There is an interesting biographical episode, whose rarity may tempt some to challenge its authenticity, starring a famous astrologer and German mathematician of the sixteenth century. I mention it to illustrate the accuracy of the classical astrologer in a tragicomic way, and incidentally to induce a reflection on the limits of personal freedom before predestination. I refer to the curious story of Valentin Naibod (1523-1593), a well-known scholar nobody could take lightly. He is recognized for his studies on the average annual displacement of the Sun, the establishment of the Naibod key for the calculation of primary directions, and for the publication of the “Enarratio Elementorum Astrologiae”, in addition to being famous due to the eccentricity of his customs. Along with his remarkable contributions to astronomy and astrology, Naibod was the protagonist of a macabre anecdote that serves to exemplify the inexorable force of the Anareta.
Having recently gone through his seventieth solar revolution, and after calculating on his own nativity the directions he had tried to perfect with his works of spherical astronomy, Naibod determined he was about to enter an astrological period of great danger to his life on the occasion of a direction of Saturn. So he decided to accumulate a large amount of water and food to proceed to lock himself in his house during the entire life-threatening period. He secured the door with the keys, blocked all the windows and closed the curtains so that could not even enter the light. He lay down on the bed and there he waited for the end of the cycle. But some criminals who passed by believed that the house remained without residents when they saw it completely closed, so they wanted to enter to plunder. After breaking the door, they entered quickly to avoid being seen, but their surprise was great when they met the astrologer, who reacted with shock. They did not take long to stab him to death in order to steal quietly and avoid being denounced. The deadly prognosis that our friend had tried to avoid was fulfilled, because the goddess Fortuna does not usually make concessions with anyone.
In the Stoic philosophy of the great Seneca we read: «Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt», destiny leads to whoever accepts it, drags whoever resists it. Would it have been possible to better face Saturn’s primary direction and elude death? It is evident that dying is inevitable, the issue here is rather about postponing it to prolong life. In the apocryphal Arabian Centiloquius (Kitab al-Tamara) attributed to Claudius Ptolemy, we can find suggestive phrases like this one: “He who knows can avoid numerous events of the stars, because having known his nature he will be able to prepare himself before they arrive”. This short exhort may seem an invitation to evade astrological predestination. It is undoubtedly a fascinating enigma to solve if we try to elucidate clearly what concept of determinism the ancient astrologers handled. At times they seem to think it possible to make some decisions in time to avoid some evils predicted by the study of heavens. But in other occasions, like in the bizarre history of Naibod, this possibility acquires borders that end up in black comedy. I am sure that nobody has the definitive answer to this question, which from time to time resuscitates among those of us who actively work with clients in the predictive field. But perhaps, more than the answer, it is the question itself that makes our art as enigmatic as it is disconcerting.