Weird History

The Strangest Ancient Philosophies Ever Conceived  

Chad Glapion
36.6k views 10 items

Broken down linguistically, philosophy means "love of wisdom." But what was considered wise at one point in history might not necessarily be considered wise today. After-all, human knowledge and understanding has increased over time. Therefore, some of the ideas held by earlier people can be regarded as rather strange philosophy. That’s not to say that all of the ancient philosophy regarded as strange is useless or without its merit.

Philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead once stated that "all philosophy is a footnote to Plato." The ancients, many of whom predated him, nonetheless had a massive influence on Plato’s thought process and ideas. Indeed, most philosophy comes about from studying the thoughts and ideas of philosophers who came before, and modifying their systems. Therefore, it’s not wise to write-off every ancient idea just because we might label it "crazy ancient philosophies." However, it’s also true that some older ideas were wrong, incoherent, or downright crazy.

This list is a collection of some weird philosophy found throughout history. Some of them are minor mistakes, or ideas that needed a bit more fine-tuning, while others would be considered barbaric or even scary by today’s standards. Regardless, the philosophies presented here should hopefully spark your curiosity and inspire you to do some philosophical investigations of your own.

The Milesian School: Everything Is Composed of Water
The Milesian School: Everythin... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Strangest Ancient Philosophies Ever Conceived
Photo: Ronymichaud/Pixabay/Pixabay License

The Milesians were a philosophical school of thought founded in 6th Century BC. Like most early schools of philosophy, they hit a few things right on the head while getting everything else completely wrong. The Milesians were one of the first Greek thinkers to attribute a naturalistic view to phenomena as opposed to crediting the "Gods."

Unfortunately, the Milesian’s school replaced theological explanations with a few crazy ideas; for instance, they insisted everything in existence was composed of water. This is partially correct, but they ran into some trouble when they had to explain things like the existence of fire.

Bavarian Illuminati: Human Nature Is “Perfectible"
Bavarian Illuminati: Human Nat... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Strangest Ancient Philosophies Ever Conceived
Photo: Samral/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA 4.0

The Illuminati is infamous in conspiracy circles for running things behind the scenes. According to true believers, their nefarious hands control every aspect of society.

Whether you believe in a shadowy cabal of elites that wish to implement the New World Order, the Bavarian Illuminati was a real philosophical movement in America’s early years. Adam Weishaupt founded the Illuminati in 1776.

He initially called it Covenant of Perfectibility, but later changed it because he thought the original name sounded too damn weird. The Bavarian Illuminati believed that human nature was perfectible. Through all of the awesome rituals Weishaupt and his buddies conjured up, humanity would reach it’s peak.

And how would Weishaupt spread his message throughout the world? By hijacking the better known Freemason movement, of course.     

Unfortunately many of Weishaupt’s peers didn’t take too kindly to the changes brought about by Freemasonry influence. The Order's insistence on replacing religion with rationalism also didn’t do him any favors. After internal conflict, the Order of Illuminati was banned and Weishaupt was exiled to Germany.

However, some believe a nefarious branch of the Illuminati still operates today...

The Thuggee Cult: They Robbed and Killed for Their Goddess
The Thuggee Cult: They Robbed ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Strangest Ancient Philosophies Ever Conceived
Photo: Shakeelstha/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The modern-day word "thug" derives from the Thuggee Cult, a secretive organization that existed on the Indian subcontinent. The earliest known writing mentioning the Thuggees dates back to approximately 1356.

The Thugs worshiped the Hindu death goddess Kali. They were notorious for robbery and murder, the latter often committed through strangulation.  

They were eventually suppressed during India’s British Colonial period.The estimated deaths caused by the Thuggee Cult range from 50,000 all the way 2,000,000 people over a span of 150 years.

Pythagoreanism: Numbers Are Basically God
Pythagoreanism: Numbers Are Ba... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Strangest Ancient Philosophies Ever Conceived
Photo: Galilea/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA 3.0

Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher who lived approximately from 570-495 BC. As his name would suggest, he founded a school of philosophical thought called Pythagoreanism.

Pythagoras lived in a time when Philosophy and Science were basically the same thing. Therefore, Pythagoras sought to solve many scientific inquiries through Philosophy. Pythagoras’s biggest contribution to science is his discovery of the relation of numbers. As you probably remember, you had to study the Pythagorean Theorem in school - all because of this guy. Pythagoras thought that numbers were the be end all of existence.

As lexicographer Sir William Smith pointed out:

Since of all things numbers are by nature the first, in numbers they (the Pythagoreans) thought they perceived many analogies to things that exist and are produced, more than in fire, and earth, and Avater; as that a certain affection of numbers was justice; a certain other affection, soul and intellect; another, opportunity[.]

In short, Pythagoras thought numbers were God, and literally worshiped them.