ego

Is it Fate or Free Will?

I recently gave a lecture at the American Italian Cultural Center in NOLA, the topic exploring the spiritual dimensions of three major Italian films. For all of you astro buffs out there, there was a massive amount of transiting 9th house activity in my astrology chart, the area concerning travel, both literally and figuratively, and higher knowledge and learning. I was struck by the complex and paradoxical nature of the directors’ spiritual and faith orientations; for example, Federico Fellini was a lifelong Catholic yet consulted the I-Ching, an ancient Chinese system of divination, and also recorded his dreams dogmatically. He, under strict supervision, took LSD to gain insight into different realms, yet learned through some of his dreams that though he often played the part of a rebellious child, he appreciated the check of the church on his creative machinations.

What ultimately interested me, though, was Fellini’s admonition that one shouldn’t always consult such tools as I-Ching or astrology, and if one did, he ran the risk of being paralyzed by an idle, overactive mentality. Interesting, in astrology, the 12th house, arguably the most spiritual of all, symbolizes isolation but also spiritual freedom from the material world; so, perhaps confinement isn’t always so bad. Yet Fellini had an inarguable point, namely the intent, and perhaps even the spirit of consulting a higher, mysterious power has as much to do with the act of divination itself, whatever the method.

Which brings me to the greatest of all the questions: is our existence governed by fate or free will? This question has animated virtually all cultures over all time. It seems the more ancient you go, the more a culture believes in fate. But with the rise of Western civilization, science, and modern religion, and the subsequent discovery and reinterpretation of the laws of nature (notice I did not say mastery of nature), many of us lead incalculably more comfortable lives than those even one hundred years ago. But the questions still remains, what is fate, and what is free will?

Geoffrey Cornelius believes that astrology as the Queen of all systems of divination allows us to negotiate with the heavens. We might not ultimately decide our fates, but we do get to negotiate. I take this a step further and submit that the reason (pun accidentally occurring) we get to negotiate is because we accept chance and fate in the form of things like astrology. One is born at a specific time and place, the heavens transfixed in a moment, the seed that ultimately flowers into one’s existence. Yet coming to an astrology session means a momentary suspension of one’s supposed free will agency and that by consulting and asking a different, oblique, and arguably higher power for guidance, one gains free will agency. I’ve been holding as of late that it is no “I” as an astrologer who performs astrology, but I is “I” who learns and studies astrology and in the moment of an Inner Makeup session, performs a reading. This is akin to a musician who learns his craft through practice and then performs a piece of music or an actor who studies his lines and then recites them in a play. This is certainly not the egoistic “I” of free will.

Yet again, by suspending one’s self, the self actually becomes empowered in a circuitous turn of events, akin to a suspension of disbelief during the witnessing of a performance or work of art, a momentary slip of the inquiring mind, and the gaining of insights that come from within, or somewhere else, that lead to a transformation of the self. 

Might Fellini have been onto something? That how we approach such matters is just as critical as the matter itself? As the poet Rilke famously asked of us, Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

This theme led me to recall an old episode of the Twilight Zone, Nick of Time, now available on Netflix where a young, newly-wed couple becomes stranded in a small Ohio town and discovers a “Mystic Seer” machine/napkin holder in a local diner. We are introduced to the wife who brandishes a confident, striding attitude whereas the husband (a young William Shatner) fashions a much more brooding, anxiety-laden attitude towards everyday affairs. The husband is up for a promotion at work, and after consulting the Mystic Seer, who spits out a slip “it has been decided in your favor,” he hurriedly rushes to a pay phone to call his employer. He learns through the grapevine that he has received the promotion, fulfilling the prophecy of the oracle. The husband consults the oracle obsessively over a variety of matters with varying degrees of ambiguity and accuracy, but nevertheless the couple comes to believe in the oracle, that is until they decide it is better not to consult it rather than consult it and to follow the wife’s initial buoyant “take life as it is” attitude vs. the fatalistic, fearful attitude of the husband. The episode closes with another couple who apparently consults the Mystic Seer machine habitually and are portrayed as addicted and entrapted, in astrological terms by twelfth house matters. 

Which brings me back to Fellini’s charge that one shouldn’t consult methods of divination too much and that intent has a lot to do with the outcome especially where self-fulfilling prophesies are concerned. But this still leaves open the question of fate vs. free will. We like to think, think being the operative word, that we have free will. But the material sciences, and/or spirituality, have taught us that within and outside of ourselves there is much more going on beneath the surface. Regardless, does the mind, especially our conscious perceiving mind, have the ability to govern fate? I believe yes, but the percentage is small. Also, as Carl Jung noted, when the conscious ego becomes inflated, when we try to become gods controlling fate, we are invariably slapped back down by nature via tragedy. Yet this does not imply an entirely deterministic existence.

If we have the ability to freeze phenomena, like an individual’s birth as symbolized through a natal chart, through the art of astrology, at least for a moment, we are gifted a glimpse into something beyond space and time because a birth chart, and any astrology chart, is a snapshot in time—but it doesn’t stop time. It is a chance to reflect and glean new insights garnered from a process largely governed by chance. This is where I’ve struggled a bit. Is chance deterministic? Is there a set order of numbers, directions of particles, and movement of light that is destiny? Yes and no, because we know that when we look at something, the observer effect, we change it. However, that does not mean we receive a blank check for free will, and regardless of our perspective, massive forces forever flow beyond our control.

So again, it goes back to Fellini, who started as a gag writer and artist, and in his words, ended up a philosopher. In astrological terms, this progression would look something like Gemini to Sagittarius, curiosity to knowledge. The only question is, what are your questions? And will you love them enough to believe in them and hopefully receive divine revelation? Or, will you fearfully seek the answers that may never come? 

The New Darkness of Jupiter

Gustav Holst's Jupiter from The Planets

Hip, Hip, Hooray! Jupiter, the planet of optimism, expansion, knowledge, and luck, has moved into…Scorpio. At first glance, this seems like odd territory for such a grandiose, buoyant planet to find itself, Scorpio being the sign of darkness, sexuality, death, power, and intuition, but I’m optimistic for Jupiter’s transit through the sign of Scorpio this coming year.

Signs are how things happen, coloring planets and points, so Jupiter entering the sign of Scorpio means this usually upbeat, glass half full, largest planet will take on a darker, more intuitive, controlling, secretive demeanor over the next year. What does this mean for you? Scorpio is ruled by the planets Mars and Pluto, power planets that control war, physicality, and all aggressive action; and, the secretive, unseen, crystalline underworld dimensions, respectively. Jupiter always encourages you, gleefully, to expand, learn, and gallop forward, but this year, Jupiter being in Scorpio will demand, viscerally, that you make the hard, necessary changes required for you to truly rise. This is the terrain, to use Freudian language, of the Id. What is your body demanding of you that you’re not giving it? Denying your body and mind what it wants creates cognitive dissonance with the other parts of your psyche. Not all desires and wants should be acted upon, but they must be at the minimum considered, acknowledged, and dealt with to relieve tension. Acknowledging this darker, hidden part of yourself will allow your deepest, truest desires to emerge and subsequently to be grappled with. In fact, though these desires might be necessarily rejected by the ego after years of conditioning maintained through the superego, to use more Freudian language, they are in fact screaming out for love.

One of the most moving images recently to come through our computers is the image of Pluto’s broken heart, the modern ruler of Scorpio. All Pluto asks is that you deal with the depths of your soul and make the hard, necessary changes that need to be made to live the life you truly want, the big, expansive, Jupiterian life. But all too often you discard these instinctual feelings to do “the right thing” or what you think you “should be doing.”

Nh-pluto-in-true-color_2x_JPEG-edit-frame.jpg

Pluto's moving broken heart.

Fear not! Jupiter is here for the next year, and matters that are traditionally the harsh terrain of Scorpio, namely sex, death, inheritance, other people’s money and motivations, and investments, will be much easier this coming year if you heed the lesson of Jupiter and have a positive mindset, all while keeping the aggressive and controlling energy of Scorpio in mind and in check. What does this mean throughout the signs? Read on below.

 

Aries: This is an extremely powerful transit for you, as Jupiter will be transiting through your sector ruling sex, other people’s money, and transformations. As an already physical sign, being the ram, you might be so exuberant that you run yourself into the ground, one of your natural inclinations as an Aries. But Jupiter transiting through your eighth house, the natural house of Scorpio, asks you to stop and think about your pulsing, physical undulations and where they are perpetually leading you, but, ponder where you really, truly, deeply want to go and not simply act on physical impulse.

 

Taurus: Jupiter moving into Scorpio is a great chance for you to put your earthly, Taurean pleasures and gifts towards relations with partners, whether in business or marriage, and even adversaries. Taurus, you are gifted with the roots and flowers of the earth, and are often content within yourself. While this can be good, too much solipsism will drop the value of your possessions and materials, so put your value to work in relation to others and see yourself expand greatly.

 

Gemini: This is interesting, as it usually is with you, curious, communicative Gemini. All about flying and ideas, Jupiter in Scorpio in your work and service area this year asks you to apply, somewhat more soberly, all your flighty machinations. This may take some discipline, but your work will pay off dearly.

 

Cancer: Usually content to emote and feel from within, Jupiter asks you to express and dramatize your gifts of feeling and emotion this year. You don’t have to give up your self-protection and care, but if you’re being honest, you do want others to hear your song, and they want to hear it too, so invite them into your fold.

 

Leo: Usually you are the great, warm, dramatist, but Jupiter asks you to devote some more time at home this year and with family. Without a home base, all your creative, golden, warmth won’t mean as much if you don’t take care of your family and home sector of your chart. Plus, you have a big heart anyways, so give it to those who matter most.

 

Virgo: Heady Virgo, you can drop the analysis and burdens this year. You needn’t worry, rather put all that you’ve reaped, analyzed, and organized into action through commerce and communication. Open yourself up to where the work you slave over could take you, and Jupiter will help get you there, but you need to watch your martyrdom complex if you desire to expand and grow.

 

Libra: Jupiter just left your sign, but this is not a bad thing. The past year has been about making judgments and balancing the fruits that have come your way. Now the chips are down, and it’s time to possess that which you truly value and take only what’s necessarily. You’ll find it’s all you ever wanted in the first place instead of endlessly deliberating over what you think you may want.

 

Scorpio: Bam! This is a very powerful year for you, not unlike Aries, with whom you share a rulership in Mars. As harnessing and controlling your power is a perpetual issue for you, Jupiter can help, ironically, tame you, as you step into your power in more expansive, joyous modalities. It doesn’t all have to be darkness, doom, and gloom.

 

Sagittarius: One might be tempted to say that Jupiter in your house of dreams and the unconscious plane is a bad thing, but this may be an area for you that is yet untapped. Your ruler is Jupiter, and your MO is to know and seek, so allowing some unexpected unknowns to fortuitously appear will do you well. In other words, joyously embrace the mystery!

 

Capricorn: Jupiter moves through your house of friends, hopes, wishes, and larger groups. Here is a chance for you to get outside of your self-oriented, success driven nature and get out amongst the multitudes. It can’t be all work and no play, and you’ll be surprised how your new social networks and friends in fact drive and help your career from unexpected places.

 

Aquarius: While your futuristic visions are the necessary idealism we all in the greater society require, you do well during Jupiter’s visit to your area of career and public recognition to work on yourself and a more conservative path forward, a slow ascent to greater success rather than relying on the visions that live with your head in the clouds.

 

Pisces: Jupiter is your original ancient ruler, but this coming year, Jupiter visits your area of learning, knowledge, and travel. Usually content to live in your watery, dreamy, formless world, try to attain some hard knowledge with Jupiter this time around. Take a class, write, and/or go on an educational expedition rather than relying on more esoteric forms of knowing that are your natural realms.

 

Dan is a spiritual consultant, astrologer, and writer based out of New Orleans, LA. To explore the themes expressed above in your own spirit, and more, book an appointment by writing to dan@innermakeup.net or calling 504-313-8706.