“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” ~Anthony Robbins
The debate on fate vs. freewill has gone on since man learned to walk on his two feet, especially by scientists, philosophers, psychologists and astrologers. So I really wanted to compose a well-organized, lucid and conclusive analysis of this horribly complicated subject. What emerged was more a flow chart of various random thoughts. As an astrologer I have brooded over this quandary for 20 years and come up with a fuzzy, easily challenged, barely-workable concept of what to tell my clients when they want to know their future.
Because what they are really saying in essence is: if I know what fate awaits me, I can prepare for it and therefore don’t feel so powerless and anxious. For by fate we understand that something or Someone other than yourself is directing the events of your life over which you have No control and are therefore helpless.
If you assume this Someone is a kind, generous, attentive God you can sit back, relax and enjoy the flight but most people can’t say that about their own parents leave alone an unseen, invisible type entity. If you fear this Someone could be a power-mad, cruel, unfeeling Darth Vader replica, you are probably busy popping valium or frantically trying to pranic breath yourself to a lesser degree of anxiety.
And then you want to know exactly how much control does this Someone have over your destiny anyway?
The difference between Destiny and Fate is, usually fate is seen as something that happens to you and destiny is what you do with what happens to you. Free will implies you know what you are doing, have a clear plan and think you are totally on it. (evil grin called for here).
Okay so what are the situations that are generally deemed as Fated:
1. Our Birth. We do not have any say in when, where, how we are born and to whom.
We don’t choose our parents, unless you believe in the idea that when you are still in soul form you have a meeting with your mates and decide all the circumstances of your current life. But since most of us have no memory of such a meeting, we can disregard it for now. And no, even if you consider induced births, doctors usually don’t care about auspicious moments.
2. We don’t choose our siblings.
3. We don’t choose our country and tribe of birth.
4. We don’t choose our gender or race, or even our sexual preference.
5. No choice in when you will die or when someone else in your life will die.
6. No control over which soul will come in as your child.
7. To some extent you can’t say which part of the world you will live in even after you are all grown up and have a job and family and think you have the ability to choose.
8. You do not choose your special gifts-—Mozart did not choose to start writing music from age 4! Thousands of venerated and celebrated artists, writers, musicians, finance wizards, athletes, thinkers and so on are just born with exceptional talents.
8. People who have a significant impact on your life, or the one you marry or have a long term relationship with. I know this sounds debatable but I am convinced these people who are crucial in various stages of your life don’t come by just accidentally.
9. Critical illnesses and chronic health conditions.
So what you may notice is that it is the most important facts and those that come by in your early years of your life that can be pencilled under Fate. And you’d think that by and large everything else could fall under Free Will. But if the distinction were so easy, there wouldn’t be any debate would there.
For instance, a friend’s husband, a motorbike enthusiast and actually a driving instructor has over the last few years bought two bikes he absolutely loved. The first time he got knocked off it by some driver and so sold the bike. The second time soon after he bought the bike he started getting sciatica pain and so had to sell this bike as well. On the surface it all seems like things that he simply did out of choice, doesn’t it but this pattern has shown itself in different variations in his life.
What I know is that he has a subconscious belief instilled since childhood that he shouldn’t, is not entitled to having things that he loves. He is over 65 years old so you can see how resilient these beliefs are and how hard to eradicate. So was his will really that free and he just happened to have a road accident or did he somehow make it happen? The sciatica clearly seems like something out of his control, therefore fated but could it be an impediment generated by his own mind?
There is no disputing that our minds are incredibly powerful and capable of manifesting our most secret beliefs. So could some of what we term fate/free will be driven by our subconscious mind? As my favourite psychologist Carl Jung said, “until you make the unconscious (subconscious) conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Sub-conscious by definition is something below your conscious awareness. So unless you notice a pattern in your behaviour and analyse it and clarify it and get the necessary insight which helps you to modify your behaviour, you keep repeating the same basic scenario in various ways. Since not many people have the interest or even the wherewithal to spend their lives examining their behaviour, does it mean that even our own Subconscious then is really God’s arena?
Another person who keeps coming to mind as I mull over this subject is the South African athlete Oscar Pistorious. Both of Oscar’s legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old (this in my mind is really, indisputably fate). And he went on to become one of the fastest men on the planet, winning dozens of trophies and gold medals in the Paralympics and an extraordinarily inspirational figure as he turned his fate into destiny.
And then in the early hours of February 14, 2013 he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and was charged with murder.
Oscar claims he mistook Reeva for an intruder——the prosecution is claiming it was in a state of murderous rage that he shot the woman hiding in the bathroom in terror after they had a row.
It’s easy to feel outraged on Reeva’s behalf in this situation but I am thinking whether it was a moment of insane rage or a case of mistaken identity, it is still a catastrophic tragedy for both of them. Not just Reeva but Oscar’s life as he knew it, is over.
On the one hand, the fact that Oscar chose to pick up a loaded gun and chose to fire on the bathroom door and therefore killed Reeva makes him fully responsible. On the other hand, it’s no coincidence that his birth chart shows a dominance of planets in Scorpio, ruled by the planetary deity Pluto and the chart on the 14th of February has Saturn in a most prominent position. Saturn and Pluto are the two gods most associated with Fate whether in Vedic or Western astrology!!
These gods have no interest in which shirt you choose to wear in the morning. You are your own master when deciding to watch football or cricket—in other words, you are free to choose all the mundane, minor events of your life but they Will have influence over the life-changing events.
So although Oscar may seem to be acting on free will alone I have no doubt he got some help from the gods.
I haven’t read Oscar’s life story but my suspicion would be that early in life, some hubris, some belief or fear was wound up like a coiled spring on this landmine of a heavily fated chart. As an astrologer one can see that charts and lives dominated by these two deities are more fate-driven than other charts. Both Saturn and Pluto are gods who govern very significant and life changing events in your life.
A quick and simple description of the natal chart is:
It is the placement, on a pre-designed template, of the stars and planets that were in the skies at the moment you were born, in the exact location of your birth. The idea is that the external situation, the outside, the Above, mirrors what is within, what is internal and what is Below.
The natal chart is then akin an architect’s blue print, a blue print of your own life.
An architect considers the plot size, celestial directions, your own needs as an individual, as a family, as a corporation before he begins drawing the plan of a building and—before he decides where to place the sewage lines, the living room, the kitchen, the balcony and a hundred other details. Then he places all of this on a large sheet of paper and hands it to you to build on it.
Similarly, I believe there is a fantastically imaginative architect whom I call God, who has come up with the blue print of our lives.
So when we are still in soul form we sit in a meeting with Him and with our soul group and choose one of the myriad blue prints on offer. Then we incarnate and begin to build a house/life on that plan.
As in the architectural plan of your house you may not be able to alter the direction of the sewage pipes but you can decide whether you want Hindware or Grohe fittings in the bathroom. You can’t choose the position of the walls but you can choose whether you want them cream and orange! You can have full freedom to choose the kitchen cabinets and the floor tiles and the hundreds of other details of your life.
So when you come to an astrologer for a reading of your individual life plan she would want to see which deities are the most dominant and in which area of your chart. For although Vedic astrologers stop at Saturn as the last planet in their charts, western astrologers add others like Uranus, Neptune, Pluto (Yes we all know about Pluto being demoted by the scientific community but most astrologers are not impressed with that) and Chiron.
So e.g. when I see Pluto conjunct your Ascendant (a critical point in your chart) it is like seeing him or the Indian counterpart, Rudra/Shiva standing in the foyer of your front door. I can see that every time you come in and out of your flat you have no choice but to bow to this all-powerful god who controls and watches your movements. I can infer then that gradually you become more and more fearful, you try to make yourself invisible so he can’t see you, you try to find ways to appease him, you feel increasingly powerless and therefore start feeling angry yourself. I can see how this deeply hidden well of rage keeps releasing wisps of steam from a pressure cooker into your daily life—why you constantly feel weepy and irritated and why you keep self-sabotaging yourself. Only when I have fully understood who and what you are dealing with, can I come up with a strategy on how to work with this god. Maybe you can’t change the position of your bathroom but you don’t have to place your bed directly in it’s path. If I saw the god Saturn conjunct your Ascendant, I’d say you would still have a fearsome, strict authority figure monitoring you but there would be some scope of negotiation. Saturn was a Titan so he did understand human limitations and as long as you play by the rules, he will actually reward you.
Saturn, like Pluto, has an unforgiving reputation as lord of karma and why people in India are quick to drop a few coins into the metal lota (vessel) carried by his henchmen wandering around the streets every Saturday. So again I’d see that life hasn’t been very easy for you and that you’ve had to really work hard for everything in your life and therefore have become a bit hard and judgmental yourself.
If it were to see the Moon in your foyer, in it’s own sentimental sign Cancer, I’d say she might greet you every evening with a glass of warm milk and honey and ready your bath and meal and fuss over you and comfort you. Even if occasionally this feels claustrophobic, much easier to deal with no?
You may question why would any soul in his right mind select a chart with Pluto the lord of the Underworld as the reigning deity. I only have a personal theory about that.
I believe each one of us has a purpose, some task to fulfill that God can’t do himself and wants us to do for him. So some brave souls volunteer for very hard and heroic and horrifying duties in their lives—say like the girl Nirbhaya who was gang-raped and murdered on December 16, 2012 in Delhi. To believe that what happened to her was a random act of violence by some evil men or an instance of brutal fate renders her in my mind, even more helpless than she would have felt that day. It is only due to the public outrage after her murder that the useless Congress government was forced to change some of the laws regarding crimes against women. It was only after Nirbhaya, who even in deathbed wanted to testify, that more and more women have been galvanised into disclosing such crimes against themselves. I know, this explanation is trying to make sense out of a senseless act but without any meaning incidents like these would feel even more unbearable and powerless.
There was a time when I (still heavily influenced by Ayn Rand) believed that I was fully responsible for my life and therefore for every single painful thing that happened to me. There was no one helping me nor could I ask anyone for help. While I held this belief, for a good 20 years, I felt mostly miserable, chronically anxious, abandoned and unworthy.
The day I sensed god’s presence in my life again, I trembled with a tremendous, liberating sense of Relief! I wasn’t alone and I didn’t have to do everything alone and there was someone very capable taking care of all of us.
So in conclusion, I am actually glad that I can’t read and predict your future or mine fully or with total accuracy. Prometheus, the only Titan who could foretell future was tied to a rock and had his liver pecked out by eagle every day. But in giving the gift of fire to humans he gave us imagination, intuition and most importantly Faith which I feel is quite sufficient.
-Neo Pachisia Neo Pachisia has been in the healing field for the past 20 years. She has trained in Psychological Astrology, Shamanic work, Energy Therapies. She has taught and held workshops and has clients all around the globe—she lives in Brighton and Goa. Her current favourite Rumi quote is “Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” She can be reached at email@example.com/www.healwithneo.com