Improbable, Not Impossible

I didn’t come across the work of Stanislav and Christina Grof until 2020, which is too bad because their work related to spiritual emergencies and extreme states of consciousness would have helped me immensely.

In June, 2021, I visited an online used book website to peruse different authors and books that might be in stock. I searched on Stanislav Grof and noticed that his book When the Impossible Happens: Adventures in Nonordinary Realities was available. I decided to purchase it and placed the order.

A week later, I was pleased to see my book had arrived. I opened the package and noted it was in good condition. I flipped through the book and noticed there was a single, paper bookmark in it.

I picked up the bookmark and was quite surprised when I read that the bookmark was from the Banff Book and Art Den. Considering Grof coined the phrase “spiritual emergency” and considering that I endured what would have been well-defined as a spiritual emergency in Banff, I found that connection to be pretty impressive.

Since 1998, I have visited Banff numerous times and was familiar with many of the shops and how they have changed over the years. I recognized the name on the bookmark, yet I couldn’t place where the bookstore was in town. Finally, I looked it up and learned that the bookstore closed in 2008. The article showed a picture of the store, and I recognized it immediately. I remembered going into that bookstore several times during the time I stayed in Banff until I felt comfortable enough to fly back to the United States.

I enjoy numerous connective experiences of synchronicity, serendipity, and just plain weird things happen. I usually consider them to be gifts from the universe. In this case, this connection was impossible as indicated in the book’s title. Yet it was highly improbable.

The Jung Connection

From October, 1988, to June, 1989, I studied in Basel, Switzerland on a Rotary International scholarship. At that time, I had finished my master’s degree in statistics and was applying to graduate school to study Germanics the following year. For a time, I thought of majoring in psychology, and I had taken a few basic psychology classes in college. Yet I didn’t really know the specific theories and approaches associated with specific researchers.

In the early 1990s, I read M. Scott Peck’s book, Further Along the Road Less Traveled. I enjoyed the blend of psychology and spirituality and learned of some of Carl Jung’s theories. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I later realized my belief system was definitely Jungian.

After the 1998 breakdown / breakthrough experience, I learned a little more about Carl Jung. My experiences with synchronicity drew me to him. I even appreciated that my passion growing up was synchronized swimming. I didn’t delve into his work all that deeply, though.

I knew that Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist, and at some point, I looked him up to see where he was from. I saw that he was born in Kesswil and thought that someday I should go and see where he was born.

Somehow I totally missed that he attended the University of Basel, and was later a faculty member there. The university in Basel doesn’t have a consolidated campus like universities in the United States. Several classes were held in multiple locations throughout the main part of the city. When I learned of Jung’s connection to the university, I envisioned him walking along the same streets and past the same buildings I walked past regularly while I lived there.

It was sometime in the summer of 2019 that I learned that Jung grew up near Basel. In fact, both of his parents’ families lived in Basel. Sheesh, how embarrassing. When I learned that, I chided myself with a laugh, “Geez, Penni, how could you not know that???”

In September, 2019, I was making reservations to stay in Basel a few nights during an upcoming trip to Europe. I looked on a website that listed private rooms for rent. I found one in the same general area of where I lived thirty years earlier. I made the reservation.

The following day, I received the confirmation email regarding my room. I smiled as I read the address of where I would be staying. It was one digit off from the address where I lived when I studied in Basel.

I can only guess that somewhere Carl Jung was chuckling.