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Responses to Symbol and Synchronicty in the Shuttle Disaster


Jeffrey St. clair, the co-editor of Counterpunch, asked me to write a short piece on the incredible reaction to my recent article on Columbia. This short little observation tapped a groundswell of emotion. I received 75 emails almost immediately which referenced a feeling that the catastrophe meant something beyond itself. Many readers felt the event was a precursor or harbinger, and most of the replies echoed that sentiment. Within a few days the article was posted on the Charlie Rose website. After that an underground radio website picked it up. Where else it has been, I don’t know, but within 10 days of the disaster, over 200,000 people appear to have read it at the Counterpunch site alone. Something was touched in the collective consciousness of Americans–and perhaps the collective unconscious as well. Reactions came in from the U.S., England, Australia, New Zealand, even Israel.

Some wonderful symbolic observations were made by readers. An Asian woman alerted me to the fact that the disaster occurred on the first day of the Chinese New Year, invariably a terrible omen. Mr. St. Clair generously incorporated that into the article.

My best friend who is Jewish felt the first draft was too emphatic in alleging that Israel’s relationship to the U.S. was leading America to disaster. He said that was a destructive conclusion. I felt that there was so much Israeli-Iraqi-Palestinian symbolism that this was the major thrust of the piece and a legitimate conclusion. Together we reasoned it out that the one element of all the synchronicities that were made which was not incorporated into that analysis was that the Israeli astronaut was the son of a holocaust survivor. When that fact was taken into account, it generated another persepctive namely that it is not Israel leading the US to ruin, but the US leading Israel to disaster since the current US campaign in Iraq portends far greater danger for Israel than for the U.S. With that suggestion incorporated, the essay became more balanced, and my friend’s legitimate feelings were mollified.

One observation another reader made has not been put into the piece as it is evolving, but I do think it is quite interesting. They suggested that the shuttle contained an Indian astronaut (American, but born in India) and an Israeli, two countries which are currently at war with Islam. I think that is an interesting comment but it hasn’t placed it in the piece.

Lastly, I was criticized for the last few sentences in the article which, according to one reader, weakened the argument. What I said was that perhaps these were enormous speculations based on what others could see as ‘meaningless coincidences,’ and that what perhaps needed to do was to focus on the personal tragedy and grief rather than the collective meaning of it all. I don’t regret putting in that concept. Jungian oracles and synchronicities are really not sitting on solid empirical science, after all, and this was and still is a deeply personal moment of grief for so many people. There is something sacreligious or at least irreverant in making capricious speculations, so I think that was an important sobering postscript to place in the piece, and if it weakened the argument, so be it.

JERRY KROTH, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University. He can be reached at:


Jerry Kroth, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor Emeritus from the graduate division of psychology at Santa Clara University. He may be contacted at his website,

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