Tag Archives: Fate or Free Will?

On the Virgo Full Moon, as Chiron leaves Pisces: a tale of Fate, healing – and the power of stories.

“Tell me a story…” Why do we humans never tire of stories? I have been reflecting on this recently, and on particular stories where Fate seems to weave a powerful cross thread into the pattern of a person’s life, changing that life’s direction forever.

I have also been reflecting yet again on that age-old Fate/Free Will question, probably as a consequence of recently spending a great deal of time reading and reviewing a fascinating book ,‘The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus’ by Dr Liz Greene, well-known and respected Jungian psychologist, astrologer, teacher and writer on the topic of Jung’s deeply personal ‘soul journey’ during the years 1913-1932. In evidence throughout Greene’s account of that journey is Jung’s fascination with heimarmene, or Fate. 

The most striking encounter I have had with Fate intervening and changing my life is one by now familiar to my family, friends, students and many of my readers – so (uncharacteristically!) I am not going to repeat it here, simply leave the link to that story for anyone curious enough to read it.

The most recent encounter I had with a striking tale of Fate’s intervention came, of all places, when I was flat on my face on an osteopath’s couch, having a back problem treated. Being a typical writer, rather than chatting about the weather or what I was doing for the weekend,  I indulged my curiosity about other folks’ endlessly fascinating lives by finding out something about the well- respected osteopath who was treating me, Mr James Sneddon.

His clinic, along with the team of therapists who work with him, is one of the longest established and most highly regarded in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. I found out that Mr Sneddon had taken over the clinic from his father, James Russell Sneddon, who had founded it over 80 years ago.

The poor unsuspecting man then made the mistake of asking me what I did. Taking a deep breath (probably not a bad thing to do under the face-down circumstances!) I summarised my varied, rather wayward career path as briefly as I could. ‘My goodness,’ he commented. ‘That’s so interesting – especially your story about that fated encounter. As a matter of fact, my own father had an encounter like that which certainly changed HIS life.’

Mr Sneddon Snr. left school not long after the First World War without much formal education and was sent to sea by his parents. He had bronchial problems; his parents thought sea air might help his condition.  Whilst in China, it was recommended he visited a Chinese doctor in Shanghai, who pierced various parts of his body with sharpened bamboo sticks (Mr S Snr. had never heard of acupuncture at this point), took his various pulses, and said he should not …’ …drink the juice of the cow…’

Giving up milk and dairy products got rid of his bronchial problems; when he returned to Scotland on leave, a Western alternative practitioner gave him the same health advice. Amazed that he should have had the same verdict from both the exotic East and the familiar West, his interest in nutrition and the effects of food on the body was piqued and he began to investigate alternative medicine, more or less beyond the pale in Scotland in the 1920s.

Meanwhile, his mid-twenties found him in Alaska. One day, whilst they were on shore leave, the ship’s captain invited him to come fishing. At that point a humble ship’s engineer, James R Sneddon happily accepted. Both men set off on a rough track with their fishing rods, into ‘…the middle of nowhere…’ where the captain knew of a promising fishing loch.

Mr Sneddon Snr. had some tobacco with him. When he saw an old Native American woman sitting by the track, smoking her pipe, he reached out to give her some.  She grasped his hand, turned it palm up, examined it for a moment, and said...

‘ …“ you will leave the sea and take up a healing art that won’t use knives”.’

In due course, he did exactly that.

J R Sneddon

J R Sneddon (Noon Chart: time of birth unknown) – click image to enlarge

In the absence of a birth time, I have used a symbolic Noon/MC chart for James R Sneddon, since we are considering his vocation and direction through life. This striking horoscope could have a post all to itself! However, I’ll leave you to study it, dear readers, and confine myself to one or two key observations which are valid regardless of his time of birth..

Note that Sun/Jupiter conjunction in Taurus on the Noon Midheaven, opposite Mars in Scorpio conjunct the IC. This reveals an adventurous traveller, a restless seeker after higher knowledge, prepared to plumb the depths as he pursues his quest. The Taurus/Scorpio combination in the signs of physicality and in-depth transformation also speaks to us both of osteopathy and acupuncture as branches of expression from that core pairing.

By a delightful piece of synchronicity, the Ascendant of Mr Sneddon Snr’s chart is at 1 degree Virgo: the exact place where the 19/2/19 Full Moon is due to fall as I share this remarkable story. Also, the Virgo Moon conjunct the North Node, opposite Saturn in Pisces on the South Node, is a very clear signature for working at healing through the body – and for preparedness for hard work and commitment to his future vocation.

In his mid-twenties James R Sneddon  would have begun his third  Jupiter cycle: Jupiter returns by transit to its own place in a birth horoscope every 11-12 years,  at its best opening us up to new possibilities, bringing experiences our way which broaden our horizons. That certainly happened in a startling way to Mr Sneddon Snr. in the middle of nowhere in Alaska.

That encounter with the Chinese doctor when he was aged around 19/20 just after the North Node – the horoscope’s North Star, compelling one towards one’s destiny – returned to its natal position, ‘set the scene’, as it were, for his compelling encounter with the Native American fortune teller. He returned home to Scotland, began studying in earnest, and on his Saturn Return (to the healer’s sign of Pisces) in 1935, aged 30, opened the Buckingham Clinic which has been successfully treating generations of patients ever since.

As an interesting postscript which rounds off the tale nicely, James R Sneddon introduced acupuncture to his clinic in the mid 1960s – during his Second Saturn Return to the healer’s sign of Pisces.. By then, of course, he well understood what those sharpened bamboo sticks in Shanghai, so long ago,  had been all about!

I loved hearing this story, which took the compelling and intriguing ancient idea that Fate intervenes when we need a nudge in the direction in which we are meant to be going, and placed it central stage in the life story of my osteopath’s father.

I’ve never forgotten Dr Liz Greene, in one of her seminars at the Centre for Psychological Astrology during the 1990s, making a remark to the effect that it is truly astounding the lengths to which the Fates seem to be prepared to go to arrange life-changing encounters for people, sometimes right across continents.

Having mentioned Jung at the start of this tale, it seems appropriate to give him the last word here:

Free will is the ability to do gladly that which I must do.

I wonder if you agree?

1200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2019

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page of Writing from the Twelfth House

Fate, Uranus – and the astrologers’ degree…

Anyone who has ever written a regular column will know that there are times when inspiration is – not to put too fine a point on it  – notable by its absence. At other times, so many ideas are flying around that catching one by the tail to pin it down is, to say the least, tricky. And – you never know, as the last deadline is met and you can now relax for a few weeks –  which set of conditions is going to prevail the next time.

So, Reader, there I was, new deadline appearing over the horizon, and…nada. Nix. No–thing. At all. Braincell dry as an old chewed-up bone. In this situation there are generally two options: blind panic – or blind faith. I have six fiery planets. This is often a curse, let me tell you, but in the matter of column deadlines, it is a blessing. So, armed with nothing but blind faith, I headed for the office.

To pass time sitting on the bus, I check my phone. Ahah – there’s a message on Messenger. A colleague is beginning a new project for the international company he works for, an unusual company where his boss is an astrology appreciator. He is making a podcast series on Turning Points:  asking people to talk for five minutes on the one decision which changed their lives forever. He is inviting me to contribute. ( To listen to the resulting 5 minute interview, click HERE)

“Ping!!” went the braincell, hit by a mini bolt of inspiration. I had my topic. I’d ruminate on what it was that inspired me to take up, and continue, the long-term study and practice of astrology. That decision certainly changed MY life forever.

So – what was it ?

Was it my youthful awe as I watched the Northern Lights enacting their glorious colourful dance, just above the skyline near our house? Perhaps it was lying cosy in bed, listening to the roaring gales of January tearing the world apart – wondering what the Power was behind that raging wind. Was it the growing excitement, as I grew up, of being able to spot familiar constellations in the clear, unpolluted night skies of my native island?

Or – maybe the Fates had already decided, leaving me a clue to be decoded many years later, via the placement of Uranus, the astrologers’ planet, at 25 Degrees of Gemini,  in the tenth house of my natal horoscope?

I have recently been revisiting the significance of the placement of Uranus’ discovery degree, ie  24 degrees 27 minutes Gemini,(i) in the horoscopes of those drawn to the practice of astrology. A dip into my horoscope collection, lifting out three male and three female birth charts, found that all six prominent astrologers chosen have this degree either conjunct, square or opposite natal planets, Nodes or Angles: the lately deceased and much-missed Donna Cunningham, Michel Gauquelin, Liz Greene, Isabel Hickey, Johannes Kepler and Noel Tyl. (ii)

Johannes Kepler Asc 24deg 25 mins Gemini

Johannes Kepler Asc 24 deg 25 mins Gemini

Furthermore, when I was 27 years old, progressed Sun crossed asteroid Urania, placed at 19 degrees of Virgo in my first house, square tenth house Uranus. That year, as mentioned in an earlier column, I had a totally random encounter with a pair of astrologers who predicted my future astrological career.

So – did I choose that career or did I come in with it already chosen? Was it Fate, or free will? We will, of course, never be able to answer that question. MY conclusion, hardly stunningly original, is that we dance to the tune of both. There are times when the power of Fate feels strongly present. Other times, the unglamorous wrestle with inertia, poor judgement, and other ills to haul our lives into a reasonably satisfying shape feels very strongly to be determined mainly by our own conscious efforts.

In the latter case, a major ingredient in the shaping process, in my opinion, is the power of inspiration. At twenty-four years of age I was fortunate enough to have what I later realised was a mystical experience, something which has continued to inspire me. This may well have created a spiritual backdrop for the subsequent encounter with astrology as foreground; when I met those astrologers I was going through a crisis involving wondering what, after all, my life was FOR…not an uncommon state for one’s late twenties!

Their accurate reading inspired me to investigate astrology further, initially via the UK’s Faculty of Astrological Studies. On discovering that I, too, could produce accurate and affirming feedback from those strange marks on a piece of paper which seemed helpful to people trying to understand themselves better, I was hooked. For the rest of my life.

Astrology has continued to inspire because it continues to challenge me. It challenges me because we are working with living energies, patterns whose essential meanings we have established over millennia, but whose manifestations are endless and only partly predictable. Despite decades of experience, I still get that tight anxious feeling before every new client I see, being very aware of my responsibility at least to do no harm, at best to help the person before me see their life in a more constructive, bigger context.

I am, of course, always curious to find out what inspires people to engage with astrology – and to keep going once they get there. There is an occasional series running on my blog, in which astrologers tell their interesting, unusual tales of inspiration and  – of course! – an inevitable amount of perspiration…

Want to share your story? Go on…

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Endnotes:

(i) and (ii) : all charts available free from Astrodienst: http://www.astro.com

This post is a slightly edited version of my bi-monthly column for Dell Horoscope Magazine  ‘The astro-view from Scotland’  from the January/February 2018 Issue.

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950 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Dell Horoscope Magazine 2019

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page of Writing from the Twelfth House

Exploring the psyche – via the Tarot

 Tarot cards, in the richness and variety of their images and symbols, have exerted a fascination over the human mind and imagination for hundreds of years. Just as the origins of the tarot itself are shadowy and mysterious, so participating in a tarot reading can transport both the reader and client to a level of experience which defies the linear world of the rational mind, yet holds it own validity and wisdom.

People regard tarot cards with feelings ranging from the wary and fearful, to the gullible and accepting, to the angry and dismissive – they are rarely indifferent. A reading, done well, can let us see how our personal journey brings together aspects of the ever-repeating pattern of life, as represented by the seventy-eight cards. This awareness of connection to the timeless human struggle can bring dignity and meaning to our individual experience, especially in times of difficulty and turmoil.

Tarot Deck

This two-part article is an attempt to explore the Tarot. The first part should give the reader some idea of the depth from which the tarot can be approached, of issues raised by its practice, and of how it can be used as a valuable aid to self-development.

The second part presents feedback from two clients, one female and one male. They were chosen for the way in which they brought together, in their respective accounts, elements of most people’s experiences of the tarot creatively and responsibly used.

Approach

How, then, should one use the tarot as a reader, or approach it as a client? My overall experience has led me to a holistic perspective. From this standpoint everything in existence – material and spiritual, microcosm and macrocosm, inner and outer – is seen as connected with everything else. Time itself is seen not in terms of separate measurements of days, hours, and minutes, but in terms of unity : thus a moment possesses its own meaning, carrying particular clues regarding its relationship to past, present and future.

This view of time is best expressed via Jung’s concept of synchronicity which conveys the idea that each moment in time possesses unique characteristics expressed on all levels at once.

In applying this concept of time to consulting the tarot, the Greek notion of ‘kairos’ – the right moment – is highly relevant. In order to have a meaningful encounter with the tarot several core conditions need to be present. Firstly, the client should have a strong desire to clarify whatever is the issue of the moment. Secondly, the reader should be open and receptive to the client’s need. And thirdly, they should both respect the medium, ie the tarot cards, which they are about to consult.

The Reading

This being the case, the cards are chosen and laid out at a particular moment in time. What happens? It is impossible to know fully – and mystery is part of the potency of the experience.

But you could look at it this way: a biologist cuts a section through a piece of tissue, lays it flat on a slide, uses staining material to bring up the features, then puts it under a microscope bringing the section into clear focus. If s/he is skilled, a detailed picture of the organism from which the section was taken can be built up. This analogy can be applied to the moment the tarot cards are chosen, laid out in all their glowing colours in a particular order or spread, then interpreted by the joint efforts of reader and client.

This section cut through time, the moment of choosing, in some mysterious way seems to reflect the current life of the client. It also carries, in symbolic form, information regarding how s/he came to be in this situation, and some ideas regarding possible courses of action and future outcomes.

Moirai - the Three Fates

Moirai – the Three Fates

Fate or Free Will?

Nobody knows what the balance is between fate and free will. Observation and experience of the flow of life at an inner and outer, personal and collective level eventually leads most of us to form an opinion of this profound topic. Just as there seems to be a connection between who we are and the kind of life we have, so it may be that fate and free will, past, present and future are all part of the same weave – and cannot be separated.

I think that free will rests in our ability to use self-awareness, slowly and gradually developed as fully as possible, in working with the grain of our own lives. It may be our destiny to face certain unalterable circumstances; but the level of awareness we bring to the challenge profoundly affects the level on which we are able to live with the outcome.

Tarot cards should not be seen as implying a fixed and fated future; in my opinion this approach is crippling to a person’s ability to lead their life creatively, restricting any sense of their own free will. Perspective on this point can be gained by considering the parallels between the modern physicist’s view of probability, and that presented by the symbolic pictures on the faces of the tarot cards.

Briefly, the physicist observes the shifting dance of waves and particles and is only able to suggest future outcomes in terms of statistical probability. The tarot reader can observe and describe core energies, in their symbolic form, at work in past present and future – but can only speculate regarding the range of possibilities which flow from each core.

Modern physics has also demonstrated that the presence of the observer influences, however subtly, the outcome of the experiment. By giving definite predictions in a tarot reading, it is highly possible that the reader’s intervention –in some hidden but powerful way – predisposes the client’s life in the direction of the reader’s suggestion.

The Counselling Dimension

The pictorial symbols of the tarot provide a creative framework within which a person can contemplate their life’s meaning and direction, and gain guidance. But the reader, in being approached for his/her skills, is stepping into the counselling role, whether prepared to acknowledge this fact or not.

The essence of good counselling lies in being able to create a safe and supportive environment in which another person can lay out their hopes and fears, clarifying where they were, are and hope to be – and where the counsellor can help their client to see what the inner meaning and creative potential may be in even the most difficult situations, whilst encouraging her/him to take full responsibility for choices made.

All counsellors have a responsibility to use wisely the power they take on by virtue of their role. This means being prepared to subject their own lives to honest scrutiny via training and/or undertaking their own therapeutic journey. Those who take on a role of power without being prepared either to acknowledge that fact, or examine their own motives, are likely to be a danger to the vulnerable people who seek their help.

This point applies especially to those of us who work within the context of the great arts of tarot reading, astrology or the other symbol systems such as the I Ching or palmistry; these are powerful tools, carrying both healing and destructive aspects. Our job is to empower our clients, not to glorify ourselves, and to help them develop creative solutions to their own challenges, not  to become dependent on us.

the-hermit

the-hermit

1200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page