"In shadowy silence grew the Iceberg too" Thomas Hardy
|“Coincidence is God's logic”
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Meaningful Coincidences in History, Literature and Life
"The death of the countess had a far more solemn cause; it resulted, no doubt, from an awful vision. At the exact hour when Madame de Dey died at Carentan, her son was shot in the Morbihan. That tragic fact may be added to many recorded observations on sympathies that are known to ignore the laws of space: records which men of solitude are collecting with far-seeing curiosity, and which will some day serve as the basis of a new science for which, up to the present time, a man of genius has been lacking".
Citation from Honore', de Balzac's story "The Recruit" ("Le Requisitionnaire" 1831)
For a story making references to historical coincidences, click this page and download the "Mortimer" file:
For a video clip on the coincidences linking the Allied invasion of Normandy with the Norman invasion of 1066 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2AnYjnwFMo .
I am compiling a list of odd coincidences in history. The most well-known ones concern apparent links between the assassinations of Kennedy and Lincoln - both shot on a Friday, (in Lincoln's case Good Friday!, after both presidencies a President Johnson followed, Kennedy was in a Ford Lincoln, Lincoln was in Ford's Theatre, and so it goes on). Another odd pattern that emerges from a comparison of dates in the history of US presidents has been termed the "twenty-year jinx" on presidents elected in years ending in '0'. See this site. http://www.writing.com/main/redirect.php?redirect_url=http://www.redfieldjinx.com/... and also the eerie pattern of deaths that some attribute to a curse cast by an American Indian chieftain: http://www.writing.com/main/redirect.php?redirect_url=http://wovoca.com/prophecy-s... / http://www.writing.com/main/redirect.php?redirect_url=http://www.davidmcminn.com/p...
What is more, if you look closely, these "coincidences" are quite common throughout history. However, until now they have not even received a small fraction of the attention awarded to the Kennedy-Lincoln coincidences. The factor of coincidence concerning dates is central to interpretations of events according to religious traditions. In this connection one thinks of the Ninth of Av i(Tischa b'Av) in the Jewish calendar, a date on which both the first and second Jewish temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. Some commentators have noted that several ominous events in world history coincided this day, notably the outbreak of the First World War. Is this fact relevant for us today?( http://www.newenglishreview.org/blog_display.cfm/blog_id/16488 )
Apropos US presidents, three early presidents John Adams, Jefferson and Monroe died on no less auspicious a day than July 4th - indeed the first two on the very same day in 1826. Oddly enough Adam's last words were "Thomas Jefferson still surv. . . ." . in fact Jefferson had just pipped him to the post.Click ( http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/6537/real-a.htm#adams ) strange how old political foes were reconciled by death.The purely statistical chances of three presidents dying on the same date in the year must be at least about 1:365 x 365, and Independence Day is not just any day. See an interesting and well researched study of this subject at: http://www.writing.com/main/redirect.php?redirect_url=http://www.davidmcminn.com/p...
It might appear then that the 4th of July harboured exceptional dangers for the early presidents. This impression is strengthened when we consider the fate of President Zachary Taylor. He died on the 9th of July in 1850. However. his death was the result of contracting gastroenteritis during the celebrations of July the 4th when he ate an excessive number of iced cherries! Or was he poisoned? click: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zachary_Taylor .The foundation stone of the Washington merorial was laid on the same day. Just for the record, one president was BORN on July 4th, Calvin Coolidge, in 1872. In view of his strict teetotalism and unerring adherence to the Prohibition, few American were able to toast the national holiday or his birthday during his administration with anything stronger than orange juice. Such coincidences concerning the 4th July have been noted on the following blog-site: http://ushistorysite.blogspot.com/2007/07/july-4-1826-goodbye-to-adams-and.html
Apropos births and dates of recent presidents, we have had since WW2 an uninterrupted row, a straight run so to speak, of three presidents who died on the twenty-second day of a month Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon,a distinction otherwise only shared with George Washington, albeit not in association with his death but with his birth.(The first name of George W. Bush and his father also recall that of the first president). - and two who died on Boxing Day, Gerald Ford and Harry Truman, President Bush and his ex-president father also recall the early days of the presidency, as both John Adams and his son Quincy were incumbents of the highest office. Back in those early days a Clinton played an important role in presidential politics, if only as Vice-President during Jefferson's administration. George Clinton was, however, the very popular governor of New York and did harbour the ambition to become President. In those days there was no clear-cut election to decide who should be President or Vice-President in any case, as the uncertainty attending Jefferson's right to be President showed. We trust that the recall of early presidents will find no parallel in the name of the last Roman emperor of the west, Romulus Augustus. Of the four still living ex-presidents or president, George Bush Senior and Jimmy Carter were born in the same year - 1924, and the remaining two George Bush Junior and Bill Clinton also - in 1946. Explore these and other interesting combinations: http://born-today.com/Today/pres.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_Presidents_by_date_of_death
Perhaps I may allow myself to interject a comment at this juncture. If we survey the vital statistics of all presidents to date, we note other similarities, coincidences or quirks, call them what you will. For instance James K. Polk and Warren G. Harding were both born on a 2nd of November. It is, however, the accumulation of such similarities over recent decades that prompts one to consider whether we have perhaps reached the point when references to "mere coincidences" ought to give way to the acknowledgement of a pattern calling for interpretation, if not a conclusive explanation. If we can speak of a message to be deciphered from the dates of history, then the message is evidently becoming more urgent, as if to indicate that history is reaching a climax of the greatest magnitude, a conclusion that many have already drawn by following the course of recent events. It needs no prophet or latter-day Nostradamus to gather that the imminent future harbours extreme dangers. Such dangers we have escaped by the skin of our teeth, those, namely, that arose during such events as the Berlin blockade, the Cuban missile crisis and the collapse of the Soviet Union. History also teaches that Providential Care does not always save mankind from the follies and hubris of the mighty. Perhaps it is time that we "got the message", however it may be conveyed to us. I now resume my survey of coincidences.
It is perhaps odd that Dwight Eisenhower was born on October 14th (Gregorian calendar) in view of the fact that he was in command of the Normandy invasion. The date of the invasion 6.6.1944 cryptically reflects the first great invasion associated with Normandy in 1066 -through the repetition of 6 and the final double number). The invasion fell within the same week as the Allied capture of Rome. In both invasions a Montgomery held a leading position, as in 1066 Roger de Montgomery commanded the right flank of William's invasion force. Dick Cheney's distant ancestor Ralph de Chesney, Sire von Quesnay, also fought at William's side in that campaign. The Battle of Hastings took place on the 14th of October 1066 (Julian).The day of the battle lso on the Jewish festival of Shmini Atzeret. Incidentally the same Jewish festival falls on the 14th of October this year. on the basis of the Gregorian calendar, of course. It is interesting to note that Rommel suffered an almost fatal air attack when travelling by car from Falaise, William the Conqueror's town of birth, and when he was in the vicinity of Montgomery Foy, from where the line of his great adversary is derived. Rommel was forced to take his own life. He did so on October 14 (Eisenhower's birthday and the date of the battle of Hasting's according to the Julian calendar).
Rabbi Dovid Green also sees in the events surrounding the D-Day invasion signs of providential influence. Rommel "happened" to be in Berlin on the 6th of June, as it "happened" to be his wife's birthday. For further details, see: http://www.writing.com/main/redirect.php?redirect_url=http://www.torah.org/learnin...
Two interesting statistical quirks associated with American Presidents. Harry Truman celebrated his birthday on the most momentous historical event during his presidency - the end of the Second World War in Europe, (V/E Day), on the 8th of May. The Presidents Polk and Harding were both born on the 2nd of November
Another odd quirk in the history of English monarchs is the fact that the first three Edwards died in a year ending with 7. -1307, 1327 (with a little help from his enemies) and 1377. In fact, Edward 1 died on the seventh day of the seventh month in the seventh year of the fourteenth century, near Carlisle on his way to confront the Scots.The next king Richard ended on a double number - Schnappszahl in German - in 1399, an echo of the demise of Richard 1 (1199) - superschnappszahl. The first and last William to date ended both life and reign in a year ending in 7 (1087 and 1837). The first three Williams died as a direct or indirect result of misadventures that befell them when riding a horse. Let the future William V take care when riding or - in this modern age - when driving. Another odd thing. The most probable line of succession (Elizabeth - Charles - William) forms a parallel with the succession of monarchs in the 17th century, if we cancel out the Jameses from the strange symmetry of the sequence (Elizabeth I - James I - Charles I - Commonwealth - Charles II - James II - William III and Mary II.
In the Spring of 1066 the appearance of a comet (Halley's comet, as it later transpired) caused a great amount of consternation - reflected in Tennyson's play on Harold II'. The same comet appeared at other years in which momentous events occurred such as that in which the first Jewish revolt was ignited in 66 AD. For an interesting website on comets and coincidence click: http://www.writing.com/main/redirect.php?redirect_url=http://www.eaglestation.com/...
1066 further marks the year from which the monarchs of England and Britain are numbered. Since 1066 all English and later British monarchs have been crowned in Westminster Abbey, all, that is, except Edward V, murdered in the Tower, and Edward VIII because he abdicated too early. As though to prepare for its function, Westminister Abbey was consecrated in 1065, just before the death of Edward the Confessor in January 1066. The endurance of the English monarchy was once attributed to the claim that it represented the line of the Davidic monarchy in the Bible. A vestige of this mystical notion may be found in the proclamation "Zadok the Priest" at coronations in the Abbey. After a brief republican intermezzo the monarchy was restored in 1660 (1066 anagrammatically rearranged. The year 1666 saw the Great Fire of London, which, as some claim, was prophesied by Mother Shipton and Nostradamus. For recent research on William's Lilly's uncanny astrological prediction of the fire read: http://www.writing.com/main/redirect.php?redirect_url=http://ourworld.compuserve.c... Some people were expecting some unusual event to take place in that year because of the 666 element in the date.
The unusual character of the year is celebrated in Dryden's poem "Annus Mirabilis". The value 666 is rendered by writing the Roman numerals in descending order - DCLXVI - and 1666 by preceding this sequence with M. Some authorities state that early versions of the Book of Revelation included the larger number.
Millennial hopes and fears were current among Puritan sectarians such as the Fifth Monarchy Men, some of whom were executed on the charge of starting the Great Fire, and even in Jewish circles under the influence of the so-called "false messiah" Sabbatai Zwi. French, Dutch and Papal agents were suspected of deliberately starting the fire, and even high members of the royal court were not above suspicion. In fact, the Duke of Monmouth, the natural son of Charles II, alleged that his uncle and the instigator of his execution, the Duke of York, later James II, had a hand in starting the fire.
Another anagrammic rearrangement of 1066 might be 1606, the year in which those who were to found the first relatively long surviving English colony in north America set sail. The colony of Jamestown started in the following year, as on May 14 the colonists set foot in Virginia.
The Norman invasion entailed the first notable immigration of Jewish people into the British Isles. One can still visit the Jews’ House in Lincoln. The legend of little Hugh attests to the blood libel so often directed against Jewish communities. The Jews were banned from England by Edward 1. Though Oliver Cromwell allowed Jews to re-enter England, their re-admission was legally sanctioned during the reign of Charles II. In 1066 and 1660 a pope by the name of Alexander (II & VII) was into the fifth year of a twelve-year reign. Judge Jeffreys, otherwise not known as a humane representative of the law, did not rescind the Cromwell's approval of a Jewish return to England. William III, in the last successful military invasion of England, completed what William the Conqueror had only begun, the military subjugation of the British Isles (viz. Glen Coe and the Boyne).
Now to one of the most famous English monarchs.
Elizabeth the first of England and Elizabeth II were 25 on accession to the throne.
A Philip badly wanted to marry EIizabeth, having been married to her half-sister. A Philip certainly succeeded in the second case.
In both cases their reign was marked by the tragic death of a female rival or person perceived as a nuisance: Mary Queen of Scots and Lady Di. Her strange precognition of her death is no less remarkable, possibly more so, if her death was only an accident.
The number assigned to the previous two male monarchs was the same:(in reverse order: VI, VIII. Henry VIII and Edward VIII were both famed because of a divorce, it being ironic that the C of E broke with the Pope because of Henry's determination to divorce his first wife while Edward was subject to pressure from the C of E to renounce marriage to a divorced woman).
88/89 Epochal Change in Course of History, especially with regards to the cause of freedom
1588 Defeat of Spanish Armada: way free for the establishment of English colonies in North America and ultimately the creation of the USA.
1688/89 The Glorious Revolution and the consolidation of basic human rights. The birth of Montesquieu, the philosopher whose theories bridged the Glorious Revolution settlement with the American and French Revolutions
1789 The French Revolution and the demise of the Ancien Regime and relics of feudalism.
1888/9 The reaction against and perversion of revolutionary developments with birth of Hitler and the enthronement of Kaiser Bill. 1888 goes down in history as the year of three kaisers (emperors). The second kaiser, Frederick III was the 99-day emperor, who reigned from March 9th until June 15th, when he finally succumbed to cancer of the throat. 1888 also witnessed the unsolved murder cases of Jack the Ripper and the stage version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Derek Brockis mentions these occurrences in his discussion of the Beast of Gevaudan, a werewolf-like phenomenon that terrorized an area in southern France not long before the French Revolution ( http://labete.7hunters.net/bete3.htm ). He makes a pointed reference to "what we call 'coincidences'" with the suggestion that the beast portended the advent of a greater monster to whose "teeth" the French king would fall victim, in the coming Reign of Terror. In that time the holocaust of the 20th century found a grim precursor in the mass drownings in the Loire committed by Jean-Baptiste Carrier (note the irony of his name).
1989 The Fall of the Berlin wall and the ensuing collapse of the Soviet Union and the European Communist bloc
Shakespeare and Cervantes
Both giants of literature died on 23rd of April (St George's Day) 1616, but not on the same day, i.e. not simultaneously. Shakespeare’s day of death accords with the Julian calendar, that of Cervantes with the Gregorian, which was first adopted by nations subject to the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. Shakespeare was baptized on April 26th, leading some to conjecture that 23rd of April was also his date of birth. As a matter of interest, the painter Raphael died on his 37th birthday, which was, as Vasari noted, on Good Friday. Destiny or the result of a riotous celebration? One might ask the same question about the three American presidents who died on Independence Day.
Another aspect of dates combining great men working in the same year concerns Galileo and Newton. One might say that the mantle of Galileo fell on the shoulders of Newton. It is a much debated question whether Newton was born in the same year as Galileo died. According to the Julian calendar Newton was born on Christmas day 1642, the symbolism of which was not lost on the great scientist. Galileo died on 8th January 1642 according to the modern and since then universally adopted Gregorian calendar (but in 1641 according to the Julian calendar dates that set dates 10 days earlier). The victory of the Gregorian calendar is arguably apparent in the fact that Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator and the Soviet Union both came to an end on Christmas day according to the Latin calendar (in 1989 and 1991 respectively). Galileo and Shakespeare were born in the same year, 1564. Some have concluded that Shakespeare was aware of Galileo's discovery of Jupiter's four moons from the fact that in Cymbeline Jupiter descends from heaven attended by four angels.. Hamlet seems to have been affected by the spirit of uncertainty provoked by the Copernican Revolution to judge from the line "Doubt that the stars are fire."
A note on a significant historical date to which an allusion is made in Richard III: The date in question is the 26th of June, for on this day Gloucester usurped power to become the king of England. This day was important in the medieval church calendar as a Saints Day honouring the Apostles Paul and John. Shakespeare was evidently conscious of this day as Richard swears by the apostle Paul on several occasions in the course of the dramatic history. A little odd perhaps, in view of several liberties Shakespeare took with historical events. Richard in the drama boasted he would teach Machiavelli a lesson or two, something which the historical Richard could never have done, as Machiavelli wrote his infamous "The Prince" about thirty years after Richard's death. A parallel case is when Henry V promises that the English and the French will throw the Turks out of Constantinople. When Henry lived the Byzantines were still in control of that city? On a different level, Richard's boast is poetically true. Machiavelli's teachings were the culmination of a philosophy that was long established by Richard's time, being based on the Humanist emphasis on Man as the centre of human activity in politics and other realms. Cynicism about religion had crept into the minds of many scholars and politicians, especially after the Black Death. Richard feigns piety in order to legitimate his claim to power. It is a matter of interest that the first version of the Pied Piper story dates the arrival of this mysterious figure on the 26th of June. One critic by the name of Rossiter has even argued that the legend of the Pied Piper supplies the play with its underlying allegorical structure (check out my article on Google.com under the Pied Piper of Hamelin" http://www.ims.uni-stuttgart.de/~jonas/Scutts-article.html ). Richard seems to represent the evil aspect of the Piper as one leading children to their deaths. The date falls in the first week of summer and the four references to the summer in the play are highly significant, the first being in the opening lines of the play. Oddly enough the word "piping" occurs a line or so afterwards. A coincidence? By the way, rats or mice (to my knowledge the Hebrew doesn't differentiate) played a role in the transfer of the Holy Ark from Philistia to Judah in the book of Samuel. The Philistines were plagued by rats (mice and discomforting growths when the Ark was in their possession. They were forced to send the Ark back with a propitiation of golden figurines in the form of rats and swellings. (See I Samuel)
Christopher Columbus and Christmas
Nomen est Omen: Christopher Columbus had a name that combined references to "Christ" strictly a "Christ -bearer" and a "Dove" implying a reference to two persons in the Christian Trinity. As though to reinforce this theological implication, fate or coincidence saw to it that the ship Santa Maria (another Christ-related reference) sank on Christmas Day. We could also associate the name with that of the prophet Jonah, which means "dove". Both Jonah and Columbus had a time of it sailing a boat in a westerly direction -not to mention Jonah's enforced submarine venture. The association of dove-water occurs in the story of Noah's flood, which in a sense also involved the quest for a new world; the idea of the divine Spirit brooding over the waters of Creation (found in Milton's Paradise Lost); also in the Gospel account of the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan. Are these interconnected associations the manifestation of divine transcendence and/or the surfacing of fundamental processes like that to which Jung referred the quest of the libido for its source as symbolized by the image of the sun sinking into a great ocean in the west? Some have even suggested that the Roman philosopher and dramatist Seneca prophesied the discovery of a great western continent in his play Medea and thus gave Columbus a powerful incentive to proceed with his voyage of discovery in 1492.
It has often been noted that 1492 was a pivotal year in world history in view of the fact that it witnessed the (re) discovery of America (Eurocentrically speaking!) and the expulsion of the Moors (to Morocco) and Jews from Spain. The deadline for expulsion coincided with that fateful date in Jewish history, the 9th of Av, which also marked the beginning of the First World War. On the 9th of Av 1290 (July 18) King Edward ordered the expulsion of all Jews from England. 365 years later (as many years as there are days in a year) Cromwell decided to allow Jews to return to England. It is probable that Columbus had a Jewish family background, Parts of the logbook of his voyage were written in Hebrew.
In 1942 (anagram of 1492) the New World returned to Europe via Morocco when US forces landed in Morocco. This year was also one of the darkest in Jewish history.
It is worth mentioning that the location of the District of Columbia between MARYland* and VIRGINia
echoes the associations established in the case of Columbus's arrival in the Americas. Artistic representations of George Washington portray him as a divinity or godlike figure. Constantino Brumidi, the artist who painted "The Apotheosis of Washington" on the inner surface of the Capitol's dome, had adorned parts of the Vatican before emigrating to the United States. There is sometimes a very thin division between the secular and the religious.
Again it is more coincidence than design that Maryland is so named. In the first instance the name honoured the consort of Charles I, Henrietta Maria. However, the first colonists arrived in the newly established concession (to second Lord Baltimore) on 25th March, Annunciation Day, in 1634. The same date marks the genesis of what is now the European Union.
Flight and Aviation
In 1783 the Montgolfier brothers sent the first balloon into the air. Writers of the time saw in this event the onset of a new era when humanity gained access to the heavens, the realm of the air. William Cowper was less euphoric than most others, as he felt men had caused enough trouble as it was, when confined to the land and sea, and the invasion of the air would only add to man’s capacity for mischief. 1783 saw the birth of the USA, and it was in this country that two brothers inaugurated the age of heavier than air powered flight. In 1903 (another three) Many subsequent conquests of flight end in the series 3/6/9
1909 Bleriot flies over the English Channel
1919 Alcock and Brown overfly the Atlantic
1926 /29 the North and South Pole, by extension the voyage to the noon 1969. Were Cowper`s fears justified? The chief mainspring of aviation is military, a fact arguably anticipated by the location of the first powered flight by the Wright brothers - Kitty Hawk at Devil Kill Hill.
Jerusalem and the Number Seven
The Old City of Jerusalem has by tradition seven gates. The number also recalls the seven candles in the Jewish Temple. The number 7 crops up in the history of the city, which was conquered in the years 1967 (by Israel in the Six Day War), in 1917 (by British forces under General Allenby) in 1517 (by the Ottomans) in 1187 (by Saladin) and in 70 by the Romans. The first and Second Jewish Temples fell to the enemy on the 9th of the month of Av in the Jewish-Babylonian calendar, which is now a fast day). The Arab inhabitants of Jerusalem called Allenby "Al-nabi" (the Prophet). When he ordered the construction of a water pipeline to Jerusalem, they discerned a fulfillment of the prophecy: "Jerusalem will fall when the prophet brings water to Jerusalem (Military History). The name Rommel is another possible case of sympathy between name and fate, as to an Arab's ear it is "sand. Perhaps names actively induce greatness subconsciously. Charles de Gaulle recalls Charlemagne and the ancient name of what later became France. He thought Asterix was greatly superior to Mickey Mouse, ca va sans dire!.
The Devil is supposedly God's mimic. A good deal of religious mysticism is implied by dates and numbers associated with Hitler. First he was born on Holy Saturday - between Good Friday - and presumably on the Jewish Sabbath, the holiest day of the people he would seek to destroy, like his forebear Haman in the book of Esther.
Hitler came to power in 1933, the double three being associated with the age at which Jesus was crucified. June the 22nd was an important symbolic day in Hitler's not so hidden agenda. On this day in 1940 France capitulated. On this day, again, in the following year Hitler began the invasion of the Soviet Union, echoing it seems Napoleon's invasion of Russia, which began on June 12th.
The term "the Third Reich" is well known. Less so the belief that Moscow is the third Rome after the fall of Rome and Constantinople. Stalin, though an atheist, albeit with a theological background, exploited this mystical belief propounded by Ivan the Terrible, in his conflict with Hitler. Note the emphasis of this aspect in Eisenstein's film "Ivan Grosny". Stalingrad was the turning point of World War ll. Its earlier name had been Czaricyn in honour of the Czar. Should we write off Moscow too soon? Talking of theology - Hitler's year of birth ends with a nine, like other self-made national rules including Oliver Cromwell*, Napoleon, and his arch-rival Stalin. It is also interesting to note that Napoleon shared the same year of birth 1769 with a number of his associates and opponents -namely Wellington, General Ney (both fought at the Battle of Waterloo) and Sir Hudson Lowe, the governor of Saint Helena) The year in which Hitler was conceived was not very auspicious. In that year there were three emperors on the German throne, the last of whom "Kaiser Bill" suffered from a megalomania that in some ways foreshadowed Hitler's. Jack the Ripper was active in the same year, and according to one source his last known resolve was to concentrate on Germans, whatever he might have meant by that. However Hitler is seen, no historian has yet been able to explain how one apparently half-educated misfit was able to get his way in one of the most advanced and cultured nations on earth.
Hitler and Napoleon III were born on April 20. For a comparison of the two click to my essay "Hitler and Napoleon. But Which One? http://www.julian-scutts.de/mambo/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=76&I...
*Sept 13 was a day of recurrent significance in Cromwell’s life (Battles of Dunbar and Worcester, his parliamentary coup d'etat) and his death in 1658.
John Wycliffe is considered to be a forerunner of Luther.
Wycliffe died in 1384. Luther was born in 1483 (anagram)- Both brought a message which the common people believed would herald freedom, and, willingly or not, contributed to extreme dissatisfaction with the feudal system, leading to the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and the Peasants War of 1525.One alternative spelling of Luther is Lutter. Lutterworth originally meant "Luther's farm (see http://www.writing.com/main/redirect.php?redirect_url=http://www.localauthoritypub... ) Wycliffe spent his final years as the vicar of Lutterworth.
There is much discussion as to what constitutes a "coincidence". If taken as a synonym for a "fluke", one might suppose a coincidence reflects a statistical quirk - yet, as the philosopher Hume pointed out; we have no a priori knowledge of causality. Our sense of causality is based on inferences from coincidences such as those linking sensation and expectation. Descartes agonized over the question of absolute certainty, concluding that ultimately we trust that coincidences are not the result of a fiendish plan to deceive us but of a guarantor or truth ("God"). In a scientific age, with its acceptance of reasonable hypotheses only, the awkwardly persistent phenomenon of "coincidence" poses a source of irritation. Some cannot be convincingly explained away as statistical quirks devoid of deep allegorical or symbolic significance. The rationalist contemporary of Shelley, Love Peacock, foresaw the death of poetry and the countervailing triumph of prose, as, in his line of argument, poets merely "played" with the accidental and coincidental aspects of language instead of limiting themselves to conveying one logically coherent sense.
As the old story goes, Isaac Newton was sitting in a garden near his college in Cambridge when an apple fell on his head, jolting him into pursuing thoughts of considerable gravity.
A coincidence? Arguably the fall of any object could have produced the same effect if we assume that Newton was at the time predisposed to think about the fundamental laws of causation in the physical universe. It could have been a pear,a roof tile, a book from his shelf, almost anything.
The fact the object in question was an apple points to another coincidence. The same basic association combining "apple" -"fall" and "knowledge" occurs in the story of
Adam and Eve.
In "Paradise Lost" Milton refers to the Tree of Knowledge using the word "Science" instead of "knowledge". Milton delighted in refurbishing words with their original meaning, but I do not think Milton, who was fascinated by Galileo's discoveries, was oblivious of the modern implication of the word "science".
With hindsight we can well argue that the birth of science eventually led to the prospect of collective death on a scale Milton could only have imagined in terms of Judgement Day. On a more hopeful note, the story of Newton's apple may supply a corrective to the arrogance of those who claim dominance or a special status based on science and technology. The greatest discoveries or changes of consciousness were engendered by humble common or garden events and what we term "chance" in our secular post-theocentric age.
Certain words exhibit similarities although it is difficult to see how influence might have played a role.
The word "Potomac" is remarkable like "potomas" meaning
"river" in Greek. Much the same applies to "Maimi" meaning "water" in a Native American language and Hebrew. The so-called "Bat Creek inscription" in Tennessee resembles characters in
a form of Hebrew script used almost two thousand years ago when the second Jewish temple was destroyed. Traces of nicotine were found in the remains of a Pharaoh. Were there transatlantic contacts in antiquity - or are we dealing with the eerie factor of "coincidence"?
Currently, discussions of coincidences concern the factor "11" in the recent terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. They occurred on the 11th day of September, which marks the point after which 111 days elapse before the end of the year.
Two of the aircraft used by the terrorists were designated by numbers that are multiples of 11 (11/77). The 111 days referred to above underlie the "number of the Beast" (666), and the notion that a supreme evil force is involved in the death of over 5 thousand innocent civilians is also fuelled by the eerie appearance of what some take to be the Devil's visage in the smoke rising from the twin towers. Click: http://www.writing.com/main/redirect.php?redirect_url=http://www.originalsongsite.... There has been at least one attempt to explain this away with a comparison between this appearance and the images that one perceives in ink blotches or the grain of timber. It is also odd that a rock group named "Coup" published a poster depicting two massive explosions in the twin towers on July 19 2001. A strange case of artistic intuition, to say the least! See: http://www.akasha.de/~aton/GNNTheyKNEW.html
A tragic postscript must be added today (15th March 2004), as it now emerges that 911 days separate 9/11 from 3/11, the date of Al Kaida's act of terrorism against those travelling to Madrid.
The ninth of November is the date of significant events in German and even European history. On the one hand it marks the abdication of the Kaiser in 1918, the attempted Hilter-Ludendorff putsch in Munich (probably as a kind of anniversary of the Kaiser’s abdication), and the so-called "Reichskristallnacht" pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany in 1938. It also coincides with Napoleon’s coup d`etat (18th Brumiaire) in 1799 and the vindictive execution of Robert Blum in Vienna, a defender of civil rights and delegate at the short-lived parliament of German states in the Paulskirche Frankfurt from May 1848 to May 1849. If the forces of reaction had not prevailed, German unity might have been achieved on the basis of democratic principles. On the positive side, the fall of the Berlin Wall took place on the 9th of November - positive, assuming this ultimately proves to be a blessing).
Historic events are often foreshadowed by poets and writers. Cowper prophetically wished for the fall of the Bastille in his long poetic excursion "The Task". A story entitled "Futility" referred to the sinking of "The Titan" in the last decade of the 19th century and foretold the sinking of the Titanic in close detail. H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds" could be interpreted as a prophecy of world war. A writer with a name sounding like his, Orson Welles, adapted the story into a radio play that caused panic in New York and elsewhere shortly before the Second World War. His interpretation of Nostradamus in a film foretold an attack on New York by an evil oriental power.
No scientific approach can prove or disprove whether the "coincidences" referred to
be quirks or whether they are revelations. Each person can only rely on his or her intuitive powers to decide that question. However, in the case of the "coincidences" related to the eleventh of September, the possible symbolism of "coincidental" patterns and the conclusions we may reach through applying rational and moral criteria seem to be in full agreement.
In the pre-scientific religiously based worldview the casting of lots played a central role. We need only think of references to lots in the Bible to appreciate this. Both Jewish festival Yom Kippur and Purim contain in the syllable "pur" a reference to a lot. Casting a lot decided which of two goats would be sacrificed to the Lord or made a "scapegoat" in the desert to gratify the claims of the demon Azazel. In the story of Esther a lot decided the day on which the planned massacre of the Jewish population of the Persian Empire should take place. It is possible that the lottery for the garb of Jesus alludes to the aspect of lottery in the festival of Purim. With its reference to hanging and the deliverance of God's people together with the aspect of mocking the victim and its setting at the approach of spring, Purim foreshadows Easter in some ways. According to traditional belief Yom Kippur is the time at which the fate of every human being is sealed after the preliminary judgement at the New Year festival. As the story of Jonah is the reading of the prophets on Yom Kippur, a hopeful message comes over. By prayer and contrition even the harsh edicts of fate as to "who shall die in by water or fire" can be averted.
The coincidences of history indicate in my view that history is no random sequence of events but is subject to the supervision of a power such as God or Providence. The Marxist analysis of history was paradoxically predicated on a teleological, and therefore essentially religious, concept of progress without at the same time admitting that such a worldview must have a spiritual foundation. The fall of the Soviet Union discredits dialectical materialism but not its partial recognition of a guiding principle revealed in history. We should not therefore expect "the end of history" as some have asserted. The recognition of this fact in itself should occasion a more reverential attitude to life. However, to try and predict or regulate anything on the basis of a Torah Code or other such order carries dangers. The true message of coincidence allows both room for accepting the ultimate overruling of God and also for a belief in the wide scope of human freedom.
Science is based on the recognition of patterns and the acceptance that they are significant and therefore require an explanation. We are not being scientific if we ignore patterns for which there are at present (and the present state of knowledge is a very relative matter) no ready-made explanations. There are more things in heaven and earth...
Returning to the assertion of Georges Bernanos that coincidence is "the logic of God", I have to take account of the fact that some coincidences seem to reflect the forces of destruction and ill fortune. Hitler believed in "Providence" as when he wrote in Mein Kampf that destiny decreed his birth in Braunau on the border between Germany and Austria as a sign that he would unite both nations. The failed attempts to assassinate him provided "evidence" that he enjoyed divine protection. It is obviously naive to suppose that the patterns discernible in coincidences directly express the will of God though they may well point to the divine overruling or authorial control. To ask another question. Why didn't Shakespeare save Hamlet and allow him and Ophelia to live happily ever after? He might have saved Hamlet but would have robbed the play of its tragic depth in the process.
In other terms, history reveals, I argue, the interpenetration of two planes of coherence, one being subject to straight logical analysis the other not.
Further Reading Options
http://julian-scutts.de - Julian Scutts Literary Criticism + Own Works
A novella integrating personal experiences when travelling in America and reflections on historical coincidence can be found by clicking and downloading on the resulting page :