Understanding Fate (or Karma)

As a Westerner who now walks what I’ll broadly call a neopagan path, I’ve spent years trying to unpack and clean out my “Western mind.”

what happens to us epictetus - tris spencer astrologer-minTry as we might to Fix All of The Things using astrology, crystals, tarot, witchcraft… or by practicing Christianity or Islam or Judaism or Buddhism–any set of beliefs we hold or spiritual practices we use–some situations simply do not respond to our attempts to “fix” it.

The modern Western mind seems to have trouble acquiescing to what is, sometimes, the inexorability of Fate. And there’s also a certain flavor to the Western approach to Fate that seems to reduce it to the level of superstition or “occultism.”

But there’s nothing really superstitious or hidden (occulted) about the basic nature of Fate. Acceptance of the existence and nature of Fate is the ultimate reality check.

What is Fate?

A simple way of defining Fate is to say it’s the way things are.

The pic and saying above are a helpful way to look at Fate. Fate is like the ocean. We can’t control the ocean, but we can control how and when and where we build our castles upon the sands of Time.

In a recent edition of The Mountain Astrologer, (1) jyotish practitioner Linda Johnsen published an analysis of Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency. She made an excellent case via Vedic astrology as to why Trump’s rise was inexorable. (And, like Ms. Johnsen herself, it wasn’t the outcome I personally desired.)

Ms. Johnson made a case that it was Trump’s fate to become the POTUS. And it’s well worth securing a copy of TMA to read her extremely insightful analysis of Donald Trump’s Vedic natal chart.

She prefaced her analysis of Trump’s natal chart and how it connects to the U.S. natal chart (yes, countries have natal charts too!) with an overview of how jyotish approaches the topic of karma (which I’m going to call “Fate” for purposes of this discussion).

Fate Has Both Tones and Shades


(Image: mykukun.com)

I’ve found that color theory is a very helpful way to explain the nature of Fate. So let’s have a look at the color wheel above.

You’ll notice that black, white, and the various shades of gray that lie between them aren’t included on the color wheel.

  • Tones are hues–the colors themselves. Tones are the essence of colors.
  • Shades comprise a spectrum from white to black. Shades affect the intensity of a color.

You can create an infinite range of color tones–far more than are shown on the color wheel above–by combining colors. You can also create an infinite number of shades of a color by adding some degree of black/gray/white to a color.

People and their fates are the same way.

Here’s how Ms. Johnsen described Fate (karma), with my own thoughts about tones and shades applied to it.

Tones of Fate


This is the Fate which you create through your own actions. Johnsen notes that “A lot of people mistakenly believe that this is the only kind of karma [fate] there is.” 


Nobody moves through life in a vacuum. Everything is connected.  “Families, organizations, corporations, cities, countries–all willfully set activities into motion and, therefore, are subject to unique karmic consequences.” Johnsen also notes that “Westerners have difficulty accepting: Collective karma can and does often override your individual fate.”

One way to think of this is as if you’re crossing a street–if a moving car comes along and you’re in its path, the car’s “fate” is going to “override” your fate as a person if either you or the car can’t or won’t get out of the way.


Planetary fate arises from”natural forces.”  You might think of these planetary-type events as a sort of ELE–extinction-level event–for individuals and collectives. Johnsen advises that “events such as “earthquakes, droughts, and tsunamis can override your own destiny if you don’t have extraordinary protective forces running in your favor at the time.”


clay art joan israel

(Polymer clay art: Joan Israel)

One might characterize such protective forces as anything from “amazing luck” to “divine intervention.”

Shades of Fate

I changed Ms. Johnsen’s characterizations of karma from “weak” and “strong” to “soft” and “hard.” The word “weak” carries a connotation of “ineffectual” that I think is less useful here than “soft” is.


“Soft” Fate is pliable. It’s moldable, like clay. This is the type of fate that “can easily be changed through self-effort.”


Medium Fate “takes a lot of effort to change… you’re completely free to [change] your plans, but now it’s a big deal.”


Hard, strong, or fixed Fate “cannot be changed through human effort.” Again, we’re at the level of either just dumb luck or divine intervention here.

So the types of Fate that are the easiest and most effective to work with are Individual Fate and Soft Fate. If you’re a parent, you’re also helping to shape your children’s Fate. If you’re a priest or pastor, you’re working to shape the fate of the collective on some level. If you’re a CEO, you’re shaping the fate of a corporation. And so on.

And all of these and more help to shape the Fate of our planet and the Universe.  

Is there something about your life you’ve tried doggedly to change, but it doesn’t seem to budge an inch? Share in the comments!


(1) Johnsen, Linda. “The 2016 Election: A Vedic Postmortem.” The Mountain Astrologer, Volume 30, No. 3, April/May 2017, p. 37.

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Would you like to be working more effectively with the elements of Fate that you can change? Astrology provides insight! Contact me for a consultation.



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