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 4: Epistemology

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Bruno was one who fully utilized the imagination in his work. It took him a mere ten years of traversing the imaginal world to reach a more accurate picture of the universe than Galileo’s, who spent several decades calculating and experimenting. Even after those many years, when Galileo was ready to die, he still believed the Sun to be the center of the universe. Bruno accurately saw the universe to be without a center almost sixty years prior to this. Galileo had much better technology, some he invented himself. Bruno used, primarily, his imagination, along with astute observation, to reach these revolutionary conclusions. This brings to mind Albert Einstein’s success, using his “thought-experiments” to reach equally monumental developments.

Bruno had serious reservations concerning the sole use of mathematics to ascertain the nature of reality. He cites Ptolemy as one example of someone with amazing mathematical skills, who claimed the earth to be the center of the universe. This view was dominant in the West for over fifteen hundred years. Bruno felt that the use of mathematics, to the exclusion of observation, reason, and the imagination, was not a reliable road to knowledge. In this point, Bruno was anti-Pythagorean and anti-Platonic. But this does not mean Bruno totally rejected mathematics. He believed it is was very useful in his work to corroborate “the intuitions about the universe that he believed only philosophy could provide…” (Mendoza 158).

Eventually, Einstein helped to prove that mathematics was indispensable in cosmological theory. He didn’t accomplish this, however, exclusively through mathematics, but by using his amazing imagination to envision the geometric motions of heavenly bodies.

Bruno’s epistemology is firmly grounded in his idea of the Cosmic Mind, which you can read about in my article, here.

Bruno’s conviction that the human mind was ‘the eye of divine intelligence’ may have prompted him to ‘tune in’ with the cosmic mind. Man had first to set his mind free from all the prejudices that held it imprisoned in the dark dungeon of ignorance so as to render it capable of establishing contact with the cosmic mind. He simply had to let the ‘larger mind’ take over (Mendoza 162).

Bruno’s mature epistemology is dialectical, preceding Hegel by a little over two centuries. Borrowing from the coincidentia oppositorum of Nicholas of Cusa, and the dynamic Heraclitean principle of becoming, Bruno forged a theory of knowledge that was truly unique. In de umbris idearum, he writes:

…in order for you to acquire a consummate and absolute art, it behooves you to copulate with the soul of the world, and once you have copulated with it, to act, for it is teeming with rational forms, and it generates a world full of rational forms. And these forms (Plotinus would agree) shape and form in seed everything that exists, like tiny worlds. Hence since the soul is everywhere present, all of it in the whole and in every part of it as well, you may be able to behold, as the condition of matter will allow, in everything, no matter how small or cut off, the world, not to speak of the semblance of the world, so that we may without fear say with Anaxagoras that everything is in everything (qtd. in Mendoza 163).

Bruno is asserting the “tuning in” of the mind with the cosmic mind that involves “copulation” with the soul of the world. Powerful imagery, indeed! The same thought processes, archetypes, imagery of the cosmic mind can be experienced in the human mind. The universe is understandable because the subject and object of knowledge share the same type of configuration; the mind and the cosmic mind have basically the same structure.

So, using his dialectical methodology, Bruno saw mind and matter as complementary, as  interdependent “moments of reality” (Mendoza 164). The macrocosmic mind and the microcosmic mind both share the same divine and infinite Oneness.

Probably the thing that distinguished Bruno’s method most of all was his courage to question the authoritative assertions of the past. Because of his method of free thought and uncompromising intellectual honestly, he influenced all freethinkers after him to not rely on revelation or dogma for their discoveries, but on their own minds and imaginations.

 

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 2: Cosmology

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Giordano Bruno had his eyes steadfastly fixed on the future of mankind. He desired more than anything that humanity be led out of the despotic morass of the Christian religion, with its chains of hierarchy, intolerance, dogmatism, and downright tyranny. Not only that, but he wanted to provide all peoples of all nations and religions an intellectual and spiritual infrastructure that they could wholeheartedly accept without reservation.

The overthrow of Ptolemaic geocentrism was paramount in order to seriously weaken the dogmatic edifice that had been constructed by the Church over the previous fifteen centuries. Copernicus, to his credit, began the assault, albeit timidly. In 1543, he published his life’s work, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Copernicus proposed that the Sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe. Strangely, he died the same year. His heliocentric theory was, indeed, a revolutionary proposal, but it was in no way powerful enough to demolish the cosmic order of that era. The security of being at the center of an ordered universe was still, for the most part, intact. Perhaps the earth was not the exact center, but we were still near enough to it that it didn’t make much difference. It would take the new cosmology of Bruno to obliterate the entire structure.

The Nolan philosopher boldly proclaimed the universe had absolutely no center. This was one of the most revolutionary statements in Western history. We are still reeling from the ensuing waves this idea brought about, even after four hundred years. Bruno was the first post-medieval European to assert an acentric universe. With this, the old worldview was shattered. As Ernst Bloch said, “the roof of the heavens was pulled off , the world-onion with the seven skins exploded” (qtd. in Mendoza 73).

For some reason, humans like centers. We feel uncomfortable if we realize there are none. The philosophical and ethical ramifications of an acentric universe are far-reaching. Bruno’s proclamation was really the beginning of humanity’s encounter with nothingness and absurdity, preoccupations of the later Existentialist movement. Suddenly, those who grasped the significance of this insight, which Bruno received entirely through his imagination, realized how insignificant humans appeared to be. By bringing forth this basic truth, however, Bruno freed philosophical and scientific thinking from the old dogmatic viewpoints that had dragged them down for so long. Because of this, Professor Mendoza calls him, “the initiator of Modernity” (Mendoza 74).

It is not only the idea of acentricity that makes Bruno so important. He also asserted with equal fervor that the universe is infinite, homogenous, and isotropic. Furthermore, he believed the universe is filled with innumerable worlds. This is modern cosmology in a nutshell. All boundaries, hierarchies, and harmonies associated with the heavens are now obsolete. The universe is infinite; perhaps it always has been. It has no center. All matter is composed of the same elements throughout the cosmos. Can you imagine how mind-blowing all this must have been in the 1590’s?

One of the reasons why his cosmological ideas are so important to his plan of universal religion is because Bruno extended these ideas into the realm of his ontology, ethics, and, of course, his theology. I will delve into these areas in future installments.

 

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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Petrarch’s Epiphany

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Petrarch and Laura, by Nicaise De Keyzer (1842)

The man who most likely was responsible for initiating the European Renaissance, Francesco Petrarca (20 July 1304 – 19 July 1374), better known as Petrarch, fell in love with Soul on April 6, 1327, when his eyes fell upon a beautiful young girl named Laura:

It was on that day when the sun’s ray
was darkened in pity for its Maker,
that I was captured, and did not defend myself,
because your lovely eyes had bound me, Lady (The Canzoniere)

Petrarch never had a relationship with this young woman, but he carried her in his heart the remainder of his days. In her, he realized the beauty and truth of Soul. This is, of course, what Jung called the anima archetype, that unconscious feminine Person that men possess within them.

Just prior to the period we know as the Renaissance, it is reasonable to assume there was a tremendous perturbation of unconscious forces stirring. The Church had focused for so long on Aristotelian philosophy and theology, and had increased their control on culture to the point where Soul had been quiesced. Effectively, culture had been de-souled and de-imaginalized.

In 1333, Petrarch found and copied a manuscript of Cicero’s Pro Archia that gave impetus to the coming Renaissance re-souling of culture. The manuscript contained a passage that was a defense of poetry and letters:

Haec studia adolescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis perfugium ac solacium praebent, delectant domi, non impediunt foris, pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur. (Translation: “These studies sustain youth and entertain old age, they enhance prosperity, and offer a refuge and solace in adversity; they delight us when we are at home without hindering us in the wider world, and are with us at night, when we travel and when we visit the countryside” (Pro Archia, para. 16).

Cicero is referring to the study of books: literature, poetry, philosophy, the humanities. Petrarch adopted Cicero’s idea of studia humanitatis as one worthy for his day and age. Humanitas is nowadays associated with the term, humanism, but this was not the meaning it held during the Renaissance. What Petrarch and those who followed him meant by it was simply the study of classical Greek and Roman literature. These studies moved their souls to deep wells of creativity. James Hillman claims that “from the very beginning in Petrarch the inner content of the materials was the mythical persons and ideas from pre-Christian polytheistic world (Hillman 194).  Furthermore, he says,

This humanitas was in fact an exercise of imagination, an exploration and discipline of the imaginal, whether through science, magic, study, love, art, or voyages.  It sought the development of the imaginative mind and its power of imaginative understanding, in contradistinction to both the theological mind of Church philosophy and the feeling heart of mendicant and monastic Church orders (Hillman 195).

The Renaissance, in essence a tremendous effluence of imagination from the wellspring of the unconscious, was brought to the surface by the rediscovery of classical literature. In large part, this consisted of the study of pagan myths; the stories of the Gods and Goddesses of classical Greece and Rome. These beings arose, once again, in the conscious minds of many, and much beauty was brought forth.

Hillman believes the Renaissance study of the ancient scholars was believed to be “care of the soul,” or, effectively, psychotherapy (ibid.).  Apparently, Petrarch made the classical era an imaginal space to which, in his studies, he was transported. There, he experienced the many figures of classical literature, and thus enriched his soul and the soul of his time.

Petrarch is said to be the first modern man. Hillman says this means he was the first psychological man. His famous ascent up Mount Ventoux in April, 1336 is considered by many to be the beginning of the Renaissance, but his descent was actually the starting point. By descending back down into the valley, he symbolically descends into his own soul, for he admits, “Nothing is admirable but the Soul.”

Addendum: In our day, the study of the humanities is ridiculed as a waste of time. Many colleges and universities are closing their humanities departments so there will be more resources to teach mathematics, science, and engineering. This is a horrible mistake, for this always results in the degradation of culture. We choose this path at our own peril.

 

Works Cited

Hillman, James. Re-visioning Psychology. New York: Harper, 1975.

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