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This idea seems to have been held by the polite world up to the Italian Renaissance, when the art of printing was invented and the written word came to be regarded as more important than the spoken. One lives, and the other dies on the air, existing only in memory, growing attenuated and diluted as it is transferred. The revival of sculpture and painting also helped oratory to take its proper place as one of the polite arts, and not a thing to be centered upon to the exclusion of all else.

Theon set out to produce a perfect human being; and whether his charts, theorems and formulas made up a complete law of eugenics, or whether it was dumb luck, this we know: he nearly succeeded. Hypatia was five feet nine, and weighed one hundred thirty-five pounds. This when she was twenty. She could walk ten miles without fatigue; swim, row, ride horseback and climb mountains. Through a series of gentle calisthenics invented by her father, combined with breathing exercises, she had developed a body of rarest grace. Her head had corners, as once Professor O. S. Fowler told us that a woman’s head must have, if she is to think and act with purpose and precision.

So having evolved this rare beauty of face, feature and bodily grace, combined with superior strength and vitality, Hypatia took up her father’s work and gave lectures on astronomy, mathematics, astrology and rhetoric, while he completed his scheme for the transmutation of metals. Hypatia’s voice was flute-like, and used always well within its compass, so as never to rasp or tire the organs. Theon knew the proper care of nose and throat, a knowledge which with us moderns is all too rare. Hypatia told of and practised the vocal ellipse, the pause, the glide, the slide and the gentle, deliberate tones that please and impress. That the law of suggestion was known to her was very evident, and certain it is that she practised hypnotism in her classes, and seemed to know as much about the origin of the mysterious agent as we do now, even though she never tagged or labeled it.

One very vital thought she worked out was, that the young mind is plastic, impressionable and accepts without question all that it is told. The young receive their ideas from their elders, and ideas once impressed upon this plastic plate of the mind can not be removed.

Said Hypatia: “Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fancies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child-mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after-years relieved of them. In fact, men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth–often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you can not get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable.”

Gradually, over the mind of the beautiful and gifted Hypatia, there came stealing a doubt concerning the value of her own acquirements, since these were “acquirements,” and not evolutions or convictions gathered from experience, but things implanted upon her plastic mind by her father.

In this train of thought Hypatia had taken a step in advance of her father, for he seems to have had a dogmatic belief in a few things incapable of demonstration; but these things he taught to the plastic mind, just the same as the things he knew. Theon was a dogmatic liberal. Possibly the difference between an illiberal Unitarian and a liberal Catholic is microscopic.

Hypatia clearly saw that knowledge is the distilled essence of our intuitions, corroborated by experience. But belief is the impress made upon our minds when we are under the spell of or in subjection to another.

These things caused the poor girl many unhappy hours, which fact, in itself, is proof of her greatness. Only superior people have a capacity for doubting.