|Blick auf den Genfer See, 1852, August Ludwig Erhard Boll (1805–1875)|
We cannot discuss Giordano Bruno’s theory of matter without including how it is related to his idea of a cosmic mind. Inundated by the overwhelming complexity of emerging patterns in Nature, Bruno refused to adopt the position that all was brought about by chance. In this, he would have agreed with Albert Einstein, who rejected the argument of Niels Bohr and the probabilistic theories of quantum mechanics.
Bruno rejected the theological doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, creation of a perfect universe out of nothing. However, Bruno did accept that the Universe had been brought about by unparalleled Intelligence, a cosmic or universal Mind. Bruno may have taken his idea of matter as the Mater-Materia from Anaximander’s Apeiron, but his idea of a cosmic Mind was strongly influenced by Anaxagoras’ assertion that, in the beginning, everything is in everything:
So when something appears to come from nothing what is really happening is that hitherto imperceptible “seeds” of something are coming together to become perceptible. It follows that becoming can only occur if there are quantities of everything in everything or else everything would simply stay the same (http://www.crandallu.ca/courses/grphil/Anaxagoras.htm#Anax323).
For Anaxagoras, in the beginning of the cosmos, there was not one but two principles all infinite and everlasting in nature: (1) Mind (Nous) and (2) the Primeval Mixture (Migma). In the beginning ‘everything was in everything’. The revolutionary formation of the cosmos started when the infinite ‘seeds’ (spermata) within the primeval mixture separated from the mixture by the motive power of Mind. Mind initiated the rotation of the ‘seeds’ resulting in the predominantly heavy parts coming to the center of the vortex and the subtler parts to the outer part encircling them (http://www.philosophy.gr/presocratics/anaxagoras.htm).
Anaxagoras called this principle of separation Nous, or as we translate it, Mind.
Bruno accomplished something quite revolutionary. He fused Anaximander’s Apeiron and Anaxagoras’ Nous together, along with ideas from Heraclitus about eternal becoming (You can never step into the same river twice), and added the atomism of the Stoics, Epicurus and Lucretius. He packaged these into a neat monistic ontology that may have united the peoples of the world, if the Roman Inquisition had not stolen his life from him. This Creative Power is totally immanent, boundless, organic, and ever-growing. This fecund internal principle, the source of all cosmic order and complexity, Bruno called the Soul of the Universe.
The cornerstone of Bruno’s monism is the assertion that matter is intelligent and that all intelligence is material. This Intelligence is immanent in all things and brings about all order and complexity in the Universe.