Thoughts on Fate & Free Will

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…”

As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII by William Shakespeare


At the beginning of the award winning 2008 film, A Slumdog Millionaire:

[On-screen text: Jamal Malik is one question away from winning 20 million rupees. How did he do it?
A. He cheated
B. He’s lucky
C. He’s a genius
D. It is written]

In 2006, the book & subsequent DVD  The Secret written by Rhonda Byrne unveiled to us the “ancient secret” of all the ages. She  made clear and with modern scientific experts to boot that we have the power to create our own reality. A billion dollar market sprung up overnight. Certainly showing how sellers can indeed apply the Law of Attraction to the masses. A variety of self-help and mind-over-matter publications came to the public forefront, essentially saying one thing, “You attract what you think.”

We are taught the Law of Attraction runs  in the background of our lives. The law takes into account our every thought process. We are taught to express good words and deeds, avoid watching bad news, and visualize the manifestation of our desires. In reality, we shell out tons of money, give away our precious time and resources toward these mercurial sellers, and for very little in return. I suspect that if we actually had free will, in the way we perceive, then prediction would not be possible. Yet we know that prediction is real and evidence has been peppered throughout history for thousands of years. 

You might think to yourself, if we cannot create our own reality, and our fates are set in stone then why bother trying to do anything? We all have an internal drive, based upon our temperaments and lot in life.  Say you’re a professional football player, having talent and drive does play a role, but so does being born to the right parents, at the right time, and  so on. All factors listed above are largely outside of our conscious control. It is fate. 

From the 2007 feature film, Elizabeth: The Golden Age:

Queen Elizabeth I: Please, just give me hope.

Dr. John Dee: The forces that shape our world are greater than all of us, Majesty. How can I promise that they’ll conspire in your favor even though you are the Queen? But this much I know. When the storm breaks, each man acts in accordance with his own nature. Some are dumb with terror. Some flee. Some hide. And some spread their wings like eagles and soar on the wind.

Queen Elizabeth I: You are a wise man, Dr. Dee.

Dr. John Dee: And you, Madame, are a very great lady.”

We can say with a degree of certainty that some individuals can predict what will happen with terrifying accuracy. However real predictions are rare and dangerous. Many of our stories depict these dangers and responsibilities in foretelling the future. Examples include the Weird Sisters of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the myth of Cassandra who was both blessed with the gift of prophecy, and cursed that no one believed her, the entire Dune series written by Frank Herbert, the Three Eyed Raven from the Game of Thrones series,  and from blockbuster films like The Matrix & The Minority Report. Why is predicting  so hard? Well for one reason bad news can be mentally traumatizing. 

It’s nice to believe that all of us can visualize our way to success and prosperity, but this kind of thinking also leads to victim blaming. The Law of Attraction really becomes a clever guise for saying, “she was asking for it.” If the belief system holds that individuals create their own reality, through their thoughts and powerful visualization skills, then invariably it leads to believing that affluent people are virtuous, and that less affluent people have done something wrong, or not enough, in attracting their suffering.

What is the nature of prediction? “Gnothi Seauton” which in English means, “Know Thyself.” Predicting the future means that one must know their own nature and that of others. In the ancient Greek and Roman era, a time when oracles held influence, prediction was approached with reverence and trepidation. The fates were perceived as primordial beings who held sway with even the most powerful gods. 

Prediction and prophecy are not for dabbling. Some of the time, we’re better off not knowing what will happen. If you believe you cannot handle a disappointing answer than it’s better not to ask. Hope is precious and protects us from suffering. A gifted diviner should try and deliver messages in the most humane way possible. Certain prophecies are steeped in allegorical language for this very reason. 

Who oversees fate? That remains a mystery fervently theorized. I surmise the role goes to the one we call by many names: the great architect, the all-seeing eye, brahman, the unknowable one, chaos, and the one who exists as a formless fire residing in each being. We are woven into an incredible tapestry, one string pulling at another, and then another. We’re not really in control but simply designed to go with that flow. 

[On-screen text: D. It is written]




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