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Cassandra Paradox

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was the most beautiful daughter of King Priam of Troy and his wife Hecuba, and accordingly a princess of Troy. Once, after spending the night in Apollo’s temple, Cassandra received the power to foretell the future from the god Apollo. The god instructed and taught her about the art of prophecy, as he wanted to win her affection. Cassandra accepted Apollo as a teacher, but not as a lover. The god was insulted by this refusal, and he punished her. Apollo cursed Cassandra so that whoever heard her accurate prophecies would not believe her and would think she was telling lies, and thus made the wondrous blessing a terrible curse.

The message of the tale is clear: you cannot escape fate!
Or maybe ... that was what the story was programming us to think .

What if we can change our fate?

Maybe, just maybe, you are, like many others, prepared to take this metaphor for granted, to accept it as it has been presented, without questioning it, saying “fate is fate, you cannot do anything about it.”

Or maybe, your are like people who are born with the fault of not accepting fate. Like those who like to seek solutions for so-called “impossible” answers. Maybe it is a rebellious nature or an attitude of not being willing to accept what has been given as the accepted norm, at least not without a fight.

Let’s start resolving the Cassandra Paradox by first listing some of the things she foresaw, such as:
Greeks hiding inside the Trojan Horse, the fall of Troy, Ajax the Locrian raping her, and her death at the hands of Clytemnestra.

So, there are two types of prophesies: those that will happen to her countrymen, or “public prophesies“, and those that will happen to her, or “personal prophesies”.

Knowing this, the idea is to iterate the possible things she could have done in order to change the outcome of the prophecy.

What would happen if she had chosen not to say or do anything?
If she had chosen this option, everything probably would have played out according to the scenario, and since that is exactly the thing we would like to avoid, this is not something we would go for.

What if she had tried to run in order to avoid her personal fate?
She could have tried to run away, but that would not go well either, as it would not have had any impact or only had a very small impact on public events. Maybe her father would send someone to look for her too. But most probably everything would play out the same with her as without her. And again, maybe after some time, Ajax would still stumble upon her during his journeys, and he would rape her and bring her as a captive to Clytemnestra, and at the end Cassandra would still end up dead, very much like in the prophecy.

We know that no one would believe whatever she says about prophecies, but is there a loophole?
Cassandra was a princess after all, and princesses (especially most beloved ones) had power over their fathers. Couldn’t she pay an actor to spread the prophecies as if they were his? Claiming that these prophecies were his would be part of the deal, in which the price would be actor’s head if he said anything differently. From the perspective of the listeners, the prophecies would not be Cassandra’s but the actor’s. Although, we can still say that, from the gods’ perspective, these prophecies are still hers, and it would not work as everyone would think (under the gods’ influence) that they were false prophecies as part of the curse, regardless of who is pronouncing them.

More or less everything is tied to the horse and the Greeks inside the horse; what if we try something there?
What would have happened if she just said (lied) to her father that in her dreams, she saw the god Apollo, who confirmed the story that the gods sent the Trojan Horse as gift, but that the gods specifically requested that the horse be burnt on the spot as an act of goodwill toward the gods that says “whatever is sent from heaven belongs to heaven and it should be returned to heaven.” Telling a lie would not be revealing a prophecy ... and therefore an act of simple misdirection could have worked.

At the end there is something that would work...
As she knows that she cannot change her fate by telling prophecies, Cassandra could first ask her father to promise her that if she dies before him (her father Priam), he will cremate her body, so that her spirit will end up in the Elysian Fields, as that is what the gods have told her in her vision. The gods said that the ceremony of cremation is the only way to go to Elysium. Also, she would tell him that between her death and the time when he cremates her body, nothing and no one can enter or exit the city of Troy, no object and no person, and whatever the gods send after her death he must burn on the spot during the next several weeks. As she was his beloved daughter, Priam would object about such a gloomy story, but still, as she would insist, at the end he would give her his promise. She would lie, yes, but she would not say what she saw in the prophecy. She would wait exactly until the day when the Greeks started building the Trojan horse and allegedly left the siege. Then, as she was high priestess in the temple, she probably knew multiple methods for dying without any possibility of staying alive, so she would commit suicide. Priam would have been completely devastated by the death his favorite daughter, especially after the death of his firstborn son Hector. At this point, it is highly probable that he would have followed all of what Cassandra had asked him to do, exactly to the last bit. Clytemnestra could not kill Cassandra as she would have been dead already, and Ajax could not rape her as there would be no body to rape, just ashes. Regarding Troy, as Priam would close the doors of Troy until cremation of his daughter was done, neither would the people in the Trojan Horse get out of the horse, as Priam would burn the horse immediately, following the instructions as the last wish of his daughter. Therefore Troy would have been saved and Cassandra’s curse broken.

Now if you think that last choice is terrible because she just lost her life, you have to remember this: she already knew she was dead, as she knows that all her prophecies are accurate. So, instead of having a decent death she would have a terrible death – she would have been raped and tortured and at the end brutally killed. What is dead cannot die again. So, wouldn’t it be reasonable to sacrifice a few of your days for the good of others?

I will leave this for you to think about.

This is interesting story to think about and to engage your philosophical brain to think outside the box.

Also, an interesting thing to think about is the concept of sacrifice; we probably do not need to sacrifice our life in this day and age, but in order to make a change in the world, maybe from time to time we need to sacrifice some other thing we think we “cannot” live without, like jobs, habits, favorite food, junk we buy ... or maybe just our free time.

In the age of ancient Greece, people thought that the nature of reality was fixed, already written, and that it could not be changed, very much like in the movie scripts where you have to play your role. In contrast, some other philosophical sources say that the greatest gift people ever received from God is free will. Even today in science there are opposite opinions about whether we have or do not have free will.

I will not go deeply into the subject of whether we have free will or not. I will leave that for some other time, but I will say this: free will largely depends on one thing, and that is whether you believe you have it or not.

If you have your own solutions, please comment or send me an email!

"Whether you can change fate or not only depends on what you believe."