15 Jan The Fires of Orc ~ January 16th-22nd, 2017
This week, the ambiance of 2017 should be coming into better focus. These last days of Capricorn season should be spent acknowledging whatever personal sovereignty you have earned in this world and how you might continue to build a foundation that outlasts many cycles of progress and downfall.
Ignore whatever the signs of the times appear to be and see the bigger picture of history.
On Friday, the Sun will be newly arrived in the air sign of revolutionary Aquarius, heralding the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States. This event may represent a sign of chaos or catharsis for you, depending on what side of the political spectrum you favor.
But rather than interpreting political events through oversimplified linear narratives and battling dialectics, it would be wise to examine these times through a mythopoeic perspective.
Through myth, and the cyclical view of history that it offers, much wisdom can be found to comfort those who are deeply grieved and to temper those who are growing drunk on power.
America is much more than a sovereign nation state. It is more than a corrupt military industrial power. America was founded as and remains a mythic ideal of revolution against oppression. Born from the Enlightenment era’s most cherished philosophies, America’s promise of freedom remains the crux of its power.
When the great Romantic poet, William Blake, published the bombastic, America: A Prophecy in 1793, he was living in a world scarred by revolution and tyranny. It is well known that the Romantics, like Blake, were sympathetic to the revolutionary wars that had been waged in America and France.
As a Romantic, he held political views that opposed monarchy, slavery, and religious oppression. Thus, America as an ideal was a great inspiration to Blake.
There is no doubt that after witnessing America’s Revolution and the subsequent revolutions in France that Blake anticipated a sweeping liberation from monarchy in every country in Europe. But as exciting as it was to see signs of victory, it was just as heartbreaking to see the spirit of revolution harden into new forms of tyranny. For example, slavery remained an integral part of the American economy and in France, a new monarch rose to lead the rebels back into imperialism.
Finished seventeen years after the Declaration of Independence, Blake’s Prophecy for America is told in mythic language. To the poet/prophet, the future of America (the myth of freedom) can be known by viewing all history as eternally cyclic: where tyranny demands the fires of revolution which inevitably die out, freezing back into tyranny.
So as much as Blake desired to live through an enlivening and awakening rebirth in Europe, where slavery would be destroyed and the senses would be freed, he wrote America: A Prophesy to acknowledge that according to all cycles of history, the Promethean fire of liberation eventually burns out, casting the former rebels into the role of oppressors.
The poem describes the Revolutionary War between England and America through heroic characters, like Washington and Paine, alongside a world of wrathful spirits and apocalyptic angels.
Blake wastes no time before offering a visceral and dark conception of what a revolution really is. And the name he gives to this fiery spirit is, Orc, described as a ‘Lover of Wild Rebellion, and transgressor of God’s Law’.
The poem begins with a preludium that describes Orc, frustrated by long captivity in caverns beneath the earth and so filled with rage and lust that he breaks free from his chains and rapes his caretaker.
Silent as despairing love, and strong as jealousy,
The hairy shoulders rend the links; free are the wrists of fire;
Round the terrific loins he seiz’d the panting, struggling womb;
In the first few breaths, this poem alerts the reader to be wary of the ferocity of the revolutionary spirit. Blake is quite skeptical of naive heroism, so he asks that the reader see Orc’s voracious and destructive qualities before the story even begins.
Fiery the Angels rose, and as they rose deep thunder roll’d
Around their shores, indignant burning with the fires of Orc;
And Boston’s Angel cried aloud as they flew thro’ the dark night.
America, crying out for freedom from England, summons the powers of Orc and the war begins. England is defended by Albion’s Angel, who believes Orc to be the Antichrist. But Albion’s Angel also recognizes Orc as Mars, the Roman god of war.
“Then Mars thou wast our centre”
Albion reflects upon England’s past as a subjugated state that eventually overthrew the Roman Empire. Blake reveals that England was once possessed by the same spirit of revolution against oppression. The cycle of history is repeating.
Orc’s revolution is victorious over Albion’s Angel because America’s thirteen Angels are inspired to fight for liberty! The Angel of Boston is roused, protesting the corruption of the tyrannical rule of England saying:
“ . . .Who commanded this? What God? What Angel?
To keep the gen’rous from experience till the ungenerous
Are unrestrain’d performers of the energies of nature;
Till pity is become a trade, and generosity a science
That men get rich by; and the sandy desert is giv’n to the strong?
What God is he writes laws of peace, and clothes him in a tempest?
What pitying Angel lusts for tears, and fans himself with sighs?
What crawling villain preaches abstinence and wraps himself
In fat of lambs? No more I follow, no more obedience pay!’ . . .”
It is clear that Blake wants the reader to revel in these words, feeling the seductive call to overthrow oppression. He wants the reader to be fully possessed by the spirit of revolution for a revelatory moment.
But Blake also wants the reader to know that the road to Utopia is paved with blood and is obscured by the fray of conflicting interests.
In this dualistic material world, your most precious ideals never manifest without their shadow. This is the paradox of slavery and freedom. This is the prison that we all find ourselves in.
Fury, rage, madness, in a wind swept through America;
And the red flames of Orc, that folded roaring, fierce, around
The angry shores; and the fierce rushing of th’ inhabitants together!
Thus, during this week of political turmoil, try not to get caught up in fully believing in the virtue of one side or the other unless you are fully prepared to become embroiled in the flames of war. Both sides of the political spectrum are subject to the same cycle of revolution. And neither side leads to Utopia.
Remember, Blake’s prophecy illuminates that whatever your just cause may be, it will one day become the hand of tyranny. Think about it. How might your most cherished vision of utopia go up in flames?
Monday/Tuesday: Driven By Flames of Orc
It is in understanding cycles of history that we begin to be able to foresee the future. Thus, at this week’s beginning, you may have a few lucid moments where your deep resonance with the past reveals what it is that is about to repeat itself.
The beginning of the week brings an acute emotional challenge as Mars in Pisces makes a conjunction with Chiron. It may be that you become hyper-aware of repeating cycles in your life which are a source of great frustration.
Yet, you may also feel newfound empathy for your perceived enemies. Find the strength to forgive those that have antagonized you and see how this restores your creative energies and offers renewed peace of mind.
Wednesday/Thursday: Rebel Form That Rent the Ancient Heavens!
The middle of the week will percolate with tension, culminating with Thursday’s exact square between Mars in Pisces and Saturn in Sagittarius. Here you shall experience a confrontation with whatever feelings of fatalism that currently reside in your psyche.
The will of Mars conflicting with Saturn’s limitations will remind you that there are warring polarities within every aspect of creation. This may be experienced on a personal level or observed at the level of the politics. Either way, in this manifest world, there is always weakness and imperfection present.
Faced with these imperfections, try to refrain from reacting with the desire to sanitize, censor, or exterminate. Though it may be part of a hideous cycle, conflict is necessary.
Perfection would be stagnation. The citizens of a Utopia would wistfully long to live in hell. Learn to withstand conflict as a necessary aspect of your growth.
Late into the night on Thursday, the Sun will move into Aquarius, stirring the intellectual breezes to illuminate images of heroic rebels and misunderstood genius.
If you have managed to deepen your integrity and sense of discipline under Capricorn’s influence, this new solar season will be a time where your problem-solving skills will be at peak capacity. But tread carefully in this terrain, lest you over-identify with the ghosts of long lost causes.
Friday/Saturday/Sunday: And Alarm My Thirteen Angels!
Friday is Inauguration Day which will be emotionally taxing for supporters and antagonists. A revolution has taken place and another historical cycle begins. The myth of America, love child of the Enlightenment and land of the free, will be profoundly reified and violently decried.
Fortunately, Venus in her exalted position in Pisces will be sextiling Pluto in Capricorn, an aspect that suggests that a spiritual transformation is underway. Venus and Pluto in harmonious aspect will summon new depths of potential for cooperation and intimate understanding. In personal relationships, this is a great benefit to intimacy. In politics, this of great benefit to diplomacy within shifting institutions.
Whatever you envision the future as, avoid the oblivion of despair or the drunkenness of utopianism.
You are experiencing a necessary part of a cycle of history. Enjoy what you can. Detest what you will. But do not bind your spiritual destiny to the destiny of a nation-state. No matter what is going on in global politics, you can remain steadfast in your devotion to the development of your own virtue.
Blake’s poem, America: A Prophecy fills the reader with the seductive call to believe in Romantic rebellion! His mythic vision of the revolution is cinematic in its scope, illuminating the Angels of America as victorious over the cowering invaders.
But this poem is not propagandistic. It has a starkly ambiguous end where no freedom is ever truly realized.
The concluding stanza of America: A Prophecy indicates that the fires of Orc have succeeded in their revolution, opening the gates of the senses and spreading the fires of liberation to Europe.
These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends
But the accompanying illustrations that Blake included offer a grim subtext, revealing that after the revolution, society remains imprisoned, still beholden to the same fears.
How often do our ideals and the reality of things really match up?
William Blake labored over the imaginative expression of his ideals and agonized greatly over the loss of them. Know that there is no grief that you have about societal oppression that he did not have. Nor is there any grim fear of apocalyptic doom that Blake did not experience personally.
But, in his prophecy, he found the strength to be honest about the nature of revolution.
For the sake of wisdom, let’s try to do the same. Rather than being a reactionary automaton, observe the wheel of history with the ever widening foresight of a prophet. Watch, wait, and listen.
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