The Brunian Revolution, Part 5: A New Ethics

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Far, far away Soria Moria Palace shimmered like Gold, by Theodor Kittelsen (1899)

Bruno desired to place truth into the hands of the human race. He may not have completely seen the ramifications of an acentric universe, that this would lead humanity to question its own self-worth in the face of nihilism. Humanity believed it dwelt in the center of God’s universe. After Bruno, this delusion was banished. Humanity lived on a planet that was just another speck in a vast, infinite ocean of other specks. Eventually, this truth, among others, would lead many to discouragement, anxiety, and despair. But now that the lies had been dispelled, mankind could focus on its true nature, to become conscious of its affinity with the cosmic mind, to copulate with it, and to bring forth truth in abundance.

Bruno envisioned that we would gradually become more aware of our relationship with the cosmic mind, and that we would join together with it in the dynamic creation, evolution, and transformation of the universe.

Bruno’s revolutionary philosophical anthropology would thus lay the foundations for a viable universal religion, since it would offer a spiritual bond that had some chance of success in bringing humanity together, in leading it to peace and solidarity, and above all, in securing its survival (Mendoza 217).

Bruno’s goal was to completely overthrow the value system of the day, what Nietzsche would later call, a “transvaluation.” The Church’s total entrenchment in Ptolemaic cosmology gave Bruno the courage to believe he could overturn their religious and ethical system. When the masses discovered how primitive the Church’s beliefs had been, they would turn from it in droves. If the hierarchy could be proven wrong about such an important point, what would be the value of the remainder of their doctrine?

The body, and matter, in general, had been denigrated by the Church for almost the entirety of its existence. This was carried over from Plato, who believed the body is a tomb, a prison of the soul. When matter is viewed in this way, it leads to the neglect and abuse of all living things, and the entire planet. It is utterly crucial how we view matter. Without a true respect for matter, or, as I call it, “animatter,” there can be no true ethics. Bruno wrote,

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. [Expulsion, p. 242]

If one believes the Divine is innate to matter, One will treat all material things with reverence and respect. Think of how this one point would totally transform our world, if acted upon! Think of the tremendous damage being done to this world by various corporations all in the name of profit and someone’s twisted idea of freedom! It is a crime against the soul of the world and all of us individual souls. The ethical ramifications of the fusion of matter and soul are mind-boggling!

The so-called Copernican revolution was really not very revolutionary, since all he did was replace the earth with the sun; he retained all the other nonsense from the Ptolemaic worldview. It was Bruno who truly revolutionized cosmology by asserting there was no center at all, which is how we view the universe today.

Bruno’s view of humanity was revolutionary. He sought to overturn age-old traditions concerning human nature and humanity’s place in the universe. Instead of worn-out anthropocentrisms, Bruno claimed that humans are linked by the same soul that permeates everything. The same soul that is in all our bodies is the same soul that creates worlds and beings in those worlds. Soul and matter are indissoluble.

If all of this is true, the manner in which we treat our fellow humans changes. No longer will we allow racism, sectarianism, chauvinism, or bigotry to exist in our societies. Jingoism will have no place in any nation. War would necessarily be a thing of the past, since we would not want to harm the Soul that is innate to all of us by harming anyone, since we are all interconnected by soul. Of course, this is a Utopian dream. I have stated before that I do not believe such a state of existence is possible. It is something, however, for which we must strive if our world is to continue.

The Universal Intellect coupled with soul, the cosmic mind, has the potential of providing humanity with an unlimited intellect. We have limitless potential because we all share the Mind of God. I think this is what Jesus was referring to when he quoted Psalm 82:6, which says, “You are gods; you are all children of the Most High.” Jesus was trying to teach humanity the truth of who we really are. Giordano Bruno was attempting to do the same.

 

Works Cited

Mendoza, Ramon G. The Acentric Labyrinth. Rockport: Element, 1995.

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The Brunian Revolution, Part 3: Atomic Theory of Matter

The Burning of Rome, by JMW Turner
The Burning of Rome, by JMW Turner

We hear much about Bruno’s contributions to cosmology, especially in the first episode of the new Cosmos series, starring host, Neil deGrasse Tyson. Indeed, his cosmological ideas were revolutionary and amazingly prescient, but his primary contributions to humanity were philosophical and ontological, as we will see. I believe his theory of matter is most important. It influences all his other accomplishments.

Bruno formulated the most impressive theory of matter of any post-medieval European philosopher, perhaps to this day. Using only his powers of speculation and imagination, Bruno devised an amazingly powerful ontological theory that rejected Platonic dualism in favor of a strict monistic view of the universe. Of course, as any good philosopher, Bruno stood on the shoulders of the giants who preceded him. He synthesized ideas from the Presocratics, Stoics, Nicholas of Cusa, and others to create an entirely novel idea concerning the stuff of the universe we call “matter.”

Plato’s dualistic position of two separate worlds, one of the Forms (mental world), and one of physical matter has its roots in Pythagoras’ discovery that our world is connected to numbers. Pythagoras probably did not conceive of these two realities as being separate. Plato, however, made them distinct by recognizing there are no perfect examples of mathematical forms, such as the triangle, anywhere in our material world. Because of this, he believed that all material objects are flawed. This drove a wedge between mind and matter that is still with us to this day. Prior to Plato, the Presocratics had held to a monistic view of things. The Stoics also, afterwards, were monists in their cosmology, as were the Neoplatonists.

Plato’s student, Aristotle, disagreed with his teacher concerning this radical dualism. He retained the idea of the necessity of the forms and matter, but he claimed they were inseparable, thus making him a metaphysical monist. He did, however, believe that the realm of planets and stars was without flaw or imperfection. Aristotle remained a physical dualist, since he distinguished between an imperfect world of matter (sublunar) and a perfect world of stars and planets (supralunar).

By the time of Bruno’s arrest, the Roman Catholic Church had adopted the Aristotelian form of hylomorphism. In this theory, substances are envisioned as composites of form and matter. Matter is seen as entirely passive and dependent on the corresponding form to give it dynamism and quality.

Aristotle’s position would come to dominate the thinking of the Roman Catholic Church for hundreds of years. The synthesis of Aristotelianism and Christian theology was accomplished in the twelfth century by St. Thomas Aquinas, who was of the opinion there was no conflict between secular philosophy and Christian theology. Of course, Thomas incorporated many ideas taught by Islamic scholar, Averroes, not the more mystical Avicenna. Averroes helped to open the door in the West to open materialism.

Giordano Bruno was revolutionary in that he realized that a proper view of atomism (which he adopted from Leucippus and his student Democritus) did not require matter to have an external cause, nor some separate internal principle in order for it to proliferate. Bruno’s philosophy of matter is rigidly monistic: intrinsically, matter possesses within itself the animating power of its own emergence. In this view, all matter is sacred and dynamic.

Bruno rejected the views of Aristotle, as well as Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius in regards to matter because they portrayed it as devoid of any qualitative or quantitative value. His idea is that form and matter are factual, but not distinct:

In strict monism, the Aristotelian notion of the indissoluble interconnectedness of matter and form is paramount; matter and form are not two different and separate entities as they were in Platonic dualism, but two aspects or modes of the same physical reality (Mendoza 114).

So, form and matter are two different “modes” of one physical reality. The idea of modes is vastly different than positing two distinct substances. Descartes would, later, take the notion of distinct substances to its extreme in his mechanistic dualism of mind of matter. According to Descartes, matter is dead and lifeless.

Bruno offered a theory of matter that vanquished the dualistic ideas of Plato and Aristotle. He called his idea mater-materia, or “matter-mattering.” Here, matter possesses intelligence; it is the origin of all Forms. This idea could be termed “materialistic,” but it would be accompanied by the qualifiers, “intelligent and animated materialism,” since matter intrinsically possesses intelligence and consciousness. Bruno’s idea, here, bears similarity with Anaximander’s Apeiron. Also, this means that God is intimately connected with His creation. Mind is not separate from matter; mind is within matter. The phrase “mater-materia” connotes the womb of the Mother. Matter exists as an agent of “mattering;” matter is the matrix of all material forms.

 We think of “materialism” as something negative because it is based on the Cartesian worldview where mind and matter are bifurcated. Bruno’s conception of materialism is based on a monistic view, where all of Nature is alive with a resplendence that illuminates our world.

His new model of matter came complete with a somewhat original atomic theory partly based on the ideas of Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius. This came even before Galileo and Gassendi formulated atomic theories of their own. Bruno imagined atoms to be homogenous, indivisible, three-dimensional particles, which have the innate ability of self-movement. He called this self-animating power “soul.” He believed that, since there were infinite bodies in the universe, there are also an infinite number of atoms, all capable of spontaneous self-motion. In Bruno’s universe, as in Heraclitus’, all is in continual soul-flux.

Perhaps Bruno’s most important contribution to ontology is the radical, monistic flavor of his atomism. Because of its intrinsic nature, matter has the ability to generate complex states of order. Matter and form are not distinct, as in Plato. They are tightly interconnected, being different only in modal description. Bruno’s idea of

…matter has…the intrinsic power to generate all possible forms, and the immanent intelligence to direct and govern all organized complex forms that issue from it” (Mendoza 115).

This point is what I base my own theory of animaterialism upon. The “intrinsic power” and “immanent intelligence” is soul. Every atom in the universe is brimming with dynamic soul. Every atom is divine and has purpose.

 Our world is finally coming to terms with the latent energy in Nature. Atomic energy is just a metaphor for what really is innate to every bit of matter in the universe. This is a mere representation of the power of soul, for it burns brighter than any atomic explosion. If we all saw ourselves as being permeated with this soul-energy, just think what we could do!

 

Works Cited

Mendoza, Ramon G. The Acentric Labyrinth. Rockport: Element, 1995.

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The Brunian Revolution, Part 1: Religion

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The scene of the excution of Giordano Bruno in Piazza Campo dè Fiori, Rome

Giordano Bruno was a rare revolutionary, whose intellectual powers only occasionally arise among humans.  The ideas he espoused during those days of religious oppression and intellectual suppression demonstrated a tremendous amount of courage. Even during the expanded intellectual and artistic freedom of the European Renaissance, the terrors of The Inquisition hung over his head like the sword of Damocles. But, unlike Damocles, he bore the tortures, suffering, and finally the flames. He left behind a legacy that is with us to this day.

Bruno’s supreme vision was to replace Christianity with a completely new religion, one that would encompass all religions. It would need to be a movement that would appeal to all of humanity. A lofty goal, indeed! This, he believed to be his primary calling in life. Let’s face it, humans are alienated from one another, to a large extent, by religion. This becomes radically so when religions become fundamentalist in nature. In our world of today, this is a monumental problem, but it was in Bruno’s day, as well. Nations have been fighting and killing each other over religion for millennia. Bruno hoped that his teachings could light a flame under the foundations of humanity that would burn brilliantly for eternity.

Bruno was inspired to change humanity’s plight by several of his Renaissance predecessors, especially Marsilio Ficino. Ficino’s patrons, Lorenzo de Medici, who was tutored by Ficino as a boy, and Lorenzo’s father, Cosimo de Medici, gave Marsilio the opportunity to cultivate and bring forth his talents, as they did for many artists and intellectuals of the day. One of his greatest accomplishments was the translation of the Corpus Hermeticum, the primary text of Hermetism as taught by Hermes Trismegistus. In fact, just before he began working on the Corpus Hermeticum, he had been translating into Latin the works of Plato for the de Medicis. But after they were presented with Byzantine copies of the Corpus, Lorenzo ordered Ficino to stop work at once on the Plato translations and begin translating the words of Hermes. The de Medicis believed the Corpus contained “the most solid and promising foundation for the much needed universal religion” (Mendoza 46). Their enthusiasm was due to the fact that they believed that Hermes was a contemporary of Moses, and that his teachings contained elements that would appeal to all religious minds. Ficino completed and released a collection of thirteen tractates in 1471. This was a watershed event in Western history that influenced and animated many Renaissance luminaries, particularly Giordano Bruno.

According to Professor Ramon G. Mendoza,

A new religion based on reason and a realistic vision of the world had to be founded if it was to have any hopes of being universally accepted. Bruno’s cosmological model and the new philosophy with which it was intimately interlocked finally provided the foundation indispensable for a universally acceptable new religion (Mendoza 47).

Bruno felt his only chance for his new philosophy to take root would be in Italy. Germany was out. They were too enthralled with Luther and the religious freedom they believed he had brought them. Bruno needed the support of the Italian nobility and the intellectual elite. He had great confidence in his rhetorical powers to convince them of the viability of the new religion, and he could speak to his fellow-countrymen in his native tongue. He would later regret the decision to accept an invitation to teach his ars memoria to a wealthy Venetian noble named Mocenigo. Upon moving into Mocenigo’s palace, he was delivered to the Inquisition by the Venetian five months later, just after Easter, 1592.

Many of Bruno’s ideas are still timely. In the next installments, I will attempt to present those I feel we should take seriously. I will also explain why I think these ideas should be included, if we ever attempt to bring about a universal religion.

 

Works Cited

Mendoza, Ramon G. The Acentric Labyrinth. Rockport: Element, 1995.

 

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Ethical Implications of Bruno’s Philosophy

Cosmic Composition, by Paul Klee  
I am of the opinion that one’s view of matter ultimately leads to one’s system of ethics. So, after examining Bruno’s ontology and metaphysics for some time now, what are the ethical implications of accepting these things as truth? In this article, I will attempt to outline the resulting effects of accepting the following Brunian assertions,

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. [De Immenso ii.12, Singer p61].

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. [Expulsion p 242]

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. [Expulsion p 237]

First of all, and perhaps the most obvious, is that if one believes the Divine is innate to matter, One will treat all material things with reverence and respect. Think of how this one point would totally transform our world, if acted upon! Think of the tremendous damage being done to this world by various corporations all in the name of profit and someone’s twisted idea of freedom! It is a crime against the Soul of the World and all of us individual Souls. The ethical ramifications of the fusion of matter and Soul are mind-boggling!

The so-called Copernican revolution was really not very revolutionary, since all he did was replace the earth with the sun; he retained all the other nonsense from the Ptolemaic worldview. It was Bruno who truly revolutionized cosmology by asserting there was no center at all, which is how we view the universe today.

Bruno also espoused the idea of a  universe that is totally homogeneous, i.e. matter and Soul are intertwined everywhere in our infinite universe, and it is all in constant flux.

Bruno’s view of humanity was revolutionary. He sought to overturn age-old traditions concerning human nature and humanity’s place in the universe. Instead of worn-out anthropocentrisms, Bruno claimed that humans are linked by the same Soul that permeates everything. The same Soul that is in all our bodies is the same Soul that creates worlds and beings in those worlds. Soul and matter are indissoluble.

If all of this is true, the manner in which we treat our fellow humans changes. No longer will we allow racism, sectarianism, chauvinism, or bigotry to exist in our societies. Jingoism will have no place in any nation. War would necessarily be a thing of the past, since we would not want to harm the Soul that is innate to all of us by harming anyone, since we are all interconnected by Soul. Of course, this is a Utopian dream. I have stated before that I do not believe such a state of existence is possible for homo sapiens sapiens. It is something, however, for which we must strive if our world is to continue, and it may take a new species of human to bring it to pass.

The Universal Intellect coupled with Soul, what I am calling The Cosmic Mind, has the potential of providing humanity with an unlimited intellect. We have limitless potential because we all share the Mind of God. I think this is what Jesus was referring to when he quoted Psalm 82:6, which says, “You are gods; you are all children of the Most High.” Jesus was trying to teach humanity the truth of who we really are. Giordano Bruno was attempting to do the same thing.

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