Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought

Graphic Rule



a. More Links with England: Plurality of Worlds

THE end -- the fruitless end. So it must have appeared to Bruno on that February morning. We have gleaned from the Inquisition Archives some notion of the physical privation and suffering during those eight long years. We stand abashed before the mental and moral strength, the amazing courage that could still attempt to convey to the arraigning judges the beauty and the exaltation of his message. But they stubbornly refused the message. As he passed to his dreadful death, he must have thought himself and his message doomed to utter and complete oblivion.

Yet perhaps not one of the intervening years between then and now has gone without Bruno's name passing men's lips, without his message bringing its rousing summons to great thought and great deeds. Many volumes have been written on different aspects of Bruno's thought, on the development of his philosophy and the influence derived from him by many of the great minds of Europe. In the few pages that follow, only the briefest outline can be given of the influence traceable to him in the three centuries following his death.

Certain developments from his sojourn in England must first be considered. Attention has already been drawn to Bruno's connection both with the "School of Night" and with Hariot and other astronomers in England. [1] His contacts with Raleigh, with Sidney and with others of the English Court have been traced. [2]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626), too, just mentions Bruno. In the Introduction to the Historia naturalis et experimentalis (1622), citing philosophers who seek for knowledge through imagination instead of through experiment, he remarks: "Patrizzi, Telesio, Bruno, Severin of Denmark, Gilbert of England, Campanella, have tried the stage, acted new plays which were neither marked by applauding favour of the public nor by brilliancy of plot." [3]

Perhaps the idea that most caught the fancy of Bruno's English audience was that of inhabitants of other worlds, derived by Bruno from Nicolaus of Cusa.

The idea is found in the Introduction to Book Two of Spenser's Faerie Queene (1590):

Right well I wote, most mighty Soueraine,
That all this famous antique history,
Of some, th' aboundance of an idle braine
Will iudged be, and painted forgery
Rather than matter of iust memory;
Sith none that breatheth liuing aire does knowe,
Where is that Land of Faery,
Which I so much doe vaunt, yet no where showe
But vouch antiquities, which no body can knowe.
But let that man with better sense advise
That of the world least part to us is read:
And daily how through hardy enterprise
Many great Regions are discouered,
 . . .
Why then should witlesse man so much misweene
That nothing is, but that which he hath seene?
What if within the Moone's fair shining spheare,
What if in every other starre unseene
Of other worlds he happily should heare?
He wonder would much more: yet suche to some appeare.

Ben Jonson, on the other hand, in a Masque performed at Court on Twelfth Night, 1620, and entitled News from the New World Discovered in the Moon, ridiculed the idea of the moon's being inhabited. [4] Bruno's most remarkable, though unavowed, disciple was acquired in his Oxford adventure. [5] When Bruno was in Oxford in 1583 there was a young graduate at Christ Church named Francis Godwin [6] just about to take his Master's Degree. Godwin heard the discourse of Bruno, this uncouth foreigner who produced such a scandal in the university. Promptly the young man wrote a skit on the whole affair entitled The Man in the Moone or a Discourse of a Voyage Hither, by Domingo Gonsales, the Speedy Messenger. Bruno becomes a Spaniard; he is represented as a wanderer who had got into sundry embroilments like Bruno himself. Having killed a man in a duel, he decides that he must quit this earth, and he trains a team of geese to fly up and convey him to the moon. A digression assures us that this proceeding is in conformity with all religion, and we then hear an account of his adventures. True to the ideas of Bruno, Gonsales tells us how the earth soon came to look like the moon. After eleven or twelve days, free of that lodestone the earth (the phrase becomes familiar to us in Gilbert), Gonsales reaches the moon and many are his adventures there, until at length, having acquired a new sort of lodestone, an antidote to the attraction of the earth, he is able to float himself safely down again, landing in China.

Godwin himself never published this work. He was destined to become a distinguished historian and a pillar of the Church of England as Bishop first of Llandaff and later of Chester. His best-known work, which earned him his preferment, was a Catalogue of the Bishops of England, dedicated to that Lord Buckhurst whose name figures in Bruno's Ash Wednesday Supper. The Man in the Moone was, however, published after his death, and one E. M. of Christ Church contributed an interesting "Epistle to the Reader." The work reached at least three editions [7] and was translated into French, inspired the Voyage to the Moon of Cyrano de Bergerac, which in turn gave hints to Dean Swift for his Gulliver's Travels (1726). Bishop Godwin had, however, written another work in light vein, perhaps also in his student days. This was called The Inanimate Messenger from Utopia. It is in Latin and describes methods of communication by beacon lights. A translation of the Latin work by one Dr. T. Smith of Magdalen College, Oxford, was published posthumously as Mysterious Messenger Unlocking the Secret of Men's Hearts, together with the second edition of The Man in the Moone. [8]

The combined work attracted the attention of another young divine, John Wilkins (1614-1672), who also became a bishop. Wilkins began life as a Parliamentarian. He accepted the Restoration, and his kindliness and moderation helped the religious adjustments of the period. In 1638, soon after taking his Oxford M.A., Wilkins published anonymously his Discovery of a World in the Moon tending to prove that 'tis probable that there may be another habitable world in that Planet. The work was, we are told, well known to be from the hand of Wilkins. It soon reached a second and again a third edition with sundry additions each time. The third (of 1640) has also a "Discourse concerning the Possibility of a Passage thither." It too was translated into French. [9] His next work, Mercury or the Secret Messenger, not only bears his name, but is frankly inspired by Godwin. Both Godwin's Mysterious Messenger and also the adventures of Don Gonsales himself are cited by Wilkins.

Now Bishop Wilkins, when he resided in London, had been an eager member of that Invisible College which met for the exhibition and discussion of scientific matters. When in 1648 he became warden of Wadham College, Oxford, the meetings of the scientists forming the Invisible College were transferred to Wadham. At this time Sir Christopher Wren was among his pupils at Wadham. Later on Wilkins presided at a meeting in London which resulted in the foundation of the Royal Society of which he was the first secretary.

Thus from Wilkins, one of the founders of the Royal Society, we trace back the line of ideas through Godwin with his character of Don Gonsales and with his cosmology based on that of Bruno, yet further back beyond Bruno to the great mind, at once exalted and constructive, of Nicolaus of Cusa, and beyond Nicolaus to the philosophers of Islamic Spain, who themselves formed part of the wave of Islamic thought which during the centuries had swept from Persia and Asia Minor westward to the frontier of France.

But there resulted from the new metaphysical conceptions a subtler and yet more important change in the conception of the physical universe. We have seen that the earth no longer formed the summit of a hierarchy. The universe itself came to be regarded as a continuum rather than as a hierarchy. Thus mutual interaction of the parts of the universe assumed new meaning, and the way was prepared for Newton's great message of universal interaction through universally acting law.

The mention of Newton brings to mind that charming French writer of the turn of the seventeenth century, le Bovier de Fontenelle. De Fontenelle does not mention Bruno by name but his Entretiens sur la pluralité des moncles [10] is in the succession of the works we have been considering. De Fontenelle too cites astronomers: "Ask Flamstead about the interior of the moon." He reminds us of an author also cited by Bruno in a different context. "Here," says de Fontenelle, "is Ariosto's talk about Astolfo who was carried to the moon by St. John." He thinks the inhabitants of these other worlds must be quite different from man, but that communication with them will one day be possible. To the sun he does not ascribe inhabitants very different from man. He forecasts the human art of flying, but feels obliged to explain hastily that this suggestion was his joke, an insuperable difficulty lying in the differences in the atmosphere at different heights. In 1695 this work was translated into English by John Glanville (1664-1735). Another English translation which purports to have been revised by Fontenelle himself was published in 1783 and contains also a translation from the Latin of an Oration in Defence of the New Philosophy spoken in the theatre at Oxford, July 7th, 1693 by Mr. Addison. This latter gives a brief but very spirited defence of the new cosmology which it ascribes to Descartes; microscopes and the objects seen through them are cited, as well as Boyle's air pumps. Monsieur de Fontenelle was a nephew of Corneille. He was Secretary to the Académie des Sciences. It is recorded that he refused to vote either for the admission or the exclusion of a candidate for the Academy whose qualification was the friendship of the Duc d' Orleans. It appears that he was the only member who refused to admit political grounds for exclusion of a candidate. De Fontenelle was the friend of Voltaire, and he discovered and introduced to Paris society Mademoiselle Cordier de Launay who became Madame de Staël. He became famous for his preface to the Marquis de l'Hôpital's Des infiniment petits and it was he who delivered the official obituary oration on the death of Newton. He lived almost to his hundredth birthday.

We may quote also the astronomer Edmund Halley (1656-1742) to whom we owe not only the observation of the famous comet, but also the publication of Newton's great work (to which the chief obstacle was the author's own reluctance to publication). "It is now taken for granted that the Earth is one of the Planets and they are all with reason suppos'd habitable, though we are not able to define by what sort of Animals." [11]

Finally we may recall the posthumous work Cosmotheoros of the Dutch astronomer Christian Huygens (1629-1695). Huygens accepts the view that the stars are suns vastly further from us than our own sun. With an engaging combination of sound astronomy, fantasy and piety, he expounds his view that the planets of our sun and of the other stars must have living inhabitants. He notes that Plutarch and "later Authors such as Cardinal Cusanus, Brunus, Kepler (and if we may believe him Tycho was of that opinion too) have furnish'd the Planets with Inhabitants" and he cites the "ingenious French author" (De Fontenelle). But he does not follow Cusanus and Bruno in having "allow'd the Sun and fixed Stars theirs too." The suns Huygens believes to be too hot for living inhabitants, but rather by their light and heat to enable their planets to support life. Except as regards the habitation of the moon, which he accepts after some doubt, he rejects the views of Kepler's Mysterium cosmographicum as "nothing but an idle Dream taken from Pythagoras or Plato's Philosophy." He sets forth on a sound astronomical basis his view of a vast universe and of the immensely numerous and distant stars, so that to reckon them "requires an immense Treasury not of twenty or thirty figures only, in our decuple Progression, but of as many as there are Grains of Sand upon the shore. And yet who can say, that even this number exceeds that of the Fixed Stars? Some of the Ancients and Jordanus Brunus carry'd it further, in declaring the Number infinite." Huygens considers that Bruno's arguments for infinity are not conclusive, though he is inclined to accept his views. "Indeed it seems to me certain that the Universe is infinitely extended; but what God has bin pleas'd to place beyond the Region of the Stars, is as much above our knowledge as it is our Habitation." [12]

Graphic Rule

b. Bruno's Younger Contemporaries: The Seventeenth Century

It may well be believed that former pupils of Bruno when they met together in safe seclusion, were wont to recall the man and his works. To four of them, Eglin, Alstedt, Nostitz and Besler, we owe a special tribute for their pious faithfulness. Raffaele Eglin dared to publish in 1595 the gist of a course of lectures that the Master had given in Zurich; and a further volume was issued from the majesty of Eglin's Chair of Theology at Prague in 1603. [13] Mention has been made of the slight work from Bruno's words published by his pupil Alstedt in 1612. [14] Before another three years had passed, the Hungarian pupil Nostitz had published the gist of lectures delivered thirty-three years earlier in Paris. [15]

Besler, the pupil who was working with him as his scribe up to his imprisonment, published no works of Bruno. It is not hard to understand that wisdom did not suggest a wider advertisement of their connection. But the manuscript from Besler's hand furnishes the only copy of some of Bruno's works. [16]

Above all, the debt of our modern world is to the publisher in England of the six brief Italian works and to the devoted task of Wechel and Fischer in publishing the great Latin poems. [17] While we are considering the seventeenth century, it may be recalled that a second edition of the poems De monade and De innumerabilibus was published by Fischer in 1614.

The names of William Gilbert and of Bruno are often mentioned together by the astronomers of the earlier seventeenth century. Galileo (1564-1642) may have first heard of Bruno through reading the De magnete. In a passage commenting on the pusillanimity of men of talent who neglect Gilbert's work, he attributes his own possession of De magnete to "a famed peripatetic philosopher who presented it to me, I think in order to purge his own library of the contagion thereof." [18] But Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) is reported as reproaching Galileo for omitting to mention his own debt. For Martin Hasdale (1571-1630), a member of the Emperor Rudolph's court and a great purveyor of gossip as well as a devoted admirer of Galileo, writes to him as follows from Prague on 15th April, 1610:

I had this morning occasion for friendly dispute with Kepler when we were both lunching with the Ambassador of Saxony.... He said concerning your book [the Sidereus nuncius] that truly it has revealed the divinity of your talent, but that you had given cause of complaint not only to the German nation but also to your own, since you make no mention of those writers who gave the signal and the occasion for your discovery, naming among them Giordano Bruno as an Italian, Copernicus and himself. [19]

Kepler himself in his published works as early as 1606 cited both "infelix ille Jordanus Brunus" and Gilbert. He set forth their view of an infinite universe which he rejected, and of infinitely numerous worlds which he accepted. [20] In the following year he is writing to Brengger that not only Bruno but following him Tycho Brahe (1581-1627) accepted the plurality of inhabited worlds. [21]

In 1610, writing to Galileo and discussing Galileo's discovery of the satellites of Jupiter, and the possibility of another planet, Kepler cites the comment on Galileo's discovery of their friend Wacker. [22] who had said, if there are four more "planets" why not an infinity of planets? Then, writes Kepler, "either the world is infinite as Melissus and Gilbert the Englishman thought or, as Democritus, Leucippus, Bruno and our friend Brutus [23] believed, there are innumerable other worlds similar to ours." [24]

In the reprint of Kepler's letter published in the same year with his commentary on Galileo's Sidereus nuncius, there is interpolated before this passage a definite statement that Wacker had no doubt that such new planets circulate around some of the fixed stars "which," remarks Kepler, "has for a long time been in my mind through the speculations of Cusanus and Bruno." [25] Moreover, in drawing a distinction between the views of Gilbert and of Bruno, Kepler now notes that Bruno gave the name of earths to the infinitely numerous celestial bodies. There are repeated references to Bruno throughout the letter. For example, "What else then O Galileo may we infer than that fixed stars send forth their light from within to impinge on planets, that is, if I may use Bruno's words, these as suns and those as moons or earths?" [26]

Kepler accepts Bruno's views of the existence of innumerable worlds but rejoices that he considers that Galileo's work on the satellites of Jupiter rebuts the conception both of Bruno and of Edmund Bruce that there are planets revolving around the fixed stars. [27] In spite of the phrase contrasting Bruno's views with those of Gilbert, Kepler calls Bruno "the defender of infinity." [28] Kepler of course has the mystic conception: "after the sun, no globe is nobler or more apt for Man than our Earth ... the Sun, the inciter of the motion of all the others, the true Apollo as Bruno repeatedly names him." [29] In 1611 he is again referring to the views of "Cardinal Cusanus, Bruno and others" as to an infinity of "planets" circulating around an infinity of fixed stars. [30]

In 1690 J. J. Zimmermann (1644-1693) dedicated to Duke Rudolph of Brunswick a work in defence of Copernicus, Kepler and Bruno, and begged the Duke to command a new edition of the De immenso, recalling that this work had been dedicated to the Duke's ancestor. [31]

But it was on the philosophers of subsequent centuries rather than on the astronomers that Bruno exerted most lasting influence. Though Bruno is nowhere directly cited by Spinoza (1632-1677), the infinite and all-embracing Unity of Spinoza's thought, especially in the Short Treatise of God and Man and His Well-being is very reminiscent of Bruno. The connection between the teaching of the two men has been noted by many of Spinoza's biographers from Nicéon [32] and F. H. Jacobi (p. 195) to those of the nineteenth and the present century. [33] Nor can we leave the seventeenth century without recalling that Spampanato traced Candelaio as a source for scenes and characters in no fewer than ten of the plays of Molière (1622-73).

Graphic Rule

c. The Eighteenth Century: The Romantic Movement

With the eighteenth century began the translations of Bruno's works. They had already been heralded by Boniface et le pédant, comédie en prose imitée de l'ltalien de Bruno Nolano, Paris, 1633. In London, 1713, we have Spaccio della bestia trionfante or the Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast. Translated from the Italian of Jordano Bruno. [34] It is notable that this first translation from the corpus of Bruno's philosophy appeared in England. It was followed in 1750 by a French translation of the same work: Le ciel réformé, essai de traduction de partie du livre Italien "Spaccio della bestia trionfante": demus alienis obiectationibus veniam, dum nostris impetremus, Plin. [35] The Spaccio appears to have been especially regarded in England. In the Spectator of 1712 is a notice of the sale of a copy of this work with an epitome and the remark, "the author is a professed atheist." [36] This term atheist had also been unjustly used of Bruno by Mersenne. [37] The accusation against Bruno of atheism was renewed and disputed by several writers during the eighteenth century.

One of the most ardent admirers of Bruno was the philosopher C. A. Heumann (1681-1746) who became professor of theology at Göttingen. He wrote an analysis of the three great Latin poems and of the Oratio valedictoria, prefacing to the latter a defence of Bruno from the accusation of atheism [38] and thus starting a considerable controversy. He wrote a further contribution on the metaphysics of Bruno. [39] Heumann was cited by the Swiss writer J. J. Zimmermann who published in Zurich a Dissertation defending Bruno from the charge of atheism. [40]

It has been said that the philosophical third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) was much influenced by Bruno's conviction of interrelationship of all things throughout the universe, and that Bruno's writings led him to his view of the living whole as a harmonious organism. Johann George Hamann of Königsberg (1730-1788), in reaction against Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, adopted from Bruno the conception of the coincidence of contraries.

Daniel Morhof of Weimar (1639-1691), historian and scholar, wrote a charming appreciation of Bruno. [41] Goethe (1749-1832) read this in his youth and read also Gottfried Arnold's account of Bruno. [42] A recent writer has remarked "the rapturous delight ... roused in Goethe's mind ... by any fulfilment of his desire to resolve the antithesis between the Many and the One -- a desire which is the keynote to the whole of his biological work," and gives a translation of the prose-poem Die Natur of Goethe or possibly by his friend Tobler.

Discussing the poem, the translator continues: "His solution, however, was not truly synthetic, since it led him to stress the One, and to absorb the Many into it." These words might have been written of Bruno, who might almost have penned such passages in the poem as:

"She is perfectly whole, and yet always incomplete. Thus, as she now works, she can work for ever.

"To each man she appears as befits him alone. She cloaks herself under a thousand names and terms, and is always the same." [43] Goethe refers in Faust to the martyrdom of Bruno. But in the Annalen, published in 1812, he remarks that the works of Bruno are indeed characterized by the exaltation of his outlook, but that to extract the solid gold and silver from the mass of such unequally precious lodes is almost beyond human strength. [44]

Leibnitz (1646-1716), Lessing (1729-1781) and Herder (1744-1803) have been described as disciples of Bruno. [45] Herder corresponded with Hamann concerning him. [46] J. F. Abel (1751-1829) is said to have first directed the attention of Schiller (1759-1805) to Bruno's writings. Schelling (1775-1854) wrote a Dialogue entitled Bruno, or the Divine and the Natural Principles of Things. [47]

F. H. Jacobi (1743-1819) had yet earlier drawn attention to Bruno. In his Letters to Moses Mendelssohn on the Thought of Spinoza he remarks that he cannot understand why the philosophy of Bruno has been called obscure. He considers that there is hardly a purer or more beautiful exposition of pantheism to be found, and he regards Bruno's work as essential for the understanding both of this doctrine and of its relationship to other philosophies. He gives the gist of some extracts from De la causa, principio et uno together with some of the original Italian "lest you should think me inaccurate." [48]

Hegel (1770-1831) did not accept Jacobi's high estimate of Bruno. He was revolted by the Italian's exuberance and he criticized both Jacobi and Schelling for their advocacy of Bruno. Nevertheless, the thought of Hegel can perhaps trace surprising ancestry in the doctrine of the coincidence of contraries. [49]

The romantic movement found plenty of inspiration from Bruno. Coleridge (1772-1834) was profoundly impressed by him. Both in manuscripts and in his published works, Coleridge refers to Bruno many times and gives quotations and translations from his works, especially from De monade and De innumerabilibus. The copy of the latter work in the Bodleian Library contains manuscript notes by Coleridge. In a letter to W. Sotheby of 13th July, 1802, he quotes from the final lines of the poem. [50] In the composite volume Omniana, the references to Bruno are clearly from Coleridge's pen. Thus in the essay on Egotism we have:

Paracelsus was a braggart and a quack: so was Cardan: but it was their merits and not their follies which drew upon them that torrent of detraction and calumny which compelled them so frequently to think and write concerning themselves that at length it became a habit to do so ... and the same holds good of the founder of the Brunonian system [51] and of his namesake Giordano Bruno. [52]

In the essay on the Circulation of the Blood is an even more interesting product of Coleridge's erudition; he writes:

The ancients attributed to the blood the same motion of ascent and descent which really takes place in the sap of trees. Servetus discovered the minor circulation from the heart to the lungs. Do not the following passages of Giordano Bruno (published 1591), seem to imply more? We put the question, pauperis forma, with unfeigned diffidence.

"De Immenso et Innumerabili, lib. vi, cap. 8:
"Ut in nostro corpore sanguis per totum circumcursat
et recursat, sic in toto mundo, astro, tellure."
"Quare non aliter quam nostro in corpore sanguis
Hinc meat, hinc remeat, neque ad inferiora fluit vi
Majore, ad supera e pedibus quam deinde recedat"

and still more plainly, in the ninth chapter of the same book:

                        "Quid esse
Quodam ni gyro Naturae cuncta redirent
Ortus ad proprios rursam; si sorbeat omnes
Pontus aquas, totum non restituatque perenni
Ordine: qua possit rerum consistere vita?
Tanquam si totus concurrat sanguis in unam,
In qua consistat, partem, nec prima revisat
Ordia, et antiquos cursus non inde resumat." [53]

We must, however, reject this claim of Coleridge for Bruno. The passages quoted are but examples of Bruno's doctrine of cosmic metabolism and this is clearly shewn by the complete heading to Book VI, Chapter 8, of which Coleridge quotes only a part. [54]

In the essay on Magnanimity, seven verses are quoted out of the eight prefixed by Bruno to De monade. [55] Coleridge in his notes introducing the verses remarks:

If the human mind be, as it assuredly is, the sublimest object which nature affords to our contemplation, these lines which pourtray the human mind under the action of its most elevated affections, have a fair claim to the praise of sublimity.

After quoting the verses he observes:

The conclusion alludes to a charge of impenetrable obscurity in which Bruno shares one and the same fate with Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and in truth with every great discoverer and benefactor of the human race; excepting only when the discoveries have been capable of being rendered palpable to the outward senses, and have therefore come under the cognizance of our "sober judicious critics"; the men of "sound common sense," i.e., of those snails in intellect who wear their eyes at the tips of their feelers, and cannot even see unless they at the same time touch. When these finger-philosophers affirm that Plato, Bruno, etc., must have been "out of their senses," the just and proper retort is "Gentlemen! it is still worse with you! you have lost your reason."

By the bye, Addison in the Spectator has grossly misrepresented the design and tendency of Bruno's Bestia Trionfante; the object of which was to show of all the theologies and theogonies which have been conceived for the mere purpose of solving problems in the material universe, that as they originate in the fancy, so they all end in delusion, and act to the hindrance or prevention of sound knowledge and actual discovery. But the principal and more important truth taught in this allegory, is, that in the concerns of morality, all pretended knowledge of the will of heaven, which is not revealed to man through his conscience; that all commands, which do not consist in the unconditional obedience of the will to the pure reason, without tampering with consequences (which are in God's power and not in ours); in short, that all motives of hope and fear from invisible powers, which are not immediately derived from, and absolutely coincident with, the reverence due to the supreme reason of the universe, are all alike dangerous superstitions. The worship founded on them, whether offered by the Catholic to St. Francis or by the poor African to his Fetish, differ in form only, not in substance. Herein Bruno speaks not only as a philosopher but as an enlightened Christian; the evangelists and apostles everywhere representing their moral precepts, not as doctrines then first revealed, but as truths implanted in the hearts of men, which their vices only could have obscured. [56]

In 1814, writing under his own name, Coleridge quotes from the De umbris idearum. [57]

In 1817 he writes: "The De immenso et innumerabilibus and the De la causa, principio et uno of the philosopher of Nola, who could boast of a Sir Philip Sidney and Fulke Greville among his patrons and whom the idolaters of Rome burnt as an atheist in the year 1660" [sic] and again, "We [i.e., himself and Schelling] had both equal obligations to the polar logic and dynamic philosophy of Giordano Bruno." [58]

An essay in The Friend suggests to the modern reader that the doctrine of the coincidence of contraries (which, it will be recalled, goes back through Bruno and Cusanus to Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite) contributed also towards the development of the doctrine of dialectic materialism. Coleridge writes:

As far as human practice can realise the sharp limits and exclusive proprieties of science, law and religion should be kept distinct. There is in strictness no proper opposition but between the two polar forces of one and the same power.

Coleridge continues in a note:

Every power in nature and in spirit must evolve an opposite, as the sole means and condition of its manifestation: and all opposition is a tendency to re-union. This is the universal law of polarity or essential dualism, first promulgated by Heraclitus, two thousand years afterwards republished and made the foundation both of Logic, of Physics, and of Metaphysics by Giordano Bruno. The principle may be thus expressed. The identity of thesis and antithesis is the substance of all being; their opposition the condition of all existence, or being manifested; and every thing or phaenomenon is the exponent of a synthesis as long as the opposite energies are retained in that synthesis. Thus water is neither oxygen nor hydrogen, nor yet is it a commixture of both: but the synthesis or indifference of the two. [59]

In the same volume Coleridge quotes and translates from the first chapter of De immenso et innumerabilibus a long passage with the challenging phrase, "Anima sapiens non timet mortem." He adds:

In the last volume of this work ... I purpose to give an account of the life of Giordano Bruno, the friend of Sir Philip Sidney who was burnt under pretence of Atheism, at Rome, in the year 1600 and of his works which are perhaps the scarcest books ever printed. They are singularly interesting as portraits of a vigorous mind struggling after truth, amid many prejudices, which from the state of the Roman Church, in which he was born, have a claim to much indulgence. One of them (entitled Ember Week) is curious for its lively accounts of the rude state of London, at that time, both as to the street and the manners of the citizen. The most industrious historians of speculative philosophy have not been able to procure more than a few of his works ... out of eleven, the titles of which are preserved to us I have had an opportunity of perusing six. I was told, when in Germany, that there is a complete collection of them in the Royal Library at Copenhagen. If so, it is unique. [60]

Graphic Rule

d. Later Times

It is a mark of Bruno's genius that later thinkers find ever fresh implications in his thought. We have seen how he himself derived from thinkers so opposed as Cusanus and Lucretius. Similarly, elements in his own philosophy may have contributed to the birth of views very different from his. [61] The liberation movements of the nineteenth century shew Bruno as an almost legendary figure stimulating youth, inspiring alike Risorgimento in Italy and Aufklärung in Germany. The formidable industry of his Italian bibliographer enumerates in the nineteenth century alone no less than 634 publications in which Bruno figures. A good example is the enthusiastic study of David Levi, Giordano Bruno e la religione del pensiero: l'uomo, l'apostolo e il martiro, [62] published just before the erection of the statue on the site of his martyrdom.

To the present generation it is no surprise to learn that the denial of the spirit is a crime that may infect those who act in the very name thereof. Victims of the savage ideology that afflicted the land where Bruno found sanctuary in his last years, may derive solace and hope from the knowledge that on the very site of his humiliation and martyrdom there gathered to do him honour after 289 years, representatives from almost every land. His compatriots with a just perception linked his name on that occasion with that of the great Italian interpreter of the Catholic faith. At the dedication of his statue in the Piazza dei Fiori on this occasion, speeches swelled with the noble sentiments so much easier to arouse for past than for future action. "Farewell ye ashes. Yet in these ashes is the seed which reneweth the whole world." Of the monument, Bruno's biographer Berti wrote in 1889:

Monuments are our great instructors: I would that from this statue of Bruno our youth should learn the quality and the amount of sacrifice which is the price of loyalty to our own conscience. It behoveth us all to see that the grand records be not lost and that every noble nation pay regard to them. [63]

We have tried to get some insight into the thought of Bruno, a spirit so noble and soaring, so humanly frail, so vividly inspiring to those who followed him in the great struggle of the human race upward to the light of reason. We will close our study, echoing his own words, which we may believe gave him courage for his ordeal even as they give courage to those who carry on his effort for the emancipation of the human spirit:

The wise soul feareth not death; rather she sometimes striveth for death, she goeth beyond to meet her. Yet eternity maintaineth her substance throughout time, immensity throughout space, universal form throughout motion. [64]

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule