by Joan díArc
Filippo Bruno was born in Nola Italy in 1548. When he was 13
years old he entered school at the Monastery of Saint Domenico.
Taking the name Giordano, he became a Dominican priest
in 1565, but was forced to run away 11 years later due to his
shockingly inappropriate ideas.
Author of countless obscure writings originally written in Italian
or Latin, the Theosophists claim Giordano Bruno as
their own mystic and martyr. The Rosicrucians credit Bruno
with the revival of their Egyptian-based religion. In
Bruno are seen the first hints of Freemasonry in England,
with its Egyptian mysteries, its overt philanthropy - its
"good works." Bruno was a pioneer in the study of what is
today called Semantics, and he is a character referred
to as "The Nolan" in James Joyceís complex
tale, Finnegans Wake.
Modern environmentalists claim Bruno as the forerunner of the
Gaian environmental movement.
is the ancient name for the Earth, a being which is considered by
"pagan" religions to be alive with universal intelligence. Bruno
was a Pantheist. He believed all of nature to be alive with
divine spirit, intelligence and consciousness. To Bruno,
Nature is God, and God is Nature.
Brunoís works revived the basic heliocentrism of early
Greek philosophers, which seems to have begun with Aristarchus of
Samos in approximately 260 BC. Even earlier, Pythagoras
had taught in 580 B.C. that the earth was a sphere. Ptolemy
too had taught that the earth was a sphere, but the earth was at the
center of Ptolemyís universe. Aristotleís earth-centered
cosmology became the accepted doctrine for hundreds of years in a
tyranny of thought brutally enforced by the
According to the Catholic Church, heliocentrism
threatened the credibility of the Holy Scripture, which was
believed to be the supreme authority in all matters, including
science. There were no "novel interpretations of the Bible"
allowed. The first sentence of the earth-centered Genesis tale tells
us that, "In the beginning, God created the earth and the heavens."
According to the Holy Book, He put the earth there
first and placed the other bodies in the skies for the benefit of
Bruno the Time Traveler
Bruno knitted into the fabric of his cosmic picture various
systems of ancient knowledge. He merged into his system the
pantheistic doctrines of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Hindus and
Persians and the essentially animistic physics of the 21st
Century. Some have even considered Bruno a time traveler,
since his ideas touched those of the ancient past as well as the
distant future. For instance, Bruno foretold the "Many
Worlds Theory" of quantum mechanics; the theory that the
universe splits into many possible worlds as events unfold in time.
He once reasoned as follows:
"I can imagine an
infinite number of worlds like the earth, with
a Garden of Eden on each one. In all these Gardens of
Eden, half the Adams and Eves will not eat the
fruit of knowledge, but half will. But half of infinity is
infinity, so an infinite number of worlds will fall from grace
and there will be an infinite number of crucifixions. Therefore,
either there is one unique Jesus who goes from one world
to another, or there are an infinite number of Jesuses.
Since a single Jesus visiting an infinite number of
earths one at a time would take an infinite amount of time,
there must be an infinite number of Jesuses. Therefore,
God must create an infinite number of Christs."
Needless to say, this
idea did not go over too big with Church authorities
when they got wind of it. Nonetheless, Bruno continued. In an
extraordinary tide of information revelation, Bruno pulled
the past and the future together as though it were the folds of an
infinite curtain. As a physics web site explains,
"The physical world
of things is embedded in the infinite, embedded in a space
filled with all the other possible worlds... We see a few of
those other worlds in the probability waves of quantum
the conditions of such a world as "the coincidence in the One of
both the possible and the real."
As both Quantum Theory and Einsteinís Relativity
now suggests, we live in a Many Worlds Universe, where all
the moments of the past, the present, and future exist
simultaneously as part of a single permanent existence. Oddly,
Bruno the time traveler had this to say about God and Time:
"The single thought,
which is Thy Word, embraces all and each in itself, Thy single
word cannot be manifold, opposite, changeable ... In the
eternity in which Thou thinkest, coincides all the after another
of time, with the now of eternity. There is, therefore, no past
nor future where future and past coincide with the present."
also prefigured the idea of the atom, and smaller still, a unit
which was divisible by nothing else, a unit of thought, when he
"an atom, beyond
which we cannot in fact go, although to thought it may be still
further divisible; so there is in every figure, in every kind of
thing, a definite number of atoms."
physicists suggest that thought, the act of human attention, is
the force that gives birth to possibilities in the
world of matter. Scientist Harold McGowan proposed the "thoughtron"
to be an atom tinier than any other and to be contained in all
things. In his book The Thoughtron Theory of Life and Matter,
McGowan proposed that the thoughtron, as the
smallest elementary particle, would be the mental bridge between the
thought world and formal reality. (McGowan)
Bruno looked toward mathematics and geometry for the true
method of natural science, writing that,
"number is the
natural and fruitful principle of the understandingís activity;
... number is the unfolding of understanding."
Yet, Bruno also
could not "conceive of a philosophy of nature, of number, of
geometry, of a diagram, without infusing into these divine
meanings." His philosophy was never divorced from divinity. Although
he refused dogmatic teachings and always pushed the envelope,
he was truly a holy man.
A Historical Perspective
To put his life in historical perspective, in 1543, when Giordano
Bruno was five years old, Nicholas Copernicus published
his mathematical treatise (De Revolutionibus) which
vindicated the Greek Pythagoras, who at around 580 B.C.
argued that the earth was a sphere. Copernicus re-established
the ancient Greek heliocentrism of Aristarchus of
Samos by proving mathematically that the Earth revolved
around the Sun. Yet, Bruno accused Copernicus of
not fully understanding the meaning of his discovery; of being "only
a mathematician." Brunoís divine intuition of the infinity of
worlds picked up where Copernicus left off.
Bruno rejected the limits of the Copernican system,
which posited a finite universe limited by a fixed sphere of stars
just beyond the solar system. He argued that the sun was not
actually the center of the universe, saying that if you were able to
observe the sun from any of the other stars it would simply look
like any other star. Bruno even speculated that the other
worlds would be inhabited.
In 1588, Galileo Galilei began to teach Copernican theory
at the University of Pisa. Much later, in 1609, Galileo
discovered the moons of Jupiter via a hand-made telescope.
With the invention of the telescope by a Dutchman, Copernican theory
ceased to be "esoteric." Various visual proofs were
Still, Galileo was brought to Rome and interrogated by
the Inquisition in 1615. He was forced to declare the
Copernican system as scientifically false, and he was forced to
promise to stop teaching it. Galileo ignored his promise, and
returned to Florence and continued with his work, publishing sixteen
years later, in 1632, his Dialogues on Great World Systems.
He was called back to Rome by the Inquisition in 1633,
and again forced to recant heliocentrism under threat of
torture, this time being put under house arrest until his death in
1642. Galileo invited the Inquisitors to look
through his telescope and see for themselves the moons of Jupiter
which revolved around it, but they refused to do so.
Heliocentrism was officially condemned over 20 years later, in
1664, when Pope Alexander VII banned all books which affirmed
the motion of the earth.
Yet, almost a hundred years before this, there was Giordano
Bruno. Bruno spoke in France and Germany and taught
heliocentrism at Oxford, England, well before the 16th
Century. Bruno and Galileo have much in common. Both
were Italians, both espoused heliocentrism in the 1580s, although
Bruno was teaching it a few years earlier, and both were an
annoyance to the Inquisition authorities. However, Galileo
does not mention Bruno because it was dangerous to even speak
of such a heretic. Bruno was not a mathematician, and he was
not an astronomer. He was a member of the Dominican clergy
and he had the audacity to take his theories to the infinite fringes
In 1584, at the age of 36, Bruno spoke before a
group in London. He told them that space was filled with an
infinite number of solar systems and that each had a central sun
around which planets revolved. He taught that the planets shone by
reflected light, but the suns were self-luminous bodies. He even
spoke of sun-spots, which he had learned from Nicolas de
Cusa, and the forward motion of our own solar system in space.
In Brunoís philosophy, nothing stood still-everything was in
motion, from the smallest atom to the largest star system.
Remarkably, Bruno was espousing these beliefs at a time when
the flat motionless earth was the sole concern of a personal God
and Father, who certainly had no other children anywhere else.
The Father gave to His children the gift of the
earth, the Garden of Eden, around which he placed for their
sole pleasure the Sun, the moon and stars. These points of light
were far from being understood by Europeans to be universes
of their own-solar systems perhaps inhabited by other intelligent
beings like ourselves. Brunoís universe was
infinite and included an indefinite number of worlds each
consisting of a sun and several planets. In Brunoís
philosophy, the earth was a small insignificant body in an infinite
universe. Coming from this point of view, there was nothing special
about this "special creation."
This radical view was a heretical idea; yet Bruno shouted it,
sometimes sitting near the door of the meeting hall so he could run
from the crowd if he had to. Bruno made a public appearance
in May of 1586 in the Library of the Abbey of Saint Victor in
Paris. Bruno sat his assistant, Jean Hennequin, in the
"great chair," while Bruno himself sat in a little chair near
the door to the garden. Bruno apparently took this precaution
in case he needed to leave hastily.
And as it turned out, he did.
Brunoís assistant provided the following introduction to the
"We have been
imprisoned in a dark dungeon, whence only distantly could we see
the far off stars. But now we are released. We know that there
is one heaven, a vast ethereal region in which move those
flaming bodies which announce to us the glory and majesty of
God. This moves us to contemplate the infinite cause of the
infinite effect; we see that the divinity is not far distant,
but is within us, for its centre is everywhere, as close to
dwellers in other worlds as it is to us. Hence we should follow
not foolish authorities but the regulated sense and the
speech was over, he called for anyone in the audience to defend
Aristotle. When no one did, he left and was followed by several
students. The students grabbed him and demanded he retract his
insults to Aristotle. Bruno escaped on the condition
that he would show up and do so the next day - but he left town and
Bruno spoke of both the diversity of life and the sameness of
life. He referred to diversity and difference as
aspects of one and the same substance:
"the coincidence of
contraries." He noted, "That there are more worlds than one is
due to the presence everywhere throughout space of the same
principle of life, which everywhere has the same effect."
In his dialogue, The
Ash Wednesday Supper, Bruno praised Copernican theory,
yet went far beyond Copernicus himself in his intuition of
the infinity of the universe. He identified the matter in the earth
with the matter of the planets and stars, and wrote of the
possibility that "such living beings inhabit them as inhabit the
earth"; he wrote that the earth and stars
themselves are "living organisms"; he wrote that,
"there are not seven
planets or wandering stars only, but innumerable such,
for every world, whether of the sun-type or of the earth-type,
is in motion, its motion proceeding from the spirit within it."
In his work, Cause,
Principle, and Unity, written in 1584, Bruno wrote of,
"the spirituality of
all causation; the eternity of matter; its divinity as the
potentiality of all life; its realization in the universe as a "formed"
thing; the infinite whole and the innumerable parts, as
different aspects of the same: ... diversity and difference as
aspects of one and the same substance ..."
were said by many of his peers to be "worthy of Plato." In
this work, Bruno stated the following:
"This entire globe,
this star, not being subject to death - dissolution and
annihilation being impossible anywhere in Nature - from time to
time renews itself by changing and altering all its
parts. There is no absolute up or down, as Aristotle
taught; no absolute position in space; but the position of a
body is relative to that of other bodies. Everywhere there is
incessant relative change in position throughout the universe,
and the observer is always at the center of things."
As he rightly argued,
the sun was not the center of the whole shebang, and wasnít even the
only sun, but was simply the center of one particular part of the
world. How did Bruno know this? Intuition of infinity... He
In 1584, Bruno wrote The Infinite Universe and its Worlds,
masterly array of reasons, physical and metaphysical, for the
belief that the universe is infinite, and is full of
innumerable worlds of living creatures."
exist; innumerable earths revolve around these suns....
Living beings inhabit these worlds."
The basic theme of
Brunoís Spaccio, also written in the year 1584, is,
of the magical religion of the Egyptians."
their worship was really the worship of "God in things." Bruno
wrote in Spaccio,
"for diverse living
things represent divine spirits and powers, which, beyond the
absolute being which they have, obtain a being communicated to
all things according to their capacity and measure. Whence God
as a whole is in all things."
Taken as a whole, Brunoís various sentiments sound
uncannily similar to a quote in the August 2001 issue of New Age
magazine attributed to Harvard psychiatrist/UFOlogist John Mack
"We are spiritual
beings connected with other life forms and the cosmos in a
profound way, and the cosmos itself contains a numinous
intelligence. Itís not just dead matter and energy."
Mack has also
"With the help of
the abduction phenomenon we will have discovered a new picture
of the universe in which psyche and world manifest and evolve
together according to principles we have not yet fathomed." He
has referred to the
alien abduction phenomenon as "a kind
of spiritual outreach program from the cosmos for the
"We need to
transcend the separateness that disconnects us from nature. If
we could transcend this division, we might then explore, enjoy,
and travel ecstatically, lovingly, materially and
non-materially, among the unique particularities of our own
being, our own natures within the cosmos, experiencing at the
same time an essential unity and sacredness of creation."
We might consider that
this division - the excision or removal of God from Nature,
as a power working from some lofty plain above Nature - is perhaps
the cause of our spiritual impairment. We can look to the
many blasphemies of Giordano Bruno to reunite our lost
souls with the sacredness of all creation.
Brunoís sentiments also reverberate in the words of
Steven M. Greer, who, in his
book Extraterrestrial Contact, suggests that:
"our concepts of
God, creation, life and religious meaning
will evolve in the direction of accommodating the existence of
intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, and this will cause
an increasing íuniversalizationí of God."
We must realize that
this universalization of God is just what turned the
attention of the Roman Inquisition toward Giordano
Brunoís heretical ideas four hundred years ago. Greer
looks to a future where we will see God as "an infinite
Creator whose glory is not confined to the Earth." This is an
idea whose time has still not yet come four hundred years after the
first Universalist loudly proclaimed that there might be
intelligent life out there in other worlds similar to our own.
Greerís universalism is evident when he writes,
planet, star system or galaxy of origin, and no matter how
diverse, ETs are essentially intelligent,
conscious, sentient beings. We are, essentially, one.
On this basis, we may speak of one people inhabiting one
"the simple thread
of conscious intelligence which runs through all peoples
elegantly weaves our unity. This essential unity is not subject
to the trials of diversity, for it is pure, immutable and
fundamental to the existence of intelligent life itself."
Or, in Giordano Brunoís
difference are aspects of one and the same substance... the same
principle of life."
That substance or
principle is Universal Consciousness, the First
Cause, or God. The problem is we are so used to thinking
of God as an old guy with a beard that we cannot fathom this
idea of universal consciousness.
The development of this attitude of "universality based in
consciousness," Greer argues, is necessary for peace and
unity to develop among peoples of the earth, and to assure peaceful
interactions between earth humans and other intelligent life in the
universe. The endless diversity which our astounding universe may
hold must be met with what Greer calls "the calmness of
universal consciousness." Now, in the 21st Century, we
stand poised to take that same message one step further and over the
great divide. If Greer is right, we are ready to meet our
cousins, the once imaginary cousins of Giordano Bruno.
Whether we like it or not, the good old earth is heading toward a
Gaia has spoken her mind.
She has seen enough bloodshed, enough toxic destruction, enough
reckless waste of resources that should have been bountiful enough
for all her children. Strangely, the message from Mother Earth
is coming in from a mysterious source-so-called ETs -
distant cousins we never knew we had. There is an undeniable power
behind this paradigm shift that may emanate from beyond earth, and
itís coming whether we like it or not.
We must realize that this universality is still a radical idea,
almost as radical an idea as it was in Brunoís time. Greerís
universality really shines through in his statement that,
"We must look to our
inner reality to find our oneness with other intelligent life in
the universe ... for there is one universe inhabited by one
people, and we are they."
Last time I spoke here,
I quoted Vatican official,
Corrado Balducci. As
Balducci stated in an interview with
"That life may exist
on other planets is certainly possible... The Bible does not
rule out that possibility. On the basis of scripture and on the
basis of our knowledge of Godís omnipotence, His wisdom being
limitless, we must affirm that life on other planets is
possible... credible and even probable."
Itís interesting to see
that a Vatican spokesman has publicly made such a radical
statement. We must wonder how and why this has come about. Novel
interpretations of the Bible, once considered punishable by torture
on the rack, are now coming at us from all directions, including the Vatican.
Vatican has come close to apologizing for
Galileoís hardships, but not Brunoís. It is unlikely that
the Vatican will be quoting from Giordano Brunoís
books anytime soon.
discoveries have always caused trouble for dogmatic Church
teachings. In Brunoís time, astronomy was a
threat to the teachings of the Church
Two hundred years
later, geology challenged the Holy Bookís credibility,
and it was maintained by Christians that Satan, the
Father of all Lies, must have placed fossils there to
A hundred years ago,
evolutionary biology threatened the Genesis account of
fundamentalist Christians believe that UFOís
in the skies are piloted by Satanís "fallen
still cannot concede that there could be human beings stationed
anywhere else in Godís creation. One Christian author writing
recently in Paranoia summed up the crux of this
earth-centered theological dilemma when she wrote,
"If doubt can be
cast on the first sentence in the first chapter of the first
book in the Bible, then the whole book is up for grabs."
Paranoia, Issue 27)
Itís interesting that we
still havenít gotten over that hump.
We should not fail to appreciate that the belief in life on other
planets was once dangerously heretical, a belief that present day UFOlogists assume as a bottom line. Not that Harvard
University didnít try to excommunicate John Mack, the
heretic. They certainly tried. But baby steps are still steps and
slow progress is still progress. We may even think of Giordano
Bruno, therefore, as the first speculative UFOlogist.
Another idea which Bruno wrote about continues to be frowned
upon by the Western world and mainstream religions: that is, the
concept of the reincarnation of the soul through
various life cycles.
Giordano Bruno brought back from ages past the Pythagorian and
Platonic doctrines of the
Law of Karma and the Law of Reincarnation: that every act
brings its appropriate reward or punishment in another life, and
that each individual determines for itself by its actions its
transition into another body.
In his Spaccio de la
Bestia Trionfante, published in 1584, Bruno described the
condition of a soul who had misused its opportunities on Earth,
saying that such a soul would be
"... relegated back
to another body, and should not expect to be entrusted with the
administration of a better dwelling if it had conducted itself
badly in the conduct of a previous one."
Although it seems a fate
worse even than the Christian version of Hell - that we
should continually need to repeat various incarnations until we get
it right - the idea was heretical because in essence Bruno
was charging that there was no Hell! Brunoís belief
was that there was a spark of the divine in human beings and that we
are in charge of our own fate. Brunoís ideas were nothing
short of pantheistic: that "the Infinite has nothing which is
external to Itself," that all living matter contains a spark of the
The Art of Memory
Toward the end of Brunoís life, he was hired by an Italian
named Mocenigo to teach him certain skills of mnemonics
(memory), an art for which Bruno was well known having
written several books on the subject, including The Art of Memory,
The Shadows of Ideas, and Incantations of Circe.
Bruno had earlier fled Italy so that he could be as far away
the Inquisition authorities
as possible, publishing his books while in England, France and
But he missed his homeland, and when he was invited back to
Italy by this man, he walked right into the trap. As one scholar
Giordano Bruno are immunized from a sense of danger by their
sense of mission, and a state of euphoria bordering on
Brunoís Art of
Memory was a "magical psychology." Brunoís complex
magical memory system consisted of "wheels" on which groups of
letters, symbols and images corresponded to the physical contents of
the terrestrial world, representing the whole sum of human knowledge
accumulated through the centuries. It is presumed by scholars who
have studied these diagrams that the person who committed this
system to memory,
"rose above time and
reflected the whole universe of nature and of man in his mind."
wheel was a "Hermetic secret," since it was the "gnostic
reflection of the universe in the mind." Bruno believed
that when, in the mind, one conformed symbols and images to
celestial forms, which corresponded to the figures of the zodiac,
and when one held these images all at once in the mind, one would
arrive from "the confused polarity of things at the underlying
unity." In essence, one would become "like God."
Mocenigo got the idea that Bruno could teach him
something more, something along the lines of sorcery. When Bruno
denied knowing anything about such things, Mocenigo became
angry about the money he had paid Bruno and turned him in
to the Venetian tribunal.
accused Bruno before the tribunal of teaching the
existence of a boundless universe filled with a countless
number of solar systems.
He accused Bruno
of saying the Earth was not the center of the universe,
but rather a planet which revolved around the Sun.
also accused of:
Bruno seems to
have explained himself pretty well to the state authorities of
Venice, who kept him for many months and were not at first keen on
turning him over to the Inquisition body in Rome.
Brunoís argument seems to be that his ideas were based in
philosophical discourse and therefore should be protected; he argued
that he was at all times speaking as a philosopher and not as a
priest. But eventually the counsel at Venice, wishing to keep the
peace with the Church, turned The Nolan over to them.
Thus began Giordanoís 7-year prison ordeal at the hands of
the Roman Inquisition.
The exact charges that were brought against Bruno by
the Catholic Church authorities are unknown,
since it is claimed that the records have been lost. Nor is it known
why he was kept so long in their prison: It was the usual
circumstance to house and harass a heretic for no longer than a
year, most of the time discarding the poor victimís remains after
just a few horrific months. But for some unknown reason, Giordano
Bruno was tortured and interrogated for seven long years.
Was it for his
animistic belief that the spirit world invaded all of nature?
Was it for his
insistence on a reform of Catholicism to the "natural
religion" of the Egyptians?
Was it for his
belief in the heretical concept of reincarnation?
Was it for his
unshakable belief in the divinity of the human spirit?
Was it for their
belief that he was a magician?
A Catholic web site
called New Advent makes the following claim:
not condemned for his defense of the Copernican system of
astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited
worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were
the following: that Christ was not God but merely an
unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the
soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved."
The Catholic web
site describes Brunoís system of thought as "an incoherent
Bruno refused to retract his beliefs. On February 17, 1600,
Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in the center
of Rome, with a nail driven through his tongue - the
customary treatment of all unrepentant heretics so they could
not continue to insult the sensitive ears of the Inquisition. Giordano Bruno stood for:
"the Dignity of
Man"; of "liberty, tolerance, the right to stand up in
any country and say what he thought, disregarding all
Bruno dared to
imagine many potential brave new worlds - like the one where we are
now free to look out at the stars and wonder out loud if there is
any life upon them. Where I can stand here and say what I have said
this evening, and not have to stand over there, near the door, ready
to make a run for it.
This talk was delivered before MUFON Rhode Island on
November 16, 2001.
Theosophists: Giordano Bruno" (on-line essay),
M.D., Extraterrestrial Contact: The Evidence and
Harold, The Thoughtron Theory of Life and Matter.
Lewis, Giordano Bruno: Mystic Martyr, Kessinger, Montana,
Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, University of