The Wisdom of Hypatia: Ancient Spiritual Practices for a More Meaningful Life by Bruce J. MacLennan illustrates that ancient philosophy was not some abstract way of thinking but an actual way to live. The great philosophers we read about: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Hypatia, Marcus Aurelius, they all lived what they taught. Philosophies were born to help people understand how to navigate the material world while striving for the spiritual. It was the original psychology, self-help, a way to evolve human consciousness.
Hypatia was a preeminent philosopher in the fourth century CE. Students from all over the world came to study with her. Unfortunately she got caught up in a political conflict in Alexandria at the time and was murdered in 415 CE. Hypatia’s philosophy is particularly relevant to our times, according to the author, because “it teaches a system of spiritual development especially suited to contemporary Western culture.” Philosophy is a practice that can evolve as we evolve and is a great combination of science and spirituality.
It is a method to live a life of spiritual fulfillment, but it is not a religion. It is compatible with all faiths or a lack thereof. “It...has some interesting similarities to Eastern thought...and it flows like a subterranean river from ancient Paganism through the heart of Western religions, but it is a philosophy of life and a system of spiritual growth independent of them all.” It is even compatible with the scientifically-oriented. “Though ancient, it is not primitive; indeed it is more compatible with contemporary understanding of nature and human nature than many younger systems of spiritual practice.”
The book focuses primarily on three philosophies, corresponding with the three degrees of wisdom. The first degree of wisdom focuses on the Epicurean way of life. The second degree of wisdom approaches life from the Stoic perspective. The third degree of wisdom uses the philosophy of Hypatia, Neoplatonism. Neoplatonism was the philosophy taught by Plato but taken in a new direction in the third century CE by Plotinus. Taken together, the three philosophies provide a comprehensive guide for navigating your way through the ups and downs of life.
I learned techniques and gained insights from The Wisdom of Hypatia. Though I have always loved philosophy, I will admit that at times it can be hard to read, much less understand and put to practical use in your life. But The Wisdom of Hypatia is different. Not only is it an engaging read, but I believe it will change people’s view of what philosophy is. It breathes new life into an ancient practice that has been languishing in intellectual obscurity in our modern times. I would recommend this book to anyone who is deeply interested in spiritual evolution, as it will aid the seeker after Truth.
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