“There are more things in earth and heaven, Horatio,
Than are dreamed of in your philosophy.”
Hamlet, I. 2

“Like everyone else I am part of a play whose script is being written as I live it.”
John Conyngham, The Arrowing of the Cane

 In the Beginning…..Jung

Jung did not invent the German term Synchronizität that is translated as ‘synchronicity’ but, on his own admission, he did give it a special meaning, and it is certainly Jung who aroused widespread interest in the topic, an interest  which has continued unabated right up to the present day. So it is only fitting to start with him.
Jung is anxious to distinguish a ‘synchronicity’ from a ‘synchronism’ “which simply means the simultaneous occurrence of two events”. In “Synchronicity : An Acausal Connecting Principle” (Note 1) Jung writes :

“Synchronicity therefore means the simultaneous occurrence of a certain psychic state with one or more external events which appear as meaningful parallels to the momentary state.” (p. 36)

Thus we have (1) a ‘psychic state’;  (2) an objective event; (3) a parallelism between the two and (4) a ‘meaning’ attributed to the association.
But what makes an incident ‘meaningful’? As a psycho-analyst who was also intensely interested in the occult, Jung tended to regard an occurrence as ‘meaningful’  if (1) it gave him a supposed deeper insight into the character of the patient and (2) had ‘mythic’ associations of which the patient was more often than not unaware.
Jung leaves out from this formal definition a crucial element : that the ‘meaningful coincidence’ is what he calls ‘acausal’ (non-causal). He does, however, say this a few lines earlier :

“I am using the general concept of synchronicity in the special sense of a coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same or similar meaning.”


The most famous example of a Jungian synchronicity is the  ‘scarab beetle incident’. In Jung’s own words

“A young woman I was treating had at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me her dream I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly, I heard a noise behind me, a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the window pane from outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab that one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), which contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt an urge to get into the dark room at this particular moment.”         Jung, Synchronicity p. 31

Note that the beetle was not a figment of the imagination since Jung caught it in his hand. Jung adds later that the young woman in question “was an extraordinarily difficult case to treat” and, appropriately enough, according to Jung, one of her chief problems was that she was ‘over-rational’.
Now, this anecdote does fulfil all the requirements of the definition : there is simultaneity, there is mental/physical parallelism and there is archetypal meaning (since the scarab was extremely important in Egyptian religion). Whether it is sufficiently remarkable to be considered other than a curiosity depends on how likely we consider it to be for a ‘common’ beetle to arrive at this particular moment ─ and I leave you to decide on this.

An ‘Acausal’ Principle 

How does Jung ‘explain’ the incident? He does so by suggesting that there exists in Nature, alongside causality, an ‘acausal’ principle which connects certain events to others in a manner that causality does not permit. For causality, as normally interpreted, is subject to various quite stringent constraints. The two events must not be strictly simultaneous,  there must be a possible physical link, the two systems must have something in common and so on. In particular, there is no known causal mechanism that can link a mental or psychological event directly to an objective physical one. But the ‘acausal’ principle can override all these constraints since ‘synchronistic’ events “prove to be relatively independent of space and time in so far as space in principle presents no obstacle to their passage and the sequence of events in time is [sometimes] inverted, so that it looks as if an event which has not yet occurred were causing a perception in the present” (Synchronicity , p. 144).

Jung does not consider the possibility that his disturbed patient in some way caused the cockchafer beetle to materialize or, alternatively, ‘attracted’ one that already existed to the window. This would save causality but at the cost of accepting the possibility of ‘mind over matter’, at least in certain exceptional circumstances. Seemingly, Jung, acting for once like a straightforward rationalist, thought the cost was too high. So he had to invent a new and different force.
Jung also recounts the case of a woman who has a (correct)  premonition of her husband’s collapse and eventual death when she sees a flock of birds settling on the roof of her house. Apparently, flocks of birds had gathered outside the window at the death of the woman’s mother and grandmother. Jung admits that people in the Romantic era would have spoken of “some ‘sympathy’ or ‘magnetism’ which had attracted the birds to the scene of death but concludes that “such phenomena cannot be explained causally unless one permits oneself the most fantastic ad hoc hypotheses”.
Jung was interested in divinatory procedures and was probably the  first academic to take the Y Ching seriously. He interprets ‘mantic procedures’ including ‘horary astrology’ (where you ask a question and interpret the horoscope of the moment) as examples of synchronicity ─ “the psychic and the physical event (namely the subject’s problems and choice of horoscope) correspond, it would seem, to the nature of the archetype in the background and could therefore represent a synchronistic phenomenon” (p. 80). One fails to see what the ‘archetype in the background’ is doing here : a more natural explanation would be that the subject simply ‘objectifies’ an internal state which shows up in the symbolic system used, in this case astrology.
In conclusion, then, Jung regularly prefers to advance his own complicated ‘acausal’ explanation rather than to relax the rules for the lawful operation of causality to allow for ‘mind over matter’. I am not sure that this is the right choice since his ‘acausal’ explanation is just as far-fetched as the alternative ‘psychic-projection theory’, while it is certainly more difficult to comprehend. Still, Jung may have been on to something for all that.

Madeleine Synchronicity

Do synchronicities necessarily have anything to do with myths and archetypes as Jung suggests? To judge by the ‘synchronicities’ that have happened to me, been recounted to me by friends or are listed in books such as Coincidence by Brian Inglis, the answer is no. Nor do they necessarily reveal anything particular about a person’s character or mental state except perhaps that he or she is highly impressionable. More often than not synchronicities don’t have any  ‘meaning’ at all, archetypal or otherwise, nor do they tell you anything you did not already know. They remain nonetheless perplexing. Take the following example.
During my formative hippie years of drifting aimlessly around Europe, I was temporarily lodged by a woman in a Parisian suburb, Juvisy. This woman had a partner from whom she was separated and who did not live there but visited occasionally. She also had a daughter by a previous marriage, Madeleine by name, who sometimes stayed at the flat. The woman‘s partner was an interesting but somewhat dodgy  character who had twice been in prison and he ended up wanting to get me out of the flat because of a developing relation with the daughter. On one occasion he threatened me with a kitchen knife and I fled from the flat in fear (though probably nothing much would have happened had I stayed.) Running through the streets I was brought up short by an enormous white sheet stretched all the way across a railway bridge with large painted letters in bold red “JOURNEE DE SANG” (‘Day of blood’). This didn’t look a very promising omen and, somewhat unnerved, a few streets on I took refuge in a second-hand shop. I idly took up a battered paperback and opened it at random. The first sentence I saw was the fragment of a conversation “‘Tu dois partir’” (‘You must leave’). The name of the heroine in the novel was Madeleine (the name of the young woman).
The banner ‘Journée de Sang’ turned out to be for a Blood Transfusion Event ─ I don’t take this as a ‘synchronicity’ though it’s a rather amusing detail in retrospect. But the chances of coming across by chance, at that precise moment, a novel with that particular sentence and a heroine of exactly the right name must be trillions to one. And moreover it seems reasonable to suppose that my emotional state had something to do with this.
Excited states do indeed seem to make coincidences of this kind more likely. A woman who eventually became a priest told me that, in her youth, she had had a relation with a married man about which she had always felt uneasy. One day, pondering this, she opened the Bible at random and at once fell on the verse “What God has joined, let no man rent asunder” from Saint Paul. What to conclude? The convinced sceptic dismisses this as pure chance. A believer would see this as the ‘voice of God’ speaking. As far as I am concerned, the woman’s unconscious had directed her to this text (since she was already anxious about the situation). This is, I would claim, by far the most natural explanation. But one fails to see what mechanism could possibly have led the woman to the ‘right’ page and the ‘right’ verse.
Note that I did not gain any new information by opening the novel in  the second-hand shop since I had already more or less  decided not to return to the flat except to pick up my things, nor did the woman glean any new information. The only possible ‘explanations’ of the Madeleine incident are (1) not to attempt to explain it at all but simply dismiss it as an oddity; or (2) to conclude that my emotional state somehow ‘caused’ me to pick up this particular book, open it at precisely that page and read that particular sentence. But how on earth could I know that this sentence was in this particular book in this shop? Brian Inglis’s book Coincidence is choc-a-bloc with even stranger coincidences. 

Objective Synchronicities : Plum Pudding and M. de Fontgibu

Apart from the scarab beetle case, the most famous synchronicity is the M. de Fontgibu plum pudding story. This is a completely different type of synchronicity since the emotional state of the persons involved has no bearing at all on what happened.

“As a schoolboy in Orleans, Emile Deschamps was given a taste of plum pudding ─ then hardly known in France ─ by M. de Fontgibu, one of the emigrés who had fled to England during the Revolution and had returned. Some ten years later, walking along the Boulevard Poissonnière in Paris, Deschamps noticed a plum pudding in a restaurant window, and went to ask if he could have a slice. ‘M. de Fontgibu,’ the dame du comptoircalled out to a customer, ‘would you have the goodness to share your plum pudding with this gentleman?’ (…)

Many years after the restaurant encounter, Deschamps was invited to dine in a Paris apartment and his hostess told him he would be having plum pudding. Jokingly, he said that he was sure M. de Fontgibu would be one of the party. When the pudding was served, and the guests were enjoying the dinner, the door opened and a servant announced: ‘M. de Fontgibu’.
At first Deschamps thought his hostess must be playing a joke on him. He saw it really was Fontgibu when the old man, by this time enfeebled, tottered round the table, looking bemused. It turned out that he had been invited to dinner in the same house, but had come to the wrong apartment.”
Inglis, Coincidence    p. 1        The story was told by Deschamps himself to the French astronomer Flammarion who published it in his book  L’Inconnu (1901).
There is no means of checking its authenticity but it sounds perfectly feasible to me since one could hardly imagine someone making up such a preposterous story. I shall comment on it in a moment.


In 1919, somewhat before Jung wrote his own article, the Austrian zoologist Kammerer published a book called Das Gesetz der Serie where he puts forward the idea that certain events relating to a particular theme ‘repeat’ rather in the way that a main wave creates subsidiary ripples. He gives various examples of this, such as the exact same numbers appearing on tram and cloakroom tickets within a single day, a proper name cropping up in all sorts of unrelated contexts, a tune played on the radio just when you are thinking about it and so on. Note that these phenomena differ from the Jungian scheme since the events are sequential rather than simultaneous (though occurring within a fairly circumscribed time interval such as a day). Also, the mental state of the observer, or ‘experiencer’, does not seem to matter so much ─ but people prone to serial coincidences, in my experience, do tend to be highly strung.
It is open to debate whether there really is a ‘law of series’ as Kammerer believed and the reader must decide for himself on the basis of his own experience. But, for what it is worth ─ and it is worth something ─  folk wisdom throughout the world tells us that “It never rains but it pours”, that “Misfortunes never come singly” and so on and so forth. Gamblers, sportsmen, entrepreneurs, people who live by their wits and adventurers generally almost to a man (or woman) firmly believe in the reality of ‘runs’ and lucky or unlucky breaks, as indeed I do myself. Statisticians despair of ever being able to uproot this irrational prejudice and are reduced to ascribing it to wish fulfilment.
There is another explanation, however : that this is what the data is actually telling you. Scientists and philosophers today are well insulated against the uncertainties of ‘real life’  : they are armchair military theorists who have never been under fire. What they say is not necessarily wrong, but should be treated with some caution. Active people tend to believe in luck, bad or good, and learn to cope with uncertainty rather than try to eliminate it. Nor is this necessarily a matter of believing in guardian angels because this makes you feel good : ‘runs’ are also things to be wary of. My experience tells me that there is something distinctly non-random about random events ─ and the more random, i.e. uncontrolled, the events, the more likely they are to show signs of an intermittent and elusive order lurking in the background. Jung was right at least in this : what order there is, is not the usual sort of clear-cut cause and effect.
Kammerer, who led an unusual life for a career scientist (Note 2), noticed that there was something ‘not quite right’ with the way events evolve into each other, occasionally forming distinct repetitive patterns : it is as if events had a life of their own, or were being manipulated by an  external intelligence for  her or its amusement.  A delusion? Maybe, but maybe not. Einstein, in this respect so much more broad-minded than your normal rationalist/scientist, read Kammerer’s book with interest and pronounced it ‘by no means absurd’.

The Viewpoint of Eventrics 

The theory of Eventrics, of which Ultimate Event Theory is, as it were, the ‘nuclear’ or atomic part, is just as ‘mechanistic’ as Newtonian Mechanics ─ indeed rather more so since Newton at least assumed the existence of a cosmic designer whereas Ultimate Event Theory holds that the universe came about spontaneously, is self-sustaining and up to a point self-correcting.
So what does Eventrics have to say about the sort of ‘synchronicities’ or ‘meaningful coincidences’ mentioned?
Eventrics ─ which is based on the premise that “the world is made up of events and not of things” ─  undoubtedly offers much more leeway for the occurrence of such things (sic) as meaningful coincidences and synchronicities. If Space and Time are continuous, which is the official view, it  is difficult to see how particular streams of events could abruptly change course or be brought under any kind of selective control. But if physical reality is more like a mosaic where there are definite gaps between event-blocks, then it becomes perfectly conceivable that such blocks might sometimes become disarranged, giving rise to apparent causal anomalies. Also, it might not be completely impossible to, as it were, swap one event-block for another.
‘Objective Coincidences’ such as the Fontgibu ‘plum pudding’ synchronicity make perfect sense within the world-view of Eventrics : they are  ‘mismatches’ of pairs of (macroscopic) events, comparable to DNA transcription errors that give rise to mutations. In the M. de Fontgibu saga, two originally unrelated macro-events for some reason got paired off with each other. Event A, the eating of plum pudding in France in Deschamps’ lifetime became systematically connected to event B, the presence of M. de Fontgibu on the scene. Such ‘event mismatches’ might turn out to have a silver lining and give rise to ‘lucky breaks’, but the chances are that they will have no particular importance. Nonetheless, the very  existence of such anomalies implies that the functioning of the colossal event-machine we call the physical universe does not proceed without the occasional glitch ─ though generally extremely reliable, Nature does occasionally mess up. It would be like a skilful mechanic who, on an off day, puts the wrong nut on a screw.
What about Jung’s cases of ‘psycho-physical parallelism’? There is in Eventrics little or no difference between ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ events ─ both are events and are subject to similar or identical ‘laws’ of attraction and association. In consequence, the notion that someone can bring about changes in the material world by projecting out, consciously or unconsciously, a mental state, i.e. by connecting up an emotional event-block to an  external one, is not ruled out a priori. But I do not see the need to drag in a supposed ‘acausal principle’ : causality by itself suffices. The emotionally disturbed person brings about, by a form of event sequencing we do not at present understand, an objective occurrence that otherwise would not take place, that is all. This is surprising but not particularly shocking.
Jung’s simultaneous ‘acausally related’ events, and alleged time-reversals, can be accommodated by broadening the conditions for the operation of causal forces. In earlier versions of Eventrics, where I spoke of ‘Dominance’ rather than Causality,  I introduced the notion of the ‘Equal Dominance’ where each of a pair of events is just as ‘dominant’ as the other  ─ in effect an inseparable dual system suddenly comes into existence. So simultanaous events can still be causally related. This idea does the same work as Jung acausal principle. However, I am no longer sure that this treatment is any better than Jung’s since something other than the events themselves must cause the double-event to appear ─ maybe, after all, there is a universal principle that lies somewhere in between causality and pure chance as Jung surmised.
As for apparent time reversals, they can be accommodated within the framework of Eventrics by supposing that in some cases entire event-blocks, which would normally be composed of separate ‘cause and effect’, get produced ‘at one fell swoop’. In such  cases, the order of occurrence of the constituent events ceases to matter, and the apparent ‘effect’ can precede the ‘cause’. But this is not a true time-reversal since the flow of causality is still uni-directional, from past to future. I consider the idea that a future event can influence a present or past one to be ridiculous : either you have everything happening in an eternal present as Einstein believed towards the end of his life, or you have a single time direction. Nonetheless, because reality is a mosaic, different pieces can get ‘out of step’ as it were and have different time schemes. It seems that we have to accept that there is no single ‘Now’ which applies right across the universe but, certainly, within a particular region there is only one direction for the arrow of time. (Time, of course, in Ultimate Event Theory  is not an arrow but a sequence of stills which gives the illusion of continuity.)

Providential Coincidences 

So, arguably, Eventrics can cope slightly better than contemporary physical theories with some types of synchronicity and  meaningful coincidence. Nonetheless, there remains a large class of phenomena that does not fit into the underlying ‘world-view’ of Eventrics any more than it fits into the various scientific paradigms on offer, classical or modern. This class consists precisely of the most interesting synchronicities and coincidences, those  where the ‘chance’ association of two or more events strongly suggests that there is a (usually benevolent) organizing intelligence at work, either ‘in here’ (in the unconscious) or ‘out there’ (in the universe). In many ways the most puzzling (though the least alarming) synchronicities are those of the ‘Library Angel’  type. Someone is searching for the name of something, a quotation, a particular book : he or she ic opens a book ‘by chance’ and voilà there is what he or she was searching for. Take the well-known de Morgan case, which is almost certainly authentic since de Morgan, a leading Victorian mathematician and logician did not believe in the paranormal.
The exact details need not concern us but the gist is that de Morgan was anxious to trace a paper the physicist Fresnel had sent to England some years previously for translation in the European Review. In de Morgan’s words :

“The question was what had become of the paper. I examined the Review at the Museum, found no trace of the paper, and wrote to that effect at the Museum, adding that everything now depended on ascertaining the name of the editor, and tracing his papers: of this I thought there was no chance. I posted this letter on my way home, at a Post Office in the Hampstead Road at the junction with Edward Street, on the opposite side of which is a bookstall. Lounging for a moment over the exposed books, I saw, within a few minutes of the posting of the letter, a little catch-penny book of anecdotes of Macaulay, which I bought, and ran over for a minute. My eye was soon caught by this sentence: ‘One of the young fellows immediately wrote to the editor (Mr. Walker) of the European Review’. I thus got the clue by which I ascertained that there was no chance of recovering Fresnel’s paper. Of the mention of current reviews, not one in a thousand names the editor.”      de Morgan, A Budget of Paradoxes recounted Inglis, p. 34 

        Note that this is a Jungian synchronicity: there is (1) near simultaneity between the writing and posting of the letter and coming across  the book; (2) a direct connection between a mental state, concern to find the paper, and a physical act, buying and reading the book; (3) ‘meaning’ ─ since de Morgan obtained what was, to him, very valuable in formation.
What is striking about such synchronicities is, firstly, that a ‘random’ act is always involved (“Lounging for a moment over the exposed books… ”) but that this casually unrelated act proves to be far more effective than a systematic search (“Of this [discovering he name of the editor] I thought there was no chance”).

“What is to be done?”  

Basically, when confronted with synchronicities and ‘meaningful coincidences’, there are only two options : either you dismiss  them or you take them seriously. If you take them seriously, this means that there is a genuine rather than an apparent causal process at work ─ or, for Jung, an equally important ‘acausal’ principle.
So what can/should be done with such things? Can this principle be put to good/bad use?
There is certainly potential here. What synchronicities and meaningful coincidences imply is that human beings can (1) do a lot more than they think they can; (2) know a lot more than they think they know and/or (3) that there are entities of some kind ‘out there’ ready and willing to provide assistance, or alternatively to lead people astray.  For scientific rationalists, all three possibilities are unthinkable, therefore all such phenomena must be ascribed to chance.
For  Jungian  ‘psycho-physical’ synchronicities imply that human beings have the power to project outward mental states and turn them into objective realities, as it is claimed Tibetan monks can, or at least could, do. It might thus be desirable to make oneself more prone to synchronicities and the like. Since many (but not all) of such occurrences happen when people are  in  heightened  emotional states (fear, guilt, intense desire, curiosity &c.), one method would simply consist in exposing oneself deliberately to extreme situations. This is what Rimbaud had in mind when he talked of a “systematic derangement of the senses” and plenty of  contemporary cults and the exotic self-help therapies aim to do just this.  The method is, however,  for obvious reasons, hazardous. The difficult part is dosing the derangement so that it is kept within certain bounds ─ which means part of oneself has to remain unaffected. There is also the question of what you are going to do with all the synchronicities when and if they do start occurring nineteen to the dozen.
On a different tack, if one takes the ‘Library Angel’ cases seriously, this means that human beings in principle have access to a much vaster store of information than we think we have : we don’t just have Google but something like the Jungian collective unconscious or the Akashic Records to click onto. Most brain activity consists of sorting out the vast amounts of data streaming in and only keeping near the top for easy access the bits rightly or wrongly deemed important. We know a lot more than what we think we know but we usually don’t know how to access it  : the value of extreme situations is that, when it is a matter of survival, the mind overrides the normal barriers and so has a better chance of  reaching the less accessible areas. This is why there is so much importance given to ‘changing awareness’ in mystic cults. As Strogatz said (in a completely different context) “There are things that are staring us in the face, but we can’t see them because we haven’t developed the conceptual tools to handle them”.
At the end of the day, when considering such matters, one has to tackle the question of what it is ‘in here’ or ‘out there’ that is directing, or at least influencing to some degree, the synchronous current that sweeps one along. Is there a ‘Hidden Hand’? Inhabitants of previous eras had no trouble at this level ─ no conceptual trouble that is ─  since almost everyone believed in “thrones, dominations and powers” as Saint Paul put it. Today, we don’t much believe in these things which means that there are no agents available to do any pushing or redirecting. Worse still, there aren’t really any human wills capable of doing any pushing either. The whole trend of scientific thought and rationalism in the last one hundred and fifty years in the West has been towards a drastic reduction of the scope and range of the human individual : he or she has become  a helpless subject of impersonal deterministic forces that not only he has no hope of controlling, but precious little hope of even remotely understanding unless he has studied (very) advanced mathematics. Nor is Quantum Indeterminacy of the slightest use here, since there is ─ so we are endlessly assured ─ no way to get a handle on the uncertainties and exercise control over them (Note 3).
Synchronicities and meaningful coincidences are chinks in the seemingly impregnable armour of contemporary scientific rationalism and these chinks are inevitably going to be opened. The violent reaction of the scientific establishment towards any straying from the beaten track into paranormal territory only goes to show how threatened at a deep level orthodoxy feels. “Embarrassing questions tend to remain unasked, or if asked, to be answered rudely” writes Medawar in The Future of Man. Yes, quite.
Electricity started off as a fairground amusement : in the eighteenth-century people queued up to be given an electric shock and no one at the time had the faintest idea that this  amusing phenomenon would one day become the principal energy source for a whole country. Maybe something of the sort will happen in this century on a mental level.

 SH   18/6/14

Postscript:  I do not comment on the recent book on Synchronicity by Kirby Surprise because I have not read it yet, but there is an insightful review on the website of EllisNelson that revived my interest in the subject and prompted me to write this post

Note 1 All references are to the Ark Paperback C.G. Jung Synchronicity, an Acausal Connecting Principle which is a translation by R.F.C. Hull of part of Volume 8 of Jung’s Collected Works. This is itself an expansion of the original brief article Über Synchronizität published in Eranos Jahrbuch 1951.    

Note 2  Kammerer eventually committed suicide but not for reasons that had anything to do with a ‘law of series’ as far as we know. He had the  temerity to oppose neo-Darwinian orthodoxy and was accused of fudging his results, see Koestler’s book The case of the Midwife Toad. It has been suggested that a female student or colleague of Kammerer, infatuated with Kammerer,  tampered with the evidence in oestler Today, a m isguided attempt to help him. His biological theories, dismissed because of their alleged Lamarckism, have resurfaced in epigenetics and a Peruvian team has gone so far as to say he was on the right lines.

Note 3  One or two psychoanalysts familiar with quantum theory, notably Ninian Marshall, have  attempted to put telepathy on a quantum footing.
“Marshall’s theory recalls that a sub-atomic system is always, at any given time, a mixture of possibility and actuality, the one tending to give way to the other over a range of probabilities. (..) Each virtual transition is precisely a dip into the future, a future from which the particle ‘comes back’ to live out whichever actual state it has chosen to settle into. The premise on which Marshall based his theory was that precognition could be explained if there was a way that the brain could ‘tune into’ these virtual dips into the future…..”  Danah Zohar, Through the Time Barrier
 The next step from the idea that one can become aware of these ‘virtual futures’ is the notion that one can intervene and make the more attractive options the ones that get realized. If this general schema is correct (which I believe it is), this could give rise to a new form of technology. Instead of breaking down and rebuilding actual substances  — which is essentially what manufacturing does —  one would operate on ‘things’ that are nearly, but not quite, actual.