Synchronicity: Elijah, the prophets of Baal, and Pascal

This afternoon I had lunch with the local Mormon missionaries, and we chatted about various things. The discussion turned to some of the more shocking religious practices in Taiwan, and I told them about a ceremony I had witnessed a year or two ago, in which a man had danced around beating and cutting himself with a variety of nasty-looking implements, his goal being to obtain permission from God A to let God B (of whose temple he was a representative) pay a social visit to God A’s temple; some 20 minutes later, by which time the man was completely covered with blood, God A finally relented and granted permission.

I mentioned that this had reminded me of the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. (The prophets, as you will recall, “cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them,” hoping thereby to get Baal’s attention.) The elders didn’t seem to know that story very well, so I told it to them in some detail.

Later in our conversation, they asked what I was doing these days in terms of religion, and I told them that at the moment my religious activity was pretty much limited to reading and pondering a large number of religious books. I showed them the one I was working on at the moment — Krailsheimer’s translation of Pascal’s Pensées — and we discussed Pascal and his ideas a bit.


After we’d finished eating, the elders went back to proselyting, and I went back to the college. I still had half an hour or so before my next class, so I pulled out the aforementioned Pascal book; I was on page 281. After a few minutes of reading, I came to page 287 — and the first line on the page read simply: “I Kings XVIII: Elijah with the prophets of Baal.”

So just minutes after discussing both the Baal story and the Pascal book, I find a reference to the Baal story in the Pascal book. (I need scarcely mention that I ordinarily go for years at a stretch without speaking, reading, or thinking about the prophets of Baal.)


Update: More synchronicity! Immediately after posting this, I went to Bruce Charlton’s blog and found he had posted an excerpt from a Blake Ostler interview — and essentially everything Ostler says in that excerpt was also said in the course of my conversation with the elders.


Filed under Anecdotes, Coincidence / Synchronicity, Old Testament, Taiwan

3 responses to “Synchronicity: Elijah, the prophets of Baal, and Pascal

  1. Do you agree with my understanding that synchronicity entails a ‘personal god’? It took me a while to reach this conclusion, I think more than a year – but eventually I was forced to admit that synch. implies that somebody with vast power to organize things related to my life was doing so for some reason.

    What do these specific synchronicities of yours mean? Perhaps they simply mean what I just said, and the specifics are not very important – rather like miracles.

    But some probably do have meaning. It seems very obvious to me now that I should have been reading William Arkle decades ago – but I managed to ignore the multiple synchronicities:

  2. I hesitate to draw that conclusion, Bruce, though it’s certainly something I’ve thought about. The synchs mentioned in this post would make sense as something orchestrated by God — the point being perhaps to hit me over the head with your Ostler post and make me take notice. Most of the synchs I notice, though, don’t seem to have any point at all. (I’ve said something similar about my precognitive dreams.)

    You suggest that the content is not important, comparing them to miracles. It may be true that the main purpose of Christ’s miracles was simply to show everyone that he could work miracles — but his miracles always served some other intelligible purpose as well, whether it was healing a sick person, paying taxes, or providing wine for a wedding party. They never took the form of arbitrary showing-off (“Hey, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!”), and they would have been suspect if they had.

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