- Has man control of his own career, or is he ruled by forces outside himself?
- Is there such a thing as Good Luck or Bad Luck?
- Do the stars affect us: do the gods affect us?
In the earliest times, men were very superstitious. They believed that nature was peopled by various kinds of spirits, most of them unfriendly. Those spirits had to be placated by sacrifices and suitable offerings. The ancient Greeks believed in many gods, gods of the sun, the moon, the rivers, and the woods. They were like glorified human beings, and could love and hate and sin. If a man had trouble and misfortune it was believed that he hand offended one of the gods and that the deity was taking revenge. One character in King lear said:
As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods:
They kill us for their sport.
But in Julius Caesar, Cassius voices the opposite opinion and says:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
What did Shakespeare himself think of it? Did he believe with the Greeks that man is a creature of Destiny or Fate, and that he cannot carve out his own future?
From early times, it was believed that the stars have a strange and mysterious power over mankind. When a child was born an astrologer was often summoned to study the stars at the time of birth and then to draw up a horoscope, a sketch of the fate that might be expected. The daily newspapers of India and Pakistan show that there are still many people who believe in astrology and palmistry. Is the future already mapped out for us and are all our acts arranged in an unseen schedule? If that is so, what is the use of trying? Why not drift along and accept that which is inevitable? But if we accept that solution, it would make us into a nation of fatalists, and nothing is more hostile to initiative and action. Shall we say with Romeo, who accepted defeat and said:
Will I set up my everlasting rest,
And shake the yoke of the inauspicious star:
From this world-wearies flesh.
or do we prefer the poet who said:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with destiny the scroll.
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul. In ancient Hinduism, we have another theory of life offered in the creed of Karma. Accepting the theory of a progressive ‘cycle’ of rebirths they have been in this human life before and will be in it again till the attachments of the flesh have been shaken off, we have to believe that we are still affected by the consequences of our acts in a former life. We cannot remember them but the consquences, good or bad are with them and will remain with us. Is not that a bland of fatalism, and does it mean that there is no use trying? Not necessarily so. A well-known Principal has explained that point in an interesting thesis. He points out that it is like a man who owns a certain plot of land, which may have many disadvantages. Some have to be accepted, and no can change the climate of place or stop the breezes of the sea from blowing over it. But if it is barren, the place may be much improved by manure, if it is stony, hard labour and digging will remove the stones; if it is arid, there may be a simple scheme of irrigation arranged. The Jews have taken up stretches of barren desert in Palestine and transformed them into smiling gardens and cultivated fields of corn. Adverse karma may be faced and transformed to a great extent by hard and honest striving. There will be good results, and it will be transformed into favourable karma, though the results may not all be apparent in one life.
We are not entirely free, but are bound in the chain of causation. Our roots are in the past, and we cannot tear them up. But it is unmanly to prate of ill-luck and destiny, when we have to a gig at extent, if not wholly, the privilege of shaping our own future.