I had a rather unpleasant interchange at an astrology discussion group this week. We were talking about different ways of understanding doing astrology, and I was talking about Stoicism.
Stoicism, which was a very prevelant philosophy when astrology was first developed in the West, views the universe as structured and largely if not completely deterministic or fated. Reading an astrology chart is an attempt to divine that order – to find out the will of the Gods for you – so that you can work with that order.
When I finished my sentence someone turned to me and said,
He then went on at great length about how we all had free will, and we could do whatever we wanted if we only really believed and were positive and tried really hard. Negative things always work out positively if you only believe; help is there if you only believe.
I don’t think he could conceive of WHY anyone in his right mind would view the world as fated. (How awful…)
I find Stoicism, and a determined and ordered universe, to be comforting, peaceful and empowering. I want to explain Why.
I accept that there is an order to the Universe, and I consider it to be a positive order. I fit within that order; I have an appointed place within it. I do not control that order; it controls me. I can choose to work with it, or I can bang my head up against a stone wall by fighting it.
Do I completely understand it? No. Is it always fun? No. I accept that; it seems to work a lot better than not accepting it.
Think about the implications of saying that things can turn out positively if you Only Believe; help is there if you Only Believe. That means that if something goes wrong it is your fault; you didn’t try hard enough, or you did it wrong. Or, it is your karma, meaning you are being punished for something you did in a past life. Either way it is Your Fault.
That is a good way to set yourself up for guilt when things go seriously wrong.
Looking realistically at my life, and the lives around me, I see good and bad things happen – good and bad in the usual sense of pleasant and difficult, not in any absolute moral sense.
That, to me, is being realistic.
There are things in my life I can realistically control or at least affect. There are things I cannot.
I can refuse to accept that, try really hard to change my beliefs, plaster affirmations all over my refrigerator and bathroom mirror – and then end up devastated when things go wrong and it doesn’t work.
Or, I can accept that many (if not most, or even all) things about my life, and life in general, are out of my control. Stoicism says that there is an order or Reason to the universe, and that we fit within that order. We find most happiness when we accept that and align ourselves with that order.
I accept that; it gets me through good times and lets me enjoy them; it keeps me more calm and centered when things go seriously wrong. I have dealt with both extremes.
Stoicism is a mental and emotional discipline that involves conscious effort, training one’s thinking processes. It takes work, and it is immensely rewarding.
So, Why Stoicism? Because it gives me mental peace, and stability, and equanimity. Why Stocism? Because it works.