I see the pharmacist, astrologer and perennially cited predictor of things to come, Nostradamus, was born on this day in 1503. I’m not precisely sure why this particular old fraud has had such a long lasting career, I gather his volume “The Prophecies” has either never, or very nearly never been out of print since its first issuance in 1555.
But his success is a pointer to a deep seated human need, our need to know. And he is also a pointer to another deep seated human trait, if we don’t know, we’ll make it up.
Our predictive abilities are the signal feature of being human. As I like to say other animals are strong or fast. While we are smart.
But the shadows of being smart are many. I’ve paid most attention to our inclination to reify things, most specifically, ourselves, and the world of hurt that follows this. But, this need to see into the future also has opened us to all sorts of imaginative trickery, our own, or that of another. And we’ve used just about every tool we can imagine to do so from reading the cracks in turtle shells to watching the flights of birds to ruminating on the motions of the stars.
There’s a sort of intuitive sense to this – if we’re really all connected, something I truly believe, bones and marrow believe, well, then there should be some way of noticing and tracking. I have dear friends who use the I Ching based upon this view. And I see little difference here, between the uses of the I Ching, Tarot, & Astrology. Each claims to reflect the nature of the universe and therefore to provide tools into what is going to happen.
I suspect these ancient tools may in fact open our hearts to secrets about ourselves. And that’s certainly important.
But that only opens more questions. When Cassius declares “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” I understand the context to say we’re born free, and bowing to Caesar as king is a affront to that natural freedom. But, usually by deleting the last clause, it is often cited and understood in discussions such as this, that we as individuals, are free to make our decisions without reference to those stars, to the web of relationships.
We do live constrained lives, every breath we take, every action we choose, is without a doubt created by some event that it is simply the consequence to. And with its action, the predicate for a next event.
And, pretty much everything is multiply caused, and therefore complex, and oh my so complex is it in fact possible to unravel?
I think for most things, no. And, maybe never. And the predictive tools, tarot, astrology, I Ching, while sufficiently aligned to our human hearts, perhaps, to point us inwardly, I don’t really believe they line up sufficiently with the great mess to be helpful in the outward world, to actually predict things.
And out of this a couple of other points. There is much being made of the advances in computer technology and artificial intelligence, and the question of whether and when a machine might wake up, might become self-aware.
This suggests, as is my observation for us, that out of this complexity of interrelatedness as it touches upon us as human beings, has created webs of events that spark a person, an “I.”
This I, of course, only exists so long as the various parts continue to function, but in the moment, my goodness, such a wonder, so like a god… It can predict, up to a point. It can even modify itself, an amazing thing, up to a point.
And, also, having popped into existence, so like that god, we want to know.
Bless us. We want to know.
And, I suggest, throwing our lot in with predictive traditions, astrology, tarot, I Ching, and their advocates may therefore be tempting. And up to a point I think they’re helpful. Or at least can be.
But, I think there are better places to look for help in that particular quest.
Turn that light inward.
Watch the motions of our minds.
Don’t rush to invest meaning too quickly.
Check in with someone who has done this. Frequently is good.
Do that, and as the wise have reported over the ages, and it is my experience, we can come close to knowing, or, really it is a kind of not-knowing, of that web itself.
To the great pulsing is of our is-ness.
We do this and we seem to come upon a treasure.
Perhaps even more important than the turning of events.
Or, even, the end of the world…