Giordano Bruno

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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.

Giordano Bruno (15481600-02-17) was an Italian philosopher, astronomer, satirist, occultist, mystic, and martyr, who was burned at the stake as a heretic; born Filippo Bruno, in Nola, Italy, he often called himself Il Nolano (The Nolan).

Sourced

The Divine Light is always in man, presenting itself to the senses and to the comprehension, but man rejects it.
  • Perchance you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it.
    • His famous response to his judges upon his conviction as a heretic, prior to his transfer to the civil authorities for execution. (16 February 1600); as quoted by Gaspar Schopp of Breslau in a letter to Conrad Rittershausen; as translated in Giordano Bruno : His Life and Thought (1950) by Dorothea Waley Singer
    • Variant translations:
      Perhaps your fear in passing judgment on me is greater than mine in receiving it.
      It may be you fear more to deliver judgment upon me than I fear judgment.
      You pronounce sentence upon me with greater fear than I receive it.
  • The Divine Light is always in man, presenting itself to the senses and to the comprehension, but man rejects it.
    • As quoted in Life and Teachings of Giordano Bruno : Philosopher, Martyr, Mystic 1548 - 1600 (1913) by Coulson Turnbull
If all things are in common among friends, the most precious is Wisdom...
  • If all things are in common among friends, the most precious is Wisdom. What can Juno give which thou canst not receive from Wisdom? What mayest thou admire in Venus which thou mayest not also contemplate in Wisdom? Her beauty is not small, for the lord of all things taketh delight in her. Her I have loved and diligently sought from my youth up.
  • Nature is none other than God in things... Animals and plants are living effects of Nature; Whence all of God is in all things... Think thus, of the sun in the crocus, in the narcissus, in the heliotrope, in the rooster, in the lion.
    • As quoted in Elements of Pantheism (2004) by Paul A. Harrison

The Ash Wednesday Supper (1584)

La cena de le ceneri (1584)
  • A constellation of the most pedantic, obstinate ignorance and presumption, mixed with a kind of rustic incivility, which would try the patience of Job.
    • Declaration about the scholars of England, particularly those of Oxford.

Cause, Principle, and Unity (1584)

De la Causa, Principio e Uno (1584) [Various translations]
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.
  • It is manifest... that every soul and spirit hath a certain continuity with the spirit of the universe, so that it must be understood to exist and to be included not only there where it liveth and feeleth, but it is also by its essence and substance diffused throughout immensity... The power of each soul is itself somehow present afar in the universe... Naught is mixed, yet is there some presence.
    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.
  • 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, as our intellect with the congruous production of natural kinds.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • As translated by Paul Harrison
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...
Everything that consists in generation, decay, alteration and change is not an entity, but a condition and circumstance of entity and 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.
    • As translated by Paul Harrison
  • 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.
    • Variant: Everything that makes diversity of kinds, of species. differences, properties, everything that consists in generation, decay, alteration and change, is not an entity, but condition and circumstances of entity and being, which is one, infinite, immobile, subject, matter, life, soul, truth and good.
  • 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.
  • It is manifest that every soul has a certain continuity with the soul of the Universe, so that it must be understood to exist and to be included not only there where it liveth and feeleth, but it is also by its essence and substance diffused throughout immensity. The power of each soul is itself somehow present afar in the Universe. It is not mixed, yet is there in some presence.
  • 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.
  • The universe comprises all being in a totality; for nothing that exists is outside or beyond infinite being, as the latter has no outside or beyond.
  • This entire globe, this star, not being subject to death, and dissolution and annihilation being impossible anywhere in Nature, from time to time renews itself by changing and altering all its parts. 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.

On the Infinite Universe and Worlds (1584)

De l'infinito universo et mondi (1584) On the Infinite Universe and Worlds (1950) by Dorothea Waley Singer
  • When the end comes, you will be esteemed by the world and rewarded by God, not because you have won the love and respect of the princes of the earth, however powerful, but rather for having loved, defended and cherished one such as I... what you receive from others is a testimony to their virtue; but all that you do for others is the sign and clear indication of your own.
    • Dedication
  • To a body of infinite size there can be ascribed neither centre nor boundary... Thus the Earth no more than any other world is at the centre.
  • It is then unnecessary to investigate whether there be beyond the heaven Space, Void or Time. For there is a single general space, a single vast immensity which we may freely call Void; in it are innumerable globes like this one on which we live and grow. This space we declare to be infinite, since neither reason, convenience, possibility, sense-perception nor nature assign to it a limit. In it are an infinity of worlds of the same kind as our own.
That which others saw from afar, I leave far behind me.
  • 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.
    • Introductory Epistle
  • After it hath been seen how the obstinate and the ignorant of evil disposition are accustomed to dispute, it will further be shewn how disputes are wont to conclude; although others are so wary that without losing their composure, but with a sneer, a smile, a certain discreet malice, that which they have not succeeded in proving by argument — nor indeed can it be understood by themselves — nevertheless by these tricks of courteous disdain they pretend to have proven, endeavouring not only to conceal their own patently obvious ignorance but to cast it on to the back of their adversary. For they dispute not in order to find or even to seek Truth, but for victory, and to appear the more learned and strenuous upholders of a contrary opinion. Such persons should be avoided by all who have not a good breastplate of patience.
    • "Introductory Epistle : Argument of the Third Dialogue"
  • 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.
  • I cleave the heavens and soar to the infinite.
    And while I rise from my own globe to others
    And penetrate ever further through the eternal field,
    That which others saw from afar, I leave far behind me.
    • Variant translation: While I venture out beyond this tiny globe
      Into reaches past the bounds of starry night
      I leave behind what others strain to see afar.
  • I pray you, magnificent Sir, do not trouble yourself to return to us, but await our coming to you.
    • Third Dialogue

The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast (1584)

Spaccio de la bestia trionfante (1584)
  • Divinity reveals herself in all things... everything has Divinity latent within itself. For she enfolds and imparts herself even unto the smallest beings, and from the smallest beings, according to their capacity. Without her presence nothing would have being, because she is the essence of the existence of the first unto the last being.
    • As translated by Arthur Imerti (1964)
  • 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... Think thus, of the sun in the crocus, in the narcissus, in the heliotrope, in the rooster, in the lion.... To the extent that one communicates with Nature, so one ascends to Divinity through Nature.
    • As translated by Arthur Imerti (1964)
  • Those wise men knew God to be in things, and Divinity to be latent in Nature, working and glowing differently in different subjects and succeeding through diverse physical forms, in certain arrangements, in making them participants in her, I say, in her being, in her life and intellect.
    • As translated by Arthur Imerti (1964)
  • If he is not Nature herself, he is certainly the nature of Nature, and is the soul of the Soul of the world, if he is not the soul herself.
    • As translated by Arthur Imerti (1964)
  • Of the eternal corporeal substance (which is not producible ex nihilo, nor reducible ad nihilum, but rarefiable, condensable, formable, arrangeable, and "fashionable") the composition is dissolved, the complexion is changed, the figure is modified, the being is altered, the fortune is varied, only the elements remaining what they are in substance, that same principle persevering which was always the one material principle, which is the true substance of things. eternal, ingenerable and incorruptible.
    • As translated by Arthur Imerti (1964)
The fools of the world have been those who have established religions, ceremonies, laws, faith, rule of life...
  • Of the eternal incorporeal substance nothing is changed, is formed or deformed, but there always remains only that thing which cannot be a subject of dissolution, since it is not possible that it be a subject of composition, and therefore, either of itself or by accident, it cannot be said to die.
    • As translated by Arthur Imerti (1964)

Cabal of the Cheval Pegasus (1585)

Cabala del Cavallo Pegaseo con l'aggiunta dell' Asino Cillenico, Descritta dal Nolano [Cabal of the Cheval Pegasus with Appendix on the Cillenican Ass, Described by the Nolan] (1585)
  • 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.
  • Pray, O pray to God, dear friends, if you are not already asses — that he will cause you to become asses... There is none who praiseth not the golden age when men were asses: they knew not how to work the land. One knew not how to dominate another, one understood no more than another; caves and caverns were their refuge; they were not so well covered nor so jealous nor were they confections of lust and of greed. Everything was held in common.
  • Oh holy asinity! holy ignorance!
    Holy foolishness and pious devotion!
    You who alone do more to advance and make souls good
    Than human ingenuity and study...

On the Monad, Number, and Figure (1591)

De monade, numero et figura (1591)
  • Even to have come forth is something, since I see that being able to conquer is placed in the hands of fate. 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.

De immenso (1591)

De innumerabilibus, immenso et infigurabili, usually referred to as De immenso (1591)
The infinity of All ever bringing forth anew, and even as infinite space is around us, so is infinite potentiality, capacity, reception, malleability, matter.
Eternity maintaineth her substance throughout time, immensity throughout space, universal form throughout motion.
  • 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.
    • I 1
The single spirit doth simultaneously temper the whole together; this is the single soul of all things; all are filled with God.
  • Our philosophy... reduceth to a single origin and relateth to a single end, and maketh contraries to coincide so that there is one primal foundation both of origin and of end. From this coincidence of contraries, we deduce that ultimately it is divinely true that contraries are within contraries; wherefore it is not difficult to compass the knowledge that each thing is within every other.
    • As translated by Dorothea Waley Singer (1950)
  • The one infinite is perfect, in simplicity, of itself, absolutely, nor can aught be greater or better, This is the one Whole, God, universal Nature, occupying all space, of whom naught but infinity can give the perfect image or semblance.
    • II 12 as translated by Dorothea Waley Singer (1950)
  • The single spirit doth simultaneously temper the whole together; this is the single soul of all things; all are filled with God.
    • IV 9; as translated by Dorothea Waley Singer (1950)
  • All things are in all.
    • V 9; as translated by Dorothea Waley Singer (1950)
  • Before anything else the One must exist eternally; from his power derives everything that always is or will ever be. He is the Eternal and embraces all times. He knows profoundly all events and He himself is everything. He creates everything beyond any beginning of time and beyond any limit of place and space. He is not subject to any numerical law, or to any law of measure or order. He himself is law, number, measure, limit without limit, end without end, act without form.
    • VIII 2, as quoted in The Acentric Labyrinth (1995) by Ramon Mendoza
  • For nature is not merely present, but is implanted within things, distant from none... And while the outer face of things changeth so greatly, there flourisheth the origin of being more intimately within all things than they themselves. The fount of all kinds, Mind, God, Being, One, Truth, Destiny, Reason, Order.
    • VIII 10 as translated by Dorothea Waley Singer (1950)

Unsourced

  • If it is not true it is very well invented.
    • Se non è vero, è molto ben trovato.
  • It is not true, it is a happy invention.
    • Se non è vero, è ben trovato.
  • Time is the father of truth, its mother is our mind.
  • 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!

Misattributed

  • It was proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people. However, he cautioned that they should not be influenced by the fervor of speech, but by the weight of his argument and the majesty of truth.
    • This is a summation of the arguments of Bruno's speech in a debate at the College of Cambray (25 May 1588) made by Coulson Turnbull in Life and Teachings of Giordano Bruno : Philosopher, Martyr, Mystic 1548 — 1600 (1913), p. 41. It is not presented as a direct translation of his statements, but a slight alteration of the first two sentences has sometimes appeared on the internet as a quotation of Bruno: "It is a proof of a base and low mind..."

Quotes about Bruno

The First Great Star — Herald of the Dawn — was Bruno... ~ Robert Green Ingersoll
  • We hereby, in these documents, publish, announce, pronounce, sentence, and declare thee the aforesaid Brother Giordano Bruno to be an impenitent and pertinacious heretic, and therefore to have incurred all the ecclesiastical censures and pains of the Holy Canon, the laws and the constitutions, both general and particular, imposed on such confessed impenitent pertinacious and obstinate heretics... We ordain and command that thou must be delivered to the Secular Court... that thou mayest be punished with the punishment deserved... Furthermore, we condemn, we reprobate, and we prohibit all thine aforesaid and thy other books and writings as heretical and erroneous, containing many heresies and errors, and we ordain that all of them which have come or may in future come into the hands of the Holy Office shall be publicly destroyed and burned in the square of St. Peter before the steps and that they shall be placed upon the Index of Forbidden Books, and as we have commanded, so shall it be done..
Bruno is the first thinker who based the soul's duty to itself on its own nature: not on external authority, but on inner light... ~ William Boulting
  • Bruno is the first thinker who based the soul's duty to itself on its own nature: not on external authority, but on inner light... Of Bruno, as of Spinoza, it may be said that he was "God-intoxicated." He felt that the Divine Excellence had its abode in the very heart of Nature and within his own body and spirit. Indwelling in every dewdrop as in the innumerable host of heaven, in the humblest flower and in the mind of man, he found the living spirit of God, setting forth the Divine glory, making the Divine perfection and inspiring with the Divine love. The Eroici is full of the pantings of his soul for intellectual enfranchisement and contact with Truth, the divine object.... The heroic soul, says Bruno, shall seek truth and find it. The time had not then come for Pilate's question to be put again. Bruno was happily unvexed by the problem of truth... there is a view implicit in the Eroici and in all but the earliest of his philosophical writings, and this is that our truth is a progressive, ideal approximation towards that whole Truth which is one with the inmost nature of Being.
    • William Boulting, in Giordano Bruno: His Life, Thought, and Martyrdom (1916) online excerpt
Bruno lost no opportunity of keeping his readers awake by the oddness of his antics... ~ William Boulting
  • There is a real unity underlying each of his works; but all give the impression of disorder... Bruno lost no opportunity of keeping his readers awake by the oddness of his antics; he surprises them by bombardments and unexpected raking fires. He thinks to throw each noble design, each lofty thought into relief by the dodge (not unknown to modern writers) of smart paradox... All is overdone: there is not a thought of repose. Penetrative insight, soaring observation, novel wisdom, severe thought have a setting of jest and jeer, clumsy buffoonery and sheer indecency.
Bruno proceeded to rethink man's relationship to the universe, to himself, and to God by the unimaginable light of countless stars. His conclusions were simply unbelievable for a late medieval mind... the presence of God not atop an empyrean throne past the threshold of the farthest stars, but inhabiting every atom of matter... ~ Bill Kuhns
  • I propose to give an account of the life of Giordano Bruno... who was burnt under pretence of atheism, at Rome, in the year 1600 and of his works which are perhaps the scarcest books ever printed... The most industrious historians of speculative philosophy have not been able to procure more than a few of his works... out of eleven, the titles of which are preserved to us I have had an opportunity of perusing six.
  • The real story of our times is seldom told in the horse-puckey-filled memoirs of dopey, self-serving presidents or generals, but in the outrageous, demented lives of guys like Lenny Bruce, Giordano Bruno, Scott Fitzgerald — and Paul Krassner. The burrs under society's saddle. The pains in the ass.
  • Bruno stood at the stake in solitary and awful grandeur. There was not a friendly face in the vast crowd around him. It was one man against the world. Surely the knight of Liberty, the champion of Freethought, who lived such a life and died such a death, without hope of reward on earth or in heaven, sustained only by his indomitable manhood, is worthy to be accounted the supreme martyr of all time. He towers above the less disinterested martyrs of Faith like a colossus; the proudest of them might walk under him without bending.
  • Bruno — 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...
  • The First Great Star — Herald of the Dawn — was Bruno... He was a pantheist — that is to say, an atheist. He was a lover of Nature, — a reaction from the asceticism of the church. He was tired of the gloom of the monastery. He loved the fields, the woods, the streams. He said to his brother-priests: Come out of your cells, out of your dungeons: come into the air and light. Throw away your beads and your crosses. Gather flowers; mingle with your fellow-men; have wives and children; scatter the seeds of joy; throw away the thorns and nettles of your creeds; enjoy the perpetual miracle of life.
  • 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... and he fell into the error of heretical belief. For this poets vision he was kept in a dark dungeon for eight years and then taken out to a blazing market place and roasted to death by fire.
    • "Giordano Bruno: The Forgotten Philosopher" by John J. Kessler
  • Joyce gives the ghost guises like Saint Bruno and The Nolan of the Cabashes and Noland's brown and Nolan Browne and Bruno Nowlan and Nolans Brumans and Mr. Brown and Bruno Nolan and many others. The encyclopedic Joyce was deeply impressed by Bruno's heady coincidence of contraries, and was no doubt sympathetic to Bruno's hectic and finally tragic bouts with the Inquisition. McLuhan the Joycean scholar was certainly conscious of Joyce's debt to Bruno. But I like to think there was more: that when "Bruno Nolan" winked from one of paper sleeves, McLuhan made a recognition as if glimpsing a companion from across the centuries and winked back.
  • "History has not yet registered a stable appraisal for Giordano Bruno" writes Giorgio de Santillana in The Age of Adventure. Perceptions of Bruno were volatile enough in his lifetime; many have remained polarized to this day. Radoslav Tsanoff calls Bruno "the outstanding philosopher of the Renaissance," and Harold Hoffding cites Bruno's work as "the greatest philosophical thought-structure executed by the Renaissance." Yet Bertrand Russell despairs of crediting Bruno with philosophy at all: "There were fruitful intuitions lost in that disorder, but they had not yet reached the point of precision at which philosophy begins." The chasm of opinion dividing Bruno, even to this day, is one of the many improbables of this turbulent and exultant figure.
    • Bill Kuhns in "Giordano Bruno and Marshall McLuhan" (1996)
  • In 1584, twenty-five years before Galileo lifted a telescope, Bruno took the Copernican hypothesis to the outrageous new conclusion that the sun is merely one of an infinity of stars, which stretch across boundless and inexhaustible space. It was consummate audacity to proclaim an infinite universe in the teeth of the doctrinal dogfights of the 16th century. It was yet bolder to exult in the de immenso with the bounding wonder of a poet. The prospect of our earth reduced to a turning speck in endless space was terrifying to contemplate. An ecstatic Bruno cried, "My thoughts are stitched to the stars!" and contemplated little else. With an impetuous abandon that his contemporaries found reckless and even dangerous, Bruno proceeded to rethink man's relationship to the universe, to himself, and to God by the unimaginable light of countless stars.
    His conclusions were simply unbelievable for a late medieval mind: infinite other worlds, inhabited like our own, spread throughout space; a structure to the universe of suns and clusters of suns circling in grand orbits, but no "center" except in the ground beneath two human feet; the presence of God not atop an empyrean throne past the threshold of the farthest stars, but inhabiting every atom of matter; an eternal span to matter, which can change its form but never be exhausted in any proportion; and finally a logic infinity demanded of him — an innate union of all contraries, by which evil and good, history and the future, localized humanity and an infinite universe inform and express one another...
    • Bill Kuhns in "Giordano Bruno and Marshall McLuhan" (1996)
  • He was drawn to the centers of learning to announce his startling philosophy; from most he was curtly expelled... He was contradictory, capricious, often insufferable: his moods could flash abruptly from antic lampooning to raw invective, from wild exhilaration to fierce bitterness, from clownishness to a blackdog melancholy. "Gay in sorrow, sorrowful in gaiety," he said of himself, and the contraries of the tempestuous Bruno survive in his writings, where exalted and discerning passages seem to bob and dip in great waves of bombast... Controversial and largely dismissed in his lifetime, Bruno fared no better after his death. If his ideas were disputed, so was his martyrdom. For centuries, rumor and doubt shrouded the terrible fire in the Campo dei Fiore and as late as 1885 there are references to the "legends" of Bruno's burning at the stake... Only in the twentieth century has Bruno begun emerging from his long neglect into prominence.
    • Bill Kuhns in "Giordano Bruno and Marshall McLuhan" (1996)
  • You I admire as being more, — much more — a man, and more believer too, than half the canting orthodox.
    • Morris West, in his play about Bruno: The Heretic (1968)

External links

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