Dr. William M. Davidson on fate, free-will, karma, God and astrology, in 1936
– From Chapter VI, ‘The Riddle of Life and the Answer of Astrology’,
of Dr. Davidson’s book:
‘Astrology – Science or Superstition?’
Published by Human Science Research Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill., 1936
– 30 November 2010
‘But there is another equally important question which remains to bs answered; it is – “WHY should the planets affect us?” A partial answer to this problem was offered in the suggestion that since we live in an apparently orderly universe where the reign of law seems to be universally supreme, an ordered, planned, life or destiny would seem to be a logical corollary. Since the destiny of one person, especially a key individual, so profoundly affects the lives of many others, it would seem inevitable that there is a larger Plan of the Universe and most probable that the mosaics of our lesser lives fit into the pattern of that larger plan.
For example say the Government of a country declares war. An inevitable dislocation of the lives of hundreds of thousands of its citizens occurs. Now if these be a purely arbitrary and accidental matter, then the whole kaleidoscope of life is a matter of the sheerest accident – we are puppets of blind chance which logically negates the idea of an intelligent Supervisor. But since experimentally the astrology can PROVE that all of these apparently chance happenings are in some mysterious way pre-ordained – for how else could be apprehend them from the very moments of birth of the individuals concerned? – we are then faced with the age-old problem, “Is man fated, or has he complete free will?”
And right here some of the opponents of Astrology have righteously cried, “Astrology preaches the doctrine of fatalism – it makes a man a mere automaton – it robs him of responsibility for his acts,” as though the mere undesirability of any idea were a criterion for its untruth.
Let us therefore clear-mindedly face this problem of fate and free will. Perhaps we will discover that it is very simple of solution.
Men are prone to adhere to the doctrine of free will because it is pleasant to think so – especially when one is successful. But let us face the naked truth. How far are we really free? How much freedom did you have in the choice of the parents under whose tutelage you found yourself? Were you given any alternatives in the matter of the country and environment wherein you found birth? What say did you have in regard to the sex in which you found yourself embodied? If you were born in a military country you found yourself, whether you liked or not, conscripted into the generally repugnant life of the army or navy, did you not? During prohibition in America you certainly found your free will choice of liquor seriously interfered with. At a great many points in our lives we find ourselves limited by the will of others. As a matter of fact, universal free will is a physical impossibility. If a man determines to divorce his wife and does so against her wishes then assuredly his freedom of will becomes her fate. If an employer decides to discharge an employee then the employer’s freedom to do as he wills becomes the fate of the employee. If the employee has the free will power of choosing to stay, and does so then his employer has no free will. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. UNIVERSAL FREE WILL IS A PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY.
Further we are not only constantly having the will of others imposed upon us but are also subject to the workings of a superior power (whether it be deliberate or accidental matters not) operating through the inscrutable forces of nature as in tornadoes, floods, epidemics, war and what not. Did the farmers in 1935 and 1936 have any free will choice when their crops were eaten by locusts and destroyed by drought? Did the millions who, in 1914-1918 found themselves willy-nilly drawn into the maelstrom of the Great War have the slightest free will choice in the matter?
Does Astrology then avow the doctrine of a blind fatalism wherein man is pressed into a mould of life which is not of his own making? Would not this be even worse than the doctrine of blind chance wherein a man at least has a sporting chance of beating circumstances?`
No. The problem of fate and free will is a curiously subtle one, best illustrated by the story of the quarrelling knights. Two doughty knights met at a wayside inn outside which hung a painted shield. Said one knight to the other, “That is a lovely golden shield.” “Nay,” replied his friend, “that is a beateous silvern shield.” Mild disagreement led to heated argument and in the end a challenge to a duel. Then, just as the knights took up opposite positions ready for a tilt, they looked again at the shield and perceived in amazement that both were right. One side was silver and one side was gold.
So is it with the vexed problem of fate and free will. Looked at from the narrow viewpoint of a single life, we are largely fated – not in the lesser things of life but mainly in the larger. Our destiny is largely the result of previous-life activities. Even in this there is much divergence, for some individuals are deeply fated and others have a high degree of freedom. From the larger viewpoint of many lives, however, the soul has absolute freedom of will. Your present life free will exercise of action later becomes fate. Thus it is indeed a truth that Astrology can never be truly explained apart from the doctrine of reincarnation. Man finds himself faced with certain conditions which are certainly not of his seeking in his present life. Myriads of individuals find themselves afflicted with diseases to which, by no possible means of their manner of living, have they rendered themselves subject – yet suffer they must. The great majority of us find ourselves beset by tribulations and limitations which are most decidedly, judged from the limited view-point of one short life, quite unmerited.
What can a little babe, lying innocently in a crib, meeting with injury by a falling cornice of a building, have done in this life to merit such a life-long maiming, – unless we look back to the errors of a previous life? It might be urged that this is all relatively useless since the babe knows not what its error was to merit such a mishap. Those who know, – possessed of the Eye of the Soul, – of the power to look back in the memory of nature and see the unbelievable workings of absolute unswerving justice, – tell us that though the babe knows not in the brain, the soul within knows, and assimilates the lesson. The philosophic aspect of this problem is beyond the province of this brief treatise and so I would refer those who seek further light upon this problem to the informing books by Dr. Annie Besant, Mr. C. W. Leadbeater, Mr. Geofrey Hodson, the late Max Heindel, and other occult scientists, a full list of which my publishers will be glad to send to any inquirer.
In conclusion suffice it to say that no one can study Astrology for any length of time and, seeing its essential truths repeatedly substantiated, not be driven to the acceptance of the twin laws of reincarnation and karma – the doctrine that man comes back to this earth-school many times (even though he does not without special effort, remember it) and that he gradually and slowly grows in wisdom through the long ages as he assimilates the lessons which is mistakes bring him.
It is for this reason that man has a destiny. It is the statement of his Account in the Great Book of Life which the Intelligent Directors of the Universe present to him as be begins his pilgrimage anew at each birth. The horoscope of birth in reality does not present the future – it represents a man’s past, but because from experience we know where a man will inevitably land if we see him travelling along a given road, so the Astrologer is enabled to say that certain things are exceeding probabilities through knowing what seeds have been sown. But they are NOT inevitabilities. Under the beneficent Law of Spiritual Evolution a man may so arouse himself that he is willing to learn the lessons of life without the painfulness of bitter misfortune and suffering.
Thus it is that Astrology answers the Riddle of Life. It shows that man is only bound by the limitations of his own making in previous lifes* and that he alone can unbind the shackles which fetter him by realising that his life is ruled by law. If you would fly you must learn the laws of aerodynamics and obey them. If you would navigate the depths of the ocean you must discover the laws of hydrostatics and build a vessel which will safely submerge. The farmer might pray for an eternity for needful crops in vain, but the moment he invokes the law by planting a tiny germ seed, lo! nature responds with a bounteousness that is astounding. And so, dear readers, if you would solve the riddle of your own existence, if you would conquer the limitations of your individual destiny, you must master the laws of destiny as revealed in Astrology. Nature is only conquered by obedience. So long as you allow to flow into your subconscious the old erratic emotional impulses which well up from former life activities, you will blindly follow the false trails that lead to suffering. You cannot resist these impulses unless you foreknow them – your horoscope will reveal them to you. And just as the farmer must sow his seed at the right time to get results, just as the navigator must sail with the tides if he is to safely make port, so you must do the right thing at the right time if you desire success.
Astrology reveals a sublime evolutionary process ever proceeding in the individual: it adds to the Glory of God rather than detracts from His greatness; it reveals indeed that “in Him we live, and move and have our being.” Planetary influence is the means whereby He maintains a radio control of His Universe and that it is by a knowledge of this Great Law that we may quicken our evolution and arrive at Spiritual Perfection more directly. Astrology is the Master-Key to the universe. It is not a superstition. When fully known it will indeed prove to be a science. Enshrined in its depths are mysteries which science does not even dream exist.
The researchers of the twentieth century have indeed penetrated into the very utmost recesses of the atom – they have annihilated space with radio and cable and telephone – they have helped us penetrate the depths of the sea and enabled us to conquer the air – they have measured the steps of the physical evolution but they have completely failed to discern the slow, subtle but certain evolution of the life of the Soul. And to that process the most paramount key will ultimately prove to be that ancient and much misunderstood but coming science – Astrology.’
* – [sic]
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