I received an e-mail question from a client recently that I found myself answering very thoroughly. Ever since I have been “out” as an astrologer, people have expressed their reservations about an inherent lack of Free Will in astrology. This is part of a bigger problem of astrologers presenting the planets as causing events or feelings, rather than reflecting what is occurring. I could go on about the root of this instinct being lip service to the current patriarchical scientific paradigm of “knowledge”, but let’s just talk about free will, determinism, and astrology for now.

I paraphrase the e-mail quandary regarding astrology and free will:

Sometimes I have a perception of astrology as foretelling things that have already been written with little room for free will. This just isn’t actually very helpful or empowering for me. I’m curious about your approach to a life overview reading, and what your thoughts on free will vs. determinism are.

First off, let me say that I love receiving e-mails like this. E-mail me about your issues or questions with astrology!

And here are my thoughts in response:

… I don’t find the idea of all-out free will to be very empowering. For me, it seems quite paralyzing, the idea that I can choose my own destiny. I trust the forces of the universe much more than I trust my inevitably polluted self, so I largely prefer letting go and ceding most illusions of control over the greater scheme of my life. Since I started doing this, my anxiety has gone WAY DOWN, haha. And hence, I am empowered by this. But other folks don’t have as much trouble as me with making decisions.

I also recognize that the idea of determinism casts a rather boring light on the life narrative, and is very un-magical and disempowering. Really, to me, both determinism and free will seem ridiculous! Perhaps just ideas borne out of indecision regarding how to approach living with ego. So I tend to think of the whole thing as a spectrum, and I believe we are all differently suited to feel most comfortable on different parts of it. Find the space that is most empowering for you to occupy. 

I feel most empowered by the idea of a framework that provides limited potentials for a given lifetime in a given set of circumstances. Astrology lets me be familiar with this framework and perform semi-freely within it. It opens me up to compassion for myself and everyone else. I’m not sure where on the spectrum I would fall, and maybe somebody has already made a visual of it out there, but I am essentially comfortable with a marriage of both. A limited free will. Or a freedom within determined conditions. I feel that astrology embraces this viewpoint, too. It seems deterministic on the surface, but if you look more deeply at it you see techniques like astrocartography and astrological remediation–great ways of avoiding the passivity of determinism and embracing the action of free will.

Anonymous client-specific info, but the message is intact:

I see the free will/determinism quandary very alive in your nodal axis. Your Aries north node conjunct Mars indicates to me that you have a lot of ambition, and a real knack for getting what you want. On the other hand, your Libra moon on the South node shows me that you’re sensationally sensitive, and your empathy and emotional responsiveness can keep you from acting. So where in between the two is it most advantageous for you to spring from? I feel like it varies for me all the time; it’s just a matter of being conscious of what approach is needed, and for that I use tools like astrology, tarot, or the I Ching to examine a situation I feel unsure about…

A very loaded answer, or series of answers, to your question about my opinion. But like I mentioned, I may end up using some of this on my website.

and after some sort of salutation…

– Phil

Ah, the question of astrology’s bearing on the never-ending free will-determinism debate can really get me going. And I know there are spots I haven’t yet examined. In any case, this is a start, if you were curious what an astrologer has to say about it.