Please settle a long standing bet between myself and
my mother; Do the stars Impel or Compel? -- Lazee in Leucadia
If I only had a nickel for every time someone asks me this question... well, I'd have a lot of nickels! You would think this would be a "no brainer" for an astrologer to answer, and it is; but as usual the question is an onion best peeled gently, so as not to tear the eyes.
Astrologers of the 20th century were fond of this saying, but who was the first? Well, if you "Google" it you get a bunch of red herrings. Rosemary Guiley in her Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy quotes Dane Rudhyar as coining this phrase. The only problem with this is that she is wrong. Rudhyar actually says something quite different in his essay Must You be the Victim of Your Stars, (see https://www.khaldea.com/rudhyar/astroarticles/ starvictim.shtml). He actually says the "stars" may compel.
What about Dante? Some astrologers (1 won't embarrass them by mentioning names) think the phrase came from Dante. Not True. Dante says:
"A greater force, a better law there is
Which forms your minds and freely you obey;
No power the stars have over you in this."
Note how he says "a greater force" - as in the stars have a force over you! However, your mind should be stronger. Well, that is the doctrine, but can we say that? How good are you at giving
up bad habits? When is the last time you saw Pluto over your ascendant and merely gave a wink? Hold that thought.
What about Shakespeare? Some astrologers (names withheld out of professional courtesy) believe the bard himself came up with this. NOPE. He has a lot of astrology strewn through his plays, but our oft-quoted phase does not make an appearance.
No, to find out about this Impel vs. Compel business we must tum to Sir Francis Bacon, who in 1632 wrote that the "wiser astrologers (believe) that there is no fatal necessity in the stars, but that they rather incline than compeL" (p. 351 in The Works of Francis Bacon, Vol. 4, edition of 1857, available on Google books). Note that he said "incline." Somehow that was turned into "Impel" during the 20th century, no doubt by some rhyming astrologer.
So enough about history, what does it mean to Impel vs. compel?
Well if you take the time to look these words up in the dictionary (don't worry, I've done it for you), you find that "to compel" means "to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly." What about "impel"? Webster says "to urge or drive forward or on by or as if by the exertion of strong moral pressure." Does any astrologer really think that the "stars" exert moral pressure? One thing I guarantee you will NEVER hear an astrologer say is this: "How is my Pluto transit? Oh I feel it's pressure but I am applying my own moral fortitude to resist its influence." Need I go on?
Clearly we can reject the notion that the stars impel. But does that then mean they compel? Not necessarily. The Magi Astrologers (www.magiastrology.com) believe in neither. They say "even during the worst transits, the stars are neither actively compelling nor impelling us in any direction." Tell that to the woman whose marriage broke up as Uranus transited the Seventh House. ("Maybe she'll marry an astrologer!" Yeah, right. Tell that to your client and see how far that gets you.)
Both "impel" and "compel" hold the meaning of "to urge." With "impel" it is the "urge forward" and with "compel" it is to "urge forcefully." Maybe the Indians are onto something as their word for "planet" (grana) means seizer, i.e. something that seizes a hold of us.
Go to any astrological society meeting and listen to what people are saying at the break. Seriously, if you banned talk of malefic or outer planet influences the room would go mute! We may mollycoddle our clients with this nonsense of "stars only impel" but we know the truth: The "stars" compel with a strength that often has us dreading for years in advance an impending transit. Or God help the client who walks in with a Pluto/Venus conjunction ("oh how sad" we think to ourselves while telling a fable about Persephone, hoping we can move on quickly to the nice Sun trine Moon).
So, to answer this question, we find the combined forces of Reason and Common Sense point to the inescapable conclusion that the "stars" do indeed compel. But we need not fear this fact. Lots of things compel us: hunger, habit, desires best-mentioned-in-private; in other words, all kinds of things, including the weather! Or power black-outs. Astrological factors are just another set of compelling influences in our life.
Let me end this article with a quote from astrological grandmaster Dane Rudhyar, taken from his article previously quoted:
"In the end the only true free will is the will to destiny and the really free decisions are tlwse which are not "made" because they are so evident and necessary they might be said to make themselves. The freedom we have is to choose to be free and to remain so. [The birth chart] shows what the human being potentiaUy is as a whole person. What would be the sense of fighting destiny, willing to be what one is not?"
Until next time, may all your stars be uncrossed.