Fate, free will and astrology

It’s the question that has fascinated humanity for thousands of years: are our lives ‘fated?’ In other words, are our lives and things that occur in our lives already ‘set up’ from the moment we are born?

And what about ‘free will’? How much do we have?

The ‘fated’ view takes the position that our lives are scripted and pre-determined by divine intelligence. Our lives in this world follows a plan, like a script or musical score. One that starts to play in an orderly fashion from the moment we’re born, no matter how ‘random’ our lives may appear.

We are given a unique journey, born into certain circumstances to fulfil our mission, our spiritual plan.

This fated view is that we don’t have all that many choices, despite appearances to the contrary.

This ‘pro-fate’ position was more prevalent in ancient times. Some even welcomed it. The stoic philosopher Seneca, for instance. He welcomed knowing one’s fate, considering it useful and liberating. Knowing one’s fate provided certainty and therefore security.

Ancient astrologers certainly used a range of highly complex techniques (largely forgotten today) to describe and predict a person’s future. They knew from birth, for instance, that Nero would be a ‘monster’ of a ruler. And so he was. You can read more about this worldview in The Fated Sky, by Benson Bobrick.

Bobrick’s book also mentions other situations where key life events were accurately predicted many years in advance. And so if this level of sophisticated prediction was possible, then surely (so the argument goes) our lives are indeed ‘fated’.

In contemporary Western society, the prevailing view leans more heavily towards the ‘free will’ end of the fate-free will axis.

A free will advocate argues that we might be born with predispositions (height, culture, etc), but what we do with them is up to us. Our lives are ours to fashion as we see fit. Accidents happen, and we have our ups and downs. But ulimately, it’s up to us.

Modern pyschological astrology qualifies this free will worldview by pointing out that events seem to coincide with certain planetary configurations such as transits, solar arcs and secondary progressions.

This moderate view acknowledges life has some fated elements. But still acknowledges free will as a central part of our lives.

My current view is that fate and free will operate at the same time. It’s not ‘either or’. My inspiration for this comes from an unlikely source.

One of Thomas Aquinas‘ teachers was Albertus Magnus. And Albertus wrote a book about astrology, Speculum Astronimiae.

In a nutshell, what Albertus says is that unconscious and instinctual people are more subject to fate. People with conscious intelligence had more choice, more free will.

And I tend to agree.







Astrology, science and skeptics

‘There is no scientific proof that scientific proof is real.’ – attributed to Ken Wilbur

‘How many black swans do you need to see in order to know that black swans exist?’ – Black Swan Theory

There are people who will proudly trumpet that astrology is ‘superstitious nonsense’, a ‘pseudoscience.’ Or worse. Yet underneath those blanket statements there is often nothing more than profound ignorance.

Some of these dismissers of astrology are scientists. Or people who believe that science somehow defines our reality; that science is the ultimate authority about what is real and what is not real, what to believe in and what not to believe in. And furthermore that what science says is ‘real’ is all that really matters, and all that ever will matter. And that it is science that should be seen as some sort of secular final authority in our lives.

This view — at its extreme — assumes that if science can’t measure or validate something, then that something is not worthy of further enquiry and can be largely dismissed or ignored as meaningless, irrelevant and untrue. At worst, this is beginning to sound like a kind of arrogance, a dogma.

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