would have included Greek mixing bowls — Kraters.
In the light of all these connections, the imaginative speculation suggests itself that synchronicity, as it is revealing itself through Plaskett’s coincidences, may itself be a form of the Grail. The Grail is something spiritual and meaning-bestowing; so, I have been arguing, is synchronicity. The Grail, though essentially spiritual, can manifest in the psychophysical world of normal experience, but elusively and evanescently; this… is just how synchronicity manifests. The Grail appears to Parsifal at first… without… any special effort on his part, but before he can access its spiritualising and regenerative power he has to adopt an actively inquiring attitude in regard to it; the situation is similar with synchronicities, which… require that the experiencer actively reflect on and enquire into them if they are to disclose the fuller dimensions of their meaningfulness.
...One of the reasons the Grail is such a sacred object is that... it... constitutes physical proof of the spiritual reality... ; likewise synchronicity can be experienced, as it was by Plaskett, as constituting a form of tangible proof... of ‘the reality of the spiritual dimension of the universe.’… Finally, the symbolizing of the Grail as both meteorite and crater may suggest that it is in some sense simultaneously both cause and effect and hence cause of itself… synchronicities, of course, by definition are not caused by any factor besides themselves…
Do not forget, though, that I recorded coincidences centred around other characters who have developed their own mythologies, e.g. James Bond, (Entries 128 and 137) Sherlock Holmes (Entry 142) and even Robin Hood (Entry 12).
All good guys.
Appendix Five: Where to see Parsifal’s name
For those who remain unimpressed with the attempts of Main and myself to discern meaningful patterns/myths amongst this stuff, and still feel that we are barking up the wrong tree (or just barking) I offer this last Grail-related codicil, to take us back to the start of the narrative.
After receiving a copy of Dr Main’s thesis from him in June 1996 my interest in the Grail was rekindled.
In March 1997, I read a book on the search for the Holy Grail by Rudolf Steiner. This was only the second book of his that I had read, but one of half a dozen or so on the Grail that I had consulted since 1988. It is the transcripts of lectures that he gave in January 1913.
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) taught that there are spiritual planes, from where he acquired truths which he then wrote of in his many works.
To me it seems that he shared three traits in common with all other Gnostic gurus:
(a) He did not explain how he developed the faculty that enabled him to gain access to these great, unrecognised truths.
(b) He offered no proof of any of it.
(c) Despite operating as a teacher, he himself did not appear to have passed through any pupil phase. Also no student of his went on to develop anything like the insight which he claimed.
Steiner claims that a great spiritual impulse, having expressed itself through various channels, e.g. Apollo, the Sibyls and Christ, had gone underground, but would surface to manifest in another form in the future.
To my great surprise I found that what he had to say about the Grail had some parallels with my material.
And were it not for such similarities I would hardly quote from such a book.
Esoteric claptrap? Well, certainly what he says contradicts all orthodox science and is very hard to get one’s head around.
But see how it ties in with, and develops further, the coincidence themes of my narrative.
From Lecture Five.
Steiner speaks of this hidden Impulse and how and where it could reappear.
... even today it has not fully reappeared but can only give evidence of itself. But where and how did it come to the surface? That is the question…
Steiner speaks of his feeling that he has not yet dealt adequately with the subject of the Grail:
… before my soul rose the admonition: "You must first read the name of Parsifal in the right place… "I had... understood something from the Parsifal saga — after Parsifal returns, in a certain sense cured of his errors, and again finds the way to the Holy Grail, he is told that his name will appear shining on the Holy Vessel. But… where is it to be found?
He searched for a further understanding of the Parsifal myth. For the most part this took the form of his observing visions whilst he meditated upon details of the story:
... he finds the Grail… the Knights of the Holy Grail… come to him with the words: "Thou art the future Ruler, the King of the Grail, for thy name shines out from the Holy Vessel."
... And now, as my concern was to find the Vessel…
He mentions his belief that in our epoch there is really something like the resurrection of the Astrology of an earlier time:
... we must search among the stars in a way different from the old ways… these thoughts about a revival of the stellar script linked themselves in a remarkable way to the secret of Parsifal, so that... the two were connected.
But Parsifal... did not know what to make of the message of the stars…
Steiner has referred to an obscure possible mediaeval source for the Grail myth; a man called Kyot.
Kyot… acquired a book by Flegitanis in Spain — an astrological book… Kyot… in whom lives a certain knowledge of the stellar script… who, stimulated by this revived astrology, sees the thing called the Grail. Then I knew that he discloses an important clue… he at least has seen the Grail.
Where then is the Grail, which today must be found in such a way that the name of Parsifal stands upon it? Where can it be found?… it had been shown to me that the name — that is the first thing — must be sought for in the stellar script.
And then... I was shown where the gold-gleaming vessel in its reality is to be found, so that… through its symbolical (my Italics) expression... — we are led to the secret of the Grail… I was following with inner sight the… sickle of the moon… with the dark moon like a great disc dimly visible within it… so that one saw the gold-gleaming moon… and within it the large Host, the dark disc… if one looks closely… there... was the name Parsifal!
If this reading of the stellar script is seen in the right light, it yields… something... of the Parsifal secret, the secret of the Holy Grail.
From Lecture Six.
The stellar script... is not in any sense the Grail and it does not yield us the Grail... the name of the Grail is to be found… not the Grail itself… in… the dark part of the moon… there... is to be found the name of Parsifal.
The gold-gleaming sickle becomes apparent because the rays of the sun fall on the moon… Within it rests the dark Host: ... spiritually, there is something else. When the rays… are reflected…The spiritual power of the sun... goes through; and... in the golden vessel… we see reflected the physical power of the sun. The Spirit of the sun rests in the vessel of the sun’s physical power… in... the moon… an important symbol will be manifest. Because the moon... appears... as the bearer of the Sun-Spirit... within the moon’s vessel in the form of the wafer-like disc.
… in the Parsifal saga... on... Good Friday… the Host descends... into the Grail and is renewed;... like a rejuvenating nourishment…
Which is the day appointed for... Easter... ?… when the vernal sun… that is gathering strength — ... — reaches the first Sunday after the full moon... the vernal full moon... at... Easter... must begin… to become a sickle.... This means that… the picture of the Holy Grail must appear in the heavens at... Easter… According to... tradition, the date of… Easter… is regulated with this in view...
... we... ask how Parsifal gradually gains knowledge... Who is he... ?… He is ... to receive… the secret of the Grail… and... accordingly, had to come to... understand something that will never be understood unless it is approached ... not with traditional knowledge and scholarship.
Well, few stranger lectures than those have ever been given!
But, as this blog is about the coincidences of my life, I have to note that:
(1) The rightful place for the name of Parsifal to be seen should be the dark part of the moon. (See Point (1) of this Narrative and also Page 238 in Coincidences.)
(2) Steiner depicts the moon as a repository of both the sun’s physical light, in the illumined sickle and, more mysteriously, its spiritual power in the dark part. He views the bright part as a symbol of the Grail containing the dark part, the heavenly host.
Compare this with the crescent references in Entries 121 and 164.
(3) If the vernal sun has been gathering strength until, at its most potent, it makes its appearance shining in the vessel of the Easter full moon then it follows that this began with the lengthening hours of daylight — an increase which starts on the 22nd of December.
See Appendix One.
(4) Steiner intuits that there is some connection between a new astrology and the Parsifal story, e.g. that Kyot sights the Grail through the stimulus of this "revived astrology".
On Dec 22nd (see Appendix One) 1984 I received from an astrologer the only horoscopic analysis that I ever had, just after my sighting the crater on the moon’s dark side in the astronomical atlas which my mother was to give as a Christmas present.
(5) "Where then is the Grail, which today must be found in such a way that the name of Parsifal stands upon it? Where can it be found?… it had been shown to me that the name — that is the first thing — must be sought for in the stellar script."
The Parsifal saga must commence with the search for the name in what is written in the stars.
See Point (1) of this Narrative Entry, and Page 8 of Coincidences.
V (59) Note also - re a kind of container for spirit - that Roderick Main´s book Revelations of Chance, two chapters of which are devoted to an analysis of the material in this Narrative, appeared on March 1st 2007.
That was the very date upon which the European Space Agency announced the future home of mankind might be Plaskett´s moon Crater.
And note the name of the NASA mission which on January 19th 2012 recorded the first continuous video of the dark side of the moon -
You do look my son in a mov’d sort,
As if you were dismay’d: be cheerful sir;
Our revels now are ended: these our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the georgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind: We are such stuff
As dreams are made of, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
The Tempest, by William Shakespeare