My colleague Rick Levine told me that people who have difficult lives tend to believe in fate, while happier folks are more likely to believe in free will. It's understandable that those who suffer feel like victims unable to control their destiny, while those who are content see themselves as the creators of their desirable circumstances. Claiming credit for success and denying responsibility for failure is emotionally logical but intellectually weak. The forces that shape our lives cannot be calculated that easily! We have genetics, environment, Astrology, God, luck, magic, karma, nature and whatever possible free will we choose to exercise. Is the handicapped person a failure? Is the millionaire's child a success? There are many threads that weave each story, and Astrology is simply one of them.
Astrology appears to provide answers, yet it really doesn't. A birth chart is a set of symbols that can do an incredible job of describing various aspects of personality and life cycles. After almost 40 years of practicing Astrology, I'm still amazed by the breadth and depth of insight that can be gleaned from a person's natal chart. But it really describes the mechanics of behavior and not their ultimate source. For example, an individual born with attractive Venus in independent Aquarius 90-degrees away from active Mars in smothering Scorpio is likely to encounter these contradictory needs in relationships. For some, this Venus-Mars square will be seen as the reason for romantic disappointment. For others, though, it can be a source of charm and magnetism as they embrace their internal contradictions.
The planets don't make us who we are. The self is more mysterious than that. The meaning and origin of the animating force that got us here and keeps us alive, whether called spirit, soul or something else, is beyond Astrology's field of measurement. There are reincarnationally-oriented astrologers who describe that Venus-Mars square as the result of past life behavior that reappears to work with again this time around. Who knows? They may be right, but that's not Astrology; it's their particular belief.
Astrology is neutral and becomes what we make of it. Fearful individuals crushed by the assumed weight of fate will see their problems boldly spelled out by the challenges in their birth charts. "My Mars in Virgo is never content," one person might say while another states, "It's my retrograde Mercury in Pisces that makes me so forgetful." This is like saying that your angry father made you a violent person. Certainly, the planets, like parents, are influential factors in our life stories. They can provide explanations and excuses, as does any system of personality analysis. Yet why is it that some abused children become abusers and others become healers? It's all about perspective, which, thankfully, can change.
We each hold a uniquely powerful position in our lives. We are at the very center of ourselves. We are the eyes and ears, the skin that feels and the mind that chooses where to place its attention. Perhaps the only free will we have is to interpret our experiences. Even if we cannot change the tides of history or the properties of the planets, we are each the final arbiter of what we choose to believe. This is where the power of individuality applies and where we can learn to dance with the planets in our charts as equal partners. Life is a relationship in which none of us has absolute control but where, at least, we can be active and creative participants in the process.