...I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do.I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent songs. I was myself within the circle; so that I neither saw nor heard as those without might see and hear. They told a tale of woe which was then altogether beyond my feeble comprehension; they were tones loud, long and deep; they breathed the prayer and complaint of souls boiling over with bitterest anguish. Every tone was a testimony against slavery and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit and filled me with ineffable sadness. I have frequently found myself in tears while hearing them. The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery. I can never get rid of that conception. Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds. If any one wishes to be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, let him go to Colonel Lloyd's plantation and, on allowance-day, place himself in the deep pine woods and there let him, in silence, analyze the sounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul, - and if he is not thus impressed, it will only be because there is no flesh in his obdurate heart.I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least, such is my experience. I have often sung to drown my sorrow, but seldom to express my happiness. Crying for joy and singing for joy, were alike uncommon to me while in the jaws of slavery. The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave; the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion.
Frederick Douglass
Paine suffered then, as now he suffers not so much because of what he wrote as from the misinterpretations of others...He disbelieved the ancient myths and miracles taught by established creeds. But the attacks on those creeds - or on persons devoted to them - have served to darken his memory, casting a shadow across the closing years of his life.When Theodore Roosevelt termed Tom Paine a 'dirty little atheist' he surely spoke from lack of understanding. It was a stricture, an inaccurate charge of the sort that has dimmed the greatness of this eminent American. But the true measure of his stature will yet be appreciated. The torch which he handed on will not be extinguished. If Paine had ceased his writings with 'The Rights of Man' he would have been hailed today as one of the two or three outstanding figures of the Revolution. But 'The Age of Reason' cost him glory at the hands of his countrymen - a greater loss to them than to Tom Paine.I was always interested in Paine the inventor. He conceived and designed the iron bridge and the hollow candle; the principle of the modern central draught burner. The man had a sort of universal genius. He was interested in a diversity of things; but his special creed, his first thought, was liberty.Traducers have said that he spent his last days drinking in pothouses. They have pictured him as a wicked old man coming to a sorry end. But I am persuaded that Paine must have looked with magnanimity and sorrow on the attacks of his countrymen. That those attacks have continued down to our day, with scarcely any abatement, is an indication of how strong prejudice, when once aroused, may become. It has been a custom in some quarters to hold up Paine as an example of everything bad.The memory of Tom Paine will outlive all this. No man who helped to lay the foundations of our liberty - who stepped forth as the champion of so difficult a cause - can be permanently obscured by such attacks. Tom Paine should be read by his countrymen. I commend his fame to their hands.{The Philosophy of Paine, June 7, 1925}
Thomas A. Edison
Reade drew a deep breath. He said with resignation, All right. I'll try to explain. But it's rather difficult. You see, I've devoted my life to the problem of why certain men see visions. Men like Blake and Boehme and Thomas Traherne. A psychologist once suggested that it's a chemical in the bloodstream—the same sort of thing that makes a dipsomaniac see pink elephants. Now obviously, I can't accept this view. But I've spent a certain amount of time studying the action of drugs and taken some of them myself. And it's become clear to me that what we call 'ordinary consciousness' is simply a special, limited case. . . But this is obvious after a single glass of whiskey. It causes a change in consciousness, a kind of deepening. In ordinary consciousness, we're mainly aware of the world around us and its problems. This is awfully difficult to explain. . .Fisher said, You're being very clear so far. Please go on.Perhaps an analogy will help. In our ordinary state of consciousness, we look out from behind our eyes as a motorist looks from behind the windscreen of a car. The car is very small and the world out there is very big. Now if I take a few glasses of whiskey, the world out there hasn't really changed, but the car seems to have grown bigger. When I look inside myself, there seem to be far greater spaces than I am normally aware of. And if I take certain drugs, the car becomes vast, as vast as a cathedral. There are great, empty spaces. . . No, not empty. They're full of all kinds of things—of memories of my past life and millions of things I never thought I'd noticed. Do you see my point? Man deliberately limits his consciousness. It would frighten him if he were aware of these vast spaces of consciousness all the time. He stays sane by living in a narrow little consciousness that seems to be limited by the outside world. Because these spaces aren't just inhabited by memories. There seem to be strange, alien things, other minds. . .As he said this, he saw Violet de Merville shudder. He said, laughing, I am not trying to be alarming. There's nothing fundamentally horrible about these spaces. One day we shall conquer them, as we shall conquer outer space. They're like a great jungle, full of wild creatures. We build a high wall around us for safety, but that doesn't mean we're afraid of the jungle. One day we shall build cities and streets in its spaces.
Colin Wilson