Synesius of Cyrene, 370? - 415?

Synesius of Cyrene, a Neoplatonist as well as a bishop, was an influence on Amos Bronson Alcott.  Synesius was a close friend of Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, who was the uncle and predecessor of St. Cyril of Alexandria.  Synesius was a student of Hypatia of Alexandria, a Neoplatonist widely recognized for her great intellect and ability at philosophy.  Among his philosophical works is the Dion, a discussion of the interdependence of philosophy, religion, and culture, which he felt are all needed for a sure grasp of reality.  In this treatise he criticized both the men in white mantles (philosophers) and the men in black (monks).
Neoplatonism influenced other Transcendentalists besides Alcott, most notably Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Among the Neoplatonists were Philostratus, Plotinus, Ammonius Saccas, Ocellus Lucanus, Macrobius, Sallustius, as well as (to an extent) Seneca and Apuleius.
Synesius, a thoroughly noble man, would have been at home with Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and Nicholas of Cusa.  He offered Christendom an alternative to the Middle Ages that did not begin to be taken up until the Renaissance.  Alcott wrote as follows.
"To conceive a child's acquirements as originating in nature, dating from his birth into his body, seems an atheism that only a shallow metaphysical theology could entertain in a time of such marvellous natural knowledge as ours.  'I shall never persuade myself,' says Synesius, 'to believe my soul to be of like age with my body.'  And yet we are wont to date our birth, as that of the babes we christen, from the body's advent, so duteously inscribed in our family registers, as if time and space could chronicle the periods of the immortal mind, and mark its longevity by our chronometers.  Only a God could inspire a child with the intimations seen in its first pulse-plays; the sprightly attainments of a single day's doings afford the liveliest proofs of an omniscient Deity, revealing His attributes in the motions of the little one! . . .  Were the skill for touching its tender sensibilities, calling forth its budding gifts, equal to the charms the child has for us, what noble characters would graduate from our families--the community receiving its members accomplished in the personal graces, the state its patriots, the church its saints, all glorifying the race."