This seminal event occurs on the anniversary of the Salem Witch Trials, 12 October, 1692. On that day, all those centuries ago, Massachusetts Governor William Phips wrote a letter to the Privy Council of the British monarchs, William and Mary. In this correspondence, he outlines the "quagmire" (no, not me!) that the trials had degenerated into "in part by a reliance on 'evidence' of a non-objective nature and especially 'spectral evidence' in which the accusers claimed yo see devils and other phantasms consorting with the accused." Phips temporarily halted the trials. When the precedings ultimately resumed, "spectral evidence" was allowed but was largely discounted and those convicted of witchcraft were swiftly pardoned by Phips.
I love this explanation of free thinking.
“To be free is to be capable of thinking one’s own thoughts, not the thoughts merely of the body or of society, but thoughts generated by one’s deepest, most original, most essential and spiritual self, one’s individuality.” – Rudolf Steiner, Austrian philosopher
Free thinking entails the power and the privilege to be able to generate ideas and thoughts of your own undiluted by the prejudices of society. It represents the ability to think without bias, question without fear, and speak without regret. Try to image, if you can, a society where no one is allowed to think. It can happen; if we're not careful and and not willing to stand up to those who try and stop freethinking.
Here are the a few of the greatest freethinkers throughout history: Plato, Aristotle, Voltaire (often considered to be the greatest freethinker of all time), John Adams, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Beethoven, Edgar Allen Poe, W.E.B. DuBois, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, Mark Twain, Clarence Darrow, Einstein, Carl Sagan, and Julia Eileen Gillard...to name but a few. I think I would have to add Christopher Columbus to that list and, perhaps, Emile Zola. These individuals, and others just like them, turned the world upside down with their ideas and beliefs. But today, most of these ideas are pretty well excepted and commonplace.
We owe much to the great freethinkers of the past. But we owe the future even more; and that is to use our own ability to think for ourselves and not to blindly accept everything what we're told. Matthew Arnold summed it up this way, "The free-thinking of one age is the common sense of the next."
How to celebrate this awesome day? Simple. Just do some freethinking of your own. Take a few of your beliefs and actually put them to the test. Ask yourself, "Is this really what I believe...or is it a belief I had thrust on me by someone else?" Then, discard the beliefs that are not your own. Learn to think for yourself. Teach your children to think for themselves. This is how we keep freethinking alive. And don't forget to use #FreethoughtDay on all your social media.
Be wary of anyone who wants you to think the way they do, simply because they believe they are the smart person on earth. These are the most dangerous of all humans.
Keep the light of freethinking burning bright.