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The Deepest Source of Destiny
'I swear I shan't amuse you half as much as a lively opera-dancer.' Novelised biography of Mary Cole, 5th Countess of Berkeley.


This is the third of four blogs about destiny. The first and second can be found here.

There is no such thing as chance; and what seem to us merest accident springs from the deepest source of destiny.

Friedrich Schiller

Authors are becoming accustomed to promoting their own wares. We're encouraged, even compelled, to hitch a ride on the latest gravy train and exploit every trend connected with our books; the location, what's in the news, what chimes with the destinies of the fast and the famous. Spin-offs abound. Stunts may be marvelled at for their ingenuity. Some of it is amusing, some of it illuminating, much of it spurious. It's almost become superstition, as if we hope a little of the stardust will rub off on our ventures and they will be carried along on the prevailing current, never mind the quantities of flotsam and that it is in full spate.

The Jane Austen connection is one of the most powerful to excite interest in recent years and I have to admit I've used it to puff my second novel, My Mother Bids Me, which is set in the Regency era and is woven in with the events leading up to the Battle of Waterloo. The book is a portrait of Jane Austen's England.

The odd thing is that Jane Austen wasn't particularly successful in her own lifetime and it's rather sobering to think that we might only be appreciated long after we're dust. Yet it must be a sign of destiny when some spark is caught way after the fact and fanned into a conflagration.

I don't know what to think about the newly discovered drawing purported to be of Jane Austen. The jury's still out, but I do note that the academic most convinced that it is of the author has publicised her views to coincide with a new biography. Not that I blame her, if she is so convinced.

I had to smile, too, at the time of the Royal Wedding, when it was claimed that Catherine Middleton's ancestry was linked to Jane Austen. Wasn't marrying an heir to the throne kudos enough?

Now Tom Fowle, who was engaged to Jane's sister, Cassandra, is mentioned in the first book of the Berkeley Series, The Wolf and The Lamb.  This gentleman was educated by the Revd George Austen, the girls' father, and was chaplain to Lord Craven, the 5th Earl of Berkeley's nephew, when he set sail for the West Indies with his patron, contracted yellow fever and tragically died. In the film Becoming Jane, they changed his name to Robert for fear of confusion with the lawyer, Tom Lefroy, whom Jane was attached to at that period. The family was known to the nefarious cleric, Hupsman, who officiated at the fake marriage between Lord Berkeley and Mary Cole. His mother had been governess to Berkeley's sister, Lady Craven, later Margravine of Anspach.

Mary Cole is not in my genealogical tree, nor my late husband's, whose family hailed from Ireland, but I sometimes do feel a frisson that my full name incorporates hers, a name which I didn't own when I discovered her. Also, as mentioned elsewhere, my first, ultra-youthful, attempt at writing historical fiction, aged 13, did feature a heroine called Kate Barclay (the shades weren't fully on my wavelength in those days!).

I wonder what mileage there'd be in revealing that my maternal line lived a few miles from Steventon Rectory where Jane Austen was born, and Chawton House where the family moved, now the Jane Austen's House Museum?

Whether any of this ranks as destiny is dubious. But shall I tell you something really amazing? For The Wolf and The Lamb, I researched the forebears of the second husband of one of Mary Cole's sisters who came to figure significantly in southern American history of the early 19th century. It transpires that that line coincides exactly with the ancestry of a Red Room colleague with whom, unbeknownst, I have formed a warm friendship.

What are the chances? The Swiss psychologist, Jung, might call it synchronicity, Douglas Adams would call it 'the fundamental interconnectedness of all things', John Guare might put it down to 'six degrees of separation'...

To me, it's pretty mind-blowing!



Preview excerpts of THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS, Second Book of the Berkeley Series

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Rosy,Your blogs on DESTINY


Your blogs on DESTINY are intriguing, enlightening, and insightful as usual.

If you have a few moments, explore these issues:

1. Clearly an element of truth resides in Heraclitus' observation that "character is destiny." For example, the character of Hamlet obviously played a significant role in his tragic destiny. Two questions:

     a.   During  necessary/inevitable interactions,  one's experience inevitably becomes entwined with the destinies of others, whose responses/actions then affect one's destiny as well.  Is it "splitting hairs" or not  to distinguish between destiny brought on by actions only we ourselves initiated and destiny resulting from the actions others initiated in interacting with us?  In either case, Donne was right:  "No man is an island."

     b.  Schiller's view that all experience is destiny (and never mere chance, luck and fortune or misfortune)  seems generally "true" or valid when clear cause-effect or even circumstantial  factors link one's nature and choices to what happens to him or her, but what about quite superficial or incidental happenings in life?  For example, I was recently involved in fender-bender accident entirely the fault of the other driver's vehicle slipping on ice into my lane.  It happened because I was in a certain place at a certain time; if I had arrived at this spot ten seconds earlier or later, the incident would NOT have occurred.   Isn't this more obviously a case of mere chance rather than destiny.  Or would anyone holding Schiller's view counter that the concept of  "destiny" applies only to more significant events in life rather than trivial incidents (that is, "Don't trivialize the concept.")

2. You stated that you didn't want to get into predestination, but may I briefly ask:

      a.  Does your belief in destiny have a religious basis or a more secular basis in the existential realities of the way life just IS?

      b.  Am I correct in concluding that you conceive of destiny as something inexorable/unavoidable?

Any additional insights you can share would be greatly appreciated.



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Destiny, Predestination, Coincidence

It is, of course, complicated in intellectual terms (less so in actual life!) but I will try to answer your queries by mainly addressing question 2.

  • I'm not keen on the word 'religious' except as a generalisation, or description of those pursuing a Vocation. 'Religion' implies 'system of thought' which can, and usually is, appropriated for political, fiscal or ideological ends. It also implies something applied from the outside.
  • It is true that Christianity also has been hijacked to rationalise many global and individual atrocities - there is nothing so cogent as putting the 'God-stamp' on human actions - but an earnest Christian will never lay down the law as to what is God's Will, either regarding public life or his own. God moves in mysterious ways. We cannot know his Mind.
  • I am of the Christian faith. And 'faith' describes exactly what it is. It is trusting every step of the way in the living person of Jesus whatever befalls.
  • To 'buy into' such belief  no matter what happens, whether from our own pursuits, initiatives, compulsions and responsibilities, or from our interaction with multiple destinies in a Fallen world, is to be convinced that only Good can ultimately emerge. But with one proviso, that when we do wrong, we genuinely repent and find genuine forgiveness through the Eucharist which imparts the Life of Christ and gives us the strength to tackle those thorny issues. (We become his Body represented on earth.) It's about continual renaissance and about Grace making good human shortfall. God knows our weaknesses and, as St Paul describes, makes his strength perfect in them. It is precisely at the point of owning our frailty, that God can do his best work through us and for us and his Creation. It is at the point of wretchedness, when all is lost, that the greatest power kicks in.
  • Christianity does have Judaism as its foundation. (We regard the Jewish people as our Elder Brother in the Faith.) Judaism is the history of a people looking for Salvation, a Saviour, the Messiah, the external agency that would free them from the bondage of purely trying to stick to rules they were incapable of keeping for long  and which fostered the well-developed judgmental attitude of the Scribes and Pharisees. Whilst Hebrews see Jesus as a prophet, Christians believe that he is a lot more than that. He is resurrected humanity. It means that our actions and experiences resonate in a dimension beyond the Here and Now of earthly life. The only thing we can take with us into the hereafter is exactly who we are, stripped of all this world's conceits.
  • The Creation that I see announces everything about God's ongoing love for all of it and that death does not have the last word unless we choose to allow it. This is chronicled in the Bible which fell together - by an amazing cosmic accident, or by predestination - over many centuries into a coherent whole. It can be read as the pilgrim journey of human nature, or a single human being, finding his way back to the Heavenly Father.
  • Christianity is about the Son of God, a person, not a set of benevolent and noble humanitarian and philosophical concepts laid down with, or without, a Spiritual Guide. It's about humility. A recognising of our mortality and that in our own strength we come to grief.  It's not a bolt-on. It's a New Way of approaching what each day brings, inspired by the Gift of the Holy Spirit we pray for constantly. We 'offer up' to God who and what we are, everything that affects us and those we care for far and wide, that all may be for the relieving of the pain of the world and for the regeneration of Creation.

To the extent that God knows everything, I believe in predestination...


at the same time, I believe in the power of the existential when we invite God into the scenario.  Given human nature, hell-bent on its own course, many things are likely. Patterns of behaviour on a single and on a global scale have likely outcomes, but nothing is inevitable.

To those that say, it's all about what kind of person you are, not what you say or are seen to do, yes, it is. The world is full of better human beings than I am. But I know that I can't be that 'good' person on my own and that to be a Christian is not a definitive state. It's an ongoing Work In Progress.

Heraclitus was nearer the mark than some. Character is destiny. But 'character' conferred at birth is a package of possibilities which involves our free will in all circumstances, chosen or imposed. How we deal with what is in our path is everything.

But, in the end, believing as I do, I can say with Schiller that there is no such thing as chance.

William Temple, an Archbishop of Canterbury during the first half of the 20th century, was once challenged with the opinion that when prayer was 'answered' (and that can only be to our way of thinking) that is was just coincidence. He is said to have replied: "All I know is that when I pray coincidences happen. When I don't, they don't."

As St Paul puts it: '...all things work together for good to those who love God.' 

I do hope this offers some kind of clarification, Brenden. Thank you for stopping by and taking time to leave some interesting comments. They are much appreciated.




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Rosy, Thank you for taking


Thank you for taking the time to write such an extended and complete response to issues concerning destiny. You have more than enough material here for a separate blog.    You've given me much substance to mull over and contemplate before I could possibly further  engage intelligently in this discussion. So I'll "forfeit" or defer to your wisdom.

On a lighter note, it's an unusually sunny and  warm day for March in northern Minnesota, and my backyard is beckoning to me to clear out last year's fallen leaves and other debris accumulated over the winter.  It's also good mental therapy for me  to leave "heavy thoughts" and simply indulge in sensory experiences and physical activities.

Trusting you will understand and wishing the best for you, I remain



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Brenden, thank you, that's kind.

It is a complex subject, but much less so in the actual doing as against the explaining.

We are encouraged to trust God and accept his love as a little child does a parent, for the Kingdom of Heaven to be revealed and the way to be made clear, if only step by step.  It is an initiation into the real meaning of Love.

Strangely, I find it a short cut to better understanding of the human psyche, the world's problems and my own. Christ was (is) the supreme psychologist.

Enjoy the sunshine!