The Eight Theses of Giordano Bruno: Point 3, One Soul

The Eight Theses of Giordano Bruno: Point 3, One Soul

Photo by jerry sharp

At this point in our project, we have learned that Bruno has no notion of wanting to please the cardinals of the Church. During his trial, which lasted more than eight years, he refused time and time again to recant. He was subjected to daily torture on the rack and other instruments of pain by the so-called Holy Inquisition. Through all of this, he would not betray his ideas.

The third point reads thusly:

3) The idea that every reality resides in the eternal and infinite soul of the world, including the body: “There is no reality that is not accompanied by a spirit and an intelligence.”

As we know, the Anima Mundi is a living reality that encompasses all things in the universe. Bruno said (in the guise of Teofilo),

The universal intellect is the innermost, most real and most proper faculty or potential part of the world soul. It is that one and the same thing that fills everything, illuminates the universe and directs nature to produce her various species suitably (Cause, Principle, and Unity, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1998, pg 37).

And this very powerful statement:

The universe is, therefore, one, infinite, and immobile. I say that
the absolute possibility is one, that the act is one; the form, or soul, is one, the matter, or body, is one, the thing is one, being is one (ibid.). 

Bruno is claiming that the Anima Mundi and all entities in the universe are one substance. According to this notion, God is in no way distinct from the universe.

The statement, “There is no reality that is not accompanied by a spirit and an intelligence,” originates with the following passage. Bruno is here discussing divers kinds of spirits:

These various spirits occupy the bodies of humans, animals, stones and minerals. There is no body which is completely devoid of spirit and intelligence. Furthermore, no spirit possesses a permanent location for itself. Rather, spirits fluctuate from one matter to another, and matter fluctuates from one spirit to another, and from one nature or composition to another.

 So, we have, in these two ideas, 1) that every reality resides in the World Soul, and 2) that every reality is accompanied by spirit and intelligence, the crux of the third point brought against Giordano Bruno. He believes that all Nature is one substance with the Soul of the World. He believes that all of Nature’s physical entities are possessed of spirits and intelligences. Even though the term was coined in 1697 by Joseph Raphson in his work De spatio reali, it is fairly clear that Bruno is espousing at least a form of pantheism. And what of it? The terms pantheism and panentheism seem to me just so much rationalistic claptrap! Why are rationalists always bent on distinguishing one reality from another?

To cut through the analytical mess and get to the nitty-gritty of things, here are a couple of questions: Is a rose in full bloom divine? Is there a divine spirit in a baby’s laugh? Break free of polarized thinking and see Truth rising like Sol in the east. If God wills it, He can be distinct and indistinct from Nature simultaneously! Polarized thinking gets us nowhere. Bruno was burned to death because puny polarized minds could not comprehend the genius they were dealing with.

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