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Can Luck Be Explained?

June 19, 2017
Their occurrence seems almost magical but perhaps meaningful coincidences can be explained.

Luck is often defined as a series meaningful coincidences. These random happenings, occur at such unearthly, punctually timed moments, that you’re left paralyzed in surprise. Like all types of weird chaos in the universe, we’re always looking for explanations for these irregular patterns. So could an ungraspable word like luck perhaps be examined?

Photos by Dani Reynolds

Let me give you a quick introduction to my man, C.G. Jung:
Psychology is historically a new field of knowledge. In the beginning of the 20th century, two important people made this form of science famous: Phycology-rockstar, Sigmund Freud, and the twenty year younger uncrowned, psyche-prince, Carl Gustav Jung. At first, they two were actually dear friends and colleagues. Jung became Freud’s “adopted eldest son – his crown and successor”. Their disagreements started with issues like the libido (a lot of Freud’s work was focused on the sex-drive of human beings), the relevance of religion (Freud did not care much for it, Jung did), and different concepts of the unconscious (Freud saw it as a pile of suppressed emotions, but here, Jung found his psychological foundation). Jung also treated a lot of psychotic patients, and here his work heavily differed from his colleague’s. He had a theory of a collective human unconsciousness: that we are somehow connected to the world and to each other in our minds. Ultimately, Jung’s work had to split from Freud to develop in its own direction.


Jung looked into the human brain for answers to existence, and throughout his life-long career he was always aware of concepts of connection. The only principle that could explain connection by the patterns of science, at this point, was cause and effect, or causality. It’s as simple as this: effect always follows action. Therefore, if you know the effect, you can also figure out the action. If you want the effect to be you enjoying an ice-cream cone, you know that the action must be you going to the store and buying an ice-cream cone . We can say the two incidents are connected to each other in space and time through cause and effect. But what if – you’re making your way down the street, thinking about how delicious it would be to be enjoying an ice-cream, and then suddenly, a stranger offers you in a double-scoop?

How lucky would that be?! The moment you thought about the ice-cream, it appeared. How is that even possible? – It’s clearly possible, because it just happened. But what does it mean? Is this the doing of an external being? Do you possess superpowers? This sure does not look like typical causality, there’s no trace of physical cause and effect here. Why are we so drawn to these kind of incidents, insisting that they hold so much meaning? Why haven’t we been able to come up with a more appropriate word for this other than simply, “luck”?

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This is where the lush word synchronicity pops in. Jung came up with this word, and he explained synchronicity as a meaningful coincidence of outer and inner events that are not themselves causally being connected. The inner incident of you thinking about ice-cream, and the outer incident of a stranger offering you an ice-cream, was unexpected, yet meaningful. I’d say this phenomenon is easily relatable and almost inevitable. We’ve all experienced multiple incidents we deem as meaningful and important, even though we cannot explain them by the physical rules of nature. With the concept of synchronicity, Jung started to approach the mystery between what we call the unconscious psyche and what we call matter.

Could psyche and matter actually be the same phenomenon, one observed from within, and the other from without?

A cause and effect-relationship between incidents means that said incidents have to happen on a straight linear timeline, within a physical space, easily defined and calculated. The theory of synchronicity does not question, or compete with the nature of causality. It simply presents another category of events, which apparently follow different patterns. Could the concept of synchronicity give us a new perception of how incidents in life could be connected, arranged in a complex net of meaningful knots, tying mind and matter together? Jung left us an open door into the unconscious psyche, but the question as to whether there is a calculated connection between our inner and outer worlds still remains unanswered by both psychologists and scientists. Until further notice, we are still left with the titillating excitement of meaningful coincidences we define as luck. (And hopefully a free ice-cream.)