Monday, July 09, 2012

Fate and Free Will in Astrology

Modern astrologers are usually at pains to emphasise that the chart does not take away our choice, our free will. And that’s well and good. But the fate aspect, the 'it is writ' aspect remains. The idea of fate was integral to astrology's beginnings, and I think we tend to play it down these days because fate doesn’t fit with modern science or our notions of individuality. This applies even more to prediction, which has a big ‘we don’t go there label’ attached to it. But that is just a craven concession to science.

Astrology, as I understand it, began with the observation of correspondences between sky events and earthly events. Nowadays we do not observe most of what we talk about as astrologers. But originally it was observed. When Mars and Jupiter come together in the sky, a prince will go to war. I just made that one up, but if you read Bernadette Brady’s stuff on Visual Astrology, you’ll see it was a bit like that.

Note it doesn’t say the eldest son of a successful father (Jupiter) will be dealing with personal issues of aggression (Mars), which he may choose to express safely with his therapist while exploring the childhood issues that led to this rage. (Yuk). No, a prince will go to war. (Come to think of it, Obama took out bin Laden last year under a Mars-Jupiter conjunction in Aries.)

It is writ. This seems to be how ancient astrology began and how it continued. For medieval astrology, the emphasis was also on it is writ. If you have such and such a chart, then you will be of high rank, or you will be a priest. We rationalise this away nowadays by saying that in earlier times people’s choices were much more limited, and so it was much easier to predict how their life would turn out. That seems true enough, but again it seems to also contain another wriggle away from Fate.
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The idea of Fate is deeply unpalatable for any modern, ‘thinking’ person. It seems like primitive superstition, and of course we astrologers don’t want to seem like that. We are desperate to be taken seriously while being ridiculed at every turn by the modern establishment priesthood, the scientists. But Astrology began with Fate. Are we being true to astrology if we try and say it’s all about free will and personal choice?

In his book A Complete Guide to the Soul (sounds like a publisher’s title) Patrick Harpur likens Reality to an embroidery, crafted and patterned on one side, and covered in loose hanging threads on the other side. The patterned side is Fate, the other side is free will. Reality is both fate and free will. To the rational mind they appear as contradictory notions.

But reality IS contradictory. Of course we have choice, and sometimes that is hard to face up to. But there is also a sense in which our lives are pre-ordained. You look back and you see the pattern to your life, a kind of inevitable unfoldment, and you see the events, sometimes painful, that happened at just the right time to help you along your way. You may have glimpses of the future, or you may have experience of clairvoyants who do.

Free will is what is more immediately apparent to most of us. Fate is harder to see, and that’s probably just as well because it belongs outside of time and we, for now, are trying to live within time.

These 2 poles are embodied by the signs at the opposite ends of the zodiac, Aries and Pisces. Aries is the first sign, the newborn, and his life is about choice and action. That is what is real to Aries. Pisces is the ‘old-soul’ of the Zodiac, and her life (feminine sign) is about submission to the will of the gods. Life is a journey from Aries to Pisces, from free will to fate.

It is hubris to think that we are masters of our destiny, that our life is a product of our choices. It is, up to a point. But those choices need to be made in the context of what the gods want.

We are obviously fated physically – our bodies will die, we have 2 arms and 2 legs and there is nothing we can do about that. But the soul is also fated. Astrology describes the soul through the 10 planets. And they are gods, gods that work through us, that have their own designs. A life that works involves being sensitive to that, sensitive to that deeper spirit in things, being true to that Fate.

For a man, the Anima shows him his fate. I think it usually comes a bit later in life, once the master of the universe has been knocked out of him. It may come in the form of a woman who has that quality of listening to an influence from somewhere else that he finds irresistible, and through which he starts to listen for himself. Or he may be trashed by some nasty siren, and that again forces him inwards. Whatever.

Our individual consciousness is tiny compared to the consciousness of the cosmos. How can we possibly hope to navigate our place in the cosmos purely by our own individual efforts? That is the hubris of modern rational man, of being above and in control of Nature. If we put down our oars, there are currents beneath, there is a spirit within us that has eyes and ears. The art of living lies in paying attention to the inner sense, and not worrying about rational notions such as ‘achievement’, ‘purpose’, ‘being useful’, ‘helping others’.

Man is the animal who doesn’t know who he is. A tree knows how to be a tree, a sheep knows how to be a sheep. But people often don’t know how to be people. That’s why the world doesn’t work very well, because people get wrong notions of what it is to be a person, and they pass them on to others. But it’s not easy knowing how to be a person. It usually takes many years.

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