97. Following the Evidence that is Way Beyond Chance

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97. Following the Evidence that is Way Beyond Chance


Editor’s Introduction:

Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology, Medicine, Neurology, Psychiatry, and Surgery at the University of Arizona, at the main campus in Tucson. In addition to teaching courses on health and spiritual psychology, he is the Director of the Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health. Gary received his Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University in 1971 and was an assistant professor at Harvard for five years. He later served as a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Yale University, was director of the Yale Psychophysiology Center, and co-director of the Yale Behavioral Medicine Clinic, before moving to Arizona in 1988. 

Following the Evidence that is Way Beyond Chance

Dr. Gary E. Schwartz

Is it possible that a specific number can appear, in various guises (if not disguises), at key stages in our lives?

Is it possible that by discovering a ubiquitous number in our life we can be lead to a cascade of extraordinarily improbable events linking ancient wisdom with the everyday lives of a diverse set of seemingly disconnected people?

Can this unfolding trail of interconnected events foretell not only an implicit purpose and direction in our lives, but ultimately reveal the essence of how the universe evolves?

I had originally planned to highlight this real-life set of events that occurred in the early 1980’s as an evidential chapter in my 2006 book, The G.O.D. Experiments: How Science is Discovering God in Everything, Including Us. However, both my writing partner on this book, William Simon, and my editor, Brenda Copeland, then at Simon & Schuster, concluded that the set of events and their implications may have seemed too farfetched for many readers to accept.

Though I appreciated their realistic concerns, for the sake of integrity I could not allow this true-life happening to be banished from the book. Though the totality of the events that occurred were exceptionally hard to believe, the fact is they played a foundational role in leading me to develop self-science as a personal research strategy for applied self-discovery.

I proposed to William and Brenda that we quietly include this evidence in Appendix C of the The G.O.D. Experiments. They agreed, and the account was for all practical purposes buried there.

However, it became time for this extraordinary set of events to take center stage, for it represented my initial awakening to the reality of synchronicity and its possible sacredness.  The following account was included as part of Chapter 2 in my 2017 book, Super Synchronicity.

Setting the Stage, Understanding the Events in Context: A Bit of Personal History

In the early 1980’s I was a mainstream health psychologist and psychophysiologist (someone who studies the relationship between mind and body) at Yale University. In addition to being a tenured professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, and the director of the Yale Psychophysiology Center, I co-directed the Yale Behavioral Medicine Clinic (which included me seeing patients for stress management and biofeedback one day a week).

My research at the time was funded by the National Sciences Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, as well private foundations, and I was serving as the President of the Health Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. Partly because of my early background in electronics and electrical engineering, my academic interests also extended beyond psychology and psychiatry to special relativity, quantum physics, and general systems science.

However, my world unexpectedly turned upside down—as well as inside out—when I noticed a particular anomaly associated with the number 11 occurring in my environment. Because I was committed to data and evidence, I followed where the apparent numerical anomaly was taking me.

It is also important to clarify that when I describe below the appearance of a replicated pattern of the number 11 that occurred, I do so as a scientist and mathematician, not as a numerologist.

Interestingly, while it can be tempting to dismiss numerology as being unscientific, we cannot dismiss the fact that an unavoidable reliance on numbers forms a foundational part of science. Indeed, one of the most important factors in the development of modern science, as beautifully expressed in Dr. John H Spencer’s book The Eternal Law,has been an unwavering belief that our ability to discover truths about physical reality is directly dependent on a proper understanding of the relations between numbers (as in the laws of physics written in mathematics).

However, during this unique window of time at Yale University, numbers seemed no longer to be my friends.

Discovering the Number 11 at Yale

In some sense, it feels like it was only yesterday as I recall the initial insight—the first “11” observation—which began with my pondering the number of my office, 1A in the basement of Yale’s Sterling-Strathcona-Sheffield Hall. For some reason it occurred to me that the letter A was the first letter in the alphabet—which created the number 11. This would become Event #1.

The Psychology Building was on “Hillhouse Av” (which is how the sign was printed). It had 11 letters. Event #2.

The exit I took off the Connecticut Turnpike was exit 56. 5 plus 6 equals 11. This was Event #3.

I then realized that I took Route 1A to get to my house. Another 11. Event #4.

I lived at 326 Colonial Road. 326 added up to 11. Event #6.

Even the state name, Connecticut, had 11 letters! Event #6.

My birthday is June 14. June was the 6thmonth of year. Adding together 6 plus the digits in 14 (1 plus 4) equals 11. Event #7.

Though I do not recall now my precise phone numbers, license plates, and such from that time period, I do remember that the numbers—or combinations of numbers and letters— more often than not added up to 11. Lacking these details, I am not listing them here.

Of course, I considered various explanations to account for the apparent anomaly of being surrounded by all these 11s, including what is sometimes called the “VW Bug Phenomenon”, Simply stated, when you start looking for VW Bugs, you find them because they are there. Their existence and patterns are not anomalous, and they are not related to you.

I realized that if the 11s seemingly surrounding me were merely analogous to VW Bugs in the above example, then anyone who looked for 11s would find them surrounding them, on the average, just as frequently as I did. In other words, like VW bugs, if you began looking for 11s all around you, not only would you find them, but they would appear, on the average, just as frequently for you as they did for me (or for anyone else, for that matter).

However, I did not have to actively search for 11s in my vicinity; they were literally all around me. All I had to do was analyze the numbers and letters in my everyday life. Moreover, if you examined the pattern of office numbers, street names, house numbers, phone numbers, and so forth, for randomly selected people (which I did), you would be able to verify that the frequency of the pattern of 11s that I was experiencing at the time was way beyond chance.

Of further importance is that when I left Connecticut and moved to Arizona, my 11 synchronicity greatly diminished (although it was replaced by the number 9), indicating that there was some sort of statistical anomaly happening at that time.

However, though the collection of 11s was clearly highly improbable, I thought that it could possibly have happened by chance. At the time I had no idea whether this numeric anomaly (in terms of its statistical significance) had any meaning (in terms of personal significance).

In fact, if the rest of events I am about to describe had not unfolded, I would have likely dismissed the “11 anomaly” as being just a highly improbable and amusing fluke.

“Sometimes You Say Things That are Prophetic”

One day a young medical student came to see me to ask if I would be his advisor for his dissertation (to preserve his anonymity, I will call him Jason). Unlike most American universities that require dissertations of PhD students only, Yale honored the older European tradition of requiring that MD students do a dissertation (albeit somewhat less extensive in nature) as well.

Jason wanted to do a dissertation that integrated quantum physics, acupuncture, and ancient African philosophy. I told him that I knew a fair amount about quantum physics, very little about acupuncture, and absolutely nothing at all about ancient African philosophy. However, I suggested that if he was willing to meet weekly with me to discuss the writing of his dissertation, I would be happy to provide what advice I could.

Approximately six weeks into our meetings, Jason said (and I paraphrase), “Dr. Schwartz, are you aware that every now and again—especially when you talk about systems theory, order, and patterns of numbers—that what you say is prophetic?”

“Prophetic?” I said. “What do you mean?”

He replied, “You say things that are right out of the Kabbalah.”

“The Ka Ba Wah?” I had no idea what he was talking about.

“No, the Kabbalah.”

“The Kabbalah, what’s that?”

“Ancient secret Jewish mysticism.”

“Ancient secret Jewish mysticism?” I had never been taught that there was anything remotely mystical about Judaism.

“Yes. Sometimes what you say reflects these secret teachings.”

The thought popped into my head, “I wonder if this relates to my strange observations concerning the number 11.” Of course, I did not mention this to Jason.

I asked, “How can I learn about these secret teachings?”

Jason replied, “You are fortunate. Books are beginning to appear in English that describe these traditions. I suspect if you go to New York City, you can find a book on it there.”

Needless to say, that weekend I went to New York City (a city whose name, curiously, contains 11 letters).

I went to Scribner’s bookstore on 5th Avenue and looked for books on the Kabbalah. Remember, this was the early 1980’s, and there were very few books published in English on the Kabbalahat that time.

I can vividly recall climbing the stairs to the second floor and finding, on the second shelf along the wall on the right hand side, a few books on the Kabbalah.

One was called Kabbalah for the Laymanby Rabbi Berg. “I’m a layman!” I thought to myself, and decided to purchase the book.

What I read took me completely by surprise. Just as Jason had said, the underlying philosophical tenets of the Kabbalah were virtually the same as those of contemporary systems science.

More amazingly, I learned that there was an ancient practice known as numerology where the letters from the Hebrew alphabet were converted into numbers and summed. The resulting summary number was allowed to be only one digit (or, in special cases, two digits).

For example, consider the word GARY. G is the seventh letter of the alphabet, A is the first, R is the eighteenth, and Y is the twenty-fifth. We add the numbers: 7+1+18+25 to get 51. We then add together the digits of resulting number 51: 5+1 = 6.

Now, consider the word NUMBERS. N is the fourteenth letter of the alphabet, U is the twenty-first, M is the thirteenth, B is the second, E is the fifth, R is the eighteenth, and S is the nineteenth. We add the numbers together: 14+21+13+2+5+18+19 equals 92. We then add together the digits of the resulting number 92: 9+2 = 11.

However, in this instance, 11 would not be reduced further (i.e. it would not be summed to 2).

It turned out that the number 11 was said to be a “master number”. In fact, according to some texts, the number 11 was the number for God. I wondered, had I unknowingly “rediscovered” ancient Hebrew numerology and applied it to the English alphabet? I further wondered, was I somehow meant to learn the Kabbalah?

I told my then wife, Jeannie, about this remarkable coincidence—the number 11, the medical student, the Kabbalah, and then numerology. I told her that I had decided that I wanted to take Kabbalah classes in New York City with Rabbi Berg.

Jeannie said, “Absolutely not”. She reminded me that I was an Ivy League professor and a highly visible scientist, not a Jewish academic mystic. She was also frankly worried about how I would cope with what I might learn.

I could not argue with her. Jeannie was a smart, loving, and strong person, and her reasoning was justified. However, I felt compelled to stay connected, somehow, to this seemingly synchronous and meaningful set of events that were unfolding in my life.

A few weeks later, the seemingly impossible happened. Emotionally, it felt miracle-like at the time. Today I would add the word “sacred”. Here’s what happened.

Rescuing a Cardigan Welsh Corgi in New York City

A practical yet seemingly ridiculous idea popped into my head while Jeannie and I were dining in one of our favorite restaurants.

We were in New York City—11 letters again. Event #1.

We were staying at The Yale Club. Although I can’t remember the precise room number, I do remember that it added up to 11 (Event #2).

It was a Saturday. We were to spend the afternoon at the Metropolitan Opera. We were having lunch at 65th street in New York City (6+5=11). Event #3.

We were in a restaurant called Shun Lee West (which has a total of 11 letters). Event #4.

I was silently thinking about the eerie frequency of number 11s in New York City, wondering once again if my experience was due to the “VW Bug effect”— or was it something more?

And then I thought to myself, “How am I going to stay connected to the potential synchronicity of the master number 11, the Kabbalah, numerology, and apparent prophesy in my life?”

I didn’t consciously or purposely ask the universe the question. I simply asked the question silently in my head.

Immediately, a wild idea popped into my mind, seemingly out of nowhere. What I heard was, “Get a Cardigan Welsh Corgi”.

Get a Cardigan Welsh Corgi?

However, as soon as I pictured the idea, I couldn’t help feeling elated.

First, I realized that the name Cardigan Welsh Corgi had connections to the number 11, since the initials CWC work out to 3 + 23 + 3 = 29, and 2+9 = 11. Event #5.

The letter C is especially important, because Kabbalah is sometimes spelled “Caballa”. K is the 11th letter of the alphabet, and C is the third. But in the binary numeral system, 3 is expressed as 11. So, whether your spell it with a C or a K, you still get 11. Event #6.

There were other connections to the number 11, but they are not important here. What is important is that I realized that the name of this rare breed of dog could serve as a secret reminder to me of the Kabbalah, as well as the number 11.

Second, I quickly realized that getting a Cardigan Welsh Corgi would be acceptable to Jeannie. At that time we had a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Thurber (after the late James Thurber). Jeannie was about to begin working in the Yale Behavioral Medicine Clinic, which meant that Thurber would have to be alone during the day. We did not have children, but Thurber was like a child to Jeannie and me.

If we got Thurber a younger brother or sister, then he would have someone to keep him company while we were at work. However, Pembroke Welsh Corgis are fairly rare, and at the time we had our Pembroke, the Queen of England had 11 Pembrokes.

Pembrokes have no tails, although Cardigans do. I had once met a Cardigan Welsh Corgi on Bailey Island in Maine. Though the dog’s name was “Killer”, he was more like a gentle kitten. Cardigans often have gentle dispositions—perfect for Thurber. It is extraordinarily rare to see someone out walking a Cardigan Welsh Corgi on the street. But guess what happened next?

Without telling Jeannie what was going through my mind, I brought up the subject of Thurber being alone, and gently suggested that maybe we should get him a friend, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi.

To my relief, Jeannie told me that she thought it was a great idea. She suggested that we attempt to rescue an adult Cardigan that needed a home. She suggested that since Cardigans are very rare, we should see if there was a Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club somewhere in the United States where we could let it be known that we were looking to rescue an adult Cardigan in need of a home. I could hardly contain my excitement.

Jeannie didn’t know, of course, that if we could somehow, someday, find an adult Cardigan Corgi to rescue, that he or she would become my “secret Kabbalah Corgi”.

What happened next was quite extraordinary. Even as I write these words, I still find it virtually impossible to believe that this actually occurred.

We left the restaurant and walked uptown. We purchased two vanilla yogurt cones, and then began crossing 7th Avenue. Around 74th street (yes, another 11, although I did not count it as a synchronous event as we were not actually on that street), Jeannie asked me, “Gary, is that a Cardigan Welsh Corgi?” Event #7.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In the middle island separating the uptown and downtown streets was the funniest looking dog I had ever seen.

He was a blue merle and a “fluffy”—which is considered to be a “flaw” for the breed. One of his eyes was brown, and the other was blue. The brown eye had only half a pupil. He had huge ears pointed skyward. He had the typical short legs and long body of a Corgi, with a large fluffy tail. The dog looked positively goofy.

How could this be happening? Out of the blue, an idea pops into my head that I should get a Cardigan Welsh Corgi as a “secret Kabbalah Corgi”, and then a few minutes later I bump into a Cardigan Corgi on the streets of New York City? I thought, “That’s crazy”.

I bent down on my knees and offered the dog my yogurt (which he enthusiastically accepted). The woman walking the dog looked a bit alarmed. However, I was wearing a jacket and tie for the opera, so I looked reasonably presentable.

I blurted out, “Please excuse me. My name is Dr. Schwartz, and you’ll never guess what just happened. We live in Connecticut and have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Thurber. Just a few minutes ago we decided that we wanted to get a Cardigan Welsh Corgi as a friend for our dog. We decided we would like to adopt an adult dog who needed a home, and we were just talking about how we might go about finding a Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club. Do you happen to know if there is such a club?”

To my amazement, I saw tears well up in her eyes. And her reply brought tears to my eyes, too. She said, “Dear God, I think my prayers have finally been answered. I am getting a divorce and losing my country home in Connecticut. I have an apartment not far from here. It has become necessary for me to find a home for my dog, Willie. Would you like to talk with me about possibly adopting him?”

There are no words to describe what I felt at that moment, on my knees with Willie finishing my yogurt. The mixture of emotions included awe, wonder, sadness (for her), joy, pain, confusion, and shock. I was stunned.

I asked myself, “What is the statistical probability that this could have happened by chance?” How many dogs are there on the planet? How many are Cardigan Welsh Corgis in need of a home, who are walking near me at precisely the place and time that I am thinking about adopting one?

The timing of all this is critical. We are talking about a truly infinitesimally small number of this set of events happening in such a short period of time. Finding a Cardigan Welsh Corgi only minutes after leaving the restaurant where I had suddenly had the idea of getting a dog of that exact breed is far beyond a mere coincidence, and I had already mentally labelled it as Event #7. But finding Willie, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi who also desperately needed a new home, was an extraordinary additional element, making it Event #8.

Jeannie and I made an appointment to meet with the woman and Willie the following morning. I hardly registered the music of the opera that afternoon, and I don’t know how I managed to fall asleep that night.

The next morning we drove uptown to see the woman (we can call her Jennifer) and Willie. I don’t remember what street her apartment was on, but I vividly recall the number of her apartment—5F. F is the 6th letter in the alphabet. 5 + 6 = 11. Event #9.

It turned out that Jennifer was an assistant opera coach at the Metropolitan Opera, which, while perhaps not a synchronicity, was still interesting to note given that we were going to the opera the day we met her in the street. Jennifer interviewed us for about an hour. She really loved Willie, and I sensed that the “coincidence” of us being there was almost as meaningful for her as it was for me.

As we became more comfortable with each other, I suddenly felt the need to ask her if she knew anything about the Kabbalah. Jeannie looked at me cross-eyed. “Where did this come from?” was written on her face.

Meanwhile, Jennifer looked squarely in my eyes, searchingly and knowingly, and said. “Ah. Now I understand. I think you should come with me into the next room.”

I followed her. What I saw then was almost as impossible for me to believe as suddenly finding Willie in the street the previous day just after thinking about getting a Cardigan Welsh Corgi.

We were in Jennifer’s bedroom. The long wall had floor to ceiling bookshelves. The collection of books was primarily on astrology. Besides being an opera coach, Jennifer was also in training to become a professional astrologer.

If you find it hard to believe what you are now reading, you can imagine how I felt. Jennifer walked over to the right side of the room and from a waist-level shelf pulled out a book about astrology and the Kabbalah (I don’t recall the exact title). I asked Jennifer if I could borrow the book, while Jeannie looked at me in complete confusion.

Jennifer insisted on driving out to our home in Guilford, Connecticut. As she was getting Willie ready for the trip, I asked her if she also knew what the number 11 meant.

Jennifer looked up and said, “You know, the number 11 is a very important number.”

I said, “Do you know what your apartment number is?”

She said, “Of course. 5F.”

I said, “5F equals 11.”

Our eyes locked. From that day forward, Willie became my secret Kabbalah Corgi.

Additional non-random number 11 / Willie experiences (revealed in the book) explain how I ultimately became convinced that fundamental connections existed between science and spirituality.  The challenge was to be open to seeing them, and then following the evidence that was way beyond chance.

FYI: at the time I prepared this account for TASTE (October 2018), I had yet taken the time to become a student of the Kabbalah.  Hopefully when I retire.