‘Free’ Will & Astrology

Gary O'Toole
7 min readMay 23, 2021


Photography Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

The issue of free will keeps coming up in astrology for obvious reasons. When we can map out someone’s life in great detail in a timeline, it’s natural for someone to ask the question: How much of it can I change?

There are different kinds of results, some being more obviously fixed, while others seem to have at least a little leeway, but there are seen to be four areas or houses in particular which correspond to ‘free will’ in the Indian horoscope.
Of course, there is no such thing as ‘free’ will.

It wouldn’t take you long to figure that out if you thought about it for even a little while. As the writer Yuval Noah Harari states, ‘Humans certainly have a will — but it isn’t free’. How could it be? We are influenced by everything that has gone before us, all the way back to the big bang!

We cannot change certain things we were born with, such as who our parents are, or what we have inherited from them, but we can work on at least improving certain things we have inherited. Knowing where there is at least some room for manoeuvre is helpful, as is knowing where there is none.

We could even change our physical traits to a degree, with a lot of effort, while accepting certain physical traits we have inherited. The area of epigenetics is a good example of how our behaviour and environment can affect our genes.

So, perhaps we should drop the phrase ‘free will’ and pick up the word ‘effort’.

There are four houses of Indian astrology which correspond to our capability of making changes and improvements in our life with more effort. These are the 3rd, 6th, 10th, and 11th houses.

These are called upachaya in Indian astrology, a word which means ‘growth’, ‘increase’, ‘elevation’. These are the areas of our life which improve with time, and a little or a lot of effort, depending.

If we have these houses in fixed signs, for example, or planets which are more challenging are placed here or aspecting, this may pose more of a challenge. But this could also be a ‘double negative’, as and when a planet ruling a difficult area is placed in another difficult one, leading to a positive outcome as we are forced to overcome the situation.

The example of someone being challenged in life early on developing coping strategies which help them to overcome challenges later on, is a good example. Of course, another person’s early challenges may prove to be too challenging.

Someone who has overcome many challenges in life may go on to help others with theirs. This way, they are channeling this in a more positive way, to be of service to others, and to appease their own. This is what we understand from the phrase, ‘the wounded healer’.

If there is one sure-fire way of improving our own lives, it’s to help others improve theirs. This is particularly expressed in the 6th house of service.

3rd House
The 3rd house represents our self-effort, and self-interest, which could work for or against us. The 3rd is the energy we have to make changes that will improve our life, with time.

The 3rd represents our courage, and rules siblings, and neighbors. These people teach us all about playing when we are young, as well as the rules of the game, and how we could possibility bend them to our advantage! This teaches us how our efforts can make changes we benefit from when we’re growing up. When we lose a game, we may try harder to win.
All of this would depend on what is going on in an individual’s 3rd house, of course. Some may ‘play dirty’, while others may play nice to get what they want. This would depend on whether the 3rd house has benefic or malefic planets placed in the 3rd or influencing in some way. Malefics are seen to be well-placed in this house, as it shows a person is willing to fight for what they want.

Either way, the 3rd house challenges us to improve ourselves and to go for what we want. We get better at this as we get older.

6th House
The 6th house represents our ability to overcome our weaknesses and problems. And we must overcome these if we are to remain healthy and well-adjusted.

While this area can be more challenging than the 3rd house, the challenges themselves can give us enough impetuous to make more improvements.

If we eat a certain diet and observe a certain routine, despite the allure of our weaknesses, we can improve our lives in a big way. The 6th house is all about our vices and addictions, but it is also the house of our powers according to Indian astrology. These are the siddhis. Therefore, the 6th represents both our weaknesses and our strengths.

There are 6 weaknesses of man according to Vedic thought, and the D-30, the 30th divisional chart is linked to this house, mapping out our inherited weaknesses and the major challenges we face in life. But it also challenges us to do better, to improve our lot.

We each have our own weaknesses, as seen in planets ruling or aspecting the 6th house, for example. The 6 weaknesses and the associated planets are:

  • Lust — Kama — Venus
  • Anger — Krodha — Mars
  • Greed — Lobha — Rahu
  • Delusion — Moha — Ketu
  • Arrogance — Mada — Saturn
  • Jealousy — Matsarya — Mercury

10th House
The 10th house represents the actions required to fulfil our destiny, which ultimately helps us to overcome our inherited problems — the 8th house. The 10th house is the 3rd from the 8th, where our major inherited problems lie. By taking more positive actions, we can alleviate these problems.

If you ask someone if they worked a certain job, and they responded, ‘For my sins’, they are expressing this dynamic. We all have work to do, actions to perform, whether we are paid for it or not, which helps us to overcome our sins, represented by the 8th house.

This points back to the 3rd house and the efforts we make to overcome these challenges, through self-effort (3rd) and hard work (10th).

11th House
I get by with a little help from … the 11th house!

The 11th house represents the assistance we get from friends, the supports and gains we receive from groups and society. The 11th is all about our ambitions on a larger scale. When we’re connected to a support group, we can overcome even more problems. Yes, it poses more challenges, more problems, including other people’s problems, but when we are supported, we can achieve a great deal more.

Think of the AA meeting, or the group therapy session which helps to see our problems within a larger framework. Even without attending groups, we can see the benefit from having friends to bounce ideas off. By being connected to others, and the bigger picture, as well as our personal wishes and desires for the greater good, all of which is more aligned with the universe, we can align with the right people, who have the right skillsets to help.

The 11th is also the 6th from the 6th, which can show even more complex problems, as seen in groups. But it can also show the removal of these. The 11th is also known as bhadakha, which is a Sanskrit word to mean ‘block’, ‘hinderance’ and ‘troublemaker’. This can show psychological blocks, as well as bigger issues related to society, problems which we can more easily project into society and disown. Aquarius, the natural 11th sign of the zodiac, is seen as the natural blocker, in this regard, and ruled by Rahu, representing a block. But it also shows the effort required to overcome these blocks. The 3rd and 11th both relate to our ability to listen, to truly hear something, so we can make the necessary adjustment.

Chances are that if you are aware of a problem, you will work harder at improving the situation. The 11th being an upachaya house, just as the 3rd, 6th and 10th houses, improves with time, and effort.

Planets as Karmic Storehouses
The configuration of the planets in our horoscope ensures we are directed to fulfil the results of our previous thoughts, words, and actions — our karmas. They do so by expressing their nature and desires through our subtle body, which, in turn, influences our physical experience. These are the five sheaths or koshas.

Some astrologers use the catchphrase, ‘’planets impel us — they do not compel us’’, as to be compelled suggests a constraint, something fated, while to be impelled suggests more of an incentive. This is where Western and Indian astrology may differ, in that Indian astrology views the planets as Grahas, which means they are seen to ‘grab’ or ‘grasp’, i.e., compel.

But here’s what I would add: they do both. They compel AND impel us. In other words, we are fated to experience certain things, but we are encouraged toward improvement.

Our karmas, not matter how fixed or changeable, are stored in our subtle body and can be seen to produce results at certain times throughout our lives. In their introductory book on Vedic astrology, Light on Life: An Introduction to the Astrology of India, Hart deFouw and Dr. Robert Svoboda state that, ‘’As these karmas ripen to fruition, they project into the subtle or astral body …’’.

Once the results of these actions have ripened, we are then directed to think a certain way, which is the planet’s influence on our emotional being. These compulsions, in turn, influence us so that our physical body is either given or denied the energy to live out the results of these through our current actions, or by our inability to act.

This can be seen as played out in relation to the planetary periods, and transits of the planets, in accordance with our individual blueprint represented in our individual horoscope.

The upachaya houses, the 3rd, 6th, 10th, and 11th, help us to discover where we have at least a little wiggle room when we apply a little more effort.




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