The Mission of Ammonius Saccas and the New Platonists of Alexandria
The aim of Ammonious Saccas, Greek philosopher from Alexandria and founder of the New Platonic Eclectic School, was to reconcile the plethora of sects in Egypt and Palestine at the time; and perhaps all sects, peoples, and nations under one common cause and faith. The central object was faith in one immutable, nameless, inexorable Divine Principle and eternal law by which the Universe was governed, among other objects that will be explained.
It was by studying and comparing the religions, upon the works of Hermes that Ammonius Saccas came to understand the language of the mysteries and allegories illustrating truths, which were the basis of the ancient religious systems, whether Jewish, Pagan, Egyptian, or Indian.
His direct disciples, such as Origen, Plotinus, Longinus, Herennius, were called Analogeticists; and according to Alexander Wilder, because of ‘their practice of interpreting all sacred legends, myths and mysteries by a principle of analogy and correspondence.’ Ammonius earned the name Theodidaktos (Gr.) or “god-taught”; the Alexandrian New Platonists were also called Philaletheans or “the lovers of truth,” and Theosophists.
It is in Alexandria, Egypt, that many Gnostic schools also derived. It was their profession or occupation to study chiefly spiritual philosophy, metaphysics, and mysticism; which served as a system or enterprise for checking the superstitions and blind faith of the times. This Eclectic School was the final product of Greek Philosophy, among which Hypatia and Proclus were the last great representatives. It appears the school in Alexandria tried to reconcile Platonic teachings with the Aristotelian system and East Asian Philosophy.
According to Blavatsky and Alexander Wilder, Laertios Diogenēs attributed this Eclectic System’s origins to an Egyptian priest of Amun in the early Ptolemaic dynasty. The New Platonists at first rejected Theurgy, until incorporating it, as a result of Iamblicus’s famous work titled Theurgia, or “De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum.”
Take note of these key passages from The Key to Theosophy text:
ENQUIRER. In the days of Ammonius there were several ancient great religions, and numerous were the sects in Egypt and Palestine alone. How could he reconcile them?
THEOSOPHIST. By doing that which we again try to do now. The Neo-Platonists were a large body, and belonged to various religious philosophies*; so do our Theosophists. In those days, the Jew Aristobulus affirmed that the ethics of Aristotle represented the esoteric teachings of the Law of Moses; Philo Judaeus endeavoured to reconcile the Pentateuch with the Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy; and Josephus proved that the Essenes of Carmel were simply the copyists and followers of the Egyptian Therapeutae (the healers). So it is in our day. We can show the line of descent of every Christian religion, as of every, even the smallest, sect. The latter are the minor twigs or shoots grown on the larger branches; but shoots and branches spring from the same trunk — the WISDOM-RELIGION. To prove this was the aim of Ammonius, who endeavoured to induce Gentiles and Christians, Jews and Idolaters, to lay aside their contentions and strifes, remembering only that they were all in possession of the same truth under various vestments, and were all the children of a common mother. † This is the aim of Theosophy likewise. (…)
ENQUIRER. What are your authorities for saying this of the ancient Theosophists of Alexandria?
THEOSOPHIST. An almost countless number of well-known writers. Mosheim, one of them, says that:
“Ammonius taught that the religion of the multitude went hand-in-hand with philosophy, and with her had shared the fate of being by degrees corrupted and obscured with mere human conceits, superstitions, and lies; that it ought, therefore, to be brought back to its original purity by purging it of this dross and expounding it upon philosophical principles; and the whole Christ had in view was to reinstate and restore to its primitive integrity the wisdom of the ancients; to reduce within bounds the universally-prevailing dominion of superstition; and in part to correct, and in part to exterminate the various errors that had found their way into the different popular religions.”