A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Eclectics

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ECLETICS, a name given to certain ancient philosophers, who endeavoured to form a system of opinions by selecting from every sect those doctrines, which seemed to approach nearest to the truth. Hence their denomination, derived from , "I choose," may be considered as referring either to "one who chooses," or one which may be chosen.

The eclectic philosophy was in a flourishing state at Alexandria, when our Saviour was upon earth. Its founders wished to be considered as chiefly followers of Plato, whose philosophy they made the foundation of their system. But they did not scruple to join with his doctrines, whatever they thought conformable to reason in the tenets of other philosophers, Potamon, a Platonist, appears to have been the projector of this plan. The eclectic system was brought to perfection by Ammonius Saccas, who blended Christianity with his philosophy, and founded the sect of the Ammonians, or New Platonists, in the second century. See Ammonians,

The moral doctrine of the Alexandrian school was as follows: --The mind of man, originally a portion of the divine Being, having fallen into a state of darkness and defilement by its union with the body, is to be gradually emancipated from the chains of matter, and rise by contemplation to the knowledge and vision of God. The end philosophy, therefore, is the liberation of the soul from its corporeal imprisonment. For this purpose the Eclectic philosophy recommends abstinence, with other voluntary mortifications, and religious exercises.

In the infancy of the Alexandrian school, not a few of the professors of Christianity were led, by the pretentions of the eclectic sect, to imagine that a coalition might, with great advantage, be formed between its system and that of Christianity. This union appeared the more desirable, when several philosophers of this sect became converts to the the christian faith. the consequence was, that pagan ideas and opinions were by degrees mixed with the pure and simple doctrines of the gospel.[1]

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Enfield's Philos. Edinburgh Ency. Mosheim, vol. i. p.37, 171