by Robert Perry
For many of us, believing in some sort of higher reality while being determined to not turn off our brain leaves us in a constant dance of doubt. We often desperately want to know what course of action is "guided" or "meant to be." But then we question all the available means for getting in touch with that guidance. Perhaps we get intuitive promptings or even hear a calm inner voice, but right afterward another voice whispers in our ear: "How do you know that what you 'heard' was true?" Often, it is far from clear if that second voice really is a devil on our shoulder. Sometimes subsequent experience shows it to have been an angel.
Such doubts inevitably spiral outward. How, after all, do we even know there is such a thing as "guided" or "meant to be." How do we know there is any kind of plan for our lives? Sure, we have sometimes seen things work out in seemingly miraculous ways, but we have also seen things unexpectedly crash and burn, leaving us to pick up the pieces. We have experienced amazing coincidences and synchronicities, but then we remind ourselves that there was probably a perfectly rational explanation. How do we know there is any sort of guiding hand at work, any order in the chaos? How do we know there is a God at all?
For the last thirty years, I have been working with a phenomenon that I believe actually provides answers for these questions. Informally, I call it "signs," but (since I use that word in a way that excludes virtually any conventional "sign") I more formally call it CMPEs-Conjunctions of Meaningfully Parallel Events. Because it is a physical, publicly observable phenomenon, it brings objectivity to questions that traditionally have seemed hopelessly subjective. I have recently published a book about it, titled Signs: A New Approach to Coincidence, Synchronicity, Guidance, Life Purpose, and God's Plan (Semeion Press, 2009).
A CMPE requires that you have at least two events that just happen to occur within hours of each other yet share an enormous amount in common. Normally, we think of a coincidence or synchronicity as two events that share one thing in common. The classic case is a patient of Carl Jung telling him a dream about a scarab beetle, and then Jung discovering a scarab beetle tapping at the window. There, the two events (sharing of dream, beetle at the window) have only one parallel: a scarab beetle. But with a CMPE, the two events need a whole series of parallels-on average about eight, though there may be more than thirty. Further, these parallels come together to tell a coherent story, a story that acts as commentary on a situation in our lives.
Let me give you an example. The other day I was talking with a friend of mine. Two years ago, she came to me asking for help with a major issue in her life. I told her how to watch out for CMPEs and soon she began to notice them. She now has received over a dozen signs about her situation. As usual, these CMPEs are not scattered pieces of advice, but rather come together to weave a larger vision of her situation.
In our conversation, I was trying to articulate that larger vision, so that she could use it to help her get out of her numbness-or, using the symbolism from her signs, her "coma." She has had a difficult life, starting with a horrendous childhood, and as a result has shut down emotionally. She wants to feel alive again. I said that all of her signs speak of her making a journey along a single line. On one end of this line is her past. Its central dynamic was that the reality of those around her painfully clashed with the reality inside of her, to the point where their reality actively assaulted, patronized, dismissed, and belittled hers. Her response was to outwardly go along with things, even to be the cooperative grownup who held things together, but to inwardly withdraw and shut down, to go into a coma.
The signs, I said, consistently showed her gently but firmly separating herself from those kinds of situations, and instead making a journey to the other end of the line. The central dynamic of this other end is that the reality of those around her is truly in harmony with the reality inside of her. As a result, this end is characterized by safety. The signs portrayed this as her finding a genuine sense of community and even home, for isn't that what home is-a place where the reality around you fits you like a glove, a place where you truly belong? The signs even got specific and located this home in Sedona (a place she had wanted to move to for years) and with the Course in Miracles organization I founded, where she now lives and works. The overall idea was that if the assault on her reality by those around her sent her into the coma, then replacing that assault with safety and harmony would bring her out of the coma.
Some hours later, she climbed into bed and remembered that the previous night she had recorded a dream on her voice recorder. She had forgotten the details of this dream and had virtually forgotten she even had it. But as she listened, it portrayed a remarkably similar scenario to the picture I had elucidated to her that afternoon:
"There are two very different communities…founded on very different assumptions. In one of them the assumptions are not so nice. Most of my dream takes place in this community. There are no people. Instead, it is full of snakes that are very angry. As I move around, they constantly lunge at me and bite me. Because I built the community, their poison doesn't affect me. Still it is unnerving to have snakes attacking from all directions. As I walk around this community, it is dark and shadowy, the buildings are largely in ruins. Multiple snakes are always attacking. I have to stop every few feet to pull them off-actually remove their fangs from my legs. Finally, I wonder, why am I even spending time in this community with my dog? Why wouldn't I just go to the other community where it is completely safe and spend my time there instead? I had a sense that Robert was behind the safe community….I leave the community and board up the opening to it. My dog tried to scratch and dig to get back in, but I went to lengths to keep her away."
It is not hard to see that her dream shared a number of parallels with our conversation. In both:
As you can see, these two events shared not just one parallel but rather a whole series of parallels, a series that comes together to tell a coherent story. This is because both events contained the same overall picture, in which my friend makes a journey from an inhospitable environment that she has been too tolerant of, to a hospitable one that can be a real home for her.
The similarities between the two events are so striking that you have to wonder if there was some sort of ordinary influence that passed between them. Since her dream actually came first, perhaps it subtly influenced or even sparked our conversation. Yet the conversation was initiated entirely by me and its basic picture came entirely from me. Moreover, she had forgotten about her dream, to the point where she never even said to me, "Oh, the picture you're painting is just like my dream from last night." There is the possibility that her dream had some kind of extremely subtle, unconscious influence on our conversation, yet with most CMPEs it is impossible to see any ordinary cause-and-effect connection between the two events. I see no need, therefore, to invoke a tortured "unconscious influence" explanation for this CMPE when I've seen hundreds of cases where such an explanation is out of the question.
These sorts of events, I believe, provide solid reasons for believing that something more is going on than ordinary randomness and chance. There is too much organization here. Further, this organization seems designed to impart a message. In my friend's CMPE, the message is so obvious that it hardly requires elaboration. She is apparently being told to take a journey from one environment to the other, and that this is the key to coming out of her coma. We see this same characteristic in all CMPEs, in fact. They appear to be designed to say something about situations in our lives. Their message isn't always as obvious as in this case, but finding that message follows certain intuitively obvious rules, with the result that different interpreters can (and do) arrive at the same interpretation of what a particular CMPE is saying.
Further, as in my friend's case, the messages have a remarkable consistency. CMPEs return to the same situations again and again, each time providing a different piece of an emerging puzzle. That puzzle-their overall picture of a situation-displays real insight into the people and dynamics involved, and real wisdom about the path to wholeness and happiness. And when that path is taken, remarkable results often follow.
This has certainly been the case with my friend. The CMPEs she has received are leading her through a change in her basic orientation in life. She is an extremely rational, cooperative, productive person who thinks outside the box and constantly questions and fine-tunes her perceptions. Yet she has allowed healthy self-questioning to go to a morbid extreme. In her mind, the correct and loving behavior was always to look at her own shortcomings and be patient, kind, and tolerant in the face of the shortcomings of others. This well-intentioned outlook unfortunately locked her into a pattern of going along with unacceptable situations (just as she did in her dream). As a result, she has gotten stuck in a series of long-term situations in which she believed that the only valid response to someone's efforts to control and debase her was to question herself.
The signs are actually pulling her out of this orientation, in ways that are both psychologically astute and physically practical. Her move to Sedona, for instance, has worked out better than she could have imagined. She recently wrote, "Months later the wisdom of the actions became clear. It opened the way for real healing to take place….The direction the signs pointed me in, directions I would never have taken on my own, opened a door that might otherwise have remained stuck." With the help of the signs, she literally is getting unstuck from a lifelong prison.
When you witness a process like this, it is hard to doubt that there is a guiding hand involved. First, you see occurrences like the one I relate above, where two events share a detailed story that seems to strain a chance explanation. Then you see that those CMPEs are all related to each other and come together to convey a consistent overall vision-really straining a chance explanation. Then you see that this overall vision grants someone a new picture of herself and her situation, one that, while new, fits her perfectly and explains so much. Finally, you see her embrace this new picture and follow its specific directions, with the result that a new life opens up before her. Watching such a process is powerfully convincing.
At this point, I have seen a number of people go through this process (myself included), and after seeing it happen repeatedly, it is indeed difficult to doubt that something real is going on here. As the CMPEs add up, you are left with the sense that there really is a plan for our lives, one that has definite directions for us to go in and one that can concretely make itself known. You are also left with the sense that there is a very wise, helpful, and patient voice behind these occurrences, one with an extraordinary level of insight, one that knows you better than you know yourself. This "sense" is not the product of wishful thinking. Rather, it is the natural psychological aftermath of repeated personal experience. And as this sense gradually grows, the unthinkable happens: That seemingly endless dance of doubt actually subsides, not from repression, but in the way that all doubts vanish in the light of reality.
It will, of course, take a great deal of research, drawing on the experiences of hundreds or thousands of people, to lend widespread credibility to the claims I am making here. My hope, however, is that the book I have written can get something started, helping people begin to work with CMPEs themselves, and sparking research that can eventually lend scientific weight to a phenomenon that holds so much promise for our lives.
Join Synchronicty host Marie Bernard for an interview with Robert Perry, author of, Signs: A New Approach to Coincidence, Synchronicity, Guidance, Life Purpose, and God's Plan.
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