Destiny or fate refers to a predetermined course of events.[1] It may be conceived as a predetermined future, whether in general or of an individual. It is a concept based on the belief that there is a fixed natural order to the cosmos.


Different concepts of destiny and fate

Destiny is seen as the final outcome, independently of the events that precede, which are inevitable and unchangeable per themselves, but as a sequence, could be arranged and rearranged in order to arrive to the final outcome.

There is the often confusing argument that individuals can choose their own destiny by selecting different "paths" throughout their life, even though the different courses of action the individuals take nonetheless lead to a very predetermined destiny.

To escape the contradiction (the incompatibility of philosophical terminology) of this argument and fully support the concept of destiny, most believe it necessary to declare and accept this notion of choice (free will) as illusion. Another belief, known as Micaic Destiny, states that free will and destiny can coincide in harmony. This argument states that we all make only one unchangeable choice every moment. Simply because a certain choice will inevitably be made does NOT mean that we do not make our own decisions. This belief assumes that we have no power to accurately and precisely predict the future.

Destiny has been envisaged as fore-ordained by the Divine (for example, the Protestant concept of predestination) or unfolding through the exertions of human will, for example, in the American concept of Manifest Destiny: "By the 1850s it was generally believed in the United States that a superior American race was destined to shape the destiny of much of the world."[2] The explicit racialism had developed from a 17th-century vision of Puritan New World destiny as a "chosen people" whose destiny it was to establish a "New Jerusalem".[3]

A sense of destiny in its oldest human sense still in a soldier's fatalistic image of the "bullet that has your name on it", or "the moment when your number comes up", or the flowering of a romance between lovers who are "meant to be" together. In Greek mythology, the human sense that there must be a hidden purpose in the random choices of the lottery governs the selection of Theseus[citation needed] to be among the youths to be sacrificed to the Minotaur.

Destiny in literature and popular culture

Many Greek legends and tales teach the futility of trying to outmaneuver an inexorable fate that has been correctly predicted. This form of irony is important in Greek tragedy, as it is in Oedipus Rex and in the Duque de Rivas' play that Verdi transformed into La Forza del Destino ("The Force of Destiny") or Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey, or in Macbeth's uncannily-derived knowledge of his own destiny, which in spite of all his actions does not preclude a horrible fate.

This aspect is succinctly told by W. Somerset Maugham from an Arab tale:

Death There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, “Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.” The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?” “That was not a threatening gesture,” I said, “it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.[4]

A far older version forms part of the Babylonian Talmud.

Other notable examples include Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, in which Tess is destined to the miserable death that she is confronted with at the end of the novel; Samuel Beckett's Endgame; the popular short story "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs.

Destiny is a recurring theme in the literature of Hermann Hesse (1877–1962), including Siddharta (1922) and his magnum opus, Das Glasperlenspiel, also published as The Glass Bead Game (1943). The common theme of these works involves a protagonist who cannot escape a destiny if their fate has been sealed, however hard they try. Destiny is also an important plot point in the hit TV shows Lost, Heroes and Supernatural, as well a common theme in the Roswell TV series. Destiny is a recurring theme in the video-game franchise Kingdom Hearts, with Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep having its story based around the concept of Destiny, and the tagline for the game stating "Destiny is never left to chance."

In the TV series Charmed, about the lives of three sister witches known as the Charmed Ones who take a fourth witch under their tutelage, destiny is inescapable and is protected by the many Angels of Destiny. Destiny is seen as part of the "Grand Design", which is the intended nature of the universe, just as death is, in order to make people live, and Pandora's Box is, to tempt.

Destiny plays a large role in the overall story arc of the re-imagined television series Battlestar Galactica, in which events and characters are guided along by supernatural elements with a planned outcome, often with a cyclical theme of events transpiring again and again in different variations. The most notable example of this is in the Virtual Six character who appears to Gaius Baltar through out the series, claiming to be a messenger from God and directing Gauis' actions and influencing his decisions.

Divination of destiny

Some believe that one's destiny may be ascertained by divination or proclaimed as the prophecy of a prophet or of a sibyl. In the belief systems of many cultures, one's destiny can only be learned about through a shaman, babalawo, saint or seer.

In the Shang dynasty, oracle bones and shells were consulted on questions of ritual and religion, leading to the earliest form.

Destiny versus fate

Although the words are used interchangeably in many cases, fate and destiny can be distinguished. It depends on how narrow or broad the definitions are. Broadly speaking, fate is individual's destiny. More accurate, traditional usage defines fate as a power or agency that predetermines and orders the course of events (Greek definition). Fate defines events as ordered or "inevitable" and unavoidable. Destiny is used with regard to the finality of events as they have worked themselves out; and that same sense of Destination, projected into the future to become the flow of events as they will work themselves out. In other words, fate relates to events of the Future and present of an individual and in cases in literature unalterable, whereas destiny relates to the probable future. Note . This can be seen in our common language usage, e.g. "His calling, his Fate is to be a doctor." Will he definitely be a doctor? Well, it may or not be his destiny or his Ultimate fate if term used interchangeable.

Classical and European mythology features three goddesses dispensing fate, the "Fates" known as Moirae in Greek mythology, as Parcae in Roman mythology, and as Norns in Norse mythology; they determine the events of the world through the mystic spinning of threads that represent individual human Fates.

One word derivative of "fate" is "fatality", another "fatalism". Fate implies no choice, and ends fatally, with a death. Fate is an outcome determined by an outside agency acting upon a person or entity; but with destiny the entity is participating in achieving an outcome that is directly related to itself. Participation happens willfully.

Used with reference to the past, "destiny" and "fate" are both more interchangeable, both imply "one's lot" or fortunes, and include the sum of events leading up to a currently achieved outcome (e.g. "it was her destiny to be leader" and "it was her fate to be leader").

Destiny and "fortune"

In Hellenistic civilization, the chaotic and unforeseeable turns of chance gave increasing prominence to a previously less notable goddess, Tyche, who embodied the good fortune of a city and all whose lives depended on its security and prosperity, two good qualities of life that appeared to be out of human reach. The Roman image of Fortuna, with the wheel she blindly turned, was retained by Christian writers, revived strongly in the Renaissance and survives in some forms today.[5]

Destiny and philosophy

In daily language destiny and fate are synonymous, but with regards to 20th century philosophy the words gained inherently different meanings.

For Arthur Schopenhauer destiny was just a manifestation of the Will to Live. Will to Live is for him the main aspect of the living. The animal cannot be aware of the Will, but men can at least see life through its perspective, though it is the primary and basic desire. But this fact is a pure irrationality and then, for Schopenhauer, human desire is equally futile, illogical, directionless, and, by extension, so is all human action. Therefore, the Will to Live can be at the same time living fate and choice of overrunning the fate same, by means of the Art, of the Morality and of the Ascesis.

For Nietzsche destiny keeps the form of Amor fati (Love of Fate) through the important element of Nietzsche's philosophy, the "will to power" (der Wille zur Macht), the basis of human behavior, influenced by the Will to Live of Schopenhauer. But this concept may have even other senses, although he, in various places, saw the Will to power as a strong element for adaptation or survival in a better way.[6] In its later forms Nietzsche's concept of the will to power applies to all living things, suggesting that adaptation and the struggle to survive is a secondary drive in the evolution of animals, less important than the desire to expand one’s power. Nietzsche eventually took this concept further still, and transformed the idea of matter as centers of force into matter as centers of will to power as mankind’s destiny to face with amor fati.

The expression Amor fati is used repeatedly by Nietzsche as acceptation-choice of the fate, but in such way it becomes even another thing, precisely a “choice” destiny. We find that in § 276 of The Gay Science, where he wrote:

I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.

Quote from "Why I Am So Clever" in Ecce Homo, section 10[7]:

My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary—but love it.

See also


  1. ^ Compare determinism, the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition and behavior, decision and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences.
  2. ^ Reginald Horsman, Race and manifest destiny: The origins of American racial Anglo-Saxonism, 1981, "Introduction" p. 6.
  3. ^ Horsman :3.
  4. ^ W. Somerset Maugham; it is the epigraph to John O’Hara, Appointment in Samarra (1937, 1952 ed.). Maugham's version appears at
  5. ^ "The Wheel of Fortune" remains an emblem of the chance element in fate.
  6. ^ Beyond Good & Evil 13, Gay Science 349 & Genealogy of Morality II:12
  7. ^ Basic Writings of Nietzsche. trans. and ed. by Walter Kaufmann. 1967. p. 714.


  • Cornelius, Geoffrey, C. (1994). "The Moment of Astrology: Origins in Divination", Penguin Group, part of Arkana Contemporary Astrology series.

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