The Myth of Fatalism in Predictive Astrology

Mercurio Since my early years I argued that free will was a human illusion, so the most important factor that attracted my attention in Classical astrology was its predictive goal, which only confirmed my suspicions that human destiny was set since the beginning.

However my own astrological practice, study and maturity have led me to revise partially this concept. More and more I opened my mind to a new conceptualization taking into account  philosophical aspects which can apparently explain why not predictable events come to pass and others clearly predicted  simply do not happen.

Initially I attributed to the astrologer the error for such inconsistency.  I went so far as to elaborate complex theories to explain the fact. However, reviewing and studying the beginnings of astrology, the philosophical thinking of Plato and Aristotle conjunctly to other factors, important points came to light and it is possible that such facts, especially the human capacity to interact with destiny, represented the real answer. This article is not intended to be exhaustive in what concerns to imponderable factors and events that are beyond the careful delineation of the chart and  I´ll focus on the native´s enterprise as having the capacity to modify for better or worse the astrological chart.

I -Modern and Traditional Astrology

The focal point of modern psychological astrology is that the astrological chart  is said to describe the psyche of the native. Thus this line of thinking concludes that if a particular event occurs to a person he or she  will tend to react in a specific way that is characterized according to the configurations of the chart. What will happen to a certain person departing from the natal chart and in which period of the life certain event will take place is not possible to be described.

I do not know if all psychological astrologers think alike, but what is common to hear is that the chart describes the psychodynamics of the native, but one cannot tell whether a certain individual in particular, having a certain chart and therefore a particular psychodynamic, will respond to an event in one way or another, as this will depend on the level of awareness and “evolution”  of a particular native, and it cannot be seen on the chart. So, the conclusion is that prediction is impossible to be made. The only thing you can do is describe the psychodynamics of the soul. This can be good for people looking for a certain type of therapy or to understand their internal attributes in general terms.

At the opposite side is traditional astrology which gives a big emphasis to prediction of events. Because of this it is seen as a fatalistic doctrine opposing the modern astrology that values the free will. In other words, the first one is described as emphasizing the outside world , all that happens outside to the native,  and the second the inside world. In my view such a concept is an oversimplification, and it is false, since traditionally we start by characterizing the predicted external events to after being able to know the reaction of the subject to them. We can also start from the inside: the native´s acts can generate external events.

The question of the prediction of events, one of the important goals of traditional astrology needs to be examined carefully, in order to avoid it to be considered simplistically fatalistic, since the predictability of an event presupposes some kind of  predestination. Western astrology was born in the cradle of Hellenic civilization that has a very sophisticated concept of destiny. The Hellenistic astrologers believed that Hermamene, the fate as normally is understood, is inherent to the natal chart. This chart describes the conditions necessary in order to live one´s own destiny or in other words in order to fulfill one´s own bios.

Now, the natal chart is a necessary but not sufficient condition because we find people who have all sorts of favorable conditions in their charts and do not realize it or excel in their lives, while others, whose charts are far less promising, even not being able to go that far, some certainly go far beyond what is promised in the chart. This can be explained by the fact that the native took the right action, made the right choices at the right time.

In certain way we can say that the game between the Part of Fortune, or the Moon, linked to what happens to us externally, versus the Part of the Spirit, or the Sun, linked to our actions, can be the deciding factor to explain this kind of variation. If a native merely copes with what happens to him, he will be using his Part of the Spirit in a very limited way. Indeed, this Part is solar and its main description, as we see in Valens, is action. This intertwining role between the two Parts can make all the difference.

However, there are actions generated deliberately and not in response to an event or as a consequence of events that occurred and such deliberate actions can generate consequences.

So there is not a dividing wall between what is considered internal or external. The game between 1st- to deliberate and act and 2nd-suffering an event and react, are a much more complete model to practice astrology than the model of only to evaluate the native´s soul through the astrological configurations without taking into consideration the dimension of the external world,

Traditional astrology has techniques for assessing the magnitude of the Nativity, which may be repugnant to modern thought and to what is now said to be “politically correct,” since we are judging and comparing people through value judgments and not according their acts.

Ptolemy has a chapter on the Rank of the Nativity and Medieval astrology also dealt extensively with this. In fact you cannot deny that there are charts with more potential than others and on which the biographers huddled for hundreds of years. Such charts must have something special. However, many people possessing such charts do not become as important as one would suppose, and this has to do with two facts, the internal factor which we have already quoted (lack of action) or because the directions are not conductive to business in the time of the action .

For example, in the power struggle between two prominent politicians if the timing of elections coincide with unfortunate primary directions or profections for one of them, this will give victory to the opposing party, no matter how correct was the attitude of the first one when making decisions. The time, therefore, is an external event of prime importance.

II- The Role of the Stoics in the Astrological Fatalism

Stoicism was a philosophical current developed after Plato and Aristotle´s death. The Academy was founded by Plato and after his death in 347 BC several successors occupied the master´s place. The philosophical ideas began to change since in one special moment the Stoic philosophy was adopted by the members. Such philosophical current was in vogue at the time of Valens.

Accordingly to the Stoics human destiny was fixed and freedom consisted in the wisdom to accept the events. The principle was immutable and irrevocable. The Stoics would today be considered within what is called the fatalistic determinism.

Many modern astrologers and even traditional ones believe that classical predictive astrology is based on the belief of an immutable fate, as taught in the Stoic philosophy. There are some reasons for this idea. We read in Valens that we should be a soldier of destiny and in Firmicus Maternus there is a great Stoic introduction when the author states that it is not fair that good people have a life of suffering and other wicked have a bright future, but there is nothing we can do, because it is fate.

However, apart from these authors who lived 300-400 years after the period of the founding of Hellenistic Astrology none of the initial sources of the 2nd or 1st century BC, such as Hermes, Nechepso, Petosiris, Serapio, Critodemus, Abraham, Orfeus, Anubio, none of them said anything about fate or free will. Would they have the same idea of Valens and Firmicus?

Anyway, the old astrologers had been educated in philosophical schools, be they Platonic, Pythagorean or Stoic, but by what is recorded historically we have no reason to believe that they were all stoic and believe in absolute determinism of the astrological chart, even doing predictions. Besides this, the founders of astrology never bothered to give the reason why astrology works. They simply provided astrological practice. So, we do not know if they believe that fate was more or less important than human enterprise.

Plotinus, an author of the third century AD, accepts that planets can be used for predictions, but that parents and education have an equally great power. Moreover, he points out that twins have different destinies, which may mean that environment is also important in the realization of a birth chart.

Indeed, one can hardly be a tyrant being born on a deserted island for more exalted that the magnitude of the chart can be. In this sense other theses were raised, some downright spiritual character, such as the choice made by the soul before incarnating, but such theories go beyond the intent of this article.


Doing the right thing at the right time is a gift that some people have, as like a guardian angel blowing into the native ears what to do at a certain time, but others, the majority,  have not.

In ancient times to have the security to act on time and properly people sought guidance in the astrology or in divination. The astrological chart casted to the beginning, the inception of an event or certain activity in an attempt to seize the best time to act was called katarché. This type of astrological technique have been practiced since the beginning of Hellenistic astrology and based on its principles and probably influenced by Indian astrology, the Horary astrology was generated.

Now, if everything were considered as fate by the creators of astrology katharché or electional astrology would never have been conceived.

In conclusion, my direct experience in elective charts led me to believe with no doubt that acts that started at opportune moments, chosen according to a good celestial situation, have conducted to dramatically different results, much better than when those same actions are undertaken in not propitious times.

A simple case concerns a company that wanted to capture informatics specialists. When the announcement in the newspaper or on the internet arrived when the Moon (which participates as a significator in all matters), was in signs like Taurus and Cancer, the candidates for the position were people of best level, and if the Moon was in Cancer, a fertile sign, the number of them grew exponentially.

However nothing would happen if the employer would not had announced.

All this may seem quite simplistic for many, but indeed it represents a whole different vision of astrology and the human life.