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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Anonymous said...

marvelous, brilliant, excellent post.

Twilight said...

I enjoyed these thoughts, though am not wholly convinced about Fate as a precisely pre-arranged factor in life.

I'd rather thank of Fate as more of a kaleidoscope, where the pieces are defined and cannot be changed, but they have the possibility of coming together to form patterns that are different in subtle ways.

Palden Jenkins said...

There's a very simple resolution to the problem of free will and fate. Just cut your income and expenditure to (in UK) £30 per week, and you quickly realise that free will is not as plenteous as we've been led to believe. Free will and individualism are very much related to affluence. Westerners will increasingly discover this in coming times.

Barry Goddard said...

Good point, Palden.

TheDeepGoat said...

These truly seem to be intense and changing times....for we cannot live much longer in the petri dish of the sientific/rational reality whilst the bulk of ourselves moves in the cosmic tide. but maybe it seems less chaotic if we give in to it to some more of an extent, and we find we can swim in deeper waters...we have to do this..whatever is of worth from our forays into rationality will probably come through and hopefully widen our knowledge and experience of 'being human'. Personally i am finding that life is casting from me anything that isn't real...(well, at present pluto is squaring my uranus which just happens to be forming a conjunction with my natal mars/chiron in the 5th house! ) many of us are feeling this major astrological square, and far from seeming collective, (even though we know it is), it also feels deeply personal )i would love to feel as human as a tree feels to be a tree! maybe one day:)

Bronwen Rees said...

What a great post. I'm increasingly finding this under the current conjunction - knew it was coming, felt its arrival - but doesn't stop the feelings, or soul reactions. Only glad I have friends who know the same.And yes, it is deeply personal, so can't avoid it!

I work more and more with karmic destiny in my own practice - gives such a bigger holding, and more opportunity for Mars and jupiter to go to war if necessary.More acceptance too.

TheDeepGoat said...

Slowly it was built, from learned behaviour and observations, the deep soul learned how to 'be' in this world. In amongst the layers and the angles, the deposited sediment of rationality and experience, were planted some seeds and some mines...seeds that would germinate slowly, and that would grow through impossible seeming narrow spaces and realms of darkness and anti nature, to one day blossom , and mines that would one day explode, shifting tectonic plates of reality, when the puzzle got too abstract to make any more sense. These were his pain and his saving , in the future days and long nights when spacetime hurried forward to enter new stargates of evolutionary experience.
He planned, he divined, he honed and he shaped, to the best of his ability, but no planning or foresight could prevent the sacred anguish, the final surrenders, to the cosmic tides. The old seas had seemed deep, but now they seemed like a pond compared to this...but wait! underneath the thrashing of the spirit, as the tenderness of each armour platelet released caused spasms of anxiety, there was discerned a subtle rhythm, an ancient calling...this was do-able...this was all it was, all it ever was....and with these thoughts, last prayers for forgiveness ceased, as the soul was taken, and became...part of the beat, the rhythm...swimming in a human tide , towards whatever dream may come.

Unknown said...

Brilliant. I particularly liked the following: "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".
Maybe if we begin by seeing ourselves as more a part of a collective than as isolated individuals some things will start to make more sense. After all humanities fate lies not in the individual but in the acknowledgement of One Humanity.

Juliet said...

great post.

however, science does address the issue of fate with the theory of Biological Determinism, i.e. that an individual's behavior is determined by genes, thus negating the idea of free will.

Barry Goddard said...

yes, that's interesting. and it's fate versus free will, and I think it's fate and free will.

LotusLady9 said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful post! It deeply resonates with me. I get so tired of having to keep my interest in astrology on the down low. My family looks at me like I am a flake everytime I relate something to astrology.

Anonymous said...

"Free will is the ability to do gladly that which I must do."

C.G. Jung

Anonymous said...

This was a great post... very illuminative. I would love a post expounding on this phrase you used: 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.

Anonymous said...

People are born: fate. People grow and get diseases: fate. Stuff happens: mostly fate (choices are based in personality and background, both of which are fate). People die and the wheel spins again: fate. No big space for free will. Free will is you can chose variations of these fates, kind of different flavours. You can marry that or that, but the experiences will be fateful.

Just as an example, watch out for a growing world crises in 2014, much larger than now, also much historical discoveries until end of the decade, and then revolutions and a new world order by 2020-2030.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post.

Dr. John C. Lilly, inventor of the flotation tank, said our Earth is a Cosmic Coincidence Center.

And everything that happens is cosmic coincidence. I like that concept. Poetic. Divine. The numinous infusing the mundane.

Link said...

Great post and only one thing I'd quibble with after reading astrology naysayer, neuroscientist David Eaglman, who points out or perhaps only makes the conjecture:

A typical neuron makes about ten thousand connections to neighboring neurons. Given the billions of neurons, this means there are as many connections in a single cubic centimeter of brain tissue as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

So it seems that our individual consciousness may well prove to be a match for the cosmos! Which is too mind boggling to comprehend.

I think transits in astrology, touch us at the point where nature meets nurture and we can choose if we are aware enough of where to take it from there.

metalrabbit said...

Just an example: it was writ for my husband that he marries a daughter of Jacob, and Jakob will pass away in March of 2002. And so he married once and 7 years later on hes free will he married second time, but both Jacobs died that March within weeks from each other.