Friday, 12 March 2010

Hypatia of Alexandria

Hypatia, the Divine Pagan. (Perp. Fest. Cal.) "March 12, Hypatia." (Cassell's New Biog. Dict.) "Hypatia, born circa 370...Head of the Platonic School of Alexandria." (Brewer, Dict.) "The Divine Pagan, Hypatia who presided over the Neoplatonic School at Alexandria."

(Enc. Brit. 1810 ed.) "Hypatia, a learned and beautiful lady...a celebrated philosopher and mathematician, and president of the famous Alexandrian school, was born at Alexandria...'She explained to her hearers (says Socrates) the several sciences that go under the general name of philosophy; for which reason there was a confluence to her from all parts of those who made philosophy their delight and study.'

"Her scholars were as eminent as they were numerous. She was held as an oracle for her wisdom, which made her consulted by the magistrates in all important cases."

Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, a celebrated philosopher and mathematician, the author of a commentary on Euclid, in which his daughter is said to have assisted him. An only child, she showed deep interest in philosophy and mathematics from her early youth. Her father instructed her in these subjects with care and diligence, and she soon became one of his most brilliant pupils. Her writings, according to Suidas, included commentaries on the Arithmetica of Diophantus of Alexandria, on the Conics of Apollonius of Perga, and on the Arithmetical Canon of Ptolemy, all of which are now lost.

While Hypatia was living in Athens she came in contact with the Neoplatonic Schools which had been founded by Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus, and identified herself with the Neoplatonic Movement. Later, when she took up her residence in Alexandria, she began to hold lectures and classes in the famous Museum, where her eloquence and profound wisdom, her youth and extraordinary beauty soon attracted great crowds of students and admirers. She was admitted into the intimate circles of the great Alexandrian families, and numbered among her friends two of the most powerful men of the day: Orestes, the Prefect of Alexandria, and Synesius, the Bishop of Cyrene.

The Neoplatonic School reached its greatest heights in the days that immediately preceded its destruction. Hypatia brought Egypt nearer to an understanding of its ancient Mysteries than it had been for thousands of years. Her knowledge of Theurgy restored the practical value of the Mysteries and completed the work commenced by Iamblichus over a hundred years before. Following in the footsteps of Plotinus and Porphyry, she demonstrated the possibility of the union of the individual Self with the SELF of all. Continuing the work of Ammonius Saccas, she showed the similarity between all religions and the identity of their source. (THEOSOPHY, Vol. 25 No. 5, March 1937)

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