At 8.55 p.m. on June 5th 2000, I was giving a final proofreading to the manuscript of Coincidences. My wife asked me to bathe our son.
Having placed him in the bath I had to stay nearby, so I sat on his bed and recommenced checking from where I had broken off, towards the end of example 16
(Entry 93 here).
In that version of the manuscript this fell on page 98. It had been my intention to proceed no further than page 100.
He had left playing in his room a video of the children’s film, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which his mother had bought for him about a year before. I had seen parts of it several times although I had never watched it all the way through.
By 9.12 p.m. I had read on past the point at which I had intended to stop and was reading from what is now Entry 104 here, but was example 19 and which fell, then, on page 101.
I had reached the word "vision" in the second sentence of this paragraph:
One of Main’s arguments is the necessity of looking at things from a different viewpoint to the everyday acceptance of simple causal connections. He emphasises this repeatedly, as did Jung, whilst stressing that normal "vision", i.e. awareness, is still necessary. But another aspect to reality, acausal meaningful paralleling, is just as valid.
I then heard an exchange in the film that fitted so well with what I was reading that I had to take note.
It was a scene where Angela Lansbury has one half of an old book of witchcraft and Sam Jaffe has the other. The plot was that she has enrolled as an apprentice witch by taking a correspondence course from the Emelius Browne College of Witchcraft.
The film is set in England in August 1940.
She then receives a letter saying that due to the war Professor Browne, played by David Tomlinson, regrets to announce that he must close down the college, and this means that she will not be receiving the final lesson, "in which you expressed such interest".
Ms Lansbury’s dissatisfied character, Miss Price, flies off to London to confront Professor Browne in person, her mode of transport being a bed made airborne by a travelling spell of his. She particularly wants to have this last spell on "Substitutiary Locomotion", which is the art of making inanimate things come to life, because she thinks that it will enable her to make a major contribution to the War effort.
She finds him and he expresses astonishment that any of the spells he sent her have worked, since he is a self-confessed mountebank who had just copied out some words that he had found in an old book and tried to palm those off as genuine magic.
She wants to see this book for herself, but when he shows her The Spells of Astoroth she finds that it contains only part of the final spell.
Professor Browne explains that this is why he closed down his college.
He got the book from a street trader and there was a scuffle when he claimed that Browne had given him a fake coin. The book tore and they each got one half of it. Miss Price and Professor Browne then set off together to try to find the missing halves of the book and spell.
Their search ends when they are overheard making enquiries in a street market by a villain who then escorts them to the offices of his nefarious boss, "the Bookman".
On the door it says "Unusual books bought and sold. Ancient manuscripts acquired."
Miss Price is clutching her half of the book and sees that the Bookman is reading the other. He says that he has been looking for the other piece for a long time.
"I don’t mind saying to see it all together at last, there isn’t much I wouldn’t do."
[Right at the end the producers choose to repeat just this one line from this scene. Perhaps this was meant to be an allusion to the entire film now being complete!?]
"We’re both after the same spell; you have one clue, and I have the other", he observes.
"In that case the sensible thing seems to be for us to cooperate", she replies.
"I assume you’re looking for the same thing I am. May I?" (They exchange halves.) "This is quite a moment for both of us." (Reads.)
"Substitutiary Locomotion… The lost miracle of the ancients… The spell which creates this force is five mystic words. These words are…"
"Engraved on the star that was always worn by the sorceror Astoroth," concludes Miss Price, by reading from the Bookman’s half, which she now holds.
They each then express their dismay at still not finding the missing words.
Each had expected that the other would have them. Miss Price then comments on a picture of this star in the Bookman’s section. Astoroth is wearing it around his neck but it is impossible to make out the engraved words.
Yet the clue is sufficient.
They locate and obtain the star. Then it dematerialises! But there is a detailed drawing of it in a children’s comic book held all along by a six year old boy accompanying Miss Price.
They had the words, but they lacked the directive that led to them until the two halves of the book were brought together. She uses the spell for Substitutiary Locomotion to animate suits of armour which then repel a force of German invaders that has landed at her home town of Pepperinge Eye.
... ... ...
A lengthy digression, but I felt it necessary in order to clarify the parallels between the two parts of the coincidence.
Just as I was reading of a cryptic type of clue actually being the easier because it gives you two clues in one, the combining of the two halves of the magical clue occurs on screen.
The proliferation of coincidences here led me to see it as something almost beyond Roderick Main´s noted ´self-referring tendency of synchronicity´.
My immediate reaction to an example about a clue to a pair of clues leading on to another about a pair of clues was to regard them as almost fissiparous!
(Compare the events in Entry (40a), which occurred two days later, and which contain a reference to a dream recorded four years before.)
I had also been wondering what significance, if any, might lie in the references to not appreciating the significance of castling in the coincidences about Hartston’s failure to acquire the Grandmaster title, and the limits of intelligence.
At 10 p.m. on May 6th 1999, I had spoken by phone with Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch about our contempt for a guru.
Jeremy disparaged his intellect and said that when he had made some fundamental criticisms of astrology (the guy prided himself as an authority on it) he did not seem able to grasp even them!
This, Jeremy suggested, was like a Grandmaster at chess not knowing how to castle.
As Jeremy had seen some of my material I assumed that he must have picked up on that theme unconsciously, and so I made no more of it.
I then told him of how I had gone to the school chess club in 1970 but had left when I was fazed by somebody castling against me. I mentioned that I had even referred to this sorry introduction to club chess in a questionnaire I had answered for a magazine in the early 1990s.
Jeremy said that he too, on the rare occasions when he played chess, always had difficulty in understanding the castling rule.
The following morning we spoke on another matter and he said that he had just looked up his own name using, for him, a new internet search engine (Yahoo!).
My name was thrown up, the first time it had appeared in this context.
He had hit upon the questionnaire that I had mentioned.
When asked what book I would take with me to a desert island one of the three titles I had nominated was his Polyphemus.
Also, on the afternoon of May 6th 1999, I had been musing upon how chess might be amended (many masters were concerned by the extensive analysis of the openings) by altering the laws on castling.
As it stood, one castled by moving the king two squares and then the rook from the corner to one square now on the king’s other side.
But for some time I had been thinking about proposing the idea of each player having the option of moving the king one square further on, if he wished, or even two squares more in the instance of queenside castling.
You may not castle when in check, or if your king has moved, or if the rook on the side which you wish to castle has moved before, or if your king passes over a square controlled by one of the opponent’s pieces.
Why not remove some or all of these restrictions too?
Later that year I had a letter published in a chess magazine making just these suggestions.
It prompted an angry reader to write in saying that I and Bobby Fischer were arrogant Grandmasters in proposing that the rules of the game be altered. (Fischer was promoting a new form of chess where at the beginning the pieces are shuffled randomly on the back rank, thus obviating established opening theory.)
Castling was introduced in the seventeenth century to speed the game up.
It is the only time when a player may move two pieces simultaneously.
It is a move of two halves.
Is the hint that to achieve the highest mental status, to go beyond the limits of human intelligence, hinges upon the ability to get one’s head around the concept of simultaneous causality?
Is it conceivable that some coincidences are concrete effects originating from a transcendent source, just as some stones fall from the sky?
The missing words are of a spell which renders lifeless things animate. In taking coincidence seriously you may be conferring some unknown force upon Nature (see also Entry 69).
It is the last spell, the last lesson.
Acausal meaningful paralleling?
Or a load of superstitious crap?
NB. Nothing new under the sun!
In November 2007 I chanced upon this - http://www.chesscafe.com/text/kibitz31.txt