At the birth of a man, the Moirai spinned out the thread of his future life, followed his steps, and directed the consequences of his actions according to the counsel of the gods. It was not an inflexible fate; Zeus, if he chose, had the power of saving even those who were already on the point of being seized by their fate. The Fates did not abruptly interfere in human affairs but availed themselves of intermediate causes, and determined the lot of mortals not absolutely, but only conditionally, even man himself, in his freedom was allowed to exercise a certain influence upon them. As man’s fate terminated at his death, the goddesses of fate become the goddesses of death, Moirai Thanatoio (The Theoi Project ).
Whoever . . . scrutinizes his mind . . . will find his own natural work, and will find likewise his own star and daemon, and following their beginnings he will thrive and live happily. Otherwise, he will find fortune to be adverse, and he will feel that heaven hates him (Marsilio Ficino, The Book of Life, page 169).
Forget the Calvinist idea of predestination; it was conceived in the mind of a madman. Our Western idea of fate derives, I think, from this warped concept.
I am interested in my Fate and your Fate (henceforward personified). I am of the mind that one has it within one’s power to shape one’s Fate, according to one’s choices and actions in life. The presocratic philosopher, Heraclitus said, “Man’s character is his fate.” The Greek word for fate, as we know, is daimon. The daimon is a sort of inner mentor, dissuading us from taking certain paths in life and persuading others. The Greek is “ethos anthropos daimon.” You could also say, “A man’s ethos is his daimon.” For some reason unbeknownst to me, Fate has led me to the situation I find myself in. I must “grow down” into it as a tree would sink it roots into the earth. By no means, however, did an angry God sentence me to the life I lead, while saving others and damning some to an eternal punishment. That notion is a product of dark minds.
Marsilio Ficino, obviously influenced by Greek tales of the daimonic, makes some very precise statements concerning the consequences of following or ignoring one’s daimon. The search for one’s place in the world is often overshadowed by many things, such as the quest for affluence, worrying about what others think, or being pushed into a certain vocation by one’s family. Ficino gives a seemingly simple plan for ensuring a fulfilling life. But if it is so simple, why do we see so many miserable people in the world? Surely, it isn’t because most people have never heard of Marsilio Ficino. The truth he brings seems self-evident. Some find their niche naturally by simply following their heart, even if they have never read Plato or Ficino or any of the other thinkers who have advised us of this truth. For these, it is instinctual. The masses, however, follow as sheep to the slaughter. They are programmed by modern capitalistic culture to be good consumers, a.k.a. corporate slaves. Such is the state of most Americans.
James Hillman claims that fatalism is the opposite of the heroic ego, best typified in mythology by the Greek god, Hercules. The hero craves victory at all cost. The drive for corporate profit is one of its manifestations; war is another of its pastimes; even the self-help home remodeling craze is symptomatic of the heroic ego.
The hero landed on Plymouth Rock, went with Daniel Boone into the wilds with gun, Bible, and dog, stands tall in Tombstone with John Wayne, and stonewalls his corporation against the whole bloody planet (Soul’s Code, by James Hillman, page 192).
Fatalism, which is to be distinguished from Fate, lays down and does nothing, since all is predetermined, anyway. Why make choices in life if all has been decided from the foundations of the earth? This is the voice of fatalism.
With Fate, things simply happen, but at very opportune moments. Fate, in the Greek sense, is an intervention that occurs entirely apart from causality. You might have a sudden urge to read something by Charles Dickens, for instance. Your daimon gives you a little nudge to do so, and before you know it, you read a paragraph that speaks to a certain aspect of your life. Or, you could be playing basketball with some friends, go up for a rebound, and come down with your ankle twisted and suffer a fracture. This event happened for no particular reason; it was just the Hand of Fate. Afterward, you look back and reflect on the occurrence. Perhaps you were ignoring soulful activities and needed to slow down for awhile. Perhaps you were spending too much time concentrating on basketball when you should have been writing or painting, or whatever else Soul deemed appropriate for you. As Ficino says, if you follow your star, your daimon, you will live a fulfilled life.
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