Giordano Bruno


“We hereby, in these documents, publish, announce, pronounce, sentence, and declare thee the aforesaid Brother Giordano Bruno to be an impenitent and pertinacious heretic.”

Thus declared the judges of the Catholic Inquisition. Giordano Bruno was kept in a dark dungeon for eight years and then publicly burned alive at the stake in Rome. His crime was being an outspoken Western pantheist at a time when such ideas were forbidden. Bruno predicted and preached ideas that have made him the, “martyr of science”, a hero among scientists and even more so among philosophers. Philosopher Thomas Davidson said of Bruno:

“No man ever labored more or suffered more, in order to be free himself and help others to be so. No one ever met death more firmly and heroically. Among the martyrs for truth and freedom, — those first essentials of manhood, — he occupies the highest place.”

Philosopher Robert Green Ingersoll:

“The First Great Star — Herald of the Dawn — was Bruno… He was a pantheist…one of the greatest and bravest of men — greatest of all martyrs — perished at the stake, because he insisted on the existence of other worlds and taught the astronomy of Galileo…”

Philosopher John J. Kessler:

“He is one martyr whose name should lead all the rest. He was not a mere religious sectarian who was caught up in the psychology of some mob hysteria. He was a sensitive, imaginative poet, fired with the enthusiasm of a larger vision of a larger universe…”

Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer:

“Bruno and Spinoza are to be entirely excepted. Each stands by himself and alone; and they do not belong either to their age or to their part of the globe, which rewarded the one with death, and the other with persecution and ignominy. Their miserable existence and death in this Western world are like that of a tropical plant in Europe. The banks of the Ganges were their spiritual home; there they would have led a peaceful and honoured life among men of like mind.”

Before Galileo even picked up a telescope, Giordano Bruno made remarkably accurate philosophical observations about the universe and called for scientific investigation:

“There are countless suns and countless earths all rotating round their suns in exactly the same way as the seven planets of our system. We see only the suns because they are the largest bodies and are luminous, but their planets remain invisible to us because they are smaller and non-luminous. The countless worlds in the universe are no worse and no less inhabited than our earth. For it is utterly unreasonable to suppose that those teeming worlds which are as magnificent as our own, perhaps more so, and which enjoy the fructifying rays of a sun just as we do, should be uninhabited and should not bear similar or even more perfect inhabitants than our earth. The unnumbered worlds in the universe are all similar in form and rank and subject to the same forces and the same laws. Impart to us the knowledge of the universality of terrestrial laws throughout all worlds and of the similarity of all substances in the cosmos! Destroy the theories that the earth is the centre of the universe! Crush the supernatural powers said to animate the world, along with the so-called crystalline spheres! Open the door through which we can look out into the limitless, unified firmament composed of similar elements and show us that the other worlds float in an ethereal ocean like our own! Make it plain to us that the motions of all the worlds proceed from inner forces and teach us in the light of such attitudes to go forward with surer tread in the investigation and discovery of nature! Take comfort, the time will come when all men will see as I do.”

Bruno was not just a philosopher and diviner of science, but also a poet who prayed to the sun, rather than to the ‘Son of God’:

“Blind error, avaricious time, adverse fortune,

Deaf envy, vile madness, jealous iniquity,

Crude heart, perverse spirit, insane audacity,

Will not be sufficient to obscure the air for me,

Will not place the veil before my eyes,

Will never bring it about that I shall not

Contemplate my beautiful Sun.”

Bruno believed that Nature and man and God are all one and the same:

“Animals and plants are living effects of Nature; this Nature… is none other than God in things… Whence all of God is in all things…”

Centuries before the likes of Eckhart Tolle, Giordano Bruno spoke of everything being connected:

 “It is manifest… that every soul and spirit hath a certain continuity with the spirit of the universe… diffused throughout immensity… The power of each soul is itself somehow present afar in the universe…”

“Anything we take in the universe, because it has in itself that which is All in All, includes in its own way the entire soul of the world, which is entirely in any part of it.”

He believed everything is Divine:

“Divinity reveals herself in all things… everything has Divinity latent within itself.”

He believed everything is one:

 “The Universe is one, infinite, immobile. The absolute potential is one, the act is one, the form or soul is one, the material or body is one, the thing is one, the being in one, one is the maximum and the best… It is not generated, because there is no other being it could desire or hope for, since it comprises all being. It does not grow corrupt. because there is nothing else into which it could change, given that it is itself all things. It cannot diminish or grow, since it is infinite.”

Well before Carl Jung popularized a collective unconscious, Bruno spoke of everything being of one mind:

“The universal Intellect is the intimate, most real, peculiar and powerful part of the soul of the world. This is the single whole which filleth the whole, illumineth the universe and directeth nature to the production of natural things…”

Bruno believed everything to be of one underlying substance:

 “We find that everything that makes up difference and number is pure accident, pure show, pure constitution. Every production, of whatever kind, is an alteration, but the substance remains always the same, because it is only one, one divine immortal being.”

“This whole which is visible in different ways in bodies, as far as formation, constitution, appearance, colors and other properties and common qualities, is none other than the diverse face of the same substance — a changeable, mobile face, subject to decay, of an immobile, permanent and eternal being.”

“Everything that makes diversity of kinds, of species, differences, properties… everything that consists in generation, decay, alteration and change is not an entity, but a condition and circumstance of entity and being, which is one, infinite, immobile, subject, matter, life, death, truth, lies, good and evil.”

Bruno, like Albert Einstein, believed in a perfect unity:

“All things are in the Universe, and the universe is in all things: we in it, and it in us; in this way everything concurs in a perfect unity.”

Bruno even anticipated Einstein’s scientific ideas of relativity centuries earlier:

“There is no absolute up or down, as Aristotle taught; no absolute position in space; but the position of a body is relative to that of other bodies. Everywhere there is incessant relative change in position throughout the universe, and the observer is always at the centre of things.”

Like Einstein and many other pantheists, Bruno did not have a traditional view of death, since he viewed life and death as intimately related:

“When we consider the being and substance of that universe in which we are immutably set, we shall discover that neither we ourselves nor any substance doth suffer death; for nothing is in fact diminished in its substance, but all things, wandering through infinite space, undergo change of aspect.”

This view of death may be why he didn’t seem to fear it as much as others. Before his execution in 1600, Bruno observed that it was his accuser’s fears well beyond his own that was leading to his execution:

“Perchance you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it.”

His pantheism so devout, he suggested that he was facing his own death without fear:

“The wise soul feareth not death; rather she sometimes striveth for death, she goeth beyond to meet her. Yet eternity maintaineth her substance throughout time, immensity throughout space, universal form throughout motion.”

“However, there was in me, whatever I was able to do, that which no future century will deny to be mine, that which a victor could have for his own: Not to have feared to die, not to have yielded to any equal in firmness of nature, and to have preferred a courageous death to a noncombatant life.”

Bruno was not trying to make friends, mocking the little God of religious people and proposing his own enormous, infinite, and unknowable God that is everything:

“Make then your forecasts, my lords Astrologers, with your slavish physicians, by means of those astrolabes with which you seek to discern the fantastic nine moving spheres; in these you finally imprison your own minds, so that you appear to me but as parrots in a cage, while I watch you dancing up and down, turning and hopping within those circles. We know that the Supreme Ruler cannot have a seat so narrow, so miserable a throne, so trivial, so scanty a court, so small and feeble a simulacrum that phantasm can bring to birth, a dream shatter, a delusion restore, a calamity diminish, a misdeed abolish and a thought renew it again, so that indeed with a puff of air it were brimful and with a single gulp it were emptied. On the contrary we recognize a noble image, a marvellous conception, a supreme figure, an exalted shadow, an infinite representation of the represented infinity, a spectacle worthy of the excellence and supremacy of Him who transcendeth understanding, comprehension or grasp. Thus is the excellence of God magnified and the greatness of his kingdom made manifest; He is glorified not in one, but in countless suns; not in a single earth, a single world, but in a thousand thousand, I say in an infinity of worlds.”

Like Spinoza after him, he emphasized knowledge as a path to freedom and panned the ignorance of superstitious people:

“The fools of the world have been those who have established religions, ceremonies, laws, faith, rule of life. The greatest asses of the world are those who, lacking all understanding and instruction, and void of all civil life and custom, rot in perpetual pedantry; those who by the grace of heaven would reform obscure and corrupted faith, salve the cruelties of perverted religion and remove abuse of superstitions, mending the rents in their vesture. It is not they who indulge impious curiosity or who are ever seeking the secrets of nature, and reckoning the courses of the stars. Observe whether they have been busy with the secret causes of things, or if they have condoned the destruction of kingdoms, the dispersion of peoples, fires, blood, ruin or extermination; whether they seek the destruction of the whole world that it may belong to them: in order that the poor soul may be saved, that an edifice may be raised in heaven, that treasure may be laid up in that blessed land, caring naught for fame, profit or glory in this frail and uncertain life, but only for that other most certain and eternal life.”

Bruno was frustrated by man’s rejection of pantheism:

“The Divine Light is always in man, presenting itself to the senses and to the comprehension, but man rejects it.”

Over four hundred years later, our freedoms have developed, our science has advanced, and our collective ideas and culture slowly progress. Recall the words of Giordano Bruno,

“Take comfort, the time will come when all men will see as I do.”

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