fate vs. free will

Fate and the progressed chart

fate or free willThe question of fate vs. free will is a thorny debate among astrologers.  Traditional astrologers, such as those who practice Hellenistic, Vedic or Medieval astrologers, tend to believe more firmly in the concept that the unfolding of our lives occurs in a predestined pattern and that we as humans have very little choice in the process.

It’s clear when you learn to read the astrological symbols that fate and destiny are tightly interwoven.  We are born with certain planets in certain placements which enables someone like me to be able to identify psychological patterns of a perfect stranger across a phone line with no previous information, just from looking at the birthchart.  And yet, you can take two different people born at the same moment in the same location, with identical charts, and while there will be similarities in the underlying dynamics of the chart their choices and outcomes will be completely different.

AK asked in the comments:

I have a question about your series on fate and free will. I always wondered why progressed chart should show how we “evolve”, if we have the free will to change our destiny. In other words, if we are born with certain challenges, lessons to be learnt (during transits to our natal planets), but at the same time have the ability to choose our destiny, we can evolve very differently than what progressed chart might show us. Progressing our natal planets somewhat assumes we are born with a certain fate…..

I thought this was an important question that deserves its own posts.  I’ve written on this topic before, but it’s an ongoing question that never gets old.

The progressed chart is the natal chart “progressed” forward through time, revealing unfolding patterns in the psyche that may or may not be reflected in the outer events.  Some astrologers say that planetary transits (which occur when a planet in the sky makes contact with a planet in our chart) stimulate events and progressed movements of the chart stimulate inner change, but I haven’t really seen that to be strictly true in any kind of predictable fashion.  Carl Jung wrote that “‘Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

When we are young we react against our inner impulses, fulfilling the problems of the birthchart.  Difficult relationships, insecurities, inability to assert ourselves, lack of self-confidence, failure to hold down a job – these are all potential problems of certain chart patterns.  As we grow older and hopefully wiser, if we become more self aware we start to work with those patterns and learn more about where they originate and how they can be transformed.  If we don’t go through this self-reflective process we are less likely to be able to effect change and alter our destiny.

The path of the progressed chart is already set when an individual is born because the natal chart is advanced through time, but so are the movements of planetary transits.   Once the natal chart is established we can predict every planetary cycle from birth into the future.  Some events that occur in our life are likely the result of fate, but the choices we make out of those events are what creates our destiny.  Terrible occurrences such as rape and abuse can later prove to be the seed of personal transformation.  A death of a spouse can be followed by a life of greater self-awareness.  Very rarely is there a disastrous event that is not followed by some sort of rebirth, as the archetype of Pluto reveals.

My sister recently had a big lineup of planets including her Moon, Mars and Venus aligning with Pluto in her progressed chart.  It was clear that something big was going to happen though it would have been impossible to predict exactly what.  This kind of dynamic could indicate a complete transformation of a marriage through shamanic therapy just as easily as divorce or death.  However, as it turned out her husband did become ill and died – an event which has already transformed her life on many levels. It’s hard to imagine that anything she did would have changed the fact of her husband’s death; the thing she has control over is whether she will allow herself to be transformed in the fire of the destruction of her old life and enable herself towards greater empowerment and healing.  (The good news:  she IS.)

I suppose none of us will ever know how much of what happens in our lives is fate and how much free will.  But my personal belief is that we have incarnated to face these challenges and learn and grow from them, and if every moment was predestined there would hardly be a point to incarnating at all.

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By | 2013-12-14T17:52:16+00:00 December 14th, 2013|Fate, Favorite posts|4 Comments

Pondering the question of Fate

The latest issue of The Mountain Astrologer has an article by Brad Kochunas which kind of bothered me.  The article is called “In Praise of Melancholy,” so I expected to love it in light of my recent article “The Joy of Sadness.”  Kochunas writes:

Our psychological orientation via the humanistic transpersonal perspective is that we should spend our lives enthusiastically committed to seeking personal growth, self-actualization, peak experiences, liberation (i.e., expanded perspective)

so far so good…but here’s where he loses me:

and – with the recent emphasis on positive psychology – happiness.  This manic search leaves us with a lopsided vision of the world.  I might argue that life is too precious and brief to exhaust it seeking enlightenment.

Kochunas then goes on to ask: “Is it possible that the pervasive presence of depression in our nation arises from the inevitable voices of Saturn and Pluto trying to be heard in a culture bent upon endless growth while denying both decline and demise?”  Yes, absolutely?  But one can experience deeply the darkness of Saturn and Pluto yet still use those experiences for personal growth and ultimately the ability to walk in and out of the dark realms without getting stuck there.

This portion of the article really annoyed me since this speaks directly to the work that I do in my own practice:

[A]strology has followed [the field of psychology] in its efforts to assist clients to find happiness, success, health, wealth and the reassurance that they are living their lives in a manner that will get them what they want. This narcissistic focus has brought about a loss of soul, a dismissal of Fate and a secularizing perspective to astrology.  There is a certain hubris and shame in the idea of using the vast pulsating energy of the cosmos, the very power of the gods, as a tool for satisfying egoistic desires for personal comfort and gain. … [T]he Fate of the moment is complete as it is and in perfect accord with the heavens.

My own life experience is completely at odds with this entire attitude.  If I had been told as a younger person that my Moon/Pluto conjunction and Saturn/Sun/Neptune stellium consigned me to the life of misery that I was experiencing, and that I should just realize that my Fate of the moment was perfect and that I should not attempt to grow stronger and more spiritually aware in a way that would bring me greater joy and yes, happiness, I would have killed myself right then and there.

My personal theology is that a kind and loving Universe has provided us with gods in the guise of the planets who come to us as teachers.  We do not arrive on Earth fully formed, like automatons living out a life that was mapped out for us and marching in lockstep with our Fate.  The gods in our chart say, here are your challenges and your gifts.  How are you going to use them to fulfill your destiny?  Are you going to continue to grow, or are you going to sit back and allow yourself to live a reactive life?

I understand that a great many more traditional astrologers look at the kind of transformational astrology that some of us practice and shudder at the lack of structure and definition.  No cookbook explanations that work for everyone – no specific patterns of delineations that are followed the same way each time for each client.  Of course I agree that to live a life focused on personal gain is a shallow way to use your precious life, but I believe at the  core of my being that the ever-unfolding process of spiritual awareness and wisdom is the reason that we come here at all.

This seems a rich topic for discussion, yes?

By | 2009-01-27T07:57:24+00:00 January 27th, 2009|Fate|Comments Off on Pondering the question of Fate

Musings on Fate and the Progressed Chart

A reader writes that her birthchart is giving her a lot of trouble and she would rather chuck it away in favor of her progressed chart. I wish it was that easy! The birthchart is where we find our inescapable fate. The planets and their configuration around the space of the universe that enfolds us form our destiny on Planet Earth, and it is our mission, whether we choose to accept it or not, to engage in a process of experience that maximizes the potential of this fate.

How we pursue this process is where our free will comes in. We can resist the hand that has been dealt to us, which in my experience is a losing battle. Or we can embrace it and learn how to find the gift that lies within the burden of our challenges.

Kat Starwolf has written a blindingly raw and open article about her own horrific early life that was filled with abuse of all kinds. I copied and opened the image of her chart which shows a twelfth house of Fate packed with six planets. Whenever I hear a history that is fraught with abuse I always think Pluto and sure enough, there he is on the exact degree of Kat’s ascendant, linking the dark side forever to Kat’s destiny. But there is another side to Pluto: Empowerment. Pluto sends us into the Underworld where we must face death, rage, abusive experiences, and ultimately we have to let go just as we do in death. But when he brings us out of the Underworld, Pluto bestows a mantle of true Power.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is very Plutonian in nature. The Ring sends those that are faint of heart, such as Gollum, into that Underworld from which they often don’t emerge. But Frodo, who persists in his quest, emerges having saved the Middle Earth from destruction.

I took the liberty of progressing Kat’s chart to the present day, where Libra is now on the ascendant and her Sun, Venus, Mercury and Neptune are all in Libra in the first house. Her chart has gone from the darkness of the Karmic twelfth house where all of our influences lie in the subconscious, to the first house where we create an identity for ourselves and learn to express our will. Her progressed Ascendant is conjunct her progressed Sun, both in Libra, revealing a newly confident persona and an ability to reveal herself in relationship to others.

Her progressed Mars is now in the twelfth house where she is learning to become a warrior in the realm of the unconscious, and Pluto by transit has been making a trine to her natal Pluto/ascendant and helping her to complete the tranformation process. Her progressed Pluto is virtually in the same place as her natal Pluto (Pluto moves so slowly it often doesn’t change degrees by much during one lifetime) but it is now joined by Jupiter, adding a note of faith and optimism to the dark mix. The addition of Jupiter helps to enhance the empowerment process and enables understanding. Kat writes:

[I]nstinctively I knew, that if I were to be free of the anger and pain, to finally reach the state of peace that had eluded me for so long, I had to make a concerted effort to forgive those whom I believed were responsible for my pain, and – at a deep Soul level – integrate what I knew and what I had continued to learn in order to finally put to rest the demons that had continued to haunt me. . . .

What I have determined from my own experiences and extensive research into this and many other related subjects, is that this isn’t the only life our Soul lives, nor is this the only planet on which, or the only dimension in which we experience life. As Souls who are intrinsically one with the Divine Source, yet who have been sent forth to experience consciousness in various forms, we each continue to learn those lessons that will eventually (hopefully sooner than later) return us to that state of enlightenment or Divine Bliss from which we began.

By | 2007-08-09T11:43:00+00:00 August 9th, 2007|Fate, Favorite posts|Comments Off on Musings on Fate and the Progressed Chart

Spirit and Fate in the Astrological Chart

The ancient Greek term “daemon” has come a long way from its original meaning as guardian, guide or higher self,.  The term “demon” gained a malevolent bent in the early books of the Old Testament as nasty creatures who caused disease and plagues, and in the New Testament, they were considered to be angels who had fallen from grace and turned to the dark side.

For Plato, the daemon or guiding spirit was chosen by the soul before each incarnation. For most people the daemon was thought to be an unconscious guiding force, but the occasional enlightened beings were said to be able to communicate with their daemon. In ancient Egyptian astrology, the daemon was said to be symbolized by the Sun sign. Iamblicus , student and teacher of ancient mysteries (280-330 CE) wrote: “”For whether these arts are knowable or beyond comprehension, yet the aura or emanation from the stars brings the daemon to us, whether we ourselves are cognizant of it or not.” These ancient sages wrote before the age of monotheism limited the role of the divine in the lives of men and women, and offered a more personal concept of deity.

The question of fate versus free will is an ancient one, and astrology has been used for thousands of years to determine one’s fate and thereby avoid the painful process of self-discovery. Until the emergence of the outer, or transpersonal planets over the past few centuries, Eastern and Western schools of astrology all taught that one’s fate was preordained by the stars and that very few humans could escape their destiny. One’s horoscope was beneficial or detrimental, and one’s fortune in life was set in stone and easily predicted. Over time, beginning with the discovery of Uranus and its implementation in the astrological pantheon and continuing with Neptune and Pluto, the practice of astrology began to evolve in a way that offered a greater degree of self-determination to the querent.

The birthchart is given to us at the moment we take our first breath on Planet Earth, and will never change. To that extent our fate is predetermined; our basic identity and certain facets of our personality will never change. The planetary systems that form the basic web of the chart show psychological complexes that predispose us to certain modes of reaction and behavior that will remain with us throughout our lifetime. However, we are given free will which enables us to utilize these very complexes in order to maximizing our true potential and thereby create our own destiny. As a result, we can predict the climate of future events but not the events themselves.

For the modern astrologer and student of transformation, the concept of daemon as the “higher self” or guiding spirit is a significant one and resonates with the symbolism of the astrological chart. We are all familiar with having desired something which is refused us, only to discover later that the event which actually happened turns out to have been much more beneficial to us in the long run. We see this frequently in the work of the planet Pluto, which acts as the “will of the higher self” both in the natal birthchart and when it affects us by transit. In the midst of a Pluto event, when transiting Pluto hits a planet in our birthchart, we are forced to let go and surrender, often kicking and screaming, as our higher self removes from our life that which no longer serves us or keeps us from achieving personal empowerment.

Understanding the role of the daemon or guiding spirit in our evolution can facilitate the transformational process as we develop a sense of greater trust. As our awareness increases, we are able to more effectively distinguish between that which we can control, and that which is being guided.

By | 2017-04-02T09:41:13+00:00 May 16th, 2006|Fate, Favorite posts|Comments Off on Spirit and Fate in the Astrological Chart