October 13, 2014

La Forza del Destino

The power of destiny-- does it exist, and if so, does it really determine our 'life track?' 
These are questions I've wrestled with over a lifetime. I've turned them over in my mind, read theories from Western and Eastern traditions... and not surprisingly, still have no definitive answers. There are times and events when it seems obvious that they were destined. Other times, it seems that we live in a random, chaotic world.

Just last week (as I write) an incident occurred in my life that strongly suggests the power of destiny at work. On advice from reviewers, my wife and I had gone early to queue for lunch at a popular restaurant. While standing outside the door, my wife made a little remark to a gentleman who had arrived and parked in front. He replied, and in friendly fashion continued conversing with her, then both of us. To cut to the core, we had lunch with our new friend, who then invited us to his house for tea. As it turned out, we spent several hours there, engaged in very fascinating conversation.

Arlen (as a pseudonym) outlined his life story, how he had been married twice, and both wives passed away, the second only a few months previously. He seemed to sense that he could open up to us about curious predictions that had been made early in his life, and how they uncannily transpired. He asked us if we believe in destiny, after showing us that it certainly appeared to be a determining factor in his life (he is now in his mid-70's).

Certainly, Arlen's experiences were quite persuasive, and it made me recall incidents in my own life where destiny seemed an undeniable factor. At the same time, I can see the trap that skeptics of destiny want to avoid, i.e. that if everything is destined then we really don't have free will. And I do believe we have free will... or at least a certain degree. Yet, I can't deny the apparent influence of destiny as I observe the patterns of my life and that of the people around me.

My judgement is that our lives are a blend of destiny and personal decisions exercised under free will. The grand outlines of our lives are cast by whatever force it is that determines destiny. Some, mainly astrologers, say it's the 'stars' (planets, etc.). Others say it's genetic inheritance, or even evolution. It's really not clear, altho the attribution to astrology is quite credible when one is fully aware of the cyclical patterns of events, both in individuals and in societies.

Free Will

A further problem is the nature of 'free will.' How free is our will, really? We are convinced that we've made an independent decision, and yet... when you start considering the circumscribing influences-- circumstances of birth, socio-economic status, ethnicity, religion, and on it goes-- you reach a point where the 'wiggle room' for an independent decision is mighty restricted! So, we think we have free will when we make a judgement or a choice; but too often, a savvy observer knowing a few details of our background would be able to predict our decision with high accuracy.


Then there's the question of fate vs destiny. Dictionaries regard the two words as synonyms, but some people, such as the ancient Sumerians, make an interesting distinction. For them, destiny covers the inevitable, major track of one's life-- time and place of birth, heritage, milestone events, perhaps even conditions of death, and so on. Fate, while related, refers to those smaller details of one's life in which we may exercise our free choice... within the confines of destiny. Fate may give us a chance to break out of a negative pattern, IF we somehow overcome the influences and habits that characterized our previous behavior in similar circumstances.

Here's what Sumerian scholar, Zechariah Sitchin, had to say on the subject. "In the biblical realm, it was Yahweh who controlled Destinies and Fates, but while the former was predetermined and unalterable, the latter could be affected by human decisions.[...] Because of the former powers, the course of future events could be foretold years, centuries and even millennia earlier. [i.e. Destiny being inevitable could be predicted.]

"....But when it came to Fates, the free will and free choice of people and nations could come and did come into play. Unlike destinies, Fates could be changed and punishments could be averted if righteousness replaced sin, if piety replaced profanity, if justice prevailed over injustice. 'It is not the death of the evildoer that I seek, but that the wicked shall turn from his ways and live.' The Lord God told the Prophet Ezekiel (33:11).”


Additionally, we have to address the issue of karma. While the original, Hindu concept of the term may be quite complex, and require diligent study to understand, a simpler understanding is that it refers to the 'law of cause and effect in the spiritual realm.' The Bible states 'As you sow, so also shall you reap.' It's like the golden rule in action; or as people say these days, 'what goes around, comes around.'

In the Hindu paradigm, karma is a primary feature of reincarnation-- the cycles of recurring lives of each soul-- which is a cornerstone of their belief. The doctrine of karma clearly rests on the working of fate; your reward or punishment is an outcome of your reaction to a given 'test' in this life.

The whole picture can get cloudy when we try to comprehend how destiny, fate, and karma all inter-relate and function to create your life reality! If you don't believe in reincarnation, then you will probably discard the notion of karma, unless you interpret the word as referring to the consequences of our choices. I don't want to attempt to unravel that one; it's up to each of us to contemplate and reach our own conclusions.


Another factor that can be included in this essay is what psychologist Carl Jung called synchronicity, and most of us refer to as coincidence. Was it a mere coincidence that I met Arlen and soon got into a discussion on destiny? Or was it destiny? The fact is that the word coincidence explains nothing; it merely describes an occurrence that has no other obvious rationale. Yet for too many people, invoking the word coincidence seems to satisfy the bewilderment that lurks below the surface.

When destiny exercises its power in our lives, and we can find no 'reasonable' explanation, then we call it coincidence... and carry on with our lives. Jung believed that our subconscious somehow interacts with the 'universe' or the 'collective unconscious,' to arrange these synchronous events that are otherwise inexplicable.

But in the big picture, are coincidences actually destined? Again, I don't know the answer, but have my suspicions based on experience and study. Perhaps the 'big coincidences' in our lives (e.g. meeting our spouse, getting a particular job, etc.) are the products of destiny, whereas the small coincidences (e.g. hearing a song that highlights a word you just saw on a bill-board) are classic synchronicities as understood by Jung.


The subject of destiny has fascinated poets, playwrights, librettists, and others over the ages. They have composed poems, plays, operas, and stories involving the power of destiny in the lives of people great and small. Yet, it is a subject that will defy absolute comprehension until we pass on to a higher realm of existence.

My own gut feeling is that celestial forces exerted in the heavens place their combined imprint on our life, defining the major events from birth to death. Within those milestone markers, we have the opportunity to deploy our will and intellect (such as they are, as a result of destiny) in making the decisions, both mundane and critical, that humans are faced with. Those decisions may be provoked by previous choices and induce results that can be positive to our spiritual growth, or damaging. We can often detect the unfolding of destiny in coincidences that shape the broad directions of our life.

My belief system recognizes God, The Creator, as the ultimate origin of existence. It is God who established the rules of the universe, and the forces that I refer to in this essay. We call them by those various words, but without understanding the mechanisms involved, those words are merely descriptive of the phenomena. God gives each soul a mission, if you will, which is defined by destiny. And, we are free moral agents in terms of how we operate within the parameters of that assignment.

Final note: there are certain individuals who are destined to have the faculty to perceive future events in the lives of other people. How they do this is beyond our rational understanding. Regardless of what surface factor they claim to employ (e.g. astrology, palmistry, crystal balls, tarot cards, etc.) they all seem to simply intuit information from another dimension. Perhaps they are 'reading' the milestones of destiny in the subject's life. In any case, it's a truly fascinating topic to contemplate or to discuss. Maybe I was destined to write this essay... who knows for sure?

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