A CHOICE OF FUTURES
first published by PAM BENNETT in the AA Journal Autumn 1975
(now Pam Crane)
I should be writing this from Canada - buried among mountain pines deep in the heart of Vancouver Island. Almost exactly three years ago I visited a reputable clairvoyant, and was assured amongst other things that in two or three years' time we would emigrate to Canada or New Zealand. Only a few weeks later a gifted psychometrist visiting our area made a similar pronouncement: " You'll go! " she smiled, " Oh, you'll go! " A third lady later still confirmed this, but seemed to think that we would be moving sooner than we expected, and not too far north of our present home, " perhaps somewhere near Maidstone."
The last prophecy, quite spontaneous and unsolicited, turned out to be closest to the truth; while in fact our move has been somewhat delayed, we are now in possession of a small house roughly between Chatham and Maidstone, an area we had not the remotest intention of coming to, back in 1972. The work that eventually brought us up here was not even offered to my husband until well into 1973 . . . after an abortive attempt to sell up and move to Vancouver B.C., and nearly ending up on a donkey farm in mid-Kent.
The point I am making here is this: Obviously prophecy is possible, since one prediction has been fulfilled contrary to expectation - and many other people have had a similar experience. Much successful prophecy has gone on record. But I suspect that a far greater proportion of predictive statement turns out to be inaccurate, in varying degrees of distortion ranging from a near miss to the dangerously deceptive. What we must ask ourselves - especially as most astrologers are called upon at some time or other to make an effective forecast - is why prophecies fail; what is the mechanism of clairvoyance, where does it go wrong, and what can it teach us about the astrological approach to forecasting.
At this point I will return to 1972. At the time I thought the clairvoyantes would be right; I had just said goodbye to a dear friend who had to return home to Canada, and in the October we made the epochal decision to follow. All winter we planned and made arrangements, wrote letters, signed forms, made lists . . . and in the Spring our application was rejected. Perhaps it was too soon, and we would be able to leave in a couple of years as I had been told? I was sure that a second predicted pattern was working out when the job came up on the donkey farm; yet we were let down. Over the past three years I have listened warily to the prophets; and frequently the accuracy of their statements about a current state of affairs has been startling. This standard of accuracy tends to lend weight to any pronouncements made at the time about a future state, and the predictions often make sense in terms of a current situation. Here, I think, lies the clue to the failures: what is probably happening is that the clairvoyant is picking up perfectly accurately the contents of the subject's mind, plus perhaps data from closely associated objects or persons whose minds are constantly linked in some way to that of the subject - but is then interpreting some of this material, the subject's own desires and expectations of the future, as if it were not only a practical proposition but even a foregone conclusion. In my case, my mind was so full of the idea of Canada and the longing to join my friend there among the lakes and forests, that an assumption was born out of this in the indiscriminate psyche that these images were not of dreams, but plans. Characteristic of Neptune is this lack of differentiation; the clairvoyant eye cannot distinguish in the majority of cases between the images of fact and fiction, since these are intimately blended into that ever-fluctuating subjective reality to which it has been given access for a few poignant minutes.
Under these conditions, though images may be offered with confidence that they will be understood and acknowledged as personally significant, interpretation on the part of the sensitive is hazardous. It is easy to see now why prophecy is such a puzzling mixture of unaccountable failure and brilliant success; the failure lies basically in the inability of the subject ultimately to translate desire or intention into reality, or to restrict his expectations to certainties - in short, to renounce all flights of human imagination - and the successes may be ascribed to the mind of the subject being currently occupied with matters capable of realisation, which he then makes happen because he has the strength of intent, the drive and the ability to achieve.
The question frequently raised at this point is whether the prophecy has become self-fulfilling; would the subject have embarked on the necessary chain of events leading to the ‘destiny’ if he had not made his appointment with the seer? What part does auto-suggestion play in these circumstances? Unfortunately, there can be no possible answer, since the sitting may not have been a truly decisive factor, nor may the current sequence of events have been the sole path to the actualised ‘destiny,’ whether this ultimate situation were predestined and inevitable or one of a number of possible futures initiated by the actions and attitudes of the subject.
In terms of actual events, we can argue till kingdom come about Freewill and Predestination - it may well be that when we embark on our life-schooling, however flexible the curriculum within the main framework, and however we may shape our own education through our responses to the material available, there are a few very definite experiences, crucial to the learning process, that we may not avoid, and these may be specific even as to precise context, locality, and individuals involved. Moreover, such ‘ set texts’ may extend in a few cases to the obligatory assumption of a role, which is appointed, and not dependent on either expediency or achievement during the course of the life. On this subject convictions vary, hampered as we are by divers degrees of spiritual amnesia.
What the astrologer is acutely aware of, however, is the inevitability of pattern. The pattern of existence in time on this Earth is directly dependent on the initiating moment that admits the phenomenon - whether this be a human being, an ear of wheat, an office block, or the ownership of a car. Concrete and abstract, all beginnings at least on this plane of geocentric experience are predestined to develop in rhythm and tune with the immediate cosmic phrase - but 365 times more slowly. We live and move amid an extraordinary overlapping of variously extended universes, lingering melodies and sustained chords of vanished music that build an infinite subtle counterpoint on the long song of the Sun's children. My first second of life is also my first six minutes; my first minute stretches over the first six hours. Take that initiating moment as 1, multiply it by 3, then raise this by 7 octaves ( x 27 ), and you have an approximate relationship of the human to the extra-human experience of duration, the one governing development from the inner being, the other carrying the impact of externals. The same numerical series is found to define the planetary orbits, according to Bode's Law (with a few adjustments), from Mercury out to Pluto.
Beyond the patterns of unfoldment, and possible karmic necessities, no occurrence can be regarded as inevitable, or predestined, since every vital factor comprising the key pattern contains in itself a vast range of possibilities which can be realised at varying levels of human and spiritual experience. Every part of the pattern contains the seed of unlimited futures, even while the immediate, real alternatives are far fewer in number, and choice is finally restricted by the capacity and conscience of the individual.
The choices we make each moment of our lives are constantly restricting or extending our possible futures; each moment the choice made is in accord with the current blend of patterns (and so may appear at a superficial glance to be predetermined) as it has to be, though its specific nature is the outcome of a personal history of such conditional choices - but all the time we are standing on the brink of a maze of inter-related universes, at this stage of potentiality all equally real.
From moment to moment, as we alter our circumstances, these futures vary in their apparent likelihood; windows open on to unrealised vistas, only to close again as we take fresh directions. The matrix for these futures already exists, since the inner pattern is set in the first three months or so of manifest life; and the patterns of external impact are pre-determined and calculable by virtue of the observed macro-cosmic laws. Mind has access, then, to this much information.
And it is this, I think, that may be the source of the clairvoyant vision; mind trained to tune on to the subtlest frequencies of world-phenomena listens to another mind, hears with a soundless ear those chords and phrases which echo out of a future state in sympathy with present resonance, and then translates them into imagery which is taken - like the stuff of dreams - straight from the psyche in those regions where it is at its most rich and active, or in a period of crisis. Furnished with such current material combined with fragmented memory, unresolved conflicts and unsatisfied desires, the seer's interpretation cannot help but acquire a bias towards those select futures anticipated by this state of the psyche at this moment in time.
I am suggesting that at an unconscious level the clairvoyant is working with the same material as the astrologer: both, by different means, are scanning the cosmic pattern at various levels and essaying an interpretation. Where the clairvoyant can come unstuck is in the confusion of time and event; I have known very accurate timing given for critical epochs, but what actually happened bore little relationship to what was predicted except through the common macrocosmic symbols - a clear indication of involuntary unconscious misinterpretation. A good example was the forecast by one clairvoyant of the death of a parent at a certain time; the time was right, but the ‘death’ was actually the final psychological break of the subject from an immature clinging to parental approval and authority. The common symbol - of which only the astrologer would have been aware - was a progressed lunar eclipse squared by natal and progressed Uranus, stimulated by Daily Progressed MC opposite Uranus and square the p. eclipse, a transiting configuration of Sun sesquiquadrate Uranus, Daily Progressed ASC conjunct natal Sun, and within the week a transiting lunar eclipse sesqui/semi-square natal Sun.
Now - could the astrologer have made the same mistake?... I leave it to the reader to decide; but certainly there is no guarantee that he would have been any more accurate, especially as there was family tension at the time that could have led him to expect a marital, not a filial-parental rupture. The maturation crisis was in fact revealed under the perceptive guidance of an astrologer of long experience, but might not have been obvious to all.
On other occasions the event may be right, but the timing wrong, as witness our efforts to move to Canada within the year rather than three years after the sitting - although now that those three years are up we are moving, but only a stone's throw from our first family home. An extra factor enters here: the ‘event’ itself (the move to Vancouver) never materialised - its only reality confined to our imagination and six months of monumental, futile effort. What I think happened here was that the clairvoyants were picking up the pattern that is currently associated with our family life, a pretty potent mixture full of Pluto and Neptune and Uranus, with a dash of Node and Saturn, stirred well with the Angles and Lights, and sensed the air of upheaval and departure; but as our minds were occupied with the further reaches of the Commonwealth, the unconscious assumption was made that this was where we would be going. None of them foresaw the imminent efforts we made - although the one who prophesied our removal to North Kent probably touched on this when she implied that we would be moving ‘sooner than you expect.’ She had the place right, but the time wrong.
An astrologer examining the patterns for these two periods would have noticed in each case the activity of the extra-Saturnian planets; no astrologer could have mistaken the epochal nature of the present (1975) configurations, both by progression, Solar Arc, and transits. Therefore he would pinpoint (as I already had in 1972) the current period as one of importance; eventful, stressful, with certain dangers to health and equilibrium, and the possibility of environmental change as well as psychological development. BUT, ‘destiny’ apart, he would be rash to attempt a description of this phase in material detail - as rash as the clairvoyant, despite her confidence - since the factual manifestation of these patterns has depended on the constant, minute-by-minute choice of futures by a number of interlinked individuals. If they are guided in these critical choices, then there is destiny to be fulfilled, and in a large part I am convinced that this is so, at least on certain levels and in specific contexts; if not, then the outcome in actual terms is literally unpredictable except as a range of alternatives lying along a number of possible paths.
In the Autumn and Winter of 1972, the outer planets were also active, but only by transit - the one Solar Arc being a Pluto SA to the square of radical Saturn, which plainly correlates with the struggle ending in disappointment and philosophical adjustment to reality. There was no inner programme for real and radical change at that time; the suggestion prompting the attempt came from the outside, and was taken up with all the misplaced enthusiasm of T Pluto conjunct natal Neptune triggering grand trines in Air, and the doomed visions of T Neptune opposite both Saturns helped along by T Saturn weighing on the MC and squaring a restless Ascendant. And nobodv saw it coming. So it may well be that an additional requirement for the clairvoyant forecast of an event is that its possibility in time is already mapped in the progressed, converse, or symbolic patterns for development within the individual; it is this, after all, that is immediately to hand in the living, questioning entity confronting the seer. The ability of the clairvoyant to attune to unmanifest future transits may be in doubt, or otherwise variable. The important point here for the astrologer is to note the unwisdom of assuming that anything of real note is likely to come from transiting conditions alone. Obviously, as seen in the above example, they have their effect; whether it is a matter of response to stimulus (which at least in part is pretty certain - see current research) or a purely ‘correlative’ link (again, this would appear to be a partially satisfying answer) the planetary activity is strongly in evidence but MUST be understood in terms of the ‘curriculum’ at the particular epoch - i.e. with reference always to the developmental conditions set up in the progressed, converse or symbolic pattern. Where no such guideline is found, the field is wide open for interpretation, and the wealth of possibilities can only be limited then by the native's circumstances and inclinations; the outcome of such response to external stimuli being presumably dependent on the extent to which it does or does not interfere with the destiny or the next phases of the ‘curriculum’ (here there may be some manipulation by Guides) and also of course on the efforts and abilities of the individual in that situation, particularly if the transiting aspects are inconducive to easy achievement.
Major pointers appear to be the Solar Arcs of Direction, especially those involving the Midheaven. These last are equivalent to the direct and converse progression of the MC to the planets, since Solar Arc and MC arc are virtually identical. Perhaps it is this that lends such weight to their implications. Key indications during the year and giving a cyclic pulse to the life are the Daily Progressed Angles. All such progressed and directed factors must be taken into account before essaying an interpretation of the transits. With these last may be taken the expectations and hopes of the individual; and here the astrologer in his or her consulting-room is in a far better position than the average sensitive, for he is then able to discuss with his client the real likelihood of an anticipated event and to put the dreams and the aspirations into a right perspective. Such a discussion is rarely included in a sitting; besides which, the ‘spiritual message’ (whether or not its source is genuinely spiritual rather than psychic) is all too frequently taken on trust, partly through honest belief that it must be wholly true, and partly out of a desire and a need to become identified with the Wonderful, with a glimpse of a magic plane that is beyond criticism.
Since very many clients come to the astrologer in a frame of mind similar to that of the sitter - pronouncing it all "Fascinating!" and unprepared to argue - it is all the more essential that the analyst beware of the prophetic statement. He or she is in the privileged position to be able to elucidate the individual's links with the cosmos, through time and meaning, with a fine accuracy, and should not allow this to be jeopardised through attempting more than his technical and teleological grasp of cosmic reality permits. For this reason, and to protect the integrity of the astrological discipline, the astrologer in practice should honour that part of the Code of Ethics * which asks that a clear distinction be made between information of astrological origin and that which is otherwise obtained.
It would be interesting to make a long-term, systematic survey of the relative successes and failures of Astrology and clairvoyance in analysis and forecasting; impossible to approach ‘scientifically,’ it must be admitted, since we are dealing in one instance with factors that are wholly subjective - yet if the subjective conditions under which the survey is operating are carefully and honestly noted, they can only add to the information required to make the comparison. Certain suggestions I have made might be confirmed, others disproved, further phenomena brought into focus. We live - as evolving entities, as far as we are aware - in one cosmos, obeying a number of co-operative and fundamental laws. Mankind is just beginning (for the nth time? . . .) to attempt to understand his cosmic inheritance; and just as the world's faiths are slowly rediscovering their common ground, we in their sister disciplines may find that we learn as much through the examination of our similarities and differences of approach as through commitment in depth to a single area of study. I am convinced that there are many links to be found between Astrology and a wide range of psi phenomena, which no one has even started to investigate, even though they are set side by side with increasing frequency by the braver lay intellects for wondering contemplation. Shall we respond to the stimulus of their intensifying interest, as the transits of Uranus and Pluto stir our Association to form new working alliances to research the subtleties of form and energy that are the foundation and essence of all that is manifest?
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* Section 3, paragraph (d), Code of Ethics of the Faculty of Astrological Studies.