The question of fate vs. free will, or determinism vs. indeterminacy can in one area of astrological debate be considered as essentially focusing around the following three questions:
- Is it possible to use astrology to forecast the future?
- Is this ethical?
- Where are the limits?
A determinist has one argument that cannot be refuted – we must all die. From an astrological point of view this is a major event and must therefore have an astrological signature. And this is agreed by most, if not all, astrologers to be so. Therefore it is possible to predict death and by implication other major events in the life. We speak of major events, but what of the tiny events? Are they all determined? Or must we see a life as painted with a broad brush with the details being left entirely open?
There seems also to be an argument for what we may call “potentials” that do not surface in a life in spite of major planetary configurations. Of course here one may say that this is either through lack of skill on the part of the astrologer or because those configurations are accorded more importance than they indeed have!
Those who say ‘no’ to the first question must forgo centuries of astrological inquiry, as most astrological techniques were developed for forecasting! The use of any form of direction, progression, profection, ingress, even transits brings with it an implicit intent towards making a forecast, whichever way one wants to argue the matter. Even a ‘psychological’ tendency induced by a transiting planet has the character of a forecast. Looking at historical planetary configurations, that is those that lie in the past, also has the intention to understand how similar configurations may be understood in other charts, where that particular potential has not been released. Trying to understand how the native is embedded in planetary cycles, is just another way of saying the same thing! The only option left is an exclusive attention to the birth chart. The chart then becomes a tool to understand the character or psyche of the person, but the life of the person can no longer be placed in a continually developing celestial context. The only possible celestial context is that established at birth, to the exclusion of all else. An answer of ‘no’ also automatically resolves the last two questions. A limit has been set and the only ethical question that need be asked is whether a reading of a birth chart is already an intervention into the free will of the person for whom the chart is being read. Of course if the reading is viewed as a party game, “for entertainment only”, then even this question can be ignored as the whole process becomes a joke without the need for moral qualms.
But one can also begin with the last of the above questions, “Where are the limits to astrology?” Master astrologers such as Jean-Baptiste Morin or Johannes Kepler, to name just two, seem to have the dictum, “If it isn’t in the chart, no celestial configuration, however sensational, will have an effect.” Neither Morin or Kepler questions the art of forecasting. Joh. Kepler however makes a differentiation between the true art of forecasting and misusing it as an ‘oracle’. The one places the human being in a cosmological context with respect for both human being and the science itself, the other degrades astrology, turning it into a superstitious side-show, usually with a central monetary interest and an interest in finding a gullible market.
Joh. Kepler, in the introduction to Wallenstein’s chart makes a very interesting observation:
“Sintemal alles, was der Mensch vom Himmel zu hoffen hat, da ist der Himmel nur Vater, seine eigene Seele aber ist die Mutter dazu, und wie kein Kind außerhalb seiner Mutter Leib gezeuget wird, wenn schon der Vater zehn wären, also hoffet man vergeblich Glück von oben herab, dessen man keine Anleitung in des Menschen Seel und Gemüt findet; und hingegen, so große Correspondenz ist zwischen der Gebärmutter und dem männlichen Samen, noch viel eine größere Neigung haben unsere verborgenen Kräfte der Seele zu den himmlischen erscheinenden Configurationibus, und werden von denselbigen aufgemuntert uns in des Menschen Geburt gar formiert und geartet.” ( Die Astrologie des Johannes Kepler, Stauss/Strauss-Kloebe, pp. 226-227)
“Especially for everything that man hopes from heaven; heaven is only the father, and his own soul is the matching mother. But just as a child cannot be conceived outside of his mother, and had he ten fathers, so too is it impossible to hope for fortune when it is not found in the soul. Just as semen and ovary correspond with one another, so too is there an even greater disposition of the hidden forces of the soul towards celestial configuration, they are awakened, even formed and conditioned by them.” (Kepler’s German is not that easy to translate, not unlike Wm. Lilly’s English to the modern English reader! I hope I have been able to catch the sense of his argument. Th.)
Important is the inseparable connection between man and cosmos. To take one out of context with the other leads to distortion, and funnily enough the two extremes of denying the possibility of astrological forecasting and the other of not being able to make a decision without running up a chart or reading the daily horoscope, end up becoming a caricature. It is a question of balance.
The question of ethics has three dimensions. There is the formal legal codex of the country in which we live, there is the social codex of the culture we are imbedded in and then there is the personal codex that we establish for ourselves. Just as we must use our judgement in considering a chart we are also called upon to use judgement and common sense in our approach to astrology, and if we consult an astrologer, the one we choose.