“Social conscience” obliges the individual to act. Today we call for action all the time, but mostly from government, which is another way of excusing us and allowing us to get on with the distractions of the day.” ~ Mark Steyn, He Made Slavery Look Uncool*
That’d be an observation about William Wilberforce (1759-1833), who persisted, actively and with a circle of diverse colleagues and friends, for several decades to abolish the slave trade, and ultimately slavery in general, in England.
He also founded what was to later become the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which took aim at a similar “normalized cruelty” to “his fellow creatures.”
Wilberforce’s life and efforts — the expression and power of his Soul Force, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called it — and Wilberforce’s dogged persistence to change sociopathic toxic-normal practices that were not just acceptable but deemed crucial to the caste/class- and economic systems of his time — disturbed the cognitive dissonance and moral/ethical/spiritual hypocrisy of his times.
For this — going against the grain of a forgetful culture’s moral and social conscience, on behalf of marginalized beings (humans and animals) — he was called a fanatic (among other things, I’m sure, since his visible and vocal ‘reminders’ disturbed the peace within the consciences and norms of those who didn’t relish having their lifestyle or consciences disturbed.)
To this, Wilberforce replied,
“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” (William Wilberforce)
William Wilberforce wasn’t just a persistent advocate for humane treatment of people and animals — something he credited to the moral underpinnings and requirements of “real Christianity” (the title of a pamphlet he wrote).
He aimed right at the mindset and spiritual hypocrisy that allowed them to exist at all.
Yes, he took aim at and worked diligently to abolish cruel norms of his day — including the slave trade and cruelty to both humans and animals.
But he ultimately was advocating for a restoration of social conscience and an eradication of the mindset and heart-forgetting that allowed such cruelty to exist, and worse, be considered okay and normal, in the first place.
A change or renewal of mind, and an awakening of heart — what he called “a restoration of manners,” or what we would call “social conscience” — without which such morally and spiritually bankrupt practices could exist undisturbed and even flourish.
“The distemper of which, as a community, we are sick, should be considered rather as a moral than a political malady.”~ William Wilberforce in his pamphlet, Real Christianity
Wilberforce — and his circle of diverse allies — were featured in the film, Amazing Grace.
We can see clues for these passions and his deeply seeded sense of justice and purpose in his astrology — his Sun and Mercury in Virgo (power of the word and discerning communication) and Neptune in Leo (a spiritual current flowing towards a reclamation of heart), among other astro-clues.
But examples like those of William Wilberforce and others like him across times and cultures are also very much relevant to the Energies of Now, which, among other things, call for a restoration of heart, a remembrance of worthwhile spiritual or moral underpinnings, and an “active faith” as he called it, whatever tradition that faith and those spiritual and moral underpinnings are sourced from.
Uranus freshly into Taurus is just one clue — and strong, unrelenting shake-up, wake-up current — of this.
And given the re-arising of the social-justice and ethical issues now, examples like William Wilberforce (and so many other mystic-spiritual activists and “champions of humaneness” that I’ve featured here … browse around) are as or more relevant than ever.
What ignites your fiery heartfulness?
What has heart, joy, meaning and purpose for you, and what deep, deep wellspring of particular core values sources and feeds you?
Clarify & Express Your Heartistry and Soul Force.
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Featured Image Credit: William Wilberforce (age 29) by John Rising (1753-1817), PD, Wilberforce House, Hull City Museums and Art Galleries, United Kingdom.
Mentioned sources: Mark Steyn,He Made Slavery Uncool