|Beard, William Holbrook ~ Phantom Crane, 1891, oil on canvas|
This spirit, being persistent along with matter and these being the one and the other indissoluble, it is impossible that anything should in any respect see corruption or come to death, in its substance, although in certain accidents everything changes face, and passes now into one composition, now into another, through now one disposition, now another, leaving off or taking up now this now that existence. Aristotelians, Platonists, and other sophists have not understood what the substance of things is. In natural things that which they call substance, apart from matter, is pure accident. When we know what form really is, we know what is life and what is death ; and, the vain and puerile fear of the latter passing from us, we experience some of that blessedness which our philosophy brings with it, inasmuch as it lifts the dark veil of foolish sentiment concerning Orcus and the insatiable Charon, that wrests from us or empoisons all that is sweetest in our lives (Giordano Bruno, qtd. in Giordano Bruno, by J. Lewis McIntyre, p. 160).
This is an example of how Bruno viewed reality, although I suspect this translation does not do justice to Soul. McIntyre translates Soul as “spirit,” which is obviously wrong. I can’t find the original Latin text or I would try to translate it myself. Nevertheless, If we replace Soul where he mentions “spirit,” our understanding is illuminated.
In Bruno’s view, matter and Soul are indissoluble. Nothing ceases to be “in its substance,” since it would be impossible for Soul/Matter to perish. What actually happens is that Soul/Matter transforms from one form to another. Think of the Law of the Conservation of Energy, since that’s what Soul/Matter is:
For an isolated system, this law means that energy can change its location within the system, and that it can change form within the system, for instance chemical energy can become kinetic energy, but that energy can be neither created nor destroyed (Wikipedia).
“Death” is merely a transference of Energy (Soul/Matter) from one form to another. Nothing ceases to be. The various forms have different accidentals and dispositions, but the One Substance always remains.
One of Bruno’s greatest wishes was that he could banish the fear of death from humanity. He saw this as a childish fear brought about by the lack of understanding of substance and form. The common fear of death was fostered by the Roman Catholic Church throughout history with their doctrine of Hell and its tortures. The masses were indoctrinated so they could be controlled. But now, we have thrown off ignorance and understand that there is only one substance with many forms, all emerging from the Mater Materia, which we could also call The Womb of the World Soul. Death is just a change of “face,” as Bruno says.
What a truly liberating philosophy! Bruno desired more than anything to spread this message around the globe, uniting all religions, all the Earth’s inhabitants. But, at that time in history, it was not to be. It was not the appointed time. Perhaps the fact that Bruno is becoming more popular lately implies that the time is ripe for such a teaching. I have great hope.
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