Why Fate? - Article by Judith Harte PhD


The only thing I don’t like about my life is the way I‘m not living it.
--Robert M. Stein1

…[T]he call may have been more like gentle pushings in the stream in which you drifted unknowingly to a particular spot on the bank. Looking back, you sense that fate had a hand in it..
--James Hillman2

When does life’s golden thread turn to silver? Is it at the sight of that first silver-gray hair? Or when Aunt Bess gives the tiny golden or silver or black hair on her chinny chin chin a tweezer tug? 

A dream enters in the still of the night. I follow its lead in pursuit of answers:

I hear an unfamiliar female voice telling me to sculpt three mortal women in reverse age-related order. I’m to begin with an elderly figure or crone, then sculpt a mother, and finally a maiden. After each human figure is completed and fired, she is to be left to rest on her own sculptor’s stand. 
As the maiden nears completion, I sense an odd quality about her. She appears terribly human, but then…not quite. While a bit more human-looking to me than her two companions, I can neither ignore nor erase this otherworld quality that emanates from within her. Upon closer inspection, I notice that the crone and the mother emit this same eerie, out-of-this-world quality. I wonder if each of these human-looking clay figures might also have a silent inner partner?
“They are The Three Fates,” says a voice. 

I wake up with a start—to many questions. Why the Three Fates? Why sculpt these human figures in descending order from eldest to youngest? Might the otherworldly quality within each human figure be reflective of a mythic presence that either enhances—or is antagonistic to—their humanity? Conversely, might sculpting these human figures amplify these mythic qualities or destroy their mythic essence completely? 

I go to the studio immediately and begin to sculpt three ordinary looking women in the order suggested by the dream: crone first, mother next, maiden last. All the while I hold the intention to engage in a kind of seeing into and through each woman as she presents herself to me in sculpted form. 

I was vaguely familiar with the Greek myth of The Three Fates, those goddesses of destiny said to have jurisdiction over the purpose, quality, and length of one’s life. Klotho, the youthful maiden, is the spinner of life’s golden-silver thread. The strong, bountiful mother figure Lachesis is the weaver, the apportioner, of that thread and a true match for any mortal woman at the apex of her life. Atropos, the crusty Crone, severs that mortal thread, and is a guaranteed presence in the wintry hours of our humanity. Spinning, weaving, cutting. As in life, there’s a creation, an embodiment, and finally a letting go.
Could I, would I, discover and deepen my experience of the goddesses contained as inner figures or forces within my sculpted renderings of three mortal-looking women? Prompted by the dream, that was the question I hoped to explore. 

The idea of sculpting these figures in reverse order of the life cycle has been catalyzed only in part by my dream. The other provocation has come from the musings of my scientist friend Paul. Although he studies human evolution scientifically, on occasion he has described looking into and through the faces of literal older women with what seems to me a unique and particular lens. 

He tells me that when he looks into the flesh and blood face of an older woman, he often sees a powerful, potent, youthful image of that same woman as she might have appeared decades earlier. 

My profession as a psychotherapist leads me to surmise that this inner, layered, imagistic (rather than ocular) vision might reflect and represent a significant window into Paul’s personal psychology. While his visual acuity is most unusual, I doubt that it’s at all delusional. Ultimately, I can’t presume to know what drives and compels him to see and experience these unusual, layered sightings in this particular way. I can only surmise that his descriptions of the inner figures, so present and alive within the face of the elder, are ocular representations that also have some literal meaning for him.
That said, I can’t resist the temptation to conjecture that when a man of science, such as Paul, looks into the eyes and face of the aging mortal woman and sees what has always been there—i.e., an image of the ripened mother, and/or innocent, youthful maiden—he may, without consciously realizing it, be privy to the underlying embodied, mythic personifications of The Three Fates. If he can see these inner goddesses, might I, too, have the vision to see them? 

So, I veer away from the empirical, rational world and take a flying leap into the realm of myth where I might find support for my assumptions. As is often the case, one question inevitably prompts others. 
What about my dream? This dream, along with Paul’s ability to see images within images, mythic or not, has prompted me to look into the faces of these sculptures and those of flesh-and-blood women with a new openness. As a result, something wonderful has happened: archetypal doors have opened.

The Three Fates of my dream are now much more to me than just three dream-like residents clothed within the sculpted form of the human being. Eternal and ever-present, they are cloistered inner goddesses whose force and energy evoke and reinforce my own desire to perceive them as more than literal, younger versions of their older human counterparts. I now imagine them as prominent, life-giving, mythic figures who guide, inhabit, and support a containing archetypal ground. 

On a personal note, my recent journey through what I can best describe as the psychological transom of one of life’s later decades coincided with the completion of the sculptures of these three—or rather six!— women. At the same time, I sustained a jolt of personal and medical turbulence. The confluence of acute personal disappointment and annoying health concerns thrust me into traumatic territory, while leaving no doubt that I am now in the home stretch of my life. 

As this project ends, I find that my reflection on the experience, along with Paul’s catalytic, visual view of aging has, in true scholarly fashion, amplified my understanding by generating even more questions:
Is life most affirming, most continuous, when viewed in reverse?
Is the silver/golden thread one of life or of death?
Can youth ever really be lost if, as in Paul’s style of perception, the golden, younger woman can still be perceived while looking through the eyes of the silver-haired elder? 
Might this silver/golden thread of life be a universal umbilicus—a heavenly/earthly connector—that moves invisibly from person to person? 
If this golden-silver spun thread of life is held within the mythical hands of these three images of fate who magically turn gold into silver and silver into gold, then how can that fragile, yet tough, thread of life ever be totally severed?
Finally, might this eternal cord of life carry a hidden destiny with which we dare not interfere, lest we find ourselves left hanging… by a thread?

© JUDITH HARTE, All Rights Reserved.

Robert M. Stein, M.D. Jungian Analyst – personal conversation 
James Hillman, Ph.D. –Book Mark – Pacifica Graduate Institute

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