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In degree she had followed the example of her great prototype, Plotinus, and had made herself master of all religions. She knew too much of all philosophies to believe implicitly in any. Alexandria was then the intellectual center of the world. People who resided there called it the hub of the universe. It was the meeting-place of the East and the West.

And Hypatia, with her Thursday lectures, was the chief intellectual factor of Alexandria.

Her philosophy she called Neo-Platonism. It was Plato distilled through the psychic alembic of Hypatia. Just why the human mind harks back and likes to confirm itself by building on another, it would be interesting to inquire. To explain Moses; to supply a key to the Scriptures; to found a new School of Philosophy on the assumption that Plato was right, but was not understood until the Then and There, is alluring.

And now the pilgrims came from Athens, and Rome, and the Islands of the Sea to sit at the feet of Hypatia.

* * * * *

Hypatia was born in the year Three Hundred Seventy, and died in Four Hundred Thirty. She exerted an influence in Alexandria not unlike that which Mrs. Eddy exerted in Boston. She was a person who divided society into two parts: those who regarded her as an oracle of light, and those who looked upon her as an emissary of darkness.

Strong men paid her the compliment of using immoderate language concerning her teaching. But whether they spoke ill or well of her matters little now. The point is this: they screeched, sneezed, or smiled on those who refused to acknowledge the power of Hypatia. Some professors of learning tried to waive her; priests gently pooh-poohed her; and some elevated an eyebrow and asked how the name was spelled. Others, still, inquired, “Is she sincere?”

She was the Ralph Waldo Emerson of her day. Her philosophy was Transcendentalism. In fact, she might be spoken of as the original charter member of the Concord School of Philosophy. Her theme was the New Thought, for New Thought is the oldest form of thought of which we know. Its distinguishing feature is its antiquity. Socrates was really the first to express the New Thought, and he got his cue from Pythagoras.

The ambition of Hypatia was to revive the flowering-time of Greece, when Socrates and Plato walked arm in arm through the streets of Athens, followed by the greatest group of intellectuals the world has ever seen.

It was charged against Hypatia that Aspasia was her ideal, and that her ambition was to follow in the footsteps of the woman who was beloved by Pericles. If so, it was an ambition worthy of a very great soul. Hypatia, however, did not have her Pericles, and never married. That she should have had love experiences was quite natural, and that various imaginary romances should have been credited to her was also to be expected.

Hypatia was nearly a thousand years removed from the time of Pericles and Aspasia, but to bridge the gulf of time with imagination was easy. Yet Hypatia thought that the New Platonism should surpass the old, for the world had had the Age of Augustus to build upon.

Hypatia’s immediate prototype was Plotinus, who was born two hundred four years after Christ, and lived to be seventy. Plotinus was the first person to use the phrase “Neo-Platonism,” and so the philosophy of Hypatia might be called “The New Neo-Platonism.”

To know but one religion is not to know that one.

In fact, superstition consists in this one thing–faith in one religion, to the exclusion of all others.

To know one philosophy is to know none. They are all comparative, and each serves as a small arc of the circle. A man living in a certain environment, with a certain outlook, describes the things he sees; and out of these, plus what he imagines, is shaped his philosophy of life. If he is repressed, suppressed, frightened, he will not see very much, and what he does see will be out of focus. Spiritual strabismus and mental myopia are the results of vicarious peeps at the universe. All formal religions have taught that to look for yourself was bad. The peephole through the roof of his garret cost Copernicus his liberty, but it was worth the price.