by David Hulse

Unless you are a mathematician, physician, philosopher or a finalist in spelling contest--- you may have never heard of the word APOCATASTASIS. There’s a word for you. I would not bring up this word if it were not for the fact it could solve many a problem for you. It could get you out of the dumps, or if you need it, restore you’re need to live.   

When depression or the "why did this happen to me" syndrome invades your peaceful world and your stress meter starts to go off the scale; our first helpful reaction is to take a few deep breathes, step back and punt. Life has just given us a challenge in which hidden deep within our soul is a lesson to be learned. We can only maintain our serenity by recognizing our stress for what it is – another opportunity to grow in wisdom and maturity. As we calm our mind and heart we realize that life is a series of serendipity experiences and our challenge is to seek out the message in order to realize the healing or growth to which we are entitled. Life moves in cycles; we make our own good or bad days by our attitudes and the thoughts we have.

The truth of this law is expressed in the word Serendipity. The word serendipity originated from the story of the Princes of Serendip. The word was first coined by Horace Walpole in the eighteenth century; 1754 to be exact. He tells of a tale of the three Princes of Serendip (an ancient name of Sri Lanka). The three princes while traveling through the world, seldom found the treasures they were looking for, but always ran into other treasures equally great or greater which they were not seeking. While searching for one thing they found something else, and they finally realized that this was one of life’s lessons. Then life took on a new and more wonderful meaning and each day resulted in a new and thrilling experience. They had a new thrilling approach to life.

Webster defines Serendipity as; "the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for." Can this one word become the focus around which our life evolves and can be the genesis of our attitudes and moods.

Another word introduced by the Princes was Apocatastasis. If we can remember this word when life takes a dark turn it can provide hope and solve many of life’s problems as well as bring us back from the dungeons of depression. Apocatastasis is defined as; "The serendipitous secret that in every seed of seeming tragedy is hidden the fruit of glory and reward."

The story of Apocatastasis goes something like this. It seems that one day a man named Sabi Ben Suh came to the Princes for consultation, while they were passing through the ancient region of Polonnaruwa in old Ceylon. Sabi Ben Suh, a young, handsomely accoutered mirza (man of nobility) disconsolately told the Princes his unfortunate story. A flood had washed away his newly-built summer home on a beautiful estate which he had purchased at great cost on the banks of a river. The irony about it was that the stream had never been known to flood, but no sooner had Sabi Ben Suh built his house than the waters came, leaving him poorer and no wiser.  No wiser, that is, until one of the Princes looked at him observantly and said "Apocatastasis!"

Three years later when the Princes of Serendip returned to Polonnaruwa a messenger came to them with an invitation from the mirza. Sabi Ben wanted them to visit him in his new summer mansion situated on a lovely promontory, high above the river. What had happened? Well, the devastation of his former home had forced him to search for new territory. He discovered not only the new location but a field of pure agates.

"Oh, my Princes!" exclaimed Sabi Ben Suh. "But for your assurance of apocatastasis I would never have had the patience or the faith to have what is mine today. But for you I would have spent my days in remorse!"  The Princes smiled and said, "If only all men could learn the secret! If only everyone could remember the saying, "until tomorrow becomes today, men will be blind to the good fortune hidden in unfortunate acts."  The mirza bowed low and said, "How true it is, Until tomorrow becomes today, we are reluctant to believe."

What he was saying was that even when he stood in the devastation of his flood-wrecked home, the art of apocatastasis had helped him project his thoughts out of the ruins and into that distant day when good would come out of seeming misfortune. 

This is what it means…

The serendipitous secret is that in every need of seeming tragedy is the hidden fruit of glory and reward. 

Which is to say: In a moment of despair or seeming irreversible circumstances, we should send our thoughts on a shaft of faith into the tomorrow where the full meaning of today’s events becomes apparent. 

Is this simple or easy? Not always.  It requires courage, control, and confidence no less than humble obedience to the unseen.

It means what romanticists call the love of fate.

To the physician it means that the wound will heal and the bone will mend and the pain will cease,

To the mathematician means a fallible belief in eternal reoccurance.

To the philosopher – reestablishment of things to a former state with added insight and new dimensions.

Try it for yourself the next time you are in a down mood or your dream house is washed away by a flash flood.  Try it when the unexpected happens and you find yourself asking why.  Remember APOCATASTASIS!!

Blessings, David

Part of this story was related on a tape I heard by Dr. Marcus Bach. Further Research brought me to the story of the Princes of Serendip as related by The Wellness Doc at  Thank you to both of these sources for making this article possible.


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