The closure of the mystery schools, the destruction of the Hellenic Temples and the cruel murder of an outstanding mind brought to an end the great era of the Goddesses in the Mediterranean.
Hypatia is remembered now, primarily as a great mathematician. In the recent (rather good) film, Agora, she is represented as such, and the fact she outshone her famous father Theon, is also accurately represented.
In the 4th Century CE, she was the head of the Neoplatonic School in Alexandria (having been trained herself, in Athens) and so the philosophical inheritor of the great philosopher Plotinus. She understood, in a way few mathematicians now do, that the work of the mathematician Euclid had profound spiritual aspects as well as those of geometry. Euclid had also developed his Geometric theorems in Alexandria.
Humanity was wronged when Hypatia was murdered
This extraordinary woman provided a living link with the great philosophies and spirituality before the violent arrival of Christianity. Those who killed and destroyed, called the teachings of this inspired mathematician and mystic pagan. This is not a term that she would have used herself, for pagan refers to the Latin word pagani, or people of the countryside. Hypatia was the pre-eminent teacher of the greatest philosophical school of her age, in the greatest city of the time, Alexandria (far eclipsing Rome).
With her murder, one of the last living links with the Age of the Goddesses was severed.
In the fourth century of the common era, Alexandria was the leading city in the world for its civilisation, commerce, learning and culture. The outlines of the city were mapped by Alexander himself in 331 BCE, pouring salt to indicate where he wanted the main structures to be built. He created the vast harbour that made the metropolis so successful. His death, after his campaigns took him to India, meant he never even visited again the city he had founded. One of his generals became the first Ptolemy (Soter) to rule Egypt. Under his rule the great Library of Alexandria was built. Ships coming to the harbour were searched for books and a copy of each volume discovered deposited in the great library.
It is questioned by some researchers, whether Rome at this time had any inhabitants at all. This is a controversial area. It is quite clear that Alexandria, the leading city of the time, attracted the finest minds, including Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, Euclid, Olympiodorus, Proclus and, of course, Hypatia.
Alexandria is in Egypt, and therefore was heir to the extraordinary Egyptian civilisation. In this city people of many faiths blended, and it benefited from the profound learning of the Greek civilisation, that had followed on from Egypt.
,Neither Judaism, nor early Christianity, had any place for goddesses.
Even though they had been part of spiritual understanding and worship literally for millennia, the rise of the three religions of the book, Judaism, Christianity and (later) Islam, encouraged a militant patriarchal society, where the female aspect of the godhead was largely hidden from view.
The worship of Isis, of Demeter, of Athena, was prevented, the revered position of priestesses in society was subverted and the mystery teachings, resting in part on the story of Demeter’s daughter, Persephone descending into the underworld, became fable for children rather than a profound experience for initiates.
With the closing of the academies and the mystery schools, a true understanding of the Mother aspect of Divinity, and the place of goddesses as varying principles of that Divinity, became lost or hidden.
No portraits of Hypatia remain, so we are left with the inspired imagination of artists.
Hypatia is played by Rachel Weisz in the excellent film, Agora
As far as we can tell from history, Hypatia was the last great female teacher in touch with the mystery teachings that had extended unbroken for hundreds if not thousands of years. She won enormous respect from the finest thinkers who came to hear of her or to study with her.
Two events symbolise the break with the great tradition that had flowed through Egypt and then through Greece.
The first is the murder of Hypatia.
This was a brutal execution with no judicial process at all, and some accounts indicate that extreme cruelty was used. The murder was committed by Christian zealots.
The worship of the Goddess dominated the Neolithic period, up to about 3,500 BCE. This was a time largely free from warfare as far as we can tell. The perversion of Goddess worship by blood sacrifice, The arrival of angry gods demanding blood and war from their followers, opened another era entirely in mankind's history.
The turbulent times of the fourth century, with the destruction of the temples associated with Hellenic religion severed the connection with ancient wisdom. The killing of Hypatia remains as the most poignant symbol of that tragic time.
The background to these tumultuous events are explored in the recently published novel Time Knot. While the Hypatia in this novel is only loosely based on the character from history, the turmoil and intrigue of the time is illustrated in the adventures of three girls of that era, a pagan, a Christian and a Jew. They are joined by Rhory, who has slipped back through time after visiting modern Alexandria.
Murray Morison is a novelist living in Crete
Posts can be reproduced in other blogs provided they are copied in full with a link back to this site.
When a teenage priestess, living 5,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt, connects with Rhory, an English schoolboy visiting the British Museum, she puts herself and him in grave danger.
Click here to learn more about M C Morison's time slip book
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